Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0 vs. Firewire

A brief comparison between three types of I/O transfer technologies.

The release of a new line of Macbook pro’s (Released on 24th February 2011) has triggered a new round of technolgical competiton with the introduction of intel’s Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt is in direct competition with the like’s of USB 3.0 and Firewire 800. With all the three technology fighting for user acceptance, the competion promises to become much more intense in the near future. Lets try understanding all the three technologies one by one.

Beginning with Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt had been a technology intel had been working at for a couple of years now,and with data transfer speed of the order 10Gbps(Speed that will enable you to copy a Blu Ray Print Movie i.e 1.5 GB in less than 30 seconds) both way (that is like two friends copying 2 movies simultaneously from each other in 30 seconds) it seems to be a well worked technology.It has the Mini DisplayPort connector which is a patented Apple product which it licences for free,it supports HDMI,VGA and DVI over this port.Thunderbolt is also said to be compatible with USB devices using adapters.Thunderbolt devices share a common connector, allowing users to daisy chain devices one after another with interoperable cables.

Moving onto USB 3.0,it has been in the talks for a lot of time now, but hasn’t exactly penetrated into the market yet. It offers a data tranfer speed of close to 5Gbps.This means one half the speed of Thunderbolt but still fast enough to copy a HD movie print to and from a user in less than a minute (Just as Thunderbolt, it has the ability to send data bi-directionally due to introduction of two new channels). As opposed to previous version of USB(i.e USB 2.0) , it does not consume energy from non-active devices.But the most important feature of USB 3.0 is its backward compatibility(compatibility with older version of the same device) which will enable it to be in a ready to use condition with the millions of computers equipped with USB ports.Ofcourse the speed obtained by USB 2.0 devices will be 10 times lesser i.e around 480 Mbps(max).

The last in this series is Firewire 800.The Firewire technology was developed by Apple.The Firewire 800 is a IEEE standard 1394b which has a speed of about as high as twice as much as USB 2.0,this is still atleast 5 times slower than USB 3.0 and 12 times slower than Thunderbolt. The Firebolt uses minimum cpu memory as it does not require a bus master for functioning.Firewire devices are generally used where the latency required is higher (Example:Sound Card).

It still remains to be seen as to which of the technology will win this race but the competition is only going to get tougher with the likes of Wireless Usb still to enter the arena.


“The Firebolt uses minimum cpu memory as it does not require a bus master for functioning.”

I think you mean Firewire, not Firebolt (though it could be an interesting concept).

“Firewire devices are generally used where the latency required is higher (Example:Sound Card).”

I would imagine firewire is used where latency should be less … as Apple designed FW400 and 800 for digital cameras and other high speed things back in the day.

11.03.09 are right..I made a mistake while writing it.Thanks for those correction :)

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