Cat5 vs Cat5e
Are you looking to replace your networking cables but aren’t sure whether you should use CAT5 or CAT5e? You’re not alone. Everyone from the DIY-er to the office network installer has the same concern.
So let’s look at CAT5 vs CAT5e Ethernet cables. We’ll look at their performance capabilities and explain why one is easy to find, and the other is quickly disappearing. You’ll then be able to decide which is best for your needs.
Why Are They Called CAT Cables, and When Did They Become Available?
CAT5 cables came on the market in the early 1990s. If you’re wondering about the “CAT” designation of the cables, it simply stands for “category.”
CAT5e followed 10 years later. The “e” in its name is short for “enhanced.”
CAT5 cables have an uncomfortable amount of interference by today’s standards. You will hear tech experts refer to this as crosstalk which is electromagnetic signal mixing. The signals from different wires accidentally come together.
Crosstalk lowers the performance quality of the network. It also limits how fast electromagnetic signals can travel through the wires.
CAT5e severely reduces crosstalk. It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of interference, but it’s so efficient that there’s unlikely to be any data corruption.
Improvement With a Twist
Both CAT5 and CAT5e have eight wires grouped into four pairs. Each pair is twisted together and referred to as a twisted pair.
One of the reasons the wires are twisted is to lessen crosstalk. Researchers discovered that if they varied the ratio of twists between pairs of wires, they could reduce crosstalk even more.
Cat5e wires have a tighter twist than those of CAT5. Some cables also cloak their twisted pairs of copper wires in aluminum sheaths to prevent signals from straying.
The improvement in CAT5e cables marked the beginning of the end for CAT5. Today, it’s practically obsolete. New installations tend to use CAT5e because it’s suitable for both home and office while capable of handling gigabit speeds.
CAT5 is for speeds of 10/100 Mbps. In the early 1990s, CAT5’s speed was more than enough to handle the relative simplicity of uploads and downloads.
But CAT5e can handle speeds 10 times faster at 1000 Mbps. The increased speed is excellent for the home and often necessary at the office.
CAT5e’s improvements allows you to better send and receive data quickly and simultaneously. The ability to send and receive without disruption to either stream is called full-duplex capability.
Your Ethernet Cables and Your Internet Speed
But you should note that switching from CAT5 to CAT5e won’t make your internet connection run faster. Your cables don’t influence how fast your internet service provider transmits your data.
Think of your cables as a water pipeline. And look at your internet service provider as the water company. The job of your pipes is to move the water to your faucet. But the pipes can’t control how much water pressure (think: speed) your house receives.
The smaller your pipes, the less water they can move in a certain amount of time. Increase the capability of the pipes, and you bring more water into your house. But you’re still limited by whether the water company uses a lot of water pressure or very little.
It’s similar in the case of cables and your internet service provider. CAT5e cables can move more data than the old CAT5 Ethernet cables. But they can’t speed up the operational speed of your internet service provider.
Difference Between CAT5 and CAT6
If CAT5e represents a significant advancement over CAT5, you may wonder if CAT6 is a seismic leap in technology. In some ways, yes.
For example, CAT6 can transmit more data faster than its predecessors. And it has less crosstalk than previous cables.
Both CAT5 and CAT5e have a maximum distance of 100 meters or 328 feet. But CAT5e represents an improvement in the distance a signal can travel safely.
If you need cable over 100 meters, it’s best to use a hub to boost the signal. Otherwise, you may notice that your data transmission is slowing down. You could also lose the signal completely.
CAT5e is likely the cable connecting your desktop computer to your modem. When used for your computer, it serves as an Ethernet connection. However, CAT5e can also carry video and telephone signals.
You shouldn’t use CAT5 cable for a new installation. It won’t be able to keep up with the demands of modern computing. High-speed networks require data transmission rates beyond the capability of CAT5.
But CAT5e’s engineering allows gigabit-level speed. So it’s perfectly at home on today’s high-speed equipment.
Plus, CAT5e works flawlessly with older computers and modems. This is called backward compatibility. So, you can upgrade your Ethernet connection without fear of incompatible components.
You can’t distinguish CAT5 cables from CAT5e cables with only a casual glance. They’re made of the same primary materials, have the same thickness, and come in the same colors. But look closely, and you’ll see their names printed on the cable.
You’ll have to peek inside if you need to identify a cable with no markings. If you see tight twisting, you’re looking at a CAT5e. The old CAT5 cables have wires that have a looser twist.
CAT5 vs CAT5e: Which is Right For You?
By now, it should be evident that CAT5e is the wiser choice. Not only can it transmit data quickly enough to keep up with modern high-speed networks, but it can also work with older equipment.
The battle of CAT5 vs CAT5e isn't much of a contest. In other words, there’s nothing to lose by switching to CAT5e. But there’s much to gain.
We carry CAT5e cables shielded and unshielded in a variety of colors. Upgrade your network by ordering today. We ship in-stock items within one business day. And contact us for answers to any of your Ethernet cable questions.