I have been meaning to post a review of this tablet for quite some time, but have been too busy doing other things. It turns out for the sake of this review that it probably is not a bad thing. I’ll come to that a little later though.
Having used an iPad before, I was aware of the kind of use I would make out of a tablet. I didn’t want a device for more than browsing the ‘net, reading ebooks and accessing my emails. As a result something with a price tag such as that of the iPad (£400) was not justifiable. Based on the specifications of the Kogan Agora, I felt as though all this should be achievable – and for the reasonable price of £119 (+P&P).
The Kogan website (http://www.kogan.co.uk/) was perfectly easy to use. The tablet was listed as being in stock and available for dispatch within 24 hours. Having placed the order, it was three days before the item was dispatched. Having provided my work address as the postal address, the tablet was actually delivered to my home address. The delivery address changed (and was locked) once payment had been completed.
What is probably most attractive about this device is the price. There isn’t another tablet on the market which can compare in terms of price. Whilst this may be the case, my expectation is that the device should still function appropriately.
The tablet was delivered in a very large box (approximately 28cm x 22cm x 7cm). This seems to go against the general trend in the electronics industry where packaging is becoming more and more compact. The tablet sits on a top ‘shelf’ with an AC adapter, USB cable and USB host adapter located in the cavernous space below. It is worth pointing out that the charger connector is somewhat non-standard, which is annoying given that so many devices are starting to use the Micro USB connectors. Having said that, when connecting to a computer, the Micro USB connector charges the device. I find myself wondering why the other charger has been included.
Picking the tablet up, it feels pretty light and has something of a plastic-like/cheap feel to it. At certain angles structures on the screen are visible (presumably the touch screen receivers). One corner on the tablet is loose (squeezing the screen and rear of the device results in movement). The front-mounted camera does not line up centrally with the hole (though this does not affect the picture). Other than that, however, things are very much as you would expect.
The boot time into Android is fairly typical for a device of this speed. Nothing spectacular. On booting in for the first time I was able to connect to my home WiFi network. Opening the browser resulted in an immediate crash. This happened very frequently, causing me to look for another browser. I tried Chrome which really didn’t work (every interaction with the browser resulted in a red flashing border around the edge of the screen). Opera seemed to function a lot better crashing less frequently, so I used that as my default browser for a time, but even that eventually proved too slow.
Attempting to use the tablet on a regular basis proved very frustrating. Every application was incredibly slow to load and took so long, in fact, that a dialogue would usually appear to suggest the app had crashed. Rather than pressing “Close”, pressing “Wait” gave the application more time to load which it eventually did. This happened, incidentally, the very first time I loaded the browser app. These “crashes” would happen most of the time that links were clicked on. The situation became so frustrating that in the end I contacted Kogan support (after a month of owning the device) requesting a refund. Rather than issuing a refund it was suggested that I should perform a factory reset on the device. Doing this has been an absolute revelation. Since the factory reset, nothing has crashed. I have even written this entire post on the tablet itself (edited using a computer afterwards). It must yet be seen whether this sudden improvement in functionality will remain – I certainly don’t want to perform a factory reset every month. It does also cause me to wonder if Kogan had installed any kind of post-installation background process – I can’t otherwise understand why the tablet performed so poorly on its first use.
There aren’t many photographs in this gallery, but I am sure that there are plenty more elsewhere online showing more views than just these.
With the single core nature of this tablet and the fact that the majority of current Android devices are double or quad core, it can be expected that some apps designed with multi-core devices in mind may not function so well. For example, the Facebook app was mega sluggish (I have not tried it since resetting the tablet). It does come pre installed on the device but can also be uninstalled completely. I also installed the BBC iPlayer app, which would not work but simply opened the browser to the mobile iPlayer website. Flash player comes pre-installed and video playback is adequate. I also installed SwiftKey keyboard as a replacement for the built-in keyboard. The predictive text is a great benefit and the split keyboard is a great feature.
I used the built-in “gallery” app to test movie playback with the tablet plugged into a TV using the HDMI cable. Playback was smooth and uninterrupted, however I have not tried an HD film played through the HDMI port.
Other apps I have installed include Dropbox, Google Drive, BBC News, Amazon Kindle, all of which run smoothly (although Dropbox has crashed once since the reset – once again, pressing “Wait” provided more time for the app to finish doing what it had started).
I have tried Skype a number of times, and the performance is mediocre. On the same Internet connection, call quality was much higher on more able devices – it’s great having the big screen for video calls, but I don’t think performance is quite high enough for it to be my go-to option for Skype.
I have also tried to use Netflix on the tablet, but the app crashes before the user is even able to enter their credentials.
One of the chief factors which convinced me to get this tablet over others is that Bluetooth was built in, whereas other more expensive (and similarly spec’ed tablets) did not have Bluetooth available. I have used Bluetooth to transfer images and contacts between the tablet and a couple of phones. I did also try a Bluetooth keyboard and had varied success. Generally, once the connection was established, the keyboard worked well, however getting the keyboard to connect was sometimes difficult, and the connection was dropped on occasion. I cannot be sure whether this was a fault of the keyboard or a problem with the tablet.
In general as tablets are a lot bigger than smartphones, they can hold larger batteries, yielding a decent battery life. The Agora does not disappoint in this regard. The device can be used constantly for quite some time without seeing a great drop-off in battery level. There are three issues which I consider worth mentioning:
A very odd thing when first using the tablet (including after a factory reset) is that the font size is set to “Huge”. I don’t know if this is an ICS thing (I am guessing not), but it messes up a lot of the native UI (such as the notifications area). I recommend returning the font size to “Normal” as soon as you get the device running.