ECS LIVA X - The Second Generation of the LIVA Family
Over half a year ago ECS ELITEGROUP introduced the LIVA Mini PC Kit
, which was marketed at the time as being the world’s smallest Windows based mini PC kit. The ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit came with all the hardware you needed to build a mini PC, but you still had to assemble it and load the Operating System. Legit Reviews has seen the original ECS LIVA 32GB Mini PC Kit priced below $125 with rebates and for that you get an Intel BayTrail-M SoC (Intel Celeron Processor N2807
), 2GB 1333MHz DDR3L memory, 32GB or 64GB of eMMC memory and a M.2 form factor combo wireless card that supports 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth 4.0. Once you assembled the system you could then install either Windows 8/8.1 or Linux that you needed to source on your own. You could not install any other version of Windows since there was no storage driver available for the SanDisk eMMC storage solution. The ECS LIVA 32GB Mini PC Kit was solid for the price, but the non-expandable storage space, paltry 2GB of RAM, no VESA mount, the need to assemble it and limited choices on the OS were enough to cause some people to steer clear of the LIVA. Last week at CES 2015 ECS released the second generation of the LIVA family, the LIVA X.
Over the past six months ECS has been gathering the feedback of the original LIVA users and has made what they think is a much improved PC. For starters it now comes fully assembled and you don't need to assemble everything! The ECS LIVA X will be also be available with 2GB or 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3L memory and 32GB or 64GB of eMMC memory. The big change with regards to storage on the LIVA X is that there is now a mSATA slot for SSDs and that means you can finally install Windows 7 on a LIVA PC! That is very big news as the LIVA X is finally a full fledged Mini PC that supports more than just Windows 8 and Windows 8.1! ECS also went with the slightly more powerful 22nm Intel BayTrail-M SoC (Intel Celeron Processor N2808
) that has a burst frequency of 2.25GHz versus the 2.16MHz found on the original LIVA. The Intel HD Graphics also got a speed bump and now runs at 792MHz versus 750MHz before. A 90MHz increase on the CPU and 42MHz increase on the GPU clocks won't greatly impact performance, but they are improvements.
Today we’ll be taking a look at the ECS LIVA X with 4GB of RAM and 64B of eMMC for storage needs. This model runs $229.99 shipped
and will be widely available by the time you read this article. ECS is currently using the Intel Celeron N2808 22nm dual-core processor, which has a base clock of 1.58GHz and a turbo clock of 2.25 GHz for this kit. This processor just came out in Q3 2014 and is a solid little 4.5W TDP processor with Intel HD Graphics that can support dual displays and even Intel Quick Sync Video. The original LIVA came in a box that was made from environmentally friendly materials with soy ink used for the color. ECS combined the words ‘living’ and ‘life (Viva)’ to come up with LIVA and hopes that this product will help you live a better life. It looks like they are no longer pushing that on the marketing front as inside the box on the LIVA X it reads 'Xpress Incredible'. So, forget about the whole living and life crap and get ready to express your incredible self!
Inside the retail packaging you'll find that LIVA X, power brick, VESA Mount w/ screws, the quick installation guide, user guide and finally the driver disk. Please note that the 12v, 36W power adapter does come with US, EU and GB plugs and that we are just showing the US plug installed on the adapter.
Along the front edge of the ECS LIVA X you have the power button, LED activity light, two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. The original ECS LIVA has one USB 2.0 port and USB 3.0 port, so the LIVA X gives you one extra USB 2.0 port. We see this as a good thing as a keyboard and mouse are usually occupied by two ports and it would be nice to be able to use the third USB port for an external storage drive, wired printer or for an optical drive if needed.
On the back of the LIVA X you'll find the 12V DC_IN port, HDMI port, Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet port, Realtek ALC283 3.5mm combo audio jack (Line Out & Mic In w/ optional adapter) and finally the VGA port. The original LIVA had an Micro USB header for the power adapter, which has been deleted for a traditional power adapter. You can You can run two displays off the LIVA X if you wanted to. 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. That and the fact that a DVI connector wouldn’t fit with the PCB layout design they came up with on the LIVA X.
