When you are looking at various Ethernet cables for your PC or any other device that you want to add to your networking, you will run into various cable standards that are available commonly in the market.
Normally, not a lot of people pay attention to these because they can be confusing, but if you are willing to prepare yourself, this is how it is done.
For starters, we are only limiting ourselves to talking about CAT 5 Vs CAT 6 Vs CAT 7 Vs CAT 8 since these happen to be the most important in the market.
But I can tell you that these are important for a lot of users, and even though the differences between them are minor at best, they can be confusing to figure out, and that is why we are going to pay attention to the differences that are among these cables.
It is not going to be difficult, so do not stress that.
CAT 5 vs CAT 6 vs CAT 7 vs CAT 8 Cables Explained:
These are simply LAN or Ethernet cables that are used by a lot of people around the world. Despite Wi-Fi slowly becoming commonplace, the good thing about CAT cables is that they are consistent with data transfer, which means that you are not going to lose your data while it is transmitting, which is what makes these cables so useful as well.
What Is CAT 5?
The first one we are looking at is the CAT 5, and perhaps the most common one in the bunch as well. CAT 5. This cable comprises four twisted pairs of copper wire that are terminated by an RJ-45 connector. The cable is used most commonly in home and business networks.
CAT 5 cables can provide transmission speeds of up to 100 Mbps; the maximum length that is suggested for this cable is 100 meters. Going over that length without using any bridge or a network device could result in network issues that will create problems such as disconnections.
CAT 5 cables contain 8 wires and come with a specific wire order, this means that in case the wires are in a different order, the cable is not going to work at all.
There are two standards that you are looking at; T568A and T568B. Each standard is similar in terms of performance to the other one and does not provide any real benefit. However, you must use the same wire order on each end of the CAT 5 cable to make sure it works.
CAT 5 cables have been the industry standard for as long as one can remember, and they are being used all around the world as well. These cables are affordable and easily accessible, and replacing them is not going to be a costly measure. But is it worth it?.
Honestly, given the price and the ease of access to these cables, the CAT 5 cables have been used excessively and are still being preferred by people all over the world.
Remember, if you do not have a connection faster than 100 Mbps, spending money on a CAT 5 cable is always a good thing because you are getting something that is not only cheap but also something that always gets the job done.
These cables are easy to find, reliable, and, most importantly, they are durable as well.
What Is CAT 6?
Next up, we are looking at the CAT 6 cable, these are, of course, the predecessors to the CAT 5 cables that you are looking at, and over the past couple of years, these cables have become a lot more popular due to internet speeds becoming faster as well.
While the CAT 6 cables are faster, they are also compatible with the CAT 5 and CAT 5e standards as well.
With that said, if you are looking to get your hands on the CAT 6 cable, you need to understand that it can support data rates of up to 1 gigabit per second, which means that these cables can easily accommodate 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections over a limited distance.
The distance here is over 180 feet for a single cable; after that, you will need to attach a bridge or a networking device for proper performance.
A CAT 6 cable contains four pairs of copper wires and uses all of the pairs for obtaining a higher level of performance. It still terminates with an RJ-45 connector.
The cable also has another variant called CAT 6a, which offers the same performance but over a longer distance as well, and can go as high as 328 feet. The use of CAT 6 cables have reached the mainstream as well, simply because people have started moving towards faster internet connections.
However, be sure about the distance limitations since those can come in the way, but other than that, if you are using a CAT 6 cable, it should not have any issues.
Is it worth it? While in the start, we did not see CAT 6 becoming a huge deal because back then, internet connections were still relatively slow, but as time has progressed, these cables have only gotten better in terms of performance and are now regarded as some of the best that you can buy.
They do not inherently cost a lot of money, but you will be in good hands once you finally get it going. We would just advise that you are aware of the technicalities and you are good to go.
CAT 5 vs CAT 6?
If you are in the market looking for an Ethernet cable and you are searching the internet for some answers, the one thing that you are going to see as prevalent here is the comparison between CAT 5 and CAT 6 cables.
Now, as far as the comparison is concerned, you will need to understand that the CAT 6 cable is better in terms of speed. However, this is not a deciding factor for a lot of people because, in many cases, our internet is still not as fast, and therefore, this eliminates all the reasoning to go for a higher-end cable.
This means that there is no right or wrong answer, in the first place. For the longest time, CAT 5 has been the gold standard in both commercial and residential scales and is still being used around the world by countless people, to begin with.
However, if you are looking for better overall performance and reduced crosstalk, CAT 6 cables are the way to go. Once you have decided on which cable you have to go with, the remaining process is an easy one to deal with.
What Is CAT 7?
Now that we are done looking at some of the older standards of the cables, we are ready to look at some of the modern ones that have become a lot more famous over the years.
The CAT 7 standard is slowly taking off, and it is one of the more modern approaches, as well. Granted, it is also one of the more expensive ones, but you will at least get several benefits here.
