A Complete Guide to Ethernet Cables and Which is Right for Your Network

There’s a reason why the global ethernet market is expected to triple in value by the year 2030. Many of us rely on ethernet cables every day to supply us with our internet.

However, in the future, we’ll rely on them even more for data centers and high-speed gear. But, despite their importance, many people are unaware that they’re different types of ethernet cables.

This, in turn, can make choosing the right one for your network a challenge. If you fall in this category, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll teach you everything that you need to know about this internet product and how to choose the best one for your needs. Let’s get started!

What are Ethernet Cables?

Before we begin it’s important to first go over exactly what an ethernet cable is. This is a type of network cable that connects your internet service provider to your devices.

You can plug an ethernet cable into a variety of devices, through routers, laptops, PCs, and most popular network switches. The good news is that this type of internet technology is recognized by manufacturers everywhere.

As such, you shouldn’t have trouble finding an ethernet port on your device. Generally, this type of cable is roughly six feet long. While they can be longer you should know that this can make it less effective.

It’s important to note that certain ethernet cables can affect the quality of your internet connection. As such, it’s important to make sure that you get the right one for your needs.

What are the Different Types of Ethernet Cables?

To learn about the different types of ethernet cables we need to do a little history lesson. It all started back in the late 1980s with the Category 1 cable. This was an early coaxial cable that was capable of carrying a 10kHz signal while delivering 1Mbps of data.

Not very fast, but still a major step forward for early networkers. As with most things related to computer technology, the tech itself gradually, but surely, improved.

Throughout the nineties and into the twenty-first century, new categories of ethernet cables were released. Each one improved upon the abilities of the last. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Category 1 cables: 10 kHz signal that delivers 1 Mbps of data
  • Category 2 cables: 1 Mhz signal that delivers 4 Mbps of data
  • Category 3 cables: 16 Mhz signal that delivers 10 Mbps of data
  • Category 4 cables: 16 Mhz signal that delivers 10 Mbps of data
  • Category 5 cables: 100 Mhz signal that delivers 100 Mbps of data
  • Category 5e cables: 100 Mhz signal that delivers 1 Gbps of data
  • Category 6 cables: 250 Mhz signal that delivers 1 Gbps of data
  • Category 6a: 500 Mhz signal that delivers 10 Gbps of data

These days, Category 5e and Category 6 cables are the most popular types. We’ll go more into these two options in the next section. However, it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only options. In 2010 the Category 7 debuted.

It’s capable of a maximum frequency of 600 Mhz while delivering 10 Gbps of data. However, it is important to note that the cable isn’t officially recognized by the Telecommunications Industry Association.

The TIA is responsible for setting standards when it comes to cables. This is because it’s mainly for environments that require extremely high network speeds. This includes areas like server rooms and data centers.

The same goes for the latest tech that was recently released: the Category 8 cable. It’s able to operate at 2 GHz while delivering 40 Gbps of data.

You might be feeling worried by all of the ethernet cables out there at this point. However, it’s important to remain calm. The good news is that all of these cables are backward compatible. That means that if you wanted to you could use a Category 1 cable on a modern computer.

Category 5e vs Category 6: Which is the Right Option for You?

As we mentioned before, Category 5e and Category 6 are both the most popular types of twisted cables currently available on the market. So, which one should you choose for your internet needs?

Ultimately, it depends on what you specifically need out of your ethernet cables. It’s important to remember that Category 5e is the older standard. As such, it doesn’t have the same performance capabilities as the Category 6 ethernet cable.

But, what are some of the specific benefits that come with Category 6? For one thing, you get improved performance standards, which we’ve already covered. It’s also possible for Category 6 cables to deliver these improved performances at greater distances.

It can work at maximum performance at fifty-five meters. Or, slower performance at one hundred meters. However, the biggest benefit lies in the lack of crosstalk and system noise.

This is thanks to a spline that isolates the wiring within the cable. If reducing digital noise is important to you, then you can also try Category 6A. The enhanced shielding on this cable means that you get a much cleaner signal.

So, both Category 6 and Category 6A are improvements over Category 5e. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to update your cables right away.

If you have a Category 5e and you’re happy with the performance, then stick with it. But, if you want a change, then consider updating. Make sure to check out this article if you want to learn more about the different types of network cables.

Is There Ever a Time You Will Need Category 7 or Category 8 Cables?

As we mentioned before, there are new cables (Category 7 and 8) that are capable of delivering faster speeds than their predecessors. While these are intended for data centers, some people might want to try to future-proof their homes by installing them.

So, is it worth it to install a category 7 cable? In our opinion, no it’s not worth it. This is because the cables are not supported by any network equipment manufacturer.

As we mentioned before, this is because the Telecommunications Industry Association won’t accept Category 7 cable as standard. So, while the cable is capable of reaching a higher speed, it will max out at 10 Gbps.

This is a far cry from the 40 Gbps that it could be capable of reaching. So, essentially you’ll end up paying more money for a cable that’s not any better than the Category 6A cable.

Should You Have an Ethernet Cable for Gaming?

If you play a lot of games online, then you know the importance of a good internet connection. Without it, it can lead to game lag which completely ruins the experience. These days, wi-fi technology has come a long way since the early days.

As such, it’s perfectly possible to have an enjoyable time on a wi-fi-based connection. However, if you care about your gaming experience, then we recommend going with a routed ethernet connection.

Ultimately, the biggest thing that a wi-fi connection has going for it is convenience. It’s easy to set up and doesn’t require you to run a bunch of cables through your home.

But, that’s where the advantages of wi-fi end. The latest, and most expensive generation of wi-fi has a theoretical speed that reaches 11 Gbps. But, hold your horses before you get too excited. Even in a perfect scenario, it’s extremely unlikely that you will reach these speeds.

Inference from objects (like walls and furniture) will likely slow it down. So will not have your connected system right next to the router. And, that’s with the most up-to-date version. Older models will likely result in packet loss, delays, and slow connections.

With a good ethernet cable, this simply isn’t a problem. Since you’re plugged right into the system you get a much cleaner connection. As such, if you care about your gaming experience, then we recommend biting the bullet and installing an ethernet system.

It’s especially important if you’re a streamer since you’re likely playing online games and broadcasting to your followers. However, at the end of the day, anyone can benefit from it.

Want More Content? Keep Reading

We hope this article helped you learn more about the different types of ethernet cables available. As you can see, there are a lot of options out there.

However, we believe that most people will benefit from the Category 6A cables since they’re the latest accepted standard. But, some people might want to invest in the newer product if they want to future-proof their home.

Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to benefit from the speeds. But, as long as you follow the advice on this list, then you should be fine.

Did you enjoy this article? If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place. Keep exploring to find more topics that you’re sure to love.

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