Untangling the Mystery of Cat5e and Cat6

No, no, you are not going to find cloned cats with the name Cat5e or Cat 6! These are cables that connect to the Ethernet for networking. If you are not very techy and just allow a computer technician to connect all those snaky cables at the back of your computer to the peripheral gadgets, then you might not be familiar with it. If you are, then your dilemma might be which one to use, so here’s a lowdown on cat53 vs. cat6.

Cat5e vs. Cat6: Similarities and differences

Cat5e and Cat6 cables are both twisted pair cables. They typically use four twisted pairs of copper wires. Similarly both these types of cable are backwards compatible, meaning they can be used with older equipment up to Cat3. By the way, “Cat” here means category. The similarities end there.

Cat5e is capable of 10/100/1000MbE (Megabit Ethernet) speed, with a frequency of up to 100MHz on a cable with a maximum length of 100 meters. On the other hand, the Cat6 is likewise capable of 10/100/1000MbE plus 10GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet), with a frequency of 250MHz for a maximum of 100 meters cable length or shorter. To get the most of the 250MHz frequency, it is advisable that the cable length be limited to a maximum of 55 meters.

What is all the fuss about?

If it is still fuzzy to you, any of these cables is attached to the Ethernet port on your computer while the other end is attached to your router which is then attached to your phone to receive the broadband connection. This setup delivers the Internet connection to your computer. Is it clearer now? The next question you’re likely to ask is what is the fuss about Cat5e vs. Cat6?

• Cat5e
Cat5e is the enhanced version of Cat5. It provides extra speed of up to 100MHz in data transmission as it uses all the four wires instead of just two. Here’s another techy-sounding term – crosstalk – which is the interference between the two pairs of wire that had been an issue with Cat5. With Cat5e, crosstalk is reduced because the wire pairs are twisted tighter, which cancels out the interference between the two pairs of wires effectively. Optimum performance can still be achieved even if your network cable is 100 meters long.

• Cat6
Going back to the issue of Cat5e vs. Cat 6, the frequency rate for Cat6 cable is up to 250MHz, which means the transfer speed is more reliable and faster. With the improved insulating capability and the faster speed of Cat6 cable, the 10-Gigabit Ethernet speed is possible, but there’s a catch. The maximum length of the cable for this to be realized is cut in half, to a maximum of 55 meters or less. If you are looking farther into the future, then it is good to know that there are plans to use Cat6 in place of HDMI as an audio/video standard.

Some Cat6 cables have a spline or a longitudinal separator along its length, which reduces or cancels interference but made it rigid. Newer are more flexible with the use of better methods for noise cancellation.

Another Cat5e vs. Cat6 feature to look out for is category identification. By color, it is impossible to tell them apart. However, the category is printed on the cable itself. Another identifying mark is the size, as the Cat6 cables, which use thicker copper wires are therefore thicker than Cat5e.

How will Cat5e vs. Cat6 fare in residential use?

In network cabling installations for home use, the most common is Cat5e. Its design increased the reduction of crosstalk that is, keeping the signals from other channels or circuits from intervening with each other for faster and cleaner data transfer. It is highly suitable for home use.

However, if this will be your first time to install network cabling, you might want to choose Cat6 as this is the bee’s knees at the moment. Yes, you may incur as much as 10% to 20% in cost, but hey, savings will be had in the future, since it will be good for at least 10 years compared to fiber optics, which, at the moment is still prohibitive for residential use.

Why is it important to discuss Cat5e vs. Cat6 in the first place?

Of course there is a very logical explanation to all the discussion about Cat5e vs. Cat6! You know that live streaming is such an in thing nowadays and there are several gaming consoles available now so you have more options for video gaming and interacting with other players, right? And you do not want to be frustrated when watching a video that keeps on stopping to buffer, or tear your hair because the game keeps hanging up. That is the true purpose of why Cat5e vs. Cat6 is even being discussed.

Which one holds the magic?

So which one is the right one in this fight of Cat5e vs. Cat6? Do you want the real truth? Well, for starters both cables will get you connected. Both delivers faster downloads and cleaner data transfer with less errors. Will Cat5e satisfy your networking requirements? Will Cat6 be the best for your Internet browsing habits? Do you really need that much speed and frequency (250 MHZ and 10GbE)?

You might say that just like a highway, higher bandwidths means that there are more highway lanes to reduce traffic. Basing on past trends and future predictions, data rates double every 18 months and current computer applications that run at 1 GB are already pushing Cat5e to its limit. It is not surprising given that multimedia and video streaming are becoming very common and the demands for faster data transfer increase. Likewise, it is almost predictable that there will be newer applications that will benefit greatly with higher bandwidth that Cat6 cables are capable of.

If you are looking into the future, the vote goes to Cat6, since there is indication that about 80% to 90% of all new network cabling installations will be using Cat6. But the bottom line is, for you to be able to enjoy the full potential of gigabit Ethernet speeds, every single part in your network should be gigabit rated, from network interface cards, hubs and switches.



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