While wireless gear is popular, the backbone of any network should be connected via an Ethernet cables. They offer higher and more consistent throughput, with less interference, which makes them the best option for gaming, too.
These days, the choices comes down to a handful of different types: Cat5, Cat6, and Cat7, with some variations. Cat is short for "category" and generally denotes the speed the cable is able to carry.
If you're rocking one of the best gaming routersyou need the cabling to match. For years, if you asked any geek which was the best cable, the response was often Cat5 although they were mostly referring to the subsequent variant Cat5e. More on that later. Numbering the different categories all started when copper telephone cable was then repurposed to carry both voice communication data.
These older cables were unshielded in a twisted pair configuration, designated as Cat1. They have a data rate that maxed out at a pokey 1 Mbps, although nobody would use this for a data connection for decades after. Good ol' '90s dial-up. So what are the differences between the modern categories, and which one should you use for your home network?
While there were some standards in between, the next standard was Cat5. This was a common Ethernet standard, although it is quite outdated at this point. It is notable as the throughput speeds were a nice, round Mbps, at distances up to meters. Nobody should try to run a network on Cat5 these days, nor are the cables even available for purchase.
Cat5e can have speeds of Mbps, and is used in many residential and commercial wired applications for Gigabit Ethernet. This is the slowest cable that anyone should use for a new Ethernet setup, and its primary advantage currently is its lower cost. The next standard up is Cat6, which are wound more tightly with a nylon spline and shielding to further reduce crosstalk and reduce interference.
Category 5e Ethernet Cables
While the obvious advantage of Cat6 cabling is that the throughput bumps up to a ridiculous 10 Gbps, but the detail is that these speeds are limited to 55 meter distances, which is shorter than for Cat5 or Cat5e runs, and at longer distances goes back to 1 Gbps. While the speeds are faster for Cat6 on shorter runs, the downside is that the wires are stiffer making them more difficult to bend, and the thicker wires are more difficult to terminate.
Cat6 has also traditionally been more expensive, although the price difference compared to Cat5e has lessened over time. Cat6a is, for the most part, not that much different from Cat6, but there are some differences worth noting. The transmission bandwidth is also doubled, from to MHz, and Cat6a cables are often shielded, which makes them ideal for industrial use. The latest "cable on the block" is Cat7, which is shielded, and requires a GigaGate45 connection.
The speeds are wickedly fast, at shorter distances, maxing out at Gbps at less than 15 meter distances, and reverting to 10 Gbps at longer distances. There is also a Cat8 standard that is still being finalized, but no gear is currently available, with a targeted throughput of 40 Gbps at longer distances. These "next generation" cable choices of Cat7 and above are more suited to data centers, than residential applications. Want some Cat7 cable?Welcome to the Cat 5e Ethernet Cables Store, where you'll find great prices on a wide range of different cat 5e ethernet cables.
Skip to main content. Cat 5e Ethernet Cables Welcome to the Cat 5e Ethernet Cables Store, where you'll find great prices on a wide range of different cat 5e ethernet cables.
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Below is a chart for reference when picking cable for your application based on the standards for that category. As the category number gets higher, so does the speed and Mhz of the wire. This does not mean your experiences have been the same. Every connection in your network needs to support the 1 Gb speed and in some cases, the connection will need to be told in software to use the available speed.
It does it through wire twisting and isolation. Cable twisting was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in for use on telephone wires that were run along side power lines. Twisted pair became the basis for all Ethernet cables to eliminate interference between internal wires XTand external wires AXT.
There are two main physical differences between Cat-5 and Cat-6 cables, the number of twists per cm in the wire, and sheath thickness. Cable twisting length is not standardized, but typically there are 1. The amount of twists per pair is usually unique for each cable manufacturer. As you can see in the above picture, no two pairs have the same amount of twists per inch.
Many Cat-6 cables also include a nylon spline which helps eliminate crosstalk. Although the spline is not required in Cat-5 cable, some manufactures include it anyway. In Cat-6 cable, the spline is not required either as long as the cable tests according to the standard. In the picture above, the Cat-5e cable is the only one with a spline.When you think of home networking, your thoughts naturally turn to Wi-Fi and the ability to move data throughout a house or apartment over nothing more than thin air.
There's another way that, for some scenarios, is not only easier and more reliable, but potentially faster: use Ethernet cables to move the data to and fro.
After all, even the best Wi-Fi routers have often unused Ethernet ports that, with the right cable, can routinely move upward of 1 Gigabit per second Gbps and as far as feet, surpassing Wi-Fi's abilities. While my family connects its phones, tablets and notebooks over Wi-Fi, we also use wired networking for printers, scanners, access points, network storage and an internet radio. And it's the simple, but often little understood Ethernet cable that makes it work.
