Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

Summary: So the new MacBooks lack a FireWire port. The MacBook Pros still have them, but for those of us in Ed Tech (including college students) who will probably be looking at the mainstream MacBooks, is this a big deal?

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So the new MacBooks lack a FireWire port. The MacBook Pros still have them, but for those of us in Ed Tech (including college students) who will probably be looking at the mainstream MacBooks, is this a big deal?

It's a big deal if you have a media lab with DV camcorders, most of which require a FireWire connection. You can buy a USB to FireWire adapter, but they're pricey. Of course, with the advent of cheap USB camcorders like the Flip and decent video capabilities on digital cameras, there is less and less need for FireWire for what most of our students are doing. Even the latest hard drive-based camcorders use USB rather than FireWire.

Personally, I think FireWire is dying in general, but is largely irrelevant for most educational users specifically. If you're one of the last holdouts, then the new MacBooks are not for you. The MacBook Pros and the MacPros certainly will meet your needs, as will a variety of Windows laptops and desktops. However, if you're looking for easy ways to handle multimedia projects on a reasonable budget, a mainstream digital camera and a MacBook (sans FireWire) will have students creating presentations, websites, and decent quality movies in no time.

Maybe I'm wrong, though...what do you think?

[poll id=85]

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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27 comments
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  • Firewire need

    The other uses for firewire are.....firewire drives, Target Disk Mode and ....that adaptor you listed is XP only...not Vista and not OS X. Only goes one way...camcorder to computer...not a viable solution....look at the text next time.
    chrismv102
  • Missing firewire

    The biggest plus for firewire for Macs is target disk mode. It's an
    incredibly useful feature.
    frgough
    • Target disk mode

      As long as Apple makes "tech unfriendly" notebooks, target disk mode is useful. When the slot-load DVD drive goes bad, there's no other painless way to boot from DVD.

      2 days ago I was asked to wipe hard drives of 2 iBooks with unknown passwords and bad DVD burners, since they were still full of sensitive company data. A lowly G3 iBook with a good DVD drive, a firewire port, one cable, and a couple of keys pressed on startup did the trick quickly
      pjrobertz@...
  • I'll wait for USB3

    Firewire is still in use only because of some old media devices. Today USB2 is the norm and offers parity with Firewire.
    For media application wait for USB3, don't spend on Firewire.
    Linux Geek
    • Norm, maybe, but not parity

      Although the specs tell you that USB 2.0 is marginally faster than Firewire, the fat is that overhead issues slow USB down so that FW400 is actually faster. FW800 -- no comparision at all.
      TBonner
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    Apple has always been touting Firewire as a better connectivity option over USB particularly for video due to the fact that Firewire provides sustained throughput over USB. What different song will Apple sing this time? Don't tell me that Firewire makes sense only for professionals. I connect my camcorder and an external drive (1 TB with lots of home made video) using Firewire port for Home use. How can one convince me that I don't need Firewire port anymore?
    bluejay999
    • What happened to SCSI?

      Years ago Apple convinced many of us that SCSI was a better idea than IDE, and then all of a sudden started building Macs without SCSI. That was 10 years ago, but I still enjoy my old SCSI peripherals, too.
      pjrobertz@...
      • FireWire is SCSI

        FireWire is more or less serial SCSI. There is no "master"
        device, and all the devices on the FireWire connection are
        assumed to be intelligent.

        This means less overhead for doing trivial tasks like
        writing blocks of data to a disk, but more overhead in
        terms of "smarts" required on the device.

        FireWire, like SCSI, is faster at the same clock speed, but
        more expensive. All the consumers out there shy away
        from expensive stuff like SCSI when there's stuff like IDE
        that does almost the same job for much less money.

        FireWire is dying because the vast unwashed massed are
        throwing their money at USB 2.0 drives, not realising that
        they get more bang for buck with FireWire (they don't care
        that they have to wait twice as long for stuff to write to
        disk - they get 30% more disk space for the same money).
        grail@...
        • FireWire

          I would rather (and have done so) pay 30% more for the faster transfer and versatility of FireWire, then the ridiculously slower USB 2.0. It was even worth purchasing a FireWire pci card for my PC as well. My time is worth way more to me.
          tracy_dilossi@...
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    I love my MacBook (at home) and my MacBook Pro (at work). BUT, when will Apple get the idea that there are some things that just need to be standardized -- like Firewire ports and VGA connections?
    BRMetzler
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    As a University MultiMedia professor, I WANT FireWire ports
    on all of our machines. USB talks a good game, but FIreWire
    delivers. Many of our students use MacBooks and I want them
    to have FireWire!
    Jack Mortenson
    Dakota Wesleyan University
    Mitchell SD
    jamorten@...
  • things do change

