REVIEW: MeLE PCG03 Apo a fanless mini PC with Intel Apollo Lake N3450

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Thanks to the collaboration of MeLE we present the review for the new MeLE PCG03 Apo fanless mini PC, a device that follows the line of design that we have already seen in other models of the brand such as the MeLE PCG03 Plus. Inside this mini PC we have a very effective cooling system as we will see, this design allows us to work with this device in a totally passive way. Inside the small box of this PC we find multiple options of storage thanks to the M.2 connector integrated and its SATA 3 port. We also have some interesting startup options to use in areas such as the digital signage thanks to its startup options. As we will see in our detailed analysis both the new HDMI 2.0 video output that allows us to work with resolutions 4K@60fps as its hardware components offer us high performance.

  • MeLE PCG03 Apo can be buyed on Aliexpress.com for only $159 with shipping cost included.

SPECIFICATIONS

ModelMeLE PCG03 Apo
CPUIntel Celeron N3450 @ 1.1 / 2.2 GHz
GPUIntel HD Graphics 500 Gen9-LP 12UE @ 200 MHz / 700 MHz
OSWindows 10
ChipsetIntel Apollo Lake IMC
BIOSAMI BIOS
FormatminiPC
RAM4GB DDR3 1866 MHz Dual Channel
Storage32 eMMC integrated (Toshiba 032G72)
M.2 2280 – Optional
SSD 2,5″ Disk – Optional
WiFiIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1 internal antenna + 1 external)
EthernetRealtek Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth4.0
SoundIntel Broxton HDMI  / Realtek ALC269  for  audio jack
Ports3x USB 3.0
1x USB 3.0 Type-C
1x USB 2.0
DC-IN
Audio jack in/out
HDMI 2.0a / 4K@60fps
VGA
SD reader
Kensington lock
ContentManual
Transformador 12V 2A
OthersVESA 75 x 75 compatible
Auto Power-on jumper
PXE boot
Wake on Lan
Weight: 1,1 lb
Dimensions: 5.9 x 4 x 1.4 inches

CONTENT DESCRIPTION

Package content

The Mele PCG03 Apo mini-PC is presented in a cardboard box with different compartments, in the foreground we have the first steps manual, the mini PC, in a side drawer we have the 12V 2A power adapter with different adapters.

Product Details

As we can see the Mele PCG03 Apo continues with the usual design of the MeLE brand for this type of products, if something works better don’t change it. The upper zone on the case is made of plastic with a shining part, on the front we have a blue / red status led and an IR receiver that unfortunately is not functional.

 

On one side we have a USB 2.0 port and USB 3.0 port, both Type-A, on the side we have a full size SD card reader and a rather small power button.

In the back metal zone we have a series of perforations, we have the Kensington lock, USB 3.0 Type-C port, round DC-IN connector, VGA video output, HDMI 2.0a connector that allows 4K@60fps video output, Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 Type-A connectors, audio jack with microphone support and the external Wi-Fi antenna.

At the bottom we see the continuation of the metal part of the back, we have four rubber feets high enough to improve airflow in addition to ventilation slots, we also have four threaded holes compatible with VESA 75×75 and the screws to remove this cover.

If we open the case of the MeLE PCG03 Apo we can see an aluminium heat-sink, we have an M.2 2280 connector and right behind a SATA port with a two-pin power connector. From the Wi-Fi card have a connector for the external antenna and another for the internal antenna. Next to the internal antenna we have a BIOS reset button and a jumper that if we disconnect it causes the mini PC to not turn on automatically when connected to the power.

As we see in this plate we have a place to mount an M.2 disk with very good results, putting a 2,5″ SATA disk is something more complicated since it will cover the heat-sink of the CPU but it is possible. On the motherboard we can also see the Parade PS175 chip that converts the DP 1.2 signal to HDMI 2.0a, the board have too an internal COM connector and a series of front ports that are not documented to the user.

Taking advantage of the metallic part of the case, the MeLE takes its cooling system to that zone and as we will see this system works efficiently keeping the temperatures at good level, a system that is far ahead from others models with closed plastic boxes.

