Whether you’re a fan of first-person shooters, prefer to play head-to-head against family and friends, or you’re an MMORPG player, you know how vital your Internet connection is. Without it, everything slows to a crawl. It delays communication, creates dragging cut scenes, and even causes lag that could leave your character or avatar dead and you waiting to respawn.
While the most critical consideration here is that you have an Internet connection capable of supporting gameplay, other considerations need to be made. Sure, you need to make sure that you’ve got a modern console, or that your PC or laptop has the RAM and graphics card necessary to perform. However, if your device isn’t connected to the router or modem correctly, you’re still going to suffer from lag.
For many people, Wi-Fi seems like the most convenient option. After all, you can play from anywhere in your home without having to worry about cables getting in the way, right? That’s wrong. An ethernet cable is almost always the best choice for gamers, whether you’re a hardcore Twitch streamer or just a casual gamer.
In this article, we’ll explore the best ethernet cable options for gamers in 2021. However, we’ll also delve a little deeper into the question of why an ethernet cable is better than Wi-Fi, what makes one cable stand out from another, and more.
If you’re in a hurry, here’s our top 3 quick pick for the best ethernet cables for gaming:
- Top Rated – Jadaol Cat 6 50FT
- Best Budget Pick – Amazon Basics Cat6 Ethernet Cable
- Best Connectivity – UGREEN Cat7 Cable
Features of the Best Ethernet Cable Options
Finding the best ethernet cable isn’t as easy as it sounds. Why is that? Simply put, it really comes down to the fact that there are so many different types in use today. Below, we’ll touch on what you should know about each.
Cat5 Ethernet Cable
Once upon a time, Cat5 ethernet cable was the gold standard. Sadly, those days are now long gone. Cat5 is not the ideal option for gaming, but it might work fine for general web browsing. It can support up to 100 Mbps, but the fact that it’s usually unshielded means that cross-talk and interference from other devices can cause slowdowns and problems. Avoid Cat5 ethernet cable for gaming and shoot for something newer.
Cat5e Ethernet Cable
If you’re looking for an affordable, widely available, high-performance option for your gaming needs, go for Cat5e ethernet cable. It’s the upgraded version of old-style Cat5 and includes plenty of shielding to help prevent interference-related slowdowns. You’ll also find that Cat5e offers much, much more in the way of data speeds, and can give you up to 1 Gbps.
Cat6 Ethernet Cable
While Cat5e ethernet cable offers true gigabit-speed transfer rates, you can do better. Cat6 delivers up to 10 Gbps. These ethernet cables are also widely available and are almost as affordable as Cat5e cables.
Cat6e, Cat6a, and Cat7 Cables
Cat6e is an even newer type of ethernet cable. It offers the same speed potential as Cat6 but can maintain that speed even with longer cables (Cat6 can only maintain 10 Gbps with lengths up to 50 meters, which is more than fine for most homes). Cat6a ethernet cables offer the same capabilities as Cat6 and Cat6e but bump the maximum bandwidth from 250 MHz to 500 Mhz. Cat7 cable is even newer and delivers 10 Gbps capabilities at up to 100 meters.
Note that both Cat6a and Cat7 ethernet cable are primarily designed for commercial needs/installations, and have much heavier shielding against interference and cross-talk. They’re also substantially more expensive than standard Cat6 cabling.
Cat7a is also available, although the 1,000 MHz capabilities mean that this is really only applicable for businesses. Cat8 cabling is also available, but the high cost and fully-shielded nature mean this is really better suited for commercial/industrial needs.
All ethernet cables suffer from signal drop over length. That means the longer your cable is, the lower the speeds will be for a device at the far end. The good news is that most modern ethernet cables offer plenty of capabilities for gamers, provided the connection is in a residence and not in a business setting.
For instance, Cat5e can maintain 1 Gbps speeds over a length of up to 100 meters. Cat6, on the other hand, can deliver 10 Gbps speeds over connections up to 55 meters. Cat6a ethernet cables can handle 10 Gbps over 100 meters.
Note that old-style Cat5 ethernet cables are only able to offer up to 100 Mbps, but they can maintain that speed over lengths of up to 100 meters. This makes them an economical option for general use in homes. If your home has existing ethernet cabling, it’s important to verify whether it is Cat5, Cat5e, or Cat6. If it is Cat5 (the old standard), it is worth upgrading to improve speed.
Cable Form Factor
Once upon a time, the ethernet cable was round. Today, that’s not always the case. Yes, you’ll find conventional round cable out there, but you will also find a flat cable that offers the same performance but improves routing within your home. Simply put, the flat cable is easier to tuck out of sight or even route through walls than round cable.
Exploring the Best Ethernet Cable for Gaming
Now that we have touched on what sets ethernet cable types apart, it’s time to explore the options available to you. We’ve sorted the best ethernet cable choices for you below.
Looking for a budget entry to the world of ethernet cable-powered gaming? Need a lot of cables to reach that gaming/entertainment room? This could be the best option for your needs. This Cat6 cable is white, flat, and comes in a 50-foot roll. It also includes 15 cable clips to make routing through your home simpler. The RJ45 connectors are plastic, but the snag-free design makes them easier to use/route.
You can use this ethernet cable with PCs, laptops, and all modern gaming consoles. It also maintains 10 Gbps over the full length of the cable.
