Both FireWire and USB are technologies used to connect peripheral devices to a computer and transfer data quickly, however there are several differences between them.
The main differences between firewire and USB are:
- FireWire connections are easy to distinguish from USB because they are smaller and tapered at one end, while USB is flat and rectangular.
- FireWire can handle more data than USB 2.0, particularly audiovisual information. For example, a USB 2.0 can handle data transfer rates of 480 Mbps, while FireWire 800 can carry 800 Mbps. However, Firewire is slower than USB 3.0.
- USB 2.0 can handle 127 devices, while FireWire 800 can only handle up to 63 devices.
- USB 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 use a “speak-when-spoken-to” protocol, peripherals cannot communicate with the host unless the host specifically asks for communication. A FireWire device can communicate with any other node at any time.
- USB networking is host-based, while FireWire networking is peer-to-peer. That means that in order to communicate with each other via USB, they must be connected to a computer, while with FireWire you can connect two devices without the need for a central computer.
- The USB network topology is a hub, while the FireWire network topology is a chain.
- USB can run under a 5V power line, while Firewire can supply up to 30V.
- USB ports can supply up to 500mA of current (2.5 watts of power), while FireWire can supply up to 60 watts of power, although 10 to 20 watts is more typical.
- A copper FireWire cable can be up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) long and is more flexible than most parallel SCSI cables. The maximum length of a standard USB cable (for USB 2.0 or earlier) is 5.0 meters (16.4 feet).
- FireWire costs a bit more than USB. That’s why USB is used as the standard for high-speed buses in most computers.
The main reason to use FireWire instead of USB is simply connection speed. If you have a device that supports both FireWire and USB interfaces, it’s best to use FireWire, unless the device supports USB 3.0.