What Need to Know when Buying Ethernet Cables and Extenders

Last Updated on July 5, 2022

Ethernet cables exist in different sizes and shapes. Although there are different types of Ethernet cables they all serve a basic purpose of connecting devices to networks such as the internet. However, all Ethernet capable are not necessarily the same. You might find yourself in a situation in which you have to pick an Ethernet cable that will work for you but you absolutely have no idea what to look for. No need to worry as you are not the only person. Just like a lot of things in modern networking, Ethernet designation can be a little bit difficult to understand and interpret. Luckily enough, you have landed in the right place that will help you make a choice of the best Ethernet cable for the situation you are in.

How does an Ethernet cable look like?

An Ethernet cable looks just like a phone cable but the only difference is that it has many wires and is large. Although both the phone and Ethernet cable share a similar plug and shape, an Ethernet cable has a larger plug and eight wires contrary to the four wires found in phone cables. Usually, phone cables only come in grey color but the Ethernet cables come in different colours. Additionally, Ethernet ports can be accessed through an Ethernet card found on the mother board in a computer and the ports are larger than the phone ports.

Choosing an Ethernet cable

Although the easiest way to choose an Ethernet cable is to select one which has the kind of performance and range that you may be in need of. But what exactly do you need?

The first step is checking the internet connection at our home. If the internet at your home is a gigabit one, then an old Ethernet cable is the best. Having a slow network connection such as 10 or 20 megabits per second? A newer or cat 5 will work for you perfectly.

Although this may be irrelevant for most users, the speed that you require for your network is a factor that you ought to consider. This will especially make a difference if you frequently transfer files between computers and if you stream video content with high bandwidth.

The type of router you have cannot be left out when making a choice of an Ethernet cable that will best suit you. You will realize that some kind of routers only supports Ethernet cables with a speed of 100 megabits per second and anything beyond the cat-5 will bottleneck.

Given the above factors, the most likely Ethernet cable that you need is a cat 6 although you can get away with a cat 5e.

The meaning of “cat”

You have probably seen that Ethernet cables have been classified into cat such as cat-5 or cat-6e as you browse through the internet. Cat is used to mean category and the number that precedes is used to refer to the specification of the manufacturing of the cable. One rule that you should know is that the higher the number, the higher the frequency in MHz and the faster the speed. As seen in most new technologies, new Ethernet cables support higher bandwidth and hence there is faster and increased downloading speed.

Something that you should also keep in mind is that longer cables will have a slower transmission speed. Cables that have been purchased for personal purposes exceed 100 metres on rare occasions and hence speed drop of is not something they will experience.

A deeper look into the various cats

CategoryShieldingMax Transmission Speed (at 100 meters)Max Bandwidth
Cat 3Unshielded10 Mbps16 MHz
Cat 5Unshielded10/100 Mbps100 MHz
Cat 5eUnshielded1,000 Mbps / 1 Gbps100 MHz
Cat 6Shielded or Unshielded1,000 Mbps / 1 Gbps250 MHz
Cat 6aShielded10,000 Mbps / 10 Gbps500 MHz
Cat 7Shielded10,000 Mbps / 10 Gbps600 MHz
Cat 7aShielded10,000 Mbps/10 Gbps1,000Mhz

Cat 3 and cat 5

As per this point, cat 3 and cat 5 are no longer in use. Although they may be obsolete, cat 5 is still in use but do not even think of purchasing any of the two. This is because they are very slow and be assured that there is no one who is manufacturing them as per now.

Cat 5e

The”e” in found in cat 5e is used to mean enhanced. Although there exists no difference between cat 5e and cat 5, cat 5e is constructed under testing standards that are restrictive in order to eliminate crosstalk such as the unwanted signal transfer between various communication channels. Due to the low cost of production and the capability to support a higher speed as compared to the original cat 5, cat 5e is the most widespread type of Ethernet cable.

Cat 6

This category of the Ethernet cable tends to be more expensive and also support higher bandwidth than cat 5e and cat 5. Often cat 6 cables are outfitted using either a braided shielding or a foil and they tend to be more tightly wound as compared to their predecessors. The shielding used in this cable is for the protection of the twisted pair of wires found inside the Ethernet cables and is a way of preventing noise interference and any form of crosstalk. At a limitation of 55metres, cat 6 cables can support a speed of up to 10Gbps.

Cat 6a

The “a” that is used here is used to mean augmented. As compared to the regular cat 6 Ethernet cables, the maximum bandwidth in cat 6a is twice as much and they have the capacity to maintain a transmission speed which is higher even in longer cables. Cat 6a is much denser and less flexible as compared to cat 6. This is because cat 6a are always shielded using a sheeting that is very thick and as a result, crosstalk is eliminated completely.

Cat 7

As compared to cat 6 cables, Cat 7 is able to make use of the newest available Ethernet technology and as a result, it has a higher transmission speed and can be able to support higher bandwidth. In comparison to other Ethernet cables, cat 7 are proportionally more expensive although their premium price matches their performance. Looking for an incredible choice to connect your router or modem directly? Cat 7 is then the best choice you make as it can support a speed of upto100Gbps even at a length of 15 meters.  Cat 7 cables tend to use a GigaGate45 connector that is modified and its compatibility with the normal Ethernet port is backward. The cat 7 cables come in handy with a shielding.

Cat 7a

Cat 7a is currently offering the Ethernet cable with the highest specification although the network supporting hand ware option is very few and is not widely available. Cat 7a offers a 50% improvement on the overall bandwidth which is very useful in certain setting although its transmission speed is not that different from the cat 7. This cable can only be considered in very specific cases as they are more expensive than all the other available options.

