external hard drive playback, USB vs FireWire

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by bmorris, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. bmorris macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #1
    I was wondering if there is a noticeable difference in playback when all my content is on an external hard drive, like a noticeable difference between a USB or FireWire hard drive.

    I know that FireWire is obviously faster, but does that apply when it's playing content in Plex, or does the RPM matter more.

    I have a Mac Mini with a external hard drive for Plex and iTunes.
    All of my iTunes music and all my movies are on the hard drive.

    I have a Macbook and Macbook Pro that are set to read the hard drive for their iTunes library wirelessly.

    When I'm away with wifi I use either Simplify Media or BackToMyMac to play back music.
     
  2. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #2
    Unless you have media with a bit rate of more than 20MB/s (70GB/hour) you will be fine with a 5400RPM HDD and USB.

    Most consumer media has a maximum bit rate of 1-2MB/s (if even at all).
     
  3. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #3
    So if I have just a 5400 RPM USB hard drive, I should be ok playing back MKV, MP4, etc on the Mac Mini and streaming my iTunes Library for my Macbook and Macbook Pro?

    There shouldn't be lagging or dropped frames?

    Would 7200 RPM make a big difference for connecting to the hard drive wirelessly?
     
  4. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #4
    Yes, no lag.

    And wireless connections can't keep up with 60-70MB/s offered by 5400RPM HDDs or the 80-100MB/s of 7200RPM HDDs.


    As I said before:

    Most consumer media has a maximum bit rate of 1-2MB/s (if even at all).
     
  5. mstrze macrumors 68000

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    Nov 6, 2009
    #5
    I think there is a big issue with the concept of streaming AND the issues that some folks have had with video editing:

    Don't think of streaming like you would watching something over the internet.

    Nor is it like editing video in real-time where disc-access is paramount and the entire file cannot be stored in memory.

    It's a tranferred file, it is read from one drive and written to another...

    You are transferring files of maybe 2-3GB in size for a movie from a hard drive to a player's HDD, whether it be a Mac or AppleTV. The files transfers many, MANY times faster than real-time (as spinnerlys says above) so in a second or two you begin watching and your entire 3GB file is done transferring within a few minutes at worst.

    I don't think that few-minute lag to load the end of the file is going to affect your 2-hour movie that has already begun playing. Only if you choose to skip ahead and maybe only watch the final scenes will you have a lag or will need to wait until the file fully loads.
     
  6. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #6
    Thanks guys, this really helps a lot with buying hard drives then.

    What about once I reach my 2 TB limit of my drive?
    Get a 4TB RAID? how do those work?
     
  7. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #7
    the IT guy from work said using USB will be a lot slower.
     
  8. dekinseattle macrumors newbie

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    Dec 24, 2009
    #8
    yeah - the IT guy at the office will say that ... he is right - USB is slower than FireWire - and FW400 is slower than FW800 - my IT guy stresses I should use eSata rather than FW800 - but he is into overkill so much of the time ...

    if you have USB and it works for you use it ... if you don't have USB at this time I would suggest buying FW800 connected external drive/s - I bought a Drobo when I added a Mini to my TV set up - small footprint, quite and easy to use -

    on the back of my iMac I have an IcyDock FW400 device there - it too is small and quite (not an option for my Mini as there is not a FW400 input)

    both of these external units have Western Digital Green drives in them - just what was on sale at newegg.com at the time of purchase

    the iMac streams to my :apple:TV device and the Drobo hosts all my Plex files and I have no complaints over anything presently -
     
  9. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #9
    Yeah I knew he would, but I stressed what I was using it for.
    Right now I have a LaCie d2 with FW and USB.
    I'm using FW now but wondering about USB for expanding.

    Isn't the Drobo pretty expensive?
    I'm looking at what to do for a raid system, something good but too expensive.
     
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #10
    I think I addressed you over at the Plex forums on this topic. If you're just doing playback, then USB2 is fine. If you have to concurrently read/write the drive (e.g., Eye TV recordings while also playback other video) then you should get Firewire.
     
  11. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #11
    I use the drive to read movies and music with the connected mac mini through plex and play iTunes wirelessly for my Macbooks. I also use it for torrents from the connected mac mini.

    I figure I'll just connect with USB for the drive I have now and see how it goes for a little while. Then I'll be able to tell.

    I'm really wondering about investing in a RAID system though.
     
  12. GilesM macrumors 6502

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    Oct 17, 2008
    #12
    I have recently tried both types of external disk for my iTunes Library (a USB drive and a FW 800 drive) both work just fine, even with streaming HD Video (well 720p) to my Apple TV.
    Both drives can delay proceedings when the disc stops spinning and it has to spin up to speed.
    Apart from that they both work.
     
  13. bmorris thread starter macrumors 6502

    bmorris

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    #13
    So they both were the same wirelessly?
    Not noticeably different?

    I wasn't sure, I knew that FW is normally faster when read/write large files.
    But I just wasn't sure how it would differ with Plex "streaming" the files or iTunes on my Macbook wirelessly reading music.
     

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