Blog: New FireWire Spec Is Good to Go

About eleven months ago I wrote about the third-generation FireWire and USB specs that were on the boards. Recently the 1394 Trade Association approved the FireWire S1600 and S3200 formats, with the final spec to be published in October. It's out of the gate first, but not by that large a margin: Intel's USB 3.0 spec is expected to be released by the end of the year. FireWire S1600 and S3200 will be backward-compatible with the current FireWire 400 and 800 formats.

FireWire has generally been the Betamax of plug-and-play port formats. It's technically a better format in terms of power efficiency and capabilities, and each generation has seen FireWire with a ransfer-speed advantage over its USB counterpart. (That may not be the case this time: the new formats' theoretical throughputs will top out at 1.6 and 3.2 gigabits per second, compared to USB 3.0's target of 4.8 Gb/s.)

Also like the Betamax, FireWire is the stubborn second-place format that simply won't die, and that its proponents staunchly defend. (I've particularly appreciated FireWire's lower CPU requirements, which has let me capture camcorder footage on older machines quite easily.)

Unlike Beta, however, FireWire is easy to come by. When I was recently researching motherboards for my new custom Windows machine, I noticed that there many motherboards -- including those made by Intel -- with FireWire headers for those who wanted to spend a few extra dollars to get a port or two on their machine. There are far more USB devices, but those who need FireWire aren't hurting.

I always appreciate it when niche formats can coexist without a huge technical or financial hit, and more so when they keep reasonably current. With plans for even more advanced specs on the horizon, it appears that FireWire fans don't have much to worry about.

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