An Ethernet cable has RJ45 plugs on either end to connect a device to a modem or other device that connects to the Internet. Because it maintains the connection between devices, the plating is the most critical part of the RJ45 plug. The plating has to be able to maintain conductivity, so it must be made of some type of metal. The problem with most metals, however, is that they corrode over time. So although copper and nickel are good conductors, the signal quality will degrade as the connector is exposed to outside elements like humidity and moisture.
Though more common metals are prone to corrosion, there is one metal that doesn't corrode over time: gold. Not only is gold non-corrosive, but it is also highly conductive and durable. These characteristics make gold the best metal to use on Ethernet connector plugs. With no corrosion and little risk of getting damaged, gold-plated connectors will maintain a stable Internet connection over time.
The Importance of Microns
Different amounts of gold plating can be placed on connectors, and these amounts are measured in microns. The thinnest gold plating is called "flash" plating. This low-micron plating will actually wear out in a short amount of time. Thicker plating will last much longer. The thickest gold-plating available is 50 microns, which is the optimal thickness for maintaining a fast, stable Internet connection over time. Compared to standard metal connectors, a 50-micron gold-plated connector can deliver up to four times as much throughput.
Avoiding Inferior Ethernet Cables
FCC and IEC specifications call for a minimum amount of gold or nickel to be used in RJ45 plugs, but a recent study found that more than 50% of tested plugs did not meet this minimum. Because there are a large amount of inferior Ethernet cables on the market, it is important to look for those that specifically say that they have 50 microns of gold plating. FCC and IEC specifications also require connectors that are at least 99% pure gold and have no surface defects. Cable manufacturers do not generally advertise how pure the gold used in their connectors are, but there's a good chance they are using gold that's at least 99% pure if they are advertising that their Ethernet cables have 50 microns of gold plating.
The Bottom Line
The answer to whether 50-micron gold plating is important is a clear "yes." Because the connector has to maintain a constant signal, it needs to be durable enough to hold up over time and not corrode. Gold is the ideal material for achieving a strong, lasting Internet connection so you will not lose your signal and have to spend more money constantly replacing cables.
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