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Hands-On with the Snapdragon WOA Mini PC

Posted November 19, 2021 | Qualcomm | Snapdragon 7c | Windows | Windows 10 | Windows 10 on ARM | Windows 11 | Windows on ARM


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.

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.

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