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ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

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ECS LIVA X Mini PC Closer Look:

ECS has been diversifying its product line for a while, ECS was primarily known as a motherboard manufacturer. ECS has since then developed the LIVA, and more recently the LIVA X Mini PCs. There are more powerful SFF PCs out there such as the Gigabyte BRIX, which has several models to choose from. The most basic BRIX units come in close to the LIVA X pricing, but requires additional components to be used – driving the price up a bit. Performance and features are greater, but so is power consumption and price and the BRIX has a fan meaning it isn't silent. The market will be tough for small form factor PCs – Mac has the Mini and Zotac has the ZBOX line. It really isn't fair to compare all of these though – the LIVA X is a tablet/low-powered laptop SoC, and the others are generally mini ITX desktops, not to mention different price brackets.

The LIVA X is small enough to potentially fit inside a 5.25" bay, it fit in both that I tested, with room on the sides of it. The rubber feet held it in place well enough that I could move the tower around and it stayed put – it wouldn't be hard to make a mount for it either (one could adapt the VESA mount system for instance). I'm not 100% sure what practical uses this could serve, but it wouldn't be difficult to wire it in to use the 12V from a Molex or SATA power cable, maybe even setting it to boot up on power loss! The LIVA X feels pretty solid this time, the whole case being metal.

The top is indented with a V on the left, and raised in a V on the right – these V's meet to form in the shape of an X with the LIVA name painted to the right in orange. Four screws hold the metal base to the rest of the case. The screws sit nestled around miniature rubbery case feet. Two threaded sockets are available for the VESA mount, there are two loops of metal stamped out as well that could be used for some sort of mount. The bottom has two labels – the gray label is in multiple languages and reads Small Form Factor PC, Model: LIVA X, Electrical Rating 12V DC 3A, Elitegroup Computer Systems Co., LTD, Use only power supplies listed in the user manual, Made in China, Date of Manufacture: 2014 12. The white bar-code is for the serial number.

 

 

The front hosts two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.0 port. A green power LED sits next to the power button. ECS received feedback with the prior LIVA models that there weren't enough USB ports and that its location wasn't as user friendly, looks like ECS listened! With a PC like this, I would recommend a wireless keyboard with touch-pad or a Bluetooth keyboard. That way you can keep more USB ports open. USB splitters do exist and can increase connectivity options too. The back side has the power jack, an HDMI connection, a Gigabit LAN port, a combo audio in/out jack for microphone and 2 channel audio, and a VGA port. It would have been nicer to have something other than VGA but at this price point I can sort of understand why it was chosen. One of the sides has a Kensington lock port, increasing security especially when using this in a more public setting (such as when VESA mounted).

 

 

Opening the LIVA X is pretty easy – the four screws inside of the case feet are all that have to be loosened (they stay attached to the base plate) to gain access inside. For full disassembly the two hex-head screws on the VGA port MUST be removed – a pair of pliers will easily crack them loose and then they spin freely off. You cannot fully disassemble the LIVA X without removing these two screws! Two out of four SK Hynix memory ICs are visible, the other two are on the other side of the motherboard. The Intel Celeron N2808 is situated right in the middle, soldered in place in the socket FCBGA1170. AzureWave provides the wireless connectivity options through its AW-NB159H PCI Express half mini module – it uses two antennas; one for transmitting and the other for receiving through IEEE 802.11b/g/n.

 

 

After removing the two screws from the VGA port the motherboard comes loose freely. There is a surprising amount of wasted space in the top of the LIVA X, ECS could have made this device even smaller but elected not to, perhaps the dead space acts as a heat barrier and also adds physical-shock protection. The top of the motherboard has the Toshiba eMMC storage at the top left – a sticker reading NA510100 is covering it. My best attempts to read it and look it up show that it should be Toshiba model THGBMFG9C8LBAIG 064GE2. Toshiba offers eMMC in this line with capacities ranging from 8-128GB.

Memory is provided in the form of DDR3L from SK Hynix, IC model H5TC8G63AMR-PBA. This memory has the highest possible operating frequency for this model – up to DDR3-1600 CL11, but it is clocked at DDR3-1333 CL9 in the LIVA X. This could mean more room for overclocking in the future, assuming it will be allowed. Overclocking on a passive heat sink isn't the greatest idea, but it wouldn't be hard to increase cooling. It appears that two phases power the processor. BIOS settings are retained with an easily swappable 3V CR2032 battery. Audio is provided by Realtek with the ALC283 IC. 2-channel output is the limit, with one microphone input.

 

 

The heat sink partially wraps around the motherboard at the ends, held in place by the four screws that hold the case shut. Three thermal pads are used – unfortunately ECS didn't center the pad on the Celeron core, part of the core was left exposed. Luckily this is a low power processor, but exposed dies can potentially cause hot spots and thus lead to damage. The LIVA X did work just fine assembled this way, as I tested it out before dis-assembly. It would be more beneficial if they placed the pad on the die first instead of the heat sink first. The two memory ICs on the same side receive their own pads, but the opposite side does not. Two half-circle cutouts make it easier to pinch the heat sink to pull it from the motherboard. The base does have a required orientation – the front of the base plate has a vertical metal flap that fits in the front of the case.

 

 

Overall, the layout is solid and simple. There wasn't much more room to try and squeeze anything else in; daughter boards would increase cost, complexity, and size. I'm sure the design could be made even smaller in the future too.




  1. ECS LIVA X Mini PC Introduction and Closer Look
  2. ECS Liva X Mini PC Closer Look: Continued
  3. ECS Liva X Mini PC Closer Look: Programs & Utilities
  4. ECS Liva X Mini PC Closer Look: The BIOS
  5. ECS Liva X Mini PC Specifications & Features
  6. ECS Liva X Mini PC Testing: 3DMark, CrystalDiskMark, Gaming
  7. ECS Liva X Mini PC Conclusion
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