Disclosure: The Liva Z Plus is provided by ECS
About UCFF PCs and the Liva Z Plus…
The ECS Liva Z Plus is a UCFF PC system with an intention to be used for business and personal use. The main selling point is that it uses an Intel Core i5 7300U 14nm Kaby Lake SoC in such a small form factor, with vPro enabled. The CPU uses Intel 620 graphics and supports 4K Playback. So it’s also good enough to function as a compact HTPC unit.
NUCs have been around for a while. Zotac makes mini PCs with and without gaming-centric GPU. They have good usefulness as a general PC. What I liked about Liva Z Plus offering was that it is in the same form factor and design as its Apollo Lake SoC version ‘Liva Z’. Usually, such units are barebone devices, but this does come with a single DDR4 module, a 128GB M.2 and the BT 4.0+ WiFi AC adapter. This is ideally good for those who need out-of-box usability, but it also has room to make some upgrades.
Packaging and Contents
To give an idea, the ECS Liva Z Plus packaging is as big as the old desktop upgrade kits for SSDs. The retail kit gets you a user’s manual and an installation disc. Usually, manufacturers provide an online copy on the product page but it wasn’t the case here. You can download the latest drivers from ECS’s page. The contents are VESA Mounting plate with screws, a power brick made by FSP and a socket cable.
|Platform||Intel® Kaby Lake Core™ i5-7300U SOC
Intel® Kaby Lake Core™ i5-7200U SOC
Intel® Kaby Lake Core™ i3-7100U SOC
Intel® Kaby Lake Celeron® 3965U SOC
|Memory||DDR4 Up to 32GB
2 x SO-DIMM Memory
|Storage||Support 1x M.2 2242 SSD (SATA /PCI-E)|
|Audio||1x Combo Jack
1x Digital Mic
|LAN||2x Gigabit LAN ( 1x Intel LAN)|
|USB||3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports
1x USB 3.0 Type-C port
|Video Output||1x HDMI Port (HDMI 1.4)
1x mDP Port
|Wireless||Intel® WiFi 802.11ac & Bluetooth 4.0|
|PCB Size||115 x 111 mm|
|Dimension||117 x 128 x 33 mm|
|VESA||Supports 75mm / 100mm|
|Adapter||Input: AC 100-240V,Output: DC 19V / 3.42A|
|OS Support||Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
|Accessory||1x Power adapter
1x VESA Bracket
6x VESA Mount Screws
Quick Guide & Driver DVD
As you will expect from an Ultra-Compact form factor based systems, the main selling point is its compact size and versatility. The Liva Z Plus does offer some legroom for aftermarket upgrades, no different from what you would see in mini PCs systems like Zotac Z-Box units. The Liva Z Plus uses the 14nm Kaby Lake SoC but it has some CPU variants ranging between a Celeron, i3 and two i5 series SoC.
The ECS Liva Z Plus which I have is the Core i5 7300U SoC with vPro clocked at 2.6 GHz. The Core i3-7100U and the Celeron 3965U does not have vPro support. By default, it has a single 4GB 2133 MHz DDR4 memory (PCB has two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots), a 128GB M.2 SSD and a BT/Wireless AC adapter. When you buy these units, you’ll need to get your copy of the Windows 10 OS.
The ECS LIVA Z Plus casing is plastic. The only UCFF PC system I’ve seen with metal casing was made by Lenovo, but that unit was not easily available for purchase in the retail market. It is interesting to see dual Gigabit LAN and dual video outputs for a system this size. The front has a Power button which also has a reset feature with an LED ring to indicate power. All the USB ports are USB 3.0 Gen 1- three Type A and 1 Type-C to keep up with the times. The audio jack provides audio access to headsets using both 3.5mm TRS and TRRS jacks. The rear has two video outputs- a mini DisplayPort and a standard HDMI. There are two Gigabit LAN, followed by power connector. For air ventilation, there are cut-outs towards both sides of the casing.
The size of the Liva Z Plus is almost comparable with a 120mm PC case fan. The dimension of the Liva Z Plus is 117 x 128 x 33 mm.
The casing is plastic with the top having a combination of glossy and sand-finish rounded designs. The base is matte finish with ringed feet and two mounts to screw in the VESA mount. You can easily dismantle the unit by removing the screws.
Compared to mini-PCs, taking the PCB out of this shell is very easy, giving the best possible access for self-maintenance. The subcomponents are towards the base, giving access to the upgradable SO-DIMM DDR4 RAM slots thereby providing support up to 32GB, a 2242 M.2 drive and a wireless adapter underneath it. You’ll also notice two connectors labelled SATA and LPC.
The opposite section is where the CPU and its sub-components are placed.
Additional Components Overview
The Liva Z Plus uses a single 4GB SO-DIMM DDR4 module and the 128GB M.2 from Transcend. Underneath is the Intel 8260NGW chip that provides dual WiFi AC and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity. Though Liva Z Plus does have two gigabit LAN, one is powered by the Intel I219-LM and another from Realtek RTL8168/8111 gigabit LAN.
Cooling System Overview
Typically, you’ll assume such ultra-compact form factor PCs will use a passive cooling system. On the PCB there’s a copper block and heatpipe connected to the heat fins, while a laptop type blow fan is installed towards the base. You’ll also find the internal antennas for the wireless module places underneath.