A bitcoin hardware wallet is a very simple device designed to solve one of the biggest problems facing cryptocurrency users.
The problem is storing and transporting altcoins and accessing them when you are travelling or away from your computer. The “wallet” solves this problem by allowing you to store bitcoins offline on a simple portable device similar to a USB drive. The drive is small enough to carry in your pocket but you can store large amounts of bitcoin in it.
Hardware wallets are also designed to make it easy to hide and keep bitcoin safe offline. A person can put one in a safe or safety-deposit box, or simply hide a unit somewhere in his or her home. Since they are small; the longest device on the market today is around 98 millimetres in length, it is easy to stash one in a drawer – or hide it behind some books on a shelf.
Even though a lot of people are not familiar with them; there are a few altcoin hardware wallets on the market. A recent search at Amazon turned up a dozen models ranging in price from $17.99 to $209.95 USD.
Not surprisingly a lot of people have trouble deciding which hardware wallet is the best. To make matters worse there are few ratings about such devices available from ecommerce sites.
In order to help you decide which bitcoin wallet to buy we evaluated some of the most popular models on the market and ranked them. Hopefully our research will help you make an informed decision. Below are our picks for the top three bitcoin storage units with a few details.
Popular Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallets
The three most popular are:
- The Ledger Nano S
- The TREZOR
- The KeepKEY
There are many other devices for sale out there, but these three usually come in tops in the reviews. They all have a good reputation and come from well-known companies.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
The Ledger Nano S
This French-designed device has a reputation for robust-safety features, but it can be a little hard to use. You will have to download a set of Google Chrome extensions in order to set it up, for example
Despite that the Nano S is popular because several altcoins can be stored on it including; bitcoins, ethereum, Etherereum Classic, Litecoin, Ripple, Zcash, Dash (Darkcoin), Stratis and Dogecoin. That makes it a good solution for serious cryptocurrency geeks or for people with investments in several different currencies.
Ledger Nano S Highlights
- Has the capacity to store several different cryptocurrencies on one device. Allows users to store more different varieties of altcoin than almost any other device on the market.
- Has a tiny screen so you can operate it without a computer.
- Works with three popular operating systems; Windows 7 and up, Mac 10.8 and up, and Linux.
- Looks like a normal USB stick, so it is fairly easy to carry and hide.
- Lightweight – it only weighs 16.8 grams
- The thin design is very easy to carry in your pocket. It is nine millimetres in depth and 18 millimetres in width.
- Can be ordered directly from the manufacturer Ledger online.
- Comes with a key chain.
- Is available through Amazon and Amazon Prime.
- USB 2.0 vault storage.
- Easy to carry in your pocket or hide in your purse or luggage.
- You can buy three packs of the Ledger Nano S through Amazon.
- Combination packages that include both the Ledger Nano S and another smaller wallet called the HW.1 are available through Amazon.
Ledger Nano S Top Lowlights
- It is a little pricey. Units were selling for $68.16 (€58) at Ledger’s website. Some wallets were selling for $198.88 on Amazon in the United States.
- It is a little complicated and can be hard to set up, because of drives you need to download.
- Some users reported having had a hard time setting it up.
- It is longer than other popular hardware wallets. The Nano S is 98 millimetres in height.
- The folding design is more prone to breakage.
- The small screen can be hard to see and use. You might need a magnifying glass to see it.
- Not waterproof.
- May not be rugged enough to survive travel or everyday use.
The TREZOR from Satoshi Labs is the best hardware wallet for serious cryptocurrency geeks. It is fairly small; but easy to use with a larger screen and big buttons for easy use. That combined with a simple also makes the TREZOR an excellent choice for everyday people looking for a simple offline bitcoin storage solution.
The most attractive feature of the TREZOR is the design; which is more like a calculator or an old-fashioned Blackberry phone than a USB drive. It is a real device designed for actual people to use rather than a stick. That means you will need to use a magnifying glass to read the screen as you would with most of the wallets on the market.
