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Quick View: Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Ethernet Cables

June 28, 2013

Ethernet cables like Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 are widely used in wired networks, connecting devices in local area networks (LANs) like Ethernet switches, routers, and PCs. All of these network cables can be plugged into an Ethernet port for connection, looking similar from the outside, but they do have differences in essential. Those standards may be difficult to comprehend, but this blog is straightforward to tell you what you need to know about Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Ethernet cables. Keep reading for "cat"-like enlightenment.

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 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.

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.

Even though both Cat5 and Cat5e support a maximum frequency of up to 100MHz, the Cat5e patch cable has completely replaced its predecessor. Gigabit Ethernet utilizes 4 data pairs in comparison to Fast Ethernet which utilizes 2 data pairs.

What Is Cat6 Cable: Even Faster With Better Performance

Still, four pairs of twisted copper wire but provides much more functionality for Cat6 Ethernet cables. 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.

Here comes the question: can I use the same plugs for Cat5e and Cat6?

The truth is: Cat6 cables have a slightly larger diameter than Cat5e cables. You can use the plugs designed for Cat5e to connect the Cat6 for a short period of time, but connection problems like a loss in transmission speed or an increase in the crosstalk might occur in the future. Most importantly, the potential that Cat6 can offer won't be leveraged. If required, recommend you to change your RJ45 plugs for newer versions that are specially designed for Cat6 cables, enjoying all the benefits of your new improved network connection.

How to Identify Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Cable?

At a quick glance, all network cables appear to be the same, regardless of whether they are Cat5, Cat5e, or Cat6. The quickest way to identify Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 cable is to read the text that should be printed on the outside, showing you which standard the cable meets and often displaying how much bandwidth the cable is capable of transmitting as well.

Quick View Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Ethernet Cables

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6, What Are Their Differences?

Key Factors to Differentiate Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6

  • Bandwidth: Normally, if a cable has a higher frequency of MHz, the transmission speed is more efficient. Cables support data transfer, the main difference between Cat5e and Cat6 cable lies within the bandwidth.

  • Speed: The speed of transmission changes according to the category, which determines the effectiveness of the cable. Because Cat6 cables perform up to 250 MHz which is more than twice that of Cat5e cables (100 Mhz), they offer speeds up to 10GBASE-T.

  • Length: All made of copper wire that can only transfer data across a relatively short distance. Manufacturers recommend a maximum distance of 100m, or 328 feet, to get the most out of the speeds that the different standards can offer. When used for 10GBASE-T, the MAX. length of a Cat6 cable will reduce to 55 m.

  • 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. Cat6 & Cat5e cable has been improved over Cat5 cable in this respect, and crosstalk has been greatly reduced. Furthermore, Cat6 cables are more flexible, using other methods to reduce noise.

MHz 10Mbps 100Mbps 1GbE 10GbE PoE MAX. Length
Cat5 100 100
Cat5e 100 100
Cat6 250 100 (55 for 10GbE)

Remember, the speeds of these cables are theoretical. Even if everything on your network supports gigabit Ethernet, you'll probably never see speeds of 1Gb/s. But, your data transfers will be a lot faster than they would on non-gigabit hardware. If you're running cable throughout your house, you may also notice a decrease in speeds if you are using cables longer than 100m.

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6: Which to Choose?

How to choose Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 cable depends on your situation and your business requirements. If you are just satisfied with the speed of your network now, there is no need to go through the trouble of upgrading the network, like from Cat5 to Cat5e, Cat5e to Cat6.

Cat5 vs Cat5e vs Cat6 Selection

With the fast development of network components and ever-increasing bandwidth, there will be more demanding requirements for network cables. Cat6, obviously, provides you with enhanced performance and reduced crosstalk, plus 10GBASE-T available. Considering the difficulties of replacing and re-upgrade cables, Cat6, Cat6a, as a future-proofing solution, is becoming more popular in cabling deployment.

The Bottom Line

Upgrading your cables may make a difference in how fast you load Facebook — your Internet speeds are still much slower than speeds on your network. Chances are your struggles for greater speed aren't related to the cables, instead, they could relate to your bandwidth, your Internet circuit speed, the number of devices in your network, and such.

That is to say, you'll need more than just cables. If you want to get gigabit speeds, you'll also need a gigabit-compatible router and gigabit-capable network cards in your computers. If you wanna refresh your network gear, Google the hardware you need. Or, why not visit FS.com for your customized network solution?

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