- 10 Gbps
- 50ft roll
- Snag-free design
- White color may stand out
- Plastic connectors
The Amazon Basics brand is renowned for offering decent quality at good prices. You’ll find that holds true with this ethernet cable for gaming. It measures a full 50 feet, and because it is Cat6, you get 10 Gbps speeds across the entire length. If you’re looking for a simple, cost-effective way to improve your gaming speed, this could be it.
However, the black cable may stand out against walls/carpet. The plastic connectors may also not be right for your gaming needs. Note that this cable does feature a snag-free design to prevent the cable tabs from catching during routing.
- 50ft length
- Plastic connectors
- Black color may stand out
Another flat cable, this option from UGREEN offers even more shielding than the other options we’ve covered, helping to reduce cross-talk and interference. It delivers 10 Gbps speeds, and it measures 50 feet in length, making it easy to connect even devices that are located far from the modem/router. The flat design also makes routing easier, and the snag-less design helps streamline the installation process. The gold-plated connectors also help ensure the best data throughput.
However, because this is Cat7 cable, it is a bit more expensive than the other choices we’ve covered. The black color may also stand out against light walls/carpet.
- Cat 7
- Up to 10 Gbps
- Flat design
- Snag-less connector design
- More expensive than other options
- Black color may stand out against light walls/carpets
Who said ethernet cable has to be an ugly eyesore? Cable Matters wants to take your cabling and dress it up. Whether you’re looking to accent your gaming PC, or just want a pop of color, you’ll find it here. This cable comes in your choice of black, blue, red, green, yellow, or white. Each measures a full 50 feet and includes a snag-free connector design, although you can choose shorter or longer rolls depending on your needs (as short as 20 feet and as long as 150 feet).
However, while these are bright and fun, and the Cat6 cable delivers 10 Gbps speeds the cable is not flat. The connectors are also plastic rather than metal/gold-plated.
- Available in multiple lengths
- Available in multiple colors
- Up to 10 Gbps
- Round cable
- Plastic connectors
The final entry on our list of the best ethernet cable options for 2021 comes from Dacrown. This is the only Cat8 cabling to make our list and is our top choice for those who need pure speed. It supports up to 40 Gbps (but your Internet connection may not deliver those speeds). Plus, the gold-plated connectors won’t corrode or rust. The snag-less design also makes routing and installation easier. Finally, this cable is fully weatherproof.
- Gold-plated connectors
- Up to 40 Gbps
- Snag-free connector design
- Round cable
- Black color may not match with wall and carpeting
The Available Connection Types: Why You Need to Ditch Wi-Fi
If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection for gaming, you’re not going to see the performance that you need. Simply put, there’s just too much delay between your device and the modem/router. That might not be noticeable while you’re playing Farkle on Facebook, but fire up Call of Duty or Battlefield V and you’ll certainly experience the difference.
Is it really about the connection speed, though? That’s not the case. With the advent of 802.11ac, Wi-Fi connections have a maximum speed of around 3,000 Mbps, which is comparable to what you’ll get with a wired connection. So, if it’s not the speed, what is it?
Three words: security, latency, and reliability.
- Security: Wireless connections rely on signals sent over the air between your device and the modem/router that you’re using. The challenge here is that those wireless signals can be intercepted by hackers. While gamers are not going to be targeted quite the same way that businesses are, security is still a factor to consider. Ethernet cabling is always more secure than Wi-Fi by default.
- Latency: Latency is the first of our three terms that affect your gameplay. It’s a term used to describe the delay in the data transmitted by the device to the destination server. If you’ve spent any time gaming, you know the term “ping”. That’s latency. The higher the ping, the more latency there is and the longer it takes data to reach the server from your device. In gaming situations that demand fast data transfer rates and equally quick responses from players, even a little bit of latency can be a bad thing. Wireless connections always have more latency than ethernet connections, although other factors will affect the situation.
- Reliability: Wi-Fi connections are inherently unstable. Anyone who has ever been watching a 4K movie and watched in puzzlement as the picture pixelated and then cleared, pixelated and then cleared, has experienced this firsthand. The same thing happens when gaming – your connection stability and speed will rise and fall.
That’s bad news for games where immediate actions are required. Ethernet connections, on the other hand, don’t suffer from that problem to the same extent, although you may still experience some ups and downs simply due to Internet congestion on shared connections (such as cable).
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons that a wired ethernet connection trumps a wireless connection, at least for serious gamers. If you’re just using your device to stream Netflix or Disney+, then chances are good that you’ll be fine. However, when split-second decision-making matters, opt for a stable, reliable, secure connection with an ethernet cable.
Kick Your Gaming into High Gear
If you’re ready to take your gaming to the next level, an ethernet cable can help. Choose any of the options we’ve reviewed here and you’ll get the speed and reliability you need to supercharge your gaming performance.
Other Products You May Need for Your Gaming Center
- Best Outdoor Wifi Extender – Updated for 2021
- Best Webcam for Streaming in 2021
- Best Wireless Headphones Updated for 2020
- The 8 Best Cat8 Ethernet Cable Choices for 2021
We hope you enjoy these products! But keep in mind, Grit Daily might take a small commission on the items recommended here—but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in them. We only recommend products that we would buy or use ourselves, so don’t be wary of our suggestions.