Cat5 vs. Cat5e: Which is the best?
Unless one is a networking expert, it isn’t easy to choose the right type of cable for your network. A networking expert knows the difference between various cable types and where each of these is the most appropriate to use. Ethernet cables are continuously upgraded to reduce noise and improve bandwidth, making it more difficult to choose the best cable.
Cat5 or Category 5 and Category 5 Enhanced (Cat5e) cables are network cabling standards. Both the cables are twisted pair cables. While Cat5 cables require two pairs of twisted wires, Category 5e cables consist of four pairs of twisted copper cables. Cat 5 cables are mostly unshielded and generally rely on twisted pairs and transfer data through two signals.
Here is a detailed breakdown of the differences between Category 5 and Category 5e cables to help you make an informed decision and find the best cable for your networking application:
Category 5 Cables:
Cat5 cables provide a bandwidth of around 100 MHz and a data transfer rate of 10Mbps to 100 Mbps. These cables are suitable for video and telephone services and for transferring Ethernet signals. Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) cables have two pairs of twisted copper cords for reducing crosstalk and noise, but are not kept in a foil to avoid interference. For avoiding interference, Category 5 cables are available as Screened Twisted Pair or STP. These cables are more susceptible to interference or crosstalk; due to this, Category 5 cables became obsolete and this has led to the development of Cat 5 enhanced cables.
Category 5 Enhanced Cables:
The process of manufacturing these cables and the frequency used is similar to Category 5 cables. The arrangement of wires in Cat5e cables is also the same as Category 5 cables. However, the major difference between these two cables is in their specifications.
Category 5e Cables are an advanced variant of Cat5 wires, aiming to reduce the crosstalk or interference between the pairs. Category 5e provides faster data transfer rates ranging from 100Mbps to 1 Gbps. Moreover, Cat5e cables are more flexible than their predecessors. Hence, users can bend them to make them fit in smaller spaces.
Let’s compare both the cables based on various factors:
● Physical Difference:
Based on the physical appearance of Category 5 and Cat5e cables, they are almost identical, making it difficult for a person unfamiliar with copper wires to classify between them. One cannot identify the difference between the two based on the colour, diameter, and material used in manufacturing. To identify the difference, one has to look at the printed labels to check. However, some manufacturers have improved the durability of the protective jacket of Cat5e cables. Generally, wires in Category 5e cables are twisted more tightly compared to wires in Category 5 cables, making Cat5e more resistant to crosstalk.
Crosstalk is the interference that occurs between different cables through the emission of electromagnetic signals when the cables are close to each other. This results in an error during the transmission of data, which may be consequential when important information is being transmitted. The advanced Category 5 cables; Cat5e, are designed to reduce crosstalk. Crosstalk can still be seen in Category 5e cables, although it’s very rare. But in most instances, it doesn’t cause any serious data damage.
Cat5e cables are backwards compatible, which means that these cables can be used with older systems and equipment for data transfer. This makes the transition from Category 5 to Cat5e cables inexpensive and smoother. However, Cat5 cables lack backward compatibility, limiting their application.
● Network Support:
Category 5 cables can support networks running at 10-100 Mbps, while a Cat5e cable can support networks running at up to 1 Gbps. To deduce, the users may not experience any significant difference when transferring information within a home network.
However, if an IT company deals with transferring several terabytes of information, upgrading to Cat5e cables may provide a significant difference. For this reason, Cat5 cables are considered outdated standards, and networking experts are switching to more advanced options.
Bandwidth is the data transfer rate. In other words, it is the capacity of the system to carry data from one place to another. Higher bandwidth means that data can be transferred at a higher speed. The Category 5 cables have a bandwidth of 100 MHz, whereas the Category 5e cables provide a bandwidth of around 350 MHz. Due to the larger bandwidth, Category 5 enhanced cables can support Gigabit Ethernet.
Cat5e cables offer better network performance compared to Category 5 cables. Cat5 cables can support a network speed of 10 Mbps Ethernet and 100 Mbps fast Ethernet whereas, Cat5e can support a Gigabit speed of 1000 Mbps.
The length of both cables should not exceed 100m or 328 feet. However, even at this length, these cables may transmit information slowly or cause a drop out of the internet. To get around this, users can use a hub or switch to amplify the signals, helping transmit the data to 180 meters or 59 feet. To transfer data beyond this distance, one may need optical fiber cabling, as optical fiber cables can transmit data across long distances without experiencing any interference. Moreover, if Category 5 and Category 5e cables are longer than the length recommended, one may experience unreliable or poor data transmission.
Cat5 and Cat5e cables are available in two different classes: solid and stranded. Solid cables usually offer better performance over long distances because of their solid wiring, but these cables are not bend resistant and can break when bent too often or too harshly. Solid-type cables are suitable for use in walls. On the other hand, stranded cables are made of several thin strands of copper wires. Hence, these cables are more flexible compared to solid cables and can be bent to install in small places without breaking.
Both Category 5 and Category 5 enhanced cables use twisted-pair wires to reduce electromagnetic interference between the wires. The main difference between these cables comes down to specifications. Cat5e cables have more strict requirements than Cat5 cables when it comes to the twisted wire. As wires are twisted tightly in Cat5e cables, there is a lesser chance of crosstalk. Using Cat5 cables may cause interference and provide a lower data transfer rate. Hence, it is advisable to opt for Cat5e cables for new network installation as it is cost-effective, efficient, and more reliable.