The 8 Best Cat7 Cables
This wiki has been updated 14 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Making up the infrastructure of most gigabit Ethernet setups, CAT 7 cables perform at a minimum of 600 megahertz, and feature tightly wound, individually insulated components. They resist external interference, cross-talk, and signal degradation over longer distances that prior categories, and the newest sub-type can support network speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best cat7 cable on Amazon.
A Network Of Pure Aloha
For almost the entire history of PCs, it's been the only real option for stringing together wired networks.
Ethernet is the backbone of virtually every Local Area Network in the world. It's likely that there's a Category 5 or 5E Ethernet cable connecting your modem and router right now. They're easily recognizable, as the connector looks a bit like a telephone cord's, though wider and with thicker wire. For almost the entire history of PCs, it's been the only real option for stringing together wired networks. The term Ethernet is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and this definition changes over time as the technology adapts to support faster hardware and more complex data configurations.
In the late 1960s, Norman Abramson developed a wireless data transmission network called Pure Aloha that sent packets of data across UHF bands to other Hawaiian islands. He and his team observed that when two stations sent packets at the same time, the data sets would "collide" and become so garbled that neither station could interpret the message. The team further tweaked the system by adding a slotting mechanism, whereby a network controller chipset assigned slightly offset frequencies to each transmission, and timed them all to avoid collisions and minimize interference.
A few years later, when Robert Metcalfe's research team was attempting to connect what was basically the world's first GUI-driven workstation with the world's first laser printer (no big deal, right?), they used the Aloha network's conceptual structure as a framework upon which to build a reliable interface. Metcalfe, often considered a founder of Ethernet technology, added invaluable functions to the controller: instructions on detecting packet collisions, the ability for multiple units to share a channel, and a method of listening for packets on the wire before sending out a new one. These ingenious enhancements combined to make up the common Ethernet access standard known as Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detect, or CSMA/CD.
Bringing It Up To Speed
Metcalfe's prototype Ethernet was capable of moving roughly three megabits per second, which at the time was breakneck speed. Upon its 1980 public release, it could handle a whopping 10 mbps, and shot up in popularity in just a few years. Along the way, it dispatched with competitor IBM's Token Ring technology, which while promising, lacked the initial industry support and easy open-source adaptability that Ethernet had. Another threat called ARCNET fell behind in the early 1990s when it only upgraded to 20 mbps, while Ethernet vaulted to 100. As Moore's Law marched on (it has since slowed considerably), computers got smaller and faster, while data got larger and more complex, and this hard-wired communication standard followed suit.
Until the 1990s, the cable used for these data connections was none other than the humble telephone cord. Called Category 3, this unshielded pair of wires could handle 10 mbps, and nothing more. Once the industry stepped up to Category 5 (later replaced by 5E), the dual-twisted-pair cable morphed into something much more like today's. The earlier cables were still usually unshielded, which lead to considerable crosstalk, or interference between adjacent wires, as well as noticeably degraded signal quality at longer cable lengths. As of the early 21st century, the IEEE standards had updated twist frequency requirements, as well as mandates on both individual and whole-cable insulation. CAT6 took things one order of magnitude further, pumping up to 10 gigabits per second at 250 mHz, while its 6a upgrade expanded the high-speed range to 100 meters with a 500 mHz capacity.
You might imagine that Category 7 cable features even higher numbers that make an even fatter pipe. You would be correct, and it's a good choice for more than just plugging into a PC, especially for the tech-savvy DIY artist.
This LAN Is My LAN
Each generation of Ethernet cable brought successively higher bandwidth at significantly longer ranges than the previous iterations. That still holds true for CAT7, though it is a bit specialized, and as such it's a little more expensive than the slightly less powerful classes. Also known as Class F and Class F Augmented, these standards require 10 gbps of throughput at the bare minimum, but in reality, many of these cables test far higher than that. At lengths under 50 feet, this medium is theoretically capable of a blistering 100 gigabits per second. At these speeds, this high-end cord is the right choice for the most crowded networks and busiest data centers. Its exceptional range combines with the sheer size of the pipeline for the perfect communication tunnel across an automated home.
At these speeds, this high-end cord is the right choice for the most crowded networks and busiest data centers.
CAT7 offers powerful benefits, especially for the smart home aficionado. The newest Power over Ethernet standards allow the delivery of up to 100 watts per cable. Some PoE concerns include cable overheating, as well as power loss over distance, and the thicker gauge copper and high-grade shielding in this latest cable will prevent heat damage and conserve electricity. With an increasing number of devices running on PoE, it may be a good idea to future-proof your intricate smart home wiring, should you want to utilize any of these upstart devices.
Speaking of getting ready for the future, with a cable that maxes out at 40 gbps for as far as 100 meters, you won't have to worry about bottlenecks or latency. And increased shielding plus very tightly wound wire pairs ensure less signal bleed and atmospheric noise than any previous generation.
Even though it costs a bit more, Category 7 cable can be a worthwhile investment, because it will fill all of your needs now and for years to come. If your budget is especially tight, you can grab some tools and **craft your own Ethernet cables. Not only will you save a ton and be absolutely certain of your product's quality, but the satisfaction of computing on your own craftsmanship is *one of a kind. Whatever your choice, you can be sure it will deliver lightning-fast downloads and instantaneous home automation for a long time into the future.
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