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IEEE approves FireWire 3200 spec

updated 09:35 am EDT, Thu July 31, 2008

IEEE Approves FW 3200

The IEEE standards organization today approved the next generation of FireWire. Officially known as IEEE 1394-2008 but also referred to as S3200 or FireWire 3200, the connection specification operates at up to four times the speed of FireWire 800 (S800) with up to 3.2 gigabits per second of data while preserving the energy properties that allow it to power some devices without needing a direct power supply. The extra speed is believed to be useful for multi-disk hard drive arrays and other devices where earlier FireWire would be inadequate.

The format is also scalable and makes room for an in-between specification known as S1600, which peaks at exactly half the performance of S3200, as well as the ability to scale upwards in the future. FireWire should ultimately scale to at least S6400, or 6.4 gigabits per second. Both S3200 and S1600 are backwards-compatible with FireWire 800 and will work with the original FireWire 400 through a simple adapter.

IEEE officials explain that the standard will be available to use for electronics manufacturers in October. Products won't go immediately on sale due to the need to build supporting hardware, though it's widely expected that Apple will be one of the first to use the new technology. FireWire was originally and primarily developed by Apple and has frequently been promoted by the company, which was the first to make FireWire 800 a standard feature in a computer.

The early launch is critical for competition against Intel's USB 3.0 specification. Intel vows a faster 4.8 gigabits per second and is expected to gain wider industry support but will continue to depend on the main processor to process data rather than FireWire's dedicated hardware, potentially reducing its actual performance and giving an edge to FireWire 3200.

by MacNN Staff



  1. osxpro

    Joined: Dec 1969


    FW3200 vs USB 3

    I find it almost comical that USB 3 will be more prevalent since the CPU processor will have to do all the work. That defeats the purpose of having faster throughput. It will be nice to see FW3200 for larger external RAIDS when it comes to D2D Back up.

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    good news but...

    ...which other PC manufacturers currently put the six-pin socket on their machines as opposed to the powerless 4-pin mini socket without having to sacrifice a PCI slot?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: good news

    Actually, the but is "Will Apple add it to their lineup?" Because if they don't, its going nowhere on the mac as only the MacPros will be able to use it (as they are also the only ones with eSATA capabilities).

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Deploy it, Apple!

    FW3200 is long overdue. I'd love to see Apple release this in their next round of Mac revisions.

    Intel is clearly doing it's job, because most people seem to think that USB is equal to or better than FireWire in terms of speed. IF you only look at the numbers, of course.

    Apple really needs to do some kind of info campaign to push FireWire as the superior standard it is.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: deploy it

    Can't see any of that happening. Firewire has been the superior choice for years, and Apple has barely given to mentioning it.

    The problem is Apple and the consortium shot themselves in their greedy feet way back when by insisting on licensing fees that no one wanted to pay. By the time they got their heads out of their asses, USB was already everywhere, and was cheaper. Thus, it has become the standard for most everything.

    Firewire will have to really pushed to get past the 'niche' it has basically been shoved into.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Re: Deploy it

    Ah, but technicians, administrators, and digital pros know the product very well, and to them USB is truly second best.

    If I recall correctly, the massive licensing fee was roughly $1.00 per port, no? For shame! Honestly, if the licensing fee was higher, I'd like to know, because 1 to 4 dollars on a device really makes no difference to someone who's looking for reliable high speed throughput that adds on to the core awesome technology of the built in OS account migration and target disk mode functionality through Apple's Firewire implementation.
    I still get "Wow! Windows can't do that." comments from PC stalwarts. That's easily worth a couple bucks extra. ;)

  1. paulc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    not quite

    It wasn't only the license fee, but the hardware cost more than USB.

    Still, it is clear to me FW is doomed from Cupertino. The most telling evidence is that there has been a serious write speed bug w/FW800, well documented for what 3 years now? No attempt to address the issue clearly means they are completely uninterested in FW. I expect that one day those who don't believe me will be shocked because apple will simply delete FW ports completely, just like they did with the serial interface. No advance notice, no warning, just BOOM, see-ya.

    Boy I remember those days, everyone who complained about it got instantly shouted down by the hordes of fanbois that completely diluted users outrage. I'm SURE they will count on that when they drop it entirely.

  1. UberFu

    Joined: Dec 1969


    issues remain...

    PaulC above mentions a FW800 write bug - not sure never encountered it.

    But my lingering question which is still prevalent in in USB 2.x is throughput and sustainability - plain and simple. This is what keeps it from being a good option for High capacity drives. I can not understand the large masses that use 500GB and Terabyte Drives running USB 2.0. Only I can no longer walk into a store and pick out a FW drive and buy it. If I want one I have to get online and dig to find one. Thank god for Seagate and LaCie.

    Maybe this new roudn of version 3's will se some comeback for FW. As I mentioned in a reply above - if Apple's smart they'll do away with the fee they charge for the priveledge of the tech - 'cause moving video or large PSDs or 3D renderings across USB I will never do.

    There are just way too many hassles witth USB so we'll see what happens.

  1. Eriamjh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Dump the FW800 Connector!

    Please just change all FW800 connectors to the standard FW400 connector! USB got it right when they stayed with the same connector. Apple blew it.

    So the FW3200 connector should be the same as the FW400, etc.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: not qute

    It wasn't only the license fee, but the hardware cost more than USB.

    And please remember that device makers are generally cheap b*******. Every 25 cent piece is 25 cents less profit or 25 cents more on price. That's why many externals are USB only, the extra cost for firewire (that most people can't use) outweighs the advantages/extra sales.

    Oh, and lest we forget, Apple stopped supporting firewire in their iPods back at v5.5 or so, never supported it with the nano, and now don't even support charging the ipod from a firewire cable. Apparently they even deemed firewire more cost than benefit.

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