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Review: Firewire PCI Controller:Back to Main News Page's PCI Firewire Card Performance Tests in S900:
Last Updated: 8/8/2000, 10:38 AM

This page lists results of tests with a PCI Firewire card (3 external ports, 1 internal port) against my Rocketfire Firewire/USB combo card in my S900. With the latest Firewire 2.4 extensions and VST 12GB portable drive (using VST v2.2 drivers/55.3 firmware) performance was literally identical with these two cards. Both the FWdepot and Rocketfire cards use TI firewire chips. I saw no problems with 470+MB file copies or copies of folders with over 13,000 files with either of the two cards. In fact I copied 8GB of files from the Firewire drive to an IDE drive and back with no problems seen with either card. I've not tested DV capture performance using iMovie, etc. but the FWDepot card seems to be as good as any I've tested in my S900 (OS 9.04 with CPU upgrade). However as I commented on last week in the news here, Firewire in legacy Macs has so many potential variables (firewire/ide bridge types/firmware versions, extension versions for drives, etc.) that there is no way to guarantee compatibility with everything out there, so your mileage may vary.

None of the PCI Firewire cards I've tested in my S900 will boot from a Firewire drive. (However the portable drives are bootable from many onboard Firewire Macs as noted in past Firewire articles here, at least via holding down the option key a boot.)

The card retails for $69.99 plus shipping, one of the lower priced firewire cards. The version I have is the red colored 'L' shaped PCI card. For bus power the card includes a 'Y' power cable adapter that connects to the card. The Rocketfire card includes a connector for this but also has a jumper to select the PCI bus as the source of firewire bus power. The Rocketfire Firewire/USB combo card lists for $169.99.

Pros: Low Cost, Seems to perform as well as more expensive cards based on tests in this S900.

Cons: Review sample had no documentation (not sure that is true of units shipped to customers). Unlike the more expensive cards, no option to have the PCI bus supply power to the Firewire bus, you must use the included Y power adapter cable to connect to the card. (Although this may actually help reliability in some cases. Some reports have indicated PCI bus powered cards may be responsible for odd problems with some firewire devices in certain Mac models.)


  • Apple Firewire Drivers (current version is 2.4)
  • Apple states OS v9.0 or later recommended for Firewire 2.4
  • Free PCI slot

Test System Details:

  • Umax S900
  • Newer Tech G4/350
  • OS 9.04 w/Firewire 2.4 drivers
  • Acard ATA/66 PCI IDE Controller
  • Maxtor 27GB and Quantum 6GB IDE drives
  • 3dfx Voodoo3 3000 PCI (beta11 drivers)
  • PCI slot 5 used for Firewire PCI cards
  • VST 12GB Portable drive (VST drivers v2.2/firmware v55.3)
  • Sony Firewire 10x/4x/32x CDRW used for CDRW tests

Real World Test Results:
Other than any test file being used, the VST 12GB drive was blank and freshly formatted for all tests. A stopwatch was used to time file read, copy and save times, so consider times within one second to be practically a draw given the margin of human error for starting and stopping the stopwatch.

Copy System Folder: Time taken to copy the OS 9.04 system folder (231.9 MB, 2,628 files) from the boot IDE drive to the VST Firewire drive connected to the cards.

  • FWDepot Card:    1 Min, 38 Sec
  • RocketFire Card: 1 Min, 48 Sec

Copy 470+MB File: Time taken to copy a Quake3 pak file (over 470MB) from the boot IDE drive to the VST Firewire drive connected to the cards. (times rounded to the nearest second)

  • FWDepot Card:    1 Min, 21 Sec
  • RocketFire Card: 1 Min, 21 Sec

Photoshop 5.5 Load/Save Tests: Time taken to load and save (as different filename) a 18MB file from the VST Firewire drive connected to the cards. (times rounded to one decimal place)

  • FWDepot Card:    3.8 Sec
  • RocketFire Card: 3.8 Sec

  • FWDepot Card:    4.8 Sec
  • RocketFire Card: 4.3 Sec

CDRW Tests:
As with the Rocketfire card, I had no problems with the FWdepot card when burning CDs at 10x rates using Toast 4.1 with my Sony 10x/4x/32x firewire CDRW. Toast was set to 64MB cache size and Virtual Memory was off.

Results of tests with ATTO Tools benchmark, Macbench 5.0 and VST's Format test utility are listed below.

(Note: Macbench scores were lower with VST firmware 55.3/drivers 2.2)

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