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OWC miniStack STX Assessment: The Good Companion for the Mac mini

OWC MiniStack STX Review

Whereas OWC has made enclosures that would pair with Mac mini’s for a very long time, the OWC miniStack STX is the primary that brings a Thunderbolt hub into the combination, making it a perfect storage and dealing drive answer for creatives.

Despite the fact that Apple simply launched the brand new Mac Studio, we at PetaPixel imagine that the majority photographers are going to be finest served by the M1-powered Mac mini that was launched final yr. It’s the very best Mac for photographers, particularly contemplating how reasonably priced it’s. Nevertheless it doesn’t have every part a photographer would possibly want, and that’s the place the miniStack STX is available in.

Opposite to most new merchandise launched by Apple, the OWC miniStack STX is designed to be custom-made and upgraded as customers’ wants change over time. The miniStack STX incorporates a common SATA HDD/SSD bay and an NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD slot that’s straightforward to entry for upgrades and upkeep, three Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports (4 when you rely the one wanted to connect with the Mac mini) for machine connections reminiscent of keyboards, arduous drives, card readers, shows, A/V mixers, cameras, and tablets. The machine itself is out there for $299 for the empty enclosure or it may be custom-made on the time of buy with as much as 8TB of SSD storage and 18TB of HDD storage.

Design and Construct High quality

The miniStack STX options the identical rounded aluminum design dimensions of a current-generation M1 Mac mini and is supposed to be a stackable base upon which you’ll set it on. The machine is available in the same minimalistic look because the Mac mini, however with a glossy black end.

The entrance of the enclosure options two small lights on the underside proper of the machine which are indicators for the 2 inside drives (SSD and SATA) and a big OWC brand that lights up in Blue when the miniStack STX is powered up. This huge illuminated brand shifts to white when the Mac mini is shut down as an alternative of turning off, which I discovered unusual. Why this gentle stays on in any respect appears a bit odd to me, however that may be a minor design situation when you think about the general advantages supplied by the machine as a complete.

OWC MiniStack STX Review 1

Whereas the entrance and sides of the machine are relatively minimal, the rear of the enclosure is the place you’ll will discover the 4 USB-C (Thunderbolt) ports for connectivity growth of the Mac. At a look, you may additionally assume the machine has some USB-A connections as nicely however alas, that slot is just for the exhaust. In between the Thunderbolt ports and the exhaust, customers will discover the 20V DC energy connection.

The corporate claims that customers can add a mixture of as much as 5 Thunderbolt gadgets, three USB gadgets, and two screens with the miniStack STX relying on the host machine. For instance with my M1 Mac Mini, I had a XP-Pen Show pill linked to the HDMI port, a monitor linked to the USB-C on the Mac Mini, a Loupedeck CT and Reminiscence Card reader linked to the USB-A ports, after which via the miniStack STX I had my iPhone, Apple Watch, and Raid storage linked.

OWC MiniStack STX Rear Product Photos

Successfully, the miniStack STX changed my earlier “answer” which was a rat’s nest of a USB-hub that sat behind every part on my desk.

The within of the machine is nearly as minimalistic as the outside and incorporates a small motherboard with the SSD, SATA, and port connections. All of that is seated snugly towards the cooling fan and exhaust ports. As I discussed above, the miniStack STX can home a 2.5 inch or 3.5 inch arduous drive (as much as 18TB in measurement) in addition to an M.2 SSD that may deal with as much as 8TB.

Inside of the OWC miniStack STX

Whereas it’s designed to look good with the Mac mini, I ought to point out that it doesn’t require one. The miniStack STX can work with any Thunderbolt suitable machine like an iMac, Macbook Professional, PC, Chromebook, and even Android tablets. Truly, it’s attainable to attach and energy some gadgets together with a MacBook Air over the 60W thunderbolt port (the one closest to the facility provide) including much more versatility and use circumstances for the machine at residence. That mentioned, it nonetheless simply appears the very best when paired with a Mac mini as a consequence of how completely it matches its measurement and form.

Utilizing a beefier MacBook Professional with this energy provide will preserve the machine working, however it’s going to additionally very slowly lose energy even when plugged since it may’t output sufficient energy. Over the course of three hours of regular work on my MacBook Professional which was plugged into and powered by the miniStack STX, I noticed between 2% and 5% per hour energy drain.

It is usually price noting that even whereas closely stress testing the drives within the miniStack STX and the cooling fan working in excessive gear, the system remains to be practically silent.

Pace and Efficiency

The corporate claims the miniStack STX can run at 770 MB/s of “actual” efficiency via the SSD drive and my very own testing can affirm these numbers are fairly correct. This implies even when the drives linked within the miniStack STX are able to sooner efficiency, because of the limitations of the Thunderbolt PCI-E channel allocations, the max learn/write speeds will probably be restricted to about 770 MB/s. It might be wonderful to have the ability to get peak efficiency out of the drives put in, however the 770 MB/s speeds are nonetheless greater than sufficient for the sorts of labor photographers and even many videographers are doing.

OWC SSD Disk Speed Test

As a comparability (and for readability), the velocity efficiency when working instantly off of the SSD in an M1 Mac mini is considerably sooner:

M1 Mac Mini SDD Performance

Via some additional testing, I linked an outdated WD Inexperienced drive to the HDD connection and was in a position to get about 150 MB/s efficiency out of it. Not wonderful, however nonetheless spectacular because it managed to breathe new life into an outdated unused backup drive.

HDD In the OWC miniStack STX

WD 5TB HDD Performance

Via the course my testing, I used the miniStack STX SSD to retailer and edit about 40 GB price of images for a consumer and arrange the 5TB HDD as a Time Machine backup for each the 1TB inside Mac mini SSD, and the 2TB miniStack SSD drives.

Whereas the HDD was (expectedly) sluggish, the SSD was impressively quick through the Thunderbolt connection and I used to be in a position to edit my recordsdata together with some drone video clips with none situation.

Makes An Already Nice M1 Mac mini Even higher


Storage for Apple gadgets could be very costly. For instance, going from a 256GB SSD to a 1TB SSD on the M1 Mac mini provides $400 to the bottom worth of the machine. For the reason that OWC miniStack STX sells for $299 by itself and most quick 1TB SSDS price simply round $100, the fee balances out with advantages. With the M1 Mac mini, no matter measurement drive you select is what you might be caught with till the pc dies. With the miniStack STX, you may develop that storage out to 26TB which massively dwarfs the pc’s base storage choices all whereas additionally gaining the extra ports for expanded connectivity.

Contemplating how small the Mac mini already is, stacking mine on prime of the miniStack STX nonetheless let me simply match it below my laptop computer stand, set it, and neglect it.

Are There Alternate options?

Whereas I used to be not capable of finding any gadgets precisely the identical in options because the miniStack STX, there are options options for customers in search of extra storage or extra port expansions for his or her Mac mini (and different gadgets). This consists of the usual OWC miniStack which affords as much as 18TB of storage and 208 MB/s efficiency beginning at $85 for the bottom enclosure. When you’re simply within the Thunderbolt dock facet of the miniStack STX, as soon as once more OWC has you lined with the $179 Thunderbolt Hub that options 4 Thunderbolt ports and one USB-A port, or the $279 Thunderbolt Dock that features 11 ports (4 Thunderbolt, three USB-A, one USB-2, one 3.5mm audio, gigabit ethernet, and an SD card reader).

Ought to You Purchase It?

When you want expanded and upgradable cupboard space that’s sooner than a regular exterior HDD that can also be daisy-chainable and neatly pairs with the Mac mini then, sure, the miniStack STX is totally price each penny.

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