Kogan Agora 7-inch tablet

Kogan's tablet is cheap, but its lousy screen and woeful battery life proves that it's not good value for money.


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6.5
User Rating

About The Author

CNET Editor

Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

Kogan's Agora 7-inch Android tablet is now the fourth that we've seen in this size, and whoever designed this model didn't think too hard about how to differentiate it from the pack. The Agora is a charcoal-coloured slate, made of stiff plastic around its glass display — reminiscent of the ZTE-made Optus My Tab more than any others in this category.

Compare this photo we took with the computer-generated image above.
(Credit: CBSi)

The designer did meddle with the positioning of the standard navigation buttons, deciding that having the Home and Back keys in easy reach would be a bad idea for some reason. Instead, these oft-used controls exist as a rocker switch on the top of the tablet, with a single silver Back button facing the user. Also, before you start hunting around for physical volume controls, there are none. Volume is adjusted by using software keys on the home screen, but this does mean that you'll have to exit an app, such as games, to adjust the volume. Luckily, the volume controls are still visible in the default music player.

There's no rear-facing camera, but you do get a 2-megapixel, front-facing camera for video-calling. Along the right-side edge, you'll find all of this device's input and output ports and sockets, including a micro SD card slot and mini-HDMI out.

The centrepiece of the Agora is a diagonally 7-inch WVGA resolution display, but it is far from the tablet's best feature. The panel, recessed deep below the glass, is a TN LCD panel — one of the cheapest screen technologies used today. Off-axis viewing is dreadful, with negative images appearing at only about 30-degrees off-centre but, to be honest, it's not much better to look at from front-on, either. The colours are dull and listless, the blacks appear as greys and the low pixel density for a screen of this size makes everything on the screen look foggy and slightly out of focus.

Tilting the screen about 30-degrees off-axis will ruin your movie.
(Credit: CBSi)

User experience

Conversely, the user experience is quite good. The Agora runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread and, with its capacitive touchscreen, it manages to feel quite responsive. There's no custom overlay installed, but the basic Android user experience serves this tablet well. If you want to pretty-up the home screens, you can download wallpapers and widgets through the Android Market.

While reviewing the Agora, we discovered that there was no central location to adjust our user account settings and synchronisation timing. Android users will be aware that there is an "Accounts and sync" menu in the Android system settings, but not, strangely, in Kogan's tablet.

Like many of the tablets that we've reviewed recently, the Agora cannot charge using USB plugged into a PC; instead, you'll have to use the supplied charger.

Media and the web

As far as we can tell, the best use of the Agora tablet is for browsing the web. The stock browser seems slower than on similar Android tablets, but it gets the job done. You can install the latest version of Flash using the Android Market, too, and stream videos from your favourite sites. Again, this streaming will be slower unless you visit sites with video optimised for mobile viewing, like YouTube.

The Agora connects to the web using Wi-Fi B and G protocols only, so that means no long-range wireless N, and no 3G — though you may be fooled into thinking otherwise, as the tablet still shows network strength indicators in the main system notifications bar, though admittedly these bars are greyed out.

Multimedia playback was a pleasantly surprising experience if you can forgive the crummy display. The Agora happily played back a 1080p MP4 video file, as well as DivX and WMV video files. Kogan adds to the equation with a mini-HDMI out port on the side of the tablet, though you'll need to buy a cable separately. The same goes for internal storage. Although Kogan includes 4GB of memory, you'll need to find some extra money if you want to expand that by using the micro SD card slot.

Performance

The Agora packs a 1GHz processor and a 200MHz graphics processor, according to the literature. The results are adequately fast, home screen navigation is a reasonably smooth user experience and it has decent gaming performance in most standard Android game titles. This gives the appearance of a fast tablet all-round, though we did notice a few tasks that the Agora really struggles with. After we transferred our standard collection of testing videos and images, opening the Gallery app took over 20 seconds to load before it was useable. The same process executes in one or two seconds on nearly all Android devices that we've reviewed recently.

