Wired connections are faster and more reliable than wireless, but not all ethernet cables are created equal.
Cable specifications are complex and dull, but we’ve done the hard work for you, simplifying the specs into ethernet cable buying advice and our pick of the best cables you can buy today.
Wireless connections are undeniably convenient, but if you’re worried about speed, performance and reliability then wired just can’t be bettered.
Still, it’s not as simple as grabbing the nearest cable and hoping for the best. Not all ethernet cables are created equal, and to make sure you’re really getting an upgrade you need to make sure you buy the right ones.
That’s where we come in.
And if you’re looking speed up your whole network, remember you could see massive gains by upgrading your router – check out our router reviews to see what we recommend.
Ethernet cable buying advice
There are basically three main factors to consider when buying an ethernet cable: category, length, and style.
This is the most important thing to consider, as different ethernet categories can carry wildly varying speeds and levels of interference. The options you’re mostly likely to see are Cat5e (the ‘e’ stands for enhanced), Cat6 and Cat7.
As you might have guessed, higher numbers tend to mean faster speeds.
Cat5e is rated for 1Gbps and bandwidths of 100MHz, Cat6 offers up to 10Gbps at up to 250MHz bandwidth, and Cat7 can go as high as 100Gbps with bandwidths up to 600 MHz.
The other major difference is that Cat7 cables are always shielded, which helps reduce interference and crosstalk.
Cat6 cables are sometimes shielded, though retailers often aren’t clear when they are and aren’t, and Cat5e cables never have shielding.
Since most ethernet cables are fairly cheap, there’s an argument for buying Cat7 cables – especially for shorter (and thus cheaper) cables.
However, most users won’t see any real speed benefits from Cat7, so Cat6 is probably the sweet spot for most – unless you want to be certain you’re future-proofing your cabling.
Finally, one small thing: many ethernet cables are available in a flat design. This may bump up the price ever so slightly, but could be well worth it if you expect to thread the cable under any doors. You’ll thank us later.
Alongside category, length is the next most important element of an ethernet cable. Partly that’s obviously just a question of how far you need the cable to reach, but it also relates to speed and performance.
Speeds can drop off over longer distances, especially with the more modern cables – for example, that Cat7 speed of 100Gbps is only up to a range of 15m, while a Cat5e maintains its highest speed for up to 100m.
Still, the average consumer isn’t likely to be cabling anything anywhere 100m, and even 15m is probably longer than many people will need for their homes, so we wouldn’t worry about this too much – just try to avoid buying a 50m cable when you only need it to stretch across one room.
UGreen Ethernet Extension Cable
At first an ethernet extension cable might seem like an unnecessary bother – surely you can just buy a longer cable for about the same price – but there’s an extra benefit you might not think of.
If you’re going to run the cable anywhere it could be a trip hazard, this extension could protect your computer or router’s ethernet port in case the cable gets yanked out unexpectedly.
Instead of risking damaging the hard-to-replace port on your device, the extension lead could take the brunt of it, leaving you with a much cheaper replacement to worry about.
This version is also Cat6 with shielding, so should ensure high enough speeds for most use – just make sure you pair it with a similarly speedy cable.
AmazonBasics Cat5e Cable
These are boring and basics and plain white and they get the job done. AmazonBasics strikes again.
This time it’s with Cat5e cables, which will offer lower speeds, but are great if you mostly care about reliability, or know your internet speed will be a limiting factor anyway. Available ranging from 4m/14ft up to 15m/50ft.
UGreen Cat7 Flat Cable
This UGreen cable is pretty similar to the GizzmoHeaven option – flat and Cat7 – but without the flashy colour options, or the super-short 0.5m cable.
So what’s the advantage? It’s cheaper, making it one of the best value ways to get flat Cat7 cabling around your house.
GizzmoHeaven Cat7 Flat Cable
These cables from GizzmoHeaven have a few things going for them. For one, they’re Cat7, which means they offer about the fastest speeds you can get from ethernet.
They’re also flat, so ideal for wiring through the house; come in a wide array of colors; and come in varying lengths including a very short 0.5m/1.6ft option.
AmazonBasics Cat6 Cable
We’re big proponents of the AmazonBasics range for simple tech accessories and peripherals, and it’s no different with ethernet cables.
