Ideal for connecting networked devices over short distances. Boasts low signal loss without any hassle. Capable of 10 Gbps speeds over 100 meters. 5mm diameter with protective PVC jackets. Prevents snagging or knotting.
Short, not designed for long-distance connections. Jacks are not made of metal.
Universal compatibility for devices like PCs and consoles. Design ensures it is easy to route through rooms and reduces tangling. Tough out layers prevent static and other interference.
Not ideal for demanding tasks such as multiplayer games.
Braided design makes this extremely durable and long-lasting. Cat 8 is the highest quality ethernet on the market, making this a very fast option. Available in a variety of lengths that users can pick based on their preferences.
Some users reported getting defective pieces.
Flat design can run under carpet and flex when necessary. Snagless RJ-45 connectors. Pull-resistant construction. Capable of high and clear speeds. Wire is completely constructed out of bare copper for higher-quality conenction.
Does not come in alternative colours.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
It seems like everything has gone wireless these days, but there’s still a humble workhorse powering the connected world: the Ethernet cable. Introduced in the mid-1970s, these cables helped to speed the internet revolution and shift society firmly into the information age.
Look between your internet gateway and your WiFi router and you’ll see an Ethernet cable in use at this moment. If you’re using an older, non-wireless-capable printer, there’s a good chance you're using one of these cables to connect it to your PC. An Ethernet cable provides a direct and much more secure connection between devices like computers, printers, servers, and more. Communication via Ethernet cables is super fast. That’s why they are such an important part of the computing world.
Let’s get familiar with the capabilities of these cables and see why it’s a good idea to have a couple on hand at any time.
The best Ethernet cable is the right Ethernet cable. Consider where and how you’ll be using it and then compare the capabilities of available models.
Ethernet cables are used to connect devices that handle many tasks, such as transferring data between servers in different locations. In the home, they’re most commonly used to connect WiFi routers to internet routers or gateways, connect a PC to a printer, and network multiple devices directly through a wired rather than wireless configuration.
A Cat rating shows the bandwidth and data transmission speed an Ethernet cable is capable of. “Cat” just means “category.” The important part is the number: 5, 5e, 6, 6a, 7, 7a, or 8. The higher the number, the faster the speed.
Cat 5 cables have the slowest and lowest capability, but that doesn’t mean they’re a poor choice. They can still handle download speeds up to 100 million bits per second (Mbps) and bandwidth up to 100 megahertz (MHz). That’s fine for households with internet download speeds between 25 Mbps and 75 Mbps. Cat 5 has been phased out of almost all commercial networking environments, however.
Cat 5e cables (the “e” is for “enhanced'') handle data transmission speeds up to 1,000 Mbps, but they still only handle bandwidth up to 100 MHz.
Cat 6 is also rated for data transmission up to 1,000 Mbps, but its bandwidth capacity is more than double at 250 MHz. And Cat 6a (the “a” is for “augmented”), the current workhorse for office networking, boosts those numbers to 10,000 Mbps and 500 MHz.
Cat 7, 7a, and 8 were developed with bandwidth in mind. While both 7 and 7a ratings have data transmission speeds of 10,000 Mbps, they boast bandwidth capacities of 600 MHz and 1,000 MHz, respectively. And the newest category 8 supports up to 25/40 billion bits per second (Gbps). They’re ideal for high-speed networking and cloud server environments that handle a lot of data. And we mean a lot: think of the capacity needs of a huge multiplayer gaming environment at 9 pm on a Saturday night. These ultra-high-capacity Ethernet cables are helping to shift all of that data to where it needs to be in millionths and trillionths of a second.
Most homes and apartments have access to internet speeds of 1 Gbps or less. Major internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon offer speed packages in set increments like 50 Mbps, 150 Mbps, 500 Mbps, and 1 Gbps (and the latter speeds aren’t available in all areas). Some providers, such as DirecTV, which provides internet via satellite to rural areas, only offer 25 Mbps.
Internet speed and bandwidth put the largest workload on Ethernet cables used by consumers. So you want to make sure the cable connecting your gateway and router is rated to easily meet that speed. But you won’t need the massive bandwidth capacity that a Cat 7 cable offers.
Users who are (understandably) nervous about connecting their devices via WiFi can use an Ethernet cable to connect many of those devices instead. The most common use is to connect a printer to a PC.
While USB connectors are rapidly replacing Ethernet cables in direct-connect scenarios, these cables still play a role when building a wired home network. They provide faster data transmission than USB cables over longer distances.
