Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kogan Agora 12" Laptop Computer: First Impressions

My "Kogan Agora PRO 12" Ultra Portable Laptop Computer" was due at the end of May, but arrived 10 June (Kogan warned me there was a delay). The unit arrived in a very simple but stury packaging: a brown cardboard box, about the size of a briefcase. This contained the laptop, the battery, a power supply, power cord and a note to say the manual was online.

The laptop looks very similar to the previous Kogan 10" Netbook, which I have. While the new unit has a screen 1.6 inches bigger than the old, the case is the same depth and only about 20mm wider. It fits in the neoprene sleeve I purchased for the previous unit and in a carry bag designed for A4 notebooks.

The unit has a flat black body, with a shiny overlay on the top and "Kogan" in silver. I would have preferred not to have the brand name prominently displayed, to reduce the risk of theft. There is no latch on the lid, but the hinge is firm and appears sturdy. There are panels on the bottom of the unit for easy access to the hard disk, WiFi and memory modules.

There is a flat keyboard with large keys in a good layout. There is a small track-pad under the keyboard, which is usable, but could be bigger. The mouse buttons are incorporated one chrome plated bar under the touch pad. I would prefer two separate buttons in black, but the bar is usable.

There is a chrome bar above the keyboard, with a row of small lights, plus buttons for WiFi, power (and third button with no apparent purpose).

The screen has a broad matt black surround, with a microphone and camera above the display. The screen has a matt anti-reflective coating and is very readable, with a bright LED backlight. There is a large chrome "kogan" brand below the display, which detracts from the overall look of quality of the unit.

Turning the unit on displays the usual BIOS start-up and a very much simplified Linux setup. I was promoted for a user-id and password and asked if I wanted to encrypt the home directory (which I did), then keyboard type, location and a few other items.

The new "Unity" Ubuntu interface will take some getting used to. The vertical column of buttons on the side of the screen are too small and blurry (I have found no way to increase their size or make them higher contrast). The absence of was a shock. I will try the provided LibreOffice derivative of OOO, but this seems to be a matter of politics, rather than good software design. Apart from that this it is just generic laptop hardware, running Linux, which is what I want.

Overall, so far I am very happy with the unit. While only a little bigger than a 10 inch netbook when closed, it seems to grown in size when open, with a very comfortable keyboard and screen. This should be a very good unit for students, who need a laptop they can carry around in a bag, but with a screen and keyboard big enough to use.

One issue may be battery life: at under three hours, this is a bit short. Unlike the 10" Kogan, there is no extended battery option. One alternative would be to purchase the slightly cheaper Kogan Google Chromium OS Laptop, which has a 30GB solid state flash drive, and so would use less power. But it has only 1 GB RAM and the Google Chromium OS, however a user installed hardware and software upgrade should not be too difficult.

1 comment:

Tom Worthington said...

One problem I have discovered with the Kogan Agora 12" Laptop Computer, when used by students is the shiny mouse bar. When I sit in a lecture theater, the ceiling down-lights are reflected by the shiny bar for the mouse buttons below the laptop's keyboard. This light is so bright it makes it difficult to see the screen. I will need to paint the bar black.