Ethernet cables come with different uses, from offering Internet connectivity, to connecting multiple computers, to connecting devices in a home entertainment setup. Different types suit different applications, so take the application needs into account. For example, while PVC covered cables suit most common applications, plenum-rated cables are better for the environment, and armour coated Ethernet cables best suit underground or harsh environments.
UTP or STP Cable?
UTP cables, or unshielded twisted pair cables, do not offer any form of shielding from interference. Since cables people use at home are subject to negligible interference, UTP Ethernet cables are ideal for most domestic purposes, including use with Ethernet splitters. STP cables tend to find takers where high-end applications require maximum bandwidth, typically in large businesses. Outdoor environments that expose cables to the elements as well as added interference, however, can benefit from STP cables owing to their increased rigidity. One reason domestic users prefer UTP cables over their STP counterparts is because the former are considerably cheaper.
Category 3, or Cat3, cables are old and no longer part of mainstream usage. These cables support web transfer speeds of up to 10 Mbps, and unless a device is limited with compatibility constraints, looking for faster variants makes sense. Cat5 Ethernet cables offer transfer speeds in between 10 and 100 Mbps, and with shorter cables, users can even expect gigabit speeds. While the use of Cat5 cables is limited, they suit lower bandwidth applications just fine. Cat5e cables offer considerably less interference, minimise crosstalk within cable wiring, and can support speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps. These factors make them better alternatives in terms of reliability as well as speed. Cat6 Ethernet cables offer transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps. These speeds rarely come into play in homes, and the interference improvements over Cat5e do not offer much for domestic users either.
Cable length plays a crucial role in data transmission, through the Internet, or even between two networking devices. For example, while one application might work best with a 50 m Ethernet cable, a different setup might require only10 m. Keep in mind that shorter cables offer better signal strength, with length varying from 3 to over than 100 m. Thus, choose the shortest possible to connect any two devices. To configure networks with gigabit speeds, use Cat6 cables that do not extend beyond 100 m. For longer lengths, use an Ethernet extender that refreshes the signal. Users not looking for gigabit speeds can limit their search to Cat5 cables shorter than 100 m or Cat5e cables to go any longer.