Patch cables are short lengths of cable, usually less than 6 feet, that directly connect one powered device to another. For example, the short length of Ethernet cable connecting your gateway and router is a patch cable. Another example is if you decide to connect your Xbox console directly to a wired router so your gaming session has the best connectivity possible. That length of Ethernet cable is a patch cable. These can be temporary connections or longer term, but they are different from structured Ethernet cable setups, such as the cable that runs to a wall port so users can connect to a local network.
One of the great things about Ethernet cables is that in a pinch you can use older, slower cables as patch cables. Speed and performance for a Cat 5 cable won’t be the same as a Cat 6a, but you’ll get the connection you need right away.
You don’t have to buy a big spool of Ethernet cable. It’s available in several commonly used lengths, such as 2, 4, 6, and 8 feet. Measure the distance between the devices you plan to connect and choose a cable that’s long enough to meet that distance plus a little slack. For example, if the measured length is 3.6 feet, order a 4-foot cable.
If you’re building a network for your home or office, longer cables are available. Keep in mind that data speeds and performance drop dramatically in Ethernet cables longer than 180 feet (55 meters), and their limit for data transmission is about 328 feet (100 meters).
Stick to a “Goldilocks” rating. That’s the Cat rating that is just right for your specific network needs. Too fast and you’re wasting money; too slow and performance suffers.
All Ethernet cables can be used interchangeably regardless of their Cat rating, in most cases. If a Cat 6a cable fails and all you have on hand is a Cat 5e, that should be fine for short-term connectivity. Performance will drop, but you’ll still have a network connection.
Lower cable ratings 5, 5e, 6, and 6a can be found with unshielded or shielded options. For shorter connections, an unshielded Ethernet cable is okay, and it can save you money. On longer cable runs, shielded or shield twisted pair (STP) cable is recommended because it reduces or prevents electromagnetic interference (EMI) from degrading the cable’s performance.
One reason that Ethernet cables have great backward compatibility is that they almost all use the same connector at both ends: the venerable RJ45. This eight-pin plug hasn’t changed a bit over the years, and all Ethernet-ready devices have an RJ45 jack (or port) that the cable can be plugged into. The exceptions are Cat 7 and higher cables, which use a GG45 connector, but this plug is still backward compatible with RJ45 jacks.
The price of these cables varies depending on CAT rating and length.
Cat 5 and 6 cables are the most economical choices, running between $3 and $10 for lengths up to 8 feet.
For $11 to $16, you can find Cat 5, 6, and 6a cables in varying lengths from a few feet of shielded cable to several feet of unshielded.
You’ll find high-performance Cat 6, 7, and 8 shielded cables in the $17 to $35 range, including cable that is rated for outdoor installation.
Don’t worry about Ethernet cable colors. Unless you’re using a bunch of patch cables in a server setup and need to keep track of where they go, the exterior cable insulation color doesn’t mean anything.
A. Crimping and splicing tools are available at electronics supply stores. They’re a good choice if you’re setting up a wired home network with various distances between connection points or devices. Measure the length of the cable you need, cut it, expose half an inch of internal wiring, and use the splicing tool to attach the wiring to an RJ45 Ethernet plug in the correct order. That sounds complicated, but there are plenty of online videos that can walk you through the process.
A. Yes, all Ethernet cables use RJ45 plugs that fit the corresponding Ethernet ports in devices that have Ethernet capability. The distinctive square ports are easy to identify, and unlike USB plugs, you won’t waste time trying to figure out which end is up, because there’s a small plastic clip on the bottom of each plug that helps hold the connector in the jack.
A. If you’ve lost the packaging for your cable, look at the cable itself. The Cat rating is printed along the exterior of the cable every few inches. This is a standard feature on Ethernet cables so that network engineers can quickly identify the type of cable they’re using. Note that the color of the cable has no relation to its Cat rating. Always check what’s printed on the cable.
A. Yes, it is. However, Ethernet cables that are plugged into a WiFi router will only work at the same speed as the router. They can’t go any faster. Another option is to plug the cable into the internet gateway (if it’s a separate component from the router), which might slightly increase the download and upload speeds. Basically, your speed is limited by the bandwidth you subscribed to from your internet provider and the capabilities of the gateway and router setup you’re using, not the Ethernet cable.
A. Yes, they do! Ethernet cables last a surprisingly long time (I still have a few Cat 5 cables from the 1990s tucked away in a drawer), but they can fail for several reasons. Water damage, excessive exposure to sunlight, excessive heat, and other extreme conditions will break down the insulation or cause a fault in the cabling. One spot that fails more often is at the RJ45 connector, which is spliced to the cable’s internal wiring bundle. Two types of metal meet at the connection point, making it a prime target for oxidation of the contacts. You can replace the connector if you have a splicing tool, but if it’s just a short patch cable, it’s much less aggravating to just replace the whole thing.