Kogan Agora 8 Plus review: Inexpensive but unexciting
The Kogan Agora 8 Plus isn't fancy or expensive, but it ultimately has little that really stands out, even in the budget space.
- Large display screen
- Fair design
- Fingerprint sensor
- Dual SIM
- Stuttering touch response
- Poor battery life for such a large phone
- Ordinary camera
Kogan came into the Australian market with low-priced TVs that promised the features that the established brands offered at a fraction of the price, thanks to dealing directly with numerous Chinese factories. Since that time, the company's expanded into everything from mobile phone services to travel, insurance and even groceries, as well as direct importation of a number of brand name headsets.
That's why Kogan is always part of our weekly bargain phone roundups, but it has also dabbled in its own branded Android handsets.
My reviewing experience of Kogan branded equipment has always seemed to fall into one of two buckets. Some Kogan electronic equipment has offered superb value for money, but about the same quantity has simply been cheap and rife with flaws. It's been something of a guessing game, in other words.
As such, I approached the Kogan Agora 8 Plus with a little trepidation, unsure which way it would fall. It's also worth noting that I only had the handset to test for five days, which is less time than I'd typically like to review a handset.
Kogan's previous Agora phones have been exceptionally plain devices, relying as they no doubt do on whatever Kogan's current choice of Chinese manufacturer is producing at a given point in time. While many of those manufacturers opt for ordinary designs for low-cost phones, the Agora 8 Plus punches above its weight here, at least a little.
Measuring in at 155x77x9mm with a carrying weight of 173g, the Agora 8 Plus is large in the hand but not terribly heavy. You're looking at a footprint not that much shorter than the (much more expensive) Samsung Galaxy Note 8, although the Agora 8 Plus only features a 5.5 inch 1080p display with prominent bezels in that same size.
1080p is a fairly good inclusion at this price point, although default screen illumination is a little uneven, and the default colour profile is on the predictably eye-bleeding side of the scale, which is increasingly common across all smartphone handsets. The choice of a stellar cloud pattern as the default background does accentuate this.
The sides are ever so slightly rounded giving it a decent feel in the hand, and the mostly matte black finish, while not showy to speak of, also isn't too much of a fingerprint magnet.
The phone's controls largely run up the right hand side, including power and volume buttons, although it will take you a little while to avoid tapping the power button when you want to adjust the volume. There's a top-mounted headphone jack, bottom mounted USB-C connector for data and charging purposes, and a dual-SIM slot for either a micro and nano SIM, or micro SIM and microSD card expansion.
You're not going to fool anyone that you're packing a high-end phone with the Agora 8 Plus, but you're equally not going to entirely look like you're slumming it either.
The Kogan Agora 8 Plus is equipped with a single rear 13MP sensor and front 8MP selfie camera, which is well within expectations for a budget handset, without being particularly exceptional.
That same critique applies to the Kogan Agora 8 Plus camera, which is everything you'd expect of a low-cost mobile phone camera, and maybe a bit less. Launch speed is less than stellar, so don't expect to get that sudden surprise photo if it appears in front of you.
Focus speed is slow, as is response from the onscreen shutter button. There are always compromises with low-end handsets, and it's abundantly clear that the Kogan Agora 8 Plus is weak on the camera front.
With sufficient patience you can get passable shots, but you're just as likely to get blurry or badly exposed ones. Even against the budget competition, the Kogan Agora 8 Plus just doesn't stand up well on the camera front.
Here are some sample shots taken from the Kogan Agora 8 Plus:
The Agora 8 Plus runs a relatively clean install of Android 7.1 ("Nougat"), which is commendable if you like keeping things simple. It's running off a 1.5GHz Octa-Core MediaTek MT6750T SoC, a processor particularly beloved of low-cost Chinese OEMs.
