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What do You need to Know about Keystone Jacks to Make the Right Purchase?

They may be small-sized but keystone jacks are integral parts of any high-end home entertainment system, a state-of-the-art computer unit with myriad accessories, or a complex data-hungry telecommunications unit like a local area network (LAN) in a busy office setting. A keystone jack is a female-type connector that is usually mounted on a patch panel or a wall plate. These are essentially snap-in packages in various standardized designs that help you mount many different types of cables and cords with varied conductors attached to electrical and electronic devices.

Picture of Cat5e RJ-45 Tooless Keystone Jack - Black

Keystone jacks are available in a variety of designs and each is suitable for a different type of application. The prime advantage of a keystone jack is its immense flexibility and versatility. Quite a few different types of these jacks can be mounted on one patch panel. It is interesting to note that the term “keystone” was coined to denote the particular shape of the jack that is almost similar to the usual RJ-11 wall-mounted jacks that are used to hook up a telephone unit, a dial-up computer modem, or a fax machine to a telephone line.

Knowing about the specific various common types of keystone jacks, their usage patterns, and how they can be used in many different scenarios will help you make the right purchase decision.

Different Types of Keystone Jacks

The many different types of keystone jacks vary mainly in terms of their physical dimensions and these differences determine the applications that a particular model can used for. The common types are described briefly below.

RJ-11 and RJ-12 Keystone Jacks

The RJ-11 and RJ-12 keystone jacks are the ideal connectors to be used when you want to install and/or extend your phone, modem, and fax connection to any room. These are available in “toolless” varieties that make it easy for you to install the wires without needing to use a screwdriver or buy special soldering device.

For the uninitiated, in the toolless type of RJ-11 and RJ-12 keystone jacks, there is a plastic clamp hinge at the back of the unit that can be hitched up to allow you to insert the wires and then pulled down to secure the wires firmly into the sockets. Most high-grade RJ-11 and RJ-12 keystone jacks contain a plastic key that acts as an additional locking device and further secures the connection. A wiring diagram is usually provided with many models to help guide you.

RJ-11 and RJ-12 keystone jacks display various telecom colors. Two lines, one long and one short, indicate the particular color of the wire that must be connected to a specific slot. The long patch of color denotes the primary color of the wire while the shorter one indicates the stripe color present on a wire. So, while buying these jacks, make sure that you buy one that provides a secure locking mechanism and shows the colors on the slots.

Cat5e Keystone Jacks

Picture of Cat5e Punch Down Keystone Jack - Green

The punch down-style Cat5e keystone jacks are ideally suited in Cat5e cabling scenarios in both domestics and commercial settings. The punch-down style of construction is popular because of its convenience—you no longer have to replace blades when you switch from keystone jacks to patch panels. What is more, the phosphor bronze termination contacts of some high-quality Cat5e keystone jacks add plenty of sturdiness to the unit and allow it to withstand numerous punch downs without falling apart.

However, while buying a Cat5e keystone jack, you must ensure that it meets the relevant industry standards—the TIA/EIA 568-B code. Adherence to the accepted standards ensures that your unit is durable, long lasting, and provides superior & tremendous performance. What is more, you should also ensure that the jack you buy has both the 568-A and 568-B wiring color codes are labeled properly. This does away with the need to label them yourself for the benefit of your technical team members or the burden to memorize the codes because you can set up the color scheme yourself.

Cat6 Keystone Jacks

The Cat6 keystone jack is one of the most sophisticated makes in the market right now and provides outstanding and top of the line performance both in domestic and business settings without putting a serious dent into your checking account. These jacks can be used with both home entertainment systems with their limited needs and complex data communication systems in offices, like UTP Ethernet networks, where signals need to be transmitted at lightning fast speeds and with absolutely no hitches.

Some of the high-grade punch-down varieties of these keystone jacks contain phosphor bronze contacts with strain relief caps that diffuse the physical pressures on the joints and enable the jack to withstand countless punches without breakage. These termination contacts securely lock the cords and cables that are connected to the keystone and ensure there is no disruption in signal transmission.

The termination contacts on some models of Cat6 keystone jacks may also be gold plated to provide an additional degree of robustness and enhanced conductivity. These jacks are well-suited to be used with unloaded keystone wall plates and patch panels, surface boxes, and angled multimedia wall plates.

Cat6 keystone jacks are available in a variety of colors to suit the specific housing requirements. While buying such jacks, you must however, ensure that the ports on the unit have color codes on them to guide you when inserting wires. You should also ensure that the keystone jack is sturdily built and provides a secure locking mechanism for the wires.

While buying one or more of the above-mentioned keystone jacks or any other type, make sure that it has a compact casing that will fit into a standard-sized face plate, panel, or outlet box without you needing to push and pry it. Apart from checking the durability of the unit, also make sure that the device adheres to all the requisite technical standards. Keystone jacks are not at all expensive but checking for these parameters will ensure that you do not have to contend with less-than-optimal performance or compatibility issues. This should spare you from any setbacks, performance issues, and the ensuing frustration that normally follows these experiences.

Your business will benefit in more ways than one.

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