How are CAT-5, CAT-5e, and CAT-6 Ethernet Different?

Anybody who’s ever tried to change their NAT type to “open” knows how frustrating and complex the world of ethernet and ethernet cables can be. The whole “CAT” rating system can get pretty confusing so bear with me here.

The first thing that you should know is that the “CAT” is a rating system for ethernet cables and its actually not an acronym – it stands for “category,” as in power level. It’s kind of like Dragonball-Z except with more vocab. Let’s get started!

CAT-5

Something all of these different cables actually have in common is their connector – the RJ-45. It’s the one with the barb at the end that you plug into the back of your Xbox or computer. These connectors give all of these cables some common ground so that people can freely use whichever cable they use.

Something that separates the CAT-5 from the rest of these wifi-worms, is it’s unshielded nature. Most cables have a tough external shield-wall of braided wire to protect the inner workings of the cable, but the CAT-5 wires are braided together within the thin casing – which can result in some interesting power outputs.

The CAT-5 was the first cable widely used by the public to access the internet, so you can bet it’s slower than anything you use today. In fact, I don’t even think you can buy these cables anymore. The important thing to remember about the CAT-5 is that it paved the way for modern ethernet cables.

CAT-5e

The CAT-5 was a great cable for the people of the 1980’s, but in 2001 everything changed. The CAT-5 was superceded by the CAT-5e. This new cable was the new standard for internet access – and for a good reason.

All of the sudden CAT-5e cables were giving people the ability of serious speed – up to 1000BASE-T or 1GBASE-T (Gigabit Ethernet). At the time, these were some incredible speeds, which is surprising because there weren’t too many changes in cable technology to prompt this new-found speed.

CAT-5e cables are still relevant today, and they’re a cost-effective way for anybody to get some quality internet into their home. They generally cost 10-20% less than your standard CAT-6 cable since they don’t offer the same amount of speed, but is it worth the money? Let’s find out what CAT-6 cables are capable of, in order to figure it out.

CAT-6

The latest and greatest in ethernet cable technology is here, and it’s called the CAT-6 ethernet cable. The CAT-6 is a twisted-pair cable like the CAT-5, but it offers the user so much more speed than ever dreamed of before – up to 10GBASE-T.

With speeds almost twice as fast as the previous cable, it’s no surprise that people with a need for speed were buying these things up like hot-cakes. The CAT-6 cable is capable of providing up to 500 MHz, which means that it can cover a distance that is twice as far as the CAT-5e.

When it comes to price, the CAT-6 is easily the most expensive ethernet cable you can purchase for your home. That being said – it’s well worth the money. With speeds that rival the previous cables capabilities, this new CAT-6 is only slightly more expensive than the CAT-5e – isn’t that crazy? Well, that’s it for this analysis – Happy shopping everyone!