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What is Cat8? How to choose between Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat7, Cat7a, or Cat8 Cables

What is Cat8?

In this post, we explain what Cat8 and its specifications are.

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Two of the most desirable aspects of high-speed networking are speed and stability. The Cat 8 Ethernet cables fulfill both these needs, and therefore, they are extensively used in applications that involve high-speed networking.

Also Read: Best Gigabit Ethernet Cables CAT 7 and CAT 6 for 10G Ethernet

The Cat 8 cables are excellent options for anybody who requires a cutting-edge LAN design. This is because they feature a blend of Cat 8 speed and shielding.

Related: Best 10G Ethernet PCIe Cards

Cat 8 surpasses older standards like Cat 5e and Cat 6 in terms of peak bandwidth. These older Ethernet cable standards support longer cables but compromise on performance at farthest ranges. Cat 8 is the Ethernet networking cable you can purchase if your hardware can benefit.

Let’s first look at the detailed comparison of various Ethernet cable standards:

Cat 5e vs Cat 6 vs Cat 8:

The two popular Ethernet cable standards in recent times are Cat 5e and Cat 6. Both of them provide outstanding performance across long distances with ample options for shielding.

The question now arises whether Cat 5e and Cat 6 compete with Cat 8 Ethernet cables. Let’s look at the description of each of these Ethernet cable standards:

Cat5e:

Cat5e standard represents an improvement over the Cat5 standard. Here, the letter ‘e’ stands for enhanced. Although Cat5 and Cat5e cables are competent to transmit data via a sequence of networks and offset radiation influx, Cat5e leads to better communication procedures. These cables can deal with EMI and crosstalk better than the Cat5 standard.

The structure of Cat5e cables shows twisted pair. The maximum frequency is 350 MHz based on the shielding. Generally, Cat5e cables are used for video signal transmission and telephony. They can support up to 1,000 Mbps Gigabit networking over a distance of 100m.

If you are looking for a modern cable standard that is affordably priced, the answer is Cat5e cables. But because Cat6 cable’s price constantly decreases, the cost savings for the Cat5e wires may not be worthwhile for the slower speeds.

Cat6:

Cat6 (Category 6 Augmented) cable standard represents the sixth generation of Ethernet cabling used in home and business networks. It is the contemporary typical cabling standard employed in modern office buildings.

This cable standard offers backward compatibility with CAT5e and CAT5 standards. Moreover, the Ethernet data speeds it supports are up to 1 Gbps.

These cables can support 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections for a distance of approx. 55 meters. The structure of Cat6a cables is thicker than Cat6 cables.

The prominent differences between Cat6 and Cat5e lie in the transmission performance. Cat6 cables come with a tighter twist and thicker gauge that decreases interference. Also, they provide better insertion loss and return loss. They provide a higher signal-to-noise ratio than CAT5e.

Cat6A:

Representing performance upgrades to the Cat6 cables, Cat6A cables can be deployed for distances more than 328 feet. Their data transmission rate is up to 10 Gbps. Compared to Cat6 wires, they provide more robust performance but are expensive. Moreover, they are thicker and terminate in a standard RJ45 connector.

The maximum bandwidth for data transfer is 500. Cat 6a cables come with tighter and additional twists with sufficient insulation to minimize crosstalk. Moreover, they are backward compatible with Cat5e and Cat6 cables.

Cat8:

Cat8 is the official successor to the Cat6A cabling. The IEEE and EIA officially acknowledge this cable standard. The key advantage of Cat8 cabling is faster throughput across short distances.

Specifically, Cat8 cables provide 40 Gbps up to 78 feet and 25 Gbps up to 100 feet. In the distance range of 100 feet to 328 feet, Cat8 delivers the 10Gbps throughput, which is the same as Cat6A cabling.

Owing to the distance limitations, the optimal use for Cat8 cables will be in a data center to connect network equipment. For office setup where long-distance signal transmission is not required, Cat8 cables are suitable choices. The maximum length of these cables is 98 feet.

This much length is more than adequate for the majority of home installations. Although Cat8 cables show limitations in terms of distance, they make up for that in terms of performance.

