For utmost stability and speed, the Cat 8 Ethernet cable offers a more reliable future for high-speed networking. The combination of Cat 8 speed and shielding makes the Cat 8 cable an exciting option for anyone who needs a cutting-edge LAN design – that is if you're able to work within its range limitations.
Where older standards like Cat 5e and Cat 6 can't compete with Cat 8 on bandwidth, they do support longer cables – albeit with a much-reduced performance at extreme ranges. What is Cat 8? It's the best Ethernet networking cable you can buy if your hardware can take advantage of it.
Cat 5e vs Cat 6 vs Cat 8
Two of the most popular Ethernet cable standards today are Cat 5e and Cat 6. They offer great performance over long distances with plenty of options for shielding – Cable Matters Cat 5e and Cat 6 Ethernet cables offer foil wrap and spline separator options for additional signal protection. But how do Cat 5e and Cat 6 hold up to a Cat 8 Ethernet cable?
Cat 5e cables have a maximum frequency of 350MHz depending on the shielding, helping it offer true Gigabit networking with a bandwidth up to 1,000Mbps. Cat 6 and Cat 6 A improve upon those specifications by increasing maximum frequency to 500MHz, in turn raising maximum bandwidth to 10,000Mbps. The only caveat here is that the top performance is restricted to cables up to 180 feet long. Anything over that (up to 328ft) is restricted to 1,000Mbps.
Cat 8 has even tighter length restrictions, with the absolute maximum range for a single cable at just 98ft. That's more than enough for most home installations, and indeed, 5-25ft is far more common, but it is a sizeable shrink from older standards.
Where the Cat 8 Ethernet cable falls behind in range, it more than makes up for it in performance. With a maximum frequency four times that of Cat 6's best it can support network speeds between 25,00Mbps and 40,000 Mbps.
Due to its bleeding-edge performance, Cat 8 demands extensive shielding to prevent crosstalk and signal attenuation. The best Cable Matters Cat 8 Ethernet cable uses a high-quality, 24 AWG internal wire gauge, individual wire insulation, and foil and braided shielding.
Performance also leads to extended features, with Cat 8 cables able to provide power over Ethernet (POE) when used with supporting hardware. That helps cut back on additional cabling, saving space and easing cable management.
What is Cat 8 used for?
At its extreme speeds, Cat 8 isn't really designed for home use. At least not yet. To take full advantage of Cat 8 speed you not only need the right Cat 8 cable for the job, but you need compatible switches, routers, and networking cards to support it.
Those demands, and the arguably unnecessary speed for home and even small business networking, make Cat 8 better suited to high-speed networks in server rooms and data centers.
For high-performance home and office networkers, the 2.5Gbit and 10Gbit Ethernet offered by Cat 6a cables will be more than enough.
Do you need a Cat 8 Ethernet cable for gaming?
Cat 8 doesn't offer any measurable effects for gaming over older Cat 6 or Cat 5e cables. Not only do games not use much in the way of bandwidth, but even the comparably limited speeds of older Cat 5e cables are still likely to be bottlenecked by internet connection speeds, rather than the cable.
While you don't need a cutting-edge Cat 8 Ethernet cable for gaming, it is still a good idea to play over Ethernet if you take your gaming seriously. While Wi-Fi speeds have improved dramatically over the past decade, there is still no substitute for the reliability of a wired connection. Signal interference and attenuation are much reduced in a high-quality, shielded cable than it is when broadcasted over busy Wi-Fi networks with multiple devices competing for the available bandwidth.
What about Cat 7?
Cat 7 isn't really in the same class of Ethernet cable as Cat 8, or Cat 6. Although it does have the potential to offer excellent middle-ground performance, with slightly improved frequency support over Cat 6, it falls far behind Cat 8. It also hasn't been adopted by networking manufacturers and uses a proprietary (although RJ45 compatible) connector.
If you're considering using Cat 7 cabling, you'd be better off picking Cat 6a instead. For more information on Cat7 read here.