Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Firewire and Thunderbolt

Firewire vs Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt and Firewire are two interface connection standards that are intended for peripheral devices. Thunderbolt is the newer one that aims to compete with Firewire, and even with USB. The main difference between Firewire and Thunderbolt is speed. Firewire has a maximum throughput of around 3.2Gbps while Thunderbolt is capable of achieving 10Gbps.

There is also a major difference on what you can connect to the interface and their number. Firewire is superior when it comes to number as it can daisy chain up to 63 devices at one. That is way more than the 6 devices that can be daisy chained with Thunderbolt. The main advantage of Thunderbolt is two out of those 6 devices can be high resolution displays. As Thunderbolt uses the mini DisplayPort connector, it can also accommodate those signals. In the real world, having the ability to connect monitors is probably better as most people do not really have that many peripherals. Having two Thunderbolt busses is probably enough, except for a select few.

Thunderbolt was initially designed to use fiber optic cables rather than traditional copper wires. But in order to reduce costs, the makers were forced to adopt and create a version for copper wires. The fiber optic version of Thunderbolt is supposedly capable of 10 times the bandwidth at 100Gbps. Firewire on the other hand, is mainly based on copper cables. There are plans on using fiber optic cables for it, but for now copper is the main medium.

Given that Firewire is much older than Thunderbolt, it is acceptable that it is in more devices and is in wider use than Thunderbolt. There is still some doubt though whether Thunderbolt can exceed the niche market for Firewire and go compete with the more prevalent standard, USB. It is quite possible given that Thunderbolt is much faster than both USB and Firewire and it has more uses. It will probably be just a matter of hardware manufacturers adopting its use rather than the actual technology behind it.


1.Thunderbolt is much faster compared to Firewire
2.Firewire can connect with more daisy chained devices than Thunderbolt
3.Firewire is strictly copper while Thunderbolt can be used with copper or fiber optics
4.Firewire is in wider use than Thunderbolt

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