CONNECTING THE DEVICE

Startup

We connect the MeLE PCG03 Apo to the power supply and it starts automatically, as we have seen on the motherboard we have a jumper that can change this behaviour. In a first boot we get the installation wizard of Windows 10 Home 64 bit (version 1607), the system is properly activated. We checked the list of devices and all the systems have the proper drivers installed.

  • Startup time: 22 seconds

User Experience

The system runs smoothly on the MeLE PCG03 Apo, we can open all the apps installed by default quickly thanks to the eMMC memory, the performance in Windows is suitable for a desktop use, web browsing and play multimedia files without problems. You can use this mini PC also to run edit tools for pictures or video at medium level, the only big limitation is with 3D games with high hardware demands.

BIOS

It is possible to boot the system BIOS by repeatedly pressing the ESC key while restarting the mini PC, the BIOS is dated in 04-26-2016 and has not presented problems to use all the settings.

In the Advanced settings section as we can see we have many options available, we recommend not touch anything if we do not know exactly what we are doing since we can leave the system unusable and we will have to reset the BIOS.

In the startup options we have the possibility to make the system turn on automatically programming a fixed or dynamic schedule with the available menus. We also have a PXE Boot option that allows us to power-on the system from its S5 off state.

Brand Support

From the MeLE forums we have available to download all drivers and BIOS for this model, we also have a complete image of Windows 10 with all the pre-installed drivers. Alternatively we can always install Windows 10 from a USB stick and then install the drivers manually if necessary.

Remote control

To remotely control the MeLE PCG03 Apo we can install Intel Remote Keyboard Host on the the mini PC, and then we can use our mobile or tablet to control it installing the Android or iOS app. We can use tactile gestures, virtual mouse or remote keyboard, we just have to have both devices on the same Wi-Fi network.

Linux

From a USB we tried to boot Ubuntu x64 using the ISO of this system but the system hangs before running the boot menu, a pity but surely in the long term we have a compatible distribution available.

Hardware specifications

Processor

The MeLE PCG03 Apo mini-PC has the Quad Core Intel Celeron N3450 processor that works between 1.1 GHz and 2.2 GHz, n the graphics section we have an Intel HD Graphics 500 Gen9-LP GPU and it integrates 12EU (execution units). A processor sufficient for an office use, surf the internet or play multimedia content without problems.

RAM

According to the data extracted in our test the DDR3 memory works at a speed of 1866 MHz achieving correct speeds, curiously AIDA64 tells us that they work in Dual Channel system and the results are correct on this Apollo Lake device.

The results of the tests reflect correct values of the RAM in Dual Channel and we verify that effectively the module works to 1866MHz extracting the maximum of this type of memory.

Storage and ports

In the internal storage section we have 32 GB of eMMC space integrated in the board, the speed is correct for this type of memory, a sufficient size for the installation of Windows 10 but if we want more margin we can think of mounting a M.2 disk.

  • On the two 3.0 Type-C and Type-A USB ports we have an excellent speed of up to 128 MB/s

The results that gives us the installed eMMC 32 GB memory are correct, we have fairly balanced results in all aspects as we can see in the test CrystalDiskMark.

If we put an M.2 2280 disk the results are much better as it is logical, in our case we have mounted a ADATA ASX7000NP-128GT-C that gives us the maximum values.

Consumption and temperatures

In the consumption review that we ran on the Mele PCG03 Apo we obtained quite controlled values in the line of similar models, in a normal use the systems are kept very contained and only we reach a maximum of 9,5 W when we put to work the GPU to the maximum.

Temperature and noise

We performed a series of thermal tests on the MeLE PCG03 Apo and verified that the unique thermal design of this model continues to work perfectly with the new Intel Apollo Lake SoCs. As we see the numbers are kept at values much lower than those of the competition, something that in the long run surely involves less problems.

  • Average measurement temperature 25°C

In our extreme performance tests with CPU and GPU at 100% and the system rises the temperature to 56ºC, the processor is maintained at a maximum speed of 1.31 GHz which is normal since in these devices when a benchmark tool is detected the CPU and GPU speeds are greatly limited.

The best test for these mini PCs is to run a powerful 3D game and play a round, in our test we can see how the GPU speed ascends to 2.1 GHz in a punctual way and the temperature reaches 67ºC. Very correct numbers for a passive system in a high performance scenario, other models reach 89 °C  (192.2 ºF) quickly.

Power consumption

In the consumption tests that we ran on the Mele PCG03 Apo we obtained quite controlled values in the line of similar models, in a normal use the systems are kept very contained and only we reach a maximum of 11 W when we put to work the GPU to the maximum.

Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Bluetooth

In our review we ran our tests to check the network performance on the Mele PCG03 Apo mini PC, we found that for the wireless connection we have an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 chip that also integrates the 4.0 Bluetooth adapter. With this Wi-Fi chip we get a speed of 35 Mbps in the 2,4 GHz band and 187 Mbps in the 5 GHz band. The Realtek Gigabit Ethernet connector gives us results of 650 Mbps, which are very good figures to transfer files in Windows networks. The Wi-Fi coverage is correct thanks to the two antennas assembled in this model. This device also have Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity with which we have no major problems when it comes to detecting other devices in general.

We also ran tests on the network adapters for streaming using the iPerf measurement tool with which we have the maximum connection speed in each type of network. With this figure we have how far we can reach using the available connections, the final performance will depend on our internet provider, the contracted speed, the distance of our Wi-Fi network and other factors. The results are good for this kind of hardware and is possible to use them to view all the streaming sources available.

PERFORMANCE TEST

The MeLE PCG03 Apo as we see in the specifications mounts a processor Intel Celeron N3450 SoC that reaches a speed of 2.1 Ghz in turbo mode. Undoubtedly the weakest point of these processors is the 3D power, the performance we can get from the 12 EU makes limit the use of this device for quite simples games in this aspect but it is clear that this device is not designed for that use.

Benchmarks

PCMark 8

With this test we can see the performance of the device in an office environment and common desktop use.

3DMark

Graphic performance test where we can see the gross performance capabilities in this environment and compare the performance of GPU’s historically.

Geekbench 4

This benchmark in SoC offers a fairly reliable numbers of CPU’s working in a single core or multiple cores ate the same time, it also has a section of GPU computing that gives us an overall result of the processing capacity.

Cinebench

A brute force tests on both CPU and GPU, this benchmark always help us to see a very clear reference of power.

Games

We have performed several performance tests for our review of the MeLE PCG03 Apo that integrates an Intel HD Graphics 500 Gen9 GPU with 12EU (Execution Units). The performance is correct to play very simple titles, as we have seen with this hardware we will be limited in most cases to 2D games and basic 3D effects, a system that of course cannot run modern or demanding titles.

Test environment

  • GTA V, Low settings, 720p resolution
  • Overwatch, Low settings, 720p resolution
  • DOTA 2, Low settings, 1080p resolution
  • Minecraft, Medium settings, 1080p resolution
  • World of Tanks, Medium settings, 1080p resolution

We performed our special test with DOTA 2 o with a screen resolution of 1920×1080, on the lowest settings, the system stays at only 17 fps which is quite low for this processor. As we see this hardware is quite limited in 3D games but as we said it is not the main purpose of such device, luckily temperatures are very low.

As we see, with this hardware it is advisable to play simple titles such as those found on Android phones by downloading them from the Microsoft Store. Also indie 2D titles or have a basic load in 3D, emulators are also feasible but at most we are in some simple Wii titles.

VIDEO AND AUDIO TEST

Video format test

As for video playback in the MeLE PCG03 Apo review we have good results thanks to the GPU with hardware support for the decoding of the VP9 codec and also 10bit color HVEC. In this model we have HDMI 2.0a connector that allows us to take image up to 4K@60fps resolution, apart with the VGA connector we can have image in two monitors at the same time.  As a media player we can say that it works correctly with any format in both 1080p and 4K, the only problem detected is in a concrete file encoded with HDR information.