The maximum frequency is four times that of the Cat6 cables. The network speeds can fall between 25,000 Mbps to 40,000 Mbps.

Because of the bleeding-edge performance, Cat 8 needs robust shielding to avoid signal attenuation and crosstalk. With careful research, you can find Cat 8 Ethernet cable that uses individual wire insulation, a superior quality 24 AWG internal wire gauge, and foil & braided shielding.

Cat8 cables offer power over Ethernet (POE) when used with compatible hardware. This leads to a reduction in extra cabling, easy cable management, and space-saving.

What is Cat8 used for?

At the maximum speeds, Cat 8 isn’t suitable for home use. To make the most of the Cat 8 speed, you not just require the appropriate Cat 8 cable, but you also need compatible routers, switches, and networking cards.

Cat 8 cables are better suitable for high-speed networks in data centers and server rooms. This is because these places need incredibly high speeds and bandwidth.

Cat 6a cables are more suitable choices for high-performance home and office networks. For such networks, these cables convey enough speeds through 2.5 Gbit and 10 Gbit Ethernet.

Do you need a Cat 8 Ethernet cable for gaming?

Cat 8 doesn’t provide any quantifiable benefits for gaming compared to older Cat5e or Cat6 cables. The limited speeds of Cat5e cables are blocked by internet connection speeds instead of the physical wire.

Though Cat8 Ethernet cables are not required for gaming, they are still better choices for gaming over Ethernet. There has been significant improvement in Wi-Fi speeds since the past decade, but there is still no alternative for the reliability of wired connections.

When transmitted over active Wi-Fi networks with numerous devices contending for the available bandwidth, attenuation and signal interference are significantly reduced in a high-quality, shielded cable.

What about Cat 7?

Cat 7 is a different class Ethernet cable; not the same as Cat 8 or Cat 6. Though it does possess the potential to provide outstanding middle ground performance, with somewhat improved frequency support than Cat 6, its performance is far behind Cat 8. Also, it has not been accepted by networking manufacturers and utilizes a proprietary (though RJ45 is compatible) connector.

The use of Cat6, Cat6A, and Cat8 cables based on applications:

Cat5e is considered the most cost-effective choice. It is highly suitable for non-bandwidth options like plain old telephone lines (POTS), fax lines, or other utilitarian purposes. Due to the decreasing price of Cat6 cabling, it is somewhat beneficial to install an older cable standard in a new office.

Cat6 is generally the standard for office use. This cable standard is also suitable for startups. Moreover, it is recommended for 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections across the entire distance.

Cat8 supports up to 40 Gbps Ethernet speeds, but the short distance range makes it more suitable for connection within one room.

Thus, CAT6 and Cat6A cables are ideal for businesses of every size, whereas Cat8 is highly suitable for data centers.

Which one to choose: Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat7, Cat7a, or Cat8 cable?

CategoryShieldedMax. TransmissionMax. Bandwidth
Cat 3No10 Mbps at 1OOm16 MHz
Cat sNo10/100 Mbps at 1OOm100 MHz
Cat SeNo1Gbps at 1OOm100 MHz
Cat 6Yes & No1Gbps at 1OOm250 MHz
Cat 6aYes10 Gbps at 1OOm500 MHz
Cat 7Yes10 Gbps at 1OOm600 MHz
Cat 7aYes10 Gbps at 1OOm1000 MHz
Cat 8Yes25 Gbps/40 Gbps2000 MHz at 30m

After understanding the functionalities, differences, and expenses of these Ethernet cables, it becomes easy to choose the appropriate one.

For the majority of home and small office/home office (SOHO) networks, the Cat5e cables must be your minimum.

For a small to medium-sized business having dozens of computer servers and users, Cat6 and Cat6a cables are recommended. These cables are cost-effective, provide sufficient bandwidth for typical business network traffic, and present the best price/performance ratio.

For high-speed communication in a 25 Gigabit or 40 Gigabit network, Cat7 or Cat8 cables are better choices.

Despite being expensive, these cables provide breakneck speed, excellent durability, a boost in productivity, and reduced interference rates.

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