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

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Building The ECS LIVA Mini PC

ECS says you can assemble the LIVA in just 40 seconds with a Philips screwdriver, but it will likely take you a little longer than that as we couldn’t even do it in 40 seconds. We don’t feel bad as the ECS quick installation video is edited with cuts and is nearly two minutes along and is worth a quick look below.

As you can see assembly is very simple, so we’ll just give you a very high overview on what needs to be done.

ECS-LIVA-Assembly

The first think you need to do is install the Wi-Fi module, which just pops in the board and is held down with the included Philips screw. You then need to lay out the wireless antennas and the two plastic halves of the PC enclosure.

tape

You need to install the antennas in the right spot as they are both different lengths and go in different locations in the case housing. Once you figure out where they go by reading the included installation manual you just need to remove the protective backing on the adhesive on the backside of each antenna and install them.

routed

Once you have those installed you need to route both wires through some little routing paths there were made in the plastic cover. We rotated the antenna with the white lead as the wire appeared to lay better in the case. ECS-LIVA-Assembly2

Once you get those run you just need to install the ECS BAT-MINI motherboard, which is held in with a pair of plastic clips on each side of the enclosure. You might have to finesse it in, but it fits.

LIVA-wifi-install

Once that it in you just need to attach the two antennas on the wireless module and you are all set. Notice that the wireless card has black and white designators on the label, so you know exactly where to run the white and black antenna leads. You’ll need to slide back the protective plastic cover in order to attach the antennas. Be careful here as the wires are thin and if you aren’t gentle you could rip of the ends!

ecs-liva-board

Once that is done you can gently route the wires our of the way and you are ready to put the case together.

ecs-liva-case

For that you just need to line up the two case halve and snap them together. It goes together fairly easy, but it is tough to get back apart without a flat head screw driver. We wish ECS would have designed a pry spot in the injection molded case halves, but they didn’t.

ECS-LIVA-PC

Once the case halves are together you have a completed ECS LIVA Mini PC kit! It is entirely plastic and very light weight, but it should do the trick.

ecs-live-angle

Here is a shot at the side of the ECS LIVE and the rear ports.

liva-bottom

The case feet on the ECS LIVA are hard plastic with nothing to keep it from sliding around. The square legs have holes in them, so it appears at one point in time ECS might have been considering putting some pads on the feet. This can easily be done by later as a mod, but we just wanted to point it out.

When we first turned on the ECS LIVA we went into the BIOS and found there wasn’t too much that could be tinkered with. ECS is using an American Megatrends BIOS and you can go in and adjust things like how much memory the Intel HD Graphics has access to and enable/disable a fairly decent amount of items. There is a menu called ‘tweak’ that got us excited, but there are no editable options under that tab.  There is only a boot option for Windows 8, which makes sense as that is the only Microsoft OS supported by the ECS LIVA. It should be noted that we were unable to get back into the BIOS after we installed Microsoft Windows 8.1 with all the updates. We contacted ECS about the issue and this is what they had to say:

“There are new steps to go to the BIOS for Windows 8.1.   Since they are designed to start the system in a faster speed, they don’t accept any inputs from keyboard while the system is turning on.  To go to the BIOS, please refer to the following website for more information: http://windows.wonderhowto.com/how-to/access-boot-menu-and-bios-windows-8-0139059/” – ECS Technical Support

That trick works, but we’ve used dozens of motherboards on Windows 8.1 and we have yet to need to do that in order to get into the BIOS/UEFI. Just a friendly heads up and/or tip in the event you need to get into the BIOS and can’t with your ECS LIVA.

liva-capacity

After installing Windows 8.1 with Update 1 and all available updates we were left with 10.5GB of free space with 18GB being used. That doesn’t leave you with much space, but there are ways to free up space with Windows tricks and hacks if you really wanted to do so.

Now that we got the ECS LIVA built and working with Windows 8.1 installed we can finally get around to benchmarking!

 

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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!