My initial impressions were quickly dulled, however, as I spent the next hour with a scalpel, an old mini-SIM and backache, crafting an adapter for my micro-SIM. I'm still not entirely sure why Kogan decided on two mini-SIM slots for the Agora HD. But then again, I'm not au fait with SIM standards in every market where the Agora HD's sold, so maybe it caters to the majority. Once the adapter chore was complete, the phone settled in as my daily driver with surprising ease. Having had the opportunity to fondle a bunch of top-tier phones, I was prepared for a notable gap in performance, but the Agora HD purrs along quite nicely. Thanks are partly due, no doubt, to the simple, clean AOSP Android 4.2.2 build. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that MediaTek quad-core processor, though: it'll see you through an online round of ShadowGun: DeadZone as well as any flagship.
At first, I didn't really want for anything. Battery life was no better or worse than what I'm used to (a day, day and a half of normal usage). And as I mentioned, the performance was more than acceptable. But at $189, there had to be some corners cut, right? Yep. For starters, I was forever reading roaming warning messages, as if the handset couldn't suss out the origin of my SIM. GPS was erratic, frequently taking an age to find signal, only then to jump to random locations and back. Furthermore, the display auto-brightness setting was like staring into a strobe light.
Otherwise, the 720p display had nice color temperature, but was basically useless in strong sunlight, regardless of how high the brightness was set. The 8-megapixel camera, too, had the opposite affliction. Even in moderately low-light conditions, quality tanked heavily. Turned out you could only squeeze a 6-megapixel image out of the stock camera app, and in tricky lighting conditions the auto-contrast and white balance settings tended to go awry. Focus and shutter speeds were a little sluggish also, but as with most smartphone cameras with a few megapixels, I took a number of memorable snaps when conditions were just right (see the shot below for an example).
One major issue I experienced was an incompatibility with headphones that have a mic/button module. Music came out muffled and impossible to listen to -- unless you held the button down -- then it came through clear as day. Needless to say, I didn't use it as my portable jukebox. Despite all this, though, I used the Agora HD for some time without any one problem driving me to switch, and I've used it since on occasion. I was constantly reminded I was holding a fairly powerful handset for $189 all in. And that's worth... something.
I initially thought that Kogan had arrived at a particularly opportune time, given the recent retirement of the $199 Nexus 4. That window was short, however, as I had ended up switching from the Agora HD to the Moto G. I'd determined the former's killer feature was its price, and then the Moto G arrived at $10 cheaper, for $179. It was totally polished, and I had little to complain about compared with the relatively mammoth list of cons I had for the Agora HD. Still, if Kogan decides to give it another shot with a third iteration that's as much an improvement as this model was over the original, well, I'm sure I'd be intrigued to check that out, too.