How to Choose the Best FireWire Products

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Apple introduced the technology for high-speed data transfer through a serial bus interface in the late 1980s. FireWire, also known as IEEE 1294 interface, was way ahead of its time in that it allowed people to connect external devices to their computer without bogging down the CPU. Even through many different versions of FireWire cables exist, the best products to get depends on the compatibility of the computer and external device


Difference Between FireWire and USB Connections

Since FireWire cables with USB cables look similar and serve similar functions, some may confuse the two. FireWire cables work best with external devices that need to transfer high amounts of data, such as a camcorder or DVD player because they allow for much faster transfer speeds than USB. Some FireWire interfaces can transfer up to 800 Mbps, while the fastest USB 3.0 connections allow speeds up to 100 Mbps. Realistically, USB 3.0 connections only transfer around 50 Mbps. Additionally, FireWire is not host-based like USBs are, which means that two external devices can connect via a FireWire cable and share data without needing a computer to facilitate the communication.


Identifying the Computer's Connection

First of all, users should find out if their computer supports FireWire on top of USB. USB ports are easy to identify; they are rectangular with a thin tab inside. However, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 ports look different, and they should both have the Y-shaped symbol or "1294" located next to the ports. FireWire 400 ports look rectangular with a rounded end, and FireWire 800 ports are square, but much smaller than USB ports.


FireWire 400 and 800

Older Apple devices likely use the original FireWire 400 cables, which still transfer more data than the fastest USB cables at up to 400 Mbps. Their maximum cable length is 4.5 m. Next came FireWire 800 cables, which transfer up to 800 Mbps, and have a maximum length of 100 m. Those who have a newer computer, but an older external device can use a FireWire 800 to 400 cable. Moreover, FireWire to USB adapters accommodate those who do not have any available USB ports on their computer. Since FireWire technology can transfer so much data, users have the option of using a FireWire hub without any transfer speed issues. USB hubs, on the other hand, quickly lose speed as users plug in more devices.

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