Cat 5e Ethernet cable can reach 1 Gbps when used with a Gigabit Ethernet device. Cat 5e can maintain this speed up to 100 meters (328 feet) in length.
Cat 6a Ethernet cable can reach 10 Gbps when used with a 10 Gigabit Ethernet device. Cat 6a can maintain this speed up to 100 meters (328 feet) in length.
Suppose you use a Cat 5e or Cat 6a Ethernet cable with a device that doesn't support Gigabit Ethernet or 10 Gigabit Ethernet speeds. In that case, your network speeds will be limited to the supported level of the device.
Cat 5e and Cat 6a will work at their maximum speeds for up to 100 meters (328 feet).
If you want to extend the cable past this distance, you'll need a network switch. Network switches are powered devices that can both repeat and split network cables. Learn more in How to Connect Ethernet Cables - Network Switches & Couplers
Ethernet cables, the wires used for connecting most home and office networking equipment, all use the same connector type, RJ-45. However, there are many types of Ethernet cables to consider: Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat 8. They have progressed over time to support increased speeds while thankfully remaining backward compatible. The most commonly used Ethernet cable is currently Cat 5e.
The speed you'll reach depends on the cable type and support by your network devices.
Cat 6a is my recommendation for new in-wall installations and future-proofing, as it's fast but less flexible than Cat 5e. Find Cat 6a Cables on Amazon (affiliate link).Tripp Lite Cat6a Cable 10G-Certified Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
Cat 5e is my recommendation for in-room usage due to its increased flexibility. However, if you want to reach speeds over 1 Gbps, stick with Cat 6a and up. Find Cat 5e Cables on Amazon (affiliate link).
Cat 7 isn't very popular because it uses an uncommon GG45 connector; other Ethernet cable categories use an RJ-45 connector. Additionally, it never gained much market traction. If you see something marketed as Cat 7 but has an RJ-45 connector, then it's not Cat 7 cable. Your best bet is to avoid Cat 7, as it will likely not be worth the extra expense.
Cat 8 is more expensive than Cat 6a. Assuming you won't be reaching speeds over 10 Gbps with your home networking equipment, I'd recommend sticking with Cat 6a over Cat 8. Find Cat 8 Cables on Amazon (affiliate link).Tripp Lite Cat8 Cable 25G/40G-Certified Check Price on Amazon (affiliate link)
While not typically considered an Ethernet cable, you can use new or existing coax cables for Ethernet communication using MoCA adapters. MoCA 2.5 adapters allow for speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps.
|Cable Category||Max Speed and Distance||Notes|
||Recommended for In-Room. More flexible than Cat 6 and up.|
||Recommended for In-Wall.|
||Not recommended or intended for use as a typical Ethernet cable; go with Cat 6a rather than this type. Most home network equipment would run at Cat 6 or Cat 6a speeds. This is also more expensive than Cat 6a.|
||More expensive than Cat 6a, which is why I don't recommend these currently. Most home networks don't currently support over 10 Gbps.|
|Coax (MoCA 2.5)||
||Not typically considered an Ethernet cable, but it can allow for Ethernet communication using existing wiring. Learn more about MoCA adapters in Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters.|
|OS2 Single-Mode Fiber||
|OM4 Multi-Mode Fiber||
Note that your equipment will need to support the appropriate speeds:
|Ethernet Port Type||Ethernet Cable Needed for Max Speed|
|Fast Ethernet (10/100)||Cat 5|
|Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000)||Cat 5e|
|10 Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000/10000)||Cat 6a or Cat 8|
Finding Ethernet cables which comply with their category rating can be a little tricky. Some manufacturers use misleading or incorrect naming, and their cables do not allow you to get the maximum expected speeds.
Here are some cables which I recommend:
Cat 6a: Tripp Lite Cat6a Ethernet Cable - 10G Certified
Cat 8: Tripp Lite Cat8 Ethernet Cable - 25G/40G Certified
Cat 5e: Tripp Lite Cat5e Ethernet Cable
If you want to learn more about cable internet equipment, networking, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles:
- Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters - This guide discusses how to use existing coax cabling for distributing Ethernet and Wi-Fi throughout your house.
- Modem Router Combo vs. Separate? Which You Should Buy - This guide explains the pros and cons of modem router combos vs. separate modems and routers.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Wiring & Optimization Guide - This guide shows you how to wire and optimize cable Internet for your home or office.
- Essential Equipment Guide for Cable Internet - This guide shows you the essential components required for setting up your cable Internet connection.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Troubleshooting Guide - This guide shows you how to troubleshoot cable Internet problems.
- How to Connect Ethernet Cables - Network Switches & Couplers - This article explains how to use network switches and couplers for extending and distributing your network.
- MoCA vs. Powerline? Which You Should Buy - This article compares MoCA adapters and Powerline adapters for home networks.