The Latest Little LIVA is the Smallest Yet
The LIVA Q1 is a ridiculously small mini PC platform which ECS calls “ultra tiny form-factor” – just 74 x 74 x 34.6 mm (2.91 x 2.91 x 1.36 inches). It features processors from Intel’s Apollo Lake family, with two models available in slightly different I/O configurations; the Q1L offers dual LAN ports, and the Q1D offers dual display outputs (HDMI and DisplayPort) instead.
We have the Q1D in for review, and this can be configured with either the dual-core Celeron N3350 or quad-core Pentium N4200. Naturally we have the more capable quad-core CPU option in our sample. And speaking of capability, this tiny system should run that N4200 at without any throttling thanks to the implementation of a fan (!) for cooling. Yes, this 3-inch square PC is actively cooled.
Upon reflection the inclusion of a fan may not seem that unusual; in spite of the fact that LIVA systems in the past were generally fanless, given this extremely small form-factor there probably isn’t sufficient space to implement an effective passive heatsink. We shall see if the fan is noticeable during use.
- Intel Apollo Lake Pentium N4200 SOC
- Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 SOC
- Expansion Slot: 1 x Micro SD slot (Max 128GB)
- Memory: LPDDR4 (2400Mhz) 2GB / 4GB
- Storage: eMMC 64GB/32GB
- 802.11 ac/b/g/n +Bluetooth 4.1
- 1x Gigabit LAN
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1x1 (FRONT I/O)
- 1 x USB 2.0 Port
- Video Output:
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI Port
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 74 x 74 x 34.6 mm
- Weight: 174g
- Input: AC 100-240V
- Output: DC 12V / 2A
- VESA Mount: 117 x 117 mm
- OS Support: Windows 10 64bit
Looking at the LIVA in photos it’s hard to get a sense of scale, so here’s a photo with a ruler. Yep, it’s about 3 inches square. It looks like a scale model of an ECS mini PC in person, with the much larger LIVA Z2 – at 5.2 x 4.65 x 2.2 inches – my last experience with a LIVA.
Given its miniscule dimensions, the LIVA Q1D offers pretty good I/O. The front offers two USB 3.1 ports and a USB 2.0 port, the rear offers full-size HDMI and DisplayPort along with a Gigabit LAN port, and there’s a microSD slot on one side.
The system is VESA mount capable with an included bracket – which is significantly larger than the Q1D itself at 117 x 117 mm. The system includes an AC adapter rated at 24W, though actual power consumption will typically be far lower than that considering the 6W TDP of the integrated CPU.
While it might seem obvious in hindsight, I was initially surprised that the LIVA Q1D performs slightly behind the LIVA Z2 we had previously tested. With no architectural leap, the Pentium N4200 results in a noticeably sluggish user experience even compared to the passively-cooled Pentium N5000.
Using PCMark 10’s Extended test, the Q1D had an overall score of 1028, while the LIVA Z2 scored 1079. That doesn’t seem like much, but here’s a breakdown of those tests by category:
The last chart shows the lone victory for the Q1D is actually GPU performance, which did skew the overall score a bit. The LIVA Q1D’s Pentium N4200 offers Intel HD Graphics 505, and the Pentium Silver N5000 in the LIVA Z2 uses HD Graphics 605. Both GPUs offer 18 EUs and a base/boost frequency of 200MHz / 750 MHz.
The key difference – at least with the GPU tests – was sustained clock speeds. Turns out that having an active cooling system allowed for higher CPU and GPU clocks during extended gaming loads – though we are still talking about results in the 2 FPS range, and this did not end up providing any benefit over the passively-cooled Z2 in normal usage.
Measured storage performance was pretty good for onboard eMMC, which is another indicator of the CPU-bound nature of this device. Normally I would have expected much snappier performance considering we are at approximately SATA II SSD speeds here.
One quick note about the fan here, as this was very quiet during use. I did not perform noise testing with my usual SPL meter since I wasn’t in a controlled environment, but it was barely audible under normal room noise. Fanless enthusiasts need to look elsewhere, but ECS offers other LIVA models for that – including the Z2 we re-tested for this review.
The LIVA Q1D is an impossibly small computer that really looks more like a scale model than a working system. It’s so small and light it really does feel like a toy, but a very nice toy (it is well constructed). There are certainly use-cases for such a device, but is it reasonable as a productivity machine?
It won’t come as too much of a surprise that the Q1D is not going to replace your existing PC for daily use unless you have very basic needs. Ultimately it was the browser performance – particularly on script-heavy pages – was just not up the demands of modern websites (such as this one, which performed poorly).
- ECS LIVA Q1D: $188.88 USD (Newegg link)
I always root for a mini PC that can replace a desktop, and of course those do exist. Having run previous LIVA PCs for extended periods I have to say this was a regression in raw performance, but for applications that demand a very small system this is a very well executed product that is only held back by the Intel Pentium N4200 processor within.
Footnote: Since completing my performance assessment of the Q1D, ECS has announced Arm-based versions of this system, and that makes a ton of sense for an ultra small form-factor system like this. Oh, and the new Arm-based models are passively-cooled.
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The mini PC is on loan from ECS for the purpose of this review.
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