Even though prices for cryptocurrencies are up and down, there are more and more people becoming aware of cryptocurrencies and their use.
At this stage, they might understand how to buy and sell a cryptocurrency, but they are unaware of the best and most secure way to store their coins.
Here we will take a look at, and explain the best cryptocurrency hard wallet users can use to keep their finances safe.
There personal crypto bank account can be secure from all of the cryptographic magic which goes on behind the scenes and the devices go a long way to add users interaction into the whole crypto ecosystem.
- What is a Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet?
- Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet Reviews
- Hardware Crypto Wallet Pros
- Crypto Hardware Wallet Cons
- Hardware Wallet vs. Software Wallet
- Web or Online Wallets
- Best Crypto Hardware Wallet
What is a Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet?
Hardware wallets are electronic devices which are designed to be tamperproof and will protect and store all the private keys which give access to your cryptocurrencies.
The top wallets all come with similar features, but some excel in certain areas compared to others. In the most basic operation, a hardware wallet will generate your digital signatures, and where you will need to write down your recovery phrase (seed words) and store them safely.
With your device not being online for extended periods, they are hacker-proof and at the same time, they offer enough security to prevent loss of your keys or coins should your hardware wallet be stolen.
Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet Reviews
Not all hardware wallets offer the same functionality or support. Here we will look at some of the most popular and best hardware cryptocurrency wallet you can get that offers plenty of security, ease of usage and is the best hardware wallet for altcoins.
This is the original hardware wallet built for Bitcoin, but since then it has grown and become much more. It works as a USB dongle and can even be used on unsecured computers (although not recommended).
The Trezor wallet works on a Zero Trust approach which presents users with multi-layered security. This limits it being compromised by third parties.
When you look at the Ledger Nano S Vs. Trezor, they both use Chrome as their communication channel. But, Google is changing things with their Chrome Applications so there is already a new Trezor Bridge in place which will replace this. This means the Trezor Chrome extension will become obsolete.
- Affordable for the number of features and levels of encryption.
- Supports all significant cryptocurrencies – supports many other cryptocurrencies asides from Bitcoin.
- Passphrase Security – limits the way Trezor can be accessed and aids in hacking prevention.
- Trezor Set-up – The Trezor browser plug-in makes using a Trezor a breeze to make transactions.
- Password Manager – Trezor password manager encrypts each password separately with a unique key. All passwords remain on the device and can never be seen online or on the computer being used.
- Complicated Pin – It can take a while to set-up the plug-in. Also, users need to enter the pin by using an obscured keypad each time the Trezor requires logging into.
- It does offer limited transaction opportunities – The Trezor must be plugged into a computer to make any transaction. This makes it not “On the Go” friendly for transactions.
- USB cable is very short out of the box.
- No Trezor Promo code, but can save money by purchasing a pack of three.
The Trezor hardware wallet offers lots of support for cryptocurrencies, and if you want to know what coins does Trezor support the list would be huge.
On the main site they state support for over 500 digital currencies with the following ones as being the main ones:
- Ethereum Classic
- Bitcoin Gold
- Bitcoin Cash
For a small device, you might wonder how to use Trezor. It is straightforward with the screen large enough to hold six lines of text which is enough for signing in and making any transactions. Trezor support for security is the prime objective, and with three layers of protection, it achieves this easily.
If you wish to buy Trezor, it is advised to stick to reputable channels. The current price is around $100 which can vary slightly depending on exchange rates.
Ledger Nano S Review
Although not as old as Trezor, the Ledger Nano S has built up a solid reputation with very little being seen as a downside. It is a foldable designed device which looks like a USB drive when folded. Once opened it shows the screen with just 2-buttons needed for its operation.
Out of the top three hardware wallets with screens, it comes in as the cheapest. When you compare the Ledger Vs. Trezor it can be around $20 to $30 cheaper
- OLED interface – The screen is clear although narrow. All operations are conducted via the two buttons.
- High Levels of security – A Pin Code and a secure chip prevents private keys from being exposed. This chip is the same as on credit cards or passports.
- Anti-Tamper – The secure chip inside the device checks the overall integrity each time the device is powered on.
- Cryptocurrency Support – The Ledger Nano S supported coins now totals over 30 cryptocurrencies so multiple assets can be managed from one hardware wallet.
- App Support – The Ledger can run from 5 to 18 device apps simultaneously. Even if a device app is uninstalled, the private keys are fully secure. Bolos is the proprietary OS developed by Ledger. It creates a shield around each app on the device.
- Simple to use – Only two buttons are needed for all functions which are verified on the screen. Ledger Live companion aids in ease of making transactions.
