Should you get a Cat6 or Cat7 Ethernet cable for your network? - gHacks Tech News

Should you get a Cat6 or Cat7 Ethernet cable for your network?

When you search on Amazon, Newegg or any other shopping site for ethernet cables, you will soon encounter terms you may not be familiar with.

The shops carry Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7 ethernet cables, but how do these differ from each other?

More precisely, which cable should you pick for your home network and are there other things that you need to take into consideration?

Cat, which stands for category, defines a cable's specifications. Categories are backward compatible. A Category 7 cable, for instance, is backward compatible with Category 6 and Category 5e.

ethernet cat6 cat7

The most important parameters are maximum transmission speed, shielding, the supported distance and price.

Cat5Cat5eCat6Cat6aCat7
Maximum speed1000 Mbps1000 Mbps10000 Mbps10000 Mbps100000 Mbps
Maximum bandwidth100 MHz100 MHz250 MHz500 MHz1000 MHz
Distance100 meters100 meters55 meters *100 meters15 meters **

* Goes back to 1000 Mbps if the distance is between 55 and 100 meters.

** Speed drops after 15 meters, supports 100000 Mbps up to 100 meters.

As far as price is concerned: the higher the Category the higher the price. Price does not really play much of a role if you just need to connect a computer to a router but it makes a difference if you cable your entire apartment, house or Office building.

Short range Cat7 Ethernet cables are not expensive. You can grab a pack of 2 Cat7 Ethernet 2m cables on Amazon for $8.99, and a ~7.50m cable for $12.98.

A three meter Cat6 cable is available for $6.29 and a 15 meter Cat6 Ethernet cable for $11.90.

Which cable should you get?

The question remains, which cable should you get? The answer depends on your situation. My suggestion is that you pick a Cat6a or Cat7 Ethernet cable even if your network equipment does not require it right now. Getting these cables means that the cable is future proof when you install faster equipment.

If you need to cable your entire house, I'd suggest you go with Cat7a if you can afford it and want to be as future proof as possible as you get a maximum speed of 40 Gigabit Ethernet up to 50 meters and 100000 Mbps Ethernet up to 15 meters.

You may also pick Cat6a or Cat5e instead which are cheaper and should work equally well in most scenarios. Cat5a's main advantage besides price is that it is more flexible than Cat6 or Cat7 cables.

Most home routers, motherboards and standalone Ethernet cards support up to 1 Gbps which all modern Ethernet cables support.

So, any Cat5e or higher cable works fine in that case and if you don't care about how things may change in the next 5 or 10 years, you can pick a Cat5e cable and get max speed out of your devices.

Now You: Which Ethernet cables do you use, and why?

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Should you get a Cat6 or Cat7 Ethernet cable for your network?
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Should you get a Cat6 or Cat7 Ethernet cable for your network?
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When you search on Amazon, Newegg or any other shopping site for ethernet cables, you will soon encounter terms you may not be familiar with.The shops carry Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7 ethernet cables, but how do these differ from each other?
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Yuliya said on January 30, 2018 at 1:05 pm
    Reply

    Interesting. I think most of my stuff is Cat5e. Idk what is the one that comes from the hallway into my apartment that I then plug into my router, but the rest is 5e. Gets the job done, and I do get the advertised 1Gbps speed on speedtest_net, so I’m happy.

    Btw, shouldn’t it be 5e instead of 5a in that table? And “10 000 Mbps” instead of “1 000 Mbps” for Cat6 Maximum speed.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 30, 2018 at 1:13 pm
      Reply

      You are right ;)

      1. Croatoan said on January 30, 2018 at 7:27 pm
        Reply

        “100 Gigabyte Ethernet up to 15 meters”
        but in the table it’s 100 000 Mbps = 100 Gbps

  2. john senchak said on January 30, 2018 at 1:13 pm
    Reply

    Shielding would be more important in network cables

    1. Bedfford said on January 30, 2018 at 1:36 pm
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      right, must consider STP, FTP, SFTP cables.

