What’s The Difference Between Ethernet Cables
One of the most common questions people often have when it comes to Ethernet cables is what do the numbers mean and what’s the difference? If you have ever paid attention, each cable is labeled with the abbreviation “Cat,” followed by a number like 6, 6a, or 7. Essentially, “Cat” just means “category.” The number that follows refers to the cable’s specifications, such as bandwidth and transmission speed.
As a general rule, you can conclude that the higher the number, the better it works, the faster it is, and the more bandwidth it offers. Right now, cables range from Cat 3 to Cat 7, though Cat 8 is on the horizon. Here’s a brief look at what you can expect from each one.
Cat 3 Ethernet Cables
These are no longer in use, and would be difficult to find on the market.
Cat 5 Ethernet Cables
Like Cat 3, these cables are no longer in production, though you may find a few people still using them.
Cat 5e Ethernet Cables
The most popular type of cable on the market right now, Cat 5e is an enhanced version of the Cat 5 cable. It’s faster than Cat 5, cheaper to produce, and it is better at eliminating crosstalk.
Cat 6 Ethernet Cables
Cat 6 Ethernet cables support one and a half times the bandwidth of the Cat 5 cables. They cost more, but the introduction of Cat 6 cables led to added shielding which protects the wires and eliminates crosstalk completely.
Cat 6a Ethernet Cables
The Cat 6a Ethernet cable is an augmented version of the Cat 6 cable. It features the shielding to eliminate crosstalk, and it can support 500 MHz of bandwidth, compared to the Cat 6’s 250 MHz. The cable is more expensive and less flexible than the previous ones.
Cat 7 Ethernet Cables
If you are looking for the latest technology, support for the most bandwidth, and the fastest speeds, the Cat 7 Ethernet cable is the choice for you. These cables are always shielded and well worth the premium price.