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Most FW boards should work, depending on the slots that you have available in your MoBo. The front-panel connections is a nice feature for convenience.
One thing that you might want to think about is use of FW-800 for external drives in the future. I've had great success with: http://www.firewiredirect.com/product/347/
Unfortunately, they do not have a front-panel faceplate for it, or did not when I bought. To circumvent that, I did run a FW-800 cable from an internal connection through the back of the case, so I could make connections at the front of the computer. Not as elegant as a faceplate, but workable. Only used the above supplier three times, but got great service with 0 complaints. Not a long track record, but a good one, so far.
Make sure that your MoBo BIOS are able to handle FW (should not be a problem) and if you go with a IEEE1394a & b, make sure that it will handle/recognize FW-800, as well.
The problem with Firewire 800 is that you can't always have both at the same time, and 800 is not backwards compatible. If I were to install a Firewire 800 driver, I would have to uninstall it and install the 400 driver every time I wanted to capture, since all cameras are 400 devices.
I don't know if this is a general truth about Firewire, or if it's motherboard dependent, but it is something to be aware of.
Interesting Jim. I have had no problem having both going at once on my box. Now, I do use a dedicated FW-400 for video capture, but have a dozen (4x 3) FW-800 devices on three channels from the card, plus four FW-400 2x 2 streams, that function well. I am still able to use my MoBo FW-400 connections, including the single stream for the camera, etc. I'd guess that there might be a conflict in your BIOS. I had similar with a dual FW PCMICA card in my laptop and had to flash the BIOS to get the 800 driver to see that port in the card. Now, both work fine for it, and it's a 4 year old Toshiba.
Obviously, as you point out, there can be incompatibilities - as I also mentioned re: the BIOS. Just because my system works does not guarantee that others will be so lucky. Thanks for pointing this out, as the OP might face the same issue.
Back to the OP's question. Have you found much, if any, brand differences with FW cards? For me it's fairly simple; all that I have ever added worked, so I don't know if some are better than others. Looking in the Fry's ad insert, I saw FW cards from US$4 to $39 with the same # of ports, though two also had USB2 connections. Have you gotten any "bad" ones, or ones that did a better job? They all seem about the same to me, factoring out additional ports.
So then it must be a motherboard dependent issue.