ECS LIVA X2 Intel Braswell Mini-PC Review
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
Before moving on we’ll take a look at the full specs:
- 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)
Our thanks to ECS for providing the LIVA X2 for our review.
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.
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.
On the front panel we have three USB 3.0 ports, one of which (yellow) supports USB device charging with the power off.
Around back we see ports for power, HDMI, Ethernet, 3.5 mm audio, and VGA.
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
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.
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...
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.