CAT 5/5E & CAT 6: What are the differences & which is right for you?

First, let’s answer what is Cat5/5e or Cat6 wire. “Cat” stands for category and it is likely that you are already using these cables in your house currently. Although they can be used for a variety of purposes, most commonly they are used as network cables—connecting computers and servers to modems and ISPs. As the electronics world changed over the past couple years, so have ethernet cables experienced wide development with the most recent cables being able to transfer data with significantly greater performance—higher speeds and minimal crosstalk between devices. Crosstalk is the result of multiple cables being too close and interfering with each other’s electromagnetic signals causing errors or disruptions. Cat6 uses improved shielding and a twisted cable design to reduce the impact of crosstalk.

     It’s important to note that these cables look very similar from the outside, and any of them would plug into an ethernet port but the insides are different. The end piece that all three types of cable utilize is the RJ-45 and it is capable of plugging into any Ethernet jack on a computer, router, or other device of same purpose. The differences therefore are in their capabilities and their materials; choosing the right one can have a big impact on your internet speeds. Here’s everything you need to know about Cat5/5E and Cat6 ethernet cables.


     Cat5 cables have been used to connect to the internet for many years—they’re made up of four twisted pairs of copper wire. If your computer is hooked up to LANs, it is most likely connected by a Category 5 cable. Cat5 ethernet cables were made to support speeds of 10Mbps and 100Mbps.

     Significant new technology has replaced the Cat5 cable, further Cat5e cables, ‘e’ meaning ‘enhanced’, can provide much faster speed marking Cat5 no longer the standard. Because Cat5 is an older type, they are nearly obsolete in stores, but it’s possible they came with an older router, switch, or networking device.

     Cat5 cable can be separated into these aforementioned two categories: Cat5 and Cat5e. Cat5e in it’s development doesn’t share the same limitations as Cat5. Although Cat5 cables contain the ability to handle 10/100Mbps at a 100Mhz bandwidth, but the newer versions of Cat cables (Cat5e and Cat6) are significantly faster. Over ten years ago, Cat5e cable became the new standard with up to 10 times faster speeds and a greater capacity to traverse distance without being affected by device crosstalk. Cat 5e was made to support 1000 Mbps gigabit speeds and to cut down on the crosstalk, therefore because of these improvements, Cat5e provides faster, more reliable speed than Cat5.

     Cat5e is most likely adequate if your home or business is utilizing the cloud. To summarize, this cable category is east to use, reliable, and will function as you need it to. Though, if you’re interested in optimizing performance, Cat6 might be better for your uses.


      Cat6 is the future-proof option; containing stricter specifications in regard to interference and its capacity for 10-Gigabit speed and bandwidth of 250Hz. Though you probably won’t need to use this speed in your home or have that level of extra interference, Cat6 provides you with much more functionality. Like Cat5, they are composed of four pairs of twisted copper wire and tend to be thicker so wire management space should be considered. Our Cat6 cables also include a nylon spline which works to eliminate crosstalk.

To summarize: 

     There isn’t a more correct choice when choosing between Cat5/5e or Cat6 cables. How frequently you use the internet will drive which type of cable you choose. If you want faster internet speeds, Cat6 is a great choice. Cat5 will work if you are happy with current Internet performance or your server exists in the cloud. When it comes to networking your ethernet cables, there is no “one size fit all” but as a residential user both Cat5e and Cat6 are more than sufficient and supporting. If you’re wanting to optimize your network speed upgrading the old Cat5 cables to Cat5e or Cat6 could help and is rather cheap to accomplish.

Shop our Cat5e and Cat6 ethernet cables, here.

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