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ECS LIVA X2 Intel Braswell Mini-PC Review

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

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.

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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.

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Three generations of LIVA

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA X2!!

Before moving on we’ll take a look at the full specs:


Specifications:

  • Platform: Intel Braswell N3050 SoC
  • Memory: DDR3L 2GB/4GB (2GB as reviewed)
  • Expansion Slot: 1x M.2 for SSD (Up to 1TB)
  • Storage: eMMC 64GB/32GB (32GB as reviewed)
  • Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 2x D-MIC (internal)
  • LAN: 1x Gigabit LAN
  • USB: 3x USB3.0 Ports
  • Video Output: 1x HDMI Port, 1x D-Sub Port
  • Wireless: 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimension: 156 x 83 x 51 mm
  • Adapter: Input: AC 100-240V, Output: DC 12V / 3A
  • OS Support: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (Windows 7 supported by M.2)

ECS LIVA X2 Availability: $169.99 - Amazon.com; $154.99 - Newegg.com

Our thanks to ECS for providing the LIVA X2 for our review.

First Impressions

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The LIVA X2 arrives in a retail box that looks so much like a dozen golf balls that for a moment I thought I’d been sent something else. Fortunately I recovered my senses and opened the box.

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The packaging is simple and effective, and inside the box the X2 offers a full compliment of accessories, including wall adapters for various countries. A feature found on the previous model, also included is a bracket for attaching the computer to a VESA mount, making it easy right out of the box to install the LIVA on the back of a TV or monitor for a nice living room option.

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On the front panel we have three USB 3.0 ports, one of which (yellow) supports USB device charging with the power off.

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Around back we see ports for power, HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5 mm audio, and VGA.

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A look at the bottom of the device shows the pair of soft feet, as well as access to 4 screws to take the LIVA apart.

Inside the LIVA X2

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Naturally, the first thing I did upon removing the LIVA X2 from the box was disassemble it, though I only got as far as exposing one side of the PCB after encountering some resistance.

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We get a good look at the heatsink keeping things cool here, which makes contact with both the SoC and memory chips on the board. And speaking of the board...

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We see the Intel Braswell N3050 SoC and 2GB of DDR3 memory, as well as a 802.11ac wireless card. The other side of the board offers an M.2 slot, but getting to it requires the removal of the board (or possibly simply the removal of the top panel?), something which will require some care.

Next we’ll check out the performance of this new LIVA.


November 4, 2015 | 02:12 PM - Posted by Dr_Orgo

Sebastian, do you think the Liva X2 or an Asus Chromebox CN60 would be better as a computer illiterate family member computing solution for light internet browsing, email, picture viewing, word processing, and gaming (solitaire)?

November 4, 2015 | 03:02 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I think the CN60 would be a lot snappier considering they all use Haswell parts, especially with Chrome OS as I'm sure it's better optimized for limited hardware. The 16GB storage is a negative, as the LIVA comes with 32GB standard, but you lose half of that to the Windows install on the LIVA...

I'm torn here. If I had to use one myself I'd go with the CN60 because of the faster CPU and I'd just deal with the storage limitation by using an external drive (or high capacity SD card). Part of this comes down to price, of course. The Core i3 CN60 is about $200, LIVA X2 is about $160.

In either case I'd install Ubuntu if it was my daily driver. In my experience Linux runs better on these mini-PCs, and I'd be content with the productivity experience of LibreOffice and Firefox.

November 4, 2015 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why not look at a Mint Box with Linux Mint factory installed, if you want ease of use and a nice UI!

November 4, 2015 | 03:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Go to Microcenter/Etc. and get a last generation Ivybridge or Haswell laptop NEW and on sale with windows 7/8.1! There will be core i3/i5 laptops that will have much better features for around $300 for the i3 laptop models, the i5 laptop models a little more. The GPUs in some of the Liva devices use low cost Intel Celeron/Atom SKUs that are not going to be as powerful as Intel's earlier generation regular form factor laptop(IvyBridge/Haswell) SKUs anyways. you are going to have to have a monitor and keyboard at extra costs, so the retail channels are still offering some very nice deals on NEW IvyBridge, or Haswell based laptop SKUs.

It's too bad there are not any AMD Carrizo offerings in these types of Mini devices, but that Intel contra revenue and other Intel influences are keeping AMD pushed out of some markets. Carrizo not Carrizo-L with a quad core excavator CPU and the AMD latest GCN integrated graphics would make for some nice affordable systems with better than Intel graphics, and at Carrizo's price point Intel would definitely not be offering their best graphics in any Intel SKUs!

November 4, 2015 | 03:19 PM - Posted by Jim Cherry (not verified)

You guys know office runs on the web right why even install libreoffice when office.com has excel, word, and powerpoint.

November 4, 2015 | 03:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Libreoffice is going to come with the Linux distros as standard on most. I use Libreoffice and even Libreoffice can accelerate spreadsheet/other workloads on the GPU if there is openCL support for the GPU. That's why I'd love to see AMD's Carrizo SKUs on some of these Mini type devices. The AMD latest GCN graphics has the ACE units for accelerating Libreoffice and any other Application that makes use of OpenCL, and a lot of applications, open source and proprietary, are using OpenCL(for compute acceleration on the GPU), and OpenGL(for graphics). Vulkan when it is released will offer even better acceleration of graphics and non graphics computations on the GPU.

November 5, 2015 | 01:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Can these mini PCs be set up to stream steam from a more powerful PC I the house?

December 18, 2015 | 04:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

2gb of RAM is quite frankly a useless amount to have in a modern PC. It leaves the PC constantly using its storage drive (I speak from experience here). I think the impressions would have been far better with a unit that had more integrated memory.

In this day and age where DDR3 is so cheap, having so little RAM is a warning sign that the unit has been cut down too far. While you can make do with 4gb for an office machine just doing MS Office and emails, I could not advise someone to buy a machine with less than 8gb RAM.

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