Best Bitcoin hardware wallet now makes bitcoin cold storage user friendly and affordable.

Password encrypted local bitcoin wallets offer no protection from theft by bitcoin stealing malware. The seed is stored in your wallet as well. Every time you spend bitcoin the wallet is unlocked and your password is in your computer or phone’s memory. If either is infected the malware has the password as soon as you enter it. Say goodbye to your hard earned bitcoin!

To prevent theft of your bitcoin you need to guard the private keys associated with your bitcoin addresses. Bitcoin cold storage is the process of keeping your private keys on an offline computer or hardware wallet.

Cold storage used to require you use a desktop bitcoin wallet like Armory or Electrum split between two separate computers, one always kept offline to store your private keys. To spend bitcoin you would create a transaction using the online wallet and then transfer it to the offline wallet using a USB drive. After signing the transaction on the offline computer you would take it back and broadcast using the online half of the wallet.

While still used by some the availability of inexpensive bitcoin hardware wallets is starting to replace the cumbersome procedure of using two computers to safely store your bitcoin. If you own more than a few bitcoin you need a hardware wallet but which is the best?

Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet for 2015

Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

Trezor was the first commercially successful and remains the best bitcoin hardware wallet of 2015. Your private keys are stored in the Trezor device which communicates with the myTrezor.com online wallet:

MyTrezor Web Wallet

To use Trezor you connect it by USB and create a transaction in your browser then sign using the Trezor. Avoid cheap Trezor clones like BWallet.

Trezor has been adding support for other bitcoin wallets like Electrum and Encompass: you can see the current list of supported wallets at Trezor Apps. Using Encompass with Trezor you have convenient cold storage not only for bitcoin but also litecoin and DASH. You can also use the same Trezor you use for bitcoin with the Electrum-LTC wallet.

How To Use Trezor With Mycelium Wallet On Android Phone

Perhaps the most exciting development is the ability to use Trezor in combination with the Mycelium wallet on your smartphone to provide cold storage on the go as the following video shows:

In order to use Trezor with your Android phone you will need a newer phone like the Samsung Galaxy S that supports powered USB Host mode, also called OTG (On The Go.)

You also have the option to send bitcoin anonymously from your phone using Trezor with Mycelium on the Tor network. All you need to do is install the Orbot app to route your data over Tor. See this guide for easy installation.

Trezor is the gold standard for bitcoin hardware wallets and is even used by the US Department of Homeland Security according to this post on BitcoinTalk. Trezor has stated that support for iPhone is planned but is low priority due to licensing restrictions.

What If My Android Phone Uses USB C?

Many new phones like the Nexus 5X and 6P use the new USB C female connection for charging and to transmit data. If you own a phone with USB C and need to use Trezor with Mycelium it has been difficult to find short cables until recently. You can now buy a one foot Fosman USB C to micro B cable on Amazon and we can confirm it works fine. Stay away from cheap adaptors and buy a quality cable.

Trezor includes a leash you can use to attach to your key ring. If you would like to carry your Trezor with you but want more protection the medium size Remote Tote fits Trezor and you can still attach the USB cable and press buttons through the plastic window:

Trezor in Remote Tote Connected by USB

According to this blog post myTrezor.com is moving away from the Bits of Proof proprietary backend server in favor of open source BitPay Bitcore. You can already try the new Bitcore servers at beta.myTrezor.com. If you do not want to run your own Bitcore full node (will need a laptop running Linux 24/7) there will be an option in myTrezor.com to connect to public Bitcore servers like localbitcoinschain.com, insight.bitpay.com or blockexplorer.com instead of the SatoshiLabs servers. Choices are always good to have and running your own Bitcore full node would give you maximum privacy.

Other Bitcoin Hardware Wallets Available Now

Pi-Wallet

piwalletPi-Wallet is a Raspberry Pi based bitcoin hardware wallet selling for 124.95 €. The wallet uses Bitcoin Armory stored on two SDHC cards.

Ledger HW.1

HW.1 Hardware Wallet

Ledger HW.1 is a USB smartcard based Bitcoin hardware wallet available for 15 €. It secures your private keys and transactions by keeping the private key inside the card and validating what you are signing using a second factor confirmation.

Ledger works with the recommended GreenAddress online bitcoin wallet similar to the way Trezor works with myTrezor.com. You can also use the HW.1 with your local Electrum wallet. The Ledger HW.1 is made of plastic while the Ledger Nano is metal, otherwise they function identically.

Ledger Nano

Ledger Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

Ledger Nano Wallet is another smartcard based hardware wallet selling for 29 €. It is paired with the native online Ledger Wallet or GreenAddress wallet both requiring Chrome Browser. Like the HW.1 you plug it into your laptop’s USB port. It is also possible to use the Ledger Wallet with Electrum see this guide for details.

While Ledger Nano is more affordable than Trezor it is less convenient to use because it lacks a screen. To help decide if Ledger is right for you take a look at this video:

Note that you will need to carry the secondary verification card with you to use the Ledger while the Trezor only requires you to memorize the PIN. The following video shows how you can also use Ledger with Mycelium wallet on your Android phone:

As of September there is now a second factor Ledger authentication app for your phone. The app can substitute for the security card as long as you are using Ledger on your laptop. Ledger works on Android only at this time and if using on your phone you will still have to carry the security card.

Ledger ships with a known security weakness: if the Ledger is initialized on a compromised laptop, the seed can be stolen by malware.

Since the seed phrase is displayed on your computer screen when you initialize it you must first use your Ledger on a computer you are certain is secure. Trezor does not have this problem as the seed is only displayed on the built in screen Trezor has but Ledger lacks.

