MeLE PCG02 Pro Review – A Fanless Intel Celeron J4125 / N5105 mini PC with an ultra-compact form factor

MeLE PCG02 Pro review

MeLE has launched a new ‘stick’ mini PC called the PCG02 Pro. It comes in two models featuring either a mobile Gemini Lake Refresh or a Jasper Lake processor. Both models appear physically similar however the memory, WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB ports differ plus only the lower-powered model includes an M.2 NVMe or SATA slot. MeLE kindly sent both models for review and I’ve looked at the performance running both Windows and Ubuntu.

MeLE PCG02 Pro hardware overview

The MeLE PCG02 Pro physically consists of a 146 x 61 x 20mm (5.75 x 2.40 x 0.79 inches) rectangular plastic case that ‘wraps’ around a plastic inner frame. The outside of the case has a knurled or cross-hatched pattern (engineered to provide high thermal conductivity) and the inner frame has the WiFi antennas glued to it.

As passively cooled mini PCs, the first model known as the PCG02 Pro J4125 uses an Intel 14 nm Gemini Lake Refresh Celeron J4125 processor which is a quad-core 4-thread 2.00 GHz processor boosting to 2.70 GHz with Intel’s UHD Graphics 600. The second model, known as the PCG02 Pro N5105, uses an Intel 10 nm Jasper Lake Celeron N5105 processor which is a quad-core 4-thread 2.00 GHz Celeron processor boosting to 2.90 GHz with Intel’s UHD Graphics.

Both models’ front panel has just an illuminated power button. The left panel has a 12V/2A power-only USB Type-C port with support for USB PD 3.0, a gigabit Ethernet port, a MicroSD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right panel has dual HDMI 2.0 ports and a pin-hole ‘CMOS Reset’. Finally, the rear panel includes a Kensington security slot and the USB ports which I tested using a Samsung 980 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD housed in a ‘USB to M.2 NVMe adapter’ (ORICO M2PAC3-G20 M.2 NVMe SSD Enclosure).

On the PCG02 Pro J4125 these ports are a data-only Type-C ‘USB 3.0’ port (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 i.e. 5 Gbit/s):

and dual ‘USB 3.0’ ports (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 i.e. 5 Gbit/s):

Whereas on the PCG02 Pro N5105 they are a data-only Type-C ‘USB 3.0’ port (USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 i.e. 5 Gbit/s):

and dual ‘USB 3.1’ ports (USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 i.e. 10 Gbit/s):

The PCG02 Pro J4125 review model included a soldered-on 128GB eMMC drive and soldered-on 8GB LPDDR4 2133 MHz single-channel memory:

Additionally, there is a soldered-on WiFi 5 (or 802.11ac) Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 card, Bluetooth 4.2 as well as the ability to add an M.2 2280 NVMe (PCIe 2.0 x2) or SATA 3 SSD drive:

which with an NVMe drive offers a theoretical throughput of up to 1000 MB/s:

or with a SATA driver which offers a theoretical throughput of up to 600 MB/s:

Alternatively, the M.2 slot could be used for an external eGPU. See MeLE Quieter2 Review – Windows 10, Ubuntu 20.04, and eGPU.

In comparison, the PCG02 Pro N5105 review model included a soldered-on 128GB eMMC drive and soldered-on 8GB LPDDR4 3200 MHz single-channel memory that was configured to run at 2933 MHz:

Additionally, there is a soldered-on WiFi 6 (or 802.11ax) Intel AX201 card and Bluetooth 5.2:

The full specifications state:

As mentioned the Type-C USB port is ‘data only’ so either device can only support two 4K displays via the HDMI ports:

Box contents

In the box, you get a power adapter and cord together with a plug adapter appropriate for your country, a quick start guide, a VESA mounting bracket together with a small packet of miscellaneous screws. The PCG02 Pro J4125 also includes a thermal pad for applying to the M.2 drive when in use:

Size – Can the MeLE PCG02 Pro still considered a mini PC stick?

Whilst the PCG02 Pro is marketed as a ‘stick’ mini PC, in reality, it is rather large especially when comparing it with previous generation ‘sticks’. To illustrate this I’ve compared it to one of the very first ‘stick’ mini PCs, the Android-based Rikomagic MK802 which uses an AllWinner A10, the Android-based Rikomagic MK802 IV which uses a Rockchip RK3188, the second-generation Windows-based Intel Compute Stick which uses Intel processors up to the Intel Core m5-6Y57, MeLE’s PCG02U which is an Ubuntu-based Intel Z3735F mini PC that includes an Ethernet port, and on the right, the PCG02 Pro:

Rikomagic MK802 vs Rikomagic MK802 IV vs Intel Compute Stick vs MeLE PCG02U vs MeLE PCG02 Pro

Interestingly, its larger size means that it is arguably comparable to the earlier ‘Quieter’ range of MeLE mini PCs, as demonstrated in this comparison with the Quieter 3C on the right:

MeLE PCG02 Pro vs Quieter 3C

In fact, the PCG02 Pro J4125 is essentially an ‘alternate-sized’ Quieter2Q mini PC, and the PCG02 Pro N5105 is very similar to the Quieter3C except without the M.2 2280 NVMe/SATA SSD drive and it has an HDMI port in place of the mini DisplayPort.

