When it comes to selecting the proper ethernet cable for your home or office network needs, there are a few things you will want to take into consideration before buying. What type of internet do you currently have? What performance speed is necessary to make your connection the most efficient? What range do you require to achieve the proper internet speeds? How many devices are going to be connected to your network? These few questions will help guide you to make the right decision when choosing the best ethernet cable for you and your network needs.
Some Simple Background Basics
The “Cat” in Cat5 stands for “Category”. Each Category of ethernet cables has its own characteristics and every new version has been optimized from the last in some way or another. This means that Cat6 (Category 6) cables are going to be capable of things that the Cat5’s (Category 5) are not, even if they are quite alike. While there are now later versions of ethernet cables than the Cat6, they are still an extremely adequate and reliable option, without being the priciest choice of them all. Category 5 cables were introduced in 1995 while Category6 cables were brought about in 2002. Cat5 cables are becoming increasingly more outdated as faster internet speeds take over, yet they are still commonly found being used. Is your office’s network speed hindering your work? Take a look under your desk and see what you’re working with. The solution could be as simple as updating your ethernet cable!
What Physically Makes Cat6 Better Than Cat5?
Cat5 and Cat6 cables are pretty similar when it comes to composition, however, Cat6 cables are undeniably superior when it comes to their functionality. They are both made up of four pairs of twisted copper wires, but Cat6 cables have internal separators or braided shieldings that insulate the wire pairings and isolate them to assist in the reduction of “crosstalk”. These separators are typically made of plastic for this Category. Crosstalk is defined as the undesired transfer of signals between communication channels. Silencing these cross-contaminating signals is just one of the reasons why Cat6 cables are the optimal choice when compared to Cat5 cabling. It is also why you will see just a slightly steeper price range when it comes to shopping around for Cat6 ethernet cables. Higher production costs result in higher prices. Later ethernet cable versions contain internal separators composed of foil or other thicker materials.
Speeds and Bandwidth
The speed and compatibility of Cat6 cables are far greater than any of its ethernet cable predecessors. The bandwidth capacity of a Cat6 cable is 250 MHz (megahertz), whereas the bandwidth of a Cat5 cable is 100 MHz. Cat6 cabling is capable of reaching speeds up to 10 GB (gigabyte) while Cat5 speeds can range from 10 Mbps (megabits per second) to 100 Mbps. They are also compatible with Cat5 and Cat5e cables (the “e” standing for enhanced). Cat5e cables were developed in 2002 and differ from Cat5’s in the ways that they can handle 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) network speeds and they provide less crosstalk interference, while still slightly having more crosstalk than a Cat6. Although most would say that a Cat5e cable is adequate enough for most basic needs, it is becoming increasingly more outdated as the demand for faster internet speeds continue to rise. Yet, Cat5e cables are the most commonly purchased network cable currently. They have a lower production cost than many later versions and still supports faster speeds than Cat5.
Do you plan on running a hefty array of devices on your network? What about streaming shows or downloading your new favorite album while you Google something on your mobile device at the same time? Or do you have an office with plenty of employees that rely on your office’s network to complete their daily responsibilities? Cat6 cables are going to be the more suitable option for you rather than a Category 5. They are the more appropriate choice for video streaming and multitasking because they are capable of handling the faster download speeds and heavier data load that is required for such tasks.
Both Cat5 and Cat6 cables reach up to 100 meters, but Cat6’s 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) speed is only fully effective up to about 50 meters, meaning anything past that, its speeds could be bogged down and not quite as dependable as they would be with a cable under 50 meters in length. Longer ethernet cables are usually going to have slower transmission speeds compared to shorter cables and may have more interference as well. Regardless of the distance restriction on their speed, Cat6 cables are still more capable of handling the fast pace of Gigabit Ethernet networks, and unquestionably worth the few extra dollars. If you want a speedier and smoother user experience, Cat6 is the more reliable option for you.
The Living vs. The Living Dead
Are you still using a computer from 1995? Probably not. More than likely your computer isn’t anything older than five years old or so. It would be a true task to work on a computer that has been around for a quarter of a century. These devices become obsolete because the newer equipment and software have been further developed and are far more superior. So why would you still be using an ethernet cable from 1995? Cat5 cables are becoming increasingly outdated and getting phased out all the time because of this.
Overall, Cat6 is going to outperform Cat5 and its variants in the majority of situations. Its faster speed capabilities and proficiency to muffle or silence crosstalk make this Category far more exceptional than its outdated network cable forerunners. Cat6 cabling can bear the substantial data load required for streaming and multitasking in today’s fast-paced world. All of the aforementioned is plenty supportive evidence as to why Cat6 is the optimal choice compared to Cat5. Cat6 cables are going to be the answer to your network needs.