Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kogan Agora Laptop at Sydney Linux User Group

The Sydney Linux User Group (SLUG) invited me to give a lightening talk at their meeting last Friday, 24 June 2011. SLUG meetings are always interesting and have the bonus of being held at Google's Sydney's office. Here is a summary of what I said (or wanted to say):

Kogan Ultra Portable Agora 12" Laptop

Three models:
  1. Solid State Disk model: 30GB SATA Solid State Hard Drive, Google's Chromium OS, 1GB Ram, $349 + delivery
  2. Standard model: 250GB Disk, Ubuntu 11.04 OS, 1GB Ra, $349 + delivery
  3. PRO Model: 500GB Disk, Ubuntu 11.04 OS, 2GB Ram, $389 + delivery
Common features in all models:
  1. Intel Pentium Processor (SU2700) - 2M Cache, 1.30 GHz, 800 MHz FSB
  2. 11.6" WXGA Widescreen LED back-light LCD Display, 1366 x 768 (16:9), VGA and HDMI video out sockets,
  3. 2 speakers, 1 Microphone, audio in and out sockets, and 1.3 Mpixel Webcam.
  4. 802.11 B/G/N WiFi, Bluetooth (Not Compatible with Chromium OS, but Bluetooth works fine with Linux) .
  5. SD/MMC/MS Pro Card Reader, 3 USB and 1 Ethernet socket
  6. 4 Cell, 4600mAh Battery
  7. Dimensions: W:29.0cm x D:19.5cm x H:2.56cm, Weight: 1.32kg
I purchased the "pro" model.

  • Value for money generic hardware: The hardware looks good in comparison with laptops costing hundreds of dollars more. The laptop has panels covering the hard disk and RAM on the back of the unit allowing easy upgrade.
  • Bigger than a netbook, but smaller than a laptop: The unit is about the size of an A4 page and as thick of two pads of paper, so it will fit in a school bag. Even so, the 11.6 inch screen is significantly larger than a 10 inch netbook, as is the keyboard. This is a keyboard and screen which could be comfortably used all day.
  • Comes with Open Source Applications: The unit comes with office productivity and other applications pre-installed and read to go.
  • Good after sales service on hardware: The power supply of my previous Kogan netbook was replaced promptly, with no questions asked, when it failed.
  • Unity User Interface: "Unity" attempts to provide an Apple iPad like interface on Linux, but fails to have the iPad's elegance and ease of use. In addition the interface has bugs making it hard to use and drains battery life. Selecting Ubuntu classic interface (no effects) from the login screen solves this problem, by reverting to a traditional GUI, which works fine on the Agora's relatively large screen.
  • Limited Battery Life: Kogan claims approximately 3.5 hours battery life. The real world life is two hours with the Unity interface and 2.75 hours with the classic interface.
  • Evolution email package: The "Evolution" email package attempts to provide calendar and email features in one integrated package, but is slow and unreliable. Replacing this with Mozilla Thunderbird email solved the problems.
  • Limited Software Support: Kogan seem to have simply installed the generic Linux installation on the hardware without customization or tuning. The user is essentially reliant on a small number of fellow Agora users for DIY support. Kogan should sponsor a user group for its products, to make a virtue of a necessity.

For a low cost ultra-portable laptop consider purchasing the Kogan Agora Laptop Solid State Disk model and adding 1 GB RAM yourself. The solid state disk should extend the unit's battery life. Replace Google's Chromium OS with Linux yourself, if you need a full function operating system. Use the classic GUI (without effects) and Thunderbird email package in place of Unity and Evolution.

Kogan should consider offering the Solid State Disk model with 2GB RAM and a version of Linux with the "classic" interface switched on by default and Thunderbird as the default email package. Kogan should sponsor a user group for its products, to to encourage user support.

1 comment:

popularculture - Totally PC said...

Do you know if you could put an apple operating system on this and thus use apple products?