      But something that keeps me distrustful, are those “flat” cables and their properties about speed, shield and mechanical stress.

  3. Lionel Hutz said on January 30, 2018 at 2:20 pm
    Reply

    The short answer here is Cat6 minimum for infrastructure cabling, Cat5e for plugging in to the network. Cat5e is still very widespread, Cat6 is just starting to become somewhat common. Anything higher than that is pointless for the average person, even for building cabling. Cat6 will be enough for the foreseeable future.

  4. BM said on January 30, 2018 at 2:58 pm
    Reply

    “Most home routers, motherboards and standalone Ethernet cards support up to 1 Gbps which all modern Ethernet cables support.”

    If this is the limiting factor, unless one is building a new home, or undergoing a major renovation, they are probably economically better off using their (highly likely) existing in-house coax cable system as their internet backbone, and use MOCA 2.0 Bonded adapters at each coaxial end-point they want to convert to ethernet service.

    They can use Cat5e from those adapters to their devices (e.g. router, switch).

    Now, IF it is a brand new home, or a major renovation, then it probably makes sense to install conduits in the wall, so that they can much more easily drop new cable. So, they could start with Cat5e today, and Cat7 (or CatX) in future, when consumer technology catches up with the capacity of the backbone.

    Been in both situations and these are the paths I calculated were the most economical at those times. I suspect it hasn’t changed much, short of the advances in wifi.

    With the proliferation of mobile devices / IoT, depending on the size / shape of their house, one may need to add 2 or 3 access points, or use a wifi mesh / system, connected to the high speed backbone.

  5. Dave said on January 30, 2018 at 3:22 pm
    Reply

    I don’t know anyone beside myself that actually has a cable going from the router to more then one PC. Most people just use WiFi.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 30, 2018 at 7:36 pm
      Reply

      I have cable (5e, since I don’t have any routers that exceed 1Gbps) going to key rooms, and use WiFi for non-key rooms. No WiFi that I’ve ever seen can even come close to touching ethernet in terms of speed and latency, so ethernet wins for certain activities.

  6. techmove said on January 30, 2018 at 3:27 pm
    Reply

    Just had a superficial overview of the site Martin and sure like what I see. I did note your not quite as current on Twitter probably cause of focus once I found you as GHacks. I will be looking further at your site if needs arise. You pointed me in the right direction as I first ran across your page updating my Tor to windows 64Bit was stuck in the 32 bit would not update Tor site vague syndrome and I appreciate the assist..

  7. Jon Forrest said on January 30, 2018 at 4:08 pm
    Reply

    “I’d suggest you go with Cat7a” – Cat7a doesn’t appear in your table.

    1. Hollister said on January 31, 2018 at 9:49 pm
      Reply

      And it sais cat5 Maximum speed is 1000 Mbps. I think is 100 Mbps.

  8. Greg said on January 30, 2018 at 4:10 pm
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    Guys, just a heads up, the vast majority of cables you buy (whether at Bricks and Mortar or online) will fail certification tests.

    I have had cables from Belkin, Tripp Lite, AudioQuest and other name brands tested and they all failed miserably. I tested Cat6 cables and the Belkin and Tripp Lite I recall even failed Cat5e.

    Make sure any cables you buy come with a test report proving they pass certification or there is a very good chance you are not getting what you paid for.

    1. John Fenderson said on January 30, 2018 at 7:40 pm
      Reply

      Even better, if you’re so inclined, is to buy a reel of high quality cable from a local industrial supplier, then cut & crimp your own cables out of that. The cost savings is huge, and you can be confident that the materials meet specs.

      But, for my personal use, I don’t care about published specs as much as I care about whether or not it actually performs as I need when installed. If it does, then I’m good even if it doesn’t technically meet specifications.

  9. Greg said on January 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm
    Reply

    Also,

    Category 7 is not recognized by the TIA/EIA.

    Category 7A is not recognized in TIA/EIA-568.

    So the highest anyone should be buying is Category 6a. Any vendor selling Cat 7 cable is selling snake oil.