One of the biggest benefits that you are getting from the CAT 7 cable is the fact that it comes with shielded twisted pairs that are great for reducing noise.
While the CAT 7 cables are more expensive than the predecessors, the cables are also known to have a longer lifespan, which helps you save money in the long run as you are not going to be replacing the cables again and again.
CAT 7 are more expensive, yes, but ever since I have started testing this cable, the results have been great as well. The cable offers a frequency of up to 600MHz, which makes it ideal for such situations where you need god frequency as well.
This is by far one of the best cables if you are trying to convert your premise into a smart home, as you will not be regretting that.
If you are wondering if CAT 7 cables are worth the extra money, they surely are. However, I am going to address the fact that a CAT 7 cable is only useful if you have an application for that.
Going for an expensive cable just because it is the latest and greatest is not going to get you anywhere, and most importantly, you are not going to get the same level of speed, either.
Therefore, it would be wiser if you are choosing the cable only if you have an actual use for it since that happens to be the most important thing there is.
What Is CAT 8?
The last cable on my list is going to be the CAT 8 cable that has become more or less the standard for those who are not in the mood to compromise on speed or technical prowess.
However, it is also important to know that just because this is the fastest of the bunch does not mean you might have the use for it as there are always differences that can be found here.
For starters, we are looking at the fastest cable as it supports up to 40Gbps of data transfer, which is four times faster than CAT 6a, and it also has the bandwidth support of 2GHz, another massive leap in terms of performance and a massive reduction in latency as well.
However, the biggest drawback that the CAT 8 has over the predecessors is the suggested maximum cable length. While the other cables max out at 100 meters or 328 feet, this one is only limited to 30 meters or 98 feet.
While this is still long-range for a casual homeowner but has more extensive uses, you might need to bridge these cables for better performance.
Overall, the use case of a CAT 8 cable is still a lot more limited, and until we have such fast internet connections being common, there is no need to spend more money on a CAT 8 cable because you wouldn’t be getting the full use out of it, either.
If you are wondering whether spending money on a CAT 8 cable is the right choice or not; there is nothing wrong with the cable, to begin with.
I do believe that the use case of such a high-end cable is still not as common, and therefore, I cannot recommend a CAT 8 cable to everyone unless you have a specific use case for such a cable, and in that case, you can go ahead and invest money on that.
Other than that, you are looking at something that is good and gets the job done as well.
CAT 7 vs CAT 8?
Now that we are done exploring all the cable types, the next step is to compare the infamous CAT 7 and CAT 8 cables. While it is easy to think that there might not be a lot of difference, in the first place but you would be surprised to know that both cables are different from one and the other.
For starters, the CAT 7 offers a performance of up to 600MHz, and the CAT 8 offers up to 2000 MHz of bandwidth. But the difference is not going to end here. With CAT 7, you are looking at the maximum cable length of up to 100 meters with 10Gbps.
However, CAT 8 falls short as you are looking at 30 meters of cabling with either 25Gbps or 40Gbps. This makes the CAT 8 cable-less effective at a longer range.
Another thing about these cables is that the CAT 8 is more expensive for obvious reasons, but considering the applications, it makes sense as well. Both the CAT 7 and CAT 8 cables are excellent in terms of performance and will deliver the performance you are looking for.
Shielded (FTP) vs. Unshielded (UTP)
When you are in the market looking for Ethernet cables, you will realize that the market is going to offer you two options; you will either get the chance to get a shielded or FTP cable or an unshielded UTP pair.
The choice is yours. But there are some differences between both cables that I think you would want to know.
For starters, shielded cables, for obvious reasons, are more expensive than unshielded cables. But at the same time, they are also difficult to install as they are on the stiffer side. Shielded cables also come with a larger diameter, which takes more space.
On the other hand, the UTP cables are faster in terms of transmission, however, this is only possible in the absence of EMI. UTP cables are also a lot less expensive to buy, they are easier to install and have been the industry standard for a long time.
Regardless of the cabling you go with, it is important to know that you should always go for a higher quality cable because, at the end of the day, that is what is going to matter the most.
Why Are Copper Pairs Twisted?
Whenever you are looking at a good cable, you might be wondering just why these cables are twisted in the first place.
For those wondering, twisted pairs are made up of two insulated copper wires that are twisted together; the twisting in the cables is done to cancel any electromagnetic interference that might take place in the exterior.
In addition to that, the twisting of the cable is also good when it comes to preventing any crosstalk interference. This simple twisting procedure is one of the main reasons that these cables can give us a smoother internet experience because without the twisting is done, in the first place.
You are only going to run into more issues, and that is not what we want to begin with. Therefore, always opt for twisted cables so you do not run into any interference.
Solid vs. Stranded
Another thing that you are going to notice when buying an Ethernet cable is that the market will have two options for you to choose from; solid and stranded. This might confuse the average consumer but trust me, the difference is not a lot, to begin with.
For starters, stranded wiring offers greater flexibility when installing as it can easily bend and allows for easier routing. On the other hand, solid or solid core cable is great because it manages to cover a greater distance; however, these cables are not designed to be flexible.
