A year ago I had just come back from Eurogamer. Following a breathless week of tablet and screen art in London’s Earl’s Court arena (ring a bell?) the following morning the Hudl 1 was released and I went to the local Tesco to buy 7 of the 12 they had in stock.
Sounds excessive? Well. I was about to start leading a young people’s tablet art workshop in the Lightbox, Woking, and I urgently needed more tablets. Buying Hudls was a risk but one I needed to take.
Turns out it wasn’t a risk or, if it was, it was one that paid off beautifully. The Hudl (first generation) is a fabulous machine and they’ve served me well since I bought them. A huge range of kids and adults have used the tablets in all sorts of venues and all seven of the machines have held up to the prodding and poking and general art duties with aplomb. And, more tellingly, if I’m heading out with some draw time but nothing planned the Hudl is more often than not the tablet I pick up first.
Fast forward the clock to today which (sort of) saw the launch of the Hudl 2.
I’d phoned my local store and was told that all colours would be in stock (they weren’t. Some were web only. More on that later). I was also told they’d be on sale at 8am. Which is when my son’s school bus leaves so, logistically, the earliest I could get there was 9.30 am. I was slightly nervous that the one I wanted most (the orange Hudl) would be gone by the time I arrived.
As it was I needn’t have worried. Not because the Guildford Tesco megastore had orange ones in stock, but all of their stock was still locked in a cupboard behind the Customer services desk. Twenty boxes of black or white bezel Hudl 2s sat, blissfully hidden from the customers who might want to buy one.
Bearing in mind it was the highly trumpted launch day: a little perplexing. Thinking back on it that’s almost exactly what happened last year.
Unlike last year I had two choices of colour frame and I bought the white one (which I find keeps the eyes on the artwork when you’re making pictures on a screen. Black allows your eyes to drift out on occasion). Which is a vague shame (I also bought a slightly off orange stylus to soften the blow) but I was very keen to spend the day drawing on it so it was a trade off. They had no screen protectors or cases so onwards it was (I was in London drawing at Shake Shack today 🙂 Yum and fun).
Regardless. Review time!
First off. A tiny thing but the box is slightly less good than last time. Silly I know but I thought the packaging for the Hudl 1 was excellent and this time it’s merely very, very good. I like the box, but last years felt just that little bit more like the box of a premier league product. The front flap was attached by magnets and lifted away in a beautifully clean fashion, the cardboard was thick and covered fully in glossy pack shot images.
It was probably a complete pain to make so I can imagine why it might have been simplified this time…
Secondly the screen comes with a matte screen protector/menu to the buttons around the screen. For a split second I thought that they had gone with a matte screen finish (not my favourite) but, again, not a worry. Once the sticker was removed there lay the glossy, glassy goodness, all waiting to be drawn on.
After a short while of inputting email addresses, choosing wifi, updating apps and so on I was ready to go. The setup was pretty smooth and painless and took, roughly, 1.25 coffees.
The first pic was painted in Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk using a Dagi 501 stylus and a Pogo Sketch Pro, both of which worked beautifully on the screen. I’d first tried my go-to fabric stylus (the New Trent Arcadia) which inexplicably didn’t work. This, I think, is a first… That stylus has worked on every screen I’ve ever tried it on. I’ll carry on test driving styli on the screen soon and come back with a report on what does and doesn’t work but, for the moment, the rubber tip (Pogo Sketch Pro, Wacom Bamboo, eBay styli) and the plastic tips (Dagi 501, Jot Classic) work well.
I painted a couple of pictures in Adobe Photoshop (but I can’t share them yet, they’ll be done for next week though) and had a lot of fun while doing so. Photoshop’s a bit of a processor hog on a tablet and, as it does on nearly all tablets, it lagged a little when the brush was enlarged on a low opacity. But if the brush was full opacity I felt no speed problems and was happy enough using the app.
By 3.30pm I was needing to get the train back so I put the tablet away and headed for home. On the train I finished off the Marmite picture:
Any other comments? Well after a full on six hours of drawing the battery had drained from 90% to just under 30% which is pretty good. Nothing pushes a tablet or phone as much as a tablet art session.
The screen ratio is somewhere between an inflated iPhone 5S/c, a Samsung Galaxy 8.9 and a Microsoft Surface 1 or 2 (if you’re looking for precise maths look away now. That ain’t me). It reminds me of the finish of a iPhone 5c, a Lumia phone or tablet – although the plastic is matte rather than glossy (whereas the original Hudl reminded me of a 3GS with it’s shiny plastic back and rounded edges). It feels like a premium device, not too heavy but good to hold. The power button is to the right of the volume controls which strained at the muscle memory all day when I expected the volume up and down to be the other way round. I’ll get used to it I’m sure. Interestingly the Hudl 2 is designed to be thought of as a portrait orientated device (whereas the original was landscape which is how I see most tablets). Again it’s not a problem… Bemusing maybe (I would have though the majority use a tablet in landscape orientation – yet phones are more often portrait).
WIth the original Hudl the camera was the negative and, having had a quick play around with this one I’d say that’s possibly still the case. It’s an improvement at least and it’s hard to tell what lets the side down: the hardware or Android which I’ve never found focuses quickly on any device I’ve used it on.
The viewing angle is extraordinary. I found it impossible to hold the screen at an angle where the picture wasn’t clear and precise. It may not be retina quality but I found my eyes couldn’t focus on the screen at a distance where I might see the pixels. The colours are a smidge over saturated although we’re certainly not talking anything like Samsung phone and tablet levels of Las Vegas style neon subtlety. I’ve yet to find a screen contrast option in Android but with luck there will be something I can tweak. It’s not massively off-putting though but I could imagine a purist finding it verging on the tail edge of gaudy.
I’ve never used Spotify (or similar streaming service) but, since it was there, I thought I’d test drive Blinkbox Music and it worked simply and well. I’ll probably keep using it I think. The box comes with a small clutch of vouchers which I’ll try and make use of this time (last time I forgot and they all went out of date on me).
I like the fact that Tesco are putting an emphasis on child safety and parental controls. As a growing number of increasingly younger kids are being given their own tablet it’s something that I appreciate the effort to implement. I’m not overly keen on small children being given tablets (it strikes me as something that can’t help long term eyesight for a start and I think there are many more age appropriate toys to grow up with) but it’s going to happen so the internet safety options are a valuable choice.
Anything else? Well. To put the boot in, just before I started to write this, I had a check up on the manual included in the box and all… ALL… of the images used to demonstrate the Hudl options and choices are the Orange Hudl option. So I think they knew it was the best colour too.
But hey ho. It’s been a lovely day drawing and the Hudl 2 hasn’t disappointed. A fab tablet. Definitely recommended. A few websites have proclaimed it an excellent budget tablet but I think the ‘b’ word isn’t necessarily needed. It’s an excellent tablet (which also happens to be cheap).