PatchSee Ethernet Cables

The PatchSee system, sold in the U.S. through Mitsubishi International Corporation, aims to clean up the tangle of Ethernet cables in your server room. PatchSee cables feature optical fiber that runs inside the cable—you shine light into one end of the cable using a special tool, and the other end lights up. Mitsubishi offers a variety of PatchSee cables, including phone, Category 5e, and Category 6a cables.

The lights identifying the cables are small but clearly visible in most viewing conditions. It was easy to find the other end of a cable in a well-lit room with fluorescent lights, but direct sunlight overpowered the light from the cables. In Figure 1, the blue dot on the cable in the 3X slot is the light from the other end of that cable.

Also visible in Figure 1 is the cables' other distinguishing characteristic, PatchClips. These colored plastic clips snap firmly onto cable jacks. In the picture, you can see PatchClips colored red, yellow, green, and blue from left to right. As long as you're looking up at the cables from below, the PatchClips are easy to see, but they're mostly obscured when looked at from above. Because the PatchClips are just a color, you need a key to get any meaning out of them, and many of the 16 different PatchClip colors are similar to one another. I don't see the point of PatchClips—they don't do anything you couldn't do with colored tape, and they have the disadvantage that you can't write on them.

An important limitation to PatchSee cables is that you can't cut cables to the lengths you need as you can with standard Ethernet cables. 100' Cat 6 cables are available from PatchSee, but most cable types are limited to at most 16 feet with PatchSee, and 100' Cat 6 cables are the longest offered. PatchSee cables are also more expensive than standard cables: a 16' Cat 6 PatchSee cable is about $13, but online stores offer 20' foot standard Cat 6 cables for under $5, and bulk length cable is even less expensive. If you can already tell where all the cables connect in your server room, PatchSee cables don't offer much for you. However, if your server room looks like a mass of spaghetti, these innovative and unique cables could be invaluable. The ability to check where a PatchSee cable ends without disconnecting it could also be useful in situations such as test beds where you frequently attach and remove Ethernet cables.

PROS: Allows tracing cables without risking disconnection; simple to use; light from optical fibers is very visible.
CONS: Cables are expensive compared to standard cables and limited to fixed lengths; PatchClips are hard to see from some angles.
RATING:3.5 out of 5
PRICE: PatchSee cable system starts at $45; 5′ Cat 5e cables cost about $6; 50′ Cat 6 cables cost about $30.
RECOMMENDATION: If you already have a system for keeping your Ethernet cables organized, you don't need PatchSee, but if you frequently need to figure out which cable leads where, PatchSee could be a lifesaver. CONTACT: PatchSee • 44-0-208-777-6161 •

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