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ECS LIVA Z Review

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Price: $159-229

ECS LIVA Z (N3350) Introduction:

Today we look at the next generation micro PC from ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems). Packed with the latest technology in a box the size of a CD, it is truly amazing how far these types of computers have come over the years. This year ECS has taken it to the next level by introducing the LIVA Z (leave-va), which builds upon the LIVA X series using the next generation Apollo Lake SoC (system on chip) CPUs. The LIVA Z is a fully functional ultra compact computer with built in 32GB/64GB drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 4GB of RAM, and 4k resolution support ready to be loaded up with Windows 10 or Ubuntu 16.04 right out of the box. Instead of dropping all the juicy details at the start, let's back up and take a look at this ECS LIVA Z 32GB HDD model that includes the Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 SoC.

 

ECS LIVA Z (N3350) Video Review:

For those who enjoy video reviews like me or simply find it more convenient than reading, I have you covered. The video below covers everything I wrote about for this review and if you need a refresher or more details, this page will still be around when you come back. But, if you find this video more to your liking versus a traditional review, feel free to leave a comment and subscribe for more from the OCC YouTube Channel. It would mean a lot to have feedback from the OCC community. Video reviews are still a new thing to us and we as reviewers are always trying to improve to make the experience better for you.

 

 

ECS LIVA Z (N3350) Closer Look:

I let a bit of details slip in the introduction, and I will back track a bit and cover the basics first. So here it is, the ECS LIVA Z! The box itself is standard with a picture and a bit of information on the side. Once the slip cover is removed and the box is opened it is apparent how small the actual device is considering the rest of the box houses the power brick and wires. I think ECS did a great job of packaging as everything fit snugly, ensuring no damages during shipment.

 

Moving on to the exterior you can see from the pictures that ECS has included everything one could ask for. It was a smart move from a manufacturing standpoint to have the LIVA Z, Plus, and ZE models all have the same layout. It saves time and money to only have to solder a different SoC CPU and eMMC (embedded Multi Media Card) NAND. That being said, if you do not like the layout or see a potential problem for your particular setup, then move on to a different brand. ECS isn't the only company who makes Ultra Compact PCs, but it is one of the first to utilize Intel's Apollo Lake SoC CPUs at an affordable price. The front consists of three USB 3.0 Gen1 Ports and a USB-C port with transfer rates up to 5 Gbit/s. The naming convention of USB has changed over time, whereas it used to be called USB 3.0 with SuperSpeed USB transfer rate, now it's named USB 3.1 Gen 1. It is important to understand the difference because Gen 2 supports 10 Gbit/s which is known for USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, and USB 3.1 (Gen 2). This unit only has a standard USB port in C-Port form, not the ultra highspeed port that is the new best thing. Whether it is named USB 3.0 or 3.1, if it claims to have transfer speeds of 5 Gbit/s then it falls under the 3.1 Gen1 category.

I am still puzzled by the choice of layout after staring at it for these past few weeks. Having two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back without any USB ports is a questionable decision from a real estate standpoint. During my time with this unit, between a USB flash drive, mouse, keyboard, Ethernet, and HDMI cable, my desk was a mess with cables going every direction. Some of that could be remedied with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and also using Wi-Fi. It seems from my perspective that this is exactly what ECS expects customers to do, and skip the messy cables. Just be aware that if you intend to go full on cables like I did, it will never look clean. Going back full circle, I wish ECS removed the second Ethernet jack and placed 2 USB ports in its' place. I just cannot think of a scenario in which both jacks would be used besides a strange file server.

 

For a little comparison, I put a Blu-Ray on top of the unit to showcase how incredible it is for so much technology to be in such a small form factor. The LIVA Z is 2" tall (51mm) and roughly 4" wide (117mm), all the while cramming an entire computer into a box the width of a CD. The real question is what is under the hood? The specifications page covers everything in detail, but I'll cover the basics. ECS made opening and upgrading it as easy as possible. It just takes four Philips heads screws to remove the bottom cover. Once inside, the WiFi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0 card is visible next to a M.2 2242 slot. On the other side are two slots for laptop memory. This particular model uses DDR3L (Low-Voltage) memory, whereas the LIVA Z Plus uses DDR4. Finally, below the memory slots is a mini SATA and Comms port, neither of which is used on this unit.

ECS offers each model with either 32GB or 64GB of hard drive space in the form of an onboard eMMC NAND. This translates to a non-volatile memory IC package that is soldered to the board and therefore non-removable. The most common instance of the eMMC flash memory is in mobile phones and tablets which use the same setup for its internal memory. In a system like this, disk read and write speed isn't a major factor as once the OS is loaded, the disk will remain idle most of the time. Read and write speeds were well over 100MB/s which is on the low side of a SSD, but faster than most 2.5" laptop hard drives.

 

Last up is the VESA mounting plate, which is a nice bonus ECS has included with its' LIVA Z. For those who are new to mounting TVs, VESA mounts are essential for any display if you want it off the stand. It has four screws that go through the mounting plate and into the monitor. I don't have much more to say about this because it's just straight forward. However, the wire situation I talked about earlier becomes a factor here. It will become an ugly mess unless you have an attack plan ahead of time. I suggest Bluetooth keyboard / mouse and Wi-Fi to avoid filling up all the ports with unnecessarily long wires hanging off the back.

 



  1. ECS LIVA Z (N3350): Introduction & Closer Look
  2. ECS LIVA Z (N3350): Specifications
  3. ECS LIVA Z (N3350): Testing & Conclusion
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