Using one of the best Ethernet cables for gaming is a great way to ensure you have a stable and fast internet connection, no matter what you’re doing online. Gamers, work-from-homers, web browsers, film watchers, homework doers, and everyone in between – nobody likes an internet connection that’s spotty, or too slow. While Wi-Fi might be more convenient, it just can’t compete with the sheer reliability of a wired Ethernet connection, and unless you have the latest generation of Wi-Fi and sit right next to your router, it’s just not as fast as wired either.
That’s especially true with gaming, where a stable connection is arguably the most important component in a successful online game. If your internet drops even for a second it can disconnect you from the action, and since some games don’t have the ability to quickly and easily reconnect, that can be all it takes to lose the game. There are also some games that demand high-speed internet, like Microsoft Flight Simulator, to enjoy the full beauty of the game’s world – so having a fast and reliable connection is paramount.
That’s where Ethernet can make a real difference, and using some of the best Ethernet cables for gaming can give you the fastest, most stable connection possible.
While Wi-Fi is perfectly fine for most gaming, especially some of the latest Wi-Fi 6 and 6E connection options, it does have its flaws. Walls, furniture, distance from the router, and how busy the channels are, can all affect the quality of your connection, and in a latency-sensitive scenario like gaming, that can have a detrimental effect on your experience. While Wi-Fi 7 might end up alleviating some of these problems, with Ethernet cables, you don't have that problem, but not all Ethernet cables are created equally.
The best Ethernet cables for gaming make sure that your connection is fast, and protected. That means adequate shielding, as well as high bandwidth. You can run them through walls, under carpets, or through cable management systems to make them neat and tidy, and even hide them from view entirely, too.
You need to make sure you get the right kind of Ethernet cable, however. Older cables won’t provide enough bandwidth to ensure your gaming latency isn’t affected, and they lack the kind of shielding to protect the integrity of your gaming signal. While this might not be too noticeable if you have a slow internet connection, if you want to run a Gigabit or even faster internet connection, you’ll need a top-tier Ethernet cable to take full advantage.
Here’s everything you need to know about picking the right Ethernet cable for you.
The best Ethernet Cable for Gaming
Ethernet cables come in a variety of different lengths, shapes, and types. But while flat or rounded cables are an important choice when it comes to routing them through your home, the most important consideration to make is the cable category. That's the name and standard of cable that's most often used to describe them on sites like Cable Matters. Cat 5e, Cat6, Cat6A, and even Cat8, are all types of Ethernet cable worth considering.
But which are the best Ethernet cables for gaming? Some are overkill. A Cat8 cable is designed for professional scenarios and data centers and can operate at up to 40 Gbps – which is more than any home-user internet package provides, and would be overkill for even the most demanding of gaming. Cat7 cables are typically no better than the Cat6a cables and don't use the kind of header connections that are easily found on most gaming PCs and consoles. While there is some compatibility with the more common RJ45 connector, you can read more about what's Cat7 and why you don't need Cat7 cables, here.
The real debate to be had when it comes to the best Ethernet cables for gaming is Cat5e vs Cat6. And maybe Cat6A if you also do a lot of heavy data transfers.
Cat5e vs Cat6, which is best for gaming?
Although Cat5e and Cat6 are both good choices for gaming over Ethernet connections, Cat6 cables are often the preferred type. Both cables can support up to Gigabit Ethernet speeds over their full length, although Cat6 Ethernet cables can also handle 10 Gbps up to 33.5m (and even up to 50m with really high-quality Cat6 cables), but it’s not speed that truly separates these cables.
Cat6 cables are better at handling interference than Cat5e cables. They have to adhere to stricter standards when constructed, and though the methods for achieving those standards vary among manufacturers and individual cables, Cat6 Ethernet cables are almost always better protected against crosstalk and external noise than even the best Cat5e.
Those stricter standards mean that Cat6 Ethernet cables are typically made with a higher quality and thicker 23 AWG wire gauge, whereas Cat5e cables are typically made with a thinner 24 AWG copper wire gauge. This means that Cat6 cables are typically a little thinner than Cat5e, which can be beneficial when it comes to installing them – especially if you’re routing them through cable tidies, under carpets, or through walls – but it’s not such a huge difference that it should matter too much for most gamers.
One area where that additional cable quality does come in, though, is in shielding. Whereas Cat5e only has tightly twisted pairs to help reduce crosstalk/ interference, Cat6 cables often employ what's known as a "spline," which is a separator within the cable itself to divide the individual copper wires of the twisted pair. That makes crosstalk between the wires far less likely, improving the signal quality of the cable even more and making for a more stable and accurate connection.
Cable Matters Cat6 Cables
Other Cat6 cables achieve greater crosstalk protection through a tighter twisting of the wires within them, while others employ shielding on individual wires. These cables will be sold with different acronyms to help differentiate them. "S" for shielded, "F" for foil wrapping (for additional noise protection), and "U" for unshielded.
