USB or Firewire

Dan Cook

Dec 12, 2003
Lombard, IL
With my firewire port out of commission for a few more weeks, I noticed that I can pull video off my camera with my USB camera, though it's more difficult.

Is there any benefits from using USB to get video rather than firewire?
Technically, USB2 is faster than standard Firewire (400) / 1394(a) / i.Link (480mbps vs. 400mbps). On the other hand, USB2 CPU useage tends to be higher (on average) than Firewire. From a practical standpoint, however, I haven't noticed much difference. Firewire 800 (1394b) is rated at 800mbps, but the real-world benchmarks I've seen haven't been a whole lot faster than Firewire 400 / 1394a (likely due to implementation issues). Regardless, I can bet you don't have 1394b (very few PCs come with such a port, and I don't think there are any consumer camcorders that offer it), so it's not really worth mentioning.
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Yeah I'm talking about pulling off a tape. So firewire'd be better then?

I don't think you'll notice much difference, but Firewire may actually be a little faster (despite, technically/ideally, being rated slower). I've used USB2 and Firewire to move video from my computer to an external hard drive and didn't notice much difference (other than increased CPU overhead). Benchmarks that I've seen, however, have found that Firewire is actually faster than USB2 in many cases, and its speed advantage is most evident when transferring large files / large amounts of data, which would be the case for transferring video. So yes, I think Firewire would be a better choice with your camcorder.
Seems to me that most USB connections (or the software controlling the capture) will allow for compressed video capture rather than AVI (uncompressed). At least that's been my experience. Firewire connections allow for the AVI capture thus the better quality video.

As far as speed goes, since your capturing in real time from video play back, it really doesn't matter to which connection is faster. What will matter is the RPM Speed of your hard drive. Though 5400 RPM will do thisngs, it's not the best and WILL bog down. I see this quite a bit when capturing sound (voice) to my laptop on live music or singing. 7200 RPM is way better and 10,000+ is excellent.

John Diel
While USB2 is technically faster, so much time has been spent on getting firewire to work well, the drivers/software that allow USB2 to work have really been forgotten. It seems most software for USB has more been to attach cameras for webcam functionality. Not that great...