How to choose an Ethernet cable

It might be difficult to choose Ethernet cables that will perform best for you without going overboard, but we can assist.

We’ve put up a purchasing guide that compares the advantages and drawbacks of several Ethernet connections and includes a chart, glossary, and other shopping advice.

The explanation we’ve provided below is a wonderful place to start when determining which Ethernet cable is ideal for your house or place of business.

Tracking your internet speeds

Choosing a cable with the range and performance you want is the simplest method. What do you need, though?

Your home internet connection’s speed should be your first concern. An outdated Ethernet wire can slow you down if your internet speed is gigabit (1 Gbps).

You may use anything Cat 5 or newer if your connection speed is less than 20 megabits per second or 10 megabits per second (more on this below).

If you are unsure about the real speed of your internet service, connect your PC directly to the modem and run this speed test.

By doing this, you may get a general estimate of the connected connection you’ll need. Buying a 10Gbps Ethernet connection may be unnecessary if your subscription only allows for 50Mbps download speeds.

A better Ethernet connection may make a significant impact if you routinely transfer large files between computers or stream exceptionally high-bandwidth video.

If that’s not the case and you just use the shallow parts of the internet, you may not see much of a difference.

To take advantage of speeds and future-proof your system, it’s a good idea to choose a more current cable if you need to replace an older one.

Additionally, they may provide superior shielding, which can assist safeguard your data while it’s being sent.

A fast Ethernet cable won’t significantly improve performance on its own, but a good cable may cooperate with other top-tier networking equipment to maximise the strength of your connection.

Not All Ethernet Cables Are Equal

In general, using wired networks is extremely straightforward. Most of the time, all you need to do is connect the cable into your computer’s Ethernet port or adapter and you’re ready to go.

Because there are so many various standards, speeds, and specs, buying an Ethernet cable may appear much more difficult.

The Cat-5 standard is the starting point for categorising network cables. Different Ethernet cable categories have varying speeds, much as various Wi-Fi standards.

What does Cat mean?

You’ll immediately realise that Ethernet cables are classified into “Cat” categories when you start searching for particular models to suit your requirements. Why does it matter?

Simply enough, “cat” stands for “category.” The standard version that the cable supports is indicated by the number that follows.

Higher numbers, measured in megahertz, often correspond to quicker speeds and higher frequencies (MHz).

Like with other technologies, newer cables often enable more bandwidths, resulting in quicker connections and better download rates.

More sophisticated Cat numbers could also suggest more dependable performance and greater long-distance performance.

Because performance does tend to decrease over long distances, Ethernet cables often have two speed ratings, one at around 10 to 30 metres and one at 100 metres.

Ethernet cable types

If you want to secure your future, you may select the most recent Cat number (8 at the present) and not bother about the others. Alternatively, you may use our helpful list below to see what each Category is appropriate for.

Cat 1 through Cat 5

These categories won’t be covered since they’re too sluggish to be useful, are very outdated, and aren’t even considered official Ethernet standards.

Cat 5e

“Enhanced” is what the “e” in Cat 5e stands for. The Cat 5 and Cat 5e cables are identical in appearance.

To prevent undesired signal transfers across communication channels, manufacturers create Cat 5e cables in accordance with stricter testing requirements (crosstalk).

Since it can handle speeds greater than Cat 5 cables and has a cheap manufacturing cost, Cat 5e is now the most widely used cable.

Cat 6

Compared to Cat 5 and Cat 5e lines, the Cat 6 Ethernet cable enables greater bandwidths. They are tightly wrapped and often have shielding made of foil or braid.

The twisted pairs of wires within the Ethernet cable are shielded, reducing crosstalk and interference from noise.

Technically, rates up to 10Gbps for up to 55 metres are supported with cat 6 cables. However, such speed comes at a cost since Cat 6 cables are more costly than Cat 5 and Cat 5e alternatives.

Cat 6a

Cat 6a’s “a” stands for “augmented,” not “a.” This standard’s cables are an improvement above Cat 6 versions since they can accommodate twice as much bandwidth.

Additionally, they have the ability to sustain faster transmission rates over longer wire lengths. Shielded Cat 6a cables have wrapping that is thick enough to prevent crosstalk, making them significantly denser and less flexible than Cat 6 cables.

Cat 7 and Cat 7a

Although Cat 7 and Cat 7a cables have outstanding performance, most users seldom utilise them. I’ll explain why now:

By leveraging the most recent, widely used Ethernet technology, Cat 7 cables provide greater bandwidths and much quicker transmission rates than Cat 6 connections.

One of the most powerful classifications of Ethernet connections, Cat 7 cables can transmit data at speeds of up to 100Gbps over a distance of 15 metres.

Cat 7 cables feature a modified GigaGate45 connection that is backwards compatible with RJ45 Ethernet ports and are always insulated.

Although the backward compatibility helps a bit, there are still challenges with adhering to prior Ethernet standards since the modified GG45 connection is a proprietary part.

Because of this, the Cat 7 standard was avoided by the majority of manufacturers, and now it is quite uncommon.

This challenge resulted in the creation of Cat 6a, which caused some marketing confusion when some vendors began referring to Cat 6a as the new Cat 7.

Always read the specifications before making a purchase; if in doubt, go for Cat 8 instead.

One of the highest-spec Ethernet connections available is Cat 7a, but it’s hard to find and gives limited alternatives for networking gear support.

