The Top Differences Between Cat6 Vs. Cat7

Ethernet cables are ubiquitous. Routers, modems, gaming consoles, entertainment devices- all use Ethernet cable to connect to the internet. You most probably already know what an Ethernet cable is and how it looks. However, do you know there are various types?

The cable you choose will decide the speed and bandwidth you will get. It also determines the performance and the distance the cable can support. 

The Cat5 cable is the most popular type of Ethernet cable. But we also have the Cat6 and Cat7 cables. Are you aware of the differences between them?

Many people have confused about the different types of Ethernet cables. So, we decided to do a Cat6 vs. Cat7 comparison to highlight the differences between the two most-recent Ethernet cables. 

Let's begin by getting to know the Catx cable a bit.

Catx Ethernet Cables

Catx cables are the standard for Ethernet cables. All modems or routers use the Catx cable with the RJ45 connector to exchange data over the internet. 

Cat is short for Category, and the number denotes the different specifications of the cable. Cat5 is still the most-used Ethernet cable across the world for its cost-effectiveness. 

However, commercial applications and high-end networks need more speed and bandwidth than Cat6 offers. 

Cat7 is the ultimate you can get in the world of Ethernet. You do have the Cat8 cables, but they are mostly better versions of the Cat7 cable. 

Catx cables come with four pairs of twisted wires that are covered by a shield. The wires are twisted to reduce crosstalk or electromagnetic disturbance. The cables are also called twisted-pair Ethernet cables, and each pair is color-coded. 

Catx wires can be-

Unshielded

Unshielded Twisted Pair or UTP cables are examples of cables we just mentioned above. They have four pairs of shielded copper wires twisted around each other. 

Most home internet network uses UTP cables. 

Shielded

Shielded Twisted Pair or STP cables are identical to UTP cable, sans one exception. The four pairs of twisted copper wires come with a shielding made of foil. This extra shielding further eliminates crosstalk more efficiently. It can prevent electromagnetic disturbance from leaking in or out of the cable. 

STP cables are common in industrial applications. You may also find them in high-end home network setups. 

A good thing about Catx cables is that they are backward-compatible. You can use a Cat7 cable in place of a Cat6 cable without any problems. 

Next, we will go into the details of Cat6 and Cat7 cables to bring out the differences. The discussion about the shielding will come in handy in our explanations. 

Cat6 Ethernet Cable

Cat6 cable is the successor of the Cat5 cable and came with a speed boost. Cat5 supported speeds of 1Gbps, while Cat6 took it to 10Gbps. 

The bandwidth of Cat5 also received a thrust to reach 250Mhz from 100Mhz, over a distance of 55-meters. However, the Cat5 supported 1Gbps up to a distance of 100 meters. 

Build

The Cat6 is a flat cable that is great for installation in your home. The cable contains four pairs of twisted wires, just like the Cat5 cable. However, a foil or a plastic core runs in the middle of the cable to keep the wires separate. 

The construction helps Cat6 become more reliable than Cat5 in terms of reducing crosstalk. Apart from the foil, the individual pairs are also tightly twisted to further reduce electromagnetic interference. Additionally, the copper wires also help improve performance. 

Cat6 cables can either be UTP or STP. 

Cat6a Ethernet Cable

The short distance of 55-meters supported by Cat6 cable made it a bit unsuitable for industrial purposes. Cables in facilities need to run a long-distance, and 50-odd-meters are not enough. 

To make matters awesome, the Cat6a cable increased the supported distance to 100-meters. The cable still is rated at 10Gbps, but with a long-distance for more convenience. Additionally, the bandwidth also increased from 250Mhz to 500Mhz. 

Build

The Cat6a cable has the same specifications and builds as the Cat6 cable. 

Cat7 Ethernet Cable

Cat7 is the latest addition to the Catx family. Just when you thought things couldn't get any better, you have the Cat7 cable with a bandwidth of 600Hmz. The cable supports 10Gbps, but you have the ability to exchange more data thanks to the higher bandwidth. 

