What Is FireWire (and How Best to Use It)
Subject:   FW vs USB
Date:   2005-07-28 01:08:35
From:   Synchro
I don't think there's much chance of Apple phasing out FW. It's a way superior technology than USB 2.0 for the kind of things it's used for. Despite USB 2.0's theoretically higher bit rate, it very rarely gets anywhere near as fast as FW400 in reality - you can expect a USB 2 HD to get about 12-18Mb/sec, whereas FW400 will usually have little trouble delivering 50Mb/sec (assuming the drive can keep up!). USB also requires a controlling host - it's not peer to peer like FW - for example a FW hard disk can be written to directly by a camera without having to go via your computer (support for this is heavily dependent on the device's FW implementation of course).
USB2 also provides very little power, so it's next to impossible to run big HDs off bus power. Apple's laptops are amongst the only ones that provide 6-pin FW connections for full power peripherals. USB2 certainly has its place as it's cheaper to implement and lower power, so keyboards, mice, card readers, monitors etc are all good candidates.
I think it's a shame that they changed the connector with FW800, though I understand there are short-circuit possibilities with FW400 connectors that needed to be addressed (and I've seen someone brute-force a plug in upside-down).
Yamaha's mLan music system is also based on FW, and stands a good chance of becoming a practical upgrade for MIDI and audio cabling.