The 7a standard, which is similar to Cat 7 but with an increased total capacity of more than 50%, was created to handle 40 Gigabit Ethernet connections up to 50 metres.

Although Cat 7a cables are much more costly than any other choice, in certain circumstances, this upgrade could be advantageous. Only in extremely few circumstances could Cat 7a be used.

Cat 8

With this standard, rates of up to 40Gbps at 30 metres and a maximum frequency of 2,000MHz are promised. Because of the high frequency involved and the need for shielding, Cat 8 cables are always insulated.

Cat 8 also accommodates two connections. Thus, it is limited to three wires that are linked and have a cumulative length of 30 metres.

Although cat 8 cables are more expensive than alternative solutions, they are now more accessible. For a 10-foot Cat 8, there are solutions available for about $15.

In addition, Cat 8 is the only cable that complies with the most recent IEEE specifications (the aforementioned 40Gbps and 2,000MHz frequency), which is one reason why, despite the substantially higher price, it’s a wonderful option for future-proofing. Additionally, it avoids the Cat 7 connection clutter.

About Ethernet connectors

The 8P8C connection, which is the common name for the unique design used by Ethernet connectors, has eight pins that must lock into place.

8P8C connections on Ethernet cables come in a few distinct varieties, and understanding the differences can help you comprehend various Ethernet categories more clearly:


The Registered Jack 45 connector used by Ethernet cables is this one. Based on the colour and arrangement of the wires, there are two variations:

the more widespread T568B standard and the less common T568A standard (not particularly important unless you are doing detailed wiring).

Nearly all Ethernet categories, including Cat 1 through Cat 6, as well as Cat 8, utilise the RJ45 connection.


Standards momentarily changed to a new connection known as GigaGate45, or GG45, for Ethernet Cat 7 cables. A number of extra conductors were included with the GG45 for some frequency flexibility.

Although the new connection is backwards compatible with RJ45 connectors, Cat 8 switched to RJ45 since it was regarded entirely superfluous.

EtherCON RJ45

Although RJ45 connections are simple to use, their built-in plastic clips are not always reliable.

Neutrik’s ruggedized RJ45 connection, known as EtherCON, is utilised in applications where the standard RJ45 connector would be too delicate, including professional A/V work.

Shielded or Unshielded?

Depending on the standard you choose, you may not be able to choose between shielded and unshielded cables. The majority of Cat-5e cables come in both shielded and unshielded types, both having advantages and disadvantages.

How to Improve Wireless Signal Strength and Decrease Wireless Network Interference

Shielded Twisted Pair is a common name for shielded cable (STP).

These cables are made for places where there is a lot of electromagnetic interference, such as near power lines, wireless networks, or places where radio waves are more prevalent, such colleges or television studios.

These sorts of cables need grounding since they are more robust, thicker, and closely linked. Due of the extra materials and procedures, it is also more costly.

For locations with fewer crosstalk or noise, unshielded cables, also known as unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables, are preferable.

This covers the majority of residences and small enterprises. These cables are thinner, simpler to work with, more flexible, and less expensive to acquire and produce.

Your choice of cable grade might also affect the outcome. Higher grade cables work at higher frequencies and quicker speeds that are more prone to interference (Cat-6a operates at 500MHz compared to Cat-5e’s 100MHz).

This is one of the factors that contribute to quicker cables costing more money.

Ethernet cable styles

Ethernet cables might have diverse designs in addition to varying performance requirements.

You may customise your Ethernet cable choice to the environment or task for which it will be used since certain Ethernet cable designs are designed. Here are a few typical instances:

Slim and Ultra—Slim

These cables have relatively small casings that contribute to their overall smaller look.

That may be helpful in certain server rooms and data centres when there isn’t much area and more room is required for greater ventilation, which enhances cooling.


It is simpler to run flat Ethernet wires through doors, baseboards, and rugs. They are often simpler to conceal and less of a trip hazard.

Solid Core

In contrast to aluminium wires encased in copper, this denotes solid copper wires. Larger Ethernet systems and higher-quality cables, where solid wires may go greater distances, are increasingly typical.

Solid wire Ethernet connections often prolong signal preservation and lessen signal loss.


For further safety, these cables are made with thick outer layers. Because of this, they are better suited for outdoor installations and other settings where corrosion or damage might be a problem.


In order to better safeguard the casing and lessen damage brought on by repeated bending or other factors, these cables contain a nylon braid on the exterior.

Ethernet cabling alternatives

And last, there are a few other Ethernet cable varieties that are designed for certain tasks. In some circumstances, these alternatives may be more appropriate:

Powerline Adapters

In this unusual configuration, connections are created in a residence utilising both Ethernet cables and electrical wire.

This makes it possible for users to utilise power outlets in their homes to operate internet connections, a cleaner configuration that calls for adapters.

Need to know more? Here is all the information you want regarding powerline networking.


Power over Long Reach Ethernet, or PoLRE, is a customised Ethernet switch configuration used for very long cable lines, such as those of over 1,000 feet.

Large office buildings and other comparable structures employ it in their telephone settings to assist simplify connections, save space, and swiftly deliver phone connections to all required endpoints.

Ethernet over COAX/MoCA

Both titles refer to the same thing: They use two different adapters that transmit internet data through coaxial cables. Direct internet data transmission to media players and home theatres is often done in this way.

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