FireWire or USB 2.0? The Differences
For a long time, FireWire (alias IEEE1394) was not really a standard that could come on strong in the consumer market. For one thing, the corresponding controller has to be bought separately, even today, because the dominating standard in the PC sector is USB (Universal Serial Bus). Currently, this situation seems to be changing, because more and more manufacturers are equipping their motherboards with integated FireWire controllers. Another point is that the main application for FireWire was real-time data transfer, with digital video, for instance. This points us to exactly the advantage that FireWire has to offer, because the data stream must remain uninterrupted with such applications.
By contrast, USB came into being as an all-purpose interface and is now standard with every PC. With its 12 MBit/s (corresponds to 1.5 Mbyte/s), its transfer performance is only sufficient for only a portion of today's applications. As a comparison, the transfer rate of a CD ROM drive lies at 5-8 MByte/s, and 100 MBit networks perform similarly in practice. Even today, this makes USB 1.1 sufficient for most input devices, such as mice and keyboards, to be used comfortably. However, it is not enough for storage media, scanners, cameras and other peripherals that require large bandwidth.
In the comming year, USB 2.0 should widen the bottleneck with its 480 MBit/s. With its large bandwidth (larger than FireWire at 400 MBit/s) and guaranteed backward compatibility, there no longer remains any doubt that an increasing number of computers will be delivered factory-equipped with USB 2.0 interfaces.
At this point, it's not clear which of the standards will become the dominant one in the future, as the applications for each vary too greatly. The advantages offered by the FireWire protocol cannot be used by scanners, digicams, DSL modems or joysticks. On the other hand, USB 2.0, in its current form, could never deliver continuous streams of data, which are required for hard disk recording and video applications.
Therefore, we concluded that it's best to have both, but USB is a must. When buying a motherboard, we recommend that you choose one that has an integrated USB 2.0 controller, since the extra cost, compared to models with USB 1.1, is marginal.