In this age of wireless connectivity, is an Ethernet cable still relevant? In gaming and streaming, it is!
A WiFi connection, no matter how good, is always vulnerable to interference, cross-talk, noise, and congestion, which can translate into awful lag and unstable jitters during streaming. A good Ethernet cable for gaming and streaming can instead, provide more stable performance and higher potential data transmission speed.
So, what are the best Ethernet cables for streaming and gaming? You will find all your answers here in this guide. Let us begin with a brief discussion about the Ethernet cable and the different types available in the market today.
What Is an Ethernet Cable?
In a nutshell, an Ethernet cable is a type of network cable that connects an electronic device to a network. “Ethernet” is a networking technology commonly used in a local area network (LAN), where several computers that are relatively close to each other (i.e. in the same room) are connected in a wired network (the LAN). We can expand LAN into bigger forms (wide area network, or WAN) and even metropolitan area network (MAN).
Ethernet is now the standard for wired network technology and was first introduced in 1980. Already four decades old, the Ethernet cable and technology have withstood the test of time and are still widely used today especially when we require stable internet speed (i.e. in gaming).
WiFi, after all, has its flaws when compared to Ethernet, namely:
In short, an Ethernet cable offers you a reliable and guaranteed way to connect your device to the network.
In practice, an Ethernet cable looks like an old-school landline phone cable, but the connector (commonly an RJ-45 connector) is slightly wider.
A phone cable consists of only four wires, while an Ethernet cable has eight wires. Ethernet cables can vary in length, starting from just 1 foot (30 cm) of length and can be above 100 feet long.
Since 1982, the Ethernet port and cable are standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the standard is still updated and improved until today.
Different Types of Ethernet Cables
We can differentiate the Ethernet cables based on several groups: internal cable structures, core types, and categories.
Ethernet Cable Structures: Straight-Through vs Crossover
Ethernet cables can be internally wired as straight-through or crossover. The eight internal wires inside the Ethernet cable are color-coded, and you can look at the order of the colored wires through the transparent RJ45 connector.
Check both ends of the Ethernet cable and see whether the order of the wires is the same on both ends (if yes, it’s wired straight-through).
Ethernet Cable Core Types: Stranded vs Solid
A solid cable has just one copper wire (that is thick and solid), while stranded cables feature smaller stranded wires (also made of copper) and are twisted together to form one conductor.
This difference in design allows these different types of cables to work better in different conditions and working environments.
Solid Ethernet is more rigid and stiffer than stranded cables, and so they are more durable and are great when installed through walls. Also, it’s easier to terminate solid cables due to their rigidity.
They are also less prone to corrosion (so, better for outdoor installations). Technical wise, they have lower resistance, and the newer Power over Ethernet (PoE) cables are always solid.
Stranded Ethernet, on the other hand, is more flexible. So, it’s better in tight areas or in applications where the devices are moved around a lot. Stranded cables are typically more expensive.
So, which one is better for you? The answer would depend on your purpose and objective. If you are looking for shorter cable installation or if you need more flexibility, then a stranded Ethernet is the better choice.
On the other hand, if your application is going to be more permanent, then go with the more affordable and more sturdy solid Ethernet.
You might also want to check this guide for a better picture regarding the different types of Ethernet cables.
Ethernet Cable Categories
There are now six different categories of Ethernet cables available, although two of them are fairly rare: category 5 (or Cat 5), Cat5e. Cat6, Cat6a, Cat7, and Cat8. The Category 8 Ethernet is the newest and the most advanced Ethernet category, capable of 2GHz bandwidth frequency and 40Gbps data transfer speeds.
However, both Cat7 and Cat8 cables are not currently recognized by the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) and are more commonly used in data centers and big server rooms. So, for most personal usages, we’d only see Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, and Cat6a cables.
However, nowadays the Cat7 (and Cat7a) and Cat8 Ethernet cables are increasingly common in gaming and streaming applications.
Performance Comparison Between Different Ethernet Cable Categories
You can check the table below for the differences between these categories. Note: category 1 to category 4 (Cat 1 to Cat 4) are not Ethernet cables, and only Cat 5 and above are considered Ethernet.
Cat5 cable contains 4 pairs of wires that consist of twisted pair conductors. It used to be the most popular Ethernet cable and is considered the most reliable in terms of efficiency and functionality before the Cat5e enters the picture.
