With the introduction of various classes of networking cables in the market such as Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a, much confusion has been aroused about which cable is better and why. All of these cables provide good data transfer rate and quality. But there are significant differences in performance, structure and supported speeds of these cables. Whether it is a Cat5e, Cat6 or Cat6a cable, each has a different application and design. Each of these cables uses the RJ-45 connector to connect computers, routers, hubs or switches.
Here are some informational points that can help you to choose the best cable according to your need.
CAT5e is enhanced CAT5 cable with an additional increase in speed and reduced interference level. They support up to 1000 Mbps or 1 Gbps of speed so they are often called ‘gigabit Ethernet’. CAT5 was the oldest and slowest UTP cable with the supporting speed of 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Now CAT5 is only available with an older router or any older networking device.
The CAT5e cables become popular with the advancement of gigabit networking. In recent years the gigabit internet has become affordable and necessary for every home. Nowadays, the gigabit networking is commonly used to connect personal computers, laptops, phones and WAPs (Wireless Access Points). Cat5e cable is 24 gauge twisted pair wires that can support the speed of 1 Gbps up to the distance of 328ft. with a RJ-45 connector at both ends.
Cat6 is the successor of Cat5e with few more improvements in speed and frequency. The crosstalk (i.e. internal interference) is reduced by making more twists in each copper pair. The new network infrastructures are using Cat6, so they are easily available in the market. They are quite expensive and require Gigabit compatible hardware for their installation. The Cat6 cables are capable of supporting 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps speed on a network with a frequency of 250 MHz. Cat6 cables are commonly installed in backbone network (router to switches). These cables can support 10 Gbps speed up to a distance of 164 ft. and after that, the speed is reduced to 1 Gbps. Although, Cat6 and Cat5e cable both supports 1 gbps but, the delay for signal transfer from one point to another in Cat6 cable is less as compared to Cat5e.
With reduced interference capabilities Cat6a allows connections up to longer range at a speed of 10 Gbps. It has a plastic separator spine running in the centre that decreases the interference. These cables can perform well with the supporting frequency of up to 500 MHz. Cat6a is a 23 gauge wire with a RJ-45 connector at both ends and is considerably thicker than Cat6 cable. These cables are capable of supporting 10 gigabits per second speed up to a distance of 328 feet. The delay of signal transfer has been further decreased by reducing crosstalk among the wire pairs.
Cat 5e vs. Cat 6 vs. Cat 6a – Conclusion
In conclusion, Cat5e cables are perfect for single tenant home networking and small industries. They are best if you require very little internal networking and your most of the work is done on a cloud server. For bandwidth-intensive applications such as audio/video processing, large file transfers, AutoCAD, 3D imaging and much more, the Cat6 or Cat6a cable would be a better choice. The Cat6a cable would give you the best performance at full distance (328 ft.). If you want to transfer files between computers at a faster rate and already have gigabit compatible hardware, then Cat6 is a good choice.
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