Cat6, Cat7 and Cat8: Ethernet Cables Comparisons

CAT8, CAT7, CAT6 differences

When it comes to Ethernet cables, there are several options to choose from, each with its own unique features and advantages. In this blog, we will discuss the differences between Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8 Ethernet cables.

CAT6 Cable

Cat6 Ethernet cables were introduced in the early 2000s and are still widely used today. They are capable of supporting data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps at a maximum distance of 55 meters (180ft). 

Cat6 cables are made up of four twisted pairs of copper wires, and it’s an unshielded twisted pair design. They are also backward compatible with older Ethernet standards, such as Cat5 and Cat5e.

  • One advantage of Cat6 Ethernet cables is their affordability. They are widely available and cost less than newer Ethernet cables like Cat7 and Cat8. 
  • Another advantage is their compatibility with existing network equipment, which makes them a good choice for most home and small business networks.

CAT7 Cable

Cat7 Ethernet cables were originally ratified in 2002 and offer several improvements over Cat6 cables. They are capable of supporting data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps at a maximum distance of 100 meters. 

Cat7 cables are made up of four twisted pairs of copper wires and are typically shielded to reduce interference from other electronic devices. The foil shield/screen further reduces interference and crosstalk.

  • One advantage of Cat7 Ethernet cables is their superior shielding, which makes them less susceptible to interference from other electronics. This makes them a good choice for installation spots where there are a lot more other electronic devices, for example, data centers and other industrial sites. 
  • Another advantage is their future-proofing capabilities, as they are capable of supporting even higher data transfer rates than current network equipment can handle.

CAT8 Cable

Cat8 Ethernet cables were released in 2016 and are the newest and fastest Ethernet cables available. They are capable of supporting data transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps at a maximum distance of 30 meters. 

Cat8 cables are made up of four twisted pairs of copper wires and are all shielded to reduce interference from other electronic devices (basically, there is no unshielded version of CAT8). They also have a thicker shielding layer than Cat6 and Cat7 cables, which further reduces interference and crosstalk.

  • One advantage of Cat8 Ethernet cables is their high speed, which makes them a good choice for networks that require large amounts of data to be transferred quickly, such as high-performance computing environments.
  • Another advantage is their better performance on Power over Ethernet (PoE). While Cat6 and Cat7 cables can support up to 90W of power, Cat8 cables are capable of carrying up to 200W of power. This is due to the larger gauge wires used in Cat8 cable, which can handle more current and reduce the resistance that can cause power loss and heat generation.

Comparisons

In summary, the main differences among Cat6, Cat7, and Cat8 Ethernet cables are their maximum data transfer rates, maximum distances, shielding, and cost.

CAT6 CAT7 CAT8
Data transfer rates 10 Gbps 10 Gbps 40 Gbps
Max. Length with max. rates 55 meters 100 meters 30 meters
Shielding Unshielded Shielded All shielded
PoE 90W 90W 200W
Approx. Cost (100ft) $27-$37 $30-$40 $60-$70
  1. Cat6 cables are affordable and widely compatible but have a lower maximum data transfer rate than Cat7 and Cat8 cables. 
  2. Cat7 cables have superior shielding and future-proofing capabilities but are more expensive than Cat6 cables. 
  3. Cat8 cables are the fastest and most expensive Ethernet cables available and are best suited for high-performance computing environments and data centers.

Which to Buy?

When choosing an Ethernet cable, it is important to consider your network’s requirements, including the speed and distance of data transfer, as well as the level of electronic interference in your environment. Ultimately, the right Ethernet cable for you will depend on your specific needs and budget.

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