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Kogan Agora review

We review the Kogan Agora, a budget Android smartphone with five-inch screen and dual-SIM support.

Kogan isn’t a name you’d normally associate with smartphones, and its aggressively priced Agora is the first to become available in the UK. Does it do enough to establish Kogan as a force to be reckoned with?

Well, Kogan has managed to cram a 5 inch screen, dual SIM support, dual core processor and a pretty neat design into a handset that it is selling for a mere £119 ($149). Really, with just those basic specifications listed many people will be reaching straight for their wallets. But as ever the devil is in the detail and it is worth looking closer to see if, even at such a seemingly bargain price, you get good value for money here.

Dual SIM support is rare enough in any handset and to see it pop up in such a low cost phone is a real treat. The software support for a two SIM setup is good and you could easily combine work and home SIMs, or save the second slot for the cheap local SIM you buy when you are travelling and don’t want to get stung on roaming costs. It’s a nice option to have.

When you are using two SIMs, it is easy to decide which SIM to use for different services – SMS, voice calls, video calls and so on, so you can make the most economic choices easily.

Of course there are compromises. There are always going to be compromises when you are looking at a high specs handset that is this affordable. The screen is case in point: it gives with one hand and takes away with the other. The fact that it measures 5-inches is likely to be a real draw, putting it line with devices like the Galaxy S4 or Xperia Z, but it is short on pixels with just 800 x 600 on offer. This amounts to a pixel density of just 200ppi, a throwback to previous generations, and has a quite serious effect on viewability with text often lacking crispness. There’s something odd about the colours too – they look faded rather than vibrant.

While neither of these is a disaster, we wonder whether Kogan might have been better off dropping down to 4.5 or even 4.3 inches to make more of the pixel count by getting a higher dots per inch rating.

You get two cameras. A front facing 0.3 megapixel camera is complemented by a 5 megapixel one on the rear. That’s about what we’d expect for a low cost handset, but the results aren’t great. There’s a lot of compression, and the camera struggles with wide variations of lighting. It’s serviceable for quick snaps and photos look OK when viewed on the phone itself, but it is far from the best we’ve seen and it’s unlilkely you’ll be treasuring shots from this device for years to come.

The Android version is 4.0 which is slightly below the top of the range, but fine for most people. It is barely skinned. This means you have to download Google Chrome, but it also means there’s no software bloat here. Kogan has added a couple of little extras though, including a useful file manager and a keyboard replacement.

The dual core processor is only supported by 512MB of RAM and that really does make a difference. There are short waits at times, and when you flick from the home screen to the apps drawer there can be an odd little moment when you are looking at giant icons as the screen resolves itself to the right size.

This is actually the most significant irritation of the Kogan Agora. We’re sure many users would have been prepared to pay a little extra for 1GB RAM and in the process get past the ever present waits and slow downs.

The usual suspects are all here in terms of general specifications. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, an FM radio and GPS all get ticks. The more fancy features such as HDMI, NFC and 4G support are absent though. And it is worth making special note of the fact that one of those SIM slots only supports 2G while the other is full 3G.

Review written by Sandra Vogel.