What is the difference between RG59 and coaxial cable?

When setting up slick home media systems, you’ll likely hear two terms thrown around – the “RG59” and “coaxial” cables. But what exactly is the difference between RG59 and coaxial cable line? Are they the same? 

Well, no. Coaxial cables are a broader category of cables with concentric circular conductors that carry electrical signals. Various types exist for different applications. RG59 cables are just one specific coaxial subset.

This guide will discuss the differences and similarities between RG59 and its coaxial cable kin. We will also discuss the types available, their differences, potential uses, specifications, and much more.

What is a coaxial cable? How does this differ from RG59?

A coaxial cable is a wire with two copper conductors that share the same axis. These are:

  • A solid or stranded inner conductor 
  • Tubular outer conductor composed of braided wires and metallic foil. 

RG59 represents one type of coaxial cable. So, it falls under the coaxial family but has its own niche set of properties that suit various applications. Hence, there is not much difference between RG59 and coaxial cable. 

The common types of coaxial include:

  • RG-6: This type has a thick 18 American Wire Gauge (AWG) copper-coated steel conductor. 
  • RG-59: Contains a thinner diameter of 20 AWG and insulation compared to RG-6. These RG59 coaxial cable specifications make it more flexible.
  • RG-11: This type takes it further with an extra thick 14 AWG solid copper core. Together with its thick insulation, it is stiff and hard to work with.
  • RG-58: RG-59 has characteristics similar to those of this cable. They both have the same thickness and insulation. However, this can only handle 50 ohms compared to RG-59’s 75 ohms.
  • Hardline Cable: This coax has a large solid copper rod centre conductor and full metallic shielding. It also has layers of foam polyethene rather than solid plastic dielectrics to minimize signal loss.
  • Twinaxial Cable: Twinaxial contains two insulated copper inner conductors instead of a single conductor. It allows them to carry differential signals.
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What is an RG59 cable used for?

Due to RG59 coaxial cable specifications being thinner and less coated, it is now outdated. Its common uses are:

  • Analog antenna cable: For older antenna systems, RG59 remains suitable for the short run from a VHF/UHF antenna into a back-of-the-TV analog tuner. RG59 keeps costs down for these legacy setups.
  • Analog video accessories: Analog video devices like VCRs, modulators, amplifiers, and switchers may use RG-59/U coaxial cable patches for cost-effective analog connections. Thinner RG59 suits most analog video bandwidth needs.
  • Legacy analogue infrastructure: Buildings wired for analog security, cable TV, or MATV systems years back likely used RG59 cabling since it was cheaper and met analog bandwidth requirements. 

Will RG59 work for TV?

Despite being outdated, the RG59 coaxial cable will work for transmitting TV signals in many home installations.

Its adequate frequency range and shielding make it a cost-effective option for connecting televisions within a home. However, it may not perform adequately like modern cables.

What is an RG6 cable used for?

As you already know, this RG6 coax is the most modern cable that replaced the RG59. Some common applications of this newer cable include:

  • Satellite TV: RG6 is the standard coax cable used to connect a satellite dish. It could be to a receiver box or routing the signals around your home. 
  • Cable TV connections: All cable providers in countries like the US use RG6 for their drop lines. The RG6 thickness enables clear signal transmission of all cable TV frequencies.  
  • Connecting an antenna: Much like satellite dishes, RG6 is a well-suited antenna cable for indoor and outdoor antennas. When routing antenna feeds, it can handle the entire range of broadcast signals.
  • Whole-home video distribution: RG6 is thick enough to split and route cable box or media centre signals to multiple TV outlets without degradation of HD video quality.
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Difference between RG6 and RG59 connectors

Here are the major differences between RG-59 coaxial cable and RG6:

  • Conductor size: RG6 has an 18 AWG thick copper-coated steel wire conductor. RG59 uses a narrower 20 AWG conductor. 
  • Shielding: The braided metallic shielding is also thicker in RG6 coax
  • Signal loss: Due to the differences in conductor size and shielding, RG59 cables tend to have much higher signal loss, especially over long cable spans. 
  • Frequency response: RG6 has a higher frequency response range and can reliably transmit higher bandwidth signal frequencies than the thinner RG59 cable. 
  • Impedance: While both cables are designed for 75-ohm impedance, differences in construction mean variations in impedance over cable length can differ. It can cause reflection issues for digital signals.

Which cable is better, RG6 or RG59?

RG6 is the winner for sending video and internet signals around your house. The cable has a bigger metal wire in the middle, letting signals go farther without weakening. RG59’s skinny wire makes signals use up quicker over the same distance.

Also, RG6’s big fat wire lets it carry more types of signals. It works better for sending high-def TV, fast internet, and other new tech signals from place to place.

RG59 can’t handle these fancy new signals as well over long trips.

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Are RG6 and RG59 interchangeable?

Yes. However, RG59 coaxial cable connectors will perform poorly. The main issue is signal loss. Using thinner RG59 instead of RG6 could mean digital TV or data signals may not maintain integrity or strength. 

Also, these two coaxial connectors look similar but use different sizing. Connecting an RG59 cable to an RG6 jack may work initially but can eventually cause loose connections. The thinner RG59 dimensions will lead to intermittent problems. 

RG6 vs RG59 vs RG11

An RG11 Cable

Here is difference between RG59 and coaxial cable RG6 and RG11:

Conductor size and signal loss

RG6 uses an 18 AWG conductor, RG59 has a narrow 20 AWG conductor, while heavyweight RG11 boasts an ultra-thick 14 AWG conductor inside.

The thicker central core means that RG6, especially RG11, can carry signals farther distances with less degradation than RG59. RG11 is suited for the longest cable runs, from antennas to distribution boxes.

Frequency range

The fatter conductors in RG6 and RG11 also reliably transmit higher-frequency signals than the RG59 cable.

RG11’s big 14-AWG core makes it capable of the widest range of radio frequencies.

Flexibility and ease of installation 

On the flip side, RG59’s skinny dimensions make it the most manoeuvrable coax for pulling through tight spaces and around bends. But RG59 is also prone to kinking or damage without proper care.

RG11 is quite stiff and challenging to manipulate around corners, intended for point-to-point trunk line use.

Typical applications 

RG59’s flexibility is suited for analog short video runs inside a building, while RG6 serves well as an antenna cable and for whole-home video distribution. Big-boned RG11 is overkill inside homes but is used to feed signals from antennas to distribution boxes.  

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