A couple of months ago, I reviewed the new Satechi docking stand that is custom-made for the Apple’s M1-powered Mac mini. Apple’s beautiful little computer offers a lot of power for the money, although it’s not blessed with a lot of connectivity. It has just two Thunderbolt ports plus two USB-A ports and that’s all you get. If you want more ports, you need to get a hub.
Like most Apple Macs, upgrading RAM and SSD isn’t possible. The Mac mini’s RAM is integrated on the M1 processor, while the SSD is soldered to the Mac mini’s motherboard. If you want extra storage beyond the measly base 256GB, you need to specify when ordering or else rely on an external drive for storing data.
Apple’s high pricing on storage has triggered some companies to make Mac mini hubs that not only offer more ports and connectivity but can also be kitted out with an external SATA drive so the user can store documents, photos, music and whatever else on the external storage media and leaving the Mac mini’s internal SSD just for macOS system folders and applications.
Like the Satechi hub that I reviewed in July, this new Mac mini hub from Elecife offers two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports – one of the USB 3.0 ports is a USB-A type while the other is USB-C. The docking stand also has two slots for SD and microSD memory cards. The docking stand connects to a Mac mini by using a USB-C cable that slots into one of the mini’s Thunderbolt/USB 3 ports.
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Once connected, the Elecife docking stand sits underneath the Mac mini and brings access to the ports at the front of the device, meaning there’s no more poking around the rear of the Mac mini trying to find a port. Unlike the Satechi hub, the Elecife model doesn’t include an audio jack, so if that’s something you think you might want, this may not be the one for you.
Inside the Elecife hub is a cradle that can hold a regular 2.5-inch SATA drive which can be in the form of an SSD or traditional mechanical hard drive. The Satechi hub also has a space for storage but in the form of an M.2 SATA drive. The M.2 form factor looks identical to an NVMe drive but the Satechi only works with SATA and not the ultra-fast PCIe drives.
M.2 SATA drives are available in sizes up to 1TB, but 2.5-inch SATA drives can be bought in capacities as high as 4TB. However, you need to bear in mind that a traditional spinning hard drive is much slower than an SSD and hard drives also make a certain amount of noise. I would choose SSD every time but if all you need is store data like music, photos or documents, then a 2.5-inch hard drive might be a good bet, especially if you have a spare one lying around unused.
Fitting a 2.5-inch drive into the Elecife docking stand is so easy. The drive simply clips into a cradle that sits under a round plastic cover. The hub matches the silver finish of the M1 Mac mini and sits underneath, increasing the overall height of the Mac mini by less than an inch. The top of the hub has a series of radial air inlets that ensure there is a free flow of air to the Mac mini so that it runs cool should the internal fan kick in.
It’s worth noting that there is a similar docking stand on the market for a Mac Mini M1. It’s made by Qwiizlab and can take both SATA and M.2 NVMe drives. If that’s of interest you can find more details here. I can’t vouch for its quality but I will try to get hold of one for review,
Verdict: Like the Satechi stand that I reviewed in July, the new Elecife docking stand is a great solution for expanding the storage capacity of a Mac mini M1 as well as moving ports to the front. If you want to use an M.2 drive and have a headset jack in your stand, then the Satechi is probably your best bet. However, if you don’t want a headphone socket and you would like to use a regular 2.5-inch SATA drive that you may already have, then the Elecife is your best bet. Both stands do the job well and both offer great value for money. And for as long as Apple charges such high prices for its SSD, these external solutions will find grateful customers.
Pricing and Availability: The Elecife USB-C Docking Stand is available now and costs $69.99.
More info: www.amazon.com
- Hardware interface: USB Type C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
- Number of ports: 7
- Compatible Devices: Apple Mac mini
- Dimensions: 8.27 x 8.27 x 1.18 inches