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USB 2.0 vs. FireWire

Innovations on Both Sides Result in Higher Speeds, More Features By Charlie White
Firewire vs. USB: A Horserace?There's a new kid on the block of high speed connectivity, called USB 2.0. Much faster than its precessor, it has the backing of Intel. On the other hand, FireWire (also known as 1394 and iLink) has been sitting pretty for the past five years as the most convenient and fastest way to get video into and out of a computer. It's dominated the DV world, with its easy connectivity and smooth, fast data transfer features -- proving themselves to be a natural for digital video shooting and editing with a computer. That's evidenced by the fact that every DV camera on the market is now outfitted with a 1394 connector.

Are the two standards really competing, or are they complimentary? What about the new 1394.b -- will it be the saving grace for FireWire?

In This Corner ....
Until recently, USB 1.1 was as good as USB could get. Because of its relatively slow transfer rate of 12 Mbps, USB found a niche as a connector of devices that didnt need tremendous bandwidth, like mice, printers, scanners and Wacom tablets. With this marked speed disadvantage (12 Mbps vs. 1394s 400 Mbps), the two standards were working in completely different neighborhoods. All this changed, though, with the introduction of USB 2.0, a standard that features a maximum transfer rate thats forty times faster than USB 1.1 -- 480mbps, or 60MB per second. Now, we have a horserace!

But USB 2.0 has taken a long time to come to market. When it was first proposed, there was a different environment from the one were seeing today. Apple, inventor of FireWire (1394), was going to charge each computer manufacturer a $1 royalty for each installation of 1394. So, as a lower-cost alternative, an enhanced USB standard was proposed by the USB Implementers Forum, led by Intel. However, in the meantime, Apple dropped the idea of charging $1 for 1394, lowering that price to a mere twenty-five cents.

Neither of these prices seem like much, but computer makers, with their razor-thin profit margins, see these amounts as make-or-break propositions. But USB 2.0 proponents still say that, with hardly any royalty costs associated with USB 2.0, it promises to be a more cost-effective standard than 1394. Helping the adoption rate along is the fact that Intel plans to release motherboard chipsets for Pentium 4 processors that include the new USB 2.0 standard by early 2002.

Another plus for USB 2.0: Microsofts USB 2.0 support in Windows XP. At first it appeared that the Redmond juggernaut was planning to shun the new interface, but recently changed course, announcing plans to release an add-on driver for Windows XP/USB 2.0 compatibility.

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Related Keywords:Digital Video Editing, DV Format, 1394, USB, 1304.b, USB 2.0, iLink, connectivity, data transfer, computer, standards


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