Cat 5 vs Cat 6 … what’s the difference? Cat 5 and Cat 6 are both kinds of wires that you would use to connect to the internet. In a pre-Wireless time period, they were commonplace, and people who went to college or worked in an office in the 2000s probably remember what each of these cables looked like.

That being said, while they were very similar in a lot of ways, there were extensive differences between the two types of wires.

Cat 5 Ethernet Cable
This is a Cat 5 ethernet cable. It features four pairs of copper ethernet wire and is used to connect to the internet.

Cat 5 vs Cat 6: Side by Side Comparison

Cat 5Cat 6
What it isFour pairs of copper Ethernet wireFour pairs of copper Ethernet wire
Primary useWire used to connect to the internetWire used to connect to the internet
NameCategory 5 CableCat 6 wire
Initial release19952002
Technical committeeANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A, TSB-95ANSI/TIA-568
Influential developersNANA
Open formatNoNo
Technologies influencedCat 5e, Cat 6Cat 6a, Cat 6e

Cat 5 vs Cat 6: 6 Must Know Facts

  • Different colors of both wires mean different functionality, as they will work on different pins, have a different amount of pairs, and have a different amount of wires. 
  • Both wires had similar uses: They could be used at a home, work, or school network. They were of similar size and similar cost as well: Indeed, both were used for Gigabit Ethernet speeds. However, Cat 6 had higher overall network speeds and reduced crosstalk characteristics, thus making it preferable to Cat 5. 
  • Both wires came in stranded and solid forms, enabling users to purchase a wire that best suited their needs and came at a size and cost that was affordable to the individual users.
  • Both Cat 5 and Cat 6 had variants that were still considered “Cat 5” and “Cat 6” varieties, respectively. Cat 5 wires were replaced by Cat 5e in 2001, and Cat 6 wires had Cat 6a and 6e.
  • Both Cat 5 and Cat 6 wires are required to be made of pure copper. Unfortunately, this led to the theft of these wires, as the copper inside of them could be valuable.
  • Both wires could be bent at a radius roughly as large as four times the cable. Additional bending risks damage to the wire and a reduction in performance.
Cat 6 cable
The Cat 6 cable was an improved version of the Cat 5 cable in several ways, including improved shielding, faster speeds and more.

Cat 5 vs Cat 6: Summary

The Cat 5 cable succeeded the Cat 4. It served as the standard wired connection to the internet from 1995-2001. It had speeds of up to 100 MHz and contained four copper, twisted wires.  It could be used for purposes of transmitting data, video, or audio calls. The wire was unshielded, and this led to certain challenges with the design.

The Cat 6 had many things in common with its predecessor. It also had four paired, twisted wires. It was backward compatible, meaning it could be used to connect to Cat 5 networks. Like the Cat 5, it also had variations come out that improved upon the original model: In this case, that meant the 6a and 6e. 

Numerous factors improved the Cat 6 from the Cat 5. It had improved shielding, more stringent production requirements, faster speeds, and more restrictions against the crosstalk wiring issues that plagued the Cat 5 models. 

Cat 5 vs Cat 6: Which is Better?

There is no question that Cat 6 is the better ethernet wire. Just like any other product upgrade, Cat 6 wires came with a slew of manufacturing improvements, enabling faster speeds and reduced crosstalk (interference). Furthermore, Cat 6’s variations (6a and 6e) further improved upon the original Cat 6 wire, and while these wires were not wholesale changes in and of themselves, they made improvements that were noticeable enough to the average user. 

Just like Cat 5 was replaced by Cat 6, Cat 6 would eventually be replaced by Cat 7 and Cat 8 wires. 

Cat 5 vs Cat 6: Frequently Asked Questions


Cat 5 vs Cat 6: Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is Cat 5?

A Cat 5 is a paired cable wire used to connect computers to the internet. It provides up to 100 MHz of speed and was popular from the mid-1990s until roughly 2001.

What is Cat 6?

The Cat 6 is also a paired cable wire that was the successor to the Cat 5. It provided faster speeds, more reliable service, and eliminated crosstalk and system noise that plagued many Cat 5 models. It was also backward compatible, and later variations of the wire improved on the Cat 6’s service.

Is Cat5 or Cat6 better?

Cat 6 is unquestionably the better wire. It has faster speeds and reduced crosstalk (interference) which allows it to make noticeable improvements compared to its predecessor.

Can you use a Cat 6 cable on a Cat 5 network?

Yes. Cat 6 is backward compatible, meaning you can use it on a Cat 5 network.

Are Cat5 and Cat6 plugs the same?

Yes. Cat 5 and Cat 6 were both very similar wires, and if you are looking to hook into a network, the plugs were the same. Indeed, one of the benefits of the evolution of Cat6 from Cat5 is that the plugs they used were identical and interchangeable, making it much easier for network owners to upgrade wires at a minimal cost. Furthermore, both plugs would work regardless of the size of the wire.

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