FireWire Port Comparison for Upgrading Your PC

The FireWire 800 version B port — which can pump 800 Mbps between your PC and an external device — began showing up on Macs in the first months of 2003. This port is now available for any power-user PC. If your PC doesn’t have one and you have FireWire 800 devices you need to connect, you can add a FireWire 800 port to your current machine with a port adapter card.

Unfortunately, unlike USB, the FireWire 800 connector is a different shape from the FireWire 400 connector. To connect a FireWire 400 device to a FireWire 800 port, you’ll need an inexpensive go-between adapter. No biggie.

IEEE 1394 is the techie name for FireWire. You might come across this term in your computer and peripheral travels.

Although USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, and eSATA all leave FireWire far behind in terms of transfer speed, there are two reasons why the FireWire standard is still in use:

  • Device support: FireWire has been around since 1996 on most DV equipment, so it’s a well-recognized standard. (If you’re using older video hardware, FireWire is the common denominator.)

  • Control over connection: Ignore the engineer-speak. Basically, this feature allows you to control your FireWire device from your PC. For example, if you have a DV camcorder with a FireWire port, you can control your camcorder from your keyboard.

    Just click Play within your editing software, and your camera jumps into action just as though you had pressed the Play button on the DV camcorder itself. Although USB can send a basic signal or two to the device (for instance, a command to erase an image from your digital camera), it’s nowhere near as sophisticated as the control over your connection that’s possible with a FireWire connection.

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