LIVA Q2 Review – ECS Micro PC Tested with Windows 10 and Ubuntu 18.10

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LIVA Q2 ReviewECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) is a Taiwanese company that has been offering mini PCs for several years now. Last year they announced their ‘pocket-sized’ model the LIVA Q. Originally featuring Apollo Lake SoCs it has now been upgraded and renamed as the LIVA Q2 and offers a choice of Gemini Lake SoCs.

ECS LIVA Q2 Package
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The distinguishing feature of the LIVA Q series however is the form-factor. Compared with Intel Compute ‘stick’ PCs and Intel NUC ‘mini’ PCs the LIVA Q2 is a ‘micro’ PC. This micro PC is like a minimalist mini PC that includes just the minimum number of useful ports namely a couple of USB ports (3.1 and 2.0) on one side, a micro SD card slot on another and finally an HDMI (2.0) and gigabit Ethernet at the rear. The resultant micro PC is beautifully small consisting of a 70mm (2.76″) square case by 33.4mm (1.31”) tall which can still be mounted on the back of a monitor using the included VESA bracket and screws.

The specifications include:

LIVA Q2 specifications
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The LIVA Q2 is available with either 32 or 64GB eMMC flash, 2 or 4GB DDR4 RAM together with optionally pre-installed Windows 10. It can be purchased with either the Intel Gemini Lake N4000, N4100 or the N5000 processors. ECS kindly provided a 32GB eMMC, 4GB DDR4 RAM, N4000 model with Windows 10 for review. The Intel Celeron N4000 is a dual core processor bursting up to 2.60 GHz together with the Intel UHD Graphics 600 processor that is capable of 4K support at 60Hz. The 32GB of eMMC comes partitioned as:

LIVA Q2 disk management

The initial boot show a customized wallpaper and two pre-installed applications: eBLU (ECS BIOS Live Update) and eDLU (ECS Driver Live Update):

Windows 10 Desktop LIVA Q2 initial boot
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Starting with a quick look at the hardware information shows it is aligned to the specification:

ECS-LIVA-Q2-System-Information
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Intel N4000 HWiNFO64 LIVA Q2

As usual I ran my standard set of benchmarking tools to look at performance under Windows:

 

The results need interpreting carefully otherwise they could be misleading when compared to other Intel mini PCs. This is because mini PC benchmark results are heavily influenced by the quantity and type of memory and storage installed:

Intel Mini PC Windows 10 Comparison
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The LIVA Q2 model tested with its N4000 SoC shows commendable performance being at the start of the Gemini Lake processor line up.

Next I shrunk the Windows partition and created new a 10GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu using an Ubuntu 18.10 ISO.

Once installed I first ran some basic commands to look at the hardware in more detail:


I then ran Octane and the result was slightly higher than in Windows:

Liva Q2 Ubuntu 18.10 Octane 2
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Finally I looked at real-world usage. I started by playing videos under Windows using both Edge and Chrome browsers. Under both browsers [email protected] and [email protected] videos played fine:

Windows 10 chrome browser-4k-video-LIVA-Q2
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ECS-LIVA-Q2-N4100-windows-edge-browser-4k-at-60fps-video
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LIVA Q2 Review windows-edge-browser-4k-video
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LIVA Q2 windows 10 chrome browser 4k at 60fps video
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although on Chrome the [email protected] video sometimes dropped frames which caused the occasional stutter.

In contrast playing videos on Ubuntu was a similar story to other Intel processor-based mini PCs. Both Firefox and Chrome could not play [email protected] video as the result was unwatchable:

liva-q2-ubuntu-firefox-browser-4k-video
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liva-q2-ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-video
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however they were fine when played at 1080p:

liva-q2-ubuntu-firefox-browser-1080p-video
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liva-q2-ubuntu-chrome-browser-1080p-video
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The [email protected] and [email protected] videos resulted in frames being dropped and were also unwatchable:

liva-q2-ubuntu-firefox-browser-4k-at-60-video
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liva-q2-ubuntu-chrome-browser-4k-at-60-video
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and even at [email protected] the video was juddering every few seconds:

liva-q2-ubuntu-firefox-browser-1080p-at-60-video
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liva-q2-ubuntu-chrome-browser-1080p-at-60-video
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Playing videos using Kodi on Windows with VP9 codec and H.264 codec encoded videos used hardware to decode and were fine:

Liva-q2-windows-kodi-vp9
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Liva-Q2-windows-kodi-h264
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Videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC also played fine as again hardware decoding was used:

ECS-LIVA-Q2-Review-windows-kodi-h265
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LIVA-Q2-windows-kodi-hevc
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It was also possible to play and 8K video:

Gemini-Lake-windows-kodi-8k-vp9
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and although this increased the CPU temperature the LIVA Q2’s quiet internal fan kept it under control at around 74°C.

