There's a war being waged for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of the budget-conscious phone buyer, and Kogan's Agora 6 Plus has rolled in like a tank. Australia's own bargain e-commerce site has released a phone that packs in flagship selling points like a fingerprint scanner, 5.5-inch screen and aluminium construction, and it's available through the online store for AU$349.
It won't be breaking any benchmarking records, and the battery leaves something to be desired, but the Agora 6 Plus is a feature-rich phone for the kind of price you'd expect from Kogan. The aluminium body and big screen definitely means it looks the part, but there's an awkward disconnect with the midrange hardware under the hood. It'd need to make some trade-offs to hit that bargain price, so the real issue prospective buyers face is if those are trades you're willing to make.
It's striking how little the Agora 6 Plus resembles a budget phone. It packs in amazing build quality for the price, with an impressively large screen and aluminium body. That may not sound like much on paper, but it didn't feel all that different from the other phone I'd been carrying around, the decidedly not midrange Nexus 6P (the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner didn't hurt in this regard).
The iPhone 6 design influences were thick on the ground too, down to the rounded edges and single row of drilled speaker grille holes across the bottom edge. Little flourishes like that help the Kogan punch above its weight in terms of design.
The LCD panel itself could be a little brighter and sharper, especially to cement that big-screen feel, but I didn't have any concerns using it in bright, direct light.
Once it's in your hand, where you can feel the Agora 6 Plus' pleasant heft, aluminium back and comforting curves, you can't help but think Kogan means business.
The Agora 6 Plus manages to cram a whole lot in the very sleek package. And while it does have a very rich feature list, you'll find that under the hood you'll be damning with faint praise. Nothing performs particularly poorly, but you're getting a laundry list rather than anything standout.
Running a pure version of Android Marshmallow 6.0 wins points, as you don't need to grapple with any of the bloatware that you might normally find on cheaper phones. Dual SIM is always nice to have, especially for travel or those juggling a work and a personal phone number.
Neither the 21-megapixel rear camera or the 8-megapixel front-facing camera are remarkable, but take that in both the good and the bad sense. Like most of the insides of the 6 Plus, you'll find your snaps come out totally adequate.
Okay, now for the less rosy part. Build quality like the 6 Plus for that price means that things were shaved somewhere, and it's inside. On paper it's about what you'd expect for a sub-AU$400 phone, but I found it just on the lower end of that bell curve.
On our looping video battery rundown test, the Agora 6 Plus held in there for 11 hours and 6 minutes. It's an average performance, but I expected the 2,950mAh battery to survive longer than it did. I'm a self-confessed battery percentage obsessive, and even everyday use drained the juice faster than I'd like. It did charge pretty quickly when I plugged it in though, coming back up to capacity in around three hours.
Anecdotally, I noticed a little hang time in some of the more demanding apps I was running, but they all launched quickly and I had no complaints with the sub-60-second boot-up time.
In our hardware performance tests, the Agora 6 Plus was outpaced by midrange rivals like the Google Nexus 5X and the Moto X. Granted, both of those phones were a little pricier than the Agora 6 plus and neither match it on design, but sometimes the need for a little more grunt, even on a midrange phone, can't be overstated.
You'll definitely get what you pay for under the hood with the Agora 6 Plus. That isn't to say it's bad -- just that you shouldn't fire up a midrange phone expecting top of the line processing power. In fact, it's excellent design works against it a little here, as you'd expect something far more in line with what's on the outside. But if you can get past the slight dissonance, you'll be hard pressed to find a better looking phone for under AU$400.