Cat5/5e, Cat6/6a, Cat7 and Cat8 Cable Buying Guide

Updated on November 1, 2021

Nowadays, the common types of Ethernet cables include Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7 and Cat8. Looking similar from the outside, but all of these network cables do have differences in essential. Therefore, it is necessary to buy or select the right cable for the right application. This article will cover categories, performance and shielding types of Ethernet cables. Please keep reading to get an understanding of the differences between the above Ethernet cables.

Figure: Ethernet Cables

Figure: Ethernet Cables

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 vs Cat7 vs Cat8 Ethernet Cables, What Are They?

What Is Cat5 Cable: A Little Older, A Little Slower

Cat5 cables have been the first choice for Internet connections for many years. If you're on a LAN, the cable running out of the back of your PC is probably Category 5. This type of network cable is made up of four twisted pairs of copper wire terminated by an RJ45 connector, which has a bandwidth of up to 100 MHz, supports 10 or 100Mbps speed. You may be able to get Gigabit speeds on a Cat5 cable, particularly if the cable is shorter, but it isn't always guaranteed.

Note: 100 Mbps /100m.

What Is Cat5e Cable: Faster With Less Interference

Category 5e (Cat5e) is an enhanced version of Category 5 cable, which indicates a lower-noise version where the potential for crosstalk is reduced. The internal interference is lower because the cable has an average of two twists per centimeter, which allows it to transmit data without significant signal degradation.

There are two main differences between the Cat5 and Cat5e network cables. On the one hand, Cat5 Ethernet cable supports speeds up to 100 megabits per second, while Cat5e supports networks up to 1 gigabit (1000 megabits per second). On the other hand, Cat5e comes in shielded varieties, performing better in reducing noise.

Note: 100-250Mhz/1 Gbps/100m.

What Is Cat6 Cable: Even Faster With Better Performance

Same as the Cat5e cable, the Cat6 cable consists of four pairs of twisted copper wire but features more stringent specifications for crosstalk and system noise. A Cat6 patch cord has a bandwidth capacity of 250 MHz, which has even stricter specifications when it comes to interference. Offer you speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

Note: 250-500Mhz/1 Gbps /100m (10Gbps at 37-55m)

What Is Cat6a Cable: Stronger Sheathing, Better for Industrial Application

The "a" in Cat6a stands for "Augmented". Cat6a Ethernet cables are able to maintain higher transmission speeds over longer network cable lengths. With a stronger sheathing, the Cat6a cabling is better suited for industrial environments. However, compared to Cat6 cables, Cat6a cables are thicker and less flexible.

Note: 250-500Mhz/10 Gbps /100m.

What Is Cat7 Cable: Newer “Class F” Cabling, Support Frequencies of up to 600 Mhz

Cat7 network cables encompass four individually shielded pairs inside an overall shield, called Shielded/Foiled Twisted Pair (S/FTP) or Foiled/ Foiled Twisted Pair (F/FTP). Cat7 cables do well in reducing signal attenuation and they are relatively stiff when compared to the older versions like Cat5e or Cat6a cables. The newer "Class F" cable is an ideal choice for application environments where transmission of frequencies up to 600 Mbps is required.

Note: 600Mhz/10Gbps/100m (40Gbps at 50m/100Gbps at 15m).

What Is Cat8 Cable: A Huge Step Up in Data Rate/Bandwidth

Cat8 cable is the latest IEEE standard in copper Ethernet cable. The Cat8 Ethernet cable can eliminate crosstalk and enable higher data transmission speeds by wrapping each twisted pair in foil. Cat8 cable is able to support 25GB and 40GB Ethernet, which represents a significant leap in data transfer speed. So, the Cat8 cable is more expensive than previous generations of Ethernet cable.

Note: 25 Gbps for Cat 8.1 and 40 Gbps for Cat 8.2.

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 vs Cat7 vs Cat8: What Are Their Differences?

Key Factors to Differentiate Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 vs Cat7 vs Cat8

  • Bandwidth: Normally, if a cable has a higher frequency of MHz, the transmission speed is more efficient.

  • Speed: The speed of transmission changes according to the category, which determines the effectiveness of the cable.

  • Crosstalk: The "bleeding" of signals between one cable into another due to "induction" will result in slow network transfer speeds, and even block the transfer of signals over the cable.

Category Max Transmission Speed (At 100 Meters) Max Bandwidth
Cat 5 10/100 Mbps 100 MHz
Cat 5e 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps 100 MHz
Cat 6 1000 Mbps / 1 Gbps 250 MHz
Cat 6a 10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps 500 MHz
Cat 7 10000 Mbps / 10 Gbps 600 MHz
Cat 8 25 Gbps or 40Gbps 2000 MHz at 30 meters

Shielding Type of Ethernet Cables Plus Their Applications

Before knowing the shielding type of Ethernet cables, it is suggested to be familiar with the shielding code in advance.

"TP" stands for "Twisted Pair"

"U" stands for "Unshielded or Unscreened"

"F" stands for "Foil Shielding"

"S" stands for "Braided Shielding"

"A" stands for "Armour"

The shielding type of Ethernet cables and their applications are as follows:

Shielding Type Applications
STP Suitable for high-speed network and high security transmission.
SFTP The low attenuation of internal signal making it nice for special environment of professional wiring.
UTP Suited for network applications with transmission bandwidth less than 250MHz and no special performance requirements.
FTP Designed to provide the assembly with greater protection from crosstalk from adjacent pairs and other cables, RFI and EMI.

Perfect opt for preventing rodent damage, also nice for explosion-proof wiring system.

Figure: Shielded (FTP) vs Unshielded (UTP)

Figure: Shielded (FTP) vs Unshielded (UTP)

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 vs Cat7 vs Cat8 Cable: Which to choose?

How to choose Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 vs Cat7 vs Cat8 cable? The above focuses on the main factors that you need to consider when choosing the right Ethernet cable.

In terms of speed and bandwidth, the later version of network cable performs better than the former one, but one more important point you should keep in mind is that network cables support different speeds over different distances. Take Cat6 cable for example, the max transmission speed is 1 Gbps at 100 meters, while 10 Gbps at 37-55 meters. Cat6a Ethernet cable can reach 10 Gbps over a distance of up to 100 meters. So you can choose the suitable network cable according to the cabling length and network speed you need.

After taking these key factors into consideration, then you can pay more attention to the shielding type of Ethernet cables as well as their applications. In addition, the price might be a factor that you need to consider when choosing the right Ethernet cable. Cat6a can perform just about the same as Cat7 but at a lower price point, and Cat 8 cable is generally more expensive than the older versions like Cat 6, or even Cat 7. Keeping reading: How to Choose the Best Ethernet Cable?


You might also be interested in