capsule review

Light Your PowerBook on Fire

With FireWire peripherals such as digital video cameras, hard drives, and CDRWs in abundance, adding FireWire connectivity to your PowerBook G3 might be smarter than sticking with a quickly aging SCSI port. Macworld Lab looked at three CardBus FireWire cards: VST's FireWire CardBus card, Evergreen Technologies's fireLine CardBus/PCMCIA Card, and Western Digital's 1394 CardBus PC Card. We looked at each card's features and tested them for performance.

Two things to consider up front: make sure your PowerBook G3 has a 32-bit CardBus slot. All Wall Street and later models are compatible; the first generation PowerBook G3 (with the six-color Apple logo) in the 3400 housing is not. Secondly, if you want to take advantage of FireWire disk mode, a feature of FireWire-equipped G3 PowerBooks that allows mounting of the PowerBook's hard drive on another system's desktop, you're out of luck. These cards don't support the feature.

Installation is simple -- slide the card into your PowerBook's PC card slot, install drivers, and restart. You're ready to go. With Evergreen's card, only Apple's current FireWire drivers are needed. Both Evergreen and Western Digital include two 6-pin FireWire ports for connecting devices like hard drives; VST's adapter comes with only one 6-pin port. If you need to connect a digital video camera using a 4-pin FireWire connection, Evergreen includes an adapter and Western Digital provides a 4- to 6-pin cable. VST, however, does not offer a 4-pin option.

In addition to hot plugability, another FireWire advantage over SCSI is the ability to provide power to peripherals. Unfortunately, due to the inadequate amount of power supplied to the CardBus slot, this feature isn't implemented with these cards. Only Evergreen's card has a connector to add an AC adapter and provide power to the bus. This allows devices such as compact FireWire hard drives to operate without having to draw power from another source.

When copying a 200MB file to a FireWire hard drive, all cards performed just as fast as our PowerBook G3's internal FireWire ports. Transfers were completed in just under 30 seconds. Copying the same file from our FireWire drive to the PowerBook yielded results of around 28 seconds for all cards.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Includes AC adapter connector
    • Inexpensive

    Cons

    • No Mac software bundle
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