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Old Jun 11, 2012, 11:19 PM   #1
afurry13
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USB 3.0 vs. Firewire 800

I am looking at purchasing an external HDD for a new MacBook Pro that I will be purchasing. Should I go with a USB 3.0 HDD or a Firewire 800 drive? which one is faster?
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Old Jun 11, 2012, 11:21 PM   #2
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Firewire is faster. Especially for video editing. It doesn't require the CPU cycles to transfer data. If you're just storing data though just get a USB 3 drive. It's cheap.

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I am looking at purchasing an external HDD for a new MacBook Pro that I will be purchasing. Should I go with a USB 3.0 HDD or a Firewire 800 drive? which one is faster?
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Old Jun 12, 2012, 12:14 AM   #3
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actually on paper USB3 is faster, but if latency is an issue (ie. it's a scratch disc) then FW might be safer, of go nuts and get something with TB it's faster than anything else (my TB external is faster than my internal HDD)
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Old Jun 12, 2012, 12:38 AM   #4
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I hope that's a joke.

USB 3.0 is 5Gbps/sec.

FW800 is 800Mbps.

VERY different technologies.

USB 3.0 is many many many times faster than FW800.

If you get an external enclosure with an SSD (SATA III) you should be hitting ~400MB/sec read/write, easy.

Best for SSDs are Thunderbolt, though.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 03:29 PM   #5
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Anyone have any real world speeds comparing the two? Would a USB 3 drive be fine for just time machine back ups and holding media? USB 2 sucks donkey balls at transferring and seemed innefficient in comparision to FW400, which is why I'm reluctant to switch.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 03:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post
Firewire is faster.
No, it's not. It's not even close.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PAPO View Post
actually on paper USB3 is faster
In every application it's faster, even considering latency or processing overhead. There's no comparison.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigZ9 View Post
Would a USB 3 drive be fine for just time machine back ups and holding media?
Yes, it would be much, much faster than USB 2.0, Firewire 400 or Firewire 800. Much faster. Much!
http://media.bestofmicro.com/I/V/338...facespeeds.png
Source: Thunderbolt's Bandwidth: Sizing Up To USB 3.0, FireWire, And eSATA : Everything You Need To Know About Thunderbolt

Last edited by GGJstudios; Jun 18, 2012 at 03:39 PM.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 06:35 PM   #7
PAPO
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lol why was GGJ down voted?

I only said "on paper" because USB3 is still quite new, given how poorly USB2 managed to reach it's theoretical maximum I had (and still have to a degree) very poor hope for the speed of USB3, but more importantly has latency and reliability been tested properly on USB3 'cause FW is well loved for it's low latency and reliably consistent speed
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by PAPO View Post
lol why was GGJ down voted?
It happens a lot. There are some who are immature and cowardly enough to downvote posts simply because they don't like the poster, regardless of the accuracy or content of the posts. That's one reason why those votes are meaningless.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by PAPO View Post
lol why was GGJ down voted?
Haters gonna hate. It's like the rep bar (little squares of red or green) on some vBulletin versions, fwiw it's largely meaningless as an indication of post quality.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:48 PM   #10
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Gang, help me with a concern: When I update my MBA, I want to put my iTunes library on a USB 3 pocket-sized external.

Am I negating the USB 3 speed advantage (over USB 2) by buying an inexpensive 5400rpm drive? Should I wait for 7200rpm drives to become more widely available?

I need something very small ... otherwise, I'd buy a 7200rpm desktop drive and be done with it.

Thanks!
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmoore5196 View Post
Gang, help me with a concern: When I update my MBA, I want to put my iTunes library on a USB 3 pocket-sized external.

Am I negating the USB 3 speed advantage (over USB 2) by buying an inexpensive 5400rpm drive? Should I wait for 7200rpm drives to become more widely available?

I need something very small ... otherwise, I'd buy a 7200rpm desktop drive and be done with it.
How big is your library? If it's not too big, you might be better off with a flash drive. No moving parts, faster performance, better for portability. Another alternative is to split your library, keeping your favorite music on the MBA, with the rest on an external drive that you leave at home.

How to split a single iTunes library over two or more media locations
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:51 PM   #12
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Most external single hard drives will hit their max speeds before they saturate the USB3 bandwidth.
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Old Jun 18, 2012, 10:54 PM   #13
PAPO
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if pocket is what you need, get a pocket drive, it should be faster on USB3 than USB2 (assuming it's a decent drive) but a bigger faster desktop external will be faster
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 08:30 AM   #14
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At the moment, I have something under 400GB.

I keep eight or ten movies and about 4GB of music on my MBA; everything else is on an external drive. I'm interested in the speed difference moving from USB 2 to USB 3 with the new iteration MBA.