The included AC power adapter is made by Asian Power Devices Inc. and can output up to 36W of clean 12V / 3A DC power for the LIVA X. The part number on the adapter is WA-36A12 and is easily able to handle all the power this system will be demanding.
A Kensington lock was missing on the original LIVA, but that is not the case on the LIVA X. There is a Kensington lock on one side of the LIVA X and there are air ventilation holes on both sides of the mini PC.
Let’s move along and take a closer look at the ECS BAT-MINI 2 motherboard that is the heart and soul of the LIVA X mini PC.
Inside The ECS LIVA X - The BAT-Mini 2 Motherboard
The bottom of the ECS LIVA X has four rubber feet to keep it from moving around on any surface and inside those feet are four Philips screws that can be loosened to remove the bottom plate. The only reason you need to really enter the LIVA X is in the event that you need to add a mSATA SSD for expanded storage. The two screw holes recessed into the middle of the case are for the VESA mounting bracket. The ECS LIVA X supports 75mm and 100mm VESA mounts.
With the lower plate removed from the LIVA X you can see that there is a large passive heatsink that spans the entire width of the enclosure to keep the CPU cool. Since no fans are needed to cool the LIVA X it means that this is a silent 0dB mini PC!
The heasink is held down by the bottom of the LIVA X enclosure, so to remove it you simply lift it off with the two access holes. Note there are three 5mm thick thermal pads that help dissipate heat away from the Intel Celeron N2808 SoC and two DDR3L memory chips.
Here is a look inside the ECS LIVA X with a passive cooling solution removed. Here is a look at the back side of the BAT-MINI2 board and the mSATA slot is loacted on the left hand side underneath a barcode sticker.+
We discovered two SKhynix 1333MHz single channel DDR3L memory IC’s with part number H5TC8G63AMR that make up the ECS LIVA X’s 4GB of integrated memory. These are 8Gb low power DDRIII synchronous DRAM chips that use 1.35V of power.
The 64GB of Embedded Memory (eMMC) is handled by a Toshiba NAND Flash Memory chip labeled 7HGBMBG9D8KBATG that was made in Japan. This embedded NAND Flash memory module is built on the 19nm fabrication process and the entire package measures just 1.5 x 13 x 1.0mm in size. This 64GB Toshiba eMMC chip is compliant with JEDEC e.MMC Version 5.0, published by JEDEC
in September 2013, and achieves a high read/write performance by applying the new HS400 mode that offers additional improvement in terms of interface speed (up to 400 MB/s vs 200 MB/s in the prior version). Toshiba says that this series of e-MMC NAND should be capable
of hitting up to 275MB/s read and 90MB/s write in Sequential Interleave Mode.
When it comes to the Wi-Fi module, ECS includes the AzureWave AW-NB087H-LE 802.11b/g/n half size mini PCIe wireless solution. The AW-NB087H-LE is also Bluetooth 3.0 HS and 4.0 compliant. This card is powered by the Ralink RT3290LE, if you are curious what SoC is powering this module. How will wireless performance be with this specific solution? You are looking at a single-band (2.4 GHz network only) single stream solution (1x1), so one should be able to get speeds of up to 150 Mbps
. We really like the fact that ECS ditched the M.2 SDIO wireless card interface found on the original ECS LIVA in exchange for the more popular mini PCIe interface as you can now easily upgrade to a higher-end 802.11ac wireless card if one wanted to down the road. We've never used this wireless card, but it isn't anything fancy.
The unoccupied mSATA slot is found on the other side of the board. The mSATA slot on the ECS LIVA X uses the SATA II interface. In order to access the other side of the board you need to remove the standoffs next to the VGA port and then the board will be able to be removed from the chassis. If you wanted to run an OS like Windows 7 you must use an mSATA SSD as that is the only way to get storage drives to work with Windows 7. Notice anything missing for the mSATA drive? ECS forgot to include the screw needed to hold down the mSATA card, so when we went to install one of our mSATA SSDs we had to go hunting for a screw in our part bucket to secure the drive. Whoops!
Let's build this system and move along to testing!
ECS LIVA X BIOS Settings and Setup
When we first turned on the ECS LIVA X we went into the UEFI/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. You can see 15 different menu screens in the gallery above that should give you a fairly good idea of the layout of this particular BIOS.
