How to Choose an Ethernet Cable

If you have ever wanted to buy an ethernet cable for any reason, you will notice that there are several different types to choose from.

A search for “ethernet cables” will find results like Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, and so on.

You may ask yourself, what do these mean? How do you choose the right Ethernet cable?

Don't worry you're not alone, we have helped many find the best solution for their needs, will help you too. 

Picking the right Ethernet cable starts with knowing what you need an Ethernet cable for and where it’s going to be installed.

What are you trying to connect with your Ethernet cable

  • Home Network 
  • Home Office/Small Business 
  • Corporate Infrastructure
  • Online Gaming 
  • File Transferring
  • Streaming Services
  • PoE Cameras

Whether you are choosing cables for your home, office, or a bigger data project, our guide will give you a breakdown of the benefits, speed rankings, and other crucial details you should know when it comes to picking the right Ethernet cable that will meet or exceed your connection demands.

Use this as your detailed guide in picking the best Ethernet cable for your application. 

Picking the Right Ethernet Cable

The first question you need to answer before you dive deep into this rabbit hole of data communication is: 

What will you be using the Ethernet cable for?

  • Home Network 
  • Home Office/Small Business 
  • Corporate Infrastructure
  • Online Gaming 
  • File Transferring
  • Streaming Services
  • PoE Cameras 

What is an ethernet cable?

An Ethernet cable carries a broadband signal between your modem, router, and any other wired internet-capable device.

The best way to think about an ethernet cable is like a garden hose. The wider the garden hose, the faster the water comes out. Ethernet cables just flow data instead. The higher the version, the bigger the data flow. 

Ethernet Cable Types

There are many different types of ethernet cables, all have the same purpose, to send data back and forward. The material used, and how it is constructed makes all the difference.

A quick list of the most common Category Cable Types

Category Standard Bandwidth Max Data Rate Shielding
Cat5e 100MHz (up to 350) 1000Mbps UTP or STP
Cat6 250MHz (up to 550) 1000Mbps UTP or STP
Cat6A 500MHz (up to 550) 10Gbps UTP or STP
Cat7 600MHz 10Gbps Shielded only
Cat8 2000MHz 25Gbps or 40Gbps Shielded only

The easiest way to select the right Ethernet cable is to choose one that is within the range of performance you want. You can use the table above to help guide your choice, but you should also test your network's capabilities before making your final choice.

First, know your internet speed. Testing your connection with a speed test website is a suitable place to start, but this isn’t always the most reliable solution in terms of accuracy as you may be limiting yourself with your existing Ethernet cable but doing this gives you a place to start. 

The best solution is to know what speed you are paying for. 

Oftentimes, you can see your speed on your bill, if not,​ pick up the phone, call your ISP, and ask them what speed you are paying for.

You should consider the overall speed of your network, and the goals of the cable. Afterall, you don't want to go overboard for a connection that you will never use the full potential of.

What Is “Cat” and Why Does it Matter

The “Cat” in Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6A, and so on means “Category”.

It is easiest to think of “Cat” as the “version” of the cable.

Each version of Category Ethernet Cables has its specifications that it must meet or exceed to be certified to that standard. 

The company that sets these standards is (TA Standards Company) 

Most Ethernet cables are terminated using rj45 modular plugs

What is the best Ethernet cable for you?

If you are shopping for an Ethernet cable, you may notice that there is always a “Cat” or “Category” and number attached to them.

The most common ones you will find today are: 

  • Cat5e 
  • Cat6 
  • Cat6A 
  • Cat7
  • Cat8

While there is a lot of debate about the true standards of cat7, cat8, and above, there is still a small growing demand for these Ethernet cable types but they are often the most expensive solution on the market.

The most common home user may get away with Cat5e and never notice lag or slow connection speeds. If you have a more demanding connection need, consider Cat6 or even Cat6A for futureproofing.

What is the Best Ethernet Cable for Home Networks?

In our experience most home networks have a much lower demand for high bandwidth connectivity than most, there is always an exception to this so please consider the following when choosing the right ethernet cable for your home network.

Are you connecting a family of streamers, gamers, or heavy media users? If yes, consider future-proofing your network with at least Cat6 or Cat6A this will guarantee you will not have to update your ethernet cabling in your home for at least the life span of the cable.

If you don’t have multiple streaming devices going at the same time and are a casual internet user you should have an exceptional experience in using Cat5e, but I still recommend examining the cost between Cat5e and Cat6 before making your decision.

What Is the Best Ethernet Cable for Online Gaming?

We know gamers demand a fast and lag-free experience, when picking an Ethernet cable for gaming online we recommend using at least a Cat6 Cable. It offers a cost-effective way to ensure you will never have to worry about your connection again in most use cases. If you discover you need more bandwidth to go with Cat6A Ethernet cabling.

Don’t worry about shielded cables for this use case, it’s a bit of an overkill and a waste of money. But if you want your rig to look awesome then go for it.

