Platform Analysis

Previous generation nettops were mostly based on the Atom D525 / Atom D2700 CPUs. In order to make the graphics performance and HTPC aspects attractive, the ION platform was introduced (combining these anemic CPUs with a low-end NVIDIA GPU). Despite the improvements enabled by the GPU in the ION platform, the Atom CPUs held back the performance quite a bit. Intel hardly paid any attention to improving the performance of the CPU cores in the Atom processors, reusing the Bonnell microarchitecture for multiple generations. In the move from 32nm to 22nm, Intel finally realized that the microarchitecture for the Atom lineup needed a major upheaval.

Silvermont into the Picture

The increasing competition from smartphones and tablets made Intel rethink their strategy for the Atom lineup. The ageing Bonnell microarchitecture was replaced by Silvermont, bringing out of order execution and other improvements into the picture. Intel also moved from a PCH-based setup to integrating all the I/O aspects along with the Atom CPU cores into a SoC. With so many code names associated with Silvermont-based products, we thought it would be best to present a bulleted list indicating the markets which Intel hopes to address with each of them.

  • Bay Trail
    • Bay Trail-T: Atom Z36xx and Z37xx series for tablets
    • Bay Trail-M: Pentium and Celeron branding (N-series) for notebooks and AIOs
    • Bay Trail-D: Penitum and Celeron branding (J-series) for desktops
    • Bay Trail-I: Atom E38xx for the embedded market
  • Merrifield
    • Atom Z34xx: Low-end to mid-range smartphones
  • Moorefield
    • Atom Z35xx: Premium smartphones
  • Avoton
    • Atom C2xx0: Microservers and cloud storage
  • Rangeley
    • Atom C2xx8: Network and communication infrastructure

The various possible components in a Bay Trail SoC are given in the diagram below.

Depending on the target market (as specified in the bulleted list above), some of the components in the above block diagram are cut out. For example, Bay Trail-T does away with the SATA and PCIe lanes. Bay Trail-M is more interesting to us in this article, as the ECS LIVA's Celeron N2806 belongs to that family. It pretty much takes the original Bay Trail configuration as-is.

ECS LIVA - Motherboard Design

The Celeron N2806 used in the ECS LIVA is a 2C/2T solution with a base frequency of 1.6 GHz and a burst speed of 2.0 GHz. With a maximum TDP of 4.5 W and a SDP (scenario design power) of 2.5 W, it is a perfect fit for a passively cooled system. For the purpose of cost-optimization, ECS decided to avoid using the SATA ports. Out of the four PCIe 2.0 lanes, only one is used by the Realtek RTL8168/8111 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. The USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports are used as-is. The eMMC (SDIO0) port is used for storage purposes, while the other SDIO port is used to create the M.2 socket to which the Wi-Fi module is connected.

In effect, ECS has made judicious use of the available I/O to provide consumers with a mix of essential external ports at an optimal price point.

Introduction and Setup Impressions Performance Metrics
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  • nathanddrews - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I'm guessing that if my Pentium T4400 laptop can do it, then this thing can as well, but that would be a great test now that Streaming is out of beta. Reply
  • rocktober13 - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I was looking for something like this too. I ended up going with an Amazon Fire TV, and sideloaded limelight. It seems to be able to handle 1080p streaming, but I haven't tested it extensively. I just got it up and running. I would say it's a pretty nice solution at only $100. It does require an Nvidia card though. Oh, and you can side load XBMC for a complete HTPC replacement. Reply
  • djfourmoney - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Fire TV is the best set-top media streamer available ATM. For what I do with a HTPC, I had considered switching to a DirecTV HD-DVR (Tivo maybe) and a FireTV for all the streaming stuff.

    The FireTV can handle YouTube, but no support for Hulu Free, just Hulu Plus (boo!). Guess I could watch Hulu free via XMBC like you said side-loaded onto it.

    I'm just not fond of switching inputs. But I do it manually not by remote, so maybe if I solved that issue, it would just leave Hulu.

    I could then retire the P4 WHS 2011 and use the use the Llano as the server use less power and the case can hold four drives, adding 6TB would solve all my storage issues at once, in-fact just adding one more 3TB drive will do that.

    We'll see... But I like the Liva for maybe a micro server? With Windows Server unfortunately you would have to put it on a larger drive first and then shrink it down.

    Reply
  • owan - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Can the slot occupied by the wifi module be repurposed for an SSD if the storage is insufficient? Obviously you lose wifi, but a USB based wifi would be an easy fix. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    No, I had the same question for ECS initially, but the answer is that the M.2 slot can be used only for the appropriate Wi-Fi cards Reply
  • Samus - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    That's so stupid. Is there a BIOS blacklist or something? Reply
  • speculatrix - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    I think it's just that miniPCIe can be wired in different ways, for usb, sata and pcie-like, so quite possibly this board simply isn't wired for mSATA? Reply
  • Aikouka - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    When I saw that the unit had a M.2 slot, I had hopes that it could be replaced with a M.2-based SSD. Unfortunately, based on some Google searching, that Wi-Fi/BT card is a 1630 M.2 card ( http://www.embeddedworks.net/wlan515.html ), which means it's 30mm long. The smallest M.2 SSD that I can find is a xx42, which is 42mm long. =( 32GB would be really pushing it for PLEX, which stores its metadata (images) locally. Although, I think you can change settings to reduce it, but my HTPCs definitely use more than 32GB of their SSDs. Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Two ideas here:

    1. Add a USB thumb drive 'permanently'

    2. If you have a NAS, create a iSCSI LUN and map it on this PC.
    Reply
  • mcfrumpy - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    I just want something cheap I can run a Ventrilo server on. I'm assuming this will work great. Reply

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