Kogan Agora ICS tablet

The Agora ICS tablet is great value for money, so long as you are prepared to sacrifice performance and battery life for an astonishingly low ticket price.


7.0
CNET Rating
1.4
User Rating

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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


Just how much computer do you get when you spend AU$200 on a 10.1-inch Android tablet? We put Kogan's latest to the test.

Design

If you were to slip a new Agora tablet out on the train and start surfing the web in front of the rest of the commuters in your cabin, we think you'd be the only person who would know that you paid less than AU$200 for it. Kogan's design is a nice mix of the familiar and the new, so that the Agora tablet feels nice and looks expensive. From the front, you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for an iPad, despite it lacking a "Home" button. From behind, this tablet has a unique look, with a stiff plastic chassis moulded to look like cool, gun-metal aluminium.

At only 600-grams, the Agora is an impressively lightweight 10-inch tablet, and its 12mm depth is easy to hold. There is a sharp-ish edge running around the tablet, which presses into the hands a little, but all in all, the Agora is quite comfortable. Kogan has the volume controls on the top-right of the unit (when the screen is facing the user) and the power button is on the lower part of the right side. This button positioning is a little awkward to find easily, but it's not a major concern after some practice.

The right-side of the Agora is puckered with a vast array of ports and sockets, including a micro-HDMI port, a micro-SD card reader and a 3.5mm headphone socket. Curiously, there are also two micro-USB ports; one for connecting to a PC and one for a USB Host adapter, included in the sales package. There is also a 2-megapixel camera on the back of the tablet and a second 0.3-megapixel camera facing the user.

The numerous ports on the right-side of the tablet.
(Credit: CBSi)

The screen is a 10.1-inch in-plane switching (IPS) technology LCD display, and compared with the screen on Kogan's previous tablet effort, this display is an achievement at this price. Viewing angles are good, its 1024x768 pixel resolution is sharp-enough and colours are represented well. It isn't a particularly bright display, so you'll find that you need to set it closer to 100% than the battery will appreciate, and the touchscreen doesn't feel entirely responsive, though this factor is also impacted by the power of the CPU.

User experience and performance

As you might have guessed from the images above, the Agora tablet is pure Google Android — there is no Kogan-made user interface layer on top of the Ice Cream Sandwich experience here. For many, this will be a plus; Android fans appreciate Google's work and don't feel a need to have this covered by an extra layer. There's nothing flashy about this presentation, but it is certainly functional.

Our review unit came with a couple of applications pre-installed; Skype, Aldiko ebook reader, MSN instant messaging and Documents-to-Go for creating and editing Microsoft Office documents. There was also a couple of extra Live Wallpapers that are not typically included with Ice Cream Sandwich. Apart from this, it'll be up to you to fill the device with the apps you want to use via the Google Play store.

It's a very vanilla build of Android that is offered by the Agora tablet.
(Credit: CBSi)

Kogan advertises a 1GHz ARMv7 processor inside the Agora tablet, with 1GB RAM and a 400MHz GPU. These aren't very powerful components by today's standards, delivering a performance that will either make or break the Agora in your esteem, depending on what you consider to be adequate performance for a tablet at this price. Web browsing, for example, is a slow process. The tablet will happily load the desktop version of popular websites, but it takes a long time to render and navigating these pages is a trying experience, thereafter. Pinching to zoom works, but it doesn't smoothly follow your fingers movements, rather it jerks to a higher zoom level several moments after the gesture. We found that the tablet was far more usable for browsing after Javascript rendering had been disabled and Plug-ins, like Flash, had been switched to "on-demand". This made navigation a little smoother, but leaves you with little more than text boxes on your favourite pages.

Gaming is another popular tablet past-time that will not always work as you might like it to. Happily, the tablet installed and executed all the games we chose to test on it, but only some of these ran at a playable speed. Games like Temple Run and Fruit Ninja do work, but the choppy frame-rate and inconsistent input recognition make these reflex-testers unplayable in the end.