My question isn't a how-to; it's more of a buying decision. Am I substantially better off going for (or waiting for) a 7200rpm drive versus the commonly available 5400rpm?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 09:34 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by jmoore5196 View Post
My question isn't a how-to; it's more of a buying decision. Am I substantially better off going for (or waiting for) a 7200rpm drive versus the commonly available 5400rpm?
There's more to the story than drive speed. You also have to consider density. For example, a 500GB 5400 drive may be faster than a 200GB 7200 drive. You really need to compare specific drive specs. Of course, any SSD will be much faster than any 7200 or 5400 spinning drive.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 10:07 AM   #16
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This really makes me wish Thunderbolt external drives were more affordable.

I can't afford paying 450$ for a 1TB hard drive. I hope prices will decrease significantly once PC laptops with Thunderbolt ports come to the market. USB 3 performances aren't as good as I expected.

I'm torn between buying a USB 3 drive right now or wait until Thunderbolt drives prices go down. I don't mind paying a bit more than for USB 3, but paying 3 times the price (excluding the 49$ TB cable) is ridiculous.

An external Thunderbolt SSD would also make sense. Lacie is selling a 240GB one for 800$. A comparable internal SSD is worth around 200$. That leaves us with 600$ for the Thunderbolt enclosure (not even including the cable). What the hell?
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 10:10 AM   #17
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USB 3 can be even faster than the Tom's Hardware benchmarks above show. Looks like the Buffalo thing was running as JBOD.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 01:07 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PAPO View Post
I only said "on paper" because USB3 is still quite new, given how poorly USB2 managed to reach it's theoretical maximum I had (and still have to a degree) very poor hope for the speed of USB3, but more importantly has latency and reliability been tested properly on USB3 'cause FW is well loved for it's low latency and reliably consistent speed
Yet already at the low speeds in GGJ test USB 3.0 is with 150MB/s about twice as fast as FW800 and the use cases where latency is a problem are very few and those affected people generally don't need to be told.
USB 3.0 is dead cheap and not dying like FW800 which was removed from the RMBP and will be at some point only be available via adapter.
And said to peak at around 400 MB/s. The current MBP USB3.0 can handle 255MB/s already according to Anand which is a lot more than 75MB/s FW800 not only on paper.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 01:12 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pgiguere1 View Post
This really makes me wish Thunderbolt external drives were more affordable.

I can't afford paying 450$ for a 1TB hard drive. I hope prices will decrease significantly once PC laptops with Thunderbolt ports come to the market. USB 3 performances aren't as good as I expected.

I'm torn between buying a USB 3 drive right now or wait until Thunderbolt drives prices go down. I don't mind paying a bit more than for USB 3, but paying 3 times the price (excluding the 49$ TB cable) is ridiculous.

An external Thunderbolt SSD would also make sense. Lacie is selling a 240GB one for 800$. A comparable internal SSD is worth around 200$. That leaves us with 600$ for the Thunderbolt enclosure (not even including the cable). What the hell?
you can buy the seagate go flex thunderbolt adapter, it means you can go an put a SSD of your choosing in there, and its much cheaper.

I do agree with you regarding the prices of thunderbolt external storage, its massively overpriced. And well lacie was never that cheap anyway.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 02:17 PM   #20
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well depending on the way the encode of the music and movies/tv shows are you can get by with a usb 2.0 external fine i have done that and was perfectly fine and it was through a network setup using a linux box as the server and itunes running on my mini
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 03:22 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post
Firewire is faster.

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Old Jun 19, 2012, 05:26 PM   #22
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Wink

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Originally Posted by GGJstudios View Post
No, it's not. It's not even close.
USB has a lot of overhead that can destroy that "max benchmark" you have posted. esata should be preferred especially for video editing (from file) or any large data transfers. Firewire is faster if you do video editing (from camcorder) as it doesn't rely on your processor. Firewire is direct from camcorder to hard drive so yes firewire is faster.

USB is like an under performing over paid athlete. Sometimes it wins but usually it's not playing well.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 06:33 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pragmatous View Post
USB has a lot of overhead that can destroy that "max benchmark" you have posted.
Even with overhead, USB 3.0 will blow away FW800 by a significant margin.
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 06:46 PM   #24
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Wha?

USB 3 blows the socks off FW800 in pure throughput.

Credit to Anandtech for this chart:
http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph5997/47290.png

Firewire 800 maxes at about 90MB/s in practice. USB 3 is almost 3x faster than Firewire 800 in real world usage.


Now the more nebulous area of latency and controllers. USB 3 improves on CPU usage, latency, and overhead considerably versus USB 2. It still cannot match Firewire in any of these categories. Firewire uses a separate controller, which is also why it is more expensive. For any sort of storage solution, USB3 is the better path. Cheaper and faster. For things like low latency audio interfaces, Firewire MIGHT be better, but Thunderbolt would be even better. This becomes a very technical decision if we start looking at very specific use cases. What is your budget, what interfaces are available on the market, what is confirmed to work with the software you use?
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Old Jun 19, 2012, 07:20 PM   #25
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Cool

Plug in your camcorder via USB 3 and use final cut pro. Let me know how far you get.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GGJstudios View Post
Even with overhead, USB 3.0 will blow away FW800 by a significant margin.
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