- Feels Flimsy – because of the foldable design, the hinge can feel flimsy. It does, however, protect the device if dropped.
- The brand is still becoming recognized compared to other hardware wallets.
- The aluminum casing can dent if dropped.
- The small screen can be hard for some users to read.
Although this company is new, they are aiming to provide a device which caters well for any investor. The Ledger Nano S altcoins support is a testament to this because it supports a diverse range of altcoins which is away from the regular top currencies.
This is welcomed by many users who wish to break away from the market leaders. One such use is the device to be used as a Power Ledger wallet. POWR (Power Ledger) trades on the Ethereum distributed blockchain cryptocurrency network. The Ledger will hook into MyEtherWallet where it will display a user’s coin details and Bitcoin address.
The process for all ERC-20 tokens is similar, so support is widespread and not limited to this altcoin.
The Keepkey Wallet does the same functions as the two above hardware wallets. However, the device is much larger and can’t be considered portable. It is around twice the size and is the most expensive of the three devices.
The Keepkey Vs. Trezor shows it is a new addition to the market and has only been around since 2015. It did borrow from the Trezor code and was the second hardware wallet which was released with a screen.
- Solid metal body – this is tough and secure to avoid tampering, but it might get scratched when dropped.
- High security – Levels of protection are top notch, and this includes both virtual and physical theft.
- Seed creation – The Keepkey seeds are created from the hardware wallet and the computer which was used for its set-up. Seed length is 12 by default, but these can be increased to 18 or 24. All these are created offline.
- Privacy – Any hardware wallet is only as private as the software used with it. Keepkey Chrome, Electrum, and MultiBit HD are supported with Electrum being the most secure.
- Private Keys – These are randomly generated by the device’s hardware random number generator (another means of cryptography). The private key is stored on the device and remains there, this is pin protected should your device be lost or stolen.
- Compatibility – The Keepkey works with PC, Mac, Linux, and Android.
- Customer support is somewhat lacking, much of this stems from online reviews where users have questioned the reliability of the Keepkey Hardware Wallet device.
- Expensive – The Keepkey Vs. Ledger Nano S shows it is almost double the price.
- Ripple Support – At this time there is no Ripple support from the Keepkey Hardware Wallet.
Keepkey supports the main cryptocurrencies which are as follows: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Namecoin, and Dash.
Keepkey was acquired by the well-known Shapeshift, and since being taken over a new feature was added to the device. Now, directly from the Keepkey client, you can trade tokens directly without the need for creating an account on the exchange.
Honorable Mention: Digital Bitbox Review
Bitbox is another hardware wallet which is capable of storing Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bcash, and Litecoin. On first glance, it looks like a Micro SD adapter so it won’t attract too much attention if being used in a public area.
The device has no screen, and all you receive in the box is the Bitbox and an SD card. The Shift Team (a spin-off of Shift Devices AG) is based in Switzerland so construction is excellent. The device is coated with epoxy resin to protect the electrical elements inside.
There is no manual, but a link from where you can find information, and also perform the set-up. Once you read the instructions, you can download the desktop client. From here you go through adding passwords to the Bitbox wallet.
When you enter the wallet name and password (twice) the initialization process starts which creates sending and receiving addresses.
Private keys are stored on the SD card during this phase, and then it can be stored in a secure place. This differs from other hardware wallets because, with them, you need to write them down.
The device has a blinking light which is used for 2FA, and this is used by the user for confirming steps in the process. A touch button is built in, so it requires physical interaction to confirm transactions rather than just relying on an algorithm to make the decision.
The Digital Bitbox comes in around $20 cheaper than some other hardware wallets in this review.
Trezor Vs. Ledger Nano S Vs. KeepKey
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Hardware Crypto Wallet Pros
- All Private keys are secure and immune to any computer viruses because of the high level of security. This makes your device fully protected from both online and physical offline attacks or tampering.
- All of your Private keys are securely protected inside the Bitcoin hardware wallet hardware-microcontroller and cannot be transferred or seen in plain text by any means.
- Hardware wallets can be used quickly, and they are less hassle for making outgoing transactions and also accepting payments compared to the use of paper wallets.
- Secure Two-Factor security measures need to be followed when making transactions with your physical Bitcoin wallet.
- An altcoin hardware wallet is more robust than a paper wallet, they are constructed to be almost indestructible to a certain extent.
Crypto Hardware Wallet Cons
- A Hardware wallet isn’t free, however, for security, they are a good investment.
