What’s the Best Ethernet Cable?
An Ethernet cable can help you enjoy seamless streaming of your favorite shows or reach the leader board of your favorite competitive online game. Known for their speed and reliability, Ethernet cables are encased sets of wires that allow data to travel between your computer and your router or modem. If you work from home and require a reliable connection, an Ethernet cable provides more security than a Wi-Fi connection.
Not all Ethernet cables are equal, and finding the right cable requires a bit of homework. In this guide, we’ll review various Ethernet cable options to help you make the right choice for your needs.
What are the different types of Ethernet cables?
If you recently switched to a faster internet plan and upgraded your modem to find you’re not getting the performance you expect, your Ethernet cable may be the crux of the problem. Using an outdated Ethernet cable can prevent you from achieving today’s fast speeds, so an upgrade may be in order.
When shopping for Ethernet cables, you’ll see them labeled with “Cat,” which is short for “category,” along with a number. Generally speaking, cables with higher numbers support faster speeds.
Cat 5e cables are the most inexpensive but lowest-grade Ethernet cables in the marketplace today. While a Cat 5e cable can support line speeds of up to 1000Mbps (megabits per second) and bandwidth up to 100MHz, this cable is best for those who don’t have serious performance demands.
A Cat 6 cable is more expensive to produce than a Cat 5e and comes at a higher cost. It supports transfers up to 1000 Mbps but has a slightly higher bandwidth at 250GHz, making it an option for mid-level gaming and video calling. This cable relies on foil or braided shielding to avoid crosstalk.
This is the augmented version of Cat 6, hence the “a” designation. It supports double the bandwidth and with its thicker coating, and there is virtually no crosstalk with these cables. Cat 6 and 6a cables are popular among those who require support for streaming.
These are high-performance cables designed to support higher speeds. However, due to the nature of the proprietary technology of the design, costs run higher. These cables are currently used in specific applications and are not yet considered mainstream Ethernet cables.
Earmarked for those who require top performance, these cables can support up to 30Gbps (gigabits per second) and 2000MHz. While this may seem excessive, these cables could be a good fit for those who run through cables quite frequently and require greater durability.
Cat 5e Ethernet cables
Category 5e Ethernet cables are nearing the end of their life span, although they’re still available online or at some retail stores. For example, Home Depot sells a commercial 25-foot Cat 5e cable for around $12. If you need a shorter option, Office Depot has a Cat 5e Ethernet cable priced around $5. While these basic and inexpensive Cat 5e cables can be a short-term solution, they are restricted in terms of line speed, data noise reduction, and durability.
Best Cat 6 and Cat 6a Ethernet cables
The Cat 6 cable is nearing the end of its usefulness. However, there are still a few suppliers who stock Cat 6 Ethernet cables. Looking toward the future, it might be worth the jump to Cat 6a, as it supports faster line speed and higher bandwidth.
Monoprice Cat6a Ethernet Patch Cable
A 100% pure bare copper wire provides durability and flexibility to this Monoprice Cat 6 network cable, which also boasts a snagless cable boot for added protection on the plug retaining clip. It offers 50µm gold plated contacts for perfect data transmission and failproof contact between points.
The cable is a shielded twisted pair (STP) variety that’s hardier than the unshielded (UTP) variety as it provides protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI). It supports a bandwidth of up to 550MHz. This is an option for indoor installations and the cable is offered in lengths of 0.5 feet for around $3 up to 100 feet for approximately $40.
Cable Matters Cat 6a Snagless Shielded Ethernet Patch Cable
Some situations call for durable patch cables. The Cable Matters 6a cable has a molded strain relief connector and snagless clip protector to ensure longevity. It has gold-plated contacts to ensure crisp and clear connections. The cable pairs are braided and foil shielded to prevent interference. The wires are bare copper which lends to durability as they have more bend compared to copper clad aluminum. You can buy as little as 10 feet or as much as 200 feet. The shortest lengths retail under $10 while a 100 foot cable costs around $33.
Ugreen Ethernet Cat 6 Extension Cable
You can think of this Ethernet cable as a link between your Ethernet cable and the port. It works in instances where your existing cable is too short and you don’t want to spend more than you have to to make up the distance. The price for these cables start at $11 for 10 feet.
CableGeeker Flat Cable
As a Cat 6 Ethernet cable with all the trimmings such as the 50-micron gold-plated contacts, crosstalk protector, and a 250MHz bandwidth capacity, this CableGeeker cable also has strong networking infrastructure capabilities. This comes through its sleek design that incorporates a flat cable and snagless, strain relief boots. The sticky clips allow a simple and clean networking setup that ensures there’s no cable clutter. This cable costs around $10 for 25 feet.
