PC Magazine pits FireWire vs. USB 2.0; ignores FireWire 800

“Shopping for a new DVD burner, external hard drive, or scanner (or just about any computer peripheral, for that matter) just got more complicated. This is due to the emergence of USB 2.0, a high-speed connection technology that is competing with FireWire as a way to connect peripherals to your computer. Both are rated at comparable speeds?480 megabits per second (Mbps) for USB 2.0 and 400 Mbps for FireWire. So which one should you use?” asks writer Cade Metz.

MacDailyNews asks, what about FireWire 800? Hello? Our own SteveJack asked and gave some info over at PC Magazine’s forum here.

Full article here.


  1. I don’t see why there is so much concern over this.. the article itself actually praises firewire saying it is generally faster than USB (yes even the 400 Mbps version) on hard drives but roughly the same with optical.

    I think it’s nigh impossible practically to test fw 800 on the pc or mac at the moment as devices arent’ available or cards for that matter… so saying ignores 800 is really out of order for practical reasons… can anyone test fw800 at the moment?

    However and this is VERY important.. USB is CHEAPER than FW in its older form. the chips are cheaper and the cables are cheaper.
    It’s not rubbishing the protocol, which is the impression you are giving about their report…

  2. Be reasonable. Articles are usually written a few months in advance and Furewire 800 is very new. Being pro MAc is agood thing but being totally Mac centric makes us all look bad. It is a shame that our platorm has so many imature, stupid people

  3. Whoever wrote this blurb should be hit with a Goddamned shovel.

    What the #&!$ are they going to test over FireWire 800? One device? Maybe two? There are a TON of FireWire 400 devices out there, and not only that, magnitudes more FW 400 ports out there on people’s computers. Why give a comparison of something people don’t have yet? (Yeah, FireWire 800 is “out there” and has been “released”, but name five people you know with FireWire 800 ports on any of their computers.)

    I’m all for the virtues of 1394 over USB, but you can’t fault a computer magazine for comparing what’s /actually in use out there right now in any real capacity./

    Also, Apple is the only manufacturer to OEM FW 800 ports at the moment. If the person who wrote this blurb on MDN had really paid attention to the article, he or she would have realized that it’s not a comparison of Apple rigs vs PC rigs–notice how they use PCI cards for FireWire all over the place? Heck, the article even covers hubs–it’s not a straight spec-vs-spec article, homes.


  4. The review for its time seems pretty fair. Though the reviewer mentions the processor overhead of USB, not enough is made of this issue. With firewire, you have devices can talk to each other, without a computer involved. When you use USB, you can slow down your computer 5-15%. This comes into play when you have more than one device, or are trying to use devices that are going to work together (more like future TiVo).
    USB is OK to use for scanners and mice and such, but is not OK to use performance is critical. Sending people down the path of USB 2 is a dead end. Why? USB speed ratings are averages, not a guaranteed speed. FireWire is isochronous, meaning that many streams (theoretically up to 64) can send their data at an exact moment in time without interfering with any other device’s timeslice. Why should you care? It means, with DV video that you don’t drop frames (with a fast enough hard drive). It also means that you have a device that is more stable (more hard drive friendly). The reviewer didn’t attempt a 15+ minute video (full DV resolution, not a 320×240 mpeg2 file) or moving a 2+ gig file over the USB 2; I’m curious if the file would even be usable. We use an IOMEGA 80 gig firewire drive (I wanted an OWC model, but you know how corporate purchasing can be), and we edit professional video with a desktop and laptop system using that drive. Flawless. We have not had one dropped frame in 4 months of use. USB 2 devices will only save you a little money. Whether you are pro or consumer, the added benefit of reliability can’t be overstated. One caviat I might point out with firewire hard drives you need to be careful of what kind of controller and true throughput they use. I would only recommend the Other World Computing units and (suprisingly) the new Iomega 80 gig. Other vendors may be good as well.

    Oh, and FireWire is bus powered, so on some devices you can lose the power cable (less clutter). FireWire is also self-mounting and unmounting.

    So if you have a device that is USB, then fine. If you are going to upgrade; concentrate on FireWire. Why is anyone bothering with USB 2 that is (only in marketing pipe dreams) almost as good as FireWire when FireWire 800 is available? The whole point is that you need more speed for high performance. If option ONE has reliability and option TWO does not, there really is only one option.

  5. I had the same reaction to the article…at first. Then I found the page where they TALK ABOUT FIREWIRE 800. Didn’t you read that far?

    The focus of the article all throughout the article was which products you should buy.

    Which FireWire 800 products can you buy?

    Oh, yeah.

  6. I like having a variety of ways to interconnect devices that don’t involve hiring a trained technician to warn you that you have to turn the equipment off to unplug and plug them together; both USB and Firewire make a big difference in user experience. I like not having to put all my eggs in one basket. I like having interconnection standards which are backed strongly by different companies. It beats having just one standard to choose from, and it certainly beats having nothing.

  7. Actually, there’s reason for concern. for some damned reason, PC types go out of their way to avoid standards that Apple participates in (SCSI, 802.11b, Firewire, USB at first–all have people pushing other standards to spite Apple and what’s better, and I can’t explain it with any logic.)

    Now, they’re just trying to shove USB 2.0 down peoples’ throats because it’s a standard Apple didn’t jump on (though surely they’ll replace their 1.1 ports with 2.0 ports as the chipsets get cheaper.)

    What’s the concern, you ask? Just read some of the comments from the PC-heads, as they say “USB’s on everything, and Firewire’s only on Apples and Sonys, and mostly just used for cameras.” That’s the concern. They have a way of inventing the future by predicting it (though they claim it’s current.) Where will that leave your current Mac with only USB 1.1 and Firewire ports, if manufacturers buy into the sentiment and only sell USB crap?

    The real truth is that Firewire (400) is ALREADY superior to USB 2.0, and 800 will be even faster. There’s a REASON for that firewire port on Sony PCs, even when they upgrade the USB ports, because USB is inherantly slow, no matter what “speed” they say it is. (According to one of the comments, the author compared a slower mechanism in the firewire drive to the faster USB mechanism, and the mechanisms, rather than the transport technology, were the limiting factor.) THIS is the message to share with those who don’t know better.

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