- Hardware wallets can be used on a malware infected PC, but when making transactions with a hardware wallet. The recipient’s address can still be swapped for one owned by a hacker.
- Some hardware wallets use a Random Number Generator (RNG), but they might not be generating entirely random keys. It is the RNG that selects private keys, and if it’s insecure, then a hacker could predict the outcome.
- Undiscovered software bugs inside the microcontroller could grant hackers access to a user’s private keys.
- Faulty production processes in devices and either software or hardware can introduce a potential loophole or backdoor for future hackers to use.
- Compromised shipping conditions can lead to swapped or modified hardware wallets. This leads to an identical replacement being sent and leaves the end user vulnerable to attacks.
- As your passcodes need to be remembered, you still need to write these down and keep them in secure locations. It is the same for pin codes, and should you lose these, you can’t access your funds.
Hardware Wallet vs. Software Wallet
When users are looking for digital currency wallets, they might be put off by the cost of hardware wallets and opt for cheaper or free alternatives. One of the most common alternatives users opt for, are software wallets. These are what are often termed as hot wallets.
On occasions, some of these wallets require a user to download the entire blockchain for the wallets to operate.
There are basically three types of these which we will look at here, and each has their pros and cons.
Web or Online Wallets
These wallets can be accessed by any browser and at any time. Due to this, any device which has a connection will have access anywhere around the world.
This type of software wallet allows the quickest way to make transactions without any delay.
A prime example of this would be a Coinbase wallet which sits on their servers. This makes the decentralized form none existent because your wallet is stored on centralized servers.
- Ideal for holding a small amount of crypto
- They are easier to access
- They offer quick peer to peer transaction times
- Hacking and theft is much easier
- Malware and viruses can lead to keys being stolen and account accessed
This type of wallet is one which is stored on a smartphone or a tablet. They can be used anywhere as long as you have a connection. These also hand for making on the go purchases and offer a little more protection than an online wallet when your device is offline.
- These are considered the best day-to-day wallet for transactions because they are easy to use on the go. They perform like a regular app but with higher security.
- One advantage is some with QR code scanning capability which makes payments easy.
- Mobile devices are typically insecure because of the way many connect to the internet. Each time you are connected, your wallet is exposed. As with many mobile apps, the developer could be new and might not adequately ensure the data integrity of their app.
These last software wallets are held on your computer, regardless of the brand or type. These face a similar threat of exposure as mobile devices because malware and viruses can lead to infections where keyloggers or the like are installed. Should a hacker compromise your computer, they can access your wallet.
- Private keys are not stored on any third party servers.
- They can work well with TOR (browser) software which can offer further privacy protection.
- Computers are continually being updated to fix vulnerabilities. Desktop wallets are prime targets for hackers regardless of how often the OS is updated.
- They are not mobile friendly so are not useful for daily purchases on the go.
When you compare all of the above software wallets, it is easy to see they are nowhere as safe as a USB crypto wallet.
Many of them also only support one currency, so this leads to many wallets being created. This is cumbersome, and also another security risk.
Hardware wallets create keys on demand, so the entire process is streamlined and more straightforward.
Comparing the two, the two most significant downsides of hardware wallets are the price, and also the fact they aren’t suitable for on the go purchases. What they do offer is a secure location for your keys which can’t be accessed by hackers.
Software wallets are ideal for convenience, as a security precaution, no significant amounts of altcoins or cryptocurrencies should be stored there for a long time.
If these don’t suffice, you can opt for a paper wallet, but these don’t offer any convenience and rely on you storing your keys in safe locations.
Best Crypto Hardware Wallet
After reviewing the top three hardware wallets, there is not much to choose between them. But after using them all to find which one offers the best security while being easy to use on a daily basis. Deciding how to select hardware was one factor which led to the best USB Bitcoin wallet coming out as Trezor.
Compared to the other two, it is neither overlarge like the Keepkey, so it can easily be slipped into a pocket or fastened to a keychain.
Unlike the Ledger Nano, it doesn’t have any flimsy parts, and it also comes with a screen which is easier to read.
When you open the Trezor app, you are presented with a crisp and clean interface which has been designed well. Other alternatives offer more crypto support, but for the majority of crypto investors, the coins which Trezor supports will be more than ample.
One other area which many users find better is the button placement. This can be done quickly while you are looking at the screen rather than fiddling along the edge.
The Trezor does cost more, but for this, you get better software, and it has been and is still being developed since Satoshi Nakamoto started his idea of virtual currency began. It is a stable mature device which in all its time has proved its robustness and reliability.
It is a worthy winner, and it could be a while before it is toppled from the top spot of hardware wallets.