Cat6 vs. Cat5E: Pick the best cable [speed, cost, safety]

Vlad Turiceanu
by Vlad Turiceanu
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  • Ethernet cables come in different categories and colors, according to their specifications and capabilities.
  • Cat5e and Cat6 cables are some of the best known, and we'll discuss what's the difference between them and which one is better.
  • For an extensive collection of articles about cables, check out our Ethernet cables section.
  • If you're looking for some accessories for your computer, our Accessories & Peripherals Hub will surely be helpful.

A Cat5e Ethernet cable is the successor of Cat5, the latter being now rarely found on the market. While they’re physically similar, Cat5e Ethernet adheres to more stringent IEEE standards.

By comparison, Cat6 cables take things one steps further especially in terms of performance rates, which is oftentimes the main aspect that clients look for in any tech-related product.

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Choosing between these two is, in the end, a matter of cost vs. performance, and we want to make things easier for you by focusing on some aspects such as speed, safety, and costs.


What is the difference between Cat5e and Cat6?

As mentioned, with Cat5E cables certain capabilities were enhanced, namely reducing the potential for crosstalk (interference that transfers from adjacent wires).  Cat5E is suitable for small space installations like households, though it is still used in commercial spaces.

Cat6 cables reduce crosstalk, even more, using tighter wound wire pairs and usually also have a plastic core through the middle of the cable to better insulate the internal wires, which also makes it more resistant in time.

Otherwise, the two cables come with the same end port that plugs into any Ethernet jack on a computer, router, or another similar device. 


What is one advantage of Cat6 over Cat5e Ethernet cable?

Naturally, the big difference between Cat5e and Cat6 cables lies in their performance or the amount of data that can be sent over through each one of them. As expected, Cat6 has a higher bandwidth compared to Cat5. 

Cat5e supports a maximum frequency of up to 100MHz and a speed of up to 1Gbps (which is why it was also known as the Gigabit Ethernet). Cat6 cables increased that bandwidth to 250 Mhz, which also boosted up the transfer speed to 10Gbps.

One drawback of Cat6 cables is that though standard Ethernet supports distances of up to 100 meters, they only support 37-55 meters (depending on crosstalk).


Is Cat6 better than Cat5e?

There’s no correct answer to this question. Both cable types are being widely used.  Perhaps of all the current cabling options, Cat5e is the least expensive option. 

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Cat5e is also the most common type of cabling for residencies, due to its profitability when balancing cost and performance. 

Just think that most on-demand video streaming services require somewhere around 14-16Mbps Internet speed (or even less) to stream 4k content, so you can imagine that with a Cat5e Ethernet cable you’d be just fine.

On the other hand, for better Internet speed and transfer speeds 10 times faster between several devices, Cat6 cables are definitely the better option.


FAQ: Rad more about Ethernet cables

  • What type of Ethernet cable do I need?

If you have good Internet speed (1Gbps or above), an old Ethernet cable will hold you back. If you have a slower connection (10 or 20 Mbps), Cat5e or newer is just fine. 

  • What is the best Ethernet cable for Smart TV?

Cat5e or Cat6 cables should be fine, considering that the necessary Internet speeds for streaming services don’t surpass 1Gbps. Find out how to connect your smart TV to the internet.

  • Which Ethernet cable is the fastest?

Obviously, the most recent or highest one is the fastest. With Ethernet cables, transfer speed increases with their numbers, so Cat7 or Cat8 would be the fastest options.

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