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Cat5e vs Cat6 RJ45 Cable: What's the Difference?

Nowadays, Internet data cabling has become an important part of our daily lives. Ethernet cables have never stopped evolving to meet the ever-increasing demands of higher performance data centers. At the same time, with the rapid updating of technology, the old Ethernet patch cord versions are being replaced by new ones for a better experience. Cat5e and Cat6 RJ45 cables are the two most commonly used Ethernet cables on the market today.
As their names suggest, the difference between them is defined by the numbers and letters "5e" and "6". What do these terms mean? Cat5e vs Cat6 RJ45 Cables: What's the Difference? Are Cat5e and Cat6 RJ45 connectors the same? Is Cat6 or Cat 5e better? Can Cat5 connect to Cat6? This article aims to answer these questions.

Cat5e vs Cat6 RJ45 Cable Overview

Cat5e and Cat6 are two different Ethernet cables classified by standard categories. The “Cat” refers to “Category of cable”, and the terms “5e” and “6” refer to different standard of category.

What is a Cat5e cable?

Cat5e cable (Category 5e cable) is an enhanced version of Cat5. While inheriting the structure and 100MHz bandwidth of its predecessor, Cat5e improves performance by introducing optimized specifications in data rate and crosstalk defense. It transfers data at 10 times the speed of Cat5 cable, up to 1000Mbps. It supports Gigabit Ethernet and is often used in home network environments of various lengths and indoor wiring.

What Is Cat6 Cable?

Cat6 cable (Category 6 cable) is a standard twisted-pair cable for Ethernet and other network layers. It has a 250MHz bandwidth and can rate up to 10Gbps in a limited distance of 55 meters. It can also reach to 100 meters (328 feet) at a slow rate of 1000Mbps. For its high speed, Cat6 cable is widely used to handle 10GbE. Moreover, Cat6 has excellent capability to reduce crosstalk due to improved shielding and twisted-pair cable design.

Cat5e and Cat6 Similarities:

Both are built to a performance standard set by ANSI/TIA known as a Category, known as “Cat”. The Category defines how the cable will behave, performance-wise, at 328 feet or the maximum distance that any Ethernet cable can be run.
Supports 1 Gigabit or 1,000 Mb/s speed to 328 feet.
Used to hook up computers, printers, network switches, routers, and more.
Comes in different outer jacket varieties depending on where the cable is going to be installed. For example, CMR or riser rated for general indoor use (except the plenum space) or CMX for outdoor UV protection and direct burial use.
Available in unshielded (U/UTP) for general use or shielded (F/UTP) for environments like hospitals, factories, or applications where environmental interference can be a problem.
Use eight wire conductors, twisted into four color coded twisted pairs (see picture below).
Both Cat5e and Cat6 can be terminated to either T568A or T568B color code standard.

Cat5e and Cat6 Differences:

CAT5e vs. CAT6 Visual Differences

Pictures will help illustrate this:
  • Cat6 has thicker copper conductors, almost always 23 AWG.
  • Cat5e has thinner conductors, almost always 24 AWG (as the AWG number goes higher, the copper is thinner).
  • Cat6 supports 10 Gigabit or 10,000 Mb/s network speeds to 110 feet, sometimes all the way to 165 feet in situations where interference from other cables is low.
  • Cat6 is thicker overall, requiring RJ45 plugs that can accept the bigger outside-diameter of the cable (OD) and thicker, insulated, copper-conductor diameter. This can make connector selection a little more challenging.
  • Cat5e does not use a “spline” where Cat6 usually does. The spline is a plastic piece in the center of the cable construction that separates the conductor pairs. It is designed to keep the twisted pairs separate in order to increase performance by minimizing what is known as “cross-talk” inside the cable. Splines, for the uninitiated, are a bit more difficult to work with when putting on RJ45 plugs.

CAT5e vs. CAT6 Bandwidth and Speed

As shown in the table below, Both CAT5e and CAT6 can handle speeds of up to 1000 Mbps, or a Gigabit per second. This is more than sufficient for the speed of by far the most internet connections. The chance is small that you currently have an internet connection with which you can achieve up to 500 Mbps speed.
The main difference between CAT5e and CAT6 cable lies within the bandwidth, the cable can support for data transfer. CAT6 cables are designed for operating frequencies up to 250 MHz, compared to 100 Mhz for CAT5e. This means that a CAT6 cable can process more data at the same time. Think of it as the difference between a 2- and a 4-lane highway. On both you can drive the same speed, but a 4-lane highway can handle much more traffic at the same time.
Because CAT6 cables perform up to 250 MHz which is more than twice that of CAT5e cables (100 Mhz), they offer speeds up to 10GBASE-T or 10-Gigabit Ethernet, whereas CAT5e cables can support up to 1GBASE-T or 1-Gigabit Ethernet.
Category Cat5e Cat6
Interface RJ45 RJ45
4 twisted-pair Wires Yes Yes
Bandwidth 100MHz 250MHz
Maximum Length 100 m 100m in slow network (≦1000Mbps);55m in high network (10Gbps)
Data Rate 1Gbps 10Gbps over short distance (33-55m);1Gbps within 100m
Crosstalk Far Less than Cat5; More than Cat6 Less crosstalk; high SNR
Cost cheaper 20% higher

