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ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review: The Tiny Windows Desktop Gets an Upgrade

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction, Specs, and First Impressions

In our review of the original LIVA mini-PC we found it to be an interesting product, but it was difficult to identify a specific use-case for it; a common problem with the mini-PC market. Could the tiny Windows-capable machine be a real desktop replacement? That first LIVA just wasn't there yet. The Intel Bay Trail-M SoC was outmatched when playing 1080p Flash video content and system performance was a little sluggish overall in Windows 8.1, which wasn't aided by the limitation of 2GB RAM. (Performance was better overall with Ubuntu.) The price made it tempting but it was too underpowered as one's only PC - though a capable machine for many tasks.

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Fast forward to today, when the updated version has arrived on my desk. The updated LIVA has a cool new name - the “X” - and the mini computer's case has more style than before (very important!). Perhaps more importantly, the X boasts upgraded internals as well. Could this new LIVA be the one to replace a desktop for productivity and multimedia? Is this the moment we see the mini-PC come into its own? There’s only one way to find out. But first, I have to take it out of the box.


Specifications:

Chipset: Intel® Bay Trail-M/Bay Trail-I SOC
Memory: DDR3L 2GB/4GB
Expansion Slot: 1 x mSATA for SSD
Storage: eMMC 64GB/32GB
Audio: HD Audio Subsystem by Realtek ALC283
LAN: Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
USB: 1 x USB3.0 Port, 2 x USB2.0 Ports
Video Output: 1 x HDMI Port, 1 x VGA Port
Wireless: WiFi 802.11 b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0
PCB Size: 115 x 75 mm
Dimension: 135 x 83 x 40 mm
VESA Support: 75mm / 100mm
Adapter Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 12V / 3A
OS Support: Linux based OS, Windows 7 (via mSATA SSD) Windows 8/8.1


Thanks to ECS for providing the LIVA X for review!

Packaging and Contents

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The LIVA X arrives in a smaller box than its predecessor, and one with a satin finish cuz it's extra fancy.

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA X Mini PC!!

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Inside we have … LIVA!!!

This time the LIVA arrives fully assembled, giving the updated version of the product a more polished, appliance-like feel compared to the 'assembly required' aspect of the original.

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The rest of the box includes the micro-USB power adapter (this time slightly more powerful with 0.9 Amps max output), instructions, driver CD, wall adapters for various countries, and a 75mm/100mm VESA adapter.

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Original LIVA on the left, LIVA X on the right

The new model has a lower profile than the original, though the X does have a larger footprint  (this larger surface area is probably a good thing considering the passive cooling system).

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Looking at the back we see the lack of USB ports on the LIVA X (right), as these have all been routed to the front. Audio is now on the back, however.

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Next we'll take a look at the components inside and then see how this new LIVA performed!


January 15, 2015 | 09:00 AM - Posted by JohnGR

And why not go for this one?

http://techreport.com/news/27669/compulab-stuffs-amd-mullins-into-a-tiny...

January 15, 2015 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I would love to test one of these. The company doesn't have any units available yet as I understand.

January 19, 2015 | 10:30 AM - Posted by Irad Stavi (not verified)

CompuLab would be glad to provide a fitlet review unit to PC Perspective.

Best regards,
Irad Stavi
CompuLab

January 15, 2015 | 10:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

More in depth introductory review, including all the models based around the form factor. The Fitlet-x has an interchangeable FACET card 3 USB ports, Or one with 3 Ethernet ports.

http://linuxgizmos.com/tiny-fanless-mini-pc-runs-linux-on-quad-core-amd-...

January 15, 2015 | 11:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Stick one of these in a case & power it over USB 3.1. Not completely sure what you'd use it for but cool never the less.

January 15, 2015 | 04:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hopefully that will happen, and these mini systems can provide extra processing power to a laptop, with delivered by USB 3.1 power and network connectivity provided by the Ethernet. I would love see a USB 3.1 stick, or mini, computing deice that could power itself from the USB 3.1 and Type-c power standard port, and communicate over USB 3.1, at 3.1 speeds, and show up as a networked connected computer to any laptop/PC it was plugged into. But the AMD based mini may be able to at least be brought with, and connected to a laptop, and powered by its own power brick, that would be great to carry with along with a laptop, for a little extra processing power.

January 15, 2015 | 11:47 AM - Posted by larsoncc

I'd like to see this compared to Intel's compute stick, whenever that becomes available.

January 15, 2015 | 11:56 AM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

These small form factor computers are starting to look very interesting these days. While I currently have my old Q6600 plugged into the back of my TV to run as an HTPC it is in a large case and consume a lot of power. Now that I can stream games over Steam I'm looking to replace that monster with something tiny that only needs to be able to smoothly decode HD video. While this looks like it may be able to run h.264 video fine I'd feel more comfortable knowing that it works well even with things that have a high overhead like flash.

My reduced power bill would probably pay for something like this in less than a year.

January 15, 2015 | 01:28 PM - Posted by Esso (not verified)

Would it be possible to let us know if these features are available:
- resume on power fail
- scheduled power-on

It's what killed my use for the Zotac PI320 pico :(

January 15, 2015 | 10:52 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

No, unfortunately it does not have either.

January 22, 2015 | 04:31 AM - Posted by neliz (not verified)

Hi Esso,

the bios supports the standard options for power fail, including "resume last state" on power failure.

Scheduled Power-on, you mean through WoL?

January 16, 2015 | 07:59 AM - Posted by collie

Question, it's small and weird but it's a wondering around in my head.

With a system like this where the heat sync is basically the case, do you need to re-apply thermal compound every-time you open it? I've been wondering about this since I saw my first "The whole case is a masive heat sync" cases built for Un-Desirable Environments but never bothered to ask.

January 16, 2015 | 09:57 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

There are three thermal pads that stayed in place every time I opened it and seem durable, so no worries about thermal paste. I think the system would run cooler if the heatsink was closer to the SoC (the thermal pads are pretty thick) and paste was used instead, but as it is the system didn't get too hot.
(You can see the thermal pads in the first photo on page 2)

January 27, 2015 | 12:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Another cheap tiny Bay Trail PC here: http://liliputing.com/2015/01/hongpad-intel-box-tiny-bay-trail-desktop-c...

April 21, 2015 | 12:45 AM - Posted by SleepModezZ (not verified)

The issue with Adobe Flash is that it on Linux does not use hardware acceleration. You can choose 'Hardware acceleration' from the settings but it won't have any practical effect. Decoding (and possibly scaling) videos with the processor alone is too much for puny processors. I'm pretty sure you would see those Flash videos running much better on Windows.

Switching to Linux with an older - or otherwise resource limited - computer would be a reasonable advice if not for the fact that Flash videos will run even worse with Linux distributions. There is nothing developers (outside of Adobe, and possibly Google) can do to amend the situation. So, in the opinion of most Linux folks, Flash should just die, the sooner the better.

I played some YouTube HTML5 videos a few days ago, and unfortunately they were as heavy for the processor as Flash videos. I was using Opera, whereas Sebastian probably used some other browser which utilizes the GPU, or have otherwise a more efficient implementation of HTML5 videos. Unlike with Flash, the browsers can make videos play as efficiently on Linux as on Windows.

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