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Best Ethernet Cable Buying Guide

Demystify and Explore the Industry Secrets Behind Ethernet Cables

March 30, 2019

When you are choosing the best Ethernet cables, you'll find buying an Ethernet cable isn't as easy as it used to be. The network cables may look the same but have major differences from categories to categories, cables to cables, and don't forget, from vendors to vendors. Rather than Cat5e being top of the line, you now have more options like Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7, and Cat8. However, more choices won't bring 100% qualified cables.

Networkworld has reported on poor-quality Cat5e and Cat6 cabling purchased through Amazon in 2017, uncovering the facts that such reliable providers like Amazon can occasionally slip. Choosing the right cable can be a confusing feat, that is why we are here to help you. Here are some considerations for your best Ethernet cables.

How to Buy Ethernet Cables: What to Look for?

Appropriate Ethernet cables will help to realize better connections. Aspects like type, quality, performance, cable price, and more will all affect the choice. So, knowing the following facts will help you to make an informed decision to buy the best Ethernet cable.

Ethernet Cable Category and Compatibility — First & Foremost

To find the best LAN cable, you have to know the specs of what the cable is intended for. The network cable types you need are mostly determined by the speed of the Internet you are using. It would be a waste to purchase a high-speed Internet wire if you are not gonna use a higher speed of the Internet to match it and take advantage of its full potential.

Check the table below to configure the differences of these cable categories at a glance:

Category Shielding Max. Transmission Speed
(at 100 meters)
Max. Bandwidth
Cat5 Unshielded 10/100Mbps 100 MHz
Cat5e Unshielded 1000Mbps/1Gbps 100 MHz
Cat6 Shielded or Unshielded 1000Mbps/1Gbps >250 MHz
Cat6a Shielded 10000Mbps/10Gbps 500 MHz
Cat7 Shielded 10000Mbps/10Gbps 600 MHz
Cat8 Shielded 25Gbps or 40Gbps 2000 MHz

Ethernet cables are interchangeable and backward compatible as well. You can plug a Cat5 cable into a router that has the latest 10G Ethernet interface, but the adoption of this type of cable will slow the data transfer down (*Partly depending on the type of transferred file). Similarly, you can also plug a Cat7 cable into an old router that does not support the latest speeds. Be clear about what speed and performance you want and what type of network gear you're using before buying an Ethernet network cable.

Good Ethernet Cable Craftsmanship Matters

Copper Conductor

Cable material, especially the copper conductor, will not only directly affect the Ethernet cable price, but also essentially influence the performance of the cable. Copper-clad aluminum wires & copper wires (including pure copper wire, oxygen-free copper wire, and bare copper wire) are available in the market.

Their biggest difference lies in the purity of copper, which determines the Ethernet cable quality. The purer the copper is, the less signal loss you will suffer. For less signal loss, you'd better choose oxygen-free copper wire with copper purity up to 99.95%. However, if you just wanna cost-saving wires, go with copper-clad aluminum wires.

The purity order of copper, also the order of the cable price, in descending is: oxygen-free copper wire > pure copper wire > bare copper wire > copper clad aluminum wire.

Network Cable Conductor Comparison

Cable Jacket Rate

Ethernet cable jackets can be made up of two kinds of materials, non-flame retardant & flame retardant jacket. Namely, flame retardant cables are typically designed to resist the spread of fire into a new area. For safety concerns, you'd better buy Ethernet cables that are flame retardant.

The flame retardant types and class are worthy of attention such as CM, CMR, CMP, LSZH, etc. Normally, Ethernet cords with PVC CM and LSZH jackets are commonly used in patch cabling environments. For more related info, go check the Ethernet Cable Jacket Ratings.

PVC-CM Jacket of an Ethernet Cable

Cable Connectors

The material of the connectors or contacts in a cable plug is vital for constant signal maintaining. For the conductivity: silver > gold / copper > aluminum>nickel / iron

Silver and aluminum are extremely oxidizable, while gold is hardly oxidized in the natural environment. Thus, gold is the ideal material for achieving a strong and lasting Internet connection. You will be less likely to lose the signal and won't have to spend more money replacing cables constantly.

What's more, the thickness of gold plating (measured in microns) is also very important. Low-micron plating is easier to wear out in a short amount of time, while thicker plating normally lasts much longer. In most cases, the thickest gold-plating available is 50 microns, which is the optimal thickness for maintaining a fast and stable internet connection.

50μm Gold-plated Connector of an Ethernet Cable

STP vs UTP

For STP (Shielded Twisted Pair) cables, the shielding influences the crosstalk a lot. The more shielding layer a cable has, the less crosstalk it will suffer. Two common types are divided into FTP cable (Foil Twisted Pair Cable) & SFTP cable (Shielded and Foiled Twisted Pair Cable).

For UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) cables, it's not the shielding to reduce interference, which is designed to limit electromagnetic interference by the way the pairs are twisted inside the cable. Typically, the tighter the twisted pair is, the lower the crosstalk is.

Cable with Tight Twisted Pair vs Cable with Loose Twisted Pair

STP cables are specifically suitable for environments where there is a high chance of electronic interference, such as radio stations and airports. Also, fit for security systems to provide protection from power frequency and radio frequency interference.

UTP cables are most suitable for LANs and similar network cabling systems. While offering less protection from interference, unshielded cables are popular because they are:

  • Lightweight

  • Versatile

  • Flexible

  • Inexpensive

  • Easy to install

Industry-Certified Fluke Tests Guarantee High-Performance Network Cable

The Fluke Test issued by Fluke Networks is considered as the most authoritative criteria for judging the quality of an Ethernet cable, which tests the quality according to different cable standards, such as ANSI/TIA, ISO/IEC 11801, etc, covering patch cord testing and channel testing for Ethernet patch cables, and permanent link testing for bulk Ethernet cables. To avoid buying inferior cables, customers should buy Ethernet cables from vendors who can provide the Fluke test report to prove the Ethernet cable quality.

Report of FS Cat6 Cable Passing Fluke Patch Cord Testing

Cables passing the patch cord testing will indicate higher performance due to the test is much stricter. For some small networks, passing the channel tests is fundamental. However, when deploying patch cables like Cat6 or category above in DCs, qualifying by the patch cord testing is a must. Note: As for bulk cables, the whole length of the permanent link is generally no more than 90m.

Tips for Best Ethernet Cable Buy: What Else to Notice?

When buying the best Ethernet cable for your networks, there are a few other factors you may need to take into considerations.

  • The Length — Ethernet copper cabling when used for 10/100/1000BASE-T, the maximum allowed length of a Cat5e or Cat6 cable is 100 meters (328 ft). Consider the proximity of the devices you wanna connect to get a cord with sufficient length.

  • The Color — Not only for aesthetics. When there are many cables connecting to the Ethernet switches or routers, the color will help to track the cables and make sure the right cable is connected to the right position. Also, better for cable management.

Buy Your Best Ethernet Cable: Which Vendor to Trust?

After knowing what to consider when buying a good Ethernet cable according to quality & performance, you now face picking a trustworthy supplier from vendors to vendors. Network Advisor, a Youtube influencer in the IT infrastructure field, recommended FS Snagless Cat6 Ethernet Cable and noted "Worth a try" since FS snagless network patch cables have sleek and solid designs and constructions, cost less than most mid-priced network cables, and make cable management easier. Check this review video now:


FS Ethernet Cable Best Sellers

Best-selling items can be chosen from the list. FOLLOW UP!

*The portfolio of FS Ethernet Network Cables will continue to be completed, providing more choices in length, color, shielding type, cable jacket, and applications. COMING SOON!

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