Yubikey vs. Smartcard –which key would you choose?

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you are reading this article, you might be wondering about the state of your accounts or information contained in the online space. You may even want to improve it, which is why we write the Yubikey vs. Smartcard review and see how both of these measure up in terms of their security.

Passwords are understandably the bane of many– yet you require some form of security for your account. However, there is some hope. It all began with 2FA. The other form of protection is through U2F security keys, which are unique keys that are shaped like USB drives and do not require you to use your password.

In this article, we get to review two of them, the Yubikey vs. Smartcard. Both of them are similar in some ways, although the Yubikey is from Yubico while the Smartcard is from Google.

What are the differences between Yubikey and Smartcard? How do they compare?

U2F model Yubikey Smartcard
Dimensions (in inches) 2.6 x 1.6 x 0.2 1.7 x 0.8 x 0.1
Compatibility Chrome, as well as most FIDO compliant sites Any FIDO compliant website/browser
Open source Yes Yes
  Click here Click here

Yubikey vs. Smartcard – what are the differences?

Physical Design

If you are familiar with the online security space, you have likely heard of the Yubico Yubikey. It is widely popular due to the simple design and working mechanism.

The Smartcard security key works like a 2FA security system to eliminate password fatigue. This will assist you to maintain good password hygiene and good security levels. In the long term, it protects both your work and home accounts from security breaches.

In fact, the key comes with a built-in hardware chip, which contains firmware that is verified by Google – which means you are assured your key is legitimate and no one has tampered with it. The chips that are used in the hardware components have a design that resists physical attacks.

Compliant browsers

The Yubikey is very good at working with numerous protocols and platforms, such as through their tap-and-go authentication with Windows 10 devices and Android applications, as long as you use Chrome as your main browser.

On the other hand, the Smartcard key is able to work efficiently with most browsers, as well as the services that support FIDO standards (such as your social media accounts).

User experience

The Yubikey will include USB for the desktop experience and NFC for the mobile users, making it easy for you to use it regardless of the device you prefer. The main information that regards the use and any other questions you may have is on the main Yubico website.

For the Smartcard, you don’t need to worry about its friendliness even if you are a beginner. The key also supports two form factors, the NFC/Bluetooth/USB, and the USB/NFC. If you have a mobile device, you can use it as well due to the NFC/Bluetooth interface.


yubbikey vs smartcard

As it also gives you the chance to continue using your password, it is a very strong form of security as it helps stop identity thieves.There is not one specific Yubikey key, and the series is proving to be very popular among many, even for those that are just starting in the online security space.


  • Great process of setting up, which is really easy
  • Supports many protocols
  • Works very well when using NFC to connect to mobile devices


  • Needs some extra steps when setting it up
  • It fails to work with Office 365


yubikey vs smartcard

As mentioned before in this article, any malicious individual can get your password easily when they know the right places to look, such as tricking you by using a phishing email. The advantage of using authenticators such as these is that you do not necessarily need internet connection.

Al Google Cloud users allows admins to place a compulsory use of these keys for their employees and themselves, which enhances the online security of the organization.


  • It is easy to set up your account syncing with the key
  • Its design is stylish and durable
  • You get high protection for your data and accounts in general


  • You can only use it on sites that supports FIDO U2F

Final thoughts

Our process of reviewing Yubikey vs. Smartcard reveals a few conclusions. While it may look simple, the Yubikey does have the advantage (and it is our final winner) because of the high adaptability it has for different platforms, as well as being very easy to use once you set it up. However, both have their merits, and are good choices when you are starting out in online security matters.


What is the advantage of using U2F keys over 2FA authentication methods?

2FA, especially when it relies on text messages for authentication codes, can also be compromised when a hacker uses social engineering to break into your messages. U2F is the most reliable, as it allows you to access multiple accounts without the need of a password or exposure risks, all through the use of one device.

How do you use the key?

The use of the U2F key is not as difficult as it may seem on the surface, regardless of whether you deal in Yubikey or Smartcard. The key will basically work as a second factor authentication.

Additionally, when it comes to the wallet, simply plug in the device to an internet-enabled device or computer, and enter your PIN and confirm your transactions.

Is the U2F security key a biometric device?

This really depends on the model that you use. In certain models, you might need to tap the gold disk or button on the top of the security key so that you activate it. However, itis important to note that U2F keys are not a replacement of biometric methods of authentication.

What if they get stolen?

The person who steals the key or wallet cannot access your account unless they know your password, which they do not store.

When it comes to U2F do you need a separate key for each account?

No, you can use one key for multiple accounts.