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Best Ethernet cable 2024: The easy way to a high-speed, hassle-free network

Need a fast, reliable connection for video streaming or gaming? We’ve got the cables you’re looking for

Shopping for Ethernet cables is an adventure packed with drama and excitement. Well, okay, we can’t guarantee that, but we can help you find the right cable for whatever networking job you’re working on. You might imagine that Ethernet cables are much of a muchness, but there are some important things to be aware of – otherwise, you could end up bottlenecking the performance of your network, or facing a disruptive upgrade in the future.

And if you thought that Ethernet was is on its way out, think again. There are plenty of times when Wi-Fi can’t provide the consistent, reliable high-speed connectivity you’re looking for. Ethernet is simpler, more stable – and a lot faster, supporting speeds of up to a gigabit per second on most laptops, PCs and game consoles. There’s minimal latency too, so it’s perfect for streaming video and games through the home.

Best Ethernet cable: At a glance

How to choose the best Ethernet cable for you

The easiest way to tell Ethernet cables apart is to look at their category rating. The standards in use today start at category five (known colloquially as Cat 5), which was designed way back in 1999. Cables in this category can handle 100Mbits/sec connections, but they won’t support the full speed of a Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) network. For that, you need Cat 5e, an enhanced version of Cat 5 that has better resistance to interference and crosstalk and can carry Gigabit traffic over a distance of up to 100m. These days, Cat 5e is the absolute minimum we’d recommend buying, and even then, it’s worth paying the small extra for the step up to Cat 6.

Cat 6 provides headroom for 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) connectivity at cable lengths of up to 50m, but it has its own enhanced version, Cat 6a, which uses an updated design to further reduce crosstalk, making it possible to run 10GbE at distances of up to 100m. Cat 6a cables tend to be slightly more expensive than Cat 6 and have thicker shielding and sheathing, which can make them less flexible. If you’re buying a few 2M cables, the difference won’t be huge, but it’s something to bear in mind if you’re planning to wire up your home. See Cat 6 as your basic, tried and tested option, and Cat 6a as the choice for future-proofing.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need anything more than that in the foreseeable future, but Cat 7 cables are now widely available, with the capability to run a 40GbE connection at distances of up to 50m, and a 10GbE connection over distances of more than 100m. However, to do so Cat 7 uses a slightly different, but backwards-compatible, GG45 connector, though the more consumer-level cables still use regular RJ45.

Those looking to really future proof their network might want to look at the newer Cat 8 standard, which supports speeds of up to 40Gbits/sec at distances of up to 30m using the same RJ45 connectors as Cat 6a. Predictably, though, it’s expensive and mostly used in data centres to hook up the most demanding high-performance network kit.

Which category do you need?

Right now, very few of us have home equipment that supports 10GbE, let alone anything faster. In theory, Cat 5e should cover all your immediate needs, but given that there’s so little price difference between that and Cat 6 or even Cat 6a or Cat 7, it’s worth going for the faster cables now. That goes double if you’re cabling up your home, as it’ll save the bother of replacing cables in the next five years should 10GbE-compatible devices take off.

What else do you need to think about?

Almost any Ethernet cable you buy online will come with a standard RJ45 connector at each end. At the upper end of the market, though, there’s a chance that cables could come with the newer GG45 or TERA connectors instead. Check before you buy, as it’s a fair bet that nothing in your home will have the right sockets.

If you’re wiring up a house, then you won’t be buying individual cables anyway; instead, you’ll want a spool that you can cut to length and attach to wall-mounted sockets. Some cables come with the necessary connectors and crimping tool included in the price; if not, you’ll need to acquire them separately. Either way, don’t worry – fitting the ends is easier than you might imagine.

One less obvious thing to consider is what sort of cable construction you want. Most Ethernet cable consists of stranded, shielded wires inside a flexible plastic casing, which is easy to wind up and move around. However, solid-core cable is less susceptible to interference and offers slightly better performance. It’s less flexible, but if you’re running cable inside a wall it’s a good choice.