The ‘e’ in Cat5e stands for ‘enhanced’, and so it is an enhanced version of the Cat5e cable. It is similar to Cat5 in a lot of ways, it’s just that the Cat5e is faster and better at handling electrical interference. Cat5e is especially better with crosstalk than the Cat5.
The upgraded version from the Cat5 and Cat5e, it supports a higher bandwidth frequency than the Cat5e (250 MHz instead of 100 Mhz). So, if you need to transfer big files and access heavy network, Cat6 is a better choice.
The ‘a’ here stands for ‘augmented’, and the Cat 6a offers much better speed and performance. It can reach 10GBps of data transmission speed at 500Mhz bandwidth.
Cat7 cable, also known as ‘Class F’ Ethernet can operate at a maximum of 600MHz in bandwidth frequency producing 10GBps maximum transmission speed. So, it can support much greater speed for a longer cable length. Also, it comes with shielding making it reliable connectivity for audio, video, data, and Power over Ethernet (PoE).
Great for long-distance installations as it can transmit data in up to 100 meters. Operate at 1000MHz bandwidth frequency and 10GBps data transmission, so it’s an upgrade from the regular Cat7.
The most advanced and fastest Ethernet technology today, it is designed for even higher performance than the Cat7 and Cat7a. It operates at up to 2,000 MHz bandwidth frequency and can transmit data 4 times faster (40 GBps) than a Cat7a cable. An important thing to note is that the Cat8 cables are only available in lengths up to 30 meters, not the 10-meter distance specified in the predecessors.
Straight-Through vs Crossover Ethernet Cable
As briefly discussed above, Ethernet cables come in two different structures: straight-through and cross-over. In this section, we will delve deeper into these two different types.
If the wires are ordered like the image below, then it is a straight-through cable:
The 568B wiring is generally more common, but both won’t have any differences in performance.
A straight-through Ethernet refers to ables that have similar pin assignments on both ends of the Ethernet cable. So, Pin 1 of the connector A goes to Pin 1 on connector B, and so on. A straight-through Ethernet is commonly used to connect two different devices (a host to a client).
If the order of the wires is different on both ends of the Ethernet cable, then it’s a crossover structure, as you can see from the below image:
Crossover Ethernet cables feature crossed pin assignments on each end of the Ethernet cable, so, it’s “crossed-over”. That is, Pin 1 of connector A goes to Pin 3 of connector B, Pin 2 of connector A goes to Pin 6 of connector B, etc, as you can see from the image above.
When To Use Which?
Straight-through cables are used to connect two different devices (i.e. computer to a router, switch to router, etc.), while crossover cables are used to connect two alike devices (i.e. computer to computer, router to router, etc.). So, straight-through cables are typically more common.
Use straight-through Ethernet cables if you want to connect between:
- PC to hub
- Switch to router
- Switch to PC
- Router to PC
On the other hand, use crossover Ethernet if you want to connect:
- PC to PC
- Ethernet port to PC NIC (Network Interface Controller)
- Switch to switch
- Switch to hub
- Router to router
How To Make Your Own Ethernet Cables
If you want to get an Ethernet cable, you generally have two options: buy a pre-made one from the store, or make your own. This is also useful if you want to cut your existing Ethernet cable to make custom lengths, or if you want to repair a connector. Here is a step by step how:
First, you will need to prepare:
- An unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable cut to the length you’d need. You can use Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 6a cable as you wish. We’d recommend getting Cat 6 cable, and you can purchase it here.
- If you can get Cat 7 or Cat 8 cables, you can certainly opt for them, although they are more expensive and more difficult to purchase (unless it’s a pre-made cable). Here is our recommendation for Cat 7 cable, and here is our recommendation for a Cat 8 cable.
- A crimping tool designed for RJ 45
- A cable tester (optional)
- RJ-45 connectors (also called 8P8C modular connectors)
This professional network maintenance package includes RJ45 connectors, a crimping tool, strippers, punch-down tools, and an Ethernet cable tester for a very affordable price.
Making Your Own Ethernet Cables
First, let us discuss a bit about the inside of your Ethernet cable and what you should expect.
Inside your Ethernet cable are four color-coded pairs of wires, and each pair is twisted together. Also, check your RJ-45 connectors and you’ll see that they have eight different slots. With the clip facing away from you, we can number these pins from left to right, 1 to 8.
There are two different color-coded standards for the wires: T568A and T568B
The T568B standard is more commonly available in the market, but check the colors of your wires just in case you get a T568A cable.
