Kogan Agora 4G review

The BenQ-made smartphone is the best to come from Kogan yet

Kogan Agora 4G
  • Kogan Agora 4G
  • Kogan Agora 4G
  • Kogan Agora 4G
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Big 5in screen
  • 4G
  • Near-vanilla software

Cons

  • Low-end hardware
  • Cheap construction

Bottom Line

The Agora 4G is the best budget smartphone to come out of Kogan yet. It feels more refined than its predecessors in spite of being laden in plastic. Top-tier features, such as a large screen and 4G internet, coupled with the low $229 price, make it an attractive proposition indeed.

Would you buy this?

[Update: Check out our Kogan Agora 8 review and our list of Best Phones]

Kogan claims the Agora 4G is the cheapest 4G smartphone around, and at $229, it's hard to contend. Sacrifices have been made to keep this smartphone's price down. The question is: are they deal-breakers?

Batting above its average

All the tell-tale signs point to this being a Kogan phone. The large screen is ambitious, but the construction — a combination of dreary grey and black plastic — quickly hints at its value for money price. The only trait breaking the monotony are accents and grilles dressed in bright red.

A screen of this calibre is a pleasant surprise on a smartphone this inexpensive

Redeeming the smartphone is its profile. All corners subtly taper off, not so much that edges mould into one another, but just enough to make the 5-inch smartphone comfortable. Thickness, depth and height are all within healthy margins. Even the weight is on the light side at 135 grams.

Sure it looks cheap — those red accents are the equivalent to decals on a 1980 Datsun — but the dirty secret is this: the Agora 4G is cheap. Kogan claims it is the cheapest 4G smartphone in Australia, and we’re hard pressed to debunk the claim.

Check out our first impressions of the flagship Agora 4G Pro

Stretched across the 5in screen is a 720x1280 resolution. This gives the BenQ a commendable 294 pixels-per-inch. For reference, Apple’s iPhone 5S has a “retina” grade 326 pixels-per-inch, only on a screen one full inch shorter.

Traditionally cheap smartphones discount display quality, as evidenced by Kogan’s earlier smartphone and tablet. The Agora 4G’s display is decent enough to use day-to-day, and its performance is enhanced by select software modes developed by BenQ. A screen of this calibre is a pleasant surprise on a smartphone this inexpensive.

4G Internet, Vanilla software

Working behind the scenes is a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM and a 4G modem. On-board storage is 8GB, but a microSD memory slot makes it possible to add an extra 64GB.

We’d happily live with the software tweaks made to BenQ’s version of Android

Peel off the back cover and you'll discover the Agora's 2500 milliamp-hour battery cannot be replaced. Good Gear Guide wasn't allowed to hold the smartphone for two weeks as per our usual testing. Cursory impressions, however, were positive as we found the Agora 4G would average a day of life under heavy use before needing a charge.

Little is left to be desired with the Agora 4G’s connectivity. The smartphone supports the 4G networks of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, features single-band Wi-Fi (802.11n), Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.

Running on the Agora 4G is the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat. Few alterations have been made to the OS by BenQ for a near-stock feel. The operating system is basically vanilla android, only with a few chocolate bits added for good measure.

Swipe down the notification blind with two fingers and you’ll be faced with a wide range of settings shortcuts. Don’t let the sheer variety fluster you though; the shortcuts you find redundant can be disabled easily. Tap the ‘edit’ icon and simply untick needed settings.

This is far simpler than the options provided by established rivals Samsung and HTC because it doesn’t take you to a whole other settings menu. Little details like this make the BenQ’s overlay enjoyable.

Few additional applications are added to the stock operating system, such as a revised camera interface an FM Radio and a voice recorder.

Android overlays have been stigmatised on account of adding unnecessary software bloat. BenQ’s overlay avoids the popular pitfalls that plague smartphones like the Galaxy S5. We’d happily live with the software tweaks made to BenQ’s version of Android.

8 megapixels, Full HD recording

Flamboyantly dressed in red is a rear camera that’ll snap photos at 8 megapixels and record videos in Full HD resolution. Captured photos present well on the Agora 4G’s low resolution screen, but view the content on a computer or television and the budget price shines right through. View photos at their native resolution and you’ll confront plenty of image noise, which only goes up as lighting goes down, limited detail and exaggerated colours. Simply put: camera performance is on par with the Agora 4G’s price.

BenQ’s video camera interface features a ‘pause’ button which can be used for on-the-fly editing
BenQ’s video camera interface features a ‘pause’ button which can be used for on-the-fly editing
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
100 per cent crop of the picture above - Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
100 per cent crop of the picture above - Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G
Taken with the Kogan Agora 4G

A 1.9 megapixel camera rests on the front of the Agora 4G and it can be used to hold HD videocalls over applications such as Skype.

Final thought

The Agora 4G is the best budget smartphone to come out of Kogan yet. It feels more refined than its predecessors in spite of being laden in plastic. Top-tier features, such as a large screen and 4G internet, coupled with the low $229 price, make it an attractive proposition indeed.

Check out our first impressions of the flagship Agora 4G Pro

Better phones than the Agora 4G are available — Motorola’s Moto G and Nokia’s Lumia 635 come to mind — but a cheaper 4G smartphone, there is not.

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