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Performance on Mac Pro with Firewire 800

Last updated January 31, 2011 - Send Feedback

On the Mac Pro, using Firewire 800 drive performance is an oxymoron. Install an eSATA card and get far superior performance, or stick with internal drives. The only reasonable use for Firewire 800 on a Mac Pro is for quick-and-easy connectivity. Anything else is a waste of time day after day.

Firewire throttling

The Firewire 800 results are all limited by the Firewire 800 technology to mediocre speeds. The very best you can hope for is 84MB/sec, with writes lagging at about 70MB/sec, both speeds well below what even a single hard drive can deliver.

See the in-depth results further below.

1TB volume limit with Firewire (performance bug)

There is a debilitating Apple performance bug for volumes over 1TB. I first wrote about this bug 3-4 years ago, but Apple apparently will never fix it.

The workaround is to partition the drive. For example, instead of making a single 1.5TB volume as a striped 750+750GB unit, instead make 1TB and 500GB volumes.

The point of this graph is to show just how pitiful Firewire 800 performance is, even with a striped RAID, compared to a single fast internal drive. And how it’s worse for a volume exceeding 1TB in capacity. This is not the fault of the Guardian MAXimus Mini; it’s a Firewire limitation— see the in-depth results further below.

HDD = Seagate Momentus 7200rpm 750GB hard disk drive in Guardian MAXimus Mini

Volumes over 1TB suffer a performance hit with Firewire 800, which is already much lower than the same drive used internally in the Macbook Pro
Volumes over 1TB suffer a performance hit with Firewire 800 on top of an already severely impaired performance relative to a single fast internal hard drive
disktester run-sequential

In-depth results

Results for combinations of SSD/HDD + eSATA/Firewire 800 + RAID-0/RAID-1.

  • Firewire 800 offers abysmal performance relative to eSATA.
  • A single internal SSD easily outperforms the Guardian MAXimus in RAID-0 mode because of the limits of the bridge board in the quad-interface design. But both are very high performance.
  • Both RAID-0 and RAID-1 are little different in performance for SSDs, because both the bridge board and SATA 3G throttle performance.
performance of Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual Mini with 2 X 200GB Mercury Pro RE SSD
Sequential Write/Read performance MB/sec over Firewire 800 compared to eSATA
disktester run-sequential

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