Future of Firewire

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by Starfury, Jul 23, 2005.

  1. Starfury macrumors member

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    #1
    Hi guys, just wondering what your opinions are as to the future of the Firewire interface on Macs. I don't believe that we're looking at the end of the Firewire interfaces just yet, but is there any future left in the standard, especially with iPods moving over to USB2?

    A large motivator behind my question is that I'm currently using a 12" PB without FW800. I'd like to see 800 support in more devices, given it's speed (faster than FW400 and USB2), however there doesn't seem to be a wholesale move to the standard which I was expecting. Indeed, where possible I've been buying perhipherals with 800 support, assuming I'd eventually upgrade to an 800 capable Powerbook. (I was especially looking forward to an FW800 iPod interface (filling a 40gb Pod via FW400 is too slow, really).)

    Which, I suppose, is all a long winded way of saying are we going to see any future development around the FW standard, with the corresponding incentives for manufacturers to use this in their devices, or is it USB only from herein out? (If so, could we have a faster version, please :) )
     
  2. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #2
    FireWire is going to be with us for a very long time. It is an essential connectivity standard for digital video and HDTV. With analog TV is the USA set to end in four short years, FireWire will play an ever larger role in our lives. Conceiveably, the rumored video iPod could accelerate the penetration of FireWire. The thing that you have to understand is that there is a whole world outside your computer. Out here, FireWire is much more important than USB.
     
  3. Starfury thread starter macrumors member

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    #3
    I appreciate that there is a world outside of what we term a 'computer' (such as a laptop or desktop machine), however with digital convergance and the blurring of lines between 'computer' and 'appliance', your point is largely mute.

    My question was really about the future path of Firewire. For USB, we see there there does appear to be a roadmap - progression to wireless, for example. I'm not familiar with any plans for FW, and was wondering whether anyone else was. As you say, Firewire, will stay around for a while, however without constant investment and upgrade it will eventually die.

    The point about a video iPod is interesting, however, and does raise the issue of a need for faster data transfer interfaces (which is why I'd like to see a FW 800 interface for the iPod as it stands).

    So, to rephrase, what's the future for Firewire? Are we going to see any investment or development in the standard or will be innovation be ceeded to USB or any new standards which might emerge?
     
  4. grapes911 Moderator emeritus

    grapes911

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    #4
    1. Firewire is not going anywhere.
    2. Firewire 400 already greatly out performs ATA (and I pretty sure it out performs SATA too). This means, when transferring files to or from your internal hard drive you can't take full advantage of firewire 400. Firewire 800 only speeds up transfers between two Firewire 800 devices that are daisy-chained together. (It also may speed up use when booting off a firewire hard drive, but I'm not sure).
     
  5. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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  6. polsons macrumors newbie

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    #6
    I think Intel may have already provided an answer with their incorporation of fw400 and fw800 in future Intel chipsets, the first of which are soon to be released.
     
  7. MacHarne macrumors 6502

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    #7
    FireWire 400 is the current standard for digital video production. I was just visiting Boston recently and walked around Emerson College with a friend who goes there. Emerson is renown for being one of the greatest media schools in the country; many, many, many of these people go straight to work for large motion picture companies, television corporations, photography studios, etc. Their labs all had FireWire 400 extensions from each computer, so that a student could plug up their digital camcorder easily. Trying to sync video via USB is just a tasking waste of time and money.

    As long as the video industry relies on FireWire, it will stick around. And Apple's base as the heart of the creative digital fields will demand they retain FireWire on their machines. Even some PC manufacturers are throwing on a 4-pin or 6-pin FireWire port as appropriate.

    Why is a faster transfer rate needed for a video iPod? What is the difference in transfer needs for a 60GB iPod and a 60GB iPod video? The same FireWire 400 cable performs just as fast with the one as with the other. Yes, it would be nice to have FireWire 800 (absolutely!) but just because the content is different does not demand a new format of data transfer.
     
