ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit Review – Intel Bay Trail-M System For Under $135

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ECS LIVA – The BAT Mini Motherboard

ECS BAT-MINI Motherboard

The ECS LIVA uses the BAT-MINI motherboard, which is only available with the LIVA kit for the time being. Later this year, think October, you’ll be able to buy just the board if you’d like. The board is very small! ECS went with a passive cooling solution, which means this system is silent thanks to the modest orange heatsink that ECS designed for the LIVA. The heatsink is attached with a pair of screws and there is thermal interface material between the SoC and heatsink to help transfer the heat away from processor.

ECS BAT-MINI Motherboard

On the rear I/O panel of the ECS BAT-MINI you’ll find HDMI and D-SUB (VGA) when it comes to video outputs. Most of our readers are more than likely cringing at the sight of a VGA header, but ECS wanted to ensure they were able to fulfill the needs of emerging markets where VGA is still a popular connector being used and ECS also noted that the DVI connector wouldn’t exactly fit with the layout design they came up with.

Next up we have the Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet port that is connected to the Intel Celeron N2807 SoC with the one of the motherboards four PCI Express Gen 2 lanes. Below that you’ll find the boards only USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. The Intel SoC is capable of supporting four USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 headers, so ECS has the ability to add more USB support, but made the decision not to. We have a number of wide USB 3.0 Flash drives and we can safely say that they won’t in the USB 3.0 port on the ECS LIVA with the power cable and HDMI cable hooked up. Other tiny PC makers often use two USB ports on the back and then a USB port on the front of the board to remedy this issue. It also leaves a port open as most people have a USB keyboard and mouse and will use both of these USB headers.

If you look closely you’ll see that ECS went with a micro-USB power connector to power this board. That caught us off guard, but they did that to save space, the connector is cost effective to all the millions of phones and tablets that use them and you can run the ECS LIVA from a portable battery power pack. Yes, you read that right. ECS designed the LIVA to run off a portable battery pack and it actually works. ECS rates the LIVA as having 4 Watts of power consumption and at most 14.9 Watts when both the CPU and GPU are being heavily used. We aren’t sure why you’d want to run this off a portable battery, but you can if you ever had the desire to do so.

ECS BAT-MINI

On the other side of the board you’ll find the power button, power LED, a 4-pin debug header (Internal use only) and finally a 3.5mm combo audio header that supports both Stereo Out and MIC IN functionality, similar to the jack found on many tablets and smartphones. One of the usage scenarios we see for the ECS LIVA is a home theater PC (HTPC), but there is no RF or IR receiver/blaster to be had on this board.

ECS LIVA Combo Audio Adapter

The bad news is that ECS does not include the splitter/adapter, so you’ll need to go out and by a $5 adapter like the one shown above that ECS was using on a LIVA demo system that we were shown. We suggested to ECS that they consider including this adapter in the future to improve the out of box functionality of the LIVA as many consumers want to have speakers plugged in and will need to use a microphone for Skype or for gaming. Sure, this isn’t a gaming box by any means, but you can still play some lite indie game titles and non-graphics intensive game titles.

ECS BAT-MINI Back

On the back of the board you can see the system battery and the M.2 (NGFF) socket that is used for the wireless card. The M.2 slot is wired to the Secure Digital Input Output (SDIO) interface instead of PCIe, so this slot can only be used for non-storage purposes. There aren’t too many Wi-Fi modules using the M.2 interface, so if you wanted to switch to something other than the included 802.11b/g/n card it will be tough. We found that Intel makes a M.2 wireless card called the Intel 7260.NGWWB Wireless Adapter that supports 802.11ac (867Mbps) although ECS couldn’t confirm to us that this specific card would be able to work on the ECS BAT-MINI.

skhynix

We discovered four SKhynix 1333MHz DDR3L memory IC’s with part number H5TC4G63AFR made up the ECS LIVA’s 2GB of integrated memory.

AzureWave AW-NB136NF M.2 Wireless Card

When it comes to the Wi-Fi module, ECS includes the AzureWave AW-NB136NF 802.11b/g/n M.2 solution. The AW-NB136NF is also Bluetooth 4.0 compliant. This card is powered by the Broadcom BCM43142 combo chip, if you are curious what SoC is powering this module. How will wireless performance be with this specific solution? You are looking at a dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network) single stream solution, so we could see up to 150 Mbps in our testing.

