Systems & Barebones

ECS LIVA X Mini-PC Review

Prices and Where to Buy

ECS LIVA X 32GB

ECS LIVA X 64GB

We’ve taken a look at the ECS LIVA and noted how it was a solid desktop replacement for people wanting a small and affordable home computer that can browse the web and do some home entertainment functions. During its launch, we were already told that a new version will be coming and its got souped up features and that is exactly what we’ll be looking at today with the new LIVA X from ECS. While it may not be a compact revolution, it still packs plenty of juice under the hood for the tasks we mentioned abov. ECS LOGO

As we’ve said, the LIVA and LIVA X are mostly intended for home use. We’ve taken a particular liking in using the LIVA as an HTPC until we got our new smart 4K TV in the labs. That said, this smart TVs still won’t enable you to play games and if you’re primarily a PC gamer, you’d know there’s a big push in bringing the PC into the home theatre and living room. This is where SteamOS, SteamBox and other such variants come in but built-in to Steam itself is a streaming engine allowing you to play games on less powerful devices by streaming off your main gaming PC. For this particular review we’ll be taking a look at the game streaming capabilities of the ECS LIVA X and see if this can be a good substitute for an ITX HTPC so you can play games even on the couch.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

ECS LIVA X Specifications

[table]

Platform Intel® Bay Trail-M/Bay Trail-I SOC
Memory DDR3L 2GB/4GB
Expansion Slot 1 x mSATA for SSD
Storage eMMC 64GB/32GB
Audio HD Audio Subsystem by Realtek ALC283
LAN Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controller
USB 1 x USB3.0 Port2 x USB2.0 Ports
Video Output 1 x HDMI Port1 x VGA Port
Wireless WiFi 802.11 b/g/n & Bluetooth 4.0
PCB Size 115 x 75 mm
Dimension 135 x 83 x 40 mm
VESA Supports 75mm / 100mm
Adapter Input: AC 100-240V,Output: DC 12V / 3A
OS Support Linux based OS (UEFI mode)Windows 7 (via mSATA SSD)Windows 8Windows 8.1*Recommends to install Windows, ECS does not provide other OS installation technical support.
Accessory 1 x Power adapter (US+UK+EU AC plug)1 x VESA Bracket7 x ScrewsManual & Driver DVD

[/table]

Official product page

Packaging – ECS LIVA X

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

The ECS LIVA X detracts from the original LIVA in terms of packaging by arriving in only one box design: all black with the signature X logo denoting its difference. The box is also definitely shallower right now because unlike the LIVA, the LIVA X is pre-assembled. No more tackle box packaging here, everything you need is set-up for you. As we’ll see in the next image.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

ECS kept to their word with this release with the LIVA X including a VESA mounting kit together with the main unit. Included in the package also are installation manuals, documentation, installation disc, plug adapters and the DC power adapter.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

And here’s our main unit together with the power adapter. That’s basically everything you need to get started with the LIVA X. Also, for size reference scroll up a bit to see the installation disc and compare that to the LIVA X.

Closer Look – ECS LIVA X

One of the things we pointed out in the initial ECS LIVA review was the lack of a VESA mount and a Kensington lock notch. Both issues have been resolved here with ECS including a VESA mounting kit as seen in the prior images and a notch for a Kensington lock in one of the sides.  In the front is the power button, two USB2.0 ports and single USB3.0 port. At the back is the DC adapter jack, HDMI port, a LAN port, a unified audio jack and a VGA port. Yup, this thing is capable of dual display.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

At the base we can see the mounting holes for the VESA mount and the screws lined with rubber feet to open up the ECS LIVA X.

Disassembly – ECS LIVA X

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

While it isn’t needed, you can still open up your LIVA X to do some fiddling around. So let’s just check out the internals for science.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

You’ll need to remove those two stand-offs in the VGA port to full remove the PCB inside.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

Here’s a complete breakdown of the LIVA X kit: you have the main chassis, the heatsink, the LIVA X PCB with onboard CPU and everything, and the base cover. The LIVA X is passively cooled so no internal fans here. Also the heatsink just sits on top of the PCB with thermal pads conducting heat away from the components.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

Here’s the top part of the PCB with the Intel BayTrail SOC processor exposed.

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review

On the other side are the I/O ports mostly with a single unused MSATA slot available. You can use this slot for additional internal storage via an MSATA SSD.