This is a pretty standard Cat6 cable, so should be fast enough for most people’s needs, and is available in lengths ranging from 0.9m/3ft all the way up to 15m/50ft.
You can even buy some of the sizes in multipacks, perfect if you know you have a few different things to network together.
Best Gaming Ethernet Cables
If you are looking for an Ethernet cable that can stand up to your heavy gaming needs, you will want to consider a Cat 5e or a Cat 6 cable. Both can be interchanged and work the same way, but Cat 6 are the newest technology that perform better than Cat 5e.
Cat 5e are rated at 350MHz and Cat 6 cables are rated at 550MHz. For heavy gamers who download large files, stream a lot of media, or play online games, a Cat 6 would be the best option.
Should you upgrade to Cat 6 Ethernet Cable?
Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to upgrade to Cat 6, all of your cables need to be Cat 6 within your network; if you do not, your Cat 5e cables will slow down your Cat 6 performance and that is just counterproductive.
We are reviewing the highest rated cables for both kinds so you can decide what your preference is.
If you have an older DSL modem, you will want to check your manual because sometimes they require that a device connect to it via an Ethernet crossover cable.
All crossover cables and Ethernet patch cables come with RJ45 gold plated male jacks so they are ready to be attached to any Ethernet socket. Different colors are offered so you can differentiate between patch and crossover cables.
Businesses that have security sensitivities will use different colors to be able to identify what type of information will be on the network. For example, green for confidential data, red for top secret, etc.
RiteAV Cat6 50ft Cable
This cable gives you 50 micron gold plated connectors for even better, and clearer, transmission. I ran so many diagnostic tests on this cable and it rated perfectly every single time.
Download speeds were so fast, I couldn’t believe it. For instance, something that usually takes me 30 minutes to download, only took me about 7 minutes.
This was my first Cat 6 cable after using 5e for so long and I was truly impressed. Not to mention the price! Getting such a better cable for so cheap was definitely a plus for me. When the cable is straightened out, it supports up to 1gbs.
For gamers that find WiFi is too slow and inconsistent for their gaming systems, this is a great choice. It seems to work very well no matter what type of gaming system you own.
50ft Cat 6 Ethernet Cable
This can be used to replace any 5e cables you might have. This cable has male to male connectors with a snagless molded strain relief. I did notice that the snag guards were a little flimsy.
It has an Unshielded Twisted Pair – this means that the jacket is standard PVC. For as much length as you get, the price is quite right.
This cable was also quite stiff and took a while to straighten out; again, not a deal breaker, but just a little frustrating.
If you decide to cut the end to run it anywhere, you might be disappointed that the wires are not very sturdy.
They don’t seem to be made of copper, but some other kind of metal that is not as strong. But overall, the performance was actually pretty good.
Belkin 3ft Cat 5e Cable
This Belkin Cat-5e Snagless Patch Cable is also a very inexpensive and sturdy cable. It is so sturdy that my children tripping over it has never caused it to break or malfunction.
It is pretty short at only 3 feet so make sure you know how much length you need before purchasing.
The company makes different sizes, so if you need a longer one, don’t fret.
Something that I noticed since using this cable is that I have a full WiFi signal on my phone now when I would only ever have a couple of bars and it was always dropping.
It seems the signal from my router is actually better as well. A short cable makes a nice traveling companion since it doesn’t take up a lot of room in my laptop bag and is just the perfect size for hooking up in hotel/motel rooms.
I actually like using this in my entertainment system in my living room; the small size doesn’t clutter up the space.
Mediabridge RJ45 Cat 5e Cable
The Mediabridge RJ45 Cat 5e cable comes with gold-plated connectors for that extra touch of style and more accurate data transfer reliability. It will transmit up to 1000Mbps and has very heavy duty snag less molding connectors.
I found the connectors very solid and they were very easy to insert and remove.
A drawback that I noticed was that the cable was kind of stiff; I had to manipulate it to go just the way I wanted it to.
The price is very nice for this cable as well. I have noticed that cables similar to this can be very expensive in the stores locally.
In regards to using this cable with a gaming system – it works great! I was impressed that I didn’t experience any network errors.
I also tested it against my Bluray player and had no issues with it whatsoever.
Streaming content never poses a problem either. The manufacturer states that it exceeds all the requirements for data transfer and after such a great performance, I believe them.
And check out my guest posting service.