The Kogan Agora netbook should be applauded for a lot of things. The fact that it's the first 10-inch netbook in Australia for under $500, the decent build quality, and the fact that they've opted for a user-friendly Linux operating system in gOS. But the one thing that the Kogan Agora really brings to the fore - to its own detriment - is the fact that Linux, no matter how user friendly it seems to be, is a nightmare for the average punter when something goes wrong.With the Agora, it was the wireless connectivity that drove me crazy, the one crucial element of a netbook. Despite recognising my wireless network and allowing me to "connect" to it, data would not transfer, making it impossible to browse the web, check email or do anything online. I tweaked, fiddled, moaned, and was on the verge of complaining when, suddenly, things started working. All was fine then - until I shut down the Agora and started again. Eventually it would actually make that connection to the network, but only after an hour of shouting, frustration and confusion. And it's not an isolated incident - the guys over at CNet experienced similar problems, as did Adam Turner over at Fairfax, plus a whole heap of people on the Kogan website.
And therein lies the biggest problem for the Agora - I spent hours trying to find a solution to the wireless problem. I essentially gave up, knowing that if I were to ever purchase the Agora myself, I'd end up sticking Windows 7 on there to avoid the problem. But most people wouldn't do that, more likely to return the product within the first week, although aside from the wireless issues, gOS was quite a solid alternative.
Plugging in my wireless USB modem gave me the same sort of frustration - it didn't just work - it was a long and complicated process of Google searching, downloading drivers, finding that the drivers didn't work, trying again, etc, so forth, ad infinitum. I don't hold this against Kogan as such - it's more just an explanation that using Linux as your OS is great when it works perfectly, but when it doesn't, the average punter's going to be stuck.
As far as build quality goes, I was content with the Agora. It wasn't the nicest machine I've held in my hands, or the best performing, but it was cheap - much cheaper when you consider the 10 inch screen, which had a matte finish that - while not the greatest for video - did a good job in direct sunlight.
I didn't get to install Windows 7 on my review Agora, but from accounts online, it seems to be quite speedy, especially with the Agora Pro model's 2GB RAM. The 3-cell battery in the Agora test unit was fairly average - I'd definitely spring for the 6-cell option if I was buying.
Even though I really, really wanted to like the Agora netbook, in the end it just frustrated me - mostly because of the use of gOS. And frustration isn't the path to Nirvana. Hopefully Kogan's second-gen products will address these issues and we'll see a faultless laptop at the end of it.