Hands-On with the Snapdragon WOA Mini PC

The ECS LIVA Mini Box QC710 Desktop is aimed at developers interested in porting their apps to Windows on ARM. But it may be of interest to enthusiasts, too, given its low $200 pricing and fun, Roku-like form factor. So I bought one to find out.

Be warned, however: for now, at least, you can only purchase this mini-PC directly from Microsoft and the software giant warns that it will not refund any customers who later decide the purchase was a mistake. This is a one-way, dead-end street.

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday — and get free copies of Paul Thurrott's Windows 11 and Windows 10 Field Guides (normally $9.99) as a special welcome gift!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Here’s what you get. The ECS LIVA Mini Box QC710 Desktop is a small and light plastic mini-PC that ships with US, EU, and UK power adapters, and a USB power cable.

Inside the PC is a very low-end first-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c SC7180 processor/SoC, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of slow eMMC storage. I don’t see any obvious way to open up the box, and won’t, but I assume the RAM and internal storage are non-expandable.

Things are likewise minimal from a ports perspective. On the back, you will find one USB Type-C port with PD-Charging capabilities, one USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, one full-sized HDMI port, and one 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. Note that the one USB-C port is taken up by the power cable and brick, so you will want a USB-based dock if you need more USB-C ports.

On the right side, there are two more ports: one USB 2.0 Type-A port and one microSD card slot.

The front is empty aside from a low-quality Qualcomm Snapdragon sticker, the LIVA logo, and, wrapped around the curved corner, a power light.

To get started, I plugged in the power, a Dell USB keyboard, and an HDMI cable that’s normally used with my Xbox.

I then powered on the mini-PC by pressing its power button, located in its top middle, and waited while the power light came on and the PC slowly came to life.

And I do mean slowly. Everything this PC does happens at a leisurely pace, from booting up to launching applications to updating the OS to …whatever. It’s slow. The ECS LIVA comes with Windows 10 on ARM version 21H1 preinstalled, so my first order of business after slowly stepping through the initial Setup was to run Windows Update and see what was happening there.

There were several updates over two or three reboots, but I was never offered the Windows 11 upgrade.

After that was done, I paired the Microsoft Ocean Plastic Mouse to the PC and then updated the in-box apps via the Microsoft Store. Then, I configured Microsoft Edge and then updated that, and then waited while my extensions all installed. Then, I went to grab the PC Health Check app to ensure that it qualified for the Windows 11 upgrade. It does.

But I was confused that Windows Update never prompted me that Windows 11 was a thing, let alone available on this PC. This is a message I’ve seen on every other Windows 10 PC I’ve used. So I figured, what the heck, I’ll just manually upgrade. Visiting Microsoft’s Download Windows 11 site, I was told that I had three options: install it with the Windows 11 Installation Assistant, create installation media, or download the Windows 11 ISO and install from there. I started with the first option.

And that’s when I remembered one of the remaining Windows on ARM gotchas. You can’t upgrade to or install Windows 11 on ARM using any of those methods. The Installation Assistant, Media Creation Tool, and downloadable ISOs are all Intel/AMD x64-only, and none work with ARM-based PCs. Ah. Right.

And, as it turns out, there is no legitimate way to upgrade to Windows 11 without being offered that upgrade through Windows Update. Which wasn’t offering me anything. So I turned to the Insider Program. And after enrolling the PC and rebooting, I examined the available choices—Release Preview, Beta, and Dev channels—and chose Release Preview, hoping that I’d get the RTM version of Windows 11 as opposed to the future-leaning versions offered by Beta and Dev.

Nope. Instead, I was offered Windows 10 version 21H2. Which I installed. Slowly.

After that concluded, I checked Windows Update a few more times, hoping/praying that the 21H2 upgrade might shake something loose. But no. There were no updates, and no mention at all that Windows 11 even exists.

Was I a developer actually interested in using this thing for testing, I suppose I would have simply just switched to the Beta or Dev channel and gone with that. But I’m not, so I started down an avenue that’s not available to most people: I had obtained a prerelease version of Windows 11 on ARM over the summer, shortly after Microsoft’s reveal. So I copied that ISO to the mini-PC, and as I write this, I’m upgrading to that, slowly. When that completes, I’ll just use Windows Update to upgrade, slowly, to the 1.0 version. This will take hours, but it should work. If not, there’s always the Insider Program.

Whether this PC could be used normally by an average user is unclear. With its epically slow processor, just 4 GB of RAM, and slow eMMC storage, it’s hard to imagine it not being outperformed by even the lowliest of Intel-based PCs. And if you really are interested in a low-cost and low-end Windows on ARM PC, for development purposes or not, the Samsung Galaxy Book Go, with its 14-inch display and $349 price tag, is almost certainly the better choice.

Still, the ECS LIVA Mini Box QC710 Desktop is an interesting little PC, and with a few upgrades, I could almost imagine using it.

