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

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Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The ECS LIVA MINI PC Kit is a first generation product and with all first generation products there are issues that need to be worked out. The LIVA isn’t a bad product by any means, but there are several things we aren’t a fan of. More importantly we are having a tough time figuring out who ECS is targeting with this product. Who is the ideal customer when it comes to the LIVA? It doesn’t have the power for frequently run CPU intensive applications, it doesn’t have the graphics power to be a gaming system and it lacks remote functionality that HTPC users crave. So, from what we gather the LIVA doesn’t really cover any one specific niche, but we do find it being the smallest and possibly the lowest cost Windows 8.1 ready mini PC on the market. The million dollar question is though, are there enough people looking for something like that and are they willing to pay for it to make it successful?

ECS LIVA Mini PC Kits

Overall performance of the ECS LIVA was right where we expected it to be and it was similar to the Intel NUC DN2820 that we reviewed earlier this year with the older and now discontinued Intel Celeron N2806 processor. It is able to do normal web surfing, light gaming and general office productivity tasks with the LIVA and we’d classify it as an everyday system for the average person.

If you are concerned about power consumption and want an energy efficient system that sips power, the ECS LIVA does just that. At just 3 Watts idle and at most 12 Watts at load we must admit that we love the power characteristics of this system. ECS says that the LIVA uses less power than your average light bulb and they would be correct. It is also pretty neat to power the ECS LIVA with a portable battery pack, but don’t see too many users utilizing that feature in the future.

When it comes to temperatures the Intel Celeron N2807 has a tJunction rating of 105C. We were pushing 96C on our test system when it was put under heavy load thanks to Prime95 and Furmark, when we called it good enough. The little passive cooler does a very good job at keeping the system cool for general tasks and most people should see temperatures higher than 70C, which is acceptable.

The ECS LIVA is currently available with 32GB of eMMC memory with a black enclosure. ECS has plans to bring out a 64GB version in your choice of black or white in September. The price on the 32GB model at this time is $164.99 shipped, which isn’t too bad considering what you get in terms of hardware. ECS just started a week long promotion where you can get an extra $33 off, which brings the price down to just $131.99 shipped after the promotion rebate. The Intel Celeron N2807 Processor alone has a suggested list price of $107, so ECS certainly isn’t making a fortune by selling these at $165, let alone $132!

ECS plans to come out with an assembled version of the white 64GB LIVA later this year, but they don’t have pricing set on it. There are no plans to include Microsoft Windows 8.1 on the system, but we hope that ECS or one of their customers look into it. Big corporations can get Windows 8.1 licenses for about $15-$20, so if ECS could come out with this model assembled and with Windows 8.1 installed for right around $200 that would be pretty amazing. If you need to go out and buy a Windows 8.1 license on your own you are looking at spending another $100 and that drastically increases the total cost of ownership.

ECS LIVA with Pepsi

So, would we run out and buy the ECS LIVA? If the ECS LIVA looks like it will work for your specific application then we see no reason why it wouldn’t be a great solution. The things we dislike about the ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit is fairly long, but are any deal breakers for you?

  • It comes un-assembled and the case can be tricky to get back apart
  • It only works with Microsoft Windows 8.1 or you can try the Beta Linux drivers
  • The lower USB 3.0 port won’t work with wide USB Flash Drives due to the power and HDMI ports being so close
  • Only has two total USB ports
  • No VESA Mounting Solution
  • No Kengston lock
  • Inability to increase the memory or storage drive sizes
  • Limited M.2 SDIO wireless cards for those wanting to upgrade to 802.11ac
  • No adapter included for simultaneous audio in/out

Even with the list of gripes that we have above we have to say that ECS has managed to deliver a product that has a nice price versus performance ratio. For $132 shipped we can look over many of the issues that we ran across with the LIVA! You get an entire PC that is just missing the OS, keyboard/mouse and the display. That is a tremendous value and hard to pass up if you are looking for an entry level PC that won’t break the bank. No other PC Kit for Windows can come close to touching this system when it comes to price or performance down at this price point! If the ECS LIVA looks like it is enough for what you need it to do, then you should give it a try.

Legit Reviews Value Award

Legit Bottom Line: The ECS LIVA isn’t a perfectly designed system and certainly isn’t a powerhouse, but for what it costs we can overlook many of the issues we encountered!

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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!