ECS Elitegroup @ CES 2017: Apollo Lake, Kaby Lake and AM4
Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) was present at CES 2017 to showcase the latest in their LIVA mini-PC series called the “LIVA-Z” in person. This was first unveiled at Computex 2016 but the fully functioning, Apollo-lake powered LIVA-Z measuring a scant 117 x 128 x 51mm was available for a hands-on experience in Las Vegas.
The Apollo Lake platform with 14nm Goldmont cores are the latest generation System-on-chip from Intel that has HEVC Main10 and VP9 Profile0 Hardware decoding capability, making it a formidable HTPC platform, especially considering its 10W TDP. The ECS LIVA Z will also have an expansion slot that include an m.2 SSD internally while it may come in either 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage. Intel 802.11AC WiFI and Bluetooth capabilities are also expected. More information on how this mini-PC performs will be available here at Modders-Inc in a few days once a review sample arrives at the office.
ECS Elitegroup actually has three models on display that are part of the LIVA Z family. The LIVA Z and LIVA ZE are the Apollo Lake SoC units that share most of the features, but with the exception of the ZE aimed towards more of a kiosk unit having four RS232 ports and being thicker at 51mm compared to the standard LIVA Z which is 33mm, due to the additional space for 2.5″ SATA drive mounting. The third LIVA Z unit is the LIVA Z PLUS and actually uses a completely different platform utilizing an Intel Kaby Lake-U 15W TDP CPU (it will be available in i3-7100U, i5-7200U and i7-7500U variants).
Also on display in ECS’ suite are several motherboards that are not available yet but will be very soon. The first two are a pair of 200-series mainboards for Intel’s Kaby Lake line. First is the Z270X-Lightsaber, a 200-series update of the 100-series chipset motherboard previously reviewed here at Modders-Inc in November. Other than 7th Generation Intel Core CPU support out of the box, the ECS Z270X-Lightsaber motherboard will also feature RGB LED lighting along the audio trace path, on-board m.2, triple-digit on-board debug LED, on-board buttons and it will upgrade the Gigabit NIC to a Killer E2500 compared to the Killer E2400 used on the Z170X-Lightsaber.
ECS Elitegroup also has added a mini-ITX solution to their lineup in the form of the ECS Z270H4-i motherboard. Due to the smaller form factor, it only has two DDR4 DIMM slots instead of four but that does not mean it is short on features. It also is equipped with Nichicon audio electrolytic capacitors with a Realtek ALC1150 HD audio codec similar to the ATX-sized Z270X-Lightsaber, has 6-phase CPU VRM and dual-NIC via Intel i219v plus Realtek DRAGON LAN 8118AS. It also comes equipped with two M.2 slots, one for PCIEx4 Gen3 storage and one for 802.11AC Wireless/BT expansion card installation. The 802.11AC card is already pre-installed on-board in the front while the m.2 slot for storage expansion is located at the back of the motherboard since the mini-ITX form factor has very small real-estate.
For those who prefer the AMD flavor would be glad to hear that Elitegroup Computer Systems had an AM4 Ryzen compatible motherboard on display as well called the ECS B350AM4-M, although it was not in its final production prototype yet as it was sporting generic heatsinks on the chipset and the CPU VRM was exposed. This ECS AM4 motherboard is using a micro-ATX form factor but had two PCI-E x16 slots with a legacy PCI and PCI-e x1 slot in between them, four SATA ports and two M.2 slots available (one on top of the other). It uses a 4+2 phase power design using a Richtek PWM and Niko Semiconductor MOSFETs. There are no holes on the motherboard for mounting heatsinks on the MOSFETs so the bare design might be an indication that this motherboard is not meant to be overclocked. Nonetheless, AMD has revealed that their chipsets are very flexible in terms of configuration unlike current Intel chipsets so even though it may not sport top of the line chipset features, even budget AM4 boards can overclock RAM and CPUs and can even have much more allocated lanes to the PCI-E graphics slots.