Introduction and Setup Impressions

Nettops and netbooks, as a class of products, have been on the decline over the last few years. The most significant issue with the nettops was obviously the anaemic CPU performance. As consumers realized that they could get much better performance per watt from other platforms, the shift to tablets well and truly buried the old nettops and netbooks. However, the introduction of SoCs based on the new Silvermont Atom cores has served to address some of these major drawbacks. But, are those enough to revitalize a market that is almost already extinct? ECS, emboldened by the success of the Intel NUC form factor, is all set to find out with their LIVA mini-PC kits.

Readers might recognize ECS as more of a motherboard vendor. The ECS LIVA mini-PC kits are a little bit out of the pure motherboard-play zone. ECS has created a small motherboard (BAT-MINI) for Bay Trail-M parts. Since all of those are BGA, the Intel CPU is soldered on-board. A bunch of other components are included in the kit so that only the OS is necessary to complete the system. The full configuration of the ECS LIVA review unit is provided below.

ECS LIVA mini-PC Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N2806
(2C/2T x 1.60 GHz (2.00 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 1MB L2, 4.5W)
Memory 2GB DDR3L-1066
Graphics Intel HD Graphics
313 MHz / 756 MHz (Turbo)
Storage 32 GB eMMC
Networking 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 2x2 802.11n Wi-Fi
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (mini-HDMI / mini-DP 1.2), 3.5mm Audio Jack
Operating System

Windows 8.1 (Retail unit comes barebones)

Pricing $180
Full Specifications ECS LIVA Specifications

Even though the retail unit is sold barebones, our unit came with a copy of Windows 8.1 Professional. Some of the above internal components didn't come pre-installed in our review unit package.

  • ECS BAT-MINI Motherboard with Intel Celeron N2806
  • WiFi / Bluetooth Combo Card with antennae
  • AC Power Adapter (5V @ 3A DC)
  • LIVA Case
  • Manual & Driver DVD

Assembling the unit was quite easy, with just the matter of sticking the antennae to the chassis, mounting the Wi-Fi card in the M.2 slot, ensuring proper orientation of the board inside the chassis and snapping in the top. Our initial review sample had a small issue with the power button in the chassis. It was resolved by leaving a small gap between the top and the bottom sides of the chassis in order to align the switch the power button on the motherboard. However, ECS immediately came out with a replacement that didn't exhibit the issue and that resulted in a clean build. In any case, the issue seemed to be a one-off, as other reviews on Amazon and Newegg don't seem to indicate anything similar.

The chassis on the left had an issue with the power button's alignment, while the replacement on the right resolved that issue

In the rest of this review, we will first analyze the Bay Trail-M platform in detail and take a look at how ECS has managed to utilize it in the LIVA. We will follow this up with a benchmark section (which includes wireless and storage system evaluation numbers). The passive nature and size of the unit make it an ideal HTPC candidate, and we will take a look at how it fares in HTPC scenarios. Before the concluding section, we discuss the power consumption numbers and thermal performance. However, prior to all that, we have a table presenting the details of various systems that are compared against the ECS LIVA in this review.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ECS LIVA
CPU Intel Celeron N2806 Intel Core i7-4770R
GPU Intel HD Graphics Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
RAM SKHynix H5TC4G63AFR 4Gb x16 DDR3L
11-11-11-20 @ 1067 MHz
4 x 4Gb (2 GB)
Corsair Vengeance CMSX8GX3M2B1866C10
10-10-10-32 @ 1866 MHz
2x4 GB
Storage SanDisk eMMC SEM32G
(32 GB, eMMC 4.41-compatible)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO
(120 GB, 2.5in SATA 6Gb/s, 19nm, TLC)
Wi-Fi AzureWave AW-NB136NF (Broadcom BCM43143) 802.11n + BT 4.0 M.2 Adapter
(2x2 802.11n - 300 Mbps)
Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $180 $829

Note that this is only relevant to the networking and storage subsystem evaluation. For performance metrics, it doesn't make sense to look at the CPU and GPU credentials of the LIVA against devices in a much higher price class (We are trying to get in more Bay Trail systems for review, but currently don't have any in the $180 price range). Therefore, only the raw performance numbers will be presented. If readers are still interested in the comparison, reference can be made to our most recent mini-PC review for the corresponding numbers of others systems.

