USB 2 vs. Firewire External Hard Drive

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by raya, Sep 19, 2007.

  1. raya macrumors newbie

    Sep 19, 2007
    I have just purchased my mac book pro and am about to start editing a doc project with final cut and an external hard drive. I have heard different takes on editing with a USB 2.0 vs firewire external HDs, and would be so very grateful if someone could clarify once and for all.

    Is a firewire ext. HD truly more reliable for editing large projects?

    I currently have a USB 2.0 Lacie / 250GB / 7200rpm / 8BM buffer. I would be very happy not to have to purchase another HD, but I would also like to avoid having to transfer all of my captured material to a new HD partway through the project.

    Your tech-wisdom is greatly appreciated ~
  2. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    FW is the way to go. It has higher sustained thru put which is what you want for video editing.

  3. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    Sure FW is better but USB 2 is 100% fine for DV and HDV. I have FW400 and USB2 on my HD, i use USB 2 because the cam is plugged into the FW port. Eventually i would like a Lacie BigDisk Extreme FW800, but it is certainly not required. So USB 2 will do just fine for DV and HDV. Anything with a higher data rate and you may want to look into FW800.
  4. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    You can end up with dropped frames if you're using USB.

    Just stick with firewire.
  5. 4God macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2005
    My Mac
    Firewire for now, but I'm excited to see what USB 3.0 brings next year. ;)
  6. Texas04 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 2, 2005
    I have used USB 2.0 for many years, and I also have a FireWire Hub for my MBP and recently purchased a External Firewire drive. Both have worked fine for editing. I do have to agree that my firewire "feels" more reliable, but in reality I have seen no difference in editing.

    Both are fine, use what you like.

    In expert opinion though, firewire is preffered. Though USB 2.0 works just fine.

    I use FCE, LiveType, and Soundtrack.
  7. colorspace macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2005
    I've used USB 2 drives often on my PB/iBook/MBs with no adverse effect. That said, when available I always prefer FW.

    my 0.02
  8. ivi7 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2007
    a hd with FW 800 would be your best option although usb 2.0 is not far behind.
  9. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    USB 2.0 is QUITE far behind Firewire 800, since it's behind Firewire 400.
  10. ivi7 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 17, 2007
    I wasn't talking in terms of speed but yes your right its nearly double the speed of usb
  11. jrw7 macrumors newbie

    Sep 22, 2007
    USB 2 vs. Firewire External Hard Driv

    I recently bought a Rocstor 800 FW exteranl HD. It is very fast, and reliable. I use it as a duplicate backup HD, and it is exceptional.
  12. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    This has been discussed... soooo extensively. Go look at actual burst transfer performance statistics. Don't just believe the label that says 480MBPS.... FW400 is substantially faster than USB2 when transferring large amounts of data. FW800 is faster than FW400, but depending on the situation, possibly only by 20-30% (it could be a lot more, but certain other factors may bottleneck the system....)
  13. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    Usually the FW400/FW800 drives cost a little bit more than ones with only USB2, but I think the cost is worth it. FW400/800 are faster for continuous throughput. I would by a drive that is USB2/FW400 and possibly USB2/FW400/FW800. Two advantages - 1) You never know when you'll want to plug your drive into your friends USB2-only PC; 2) In theory the FW400 interface could fail, but the USB2 or FW800 would still be working in which case you don't need to buy a new enclosure. Basically you have redundant interface options.
  14. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    My understanding is USB 2.0 is 480 BURST, so it's not a constant flow of information, whereas FW 400/800 is a constant stream of information.
  15. wing70301 macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2007
    I went to Japan this summer on a missions trip. While there, I brought my video camera, MBP, and my firewire/usb 2.0 drive. Unfortunately, both firewire ports had died on the hard drive, so I was forced to use USB. "No big deal", I thought. Boy was I wrong. I would log and capture all the footage that I shot for that day (The total amount ended up being over 16 hours of footage). Since we would end the day late, and start the next early, I didn't have time to sit around and watch the log and capture process to make sure everything would be okay. So I would log and capture my video, then head to sleep. Let me tell you, there were so many times where I woke up the next morning, only to find out that only 10 minutes of the footage was captured because of dropped frames. I NEVER had dropped frames when I was running with firewire.

    Even if USB runs perfectly fine for you, I'd just go firewire all the way. It's more reliable and more stable. And I think that's the best option to go for in the end.
  16. airmac macrumors regular

    Aug 26, 2003

    If I recall correctly, with firewire you put less stress on processors.

  17. seany916 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2006
    Southern California
    eSATA is your best option if you're running multiple streams in HD

    FW400 is fine for HDV and DV (about 4 DV streams?)

    FW800 would be slightly better.

    Don't let your cables run past 15 feet or so if you daisy chain your drives.

    G-technology quad takes usb 2.0, fw4, fw8, eSATA...

    great hard drives

    bit pricey, but we haven't had one fail yet

    (currently running 6 of their drives)
  18. aloofman macrumors 68020


    Dec 17, 2002
    I think this is really the way to go. Pay a little extra for the flexibility of all the connectors. I use Firewire all the way for video editing, but at home I have few Firewire ports to work with on a Mac Mini, so I swap the cables out and use USB 2 when I just need to copy data to the external drive. And like hayduke said, then you're sure you can hook it up to other PCs if need be.
  19. pxlmvr7 macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2006
    USB vs. FW

    The difference between USB and Firewire is that they were designed for two basic functions. Firewire is designed for a constant, steady flow of information, which is essential for video. USB is not designed for that and though they may have similar transfer speeds, Firewire is designed to prevent dropped frames whereas USB is great for general storage or transfer in which consistent time in not an issue.

    IEEE 1394, or firewire has the advantage of being able to deliver data both asynchronously and isochronously. In asynchronous mode, transfers can be interrupted; in isonchronous mode, data is transferred without interruption. USB can only transfer asynchronously.

    Typical USB devices can barely synchronise data streams on millisecond
    time scales. This is only just good enough to synchronize the left and right channels of a pair of low quality PC audio speakers.

    So IEEE 1394 is the way to go for video and other time sensitive applications.

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