Wireless connections are undeniably convenient, but if you’re worried about speed, performance and reliability then wired just can’t be bettered.
Still, it’s not as simple as grabbing the nearest cable and hoping for the best. Not all ethernet cables are created equal, and to make sure you’re really getting an upgrade you need to make sure you buy the right ones. That’s where we come in.
And if you're looking speed up your whole network, remember you could see massive gains by upgrading your router - check out our router reviews to see what we recommend.
Ethernet cable buying advice
There are basically three main factors to consider when buying an ethernet cable: category, length, and style.
This is the most important thing to consider, as different ethernet categories can carry wildly varying speeds and levels of interference. The options you’re mostly likely to see are Cat5e (the ‘e’ stands for enhanced), Cat6 and Cat7.
As you might have guessed, higher numbers tend to mean faster speeds. Cat5e is rated for 1Gbps and bandwidths of 100MHz, Cat6 offers up to 10Gbps at up to 250MHz bandwidth, and Cat7 can go as high as 100Gbps with bandwidths up to 600 MHz.
The other major difference is that Cat7 cables are always shielded, which helps reduce interference and crosstalk. Cat6 cables are sometimes shielded, though retailers often aren’t clear when they are and aren’t, and Cat5e cables never have shielding.
Since most ethernet cables are fairly cheap, there’s an argument for buying Cat7 cables - especially for shorter (and thus cheaper) cables. However, most users won’t see any real speed benefits from Cat7, so Cat6 is probably the sweet spot for most - unless you want to be certain you’re future-proofing your cabling.
Alongside category, length is the next most important element of an ethernet cable. Partly that’s obviously just a question of how far you need the cable to reach, but it also relates to speed and performance.
Speeds can drop off over longer distances, especially with the more modern cables - for example, that Cat7 speed of 100Gbps is only up to a range of 15m, while a Cat5e maintains its highest speed for up to 100m.
Still, the average consumer isn’t likely to be cabling anything anywhere 100m, and even 15m is probably longer than many people will need for their homes, so we wouldn’t worry about this too much - just try to avoid buying a 50m cable when you only need it to stretch across one room.
Finally, one small thing: many ethernet cables are available in a flat design. This may bump up the price ever so slightly, but could be well worth it if you expect to thread the cable under any doors. You’ll thank us later.
AmazonBasics Cat6 Cable
We're big proponents of the AmazonBasics range for simple tech accessories and peripherals, and it's no different with ethernet cables.
This is a pretty standard Cat6 cable, so should be fast enough for most people's needs, and is available in lengths ranging from 0.9m/3ft all the way up to 15m/50ft. You can even buy some of the sizes in multipacks, perfect if you know you have a few different things to network together.
GizzmoHeaven Cat7 Flat Cable
These cables from GizzmoHeaven have a few things going for them. For one, they're Cat7, which means they offer about the fastest speeds you can get from ethernet. They're also flat, so ideal for wiring through the house; come in a wide array of colours; and come in varying lengths including a very short 0.5m/1.6ft option.
UGreen Cat7 Flat Cable
This UGreen cable is pretty similar to the GizzmoHeaven option - flat and Cat7 - but without the flashy colour options, or the super-short 0.5m cable.
So what's the advantage? It's cheaper, making it one of the best value ways to get flat Cat7 cabling around your house.
AmazonBasics Cat5e Cable
These are boring and basics and plain white and they get the job done. AmazonBasics strikes again.
This time it's with Cat5e cables, which will offer lower speeds, but are great if you mostly care about reliability, or know your internet speed will be a limiting factor anyway. Available ranging from 4m/14ft up to 15m/50ft.
UGreen Ethernet Extension Cable
At first an ethernet extension cable might seem like an unnecessary bother - surely you can just buy a longer cable for about the same price - but there's an extra benefit you might not think of.
If you're going to run the cable anywhere it could be a trip hazard, this extension could protect your computer or router's ethernet port in case the cable gets yanked out unexpectedly. Instead of risking damaging the hard-to-replace port on your device, the extension lead could take the brunt of it, leaving you with a much cheaper replacement to worry about.
This version is also Cat6 with shielding, so should ensure high enough speeds for most use - just make sure you pair it with a similarly speedy cable.