ECS LIVA X Game Streaming

The ECS LIVA X as mentioned is entire geared for performance computing nor full-time productivity work (although it can certainly work fine as one) hence our decision not to include benchmarks here. What we’ve always wanted to do was to see just how good the ECS Liva X would work as a client for Steam In-Home Streaming. Basically, the concept is that many folks like NVIDIA and Valve are pushing PC gaming into the living room and they want to put a gaming PC in every house in the living room TV or entertainment room.

NVIDIA implements this via GameStream where you can stream games from your GeForce-powered desktop to your NVIDIA Shield, Shield Tablet or Shield TV. Valve however was nice enough to allow Steam players to run games off another PC onto another PC without the need to install the game on client PC nor have that client be equipped with specifications qualified for gaming. That means something like an Intel NUC or in this case a BayTrail SOC powered ECS LIVA X can run full 1080p or even 4K UltraHD games, should your system permit.

This is done via Steam In-Home Streaming where a main gaming PC will do all the work to let you play games on a lesser-equipped device in the network. For this particular setup, we have our main gaming system and LIVA X logged in Steam and Steam will automatically detect the host PC which has the games installed. From here all you need to do is click Stream on the client PC and you’re good to go.

For this test, we have our main rig: a 4.4Ghz watercooled 3770K with 32GB of DDR3-2133 RAM and a GTX 980 Ti acting as the main game server and the ECS LIVA X as the host. The ECS LIVA X is connected our 4K TV via HDMI and is connected to the network via a WIFI AC1200 dongle. Our router is also WIFI AC1200 capable with the gaming system connected via LAN. We actually started this test via LAN but decided that most people will find it more convenient to run off WIFI so used the internal WIFI of the ECS LIVA X first to stream games but it was really, really unplayable with constant frame drops and stuttering. We decided to use a faster WIFI USB dongle just to see if that’s bottlenecking our experience and we were right. Its a more expensive option but for those looking for a wireless setup, its the optimal setup. Otherwise the Gigabit LAN is more than capable of a smooth experience.

Conclusion

ECS LIVA X Mini PC Review
ECS LIVA X Mini PC on top of our PS4, for Living room PC gaming

We’ve had the LIVA X connected to our 4K TV for a while now and I gotta say I kinda forgot I had a smart TV to begin with since I’m mostly streaming videos from my network storage in the LIVA X rather than via the TV itself. That said, it does well as a home theater PC and doesn’t really choke even on high bitrate files. While we’re using it mostly on a single display, ECS does put the LIVA X on a commercial platform by allowing it to run dual-displays via HDMI and VGA, making it an ideal advertising display platform given its low power requirements and small footprint.

Currently there are two primary models of the ECS LIVA X, one is the 32GB model and a 64GB model. These would be sold with or without OS so do note those differences. For those looking for a home solution we suggest going with the 32GB model with OS and use the savings to buy a 1TB USB3.0 HDD for external storage of your data. If you’re going to be mostly using ECS LIVA X as a workstation we recommend the 64GB model just for base storage. The option for OS is up to you. You can get the the ECS LIVA X 32GB model for around $189 and the LIVA X 64GBmodel for $225. NUCs are a competing solution but you’d plunk over more cash on those to get more power you’ll probably never use and as we pointed out in the video, an ITX solution is good as a stand-alone replacement but the price is going to be staggering.

That said, the ECS LIVA X hits a perfect sweet spot for a family PC or an HTPC. It gets really sweeter if you’re really savvy with your stuff and can hook it up the way we have and really max out the LIVA X. That said, we’re really impressed with this product.

The ECS LIVA X has a slightly beefier specs than the original LIVA but its still no powerhouse. What it does best is provide a low-power solution for a majority of tasks that don’t require much computing power and plenty of that resides in the home entertainment and living room space where the LIVA X easily serves as a nice home-theatre PC or even a Steam In-Home Streaming client. The LIVA X edges out NUCs and ITX solutions by keeping everything just around $200 making it a more cost-effective solution than the other options.

Prices and Where to Buy

ECS LIVA X 32GB

ECS LIVA X 64GB

ECS backs the LIVA X with a 1-year warranty. We give the ECS LIVA X our B2G Best Value Award.

B2G_Best_Value

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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