MacTalk | October 1, 2013
NewerTech miniStack MAX
NewerTech Media Coverage
Other World Computing
PROS: Blu-ray; USB 3.0; Firewire 400/800
CONS: No Thunderbolt
From US$299.99 (500GB)
An external hard drive with the lot, NewerTech's miniStack MAX could make the perfect Mac mini companion or desktop accessory.
The miniStack MAX isn't just an external hard drive. It also features a Blu-ray/DVD/CD burner, SDXC memory card reader and
USB powered hub. You can buy the miniStack MAX without a hard drive or order it pre-configured with between 500GB and 4TB onboard.
The onboard storage is accessible from your Mac via USB 3.0, Firewire 400/800 or eSATA but unfortunately there's no Thunderbolt port - disappointing but not a deal-breaker considering the inclusion of USB 3.0.
Hook up the miniStack MAX to your Mac via USB and you've got full access to the onboard storage, optical drive and card reader which is conveniently located at the front. You've also got access to the three-port USB 3.0 hub on the back, with one high-powered port offering 2.1 Amps to charge an iPad.
Connecting via eSATA or Firewire only grants you access to the onboard storage, although you can still access the other features via USB. There's also a second Firewire port for daisy chaining devices.
When copying files to the built-in drive we clocked respectable speeds of 100 MB/s via USB 3.0 and 60 MB/s via Firewire 800, although speed freaks will lament that they're hampered by a SATA II hard drive interface rather than SATA III.
The miniStack MAX seems the perfect Mac mini companion, matching the little Mac's footprint and restoring the lost optical drive while boosting your storage.
Unfortunately, if your Mac doesn't have a built-in optical drive then Apple's DVD Player application probably won't recognise a movie DVD inserted into the miniStack MAX (although there are hacks). DVD Player only plays nicely with Apple's own $89 USB SuperDrive.
If you're building a media centre for the lounge room you should consider software like VLC or XBMC (xbmc.org) to play DVDs.
One key benefit of the miniStack MAX is a Blu-ray drive. NewerTech doesn't throw in software for watching Blu-ray movies, but you will find such applications online such as Macgo's Mac Blu-ray Player (www. macblurayplayer.com). Even if you're not interested in Blu-ray movies you might want to use writable Blu-ray discs for their greater storage capacity, as BD-R prices have fallen considerably.
If you don't need a Blu-ray burner you can save around US$40 and opt for a Blu-ray reader, or save around US$70 and stick with a CD/DVD burner. Or you can order it without a hard drive or optical drive.
At this point it's also worth mentioning there are cheaper options without an optical drive and card reader such as the USB 3.0 miniStack and the USB 2.0 miniStack Classic designed to match the 2009 Mac mini.
Alternatively you might view the miniStack MAX as a de facto docking station for your MacBook, adding an optical drive and external storage for Time Capsule backups along with easy access to desktop peripherals via the USB hub. As a USB 3.0 device, it frees up your Thunderbolt port for connecting to an external monitor.
The miniStack MAX might also fit nicely alongside a shiny new iMac, which, is in need of an optical drive.
It uses the same quiet MagLev fan as the Mac mini, which you'll hardly notice most of the time, but is perhaps a little too noisy to keep within arm's reach all day in a quiet environment.
Bottom line. NewerTech offers plenty of options, so choose your miniStack carefully to ensure you're not paying for features you don't need. You'll find more cost-effective solutions if you only need an optical drive or just an external hard drive, but if you need one box with the lot then the miniStack MAX is hard to beat.
By Adam Turner
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