Which is faster - Read/Write direct to FireWire Drive or Ultra/Serial ATA Drive?

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Meekoe, Dec 22, 2003.

  1. Meekoe

    Meekoe Guest

    I am in the process of purchasing a new hard drive for A/V editing. I have
    many different interfaces Serial/Ultra ATA/USB 2.0/ and Firewire, to choose
    from. My question is - which will give me the best performance for what I
    need to do which is video editing and multitrack audio recording/editing. I
    read a review on Tom's Hardware that Hatachi has a Ultra ATA 133 drive that
    outperforms the best Serial ATA drives on the market right now.
    Anyway, advice from experienced users please. TIA
    Meekoe, Dec 22, 2003
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  2. Meekoe

    Arny Krueger Guest

    I suspect that Tom is trying to making an important point. No modern hard
    drive is mechanically faster than its electrical interface. Hard drives are
    at their core mechanical devices. They mechanically access tracks, and they
    mechanically spin data past their heads.

    Case in point, ATA 133 has a theoretical capacity of 133 MB/sec, but the
    fastest sustained DTR I've ever observed while running an audio or video
    application on an ATA 133 drive on an ATA 133 controller was something like
    1/4 of that or less.

    The whole thing with interfaces is that getting mechanical speed is
    sufficiently difficult that nobody wants to significantly compromise it with
    a slow interface.

    The major near-term benefit of serial ATA relates to elimination of those
    relatively bulky, unreliable and expensive 80-wire cables and 40 pin
    connectors. As silicon gets cheaper and faster, it becomes an attractive
    replacement for vinyl, polyester and copper in bulk.
    Arny Krueger, Dec 23, 2003
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  3. Meekoe

    psandiford Guest

    In most cases Ultra or Serial will be faster than FireWire. However,
    FireWire has several variants and has specific pluses.

    FireWire is intended to be an "external" bus. As such, all IEEE 1394
    standards are capable of "hot swapping." This allows you to swap
    drives without powering down the computer. (note: follow your OS's
    recommendation for removing or unmounting a storage device) This is
    wonderful for archiving a project or working several projects on

    (trivia) IEEE 1394 is seldom found. It is a first generation FireWire
    that topped out at a theoretical 200 megabits per second; not reliably
    fast enough for sustained video data transfer. (end trivia)

    IEEE 1394a claims speeds of 400 megabits per second but I've seldom
    seen faster than 320mbps. This is fast enough for capturing standard
    DV (25) and handling the load from a NLE project with a few layers or
    effects. You need to ensure your "bridge board," the interface that
    connects the hard drives ATA66/100/133 interface to the FireWire
    cable, is high quality. Oxford 911 is generally accepted as a good
    bridge. Also, your hard drive inside the FireWire case must have good
    sustained read/write specifications. This usually means it has a
    spindle speed of 7200rpm and a fat/fast cache.

    IEEE 1394b. Today this standard is claims 800mbps, theoretically
    faster than many hard drives I've edited with. This is still leading
    edge and I would not use it for uncompressed, multi-stream (if that is
    where you are going). Some systems, i.e. the Macintosh G5, have this
    interface but I have noted low sustained write speeds benchmarked.
    Likely, this is because of an issue with certain logic boards I/O
    controllers or first generation bridge boards. This standard will
    kick in the future but I don't usually buy for "maybe tomorrow."

    Summary: qualified Ultra or Serial ATA if you can live with your
    drives inside the case and work with uncompressed/multi stream.
    Standard DV 25 can work well with IEEE 1394a or better. In every
    case, be careful. There are factors and variables (sustained r/w
    speeds, spindle speeds) that can kill your work flow. As an
    additional concern: all of these choices are using ATA drives. I
    always buy ATA drives twice the size of my anticipated project size.
    psandiford, Dec 23, 2003
  4. You can get removable hard drive bays. These cost about 10$. All the
    advantages of internal Ultra ATA or SCSI with the ability to swap and even
    hotswap if your OS is up to it.
    anthony.gosnell, Dec 23, 2003
  5. Meekoe

    Mike Dobony Guest

    Have you considered RAID? It now also comes in serial RAID! 2 or 4 HD's
    interlaced at 2x to 4x the speed of a single drive! Of course all HD's need
    to be identical to maximize the benefits.

    Mike D.


    Remove .spamnot to respond by email
    Mike Dobony, Dec 24, 2003
  6. None. About the maximum throughput of a hard drive's physical geometry is
    somewhat less than any electrical interface, meaning that an ATA133 bus, for
    example, has the ability to throughput up to 133 MB/s, but one drive isn't
    going to provide that. The same with SCSI. SCSI 160 is a 160 MB/s
    interface, but it take multiple drives providing information for that
    bandwidth to be consumed. A single drive won't do it. About the best I've
    gotten out of a fast single drive is 56 MB/s. If you go with the level of
    the mechanical device, than any 50 MB/s interface is going to be just fine,
    whether it's ATA100, ATA Serial, SCSI 160, USB 2.0 or Firewire. The
    question changes significantly when you start adding drives to the
    interface, and then it's still a matter of how you work. In audio/video, if
    all the files are on one drive, you gain nothing by having the fastest
    interface, but if you start adding drives and spreading files around, then
    it becomes a factor. In video it becomes a MAJOR factor.


    Roger W. Norman
    SirMusic Studio
    RAP FAQ and Purchase your copy of the Fifth of RAP CD set at
    See how far $20 really goes.
    Roger W. Norman, Dec 24, 2003
  7. Meekoe

    psandiford Guest

    Something of the original question is getting lost in the digression.
    The question included FireWire and Ultra/Serial ATA. The IEEE 1394a
    interface is slower than any hard drive I currently have installed.
    However, it is fast enough for a standard DV data drive and offers
    advantages in interchangablity and archiving. Re. Ultra/Serial ATA;
    true, these interfaces exceed the sustained read/write of a single
    physical hard drive.
    psandiford, Dec 29, 2003
  8. Meekoe

    Noboby Guest

    To be clear, Firewire (IEE1394) is NOT a hard drive interface. As
    psandiford has stated, tt requires bridge circuitry to connect it to ATA
    or SCSI hard drives.

    Robert A. Ober
    PS: Kinda like there is no digital transmission system and CD is an
    analog disc, but i digress......
    Noboby, Jan 1, 2004
  9. Meekoe

    Irv Segal Guest

    Irv Segal, Jan 1, 2004
  10. My 2 cents.

    The 10,000 rpm serial ata drives are fast, so fast they are used in
    enterprise servery. Short of u320 scsi (expensive) they are perhaps
    the fastest especially the 15,000 rpm flavor, but expensive and gets

    Even some of the expensive external raid arrays use ide drives with a
    scsi interface and scsi pci card.

    Firewire 800 is a faster transmission interface.
    Steve Friedman, Jan 1, 2004
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