If you are confused about bandwidth, imagine it is a pipe. The bigger the pipe, the more data can pass through. So, a cable with a higher bandwidth is always the preferred choice.

Build

Cat7 cables are similar to the Catx family and come with four twisted and color-coded pairs of copper wires. However, you have so much shielding to reduce crosstalk that you can compare it to an armored battle tank!

The outermost covering of the cable is much thicker than the other Catx counterpart, to begin with. Additionally, there are shielding for every individual pair to keep them separated. Sometimes, Cat7 cables also feature a mesh covering over the twisted wires. 

The durable structure of the Cat7 cable is the strictest in the industry. You have very few chances of experiencing crosstalk due to all the shielding. The wire also lasts a long time as the build is sturdy. 

Naturally, Cat7 cables are the most expensive of the lot. Also, all Cat7 cables are STP cables, and you will never come across a UTP Cat7 cable. 

These are the main differences between a Cat6 and Cat7 cable. The differences boil down to two main categories, the specifications, and the build.

Next, we will explore how the differences affect your purchasing decisions. 

How to Choose the Right Ethernet Cable

The main difference between Cat6 and Cat7 cable is the higher bandwidth and better shielding. Other aspects are the same, like the 10Gbps speed and distance limit of 100-meters. 

So, how do the extra bandwidth and less crosstalk help you?

To be honest, most home networks don't need anything above Cat5. You don't have any home internet setup that needs a 10Gbps connection. Additionally, most of the time, you are using the cable for shorter distances. 

Gamingcpus.com ran a test to determine the performance of Cat5, Cat6, and Cat7 cables. The test was carried for the cables connecting a router and computer over 7 feet.

What were the results?

All three cables performed similarly over the distance of 7 feet. The average download speed was varied between 932 to 940Mbps for all the cables. 

As a result, Cat6 or Cat7 will perform the same for most home networks. You can also go for Cat5 as they are the cheapest of the lot and enough to support your home network.

That being said, we do have a few 10Gbps home routers on the scene, like the Asus XG-U2008. However, we will still need many more years before 10Gbps becomes the norm for home networks.

Commercial applications may find a use for Cat7 cables where 10Gbps networks are somewhat common. The extra bandwidth of Cat7 can make a difference when you are dealing with such high speeds. 

Cat7 cable is also suitable if you want to future-proof your installation. If you have cables going through places that make replacement a pain, then Cat7 cables can make sense. You will most probably be able to use them for decades before technology catches up.

Additionally, environments with too much electromagnetic interference can also benefit from Cat7 cables. The stringent specifications make it the best choice to prevent the most crosstalk.

Should You Go for Plenum Cables?

It's a wise decision to go for plenum cables if you are considering the commercial installation of Cat7 cables. Plenum cables have a jacket over the cable that makes it fire-resistant. 

The need for plenum cable becomes evident when your Ethernet cables run through your building's airspaces. In the case of fires, non-plenum cables can burn and produce harmful fumes that fill the building through the airspace. 

As a result, using plenum Cat7 cables is the best option. 

Key differences between CAT6 and CAT7 cables

So, how does the CAT6 and CAT7 cables differ? Let’s find out. 

Bandwidth and transmitting capacity

CAT6 cables: 

  • CAT6 cables can transmit approximately 400 MHz over a distance of 55 yards. 

  • You will love the minimized crosstalk and noise. In short, it means a lesser chance for interference in transmission.

  • In terms of size, CAT6 cables are slightly larger, as compared to its older versions. 

  • You may find it difficult to attach CAT6 cables if you do not have adapters or special modular connectors. These connectors will attach your network to the thicker wires.

CAT7 cables: 

  • These cables can transmit 1000 MHz, or 100 gigabits up to 16 yards and 40 gigabits up to 54 yards. 