Let’s build this system and move along to testing!

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  • lesnessman

    I own one, and love its small form factor, it’s quiet no noise I use it as a media PC. I put Win 8.1, it ran perfect for Netflix and Kodi. Upgraded to Win 10 and i had trouble with the
    Broadcom BCM943241NG1630 BCM43142 Azurewave AW-NB136NF wifi/bluetooth card.
    Installed new driver from ECS not listed under the win 10 drivers. I found off Japanies amazon web site selling this card. It is a direct download link:
    http://download.ecs.com.tw/dlfileecs/driver/mb/wlan/wlan_1.0M_WLAN.zip
    When installing run in Win 8 compatibility mode.
    I haven’t had any issues and I speed test on a wifi 5g connection at 60mbps
    Hope this helps anyone having issues.

  • lesnessman

    Had problems with the AsureWave wifi ngff card not working after Win 10 upgrade. Checked ECS web site and installed new Win 10 drivers with no luck at all. Finally after long hard searching for hours I found it was a broadcom card and loaded drivers from their site again with no luck at all. I even ordered a new Intel 7260ngw card and installed and it would not even show up in device manager! I was trying to load new drivers, everything but it was like their was not even a card in the NGFF slot on motherboard. Sent that card back to Amazon and ordered another card, i ordered the intel 7265 wifi card. Well meanwhile i installed the AsureWave wifi card that came with my Liva and started searching drivers again. The card would work on boot but would stop working after several hours or next day. It would always show up as code 10 in device manager. I searched the exact name and numbers on this card and found a Chinese amazon site that sold this card. I had to get google to translate the web page, as i read further down on the amazon web page, they had a web link for a direct download with the device drivers on the ECS site. Removed all prevoius driver installs that were in my program files. Installed the direct downloaded file and Bingo!! Been up and running on windows 10 download speed test at 60 over wifi 5g connection. I did install drivers in windows 8 compatibility upon install. Hope this helps others with Win 10 driver issues with an AsureWave card in the Liva
    Download:

    http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fdownload.ecs.com.tw%2Fdlfileecs%2Fdriver%2Fmb%2Fwlan%2Fwlan_1.0M_WLAN.zip&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGoxYojNIa43dG2jxGESqIGjU2rBw

  • Eric Lawrence

    I have one of the units. Windows 8 and Windows 10 load on it. Put Linux Mint on it and everything worked instantly in about a 6 minute install. Effortless. BUT the AW-NB136NF type card does NOT work in any Linux due to no driver support for that set of operating systems. Setting it up as a proxy router, but it ran the World Community grid perfectly 20 days without a single problem. No crashing, no problems. UEFI type Bios was a bit hard to disable… but got it right away, as I’m familiar with shutting it off. Linux Mint though, just installed perfectly without doing anything to the unit right out of the box. I ordered a different mini PCI card that works automagically in Linux and the routers I use.

  • E. Sousa

    really wish someone could help me… I bought this and came with WIndows 8.1. They started shipping them. call me moron but during the initial boot, pc lost power and now i’m stuck at the restart your pc to continue installation.

    • Eric Lawrence

      I see, so when you boot, it goes straight to the BIOS??? If so, then toggle the UEFI settings, that works on other systems some times. The unit worked almost strangely too well for me. It was one of the smoothest installs I’ve ever done.

  • Marco –

    I’d buy it if it came with 4gb of ram. 2gb is too little for today’s standards, even on this kind of PC.

  • Untamedblade

    Does it require windows 8/8.1? Or will it work with windows 7 as well?

    • Nathan Kirsch

      There is no SanDisk eMMC storage driver for Windows 7 available, so it is out and ECS said there will not be one coming. It requires Windows 8.1. I was able to get Windows 8 installed, but was still having a tricky time with the drivers. At first I went to the ECS LIVA Support page and downloaded the 10-11 drivers there. Only 6 of them would install on my Windows 8 machine. I then installed Windows 8.1 and ran into similar issues. Turns out there are drivers on the included support CD that aren’t on the online support site, so I had to install some drivers off the support CD and then follow that up with the newer versions off the site. I hope ECS puts all needed drivers on the support sit!

