Pepper Jobs GLK-UC2X Mini PC Review with Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.10

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Pepper Jobs GLK-UC2X Review

Pepper Jobs is a new company led by Ken Wong who was formerly MINIX’s product director and defined many innovative products such as NEO-X series Android media hubs and NEO-Z series Intel-based mini PCs. The first Pepper Jobs designed and released mini PC is the GLK-UC2X targeting small business, 4K home theater, and living room use with an emphasis on low power and great savings on electricity bills.

The GLK-UC2X contains an Intel Celeron N4100 Processor Gemini Lake SOC which is a quad-core processor bursting up to 2.40 GHz together with the Intel UHD Graphics 600 processor that is capable of 4K support at 60Hz.

It physically consists of an approximately 139mm (5.5″) square case about 33mm (1.3”) tall with a side panel that includes the power button, a couple of USB ports, a Type C USB port and a micro SD card slot with the rest of the ports including headphone jack, Type C USB, HDMI (2.0a), mini DP and Gigabit Ethernet at the rear. The specifications include:

glk-uc2x specifications

A key point to note is the GLK-UC2X comes with 64GB eMMC with pre-installed Windows 10 Pro together with 4GB DDR4 RAM with another free slot for memory and space and connector for an M.2 SSD:

Disk Management

Starting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification:

GLK-UC2X Windows 10 system
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HWiNFO64-Pepper-Jobs

As usual, I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

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The Passmark DirectX 12 test failed to run automatically:

PassMark Rating Fails

and needed to be run manually after all the tests had completed to get a final passmark:

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The results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading when compared to other Intel mini PCs. This is because mini PC benchmark results are heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed:

Windows-low-power-mini-pc-windows-comparison
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Broadly speaking however the GLK-UC2X performance is as expected falling in between the J4005 and J4105 devices.

Next, I shrunk the Windows partition and created new a 10GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 18.10 ISO.

Once installed I first ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:


I then ran Octane and the result was slightly lower than in Windows:

GLK-UC2X-19-ubuntu-octane2
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Next, I looked at real-world usage by playing videos under Windows using both Edge and Chrome browsers. Under both browsers [email protected] and [email protected] videos played fine:

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although on Chrome the [email protected] video dropped 5% of frames which was unnoticeable.

In contrast playing videos in Chrome on Ubuntu was a similar story to other Intel processor-based mini PCs with [email protected] being unwatchable:

ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-video
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but fine when played at 1440p:

ubuntu-chrome-browser-1440p-video
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The [email protected] and [email protected] videos resulted in the frames being dropped and were unwatchable:

ubuntu-chrome-browser-1440p-at-60-video
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and even at [email protected] the video was stalling with audio dropping out every few seconds:

 

Playing videos using Kodi on Windows with VP9 codec encoded video used software for decoding resulting in high CPU usage and juddery video:

ubuntu-chrome-browser-1080p-at-60-video
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whereas an H.264 codec encoded video used hardware to decode and was fine:

windows-kodi-h264
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Videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC played fine as hardware encoding was used:

glx-uc2x-windows-kodi-hevc
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Both VP9 and H.264 codec encoded videos used hardware to decode in Kodi on Ubuntu and played fine:

ubuntu-kodi-vp9
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Videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC played when hardware encoding was used and they were fine:

ubuntu-kodi-h265
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but when software was used the video stalls:

ubuntu-kodi-10-bit-hevc
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As can be seen the software decoding creates high CPU usage resulting in higher internal temperatures. The GLK-UC2X includes a virtually silent fan and is only just audible even under these conditions as it cycles on and off. Cooling is effective and under Ubuntu I ran an VP9 video in Kodi for 20 minutes and the internal temperature remained under control averaging around 60°C with the external temperature of the device reaching in places a maximum of 38°C:

glk-uc2x-fan-effectiveness
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The device also includes two Type C USB ports but as mentioned in the accompanying Quick Setup Guide:

  • USB-C port 1 supports power input, 4K video signal & data – video output does not support hot-plug and does not contain native audio signal
  • USB-C port 2 support data only

So for sound on Ubuntu for example when using the HDMI port you get:

glk-uc2x-ubuntu-sound-hdmi
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but when using the video Type C port and an external speaker plugged into the 3.5mm port you get:

glk-uc2x-ubuntu-sound-type-c

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’:

pepper-jobs-glk-uc2x-network-throughput

It was impossible to connect to a 2.4 GHz network regardless of the router used. This indicates a software/driver issue rather than a hardware issue and will probably be fixed by a future Ubuntu 18.04 package upgrade.

Power consumption was measured as follows:

  • Powered off – 1.0 Watts
  • Shutdown – 0.6 Watts (Windows)
  • BIOS*  – 5.4 Watts
  • Boot menu – 5.3 Watts
  • Idle – 4.0 Watts (Windows) and 3.6 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 14.3 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback** – 9.3 Watts (4K in Windows) and 9.4 Watts (1080p in Ubuntu)

* BIOS (see below)
** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

A brief overview of the BIOS is available in the following video:

The BIOS includes a setting to alter the TDP Unlocker. On N4100 devices this is normally set at 6W however on the GLK-UC2X the default is set to 10W allowing both the CPU and GPU to run at higher frequencies in comparison as the forced under-clocking threshold is consequently set higher.

glk-uc2x-bios-tdp-unlocker
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A prerequisite for this is effective and efficient cooling as this is required to handle the extra power and Pepper Jobs overcame this issue by using their the heat pipe cooling system:

Pepper Jobs GLK-UC2X Teardown heat pipe cooling
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One other interesting design feature of the case is the ease of access to the M.2 slot and RAM slot making upgrades far simpler:

Pepper-Jobs-ease-of-access-ram-storage
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This rather unique feature together with pre-installed Kodi and in Windows the device name being preset to GLK_UC2X highlights the focus on the consumer market.

I’d like to thank Pepper Job for providing the GLK-UC2X for review. It is expected to retail at around $299 and will be available soon on Amazon.

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Leo Li
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Leo Li

Price 299 is not attractive. Just checked from Amazon, GB-BLCE-4105 + 8GB RAM + 250GB SSD is around USD $250 only

Sander
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Sander

Indeed. And for that lower price you do get a brand name device: Gigabyte.

Sooman
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Sooman

A genuine Win 10 Pro license isn’t free, it’s US$179.95 on Amazon. Small and medium businesses need that, cannot use a hacked version as you do.

Member

FWIW I think you should use the default Ubuntu browser which should be Firefox, not Chrome, as well as you should compare the default Windows browser which is still Edge, not Chrome.
AFAIK Firefox has better HW acceleration than Chrome, or at least in ArchLinux that’s always the case when you compare with Chromium, ’cause the acceleration part is not shipped with it, neither with their Chrome counter part.
It’d be interesting to see if Firefox on Linux these days can be considered a better option for the Web (as it used to be).

Linuxium
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I’ll include Firefox in future comparisons.