Introduction and Design
The ECS LIVA Z Plus is a mini-PC with far more capable processors than the non-Plus variants of the current LIVA family, and we have for review a version with the top-end Intel Core i5-7300U CPU option, along with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. These specs position the LIVA Z Plus against similarly-powered Intel NUC mini-PCs, and the LIVA has the advantage of being ready to go out of the box (just add an OS).
We recently took a look at the entry-level ECS LIVA mini-PC, which is a fanless device equipped with a low-power Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 in its base configuration (as reviewed). The performance was merely 'okay' for most desktop computing, and that entry-level LIVA Z was more of a need-specific choice, useful for some applications such as a DIY router as it includes dual NICs in addition to the wireless networking on board. But I kept wishing I had more CPU power the entire time I was testing out the base LIVA Z, and the Plus version seemed like the perfect solution. There is just one catch: it isn't fanless. (Gasp!) Was this an issue? Was it even audible? How were thermals with a 15W Intel Core i5 processor inside such a small enclosure, even it is was being actively cooled? Read on to find out!
First, a look at the specs from ECS:
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7300U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Core i3-7100U SOC
- Intel Kaby Lake Celeron 3965U SOC
- DDR4 Up to 32GB
- 2x SO-DIMM Memory Slots
- Storage Support: 1x M.2 2242 SSD (SATA / PCIE)
- Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 1x Digital Mic
- LAN: 2x Gigabit LAN (1x Intel LAN)
- 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports
- 1x USB 3.0 Type-C port
- Video Output:
- 1x HDMI Port (HDMI 1.4)
- 1x mDP Port
- Wireless: Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
- PCB Size: 115 x 111 mm
- Dimension: 117 x 128 x 33 mm
- VESA Support: 75 mm / 100 mm (bracket included)
- Adapter: Input AC 100-240V, Output DC 19V / 3.42A
- OS Support: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10
- 1x Power adapter
- 1x VESA Bracket
- 6x VESA Mount Screws
- Quick Guide & Driver DVD
- ECS LIVA Z Plus: $489 MSRP
Package contents are identical to that of the non-Plus LIVA, as we are presented with the LIVA Z Plus, power adapter, and VESA mount.
The LIVA Z Plus is externally identical to the LIVA Z, with the same complement of three USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and 3.5 mm audio jack on the front, and dual NICs, HDMI 1.4, and mini DisplayPort on the back.
The side panels are also identical to the passively-cooled LIVA Z, with vented sides that in this case allow for intake and exhaust for the small internal fan.
If you think this LIVA Z Plus looks like the standard LIVA Z, you're right. Externally, the two are identical:
Next we'll take a look inside and then see how it performed with a few benchmarks.
Subject: Motherboards | July 28, 2016 - 10:04 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form-factor, SFF, mini-stx, mini-pc, H110M-STX, asrock
The motherboard within ASRock's DeskMini mini-PC kit has been released as a standalone product, and this H110M-STX motherboard offers Intel processor support up to 65W in its 5" x 5" Mini-STX form-factor.
Image credit: ASRock
Specifications from ASRock:
- Supports LGA 1151 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron Processors up to 65W TDP
- Supports Dual-Channel DDR4 SO-DIMM 2133
- Graphics output: D-Sub, HDMI, DisplayPort
- ALC283 Audio Codec
- 2x SATA3, 1 M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4)
- 3x USB 3.0 (Type-A & Type-C from front I/O; 1 from rear I/O)
- 3x USB 2.0 (2 from onboard header; 1 from rear I/O)
- Intel Gigabit LAN
- 1x M.2 (Key E for WiFi + BT module)
Like thin-Mini-ITX motherboards the H110M-STX requires an external 19v power adapter. ASRock recommends a 120W adapter for 65W CPUs, while 35W Intel CPU builds can manage with a 90W adapter.
Image credit: ASRock
As to availability/price, this has yet to appear in the usual e-tail channels in the U.S., with no results currently on Amazon or Newegg. ASRock's larger H110-ITX board sells for $69.99, so this may give us an indication of where pricing might be - though the smaller STX form-factor could increase cost.
