Kaby Lake builds come in all shapes and sizes, so ultra-compact form factor systems are par for the course. They’re certainly interesting, and clearly in demand for enterprise or office environments given VPro capabilities. Perhaps too for the home market, where low-fuss, capable systems can keep a low profile and deliver simple productivity. The Liva Z Plus is our first look at a Kaby Lake UCFF PC, so let’s see what it offers.
ECS offers the Liva Plus in Kaby Lake Celeron 3965U, i3-7100U and i5-7200U/i5-7300U variants. Our sample takes the top spec here – Kaby Lake’s dual-core, ultra-low power (15W), i5-7300U. The processor features a base clock of 2.6GHz with a max Turbo frequency of 3.5GHz, and makes up around half the cost of this (approx) £500 system.
Backing it up on an ECS KBLU-MINI motherboard is a single 4GB SO-DIMM DDR4 2400 module. The Liva Z Plus bears two SO-DIMM slots, so doubling up is an option for those wanting a bit more zip in, for example, encoding. Having said that ECS states that up to 32GB is supported. That support is useful for expansion, although at current prices you’d be spending half the system cost again on maxing out the RAM.
Transcend’s SATA 3 MTS400 M.2 SSD is the lone hard-drive. The MTS400 offers 128GB as would be expected. It’s ample, especially for a typical scenario involving general productivity work where mass media can be stored externally. The system does support SATA and PCIE drives, albeit not beyond M.2 2242.
Tying up the core components is Intel’s HD Graphics 620 solution. ECS is quick to point out that the Liva Z Plus is capable of 4K graphics, and Intel HD Graphics 620 is why. Ramping up the performance compared to Skylake’s HD Graphics 520, the latest iteration supports resolutions up to 4096 x 2304 running at 60Hz. Effectively, if you or your employer wants to hook the Liva Z Plus up to a 4K display the option is certainly there.
Finally, ECS has crammed good networking capabilities in. Both Gigabit and wireless solutions come in to play, with two ethernet ports and WiFi 8702.11ac support. Bluetooth? That’s here too, as the full specifications reveal.
CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-7300U
Memory: 4GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
Hard disk: 128GB Transcend MTS400
Ports: 3 x USB 3.1 (Type-A), 1 x USB 3.0 (Type-C), 1 x HDMI 1.4, 1x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x Combo Jack, 1 x Digital Mic, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
Dimensions: 117 x 128 x 33 mm
Extras: Dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, VESA mount (Supports 75mm / 100mm).
There are limits to what can be done with a system about twice the square space of a drinks coaster. Still, ECS has made the Liva Z Plus a neat and tidy affair. The largely matt black chassis turns gloss on the top, with ribbed concentric circles forming around the LIVA logo. It’s inoffensive, and adds a little bit of interest to limited space.
The chances are though that this system won’t obviously be on display, so what’s more pertinent here is the housing of components and ports. The Liva is actively cooled, so the sides of the chassis are given over to vents improving airflow. That’s a necessity, and so is an obvious configuration of ports. ECS agrees.
The front of the system is home to a sizable power button (easily found when reaching behind a monitor), the three USB Type-A, one Type-C and the Combo Jack.
At the rear, the power connector, two ethernet, the HDMI and Mini DisplayPort connectors are found. Nothing amiss here, and it’s obvious there are no wireless antennae to contend with. In all it’s a pretty smart and neat box, and the black casing will fit most environments. A good job on design, so how does it perform?
It’s worth noting that the Liva Z Plus arrives barebones. We installed Windows 10, opting for the Pro version. Once up and running we ran the PC through a selection of tests, and given the low-power and modest performance available we were satisfied.
Heartening were the main productivity results where, to be honest, the Liva Plus needed to shine. A strong showing of 4,728 points in the PC Mark 8 Work benchmark is up there with some of the more powerful gaming systems we’ve seen. In Geekbench 4, the single-thread result was a good 4,106. The multi-thread Geekbench 4 came in at 7728, solid for the dual-core i5-7300U.
Cinebench R15 delivered a CPU score of 333cb and GPU score of 39.7fps. Out of context both are unimpressive, but pretty much exactly where this system should be hitting. In our Handbrake encoding test, the Liva Z Plus took three minutes to convert a 4K video 1080p. So it can, but not swiftly
As for component benchmarks, the 4GB of DDR4 2400 memory offered a RAM bandwidth of 12.75GB/s. The Transcend SSD is capable of 560MB/s read and 460MB/s write. CrystalDiskMark clocked a read score of 558.3Mb/s, and pretty much on the button. However, write delivered 204.4MB/s – not doubt slightly hamstrung by limited RAM.
Elsewhere the 15W Core-i5 idled at 41c, peaking at 71, and so well within safety given the Liva Z Plus’ limited cooling. Peak system draw was 38.7W – a fraction of other potential office and enterprise system setups. Finally, we did note that wireless strength wasn’t great through a dividing wall. However, in an office environment this system would no doubt be connected to a nearby WAP if not permanently utilising a ethernet.
Liva Z Plus – Conclusion
Given all-round performance and the VPro capabilities of this system, we’d say it’s well positioned for enterprise use. Certainly, the Liva Z Plus delivers good low-power productivity. That productivity can be boosted by expanded RAM, but the star here is clearly the 14nm Kaby Lake i5-7300U. As mentioned earlier, the Liva Z Plus does offer other CPUs. We’d eschew those and stick with what we have here.
Of course, outside of productivity and office applications the Liva Z Plus is a far less satisfying fit. Thinking HTPC? It’s a possible option but the systems lacks a HDMI 2.0 port, and that means no 4K Netflix to start. No, at around £500, we’d say what we have here is a good, discreet solution for the office or home office. Taken as it is, the Liva Z Plus delivers admirably.