Elitegroup Computing Systems (ECS) just announced a pair of fanless, ecofriendly mini PCs in the shadow of Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2021: the Liva Q1A and the Q1A Plus. Both systems come wrapped in a 74x74x34.6mm plastic case, making them 37% smaller than Intel’s NUC PC series’s 116.6x112x39mm dimensions. Unfortunately, ECS hasn’t announced availability or prices.

The two new mini-PCs emphasize versatility over performance. If you’re looking for performance-oriented small-form factor mini PCs, better options exist.

ECS positions the Liva series as drop-in solutions for display management at hospitals and other commercial sectors. However, the boxes include support for HDMI-CEC, which is a display standard which allows a single remote to control all compatible devices connected to the display by passing a signal through the HDMI port. That means ECS also wants consumers to use them as streaming boxes and home-theater PCs.

ECS Liva Q1A Mini-PC Specs

Liva Q1A miniPC

Unlike Intel’s NUC, the base-model Liva comes with a Rockchip ARM processor. While the ARM processor prevents installation of Windows, it enables Android, Linux, and potentially ChromeOS (ChromeOS can install on most hardware), although the system comes with Android 8.1 or Ubuntu 18.04 Lite installed.

The base Liva model’s Rockchip RK3288 won’t turn heads. The RK3288 is a quad-core, low-end processor using an older ARM Cortex A17 license, based on the ancient Armv7-a architecture. While ECS claims it handles 4K, the viewing experience may suffer from choppiness and playback issues. Even so, it should excel as a Netflix streaming box at anything below 4K resolutions.

ECS Liva Q1A Specifications and Ports

ECS Liva Q1A rear ports

The Liva offers low-end specs, even for a streaming box.

  • 2GB of LPDDR-3 RAM
  • 32/64GB of eMMC storage
  • RK3288, 1.6GHz Cortex A17 CPU
  • Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n)

Unfortunately, ECS did not explain whether the Wi-Fi module offers dual-band frequencies.

The Q1A offers a strong variety of ports, including:

  • 1x Micro-USB
  • 3x USB 2.0
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x Gigabit LAN
  • 1x expandable MicroSD slot, maximum 128GB
  • 1x DC barrel-jack connector for power

The Micro-USB port’s function remains unclear. While most Android devices use Micro-USB for power or for transferring files, a desktop might use it for a different purpose.

ECS Liva Q1A Plus Mini-PC Specs

ecs liva q1a plus minipc

According to ECS’s public relations team, the Plus edition comes with either a quad or dual-core Rockchip RK3399 processor. However, that’s almost certainly a bad translation of the original press release. The Plus edition’s RK3399 combines two processors onto the same chip in what’s referred to as a “Big-Little” configuration.

Liva Q1A Plus Specifications and Ports

ecs liva q1a plus rear ports

The Plus model comes with the following hardware specs:

  • 2GB of LPDDR-3 RAM
  • 32 or 64GB of eMMC storage
  • Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n)

The Plus model comes with the following ports:

  • 2x USB Gen 1
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 1x DisplayPort 1.2
  • 1x DC barrel-jack connector

The specific type of USB port isn’t mentioned, although it’s either USB 3.1 or USB 3.2. The DisplayPort can drive up to two 4K panels.

The Q1A Plus’s Big-Little Processor

Big-Little processors combine two different processor clusters on the same piece of silicon. One cluster is fast and big, the other small and efficient. The Rockchip RK3399’s Big cluster uses two older ARM Cortex A72 high-end cores, combined with four small ARM Cortex A53 cores.

For example, when handling low-power workloads, the high-efficiency cores go into operation. When heavier tasks come down the pipe, the bigger A72 cores, with higher frequencies, go into action. In theory, Big-Little designs combine the best worlds of efficient designs and fast designs.

However, desktops use a continuous power source and don’t need to budget power consumption to provide better battery life. ECS likely used the the Big-Little configuration in order to lower power consumption, since it provides no performance advantage.

Prices and Availability

While ECS didn’t announce prices or a release date, its older line of Liva Q1L cost $170. The Q1L came with an Intel processor and beefier specs. Judging from the Q1L, my guess is that the Q1A will cost around $120 with the Q1A Plus costing between $130-140.

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