  8. tideshark macrumors newbie

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    #8
    Just to support Starfury here, most people with iPods maybe sync every 25 songs or so which is the equivalent of about 100-200 MBs depending on bitrate, etc. But if you get just 1 or 2 movies and sync them, it could easily be GBs of video. So with a music iPod, you're gradually adding, but if a video iPod were introduced, if people used it frequently, you'd constantly be removing and adding GBs of data (people would be a lot more likely to fill it) which is where you'd notice a significant difference.
     
  9. Earendil macrumors 68000

    Earendil

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    #9
    I would think that the constraint in transferring files to an iPod is the HD not the connection. I can transfer files far faster to my 7200rpm 3.5" drive than I can to my iPod. Would bumping to FW800 make all that much difference in these slow spinning drives?

    And yes, FireWire will be around for a long time yet to come. People keep trying to clump USB and FW in the same category, they aren't. With the advent of USB 2.0, USB tried to compete with FW, and I would say they more or less failed. In no means is FW going away, because USB can't replace it.
     
  10. Billicus macrumors 6502a

    Billicus

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    #10
    In my experience, Firewire is much faster than USB 2.0 and there are many devices that use only Firewire or that still have it as an option. As for Firewire 800 for your iPod, you could always use this: http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/dock800/index.php with your 3rd or 4th generation iPod. :)
     
  11. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

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    #11
    Video applications aside, I'd loooove to see Macs sprouting external SATA ports.
     
  12. atszyman macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #12
    Although this is true, the ATA spec is for burst applications. My company has products that stream data from PCI cards to disk and unfortunately for continuous operation we have typically only seen in the neighborhood of 30 MBps to disk, which FW 400 can supply. For faster speeds you will need to have multiple disks in RAID configurations to keep up. An iPod most likely would not see any difference in transfer rates between FW400 and FW800, until they start putting multiple HDs in them...
     
  13. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

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    #13
    Last year, WiebeTech published a white paper about the evolution of Firewire 400 and 800 and offered up their view of the future. In short, they say that Apple bungled Firewire 800 so badly that it will be doomed to limited market penetration and that future, faster Firewire standards may not even be released at all. They see external SATA taking over for high-bandwidth external storage, and I don't disagree.

    Since they are a reseller of storage products, that's the angle they cover. I also think they have an axe to grind because they probably didn't make the big money they expected on Firewire 800 devices. But this is still a very interesting and thoughtful read.

    http://www.wiebetech.com/pressreleases/firewireevolution.pdf
     
  14. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

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    #14
    The iPod's "moving" to USB2 isn't a move at all, they came bundled with both for a long time, however, giving FW400 to PC users who most likely don't have FW was just a waste of cable, so I imagine they cut it out of the box to save money.

    There is no point to have 2 spare tires on your car if you hardly ever use the first one.
     
  15. Heb1228 macrumors 68020

    Heb1228

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    #15
    I don't think firewire 800 is going to make the difference on iPod connections some of you are stating. FW 800 is a little less than twice as fast (i get about 30Mbps over 400 and 50 Mbps over 800) plus as has been stated, the limiting factor in iPods is not the connection speed, but the actual drive itself. Buying the Griffin FW 800 FW cord will only marginally improve tranfer speeds, if at all.

    EDIT: But FW 800 gets much better performance in things like scrubbing through video and other editing tasks, which is what I use my 250 GB FW 800 LaCie drive for. FW 800 will probably never be as popular as USB, but I don't think its going anywhere for awhile.
     
  16. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #16
    Just out of curiosity, it seems to me that the lack of backwards compatibility between FW800 and 400, at the plug level, is part of the issue. Computers that get FW800 have to also have FW400 ports, whereas computers that get USB2 do not have to have separate USB1.1 ports. Recognizing that FW is better for many things than USB, this is still an issue, particularly for thin and lights, such as the 12" PB/iBook, on which there is not a lot of extra space to add more busses.

