The desktop PC market has been subject to many challenges over the last few years. However, the miniaturization trend (including the introduction of the ultra-compact form factor - UCFF - NUCs) has provided some bright spots. The recent introduction of the mSTX (5x5) form factor has provided yet another option between the NUC and the mITX form factor for PC builders. Companies like ASRock and Zotac have been marketing mini-PCs based on mSTX-like custom boards for a few years now. ECS joined the fray in early 2016 with the launch of the LIVA One based on a Skylake platform.

Introduction and Setup Impressions

The LIVA One is the latest member of ECS's mini-PC lineup that started with the LIVA, a Bay Trail-M system, in mid-2014. Since that time, ECS has introduced the LIVA X, LIVA x2 and the LIVA Core - each of them packing in more performance compared to the previous generation. One common feature that tied all these units together was the fanless nature. However, with the LIVA One, ECS has decided to increase the size of the unit and also utilize active cooling for the CPU. The soldered CPUs of the older LIVA units has been replaced by a LGA processor - enabling end-users / buyers of barebones units to use their own CPUs (as long as they are Skylake ones having a TDP of 35W or lower).

The LIVA One is based on the H110 Sunrise Point chipset. The pre-built configuration comes with an Intel Core i3-6100T. Dimensions of 173mm x 176mm x 33mm make it ECS's biggest LIVA yet. Subjectively speaking, the unit feels quite solid in hand, thanks to the metal exterior (only the top panel is plastic). The industrial design is also quite pleasing. The unit can be oriented either vertically or horizontally, with perforations set up to aid proper airflow in either orientation.

In addition to the main unit picture at the top of the page, the LIVA One package contains a 90W (19V @ 4.74A) power adapter, a Type-C (Male) to Type-A (Female) USB 3.1 cable (for use with the USB 3.1 Type-C port in the front panel), a VESA mount as well as a vertical orientation mount (along with the necessary screws), a quick installation guide (particularly useful with barebones configurations), a user guide and a support DVD with the necessary drivers.

The gallery below takes us around the package / chassis and its various features. Important aspects to note regarding the internal configuration include support for up to two DDR3L SO-DIMMs (the preconfigured unit comes with only one slot populated, allowing end users to upgrade the RAM, but, in the meanwhile, sacrificing some out-of-the-box performance) and support for both 2.5" and M.2 drives (both are SATA based). On the front side, we have a microSD slot along with a USB 3.1 Type-C port (enabled by the ASMedia ASM1142 USB 3.1 xHCI Controller, which takes up two PCIe lanes on the PCH). The rear panel is filled with different ports targeting a variety of use-cases - we even have a COM port for industrial applications.Other than that, we have the standard full-sized Display Port 1.2, VGA and HDMI 1.4a video outputs. A micrphone / headphone connector, a GbE RJ-45 port, a Kensington lock slot and four USB 3.0 ports round out the I/O connections on the rear side. One of the four USB 3.0 slots can support current delivery of up to 2.6A, enabling the connection of ECS's custom SF-Plus 'HD-Drive bay' that can be used to add either an optical drive or another 2.5" drive.

The specifications of our ECS LIVA One review configuration are summarized in the table below. The specifications indicate suitability as a powerful mini-PC for home users. It also targets industrial and business use-cases (i.e, small firms that don't need vPro support).

ECS LIVA One Specifications
Processor Intel Core i3-6100T
(2C/4T Skylake x86 @ 3.2 GHz, 14nm, 3 MB L2, 35W TDP)
Memory 1x 8GB DDR3L-1600
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 530
Disk Drive(s) 80GB Intel SSD 530 M.2 SATA SSD (SSDSCKGW080A4)
Networking 1x 1GbE Realtek RTL8168 +
1x1 Realtek 8821AE 802.11ac
Audio Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64 (10586)
Pricing (As configured) $450
Full Specifications Full Specifications

The ECS LIVA One kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a DVD containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off ECS's product support page. While Windows 10 (10586) comes with the drivers for the WLAN adapter, Windows 8.1 needs the driver to be installed manually. The UEFI BIOS is also quite functional (though, as expected, we don't have too much control over the clocking aspects). The gallery below takes us around the various options available in the BIOS. All the benchmarking was performed with the 'optimized defaults' setting.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ECS LIVA One 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 One when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ECS LIVA One
CPU Intel Core i3-6100T Intel Core i3-6100T
GPU Intel HD Graphics 530 Intel HD Graphics 530
RAM A-Data AM1L16BC8R2-B1XS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x8 GB
A-Data AM1L16BC8R2-B1XS
11-11-11-28 @ 1600 MHz
1x8 GB
Storage Intel SSD 530 Series SSDSCKGW080A4
(80 GB; M.2 Type 2280 SATA 6Gb/s; 20nm; MLC)
Intel SSD 530 Series SSDSCKGW080A4
(80 GB; M.2 Type 2280 SATA 6Gb/s; 20nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Realtek 8821AE Wireless LAN 802.11ac
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $450 $450
Performance Metrics - I
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  • mrdude - Tuesday, February 02, 2016 - link

    The only thing AMD has proven proficient at is dragging ATi down with them. RTG is evidence of that.

