A FireWire® card is a piece of computer hardware connected through a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) slot that adds a FireWire® port to a computer system. FireWire® is a kind of data port that’s generally used for high-speed external devices like video cameras and hard drives. Some computers come with built in FireWire®, but in many cases, purchasing a FireWire® card may be the only way to add this kind of data transfer port to a system.
FireWire® is generally well-known for having a lot of speed. There are two different FireWire® standards with different speed potentials. FireWire® 400 transfers data at 400 megabits per second, and the more advanced version, FireWire® 800, is twice as fast. Both standards offer great speed compared to most other external computer data ports, and they also have the potential to reserve system resources to make sure that data transfers smoothly.
This ability to transfer data smoothly is generally one of the main reasons people install FireWire® cards on their computers. Many external hardware devices, such as video cameras, can potentially benefit greatly from the very smooth transfer rates and high speeds a FireWire® card can offer. In fact, many video cameras are generally built with FireWire® in mind, and this has been true since digital video first became a common consumer technology.
Another advantage of having a FireWire® card is the ability to daisy chain devices. This is done by connecting one device to the FireWire® card, and then connecting another device to the first device. This can go on and on with many devices interconnected. The computer can access any of the devices on the chain and transfer data through the entire chain using FireWire® level speed and smoothness. FireWire® ports also have the potential to provide power to the devices they’re connected to, and most computers can instantly recognize and take advantage of a FireWire® device as soon as it’s plugged in, which generally makes FireWire® fairly convenient to use.
The main competitor to FireWire® is the universal serial bus (USB) standard. These have very similar features, but USB is generally a little bit slower. For the most part, USB has been adopted more readily by computer hardware manufacturers, mostly because the wires used are less expensive, and USB works well enough for most applications. The USB 2.0 standard is actually a little bit faster than FireWire® 400, but FireWire® 800 generally surpasses it by a pretty wide margin.