Test results

H.264 formatDefault playerKODI
BBB – H.264 8bit – 1080p@25fps – 7 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Birds – H.264 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Samsung Oceanic Life – H.264  8bit– 1080p@30fps – 40 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Anime – H.264 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 10 MbpsArtifactsFrame skip
Skyfall – H.264  8 bit – 4K@24fps – 10 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Timelapse – H.264 8bit – 4K@24fps – 43 MbpsCorrectCorrect
H.265 format
Tears of steel – HVEC 8bit – 1080p@24fps – 17 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Beauty – HVEC 8bit – 4K@120fps – 12 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Anime – HVEC 10bit – 1080p@24fps – 21 MbpsCorrectCorrect
Samsung UHD Dubai – HVEC 10bit – 4K@24fps – 51 MbpsCorrectCorrect
HDR format
Life of Pi HDR –  HVEC – 4K@24fps – 45 MbpsCorrectCorrect
TravelXP HDR HLG – HVEC – 4K@24fps – 20 MbpsArtifactsFrame skip
Planet Earth II – HDR HLG – HVEC 10L5 – 4K@25fps – 31 MbpsCorrectCorrect
  • The MKV, Blu-ray ISO and BDRemux formats are only containers, inside we can have different codecs, resolutions, audio channels, chapters or subtitles. To play the Blu-ray format menus we need KODI or a compatible program.

Audio format test

We test the audio adapter built into the MeLE PCG03 Apo using a Yamaha RXV-577 AV receiver and we checked that this mini PC supports 7.1 DD and DTS pass through sound. We recommend as always update to the latest all drivers with Windows Update before connecting the device to our AV receiver. In this mini PC like the other Apollo Lake we need to use directshow filters like the LAV to have multi-channel audio like for example with MPC-HC, the normal KODI version will not work we need to use KODI DSPlayer.

Test results

Formato audioHDMISalida óptica
Dolby Digital 5.1OK
Dolby Digital Plus 7.1Core
Dolby True HD 7.1OK
Dolby Atmos 7.1OK*
DTS 5.1OK
DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1OK
DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1OK
DTS-X 7.1OK*
  • PCM – Stereo downmix from DD or DTS
  • Core – Only the core of the format Dolby / DTS is played
  • * Our AV receiver does not support these native formats but we check that it does downmix fine

STREAMING

Youtube

We reproduce streaming content on the Mele PCG03 Apo in the usual means like YouTube or other sources and we verified that we have no problems when playing videos. In YouTube we can play content with the VP9 codec quite correctly up to 4K with a 50% CPU usage, although if we look for better performance it is best to use another codec.

Streaming services with subscription

We run a series of tests on the most common streaming services, we play various contents and we verified that all work properly, the power of this device is more than enough to see any kind of content with them. In Netflix we get to FullHD quality without complications, in the rest of services we get the maximum resolution possible.

ServiceVideoAudio
NetflixFullHD (1080p)5.1
HBOFullHD (1080p)Stereo
Amazon Prime VideoHD (720p)Stereo

 

CONCLUSIONS

MeLE PCG03 Apo

8

DESIGN AND CONNECTIVITY

8.5/10

HARDWARE

8.0/10

SOFTWARE

8.0/10

SUPPORT

8.5/10

PRICE/QUALITY

7.0/10

Pros

  • Good fanless system
  • Optimal network performance
  • Big number of storage options
  • HDMI 2.0, VGA and audio 7.1
  • Compact and nice design

Opinion

As we have seen in the review of the MeLE PCG03 Apo this brand continues to offer us an excellent product in this range, the cooling system works perfectly for the needs of this SoC and we have very low temperatures. We also highlight the performance of components used as network adapters or internal memory that behave correctly by making the system run smoothly from the start with Windows 10 Home.

As differentiating points on the Mele PCG03 Apo we have its HDMI 2.0 port that works perfectly and does not cause problems even with 7.1 audio files something that’s usually happens with other DP 1.2 converters, in addition we have VGA output that allows us to connect two monitors at the same time. Internally we have the possibility to connect an M.2 disk or if we dare a 2.5” SSD, as we have seen working speeds increase significantly. Within the BIOS options and in the plate we have interesting options in the section of automatic start up.

As we see in the review we are before a very well crafted mini PC that makes the most of the Intel Apollo Lake platform, an ideal system for desktop use or use as a totally silent HTPC. We can navigate smoothly, view multimedia content even at 4K60fps resolutions and execute design applications up to a certain level, the only limitation being 3D games. In general the new mini PC Mele PCG03 Apo is one of the most complete passive computers on their kind that we have reviewed.

Where to buy

  • MeLE PCG03 Apo can be buyed on Aliexpress.com for only $159 with shipping cost included.

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