Nob Akimoto wrote:
Also, when we start seeing the old 23rd century designs firing in DS9, they seem to only fire from one or two banks at any one time. That would make sense if they were tied together in some way and therefore could direct their energy in one or two banks rather than having to fire them all at once.
It wasn't just in DS9 that you can see this. In TOS, the Enterprise had 4 phaser banks ("The Paradise Syndrome") that could be fired individually or all at once through 2 phaser emitters. We've seen:
1. All 4 phaser banks fire simultaneously through 2 emitters in "The Paradise Syndrome",
2. Phaser banks 1+2 through 2 emitters in "For The World Is Hollow..."
3. And phaser banks individually discharged through 3 individual phaser emitters in sequence in "Balance of Terror"
4. And phaser banks individually discharged through 2 individual phaser emitters simultaneously in "The Paradise Syndrome."
So even back in TOS, the phasers were all tied together in a way that the "phaser banks" were independent of the external phaser emitters.
Since the TOS Enterprise couldn't fire all four phaser banks at once
without channeling all her power into phasers then during combat she would be limited to being only able to discharge a phaser bank or two at a time while keeping her shields up and engines powered for maneuvering. This accounts for later era ships as well. They could
fire more emitters at once or put far more power into each phaser strike but always at the expense of shields and/or maneuverability.
I think that the Galaxy-class and other ships that use "arrays" also are powered by such phaser "banks". In the "Conundrum" the E-D has 10 phaser banks which is fewer than the number of external arrays and individual beam emitters that the ship has. I would guess that her short strips are capable of channeling all her phaser output and that the any extra length is more for redundancy.
We do see the E-D in the "Nth Degree" supposedly firing her phasers at the "hottest" they can be fired while still maintaining shields and traveling at impulse power. So for the E-D her max phaser output might be limited to the phasers itself and not how much power the ship can channel to them. (This would curiously make her phasers less powerful than an upgraded Excelsior-class in DS9 and the Defiant-class.)