The low-powered hardware effects the use of the tablet in ways you mightn't expect, too. Typing on the onscreen keyboard is really slow, for instance, and it can be difficult to convert thoughts into long sentences when the text input onscreen is so far behind the tapping of your fingers. This isn't a big deal for entering Google searches, but using the Office app Documents-to-Go is a bit more frustrating. Multitasking is also heavily impacted, and switching tasks can take a lot longer than you might be prepared to wait. The tablet can only really do one thing at a time, so if you're downloading a new app from the store and you try to catch up on emails while it installs, you'll find that the system will become unusable until the package is completely loaded.

On the plus side, the Agora had no difficulties playing videos from our standard test suite, including a 1080p MP4 video. This is good news as the tablet also has a micro-HDMI out port, so for those who are willing to spend a little extra on a compatible cable, the Agora could make a handy portable media player. That is, if you're happy to keep the charger handy, too.

The real Achilles Heel of the Agora ICS tablet is its battery life. The unit is sealed, so we haven't been able to ascertain how large (or small) this battery is, but the juice does disappear when the tablet is in use. In our heavy duty video playback test, the Agora managed only 3 hours and 20 minutes of playback before powering down. This is roughly one-half or a third of the battery life we would expect to see from a Wi-Fi only tablet, and one of the clear differences between this unit and a tablet you would pay more money for.

Overall

In the end, this review boils down to a question of value for money; a tough question to answer given how subjective a measure it is. The tablet works well, but it doesn't offer a full, smooth Android experience the way more expensive competition does. Common tasks like web browsing require patience, but work, while other past-times like gaming will be limited by the processing power on offer. Whether this low-priced tablet is good value will come down to whether or not these shortcomings will limit your use of this machine.

For us, we think the Agora is a big win. It's design is good, it's screen is great for the money and patient users will get a lot of use out of the features offered. Those wanting a tablet to watch movies in bed, or on the go, are the big winners here. Battery life is a major trade-off, but careful users will work around this limitation.



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adza
2
Rating
 

"Waste of money, even for the video performance"

adza posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Plays video well

The Bad:Everything else

Piece of sh1t. Unresponsive, slow, takes minutes to load a basic webpage (unrelated to the web connection), apps constantly crash. WASTE OF MONEY.
The only thing that works in any useful capacity is video.

The WiFi is pretty much useless unless you are sitting next to the router. 2 metres gets full-strength, 5 metres, hardly any reception.

I was extremely disappointed in CNET's review which made it sound usable, but in reality it is not, unless your happy using Windows 3.1

petemcc
1
Rating
 

"Don't ever even consider buying one"

petemcc posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Decent Youtube

The Bad:everything else, battery, charging time, slow, hanging, crashing...

Don't waste your time on this product. I bought 2 for each of my daughters, nothing but problems from the start, always hanging or crashing. Battery life is dreadful, charging time ridiculous, that is if the charger works, both are now broken. I tried to send one Tab back as it was useless, getting customer service is next to impossible. After a 6 week turn around time I got the Tab back. Now the other one is buggered too, and can I get customer service to reply to me?

I bought an ACER Tab a few months before I bought these, probably cost me $100 more. I wish I'd saved and bought them Acers too because these Tabs are frankly not up to anything. I am seriously contemplating putting in an official complaint to consumer affairs about this product as it does not do what it is advertised to do, e work.

petemcc
1
Rating
 

"Don't ever even consider buying one"

petemcc posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Decent Youtube

The Bad:everything else, battery, charging time, slow, hanging, crashing...

Don't waste your time on this product. I bought 2 for each of my daughters, nothing but problems from the start, always hanging or crashing. Battery life is dreadful, charging time ridiculous, that is if the charger works, both are now broken. I tried to send one Tab back as it was useless, getting customer service is next to impossible. After a 6 week turn around time I got the Tab back. Now the other one is buggered too, and can I get customer service to reply to me?

