Standard vs Enhanced Keyboard | What’s the Difference?


Keyboards nowadays are perfectly designed to fit the ergonomic needs of the users. As keyboard enthusiasts, we’re blessed to be living in the generation where keyboard technology is reaching its peak. However, technology wasn’t always like this. There was a time where enhanced keyboards weren’t a thing and only standard keyboards were found in the market.

You might be wondering, what are Standard and Enhanced keyboards? There are some differences between the two versions of keyboards and this is what we are going to discuss today. These terms are mostly avoided now with the invention of gaming, ergonomic, split, mechanical, and other types of keyboards. But I’m here to answer your question.

In this article, I’m going to talk about standard keyboards and modern enhanced keyboards and explain the differences between the two. So, if you want to learn about keyboards’ history, make sure that you read this article till the end.

Standard vs Enhanced Keyboard  What's the Difference

What is a Standard Keyboard?

A keyboard that comes with 10 function keys on the keyboard’s left side, a single Ctrl key, and a single Alt key is known as a standard keyboard. It was popular in the keyboard industry around the early 1980s. These keyboards were one of the first keyboards to be used with computers since keyboards were mostly used for typewriters at the time.

IBM Model F Keyboard

The keyboard which was released with the original IBM PC in 1981 is the Model F keyboard. The Model F came with 84 dedicated keys. It was a standard layout keyboard.

There were 10 function keys from F1 to F10 on the left side of the keyboard, and there was a border between the function keys and the rest of the keyboard where the Esc key was placed within the cluster of the other keys on the keyboard.

It was a handy design and felt very natural to typists and computer users. But it wasn’t perfect, and that’s why IBM felt that they need to switch up the layout to make the keyboarding efficiency perfect.

What is an Enhanced Keyboard?

Around the end of the 1980s, the standard keyboard layout was ditched, and a better, more effective approach towards the keyboard layout was taken. This led to the creation of Enhanced keyboards.

An enhanced keyboard comes with 12 function keys row on the top of the keyboard, double Ctrl keys, and two Alt keys. This keyboard layout led to the creation of hundreds of thousands of new keyboards. Every mechanical, ergonomic, split, wireless, and gaming keyboard is based on the enhanced keyboard style, which is an incredible achievement in history.

IBM Model M Keyboard

The IBM Model M keyboard was invented in 1986 when the keyboard industry was starting to rise to popularity. This was the first keyboard that adopted the non-standard or enhanced keyboard layout.

The Model M keyboard featured 101 keys, but the good thing was that there were 12 function keys from F1 to F12, and additional control and alt keys were also introduced in it.

The Model M is considered one of the best keyboards in history. Select companies still manufacture them for vintage keyboard lovers who want the same strong framed, satisfactory, and efficient original enhanced keyboard.

Differences Between Standard and Enhanced Keyboards

Wondering what differences standard and enhanced keyboards have between them? Let’s take a look at all the major and minor differences that both the layouts have so you can understand the historical evolution of a keyboard and choose your favorite.

Caps Lock and Esc Placement

In the original standard Model F keyboard, the caps lock was placed beneath the right shift key, whereas the Esc key was placed right next to the 1 key, and this placement halted the efficiency of the keyboard usage.

That’s why the enhanced keyboard in Model M placed the caps lock and Esc keys differently. The Caps Lock was placed under the Tab key, whereas the Esc key was placed in the Function key row with a considerable distance from the F1 key, so it didn’t get pressed accidentally. This proved very good in maintaining the natural feel and at the same time increasing efficiency.

Function Keys Differences

The biggest difference, without a doubt, is the number of function keys in both the keyboards. As we know, the standard keyboards have only 10 function keys, and they were placed in two columns on the left side. Simultaneously, there were 12 function keys in one row on the top in the enhanced keyboard layout.

The placement of the function keys in the enhanced keyboard layout makes usability easier and doesn’t drive the keys too far away from the keyboard’s other keys. Simultaneously, an increased number of keys allows users to utilize more functions to make usage easier and efficient.

Extra Ctrl and Alt Key Placement

We know that in comparison to the standard keyboards, enhanced keyboards come with one extra Ctrl key and an extra Alt key. But the placement of the keys is what truly makes the difference.

Taking notes from the original left and right-shift design, IBM added one extra Ctrl key below the right-shift and an Alt key next to it. This allowed users to utilize the keys and use macros very effectively without causing any entanglement or discomfort between the hand placements.

Extra Enter Key

On the right side of the keyboard, with the numeric pad, there was an extra enter key introduced in the enhanced keyboards so that calculations can be done easier, whereas, in the earlier standard models, you’d have to reach the one Enter key in the middle if you’re crunching numbers or making calculations. So, that was a great move.


These were all the differences between standard and enhanced keyboards. Nowadays, most of the manufactured keyboards have an enhanced layout, but some vintage keyboards still come with the standard layout if you’re interested. As a keyboard lover, I hope that you have a great typing experience with whichever keyboard you’re using. Thanks for reading!

Recent Content