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I just purchased a Dell Studio 1555 notebook computer. The specifications said it has a 1394 (note no letter) port. I assumed that since 1394b is 7 years old, that it would be a 'b' port. Not so. When I contacted Dell about this, they said to go to their store to purchase a 1394b solution. Specifically, they mentioned a 1394b to USB converter. That's even slower than 1394a (USB 2.0 bandwidth limits)!!!

Why would Dell install the 'a' port?

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migrated from serverfault.com Dec 19 '09 at 2:25

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3 Answers 3

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Historically 1394(Firewire) is generally used by more mac-centric hardware. The use of it on a mostly Windows platform is rare, 1394b(Firewire 800) dramatically more so.

Of the two options, 1394a is much more commonly used, regardless of OS, than 1394b. I would guess that Dell defaulted to the "most compatible" solution rather than the "highest performance" solution.

Anecdotally, I was shopping for an external 1394b drive for my Mac mini and the price for a 1394b enclosure alone is nearly the same as the price for a external 1tb usb drive. 1394b(firewire 800) is just a rare connection standard.

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Why would Dell install the 'a' port?

Because it is cheaper? Because the machine is a redevelopment of an older design, rather than a completely new design? There are a couple of possible reasons.

A general recommendation for future purposes though: if there are two or more options and some are better than others, and the exact option is not stated, always assume until you have good evidence to the contrary that you would be getting the lowest of the options. If it was the better of the options the specs would say so fairly clearly.

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I agree with your answers. As far as your 2nd paragraph, I generally agree, but the 1394b spec has been out 7 years (That's about 100 computer years), so I was pretty sure it had to be a 'b' port. Never-the-less, I don't anticipate 1394 usage, but I'm still miffed. –  Les Dec 18 '09 at 21:10

1394a connectors are rather more common than 1394b, especially on video camcorders. Hence the preference for equipping a laptop with an earlier standard.

My laptop has both, and I typically use an adaptor to plug an 'a' cable into the 'b' port ot get a second 'a' device connected.

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