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

Intel's Jasper Lake SKUs are a follow-up to Gemini Lake. Back in 2018, we had reviewed two different Gemini Lake UCFF PCs - the actively cooled June Canyon NUC from Intel, and the passively cooled LIVA Z2 from ECS. For Jasper Lake, we have sourced four different UCFF PCs - two passively cooled systems using 6W TDP processors, and two actively cooled ones using 10W TDP processors.

Today's article provides a detailed look into the performance and features of the two passively cooled systems - the ECS LIVA Z3 and the ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano. Both of them 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, making for unexpected performance impacts. In addition to an investigation into the capabilities offered for traditional PC workloads, we also go deep into the thermal design to provide insights into what makes fanless systems satisfy user requirements.

Introduction and Product Impressions

Intel's Apollo Lake SoCs (Goldmont-based) introduced in 2016 were quickly followed by Gemini Lake (Goldmont Plus) in late 2017. However, the delays related to 10nm manufacturing resulted in a significant gap before the Tremont-based Jasper Lake products made an appearance in early 2021. Compared to Gemini Lake, the new Jasper Lake products have improved CPU performance (Intel claims a 33% uplift) 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 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, allowing for cost-effective systems with Wi-Fi 6 support. Manufacturers can adopt or take advantage of these features in a varied manner to bring differentiated products into the market.

Similar to our Apollo Lake (Intel Arches Canyon and ECS LIVA Z) and Gemini Lake (Intel June Canyon and ECS LIVA Z2) experiments, we got hold of multiple Jasper Lake UCFF PCs for evaluation. Today's review is focused 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 reveal the following differentiation aspects:

  • Support for a 2.5" SATA disk drives in the ZBOX, not available in the LIVA Z3
  • Support for a 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 of 3, including HDMI and DisplayPort) available in the ZBOX, while the LIVA Z3 has only two (HDMI and mini-DP)
  • Dual LAN and SDXC/SDHC card reader included in the ZBOX, while the LIVA Z3 has only a single 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" disk drive support in the LIVA Z3 enabling it to be slimmer.

The LIVA Z3 comes in multiple flavors - an OS-less version with 4GB of 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 the barebones version is sans memory or eMMC. Pricing comes in at $260 for the barebones version. The reasons for the pricing premium will become apparent as we proceed through the review.

The use-cases for the two systems are manifold, with the fanless nature making them suitable for digital signage, kiosks, retail applications, etc. The dual LAN feature in the ZBOX makes it additionally attractive for networking applications.

The system packages delivered 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 ECS LIVA Z3 review sample came with both memory slots occupied (2x 4GB DDR4-2666 SODIMMs). The board also includes 128GB eMMC, but that is 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 full specifications of the ECS LIVA Z3 sample as tested are provided in the table below.

ECS LIVA Z3 Specifications
(as tested)
Processor Intel Pentium Silver N6000
Jasper Lake 4C/4T, 1.1 - 3.3 GHz
Intel 10nm, 4MB L3, 6W
Memory Gold Key Tech. Neo Forza NMSO440D85-2666E DDR4-2666 SODIMM
19-19-19-43 @ 2666 MHz
2x4 GB
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
(32EU @ 350 - 850 MHz)
Disk Drive(s) Crucial P5 CT1000P5SSD8
(1 TB; 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 (1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Audio Realtek ALC897 (3.5mm Headphone Jack in Front Panel with Quad-Mic Array Digital Microphon)
Digital Audio and Bitstreaming Support over HDMI and DisplayPort Outputs
Video 1x HDMI 2.0a
1x mini-DP 1.4a
Miscellaneous 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)
Pricing (Street Pricing on June 21st, 2022)
US $232 (w/eMMC, 4GB DDR4, and OS)
US $352 (as configured)
Full Specifications ECS LIVA Z3 Specifications

The ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano was a barebones sample, similar to the CI662 nano we reviewed last year. Zotac's C series eschews M.2 slots and opts instead for the traditional 2.5" SATA drive bay. The SSD used in that review (SK hynix Gold S31) was reused in the CI331 nano. The DRAM option was more tricky. The Jasper Lake platform officially supports DDR4-2933. Having a large number of DDR4-2933 / DDR4-3000 / DDR4-3200 SODIMMs collected (starting from the Skylake days), I was hopeful of getting one of those early high-frequency SODIMMs to operate at DDR-2933 speeds in the CI331 nano. Unfortunately, they all defaulted to DDR-2400, and the BIOS was not too helpful in terms of allowing modification of DRAM timings. Only recent DDR4-2933+ SODIMMs were able to operate at 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 outfitted with 2x 32GB DDR-2933 Mushkin Redline SODIMMs for a total of 64GB of RAM - way higher than the officially specified 16GB maximum memory capacity of the Jasper Lake platform. Fortunately, the system worked flawlessly through our benchmarking routines despite this wild configuration. The full specifications of the ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano sample as tested are provided in the table below.


ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano Specifications
(as tested)
Processor Intel Celeron N5100
Jasper Lake 4C/4T, 1.1 - 2.8 GHz
Intel 10nm, 4MB L3, 6W
Memory Mushkin MR[ABC]4S293MMMF32G DDR4-2933 SODIMM
21-21-21-47 @ 2933 MHz
2x32 GB
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics
(24EU @ 350 - 850 MHz)
Disk Drive(s) SK hynix Gold S31
(1 TB; 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 (1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Audio ESS Tech ES9270 USB DAC (3.5mm Audio Jacks in Front Panel)
Digital Audio and Bitstreaming Support over HDMI and DisplayPort Outputs
Video 1x HDMI 2.0b
1x DisplayPort 1.2
1x VGA
Miscellaneous 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 (Rear)
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)
Pricing (Street Pricing on July 6st, 2022)
US $260 (barebones)
US $616 (as configured)
Full Specifications ZOTAC ZBOX CI331 nano Specifications


Our next section goes into the details of the thermal design and the need for a thorough look at it.

Teardown and Thermal Design Analysis
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  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, July 9, 2022 - link

    I hope Alderlake-N gets a SoC variant of the 10nm process unlike the HP process for regular Alderlake.
  • nandnandnand - Saturday, July 9, 2022 - link

    It will be a shrink from 10nm to Intel 7 (formerly 10nm Enhanced SuperFin), and they should have different cell libraries available. I think they'd want the densest one. I'm sure whatever it becomes will be impressive compared to Jasper Lake.

    More importantly, I hope we see a lot of the 8-cores.
  • Thala - Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - link

    Of course 8cx devices are more premium. But I was not referring to price, but to what it is technically possible within a 7W power envelope if you include devices, which does not contain Intel CPUs. It just shows that Intel CPUs are incredibly power inefficient independent of price. This includes Lakefield, Jasperlake or whatever CPU Intel designed for the sub 9W TDP market.
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, July 9, 2022 - link

    In MT yes. It's still quite a bit faster in ST.

    In ST if not under emulation both CPUs are roughly comparable.
  • mode_13h - Sunday, July 10, 2022 - link

    Ganesh & Ryan:

    Above, we were talking about how Jasper Lake compares with Skylake and ARM A76 cores. It would be fantastic to have some hard data on this. Why not run SPEC bench on these mini PCs? It can't be any less weird than running it on a iPhone, right?
  • mode_13h - Sunday, July 10, 2022 - link

    Oops, meant to say: "... can't be any weirder than running it on an iPhone"
  • PeachNCream - Sunday, July 10, 2022 - link

    A few typos here and there but a good review of hardware that might, for once, realistically land on someone's desk these days. Pity about the Liva's cooling situation. I wonder if chopping open a fair amount of the case top and replacing it with a fan grille or an epoxy-attached bit of non-metallic screen would be sufficient to mitigate the cooling problems while still retaining the bulk of the case itself. Too bad ECS didn't do potential buyers any justice with this design since the cost is otherwise okay.
  • abufrejoval - Monday, July 11, 2022 - link

    I can’t help but wonder if Anandtech feels a certain affinity to near-death technology these days…

    Jasper Lake is unfortunately dead. Whatever is being sold, was manufactured long ago and these systems are the typical leftover stock that Intel is pushing out the back door, as it reduces internal stockpiles to cover long-term warranties: nearly rock bottom, in other words.

    I’ve been using Atoms since the J1900 on ASRock Mini-ITX boards, that were 100% passive, simply because they were 100% passive and thus zero noise: a somewhat novel experience ever since I switched from an Apple ][ [clone] to an IBM-AT [clone], which unfortunately started the trend on noisily moving parts.

    And one constant has been, that Atoms have always supported way more RAM than advertised. It was 16GB or DDR3 on the DDR3 Atoms, 32GB for the J5005 devices I’ve been running as a oVirt(RHEV) cluster for a couple of years now.

