ANSI vs ISO Keyboard: Which keyboard layout is better? 

Keyboards are essential components for computer users. Whether you are a programmer or gamer, you need a comfortable keyboard. Keyboard layouts determine how you interact with your computer. So, maybe you have encountered the ANSI vs ISO keyboard while doing your research. In this article, we will clarify the differences between these two keyboard types.

ANSI vs ISO Keyboard – Quick Comparison

ISO or International Organization for Standardization develops a wide range of standards including commercial standards. The standards are mainly used in European countries. ANSI or American National Standards Institute’s standards are used in the USA and Western European countries. 

If you are confused about the meaning of these two words, they simply are acronyms. Therefore, they represent different organizations for standardization.

Ten years ago, only one keyboard layout was used. Since computers were made according to the American standard, keyboards were adjusted to that standard. 

Today, we have two main computer keyboard layouts based on ISO and ANSI standards. Although every keyboard has the same purpose, these layouts have different designs. 

FeaturesISOANSI
StandardInternational Organization for StandardizationAmerican National Standards Institute
CompatibilityLess compatibleMore compatible
Enter KeyInverted L shaped Enter keyRectangle-shaped Enter key
Alt KeyThe Alt Graph key availableBoth Alt keys are the same
Left Shift Key50% smaller than the right Shift keyBoth Shift keys are the same size
Backslash KeyPlaced left from the Enter keyPlaced above the Enter key
Number of Keys (full-sized keyboards) 105104
Number of Keys (compact keyboards)8887
PriceExpensiveAffordable

The table above shows the major differences between these two keyboard types. As you can see, the most significant differences are key placement and size. In that manner, the ISO and ANSI keyboards are similar but have several differences. 

ISO Keyboard

ISO Keyboard
ISO Keyboard

Pros:

  • Bigger Enter key
  • Suitable for international languages
  • Alt Graph key
  • More keys compared to the ANSI keyboard

 Cons: 

  • Rare on the market
  • Expensive

ANSI Keyboard

ANSI Keyboard
ANSI Keyboard

Pros:

  • Suitable for gaming
  • Shift keys have the same size
  • Well-positioned keys
  • Compatible with a vast range of accessories

Cons:

  • No Alt Graph key
  • Fewer keys

ANSI vs ISO Keyboard: Main Differences

There are several types of keyboards. There are wired and wireless keyboards depending on the type of connection. 

The truth is, we can categorize keyboards based on many factors. For instance, if you are a gamer, you can choose mainstream, gaming, or mobile keyboards. There are also membrane keyboards, mechanical keyboards, and so on.  

However, we are actually comparing their layouts when comparing ISO vs ANSI keyboards. So, if you want a suitable keyboard, you should take this segment into account. Their differences come down to five keys. 

Enter Key

On the ISO keyboard, the enter key is tall and large, usually in the shape of an upside-down letter “L.” The ANSI keyboard’s enter key is more of a rectangular shape, and it is wider than the ISO keyboard enter key. 

Enter Key
Enter Key

Some people prefer the L shape of the Enter key without even knowing it. If you are one of them, now you know how to find a perfect keyboard. In this case, you need to invest in an ISO keyboard. 

Winner: ISO

Left Shift Key

When you look at the picture below, you can see that the left Shift key on the ISO keyboard is the same size as the left Ctrl key. They are placed next to each other. 

ISO Keyboard Left Shift
ISO Keyboard: The Left Shift Key and Ctrl Key

Also, the left and the right Shift keys are not the same size. The right Shift key is double the size of the left key. Therefore, it is more rectangular than the left one. 

ANSI Keyboard Left Shift
ANSI Keyboard: The same size Shift Keys

The ANSI keyboard has the left and the right Shift keys of the same size. They are usually rectangular and long. 

Winner: ANSI

Backslash Key

Another key that is located differently on these keyboard layouts is the Backslash key “\”. On the ISO keyboard, the Backslash key is placed on the left side of the enter key. The size of the key is just like any other letter key. 

The ANSI keyboard layout places the Backslash key above the Enter button. It is a slightly bigger key, the same size as the Ctrl key. 

Since the Enter key on the ISO keyboard is large, it is easier to locate the Backlash key next to it. Therefore, the ISO keyboards have a slight advantage in this segment. 

Winner: ISO

Right Alt Key

The Right Alt key on the ISO keyboard is actually called the Alt Graph key. When pressed with other keys on the keyboard, the Alt Graph key allows special features. So, the ISO keyboard and the Alt Graph key are for those who want extended symbol support for European languages

On the ANSI keyboard, usually, both the left and right Alt keys are the same when it comes to both names and sizes.

Winner: ISO 

Number of Keys

One more difference between these two keyboard layouts is the total number of keys. 

A full-sized ISO keyboard has 105 keys, while the ANSI keyboard has 104 keys. So, the ISO keyboard has one extra key compared to the ANSI keyboard. However, a compact-size keyboard has fewer keys, so the ratio is 88 to 87.

The key next to the left Shift key on the ISO keyboard could be assigned with a special character. This comes in handy if you use a keyboard in a language different from English. 

Winner: ISO 

ISO Keyboard

What is it

ISO is an acronym for the International Organization for Standardization. This keyboard layout is mostly popular in Europe. This is because these keyboards come with varieties of diacritics on the keyboard. 

It comes with an extra key to which you can assign a special character. Therefore, the ISO keyboards are a great choice if you are working with multiple languages. 

