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Gaming on external FW800 drive

I'm thinking of upgrading my laptop, but the next generation has removed the ExpressCard port that I previously used for an eSATA hard drive to keep my game data on, so I'm wondering if the performance is going to be severely degraded by running the games from a SATA to FireWire 800 caddie instead of the eSATA one.

I'd test this myself, but a) I don't have Windows installed at the moment and b) I don't have a FW800 caddie right now.


Political User
Unfortunately I don't have an answer for you, but this would be a great test.

I know that with Vista & Windows 7 I've had some serious performance issues with Firewire. I've read that there is a bug with the driver and it requires some registry tweaking to set right, but I've not had much luck with my simple FW400 setup.

Beyond that, I'd imagine there being a significant increase in drive latency while trying to access the FW800 connected disk. This may or may not have serious performance implications for games that often load and swap textures and models from the HD during gameplay.
I wouldn't have thought so. When it comes to it 800mbit is more than enough for sustained texture reads that games do. My internal sata disks can busrt to 2gbit for a few seconds before falling back down to ~500mbit.


Political User
It's not the transfer speed I'm worried about, its the increased latency leading to pauses and hitches in games.
there would be no extra latency, FW800 has more than enough bandwidth to keep up with a sata disk. I can play blu-ray movies over USB2 for instance :)


Political User
Perhaps. I'm simply speculating that routing data through an extra controller beyond the SATA controller on the external HD enclosure and then through the FW bridge would add some additional latency. Once the initial seek request is completed and the data stream starts, you are right there would be no difference. It's just the seek lag that I'm talking about.

I could be completely wrong though, and it could be immeasurable.
Well I used to run games from an eSATA express card which went through the PCIe bus, so I'd never have got the full bandwidth of the eSATA while playing. I'm going to get a FW800 external caddie next week I think and then install Windows on my new MBP.

Still not sure whether to install Vista or Win7 on it, but I suspect Vista will have the better BootCamp drivers.

If you can play Blu-Ray over USB2 then FW800 (or even FW400) should be able to perform as well or better.


Political User
I have a Firewire 400 external hard drive enclosure I can get sustained speeds of about 35 MB/sec, the hard drive inside of the enclosure is a SATA drive, which can theoretically run at 3 Gb/sec.

I also have a USB external enclosure with the exact same SATA drive in it, and the max speed I get from it is a measly 20 MB/sec. USB's overhead is rearing its ugly head.

Also, with USB the CPU is doing most of the work since there is no DMA, whereas with Firewire you get DMA which means the CPU is doing almost no work. Having ran entire OS's off my Firewire drive, it is plenty fast for gaming and anything else you would like to accomplish with it.

There is no real lag period either, or it is so miniscule that it can't be measured. Also games tend to pre-load data into memory whenever they get a chance, and the OS will attempt to do read-ahead as well. If anything games these days are designed to eat up as much memory as possible to lessen the chance that they have to hit the hard disk for data and or using the fact that they are going to know where you are before you know it that they can preload the next few scenes.

FW800 should also be significantly faster than FW400. I don't have any FW800 enclosures or I would test for you.

Firewire was always the better standard, but more expensive (because of the way it is implemented). Had Apple not charged for Firewire implementations then maybe USB would not be here today, well other than that Apple stood behind Firewire, and Intel stood behind USB ...

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