There's nothing like the satisfying click when an Ethernet cable's RJ connector snaps into place, ready to move data. At the most basic level, getting top speed out of wired networking relies on three things: the router's speed, the capabilities of the device that is using the data and, of course, the cable's data-carrying capacity.
But all Ethernet cables are not created equal. In this primer I'll describe the capacity and the construction of the major eight classes of cabling. The cable evolution has been surprisingly fast, with the ability to deliver data rising by a factor of more than 10, With all the change, one constant has been that every generation of cabling has required higher and higher frequencies that can carry greater and greater amounts of data.
Along the way, this added the need for better insulation and shielding to reduce interference. Set the Wayback Machine to the late s. Hair was bigger, shoulders were padded and early networkers were using either coaxial cable or what came to be called Category 1 cable. Also called voice-grade cable, it was generally composed of insulated telephone wires twisted into pairs to reduce crosstalk and covered in a plastic jacket.
Capable of carrying a 10KHz signal, Category 1 cable could deliver upward of 1Mbps of data for early networkers. This standard gave way to Category 2 cabling, which carried 4Mbps with a 1MHz signal. Fast-forward to the early s and Category 3 cablewhich is often called the first modern networking cable, boosted the cable's frequency to 16MHz and Ethernet performance to 10Mbps. By contrast, Category 4 cable pushed this to 20Mhz and roughly 16Mbps but it was used for Token Ring — rather than Ethernet — networks.
The year brought not only Microsoft's Windows 95 but Category 5 cable as well. It could reliably convey Mbps of data at a frequency of MHz over feet. Soon after, Cat 5e cable emerged with the ability to speed data with 1Gbps throughput. Category 6 cable appeared at the start of the 21st century and remains popular with home networkers. Category 6 runs at up to MHz and sometimes used shielding around the bundle of data-carrying wires to reduce interference.
Capable of moving up to 1Gbps over feet, or 10Gbps for about half that, Cat 6A upgraded the spec to MHz for feet of 1Gbps throughput. See our primer on Gigabit-speed internet to learn why that 1Gbps threshold is so important. Although it's not recognized by the Telecommunications Industry Association TIACategory 7 cable debuted in and is aimed at data centers and server rooms where top speed counts.
Each cable is double-shielded: around each pair of wires and an overall shield around the entire bundle of wires. This extra isolation is needed because the MHz frequency used can push a maximum of 10Gbps over feet. More recently, the introduction of Cat 7A cable increases the speed to 1GHz and throughput to 40Gbps, but tops out at feet.
Finally, Category 8 is the new spec on the cable block.Ethernet IEEE Often these cables are supplied free with equipment that uses Ethernet connectivity in some way or another. There are several different varieties of Ethernet cable that can be obtained: speed variations, crossover cables, Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat6, Cat 6a, Cat 7etc. Normally Ethernet cables will be bought and there is no major need to understand what is inside or on the connectors, although it can be both interesting and helpful on some occasions.
Even so, an understanding of the different types of Ethernet cable and the maximum lengths that should be used is helpful. The commonly used network cables: Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat7 all have different levels of performance, and therefore to is necessary to buy or select the right cable for the right application. These network cables are used for connecting a variety of network elements from Ethernet switches and Ethernet routers to computers, servers and other network items - if there is an Ethernet interface, they can be connected using Ethernet cables.
The Ethernet cables for connectivity in most office and home environments rely on twisted wire pairs within an overall cable - Cat 5, Cat 6 and Cat 7 all used this format.
Twisting the wires together enables the currents to balance, i. In this way, data can be transmitted over considerable lengths without the need for undue precautions.
As several twisted pairs are contained within a particular network cable, the number of twisted per unit length is arranged to be different for each pair - the rate being based on prime numbers so that no two twists ever align. This reduces crosstalk within the cable. The Ethernet cables are available in a variety of lengths as patch cables, or the cable itself is available for incorporating into systems, buildings, etc. The terminations can then be made to the required connector using a crimp tool.
These network cables are available in a variety of lengths - long Ethernet cables are available, some of the longest being up to 75 metres. Earlier network cables were unshielded, but later ones were shielded to improve the performance.
For example an unshielded twisted pair UTP cable may be satisfactory for a short run between a computer and router, but a foil shielded cable, FTP, is best longer runs or where the cable passes through areas of high electrical noise. There are different methods that can be used for shielding Ethernet cables. The most common is to place a shield around each twisted pair.
This not only provides shielding for the cable externally, but also reduces crosstalk between the internal twisted pairs as well.
Manufacturers can further enhance the performance by placing shielding around all the wires in the cable just under the cable sheath. There are different codes used to indicate the differs types of shielding:.
