Firewire vs USB 2.0, and another question

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
So I want to buy an external hard-drive to help out my iBook's meager storage capacity, and I feel pretty comfortable with the Lacie (Porsche design) models available at my campus computer store. My question is whether, considering that I will presumably keep the drive even after upgrading my laptop, Firewire or USB 2.0 is a better choice. Will Firewire continue to be offered as a connectivity standard on future Mac laptops?



The benefit to Firewire right now, as I understand it, is that you can boot from a Firewire drive using OS X's Target Mode. I like the idea of being able to do this, and you can't do it with USB 2.0, right?



I'm also asking, I guess, for opinions on the pros and cons of Firewire and USB 2.0 in general - USB is faster, right? But to what extent does the lack of bootability infringe on its speed advantage, all things considered.



Also, something I've never gotten a firm answer on. Will either Firewire or USB bottleneck the speed of the external drive? I want to be able to run both movies and games off the Lacie drive (8 meg cache, 7200 rpm), but will my connectivity choice make a difference to the performance of the applications? Is there another factor, something in my 1Ghz iBook G4, for example, that will limit performance? Or will performance be better considering the faster spin speed of the external drive relative to that of the iBook?



Sorry for the length - thanks for your help!!



Nick
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 51
    rickagrickag Posts: 1,626member
    I bought a LaCie external drive with USB 2, Firewire and Firewire 800, just to be covered in all cases. My desktop has a Firewire 400 PCI card added and my laptop has both Firewire 400 and 800.



    As I understand it, in many cases Firewire 400 can be almost as fast as USB 2.0. I haven't used target disc mode, yet, but do plan on making my external drive bootable sometime in the future(nice feature).



    I use the external drive to store my home movies for editing in Final Cut Express and am extremely happy. Initially I did editing on movies on my laptop drive and really can't tell if it is smoother or faster with the external drive which is a 7200 rpm drive with 16 Mb buffer, but have to think that with either Firewire 400 or 800 it would be as fast or faster.



    Can't be of much more help. Maybe one of the more knowledgeable posters here can help?
  • Reply 2 of 51
    lupalupa Posts: 202member
    First off,



    Firewire is faster than USB2 in real life situations.



    The theoretical max speeds 400 mb/s for firewire and 480 mb/s for usb (I think), do not work out in real life. This is mostly due to the different archictecture of firewire which I don't fully understand, sorry.



    In my experience, I've measured firewire is about 4x faster for large file transfers (5-10 GB), but I'm not sure if this is very common. I've also heard there is much less difference in smaller read/write operations.



    I have a firewire porsche, they're very nice. However, I don't know about the bottleneck, it's something I've wondered myself but have never really tested.



    [edyt: spelling]
  • Reply 3 of 51
    Target Disk mode, as far as I know, is a method of turning your computer into a FireWire disk to be connected to another computer. It's great when you need a fast method of transferring files to another computer without an external drive.
  • Reply 4 of 51
    Thanks for the help - I'm definitely leaning towards the Firewire. I guess my only remaining question is whether Firewire is going to become obselete any time soon - thoughts?
  • Reply 5 of 51
    Well, I don't think it's going to be completely obsolete any time soon. USB 2.0 definitely has more of a presence, but I'm pretty sure FireWire isn't leaving any Mac soon. It's kinda sad though how the iPod now doesn't support FireWire transfers. Kinda screws me over when it comes to getting that brand new iPod, cause I have an iBook from 2002 and it only has USB 1.1. That'd be so slooooooooooow every time I hook it up. But nope, I'm pretty sure FireWire isn't leaving anytime soon.
  • Reply 6 of 51
    pyrixpyrix Posts: 264member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by nickgb3

    Thanks for the help - I'm definitely leaning towards the Firewire. I guess my only remaining question is whether Firewire is going to become obselete any time soon - thoughts?



    As long as Apple is seen as the company for video editing and creativity, firewire, or at least a way of adding firewire is not going away from the .Mac platform. Too many HD camera's use it.



    Windows PC's are just starting to come with firewire too now, so if anything, it is growing in popularity.



    I'd definitly go with firewire.



    The above poster was right, USB 2.0 is rated at 480mb/s, and firewire at 400mb/s. However, firewire performs much closer to its theoretical maximum than USB 2.0
  • Reply 7 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally posted by nickgb3

    So I want to buy an external hard-drive to help out my iBook's meager storage capacity, and I feel pretty comfortable with the Lacie (Porsche design) models available at my campus computer store. My question is whether, considering that I will presumably keep the drive even after upgrading my laptop, Firewire or USB 2.0 is a better choice. Will Firewire continue to be offered as a connectivity standard on future Mac laptops?



