Real World FW800/400 vs USB 2

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by BEEFc58, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. BEEFc58 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    #1
    Sorry for another thread on this. I know that this horse has been beaten to death on this site, but I still have a couple of questions.

    So, it is pretty well known that FW800/400 is faster than USB 2 (please do not dispute this, it is not the reason for the new thread), but what does that really mean to me? When am I going to see the difference? Do I only really see it if I am using an external hard drive to run programs and/or photo shopping directly on the external hard drive (something that requires a lot of power)? Or will I see it if I am running a movie off the external hard drive or using the external hard drive as backup? I guess that I really don't care if it takes an 5min or 7min to transfer a 5gig file... but I would care if my movie looks better or if the transfer time was 30sec compared to 7min.

    The reason that I am asking this, is that I am trying to figure my setup for the future. I currently have a external hard drive hooked up through USB to my Airport Extreme. I use it as an Air Disk to back up my Macbook and for additional file storage. I also have my Mac Mini hooked up though LAN to my Airport Extreme so that I can run movies off the hard drive. Everything in this setup works great. Everything seems to run very quickly. The most time that I wait is for the external hard drive to start up from sleeping. But am I missing something by not running FW800/400 to my Mini?

    Also, it seems as if Apple is now phasing out FW to the general public (say what you want, but having only USB 2 in the new MB, MBA and Cinema is a big statement), so is there any advantage to purchasing a product that might be more limited in the future?

    Thanks for the read and your comments are appreciated.

    BEEF
     
  2. hughvane macrumors 6502

    hughvane

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    Location:
    Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
    #2
    If it is of any help in your making a decision, I regularly watch movies from an external hard drive via USB. There is no discernible lag. But it gets more interesting - or confusing. If I try to watch a dvd movie on an external firewire 400 Pioneer drive, there is frequent lag [yes, I've tried different ports and cables etc].

    As to your final question, my view is that firewire will stay on, and that in due course, high-speed USB adaptors/hubs/converters will appear. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-firewire-to-usb-adapter.htm Why Apple chose to phase firewire out of the MB is a mystery to me. Is there going to be a major push toward wireless connectivity, or is there some sort of USB revolution about to happen?
     
  3. BEEFc58 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    #3
    Anyone else have thoughts on this? Previous threads has a lot of replies.

    Any help would be great!

    Thanks,

    BEEF
     
  4. emt1 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #4
    Firewire vs. USB cannot affect video quality. The only difference is speed. Firewire 800 is significantly faster than USB and you'd probably notice a difference, but you said that speed isn't a big deal. To me, it's worth it to keep the ext HD connected to the Airport for the added convenience.
     
  5. EdbBob macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #5
    In your setup I would continue using USB. As you say it works ;)

    But that said I've experiences a great performance leap running FW800 drives straight to the Mac. My 2TB WD Mybook reads about 70 MB/s, but I only need it for film editing. If you connect two FW800 drives FW allows the two drives to connect directly without charging your computer as much, but USB on the other hand, doesn't use CPU that much from what I experienced. Large amounts of data from one FW drive to another is unbeatable by usb, but how often do you need that?

    Check my thread about "Poor mans SSD". I've experimented a lot with measuring USB performance in real life...
     
  6. BEEFc58 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    #6
    EdbBob - Thanks for the reply, that is great info. One question for you, when you say that you use FW800 for film editing, what is the time to transfer a 2 gig file though it? What would it be if you used USB?

    I am just trying to put permitters around what people are stating. If that is too arbitrary (and tough to put a number to), if it takes USB 2 min to transfer 2 gigs, does it take USB 3 min or 10 min?

    Thanks for the help, I will take a look at your thread

    BEEF
     
  7. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #7
    Here's a test I just ran, using a folder with 7.11GB:
    From 200GB 7200rpm HDD to 200GB 7200rpm external
    FW 800 - 5 min 52 sec
    FW 400 - 5 min 57 sec
    USB 2.0 - 6 min 34 sec
     
  8. emt1 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    #8
    Hard drive fragmentation clearly had a significant effect on your results. These results should not be taken as gospel. I would be interested to see the results on a defragmented hard drive and the transfer of one single file.
     
  9. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #9
    They weren't offered as "gospel". I made no qualifications on the results. I just posted the raw data. Draw whatever assumptions you care to.

    However, fragmentation is the same for all 3, since the only thing that changed was the connection. Therefore, it's a realistic apples-to-apples comparison.
     
  10. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #10
    I have a feeling that the limiting factor in this test was the drives themselves. In theory FW800 should be twice as fast but obviously that is not the case in this test. This is a good base example to work from.

    The main benefit of FW is the sustained throughput. As long as the drive can spit it out then FW will try to shove it out that fast.
     
  11. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #11
    I think some people forget that the speed of any data transfer is limited not only by the method of connection, but by the source and destination devices. For example, a website could be slow to load, even on a fast cable-modem connection, if the host server is slow. Likewise, having a FW800 connection won't help if the device you're reading from isn't capable of delivering data faster than USB 2.0 speed.

    Edit: Now this is bizarre! I just repeated the test, this time copying the same 7.11GB folder (7,634,575,364 bytes) FROM the external drive TO my Mac HD. Here are the rather surprising results:
    FW 800 - 6 mins 54 sec
    FW 400 - 10 mins 38 sec
    USB 2.0 - 6 mins 43 sec​
    ???
     
  12. BEEFc58 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2007
    #12
    Thanks for all the posts guys. Very interesting stuff. From reading other posts, I am actually surprised that USB2 ran as fast as it did.

    I guess what I am going to take from this is that FW is better, but if it costs substantially more to buy a device with FW, it might not be worth it as USB is not that much slower for the average user.

    If there are any other thoughts on the matter, please post. I would love to learn more.

    Thanks for all your replies!

    BEEF
     

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