    A couple of weeks ago a Jasper Lake or Atlas Canyon NUC11 (NUC11ATKPE) popped up on my radar and since I’d been on a constant lookout for them, I immediately grabbed one, only to see that it might have been both, the first and last gasp of a phantom device: it’s been unavailable since, just as it was for it’s entire official life-time before.

    And after putting it through its paces that is quite sad, because it really is a rather strappy and solid little machine, especially at a 2x Raspberry PI4 price point. It performs near identical to a Sandy Bridge i7-2600 and beats the Pi into a pulp with only a tiny helping of extra Watts: 10 vs 28nm does make a difference!

    And again, just as you noticed, Jasper Lake will run just fine with far more RAM than Intel wants you to know. That is a constant with every NUC I’ve owned, i7 based NUC8/10/11 all run with 64GB just fine, even if only the Tiger Lake, from which I borrowed the dual 32GB DDR4-3200 SO-DIMMs for the Jasper Lake evaluation, did so officially.

    But where my Tiger Lake will squeeze 40GB/s from that RAM, Jasper Lake will only get 25GB/s: quite a bit better than earlier Atoms, which rarely reached 10GB/s no matter what you gave them, dual-channel or not. The biggest benefit is for the iGPU, which probably won’t run Quake well enough, but does fairly well on a 4k desktop at 60Hz: the Chrome 3D Globe View render never ceases to amaze me in terms of what level of 3D interactivity is possible if the code isn’t Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. I haven't really checked, but I'd feel confident to say that it's iGPU performance is similar to the NUC10's Comet Lake UHD, which only has 24EUs but runs at roughly twice the speed. I can't go near the Tiger Lake, but none are meant for gaming.

    The NUC has a fan. It’s practically noiseless and even a Prime95/FurMark combo won’t turn it into a howler, but it’s something that can clog and fail eventually. I’d have preferred another fully passive Mini-ITX from ASRock, but that was not to be. Rumor has it, OEMs quite simply refused to take Jasper Lake Atoms from Intel, even at typical contra-revenue bundle deals (effectively for free). Evidently they were stock poison, but I'd love to hear from anyone who knows more.

    The Intel NUC is quite extraordinary in that it sports a front USB2 pin-grid connector covered by a rubber cap, that hints a very large signage customer OEM deal as the sole reason for its existence.

    It certainly should have been given a 2.5Gbit/s Ethernet port (likely $1 extra cost), but then 1GB Ethernet simply should no longer be sold anywhere today. It also lacks SATA support, which is a bit of a bummer for someone like me, who still has quite a few SATA SSDs on hand, but a very logical choice otherwise.

    But note that only two PCIe lanes are available for NVMe use, at least they are 3.0 this time, where all earlier Atoms topped out with 2.0 speeds on PCIe. The two rear USB3 ports are supposed to support 10Gbit/s, not quite Thunderbolt but please consider the TDP levels available.

    The NUC chassis otherwise is extremely impressive for this price range, it feels extremely solid and built to last the 10 years perhaps expected from a digital signage device.

    It seems a rather competent micro-server device and I'd thoroughly recommend it, if it was a live product. Too bad it’s dead, all you see is left-overs and there is no successor in sight.
  • nandnandnand - Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - link

    Jasper Lake stock is being pushed out... at prices that you may actually want to buy it at. Actually, the older Gemini Lake Refresh is still being sold, in sub-$100 N4020 laptops for example.

    The RAM thing is weird. I recall some of the ARK pages lying about the amount of RAM supported on certain Atom models. Like saying 8 GB maximum instead of 32 GB.

    The rumor mill has pointed to Alder Lake-N being the upcoming successor to Jasper Lake, with the headline change being a doubling to 8 cores. Presumably, dual-core would be gone for good and the cheapest models would become quad-cores.

    There's also the embedded/enterprise-focused Elkhart Lake counterpart to Jasper Lake.
  • mode_13h - Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - link

    BTW, Elkhart Lake supports in-band ECC, which means it doesn't limit the customer in their selection of RAM. However, it does come at a slight cost in performance and memory capacity.

    Too bad all the Elkhart Lake boards I see are rather pricey.

    Getting back to ECC, you'd have to move to Atom C-series or P-series to get a SoC with these cores and full ECC support. See links in my post, above.

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