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The best Ethernet cables to make the most of your network
The best Ethernet cables can significantly improve network and internet speeds. And while they all look the same, there can be some significant differences from cable to cable. Choosing the right one can be confusing, which is why we are here to help you.
Understanding Ethernet cable differences
Ethernet cables have different specs and purposes in mind, like any other cable. Some perform better than others, which makes understanding which cable you need crucial.
Ethernet cables are labeled with the word “Cat” and a number. Cat stands for “category,” and the number determines the generation and performance, considering max bandwidth and speeds. The higher the category number, the faster the cable. Let’s dig further into speeds.
Ethernet cable category speeds and frequencies:
- Cat 3: Up to 10Mbps (16MHz)
- Cat 4: Up to 16Mbps (20MHz)
- Cat 5: Up to 100Mbps (100MHz)
- Cat 5e: Up to 1Gbps (100MHz)
- Cat 6: Up to 1Gbps (250MHz)
- Cat 6a: Up to 10Gbps (500MHz)
- Cat 7: Up to 10Gbps (600MHz)
- Cat 7a: Up to 10Gbps (1000MHz)
- Cat 8: Up to 40Gbps (2000MHz)
Keep in mind these standards are measured with cable lengths of 100 meters. Performance tends to decrease as cables get longer, which is something to keep in mind.
Which category cable you need depends on your network habits. Most casual users need no more than a Cat 5 cable, but Cat 6 cables have also become popular as Gigabit internet becomes more available. Cat 6 doesn’t cost significantly more than Cat 5. They are actually very affordable these days, which is why we won’t recommend anything slower than Cat 6.
Anything over these categories can be overkill for most common households. If your internet speeds and in-network transfers don’t require much performance, getting a high-level cable would entail paying more and getting a bulkier cable for performance you won’t take advantage of. Your modem’s max speeds are another factor to keep in mind. A slow modem will slow down a super-fast cable. Business users usually need higher categories with more intensive needs.
All that said, even the higher-end cables can be pretty affordable these days, so you might as well future-proof yourself if you don’t mind paying a bit more.
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The best Ethernet cables
Editor’s note: This list of the best Ethernet cables will be regularly updated as new products launch and others are phased out.
Amazon Basics Snagless RJ45 Cat-6 Ethernet five-pack
If you’re going with a Cat 6 cable, you will likely get a great deal. This is definitely an offer; this Amazon Basics offer comes with a five-pack of cables for the price of one or two of the other cables. The only downside is that these are pretty short at five feet. You do get a variety of colors, though, which is pretty fun.
Amazon Basics Cat 6
What makes this one of the best Ethernet cables is its value. This Amazon Basics Cat 6 cable does more than cover the basics by offering Cat 6 performance at a low price. The cable has 1Gbps speeds at 250MHz, so you should be able to run Gigabit internet without a problem. It’s also available in multiple sizes.
Amazon Basics Cat 7
Take things a step further with an Amazon Basics Cat 7 version. This is one of the best Ethernet cables for those who want to take connectivity to the next level without spending too much cash on fancy brands. It can reach speeds of up to 10Gbps.
Monoprice Flexboot Cat 6 Ethernet Cable
Monoprice is back with another of the best Ethernet cables. These offer Cat 6 speeds, a basic design, and great value. What’s cool about this cable is that it can be had in a wide variety of colors, just in case you want a specific hue to go with your walls or decor. You can also pick from different lengths.
DbillionDa Cat 8
This brand may have an odd name, but it sure knows how to make a suitable Ethernet cable. This Cat 8 option has become one of Amazon’s top sellers in the Ethernet cables category. Aside from the best performance you can find in an Ethernet cable to date, you’ll get a heavy-duty double-shielded construction, which is also waterproof and anti-corrosive. The company has even thrown UV resistance to the basket.
Tesmax Cat 8 Ethernet Cable
This is definitely among the best Ethernet cables on this list. If anything, it is one of the coolest looking! The fold-plated design adds a touch of personality, and the rest of the cable looks very modern without going overboard or flashy. Cat 8 speeds offer a 40Gbps connection, and the manufacturer has a wide variety of lengths to choose from.
Jadaol Cat 6 Ethernet Cable
If you need a seriously long cable for any reason, the Jadaol Cat 6 option is one of the best Ethernet cables in this category. It measures 50ft and has a flat design, not to mention it offers 10Gbps speeds. Also included are 15 cable clips to keep everything organized.
Ugreen Cat 8
If you genuinely need the blistering 40Gbps speeds and 2,000MHz frequency, and you also want the coolest-looking cable around, this is one of the best Ethernet cables you can find. It has a futuristic look with blue accents and a larger thumb pusher for detaching the connection. It also sports a braided design for more resistance and a higher-quality construction. That said, it’s meant for indoor use, so don’t go showing it off outdoors.
The best Ethernet cable standard is currently Cat 8. It can handle speeds of up to 40Gbps (2000MHz).
It depends. You’ll actually have a hard time even finding Cat 3 or Cat 4 cables. Cat 5 cables can handle 100Mbps speeds and are very cheap if you get them in bulk. You can usually get about eight for somewhere around $10. That’s nearly as much as a single Cat 8 cable will cost.
Technically speaking, yes, cables lose efficiency the longer they get. With that said, lengths must be significant for things to start slowing down. Cable speeds are usually tested at 100 meters, and it’s said you start finding issues when the length exceeds said dimensions. 100 meters is very long; much longer than any usual user will ever need.
Gigabit internet is supposed to run at 1,000Mbps. With that in mind, you should be able to get full speeds with at least a Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable, which tops off at exactly 1,000Mbps. You should give yourself some breathing room and get a Cat 7 cable, though. These are still very cheap. Just to make sure you account for performance loss or any other factors.
Are you still having trouble getting the proper internet speeds? Take a look at our ethernet not working guide for possible solutions. Alternatively, the problem might be your internet plan. Check out our list of the best internet providers for more details. And if you plan to upgrade to a wireless connection, you should also consider looking at our list of the best Wi-Fi routers to get the best results.