Image credit: ASRock
A sub-mITX form-factor might seem a bit unnecessary, but the smaller board does provide builders with a way to create their own mini-PC boxes with upgradable processors. Naturally, one would need an enclosure for this tiny motherboard, and the only one I have seen thus far came from SilverStone's booth at CES - though ready availability for all products in this newest form-factor is still an issue.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Systems | March 10, 2016 - 11:38 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: zotac, zbox, VR, SFF, nvidia, mini-pc, MAGNUS EN980, liquid cooling, GTX980, GTX 980, graphics, gpu, geforce
ZOTAC is teasing a new mini PC "ready for virtual reality" leading up to Cebit 2016, happening later this month. The ZBOX MAGNUS EN980 supplants the EN970 as the most powerful version of ZOTAC's gaming mini systems, and will come equipped with no less than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980.
(Image via Guru3D)
Some questions remain ahead of a more formal announcemnent, and foremost among them is the version of the system's GTX 980. Is this the full desktop variant, or the GTX 980m? It seems to be the former, if we can read into the "factory-installed water-cooling solution", especially if that pertains to the GPU. In any case this will easily be the most powerful mini-PC ZOTAC has released, as even the current MAGNUS EN970 doesn't actually ship with a GTX 970 as the name would imply; rather, a GTX 960 handles discrete graphics duties according to the specs.
The MAGNUS EN980's GTX 980 GPU - mobile or not - will make this a formidable gaming system, paired as it is with a 6th-gen Intel Skylake CPU (the specific model was not mentioned in the press release; the current high-end EN970 with dicrete graphics uses the Intel Core i5-5200U). Other details include support for up to four displays via HDMI and DisplayPort, USB 3.0 and 3.1 Type-C inputs, and built-in 802.11ac wireless.
We'll have to wait until Cebit (which runs from March 14 - 18) for more details. Full press release after the break.
Subject: Systems | January 9, 2016 - 03:40 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: small form factor, SFF, mini-pc, LIVA One, LIVA, ECS, Core i3-6100T, CES 2016, CES
The newest member of the LIVA family is here, and this time we have a larger footprint but a thinner device with significantly upgraded internals. Teased back in December by ECS, we now have all the details about this new LIVA One.
Powered by an Intel Core i3-6100T, a 35W 2 core/4 thread part that operates at 3.20 GHz, the LIVA One is a big step up from previous versions including the LIVA Core, which used the 4.5W Intel Core M-5Y10c. The new LIVA One also uses M.2 storage and comes with an 80GB Intel SSD in its default configuration, along with 4 GB of DDR3 SoDIMM memory.
Full specifications from ECS (default configuration):
- Processor: Intel Core i3-6100T
- Chipset: H110
- Memory: 4GB SO-DIMM DDR3
- Expansion Slot: 1x SATA; supports 2.5” HDD
- Storage: Intel 80GB M.2 SSD
- Audio: 1x Combo Jack
- 1x Gigabit LAN
- 1x Wireless Combo Card
- 1x USB 3.1 Type-C Port
- 4x USB 3.0 Ports
- Video Output:
- 1x HDMI Port
- 1x D-Sub Port
- 1x DP Port
- Wireless: Intel Wi-Fi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0
- Dimension: 173 x 176 x 33 mm
- Card Reader: MicroSDXC
- Adapter Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 19V / 4.74A
- OS Support:
- Windows 7
- Windows 8.1
- Windows 10
- Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
The LIVA One can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16 GB of memory, and storage up to 4 TB from the SATA 2.5-inch expansion bay (though no 4 TB drives are yet available at 2.5"). The M.2 storage used for the One's OS drive offers up to 1 GB/s of transfer speeds according to ECS.
ECS says LIVA Core is "one-liter of book size" computer
The LIVA One also offers Intel WiDi, USB 3.1 Type-C, is VESA mountable, and has a native microSDXC reader built in. Pricing and availability was not announced, and the One has yet to appear on Amazon/Newegg.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | December 17, 2015 - 11:36 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: mini-pc, LIVA, intel core, ECS, CES 2016
ECS will announce a new LIVA mini PC at CES 2016, which they are describing as a "one-liter book-size Core i mini PC".
"ECS is proud to introduce its brand new LIVA mini-PC - One at CES 2016. It features a flexible hardware configuration in a book-size, one-liter form factor. In addition, LIVA mini PC with Windows 10 will have a remote control application natively built-in; providing full wireless usage with your own mobile devices."
No images were provided, but the prospect of an Intel Core processor alone makes it a much more attractive proposition than prior versions which use underpowered Atom processors.
The first three generations of LIVA from our look at the LIVA X2.
PC Perspective will be covering CES as new products are officially unveiled, and we will have more on this new hardware from the show.
