News center
First-rate components, precise quality management.

Are Ethernet Cables All The Same For Gaming?

Jun 01, 2023

There are a wide array of Ethernet Cables available for gamers, but are they all the same internally?

Players who want to get the most out of their online games will want to pick up the best Ethernet cable for gaming specifically. Although it's possible to play and enjoy many online multiplayer games using a Wi-Fi connection, Ethernet offers superior stability that can't (yet) be replicated by a truly wireless connection. Those that are "hardwired" directly into their Internet Modem via this tethered method will unlock faster Internet speeds and should experience fewer issues with drops and data loss.

RELATED: Gaming On Ethernet Vs. WiFI

But buying an Ethernet Cable can be a pretty daunting experience for the average player that has spent their time gaming on a wireless connection. There are an array of Ethernet Cable types, usually signified by a "Cat" number. But what exactly does the Cat number mean, and which Cat number is best for playing online games?

Thankfully, purchasing an Ethernet Cable for video games in mind isn't an especially drawn-out process. Here's an in-depth look at what the differences between Ethernet Cables are and whether any of them are going to serve players best of all.

The first thing players will notice about the breadth of Ethernet Cables available for purchase online is that each one comes with a specific Cat Number (I.E. Cat 5, Cat 6, etc). This abbreviation is short for "Category" and it helps to specify what speeds that the Ethernet itself is "rated" for. The Category rating itself is decided by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and pertains directly to the maximum Internet speeds that a particular cable can handle.

When the IEEE first began to rate cables, they assigned the Cat 1 variant a max load of 1 Mbps. These cables were mainly used for phone lines and early modems. As time passed, the IEEE began to rate newer cables with different Category numbers (in ascending order) to showcase an upgrade in speed capabilities. Currently, the fastest Ethernet Cable available to consumers is the Category 8 (Cat 8) variant, which can withstand a whopping 25 Gbps (or 40 Gbps for the 8.2 version).

However, just because Cat 8 is the fastest doesn't mean it's the best gaming Ethernet cable. It's important to note that the Cat 8 cable is usually far more powerful than the individual consumer will need. More typically, the average person gets the most efficient use from a Cat 6 cable, which can handle speeds of 1 Gbps. This is due to the Cat cable's physical capabilities, which is why categorizing them using numbers is so useful, even if it seems a bit overwhelming at first glance.

There are tons of Ethernet Cables to choose from, but the three commonly discussed options are Cat 5, Cat 6, and Cat 8. Cat 5 is a quickly aging version that many people grew up with and is now considered a bare minimum option. Cat 6 is currently the most common type of Cat cable and can handle most user's ISP's (Internet Service Provider) top speeds. Cat 8 is mostly used for whole server rooms and communication data centers.

When choosing a cable for online games, players will want to know and understand what Cat they need before making any other decisions. The table below gives a glance at the maximum data rate of each cable. Players that are unfamiliar with their maximum speed available will need to contact their ISP.


Maximum Data Rate

Cat 1

1 Mbps

Cat 2

4 Mbps

Cat 3

10 Mbps

Cat 4

16 Mbps

Cat 5

100 Mbps

Cat 5e

1 Gbps

Cat 6

1 Gbps

Cat 6a

10 Gbps

Cat 7

10 Gbps

Cat 7a

10 Gbps

Cat 8

25 Gbps 40 Gbps (8.2 Variant)

And knowing their max speed is imperative for players to make the absolute best choice. Many people's gut reaction to this table may be to simply choose the fastest cable. Using the Cat 8 Ethernet cable for gaming would certainly work, but it also costs a lot more and is likely able to handle quadruple (or more) the speeds coming from ISPs.

Fiber optics, the fastest internet available for most people, only needs about 9.4Gbps to be at full throttle. So Cat 6a would be perfectly fine and cost a fraction of Cat 8. Even more people have only 1Gbps, which could be handled by the even cheaper (slightly) Cat 6 Ethernet cable. Once again, the fastest Ethernet cables just don't make sense for the average consumer, which means the options can be narrowed even further.

Aside from the Category number, the main difference in the internals of an Ethernet Cable is whether the cable features "shielding." Traditional Ethernet Cables feature an 8-pin connector, as each cable has 8 smaller cables that run throughout it. Many Ethernet Cables have minimal separation for these lines, other than the casing that surrounds them. Some stronger, more expensive cables feature shielding. Shielding can come in a variety of flavors but basically adds additional inner casings and materials to help separate the different internals running throughout the main cable. This can create a stronger connection with less room for error and lower wear-and-tear over time.

Related: What Type Of Ethernet Cable Is Best For Gaming?

Past the internal components, players have some choices when it comes to aesthetics and style. Ethernet Cables can come in a variety of colors, and can feature specific designs that make them more suitable for particular situations. For example, players can grab outdoor-rated cables that have been designed with specialized outer-casings that can withstand weather or can be buried beneath the ground. Some companies produce "flat" Ethernet Cables, which can be perfect for running underneath carpets, baseboards, or the underside of desks. When it comes to choosing a style, players have a handful of options. Just keep in mind that any styles that stray from the standard will come with a bigger price tag attached.

No, there aren't special Ethernet cables For gaming. That being said, some online video games can ask quite a bit from a player's ISP, much moreso than other online activities like checking email or watching TV. While the average internet user can use whatever cable is provided by their ISP and be fine, it's usually a good idea for gamers to make sure they’re using the best Ethernet cable for video games and streaming.

The highest-rated Ethernet Cable is currently the Cat 8 cable but as we’ve discussed, this is far too powerful to make use of with standard internet speeds. Instead, gamers should stick to the standard Cat 6 and Cat 6a Ethernet cables.

Beyond this, players should choose an Ethernet Cable that is aesthetically pleasing, at whatever length they'll need to comfortably provide Internet to their gaming setup. Considering the style of cable can help make setups look cleaner or build on a specific theme. Blue Ethernet cables are comparable in availability and price and can really pop against dark, RGB-lit gaming spaces. Similarly, grabbing a flat Ethernet cable makes it incredibly easy to completely hide Ethernet cables by routing them under carpet or discreetly along desk legs.

While there isn't an Ethernet cable for gaming specifically, by knowing their ISP's top speeds players will know which Cat cable is best for their space.

MORE: What Gaming Mice Do The Pros Use?

Yes, using Cat 8 ethernet cables for gaming is a bit overkill. Cat 8 cables do allow for an incredible max bandwidth of 2000 MHz, but typically only server rooms and data centers have the internet speeds that would call for such a powerful, and expensive, ethernet cable.

Yes, Cat 8 works with most routers, but that doesn't mean it will perform better than Cat 6a, which can handle the maximum internet speed available to most people.

Cat8 Ethernet cables are usually found in data centers and server rooms, where advanced 25GBase-T and 40GBase-T networks are common. While they are available to the average customer, they aren't necessarily always useful.

Typically, Ethernet is faster than WiFi, although both are fairly comparable in speeds. Ethernet connections are also known to be more stable than WiFi connections.

Russ Boswell has been playing games ever since he was old enough to hold a controller. He started his love for gaming with the NES and Super Mario Bros. specifically. Over the years, he has collected numerous consoles but enjoys most modern games on his PC. He has a soft spot for Metroidvanias, Soulslike, and First-Person Shooters.

Miri is a creative writer with a passion for gaming and animation. Starting with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, she is a lifelong console gamer and overall Xbox fangirl (especially with Game Pass existing!).She still loves Nintendo too though, and will sometimes throw a bone to PC games (if they have cute cats and/or apocalyptic societies). When she isn't writing or gaming, Megan loves to see art through webtoons, comics, anime, and other animated projects!