If you’re in the market for Ethernet Cables, you’ve most likely come across different types, including the most common ones, Cat5, Cat5e and Cat6. So what’s the difference between them?
Cat5 Ethernet Cable
Cat5 cables (Catagory 5) are the slowest in the family, handling speeds of 10/100 Mbps at 100 MHz. It may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t in todays world. Cat5 cables are rapidly going the way of the dinosaurs and fading into extinction.
That being said, Fibertronics does not actually keep stock of of these cables and we would suggest you avoid them if at all possible. It’s a brave new world out there and there’s no point in living in the past.
Cat5e Ethernet Cable
The ‘e’ in Cat5e stands for enhanced. These are by far the most commonly used cables today due to their ability to reduce what is known as ‘cross-talk’. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it simply means that the Cat5e is better at confining signals on different channels, ensuring that they do not interfere with each other and degrade the signal.
Cat5e Ethernet Cables are capable of handling speeds of up to 1000 Mbps (known as Gigabit Ethernet) at 100 MHz. As you can see this is a vast improvement over the older Cat5 cables mentioned earlier.
Cat6 Ethernet Cable
Moving on to Cat6 cables, it is once again a case of a vast improvement over the previous category. The cables are capable of handling a blistering speed of up to 10 Gigabits (10x faster than Cat5e) at 250 MHz. They also continue to improve the reduction of cross-talk by making use of an internal separator that isolates cable pairs from each another. It is also backwards-compatible with both Cat5 and Cat5e installations.
Cat5e and Cat6 Cables, Which is Best?
This is a difficult question and ranks along with others such as “how long is a piece of string?”. It choosing between Cat5e and Cat6 really depends on two separate factors:
- Your speed requirements
- Your budget
To sum it up briefly, Cat5e are fairly low cost in comparison to Cat6, however their speeds are more suited to home use applications where the best speed possible is generally not needed. Cat6 on the other hand is marginally more pricey than Cat5e but offers 10x the speed and is generally considered ideal for big business applications or for those looking to future-proof their installations.