Subject: Processors, Systems | November 17, 2015 - 11:21 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Skylake, NUC6i5SYK, NUC6i5SYH, NUC6i3SYK, NUC6i3SYH, nuc, mini-pc, Intel, i5-6260U, i3-6100U
(Image credit: PCMag)
NUC systems sporting the latest Intel 6th-gen Skylake processors are coming, with the NUC6i5SYH, NUC6i5SYK, NUC6i3SYH, NUC6i3SYK listed with updated Core i5 and i3 CPUs. As this is a processor refresh the appearance and product nomenclature remain unchanged (unfortunately).
The four new Skylake Intel NUC models listed on Intel's product page
Here's Intel's description of the Skylake Core i5-powered NUC6i5SYH:
"Intel NUC Kit NUC6i5SYH is equipped with Intel’s newest architecture, the 6th generation Intel Core i5-6260U processor. Intel Iris graphics 540 with 4K display capabilities provides brilliant resolution for gaming and home theaters. NUC5i5SYH has room for a 2.5” drive for additional storage and an M.2 SSD so you can transfer your data at lightning speed. Designed for Windows 10, NUC6i5SYH has the performance to stream media, manage spreadsheets, or create presentations."
The NUC6i5SYH and NUC6i5SYK feature the i5-6260U is a dual-core, Hyper-Threaded 15W part with a base speed of 1.9 GHz with up to 2.8 GHz Turbo. It has 4 MB cache and supports up to 32GB 2133 MHz DDR4. The processor also provides Intel Iris graphics 540 (Skylake GT3e), which offers 48 Execution Units and 64 MB of dedicated eDRAM. The lower-end NUC6i3SYH and NUC6i3SYK models offer the i3-6100U, which is also a dual-core, Hyper-Threaded part, but this 15W processor's speed is fixed at 2.3 GHz without Turbo Boost, and it offers the lesser Intel HD Graphics 520.
Availability and pricing are not yet known, but expect to see the new models for sale soon.
Introduction and First Impressions
When I reviewed the first LIVA mini-PC from ECS one year ago I was impressed by the concept of a full Windows computer in an enclosure about the size of a can of cola, which included everything you needed to get started out of the box. The problem with that first LIVA was that it was a little underpowered for the current generation of operating systems, and with the introduction of the LIVA X the performance improved only slightly; though it was a much more polished product overall. So how does the latest LIVA - the X2 - stack up? We'll find that out here.
The first thing you're bound to notice with the X2 is the markedly different style compared to the first two. Where last year’s LIVA X had a sleek, lower-profile appearance, with the LIVA X2 we have something completely different, which I won’t judge one way or the other as this is a matter of personal taste. I do miss the angular black plastic housing from last year’s version, but the fit and finish of the X2 is very nice regardless of what you think of the rounded body and white and chrome plastic finish. (ECS also offers a LIVA “Core” barebone kit that follows the aesthetic of the LIVA X.)
So what’s new beyond the appearance? After only the most minor tweak to the SoC between the first LIVA and its followup, the LIVA X (moving a single SKU up from an Intel Bay Trail-M Celeron N2807 to the N2808), this new X2 has a completely different Intel solution under the hood with its Braswell SoC - the Intel Celeron N3050 processor, a dual-core part with 2 MB of cache and a 2.16 GHz top speed. Considering that even the <$150 Intel Compute Stick offers a quad-core CPU (the Z3735F, a Bay Trail SoC) I was a little skeptical of the dual-core option here, but we’ll just have to see how it performs.
Three generations of LIVA
Subject: Systems | October 31, 2015 - 01:56 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: x5-Z8500, windows 10, PC, mini-pc, Kangaroo, intel atom, InFocus, computer, Cherry Trail
InFocus has created what they are calling “the world’s smallest personal, powerful, portable PC”, and the Kangaroo is certainly an impressive-looking device that looks even better when you consider the $99 price tag.
The Kangaroo is looks like a 2.5-inch external hard drive, and inside the sleek housing it offers a quad-core Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5-z8500 processor with a nominal speed of 1.44 GHz (turbo up to 2.24 GHz), along with the usual 2 GB RAM and 32 GB eMMC storage. Add dual-band 802.11ac wireless and a built-in fingerprint reader, and this becomes a quite the full-featured mini-PC. And the best part might just be the battery, as the Kangaroo can operate for up to 4 hours of “casual use” without wall power, according to InFocus.