I bought an ACER Tab a few months before I bought these, probably cost me $100 more. I wish I'd saved and bought them Acers too because these Tabs are frankly not up to anything. I am seriously contemplating putting in an official complaint to consumer affairs about this product as it does not do what it is advertised to do, e work.

 

SkimlettA posted a comment   

Hi, I want to get a tablet that can get the app sketchbook and use a bought stylest. Plz tell me a good stylest and tablet that is not over $200-300 in total. Plz answer here, Kik: The-Manga_Master

PatrickW3 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"Poor customer service and product was junk"

PatrickW3 posted a review   

Very disappointed. Tablet completely died in first two weeks. Support from Kogan was poor and extremely frustrating. Over a month from the time of contacting until agreement that they would replace or credit. Extremely difficult to get responses by email and phone.

Would not buy from them again.

 

KylieH posted a comment   

Took almost 2 months to get my tab, despite this I love it. I get 4-5 days out of the battery. Every thing works as it should. Does not come with driver disc though.

GMann
1
Rating
 

"COMPLETE SH!T!!!! AVOID, AVOID, AVOID"

GMann posted a review   

The Good:nothing

The Bad:EVERYTHING

This review is misleading. It should read, 'If you want to become repeatedly frustrated with a piece of cr@p that is sooooooooo frekin slow, waste your money and buy this sh!t!!!'. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!!!!! PLUS IT TOOK THEM OVER 2 MONTHS TO SEND THE DAMN THING TO ME!!!!!!!!!!

 

HamoMark posted a comment   
Australia

Don't ever buy from this MOB Kogan, there products such as there Androids are not compatible , there TV's are out of sink , it's like watching and old Japanese move where there lips are moving but the sound comes later there vacuum cleaners break on first use and worst of all there customer service rates a zero , having to wait over one hour on hold is a joke just like this so called company and you can get there rubbish for a lot cheaper else where which they won't tell you .

 

dca860 posted a reply   
United Kingdom

Perhaps it was a dictionary you needed - rather than a TV?
You cant spell their vs there, move vs movie, sink vs sync.
And anyway, the lip sync can be adjusted so try looking more closely.

HamoMark
1
Rating
 

"Not compatible to anything"

HamoMark posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Zero

The Bad:Not compatible to anything and the customer service will not help you for a return after 14 days

Don't ever buy from this MOB Kogan, there products such as there Androids are not compatible , there TV's are out of sink , it's like watching and old Japanese move where there lips are moving but the sound comes later there vacuum cleaners break on first use and worst of all there customer service rates a zero , having to wait over one hour on hold is a joke just like this so called company and you can get there rubbish for a lot cheaper else where which they won't tell you .

 

technowiz11 posted a reply   
Australia

Did the tablet come like it was used?

And did the usb host on the tablet work?

 

MatthewF3 posted a reply   

Really? Because I'm looking at buying an iPad from them.

 

dca860 posted a reply   
United Kingdom

Great, I've had to read a duplicate of your poorly written review!

PraveenJ Facebook
3
Rating
 

"Not worth the $$$"

PraveenJ posted a review   

The Good:Nice screen

The Bad:Battery life, response time, app crashes

Not worth the money spent on the product. Has a bad battery life, bad response time, web broswer/app crashes. Better to spend another $200 to get a worthy product.

 

technowiz11 posted a reply   
Australia

does the usb host adapter work?


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User Reviews / Comments  Kogan Agora ICS tablet

  • adza

    adza

    Rating2

    "Piece of sh1t. Unresponsive, slow, takes minutes to load a basic webpage (unrelated to the web connection), apps constantly crash. WASTE OF MONEY.
    The only thing that works in any useful capa..."

  • petemcc

    petemcc

    Rating1

    "Don't waste your time on this product. I bought 2 for each of my daughters, nothing but problems from the start, always hanging or crashing. Battery life is dreadful, charging time ridiculous, tha..."

  • petemcc

    petemcc

    Rating1

    "Don't waste your time on this product. I bought 2 for each of my daughters, nothing but problems from the start, always hanging or crashing. Battery life is dreadful, charging time ridiculous, tha..."

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