Perhaps the worst element of this tablet, and undoubtedly the biggest sacrifice in a purchase at this price, is the Agora's woeful battery life. Kogan saves on costs with a 3600mAh battery, and it shows. To put this into perspective, Samsung uses a 4000mAh battery in its 7-inch Galaxy Tab and RIM chooses a 5300mAh battery for the BlackBerry PlayBook. But it's not just about capacity; it's also about the quality of the battery itself, and the way that the system uses it.

We managed to burn through large chunks of the remaining battery life with short bursts of heavy usage. Web browsing for 30 minutes decreased the charge by up to 30 per cent, but more concerning was the fact that the battery discharged at a rate of 5 per cent to 10 per cent per hour while in standby mode. The tablet's terrible screen image doesn't help, as you'll likely set the brightness to 100 per cent just to see images and text clearly.

Overall

Value for money is an absolutely subjective measure, but it's an essential consideration for a product like this. For AU$189, you'll buy a 7-inch tablet powered by Android Gingerbread, but it's hampered by a number of key issues. The display is dreadful to look at, the controls are awkwardly positioned and battery life is really concerning. The Agora tablet looks and feels like many other Android tablets, and it will achieve many of the same functions, like web browsing and media playback, but without the basics in place, the low asking price will still be a waste of money if you can't be bothered charging it every day or if you find the low-quality screen difficult to read.

If you're in the market for a cheap tablet, hunt around for the best price on the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. At the time of writing, Telstra is selling it outright for AU$299, but this price is bound to drop further as the next wave of top-tier tablets enters the market.



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Onlyodin
2
Rating
 

"You get what you pay for."

Onlyodin posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Cheap and cheerful

The Bad:Poor Touch, Support, and No online documentation

Unfortunately this device reaffirms the saying 'you get what you pay for', and what I got turned out to be pretty much rubbish.

The touchscreen has poor response, dragging items on the home screens can be difficult, close to impossible some times. Typing on the on-screen keyboard is also trying and there is often a noticable delay from pressing keys to them appearing on screen.

The device is underpowered and slow, although adequate for my needs - a shopping list on the fridge.

The worst part was when it died a couple of weeks out of warranty and stopped booting. I emailed Kogan support and their response was 'you can pay someone to look at it, or we can sell you a new one' - totally unhelpful. Investigation eventually revealed that a factory reset through the bootloader allows the device to boot, but I suspect some of the flash is corrupt because the device crashes every few days and now needs regular factory resets.

The device also wakes itself due to having phone apps installed without any telephony hardware.

PhillipW1 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Good value for money but needs tweaking"

PhillipW1 posted a review   

The Good:Great value

The Bad:Need to be technical to get the most out of it.

I'll keep this brief.

Pros:
- Out of the box: great presentation, it is a sexy unit.
- Pure Ice Cream Sandwich on my model - yummy

Cons:
- Screen turns off and then the unit locks up never to return, needs hard resetting.
- Using the hardware on off button is problematic and leads to lockups.
- Runs out of CPU power VERY quickly and hangs for ages.

The trick to these units are as follows:
- Reduce the number of background processes to 2 only
- Extend the screen turn off time to 30 minutes (the infinite setting crashes the system)
- Install an app to turn off and lock the screen - avoid using the hardware button
- turn off animations
- set the system to write directly to the video hardware.

After nearly throwing it at the wall I did these things. Now I love her again.

- Above all be gentle with her, she is a delicate little flower.

 

zzluser posted a comment   
Australia

I have to wonder why 'Paulgo,' a self confessed experienced PC tech who 'loves to keep up with the latest,' just HAD to try this out? I can only assume that either a.) You did no homework whatsoever prior to purchasing this and thought 'Well, it's Kogan so it has to be good!' or even worse b.) Read all the reviews and decided that you'd snap it up anyway because, 'why would a company release a bad product?'

One can only assume that 'experienced PC tech' is code for 'Of course I know how to download more RAM.' Because anyone who has worked in IT for more than a week would know that a tablet released by Kogan (a favourite of the Big W / K-Mart crowds) is going to be absolute rubbish.

I feel I should let you know then (and brace yourself), that K-Mart's Easter catalogue has just been released and YES, the much awaited Telefunken HD set top box is now a zany $49. I can only assume that even though I currently have a very good (and rather expensive PVR) that the only sane and rational thing to do is let my boss know I%u2019m heading of early from work this afternoon to avoid the crowd and snap up this puppy. I%u2019ll send out the Evites tonight, I can%u2019t wait to impress my friends my this badboy.

