Ethernet cable (RJ45): which one to choose to make the most of your fiber?

Choosing good Ethernet cables is important so as not to restrict the connection sent by your Internet service provider. Cat 7, Cat 6a, Cat 6, Cat 5e, shielding…: while everything seems simple, many standards exist and make buying a cable more complex and ISPs are starting to offer new standards (10 G fiber at Free) . So, which Ethernet cable to buy? Here is our selection.

After HDMI cables and Lightning cables, let’s analyze the different Ethernet cables available on the market to help you make an informed choice.

If there is one connector that has been found for years on our peripherals, it is the RJ45 which has been used since the beginnings of modern computing to connect peripherals together using the Ethernet protocol. Today, they are mostly used to connect devices to the Internet, often via an ISP box-modem (Livebox, Bbox, Box SFR, Freebox, etc.).

The standard has evolved over time. Capable at the start of transmitting data at a rate of 10 Mbit/s, the Ethernet standard now makes it possible to reach a rate of 40 Gbit/s. Of course, our consumer equipment is not yet capable of reaching such speeds, which are currently reserved for the professional world, but it is still important to invest at least in Gigabit-compatible Ethernet cables in order to benefit from a optical fiber without slowing down and to be able to access its equipment locally at full speed.

Now let’s get to the heart of the matter: two important factors to consider when buying an Ethernet cable — category and shielding. The first allows you to certify a speed that the cable is capable of supporting and the second is used to protect the cable from electromagnetic disturbances in the environment in which you are going to use it.

Ethernet cable categories

Many categories of Ethernet cable exist, but here are the most recent:

  • Category 5e: theoretical maximum throughput of 1 Gbit/s
  • Category 6: theoretical maximum throughput of 10 Gbit/s
  • Category 6a: theoretical maximum throughput of 10 Gbit/s (higher frequency + longer range)
  • Category 7: theoretical maximum throughput of 40 Gbit/s
  • Category 8: theoretical maximum throughput of 40 Gbit/s (higher frequency + longer range)

On paper, a Category 6, 6a, 7, or 8 cable is 10Gb/s compatible when attached to devices with a 10GBASE-T Ethernet port, like the latest Mac Mini. It is not yet useful to opt for a category 8 cable which does not bring any major novelty for home networks.

In addition, the shielding is also an element not to be neglected and separates into two parts: cable shield : U (unshielded), F (shielding with aluminum foil) or S (shielding with aluminum braid) and connector shield : UTP (unshielded), FTP (9-point shielded with ground connection) or STP (360° EMC shielded). It is an important element for wall cables or cables exposed to strong electromagnetic disturbances.

The majority of cables found on the market are U/UTP (therefore unshielded), but benefit from twisted pairs (TP) which limits susceptibility to interference and crosstalk.

What Ethernet cable should I buy?

To summarize, we advise you to turn today to a Cat 7 Ethernet cableavailable today at the same prices as those of the other categories and with future-proof specifications to avoid changing cables every 3 years.

We recommend the AmazonBasics Ethernet cables which have a very good price/quality ratio, especially when purchased in packs. Their big advantage is to have protection at the pin level of the Ethernet cable, which limits the damage it could suffer.

If you need a long cable or if you plan to pass it through a wall without protection (PVC trunking for example), we advise you to turn to a more resistant cable.

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