Then, follow these steps:
Step 1: Strip the cable jacket about 1.5 to 2 inches from the end, and spread the four pairs of the twisted wires apart.
Step 2: Cat 5e cables have a pull string to strip the jacket further down if necessary. After you are sure about the length, then you can cut the pull string. Cat 6 cables have a “spine”, which also needs to be cut.
Step 3: Untwist the wire pairs, and then align them according to the structure you’d want (and according to the standards (T568A or T568B). Make sure that you don’t untwist them too far (the general rule of thumb is not to untwist them below where the jacket begins).
How to arrange the wires?
To make a straight-through cable, both connectors of the Ethernet cable should be arranged similarly.
So, assuming that it’s a T568B cable, from left to right the wires should be arranged in this order: white/orange, orange, white/green, blue, white/blue, green, white/brown, and brown.
To make a crossover cable, we have what we call the 1-3/2-6 rule, so: the wire that was in position 1 goes to 3, and the one that was in position 3 goes to 1. Similarly, the wire that was in position 2 goes to 6, and the one that was in position 6 goes to 2.
Again, assuming it’s a T568B cable: the White/orange and the White/green wires switch places (1-3), the Orange and Green wires (2-6) also switch places.
So, one end of the Ethernet cable should be crimped similar to a straight-through cable (white/orange, orange, white/green, blue, white/blue, green, white/brown, and brown), and the other end should follow the 1-3/2-6 rule. Refer back to the images above for a better visual.
Step 4: Around half an inch above the end of the jacket, cut the wires neatly.
Step 5: Insert the aligned wires into the RJ-45 connector according to the Pin alignment. Make sure each of these wires passes through the guides inside the connector.
Step 6: Push the RJ-45 connector inside the crimping tool, and squeeze the crimper down. The shape will change a bit, and the jacket should be trapped within the connector. Make sure these wires are crimped all the way down. When doing this, make sure that part of the jacket is properly inside the RJ45 head, and make sure that the first pin is on the left.
Step 7: (Optional) Use a cable tester to test each pin, repeat the previous steps if necessary.
Step 8: Cut the cable on the other end according to your length preference, and then repeat steps number 1 to 7 for this other end of the cable.
Pre-Made Ethernet Cables vs DIY Ethernet Cables
Ever since the early days of the internet when people started using the Ethernet cable to connect their computers to their DSL modems, there has been an ongoing debate of whether purchasing a pre-made Ethernet cable is better than making DIY ones.
In general, the answer to the question “which one is better?” will be “depends”. That is, if you only need a short Ethernet cable to, say, connect your PS4 to your router, then purchasing a pre-made one is probably the smarter, more efficient option.
On the other hand, if you need a lot of Ethernet cables for an office or a building, then making your own cables can be more cost-efficient. However, you should consider that although experienced people can make their Ethernet cable in a fairly short time, it is still more time-consuming than simply purchasing a pre-made cable.
Also, some pre-made cables offer extra features and technologies that are rarely available in pre-made cables. For example, a lot of pre-made Ethernet cables for gaming and streaming are Cat 7 or Cat 8, which are much faster than the Cat 6 or Cat 5e cables that are commonly available for DIY.
Also, some come with high-quality and even gold-plated RJ-45 connectors, which again, can improve speed and reliability.
In general, there are several advantages in buying a pre-made Ethernet cable:
● If you only need a short cable, it’s generally much cheaper since you don’t need to buy in bulk
● Ease of installation and not time-consuming
● You don’t have to test your cable with a cable tester, since 99% of the time, it will work reliably.
● It comes with great features not available in DIY Ethernet cables (like Cat 7 or Cat 8 cables).
With that being said, here are some pre-made Ethernet cable we’d recommend:
1. GLANICS 10ft Cat 8 Internet Network Cord
- Cat 8, supports bandwidth up to 2GHz (2,000 MHz) and maximum data transmission of up to 40 HBps
- RJ45 connectors with 24K gold-plated contacts for a more sensitive reaction.
- Anti-interference shielding, for maximum stability
- 100% oxygen-free copper for lower resistance
- Tearing line inside for protection prevents breaking, and easier to open the cover
- Cat 8 cable is compatible with CAT 6, CAT 6e, CAT 5 and CAT 5e cable standards.
