Category 5e (Category 5 enhanced) Ethernet cables are newer than category 5 cables and support faster, more reliable data transmission through networks. CAT5 cable is able to transmit data at 10 to 100Mbps speeds, while the newer CAT5e cable should be able to work at up to 1000Mbps. The CAT5e cable is also better than the CAT5 at ignoring "crosstalk," or interference from the wires within the cable itself. Though CAT6 and CAT7 cables exist and can work with even faster speeds, CAT5e cables will work for most small networks.
|Cost||Varies by length and manufacturer, but generally a little cheaper than CAT5e.||Varies by length and manufacturer, generally $0.20 - $0.30 per foot.|
|Performance||Adequate, but greater potential for crosstalk/interference.||Less crosstalk/interference than CAT5. Potentially more interference than CAT6.|
|Frequency||Up to 100MHz||Up to 100MHz|
|Maximum Cable Length||100 meters||100 meters|
|Future Use||Limited. May worsen network experience for those with faster internet speeds.||Adequate, as gigabit internet connections are still rare. CAT6 and CAT7 are the future, though, as internet speeds increase beyond 1000Mbps.|
|Theoretical Top Speed||100Mbps||1000Mbps|
How to Identify
Most Ethernet cables have the cabling category printed on the cable, with the print typically displaying how much bandwidth the cable can transmit. Telling cable categories apart by coloring or thickness can be difficult and unreliable. All Ethernet cables use the RJ45 connector plug so that is also not an option for differentiating them. To be certain of which cable category you are buying, check the printed information.
Neither a CAT5 cable nor a CAT5e cable will make your internet connection faster. Rather, these cables are used to send and receive data at the speeds your internet is capable of (as per your internet provider) or from one computer to another in a network, in which case hardware can affect speeds.
CAT5 cables will work for network connections that are under 100Mbps, while a CAT5e cable can work up to 1000Mbps, a gigabit. CAT5 cables are more prone to interference issues, meaning they can struggle to transmit data even up to 100Mbps. Therefore, for a faster, smoother experience, you should use or upgrade to a CAT5e cable or better.
CAT5 and CAT5e cables should not exceed 328ft (100m) in length, and even at this length, the cables may transmit data more slowly or result in internet "drop out." To get around this, you can use a switch or hub as a repeater to amplify signals, which will help you transmit up to 590ft (180m). Beyond this, fiber-optic cabling may be required, as fiber-optic cables experience no interference across long distances; however, fiber-optic cabling is expensive.
It is possible to buy CAT5 and CAT5e cables that are much longer than the recommended length. You may experience poor or unreliable data transmission when using them.
Though your hardware and connection may function adequately with a CAT5, most local area networks (LANs) should use CAT5e or better for the added performance boost and for future-proofing of infrastructure. Whether you should use solid or stranded cabling depends on your needs; however, stranded will be cheaper.
The price of CAT5e cables varies by length, manufacturer, and seller, with the cables generally costing $0.20 to $0.30 per foot. CAT5 cables have become rare, but they may still be around and will likely be cheaper. To better future-proof your network's cabling infrastructure, you should purchase a CAT5e cable or, for just a little more, a CAT6 or CAT6a cable.
Ethernet cables like the CAT5 and CAT5e use twisted pair wiring to decrease electromagnetic interference and crosstalk between the wires themselves. The main difference between the CAT5 and CAT5e wiring comes down to specification. CAT5e cables have more stringent requirements than the CAT5 when it comes to the tightness of the wire twisting; more tightly twisted wiring equals less crosstalk interference.
There are two main classes of CAT5 and CAT5e: solid and stranded. Solid cables, which some businesses prefer, potentially offer better performance across long distances thanks to their solid copper wiring, but they are not very flexible and can break if bent too harshly or too often. They are better suited for use in walls. Stranded cables, which are composed of many thin strands of copper wiring, are more flexible and can be bent oddly and many times before they break; you trade-off some performance across long distances with stranded cables, but this will rarely, if ever, be noticeable.
The following video discusses the differences between solid and stranded cables in greater detail: