Kogan Agora 5.0" Dual-core Smartphone review

We bought one of these using our actual money. We couldn’t quite believe that budget hardware maker Kogan was able to sell a 5″ Android phone for £119 plus delivery from Hong Kong so had to get one to have a look at the thing under our usual LABORATORY CONDITIONS.

First impressions of the Kogan Agora phone are that it’s a very, very big homage to Samsung’s Galaxy Note range, offering the same central physical Home button between the Menu and Back buttons, alongside a chrome-edged chassis that’s incredibly reminiscent of Samsung’s original 5″ Note.

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The 5″ display runs at a lower resolution of 480×800, though, so while it’s as big as the Note, display clarity isn’t quite as sharp. Still, for a £120 PAYG phone (plus possible import duty as it’s shipped from Hong Kong), it’s bloody impressive all the same.

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It’s also rather familiar around the back, with Kogan offering the same stippled, bendy back cover we’ve seen Samsung use on many of its high-end models. You don’t so much clip it in place as smother it over the back of the phone as it filling a hole in your wall with wet plaster.

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It’s solid, it’s heavy, although the Home key and capacitive buttons aren’t overly sensitive and we often ended up often having to press a couple of times to get a response, but overall it feels… nice. Certainly quite slim and tough for such a cheap phone.

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The 5″ display is bright and responsive, although the low-ish resolution means text is rather huge. which takes some adjusting to. Buttons and holes are: USB, volume up/down, power and volume up/down toggle, 3.5mm headphone jack, with a Micro SD card and TWO SIM card slots inside. Two!

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And that’s the OS. Android 4.0.4 is pre-loaded here, with only a few additions by Kogan. It’s put the AccuWeather weather app on here, pre-loaded a terrible alternative keyboard called Magic Keyboard, changed the Notifications pane a little, and included a few social app favourites like Skype, Twitter and Facebook.

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Dual-SIM support is definitely a winning feature at this price point, with the rarely-seen option to control your SIM and mobile accounts through Android’s menus, specifying the use of one SIM for calls, another for texts and data, or however you want to break it down. Well handy for SIM jugglers, that.

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Holding down the Home key brings up Android’s multi-tasking menu, although with only 512MB of RAM inside it’s more likely to be a list of things that were once open, rather than a list of things that currently are still open.

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And here’s something we’ve seen before (but can’t remember where) – video wallpaper. It’s a clever tool that creates an animated video background for your Home screen, only with the Agora’s limited RAM, it really obliterates performance. So do it once to impress people then never do it again.

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For web use, it’s patchy. Text is big, sharp and readable on the 5″ display, but the browser, and particular the tab system, easily become bogged down should you try to do more than slowly scroll down pages. But it can handle Flash embeds, which is useful.

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The Kogan Agora phone features a 5megapixel sensor. The Android 4.0 camera app is decent enough, supports the weird semi-3D pan and scan option and can stitch together panoramas. The 3D-ish scene builder is nothing like as flash as the Nexus 4’s staggering PhotoSphere app, but it’s a funny little thing to amuse yourself with on a very long and boring day.

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Some photo samples. Apologies to Kogan, but the weather’s been a bit crap this last week so everything’s quite grey out there.

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And, thanks to the awful colour reproduction offered by the Kogan phone, when the clouds do go away the sky is… purple.

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Yellow flowers turn green, reds are orange, blues are purple… colours are all over the place. It’s like there’s some kind of RANDOMISE filter always in action.

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Still, the HDR mode is good. That’s the same scene with HDR enabled in the photo on the right. Well worth using and pretty rapid to fire off and process the results, too. It’s fast enough to use, too.

The Kogan Agora captures video at up to 720p resolution. That’s what it looks like. One thing it’s terrible at is recording audio at the same time. Video clips feature very muffled sound, which is quite a shame. Click through to YouTube to watch it at the original resolution to get a better idea of video quality.

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So. The key hindrance here is the lack of RAM. Only having 512MB onboard means the Kogan Agora phone locks up and can grind to a halt for quite a few seconds if you tax it too heavily. If app updates are downloading and installing you have to wait, else other apps won’t open at the same time. It can crunch into a temporary coma very badly indeed.

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We have no idea of the harsh economics of the mobile manufacturing world, but if there was 1GB of RAM inside this thing it’d surely be a much better performer and therefore worth and extra few quid to the buyer?

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Externally, the Agora feels solid and well made, plus dual-SIM support is something of a bonus at this bargain end of the market. The camera is “temperamental” to say the least, but for only £120 plus import tax it ought to find itself a lot of fans…

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… but we’d rather wait six months and get something like the Kogan Agora II with 1GB or 2GB of RAM inside it, as that would make it a much slicker experience and one that’d seriously put the wind up the £500 competition, as the crunchy multi-tasking performance is the only real deal-breaker given its budget price.

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If you’re not a multitasking power user it’s an affordable way of getting a solid, big-screen phone to play movies on. A kid would sob with joy getting this for its birthday, plus it makes a good cheap replacement if you’ve smashed your primary mobile to a million pieces on the laminate.

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Buy it direct from Kogan here if you want. Or we’ll be sticking this one on eBay in a few days, as it’s not quite a “keeper” when you’ve got a Nexus 4 next to it on the table. The Kogan Agora 5″ Android phone is a 6/10 or thereabouts.

6 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. James

     /  March 22, 2013

    > Buttons and holes are: USB, volume up/down, power and volume up/down toggle…

    Possibly only one volume up/down, and I presume it has a headphone socket?

    Reply
  2. Tafkawac

     /  March 22, 2013

    Let’s be honest, it’s the camera that is the deal-breaker. It’s color is psychotic and it can’t make it’s mind up whether it’s 8mp or 5mp.

    Brilliant review as always.

    Reply
  3. Hello there, we are the developers of Magic Keyboard.
    We are keen to discover whether our app is being pre-installed as standard.
    We would be grateful if you could contact us via e-mail – thank you !

    Reply
  4. Eppingo

     /  April 16, 2013

    I’ve had one for a couple of months now. I got it to try out Android (I’ve never been that impressed in the past) and because I was becoming increasingly unhappy with my iPhone 4S. I also wanted to try out a 5 inch screen without paying a fortune. I assumed that I would change back to the iPhone within days but I haven’t. As the guy writes in the review, “If you’re not a multitasking power user it’s an affordable way of getting a solid, big-screen phone”. If you want a Galaxy Note then buy one, if you are happy with a phone that would have been top of the range two years ago then get this. Mind, most people assume it is a Note.
    Android 4.0.4 seems much improved on earlier versions I’ve used, the duel Sim is a real winner (I’ve used it for personal/work and personal/foreign when abroad). Most things work as they should. Downsides – the GPS can be slow to pick up a signal but works fine when it finally does (better after downloading a tracker app), the camera is rubbish, the speaker is crap with some apps (although works fine with the phone or with headphones) and it can occasionally be a tad laggy with some apps. I’ve dropped it onto concrete and it survived. Battery life is excellent and you can buy a back up.
    For £120 you can’t go wrong – you can even bin it if you don’t like it, although I will give you £50 for is as a back up. One last thing, you’ll get stung for £20 tax when it arrives from Hong Kong!

    Reply
    • Gary_C

       /  April 16, 2013

      “One last thing, you’ll get stung for £20 tax when it arrives from Hong Kong!”

      Oh yes. Must pay that. Looks like the days of hoping your parcel makes it through unchecked are over.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Tafkawac

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