for super-fast usefulness
first published in Business in Vancouver,
Issue #614, July 31, 2001 CurrentZ section: GearGuide column
by ALAN ZISMAN
The technology with too many names, Firewire (aka
Ilink, aka IEEE 1394)
combines easy connection and setup with performance 10 to 30 times as
as the more common Universal Serial Bus (USB). While virtually all
camcorders can hook right up to Firewire-equipped computers, there's a
lot more that you can plug in.
Epson's Expression 1680 Pro Firewire scanner is a big
step up from the
commonplace USB models. (Its $1,800 price is also a big step up.) It
a transparency unit for scanning slides and other see-through media.
quality is superb and resolution up to 1,600 dpi means that slides can
be effectively enlarged. Firewire produces fast scanning times: 16
to scan an 8.5 x 11" page at 300 dpi, for example.
If you still want speedy scans, but don't need
Umax's Astra 6400 is a much more affordable $300 ($400 for the Astra
which adds a transparency cover for slide scanning). It takes 25
to scan a full page; a similar USB model took a full minute. A 1394
card is included to connect to Firewire-challenged PCs.
Firewire also boosts the performance of Orange Micro's
$250 Ibot Pro
Desktop Video Camera (www.orangemicro. com). This camera shoots
(640 x 480) video at full-motion 30 frames per second. For comparison,
typical USB competitors deliver half the frame-rate and one-quarter the
screen size. The Ibot Pro includes a generous software bundle for both
PCs and Macs.
Is that a hard drive in your pocket?
LaCie's Pocketdrives, with a choice of 10, 20 and 30
Gb hard drives
(priced from $500 to $1,100), offer easy portability with sizes of 3.5
x 5.75 x 0.6", weighing in at around 400 grams. With both USB and
adapters, they connect to most recent desktop and notebook computers,
or PC. The USB interface offers a slow but steady 750 Kb/sec, making
only usable for backups or storing data files. Connect to a Firewire
however, and speed jumps to 12 Mb/sec, suitable for running programs or
even capturing digital video. Larger external models are cheaper but
speedy and portable; LaCie offers a full-sized 60 Gb Firewire model for
Iomega also offers several products with split
personalities, able to
connect to either USB or Firewire. Rather than include both adapters,
the company has opted for removable connection modules; customers with
a USB model can purchase a Firewire module for added performance.
Like other USB drives, Iomega's Predator CD-R/RW drive
is limited to
a relatively modest 4x burn speed. Plug in the Firewire connector and
jumps to 8x, dropping the time to create a full CD disk from about 25
to around 12 minutes. Its $400 price is higher than some competitors,
it offers better compatibility with both Macs and PCs than most.
New from Iomega is the Peerless external storage
series. These external
drives use removable 10- or 20-GB cartridges and again come with a
of USB or Firewire connectors. Once again, the Firewire versions offer
enough speed for the most demanding applications in a pocket-sized
Currently, the Firewire versions are Mac-only, while the USB version
both platforms. ($400 for the drive; 10- and 20-GB disks cost $240 and
While all currently available Macs have Firewire
built-in, the interface
is less common on PC desktop and notebooks. Cardbus adapters are
for many Mac and PC notebooks and PCI card adapters are available for
ATI Technologies' DV Wonder ($79) is a good example.
Despite the name,
like other Firewire solutions it's for more than just digital video.
three ports on a single card, it's easily added to a Windows 98SE, ME
2000 desktop. The package includes a cable and a copy of Ulead
5.0, a nice mid-level video editing package with CD-video and