One last thing to keep an eye out for: most Ethernet cabling is of the “patch cable” type, which is used for standard connections such as plugging a NAS drive into a router or a games console into a powerline adapter. However, you may also come across “crossover cables”, which can be used to connect computers directly together. Don’t buy one of these by mistake!

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The best Ethernet cables to buy

1. Rankie Cat 6 Ethernet patch cable 5 Colour combo: The best value multi-pack

Price: From £7 for 5 x 0.3m to £12 for 5 x 4.5m | Buy now from Amazon

If you need a bunch of cables to connect devices to a nearby switch or router, then this Rankie pack is hard to beat. You get five solidly built Cat 6 cables with sturdy RJ45 connectors in a five-colour pack, making it easier to track what’s plugged in and where. The cables aren’t shielded, but this shouldn’t be an issue in the average home or small business, and the worst thing you can say about them is that the clips are stiff and could take a little grunt to remove from devices where the access isn’t good. It’s a simple set of speedy cables that are more than up to the job.

Key specs – Category: Cat 6; Rated speed: 1Gbit/sec; Cable: Stranded copper UTP, snag-free PVC jacket

2. Primewire Ethernet Cable Cat 7 Flat Design: The best Ethernet cable for short runs

Price: From £4 for 1m to £16 for 25m | Buy now from Amazon

With a Cat7 rating, these cables are future proof, and the flat design is ideal for running under the carpet or across a skirting board. They come in a choice of black or white with a sturdy kink-resistant PVC jacket, and each pair of copper cores is shielded by a metal foil. This should give you a good level of protection from crosstalk and interference, and you should be fine for 10GbE connectivity if you eventually make the jump. This cable is particularly good value for short to medium lengths, with up to 2M for less than a fiver and 7.5M for less than £10. Yet even the longer lengths aren’t expensive, with up to 25m for less than £16.

Key specsCategory: Cat 7; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: Copper pairs with U/FTP shielding, PVC jacket, gold-plated RJ45 connectors

3. StarTech Cat 6 Ethernet Cable: The best Ethernet cable for reliable high-performance connections

Price: From £4 for 0.5m to £19 for 15m | Buy now from Amazon

StarTech doesn’t make the cheapest cables, but they are rigorously tested and have a reputation for reliability. This Cat6 cable comes in blue, white or grey in lengths that cover everything from short patch cables to longer 15m runs. It uses 100% stranded copper conductors with 50-micron gold-plated connectors, and the cables are tested with the industry-standard Fluke tests to ensure they deliver reliable, professional-grade performance.

With moulded boots and snag-resistant connectors they’re hard to damage, and StarTech backs them up with a lifetime warranty. These cables might be overkill for your average home network, but where consistent high-speed connectivity is crucial, it’s worth the extra outlay to have peace of mind.

Key specs – Category: Cat 6; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: 100% copper 4-pair UTP, snag-free
PVC jacket, gold-plated RJ45 connectors

4. Veetop Flat Cat 7: The best Ethernet cable for longer runs or hiding under carpet

Price: From £6 for 0.5m to £40 for 50m | Buy now from Amazon

This Cat7 cable is a bargain, coming in lengths of 0.5m to 50m with the shielded twisted pair cable covered by a tough, flat PVC jacket. This turns out to be perfect for running over the skirting boards or under rugs and carpets, and it means you can have longer runs of cable without it looking too conspicuous. What’s more, this cable has passed industry-standard Fluke testing and it’s fast enough to handle 10Gbits/sec speeds. Normally we’d say that Cat7 isn’t worth the extra money, but when you’re getting it at this price, why worry?

