USB 2.0 or FireWire?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Keytachi, Oct 15, 2007.

  1. Keytachi macrumors regular

    Sep 14, 2006
    i need to buy an external HD, but i am unsure of which one to get. there is a LaCie 320GB USB 2.0 for 85€ and a LaCie 250GB FireWire for 115€ im intersted in. but you can see right away why im so unsure on which to buy (if your cant ill explain it now)
    the first one has 2x the storage capabilities then the 2nd and costs much less, however its USB. the other, well has 2x less the storage of the 1st one, costs more, but is FireWire.
    What i ask is: is the difference from FW to USB so big that its worth paying more for less storage?
  2. sbluetruck macrumors regular


    Jul 25, 2007
    Wisconsin der hey
    the biggest and best difference between USB 2.0 and FW (all kinds) is the way they transfer data. personally, i'd say that it's more than worth it to invest in the FW model.

    here's the difference in speeds. Even though on paper, the transfer rate of USB 2.0 is ~480Mb/s, USB sends information in "bursts" or "packets" which takes a much longer time because transfer speeds are not sustained. Firewire basically "streams" data over the cable which means that Firewire 400 (6 pin) has a transfer rate of ~400Mb/s and FW 800 (9 pin) has a transfer rate of, no way, ~800Mb/s

    as you can see, USB looks like the clear winner on paper, but theoretically and in real life, Firewire is practically always faster.

    time for a story!

    so this weekend i had to transfer 12GB of data off my dying external drive. it took 20 minutes to do it over firewire 400 which blew my socks off. you want to know why it blew my socks off? when i copied 10GB of music off someone's computer using USB 2.0, it took over an hour :eek:!

    now you can see where i'm getting at.

    I have also noticed that overall performance while using the drive on FW is more pleasureable. Until my longer FW cable came, I used a USB cable and I got beachballs frequently and iTunes slowed down between songs (music was on external).

    also, an advantage of FW is that you can create bootable disk image backups, in case your internal drive kicked the bucket sometime in the near future (knock on wood)

    Hope this helps!!

    EDIT: the first drive has about a third more storage than the second ;) (250x2=500GB=/=320)
  3. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Technically, 320 is not twice as much as 250. :)

    But I'd say yes, firewire is absolutely worth it. I have had similar experiences where, for multiple gigabytes of copying, FW is literally 2-3 as fast as USB overall.

    Of course, FW vs. USB has nothing to do with the drive inside the caddy. You can certainly buy an empty enclosure and put whatever you want in it, so that the cost different is purely the interface cost difference. In the US, I would expect to pay about $30 pure interface cost markup, so I guess, comparatively, between the 30 Euro price difference and the size difference, that sounds slightly steep to me. But only slightly.
  4. lancestraz macrumors 6502a


    Nov 27, 2005
  5. sbluetruck macrumors regular


    Jul 25, 2007
    Wisconsin der hey
    my external enclosure cost me $30 bc i had an old drive, but seriously, third part case enclosure has gone to hell and unpacked. you're not gonna find a better quality than the LaCie's and WD's now-a-days.

    sure, it is theoretically cheaper to build it yourself, but it's also less hassle and you have a warenty coverage if you buy a name brand one. Apple sells some quality drives.

    i got this one for my brother in college and he loves it! reliable and pretty sharp looking.

    FW is the way to go by far

Share This Page