Tagged with

Share post

Please check our Community Guidelines before commenting

Conversation 33 comments

  • bschnatt

    19 November, 2021 - 2:43 pm

    <p>How much space is left over after you finish updating it and all?</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      20 November, 2021 - 11:08 am

      <p>About 15 GB.</p>

      • Paul Thurrott

        Premium Member
        20 November, 2021 - 11:14 am

        <p>But that’s before I remove previous Windows versions. That will save an additional 17.3 GB, Windows says, so the total free space will be closer to ~32 GB, which is great. </p>

  • atimms

    19 November, 2021 - 3:25 pm

    <p>Very clear that the Samsung is the way better buy; may be $150 more but that’s with screen, keyboard, mouse, better CPU, twice the storage and Windows 11 preinstalled. Samsung direct also have trade-in options to cut that price tag.</p><p><br></p><p>This ECS seems like a barrel scape, really not worth it.</p>

    • atimms

      19 November, 2021 - 4:06 pm

      <p>Correction: $130 (ECS is $219).</p>

  • bschnatt

    19 November, 2021 - 5:17 pm

    <p>Even more important, can you install Linux on it?</p>

    • spiderman2

      22 November, 2021 - 4:37 am

      <p>Oh this will be the year of Linux!</p>

    • paradyne

      22 November, 2021 - 7:27 am

      <p>Yes. There are a number of distributions in the Microsoft Store.</p>

  • jeffrye

    19 November, 2021 - 6:24 pm

    <p>Looks like Samsung has dropped $100 off the price for black friday. Now it’s only $30 more.</p>

  • polloloco51

    19 November, 2021 - 6:28 pm

    <p>I bet, this would be a great set-top retro gaming PC. With an Android variant installed, and ePSXe. </p><p><br></p><p>Or perhaps, a Linux based Plex media server. ?</p>

    • vladimir

      Premium Member
      19 November, 2021 - 7:06 pm

      <p>It seems much better and cheaper to use a raspberry pi for that </p>

      • digiguy

        Premium Member
        20 November, 2021 - 12:56 pm

        <p>This has double the speed of a Raspberry Pi</p>

    • dftf

      21 November, 2021 - 2:13 pm

      <p>Why bother with <em>ePSXe </em>thesedays when the more-recent <em>DuckStation </em>exists? Not only do you not need to mess-around with plugins, but it has a native ARM64 build, too. I’m not sure <em>ePSXe </em>is still an active project thesedays… the last public update was about five years ago now</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    20 November, 2021 - 12:53 am

    <p>Didn’t Microsoft put in a “delay loop” on Windows 10? If you did the initial setup out of the box, it wouldn’t offer a feature upgrade for 7 days? Could this be a similar restriction and the update will be offered after a few days?</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      20 November, 2021 - 11:09 am

      <p>That could be. I’m not sure.</p>

      • ianbetteridge

        21 November, 2021 - 3:14 am

        <p>That would also explain why my new Thinkpad (which came with Windows 10) didn’t want to update to Windows 11 out of the box. </p>

  • geoff

    20 November, 2021 - 6:18 am

    <p>I really like the idea of a NUC-sized PC powered by USB-C.</p><p><br></p><p>Just *one* cable to a USB-C monitor – with keyboard, mouse, webcam and whatever else attached to the monitor. It makes for a very clean desk and a very simple setup. Connect a laptop whenever you need to (perhaps the work laptop), but leave the NUC there so it’s a working PC the rest of the time.</p><p><br></p><p>And ARM PCs will generally be fanless, so they’re quiet.</p><p><br></p><p>Intel NUCs still use barrel connector power sockets, which isn’t as convenient.</p><p><br></p><p>This particular PC needs more and better RAM and disk, but the overall idea is good. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      20 November, 2021 - 11:10 am

      <p>Yeah, 8 GB of RAM and SSD storage would be huge. I guess a newer/better processor too, of course.</p>

  • ghostrider

    20 November, 2021 - 11:18 am

    <p>Another doorstop then. Other than the initial ‘will it, won’t it’ interest, this is destined to be thrown into a cupboard and never be turned on again – an expensive novelty for sure.</p>

  • ebockelman

    Premium Member
    20 November, 2021 - 11:46 am

    <p>I bought the Samsung and it offered me Windows 11 as part of the Windows 10 Cortana OOBE. At the part of setup where it checks for updates it found it. I’m really suprised this box coming directly from Microsoft doesn’t do the same.</p>

  • waethorn

    21 November, 2021 - 1:14 pm

    <p>Who is even using this? It uses a weaker processor than ALL of the shipping Windows on ARM targets, and what developer is going to target Windows 10 when Windows 11 is shipping right now? And this thing isn’t getting Windows 11 when all the other ARM targets are! This is a dud. Too little too late. This should have been something that shipped from day one to hit developers up from the beginning of the Windows 10 on ARM launch cycle alongside the real laptops. Besides, looking at the number of unique Windows on ARM PC’s shipping, you’d have to be a fool to invest in software development for the platform at this point. Nobody could justify the lack of ROI. It was just another experimental flop by Microsoft where they even priced their own products out of the market. I can’t imagine anyone would’ve spent money on the Surface Pro X SQ1, and they likely got <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">“Vohaul’s Revenge” from the only </span>mildly-improved SQ2 model.</p>

