Review | Mele PCG03 Plus Mini PC

Mele PCG03 Plus review unit was sent to me courtesy of Mele, so many thanks and especially to Isaac, for the kindness and support!

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This review unit was sent to me courtesy of Mele, so many thanks and especially to Isaac, for the kindness and support!

Mele has been around since 2004, and have a nice range of Android, Windows and other Media TV boxes/Mini PCs and Streamers.

The PCG03 Plus, or “StarCloud”, is the newest iteration of Mini PC by Mele. It is a second generation to the previous PCG03, with some updated hardware.

What’s in the box?

PCG03 Plus, or “StarCloud” is Mele’s first Cherry Trail based Mini-PC/Intel Kodi box.
So what do we get? The Mini-PC, a power adapter, multiple power plug adapters, a Quick guide, and… that’s it!. No HDMI cable included. Mele did everything it could to walk the delicate balance between an all out Mini PC system (which ideally would include said HDMI cable, and maybe a Air mouse, or even a wireless mouse/keyboard combo), and a bone basic PC box.. well, actually it is pretty much a bone basic box.

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Looks

PCG03 Plus does show an elegant facade. constructed inside a box that’s half Matte and half reflective, with “Intel Atom” sticker, printed name logo on top, and model name in front. Inside, there is a fully working Windows 10 PC.

It runs off a brand new 14 nm Intel Atom based chipset, just like the latest crop of Mini PCs (same as Tronsmart’s Ara X5/Plus). The pre-installed operating system is Microsoft Windows 10 Home, and it runs quite smoothly as long as you don’t burden it with too much crap.

The system arrives completely clean. Kodi had to be installed from scratch.

No remote, mouse, or any other control device is included with the package. As mentioned before, it’s meant for keeping the cost down. However, you can use various windows-android remote control programs that rely on a server part installed on the device, and a client part installed on your smartphone or tablet. Those use WiFi or Bluetooth communication in order to allow mouse/keyboard interaction with the device.

Specifications

CPU Intel Atom x5-Z8300 “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.44 GHz (Burst up to: 1.84 GHz)
GPU Intel HD Gen8 graphics
Memory / Storage 2 GB DDR3L / 32 GB eMMC
Wireless Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
OS Windows 10 Home (activated)
Video Output HDMI 1.4, and VGA
Audio Output HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
Power DC 12V/1A
Peripheral Interface
  • 1  x RJ-45 Ethernet Port (10/100Mbps)
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
  • 1 x USB 3.0 Host Port
  • 1 x SD/SDHC Card Reader (Up to 512 GB)
  • 1 x HDMI 1.4 Port
  • 1 x VGA Port
  • 1 x 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • 1 x Kensington security lock
Packing Included
  • Mele PCG03 Plus
  • DC Power Adapter
  • Four (4) plug adapters (GS,UK,SAA,UL)
  • Quick Guide
Dimensions / Weight 150 mm * 120 mm * 40 mm / 360 grams

Benchmarks and Testing

All benchmarks have been repeated 3 times and results have been averaged to give a more accurate reading:

Novabench

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Novabench offers a marinade of tests ranging between CPU and memory to GPU abilities.The rating PCG03 Plus gets is lower than that of the cheaper Tronsmart Ara X5 (especially in regard to RAM speed), but I suspect this is due to usage of slower RAM chips or memory controller.

PC Mark 8

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PC Mark 8 Basic tests go for 20-45 minutes in GPU-accelerated or standard mode and they test regular office tasks as well as memory and video performance. Again, the performance is similar but slower than that of the Tronsmart Ara X5 which is based on the same CPU.

3D Mark

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3D Mark does what the name says – it tests a device’s ability to handle 3d animation and simulation. As the PCG03 Plus is based on the same GPU as the one in the Tronsmart Ara X5 the similar performance is to be expected.

