Internals, Performance, and Conclusion

Opening the LIVA Z2 is a simple matter, and with the four captured screws that double as the rubber feet removed we have access to the internals:

The SATA drive tray slides to unlock and then can be removed – but beware the ribbon cable beneath as you do so:

And now with the SATA drive tray fully removed we have our first look at the system board beneath:

A 4GB DDR4 module occupies one of the SoDIMM slots, and an Intel Wireless-AC 3165 card also comes pre-installed. For a look at the rest of the board components, we need to remove the board and its heatsink on the other side. The heatsink is fairly substantial, with a lot more surface area than height:

Here we see the Intel Pentium Silver N5000 processor (Intel spec SR3RZ), and just below it sits the Kingston (EMMC32G-TA28) onboard eMMC storage. Audio duties are handled by a Realtek ALC233 chip.

Moving past the internals, now it's time to look at some quick benchmarks to see what we can expect from this version of the LIVA Z2.

Performance

The LIVA Z2's Gemini Lake processor won't outperform an Intel Core i5 system, but it offers solid quad-core performance that bests the previous generation LIVA Z:

As to thermals, the highest recorded package temp from the N5000 was 88 C at 26.5 C ambient, for a delta of 61.5 C.

What about media playback performance? Well, this is a somewhat contentious area in the world of low-cost fanless mini-PCs for the simple fact that a lot of users would love to see an APU platform in one of these. For its part the Pentium Silver N5000 offers Intel UHD Graphics 605, with 18 EUs and a max clock of 750 MHz. Using the latest drivers from Intel and some test files from the Official Kodi Wiki I was able to play everything back smoothly…until I got to the 10-bit 4K 60 FPS video, which dropped frames but managed to remain pretty smooth. The UHD 605 graphics does support HEVC in hardware, but the 60 FPS samples started to push this system, so for high-bitrate UHD video, you will want a more powerful solution.

Moving quickly to storage, I did a test using both the onboard eMMC and SATA SSD:

Onboard eMMC on the left, SATA SSD on the right

Using eMMC is not as painful as it used to be, but just about any SATA 6Gb/s SSD you might have on hand – this one, in particular, is a Samsung SM841, an OEM 840 Pro-ish SSD – will perform much better, and in the Z2 I was getting the full performance of the drive.

Conclusion

The LIVA Z2 builds on its predecessors given the improvements it low-power platforms, with the quad-core Pentium Silver N5000 providing respectable performance. We await availability of the LIVA Z2 in the U.S., with no current listings for these new mini PCs on Amazon or Newegg as this was written.

With its painless upgrade process and competitive pricing ($250 MSRP as reviewed) ECS adds another solid fanless offering in the Intel-powered mini-PC space.

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