Difference Between Cat5e and Cat6

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 05, 2023


Difference Between Cat5e and Cat6

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Cat5e and Cat6 are twisted Ethernet cables. People say those words as if it makes complete sense, but what does that mean? They are wires used to connect a computer to a modem, network switch, or router. Ethernet cables and other Ethernet components (network adapter, port, and protocol) make it possible for people to connect their desktop or laptop to the Local Area Network (LAN).

Choosing the correct Ethernet cable ensures a speedy and efficient connection. Therefore, people should consider the pros and cons of using Cat5e or Cat6 carefully before selecting one. Usually, the choice depends on budget constraints, the bandwidth required, and whether or not people want future-proofing.

Cat5e Vs. Cat6

Cat5e and Cat6 Ethernet cables differ significantly in their operating frequencies. Cat5e operates at a maximum frequency of 100 MHz, whereas Cat6 operates at 250 – 500 MHz.

Difference Between Cat5e And Cat6 In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonCat5eCat6
Interference and CrosstalkCat5e cables experience more interference and crosstalk compared to Cat6 cables.Cat6 cables experience minimal crosstalk and significantly lower interference.
SpeedCat5e Ethernet supports only up to 1Gbps.Cat6 Ethernet cables support 10Gbps when the range is between 33-55 meters. However, they operate at the same speed as Cat5e cables when the range is more than 55 meters.
Commonly used inCat5es are commonly used in house networks.Cat6 cables are standardly used in office networks and phone lines in addition to home networks.
Length and PerformanceCat5e cables support a maximum length of 100 meters and perform the same irrespective of distance.Cat6 cables, too, support a maximum length of 100 meters. However, they provide higher network speeds for short distances (that is, performance varies with length/distance).
CostIt typically costs $0.20 - $0.30 per foot.It generally costs $0.40 - $0.60, meaning it is 20% more expensive than Cat5e cables.

What Is Cat5e?

Cat5e are twisted pair cables with a maximum length of 330 feet. Additional hardware, such as a repeater or a switch is necessary if longer lengths are required. They have a bandwidth of 100 MHz, which is not much but is still good enough for home computer networking. So why does the bandwidth/frequency matter so much? An Ethernet cable’s frequency is the rate at which signals can be transmitted. That is, the frequency determines how many bits of data are transmitted per second. The higher the frequency, the faster the rate of data transmission.

With their bandwidth of 100 MHz, Cat5e cables can transmit data at the maximum speed of 1000 Mbps. Now, compared to the Cat8 cables that can transmit 25Gbps (Cat8.1) and 40Gbps (Cat8.2), Cat5e is miserably slow. However, most households do not need a much higher speed than what Cat5 cables offer. Therefore, they are still popular though some people have started shifting to Cat6 cables.

Cat5e cables may be unshielded or shielded. The shielded twisted pairs (STP) are more expensive than the unshielded twisted pairs. The latter is suitable for homes but does not hold up well in business environments because higher-powered equipment causes electromagnetic interference that these wires are not shielded against. Shielded Cat5e cables are suitable for offices but are not as good as Cat6 cables.

Hardcore gamers and people who binge-watch their favorite series using a streaming service will find using Cat5e cables a bit frustrating. The reason is these cables are not built for that purpose; the poor things have their limits. 1Gbps is a decent speed, but it is nowhere near 10Gbps, is it? Moreover, these cables are much more prone to be affected by crosstalk and interference, especially when there are numerous electrical devices nearby.

Common Issues With Cat5e Cables

Cat5e Ethernet cables are slower than Cat6 cables; however, if they are even slower than usual or cause network issues, the following may be the reasons:

  • The cables are not plugged in properly – Many people scoff when they are advised to check if the cables are plugged in all the way. It is understandable; after all, that is the first thing people think of to check, right? No. Most are so frustrated by the issues they are facing that they forget to do the simple task of checking if the cables are plugged in securely.
  • Incompatible Ethernet port – people must check if the cables are slotted into the Ethernet port labeled LAN in their routers. Usually, routers come with multiple ports, so checking whether the cables work with one of the ports is wise. If they do not, it means the router may be faulty.
  • The cable is faulty – people may plug a different Ethernet cable (of the same category) into the Ethernet port. The previous cable is faulty if the new one establishes a connection. Otherwise, one of the other Ethernet components is causing problems.

People can try unplugging and re-plugging their devices, updating their computer drives, or running a network troubleshooter if problems persist (sigh, so many steps to troubleshoot connectivity issues. No wonder people hate it).

What Is Cat6?

Though more advanced Category cables have emerged, Cat6 cables remain popular because they are sufficient for most businesses. A Cat 7 or Cat8 cable is faster than the Cat6, but why buy them if a Cat6 does what people want at a much lower price? The reason for choosing a Cat6 over the other advanced categories is simple – one does not need a Bugatti to drive to the nearby grocery store. A Mitsubishi Mirage will do just as well (of course, the cost difference between Ethernet cables is not that high, but still, think about it).

Cat6 cables have more twists than Cat5e cables. The higher number of twists and a plastic separator spline in its center reduces the interference level and crosstalk, resulting in higher speed. Cat6 cables may be UTP or STP. Shielded twisted pairs have a layer of foil that protects the signal from interference.

The signal degradation or interference is greater when using unshielded twisted pairs. That is why people do not mind paying the extra amount for STPs. While some may think Cat6 cables are overkill for a home network, there is nothing wrong with wanting the best category available (who cares what others think? Go with what the heart says).

