USB 2.0 faster than Firewire?

mac's my homie

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
27
0
South Carolina
I was at Best Buy the other day looking for another external HD. I told the employee in that area that I need an external HD with Firewire.

After we looked at some different models he told me that USB 2.0 if faster than Firewire. "What!?!" He said that "Firewire is only better because it doesn't loose speed with length. USB 2.0 does. So if I'm using a short cable, USB 2.0 is faster."

We never specified whether he was talking about 400 or 800 (which I wish I would have.) I was just too shocked that the tiny USB cord is faster than my sweet Firewire cord. And also how much cheaper USB is over Firewire.

I did go with the USB 2.0, but can't tell any difference compared to my Firewire external HD.

(the new Seagate 320gb USB 2.0 compared to my Lacie 300gb Firewire 400)

Was he crazy or correct? Was I an idiot for believing him?
 

invasian

macrumors regular
Jun 7, 2007
184
0
Houston
someone asked a question on firewire with an ide drive versus usb 2.0 with a sata drive in another thread

i assume that maybe the write speeds with the usb2.0/sata combo may be on par if not superior to the firewire/ide combo, but the read would go to the firewire?

no clue, but that may explain some differences.
 

xUKHCx

Administrator emeritus
Jan 15, 2006
12,587
6
The Kop
USB 2.0 is technically faster than Firewire 400 (480 Mbs vs 400 Mbs).

However that is only burst speed and Firewire 400 is a better performer. Also USB has some dependancies which means it gets slower as the computer is under load. USB is only faster on paper, for normal applications like copying small files say 100 MBs you will not notice the difference but for booting the computer from an external, from my own personal experince, firewire easily beats USB. For Digital Video applications Firewire is definitley the way to go, much higher sustained data rates.

So technically he was correct but i would say he is crazy as it isnt the whole truth, for example a Pentium P4 3 Ghz is faster than a Core 2 Duo 2.16 Ghz but which is actually faster.
 

etoiles

macrumors 6502a
Jun 12, 2002
826
4
Where the air is crisp
I have two external harddrives, one USB and the other Firewire... I noticed that Firewire is significantly faster than USB when I am copying a lot of individual (small) files. If I wrap things up in an archive, it is about the same speed.
 

yellow

Moderator emeritus
Oct 21, 2003
16,033
1
Portland, OR
The theoretical max speed of USB2.0 is slightly faster than that of FW400. 80Mbps faster, which is 10 Megabytes per second faster. Remember, these are theoretical speeds.

Firewire is faster for sustained data transfer because of the way it moved data. USB 2.0 is faster for small (agregate) data transfers. It uses bursts to move data from point A to point B.

http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html

Also note, the USB2.0 implementation in Macs (pre-Intels) was piss poor. They have gotten a bit better with the release of the Intel Macs, but IMO, they are still not the same as on a 'real' PC.
 

-hh

macrumors 68030
Jul 17, 2001
2,527
323
NJ Highlands, Earth
I was at Best Buy the other day...
I was too.

I picked up one of those firmware-driven LCD picture frames. I was strongly advised to buy their $19 extended warranty contract..."in case it gets a virus".


Yeah, a virus on a firmware device.

Just another example of how Best Buy isn't a fountain of objective information on technology.


-hh
 

iBookG4user

macrumors 604
Jun 27, 2006
6,596
2
Seattle, WA
The theoretical max speed of USB2.0 is slightly faster than that of FW400. 80Mbps faster, which is 1 Megabyte per second faster. Remember, these are theoretical speeds.

Firewire is faster for sustained data transfer because of the way it moved data. USB 2.0 is faster for small (agregate) data transfers. It uses bursts to move data from point A to point B.

http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html

Also note, the USB2.0 implementation in Macs (pre-Intels) was piss poor. They have gotten a bit better with the release of the Intel Macs, but IMO, they are still not the same as on a 'real' PC.
USB's theoretical max is 10 megabytes faster, as 80mbps/8 = 10mbps. But I agree FireWire is noticeably faster when transferring files, I've used both FireWire and USB external hard drives and i much prefer the FireWire because of the extra speed.
 

displaced

macrumors 65816
Jun 23, 2003
1,425
180
Gravesend, United Kingdom
I'll always choose FW over USB for storage devices. Couple of reasons:

As noted, FW is more capable of sustained transfers at its maximum speed. How it does this is rather nifty. Each firewire device is actually granted direct access to an area of address space (basically, RAM) on the system it's connected to. So, when you start a copy, the system basically tells the device to dump data directly into the Mac's RAM, from where the Mac can directly access the data. The processor or any other controller on the Mac isn't required at all. This intelligence is why Firewire (or, to give it its proper name, IEEE 1394) is used for other device-to-device connections. For example, I can connect my DV video camera directly to my DVD recorder using firewire and copy video straight away - no computer needed.

