Accessories mini

When Apple announced the new Mac mini, I said to a friend, “I bet it won’t take long before companies start making accessories for the little bugger.” In fact, it took only a week or so before we started getting press releases. The first of those came from Plasticsmith (previously known for their Lapvantage laptop stand); we got our hands on Plasticsmith’s entire Mac mini accessory line, and the products make quite an aesthetic impression.

Easily the most compelling product in the lineup is the $40 mini Tower (   ). If even the Mac mini’s tiny 6.5 x 6.5-inch footprint is too big for you, the mini Tower provides a, well, tower orientation by housing the Mac mini vertically in a stand that takes up only 7.25 x 2.75 inches on your desktop (making even the word minitower seem like an overstatement). But that’s just the functional side of the mini Tower—it also happens to be plenty attractive. The stylish stand is comprised of a pair of 3/8"-thick, polished acrylic slabs joined by a single piece of acrylic, just over 2 inches wide, that wraps around three sides. (The fourth side is open to let you slide your Mac mini inside.) These narrow edges each provide two long vents; the vents on the front accommodate your mini’s optical drive slot (whether you insert the mini with its top to the right or the left), and the others provide ventilation.

When I first saw the mini Tower, I was a bit concerned about ventilation. The Mac mini’s cooling system involves drawing cool air in through small vents around the bottom and using a small internal fan to blow warmer air out the back; the mini Tower leaves the back of the Mac mini exposed, but I was worried that the case would hinder airflow to the computer’s bottom vents. I asked Plasticsmith about this, and the company noted that the vents around the edges of the mini Tower were designed to provide adequate paths for air to enter the bottom of the mini; their testing confirmed the effectiveness of this design, as the Mac mini’s fan turned on no more often when in the case than out of it. I found this to be the case in my own testing, as well.

Plasticsmith’s other “useful” product is their $35 mini Grandstand (   ). Available in either laser-cut steel (the mini Grandstand steel) or the same polished acrylic as the mini Tower (the mini Grandstand clear), the Grandstand is an 11” (wide) by 9” (deep) monitor stand—supporting displays up to 60 pounds—that’s just tall enough to fit over the top of your Mac mini, thus providing a horizontal alternative for storing your Mac mini efficiently. The clear version is more eye-catching, whereas the steel model looks a bit more “professional” (and hides cables and other paraphernalia).

The final product in Plasticsmith’s Mac mini accessory trio, the mini Skirt (   ), just may take the award for best accessory name of 2005. On the other hand, it won’t win too many awards for functionality, since it doesn’t really do anything—it’s simply a 3/4"-thick acrylic base for the Mac mini. But it looks cool, and Plasticsmith has done a great job of making the Skirt a perfect fit for the Mac mini; I give it plenty of aesthetic props.

The standard mini Skirt is $20, but Plasticsmith has upped the bling quotient with the $30 mini Skirt glo, which features a built-in blue or white LED light and frosted/non-polished edges (to diffuse the light). Plug the glo’s USB cable into one of your Mac mini’s USB ports and even your friends with neon lights under their running boards will be impressed. An on/off switch on the cable lets you turn the light off when you get tired of otherworldly illumination.

(The above picture doesn’t really do the mini Skirt glo justice—the emanating light is actually more even across the base than it appears here.)

Unfortunately, as neat as the mini Skirt glo is, unless you have a USB hub (or no USB peripherals), you’ll never get to see the light—the Mac mini’s two USB ports leave little room for such luxuries as a glowing computer stand. (The lack of additional USB ports on the Mac mini presents an obvious opportunity for companies like Plasticsmith—I know I’d pay decent money for an attractive, custom-fit Mac mini stand that also happened to be a USB/FireWire hub.)

If you’ve got a Mac mini and want your desk to hold it in the most space-efficient manner possible, the mini Tower and mini Grandstand are both great accessories. If you just want people to stop and look, the mini Skirt draws just as much attention as its fabric namesake.

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