by Josh Shaman

Newer Technology miniStack MAX Review

Newer Technology's miniStack MAX functions as an external storage device, optical drive, SD media card reader and USB hub simultaneously while matching the footprint and taking styling cues from the Mac Mini. This design makes it a great companion to the Mac Mini or any desktop or notebook. The miniStack MAX interfaces over USB 3.0, two Firewire 800 ports or an eSATA connection. The machine also features a USB hub with a total of three USB 3.0 ports, two of which have been designed to charge less power-hungry devices while one offers 2.1Amp power to charge tablets and other devices. The miniStack MAX is designed for backup and general storage as well as the needs of creative professionals.

The Newer Technology miniStack Max scales storage and connectivity to Mac Mini and other desktops and notebooks, and it does this while being a fairly inexpensive option for existing computer stations. With it, users can add 4TB of storage, optical drives and connectivity options. In particular, the miniStack MAX targets Mac Minis which are relegated to a 1TB maximum from Apple and don't come with optical drives anymore. Furthering that marketing point, the footprint is identical to the current Mac Minis and those manufactured 2010 and later, the enclosure has a solid aluminum body, and it even uses the same MagLev fan to match the Mac Mini's quiet operation.

Newer Technology's miniStack MAX is available now and is offered bare or with optical drives and hard drives. All HDD-inclusive models come with optical drives; users can further customize by choosing if they want DVD or Blu-ray drives. Hard drives are available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB and 4TB options. Pricing ranges from $149.99 bare to $569.99 fully-optioned. All devices include double-shielded connection cables for USB 3.0 and FW800 (though eSATA is sold separately).

Newer Technology miniStack MAX Specifications

  • Drives supported: 3.5" SATA Drives, compatible with 2.5" HDDs and SSDs with use of a Newer Technology AdaptaDrive
  • Data Buffer: Up to 64MB (HDD only)
  • Chipset: JMicron 355 chipset with eSATA & FireWire 800 (1394B), JMicron 539 chipset with USB 3.0
  • Interface/Ports
    • 3 x USB 3.0
    • 1 x eSATA port (cable sold separately)
    • 2 x FireWire 800/400 ports (backward compatible with FireWire 400 via connector or cable sold separately)
    • Built-in SD card reader
  • Maximum Data Transfer Rate
    • USB 3.0/2.0 (up to 300MB/sec)
    • eSATA (up to 300MB/sec)
    • FireWire 800/400 (up to 100MB/sec)
  • Power supply: UL Listed U.S./International Auto Switching 100 ~ 240v, 12 Volt 5Amp Power Supply
  • Pre-installed Backup and Utility software: Intech® Hard Disk SpeedTools Utilities OEM (For Mac OS 8.6 – X only), ProSoft Engineering Data Backup for Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later, NovaStor NovaBACKUP for Windows 2000 or later
  • Temperature: (operating) 5°C – 55°C (41°F – 131°F), (non-operating) –40°C – 65°C (–40°F – 149°F)
  • Relative humidity: (operating) 8% - 90% RH (Non-condensing), (non-operating) 5% - 95% RH (Non-condensing)
  • Shock: (operating) 65G 2mS, (non-operating) 175G 2mS
  • Vibration: (operating) 1.0G (5 - 300Hz), (non-operating) 5.0G (5 - 500Hz)
  • Aluminum finished body and glossy plastic black top
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 7.7 in (197mm) x 7.7 in (197mm) x 2.33 in (59.182mm)
  • Weight: Empty case 2.25 lbs (1.02 kg)
  • Warranty
    • OWC 3-year Solution Warranty with 48-hour turnaround time
    • OWC 1-year for 0GB "Add Your Own Drive Kit"
    • Optical drive mechanism covered by 1-year warranty

Design and Build

The Newer Technology miniStack MAX features solid aluminum construction for its body paired with a glossy black plastic top covering. The aluminum feels tough and appearance aside also aids in passive cooling for users who option in storage or optical drives. The plastic top piece does show fingerprints as well as some minor cosmetic creasing from its application to the aluminum.

The bottom of the enclosure is ventilated throughout its rounded corners and features a large circular rubber disk planting the enclosure firmly to a table or paired Mac Mini. It also houses four long screws that can be removed for drive installation, maintenance and upgrades. Newer Technology also includes screws to mount 2.5" and 3.5" drives.

From the front of the device, we see the media card reader on the left side and the optical drive slot across the top. The sides of the enclosure are featureless aside from their tough aluminum build. The rear of the unit houses the connectivity. There's a power input and a power switch with an LED indicator light. On top of those, there are three USB 3.0 ports and one USB 3.0 interface port as well as Firewire 800 and eSATA. When inserting cables into the ports, the device produced a short loud noise from the plastic.

Performance

Utilizing our Consumer Testing Platform to measure transfer speeds from the Newer Technology miniStack MAX, we tested the unit with a WD Black 4TB HDD installed utilizing both its FireWire and USB 3.0 interfaces. First we tested FireWire, and 2MB sequential read and write speeds came in at 78.56MB/s and 56.74MB/s respectively, while random large-block transfers measured 47.08MB/s read and 56.67MB/s write. We then tested the miniStack MAX with the WD Black 4TB HDD using its USB 3.0 interface. 2MB sequential read and write speeds came in at 142.49MB/s and 149.46MB/s respectively, and random large-block transfers measured 62.16MB/s read and 80.14MB/s write. Natively over SATA the Black 4TB 2MB sequential read and write speeds came in at 141.67MB/s and 149.46MB/s respectively, while random large-block transfers measured 62.36MB/s read and 82.09MB/s write. Speeds outside of the enclosure near-identically matched USB 3.0 speeds that the WD Black 4TB posted from within the miniStack MAX.

Conclusion

The Newer Technology miniStack MAX provides external storage, an SD card reader and optical drive support for the Mac Mini and other desktop and notebook computers in addition to eSATA, USB 3.0 and FireWire 800 ports to scale-up functionality. The USB 3.0 comes in the form of a hub which has 3 ports and can charge a range of devices. One of the ports offers 2.1Amp to charge devices that consume more power. Internally, miniStack MAX provides support for SSDs and HDDs so that users can customize what kind of storage they prefer, or they can purchase the miniStack MAX pre-installed with a HDD offering up to 4TB of expanded capacity. 

For users that need this kind of expanded storage and connectivity, the miniStack MAX definitely delivers. It offers more features than just a standard external or portable storage device with its optical drive support, ports and interface options. All of this is provided by a solid aluminum enclosure that along with the MagLev fan keeps the unit cool. Furthermore, miniStack MAX has a minimal footprint with its size matching Mac Mini for easy stacking or for pairing up with any system.

The Newer Technology miniStack MAX also showed its capabilities in our testing. When we tested our WD Black 4TB, it posted almost the same marks natively as it did within the miniStack MAX over USB 3.0. USB 3.0 provides more than enough throughput to enable similar performance. However, FireWire is a different story, and as expected, the miniStack MAX took a bit of a hit interfacing over FireWire. That doesn't reflect on limitations from the WD Black 4TB or miniStack, but rather with FireWire.

Pros

  • Aluminum enclosure and Mac Mini matching design
  • Tablet-oriented USB 3.0 charging port

Cons

  • Lacks Thunderbolt

Bottom Line

The Newer Technology miniStack MAX expands connectivity options and storage capacity in a stylish form factor at a reasonable price.

Newer Technology miniStack MAX from OWC MacSales

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