Here are the full specifications from InFocus:
- OS: Windows 10 - Home edition
- CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8500 Processor (2M Cache, up to 2.24 GHz)
- Graphics: Intel Processor Graphics Gen8
- Video Memory: Sharing System Memory
- Memory: 2GB LPDDR3
- Hard Drive: 32GB eMMC
- Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 A/C (Dual Band) / Bluetooth 4.0
- Expansion Slot microSD
- Security: Fingerprint reader
- Battery Life: 4 hours (casual use)
- Dimensions: Computing module : 80.5 x 124 x 12.9mm / Base : 80.5 x 46.9 x 12.9mm
- Weight: 200g (without adapter & power cord) / 470g (including adapter & power cord)
- Ports: (Computing module) microSD, Micro USB (charge only); (Base) USB 2.0 x 1, USB 3.0 x 1, HDMI x 1, DC-IN
- Audio: Supported through HDMI
- Cloud: OneDrive
- Power Adapter: Input: 100V-220V ~ 1A, 50-60Hz / Output: 12V/3A
- Accessories included: Software - OS Link (requires USB cable), dock, power supply, cables
There’s even more versatility available for the Kangaroo user when you add the OSLinx iOS app to the mix, essentially allowing you to use the tablet as a monitor:
“Your iPad is all you need to have to enjoy the benefits of your Kangaroo PC on the go. OSLinx Windows Monitor turns your iOS device into a primary display of your Kangaroo PC. It connects to a PC through a Lightning-to-USB cable and works with OSLinx Server installed on the Kangaroo PC. OSLinx Windows Monitor supports mouse as well as multitouch gestures.”
The Kangaroo is available now, and currently being sold on Newegg.com for that $99 MSRP.
Introduction and First Impressions
The Zotac ZBOX CI321 nano is a mini PC kit in the vein of the Intel NUC, and this version features a completely fanless design with built-in wireless for silent integration into just about any location. So is it fast enough to be an HTPC or desktop productivity machine? We will find out here.
I have reviewed a couple of mini-PCs in the past few months, most recently the ECS LIVA X back in January. Though the LIVA X was not really fast enough to be used as a primary device it was small and inexpensive enough to be an viable product depending on a user’s needs. One attractive aspect of the LIVA designs, and any of the low-power computers introduced recently, is the passive nature of such systems. This has unfortunately resulted in the integration of some pretty low-performance CPUs to stay within thermal (and cost) limits, but this is beginning to change. The ZBOX nano we’re looking at today carries on the recent trend of incorporating slightly higher performance parts as its Intel Celeron processor (the 2961Y) is based on Haswell, and not the Atom cores at the heart of so many of these small systems.
Another parallel to the Intel NUC is the requirement to bring your own memory and storage, and the ZBOX CI321 nano accepts a pair of DDR3 SoDIMMs and 2.5” storage drives. The Intel Celeron 2961Y processor supports up to 1600 MHz dual-channel DDR3L which allows for much higher memory bandwidth than many other mini-PCs, and the storage controller supports SATA 6.0 Gbps which allows for higher performance than the eMMC storage found in a lot of mini-PCs, depending on the drive you choose to install. Of course your mileage will vary depending on the components selected to complete the build, but it shouldn’t be difficult to build a reasonably fast system.
Subject: Systems | April 20, 2015 - 06:00 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows, SoC, mini-pc, Intel, ECS, Bay Trail-M
When Sebastian reviewed the LIVA X he focused on the performance of the device as an HTPC running Ubuntu ... before attempting to determine its effectiveness in creating a peanut butter and banana omelette, but that is a different story.
Overclocker's Club took a different tack, examining how it would perform for light gaming duties. On default settings the LIVA X managed 517 in Sky Diver, 1198 in Cloud Gate, 14200 in Ice Storm, and 9598 in Ice Storm Extreme. This would make it effective at playing mobile games or even playing through legacy games available through GoG or the Internet Archive; they tested CivV as a more modern title and while playable it wasn't great. Check out the full review for the other benchmark results.
"The ECS LIVA X surprised me with its small size and completely silent operation. I was able to surf the internet and do work on it very quickly. I enjoyed using it and experienced no problems with browsing the internet, using Office applications, or watching streaming videos on Netflix. Amazon Prime would occasionally lag a little – usually when the HUD would pop up."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Get Your Old Rig Gaming Ready on a Tight Budget @ eTeknix
- Intel NUC 5I3RYH (DinoPC) @ Kitguru
- OcUK Ultima Finesse Blackhole Gaming PC @ Kitguru