Finding the Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet
A Bitcoin hardware wallet is a device that is kept offline, storing the private keys you need to use to access your bitcoins, and that is usually only accessible through a second-factor that you provide. This helps ensure your funds are kept secure. Choosing the best Bitcoin hardware wallet is a question of price, security, and ease-of-use.
If your choice isn’t secure, then it’s not worth looking at in the least. If you’re looking for the best Bitcoin hardware wallet, security is the most important issue. That’s why all the options I’ll present here are secure to use, even if your computer is compromised.
Past that, your personal budget and your familiarity with technology determine the price you want to pay and how easy it needs to be to use. Luckily, all three options I’ll present here are fairly simple.
First, and best known, is:
The Trezor is an entirely open-source project, the GitHub for which can be found here. This is very important, as it demonstrates confidence in their code.
The Trezor stores your private keys offline behind a passcode-protected wall. When you want to sign a transaction, the Trezor acts as a digital stamp to authorize it. The Trezor is a supremely secure and well-regarded option.
The downside? It’s not the cheapest option, retailing for $99 on the Trezor website. It’s also not the most expensive option on the market. That honor belongs to the next on our list:
Because, like Bitcoin, Trezor is an open-source project, it can be forked. And that’s exactly what happened in the case of the KeepKey. KeepKey is an open-source project very similar to the Trezor, but with improvements in aesthetics and construction quality.
The downside is pretty big, though: the KeepKey retails at a whopping $240. It’s hard to know if it’s a big enough improvement to be worth the price, but I will say that aesthetically speaking it’s a large improvement. For now, given the choice, I’d be choosing the Trezor over the KeepKey. But that would be before considering the third, very budget-conscious, alternative:
Ledger is a European company that has produced the lowest-price and sleekest options available in the Bitcoin hardware wallet sector. Their cheapest option is the Ledger HW.1, coming in at a mere €15, plus shipping and potentially VAT. The HW.1 is more aimed at developers, is a little harder to use and less physically protected.
Their slightly older and more consumer-focused, but equally secure and usable option, is the Ledger Nano, retailing at €29. If you’re US-based, Ledger has supplied Amazon.com with the Nano. You can find the Ledger Nano there for $38.99, or $42.50 for two of them (a pretty good deal, if I do say so myself!).
The last option they have on offer is the Ledger Unplugged, a contactless solution for secure Bitcoin wallet storage, again retailing for €29, and not yet available directly from the US. It’s a neat idea, though I’m not sure if it’s likely to be compatible with every system out there.
Ledger’s line of Bitcoin hardware wallets are clearly the budget-conscious answer. They’re also the smallest option available.
What’s the difference between Ledger and the KeepKey and Trezor? First, Ledger’s products are closed-source. Second, their products use software, rather than hardware, in order to store your coins. With the Trezor and the KeepKey, the hardware is, essentially, a program that runs the system used to keep your coins secure. With Ledger, it’s actually software. So while their products are not hardware wallets in exactly the same sense as the KeepKey and Trezor, they function in a nearly identical fashion.
So, the best Bitcoin hardware wallet?
While I consider all three options to be secure, experts in the field will tell you that a software implementation is intrinsically less secure, and that open-source software is intrinsically preferable to closed-source software. For those reasons, if you plan on storing a significant total value of bitcoins using this device, I would recommend the Trezor.
If you’re looking to store a smaller amount, if the price of the device matters a lot to you, or if the size matters to you, I would recommend one of the options from Ledger–most likely the Ledger Nano.
Lastly, if you want to burn some money or you really care about the aesthetics of the device, go for the KeepKey.