What’s the Difference Between Cat5 and Cat6 Cables?

We live in a world of cables. You have cables to recharge your phone, to connect your TV to your DVD player, etc. Gaming console devices use cables, too. Over time, different types of cables have come and gone and there are three types of cables you should know about right now: Category 5 (CAT5), Category 5E (CAT5E) and Category 6 (CAT6) cables are all twisted pair cables, available in solid and stranded varieties.

CAT5 can handle fast ethernet 10/100 Mbps speeds at up to 100 MHz bandwidth. This may sound impressive to some, but it’s actually the “slowpoke” of the three. You’re likely to find CAT5 cables at garage sales because they’re used with older machines and devices and no longer en vogue.

You’re much more likely to see CAT5E cables used in everyday life situations at this time, since they can handle 1000 Mbps speeds at 100 MHz — in other words, “gigabit Ethernet.” The “E” stands for “enhanced,” and CAT5E is just that, designed to reduce “crosstalk.” If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry; just know it’s a good thing. CAT5E cables are backwards compatible with CAT5 cables.

If you want the “latest, best” cable, then seek out the CAT6. It’s suited for up to 10 gigabit Ethernet at 250 MHz and has a cross-shaped plastic separator in the middle so each twisted pair is separated, thus further reducing crosstalk.  The CAT6 is backwards compatible with the CAT5 and CAT5E cables.

Muth Technology can answer questions about cables; call 1-800-888-1597 or email info@muthtechnology.com.