Under boot configuration there are options for Windows 7 or other OS, Windows 8.X, Windows 8.X with CSM and Manual. We has no issues geting into the UEFI/BIOS after we installed Microsoft Windows 8.1 with all the updates, but in the event you do here is a what ECS supports suggest doing.
"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
After installing Windows 8.1 Enterprise with all available updates we were left with 39.3GB of free space with 18.4GB being used by the OS. 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 X built and working with Windows 8.1 installed we can finally get around to benchmarking!
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Performance Testing
In the latest build of 3DMark we found scores of 14,531 in Ice Storm, 1,194 in Cloud Gate, 513 in the new Sky Driver test suite and finally 145 in 3DMark First Strike.
Moving along to Cinebench R15 we found the ECS LIVA X with the Intel Celeron 2808 processor scored 6.21 FPS on the OpenGL benchmark and then 66 points on the multi-core CPU test and 37 pointa on the single CPU test.
A quick look at the memory performance showed 5.92 GB/s of bandwidth. This sounds about right for a single channel DDR3 memory solution running at 1333MHz with CL9 timings.
AIDA64 v5.00.3323 Beta showed memory read speeds of ~7,700 MB/s and write speeds of ~5,200 MB/s with a memory latency of 102.7ns.
In Sandra Processor Arithmetic the aggregate native performance score was 10.71 GOPS.
The Sandra Processor Multi-Media aggregate performance score was 14.85 MPix/s.
In the Encryption Algorithm Benchmark that comes inside TrueCrypt we found an AES mean score of 123 MB/s.
When unzipping a folder we found speeds of up to 25MB/s on the ECS LIVA X.
A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3b showed the sequential read speed to be around 153 MB/s and the sequential write speed was right around 65MB/s! The Random 4K read speed was 12.7MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 11.6MB/s. Not bad scores for the fixed 64GB of eMMC memory by SanDisk!
ATTO showed that we were getting up to 171MB/s read and 76MB/s write on the internal 64GB drive.
We tested performance on the mSATA port on a Kingston SSDNow mS200 120GB SMS200S3/120G and found we topped out at 281MB/s read and 270MB/s. The card is rated at 550MB/s read and 520MB/, so we are obviously being limited by what appears to be the SATA II interface on the LIVA X.
We also checked USB 3.0 performance with the Inateck FE2006 USB 3.0 reader paired with the Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD. This combination was found to reach450MB/s read and write
on desktop computers, so it's a great tool to check USB 3.0 implementation on systems.
The ECS LIVA X was able to reach 449.5MB/s read and 117.5MB/s write. These are exactly where we wanted to see the read speeds as that is the most we expected to see, but we were shocked that the write speeds were below 120MB/s when we've hit 450MB/s write speeds on other systems.
When it comes to wireless performance the we used LAN Speed Test to check the performance of the included the included AzureWave AW-NB087H-LE 802.11n half size mini PCIe wireless solution. This is an entry level single-band single stream Wi-Fi card with a theoretical peak speed rating of 150 Mbps. This card won't be breaking any speed records, but it is a budget card in a budget machine. We used a desktop with Gigabit Ethernet to run LAN Speed Server that was hard connected to the ASUS RT-AC68U 802.11AC wireless router with Firmware version 220.127.116.11.378.3813. Since this wireless card only works on the 2.4GHz band we tested it on that and moved the router 15-feet away from the ECS LIVA X to check out performance with both 1MB and 100MB packet sizes. When we ran LAN Speed Test on the ECS LIVA X the wireless throughput on the 1MB packets was found to be roughly 39Mbps (4.9MB/s) average write speeds and 50Mbps (6.3MB/s) average read speeds. On the 100MB packet size the performance was right around 45Mbps (5.6MB/s) on average for read and write speeds. These speeds are disappointing and are lower than what we saw on the original LIVA.
The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 4.7 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit. We found that the ECS LIVA X 64GB takes 7 seconds to get to the logon screen and it took a total of 23.484 seconds to get up and running on the desktop! This is just over 1 second faster than the original ECS LIVA 32GB that we reviewed in 2014.
Let's take a look at power consumption and CPU temperatures on the ECS LIVA X.