  • CAT7 cables bring more sophistication to your network, as they have greater bandwidth than CAT6 cables.

  • You can further cut down crosstalk and noise, so the connection is better.

  • You can use on more than one application simultaneously using a single cable. 

Structure and shielding

CAT6 cables:

  • These cables are available in two forms. These are shielded and unshielded.

  • Depending on the external environment, you need to choose the right structure.

  • While connecting, it is simply necessary to match up the type of shielding on the connector and cable.

CAT7 cables:

  • CAT7 cables are available only in shielded form. 

  • In order to tackle higher frequencies, CAT7 cables have to be shielded. 

  • The entire cable has to be a shielded channel to ensure a seamless connection.

Speed and maximum distance

CAT6 cables:

  • CAT6 cables offer you adequate speed to run most of the connected applications and devices in your home or office.

  • These cables can help your connection reach a speed of 1Gb/s in general. 

  • At shorter distances, ranging between 33 to 55 meters, you can obtain a speed of 10 Gb/s.

 CAT7 cables:

  • If you need to boost your internet speed or have to connect additional appliances, go for CAT7 cables.

  • The cables can help your network achieve a speed of 10 Gb/s, regardless of the distance.

Performance of cables at shorter distances

CAT6 cables:

At shorter lengths, CAT6 cables can be compared to CAT7 cables, since both can give you speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

However, you must have ideal conditions at your location to achieve a 10 Gb speed with CAT6 cables. Otherwise, it can just give you 1 Gb/s speed.

CAT7 cables:

  • CAT7 cables are ideal under both short and long-distance conditions. 

  • If the distance is more than 55 meters, CAT7 cables are recommended. It ensures the consistency and speed of your connection.

Where can you use Cat6 and Cat7 Cables?

CAT6 cables:

  • For domestic connections, CAT6 cables can offer adequate speed.

  • For gaming and downloads, CAT6 cables work fine.

  • If you have an average internet connection at home, opt for CAT6 cables.

CAT7 cables:

  • CAT7 cables are ideal for commercial or business environments, where you will need higher bandwidth.

  • If you’re running multiple appliances like printers and other devices in a commercial setting, you may prefer using CAT7 cables.

  • The lesser crosstalk and fewer errors mean more accuracy 

  • CAT7 cables also support multiple applications, which is useful in large organizations.

What about the Durability?

CAT6 cables:

  • The estimated lifeline of CAT6 cables is around 10 years.

  • CAT6 cables may be unshielded.

CAT7 cables:

  • CAT7 cables, on average, last for up to 15 years.

  • The longer lifeline of CAT7 cables is due to the heavier copper that is used in these cables. These cables also carry more insulation, as compared to CAT6 cables. 

  • CAT7 cables cost more than CAT6 cables. If you are less likely to rewire your home or office in the coming years, go for CAT7 wires.

Installation

CAT6 cables:

  • CAT6 wires are heavier than CAT5 wires since they transmit more bandwidth. This makes it costlier and difficult to install these cables.

  • The conductors in CAT6 wires are twisted tightly, and certain separators are present between the wires. This keeps away the crosstalk, increasing insulation.

  • Without modular connectors, you may not be able to connect CAT6 wires to your network. You need to cut down these wires slowly.

CAT7 cables:

  • Installing CAT7 cables can be more difficult, and finding an experienced installer can be difficult.

  • The installation charges are also higher, as compared to CAT6 wires.

  • Since it is difficult to execute the installation process, only a few installers work on these heavier cables and charge a lot more.

Final Thoughts

The main difference between Cat6 and Cat7 cables is the bandwidth and extra protection from crosstalk. However, most home users will be fine with a Cat6 cable. Cat7 is mostly for commercial purposes or for those who want more than the best. You will most probably be unable to take advantage of the high speed of Cat7 in your home. So, stick with Cat6 if you want to save money.

 
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