Advantages

The ISO keyboard is a great choice for international languages. This is why this keyboard is popular in Europe. Many European languages require the use of diacritics. Diacritic is a symbol you have seen above certain letters such as “á” or “è.” 

The AltGr key allows you to change between the different letter variants. You can still find these letters on the ANSI keyboard, but it is far more complicated. 

The extra key next to the left Shift key we mentioned above can be really useful. This especially applies if you are using a language different from English. Since a lot of languages have special characters, this can really come in handy. 

The backslash key is more reachable. This key is essential for certain professions which use this key a lot. For instance, software developers use this key frequently. Since it is placed on the left side of the enter key, it is more reachable. 

Disadvantages

The left Shift key is smaller. Since this key is smaller than the right Shift key, it might be slightly difficult to find it. This key is used frequently by many users. So, it is not that good for ergonomics, meaning you have to stretch your fingers more to reach it. 

ISO keyboards are rare on the market. You will generally encounter the ANSI keyboard more frequently than the ISO keyboard. As a result, you will probably have some difficulties finding keycaps to replace. 

And as a result, ISO keyboards are more expensive than ANSI keyboards

ANSI Keyboard

What is it

The ANSI keyboard is standardized by the American National Standards Institute. Therefore, it is no wonder that this keyboard layout is mainly used in the USA. But not only in America, but it’s also used all over the world.

This keyboard is primarily used for English. The full-sized version has 104 keys, while the compact ANSI keyboard has 87 keys. It has ergonomic functionality and is easy to use. There is a huge selection of these keyboards on the market.

Advantages

The position and size of the keys on the ANSI keyboards are very well-planned. It means you will not stretch your fingers too much to reach the most commonly used keys. 

There are plenty of accessories for the ANSI keyboard. Since there are a lot of ANSI keyboards available on the market, you can find the accessories easily. So, if you need keycaps, cables, or other accessories, you will not spend too much time searching for them. 

Disadvantages

As we mentioned above, the ANSI keyboard has one less key than the ISO keyboard. If you are using the keyboard in international languages, you will not have an extra key for a special character. 

Therefore, it is not the best choice for an international language (other than English). The ANSI keyboard usually does not come with the additional symbols on the keys. You can still use them, but not as easy as the ISO keyboard. 

ISO vs ANSI Keyboard: Which is Better

At first glance, choosing a new keyboard is easy. However, this might not be true in this case. The market is full of different keyboard types. So, consumers can be very confused in this process. 

If you use a keyboard for hours every day, its ergonomic design can definitely help you. They are designed to reduce joint stress. Another important thing to consider is the keyboard’s size. The size depends on how the keys are placed on the keyboard and the distance between them.

This is why it is important to choose between the ISO vs ANSI keyboard. The ISO keyboard has a large Enter key. If you do not like a small vertical Enter key, the choice is simple.  

However, if you want to play games, you can choose either of these types. Keep in mind that the ANSI keyboards are more affordable and compatible with other accessories on the market. So, if you want to have an option to upgrade or repair your keyboard, the ANSI keyboard might be a better choice. 

On the other hand, if you are a writer, the ISO keyboard offers more useful benefits. It supports international languages. In a combination with other keyboard keys, the AltGr key unlocks many opportunities. It can help you type foreign currency symbols, typographic marks, and accented letters faster.    

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use ANSI or ISO keyboard?

The ANSI keyboard is more popular since it has a more ergonomic layout. Each button is well-positioned so you will not stretch your fingers to reach the most popular keys. The keyboard is dominant on the market so you can find a vast range of compatible accessories such as keycaps or cables.  

Is ANSI same as ISO?

No. These are two different world standard organizations. ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. Standards of this organization are more present in European countries. ANSI stands for American National Standards Institute. So, ISO and ANSI keyboard layouts are based on their standards. 

Is ANSI or ISO better for gaming?

If you are a gamer, an ANSI keyboard might be a better choice for several reasons. The ANSI keyboard is compatible with a vast range of accessories on the market. The keyboard allows easy access to both Shift keys because they are the same size

Is a UK keyboard ANSI or ISO?

The most common keyboard in the UK is the ISO keyboard. This keyboard has a vertical Enter key. Each key on the keyboard is well-positioned. Therefore, the keyboard is suitable for gaming.   

Conclusion

For decades, keyboards have been the primary mechanism used to interact with computers. If you spend 8 hours at work in front of a computer, half of that time you spend typing text. This is roughly 20 hours of keyboard use in a five-day workweek. 

If you want to be more efficient it might be a good idea to determine which one is better, the ANSI vs ISO keyboard? We are going to help you answer this question. 

If you want a keyboard for gaming, a good choice might be the ANSI keyboard. It has well-positioned keys crucial for playing games. Both Shifts keys are the same size. 

The ANSI keyboard is affordable and more compatible with other keyboard accessories. For instance, if you want to change a key, there is a vast range of keycaps on the market.  

However, the ISO keyboard has more keys than the ANSI keyboard. But, this is not so important as the keyboard’s ability to give you a pleasant typing of foreign symbols and different letters. If you prefer typing in foreign languages, the ISO keyboard is for you. 

There are keyboards with a small vertical Enter key. If you do not prefer them, then you definitely need the ISO keyboard. 

About Alex

Hello, I'm Alex and this is my website, Spacehop. I started the site as a way to talk about myself, and a few years later we're now a team of 6! I still work full time at a major PC retailer in the UK, and I'm a bit of a tech whizz (self-proclaimed, unfortunately!).

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