71 Comments

Summary:

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 […]

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 ZDNet.com, 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?

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. I bet it could match the performance of firewire 400 or maybe 800 if it used two usb ports. That would mean 800 mbs of bandwidth, 10 v. of power etc.

  2. This thing sounds like garbage. And it does nothing for people who have Firewire audio devices or hard drives. I’ve never been more furious with Apple.

  3. Joefromthefuture Friday, October 31, 2008

    It’s. A. Freggin’. Cable.

    Since when do we need driver support for data cables?

  4. marketing meister Friday, October 31, 2008

    phew.. for a second there I thought this was regarding the new macbook pro, but then I was pleased to see the pro still has firewire…

  5. LankyFrame » Blog Archive » FireWire-to-USB: MacBook Redeemer? Friday, October 31, 2008
  6. I have actually used the cable mentioned in this article. It’s actually “not just a cable” but a converter unit built into a cable. So it’s not just a cable linking a firewire port to a usb port. Anyone who knows the tech side of these interfaces knows that they don’t easily line up in terms of how data/power,etc go across them, so the converter built into the cable is actually doing work during transfer–work that the driver you install needs to direct it to do.

    And unfortunately it only really does the one job of transferring data from a camera. It (the version I had at least) doesn’t work with live video in or hard drives or any other device. It’s literally designed to simply be a connector for getting video out of a firewire cam into Windows XP.

    I would guess that they could “easily” add new features to it through a new driver version, but will they? Who knows.

  7. @Joefromthefuture:

    …Since it is NOT just a cable. It is a USB device that is acting as a bridge between firewire and USB; therefore in NO WAY is it just a data cable.

    However; it also isn’t enough. I am pretty disappointed at apples decision to axe FW on the “consumer” models. I have been keeping my boot system and audio video files on an external FW harddrive for the last few years; and that lets me boot up to and use MY SYSTEM; on whatever Mac that I am using. This decision from apple is going to put an end to that. And it is my understanding that even with this bridge we still wouldnt be able to boot off of FW; or use FW target disk mode, etc.

  8. Couldn’t you use an add-on card. There are many different types and kinds of add-on cards out there.

  9. For all those who are pissed at Apple for omitting the Firewire port, the answer is simple.

    DON”T BUY the MACBOOK.

    If a firewire port is so damn important to you, pony up the cash and buy the MacBook Pro or an iMac.

    I kept asking myself why Apple would do this and the answer is simple. Apple marketing has been trying to differentiate the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines for a long time. Taking out the firewire port do exactly what they wanted.

    And I bet the overall cost reduction for removing the firewire was hardly anything. Yes, the firewire conenctors are cheap, but the firewire chip takes up motherboard space. And that is a premium on laptops.

  10. Geez, something to get worked up about… Just:

    1) don’t buy a new Macbook. It’s not like it affects your current device.
    2) get a macbook pro
    3) use another solution like an add-on card to connect your stuff

Comments have been disabled for this post