    The benefit to Firewire right now, as I understand it, is that you can boot from a Firewire drive using OS X's Target Mode. I like the idea of being able to do this, and you can't do it with USB 2.0, right?



    I'm also asking, I guess, for opinions on the pros and cons of Firewire and USB 2.0 in general - USB is faster, right? But to what extent does the lack of bootability infringe on its speed advantage, all things considered.



    Also, something I've never gotten a firm answer on. Will either Firewire or USB bottleneck the speed of the external drive? I want to be able to run both movies and games off the Lacie drive (8 meg cache, 7200 rpm), but will my connectivity choice make a difference to the performance of the applications? Is there another factor, something in my 1Ghz iBook G4, for example, that will limit performance? Or will performance be better considering the faster spin speed of the external drive relative to that of the iBook?



    Sorry for the length - thanks for your help!!



    Nick




    Well here is some data about implementation. I suggest you get a drive with as many connection options as you can afford at least USB 2 and FW400. I was thinking about one of these.
  • Reply 8 of 51
    On current Macs, it's possible to boot from a FireWire drive but not from a USB 2.0 one.



    Some people have said (disclaimer: this is going on hearsay - I have no first-hand information) that the Intel developer machines boot from USB 2.0 and not FireWire.



    FireWire is faster, more efficient, and more reliable than USB 2.0. However, its usage is not as widespread. At the present time, it seems inconceivable for Apple to stop offering it, but then no one foresaw the iPod dropping FireWire either.



    I agree with the previous poster - get an enclosure that supports both USB 2.0 and FireWire. Then, you can't go wrong no matter what happens (well, that is until external Serial ATA comes out and clobbers both USB 2.0 and FireWire!).
  • Reply 9 of 51
    rickagrickag Posts: 1,626member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by nickgb3

    Thanks for the help - I'm definitely leaning towards the Firewire. I guess my only remaining question is whether Firewire is going to become obselete any time soon - thoughts?



    I doubt Firewire will become obsolete any time soon.



    Virtually every camcorder includes IEEE 1394(aka Firewire) connectivity and there are millions of camcorders with IEEE 1394 already bought and being used by consumers and professionals.



    In fact, more digital cameras are appearing that include IEEE 1394 connectivity and projections(aka rumors) are that more digital camera companies are considering adding it.



    Having said that, I still would recommend buying an external hard drive that has both USB 2 and Firewire connectivity. Not only a hedge for future use, but if you, for whatever reason, need to connect multiple computer/devices to your external hard drive you may appreciate the extra connections on the hard drive.
  • Reply 10 of 51
    marzetta7marzetta7 Posts: 1,320member
    The above poster was right, USB 2.0 is rated at 480mb/s, and firewire at 400mb/s. However, firewire performs much closer to its theoretical maximum than USB 2.0



    True for FireWire 400 when compared to USB 2.0. However, FireWire 800 operates of course at 800 mb/s which blows USB 2.0 out of the water. Just wanted to add some clarification.
  • Reply 11 of 51
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marzetta7

    The above poster was right, USB 2.0 is rated at 480mb/s, and firewire at 400mb/s. However, firewire performs much closer to its theoretical maximum than USB 2.0



    True for FireWire 400 when compared to USB 2.0. However, FireWire 800 operates of course at 800 mb/s which blows USB 2.0 out of the water. Just wanted to add some clarification.




    Hopefully, you actually clicked on Alias789's link above. It clearly and convincingly shows the performance that you can expect from USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800.
  • Reply 12 of 51
    marzetta7marzetta7 Posts: 1,320member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Mr. Me

    Hopefully, you actually clicked on Alias789's link above. It clearly and convincingly shows the performance that you can expect from USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800.



    Indeed, I did. However, hopefully you actually don't mind that I made that statement when all the previous posts, not links within post mind you, kept comparing USB 2.0 to FireWire 400. I felt a more accurate comparison, or clarification, rather was needed.



    Speaking of links, here's a good one with several benchmark tests comparing FireWire 800, FireWire400, and USB 2.0. They even get into using FireWire as a network medium. Just another reason I don't think FireWire is going by the wayside anytime soon.



    http://www.tomshardware.com/storage/20040402/
  • Reply 13 of 51
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marzetta7

    Indeed, I did. However, hopefully you actually don't mind that I made that statement when all the previous posts, not links within post mind you, kept comparing USB 2.0 to FireWire 400. I felt a more accurate comparison, or clarification, rather was needed.