Cat 8

Although the cat 8 Ethernet cables are not yet widely available, it is availability in 2019 will be widespread. You can be rest assured that they will hit the market with a speed which is faster and with a higher bandwidth that the cat 7 cables.

Choosing the Cabling Type After Identifying The Cat Type

After you have decided on the cat type that should not be the end of it! In order to narrow down your requirements, why not answer the following questions?

  1. Are you in search of burial cables that have UV protection?
  2. Will the cables you are purchasing be found within a 6 inches of the power line?
  3. Will the cables be located on the wall?
  4. For installation, is flame resistance cabling required?

Before you make a purchase of any kind of cables, there are several types of shielding and insulation that needs to be considered. The above questions do not have one answer but the given answers will help you as the reader to make the best choice based on the kind of project that you are carrying out.

The various types of cables can have a price range of $100 and $600 and this will depend on the type of cable.

Unshielded or Shielded?

Shielded (Left) and Unshielded Cable (Center)

The Ethernet cables that contain a pair of twisted wire can either be shielded and this uncommon in most cases or it can be unshielded which is the most common case. Small home network and large enterprise networks use unshielded twisted pair (UTP) commonly. This is because it is more flexible and inexpensive in comparison with the shielded twisted pair (STP).

Shielded twisted pair tends to be less pliable and more expensive than UTP. It is commonly used in either industrial environment or in environments that are noisy and are likely to experience high electromagnetic interface (EMI). The pair of wire in STP are covered/wrapped individually using a metal shielding or a foil. The entire group of the twisted pair can also be covered using a metal shielding.

Ethernet Cables Limitation

Just like an electronic power cord, a single Ethernet cable has a maximum distance capacity. This indicates that the cable contains an upper limit as to how long the cable can be able to run before the signal is lost also known as attenuation and this greatly affect its performance.  This problem arises from the characteristic of the cables electrical transmission and this is affected directly by the interface found around the cable.

In order to receive a signal quickly, both ends of the cable should be in close distance with each other but as a way of avoiding interruptions, they should be far away from the electrical interface.  However, the size of the network cannot be limited alone by this precaution since hand ware such as hubs and routers have been used to link multiple Ethernet cables together that are of the same network.  The distance between the two devices is known as the network diameter.

324 feet is the maximum distance before attenuation occurs for a single cat 5 cable while for a cat 6 the length can go up to 700 feet. The length of Ethernet cables can be a bit longer but this may result in loss of signal, particularly if they are passing near electrical appliances.

If you are talking about thinness, this length can be different in Ethernet cable. This can either be a thinness of 10 base 2 or a thickness of 10 base 5.  A thinner Ethernet cable should not be longer than 600 feet while a thicker cable can reach up to 1640 feet.

5 best Ethernet cables in 2022

 Cat 7 Vandesail LAN Network Cable

Allowing for a speed of up to 10Gbps, cat 7 cables are the newest of the Ethernet cable to hit the market. The standards and the backward compatibility of older devices with this 16 feet cable are adhered to.  They are available in various sizes from 3 feet to 164 feet’s depending on your needs. This is the perfect cable for most application not forgetting the fact that this cat 7 cable is flat and there is easy routing under the carpets. The best part is that it is readily available in Amazon at a price which is reasonable. You will get double the cable for the money you will use as it is part of a 2 pack.

  • Length: 16 feet



Cat 5e Mediabridge Ethernet Patch Cable

For most households, although the cat 7 cables have the capacity to run up to 10Gbps, opting to this kind of latest connectivity can be an overkill.  Cat 5e cables are strong enough for older and slower connection has it has a boosting of up to 1 Gigabits per second.  For most users, the 50 feet Mediabridge Ethernet cable is sufficient enough since it can support both the cat 5e and cat 6 applications.

  • Length: 50 feet
  • Warranty: A one-year warranty

Cat 6 AmazonBasics RJ45 Ethernet Patch Cable

When trying to obtain a maximum operating speed of 10 Gigabits per second, the length of the cable should not go beyond 55 feet. Having this in mind, the 50 feet AmazonBasics RJ45 Ethernet cable has a connection that is preferably faster.

  • Length:  50 feet
  • Warranty:  1 year

A 100 feet flat black sticky Ethernet patch cable with Cable Clips

For great connectivity between rooms, a flat Ethernet cable has always been ideal in this kind of situation.  Thankfully enough, there exists a 100 feet cable to ensure your home is well connected. Although this cable length may seem overkill to many, there also other 50 feet Ethernet cables specially offered to you.

  • Length: 100 feet
  • Warranty: lifetime warranty

A 30ft cat- 5e Networking RJ45 Ethernet Patch Cable

Not ready to break your bank? This cat- 5e will not cost you much. Having in mind that as mentioned previously, this kind of cables has the ability of only achieving a speed of 1 Gigabit per second.  If this is going to fit your budget, why not purchase it?

  • Length: 30 feet


Staying Connected Even When the Power Goes Off

Are you located in an area that experiences a lot of outages or you are running online devices? Sometimes when you are busy browsing and enjoying the network connection that your purchased Ethernet cable is giving, power may go off and you may still want to be connected. Considering to purchase a generator that is run on fuel that is either natural gas, propane or gasoline. You can decide on purchasing the best portable generator such as the ones that construction site use as they have outlets where you can plug your things.  You can also use a whole home generator that is normally installed by electricians and it automatically takes over in case there is an outage.  Although generators need to be gassed up, most generators take time before they will require to be refilled as it keeps power for long hours.

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

April 14, 2023 at 7:53 am

It would be good to have a common comparison of cable in comparison network connection to figure out which is the best cable to buy For example a table showing Cat cable with a length of 10m for an Intel(R) 1211 gigbit connection?? Anyway, great job was a nice article nonetheless!

Leave a reply