Review Methodology

When reviewing mini PCs, I typically look at their performance under both Windows and Linux (Ubuntu) and compare them against some of the more recently released mini PCs. I now review using Windows 11 version 22H2 and Ubuntu 22.04.1 LTS. I test with a selection of commonly used Windows benchmarks and/or equivalents for Linux together with Thomas Kaiser’s ‘sbc-bench’ which is a small set of different CPU performance tests focusing on server performance when run on Ubuntu. On Ubuntu, I also compile the v5.15 Linux kernel using the default config as a test of performance using a real-world scenario.

Because of the similarity of the PCG02 Pro models with the Quieter2Q and Quieter3C, I’ve also included a performance comparison against these Quieter models which were retested running the same Windows 11 Pro version 22H2 as that on the PCG02 Pro models.

Prior to benchmarking, I perform all necessary installations and updates to run the latest version of the OS. I also capture some basic details of the device under review for each OS.

Installation Issues

When booting Ubuntu 22.04.1 both PCG02 Pro devices reported ‘ACPI Error’ messages in the ‘dmesg’ although the significance of which has not been determined. On the PCG02 Pro J4125 these were:

and on the PCG02 Pro N5105 they were:

Windows 11 performance on MeLE PCG02 Pro

Both the PCG02 Pro models came installed with a licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro version 21H2 build 22000.739 which I updated to version 22H2 build 22621.819.

Starting with the PCG02 Pro J4125, a quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned with the specification:

A brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and microSD card.

I then set the power mode to ‘High performance’ and ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

I also tested Cinebench R23:

Next, I tested the PCG02 Pro N5105, and again the hardware information shows it was aligned with the specification:

Similarly, a brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and MicroSD card.

I then set the power mode to ‘High performance’ and ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

I also tested Cinebench R23:

I then performed a clean Windows installation on both the Quieter2Q and the Quieter3C and performed a subset of the above benchmarks under the same conditions for comparison with the PCG02 Pro models:

It is interesting to note that the results for the PCG02 Pro models are similar to their respective Quieter equivalents. An obvious anomaly relates to the disk performance and these variances may be due to the variable performance when testing eMMC storage. However, the sequential write speeds are substantially higher on the J4125 model compared to any previously tested eMMC drives which is also confirmed in the Ubuntu testing so perhaps this is just a ‘golden’ drive? One other observation, incidental to this comparison, is that Windows 11 Pro appears to be slower than Windows 10 Pro on the Quieter2Q unless this is due to testing margins of error which exceed 6% at times although previously I’ve always thought the testing margin of error was under 5%.

All the PCG02 Pro model results can then be compared with other recent mini PCs:

It is also worth making a note that the table shows mini PCs running ‘stock’ configurations so the results cannot be used as a direct comparison of how ‘good’ a specific CPU performs when in different mini PC models as there are so many other variables, like active vs. passive cooling, power and current limits etc. For example, CPU ‘1’ might perform better in mini PC ‘A’ compared to mini PC ‘B’ but a contributing factor might be that ‘PL/1’ is set higher in mini PC ‘A’. Therefore this table is intended to show what to expect from a specific mini PC including the holistic comparison of mini PCs.

Ubuntu 22.04 performance

For each device, I shrunk the Windows partition in half and created a new partition where I installed Ubuntu as dual boot using an Ubuntu 22.04.1 ISO.

Starting with the PCG02 Pro J4125, after installation and updates a brief check showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and microSD card.

The key hardware information under Ubuntu 22.04.1 is as follows:



I then set the CPU Scaling Governor to ‘performance’ and ran my Linux benchmarks for which the majority of the results are text based but the graphical ones included:



and the latter can be directly compared to when run in Windows using the OpenGL render:

I also ran PassMark PerformanceTest Linux:

which can also be directly compared to the results from when it was run on Windows:

Then with the PCG02 Pro N5105, again after installation and updates, a brief check also showed working audio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and microSD card.

The key hardware information under Ubuntu 22.04.1 is as follows:



I then set the CPU Scaling Governor to ‘performance’ and ran my Linux benchmarks for which the majority of the results are text based but the graphical ones included:


and the latter can be directly compared to when run in Windows using the OpenGL render:

I also ran PassMark PerformanceTest Linux:

which can also be directly compared to the results from when it was run on Windows:

The complete results together with a comparison against other recent mini PCs are:

Video playback in browsers & Kodi

Given both CPU/iGPUs have been extensively tested before, I only performed some verification checks for playing videos in Edge and Chrome on Windows:

I also verified playing variously encoded videos in Kodi, all of which played using hardware for decoding until I tried 8K @ 30 FPS on the PCG02 Pro J4125 which occasionally flickers whilst playing:

whereas it was okay on the PCG02 Pro N5105. So on this device, I then tried playing 8K @ 60 FPS but it struggled to play correctly:

Thermals

The PCG02 Pro models are passively cooled mini PCs. Running a stress test on Ubuntu on each device saw the CPU temperature rise for the ‘PL1’ duration before dropping and then climbing to an average temperature of 74.4°C with a maximum of 75°C on the PCG02 Pro J4125 and to an average temperature of 72.4°C with a maximum of 74°C on the PCG02 Pro N5105.

