USB 3.0 vs FireWire 3200
After long way of 8 years finally news came out that “USB got its first update” and with the promised transfer speed that is ten times faster than before, race for speed has begun. Many reporters have written that this will lead to the death of the competition, but they forgot to mention that FireWire has an update of its own. FireWire 3200 recently had its specifications ratified just as USB 3.0 did, and the two will certainly be competitive. But which one is better?
USB 3.0 is capable of transferring files at an impressive 4.8Gbps (gigabits per second), which is considerably faster than FireWire’s capabilities. The USB folks have made sure that the new USB is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, and although you can’t get USB 3.0 speeds without new hardware, you will still be able to run everything just the same. The power efficiency has also been revamped so that it should be less of a draw on your laptops or other computers, and the power output has been increased from 100 milliamps to 900 milliamps to make it faster to charge devices and easier to power them through USB too.
FireWire 3200 has a maximum capability of a 3.2Gbps transfer rate, which is 1.6Gbps slower than USB 3.0. However, it should also be noted that the P2P (peer to peer) architecture can usually deliver a higher percentage of the maximum rate than the master/slave architecture of USB can. FireWire 3200 is also backwards compatible with FireWire 800, and you can even plug your new FireWire 3200 hardware into the old FireWire 800 ports and instantly get the new 3.2Gbps speed. FireWire still has an edge in power output over USB too, even after all the improvements, making it even more capable of charging items or powering them through the cables.
There’s a lot to love about both specifications. USB 3.0 certainly constitutes a huge improvement over USB 2.0, and FireWire 3200 is also a useful (if less spectacular) update over FireWire 800. Despite the extra ground made up by USB 3.0, FireWire still maintains an edge in technical categories like the power management, the compatibility with previous versions, and quite possibly even the actual transfer rate. USB has two key things going for it though – it’s cheaper and more popular – which means it’s easier to buy (for your wallet) and easier to use (for your mainstream devices). FireWire has long been supported by Apple, whereas USB has been found in most Microsoft machines, and the difference reminds me a lot of the difference between the two companies. It’s important to remember that while USB 3.0 is great, and really does work well, FireWire is pretty great and works well too. Despite Apple seeming to back off of FireWire a little bit by not including it in the new MacBook, we should expect this specification to be around for a long time still. For the right jobs and the right people, it is still the best one out there.