Comparing Thunderbolt vs Firewire vs Ethernet speed tests can be a little tricky. First, let’s establish some ground rules:
Rule #1: All tests should be run on the same machine under identical conditions with no other programs running and all files saved to attached storage (not RAM) for comparison. This is important. If you’re testing Thunderbolt vs. Firewire then all tests should be run on the same machine, with attached storage (not RAM) and nothing else running on that machine (no virus scans, no backups–nothing). This will keep conditions consistent so you can compare apples to apples.
Rule #2: USB 3.0 is NOT the same as Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt provides a PCI Express interface which is many times faster than USB 3.0’s “SuperSpeed” 5 Gbits/sec, even though per the spec they’re both rated as “5 Gbit/s”. On paper this seems to make Thunderbolt 20X faster than USB 3.0 but looks can be deceiving.
which is faster an esata-600 or firewire 800?
“Firewire 800 is rated at 100MB/s (although it may actually be able to do slightly more than 100MB/s), Thunderbolt is “up to 10Gb/s” USB 3.0 is 5 Gbit/s
Since its introduction, Firewire has been eclipsed by faster, cheaper and simpler connection technologies. USB2 which is 480Mbit/s and USB3 which is 5Gbit/s seem to offer everything Firewire can, and more. Thunderbolt with its 10Gb/sec bandwidth seems like the ultimate solution, so it would be natural to assume Thunderbolt must blow Firewire out of the water. That’s just not true.
What is Thunderbolt, Firewire, and Ethernet speed?
Thunderbolt is a computer interface that combines PCI-Express and DisplayPort into one serial data stream. It was developed by Intel (in collaboration with Apple) as “Light Peak”. Thunderbolt 1 & 2 are based on copper wire, not optical fiber.
Firewire or IEEE 1394 is a serial bus for high speed communications and isochronous real time data transfer. Firewire is available in 400 and 800 versions (aka “1394a” and “1394b”). They can operate at 100MB/s, 200MB/s and 400MB/s respectively.
Ethernet refers to a family of computer networking technologies for local area networks (LAN). It was designed to allow computers to communicate over a shared coaxial cable, twisted pair, or optical fiber. While some Ethernet technologies use copper wire, others have been adapted to run over the same media as radio waves.
How do they compare in terms of performance and price?
Thunderbolt is the fastest but most expensive. Firewire 800 (aka IEEE 1394b) can move data at twice the speed of Firewire 400 (1394a) which makes it the second fastest option. It’s currently available in Apple Macs only, so if you are using a non-Apple machine then Thunderbolt may be your only option.
An Ethernet connection will give the best value by far, but your data transfer rate will be limited to how fast your network can go (which could be anywhere from 1Mb/sec up to maybe 100Mb/sec). So Ethernet is the slowest option.
Which one should you choose for your needs?
This depends on how fast your storage is and whether your computer can handle the data transfer rates of Thunderbolt, Firewire 800 or Ethernet. If you’re using a non-Apple machine and want to do video editing then Thunderbolt will give you the fastest speeds, followed by Firewire 800 and then Ethernet as the slowest option.
If your computer doesn’t support Thunderbolt, you can get a PCI Express expansion card to add Firewire 800 or Ethernet ports.
Thunderbolt offers the best speed but it’s expensive, so Firewire 800 is a good alternative if you don’t have the money for Thunderbolt. Ethernet is an excellent option if your computer doesn’t have either of these two interfaces built in. As for USB 3…its data transfer rate of 5Gbits/sec pales in comparison to the speed of Firewire 800 and Thunderbolt, so you shouldn’t even bother with it if performance is your primary concern.