Network Cables come in a variety of formatsThe Ethernet cable is the default physical connection to a home or business network nowadays. Although Wi-Fi is more and more used at home, there are many situations in which a cabled network is used instead. For example structural limitations of the building like several stories and thick walls, or more personal concerns like privacy and health are all valid reasons to keep the data flowing through Ethernet wires.

Luckily when it comes to wired networking, possibilities are virtually endless thanks to the availability of different types Ethernet cables. In this article, we will be discussing in details the differences between the most popular categories (Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6 and the newest Cat7) and how they affect networks’ speeds. In addition, we will briefly go through a few tips that can be used to boost your network’s speed without necessarily upgrading the network’s cables.

Quick Shortcut: Confused on Which Cable Category to Buy?

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Amazon was able to put their name on a very good quality cable (Cat6) and sell it for much less than what it’s sold for by its original manufacturer. As you know, Amazon has a great brand to uphold and won’t sell you bad products with its name printed on it!

Cat5: Old and Somewhat Slower

Cat basically means “Category”. Category 5 cabling is the oldest of the three and was designed to support theoretical speed of between 10Mbps (mega bytes per second) and 100Mbps. However, gigabit speeds can still be attained with Cat5 cable particularly if the cable is shorter, but is not always a guarantee.

Cat5 cables being a little older, finding this type of cables in the store can be a bit of a hustle. Over the years, Cat5 cables were used majorly in networking especially when pairing older routers, switches and other myriad networking devices. It supports a bandwidth of up to 100MHz.

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Cat5e: a Bit Faster with Less Interference

The “e” in Cat5e stands for “enhanced” and as the name suggests is basically an improvement on Cat5 cabling. It is the most liked of these three categories and supports up to 1000 Mbps, or “gigabit” speeds. In theory, it should be ten times faster than the standard Cat5 cables without a substantial price increase. Another advantage of Category 5e cabling is that it cuts down on crosstalk (also called “XT”); this is the interference experienced sometimes between wires that are sealed inside a cable. In a nutshell, Cat5e cable provides s a faster, reliable and steady speed than Cat5 cable. Cat5e cable supports a bandwidth of up to 350Mgz and is also compatible with Cat5 cable.

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Cat6: Sufficiently Faster than Cat5e and Cat 5

Most modern laptops have an RJ45 cable port

Most modern laptops have one RJ45 cable port

Category 6 cabling is the best of all as it is more sophisticated and advanced than Cat5 and Cat5e. It includes several improvements and can support speeds up to 10 gigabit per second, which is ten times the theoretical speed of Cat5e cables and hundred times Cat5’s. Unfortunately, Category 6 network cabling is not that useful in homes and even when used; it is difficult to notice the difference in crosstalk interference when compared to Cat5e. Cat6 network cable is recommended for large organisations which deal with pretty bulk files. For home purposes, Cat5 and Cat5e are positively enough unless you just want to feel how the Cat 6 functions. Category 6 network cable supports bandwidth of up to 550 MHz and performs much better over long distances.

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What About the Brand New Cat7 Ethernet Cables?

The newest cable to hit the market is the category 7, which further improves the capacity and reliability of Cat6. For it to be useful at all in a typical home environment, it will take a few more years as all the appliances in the network must support speeds of 10 Gbit/s. Such devices aren’t currently available in the retail market and it will likely take several years until we see them around.

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So, which Network Cable Should you Use?

Deciding which network cable to use is always a nightmare for many. It is to be noted that network speed is categorically different from internet speed. Furthermore, there is a better chance that even after upgrading your network cables, your internet speed won’t change as it depends on a number of things that are very far from networking cables. However, upgrading networking cables have a tremendous effect on file transfer speeds between computers. So to emphasise, when choosing a network cable, you should always remember to check your hardware compatibility. In addition, to make your network faster, besides a reliable cable, you will need other refined devices such as a better and compatible router and a gigabit capable network card for your personal computers to work perfectly. One way to find out what is best for your computer is by searching over the internet for what compatible with your hardware model.

The urge to upgrade you network speed should entirely be influenced by your current network speeds. If you are satisfied with the current speeds then it is totally pointless to try upgrading it. However, note that if your hardware is capable of handling speeds of 1 gigabit and you are still using Cat5 cables, then upgrading the cables will be quite cheaper and efficient. Again, as said earlier Cat 5e is sufficiently enough for most networking needs and therefore if you are contemplating an upgrade, it should be from category 5 to 5e, or 6 at maximum, unless you know exactly what you are paying for.

The ethernet cable is the most widely used  cable today

The ethernet cable is the most widely used networking cable today

Lastly, it important to note the speeds discussed in this article (ones branded on the cables) are just theoretical and may not be achieved real operations. However, even though you won’t see the gigabit speed being achieved, you will surely notice an improvement in file transfer speed. For maximum efficiency, be sure to stick to cables that are less than 100 metres in length. Another trick to improving your network speed is through adapting a network topology that is suitable with your office arrangement. Conveniently, there are a number of network topologies to choose from and it is entirely up to you to decide which one suits your needs. For those with limited knowledge in networking, it is highly recommended that you seek further help from an experienced professional to avoid complicating things which can cause even more networking problems.

Conclusion

In summary, if you or your organization transfers lots of data over your preferred network, then it is ideal that you upgrade your networking cables from the old Category 5 cabling to either Category 5e or Category 6 cabling, provided that your networking hardware supports the speed. Doing this not only guarantees you increased networking speed, but also significantly reduces your overhead costs. For those of us who are satisfied with our current speeds, don’t put yourself through unnecessary difficulties which will yield nothing important. Let your machines operate normally but you may consider a few troubleshooting and maintenance to boost their general performance.

As said above, If you are still confused and don’t know what to do, simply buy this cable from Amazon as you can’t go wrong. Seriously!

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