RJ45 vs SFP Port: Which Should Be Used to Connect Two Switches?

Both run at 1000Mbps but differ a lot based on different connection types

It is always a question to choose an access switch with SFP ports or RJ45 Ethernet ports for 1000Mbps connections. Many people may ask about RJ45 port vs SFP port, what are the main differences? Which one suits better to your network? As RJ45 port and SFP port are already quite familiar to most users, thus here directly bring some principles that we could follow to choose between RJ45 port and SFP port while skipping the repeated introductions of what is SFP port or RJ45 port.

RJ45 or SFP Port: Selection Principles for 1000Mbps Connections

RJ45 vs SFP: connection types.It’s the most basic difference which decides many other features, so we put it at the very beginning. RJ45 ports support RJ45 Ethernet cable such as Cat5, CT6, etc. commonly used to connect a computer to a router. SFP ports are more versatile and accept fiber SFP modules with fiber optic cables (both single-mode and multimode), as well as copper SFP modules with Cat5e, Cat6, Cat7, Cat8 cables.

RJ45 vs SFP: maximum distance. The maximal transmission distance varies a lot due to the connections RJ45 and SFP ports used respectively. RJ45 ports support a maximum distance of 100 meters, making it more than enough for a home or small office network. SFP ports allow greater distances. MMF cables can reach up to 550-600 meters and SMF cables 150 kilometers. If connected with a Cat5 cable, SFP port follows a 100-meter limitation.

Feature SFP Port RJ45 Port
Connection Types copper SFP module + RJ45 Ethernet cable
(Cat5e/Cat6 or higher)

fiber SFP module + fiber optic cable
(SMF fiber / MMF fiber)
RJ45 Ethernet cable
(Cat5e/Cat6 or higher)
Max Distance MMF (550m) / SMF (150km) / RJ45 Ethernet cable (100m) 100m (330ft)
Data Rate 1000Mbps (1G) 1000Mbps (1G)

Actually, here comes another related switch port type, that is combo port. For example, this 24-port managed switch comes with 4x 1GE combo ports, 20x 1000BASE-X SFP ports, and 4x 10GE SFP+ ports. These 4 combo SFP/RJ45 ports allow users to use either SFP port or RJ45 port at a time for short-distance connections.

RJ45 vs SFP: Security

Now we know when the link distance is over 100 meters, SFP port with fiber SFP module must be considered instead of RJ45 Ethernet port with Ethernet cable. People may also want to learn about SFP 1000Mbps vs RJ45 1000Mbps when the connection is within 100 meters. Here are some other principles when deciding to use RJ45 port or SFP port.

RJ45 vs SFP: Security

Security. Using fiber SFP module is more secure than Cat5e/Cat6 RJ45 Ethernet cable in some worse circumstances. RJ45 cable uses electric current so it can be easier to catch on a fire/lightning while fiber SFP module has no such problem.

RJ45 vs SFP: Reliability

Fiber is often considered more reliable due to its properties. RJ45 Ethernet cable has the risk of EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) since it uses electric signals which can be easily affected by some external elements, such as high voltage.

RJ45 vs SFP: Latency

When connecting devices at a considerable distance, SFP ports have a lower latency compared to RJ45 ports that can give a worse service.

RJ45 vs SFP: Power Consumption

SFP ports have a lower consumption compared to RJ45 ports. Especially in a large network, the consumption difference is going to be far more obvious.

RJ45 vs SFP: Future Network Upgrade

If you’re planning to move to higher bandwidth, e.g. 10 Gbps, in the near future, fiber optic cable is more future-proof compared with Cat5e/Cat6 RJ45 Ethernet cable.

RJ45 vs SFP: Cost

Since RJ45 Ethernet port and SFP port actually run at the same speed, choosing RJ45 ports to connect switches might be more economical as Cat5e/Cat6 cable is lower-priced than the SFP connection with both transceivers and corresponding cables.

RJ45 vs SFP Port

RJ45 vs SFP Port: Real Cases for 1000Mbps Connections

Except for the above principles for choosing SFP 1000Mbps vs RJ45 1000Mbps, this part will introduce some real cases to give you a better understanding of the selection between RJ45 and SFP port.

RJ45 vs SFP: Connections Between Two Buildings

Case description: Two Gigabit switches are needed to connect two buildings 300 feet (91 meters) apart. For RJ45 switch vs SFP switch, which one should we choose?

ase analysis

Case analysis: For cost-saving, using RJ45 switches is better to connect the two buildings. In reality, more factors should be considered since the switches are in two buildings. Firstly, if the two buildings have separate electrical power inputs, then running copper between them could cause ground loop issues, so go fiber. Secondly, lightning strikes might matter when using copper cable across the buildings, so go fiber. If neither of the fiber or copper cabling is feasible, go wireless.

RJ45 vs SFP: Connections in the Racks

Case description: When building connections in the same rack, it seems SFP ports are always used instead of RJ45 Ethernet ports. Why use SFP ports in this situation though this solution costs a lot?

Case analysis

Case analysis: This is about connecting 1000Mbps switches on the same rack. SFP port is used instead of RJ45 port which can cause electrical interference. Another reason could be power consumption. When there are more than 100 links, choosing SFP ports is more power-saving than Ethernet ports.