LIVA-Q2-windows-kodi-8k-temperature
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When testing Kodi on Ubuntu I first used the default ‘distro’ version (17.6 Krypton) as installed using ‘apt’. Both VP9 and H.264 codec encoded videos used hardware to decode and played fine:

liva-q2-ubuntu-kodi-vp9
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liva-q2-review-ubuntu-kodi-h264
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For videos encoded with H.265 or HEVC when hardware decoding was used they were fine:

LIVA-Q2-ubuntu-kodi-h265
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but when software decoding was required due to specific pixel formats the video stalls:

liva-q2-ubuntu-kodi-hevc
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This was resolved by installing the latest version of Kodi (18.0 Leia) from their ‘ppa’:

liva-q2-review-ubuntu-latest-kodi-hevc
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However regardless of the Kodi version software decoding was used when playing 8K videos resulting in stalling and dropped frames:

LIVA-Q2-ubuntu-kodi-8k-vp9
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As can be seen playing videos can create higher CPU usage resulting in higher internal temperatures. The LIVA Q2 includes a virtually silent fan and is only just audible even under these load conditions when it cycles on and off. Cooling is effective and under Ubuntu I ran an VP9 video in Kodi for 20 minutes and the internal temperature remained under control averaging around 74°C with the external temperature of the device reaching in places a maximum of 34°C:

fan-effectiveness-liva-q2
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The device doesn’t include any headphone jack so audio is provided only by HDMI. So for sound on Ubuntu for example when using the HDMI port you get:

LIVA-Q2-Ubuntu-sound-hdmi
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and in Windows you get:

ECS-LIVA-Q2-windows-sound-hdmi

Network connectivity throughput was measured on Ubuntu using ‘iperf’:

liva Q2 review network throughput

The download speeds for the 2.4 GHz network differed widely when repeated during testing so the figure show is an average reading.

Power consumption was measured as follows:

  • Powered off – 1.1 Watts
  • Shutdown – 0.3 Watts (Windows)
  • BIOS*  – 4.2 Watts
  • Boot menu – 3.9 Watts
  • Idle – 4.2 Watts (Windows) and 5.7 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • CPU stressed – 12.7 Watts (Ubuntu)
  • Video playback** – 7.6 Watts (4K in Windows) and 10.2 Watts (1080p in Ubuntu)

* BIOS (see below)
** The power figures fluctuate so the value is the average of the median high and median low power readings.

A brief overview of the BIOS is available in the following video:

The BIOS is limited however it does include settings for System Wake Up and Power Management.

Drivers are available from the company’s product page.

This remarkable micro PC achieves its size through using a sandwiched motherboard:

ECS LIVA Q2 motherboard
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ECS LIVA Q2 Teardown
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Given its tiny form-factor it is impressive with the performance it delivers making it perfect for browsing the web and ideal for home or office use or as a powerful digital signage solution.

The LIVA Q2 was slated to cost from $180 including Windows 10 however Intel’s continued short supply of Gemini Lake processors has meant that models are in short supply. It is anticipated that post March the supply of Gemini Lake SoCs will become more abundant and the LIVA Q2 will be available on Amazon.com and sites like Newegg.com.

[Update Feb 15, 2019 – Pricing information from ECS:

  1. For US market the MSRP for LIVA Q2 N4000 with Windows OS and LPDDR4 4GB / eMMC 32GB is USD185.
  2. At the beginning of launched in Oct. 2018, the MSRP for LIVA Q2 N5000 with Windows OS and LPDDR4 4GB / eMMC 32GB was USD 250.
  3. Japanese pricing can be seen on the following link

]

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Sander
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Sander

Nice box! A pity you can’t put in a (M.2) disk as the 32/64 GB SSD is a bit too little in my experience.

Linuxium
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There is another option of using a micro SD for extending the storage.

jim st
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jim st

What will be the impact of the Microsoft taking up what, 8gb to do upgrades? I’m having problems with some of these small Windows 10s from some time ago already. This one will be a bit tight @ 32gb. Also 8gb of memory would help out.

Linuxium
Guest

I always take a ‘dd’ backup in Linux before I start and the simplest upgrade route is also to take a backup of all drivers using double driver and then perform a clean install. On this device I upgraded having some 12GB free space and I used a USB prepared from the Windows 10 ISO and an SD card for the extra 10GB required space and it worked fine.

blu
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blu

I presume $180 is for the 2GB version. What’s the price for the actually usable 4GB version?

Linuxium
Guest

After CNY I hope to get the RRPs for each configuration.

Linuxium
Guest

The review has been updated with the latest available MSRP/RRP information.

Drone
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Drone

32/64GB MMC cripples it. I’m not a fan of the fan either.

Mihai
Guest

Yeah, a M.2 SATA would be awesome. I do not like the fact that Ubuntu has issues with playback (that Windows does not have). It has a very nice design, some good engineering went in there.