Kogan Agora HD

There are some limitations, but overall, this is a quad-core Android smartphone that represents impressive value for money.


7.6
CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.


Kogan's business model has always been about providing products that may not be the top-of-the-line but that come with a compellingly low price tag.

The Agora HD is Kogan's most recent branded smartphone: a 5-inch quad-core Android device with a sub-AU$200 price. We've played with it and, while there are definitely a few niggles, the combination of features and cost make this an impressive budget phone.

Design

Design-wise the Agora HD is pretty standard — possibly the only surprise is that the micro-USB port is on the top. The front is a gloss finish on the bezel, but the rear is matte, and we definitely applaud the lack of fingerprint-attracting "piano black".

At 153g, it's weightier than many other phones on the market, even the metal-bodied HTC One. Similarly, it's thicker: 11mm compared to, say, 7.9mm for the Galaxy S4.

The 5-inch in-plane switching (IPS) screen sports a resolution of 1280x720 (hence the HD in the name). It's surprisingly bright and quite crisp — text reads well, and images and video were fine. It wasn't the easiest to see in direct sunlight but no worse than many of the phones currently available.

Features

Obviously, the quad-core processor is what piqued the interest of many when Kogan first announced the Agora HD. It's an unnamed processor running at 1.2GHz, with 1GB of RAM and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. The 2000mAh battery is a little small by today's standards but served fine for general use during our tests.

It's a fairly effective combination. For standard use of basic apps, such as messaging and web browsing, the Agora performed admirably. Things chugged a little when we had multiple downloads and a lot of apps open in the background, but for the most part, this was a smooth experience.

We'd guess this is aided by the fact that the UI seems pretty close to a vanilla version of Android 4.2. The interface may be a little staid, but the lack of resource-heavy proprietary overlays means the Agora HD isn't working overtime just to show a home page.

The phone is also dual SIM, which is not something we've had a lot of use for. For those who do want to use this feature, you can manage the various SIMs from the options menu, assigning different colours to each, changing the names of the cards, choosing which one to use for data and when dialling, you can tell the phone which SIM to call from.

The downsides

As a budget phone, there are certainly a couple of compromises that must be made. We'd say that first and foremost the Agora HD isn't 4G/long-term evolution (LTE) compatible. It runs on the 850MHz, 1900MHz and 2100MHz 3G bands instead.

We tested on Telstra in the CBD, and speeds were mostly in the 10-12Mbps range for downloads and around 2-2.5Mbps for uploads. This is fine for most people, but obviously, it's a far cry from 4G speeds.

The next issue was the on-board memory, which is just 4GB. The phone can take up to 32GB of external storage via microSD, but the limited space on the Agora itself may be a problem for some users.

Finally, the camera is no great shakes. The rear 8MP camera is serviceable, and will do more than adequately for social media snaps, but it won't be replacing a dedicated camera any time soon.

Conclusion

With a phone like the Kogan Agora HD, the question isn't whether it beats out other quad-core Android phones on the market, like the Galaxy S4 or the LG G2. Of course, it doesn't.

The question is what does it do for the asking price? In this scenario, the answer is quite a lot. When launched, the Agora was AU$199. It's now available on the Kogan site for AU$179.

At that price, it's an incredible bargain. This is quite a competent Android phone, but for well under AU$200, it's hard to beat for people with a budget.

If you're happy with the limitations, such as the lack of 4G, we're hard pressed to imagine anyone finding a better phone for such a competitive price.



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Lynettev posted a comment   

Crap phone. MMS stopped working after 3 months and tried all the settings, changed them, had other more savvy people trying to fix it. Put my sim into another phone and MMS worked perfectly. Manual for this phone is crap. Kogan no help. Basically a useless waste of good money.

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

I'll give you the manual - it's pretty bad... Incomplete, incorrect and even misleading at times!But I haven't had a problem with multimedia messaging on my Agora HD+, using Telstra or Virgin, and I've had it for quite a few months now...

 

Kikkoman posted a comment   
Australia

It isn't an unnamed processor it's the same typical processor in all Chinese phones that Kogan takes. The MTK6589, Cortex A7 Quad Core at 1.2GHz each and SGX544 graphics by Mediatek. Kogan just gets some OEM manufacturer to slap on their name on the phone and sell it here. Best believe they will release another "Kogan" phone with the already out MT6589T (1.5GHz 4xA7 Higher Clocked SGX544) and the upcoming MT6592 (2GHz 8xA7 Mali450).