Secondly, the power output of a firewire port is much greater than USB. I've chained 2 2.5" hard disks off my laptop's firewire port -- not a single AC adapter in sight. Since I'm using a laptop, I want to avoid requiring an AC source whenever possible.

yellow said:
Also note, the USB2.0 implementation in Macs (pre-Intels) was piss poor. They have gotten a bit better with the release of the Intel Macs, but IMO, they are still not the same as on a 'real' PC.
Whilst certainly true that PPC Macs had awful USB 2 performance, I can't verify the comment about Intel Macs being slower. I've got pretty good USB2 performance on my MBP! Besides, any apparent slowdown would be due to OS X's USB driver, nothing to do with hardware, which is a normal Intel component. Not like the PPC Macs whose problem was Apple's hardware implementation of the USB controller.
 

savar

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2003
1,952
0
District of Columbia
However that is only burst speed and Firewire 400 is a better performer. Also USB has some dependancies which means it gets slower as the computer is under load. USB is only faster on paper, for normal applications like copying small files say 100 MBs you will not notice the difference but for booting the computer from an external, from my own personal experince, firewire easily beats USB. For Digital Video applications Firewire is definitley the way to go, much higher sustained data rates.
And USB loads your CPU a bit, whereas firewire has more logic in the firewire chipset, so your CPU is barely used at all.

The big question is do you have hard drive that can sustain 400Mbps in the first place? Probably not. I would guess that most consumer drives are currently in the 100Mbps to 200Mbps range.
 

mac's my homie

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
27
0
South Carolina
It always blows my mind when I see the wealth of knowledge available here in the MacRumors:Forums!

I think you guys are exactly right, the "facts" he told me were correct, it's "technically" faster in a way. But I will never go with another USB 2.0 again.

I prefer my Firewire HD much more, ESPECIALLY when editing video.

The sad thing is, I specifically told that guy that I was editing video, and he still recommended the USB 2.0.

What's even more sad is that I was about to pay $200 more for the Firewire. So it would have benefited his sales!

It's amazing how confident people can be in their arrogance!
 

xUKHCx

Administrator emeritus
Jan 15, 2006
12,587
6
The Kop
$200 more ?

When looking at buying external caddies for me drives i found that Firewire Oxford 911 chipset (the best firewire or at least when i was looking) was only an extra £15 over just USB 2.0.
 

bigandy

macrumors G3
Apr 30, 2004
8,852
0
Murka
The sad thing is, I specifically told that guy that I was editing video, and he still recommended the USB 2.0.
I'd ensure to go back, just to point and laugh at him.

:rolleyes:

If you don't go for FireWire, go for eSATA. I've got my eyes on the LaCie Quadra with an eSATA/ExpressCard for my MBP, because it's even quicker than FireWire 800 ;)
 

statikcat

macrumors 6502
Mar 20, 2007
263
0
As stated above: USB has a higher burst speed than firewire. However, when you look at overall speed over time firewire is faster

When I transfer large files firewire is always faster. It also has more bandwidth for doing realtime video and audio.
 

gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
16,596
3,219
As stated above: USB has a higher burst speed than firewire. However, when you look at overall speed over time firewire is faster

When I transfer large files firewire is always faster. It also has more bandwidth for doing realtime video and audio.
With Firewire, a device can reserve bandwidth for itself, and it is guaranteed to get that bandwidth. For example, a MiniDV tape runs at exactly 28,800,000 bit per second or 3,600,000 bytes per second. When you copy data from or to tape, it needs exactly that bandwidth; anything less is not enough, anything more is unused. With Firewire, the camera can reserve exactly that bandwidth, and it is guaranteed that the bandwidth is there, no matter what anyone else is trying to do. That means your data transfer from/to tape is guaranteed to work. USB doesn't give such a guarantee.
 

mac's my homie

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
27
0
South Carolina
$200 more ?

When looking at buying external caddies for me drives i found that Firewire Oxford 911 chipset (the best firewire or at least when i was looking) was only an extra £15 over just USB 2.0.
I wish it was the same here. From what I've seen, there is a big price difference in HD with Firewire and HD with only USB 2.0


With Firewire, a device can reserve bandwidth for itself, and it is guaranteed to get that bandwidth. For example, a MiniDV tape runs at exactly 28,800,000 bit per second or 3,600,000 bytes per second. When you copy data from or to tape, it needs exactly that bandwidth; anything less is not enough, anything more is unused. With Firewire, the camera can reserve exactly that bandwidth, and it is guaranteed that the bandwidth is there, no matter what anyone else is trying to do. That means your data transfer from/to tape is guaranteed to work. USB doesn't give such a guarantee.

This is very insightful!
 

Mac-Addict

macrumors 65816
Aug 30, 2006
1,421
2
London
I was too.

I picked up one of those firmware-driven LCD picture frames. I was strongly advised to buy their $19 extended warranty contract..."in case it gets a virus".


Yeah, a virus on a firmware device.

Just another example of how Best Buy isn't a fountain of objective information on technology.


-hh
Ah you should of got the $19 extra warranty Picture Frames are a big hackers target what with the fact they are openly connected to the internet allowing anyone to, oh wait... emrm... nvm. :rolleyes:
 

Brundlefly

macrumors member
Oct 4, 2003
78
0
Hamilton Ontario
Barefeats has the info

looks like FW blows the doors of usb 2.0 in real world testing

http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html

apparently USB has to pass through the CPU, which if you are doing something intensive, like running motion, it will be clogged for data transfer. FW is independent of the CPU and thus can maintain much faster steady rates. ie: no dropped frames.
 

pengu

macrumors 6502a
Mar 20, 2005
576
0
Diddily Daddily...
I've got my eyes on the LaCie Quadra with an eSATA/ExpressCard for my MBP, because it's even quicker than FireWire 800 ;)
i picked up a 500GB LaCie Quadra week before last (im using it via fw800 to my g5) and the only downside (which is common) is the lack of an internal power supply. the power brick isnt huge, but its a pain.