TREZOR is the Czech word for “vault;” which is a pretty good way to describe this device. Like the Nano S it can be a little hard to set up, because of the Chrome apps. Those apps reduce the number of screens necessary for operation but can take a while to figure out how to use.
The biggest drawback to the TREZOR is that it supports fewer varieties of cryptocurrency. That is not as a great a problem because the TREZOR will support all the altcoins that real beings might actually want to use. That includes bitcoin, ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin and Dash.
TREZOR would be ideal for persons who travel a lot and individuals who live in less than ideal environmental. For example people who live in disaster prone areas, developing nations or rough neighbourhoods.
- Easy to use design that’s more like a small calculator than a USB stick.
- Large buttons make for easy operation.
- Simple operating system makes it easy to access altcoins without a computer.
- Larger screen is easier to read.
- Supports all the major altcoins including; Dash, Zcash, Dogecoin, Litecoin, Namecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, ERC-20 Tokens, and Bitcoin.
- Better quality manufacturing and design.
- There is a custom TREZOR wallet cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Testnet.
- It is water resistant.
- Very sturdy that means it should survive if you drop it.
- Sturdy design with no easily breakable parts.
- Strong cryptography. Satoshi Labs claims to use the most advanced standards in encryption and blockchain programming.
- 120 MHZ ARM processor
- Lightweight – it weighs just 12 grams
- Small size: just 60 millimetres long, 30 millimetres wide and six millimetres in depth.
- Runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux operating systems.
- Runs on the Android operating system for mobile devices. That means it is compatible with Android phones and tablets.
- Meets quality, reliability and environmental standards.
- Two factor authentication.
- Comes with a cryptocurrency wallet.
- It is compatible with some online services including WordPress, Bitex and Bitwala.
- Available through Amazon and Amazon Prime.
- It is more expensive than comparable models. The price per unit is $104.59 (€89) at Satoshi Labs’ website. It cost $214 from Amazon Prime and was selling for $164.95 on Amazon in the United States.
- Does not support some popular cryptocurrencies – including Ripple, Stratis and Komodo.
- Not compatible with Apple or Windows phones.
- Not compatible with many popular bitcoin wallets including Coinbase and BitPay.
- Can be a bit intimidating to casual cryptocurrency users.
This device has a slightly different design than TREZOR and Nano S, it looks like a small black box rather than a calculator or a USB drive. This wallet was designed for simplicity and ease of use rather than sturdiness which will make it less attractive to serious altcoin users.
There are some really nice features on KeepKey; including a very large easy to read screen. It is also designed to provide easy cryptocurrency backup by plugging it into your computer via a USB cord.
KeepKey is designed to be more of a multi-device exchange medium rather than a storage solution. It would probably be best for persons who have to use more than one computer during the day or those who lack their own computer.
The KeepKey would probably be best for a person who wants to keep a hardware wallet at home or the office. Persons that travel a lot will find it awkward and more prone to damage than the TREZOR or the Nano S.
- It is a little cheaper than TREZOR and Nano S, reportedly retailing at around $99.
- Large easy to read display so you will not need a magnifying glass.
- Works on Windows, Linux, Mac OS and Android operating systems.
- Stores the major altcoins including: Litecoin, Namecoin, Dash, Testnet, Dogecoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin.
- Supported by some major bitcoin solution provider including Electrum, Multibit and Mycelium.
- Simple design.
- Easy to use all you to do is plug it in.
- Designed to be malware resistant.
- Comes with a recovery backup card.
- Starts quickly.
- No special drivers are required when used with most computers.
- Can be hard to find; it is advertised on Amazon, but was not available through that website on 29 July 2017.
- The price is unknown because supplies are limited.
- Does not support some major cryptocurrencies including Ripple, Ethereum Classic and ERC-20 Tokens.
- It is not waterproof.
- May not be as rugged as the TREZOR, so it might not survive travel or day to dayuse.