CAT5e vs. CAT6 Date rate

Cat5e cable is limited at a 100MHz bandwidth, while Cat6 cable has a high bandwidth of 250MHz, which leads to different data rate. Cat5e can reach up to 1Gbps at a distance of 100 meters. The data rate of Cat6 varies based on its maximum length. Over long distance transmission within 100 meters, the maximum data rate of Cat6 is 1000Mbps. In short length limited to 55 meters, it can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet. It is noted that in high crosstalk conditions a transfer distance of only within 33 meters is available.

CAT5e vs. CAT6 Crosstalk

Both Cat5e and Cat6 are comprised of 4 twisted-pair copper wires with a longitudinal separator to isolate them. This design can reduce electromagnetic interface among different wires. Compared with Cat5e, while providing equal level far-end crosstalk (FEXT), return loss, and insertion loss, Cat6 features lower near-end crosstalk (NEXT). Simply put, Cat6 cable have high SNR (Signal Noise Ratio), which provides less noise, fewer errors, and higher data rate in signal transmission.

CAT5e vs. CAT6 Cost

Multiple characteristics have an influence on the cost of Ethernet cables, the main elements being length, quality, copper content, and manufacturer. In general, you will find that CAT6 cables are priced 10-20% above CAT5e cables.

Which Should Be Used, and Where?

This is a tough question because both are used in many of the same applications. There are a few general guidelines I recommend to help you with your decision:
If price is the overriding consideration, and there are no intentions of ever running 10 Gigabit speed, then go with Cat5e.
If you are willing to spend a bit more, Cat6 will be the better choice for maximum performance. You may ask, “Wait. Didn’t you just say that they both support the same speeds to 328 feet?” Yup, I did. There is an acceptable stated limit of transmission errors on Ethernet cable, well beyond the scope of this blog. It is normal, and expected, to have some tiny percentage of transmission errors. It is all automatically taken care of and fixed for you, and you won’t even notice this occurrence unless something goes seriously wrong. On Cat6 cable, transmission errors are less frequent, especially on longer runs. The result is slightly higher speeds to 328 feet.
Cat6 cable is the better choice for PoE or Power over Ethernet, especially on longer lengths.

Can I use Cat6 cable on a Cat5 network?

Of course, Cat6 Cable will work on the Cat5 network. It is backward compatible with previous specifications, which means it can be used effectively with Cat5 networks.
From the above introduction, the main components of Cat6 cable and Ca at5 cable are similar. The main difference between Cat 5 and Cat 6 is their electrical specifications, or signal transmission capabilities. Category 6 cables have better specifications than 5 or 5e, allowing them to support faster data transfers when installed with compatible equipment.
When upgrading phyWhen infrastructure, newer cabling types are often used, even if the hardware is still using older standards. This is how network administrators install updated cables in preparation for future deployments of newer hardware.
The main difference between these cables is their capabilities when put into service. Still, both Cat5 and Cat6 cables use the same end piece called RJ-45, which is capable of connecting to Ethernet jacks on computers, routers, etc. They can be plugged into the same port. Therefore, Cat6 cables are suitable for Cat5 networks. However, Cat5 cables cannot be used in Cat6 networks because Cat6 networks have higher requirements for cabling performance and capacity that Cat5 cables cannot achieve.

Which ethernet cables should I buy?

Now that you've made your decision about Cat5e or Cat6, it's also important to consider where to buy your Ethernet cable. Heyoptics offers cables in a variety of lengths, colors, and styles that meet both standards to meet every need—from simple connections between home routers and computers to long cables in offices and data centers.


This article compares and contrasts Cat5e vs Cat6 RJ45 cables. While uncovering some similarities, it focuses on their functional differences. There are many considerations when choosing the correct cable. What is the required network speed: 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps, or 10 Gbps? What is the number of users? For a large number of users, the frequency (MHz) of the cable becomes important. Is the cable for indoor or outdoor use? Does the cable have to be rigid or flexible? Are there possible sources of interference? and many more. In the end, the choice depends on your application. Cat6, the descendant of Cat5, has a higher standard of SNR and data rate, which gives it an advantage in higher performance conditions that require 10 Gigabit Ethernet.