    I know this is probably a FAQ, but I have not run across it...is there a technical reason why FW 400 and 800 were designed this way?
     
  17. atszyman macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #17
    I am willing to bet that the Griffin cable will do nothing for speeding up transfers. As far as I know the iPod only has a FW400 controller built in. Since FW800 is backwards compatible (with an adapter) you are simply running the FW800 port at FW400 speed. The Griffin page makes no claims about speeding up transfers which is a sure sign that it doesn't. If there were even a slight speed improvement marketing would have been all over it.
     
  18. Silencio macrumors 68020

    Silencio

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    #18
    Backwards compatibility is not an issue at all: 9-pin to 6-pin Firewire cables are readily available.

    The Wiebetech white paper PDF I linked above goes into great detail about the design decisions that led to the changes in the port design between FW400 and FW800.
     
  19. atszyman macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #19
    FW800 is backwards compatible, as I mentioned in my previous post, however it does require an adapter. My guess is that FW800 requires extra grounding or shielding for the higher data rates which is why the extra pins. Or it is possible it was done just to keep confusion down with ports that are FW800 capable and others that are FW400 capable, if they all used the same connector there would be endless user confusion.
     
  20. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #20
    Ahhh, okay, I missed that in your previous post. Sorry. But these adapters are not commonly available -- I've never even seen one. And why couldn't the plug have been designed future-proof in the beginning? It appears that USB's was -- or do you think that all of the limitations of USB2 vis-à-vis FW are due solely to the choice to be backwards-compatible at the plug?

    And as far as confusion...well...the USB world seems to manage just fine. FW800 devices that could not function at FW400 speed (i.e. not hard disks, which might benefit from the faster speed but which are not infeasible at the slower speed) are still relatively specialized, and I somehow doubt that plug compatibility would have such a deleterious effect on their marketing. And by the time they get less specialized...the situation could've been like USB2, with few or no computers remaining with FW400-only ports.

    I like FW800... I just think this is one small part that contributes to its lack of universal adoption.
     
  21. atszyman macrumors 68020

    atszyman

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    #21
    Silencio's link goes into much better detail, thanks, Silencio.

    It appears that the redesign of the connector also helps prevent port blowouts that were fairly common with FW400. As for the adapters/cables for FW800 to FW400 they now come packaged with most FW800 upgrade cards so they can claim compatibility with FW400.
     
  22. TDM21 macrumors 6502a

    TDM21

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    #22
    You are correct.
    Quote from Griffin's website:
    "Can Dock800 increase the transfer speed of my iPod?
    There is no difference in transfer speed. Dock800 is designed to free up your FireWire 400 ports for improved productivity and flexibility."

    Firewire 800 is backwards compatible with 400, but you have to have an adapter.
     
  23. Ti_Poussin macrumors regular

    Ti_Poussin

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    #23
    Firewire is still a good connection for external hard drive, but manufacturer will all switch to SATA soon. I hope Apple include them in the next revision of there computer. USB is still slow and a CPU ogre. Firewire still have few advantage in video production so it should still around for a while, firewire 800 isn't popular cause it's useless for most user, not big difference for an external HD or normal device, but in video (soon High Def) or external RAID storage it's a blessing. The problem is that performance is measure in Mbps and represent the burst of data, people think USB2 is faster (480 Mbps) then Firewire (400 Mbps), the burst represente the peak of speed when emptying the cache, but in substain transfer it's different story, Firewire is faster. If you copy a small file USB2 will be faster, but a big file Firewire is faster.
     
  24. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #24
    Do external SATA connections carry the promise of bus-powered devices, or is it always necessary to provide an external power supply? (the latter is what I have seen.)
     
  25. wrxguy macrumors 6502a

    wrxguy

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    #25
    personally i like firewire better than usb 2.0...it does all your trasfering much faster than usb
     

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