    1. FW is still a MUCH better suited to audio application - for one thing, the ability of FW to offer much more power than USB2 is vital - more plugs in the mains means more noise. Daisy-chaining is something that USB2 can't do. In real life, FW is faster than USB2. Try syncing old FW iPods next to new USB2 iPods, it's heaven and, well, purgatory, but with 20 GB chunks the difference is substantial.

    2. For the MacBook target group USB2 is still good enough. I'm using a FW soundacrd in my studio but I have a USB2 Line6 TonePort GX. The point is that USB2 is good enough for a critical mass of users - and that enabled Apple to shed it. It's sad but it's the market-rules approach. I don't like HDD camcorders having only USB2 but I don't write to Sony...
    kitko
  • That converter doesn't work with Macs

    Read the fine print....
    RealNonZealot
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    My problem with USB is that when I'm trying to off load a large CF card (4Gb+) it takes for stinking ever! 45 minutes plus! FireWire 400 only takes about half the amount of time for the same amount of data as USB2. So tell me again why I would want a computer, any computer, that didn't come with a FireWire port? My time is way too valuable. Yes, this will be a deal-breaker when I'm ready to purchase a new laptop/notebook.
    bdln@...
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    I think that it still is valid for some niche uses, and that's the
    problem, they are niche. Older DV camcorders simply have
    no USB support for video transfer. If you are an indie or
    hobbyist musician and want to do any decent audio work,
    firewire is still king over USB in terms of latency and
    simultaneous channels.
    n9yty
  • Yes, very much so

    I need Firewire for college next year. I also need a Mac. Apple backed Firewire initially, it makes me ask, why not back it now.

    And I just can't see why a Firewire to USB would even make sense. The architectures are just too different and I think the speeds would be too slow for capturing HDV footage.

    Guess I'll need to capture on my desktop....
    eli_pwnd
    • re: can't see why a Firewire to USB would even make sense

      USB 2.0 is actually faster then FireWire. Apple backed Firewire because USB wasn't a standard then. Now USB has matured into USB2.0 and Firewire devices for PC (which own the majority market) aren't very common. As Apple has adopted PC hardware for it's new systems, it really doesn't leave them a vary viable reason to continue and support the older, less popular technology. As with all technology, as time goes on you will see a shift in what is the mainstay. Saying Apple shouldn't dump FireWire because you still use it is like saying PC's should still come with floppy drives because you still use those also. Time moves on, and things change.

      Knowledge is Power.
      ShadowGIATL
      • Yes

        "Knowledge is Power"... indeed!

        Too bad you (and some others here who should know
        better) don't possess some. Knowledge, I mean.

        USB is not faster than FW. This has been done to death in
        various real world testing that has shown (despite on-
        paper theoretical parity) FW is clearly better. I'm talking
        FW800, not the FW400 Apple dropped. USB 2 is faster than
        FW400. And, btw, FW400 was clearly better than USB 1.

        Apple didn't back FW because USB wasn't a standard.
        Apple developed FW... and also helped make USB a
        standard.

        FW is not an "older, less popular technology." Speaking
        technology development-wise, USB and FW are about the
        same age. There are only a few months difference, if that,
        between them. Both appeared for the first time as
        standard ports on the original iMacs.

        Those simplistic, low-end, USB2 only cameras like the Flip
        (and like the consumer MacBooks without FW) are simply
        for the YouTube generation... those without any desire to
        make something more serious than home movie style,
        point-and-shoot videos. As for newer, mid & high-end
        cameras without FW, check for an iLink port... that's just a
        FW port of a different flavor.
        JonA_z
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    I use real computers and not Macintoshes, so I really don't care if they come with Firewire or not. I don't have any devices that use FireWire, and my HD camcorder is USB 2.0, which is faster than FireWire anyway.
    jfreedle2@...
  • RE: Do we care if the new MacBooks don't have FireWire?

    Your poll doesn't cover enough bases. I am not upset about
    Firewire peripherals, although I do have a few. I rely on
    Firewire Target Mode to repair problems when all else fails.
    Unless Apple comes up with an alternative, it's a deal breaker
    for me.
    rgerstmann@...