It is also important to know that your backbone infrastructure is just as important as the ethernet cable you are plugging it into. 

If your network is wired with Cat5 it will only be able to reach those speeds. 

What is the best ethernet cable for POE cameras?

PoE Cameras or Power Over Ethernet require structured ethernet cabling that can handle an electrical current in addition to its data signal.

It is highly recommended that you invest in quality ethernet cabling that is run from your camera to your NVR. 

More specifically, a cable that is solid copper instead of aluminum is going to be the best choice for you.

DO NOT USE CCP (Copper Clad Cables) for any project that requires PoE, it’s dangerous and can cause destroyed equipment and even electrical fires. 

If you are running your PoE cameras in locations that are outside or running them to areas that will expose them to the elements or electrical devices, we recommend that you implement shielded ethernet cabling. 

Using shielded cabling will allow for a more reliable uninterrupted signal from the camera to your NVR.

What is the best ethernet cable for corporate environments

Corporate environments often demand high connectivity, Cat6 is the lowest rated ethernet cable I would choose in 2022. 

If your corporate environment can afford to pay a bit extra Cat6A would be my recommendation. 

(note) I will also mention there is a trend leading towards fiber Optics for long run installs, verses using traditional copper ethernet cabling, but this is for a different topic together, but we would be happy to chat with you about that. 

How long will an ethernet cable last?

The average life span of data cabling is typically 15-20 years. That’s not to say your cables will be unusable after that period the average consumer will never have to worry about upgrading their networking cables, but if you want to future proof your network going with a higher standard ethernet cable would be ideal. 

Cat6 Copper vs Aluminum

If you are looking for a budget-friendly way to connect, aluminum is the way to go.

This type of wire is often called copper clad, which means it has an aluminum core with a micron-thin copper coating.

Aluminum often means a cheaper cable, but it has its drawbacks.

The pros of aluminum copper clad ethernet cabling. Price.

The cons, it's cheap. 

Never under any circumstances use aluminum cabling for PoE Projects. This could cause an electrical fire. 

Cat5 Ethernet Cables

This cable type is obsolete, we wanted to discuss it because it’s closely connected to its predecessor, Cat5e, but most people ask for Cat5 while they truly want is Cat5e which offers superior performance compared to the standard Cat5 ethernet cable.


With a Cat5 Cable, you can expect 100 Mbps at a maximum distance of 328ft (100m), at a 100Mhz speed rating. It’s also important to know that Cat5 uses only two twisted pairs of wires which adds an even bigger bottleneck to your network since the later versions use 4 twisted pairs. 


The “e” in Cat 5e stands for “enhanced”. 

These cable types are more suitable for home to small businesses that don’t require a lot of bandwidth, or where connectivity doesn’t have to be high. 

The average cost of these types of Ethernet cables is much less than its predecessors due to lower manufacturing costs. 


The cat six ethernet cable is quickly becoming one of the most popular Ethernet cables on the market.

This cable exceeds most people's demands and is relatively cheap compared to the higher-end category cables. You can expect blazing fast connection speeds that will power nearly any application while using this cable type.

Choosing Cat6 Ethernet Cabling will give you speeds up to 10Gbps at 180ft (55m), at a rate of 250Mhz and up to 550Mhz, and at least 1Gbps of speed at distances up to 328ft (100M).

Cat6 cables are also manufactured to tighter specifications for their twisted pairs, which means there is less crosstalk between the wires.

You can get cat six in many variations depending on your demands including:

  • Cat6 CMR Cables
  • Cat6 CMP Cables
  • Cat6 Direct Burial 
  • Cat6 Shielded
  • Cat6 Outdoor

This isn't an exhaustive list but is some of the top-selling Ethernet cables on the market.

The average cost for a 1000Ft reel of Cat6 CMR Ethernet Cable is about $179.00 per box.

If you need a CMP Ethernet Cable which the P stands for plenum cable


Cat6A Ethernet Cables are the next generation of Cat6 cables. 

They reach as far as 328ft (100m) without speed degradation, seeing speeds peek upwards of 10Gbps.

These cables will surely future proof any home, home office or even corporate networking. 


Cat7 Review Coming Soon! Our honest opinion. 

With much debate Cat7 and its unique standards are here. 
What are they?

What's the speed?

Why is it better?

We will answer all those questions in our next blog post. 

But as of now, who should buy Cat7 Cables? My answer, no general consumer should. Heavy industry? Maybe. Will talk about it soon.

Our expert advice

Choosing the right ethernet cable should only ever have to happen once, and this goes for everyone from Home Office to Mass Corporations. This is why it's very important that you consider future proofing your network, going just a bit above what your current needs are. 

For most businesses we can recommend Cat6 for todays standards, most will never need anything higher than this. However, the future is uncertain and Cat6A does offer a speed boost and signal reliability, but justifying it for future proofing your network is going to be up to you. 

If you still have questions about Ethernet cables, or if you are ready to start making a choice contact us today and we will be happy to help you get started.

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