Getting the best speed from a FireWire 800 card

by on December 30, 2008

Q: What transfer speeds can I expect to get when using FireWire 800 interface cards? For instance, a FireWire 800 to PCI isn’t going to get you 800 MB per second, is it? Likewise, PCMCIA has speed limitations. These device manufactures don’t bother to provide details on interface limitations.

A: Excellent question! As you know, most computers do not have FireWire 800 built-in. Part of the reason for this is that FireWire 800 connections are often faster than the devices to which you are connecting. For example, traditional hard drives read/write data at speeds far below FireWire 800’s capabilities. Additionally, the Front Side Bus in many computers is too slow for FireWire 800.

But because FireWire 400 is slightly slower than many external devices, FireWire 800 is a great technology for many multimedia professionals. If you own a desktop computer, you will probably achieve the fastest FireWire 800 speeds by using a PCI Express card. For best laptop performance, you should use ExpressCard technology. The links below will help you to select the best Firewire 800 card for your situation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ExpressCard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_1394_interface
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#eSATA_in_comparison_to_other_external_buses

Tip: Although I and many other geeks feel that FireWire-based technology is superior to USB-based technology, Apple (the main creator of FireWire) and other companies are abondoning FireWire-based technologies in favor of USB-based solutions such USB 2.0 and the upcomming USB 3.0. Invest in FireWire-based solutions at your own risk!

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