Is there much difference between firewire 400 and USB 2.0?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by anotherarunan, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. anotherarunan macrumors 6502

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    #1
    im thinking of buying (another) external HD for my macbook. The USB2.0 ports are all being used so im thinking of getting an external firewire drive, i know that the macbook only has a firewire 400 port but the problem is...firewire drives (at least in the UK) seem to be a lot more expensive than standard PC-made USB2.0 drives, so i just want to know is there any noticeable increase in speed, and if yes, is it worth the extra money?

    Oh and if anyone has any recomendations, Id gladly take note! Im looking for something 300gb or more, for less than £100.
     
  2. munckee macrumors 65816

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    #2
    I have one of each that I use for general backups, etc. (no editing directly from the external or anything). I'll be darned if I can tell a difference, but admittedly, I use the firewire drive considerably more than the USB drive.

    EDIT: After switching to the USB drive for a Time Machine backup, I'm going to officially change my opinion. It's notably slower. Get the firewire drive!
     
  3. Spievy macrumors regular

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    #3
    about 4 months ago I did some benchmarks USB 2 vrs Firewire 400. The test drive had the capability to use both. I found that Firewire 400 was about 10% faster than usb 2. With that said, I doubt you will see a big difference in speed unless you are moving large files.
     
  4. aross99 macrumors 68000

    aross99

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    #4
    I like Firewire drives for my Mac's because Firewire provides more power than USB. I have had a couple of USB drives that won't work w/o using two USB ports, due to power issues.
     
  5. Spievy macrumors regular

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    #5
    This is true... Another plus for FW
     
  6. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #6
    Mac Mini G4 - Seagate 7200 RPM drive in a USB2/FW400 case. Copy 1.3 Gb (GarageBand library folder) from internal to hard drive. Firewire was almost 2 x as fast as USB.
     
  7. anotherarunan thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7
    so would anyone say it's worth an extra £20/30? and any recomendations?
     
  8. Spievy macrumors regular

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    #8
    That is really up to you at this point. I showed 10% faster -CanadaRAM showed twice as fast, so the consensus is FW is faster than USB2. Are you going to be transferring large files or is this drive for Time Machine?
     
  9. Neil321 macrumors 68040

    Neil321

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  10. GreatDrok macrumors 6502a

    GreatDrok

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    #10
    My old 40GB 3G iPod syncs over firewire and my 5.5G 80GB only syncs over USB. It takes twice as long to sync the USB one against the same iTunes library. I also have several USB and firewire 400 external drives and the firewire ones are easily twice as quick as USB2.
     
  11. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #11
    I can attest to this as well.

    I actually performed a test with my old iPod using FW and USB, and from a strictly observational point of view, I found that FW was indeed roughly twice as fast (it gets faster with larger transfers since USB seems to "fade.").

    Is it worth it? I think very much so. 20 or 30 quid sounds like a lot at first, but I think the time savings are very worth while (especially if you transfer lots of data even on a semi-frequent basis).

    I advise you to check out online stores, because they usually compete in price better. 20 to 30 GBP sounds like a steep premium (IIRC, I've seen the difference go as low as $10 USD) so check this out before making your final purchase.
     
  12. ajx22 macrumors regular

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    #12
    As stated - with small files; you won't see a huge speed difference...however with larger files - you will definitely see increased performance due to FW being able to sustain the faster transfer speeds vs USB only hitting maximum transfer rates in short bursts.

    I have & use both USB 2 & FW (400 & 800) - and any future hardware purchases will definitely be FW.
     
  13. gdesalvo@umail. macrumors member

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    #13
    FW400 or 800 is much much faster than USB2.0 when transferring a large number of small files. If you only work with humongous files >100mb you probably will not notice the difference. If you are transferring a lot of small movies, songs or pictures the FW is your best friend as the transfer rate will be noticeably faster.

    I bought one of each and am kicking myself for not spending the extra 20$ for the firewire on my second drive. It literally takes twice to three times as long to back up my hard disk with all the small files that i have.
     
  14. tony-in-japan macrumors regular

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    #14
    I have a Powerbook with Firewire and two USB 2.0.

    I have always found that when backing up large files, firewire is definitely faster -- it is ideal for this job. (I have a 20GB firewire iPod and also a 100GB USB 2.0 Lacie hard-drive).

    It also bugs me that sometimes I have to use two USB plugs for my Lacie Hard-drive (one for power).
     
  15. ziwi macrumors 65816

    ziwi

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    #15
    Firewire always seems faster for me. USB2 is OK, but the FW just seems faster.
     
  16. JNB macrumors 604

    JNB

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    #16
    "Although high-speed USB 2.0 runs at a higher signaling rate (480 Mbit/s) than FireWire 400, typical USB PC-hosts rarely exceed sustained transfers of 35 MB/s (280 Mb/s), with 30 MB/s (240 Mb/s) being more typical (the theoretical limit for a USB 2 high-speed bulk transfer is 53.125 MB/s)."
    (Wikipedia)

    FW400 has sustained transfer rates of 400Mbit, nearly twice that of USB 2.0.
     
  17. aross99 macrumors 68000

    aross99

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    #17
    Another plus is that your firewire ports are less likely to be used than your USB ports...
     
  18. a104375 macrumors 6502

    a104375

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    #18
    firewire access's files differently than usb2.0 and the firewire access's faster
     
  19. anotherarunan thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    originally i thought there wasnt much of a difference...so the only reason i was considering firewire was because of that very reason :D

    also, i was randomly thinking...does anyone think apple are showing signs of moving away from firewire? Just that i noticed time capusle and the MBA dont have firewire ports although i know there are loadsa other reasons for this though.
     
  20. JNB macrumors 604

    JNB

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    #20
    Apple is hardly "moving away" from FireWire as they developed it. Time Capsule doesn't have it because there are no FireWire printers--remember, the Mac connects to it via the network, and the USB port is to connect other peripherals. The MBA doesn't have it more from a space consideration than anything else, I'd venture.
     
  21. tony-in-japan macrumors regular

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    #21
    I think there would be outcry if firewire was gradually being phased out on the pro models as it is still the best way to transfer large files (e.g. video), plus many digital camcorders use firewire too.

    But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the consumer/lifestyle models losing the firewire in the near future, keeping to USB and gradually moving onto wireless.

    It has already happened with the iPods. Apple started moving away from using firewire from the 4th generation iPod Classics and started only using USB on all their iPods.

    For fail-safe future compatibility with newer computers, one option for your external HD is to get a dual USB/Firewire model. I have seen them around.
     
  22. JNB macrumors 604

    JNB

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    #22
    I can see where you might think that, but there's a flaw in that analysis. USB was phased out on the iPods more for a compatibility with a large number of computers (Windows) that didn't--and in many cases, still don't--have FireWire. Also, USB implementation would have made the Shuffle and many of the newer flash-based models problematic because of size.

    The "consumer" Macs are used for a lot of high-speed external drives, and are the only useful way to get video into the Mac, and a lot of video is done by "consumers"--look ad any low-end video cam, they're all FireWire.

    While the fastest FireWire (800, soon 3200) may only be seen on MBP & MP, the lower speed will likely always be available on the iMac & MB. The MBA is a unique case, and really can't bee used to extrapolate a future path for connectivity across the product line.
     
  23. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    #23
    It would be very hard to use Time Machine as a benchmark program. The time that Time Machine takes depends mostly on the number of files you are changing. Adding three movies worth 2 GB takes no time at all, adding a few thousand tiny files takes ages. You might easily have compared two backups doing different things.
     

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