Power Consumption and CPU Temperatures
The ECS LIVA X is said to be very energy efficient, so we figured we'd take a look and see how much power the system uses.
With the ECS LIVA X w/4GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC running Windows 8.1 the entire system was consuming just 3.8 Watts of power from the wall outlet when idling! When surfing the web we topped out at 6.9 Watts of power and when watching Youtube videos we topped out at just under 10 Watts of power draw. Youtube videos. We also ran Prime 95 and found that we hit 6.6 with the blended workload and if we fired up Furmark when Prime 95 was running we peaked at 11.6 Watts of power. This is less that your average light bulb in terms of power consumption, so we'd consider this a very energy efficient system that could off you big power savings if you need a basic office PC or a system for general web surfing, data entry or something like that.
The only software that appeared to read the temperature correctly on this particular Bay Trail-M powered system was AIDA64. AIDA64 reported that the Intel Celeron 2808 processor idled at 0.330V with a core temperature of 47C. With the built-in AIDA64 stress test we found that we got up to 72C on the two CPU cores at 0.670V with the standard stress test with the the local disk and GPU included in our 30 minute test.
We fired up Prime95 64-bit and Furmark simultaneously to put a load on both the GPU and CPU. When we did this we put the ECS LIVA X under an extreme artificial workload and we found the system got up to up to 94C (201F) on the two CPU cores in right around 20 minutes. This is an extremely heavy workload that is a worst case scenario. This test shows that the ECS LIVA can handle a fair bit of abuse, but we did discover that the system was throttling due to the heat.
Keep in mind that the ECS LIVA X has a passive CPU cooler and there are no fans inside to keep the unit cool.
Under normal usage scenarios we couldn't get the ECS LIVA X 64GB to throttle, but with synthetic benchmarks like Prime 95 and Furmark we were able to push the system to its limit and cause it to overheat. The good news is that once the system began to overheat the clock speed of the Intel Celeron N2808 dropped from 2250 MHz to 1083 MHz to help lower the temperatures to a safe level. Once the temperatures dropped the CPU went back to full speed and the process continued. We never saw anything beyond 94C since the CPU was being throttled.
Once the system started to throttle we took the passive cooler off the Intel Celeron N2808 processor and found that the thermal pad was not making full contact with the CPU. It was applied incorrectly and after some quick math we figured out that about 18% of the processor was not making contact with the pad whatsoever. That is not acceptable!
The thermal pad ECS is using is large enough to cover the entire die of the Bay Trail-M processor, but it is simply applied in the wrong spot. The thermal pad is also 5mm thick uncompressed, which is fairly thick. We would have preferred the heatsink base to extend an additional 3-4mm in order for 1-2mm thick thermal pads could be used. This would better dissipate heat and might be able to prevent the LIVA X from throttling due to the CPU overheating.
Let's wrap this review up!
ECS LIVA X Final Thoughts and Conclusions
When we looked at the ECS LIVA MINI PC Kit we were pretty easy on it because it was a first generation product and we expected there to be some growing pains. When we concluded our review on the ECS LIVA in August 2014 we ended it with a list of things we dislike about the ECS LIVA Mini PC Kit. Here is that list:
- 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 Kensington 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
The ECS LIVA X fixed eight of the nine issues that we highlighted on the original model, which is pretty damn impressive. The only gripe that we had on the first generation LVIA was that ECS does not include the combo audio adapter (audio out/mic in) as that will be something some folks will need to buy if they plan on using skype or something needing two way audio. These adapters are relatively inexpensive though, so if one is need you can likely find it locally for under $5. On top of solving many of the initial gripes we had, the ECS LIVA X was found to be slightly more powerful than the original ECS LIVA, so we like the fact that many of the rough edges have been smoothed out.
We are happy to report that the drivers are much better this time around as you can run Windows 8/8.1 and Linux right out of the box due to the fact that ECS moved from SanDisk eMMC to Toshiba eMMC. If you wanted to run Windows 7 you'll need to install a mSATA drive, but at least the LIVA X has expandable storage. The only bad thing about the mSATA slot is that is uses dated SATA II interface. If you plan on buying a mSATA drive for this system you don’t need to go out and get the fastest SATA III 6Gbps drive as you’ll be bottlenecked by the SATA II 3Gbps interface.