      • Eric Lawrence

        Ya, their support site is terrible.

  • Digtial Puppy

    Well, I like it! I’d like to see it with some sort of mounting to a monitor, but for a cheap, low-power design to be used for surfing or e-mail, this looks to be pretty cool.

    Wonder how good it would be to use it at a Bittorrent box…

    • Okc Dave

      It would be rather trivial to put some screws and standoffs on a backing plate you make yourself, and that plate with vesa mounting holes for the back of the monitor. It would be better that they not include it so it doesn’t cost everyone then those who need it can pay $4 for a scrap piece of aluminum to DIY.

  • Axiomatic

    I have mine doing my home network justice as an authoritative DNS server + DHCP using Lubuntu. There is still plenty of headroom on the device. I might try to run my Starbound server off of it as well.

    • I could see doing something similar, although my thought was to load Ubuntu Server 14.04 with OpenVPN to act as a DIY VPN server. I’m a fan of Lubuntu, as well, but would the GUI really be necessary?

      • Axiomatic

        So I tried that first and got stumped trying to figure out how to load F2FS during install time so Ubuntu Server could find the hard drive. I eventually gave up, loaded Lubuntu which has F2FS at install time and then did “sudo init 3” and then unloaded the GUI.

        If you find a way to load F2FS for ubuntu server 14.04 during install time please let me know? 😉 Thanks!

        • Your way might actually be easier in the long run. I had previously been running a Raspberry Pi using Raspbian with OpenVPN, so i didn’t even think about F2FS. Thanks!

        • Eric Lawrence

          WOW. Axiomatic, smart person you are! Linux Mint JUST worked and I installed to the integrated 32GB on the system. The tiny little computer works instantly….. BUT the included Ethernet adapter was a PAIN… It seems there STILL is no Linux driver for it at all. I ordered a Intel based card for the slot so that my 3 versions of LINUX work. ALSO, I’ll be installing FreeBSD based PFSense on the unit as a Proxy, VPN, firewall, packet inspector unit. I’m checking the wear on the integrated Flash. If you are a knowledgeable person in this area… I’d like to hear from you. Hopefully you get this.

  • Steven Kean

    I could see this in use for older people that just want a PC for windows browsing type apps, or for vacation homes. I have several friends that have lake homes that have a full PC to use on the weekends just so they can check email/weather/etc at the lake house. This would be a good solution for those uses. One of them switched from a full PC to the NUC and loves the small form factor, so this wouldn’t be too bad for them either.

    • Eric Lawrence

      YES… Put a better operating system on it. Winblows 8.1 costs, and Old people would like a cleaner interface. You can setup Linux Mint 17.1 or better in under an hour to work with no packages installed other than Firefox, VLC, whatever word processor (recommend Libre Office) etc. Package manager allows one click installation. Google Chrome browser works perfectly and you can put addons in for Netflix, etc. Mine did 1080p Netflix, VLC, etc with high settings without a single skip. Remember that the speaker output is a COMBO jack and using a $2 pair of earbuds with a mic just worked, drivers automatically loaded under Mint 17.1. Use the MATE or Cinnamon desktop, KDE desktop also works. Simplify the screen so the old folks don’t get too confused with a zillion options they will never use. Just put the icons on and loose the toolbar… don’t make them an administrator!

  • Cicero_68

    Biggest issue is that you need to buy a Windows 8.1 license, which nearly doubles the price of the system. Otherwise a cute little system.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Agreed! Many asked ECS to look into bundling software with it. Maybe a company like ASI Corp will purchase some of these and sell them assembled with Windows 8.1 Pro.

    • Gustavo

      You don’t need to, you can install Linux, and no, Linux is not hard to use, there are distros even more user-friendly than Windows or Mac, you just need to be a little ready for it.

  • Dan

    Definitely looks like a decent little system. I could totally see throwing this on a TV to troll the interweb from the comfort of my couch!