ECS LIVA Z3 and ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano UCFF PCs Review – Surenaira
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ECS LIVA Z3 and ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano UCFF PCs Review




TECHNOLOGY

ECS LIVA Z3 and ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano UCFF PCs Review

Intel’s Jasper Lake family of products (based on the Tremont microarchitecture) was launched in early 2021. Since then, we have introduced a steady stream of notebooks and motherboards/mini PCs based on those processors to the market. Ultra-compact form factor machines (UCFF) based on the Atom series offer attractive entry-level options in the NUC domain. Their low-power character also lends itself to passively cooled designs.

Intel’s Jasper Lake SKUs are a sequel to Gemini Lake. In 2018, we had tested two different Gemini Lake UCFF PCs: Intel’s actively cooled June Canyon NUC and ECS’s passively cooled LIVA Z2. For Jasper Lake, we purchased four different UCFF PCs: two passively cooled systems with 6W TDP processors and two actively cooled systems with 10W TDP processors.

Today’s article provides a detailed overview of the performance and features of the two passively cooled systems – the ECS LIVA Z3 and the ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano. Both are based on 6W TDP processors, with slight variations in frequency and iGPU capabilities. The two vendors have also adopted different approaches to the power limits, causing unexpected performance effects. In addition to examining the possibilities offered by traditional PC workloads, we also take an in-depth look at thermal design to understand what makes fanless systems meet user requirements.

Introduction and product impressions

Intel’s Apollo Lake SoCs (based on Goldmont) introduced in 2016 were quickly followed by Gemini Lake (Goldmont Plus) in late 2017. However, the delays related to 10nm production resulted in a significant gap before the Tremont-based Jasper Lake products appeared in early 2021. Compared to Gemini Lake, the new Jasper Lake products have improved CPU performance (Intel claims an increase of 33%) with an updated microarchitecture and larger caches. The integrated GPU is also clocked higher with additional EUs. Intel On the system front, faster expansion options are available, with up to 8 Gen 3 lanes (compared to 6 Gen 2 lanes in Gemini Lake), 14 USB ports (up to 10 Gbps) (compared to 8 ports up to 5 Gbps in Gemini Lake). Jasper Lake also integrates a Wireless-AX MAC, enabling cost-effective systems with Wi-Fi 6 support. Manufacturers can adopt or exploit these characteristics in various ways to bring differentiated products to the market.

As with our Apollo Lake (Intel Arches Canyon and ECS LIVA Z) and Gemini Lake (Intel June Canyon and ECS LIVA Z2) experiments, we obtained multiple Jasper Lake UCFF PCs for evaluation. Today’s review focuses on the two fanless systems – the ECS LIVA Z3 and the ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano.

A quick comparison of the ECS LIVA Z3 and the ZBOX CI331 nano reveals the following aspects of differentiation:

  • Support for 2.5″ SATA drives in the ZBOX, not available in the LIVA Z3
  • Support for an M.2 2280 NVMe SSD in the LIVA Z3, not available in the ZBOX
  • Integrated 128GB eMMC in the LIVA Z3, not available in the ZBOX
  • VGA display output (total 3, including HDMI and DisplayPort) available in the ZBOX, while the LIVA Z3 only has two (HDMI and mini-DP)
  • Dual LAN and SDXC/SDHC card reader included in the ZBOX, while the LIVA Z3 has only one LAN port
  • Integrated quad-microphone (DMIC) array in the LIVA Z3, while the ZBOX has separate headphone and microphone jacks.

The ZBOX also uses a more advanced WLAN solution (Intel Wireless-AC 9462 with Bluetooth 5.1) compared to the LIVA Z3 (Intel Wireless-AC 3165 with Bluetooth 4.2). The form factors are also slightly different, with the absence of 2.5-inch drive support in the LIVA Z3 allowing it to be slimmer.

The LIVA Z3 comes in multiple flavors – an OS-less version with 4GB RAM and 128GB eMMC for $220, and another variant with Windows 10 Pro bundled for $250. The ZBOX CI331 nano also has a similar bundle, though is the barebones version without memory or eMMC. The price comes in at $260 for the barebones version. The reasons for the price premium will become clear as we progress through the review.

The use cases for the two systems are many, with fanless being suitable for digital signage, kiosks, retail applications, etc. The dual LAN function in the ZBOX makes it extra attractive for network applications.

