FireWire is a good thing, sadly, it has seen better days. With the proliferation of USB 2.0 and SATA, people have been questioning the need for a technology like FireWire.
And, they have had some good reasons. Between USB 2.0 and SATA, existing FireWire technology is only really effective for certain products, Digital Video being the only one that a consumer would really want to touch. FireWire 400 (the one everyone uses) is deployed in everything from camcorders to HDTV cable boxes. However, camcorders have started reaching out to slipstreaming DV files via USB 2.0 and other means, so the deathwatches had started on IEEE 1394, FireWire and the whole consortium.
Apple hasn’t helped this trend either. For years, Apple had a web site that touted the benefits of FireWire (now replaced with a semi-cheesy developer page). But then iPod went USB 2.0, and aparrently word came down to provide only the same level of support as any other port on the Mac. Apple essentially decided to forget that it designed FireWire in the first place. And, there may have been good reason, FireWire 800 (the one nobody uses) has been a collossal flop. It’s expensive, slower than SATA, and with eSATA… why pay for slower gear?
This is the time where you cue the Star Wars music, and prep the Chapter IV: A New Hope line… enter FireWire S3200.
FireWire S3200 hasn’t been a big secret… I’ve been chatting it up with Apple… folk, for years. In fact, there was supposed to be an interim FireWire 1600, but that was scrapped after FireWire 800 failed miserably. Anyways, on to S3200! The new platform for FireWire tops SATA in every respect, it’s more than 2.5 times faster than SATA-150, and it’s almost 1.5 times faster than SATA-300. Plus, it accomplishes this without losing all the DV and anti-dumb-serial technologies that FireWire has always had (try daisy chaining USB… just try).
However, I haven’t had a chance to see if S3200 addresses some of the other ATA-based complaints about FireWire. For example, FireWire doesn’t have a standardized means of communicating SMART data from hard drives, crucial for anyone that cares about the life of their drive. But, judging by the press release, those kind of technical details shouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of within the next month.
eSATA is up to 3Gbps, while S3200 is 3.2Gbps – how is it 1.5x faster? Also, since the drive in the enclosure is probably going to be SATA anyway, you won’t see any performance advantage from S3200 over using the native SATA interface. (And it might suffer depending on the FW-to-SATA interface in the enclosure.) The only benefit to S3200 would be the ability to supply power over the same cable, eSATA doesn’t.
Personally, I don’t have high hopes for S3200. I think it’ll bomb just like FW800. Most of the PC industry is backing USB, including the development of USB 3.0 which is supposedly going to be at least 4.8Mbps to start. Since Intel, HP, Microsoft, etc, are all involved in the development of USB 3.0, I don’t see them incorporating S3200 in their products. And Apple seems to have nearly forgotten FW exists.
It is a feedback loop. Since PCs have USB ports, all the peripheral makers design their products with USB. And since the market is packed with USB products, PC makers don’t want to spend the money adding other ports to their products. USB has critical mass to keep feeding on itself, and FW failed to hit that point. Now it has a much higher barrier to gain traction in the market.
S3200 hopes to gain higher utilization of the rate of speed versus SATA. The FireWire TA hopes that it will be similar to USB 2.0, in that max actual speeds will rate in at 1.5 times faster, rather than the theoretical maximum burst rate.
Nobody is saying that FireWire will proliferate as high as USB. It never has and it never will. FireWire is a premium option meant for maximum performance. At least now it can re-actualize that goal.
What I hope is that someone comes up with a port-interop with 1394a, such that PC makers will be able to trade FireWire 400 ports for S3200 ports. This will allow makers to quickly adopt the technology without the added expense of having to have a USB 2.0, eSATA, 1394a, and now S3200 port.
If USB and SATA can do it, why not the FireWire TA? I think it’s reasonable that they will…
Well, S3200 is port-interop with 1394b. Same port, same cable. But it doesn’t look like anyone is making it compatible with 1394a. So anyone who has 1394b on their products today could readily update to S3200 in future products – but that’s not much of an advantage considering how weak 1394b has been.
Where are our 3.2gb/s ports, chris? Where are they?
Firewire should die. I hate it, I never have anything that uses it when my computer does have the port, and when I have something that needs it my computer doesn’t have it.
Ch, I don’t know where you got the impression that FireWire S3200 would be available this year. I think you may have gotten that from misguided rumor sites, some of which predicted/guessed that the new MacBook Pro would carry FireWire S3200.
I’m surprised you have have so much dislike for a port, as to hate it. I really don’t care, I’ve advocated for FireWire-over-Ethernet as a middle ground solution… I’m just glad I don’t have to hate ports.