  • waethorn

    21 November, 2021 - 1:21 pm

    <p>Tell me something: why is it that the Windows on ARM products heavily feature cellular connectivity, where other models have it only in certain configurations or not at all in certain series of devices? The current shipping Surface Pro X models all have LTE, and it’s been like this since back to Windows 8. If they wanted better adoption, they could’ve been going after cheaper WiFi-only devices. It’s like Microsoft knows that these things are no good as full computers and are only going to be used as thin-clients.</p>

  • winner

    21 November, 2021 - 2:48 pm

    <p>Paul, thanks so much for this review and for buying and updating us on it, so that we don’t need to buy it.</p>

    • spiderman2

      22 November, 2021 - 4:37 am

      <p>Are you or Paul a developer? if no, you don’t need to buy it, you’re welcome. </p>

  • hrlngrv

    Premium Member
    21 November, 2021 - 4:16 pm

    <p>Maybe tangential, but how hard would it be to emulate ARM processors on Intel/AMD machines? Would it be much slower than this device achieves? IOW, I can understand that it may be rather awkward and difficult to emulate CISC with RISC, but aside from speed, I can’t (in my limited mind) see why it should be difficult to emulate RISC with CISC. IOW, I have a hard time seeing why a device like this makes sense. Unless the innards of SoC devices are so fundamentally different from traditional Intel/AMD PCs that it’d raise the question whether it’d ever make financial sense for any ISV to support both Intel/AMD and ARM hardware.</p>

    • jimchamplin

      Premium Member
      22 November, 2021 - 12:31 am

      <p>The biggest difference is that the internal architecture is distinctly different. AMD64 is a CISC design, ARM is a RISC design. The very ISAs are conceptually different. It’s not an insurmountable difference, but it’s a major difference.</p><p><br></p><p>I am not a computer scientist, but it seems like there would be considerable efficiency lost.</p>

      • paradyne

        22 November, 2021 - 7:32 am

        <p>The Android support coming to Windows 11 makes use of some Intel technology to do exactly this. But I doubt there is enough of a business case to make it run Windows apps compiled for ARM64.</p>

  • brettscoast

    Premium Member
    22 November, 2021 - 7:08 pm

    <p>Good post Paul, I do like the mini pc form factor quite a lot. Currently using an intel NUC system at home which runs exceptionally quietly and quickly. The price of this mini pc seems very reasonable (given the hardware limitations.) This mini pc is not really comparable in any meaningful way with the Intel NUC given most NUC’s are running on core i5\i7 mobile processors with expandable RAM\SSD storage options. </p>

  • ivarh

    Premium Member
    22 November, 2021 - 11:23 pm

    <p>The tragic thing for Microsoft is that in order to have a good experience on WinOnArm you need a mac. Even in a VM it completely blows WoA on Qualcomm HW out of the water.. </p>

  • spuwho

    23 November, 2021 - 8:00 pm

    <p>I just got mine today. My unit has 8Gb of RAM not 4Gb. Makes a world of difference with regards to "slowly". I don’t give a rats butt about practicality, I just like messing with new CPU architectures. The Windows 11 upgrade box popped up instantly during the setup and was available in the Windows Update, just waiting for me to click. Took less than 5 minutes to download. I will run a few benchmarks, take it apart, see what is cooking. Supposedly there is a slot for a WLAN card inside. Lets find out!</p>

  • MarkMcCoskey

    24 November, 2021 - 6:50 am

    <p>I purchased one of these QC710’s. Thus far I’ve upgraded it to Win11, deleted excess apps/programs, and cleaned Storage. Would LOVE to load Linux onto this device. Have a message in to ECS since their FAQ page is empty. Also hoping the device shows up on XDA where other tinkerers can congregate. I’m a fan of very-small form-factor (Pi and NUC), as well as very-low-TDP Desktop Computing. This QC710 form-factor is the same as my NUC7i7DNB, except much lighter, quiet and cooler. As long as one is NOT a gamer/power-user, this COULD be the Desktop Computer for The Masses, especially once the more powerful ARM chips (and greater storage capacity) are implemented. </p>

  • writter

    24 November, 2021 - 11:05 am

    <p>Would this pc be good for watching Youtube in Edge with an ad blocker on a 4k tv? I basically want a streaming stick type device but not be forced to watch ads all the time and the ability to use a VPN while streaming content. Anyone have recommendations?</p>

  • KB8AOB

    18 January, 2022 - 4:21 pm

    <p>Paul I enjoy your rants, but must say the LIVA with Windows 11 is due some support from you. I am a Big Mac fan and have been using computers and teaching the same since 1968. The little LIVA with a decent TV/Monitor, keyboard, and mouse at $350 <strong><em>total</em></strong> would be a fine system for the K-12 crowd and even some college majors. While bound to a desktop it would be a great setup for those with limited income with basic needs and would serve them well. I have a LG 43" monitor switchable for a MacMiniM1, Lenovo W10, Ubuntu box, and the Liva and I must say that little Liva holds it own. Don’t sell it short, while certainly not the video editing machine, it has a spot.</p>

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thurrott © 2024 Thurrott LLC