ECS LIVA Review: The Nettop Rises Againby Ganesh T S on July 18, 2014 9:15 AM EST
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-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
- Atom Z34xx: Low-end to mid-range smartphones
- Atom Z35xx: Premium smartphones
- Atom C2xx0: Microservers and cloud storage
- 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.