The amount of words you've typed in capitals suggests that there is a monumental amount of surprise in what you've discovered. Excellent work Professor. You're PC tech experience has truly shone through and provided the rest of us with valuable knowledge when it comes to the excruciating task of deciding whether or not to purchase this latest gadget from the master minds at Kogan.

paulgo
2
Rating
 

"A piece of crap...even for the price"

paulgo posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Cheap.

The Bad:Cheap,nasty and innefficient

Well I have had TWO of these tablets!! My first experience was the first day I used it. I'm not ignorant when it comes to these things...I'm an experienced PC tech and keep up with all the latest so I just HAD to try this out.

Unpacked it, charged it up and inserted the brand new snadisk 32Gb card along with a mega-pack of Android apps I'd downloaded for it. Played around a bit just to get the feel of it and learn where everything is located. Wireless ON. Connected OK. let's start surfing. No problems.

Right. Let's install some apps using the "App installer" feature. Looking...looking FOUND! oh... NOT found...FOUND!....NOT found...App installer has shut down for an unknown reason. Try again...same deal. Hmmmm Let's try "search" ok Search for Apps. FOUND. Select and install app. No worries DONE. Now select another one to install...... Search app has failed for an unknown reason. Okay start again.

This was the only way I could install apps. WHAT a PIECE OF CRAP!!

Oh well...I can live with that I spose.What do u want for $150 ???

Let's surf the net a bit.

Oh...The web page (google) is anavailable.Check your wifi settings.

Okay...checking. Connecting....disconnected....connecting....disconnected...connecting....disconnected. OVER and OVER. RESET the whole thing and start again. Change channel in router. try different channels. OH! Connected!...disconnected...connected....

Nothing changed. PIECE OF CRAP!!! Contact Kogan "support" who suggested my router settings were wrong, despite the fact that I informed them THREE times that my phone, my 3 laptops, my friends' phones and my mate's ipad ALL connect first time every time without a hitch.

RETURN for Warranty repair. I received an email with instructions for RMA along with all details already filled out by Kogan support (link to RMA site) So all I had to do was insert my phone details and return address and off we go! WHAT? Serial number invalid? BUT Kogan entered that???? look on box. yep. That's right. Enter it again. invalid. EMAIL kogan. Oh Sorry Sir...it's the OTHER serial number. YOU entered it incorrectly. it's the one with the letters in front. Gee thanks for that ,

Returned

I receive THIS EMAIL

We have assessed your unit for you and have found that it connects to our wireless network without any issues.

I believe that the issue you experienced with the unit is most likely due to the settings on your router.

Would you be able to provide us with your router's settings?
Is it using DHCP or Static IP?
Is there MAC filtering?
How many simultaneous connections does it allow?
What is the make and model of the router?

I provide all this info and tell them AGAIN that everything ELSE connects and explain that they need to connect using WPA2 and not WEP etc.etc. Don't just turn it on nd go "Oh yeah..it works."

Surprise surprise! NOW they are able to duplicate the problem.

I am now offered a "refurbished" unit that is only 1 week old, to replace it( hmmm sound familiar?) I accept this and I am advised of the TOLL tracking number and next day I insert it into the tracking page to see where it is. Hmmmm there is NO item of that description.
EMAIL kogan. Oh.Sorry Sir. That was sent by Australia Post. Sorry for the inconvenience.

FINALLY I receive the REFURBISHED tablet. I don't need to tell the story all over again do I??? NO. Suffice to say, 1 hour after receiving it, BACK IT WENT.
Absolute rubbish! I also noticed the "ghost" clicks too and man, was it fingerprint hungry! I think the fingerprints actually induce capacitance between the human resins and the sensor screen. There's NO WAY I would buy one of these ever again!

I am now awaiting a refund if I ever get a reply from kogan support, acknowledging the return of the tablet. I sent it yester day along with multiple emails and heave heard NOTHING since.