Video Playback testing (Using KODI)

Resolution Video Format Local Playback Network (Wi-Fi/LAN) Playback
720p (1280*720) AVC (High@L4.1) Playing correctly Playing correctly
1080P (1920*1080) AVC (High@L4) Playing correctly Playing correctly
4K/UHD (4096*2304) AVC (High@L5.1) Playing correctly Playing correctly (mixed results)
2160P (3840*2160) HEVC (H.265) Playing correctly Playing correctly
4K TS HEVC files HEVC (H.265) 10Bit Artifacts & stutter Artifacts & stutter

System arrived with a clean installation of Windows 10. Tests were conducted after installing Kodi 16 RC1 from Kodi website, and later repeated with the (more) standard Kodi 15.2.

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The issue mentioned before makes the box unpredictable. Video playback may stop after 10-30 minutes and seem to pause forever (no audio or video, but subtitles keep running. The only way to resume is to manually stop playback, wait a while till Kodi returns to the playlist, and resume playback. Again and again.

Local (SD card) Playback: Most of the files played correctly locally.

Local Network Playback: As can be seen on both tables, the results are mixed. Performance is inconsistent on wireless connection, 10 bit TS files do not play correctly and push the CPU cores to their max (100%). Most of the playback issues in the tests (aside from the TS files) came due to bandwidth bottleneck, as videos encoded in higher than 30 mb/s begun stuttering when their cache ran out too fast. In any case, it is recommended to use a wired connection when available.

Issues and bugs

  1. The first and most disturbing issue I noticed with PCG03 Plus was that in many videos (not all), after 10-25 minutes of playback, the video and audio would stop as if “pause” was pressed, but pressing pause and play again would make no difference (although subtitles, if any were present continue to roll as usual). Only stopping the video playback completely and resuming it would continue proper video/audio playback. This happened both in Kodi 16 RC1 and Kodi 15.2, and been reported to the manufacturer for repair.
  2. In the games Asphalt 8 Airborne and World of Tanks Blitz, Arrows (Minix A2 Lite air mouse directional buttons, or unified remote control keyboard arrows) do not respond.
  3. TS files (10 Bit) do not play correctly. Artifacts and stutter abound.
  4. Device goes to sleep when screen (TV) is turned off, unless Kodi is left on. When turning back on, can be accessed only by clicking the power button first to wake it up.
  5. WiFi disconnects when PC goes to sleep. Takes a while to reconnect when awoken.
  6. Flickering noticed in 4K video.

Network performance

Network performance has been tested using Speedtest.net Internet speed measuring website, in WiFi and in Wired mode. My Internet connection is 200 Mbit Symmetric Fibre connection. Performance is average-low for WiFi (only N standard is supported), but quite good for Wired connection:

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WiFi 2.4GHz
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Wired over power lines

Gaming performance

Two games were tested:

  1. Asphalt 8 Airborne – Run mostly fine, but control via arrows just would not work. I had to switch to mouse control which is quite uncomfortable. Performance-wise, The game run smoothly in a window, but less so in full screen (FullHD resolution).
  2. World of Tanks Blitz – Aside from not responding to arrow movements (it did acknowledge that the directional ASDW keys were pressed, but did not move the tank), the game run quite smoothly.. as much as that helps if you cannot play the game.

In conclusion, unless you play mouse only (or mostly) games, you’ll find this PC problematic. However, I did not try a physical keyboard, only a wireless Air Mouse/Keyboard Minix A2 Lite, and a android based remote client-server combo. It may work properly with a wired USB keyboard.

PCG03 Plus Conclusions

Did I like it? Not especially. I find it quite buggy for the time being – In Kodi. On the bright side, an issue encountered with another (Tronsmart Ara X5) Atom Z8300 based box did not manifest in this one – no problems installing apps/games from the Store. (the same issue has been resolved in the Tronsmart Ara X5 by reinstalling the OS and drivers from scratch)

Would I recommend it? Not at the moment..

So you’d like to buy this box? Currently, it is only available at Aliexpress, for 148.57 USD (including free shipping): AliExpress.com Product – Fanless Intel Mini PC StarCloud PCG03 Plus Windows 10 Quad Core Cherry Trail Atom Z8300 2GB DDR3 32GB eMMC HDMI VGA LAN WiFi BT

Let shareasale.com find sales leads for you. Only pay when it works!

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