Hardware wallets are small electronic devices designed for the offline storage of crypto coins.
Why do You Need to Store Your Crypto Coins Offline?
The ownership of cryptocurrencies means you own private and public keys, which are in essence a code consisting of a long string of characters. This code is the “key” and only means to get to your little space of the blockchain that holds the record of your coin.
If you trade through an exchange like Coinbase or BitTrex, they keep these keys on their platform.
[Also Read: How To Get Started Trading Altcoin]
This is a risk, as you are trusting your fortune to the security measures (or lack thereof) of people who are the target of daily hacking attempts. Your only protection is the safety measures they have in place. The problem is that crypto exchanges are not as regulated the rest of the financial industry yet.
What Are the Options for Storing my Crypto Keys Offline?
You can store your keys:
- On your computer in a Crypto Wallet
- On Paper
- In a Hardware Crypto Wallet (We look at the best four below)
A crypto wallet is a storage drive or vault that contains a digital wallet. The coins are stored in the wallet and accessible via computers or smartphones. Most hardware wallets must connect to a computer or smartphone for the user to access the coins and spend them on the internet.
Top Four Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallets on the Market Today
- Ledger Nano S
- Ledger HW.1
All of these devices are available at major online retailers such as Amazon and direct from the manufacturers.
The TREZOR originally billed as the Bitcoin Safe, is the oldest and one of the most popular wallets on the market.
The TREZOR is popular because it is the toughest wallet available. The device is waterproof and has a strong body that provides protection from wear and tear. Many people like TREZOR for travel, and more use outdoors or in daily use.
TREZOR is a little more expensive but buyers get a lot of features for their money including:
- Ethereum Integration
- Password Manager
- MyEtherWallet Integration
- Two Factor Authentication
- Document Encryption
- Strong, Waterproof case
- Can connect with Android Smartphones
- Works with newer versions of Windows, Apple IOs, Linux, Google Chrome and Android operating systems.
There are some drawbacks to the TREZOR, it can be hard to use with two just two buttons and a small screen. It only stores a few cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, DASH, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. Although those are the currencies a real person is likely to use in the real world. Some popular cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin, are not supported by the TREZOR.
A big plus for the TREZOR is that it is easy to find through Amazon and its maker, Satoshi Labs in the Czech Republic. TREZORs can be ordered directly from Satoshi Labs for €89 ($106.64). Lower prices are available at Amazon and TREZOR is available through Amazon Prime.
The French-made Ledger Nano S has become the most popular hardware wallet on the market. Even though it is not as tough as the TREZOR, the Nano S is slightly cheaper and more versatile.
The Nano can store several more currencies than the TREZOR; including Stratis and Dogecoin, which makes it popular with cryptocurrency geeks. The device is much cheaper than the TREZOR selling for €58 or $63. Unfortunately, the Nano S can be hard to find because it is often sold out at Amazon and other websites.
The Nano S’s biggest drawback is its fragility – it is not waterproof or as tough as the TREZOR. The device comes with a folding cover that can break.
Some users report that the Chrome extensions needed to activate Nano S, maybe hard to install. The device’s design is also rather cumbersome, the tiny screen is hard to read and the buttons on bottom hard to use.
Its’ features are pretty much the same as the TREZOR’s, and you will have to connect it to a computer with internet access to use your altcoins. The computer will need to have a late model Windows, Chrome, Linux, or IOs operating system to work with Nano S.
A major drawback to Nano S is that it will not work with smartphones. The Nano S is a better product for those who are simply in search of a storage solution. Persons that want to use cryptocurrency on the goal will be better served by the TREZOR.
The KeepKey bills itself as “the simple hardware wallet.” Unlike TREZOR and Nano S, KeepKey is designed only to work with cryptocurrency solutions on a computer.
KeepKey is larger than both the Nano S and TREZOR, but has a bigger, easier to read screen many users like. Although like those devices, KeepKey is still small enough to stick in your pocket.
KeepKey’s top features include:
- Stores Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, DASH, Dogecoin, and Namecoin.
- Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible. That means it will work with Google Chrome devices.
- Android Compatible.
- Users can buy, sell or transfer coins directly on the device with ShapeShift as long as KeepKey is connected to a computer or smartphone with internet access.
KeepKey is a little pricey, it sells for $99 (€82.62) apiece on Amazon, but like the Ledger Nano S it is often sold out. The KeepKey can be ordered directly through Amazon Prime. Like the Nano S, the KeepKey is primarily a storage solution and might be too fragile to carry around with you.
The Ledger HW.1
The HW.1 is a simple, low-cost hardware wallet from the Nano S’s manufacturer Ledger. The best way to think of the HW.1 is as USB drive for cryptocurrency storage. It is a simple device that you connect directly to a USB port to access your computer.
The Ledger HW.1 has no screen or buttons, so you must plug it into a computer to use. It is compatible with devices that have Linux, Windows, and Apple IOs operating systems. The coins stored on the HW.1 are secured with a PIN code.
If you just want storage the HW.1 is a great option because it is cheap, selling for as low as $22.99 (€19.22) on Amazon with free shipping. You can even order multipacks that contain several HW.1s for even greater savings.
Three different editions of the Ledger HW.1 exist, the Classic, Multisig and Enterprise. The MultiSig (multi-signature) device is designed for multiple users while the Enterprise is designed with a greater level of security. An HW.1 is a good wallet if you need a storage solution that you can stick in the drawer or a safe.
Other Hardware Wallets
There are several other hardware wallets; including the Cryptosteel, on the market but the Nano S, TREZOR, HW.1, and KeepKey, are currently the Big Four. Shop around when you are looking for a wallet because prices can vary widely and supplies are often limited.
A number of newer and more elaborate wallets; including Ledger’s impressive Blue tablet-like device, are scheduled to come to market in the near future. Watch carefully because some of those gadgets might be superior to present-day wallets.
Disclaimer: Although we strive to make our research as accurate as possible, we cannot guarantee that some of the info in this article might become inaccurate over the coming months. We also cannot guarantee that the crypto devices we recommend are 100% reliable.