During the stress test, the maximum temperature I recorded on the top of the PCG02 Pro J4125 was around 60.3°C and on the top of the PCG02 Pro N5105, it was around 76.6°C in an ambient room temperature of 23.8°C. If the CPU utilization, frequency, and temperature are monitored during the stress tests it can be seen that despite the PCG02 Pro N5105 externally running slightly hotter than the PCG02 Pro J4125, the CPU temperatures are very similar:

At idle, the average frequency for the MeLE PCG02 Pro J4125 was 2700 MHz but dropped to an average of 2200 MHz during the stress test. Interestingly the idle average frequency for the PCG02 Pro N5105 was 2280 MHz although it bounced around considerably, but during the stress test, it rose to an average of 2350 MHz and became more stable.

Overall though the external case of the PCG02 Pro N5105 is hotter than the PCG02 Pro J4125 in general use, and even at idle it can measure around 60°C compared to 35°C for the PCG02 Pro J4125, no doubt due to the need to thermally dissipate the higher CPU package temperature resulting from the higher frequencies when under load. The N5105 model uses a similar heat sink to the Quieter3C which comes into contact with the motherboard via a thermal pad at the point where the CPU is located on the underside:

whereas the J4125 uses a heat sink that focuses more on dissipating the heat from any included M.2 drive:

I suspect that the smaller physical structure of the device, in particular being narrower, has restricted the ability to include an M.2 slot on the PCG02 Pro N5105 as the thermal design requires dissipating the heat from the CPU and there simply isn’t room to then include an M.2 slot unlike in the wider Quieter models.

Networking (Ethernet and WiFi)

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf3’:

with lower-than-expected WiFi performance especially for the PCG02 Pro N5105.

MeLE PCG02 Pro power consumption

Power consumption (PCG02 Pro J4125/PCG02 Pro N5105) was measured as follows:

  • Powered off (shutdown) – 0/0 Watts
  • UEFI (BIOS) – 4.3/9.1 Watts
  • GRUB boot menu – 3.9/8.6 Watts
  • Idle – 3.9/4.0 Watts (Windows) and 2.0/2.6 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed* – 9.0/11.3 Watts (Windows ‘cinebench’) and 9.0/10.2 Watts (Ubuntu ‘stress’)
  • Video playback** – 6.7/8.7 Watts (Windows Edge 4K30fps) and 7.1/9.7 Watts (Ubuntu Chrome** 1080p30fps/1440p30fps)

*The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.
**Browser performance on Ubuntu is worse than on Windows so the video quality was dropped to maintain equivalence.

Final Observations

Using the marketing descriptor ‘stick’ for the PCG02 Pro is rather generous given the physical size of the device. The reality is the form factor is volumetrically only slightly smaller than the Quieter range of mini PCs and the choice of which to purchase will probably be based on the ports and their layout or, in the case of the N5105 model, whether the cost-saving through the omission of an internal M.2 slot is important or that simply the slot is not required. In terms of performance, the benchmarks show that the PCG02 Pro and Quieter models are very similar. Side-by-side usage feels that the PCG02 Pro N5105 is much snappier than the PCG02 Pro J4125 which seems somewhat sluggish in comparison. The extra power afforded by the N5105 model really does improve its usability.

HighlightsLimitations
Physically slightly smaller than Quieter modelsNo M.2 slot on the N5105 model
Similar performance to Quieter models
Slight difference in ports to the Quieter models

Supports USB Type-C power deliveryNo ‘Alternate Mode’ support on Type-C USB

I’d like to thank MeLE for providing the PCG02 Pro models for review. Further details can be found on MeLE’s store on Amazon.

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3 Replies to “MeLE PCG02 Pro Review – A Fanless Intel Celeron J4125 / N5105 mini PC with an ultra-compact form factor”

  1. Great review.

    Can you check your Wifi table. You have 2.4 being faster than 5. Did you test using Wifi 5 for the J4125 and Wifi 6 for the N5105 ?

    19.7 Mbits/sec for the N5105 wifi upload speed ?

    1. Thanks. I’ve checked the table against the testing results and it is correct. For the discrepancies (e.g. 19.7 Mbits/sec) I did run multiple additional tests that resulted in similar numbers so I’m confident the table represents the WiFi performance at that moment in time. Note, the testing was performed using a 802.11ax (WiFi 6) router with each device located in the same position. Overall the 5.0 GHz WiFi performance on both devices was not as good as expected and might be indicative of this form-factor.

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