All Ethernet cables have the same basic function: to connect devices to networks. However, not all Ethernet cables are exactly the same and it is difficult to navigate.
If you’ve ever needed an Ethernet cable and didn’t know which one you should choose, you’re not alone. Ethernet designations, like many things in modern networking standards, can be difficult to interpret and understand.
Understanding the categories of Ethernet cables
You’ve probably noticed that they almost always fall into categories like “Cat-5”, “Cat6e” or something similar. “Cat” simply means “Category” and the number that follows indicates the specifications to which the cable was manufactured.
Typically, higher numbers represent faster speeds and higher frequencies, measured in megahertz Mhz. New cables tend to support higher bandwidths, hence faster download and connection speeds.
There are different categories ranging from 3 to 7, all having specificities and meeting different needs. For starters it has categories 3 and 5, which are considered obsolete, they are not armored and they are very slow, but it is not uncommon to see some still in use.
Then you can find, categories 6 and 7, they are usually shielded, have a transmission speed of 1000 Mbps / Gbps for Cat6 and 10,000 Mbps / Gbps for Cat 6a, 7 and 7a cables. What sets them apart is also the bandwidth, which is better depending on the level of the category.
Cat 5 or 6 Ethernet cable?
What mainly differentiates these two categories of cable is the data rate. Cat 5 cables have a bandwidth of 100 MHz, whereas Cat 6 is 250 MHz, this means that Cat 6 can handle a larger volume of data.
The most important thing when choosing a Cat 5 or 6 cable is to choose a cable, which is made entirely of copper. If the cable is of poor quality, the quality of the network will be poor which can lead to network cuts.
Ethernet cable cat 6 or 7?
Category 7 cables are more effective against noise, in fact they are composed of a shield for each of the four pairs of wires. But the fact that these cables are reinforced gives them a disadvantage, they are less flexible and therefore more difficult to handle.
It is more reasonable to choose a Cat 6 cable, in fact, the price of a 500ft Cat 7 cable and equivalent to a 1000ft Cat 6 cable. My maximum transmission speed is the same 10 Gbps, the number of connectors as well and concerning the distance it is also the same.
Which Ethernet cable to choose for your NAS then?
If you are transferring files between a computer for backup to a NAS you must plug in your NAS with an Ethernet cable, and using hardware approaching gigabit speeds can greatly reduce your file loading time.
Some Cat5 cables can reach gigabit speeds, however they are obsolete, it is better to turn to Cat5e or Cat6 models.
Finally, remember that when we talk about the speed of these cables, they are all theoretical. Even if everything on your network supports gigabit Ethernet, you will probably never see a speed of 1 Gb / s. However, your data transfers will be much faster than on non-gigabit hardware. Also, if you use cables throughout your home, you may notice a decrease in speed if you use cables longer than 100 meters.
The cables use the RJ45 connector, economical but efficient, and thus make it possible to link or connect several Ethernet devices. Other than that, using Cat 5, Cat5e, and Cat 6 Ethernet cables is very straightforward and normally there are very few issues. In short, if you transfer a lot of data over your network, upgrading your cables from the old Cat5 might help.