The market for UCFF (ultra-compact form factor) PCs has seen tremendous growth since the introduction of the Intel NUCs in early 2013. Various motherboard and system vendors have their own offerings in this space. ECS started selling their own UCFF PCs under the LIVA brand in 2014. The initial focus was on the low end, with units based on the Intel Bay Trail and Braswell platforms. The lineup evolved to accommodate Core M-based units as well as systems in the mini-STX form factor. Today, we are taking a look at the ECS LIVA Z. This fanless Apollo Lake system targets the low-end market segment, and aims to differentiate itself by supporting two LAN ports.

Introduction and Product Impressions

Traditional UCFF PCs (such as the BRIX from GIGABYTE and the Beebox from ASRock) have stayed close to the Intel NUC form factor. ECS had experimented with a smaller form factor (Mini-Lake) in the first-generation LIVA, as well as the LIVA X, and LIVA X2. The LIVA Z, however, adopts a board form-factor similar to that of the Intel NUCs.

The feature set and pricing of the LIVA units make it target the developing and cost-sensitive markets. The LIVA Z is no different. Intel's Apollo Lake SoCs improve upon Bay Trail and Braswell by adopting a newer microarchitecture (Goldmont) for the CPU cores and also getting fabricated in a more power-efficient / mature 14nm process. In the consumer market, the Goldmont cores are exclusive to the Apollo Lake family. The SoCs target the netbook and nettop markets, and it is no surprise that ECS has adopted the netbook variants for the fanless LIVA Z models.

The LIVA Z comes in three variants,corresponding to the three members of the Apollo Lake mobile SoC family (6W TDP) - the Pentium N4200, or the Celeron N3450, or the Celeron N3350. Our review sample, the LIVA-ZN33 is based on the Intel Celeron N3350. The unit ships with 32GB of eMMC on the board, but, it was insufficient to enable the installation of all our benchmark programs. Therefore, we evaluated the PC in two different configurations - the base one with Windows 10 installed on the eMMC and used for typical workloads such as media playback, and a configuration with a M.2 SATA SSD for office workloads. The full specifications of our review configurations are summarized in the table below.

ECS LIVA-ZN33 Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N3350
Apollo Lake (Goldmont), 2C/2T, 1.1 GHz (Turbo to 2.4 GHz), 14nm, 2 MB L2, 6W TDP
Memory Kingston CBD16D3LS1KBG/4G DDR3 4GB
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 500
Disk Drive(s) SanDisk eMMC DF4032
(32 GB; eMMC v5.0-compatible)
ADATA Premier SP600 SP600NS34
(128 GB; M.2 Type 2242 SATA III; MLC)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
2x Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit LAN
Audio 3.5mm Audio Jack, 1x Digital Microphone
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Display 1x HDMI 1.4a
1x mini-DisplayPort 1.2
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 3x USB 3.0 Type-A
1x USB 3.0 Type-C
Operating System Retail units come barebones, or with OS depending on SKU. Our unit was the non-OS version, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $180 (eMMC / No OS)
$220 (eMMC / Win 10 Home x64)
$250 (with M.2 SATA SSD, as configured / No OS)
Full Specifications ECS LIVA Z Specifications

The ECS LIVA-ZN33 package comes with a 65W (19V @ 3.42A) AC adapter and a VESA mount / screws in addition to the main unit. Windows 10 is the only officially supported OS, and all the drivers were downloaded on our review unit from the ECS website.

One of the interesting hardware components in the LIVA-ZN33 is the integrated digital microphone. This allows the end user to configure it as an always-listening machine (if needed), without the need to connect an external microphone. The other selling point is the availability of two GbE RJ-45 ports. Intel Ethernet controllers would have sweetened the deal, but, ECS has taken the cost factor into consideration and opted for Realtek controllers.

The industrial design is attractive and the unit feels solid. The chassis is made of plastic (not uncommon at the targeted price point). The internal heat sink which faces the bottom lid, however, is solid metal, and possesses good characteristics for effective heat transfer from the SoC. It would have been nice if the design allowed for the generated heat to dissipate via convection. In any case, we will take a look at the effectiveness of the thermal design in a later section.