    I'm aware x86 isn't going anywhere, but it's also sensible to assume AMD isn't going to be challenging Intel anytime soon -- or ever. We need the sort of competition we're seeing in the ARM space, and expecting AMD to step up, a company that can't consistently make new products that beat their old products, is a lesson in futility.

    If ARM does encroach the server space with success, we might see history repeat itself with the RISC/big iron vs the up-start CISC/cheaper x86. This time, though, it's x86 on the receiving end.
    Reply
  • mikato - Tuesday, February 02, 2016 - link

    "we might see history repeat itself with the RISC/big iron vs the up-start CISC/cheaper x86."
    Itanium? Ok so not exactly RISC but some relevant history there.

    My prediction is that the capabilities and specialties of both will just blend together eventually and we'll be using both.
    Reply
  • Klimax - Monday, February 08, 2016 - link

    You don't want really ARM anywhere close desktop or notebooks. It's mentality and ideas are not really good for anything even remotely open. By comparison system of x86 is definition of open... Reply
  • atcronin - Monday, February 01, 2016 - link

    Is Kodi using 'DXVA' Scaling and 'DXVA Best' de-interlacing? Because with those settings enabled the quality is more than just sufficient. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 01, 2016 - link

    Kodi was evaluated with default settings. I only confirmed that the default settings made use of DXVA for video decoding. Reply
  • Anonymous Blowhard - Tuesday, February 02, 2016 - link

    Hey, Intel. Are you listening?

    PUT IRIS PRO IN THIS.

    Even if it's the "not-really-Pro" Iris 540/550, that's still enough gaming chops for a tiny little HTPC.
    Reply
  • sitka - Wednesday, February 03, 2016 - link

    I was looking up the price of liva-X a few days ago and was lead to ECS website.
    I saw the core and said wow based on looks,
    I saw the one and said wow based on specs. usb3 typec holla
    Now I'm going down a rabbit hole of Gigbyte BRIX configs.
    Thank goodness I have a new/old T420 to play with because this small size market is so obscurely speced it is hard to buy in for fun, rather than need.

    Thanks Anandtech for still being great, I just cried realizing how much value being attentive to hardware has given me. I pay attention because I like it. But it has ended up with a good paid job, family, homes, boats... that is because I like it, or because of andandtech, or because of Shimpi when we used to build water cooled RAMBUS servers. Don't know, it just makes sense.

    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, February 05, 2016 - link

    Finally a small factor that has desktop CPU and with a price just a bit more expensive than a laptop with same specs. I could not fault the whole design.

    The microSD choice is a mystery though. See, devices that use the microSD standard are typically smartphones or tablets which is quite fiddly to take the card out; just use a USB cable or connect through wireless. SD cards use are typically from digital/video cameras where transfer performance is better through a card reader than USB 2.0.

    I think they went with the adapter because it appears to be an existing laptop charger based on its voltage and amperage specs, which makes it cheaper to source.

    Lastly, I wanted to see photos of its internals. I don't know why the article doesn't since he mentioned having access to it.
    Reply
  • echtogammut - Tuesday, February 09, 2016 - link

    I considered this when building my Mother a new PC for her birthday. I ended up building a mini-ITX Skylake i5-6500 system with 16GB RAM and 250GB SSD for $526. Spending the couple of extra dollars effectively doubled the system performance and while a bit larger, it also has DVD drive (which is something important for her) and the option to add a graphics card if needed. Reply
  • bhtooefr - Tuesday, February 09, 2016 - link

    Interesting to see this format in a consumer machine. It's been around for a little while now (since Ivy Bridge for Lenovo, and Haswell for everyone else, AFAIK) in business desktops (the Lenovo ThinkCentre Tiny Desktops, the Dell OptiPlex Micros, and the HP ProDesk/EliteDesk Desktop Minis), and I think it's a better design than 5x5, because it makes more efficient use of the space available to it - 5x5 ends up requiring a much thicker chassis to fit a 2.5" HDD/SSD in there (because it doesn't fit beside the heatsink), increasing volume. (That said, I wonder how bad the noise is on the 65 watt TDP EliteDesks - Lenovo and Dell only offer 35 watt CPUs in that size chassis.)

    (Disclaimer: I work for Dell, but these opinions are my own, and I've never actually handled Dell's products in this space, only one of Lenovo's (and that because my local Goodwill had an M73 Tiny for $4, and I couldn't pass it up).)
    Reply

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