As I’ve noted, unlike the new MacBook, the MacBook Pro revision retains FireWire, in the form of a FireWire 800 port. This does represent a switch to an NVIDIA chipset, so there may be new performance wrinkles with some interfaces. But it’s not the FW800 port per se you have to worry about. It gives you one less physical connector (previous MBPs had both a FW800 and FW400 port), but even the earlier models had just one bus for FireWire, shared between those two ports. There is a little bit of inconvenience there in that you need an adapter cable and have one less port free, but it’s much less of the deal-breaker the MacBook’s lack of FireWire or expansion is.

MOTU had already published a support note out about supporting FW800 ports — executive summary: don’t worry about it. Now Apogee, makers of the Mac-only Duet, weigh in:

Connection between a “late-2008” MacBook Pro and Ensemble or Duet is made with a commonly available FW800 to FW400 adaptor or cable. The connection of Ensemble or Duet to a FW800 port is fully supported and in no way alters the performance of the interface.

Ensemble and Duet Compatible with New MacBook Pro [Apogee Digital]

Via MacMusic; thanks to USO Project

  • for what it is worth, i've been using my Metric Halo 2882+DSP via the same 800 to 400 connector cable on my iMac for the last 6 months with zero problems whatsoever. so i do think backwards compatible truley means backwards compatible.

  • Yeah, absolutely. I think the issues people have had in isolated cases with FW800 ports have been controller related, (ie, the chip that does the FW implementation). That's a whole other can of worms, and not really about FW800.

  • Peropaal

    Connecting a FW400 device to a FW800 network does alter the total speed of the network and throttles everything down to FW400 speed.

    I really don't understand this statement from Apogee

  • @peropaal — what they're saying is correct *for their devices*. I.e., the Ensemble and Duet were FW400 speed to begin with. FW800 hasn't really been necessary outside storage from what I've seen.

  • poorsod

    Just to confirm. The upshot of this is, with the relevant connector, any FW400 device can connect successfully to the MBP's FW800 port?

  • @poorsod: That's exactly correct. That's always been the case. The only concern is that some misbehaved devices don't like certain controllers. But using the FW800 port really isn't a problem. In fact, in terms of flexibility having that FW800 port really is better than a FW400 port. That's part of why I think Apple may not be backing off of FW entirely, just seeing it as the pro feature.

  • robin parry

    does this mark the end of firewire?
    or just the, used by everyone, 400 version?
    after all the years of stable service?
    hell apple invented it, now they abandon it!!!

  • Fatboy Joe

    robin parry – In reference to the fact that USB 3 (4.3Gb/s) is in the very near horizon.

    If I am not mistaken, the strategy is to "encourage" manufacturers to adopt and popularize FireWire 800 enabled devices.

  • Apple didn't invent SCSI but they certainly were a huge promotor of it and it formed their exclusive interface in an age when PC's had PIO mode devices that chugged along in comparison. And for all the fanfare over Mac+SCSI Apple also summarily dropped it as soon as there was enough performance to justify the cost savings. I can think of several other Apple marketing bullets that have gone through similar arcs as well.

    In any case I agree with Peter, Apple now sees the firewire port as a 'pro' feature and the soundbite from Jobs over the lack of its inclusion in the Macbook pretty much states this. Something about not knowing of any consumer camera that has firewire support (I could almost hear him say iPod as well in this statement).

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