Platform Analysis

The specifications of the Intel Celeron N3350 indicate that the SoC can support up to 6 PCIe 2.0 lanes, 2 SATA ports, and 8 USB ports. The break-up of the high-speed I/O lanes is interesting in the context of the availability of four USB 3.0 ports (3x Type-A + 1x Type-C) as well as two GbE LAN ports in the LIVA Z

Intel Celeron N3350 HSIO Block Diagram [ Courtesy : Intel Pentium and Celeron Processor N- and J- Series Datasheet - Volume 1 of 3 (PDF) ]

The distribution of PCIe lanes in the LIVA Z is as below.

  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #3      In Use @ x1 (Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Adapter)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #4      In Use @ x1 (Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165 AC HMC WiFi Adapter)
  • PCI-E 2.0 x1 port #5      In Use @ x1 (Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Adapter)

Since the used PCIe lanes are muxed with the USB 3.0 lanes, and, there are four USB 3.0 ports in the system, it stands to reason that at least one USB 3.0 port has its bandwidth shared with the PCIe lanes / networking interfaces. At the price point targeted by the LIVA Z, this is hardly an issue.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ECS LIVA-ZN33 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the ECS LIVA-ZN33 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ECS LIVA-ZN33
CPU Intel Celeron N3350 Intel Celeron N3350
GPU Intel HD Graphics 500 Intel HD Graphics 500
RAM Kingston CBD16D3LS1KBG/4G DDR3 4GB
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
Kingston CBD16D3LS1KBG/4G DDR3 4GB
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
Storage SanDisk eMMC DF4032
(32 GB; eMMC v5.0-compatible)
ADATA Premier SP600 SP600NS34
(128 GB; M.2 Type 2242 SATA III; MLC)
SanDisk eMMC DF4032
(32 GB; eMMC v5.0-compatible)
ADATA Premier SP600 SP600NS34
(128 GB; M.2 Type 2242 SATA III; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $180 (eMMC / No OS)
$220 (eMMC / Win 10 Home x64)
$250 (with M.2 SATA SSD, as configured / No OS)
$180 (eMMC / No OS)
$220 (eMMC / Win 10 Home x64)
$250 (with M.2 SATA SSD, as configured / No OS)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • Namisecond - Monday, April 3, 2017 - link

    It probably started life in design as one, but things probably didn't work out... :) Reply
  • Meteor2 - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Why doesn't Anandtech use a common benchmark suite across all classes of computer? Couldn't you at least run Geekbench 4 and Jetstream (via Chrome) on everything​? I know there are arguements for and against all benchmarks -- I wish you'd run a straight Handbrake x264 to x265 transcode of 1080p material on everything you can -- but I think GB4 and Jetstream minimise inter-platform differences and have strong real-world relevance. Reply
  • Teknobug - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Really... are we still using 2C/2T systems in 2017? Reply
  • rocky12345 - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Nice review looks like a nice little media station hooked to a TV. ECS I did not even know they were still around. Do they still make Mother boards? If I remember right they used to make lower end mother boards back in the day. Reply
  • Arbie - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Yeah, ECS motherboards were the ones stacked to the ceiling on Frys Electronics "Returns" bench. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Saturday, April 1, 2017 - link

    I had the legendary ECS K7S5A which had SD RAM and DDR RAM simultaneously. It had a SiS 735 chipset, which was finicky, but cheap. Oh the days of competing chipsets. Reply
  • DocNo - Friday, March 31, 2017 - link

    Ugh - why do vendors put two NICs in these things that are based on anything other than Intel chipsets? Realtek may be OK for desktop use but suck for heavy network loads. I could use a boatload of these with pfSense. And they may work fine, but so many issues with crappy Realtek and Broadcom NICs have me to the point where I don't even want to bother trying :p Reply
  • Itselectric - Saturday, April 1, 2017 - link

    They've gotten better; not intel; but still better. Reply
  • CharonPDX - Monday, April 3, 2017 - link

    Seems like an odd choice to not include even ONE USB port on the back. I mean, replace the mini DisplayPort with a USB type C port, at least. Then the user can choose between using it as a display or for peripherals. (Since 99% of people wanting to use it for display would need to use an adapter anyway.) Heck, then it would go great with a USB-C-equipped DisplayPort-protocol monitor, like the LG UltraFine 4K Display. Reply
  • indianajames - Monday, April 3, 2017 - link

    Man.... I was really into this as a replacement for my circa 2012 Foxconn NT-A3500 HTPC setup now that I upgraded to a 4k/HDR TV..... until I noticed it doesn't have a HDCP 2.2 capable HDMI 2.0 port.... kinda kills it... Reply

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