FireWire faster than USB 2.0; newer FireWire 800 beats both handily

“FireWire has two main strengths over USB. First, it’s got a much sexier name. Second, it’s much faster, even compared with the newer USB 2.0 spec, because FireWire’s architecture dedicates several express lanes purely for data. That’s one reason why most DV camcorders use FireWire rather than USB for downloading your raw footage onto the PC for editing. So while the brochures and boffins speak of FireWire being rated at 400Mbps and USB 2.0 at a zippier 480Mbps, our testing of an external drive showed that a 500MB file was copied from the drive to the PC in about 20 seconds via FireWire compared with 30 seconds on the ostensibly faster USB 2.0,” David Flynn writes for The Sydney Morning Herald.

“By way of comparison, it would take about 10 hours to shift the same 500MB file across USB 1.1. In typical one-upmanship, last year Apple announced FireWire 800, which bends the needle at twice the speed of the original FireWire,” Flynn writes. Full article here.

More info on Apple’s FireWire and FireWire 800 here.


  1. Never mind that so far we have no devices and chipsets that can actually ake advantage of all of Firewire 800’s speed. Yes, these drives are faster, but they are not twice as fast as Firewire 400, simply due to the limitations of the bridge chipsets.

  2. But it’s still faster thana Firewire 400. That’s the point, most peeps will take ANY speed advantage. Eventually things will get better.

    But yeah, the majority of the public is not going to know that Firewire is faster. They see 480 vs. 400 and think USB 2 is faster not taking into account the thoroughput.

  3. I had to borrow this. Ok it does not belong to this Intel vs. Apple, but it’s quite fun:
    Windows is a 32-bit extension to a 16-bit graphical shell for an 8-bit operating system originally coded for a 4-bit microprocessor by a 2-bit company that can’t stand 1 bit of competition.
    Ok.. Now there is also a 64-bit extension to that.
    I wonder if Intel is going down like Motorola? There is signs for that. I hope that they don’t start to produce mobile phones. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  4. Findland.. we used to say much the same thing when selling Macs long ago. I also like to compare windows with the car Homer Simpson designed for his brother but with a Model T frame.

  5. “it would take about 10 hours to shift the same 500MB file across USB 1.1”

    What?! USB 1.1 –> 12 Mbps, 500 MB = 4000 Mb

    4000 Mb/12 Mbps = 333.3 s = 5.6 min. Only off by a factor of 100.

    Even if it were low-speed USB 1.1, 1.5 Mbps, that would still be only about 45 min.

  6. USB 2 is being adapted successfully in large part because it uses the same plug as USB. FireWire 800’s biggest roadblock is that it does NOT backwards compatible FireWire 400 it uses a different plug. This is a major stumbling block in adoption. You can’t make a FireWire 800 devise without also including a plug for 400 or USB 2. This adds quite a bit to the cost.
    Why couldn’t Apple find a way to make the plugs backward compatible like they did with USB? I hope they have plans to go way beyond 800 to make the change worth it.
    My Nikon D2 digital camera now comes with USB 2 where My Nikon D1 came with FireWire. I would have rather they went with FireWire 800 but that would not have been possible.

  7. “if Intel is going down like Motorola?”

    I doubt it. Remember Zilog Z80? Zilog took the 8-bit CPU market away from intel, but intel won it back with 8086. AMD may be taking the lead in 64-bits, but I’m sure intel’s 64bits version of x86 will win back the market with their FUD marketing, meanwhile itanium will join i432.

  8. To put things in perspective…
    Intel is $195billion and highly diversified in chip manufacturing and design (embedded, specialized, server, wireless, desktop).
    IBM is $185billion and highly diversified in server/big iron manfuacturing, software, business solutions, research/design without microchips, research/design with microchips and chip fabrication (their only money-losing division at the moment)

    Does anyone really believe someone is going to “take Intel down”?

    As for USB vs FW.. biggest problem I’ve seen with FW is that the ports fry out so easily making them useless (which is doubly bad when it is on your motherboard).. FW is really quite delicate compared to USB (wrong or poor quality cable, FW hub, end device puts out too much power…)

    As for speed, USB2 is rated slower that FW on sustained rates (it’s in the IEEE specs) which is why it matters on items like hard drives. However, for databurst, USB2 is faster (hence the 480 vs 400 numbers.) On top of that, Intel has wireless USB2 coming to market in the next year which should replace bluetooth quite handily as BT is 700Kbps. Also, their is already on spec FW1600 however the issues that affect FW400 and lead to FW port failure have a much higher yield with FW1600.

  9. Apple invented FireWire and – more importantly – gave up license fees to support it as an industry standard.

    Everything good started at Apple! AOL, WebTV, Tim Berner Lee’s Internet was inspired by HyperCard, etc…

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