    Speaking of links, here's a good one with several benchmark tests comparing FireWire 800, FireWire400, and USB 2.0. They even get into using FireWire as a network medium. Just another reason I don't think FireWire is going by the wayside anytime soon.



    http://www.tomshardware.com/storage/20040402/




    Make no mistake, I did not imply by my previous post that I disagreed with you. However, I don't like arguing possibilities and potentials when I have real numbers. Both the Tom's Hardware link and the Barefeats link, more dramatically, show that virtually every implementation of FireWire smacks USB 2.0. The arguments supporting the performance competiveness of USB 2.0 is not based on evidence, they are based on pipe dreams. And let me support rickag and others concerning the use of FireWire in consumer electronics. FireWire is important to digicams, but it is even more important to HDTV. IIRC, FireWire is a mandatory feature of HD cable set top boxes. The installed base of HDTV equipment is growing rapidly. With it, grows the FireWire installed base.
  • Reply 14 of 51
    powerdocpowerdoc Posts: 8,123member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marzetta7

    The above poster was right, USB 2.0 is rated at 480mb/s, and firewire at 400mb/s. However, firewire performs much closer to its theoretical maximum than USB 2.0



    True for FireWire 400 when compared to USB 2.0. However, FireWire 800 operates of course at 800 mb/s which blows USB 2.0 out of the water. Just wanted to add some clarification.




    Unfortunately, if firewire 800 shine on Powerbook, it's rather disapointing on the powermac G5, dual core included. With this later computers there is not much difference between FW 400 and FW 800.
  • Reply 15 of 51
    smalmsmalm Posts: 654member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by marzetta7

    Speaking of links, here's a good one with several benchmark tests comparing FireWire 800, FireWire400, and USB 2.0.



    The test sites show a sort of "best case" for USB as there is normaly only one EHCI controller implemented which all USB2 connections have to share.



    Quote:

    Just another reason I don't think FireWire is going by the wayside anytime soon.



    Intel commited to build FW800 into their future chip sets only a week or two before Apple announced the CPU switch. Coincidentally
  • Reply 16 of 51
    Well, let's just hope the next gen of iPods have FireWire 800, eh?

    At least maybe just a separate buy, but I really don't like the idea of using USB.
  • Reply 17 of 51
    pyrixpyrix Posts: 264member
    SUmmary and End of argument: BOTH Firewire 400/800 are faster than than USB 2.0, REGARDLESS of their theoretical maximums.



    The guy just wants to know what drive he should get. I believe that question was answered a while ago. As for why, there are now multiple links to explain it.
  • Reply 18 of 51
    Quote:

    Originally posted by CharlesS

    Some people have said (disclaimer: this is going on hearsay - I have no first-hand information) that the Intel developer machines boot from USB 2.0 and not FireWire.



    That makes perfect sence because the Dev kits are using standard x86 BIOS, which only boot off of USB. If Apple uses that new EFI or whatever, they'll probably make it boot USB and FireWire. I can only hope.
  • Reply 19 of 51
    webmailwebmail Posts: 639member
    you can boot from usb2 for years now.. where have you been?



    Quote:

    Originally posted by CharlesS

    On current Macs, it's possible to boot from a FireWire drive but not from a USB 2.0 one.



    Some people have said (disclaimer: this is going on hearsay - I have no first-hand information) that the Intel developer machines boot from USB 2.0 and not FireWire.



    FireWire is faster, more efficient, and more reliable than USB 2.0. However, its usage is not as widespread. At the present time, it seems inconceivable for Apple to stop offering it, but then no one foresaw the iPod dropping FireWire either.



    I agree with the previous poster - get an enclosure that supports both USB 2.0 and FireWire. Then, you can't go wrong no matter what happens (well, that is until external Serial ATA comes out and clobbers both USB 2.0 and FireWire!).




  • Reply 20 of 51
    webmailwebmail Posts: 639member
    Sorry, but if you're drive supports both usb2 and firewire, there will be no difference in speed. NONE.



    1. your hard drive inside the case can't even transfer data at 1/100 the speeds that usb2 and firewire offer.



    2. In independing testing (search google usb2 vs. firewire) usb2 has come out on top, as lower power consumtion and MORE stable with bigger chunks of data. Doesn't it say something to you when the CREATOR of firewire drops support for it's own protocal in favor of USB2? THINK ABOUT IT.





    Quote:

    Originally posted by pyriX

    SUmmary and End of argument: BOTH Firewire 400/800 are faster than than USB 2.0, REGARDLESS of their theoretical maximums.



    The guy just wants to know what drive he should get. I believe that question was answered a while ago. As for why, there are now multiple links to explain it.




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