Cat5 vs. Cat6 Ethernet Cables (and Why You Should Care)

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Look, we get it  – ethernet cables aren’t the most exciting topic in the world.

But, choosing the right one can have a massive impact on your internet speeds. Cat5 and Cat6 cables both connect your computer or server to a modem. However, most people don’t know the difference between them.

Here’s everything you need to know about Cat5 and Cat6 ethernet cables.

First of All, What Is a Cat5 Cable?

For many years, most people used a Cat5 cable to connect to the internet. This type of cable is made up of four twisted pairs of copper wire. You probably have a few Cat5 cables in your office.

“Computers hooked up to LANs are connected using Cat5 cables, so if you’re on a LAN, most likely the cable running out of the back of your PC is Category 5,” says Webopedia.

Recently, however, new technology has replaced the Cat5 cable. Cat5E cables, for example, provide you with faster speeds. The ‘e’ in Cat5E stands for “enhanced.”

“Although the Cat5 ethernet cable can handle up to 10/100 Mbps at a 100 MHz bandwidth (which was once considered quite efficient), the newer versions of Cat cables are significantly faster,” says FireFold.

…And What’s a Cat6 Cable?

A Cat6 cable is similar to a Cat5 ethernet cable — it consists of four pairs of twisted copper wire. However, it provides you with much more functionality. A Cat6 cable has a bandwidth capacity of 250 MHz, for example, and it offers you speeds of up to 10 Gbps. It’s also compatible with both Cat5 and Cat5E cables.

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“A Cat6 cable is used mainly for computer networks reaching a GB, 1000 Mbps or one Gbps of data transfer speed (DTR) or higher,” says Techopedia.

Which Ethernet Cable is Best for You?

The type of cable you choose depends on how frequently you use the internet in your business. If you want faster internet speeds, Cat6 is a good choice. It reduces something called “crosstalk” — signal transfers that disrupt your communication channels.

If you are happy with your current internet speeds, however, Cat5 might be all you need. Besides, Cat5 cables tend to be cheaper than Cat6.

More and more companies are using the cloud nowadays, too. If you have moved your server to the cloud — or are thinking about doing so in the future — a Cat5 is probably adequate. This type of cable is reliable, easy to use and does everything you need it to. If you’re looking for a cable that optimizes performance, though, Cat6 might be right for you.

There are other things to consider, too.

Typically, Cat6 cables tend to be thicker than Cat5 cables. This might be something to think about if you lack space in your office.

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“Many Cat-6 cables also include a nylon spline which helps eliminate crosstalk,” says How-To Geek. “Although the spline is not required in Cat-5 cable, some manufacturers include it anyway.”

So… Cat5 or Cat6?

When it comes to Cat5 and Cat6 ethernet cables, there’s no right or wrong choice.

The product you choose will depend on your individual business requirements. Remember, Cat5 has long been the “gold standard” of Ethernet cables and still does the job. If you are happy with your current internet speeds or have moved your server to the cloud, this type of cable is great.

Cat6, on the other hand, provides you with enhanced performance and reduces crosstalk.

If you need more information on the subject, be sure to talk to a managed IT service provider today.

Related: The Importance of Good Technology in Business

There’s a good chance that your struggles for greater speed aren’t related to the cables at all. Instead, it could be an issue with your bandwidth, your internet circuit speed, the number of devices in your network, and more.