Firewire Vs USB

Two of the premier high speed serial bus interfaces used in computing today are Firewire and USB. Both technologies are popular in the consumer market as high speed connectors for external devices that can be attached to computers. This article is aimed at making a Firewire vs USB comparison for those of you who need to choose between these technologies.

Firewire Vs USB Comparison
It is always good to have a problem of plenty, rather than a problem of scarcity, when it comes to choosing between technologies. That way you have more options when making a choice and get the most suited combination for your needs. When it comes to serial bus interfaces, that are used in connecting external storage devices and other accessories, the two choices are Firewire or USB. The key point in a Firewire Vs USB comparison, that you should look for is speed of data transfer. I will not go into a specific Firewire vs USB 2.0 or Firewire vs USB 3.0 comparison but point out the differences in general. Here is a thorough comparison of both the technologies for your perusal.

Firewire Vs USB: History
Before we get into the technical comparison of Firewire vs USB, let us have a brief look at their historical development. Firewire development was initiated by Apple and later developed with many other companies like Texas Instruments in collaboration with an IEEE(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) working group. After development completion in 1995, it was officially released by the name of 'IEEE 1394 High Speed Serial Bus'. Firewire is the name given by Apple to their version of that standard. Texas instruments released this product by the name of Lynx, while Sony's version is called I.Link. At start, the speed of transfer offered by Firewire was 400 Mbps. Subsequent version of this standard have been released with higher data transfer speeds.

Now let us have a look at the history of USB development. The first USB devices were developed in 1996 by a research collaboration between many companies including IBM, Intel, Digital, Compaq, Microsoft.The thought behind its development was to make connection of external peripheral devices more easier and at high speeds. At the start the USB 1.0 specification had a data transfer speed of 12 Mbps. Subsequently USB 2.0 was released in 2001 and USB 3.0 was released in 2008.

Firewire Vs USB: Functionality & Features
Continuing with our Firewire vs USB comparison, let us see the differences is functionality and features between the two standards. Firewire provides isochronous data transfer in real time and is used in personal computers, audio, video aeronautical and automotive applications. This technology is also available for communication through fiber optic, wireless, as well as coaxial modes. All kinds of high end professional audio/video equipment use IEEE 1394 standard. Firewire devices are built for high speed application and are based on a 'peer to peer' architecture. This means that Firewire two devices like camcorders can directly communicate with each other without a computer as an intermediary. These ports are intelligent and can easily negotiate bus conflicts and easily determine which device can control data transfer in each case. Firewire devices have a 'Daisy Chain' type network topology. Both USB and Firewire have plug and play, as well as hot pluggable facility.

USB version 2.0 is based on a 'Master-Slave Architecture', where the computer is the master and handles all the control of data flow. This kind of architecture is also called host based. So, USB devices cannot communicate directly. They need a computer as intermediary. USB is used in connecting all kinds of peripheral devices including USB flash drives, digital cameras, scanners, printers, external hard drives, mice and keyboards to computers.

There are many USB connector types; all of which have four data pin connections. The rectangular USB-A connector is most common. Firewire comes with 4 pin, 6 pin and 9 pin connectors. USB devices have a 'Hub' type network topology. Read more on 'USB Network Hub'.

Firewire Vs USB: Speed & Performance
If you make a Firewire 400 vs USB 2.0 comparison, then there is not a lot of difference on paper when it comes to data transfer speeds. Firewire 400 standard provides a data transfer rate of 400 Mbps while USB 2.0 standard offers a data transfer rate up to 480 Mbps. In actual performance, Firewire devices are faster than USB owing partly to their peer to peer based architecture. The latest release of Firewire promises a data transfer speed of 800 Mbps, while USB 3.0 promises a transfer speed up to 4.8 Gbps! Read more on:
  • USB Flash Drive Recovery
  • How does a USB Jump Drive Work
  • USB External Hard Drive for Smart USB Storage
All said and done, the last point in the Firewire vs USB comparison is price. Firewire is more expensive than USB. Overall, Firewire should be preferred if you are looking for audio and video applications, while USB is the technology you should go for in case of computer peripherals. That concludes our whirlwind comparison of Firewire vs USB. Hope this article will help you in making a choice.

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