Flat Ethernet Cable vs Round: Which to Use and When

When setting up a wired local area network, one of the most basic but important decisions is which type of Ethernet cable to use to connect devices. Ethernet cables come in two common styles: flat and round.

Both have unique advantages and disadvantages in terms of flexibility, durability, compatibility, aesthetics, and cost. Looking at the key differences between flat and round Ethernet cables can help choose the right option for any networking project.

Selecting the proper cable variety can make installation much simpler and ensure the network is optimized for its intended use case.

What are Flat Ethernet Cables?

Flat ethernet cables, sometimes called ribbon cables, have a wide, flat design with parallel internal wires encased in plastic. This flattened shape allows the cable to be very flexible side-to-side, making it easy to install around corners and in tight spaces behind or underneath furniture and equipment.

Flat cables take up less bulk and lie flatter when running along floors, walls, and ceilings since they can hug surfaces closely. The parallel internal wires are spaced neatly side-by-side, which provides good interference protection and canceled-out electromagnetic noise.

This allows flat cables to maintain stable connections. The compact size and flexibility of flat ethernet cables make them optimal for small office and home office networking applications.

What are the advantages of flat ethernet cables?

  • Flexibility – the flat design can easily maneuver around bends and corners in tight areas. This allows installation even where space is extremely limited.
  • Compact size – flat cables are less bulky with a low profile, which is less obtrusive and easier to install in crowded tight spaces.
  • Aesthetics – flat cables hug surfaces closely and discretely, essentially hiding the cabling for a clean appearance.

What are Round Ethernet Cables?

Round ethernet cables have a traditional circular cross-section with twisted pairs of internal copper wiring. The rounded shape makes these cables quite durable and resistant to damage from bending, kinking, or twisting.

The internal twisted wire pairs limit electromagnetic interference for reliable connectivity. Round cables are readily available from most computer and electronics stores, while flat varieties can be harder to source.

This makes round cables very convenient to obtain. Additionally, all standard Ethernet ports and connectors are designed to work seamlessly with round cables. You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

What are the advantages of round ethernet cables?

  • Durability – round cables are tough with plastic sheathing and can withstand considerably more bending and abuse without signal degradation.
  • Compatibility – they work seamlessly with all standard Ethernet hardware without special connectors.
  • Availability – round cables are ubiquitous and easy to find at most electronics and computer retailers.

Flat Ethernet Cable vs Round: How Do They Compare?

When choosing between flat and round Ethernet cables, there are a few key considerations:

Installation environment – Flat cables are superior for tight spaces with a lot of corners and obstructions. Their flexibility suits tight areas behind furniture and all the nooks and crannies of a building. Round cables are likely the better choice for more open areas where flexibility is less important.

Permanence – Round cables tend to be more heavy-duty for permanent runs. The durability suits permanent infrastructure since they can withstand abuse. Flat cables work well for temporary setups because they are easy to install quickly.

Aesthetics – Flat cables hug surfaces closely and discretely, hiding away unsightly cables for a clean, minimalist appearance. Bulky round cables don’t look as nice.

Cost – Round cables are widely produced and available at very low cost. Specialty flat cables are more niche, so usually cost considerably more.

Which is better for flexibility and maneuvering in tight spaces?

Flat Ethernet cables are far better suited for flexibility and installation in cramped, tight spaces. Their slim flat design can easily make sharp 90-degree turns around corners and fit into narrow areas behind equipment or furniture. Complex wiring is a breeze with flexible flat cables.

Which cable is more durable and compatible with Ethernet hardware?

Round ethernet cables tend to be much more durable and compatible over the long term. Their circular design evenly distributes stress to resist damage from bending. Internal twisted pairs limit interference. Round cables work seamlessly with any standard Ethernet switch, router, computer, or device.

Recommendations for Use Cases

For home and small office networks, flat cables allow for simple setups and a clean appearance when running cabling around the desk and PCs. Flat cables prevent clutter. Permanent infrastructure like enterprise networks are better served by round cables. The robustness suits permanent installation for many years of reliable uptime and abuse resistance.

Consider the specific environment, network uses, traffic levels, and aesthetics when choosing flat or round. With an understanding of their comparative strengths, you can select the right Ethernet cable for any situation.


In summary, flat Ethernet cables provide exceptional flexibility which suits tight, small office spaces very well, but permanent networks are better served by durable round cables.

By weighing factors like installation challenges, permanence needs, aesthetics preferences, and budget, it’s possible to select the ideal Ethernet cable type for any networking requirement. Knowing these key differences allows an informed decision for smooth, fast, and reliable wired connectivity

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