    1. Philzy said on January 30, 2018 at 9:20 pm
      Reply

      This should be higher up. Also, most bulk cable on amazon, big box stores, and ebay is junk. If it says CCA (copper clad aluminum) then stay away. The resistance of that cable is around 40% higher than copper if memory serves me right. Also, the alimumun means that it’s no longer catX anything because it’s out of spec. Lastly, the aluminum makes the cable more brittle so when your bending or pulling it there is a much more likelihood of breaks.

      I’m building right now and I’m putting in 4k foot of name brand solid copper CAT6 (cat5e would likely be fine by real world needs but I got a sale).

      Source, I do network testing & evaluation for a fortune 100 service provider and run a 30k foot lab.

      1. John Fenderson said on February 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm
        Reply

        “If it says CCA (copper clad aluminum) then stay away.”

        This can’t be stated strongly enough. Personally, I consider those cables to be just this side of an outright scam.

        If you’re shopping for cables based solely on price, though, that’s what you’re likely to get. Copper is undeniably expensive.

  10. AnorKnee Merce said on January 30, 2018 at 5:11 pm
    Reply

    The large-sized Ethernet CAT port connection has not changed since the birth of the www Internet in the 1980s.
    … Many modern thin laptops and 2-in-1 tablets cannot fit CAT ports = left with only Wifi or Mobile connection. It’s time they make a mini/micro-CAT port = we can also have very thin routers.

    USB –> microUSB and USB-C
    VGA –> DVI –> HDMI

    1. John Fenderson said on January 30, 2018 at 7:42 pm
      Reply

      A laptop that doesn’t have a native ethernet port on it is a laptop I won’ t be buying.

      1. chesscanoe said on January 30, 2018 at 8:26 pm
        Reply

        John Fenderson, your opinion may be correct for your environment and requirements, but for maybe two years I have been using the plugable (company name) USB 3.0 Gigagit Ethernet Adapter with super results for me, saving me money on my laptop purchase as a result.

      2. John Fenderson said on January 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm
        Reply

        There’s nothing wrong with using an adapter, really — if I had to use a system that lacked an ethernet port, I’d do that as well. But I find dongles to be a hassle, so if I’m buying a system, I’ll buy one that lets me avoid them (even if I have to pay a little more for it).

  11. edvim said on January 30, 2018 at 8:19 pm
    Reply

    I’m getting old and most of my hardware is fairly dated as well. Cat5e cables are still use at home, and just for the sake of posterity I’ve got a partially used Cat5e spool and untouched 5e spool buried in closet too.
    With so many facilities opting for wireless networking, it’s been months since I’ve even used my crimper. Sigh…

  12. Ray said on January 31, 2018 at 6:21 pm
    Reply

    I changed my cat 5e to 6 a while back just because it was available and cheap. I did not expect any drastic speed change as my hardware was the same. My experience with it is there are fewer hiccups and errors with Cat6. I will expect Cat 7 to be the same.

    1. battle said on January 31, 2018 at 10:04 pm
      Reply

      Same here, changed to Cat6 SSTP when changing from provider. Probably overkill, 5e should be good in a house environment. But like you it was available and cheap.

  13. Stefan said on February 1, 2018 at 12:07 am
    Reply

    I just got me Cat6 cables at home due to my fiber connection. I didn’t even know there were any Cat7 cables…… Thanks for telling this, Martin !

  14. Jojo said on February 2, 2018 at 7:31 am
    Reply

    AT&T just installed their Uverse TV/internet at my house. They used Cat 5E.

  15. XenoSilvano said on March 25, 2018 at 3:14 pm
    Reply

    “Speed drops after 15 meters, supports 100000 Mbps up to 100 meters”

    the maximum theoretical Speed of Cat7 is 10,000 Mbps, speeds drop after 15 metres but yet is supports 10,000 Mbps at up to 100 metres (WTF?)

    “40 Gigabit Ethernet up to 50 meters and 100000 Mbps Ethernet up to 15 meters”

    so you get higher speeds at longer distances?

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