Some cables will offer foil shielding over just the cable itself, whereas others employ foil shielding on the individual twisted pairs, as well as the overall cable. Others still will have metallic braiding which adds additional physical protection to the cable, as well as improves the shielding against electrical interference.
More advanced cables, or those rated with the greatest shielding, can employ multiple layers of protection, leveraging foil shielding on the wires and cable, as well as braiding and a spline, though those cables are quite rare. Braiding and splines in particular, also add to a cable’s rigidify. While that does mean it’s more durable against physical damage, it also makes the cables harder to route around tight corners, and though small gaps, so consider that when choosing your cable.
That’s not to say that performance isn’t a factor in choosing your cable. Cat6 cables also enjoy a greater bandwidth than Cat5e (10Gbps vs. 1Gbps) at cable lengths up to 55 meters, which is more than enough distance for most homes. If you need to run at 10 Gbps above 55 meters, then a Cat6a’s extra shielding will allow that to happen up to 100 meters.
That said, traditional gaming doesn’t demand much when it comes to bandwidth, with most games only really needing an internet connection of just a few megabits per second to remain responsive. Almost all Ethernet cables regardless of category can provide that. Where you do need to consider higher bandwidth cables and connections, however, is game streaming. If you’re looking to use a service like GeForce Now, Amazon Luna, or Xbox Game Pass, a higher bandwidth connection and a higher bandwidth Ethernet cable, would be a good idea.
If alongside gaming, you perform large file transfers across your network regularly and your networking hardware like your router and/or switch can support up to 10Gbps Ethernet, then using Cat6 cables is a great idea. Just be sure that all the hardware on your network supports it, otherwise you might run into problems with the full bandwidth of your cabling not being utilized.
Can you use Cat5 cables for gaming?
Cat 5 cables aren't the same as Cat5e, even if their names are very close to one another. Cat5 is the older standard and because of that its features and performance are significantly worse. Although it theoretically can support Gigabit Ethernet, this is only at very short distances. As such, it is traditionally advertised to only support 100Mbps Ethernet connections, rather than the Gigabit connection of Cat5e (or the 10Gbps of Cat6).
But raw performance doesn't matter too much for gaming, as most titles don't use anywhere near the kind of bandwidth that could stress even Cat5 Ethernet cables. What does matter, is shielding and the quality of the connection. Where Cat5e and Cat6 handle crosstalk and interference quite well most Cat5 cables are unshielded, which makes them more vulnerable to cross-talk and noise from other devices contaminating the signal and degrading its quality. In theory, that could lead to you missing your next headshot.
With so little cost savings to be made by opting for Cat5 over newer standards, the best Ethernet cables for gaming are Cat5e and Cat6. Luckily, Cat5 cables are hard to even find these days. Between Cat5e and Cat6, it is a tossup but go with Cat6 if you’re looking to future-proof your network for significant upgrades down the road.
Should you use Cat8 cables for gaming?
Cat8 Ethernet cables are the newest and fastest category of Ethernet cable and do offer the best performance and shielding of any Ethernet cable type. However, they aren’t designed with gaming in mind and are typically marketed toward professional settings like offices with high-data-transfer needs, or data centers.
That said, nothing is stopping you from using a Cat8 Ethernet cable for gaming, and in fact, doing so would future-proof you against many developments in home networking. With a maximum throughput of 40 Gbps, there’s no chance your home PC or console will support such monstrous bandwidths any time soon. However, as 10 Gigabit Ethernet becomes more common, it’s certainly possible that we’ll see higher speeds made available to local networks, and future internet connections may even be able to take advantage of Cat8 cables’ full bandwidth.
One reason why you might want to choose a Cat8 Ethernet cable over Cat5e, Cat6, or even Cat6A, is the shielding. Cat8 cables are built to the highest possible standards and offer a full array of shielding options. If you’re trying to game in an environment that is rife with electromagnetic interference, then a high-quality Cat8 cable may be the best solution for you.
Like other generations of Ethernet cable, Cat8 is fully backward compatible and can terminate in either a standard RJ45 plug or in a range of non-RJ45 connections if you had some specific use for it in mind outside of gaming.
Which Cat6 Ethernet Cables Should I Buy?
With Cat6 cables being the best choice for gaming, it’s important to purchase your cables from a trusted source. Cable Matters carries Cat6 cables in many lengths, styles, and colors for every need. Whichever cable you pick, you can rest assured that the cables are high quality, with gold-plated connectors to ward off corrosion and improve signal integrity, shielded twisted pair wiring, and a Snagless design which makes unplugging easier.
Cable Matters offers slimline, wall-rated Cat6 cables, and they come in a range of color options and lengths, too, helping you to make the network that you want and need. Better yet, if you’re looking to build an expansive gaming network for a LAN room or gaming event, then you consider bulk Cat6 cables. You’ll need to make the cables by cutting them to the right length and attaching the relevant RJ45 headers, but that process isn’t too difficult. In fact, we have a dedicated guide to walk you through building your own Ethernet cables.