The system packages provided by ECS and ZOTAC are similar – both include a 65W power adapter (19V @ 3.42A) and include VESA mounts. The ZOTAC package includes a separate WLAN antenna and additional thermal pads for the SATA drive.



The test sample of the ECS LIVA Z3 came with both memory slots occupied (2x 4GB DDR4-2666 SODIMMs). The board also includes 128GB of eMMC, but that’s insufficient for our benchmarking purposes. We took advantage of the M.2 NVMe slot to install a Crucial P5 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD in the system as the primary drive. The complete specifications of the ECS LIVA Z3 sample as tested can be found in the table below.















ECS LIVA Z3 Specifications
(as tested)
Processor Intel Pentium Silver N6000
Jasper Lake 4C/4T, 1.1 – 3.3GHz
Intel 10nm, 4MB L3, 6W
Memory Gold Key Tech. Neo Forza NMSO440D85-2666E DDR4-2666 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666MHz
2x4GB
Graphics Intel UHD graphics
(32EU @ 350 – 850MHz)
Disc(s) Crucial P5 CT1000P5SSD8
(1TB; M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe;)
(Micron 96L 3D TLC; Micron DM0182 controller)
Biwin BWCTASC41P128G
(128GB; eMMC)
Networking 1x GbE RJ-45 (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Intel Wireless AC-3165 (1×1 802.11ac – 433Mbps)
audio Realtek ALC897 (3.5mm front panel headphone jack with quad-mic array digital microphone)
Support for digital audio and bitstreaming via HDMI and DisplayPort outputs
Video 1x HDMI 2.0a
1x mini DP 1.4a
Various I/O ports 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (front)
2x USB 2.0 Type-A (rear)
Operating system Windows 11 Enterprise (22000.708)
Prices (Street prices on June 21)st2022)

US$232 (with eMMC, 4 GB DDR4 and OS)
US $352 (as configured)
Full specifications ECS LIVA Z3 Specifications

The ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano was a barebones monster, on par with the CI662 nano we reviewed last year. Zotac’s C-series eschews M.2 slots and opts for the traditional 2.5″ SATA drive slot instead. The SSD used in that review (SK hynix Gold S31) was reused in the CI331 nano. The DRAM option was trickier Jasper Lake platform officially supports DDR4-2933 After collecting a large number of DDR4-2933 / DDR4-3000 / DDR4-3200 SODIMMs (from the Skylake days) I hoped I could get one of those early high-frequency SODIMMs at DDR-2933 speeds in the CI331 nano Unfortunately they were all set to DDR-2400 by default, and the BIOS wasn’t very helpful when changing DRAM timings Only recent DDR4-2933+ SODIMMs could work on DDR-2933 in the system – unfortunately I only had 32GB SODIMMs in hand from the recent batches. In the end the ZBOX CI331 nano was equipped with 2x 32GB DDR-2933 Mushkin Redline SODIMMs for a total of 64GB RAM – much higher than the official specified 16GB maximum memory capacity of the Jacket per Lake platform y, the system ran flawlessly through our benchmarking routines despite this wild configuration. The complete specifications of the ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano sample as tested can be found in the table below.















ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano specifications:
(as tested)
Processor Intel Celeron N5100
Jasper Lake 4C/4T, 1.1 – 2.8GHz
Intel 10nm, 4MB L3, 6W
Memory Mushkin MR[ABC]4S293MMMF32G DDR4-2933 SODIMM
21-21-21-47 @ 2933MHz
2x32GB
Graphics Intel UHD graphics
(24EU @ 350 – 850MHz)
Disc(s) SK hynix Gold S31
(1TB; 2.5″ SSD SATA III;)
(SK hynix 72L 3D TLC; SK hynix Quartz SH87830CC controller)
Networking 2x GbE RJ-45 (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Intel Wireless AC-9462 (1×1 802.11ac – 433Mbps)
audio ESS Tech ES9270 USB DAC (3.5mm audio jacks in front panel)
Support for digital audio and bitstreaming via HDMI and DisplayPort outputs
Video 1x HDMI 2.0b
1x DisplayPort 1.2″
1x VGA
Various I/O ports 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C (front)
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (back)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (Charging/Rear)
1x SDXC/SDHC UHS-I card reader slot (front)
Operating system Windows 11 Enterprise (22000.708)
Prices (Street prices on July 6th)st2022)

US$260 (barebones)
US $616 (as configured)
Full specifications ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano specifications:

Our next section goes into the details of thermal design and the need to look at it thoroughly.

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