MixxON
8
Rating
 

"Good entry level tablet that's adequate for browsing, emails & videos"

MixxON posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Cheap as chips compared to other well known tablets

The Bad:Get what you paid for

Simply put you get what you paid for. While I personally consider it a great entry level tablet others with quality gadgets like an Iphone or HTC mobile will probably compare their mobile experience to this tablet which is unfair considering the price. But I guess that's human nature.

Why paid $400 for a tablet you might not even use or find useful when you can purchase this? If you find that the tablet experience is not for you then you have the option of selling it and probably getting back 70% of your purchase price or simply give it to your kids.

Pros
1. Cheap
2. Browser & email experience satisfactory
3. Light to hold
4. 720p videos load time is quick (Not 20 sec as per Joe's comments) and play well
5. HDMI output
6. USB output allows external connectivity to pendrives, hard drives and 3G dongles
7. Privacy on screen orientation makes it difficult for others to read while on bus or train
8. Access to Android market
9. Angry birds plays well on this tablet as does the Amiga emulator!

Cons
1. Gyroscope very poor quality (can be locked using free tools from Android market)
2. Touchscreen not as responsive as an Ipad but why compare considering the huge price difference
3. Can't watch movies with screen on an angle but why would you?
4. Battery life on par with a laptop but can be extended using apps available in the Android market (Airplane mode with wifi still on)
5. Ghost in the machine...Screen turns on automatically when on standby. This is more likely caused by the simple fact that the Android OS on the Agora was designed for a mobile not a tablet.


Summary
This is a cheap tablet with cheap parts and theres no doubt about it but considering the price against the big boys on the same block it does the job. If your not sure if a tablet is for you the Agora isn't a bad choice considering it's price and if you break it(meh)...no big loss. I would recommend that those who aren't "Tech Savvy" stay clear from this tablet as it will only frustrate you. While the Agora is only available in wifi that doesn't stop me from using my iphone as a hotspot when I'm on the go. Why pay for another contract when you can use your existing mobile contract and fully utilize that 1GB data that you would probably never use up per month. Looking forward to rooting this device (Not in that way!) and fully utilizing the capabilities this device might have under it's hood...Time will tell.

RichardM3 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"A fantastic little machine"

RichardM3 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Easy to set up, very light, good for web surfing, emails, streaming audio

The Bad:The battery life is a bit short but then it saves on weight (and money)

I have had this unit for just a few days and have been most impressed. I had some problem at first turning the lock switch off - not mentioned in the start guide!, but that was quickly ressolved by a phone call to Kogans excellent support. After tha,t the setting up and wireless connection could not have been easier and the apps download in a flash. Plug in some good headphones and the music quality is excellent. I was able to play my mp3 files and also stream radio stations from the web very easily. Photos look good on the screen. Not too interested in using it for video. The touch is good and I think the screen is fine. It does tend to flip a bit too easily, in my view, so I have set it on landscape. Have downloaded a couple of books and look forward to using it as an ereader. Advance price for me was just $150 or half the price of a Galaxy! Why pay more?

Strongly recommended.

AmandeepS Facebook
9
Rating
 

"excellent features for $139 tablet"

AmandeepS posted a review   

The Good:hdmi, usb, capacitive screen, and more

The Bad:battery life

The tablet has some nice features you won't find in an android tablet priced at $139 through Kogan's Live Price. I looked around at all the options and this tablet has lot more features than the competition. The battery life is on the lower side but it depends on what you are using it for. In my case it is perfectly fine as I am not using it all the time.




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User Reviews / Comments  Kogan Agora 7-inch tablet

  • Onlyodin

    Onlyodin

    Rating2

    "Unfortunately this device reaffirms the saying 'you get what you pay for', and what I got turned out to be pretty much rubbish.

    The touchscreen has poor response, dragging items on the..."

  • PhillipW1

    PhillipW1

    Rating9

    "I'll keep this brief.

    Pros:
    - Out of the box: great presentation, it is a sexy unit.
    - Pure Ice Cream Sandwich on my model - yummy

    Cons:
    - Screen turns..."

  • zzluser

    zzluser

    "I have to wonder why 'Paulgo,' a self confessed experienced PC tech who 'loves to keep up with the latest,' just HAD to try this out? I can only assume that either a.) You did no homework whatsoeve..."

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