This means that solid cables should only be preferred if you are looking to run straight lines of cables with the least amount of bends; this is done to prevent anything from going wrong since we don’t always have to run into such issues.
What About Cat 5e & Cat 6a?
Two of the lesser-known cable standards are the CAT 5e and the CAT 6a; whenever you are looking to buy new cables, you will see that these are also commonly available in the market. The CAT 5e (enhanced) and CTA 6a (augmented) are still a lot more common than one might think.
These cables are commonly used in media and residential and commercial Ethernet networks. Cat 6a offers higher bandwidth and faster, but at the same time, it costs more as well.
As far as the Cat 5e is concerned, you are still looking at a pretty decent cable with performance that is going to be suited for the majority of use cases.
Needless to say, you are going to be more than okay with either of the cables, and you will do just fine, too. Just be sure that you are aware of how you plan on using these cables, and once you have sorted this out, the choosing and installation process is going to be the easiest, and you will not have any problems either.
Cat 5 Vs Cat 6 Vs Cat 7 Vs Cat 8 – Which One Should You Choose?
Now that we are done looking at all the standards of the cables that are available in the market, we have to start looking at which one you should choose.
I remember being in this situation when I was setting up my PC, and while it took me a long time to decide the best option, I realized that it does not have to be difficult for others.
If you are looking for just a standard network that is not too fast, then a CAT 5 should be more than enough for most uses; the cable is good on almost all the ranges, and more importantly, it works fine and that too, without any issues.
CAT 6 and CAT 7 are a lot similar as well because they deliver relatively the same performance but are on the more expensive end, so you have to keep that in mind before investing in those cables.
Lastly, we have the CAT 8 cables that are the fastest but, at the same time, are going to cost you the most, and most importantly, have short distances. Therefore, unless you specifically need CAT 8 cable, you are better at choosing something good when performing at longer ranges.
My Final Verdict:
Whenever you are in the market looking for a good Ethernet cable, you might find yourself confused and overwhelmed as well.
Gone are the days when the market only had one sort of cable to offer. There are multiple cable types now available, and it makes it difficult for an average consumer to make the right choice.
With this guide, the aim was to help people choose the best Ethernet cable and that too, without any issues. I hope that this makes it easier for everyone to choose the right cable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: Is Cat 6 or Cat 7 better?
If you are looking for the CAT 6 or the CAT 7 cable, you will realize that both cables are a lot similar in terms of performance.
The real difference here is that CAT 6 offers a performance of up to 250 MHz while the CAT 7 is rated at 600 Mhz. Additionally, CAT 6 offers 100m with 1Gbps, and CAT 7 does 100m with 10Gbps.
Question 2: Can I use Cat7 instead of Cat6?
For those wondering, you can easily go ahead and use CAT 7 cables instead of CAT 6. All the modern standards are backward compatible, so there is not a lot of difference in terms of performance or any issues in terms of compatibility.
Question 3: Can I use CAT 7 cable for the Internet?
Yep, if you are looking to use CAT 7 for the internet, you can go right ahead and hook it up. I can assure you that there are not going to be any problems in terms of performance or any other issues that you might run into.
Question 4: Is Cat 7 Ethernet cable backwards compatible?
Yes, all modern CAT cables are fully backward compatible. This means that you will not have to face any compatibility issues.
You just have to check that your internet supports the cable that you are trying to get your hands on, and once that is out of the way, you can go ahead and use any CAT cable.
Question 5: Will Cat7 work with any router?
Yes, the CAT 7 cable should work fine with any router. However, the more important aspect here is that you should always check if your internet is fast enough for the cable that you are about to spend money on because otherwise, it is just a waste of investment.
Question 6: What is the best Ethernet cable for home use?
If you are looking for a cable that is going to be good for home use, you can start by looking at CAT 5 or CAT 6.
Both of these standards have become a lot more common in the modern-day and age and are good in terms of overall performance as well.
Question 7: Which Ethernet cable is fastest?
Generally, the CAT 8 cable is the fastest available in the market. However, you also have to know that this standard is the most expensive, and in addition to that, this standard is also effective only at shorter ranges.
Question 8: How do I know what Ethernet cable I need?
Depends on the internet connection. If you have an internet connection that is faster than the speed that the cable supports, then you are going to need a new cable and a better one, to be precise.
Question 9: Does a shorter Ethernet cable faster?
Depends, if the cable you have is longer than it should be and is attached without any aid, then you might need to reduce the length of the cable to get the optimal performance.
But if it is within the suggested limit, then you are not going to have any issues in terms of the performance.
Question 10: Do Ethernet cables affect WiFi?
No, Ethernet cables do not have any direct effect on the Wi-Fi connection. However, if there are multiple devices connected on both networks, then the speed is going to be shared.
Question 11: Which cable is best for gaming?
Almost all the Ethernet cables that are within the specifications and work well with the user’s internet connection are great for gaming and should work without any issues.