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Review: NewerTech miniStack V2  
Thursday March 16, 2006 12:04 AM EST

If you're looking for a nice external hard drive with an integrated USB 2.0 and FireWire Hub for the Mac mini, look no further than the NewerTech miniStack V2. Simply put, it's the best accessory we have seen for the Mac mini so far. Its balance of features, performance, and value definitely make it stand out from the crowd.

NewerTech offers the miniStack V2 in an "add your own hard drive" kit or pre-configured models that already have the hard drive installed. The kit comes packaged neatly in a small burgundy box from Other World Computing. In the box you will find the miniStack V2 enclosure itself, 17" Type A to B USB 2.0 cable, 17" 6-pin to 6-pin FireWire cable, screw kit, Power Adapter, and User Manual. The pre-configured models with hard drives also include Dantz Retrospect Backup and Intech HD Speedtools software.

The dimensions of the miniStack V2 are the same as the original miniStack. It measures 6.5" wide x 6.5" deep x 1.5" tall. Like the original, the miniStack V2 is made out of aluminum colored plastic. The aluminum coloring is a dead on match with the Mac mini. In fact, we think the color match is even better than the original miniStack.

The front of the miniStack V2 remains clean looking. Just like the original miniStack, there are no logos or buttons on the front. The front only includes a single blue LED. The LED lights up blue when the unit is turned on, and flashes when the hard drive is being accessed.

The top and bottom of the miniStack V2 are virtually unchanged from the original miniStack. The removable white plastic top still includes a raised lip around the edge. This edge holds the Mac mini in place and keeps it aligned when it's stacked on top of the miniStack V2. The top also features a red, black, and silver Newer Technology logo. The bottom of the unit still includes the same oversized rubber pads to keep it firmly planted on your desk.

On the back of the miniStack V2, you will find the on/off switch, fan exhaust port, power receptacle, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 2.0 uplink port, two FireWire 400 ports, security slot, and connection switch. The connection switch has two settings: Auto and 1394a. We suggest that you keep the switch on 1394a if you plan to have your Mac mini hooked to the miniStack V2 all the time. The miniStack V2 will perform better when you use the FireWire/1394A connection to interface with its hard drive.

The miniStack V2 features a specially designed passive cooling system, and no longer includes the high and low fan switches that were found on the rear panel of the original miniStack. The cooling fan will monitor thermal temperatures inside the drive enclosure and only turn on when needed. While the fan doesn't seem to come on as often as it did with the original miniStack, it still can be somewhat noisy while running. That being said, the combination of the fan and heatsink do an excellent job of keeping the enclosure cool.

The miniStack V2 also features a smart power switch that allows the unit to power up and down in tandem with your Mac Mini. This feature seems to work better than it did with our original miniStack when using the enclosure as a boot drive. But like the original, the LED on the front will still stay lit blue when the Mac mini is turned off.

The most exciting new feature of the miniStack V2 has to be the inclusion of USB 2.0 and FireWire ports on the left side. These side ports come in really handy for making temporary connections. They allow you to connect devices like your iPod, Digital Camera, and DV Camera without digging around the back of the Mac mini.

On the inside, things have pretty much stayed the same. The miniStack V2 still uses the rock solid Prolific 2507 and Oxford 911+ chipsets. The only major change is that the hard drive now sits right side up inside the enclosure. This is because the sides of the heatsink have been removed. The heatsink is now screwed onto the bottom of the hard drive instead of the sides. Therefore, the miniStack V2 can now accept all Seagate 7200.7, 7200.8, and 7200.9 3.5" IDE hard drives.

What about performance and operation? We can report that the miniStack V2 does everything as advertised. The smart power switch, cooling fan, and all aspects of the integrated USB 2.0/FireWire Hub worked perfectly. Hard drive performance is consistent and fast. We ran an Xbench 1.2 disk test on our 160GB model and compared the scores with the internal drives in the new Intel-based Mac minis and 1.42GHz G4 Mac mini. You can see the results here.

Overall, we can recommend this product to our readers and give it a score of 4 out of 4 stars. The NewerTech miniStack V2 retails for less than $139.99 for an 80GB version and is available in capacities up to 500GB. The "add your own hard drive" kit is available for $79.99. All models are shipping now.

Pros:

  Clean looking design compliments Mac mini
  Excellent performance
  Perfect color match with Mac mini
  Side USB 2.0 and FireWire ports are great for temporary connections
  Two year repair/replacement warranty

Cons:

  The fan is somewhat noisy when it comes on

More Pictures:  Click to enlarge

  

  

  

  

  

  

  



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