However, Cat6 cables are less flexible than Cat5e cables, making it slightly difficult to install them in tight spaces. These cables will be damaged if bent or kinked too tightly. Untwisting the wire pairs or stripping back the outer jacket more than 0.51 inches will significantly reduce performance (stop tinkering with the cables; they are good just as they are). Moreover, it is challenging to find consumer switches that support them.

Cat6 Ethernet cables are only slightly more expensive than Cat5e cables, and the extra price is well worth the benefit people get out of it. In a World where everyone needs everything to be done faster, Cat6 cables will be a better option as they operate at better frequency ensuring higher speed and better performance.

Types Of Cat6 Ethernet Cable

Cat6 cables are classified into three types based on the jacket rating, and they are as follows:

Cat6 CM Cables

CM (communications multipurpose) stands for a fire-resistance rating. It is the minimum jacket rating indicating that the Cat6 cables can be used for in-wall installation in a residence or a commercial building (only single-storied ones). A CM-rated cable cannot be used instead of CMR or CMP-rated cables.

Cat6 CMR Cables

Cat6 Communications Multipurpose Riser cables are more flame-resistant than the CM-rated cables. The fire-resistance requirements laid down for CMR-rated cables are stricter, as they need to be able to prevent the spread of fire from one floor to another. Therefore, they cost more than the CM-rated Cat6 cables. Even though CM-rated cables may be sufficient to serve one’s purpose, switching to CMR-rated cables will be more beneficial. Sure, it makes one’s pocket lighter, but at least people do not have to spend repairing what they lost in a fire due to the cable’s inability to resist intense fires.

Cat6 CMP Cables

Plenum-rated cables are fantastic options for those who have a paralyzing fear of fire or have important or confidential data on their computers. These cables restrict the fire to five feet and emit minimal smoke. The best thing about these cables? They are built with materials that self-extinguish and burn cleanly without releasing harmful toxins. A CMP-rated Ethernet cable can replace CM and CMR-rated cables, but the reverse is impossible.

CMP-rated Cat6 cables are mostly used in air space above drop ceilings and raised floors. However, Cat6 plenum cables are required to be installed in a manner that conforms to fire codes. A certified installer needs to install them using special connectors and tools. That is why people (unless there are plenum spaces) use regular Cat6 cables rather than Plenum cables (who wants to deal with all that hassle?)

Troubleshooting Issues With Cat6 Ethernet Cables

Cat6 cables are high-quality cables, but that does not mean problems will not arise when using them. Issues such as poor signal or slow data transfer speed may occur no matter which category of Ethernet cables people use. The following are some of the steps to troubleshoot such issues:

Checking The Cable Quality

Typically, Cat6 cables are good ones, but their quality differs according to the manufacturing company. People must first check whether the cable meets the industry standards when they start having issues with the connection.

Furthermore, the cables may have been cut or damaged while installing (that is why it is best to seek professional help for installation rather than adopting DIY methods) or worn through because of several years of use. Replacing the cables every five years or so will help avoid the latter problem.

Verifying Compatibility With Network Adapters

Cat6 Ethernet cables are backward compatible; however, it is still wise to check if they are compatible with the network adapters, such as routers and modems people own. Using the cables within the recommended distances ensures high-speed network and data transfer.

Correct Termination

The Cat6 cables must be properly connected to the compatible jack or connector. Improper termination will cause signal degradation and plague people with a slew of connectivity issues (it is enough to drive a person out of their mind).

Proper installation, regular maintenance, and the use of compatible equipment will ensure that people never have to deal with connectivity issues in the first place. However, if an issue persists after all these measures are taken, it is time to run a troubleshooter in Windows or seek professional help.

Main Difference Between Cat5e And Cat6 (In Points)

  • Cat6 cables are more popular than Cat5e; most of the top-selling Ethernet cables are Cat6.
  • Cat5e cables are worth using; however, Cat6 cables are better because they will not be outdated before Cat5e cables.
  • Cat6 cables are thicker than Cat5e cables. Nevertheless, it is challenging to distinguish between the two at a mere glance (especially when they are not side-by-side). A much simpler way to identify them is to check the category printed on them.
  • Cat6 cables are compatible with older categories’ equipment such as Cat5e, Cat5, and Cat3 equipment. Therefore, people who have been using one of the older models need not worry about replacing all of their equipment if they purchase a Cat6 cable. On the other hand, Cat5e cables will not be compatible with equipment meant for Cat6 cables.
  • The standard gauges in Cat5e conductors are 24-26 AWG wires. On the other hand, Cat6 cables have 22-24 AWG wires.


One does not need to understand the nuances of network installation to decide which category of Ethernet cable best suits their needs (of course, techies need absolute knowledge of all the components of the Ethernet system). They simply have to pick one that works efficiently and transmits data at a decent speed. Who likes staring at the computer screen waiting for games and videos to load? Most people feel murderous when their computer lags even if it isn’t its fault.

Therefore, those who spend a lot of time using the internet will benefit from choosing a Cat6 cable. However, if they do not feel the need for that category, they can stick to Cat5e cables (Cat5es are no pushovers). They are dependable even if they are not on the same level as Cat6 cables. After all, they perform better than Wi-Fi in some areas where getting a clear signal is considered a miracle. They are well worth purchasing for home networks. However, they are not the best options for office/business networks.


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"Difference Between Cat5e and Cat6." Diffzy.com, 2023. Wed. 27 Sep. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-cat5e-and-cat6>.

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