Home Reviews Entertainmnent Gadgets Review: Kogan Smart TV HDMI Dongle

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The idea behind the Kogan Smart TV HDMI Dongle is to upgrade a 'dumb' TV (as long as it has an HDMI interface) with smart TV features such as online video, web browsing and apps. How well does it work in practice?

When we reported last year on the launch of the $99 Kogan Smart TV HDMI Dongle we wondered how well the infrared remote control would work if the dongle was hidden behind the TV.

A review sample eventually arrived, and we needn't have worried - the device has a separate infrared receiver that can be positioned conveniently and reasonably unobtrusively. And if you also purchase Kogan's $39 Android Deluxe Wireless Keyboard & Trackpad, you'll rarely need the IR remote. If you regularly use the dongle's functions that require text entry (eg, web browsing), you're more likely to retain your sanity by spending that extra money - onscreen keypads are OK for phones and tablets, but not for TVs.

The TV we used to test the dongle only had one HDMI port remaining, and that one was side-mounted. The good news is that this means there were no issues about clearance between the TV and the wall (as could be the case with a rear-mounted socket, though that could be overcome by using the included very short HDMI extension cable), but the dongle did protrude slightly from the TV's bezel.

And it turned out that the exact dimensions of the two pieces of equipment meant the dongle wouldn't fit snugly into the socket, so we had to use the cable anyway. We're not trying to allocate blame here, just pointing out the issues that can arise with what should be a very simple installation. If the installation was permanent, we'd probably buy a right-angled HDMI connector similar to this to keep everything neat (our TV is free standing, not wall mounted).

The dongle comes with a reasonably short USB cable to draw power from the TV's port. The TV we used did not appear to provide sufficient current as the dongle kept rebooting when we tried to use it, though we suspect this was a shortcoming of the TV rather than the dongle. A plugpack is included, but we had to dig out a USB extension lead to reach from the nearest mains socket to the dongle.

Once we'd twigged that the plugpack was needed and connected the Keyboard & Trackpad, things moved along more smoothly. The dongle reminded us of some routers we've used, because changing settings (eg, switching from 720p to 1080p) often seemed to force a restart.

There are a bunch of preinstalled apps including Adobe Reader, Kindle, Facebook, Flickr, Google Maps, Quickflix (the dongle comes with a trial offer) and YouTube, and access to Google Play means there are many more to choose from.

It wasn't all smooth sailing - see page 2.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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