PyTorch vs Keras in the Arena of Deep Learning Frameworks

PyTorch vs Keras in the Arena of Deep Learning Frameworks

Sun Jan 07 2024

PyTorch Vs Keras are two of the most popular open-source libraries for developing and training deep learning models. Both provide high-level APIs that enable data scientists and engineers to quickly build neural network architectures without getting into low-level programming details. However, there are some key differences between PyTorch and Keras in terms of architecture, use cases, performance, and overall functionality. This blog post provides a detailed comparison of the two PyTorch Vs Keras frameworks.

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Background of PyTorch Vs Keras

PyTorch is an open-source machine learning library developed by Facebook's AI research lab. It is used extensively in natural language processing, computer vision, and other AI research initiatives at Facebook. PyTorch was released in 2016 and has gained significant traction in the deep learning community, especially among researchers and graduate students. It is supported by Python and runs on top of the TensorFlow backend.

Keras is an API designed for fast prototyping of deep learning models. It was initially created in 2015 by Google engineer Francois Chollet as an abstraction layer over TensorFlow. Keras later expanded to support other backends like CNTK and PyTorch. A key advantage of Keras is its user-friendly interface and simple syntax, making it more approachable for beginners compared to other frameworks. It is popular for developing prototypes and simpler models in research and industry applications.

Read Also: PyTorch vs TensorFlow | Advantages and Disadvantages 

Background of PyTorch Vs Keras

Architectural Differences in PyTorch Vs Keras

One of the core differentiators between PyTorch vs Keras lies in their structural architectures. Keras utilizes a high-level abstraction for defining and training neural networks. The models in Keras are constructed by stacking compatible layers sequentially or through function composition. This creates a static computational graph that is defined and compiled in advance before training begins.

In contrast, PyTorch relies on dynamic computational graphs that are generated on the fly during runtime. The models are defined through native Python code rather than being confined to the structural conventions imposed by Keras. This provides finer grain control and flexibility when designing complex neural network architectures. Researchers can tweak models during runtime, which is difficult using Keras' static paradigm.

Architectural Differences in PyTorch Vs Keras

Functionality Comparison

Given its focus on fast prototyping in PyTorch Vs Keras, Keras offers a simple yet powerful interface for realizing common deep learning workflows. It provides high-level abstractions for defining feedforward neural networks, convolutional networks, recurrent networks, and other common model types. Keras also integrates utilities like automatic differentiation, vectorization, and GPU acceleration to speed up training. However, Keras has a more limited built-in library compared to PyTorch. Performing complex operations like 3D convolutions or transformer networks requires writing significant boilerplate code.

Flexibility and Python Ecosystem Integration in PyTorch

PyTorch provides a higher level of flexibility and exposes the entire Python ecosystem to developers. This allows researchers to leverage native Python control flows, debugging tools, and native operations with minimal constraints. As a result, PyTorch makes it easier to customize and tweak models, define new layers, lose functions, etc. The tradeoff is PyTorch requires more verbose code and has a steeper learning curve compared to Keras.

Ease of Use

For rapid prototyping of standard neural network architectures, Keras provides an easier on-ramp for practitioners due to its simple yet powerful high-level syntax. Common layers, objectives, and optimizers can be imported from the Keras library and put together via straightforward function calls. This simplifies and accelerates the model-building workflow, allowing data scientists to quickly iterate on different neural network architectures.

However, some users complain that Keras' abstraction obfuscates what is going on under the hood. Debugging and customization can be challenging. PyTorch offers developers more control by removing excess abstraction layers. But this comes at the cost of additional cognitive load. PyTorch integrates seamlessly with native Python tooling, enabling the use of out-of-the-box debugging and visualization capabilities. However, the coding flexibility means models and training scripts tend to be more complex.

Ease of Use


For most common models, Keras and PyTorch offer comparable performance.

PyTorch's Superiority in Complex Architectures

However, PyTorch shines in more complex computer vision and NLP architectures often used in research and production applications. The dynamic graphs and native code integration provide more opportunities to customize and optimize performance. For example, techniques like just-in-time compilation and quantization can be applied more seamlessly in PyTorch. Keras' higher-level abstractions present more limitations in this regard.

Read Also: NLP in machine learning | Techniques & Applications

Performance Evaluation

In terms of computational performance, some tests indicate PyTorch models tend to have faster training and inference times compared to equivalent Keras models. This is likely due to TensorFlow's additional overhead as the backend of Keras versus PyTorch's more optimized C++ core. But for simpler use cases, the performance differential is marginal.

Debugging Capabilities in PyTorch Vs Keras

Debugging deep learning model training and inference issues is vital to working with neural networks. PyTorch's integration with Python makes it fully compatible with native debugging utilities and visualization tools. Developers can instrument PyTorch code and analyze it line-by-line using Python debuggers. Keras' abstraction from the backend framework presents challenges in model introspection. Users have to rely on logging callback functions and monitoring metrics versus tracing code execution directly.

Overall, PyTorch's transparency and Pythonic nature provide richer capabilities for examining, troubleshooting, and profiling model architectures and training pipelines. Keras is comparably more of a Blackbox, making debugging tedious in many cases.

Debugging Capabilities in PyTorch Vs Keras

Community Support

Both Keras and PyTorch enjoy strong community support today. Keras benefits from its reputation as being beginner-friendly. Its wide adoption among students and enthusiasts ensures an abundance of tutorials and guides online. Keras is also popular among startups needing working prototypes fast. At the same time, PyTorch dominates deep learning research. The preferred frameworks for academics are PyTorch and TensorFlow. Most state-of-the-art papers and models are implemented in PyTorch. The framework is also gaining industry traction, having been productized by companies like Uber, Lyft, and others.


In summary, in the PyTorch Vs Keras scenario, Keras provides an easier on-ramp for beginners thanks to its simple syntax and abstractions. For standardized architectures and rapid prototyping needs, Keras enables building models quickly. But PyTorch offers researchers and developers greater customization potential at the cost of a steeper learning curve. For complex, non-standard models where flexibility and performance matter, PyTorch shines. The choice between frameworks ultimately depends on specific project needs and team skills. But both Keras and PyTorch are here to stay as leading options for deep learning workflows.

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