It looks as if the new-generation USB specification is going to take forever to reach us, and while every one’s arguing about it, the need for fast external connectivity is getting more important. Rather than waiting, several motherboard manufacturers are now choosing to incorporate a technology that’s been with us for some time.
Mac users will be familiar with FireWire and it’s been available as a method of DV connection between digital equipment for some time. Sony has incorporated it into most of the company’s DV Camcorders under the name of iLink, while its core specification is generally known as IEEE1394.
The demands of real time video editing and large data files have increased the requirement for fast external storage and LaCie has a new range of external FireWire devices that should go some way to satisfy them.
The company’s latest external DVD-RAM drive has a massive 5.2GB of capacity split between both sides of a standard DVD-RAM cartridge, which have been around for some time. Once installed, this drive looks just like an extra hard drive on the filing system. You can ‘drag and drop’, delete files and directories and reformat the disk, just as you would with any other. 5.2GB is certainly a useful capacity, and even larger capacity DVD-RAM is starting to appear, with enough space for a couple of hours of video on each side of the disk.
If you haven’t got a FireWire port on your PC then a simple three-port card is available for under £50, and with more manufacturers starting to use FireWire it could come in useful for other devices like scanners, printers and Digital Video gadgets. FireWire is capable of a data transfer rate of about 400Mbits/s, which works out at about 50MB per second. If you’ve ever sat around waiting for a tape backup to finish, that’s the sort of speed you’ll have only dreamt of.
And this is, in fact, considerably faster than the speed that the LaCie DVD-RAM drive can work at. It does mean, however, that the drive will never be waiting for data. We achieved a read speed from DVD-ROM approaching 3MB/s and with DVD-RAM this dropped to just under 1.5MB/s.
Conveniently, LaCie has developed a standard external drive housing that is capable of stacking drives together, so if you also invest in an external CD-RW drive or hard drive, they will all stand together in a tidy tower. Nice.
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