Kogan Agora Smart TV Dongle review: Kogan Agora Smart TV Dongle

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Well designed UI. Handles 1080p video. Good collection of pre-loaded apps.

The Bad Some instability in the software. Really requires the purchase of additional keyboard accessory. Is the same price as Apple TV.

The Bottom Line If you're familiar with Android, you'll feel at home with an Agora Dongle in your living room. Just be sure you don't want an Apple TV first.

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Design

Taking what is, essentially, an Android smartphone and whittling it down to something the size of an old-fashioned pack of chewing gum, is pretty impressive. It's not a particularly attractive packet of gum, but considering it will spend its time hidden behind your flat panel TV, this isn't a major factor to consider.

There isn't much more to know about the dongle, itself. You stick the pointy bit in the TV, there's a mini-USB port on the side that the power supply plugs into and there is a micro-SD card slot on the back, in case you need to expand its 4GB of internal storage.

Take a look at the picture of the nearly useless remote before you commit to buying an Agora Dongle, though. As part of keeping this gadget's price down, the Dongle comes with a severely limited remote, with a five-way navigation pad for controlling most of the system. Remember, this is Android, so there are many, many occasions when you are going to want to input text, and doing this with a five-way pad is majorly tedious. Kogan also sells a wireless keyboard separately, which we have used throughout this review, and we recommend you add it to your shopping cart if you decide to order a Dongle for yourself.

If you buy the Dongle, you need this keyboard (or something similar).
(Credit: Kogan)

User experience

The software on the Agora Dongle is based on Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3), with a custom overlay designed for TVs. Given the stock Android experience on previous Kogan products we've reviewed, we were impressed with how clean and easy-to-use this custom system is. There is a row of tabs across the top of the UI housing the major sections of the system, including Apps, Music, Movies, Photos and Settings. There is also a Home tab with your most recently accessed apps, and space for two Android widgets, like Facebook or Twitter.

Set up is easy, with a wizard when you first use the Dongle. Once you are connected to a Wi-Fi network and you have connected a Google account, you are on your way.

The custom UI is clean and well laid out.
(Credit: Kogan)

The performance of the system is mostly a pleasant and seamless experience. Jumping between menus is fast and without much lag, and most apps load without fuss. There isn't an option to multitask on the Dongle, which is a shame. This isn't a part of a regular TV experience, but it is something we found we needed a few times when reviewing this unit. The web browser is a highlight, especially for anyone who has used a web browser on a Smart TV or game console in the past. It is slower than most smartphones, but is OK for quick browsing in a pinch.

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Where to Buy

Kogan Agora Smart TV Dongle

Part Number: CNETKogan Agora Smart TV Dongle

Typical Price: $99.00

See manufacturer website for availability.