[caption id="attachment_157252" align="aligncenter" width="645"]
ECS LIVA X VESA Mount being shown off by ECS on an AIO PC (Odd if you ask us).[/caption]
That said we did run into two very obvious quality control issues with the LIVA X that are unacceptable. The first being the fact that the thermal pad over the CPU was not properly aligned with the CPU. We experienced CPU throttling during our torture testing since the CPU was overheating. We aren't sure if the system would have still throttled if the pad was in properly covering the CPU, but it certainly isn’t helping matters. The second area of concern was the fact that the mSATA SSD standoff came without the hold down screw. We were unable to find a screw to fit and had to run to a hardware store and waist an hour of time just to buy a 10 cent screw. Both of these issues deal with quality control and can be easily fixed by ECS Taiwan. Our sample was sent to us by ECS and was an early production sample. We're crossing our fingers crossed and will give ECS the benefit of the doubt that none of the retail models have these issues, but it might be worth checking your model if you buy one of these.
Just hours before this review was posted we received this response from ECS on the thermal pad issue:
"About the overheating issue, only first media sample have this issue, because the thermal pads are not on right place. They need to shift a little bit then the issue will be resolved. Factory already checked that all thermal pads are in the correct place. So it won't be an issue anymore." - ECS Taiwan
Legit Reviews has asked for a new heatsink with the thermal pads properly aligned before we confirm the overheating issue has been fixed. ECS said that they would look into getting us another heatsink and we will update accordingly.
Overall performance of the ECS LIVA X 64GB was right where we expected it to be and it was similar to the ECS LIVA that we reviewed earlier this year with the older Intel Celeron N2807 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. When playing Youtube videos at both 720p and 1080p quality settings we did experience some stuttering while the video was loading on our 200Mbps internet connection, but once it was loaded we didn't have any issues. The original ECS LIVA didn’t have this issue, so we think the wireless card that ECS is using on the LIVA X has something to do with it. ECS includes the AzureWave AW-NB087H-LE 802.11n half size mini PCIe wireless solution and it is not impressive. You are looking at a single-band (2.4 GHz network only) single stream solution (1x1) and we were able to get at best 50Mbps on our 802.11ac wireless network with the devices in line of site just 12 feet apart from one another. If you are interested in getting an ECS LIVA X we highly suggest purchasing a higher-end Intel wireless card to get 802.11ac support in a nice 2x2 card.
With respect to power consumption the ECS LIVA X did very well. It uses just 4 Watts idle and at most 13.3 Watts at load (without an mSATA drive)! Who wouldn’t love the power efficiency numbers of the ECS LIVA X. This is one of those systems you can use without feeling guilty about the electric bill. When it comes to temperatures the Intel Celeron N2808 has a tJunction rating of 100C. We were able to reach 94C on our test system when it was put under heavy load thanks to Prime95 and Furmark. This was enough to cause the CPU to overheat and throttle. This is not ideal and we think it had to do with the fact that our thermal pad wasn't covering the entire CPU.
When it comes to pricing the ECS LIVA X is available for $189.99 shipped
for the version with 32GB of eMMC storage and $229.99 shipped
for the model with 64GB of eMMC. We feel that the additional $40 for an extra 32GB of eMMC storage is justifiable for most people. ECS expects retail availablity of the Liva X on 1/15/2015, but when we checked Amazon and Newegg neither online retailer had the LIVA X listed. ECS will not be phasing out the original LIVA so you'll be able to get that at retailers like Amazon for $125 shipped after a $25 instant coupon
. That is a pretty solid price point if that system can do what you need it to do (see our review here
). We are certain that ECS will eventually run promotions on the ECS LIVA X just like they have done from the start with the LIVA Mini PC Kit and that will make it a really interesting solution.
At the end of the day the ECS LIVA X is a pretty nice little MINI PC and it is hands down better than the original LIVA. Between the two we would easily pick the LIVA X if money wasn't an issue. We can't wait to see what ECS does with the third generation of the LIVA family as they have the basic design down now and can start to get innovative with the features!
Legit Bottom Line:
The ECS LIVA X is a much more refined system and we can't wait to see what ECS can do with the third generation 6+ months down the road.