OWC miniStack STX
The team at OWC continues to see the world through a different lens. Rather than just another USB-C hub, they created a powerful, Thunderbolt 4 hub that not only expands the connectivity of a computer but complements the hub with flexible storage, accommodating SATA and NVMe M.2 SSDs.
The OWC miniStack STX completely changed my Mac Mini’s configuration. While the hub works on any USB-C device, it was designed for Mac Mini, stacking directly atop of Apple’s most versatile desktop. As a result, my smaller capacity HDs disappeared, a new solid state backup drive took the place of a corrupt spinner, and I ended up with enough ports on my mini to leave the Apple SuperDrive attached.
OWC sells miniStack STX configurations from a base unit with no storage at $279 to an 18TB unit with two internal drives (14TB HDD and a 4TBSSD) for $1,249. These prices might seem a bit high, but OWC offers solid value for the price with their exceptional product quality.
What we like
First, the OWC miniStack STX is a beautiful design that takes its sizing, not aesthetics, from the Mac Mini. The black exterior complements any environment or hardware setup.
Second, the three 40Gb/s USB-C ports offer powerful connectivity. But more than just USB-C connectivity, the miniStack STX supports daisy chaining across the three ports for up to eight devices, with a USB device on the end of each chain. Removing devices from one chain does not disrupt the other chains.
Third, storage. The Internal SATA connection will handle the largest capacity 2.5/3.5-inch traditional drives. OWC sells them with drives up to 14TB. The NVMe M.2 add additional solid-state storage. OSC configurations go up to 4TB.
The OWC miniStack STX sent for evaluation included a 2TB NVMe M.2 SSD. Before installing it on my Mac Mini, I opened it up and installed a 240GB SATA SSD. The process was simple. They even included the screws I had lost after de-installing the 240GB drive from a tower.
Now I just wish I had purchased a 16GB mini rather than swapping storage for memory.
A DC power supply ensures the fastest speeds by not relying on the host to supply power to the hub. For laptops, the miniStack STX delivers 60W charging via Thunderbolt or USB-C.
OWC also includes a certified Thunderbolt cable to ensure the fastest speeds between the host computer and the hub.
A 3-year warranty backs the miniStack STX.
What could be improved
I have the OWC miniStack STX stacked atop my Mac Mini, which is stacked atop my Satechi Stand and Hub for Mac Mini. Neither the OWC miniStack STX nor the Mac Mini offer front-facing ports. The SD card readers, USB-A and single USB-C port offer a degree of convenience the other devices do not. If I had one complaint with the miniStack STX, it would be the missed opportunity to become “the USB-C hub” not just a great USB-C Thunderbolt hub.
With that said, people own USB-C Thunderbolt hubs to connect devices. So the Satechi hub makes perfect sense, but my bet is, knowing OWC, they could have included some forward-facing ports if they wanted to. My guess is the product had a singular focus on Thunderbolt and storage, with the acknowledgment that other solutions would add the features end users really needed without guessing at them.
For instance, the Mac Mini includes wired Ethernet. It could be argued that any good USB-C hub would benefit from an RJ45. A waste on the Mac Mini, but perhaps necessary for a laptop. Hubs always beg the question: How many kinds of ports are enough?
There is no good answer to that question. I have to share, however, that I tried to put a USB-A connector into what appeared to be a USB-A slot on the back of the miniStack STX, only to discover pretty quickly that they were just holes.
On a minor point, I would suggest the drive LEDs match the blue of the logo for consistency.
OWC miniStack STX: The Bottom Line
Mac Mini owners, in particular, need to consider the OWC miniStack STX seriously. It will likely change your connectivity and storage experience. Other computer owners will get the same value out of the miniStack STX as Mac Mini owners but without the benefits of the perfectly-aligned space-saving design.
OWC provided the miniStack STX for review. Images courtesy of OWC.
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