There is a lot to like about the Agora smartphone beyond its bargain-bin price tag. Kogan has excelled at creating a product which is so full-featured on a budget, even if some of these features don't perform as you might expect them to.

What we liked

Overall, the build quality of the Agora is excellent. The phone feels as solid and sturdy as the Galaxy Note it looks so much like, without being too thick or heavy.

Press

The dual-SIM feature is bound to be a winner with a certain segment of the market, especially those with family overseas and a second SIM card for cheaper international call rates. It's great that this all works so seamlessly too, that is easy to choose which service to use, and it is all clearly labelled.

But it is the value proposition which is most alluring. For AU$150, you get a phone that can pretty much do everything the more expensive models can. You can play games, use maps and navigation, send and receive business emails; the works.

What we didn't like

For starters, the camera is rubbish, quite like cameras from several years ago used to be. The image sensor struggles in almost all lighting conditions, and the resulting images are grainy and washed out.

Agora

The screen is also like smartphones from several years ago, only much bigger and poorer-looking as a result. An 800 x 600 pixel resolution is much the same as the WVGA resolution screens that were dominant in 2009 and 2010, and perhaps this is how Kogan gets them so cheaply.

The phone is still very usable with this screen, but it is clearly of a much lower quality than the screens in the phones being released today.

Verdict

With most of our criticisms, we're happy to put down to the fact that this is a cheap model, and you get what you pay for. The terrible camera is no great suprise, and the lower mobile data rates are fine for everyday browsing.

But the screen is integral to the smartphone experience, and we have to be looking for quality in this area no matter what. Kogan has chosen to make this a headline-grabbing 5-inch display, but in doing so, has detracted from the viewing experience overall. The panel also suffers from poor off-axis display, giving it a washed out appearance.

Agora lock

Likewise, stability issues need to be ironed out of phones in all price categories, and we definitely noticed a lot of lagging and a few pauses and crashes as we used the Agora. That said, this could just be a minor issue with our review unit and not reflective of the product release as a whole.

Though it's not perfect, the Agora is still a bargain, especially if you're in the market for a dual-SIM phone. It certainly shows that today's important personal technology is in the grasp of just about everyone, which is truly an amazing thing.