A cable is a cable is a cable

ethernet cables from big box store

For a lot of users which network cable you hook up to your router is not terribly important. Of course a quality cable ensures uniunshieldednterrupted flow of data at the maximum speed allowed by your equipment. Most if not all Ethernet ports on computers these days are at least 1000 Mbps. This should be more than enough fast enough for a lot of applications.

Actually, this is overkill for a number of applications even video streaming. A regular 1080 or 720 HD video stream will require 5 Mbps while 4k streaming will require at least 25 Mbps. Both of these numbers are less than 100 Mbps. This might explain the quality of the cables that you can purchase either at your big box store or on at your internet retailer.

It was only when I needed to make a few of my own patch cables that the quality of these cables became clear. If shopping at Amazon you can feel assured that Cat 7 cables are a higher quality than Cat 6, while Cat 6 is higher quality than Cat 5.

When looking at a few different options side by side that all proclaim to be Cat 6 you need to take a closer look at the specs.

SpecificationDescription
U/UTPUnshielded, Unshielded twisted pair
F/UTPFoiled, Unshielded twisted pair
S/UTPShielded, Unshielded twisted pair
SF/UTPShielded and Foiled, Unshielded twisted pair
SF/STPShielded and Foiled, Shielded twisted pair
S/FTPShielded, Foiled twisted pair
F/FTPFoiled, Foiled twisted pair
U/FTPUnshielded, Foiled twisted pair

The first portion of the specification, before the slash, refers to the type of shielding that is under the skin of the cable which wraps around the four sets of twisted pair wires. There are three different types, no shielding, an aluminum foil as shielding, or very thin braided wires as shielding.

Further inside the cable are four sets of wires that are twisted together. These pairs of wires can be also be shielded to prevent any cross talk.

If your installation is a single Ethernet cable, even if it is fully unshielded, there is not a likely a lot of electrical signals, but if you have a few cables all laying in the conduit or on the floor shielding is important. Another example of the wires in close proximity would be on a patch panel.

CAT7

In addition to all of the different shielding options is one other difference. The difference is the actual diameter of the twisted pair wires. When I was looking at purchasing raw Cat 7 cable I could see that some of the cables had thicker or thinner twisted cable wires. Cat 7 cables with their solid twisted pair wires are not as flexible and are more appropriate for connecting wiring center to a wallplate,

CAT6

The difference between Cat 7 and the lessor standards is typically that these other cables use strand wire. These are much more flexible and are often used between the computer network interface and the wallplate.

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