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What is the difference between USB and Firewire?

USB VS FireWire

USB / FirewireThe ever-present Universal Serial Bus (USB) is now a standard feature on virtually every new PC. The "jack-of-all-trades" nature of USB has made it ideal for connecting additional peripherals without opening the computer. The drawback of the original USB standard (v1.1) was its relatively slow speed however most new PCs have adopted version 2.0 offering theoretical speeds up to 480Mbs. Both USB and Firewire feature "hot-swapping", which means you won't need to shut down and reboot your PC to attach or remove a peripheral.

FireWire, (technically known as IEEE 1394) is a serial input/output technology invented by Apple Computer with data transfer rates up to 400 megabits per second. A FireWire upgrade has been released and IEEE 1394b will offer transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps, reportedly fast enough to copy an entire CD in seconds. Firewire 800 is starting to show up in the market now with mass-market adoption expected in 2004.

While the two serial buses seem similar, they are intended to fulfill different bandwidth and cost needs. 1394 can move more data in a given amount of time, but is considerably more expensive than USB due to its more complex protocol and signaling rate. Applications that are best suited for 1394 are disk drives, high quality video streams and other high bandwidth applications. USB is appropriate for middle and low bandwidth applications such as audio, scanners, printers, keyboards, and mice.
USB and 1394 are complementary technologies. 1394 is for devices where high performance is a priority and price is not, while USB is for devices where price is a priority and high performance is not.


IEEE 1394 , 1394b

Vers. 1.0/1.1/2.0

Data transfer rate
400Mbs, 800Mbs 1.2, 12, 480Mbps
Maximum number of
connected devices
63 127
Hot-swap? Yes Yes
Plug-and-Play? Yes Yes
Cable length between
4.5 /100 meters 5 meters
power line
Yes Yes
Peripheral devices D-Camcorders
Set-Top Boxes
Hard Disk drives
PC Monitors
Low-resolution D-Cameras
Low-speed CD-ROM, RW
Relative cost Higher Lower

For more information about USB or Firewire:

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