Best Cat 7 Ethernet cables
Serious gamers and work-from-home office setups have high connectivity demands that rely on speed of transmission and the clarity of the data to perform at optimal levels. Cat 7 Ethernet cables provide that extra layer of durability through very specific design elements.
G-PLUG High-Speed Cat7 Ethernet Cable
This Ethernet cable provides backward compatibility, which means it supports earlier versions of various standards. It’s ideal for those who have gaming devices that require fluidity of data for a smoother gaming experience, or users that require high-data applications and can’t afford lag. The cable runs speeds up to 10Gbps and consists of pure copper conduction and drain wire. Its pairs are aluminum shielded and the cable has a polyethylene (PE) jacket. Gold plated connectors ensure a stable internet connection and the cable’s flat design allows it to fit into tight spots. A 75-foot cable costs around $20.
Weetcoocm VEETCOM Cat 7 Ethernet Cable
Outdoor ethernet applications require a different approach as the cables need to be more hardy and resilient to resist the elements. The VEETCOM is purpose-built for outdoor use and despite its hardier shell, still offers everything you’d expect from a Cat 7 cable. It supports speeds up to 10Gbps and 600Mhz. The wires are stranded copper in four shielded pairs in a PVC jacket to reduce noise and crosstalk, and it has gold-plated RJ45 connectors for signal stability. The cable is available in lengths from 0.5 meters to 150 meters. With this option, you’ll pay around $8 for a 3 foot cable.
Jadaol Cat 7 Cable
An eight-wire four twisted-pair stranded copper configuration with foil shielding offers a barrier to prevent data noise. The cable has a PVC jacket for flexibility and strength, and the conductors are 50-micron gold plated. It offers up to 600MHz and up to 10Gbps. The snagless cable boot and flat design allow the cable to work in tight or high-traffic areas. Furthermore, this cable is both indoor and outdoor compatible, giving you maximum flexibility. Cable lengths are available from 10 feet to 100 feet and you can purchase a two-pack of five-foot cables for around $12.
Best Cat 8 Ethernet cables
Cat 8 Ethernet cables offer the highest support for data transfers and can accommodate up to 2,000MHz and 40Gbps. While internet service providers are yet to provide this to ordinary households, institutions and government installations may require this kind of support. However, you don’t have to wait for those speeds to hit your internet lines as these cables can accommodate older technology and are hardier than the lower categories, which increases longevity.
Orbram Cat 8 Ethernet Cable
This option oozes durability with its braided heavy-duty cable that has a flat design to reduce tangling. It’s also easier to accommodate a flat cable as it takes up less space and can fit into small spaces. According to the manufacturer, the robust nature of the braided nylon jacket allows users to bend the cable up to 10,000 times before it starts showing signs of wear. The cables are divided into four shielded, twisted pairs to reduce data noise. The Gold-plated RJ45 connector ensures a crisp connection to reduce data loss and the gold plating also increases shelf life. A three-foot Orbram Cat 8 Ethernet cable costs under $10, while a 200-foot cable costs around $200.
DbillionDa Cat8 Ethernet Cable
DbillionDa’s indoor and outdoor Cat 8 Ethernet cable supports the 40Gbps and 2,000MHz as is expected with this category. The twisted cable pairs of single-strand copper are encased in an aluminum foil mylar-backed shield that reduces crosstalk. The cable is then wrapped in a braided shield of 90% aluminum to improve durability and reduce further data noise. This is housed in a UV-resistant PVC jacket for optimal resistance against direct sunlight and extreme cold. While it can be used for devices such as gaming consoles and PCs, its durability also makes it a candidate for outdoor surveillance equipment. A short, three-foot DbillionDa Cat 8 cable comes in at under $10, with a 150 option priced around $80.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Will my Ethernet connection reduce my Wi-Fi speed?
An Ethernet connection is a physical connection to the device that is handled in its own separate channel. This doesn’t affect the Wi-Fi strength. For households that have multiple users online, splitting some onto an Ethernet connection will reduce the Wi-Fi load. Look for a router that offers multiple ports and various frequencies to support the different devices and maximize your connectivity.
Should I opt for a Cat 8 Ethernet setup even though my internet speed is nowhere near that?
You don’t have to have the best and fastest connection to take advantage of Cat 8 network cables. While it carries a higher cost than Cat 6 or Cat 7 cables, it offers longevity as you won’t have to change your cables for a few years. It also offers superior protection against crosstalk and data interference. Cat 8 cables are also made to a higher standard than the lower levels, which means they perform better and last longer.
Can I use Cat 7 Ethernet cables on devices meant for Cat 6 cables?
Yes, backward compatibility ensures that Ethernet cables are able to work on devices with older technology. This allows your network to age as technology advances. However, in time, your devices need to be upgraded in order to stay up to date with new connectivity advancements and security protocols. If not, regular updates are essential to keep the device relevant and your network safe.
*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 4/7/22.