Platform Analysis

Previous generation nettops were mostly based on the Atom D525 / Atom D2700 CPUs. In order to make the graphics performance and HTPC aspects attractive, the ION platform was introduced (combining these anemic CPUs with a low-end NVIDIA GPU). Despite the improvements enabled by the GPU in the ION platform, the Atom CPUs held back the performance quite a bit. Intel hardly paid any attention to improving the performance of the CPU cores in the Atom processors, reusing the Bonnell microarchitecture for multiple generations. In the move from 32nm to 22nm, Intel finally realized that the microarchitecture for the Atom lineup needed a major upheaval.

Silvermont into the Picture

The increasing competition from smartphones and tablets made Intel rethink their strategy for the Atom lineup. The ageing Bonnell microarchitecture was replaced by Silvermont, bringing out of order execution and other improvements into the picture. Intel also moved from a PCH-based setup to integrating all the I/O aspects along with the Atom CPU cores into a SoC. With so many code names associated with Silvermont-based products, we thought it would be best to present a bulleted list indicating the markets which Intel hopes to address with each of them.

  • Bay Trail
    • Bay Trail-T: Atom Z36xx and Z37xx series for tablets
    • Bay Trail-M: Pentium and Celeron branding (N-series) for notebooks and AIOs
    • Bay Trail-D: Penitum and Celeron branding (J-series) for desktops
    • Bay Trail-I: Atom E38xx for the embedded market
  • Merrifield
    • Atom Z34xx: Low-end to mid-range smartphones
  • Moorefield
    • Atom Z35xx: Premium smartphones
  • Avoton
    • Atom C2xx0: Microservers and cloud storage
  • Rangeley
    • Atom C2xx8: Network and communication infrastructure

The various possible components in a Bay Trail SoC are given in the diagram below.

Depending on the target market (as specified in the bulleted list above), some of the components in the above block diagram are cut out. For example, Bay Trail-T does away with the SATA and PCIe lanes. Bay Trail-M is more interesting to us in this article, as the ECS LIVA's Celeron N2806 belongs to that family. It pretty much takes the original Bay Trail configuration as-is.

ECS LIVA - Motherboard Design

The Celeron N2806 used in the ECS LIVA is a 2C/2T solution with a base frequency of 1.6 GHz and a burst speed of 2.0 GHz. With a maximum TDP of 4.5 W and a SDP (scenario design power) of 2.5 W, it is a perfect fit for a passively cooled system. For the purpose of cost-optimization, ECS decided to avoid using the SATA ports. Out of the four PCIe 2.0 lanes, only one is used by the Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. The USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports are used as-is. The eMMC (SDIO0) port is used for storage purposes, while the other SDIO port is used to create the M.2 socket to which the Wi-Fi module is connected.

In effect, ECS has made judicious use of the available I/O to provide consumers with a mix of essential external ports at an optimal price point.

Introduction and Setup Impressions Performance Metrics
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  • rheinlds - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    It would be good on ECS's part to integrate a Bay Trail-M part with Quick Sync enabled in the LIVA kits. 32 GB of eMMC turns out to be very less after installing a couple of Windows updates. 64 GB should be the minimum, particularly since flash storage needs plenty of free capacity in order to maintain performance.

    In the Section above "...32 GB of eMMC turns out to be very less after installing a couple of Windows Updates..." Something seems to be missing from this sentence.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    And 4 gigs of ram. With the price of ram being so low, it should be considered a crime to cripple x86 machines by installing only 2 gigs of ram. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    It depends what you want to use them for.

    As an HTPC, more than 2 GB of RAM is really a waste, as you'll never use even that much (unless something goes horribly wrong with the running apps).

    I have 3 homebuilt HTPCs at home (Athlon-XP w/1.5 GB of RAM running Windows XP; Athlon II X3 w/4 GB of RAM running Windows 7; Core2Duo w/2 GB of RAM running Windows 7) all running Google Chrome for Netflix and Plex Web. None of them even come close to using all the RAM.

    Sure, if you're going to be doing a bunch of other tasks, then having more than 2 GB would be necessary. But as a pure HTPC, it's not required.
    Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    2GB should be enough for windows 8 but could eat quite easily windows alone uses 1GB at least (i do not bother with any thing less then 4GB (even if the system is 32bit 3.25-3.5GB is usable as i seen some systems sitting at 2GB of ram and up to 3GB just checking for updates if office is installed)

    and 32GB for windows 8 is pushing it as well
    Reply
  • johnny_boy - Sunday, July 20, 2014 - link

    Depends, of course, on use case. I have an undervolted A10-5800K in my HTPC which I also use for gaming and dedicate 1gb ram for iGPU use. I also prefer to leave all the apps I use open so I don't haveto keep resstarting them. That doesn't leave much ram left, and I am running a relatively lean linux distro. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    The bigger problem is just that eMMC is slow. I've got a last generation atom tablet/laptop hybrid with eMMC flash. It's tolerably fast 98% of the time, the other 2% something is thrashing the IO system and the flash is showing 100% load in task manager and ~4MB/sec throughput. Reply
  • kyuu - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Is your eMMC filled up? Just like with SSDs, you really have to keep a certain amount of it free in order to prevent speed degredation. In eMMC's case, the consequences will be more severe since it isn't nearly as fast as a proper SSD to begin with.

    Nowadays, eMMC is really pretty decently fast. Beats the hell out of an HDD. The main issue is that companies continue to insist on including so little of it, despite it being cheap as dirt.
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Sunday, July 20, 2014 - link

    As a media center pc, you would be an idiot to want to incur the performance and especially maintenance overhead of Windows... Download an xbmc Linux and be done. Memory and disk pace won't be an issue and an end user won't see any difference - yet no costs and no work keeping Windows safe and running. Right tool for the right job, people... Reply
  • djfourmoney - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    XBMC -

    Tuner support is very limited to networked tuners and cable cards. I have DirecTV, none of the capture devices available work with Linux, especially in HD.

    XBMC also has constant problems with the YouTube add-on. It's hardly updated and with Google often changing something in the code with YouTube, things like log-in gets botched up in XBMC. Last time I logged out believing it was another issue but the truth was a connection issue, U-Verse had gone down.

    But I tried to log back in and I have yet to do the .py correction to allow log-in again. This would never be an issue with Smart TV's or Smart devices, they are updated and always work.

    Windows has always been safe, don't visit silly sites and don't open email you don't know, pretty simple, not that you would be opening email on your HTPC????

    I have a Llano based HTPC (upgraded from Athlon XP, Black Edition OC). Was able to remove the HD4670 (put in my mom's machine), cut down power usages quite a bit, Sliverlight Full Screen isn't an issue, maybe 20% CPU usage. Otherwise it's nearly idle on anything else. No driver issues which seems to always impact the performance of AMD hardware on Linux.

    Finally there hasn't been a DVR program more solid or more reliable than Windows Media Center. The cost of adding it to Windows 8 is negligible and I also have 1GB dedicated to the GPU side of the APU, runs GRID and GRID 2 without issue, everything turned up (GPU slightly OC), but I play games on my PS3 not the PC but for some emulation.

    Reply
  • HUBEMX - Sunday, July 20, 2014 - link

    Anandtech: You should try OPENELEC! Reply

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