Platform Analysis
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  • dylan522p - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Yes Vent is not demanding at all unless you are getting DDOSed or you have like hundreds on it. Reply
  • coburn_c - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I'm going to shamelessly plug OpenELEC for nettops. I'm running it on an old e-350 and it's fantastic. I tweeted them about steam streaming support and they said its a mid-term goal. It really is excellent. Reply
  • Rocket321 - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Would love to see a model with 2x Gigibit LAN + Wifi AC as a x86 router offering. They could drop the eMMC down to 8GB or include an empty SD slot to help with cost. Reply
  • varg14 - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I think it is way overpriced....now if it had 64gb of memory and just another gb of ram for a total of 3GB and then costed $150 I think it would be a great system to just surf the net and stream movies from your network. I would get 3 of them for the other 3 TV's I do not have a HTPC hooked up to.
    Heck 2 years ago I purchased 2 Gateway refurbished computers for a total of$560 with operating systems included. Both were Sandy based..I picked these up when it was on sale for 329$ that included a 7200rpm 1TB HDD 6GB of DDR3 1333 a wireless card and a great I3 2120 cpu i added a 7750 his icooler video card for $80 and it games very well considering the power supply is only 300 watts and has no pci e power connector, but not a problem the silent dual slot his 7750 icooler takes all its power from the pcie 16x slot....a great HTPC and light gaming rig to compliment my 2600k EVGA GTX 770 Classified 4gb ACX sli gaming/server tower along with another gateway slim u11p i picked up for 229$ that had a g530 CPU on a h-61 chipset 4GB of DDR3 1066 and a 5000GB 7200rpm drive then added a asus 6570 1gb LProfile card for $40 and clocked it to 800mhz games ok too :) I also picked up a i3 2125 for $40 since I use The Smooth Video project that ups the 24fps MKVs to 60 FPS and also uses madvr and MPHC I had to add the discrete video cards. It was well worth it since the picture is better on my Panasonic VT30 55" Plasma then a discrete Blu ray player. I highly suggest Trying the SVP project if you have not yet tried it. It comes in a neat easy to install package with everything included MPHC, MADvr and SVP. Movies and TV shows look a heck of a lot better at 60fps then at 24 or 30 fps. Also when it installs it detects your hardware so it does not overpower your system which is inportant since If I turn everything up to the max it can bring my 2600k @ 4.8ghz to its knees. MADvr I set up to use around 80% of my GPU also on all 3 of my rigs.
    Reply
  • Rocket321 - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Keep in mind $180 is the MSRP, it may retail around there for a couple of months and then drop based on demand. Plus all your used stuff takes the 1-year warranty out of the mix. Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Friday, December 12, 2014 - link

    And there is the power usage, size and noise side of things... You pay more for this and live with its limitations because it is small, quiet, and uses little power. Reply
  • HangFire - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I'm really saddened to read the comment " As consumers realized that they could get much better performance per watt from other platforms, the shift to tablets well and truly buried the old nettops and netbooks." It's a shame no one at AT remembers the role of Microsoft in making netbooks what they were, by pushing out Linux and imposing debilitating hardware restrictions on the low-cost models. We could all be typing on 9" micro-laptops with hi-rez displays and quad core CPU's for under $400 right now if it wasn't for the old thrice-convicted monopolist and monopoly abuser Microsoft. Reply
  • kmmatney - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    The problem was that not enough people wanted the Linux netbooks... It was too much of a niche market. Reply
  • zepi - Monday, July 21, 2014 - link

    I don't think this is true. There are multiple Chromebooks in Amazon.com top 10 most sold laptops.

    Chromebook is exactly what you are referring to: a small laptop with minimal Linux + browser combination for dummies.
    Reply
  • wireframed - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    As kmmatney said, no one wanted Linux. Sure, everyone wanted a cheap nettop, and they bought the Linux one. Then they got home, tried to install their Windows programs, and none of them worked. When people were told "Oh, you can't run any of your apps on this, you have to find other (often crappier) ones instead", back it went.

    Linux/AltOS advocates seem to forget the OS is, for most people, completely beside the point - the apps are what matter. Linux could be the finest OS in the world, and it STILL wouldn't matter if the apps we need don't run.
    Reply

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