FireWire-to-USB: MacBook Redeemer?

Apple’s decision to axe FireWire from the MacBook line is not sitting well with many users, to say the least. For high-quality audio and video transfers, FireWire is the standard for professionals and hobbyists alike. Though USB is technically capable of faster transfer speeds than FireWire 400 (480 Mb/s vs. 400), FireWire has greater effective speed and power distribution because it doesn’t depend on a computer host port.

So what can be done about, short of severe DIY case-cracking, mother-board soldering changes that could result in death and/or dismemberment? One option shows potential. According to, Pixela offers a FireWire to USB DV transfer cable, designed specifically with digital video transfer in mind.

Don’t go ordering one just yet, though. Currently, the cable only officially supports Windows XP (no Vista, either). So unless you’re running Boot Camp, or virtualization software, you’re out of luck. That said, given the sheer volume of dismayed MacBook owners (and those unwilling to upgrade until they find a solution), it’s likely that OS X support is on the way. Whether that comes in the form of a third-party driver, or (don’t hold your breath) official support and/or hardware from Apple, remains to be seen. When we contacted Pixela, a representative told us that OS X support has been discussed by their planning committee, but no firm decisions to go forward have yet been made.

There are a few problems with this type of workaround. For one, you give up on the fast transfer speeds and power distribution capability of FireWire. Pixela’s cable apparently uses “micro chip” technology to ensure the quality and integrity of the DV transfer are maintained, but this probably doesn’t entirely make up for FireWire’s high sustained transfer rates. And it looks like Pixela might require you to use their proprietary software to perform any transfers, no desktop mounting or destination application selection. There’s also price, since the cable costs $119 before tax. High price to pay for Apple’s omission.

Still, it’s less clunky than analog-to-digital video converters, and prices could drop if demand is high enough and other companies start making similar devices. Apple may also be less than cooperative if the decision to kill FireWire on the MacBook was meant to force people up to the MacBook Pro. We can only hope that, as with the microphone support finally included in the new iPod Touch, Apple eventually sees that hamstringing lower-end devices isn’t the only way to get people to upgrade.

Would you buy a Mac version of this cable, or will it take more than another peripheral to fix this problem?

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