- Large size it is in 38 millimetres in length, 93.5 millimetres in width and 12.2 millimetres in depth. This might be too large to keep in your pocket; so you’ll have to put it in a special carrying case, which means it might be more likely to get lost or stolen.
- It is heavier than other popular bitcoin hardware wallets. The current model of the KeepKey ways around 54 grams.
- Unlike TREZOR and the Ledger Nano S you cannot order it directly from the manufacturer.
- Amazon appears to be the only retailer for this device in some regions such as the United States.
- Not available through Amazon Prime in the United States.
The Best Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet
So which is the best?
The Best: Nano Ledger S
The best Hardware wallet, and the one the author of this post owns, is the Nano Ledger S. It’s small (the size of a USB key) and supports a number of the main crypto currencies. It’s easy to use most people say it’s their favorite hardware wallet.
The only downside is the long wait times. The Nano Ledger S is so popular that it can take 2-3 months after ordering the device from the website to receive it. You can buy it on Amazon from some third party sellers, but the price is over $250 instead of $60 and there is the risk the device could be tampered with (the official website features a video that show you how to open up the device to check for this, just to verify your device has been untampered with — I recommend you follow this if you do buy it on Amazon).
Long delay aside, the Nano Ledger S is a must-buy device. Keep an eye on the new Nano Ledger device which is called Nano Blue Ledger. It offers the same functionality as the Ledger S, but features a touchscreen.
The Runner Up: TREZOR
Our RUNNER UP choice for the Best All-Around Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet is the TREZOR.
It’s simple, small and rugged design makes TREZOR that device ideal for use by both ordinary people and altcoin fanatics. Serious users like miners and financial industry workers will appreciate the strong encryption. Travelers will like the rugged construction and everybody will appreciate the fact it is water proof.
It also works with all the big name cryptocurrencies that are widely used; including bitcoin, Litecoin and ethereum. Therefore it will serve the purposes of the vast majority of altcoin users.
Another selling point is that the TREZOR is fairly easy to buy; through big online retailers like Amazon, and directly from Satoshi Labs. That means support is available, and additional wallets are easy to order.
The Trezor is a good alternative to the Nano Ledger S and also readily available without 2-3 month delays you face when ordering the Nano Ledger S from the Nano website.
Other Bitcoin Hardware Wallets
There are many other altcoin hardware wallets on the market today including some cheaper models like the Ledger HW.1. These units will suffice if you just want a cheap storage unit to stick in the drawer or the safe.
There are some serious disadvantages to those products because they are flimsy and can only be used with a direct connection. A big advantage to the smaller units is that they can be plugged in just like a USB stick. Another is that they might be easier to ship if need be.
Why you need a Bitcoin Hardware Wallet
Every cryptocurrency user should own one at least one altcoin hardware wallet; because of the fragility and vulnerability of the internet and the cloud. Even the most secure systems such as bitcoin wallets and mining operations can be hacked.
The cloud is vulnerable to many threats including cyberwarfare, government seizure, hackers, power outages and system failures. Any of these events anywhere in the world might make your cryptocurrency inaccessible.
If you have your money stored on a hardware wallet you will be always be to access your cryptocurrency. You will also be able to move it physically; for example if power in your town goes out you can simply stick your wallet in your pocket, and go to the next town to get your coins.
More importantly if you have a wallet you can keep your coins secure yourself by putting them in a safe or hiding them in a safe place. A hardware wallet can be stashed anywhere under the bed, under the mattress, in a safe, in your car or even a safe deposit box.
Something else that can be done with a hardware wallet is that it can be physically shipped. If need be you can send a hardware wallet to yourself or somebody else through the mail, UPS or FedEx. That can give you the ultimate means of hiding your altcoins if the worst happens.
Therefore hardware wallets are some of the best altcoin solutions available. Every cryptocurrency user should have at least one and use it on a regular basis. Having an offline storage option can make your life with altcoins far easier.
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