On paper, the Kogan Agora tablet looks great. $179 gets you a 10-inch tablet complete with an IPS screen, Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich powered by a 1Ghz ARM processor with 1GB of RAM and front- and rear-facing cameras. What could go wrong?
It's a curious device, the Agora. There are plenty of pros, but each one seems to be matched, and even at times outweighed, by a corresponding con.
The screen, for example. Pro: it's a big, bright capitative touchscreen that is awesome to see on a tablet at this price point. Con: for some reason the screen feels tough to scroll around with and often unresponsive.
Another example? The operating system.
Big manufacturers are now notorious for not issuing Android 4.0 updates to their devices. The Agora comes with ICS out of the box, which is great, but for some reason the operating system feels penned in, and constantly crashes. Memory management issues might have been to blame here, but we'll never know, purely because on the pre-release model we were given, the Apps tab of the Settings app doesn't load, and instead serves to crash the app entirely.
We're told that this was just a bug in the devices running Android 4.03:
That settings bug - and any general stability issues - will all be fixed. The pre production units have Android 4.03, the ones shipping to customers have 4.04
One con that can't be matched by a corresponding pro, however, is the camera. What an appalling load of rubbish.
We said in our first look piece that the camera should only be used in a dire emergency. To be honest, I'd rather go without the precious memories on film than live with them captured on this camera. There are a few test images (below) for your consideration.
It's only a 3-megapixel camera, so I wasn't expecting DSLR-style shooting, but I was expecting something better than images that look like someone sneezed on the lens before you took the shot. It's a shame, too, simply because the camera's probably only there so that it checks a box in a comparison chart next to other tablets.
It would have been better not to include the camera at all and instead make the price more compelling. Right now it feels like an afterthought.
It's clear from a few hours with the tablet that it's not for hardcore users looking to work their devices to the bone, rather it's for the beginner tablet user, like your grandparents, who aren't sure if they want to drop $600 upwards on a device they might not need.
An example of this is the design. It's thin, light and there's a slew of ports on the side of the device that are all clearly marked for your convenience, making it easy for first-time tablet users to jump straight into the fray and know where everything goes. Whether or not that ink stays readable over time is another thing entirely.
The Kogan Agora tablet fits a very specific use case, then. If you're looking to take this on the road as a media centre, productivity tool or even a PC replacement, you'll be throwing it out within hours of tearing open your packaging. Instead, if you're someone whose kids can't keep their hands off of your precious iPad or Galaxy Tab, this is one for them.
Games playback is smooth and very usable, movie and YouTube playback works well and the speakers are loud and clear, making the Kogan Agora ideal to give to the little ones in the back seat and quell the endless chorus of "are we there yet?", and replace it instead with the pleasant sound of birds flying into pigs or fruit being ninja'd.
Should you buy one?
If you're looking to pacify the kids on a long car trip or want a device to either get yourself or someone you know around to the idea of owning a tablet, this is a device for you. $179 is a great price for what you get in the Agora. Sure, it's been a bit sloppily executed for someone looking for a fast and flawless, but it's great for those just looking for it to do one or two things well.