The Kogan Agora 8 Plus pairs the MT6750T with 4GB of RAM, which at least gives it some scope for decent application performance, although you shouldn't expect miracles. Here's how it compares against a range of low-cost Android handsets using Geekbench 4's CPU test:
|Handset||Geekbench 4 CPU Single-Core (higher is better)||Geekbench 4 CPU Multi-Core (higher is better)|
|Huawei GR5 2017||814||3398|
|Huawei Nova 2i||918||3331|
|Sony Xperia X||1122||2626|
|Kogan Agora 8 Plus||653||2522|
And here's how the Kogan Agora 8 Plus stacks up against its immediate competitors using 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited test:
|Handset||3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Result|
|Huawei GR5 2017||11859|
|Huawei Nova 2i||10308|
|Kogan Agora 8 Plus||9755|
The benchmarks do point to the Agora 8 Plus competing reasonably well within its class, but then there's the reality of using it for day to day use.
The MediaTek MT6750T is a low-cost processor and it shows, because the Agora 8 Plus very frequently pauses after an input command. It's not quite as frustrating as the very slow keyboard on Huawei's Y5, but it's close, and it's annoying.
All too often I'd find that keystrokes would appear a second or so after tapping them, and sometimes they simply wouldn't work at all, and I'd have to try again. There are indeed compromises to be expected in low-cost handsets, but this is more of a competitive field than it used to be, with so many mid-range handsets tumbling in price and specifically budget competitors to consider.
The Agora 8 Plus might be running a low-cost processor, but the flipside of those approaches, especially on larger handsets, is that you can usually eke out quite a lot of battery life because you're simply not able to push the handset that hard.
The Agora 8 Plus is equipped with a 2950mAh battery, which isn't immense for a larger screened phone, but it's not titchy either. What is titchy, sadly, is its battery performance. Using Geekbench 3's battery test, here's how the Agora 8 Plus stacked up against its immediate competition:
|Handset||Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration||Geekbench 3 Battery Score|
|Huawei GR5 2017||11:33:50||6938|
|Huawei Nova 2i||9:37:10||5771|
|Motorola Moto G5||6:32:50||3833|
|Kogan Agora 8 Plus||6:29:40||2597|
That's not a great score by any stretch of the imagination. If you're a light phone user then a day might be feasible, but I wouldn't bank on it if you do want to buy the Agora 8 Plus to use for any extended periods of time.
The Kogan Agora 8 Plus is very much a classic Kogan product, in that it's an OEM design with a touch of Kogan branding applied to it sold at a low asking price to tempt consumers.
That's a model that has worked superbly well for Kogan in the general technology space, and especially for televisions. In the modern mobile space, even in the budget category, there's a lot of competition that does it just as well, if not a little better.
Every budget phone has its compromises, and working out the inherent value is often a matter of balancing those compromises against your likely usage cases. The Agora 8 Plus has a decent sized 1080p display, an inbuilt fingerprint sensor for verification and dual SIM compatibility if that's important to you.
However it otherwise really fails to stand out, given it compromises in hitting those critical pain points of camera, general performance and overall battery life.
There are numerous very low-cost handsets out there from makers such as Huawei, Alcatel or Motorola, and they're worth considering depending on what's important to you.
If you want a better camera, consider Huawei's slightly more expensive (but not by much) Huawei Nova 2i handset.
If it's style you crave along with clean Android and a solid camera then Motorola's G5 is a good choice as well. If you're a fan of phones with guaranteed updates, then one of Nokia's cheaper phones such as the Nokia 3 or Nokia 5 is also worth considering.
Kogan Agora 8 Plus: What the other reviewers say
|Gizmodo Australia||"The Agora 8 Plus certainly packs as much power as it can behind that 5.5-inch screen and it's cheap, but not nasty."||N/A|
Pricing and availability
- Product Name
- Kogan Agora 8 Plus
- 1080 x 1920 pixels
- Android 7.1
- Front camera
- Rear camera
- MediaTek MT6750T