Tablet computing has come a long way since the bulky, functional yet expensive devices of the early 2000s. Often requiring a pen for input they were usually the reserve of the tech savvy and business users. Since Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, tablet computers are now within everyone’s reach, with a number of budget models on the market too.

But until recently no low cost devices have come close to competing with their high-end counterparts. Is this all set to change with the new generation of budget tablets that have recently become available?

The tablet landscape

Just before Christmas, supermarket giant Tesco stepped into the fray with the Hudl, aimed at the budget conscious consumer. Featuring some unique Tesco customisations, the device is a reasonably high-spec offering, directly competing with the successful Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and iPad Mini tablets.

Other brands such as Samsung, LG, Sony and Microsoft were all vying for an increased share of the market in 2013, a trend that’s only set to continue into 2014. All of which is good news for consumers – giving them ever more options while giving developers ever more headaches.

Good for consumers. Challenging for developers.

The sheer number of devices with different screen sizes, varying capabilities and emerging technologies is a challenge for the web design industry – making it necessary to test on as many of these devices as possible.

Here at e3 we try to stay on top of new technology development so we get as many physical devices in house as possible. While we cannot realistically own every device out there, having the most popular ones on hand allows staff to check them out for real, to see what they are capable of first hand and understand how the user can interact with them – as well as directly experiencing their technical capabilities.

Because when it comes to testing, there’s just no substitute for having the device on hand. Online simulators are great for a basic design and layout test but cannot replace experiencing a device as the end user would.

The burgeoning tablet market

Tesco’s Hudl was one budget device in particular that we had to add to our arsenal of tablets and mobile devices. It won’t be long before other retailers and manufacturers jump on the tablet bandwagon – bringing even more choice to the average consumer in 2014.

In fact, Argos were incredibly quick to undercut Tesco (in terms of price) with the ‘MyTablet’. But does the device hold its own from a technical point of view? Let’s just say that we think the Hudl is a great balance between technical capabilities and affordability – and for this reason it comes out on top. Of course, if you have slightly deeper pockets you could walk away with an incredibly technically capable device like the Nexus 7 or the iPad mini. In true Google and Apple style, both devices deliver all the gadgetry you could possibly need.

So if you’re in the market for a new tablet in 2014, you don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds to get a great device. And we’re sure there will be many more of these fantastic budget devices available that will really push the boundaries for the tech savvy household.