Pros and Cons:
- Bandwidth up to 2000 MHz
- Speed up to 40Gbps
- Gold-plated RJ45 connectors including additional clops for longer cables
- Two cables are included for those below 25 feet in length
- Relatively expensive
2. Vandesail 16ft LAN Network Cables
- Cat 7 Ethernet cable shielded with flat design.
- Up to 1000 MHz bandwidth, and can transmit data at speeds of up to 10 Gbps.
- Copper-plated, shielded RJ-45 connectors protect against EMI/RFI interference for more accurate data transfer and reliability
- Shielded twisted pair (STP) of copper wires, better protection from crosstalk, interference, and noise
Pros and Cons:
- Flat design, easier and safer twisting of wires
- Great shielding on both the cable and the connectors
- Up to 1,000 MHz bandwidth frequency and 10Gbps data transfer speeds
- Thicker 32 AWG wire gauge, superior build quality
- Available in different colors
- Obviously not as fast as Cat 8 Ethernet
3. Zosion 82FT Cat8 Cable High Speed
- Cat 8 Ethernet, supports bandwidth frequency of up to 2GHz with 40Gbps data transmitting speed.
- Made of four 100% 26AWG shielded twisted pairs (STPs) of copper wires
- Additional shielding and improved quality in twisting of wires. Better protection from cross-talk, interference, and noise that degrade signal quality.
- The copper wires are wrapped by 0.8mm-thick outer PVC: more durable, flexible, and tougher.
- Free 30 pack cable ties and 30 pack clips
Pros and Cons
- Gold-plated RJ45 connectors for extra sensitivity and stability
- Dual-aluminum foil shielding with oxygen-free copper wires. Better transmission and shielding from interference
- Available in black and white and various length options up to 100 feet
- Excellent bandwidth frequency and transmission speed
- Relatively expensive
Best Ethernet Cables for Gaming and Streaming: FAQs
Does Ethernet Cable Help Gaming and Streaming over WiFi?
A big Yes!
A high-speed and well-built Ethernet cable will provide a more reliable connection and in gaming, it will give you a lower response time so you can be more precise and accurate in your plays.
A high-end Ethernet cable can reliably transmit and receive network speeds of up to 40Gbps to ensure zero lag. Ethernet cables that are designed for gaming and streaming typically offer gold-plated connectors for better sensitivity and lower interference.
What’s the difference between bandwidth and data transmission speeds (transfer speeds)?
When evaluating different Ethernet cables, there are only two important technical specs to consider: bandwidth frequency and data transmission speed. The thing is, these two features are often used interchangeably and so, might confuse those who aren’t too familiar with the technicalities.
This is because, in the days of Cat 5, bandwidth and the data transmission is indeed the same: 100MHz cable could deliver 100Mbps. However, this is no longer the case starting with the Cat 5e, where the bandwidth is 100Mhz but it can transmit data 10 times faster at 1Gbps speed.
With that being said, bandwidth represents the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies, literally the width of the frequency band. The frequency here is about how vast a data wave will cycle each second.
Simply put, the higher the frequency, the more data that can be transferred each second. Let’s assume we have a water hose. Bandwidth, in this case, would refer to the width of this hose. The wider the hose, obviously more water can pass.
Data transmission speed, or data rate, is the number of bits that are processed (in this case, sent or received) every second. 1Gbps means that every second, 1Gb of data are transmitted.
Will Ethernet cable length affect my gaming/streaming experience?
Yes, and in fact, if your cable is too long, it can degrade its performance. However, As long as your cable is 100 meters (328 feet) or below (for Cat 5, Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a, Cat 7), you are going to be okay. For Cat 8 Ethernet cables, the limit is 30 meters (98 feet).
These maximum lengths are already pretty long especially if you are gaming or streaming at home. So, you should be fine to run these cables all over your home without having to worry about hitting this limit.
Yet, the shorter the Ethernet cable, the better it will perform. So, in general, it’s best to keep your cables as short as possible (cut them up if necessary).
Unless you need cables above 100 ft (30 meters, the theoretical length limit of a Cat 8 Ethernet), then we’d recommend getting the Glanics Cat 8 Ethernet Network Cord due to its superior performance and reliability.
If you prefer to make your own Ethernet cable, then we’d recommend you get a roll of Cat 7 cable.
In our opinion, unless it’s for a budget issue or if you need your cable to be above 100 feet long (which is pretty rare), you should opt for a Cat 8 cable as the best Ethernet cables for gaming and streaming in 2020.