Key specs – Category: Cat7; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: shielded copper STP, flat white PVC jacket, gold-plated RJ45 connectors

5. Smedz Cat 6 Full Solid Copper cable: The best Ethernet cable for outdoor use or long runs

Price: From £11 for 10m to £47 for 100m | Buy now from Amazon

Looking to extend your network to an outbuilding or garden office? Powerline is one option, but for top performance, your best bet is to run an Ethernet cable along the garden fence or bury it under the soil. Either way, you’ll want a lengthy cable with a waterproof jacket – and this one fits the bill perfectly, with shielded solid-core copper for maximum performance and reduced interference. (For peace of mind, though, we’d still recommend you feed it through a protective conduit such as a sturdy garden hose.)

Key specs – Category: Cat 6; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: Solid copper STP, waterproof outdoor jacket

6. AmazonBasic RJ45 Cat 7e Network Cable: Cutting-edge performance and great value

Price: From £8 for 0.9m to £10 for 7.6m | Buy now from Amazon

This high-performance cable is ready for anything. It boasts a rock-solid construction, internal shielding to protect from interference, gold-plated RJ45 connectors, and a top-tier Cat 7 rating. Most of us won’t need this cable right now, but if you’ve picked up a high-end NAS with 10GbE connectivity and a matching switch or router, then this cable has the bandwidth you need to take advantage of its capabilities, and it only costs a little more than the Cat 6 equivalent. What’s more, as you upgrade your network hardware in years to come, you’ll be equipped to take advantage of its higher connection speeds.

Key specs – Category: Cat7; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: Stranded copper STP, PVC jacket, gold-plated RJ45 connectors

7. Linkup 40Gbps Certified Cat 8 Ethernet Patch Cable: The best future-proof Ethernet cable

Price: From £13 for 0.9m to £51 for 15m | Buy now from Amazon

There’s a lot of budget Cat 8 cable out there now, but it’s not all equally capable nor equally reliable. Linkup’s Cat 8 cable is the real deal, tested using industry-standard network analysers and built to deliver maximum bandwidth under just about any conditions. There are downsides – it’s not the most flexible cable and it’s relatively expensive – but it’s extremely robust from the heavy-duty PVC jacket to the shielded connectors, and it’s going to last. You can also buy the cable as a reel and the connectors in bulk if you’re planning a major DIY project. It’s going to cost you, but if you want a high-end, future-proof home network for work, home cinema or audio, it’s worth paying the extra to get it right.

Key specs – Category: Cat 8; Rated speed: 40Gbits/sec; Cable: 26AGW stranded copper conductor, foil and mesh shielding, PVC jacket, gold-plated RJ45 connectors

8. Kenable Cat 6 UTP Copper Ethernet Network Cable Reel: The best bulk Ethernet cable for DIY projects

Price: From £21 for 50m to £101 for 305m | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re fitting out your home with Ethernet, you’ll be buying cable in large quantities. Pick the right type, though: cheap spools or reels of Cat6 and Cat7 cable tend to use a copper-clad aluminium (CCA) construction, which is more vulnerable to breakage and interference; look for a cable with a stranded or solid copper core instead, like this one. If you’re running bundles of cable through a large office or alongside electrical appliances and power lines then it might make sense to look for shielded twisted-pair construction too, to minimise interference; but if you’re just wiring up your own home then this Cat6 cable ticks all the right boxes at a great price.

Key specs – Category: Cat6; Rated speed: 10Gbits/sec; Cable: Unshielded twisted-pair, solid copper core

9. Belkin F3X126B05M UTP Cat 5e RJ35 Crossover Cable: The best Ethernet crossover cable

Price: From £3 for 5m to £8 for 15m | Buy now from Amazon

These days there are lots of easy ways to move files from one PC to another – but for certain jobs, a crossover cable still has its uses, such as sharing your PC’s internet connection without a router. This offering from Belkin is excellent value and comes in a decent range of lengths. It’s Cat5e-rated, which means it will work happily at Gigabit speeds, and the price is very good for a well-known brand.

Key specs – Category: Cat 5e; Rated speed: 1Gbit/sec; Cable: Stranded copper UTP, PVC jacket

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