Infact if you can be bothered buying direct from China as I did you can have much more choice over the one design, more often than not are cheaper. Not only that if you buy from a "Big Name" Chinese phone brand with the help of Google translate you'll actually have somewhat regular updates and a community developing roms. My Chinese device came out only a few months ago and their community has already developed a MIUI, LewaOS and ColorOS ROM and have also manage to take the rom from the Sony Xperia Line and Samsung S4 and port it to my device.

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

Based on information I've obtained from various sources, the Kogan Agora HD+ appears to be manufactured by a company named "Alps"...

Having never heard of "Alps", I did a bit of digging and quite literally nearly fell off my seat when I found who "Alps" are - they're the parent company of Alpine car audio!

Now if I'm right - and thus far I have not been able to prove myself wrong (I'm trying to verify this information regarding the manufacturer, for my second YouTube review of this smartphone) - that explains why the Agora HD+ is built to such a high standard and why it has performed so well thus far...

 

Batters posted a comment   
United Kingdom

Ordered this model in the UK. A package arrived about a week later but with the older Agora dual core version. It took over a week for Kogan to reply and another 4 weeks before they arranged a courier. I'm still waiting for a refund 10 days later.
Hoped they'd be OK having bought a TV previously but I think you'd be hard pushed to find worse customer service.

With luck they'll send you the correct model and it'll work fine but...

 

MagedH posted a comment   

screen cracked after one week not cover with warranty it is rubbish wast of money

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

It's funny you say that - mine has proved incredibly tough!The other day, someone nearly ran me over whilst speeding through a school zone... In frustration, I threw my phone at their car as hard as I could.Disappointingly, I missed... But even after my Agora HD+ hit the road (HARD!), the only "battle wounds" it had to show were scratches on the side and what appears to be a VERY minor in the corner of the screen, under the screen protector I bought (which I suspect will keep the crack in-check)!

 

gregory.opera posted a comment   
Australia

*Facepalm*It's $179 because the Agora HD+ is due to be released on December 20th, 2013...It's good to see Kogan products being reviewed - some of their products are actually really good and/or great value-for-money - but this particular review is already outdated!Perhaps we can see see an updated version, reviewing the Agora HD+?

 

Will1505 posted a comment   

Kogan released the HD this week. Same price but there is 8Gb of memory, instead of 4Gb.

 

DeneG posted a reply   

This would be the HD which has 8GB storage, I've ordered mine about 3 days ago and I'm still waiting for it to arrive in the UK. Hope it's good because if not then I have to wait at least 3-4 monthes to get another one if I don't like it.

 

DeneG posted a reply   

HD+* sorry.

 

gregory.opera posted a reply   
Australia

I bought the Agora HD+, receiving it only a few days ago.

I did a quick video-review on YouTube and I'll do another in a month or after I've spent some time using the Agora HD+ under "real world" circumstances, but thus far I'm impressed...

In fact, I'm so impressed that I'm actually considering its use as a long-term solution (it was bought as an interim solution, until I can afford a new Sony Xperia) and I am considering buying a second Agora HD+ for my son to use!

At this time, the only thing I really have to complain about is the rather poor manual Kogan have assembled on their Web site (there is a lot of incorrect information in it - features the Agora HD+ does not have or support, poor wording, etc...)... Other than that, it's been fantastic thus far.

Great build quality, excellent performance and surprisingly long usage times - even with dual-SIMs in use!

I never thought I'd say it, but this "budget" smartphone actually competes with many high-end smartphones in a long list of areas...




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User Reviews / Comments  Kogan Agora HD

  • Lynettev

    Lynettev

    "Crap phone. MMS stopped working after 3 months and tried all the settings, changed them, had other more savvy people trying to fix it. Put my sim into another phone and MMS worked perfectly. Manual..."

  • Kikkoman

    Kikkoman

    "It isn't an unnamed processor it's the same typical processor in all Chinese phones that Kogan takes. The MTK6589, Cortex A7 Quad Core at 1.2GHz each and SGX544 graphics by Mediatek. Kogan just get..."

  • Batters

    Batters

    "Ordered this model in the UK. A package arrived about a week later but with the older Agora dual core version. It took over a week for Kogan to reply and another 4 weeks before they arranged a cour..."

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