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-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.
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.
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.
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.