FireWire data transfer speeds seem set to double, thanks to a new chipset that has been announced this week by developing company, Symwave.

While there’s no immediate plans to implement it in the Mac the company behind the invention is now actively seeking device and computer manufacturers prepared to employ it.

Devices implementing support for the new technology will see speeds of 1.6 gigabits per second. Even better, it will power external hard drives without demanding they be plugged in.

This high performance FireWire chipset – FirePHY-1600 – is already compatible with all existing FireWire drivers for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, Windows XP and Vista and Unibrain.

The new solution is backwards-compatible with previous FireWire versions and is already being designed into a number of consumer devices for FireWire 800 (1394b) such as external storage devices/enclosures, hubs, repeaters and flash readers. 

Jim Kappes, Director of Marketing at Symwave explained: “The significant advantages of Symwave’s PHY technology will enable manufacturers to develop innovative, new products with higher functionality and lower cost than what exists in the market today.” 

Compared to USB 2.0 High Speed, the FirePHY-800 interface is typically 2-3 times faster, doesn’t require CPU overhead, and supports peer-to-peer networking (also called  daisy-chaining) of devices.

FirePHY-1600 enables up to 45 Watts of power to be carried over the 1394 cable  so external hard drives can be powered without an extra power supply.

Symwave is providing chipset samples to interested manufacturers and will also sponsor the 1394 Trade Association’s Q2 quarterly meeting in China this month.

Apple invented FireWire in the mid-90s and guided it to become a cross-platform industry standard, which is now cared for by the 1394 Trade Association. FireWire won an Academy Award for its material impact on the television industry in August 2001.


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