I've just spent a day with a pre-production unit of Kogan's new 8-inch Agora tablet and while it's fair to say there's an element of "you get what you pay for" at work here, that's not to say the Agora is bad. The 1 GHz tablet is definitely an indication of just what kind of technology can be had for a fairly minimal outlay these days, but don't expect the same kind of user experience you'd get when investing more money on a better specced unit.
Like its 10-inch stablemate, the Agora 8-inch Tablet is powered by a 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor, 512 MB of RAM and comes running Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) with access to the Android Market. There's 4 GB of onboard flash memory, which can be expanded by up to an additional 32 GB via micro SD card, along with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, microphone, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, and internal G-Sensor.
In portrait mode, the illuminated menu, home and back softkeys are located under the display, with the micro SD card slot, AC power input port, micro USB port, 3.5 mm headphone jack and mini HDMI output port on the underside. Meanwhile, the volume rocker and power button can be found on the upper right-hand side of the device. Notably, the micro USB port can't be used to charge the device and the AC charge cable connector is the same size as the nearby headphone port - we're not sure if some damage can be done here but thankfully we didn't have any juice flowing when we mistakenly placed the AC cable into the headphone port.
As with most tablets, the first thing you'll notice about the Agora is its 4:3 ratio capacitive touchscreen that sports 800 x 600 pixel resolution. It's probably a bit unfair to compare it against the more expensive iPad, but since that's all I had at hand that's what I'm going to do. Putting the two side by side highlighted the deficiencies of the Kogan unit. Even at full brightness the display was decidedly dim, and colors - most noticeably white - were dull. Sure, it's something many people would probably get used to or may not even notice without a direct comparison, but if a bright, eye-popping display is important to you it might be worth looking elsewhere.
Limitations were also noticeable on the performance front. Opening more than a few tabs in the browser causes a noticeable slowdown, while even screen scrolling in Angry Birds sees noticeable stuttering - not anything that hampers gameplay mind you, but it's indicative of the lack of processing grunt under the hood. The number of crashes that saw the unit reboot in the middle of often simple tasks - entering the setting screen, for example - was yet another indication of this.
The lack of a physical lock button means you'll have to go into the settings to lock the screen rotation. This is something you'll likely do early on as the screen flips between portrait and landscape orientation at the drop of a hat - or slight dip of a corner, anyway.
The unit's 3,600 mAh battery held out for the day and a bit the tablet was in my possession. So while I can't confirm the figures quoted by Kogan, the claimed 48-hour standby time and three hours of general use battery life sound about right.
On the build front the Kogan tablet wasn't too bad for a budget offering. While the plastic is obviously not on a par with a unit cut from a solid block of aluminum, it felt solid enough in the hand without being overly heavy. At 20.6 x 15.7 x 1.4 cm (8.11 x 6.18 x 0.55 in) and weighing 725 g (25.6 oz) it's not exactly slimline, but might squeeze its way into a (slightly oversized) jacket packet.
So to sum up, the Kogan Agora 8-inch Tablet is pretty much what you'd expect for a tablet at this price point. Basically, if you're in the market for a budget priced tablet to keep the kids entertained on a long car trip or something to check the occasional email and spot of Web browsing then it will do the trick nicely. But if you've already experienced a more powerful unit or want the latest and greatest device to impress others with its dazzling display and zippy performance then you're going to have to lay down a few more dollars.
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