Kogan Agora Netbook Pro

A cheap-as-chips netbook with a few niggles under the hood

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Kogan Technologies Agora Netbook Pro
  • Kogan Technologies Agora Netbook Pro
  • Kogan Technologies Agora Netbook Pro
  • Kogan Technologies Agora Netbook Pro

Pros

  • Attractive and understated design, preinstalled apps, affordable price

Cons

  • Wireless connectivity took some work, poor keyboard

Bottom Line

Despite its flaws, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro is a reasonable performer for the asking price. If you can get to grips with the open source OS (or have a spare Windows licence handy), it will satisfy as a secondary notebook.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 1 store)

  • The Athenian Agora by John M. Camp 8.14

The Agora Netbook Pro is an entry-level mini-laptop from the caliph of cut-price bargains, Kogan Technologies. With an RRP of $439, it’s currently one of the cheapest netbooks on the Australian market (though it's bested by its $399 'non-Pro' sibling). Despite some solid specifications, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro is let down by a raft of technical issues, including an eccentric OS and hit-and-miss wireless network connectivity. That said, it remains a reasonable proposition for the asking price and is a bit of a looker to boot.

The Kogan Agora Netbook Pro is quite an attractive little unit. While it doesn’t break any new ground in netbook design, the compact dimensions (265x31x185mm) and subtle chequered finish are genuinely appealing. Kogan seems to have learned its lesson from the Kogan Kevin 37 HDTV, and refrained from adding cheap logos and stickers to the device. The result is a sleek, no-nonsense netbook that hides its budget leanings well. If we had any reservations about the design, it would probably be the six-cell battery which juts out at an odd angle. (But that’s just nitpicking, really.)

Unfortunately, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro’s price-defying charm only runs skin deep. This is made obvious as soon as you begin to type, with the keys bouncing around cheaply beneath your fingertips. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by the keyboards on premium netbooks such as the HP Mini 5101 and MSI Wind U123T, but one thing’s for sure: you definitely get what you pay for. On the plus side, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro does feature a full-sized keyboard with decent sized keys; we just wish they were a little more tactile.

We were fairly impressed by the Agora’s 1024x600 widescreen display. The 10.2in screen benefits from a matte finish, which makes it easier to view in sunny environments. Sure, it might not look as sexy as some of its glossy rivals, but it’s a damn sight more practical, which is all that really matters. We found the viewing angles to be a bit restrictive, but this isn't really an issue for a netbook — after all, they're designed for up close, personal use.

The Kogan Agora Pro comes with 2GB of RAM, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and an integrated Intel 950 graphics accelerator, as well as 802.11g networking, a 160GB hard drive and a 1.3-megapixel webcam. The sales package also includes a mini-USB dongle for connecting to Bluetooth devices. These are reasonable specifications for the $439 asking price and should see the netbook tackle day-to-day tasks with minimum fuss.

The Kogan Agora Netbook Pro runs the gOS Linux operating system: an open source platform skewed towards Google applications. If you’ve spent any quality time with an Apple Mac, then the gOS interface will be comfortably familiar to you. As with Mac OS X, applications are accessed via a media crossbar at the bottom of the screen, a system that is particularly accessible to beginners. On the other hand, Windows devotees may initially have a hard time getting their head around the interface. (For those who refuse to adapt, the Agora Netbook Pro will reportedly run Windows XP or Windows 7 without a hitch.)

The Kogan Agora Netbook Pro comes with a bevy of open source applications preinstalled, including Mozilla Firefox, Gmail, Google Documents, Google Finance, Google Reader and the OpenOffice.org software suite. Kogan claims it chose open source software because it's “faster, better and has more features.” The fact it doesn’t cost a dime probably helped sway the company, too. However, the machine does not come with preinstalled video codecs, which means you'll have to download them yourself before watching certain movie files. (Thankfully, the inbuilt Wizard tool makes the process simple for beginners.)

For connectivity, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro comes with all the basics, including three USB ports, a VGA output, headphone and microphone jacks, a 4-in-1 card reader, an Ethernet port and an 802.11 b/g wireless card (Ralink RT2571WF). However, we ran into a few problems when it came to connecting wirelessly to the Internet. When we attempted to connect to the PC World network, the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro refused to cooperate. We had to ring Kogan's customer support line and eventually disable WPA encryption to get the thing to work. This is obviously less than ideal; particularly for novice users who will expect their new netbook to work out-of-the-box — and be stumped when it doesn't. (We'll post an update once we hear back from Kogan's dev team.)

In our 'worst case scenario' battery rundown test — where we disable power-saving measures, enable Wi-Fi and loop a video file — the Kogan Agora Netbook Pro lasted 3hr 38min. This is significantly less than the six hours quoted by Kogan Technologies. However, using a power-saving scheme and running less taxing applications (such as a word processor) should see the netbook last a lot longer.

The Kogan Agora Netbook Pro can only be purchased through the Kogan Technologies Web site. For more information, visit www.kogan.com.au.

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