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Monday, December 17, 2007
FireWire Reaches 3.2 Gbps, Threatens eSATA, USB 2.0

The 1394 Trade Association has announced a new specification to quadruple the speed of FireWire to reach 3.2 gigabits per second.

The new electrical specification, known as S3200, builds upon the IEEE 1394b standard, preserving all the advantages of FireWire while offering a major boost in performance. The new speed uses the cables and connectors already deployed for FireWire 800 products. Because the 1394 arbitration, data, and service protocols were not modified for S3200.

The 1394 Trade Association said that IEES3200 preserves 100 percent of the 1394b design efficiency and delivers extremely high payload speeds reaching nearly 400 megabytes per second.

FireWire products built using S3200 will directly connect to every previously released FireWire product. Alternative cable options are available to carry FireWire over long distances - 100 meters or more - even at high speeds. Also, FireWire?s peer-to-peer architecture allows products to operate with a computer - or without one.

Compared to the external SATA (eSATA) and USB 2.0 interfaces, the S3200 offers enough power to allow FireWire-equipped hard drives to operate without an AC adapter with a single connection. USB 2.0 devices often require power from double USB 2.0 ports, while the eSATA interface does not provide electrical power. However, it is slower than the upcoming USB 3.0 interface, which is supposed to be 10x times faster than USB 2.0, and offers backwards compatibility.

The 1394 Trade Association also tries to enhance FireWire?s position in consumer electronics A/V devices such as camcorders and televisions. FireWire interface can record HD programs in their full digital quality while also meeting the content protection requirements of copyright holders. The Association also believes that with S3200, FireWire becomes fast enough to move even uncompressed HD signals over long distances at much lower cost than solutions such as HDMI.

The Silicon Working Group developed the S3200 specification within the 1394 Trade Association, with participation by companies including Symwave, Texas Instruments, LSI Corporation, and Oxford Semiconductor. Based on the working group's progress, the Trade Association has set a January 2008 date for the specification to enter a ratification process.

Bandwidth (Mbit/s)
Transfer speed (MB/s)
Power provided 
Devices per Channel
1 (15 with port multiplier)
FireWire 800
Yes (12–25 V, 15 W)
Yes (5 V, 2.5 W)
USB 2.0
Yes (5 V, 2.5 W)

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