cat 5 and cat 6
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Cat 5 and Cat 6, whats the difference?

Cat 5 and Cat 6, two names for two types of ethernet cable I’m sure you’ve heard used quite a bit! You may have been thinking: “I kind of know what an Ethernet Cable is, but what’s are the differences between Cat 5 and Cat 6 Ethernet Cables?” Its an incredibly good question that we get asked an awful lot. For that reason, we decided to make a video on the topic, and write this accompanying article to go with it. Read on, or watch the video below to learn more about the difference between these two commonly used types of Ethernet cable.

Cat 5 and Cat 6, What’s The Difference?

Category 5:

Well first off, both Cat 5 and Cat 6 are a type of networking cable commonly referred to as Ethernet. They both use the same wiring scheme, and they both get crimped or “terminated” at both of their ends with the same connector head- called RJ45. Both cables can be used relatively interchangeably with a computer or network device that connects via ethernet. There are, however, some key differences between these two types of cables. Lets first take a look at Cat5 since that standard is a bit older. Category 5 Ethernet cable was first developed for use in 1995. When Cat5  first came around, it was originally limited to a maximum network speed of 100 megabits per second. However, with the advent of cat5e in 2001, regular cat 5 was put aside. Now the standard is Cat 5e because Cat 5e is now capable of up to 2.5 Gigabits up to 100 meters, which drops off to 1 gigabit when pushed any further than that.   However, when there are a lot of cat5 Ethernet cables in close proximity, the electromagnetic interference produced by them can actually cause issues with each other leading to data loss. The issues caused by this electromagnetic interference are collectively referred to as crosstalk.

Category 6:

This is where Category 6 Ethernet – or Cat 6-  comes into play. Cat 6 was developed with the purpose to eliminate, or at least mitigate crosstalk and the errors it causes. Cat 6 was also created to increase the maximum bandwidth the cable can carry. Cat 6 cables use a spline, a long plastic cross-shaped tube, that runs down the center of the cable, separating the wiring in such a way that reduces Electro-Magnetic Interference.  Additionally, Cat 6 cables are usually designed with thicker shielding, and better insulation materials, to handle harsher conditions. These factors greatly reduce errors caused by crosstalk. Cat 6 is also capable of almost 5 times the speed of Cat 5e. Cat 6 is capable of a whopping 10 Gigabits as long as the distance the cable is ran is at 55 meters or less.

Which Should I Use?:

The difference between Cat5 and Cat 6 should be fairly clear at this point but this likely raises another question: “Which cable should I use, and when?”  You might be thinking that cat 6 is objectively better, and it might seem that way but there are actually a few different factors to consider, based of the strengths of each cable. In an area where you have several cables in close proximity, like a server rack or a network closet- it’s best to use cat6. This is because, in close quarters, Ethernet cables are prone to electromagnetic interference as discussed earlier. Since Cat 6  is designed to mitigate crosstalk caused by electromagnetic interference, this makes them the best choice for areas where cables will be closely bunched together. Cat 6 also has the ability to transfer up to 10 Gigabits of data per second, however, this quickly reduces to the 1 Gigabit speed of Cat5e past 100 meters. For shorter cable runs, that connect to high-level network hardware like switches, servers, routers like in the server closet instance mentioned above, cat6 is probably the better option- the most demanding network hardware will have the highest bandwidth cabling, with the least interference.

However, this brings us to Cat 5- and the major determining factor for its use is almost always cost vs yield.  Because of the spline, better quality materials, and newer technology Cat 6 is usually more expensive than cat 5 by a significant amount. This means any situation where cross-talk is unlikely, or the hardware being used doesn’t demand extreme bandwidth- it actually does not make a lot of financial sense to invest in cat 6 when Cat 5 e is available. When running cables for workstations, POS systems, residential consumer electronic slike Video Game consoles or Blu ray players,  or other end-user equipment it is a good idea to consider cat 5 for a substantially smaller expense. Both cable types serve a purpose in the IT world and are used regularly in just about any network application you can imagine

Thanks for joining us in learning the difference between Cat 5 and Cat 6 Ethernet, and where you would want to use these cables. If you enjoyed the video or found it helpful- don’t forget to toss us a like and hit that subscribe button for more content! Check out our other articles, videos, and a related link at the bottom of the page. Until Next time, Stay Safe! For more info on any products we have/carry- give our sales pro’s a call at 561-288-5258

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