Originally Published: Thursday, 21 October 1999 Author: Stephen Morrow
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Reviews Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

USB 2.0 or FireWire: The Facts

We have done our research, and now we present the facts. Which should we develop for Linux first: USB 2.0 or FireWire? This has been a heated debate for some time. To this author, it appears to be no contest; however, for those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, here is some valuable information.

   Page 1 of 1  

We have done our research, and now we present the facts. Which should we develop for Linux first: USB 2.0 or FireWire? This has been a heated debate for some time. To this author, it appears to be no contest; however, for those of you unfamiliar with this phenomenon, here is some valuable information.

First, let's look at Apple's FireWire. FireWire is now an official industry standard (IEEE 1394), but is it really practical? It talks at 400 megabits per second, is not compatible with existing USB® devices, and it will not be compatible with the USB 2.0 devices either. FireWire is "hot swappable", meaning that it can be disconnected and connected without a reboot, and it supports 63 devices per Apple computer (no PC manufacturers have adopted this standard). It also provides the ability to draw power through the bus like USB does. FireWire and its peripherals, however, have an overall higher cost than existing USB and the projected cost for USB 2.0. According to Apple's FireWire® fact sheet we may actually be seeing many peripherals available for FireWire soon.

Now let's take a look at the upcoming USB 2.0 standard. USB 2.0 is not yet an industry standard, but that doesn't mean it may not soon become one. USB 2.0 communicates at a blazing 480 megabits per second, and is fully backward compatible with existing USB devices. USB 2.0 will also be "hot swappable" and will support up to 127 devices on a single computer be it Apple or PC (Apple is supplying it and FireWire on the its new iMAC). It still provides the ability to draw power through the bus, has a lower projected cost than Apple's FireWire, and the peripherals are projected to be cheaper as well. USB.org has not yet stated how many or what peripherals will soon be available for the upcoming USB 2.0 in their FAQ as of press time.

To me the choice has been made rather clear. With USB 2.0, I can still use my old peripherals, and blaze along at 480 Mbs with the new ones, but with FireWire I have to buy all new peripherals, can only use them on the Apple, and only get 400Mbs. By staying with the USB 2.0 standard I will end up getting a lower overall cost also. If I buy a PC, I will more than likely get the USB 2.0 standard, but if I buy the new iMAC I will receive both. So by buying the USB 2.0 peripherals I will be able to use them on both machines, but with FireWire I can only use them on my Apple. I see no reason to spend large amounts of time on FireWire when USB 2.0 does the job better. We here at Linux.com will continue to keep you up to date if anything changes on the USB 2.0 standards or the FireWire standards.

FireWire is a registered trademark of Apple Corporation. USB is trademark of Intel Corporation.





   Page 1 of 1