FireWire By Josh Blagden | JB - Mac Help | JBlagden

FireWire By Josh Blagden

FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394 is a rather useful interface which is commonly used for video. In fact, many mini-DV tape-based video cameras used FireWire to transfer the video to a computer, which will be covered in another article. 

FireWire 400 was the first version of FireWire and transferred data at a rate of 400 megabits/second, which is akin to USB 2’s speed, except that it was bilingual, which makes the actual bandwidth 800 megabits/second because data can travel across a FireWire cable in both directions simultaneously. The next second major revision was FireWire 800, which doubled the bandwidth to 800 in each of the two directions, which makes it nearly twice as fast as USB 2 in one lane and four times faster than USB 2 if both lanes are used simultaneously. This level of speed is the reason why many photographers and video professionals used FireWire external hard drives in place of those which use USB; FireWire 800 is twice as fast as USB 2 and can transfer data in both directions at the same time. 

Something to keep in mind is that between the two major revisions, there are three versions: four-pin, six-pin and nine-pin. The four-pin and six-pin varieties are Firewire 400 while the nine-pin type is FireWire 800.The four-pin variety was mainly used on cameras just as mini-HDMI and mini-USB is used on cameras today while the 6-pin variety was widely used on computers.

If you want an external hard drive for you Mac, FireWire 800 is still a good option as most Macs don’t have USB 3. My MacBook Pro has USB 2, FireWire 800 and Thunderbolt. USB 2 is too slow and Thunderbolt hard drives are too expensive to be worthwhile. So, I decided on a FireWire 800 hard drive. For what I do, it’s just right. I can transfer files to and from it at more than double the speed of USB 2, especially because data can travel both ways simultaneously.


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