Review: The Plasticsmith’s mini Tower and mini Grandstand - Macenstein

Review: The Plasticsmith’s mini Tower and mini Grandstand

Posted by Lab Rat

For the past 10 years or so, Apple’s computers have gotten as much press for the way they look as they have for the way they perform; perhaps even more. There is no denying that a fair percentage of Mac users first came on board because they thought their Mac just looked cool. With the recent success of the iPod, Apple has shifted its design philosophy away from the multi-colored iMacs and and iBooks of old, and gone with a monochromatic design philosophy across its entire consumer line of CPUs. In fact, the new iMac is pretty much just a big iPod, and the Mac mini’s smooth white plastic housing borrows heavily from the iPod as well.

While the latest Mac offerings are certainly engineering marvels, their stark white enclosures are not for everyone. Well, luckily there is another thing computers like the Mac mini are borrowing from the iPod… accessories. The iPod’s multi-million dollar accessory market of colorful cases and add-ons has spawned a small sub-industry catering to Mac mini owners looking to spice up their somewhat bland CPUs. Two of the more useful offerings come from The Plasticsmith. Their “mini Tower� and “mini Grandstand� are two simple yet stylish solutions to one of the mini’s biggest problems, namely, where do you put the monitor?

Up, up, and away

Much of the Mac mini’s appeal is its tiny size. Many people who would like a second computer but are short on space are attracted to the mini’s small form factor. However when they get the unit home they are faced with the realization that the size of a CPU’s footprint isn’t the only problem, it’s also the monitor’s. The mini Grandstand is the most straightforward approach to solving the monitor placement issue. This clear (or blue) acrylic “n�-shaped housing sits above the mini, and can support a monitor weighing up to 60 lbs. In effect, the mini grandstand turns your mini into an iMac by allowing you to arrange both mini and monitor using only 11 inches of desk space.

The mini Grandstand can support up to a 60 lb. monitor, and looks cool doing it.

The Plasticsmith’s other offering, the mini Tower, can be used similarly to the mini Grandstand to support a monitor. However, if you have the extra desk space it is by far cooler to position your mini Tower vertically. The mini Tower suspends your mini in an acrylic case, slightly reminiscent of Apple’s long-discontinued G4 cube. With slots cut out to allow for cooling and access to the mini’s optical drive, the mini Tower’s design is extremely solid, yet looks almost ethereal. The Tower lifts the mini about an inch off the ground, and creates the illusion the mini is floating. In addition, in its vertical orientation the mini Tower takes up about only 3 inches of desk space.

The mini Tower looks even cooler. Notice the way the blue acrylic seems to “glow”, using only ambient light.

What about Airport reception?

I was actually a little concerned about how these two acrylic enclosures would affect the mini’s Airport reception. I understand Wi-Fi can travel through walls and glass windows, but we have found the new Intel mini’s Airport reception to be rather flaky, even under the best conditions (see our mini review). However upon testing, we found the reception was no worse when using The Plasticsmith’s products than when not, and we actually found we had BETTER Airport reception when we used the mini Tower in vertical mode than when just leaving an uncovered mini lying flat on a table. I am not sure where the mini’s Airport card is located, but apparently the vertical orientation helped in our case.

Full Airport reception bars, thanks to the mini Tower.

Final thoughts

Both the mini Grandstand and mini Tower can help you maximize your available desk space while not compromising the sleek simplicity of your Mac mini’s styling. The mini Tower specifically adds a nice touch of class and sparkle to your mini, and showcases it as the work of art it is. Both the Tower and Grandstand come in clear or blue acrylic (for $10 extra). We opted for the blue, and were very pleased. Somehow the acrylic takes the ambient light in the room, and refracts it in such a way as to cause the pieces to “glow�. The Grandstand is also available in a brushed metal version to complement Apple’s latest flat panel displays.

If I had any qualms about either product, it would be price (a problem I seem to have with every product). These pieces are very solidly built, and look great. I just feel that at $49.95 (for the blue mini Tower), these may be about $5-$10 too much. After all, Apple has raised the price on the new mini by $100, making the argument for purchasing a mini over an iMac harder to justify than ever. To spend another $50 on top of that for an accessory that basically just makes it look cooler (and they DO) is something many people may have to think twice about.

The Plasticsmith’s mini Tower and mini Grandstand

mini Grandstand
Rating: 8 out of 10
price: $35.00 (clear acrylic), $45 (blue acrylic), $35 (steel, untested)
pros: looks cool, saves desktop space, doesn’t hamper Airport reception
cons: a bit pricey

mini Tower:
Rating: 9 out of 10
price: $39.95 (clear acrylic), $49.95 (blue acrylic)
pros: looks cool, saves desktop space, doesn’t hamper Airport reception (actually improved it in our case!)
cons: a bit pricey

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