A further difference within the Ethernet cables whether Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6e, or Cat 7 can be whether solid or stranded wires are used within the cable. As the description implies, a solid cable uses a single piece of copper for the electrical conductor within each wire of the cable whilst stranded wire uses a series of copper strands twisted together.
Although when buying a patch cable, it may not be necessary to know this, when installing a long cable run it may be important as each type is slightly more suitable for different applications. A variety of different cables are available for Ethernet and other telecommunications and networking applications. These network cables that are described by their different categories, e.
Cat 5 cables, Cat-6 cables, etc, which are often recognised by the TIA telecommunications Industries Association and they are summarised below:. Further descriptions of Cat-5 and Cat-5e cables are given below as these are widely used for Ethernet networking applications today.
The RJ45, Registered Jack 45 connector is used almost universally as the physical connector used on Ethernet cables, and with networking cables in general. Fortunately these are backwards compatible with the RJ45 so there is no need to have a completely new installation when migrating to Cat 7.
The RJ45 connector used on the ends of Ethernet cables are small plastic plugs with a retaining catch that can be released when the cable needs to be removed. The term plug refers to the male end of the connection on the network cable, and the jack refers to the port or female and normally located on the equipment. The RJ45 connector has eight pins that are spaced around 1 mm apart, and the wires are inserted and crimped to provide a reliable connection.
The actual connector type is known as an 8P8C - eight position - eight contact.Megabits, Cats, and cables get a bit confusing when you are looking at Ethernet cables. So, start here when figuring out how to choose the best Ethernet cable for your home or work.
Start with the speed of your home internet connection. If you have gigabit internet 1Gbpsan old Ethernet cable will hold you back. If your subscription only supports 50Mbps downloads, purchasing a 1Gbps Ethernet cable is simply overkill — at least for now. Next, consider the speed needed for your network. This knowledge is irrelevant to most home users.
Still, if you frequently move big files between computers or stream extremely high-bandwidth video, a better Ethernet cable can make a huge difference. Finally, consider your router. Many cheap routers only support Ethernet up to megabits per second so that the router will bottleneck anything newer than Cat 5. Even the best home routers rarely support more than gigabit Ethernet, meaning Cat 6a and Cat 7 are of questionable use.
Ethernet Cable: Types, Performance & Pinout - Cat 5, 5e, 6, 6a, 7, 8
Many homes can even get away with Cat 5e. A general rule of thumb is that higher numbers represent faster speeds and higher frequencies, measured in megahertz MHz. As is the case with most technologies, newer cables typically support higher bandwidths, and therefore increased download speeds and faster connections. Keep in mind that longer Ethernet cables have slower transmission speeds. Cables bought for personal use rarely exceed meters anyway and are unlikely to experience bottlenecked speeds.
Both Cat 3 and Cat 5 Ethernet cables are, at this point, obsolete. However, manufacturers build Cat 5e cables under more stringent testing standards to eliminate unwanted signal transfers between communication channels crosstalk. Cat 5e is currently the most commonly used cable, mainly due to its low production cost and support for speeds faster than Cat 5 cables.
Cat 6 cables support higher bandwidths than Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables. Said shielding protects the twisted pairs of wires inside the Ethernet cable, which helps prevent crosstalk and noise interference. Cat 6 cables technically support speeds up to 10Gbps, but only do so for up to 55 meters.
That speed comes with a price, however, as Cat 6 cables are more expensive than Cat 5 and Cat 5e variants. Cat 6a cables come shielded, and their sheathing — which is thick enough to eliminate crosstalk — makes for a much denser, less flexible cable than Cat 6.
Cat 7 cables support higher bandwidths and significantly faster transmission speeds than Cat 6 cables by utilizing the newest widely available Ethernet technology. Cat 7 cables reach up to Gbps at a range of 15 meters, making them an excellent choice for connecting modems or routers directly to your devices.
Cat 7 cables are always shielded and use a modified GigaGate45 connector, which is backward compatible with regular Ethernet ports. This improvement may be useful in some instances, but Cat 7a cables are far more expensive than any other option. Consider using Cat 7a only in very niche cases. Even more, Cat 8 supports two connectors.
Thus it only allows for three connected cables with a combined length of 30 meters. Older specifications, like Cat 6a, enable four connectors for a total of five cables with a combined distance of meters. The differences between the various types of Ethernet cables are rather simple, but some of the terminologies can be confusing.
To help out, we put together a quick rundown on what the different terms mean, and what you should expect when buying cables with those designations. TP Twisted Pairs : Refers to how the wires inside twist together. Twisted Pairs are an industry standard, and are only inferior to fiber-optic cabling in terms of maximum length and speed drop-off. Usually made of copper or another conductive polymer, shielding reduces noise and improves connection quality. These are the best cheap Roku deals for October