Aware of the vulnerability Ledger provides a guide on how to initialize your wallet on an air gapped computer and now sells a Starter for the same reason.

Trezor also has advanced options that Ledger lacks. You can protect your wallet (and seed) with a passphrase and create as many hidden wallets as you like, each protected by a different passphrase. Ledger only provides two factor authentication using your phone. Ledger claims that passphrase protection for your seed is not critical as the seed is stored on the closed source smartcard element.

Hardbit

Hardbit Bitcoin WalletHardbit HB-01 is available for 0.329 bitcoin (about $135.) This bitcoin hardware wallet takes a different approach than the others. It works with its own Android app and communicates by scanning QR codes between the HB-01 and the app installed on your Android phone.

Case Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

Case is an interesting new bitcoin hardware wallet that doesn’t require a smartphone or a laptop. It has a built-in GSM chip to connect to the Internet. You spend bitcoin by using the built in scanner to scan a QR code and authorize the transaction using a fingerprint scanner.

To send bitcoin to the Case you use the receive feature to generate a receive address QR code. You can then send bitcoin from your existing bitcoin wallet to the address that’s encoded into the QR code. Please watch the following video for a user review of the Case:

On initial three hour charge of our Case the wireless charger did get warm but not hot as noted in the review.  After using the Case we are impressed. It is faster than using a Trezor with your phone. Our only complaint is that there is no way to check account balance directly from the Case. It is necessary to log into the dashboard from your laptop to verify how many bitcoin are available to spend.

Case has partnered with Celery to make it easy to buy and sell bitcoin directly from your Case wallet. During setup you can create and verify an account at Celery and link to your bank account.

Case is available for $199 at www.choosecase.com. The first production run of 1000 Case hardware wallets sold out but Case is shipping again as of February 26, 2016. Paid with bitcoin total cost with shipping to US is $219.

KeepKey Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

The KeepKey is actually a Trezor clone, a fork of the Trezor 1.3.3 source code. Price was kept secret until KeepKey shipped … really, we could find no hints of the price … but expected price to be competitive with Trezor.

Or maybe not? KeepKey sent us an email on 23 September to announce they were shipping. Price was $239 with free shipping.

We recently bought a KeepKey to compare with the other hardware wallets. Build quality is very good and it is easy to set up and use with the necessary Chrome extension. KeepKey also works with Multibit HD. Buyers need to be aware that KeepKey is missing features available only on Trezor and BitLox. For example there is no provision to protect your seed with a passphrase using the Chrome 0.3.7 proxy or Multibit HD.

KeepKey let us know they have no plans to add passphrase protection for Chrome. You can use passphrase protection with the latest Electrum-2.6.3. KeepKey does not work with any wallet on Android at this time.

How to Use Passphrase Protected Wallets with KeepKey Using Electrum-2.6.3 on Windows

From the KeepKey support desk:

  1. Download and Install Python v2.7.x (Latest Version) – https://www.python.org/downloads/
  2. Open Command Prompt (cmd) and enter following command – C:\python27\scripts\pip.exe install cython
  3. Install Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler for Python 2.7 – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=44266
  4. Open Command Prompt again and enter following command – C:\python27\scripts\pip.exe install https://github.com/keepkey/python-keepkey/archive/master.zip
  5. Download and Install PyQt4 – http://sourceforge.net/projects/pyqt/files/PyQt4/PyQt-4.11.4/PyQt4-4.11.4-gpl-Py2.7-Qt4.8.7-x32.exe
  6. Go to Electrum Downloads scroll down to Installation From Python Sources and download Electrum-2.6.3.zip to your desktop. Unzip and install to C:\ (do not specify a folder the installer will create the Electrum-2.6.3 folder for you.)
  7.  Now to open Electrum you will have to open a command prompt window and enter cd C:\Electrum-2.6.3
  8.  Once in C:\Electrum-2.6.3 in command prompt window enter “C:\Python27\python.exe electrum” (without quotes) and Electrum will startup.

Once Electrum is open connect your already initialized KeepKey and enter the PIN. Click the large K at the lower right to bring up options menu and turn on the passphrase option. You should now be able to create new wallets with passphrase protection.

Sounds like a pain right? It is apparent KeepKey does not want you to have the option to easily use passphrase protected wallets. Trezor gives you that option even in the Chrome extension and works quite well with Electrum without installing dependencies.

KeepKey appears to be marketed to first time hardware wallet users who want a large screen and mimimal options. It is a well made hardware wallet that provides PIN protection only using Chrome. If the ability to protect your seed with a passphrase is important to you (as well it should!) consider Trezor or BitLox instead.

On 25 March KeepKey reduced the price of the hardware wallet to $99 same as Trezor. Early customers are justifiably upset that their $239 KeepKey is now only worth less than half what they paid.

Also consider without Trezor there would be no KeepKey, since KeepKey was built on open source Trezor firmware. SatoshiLabs was the innovator with a two year track record of customer satisfaction.

BitLox Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

BitLox is a new metal cased bitcoin hardware wallet. The BitLox works with their own Web Wallet for Firefox and Safari, compatble with Windows, Mac and Linux. There is also a cross platform Chome App. See the video for the BitLox in use:

BitLox is unique in that it is the only bitcoin hardware wallet now working with iPhone. The company has both iOS and Android wallet apps that connect by Bluetooth LE.  BitLox does contain a battery you charge with the included micro USB cable.

Just like Trezor hidden wallets are possible. You can browse the user manual for more detail. BitLox ships from China and the unit costs $199 plus $18 shipping.

Stellaw has already published an article on his first impressions including a teardown but did not actually test the functions of the wallet. He was not happy that the firmware for the BitLox is not open source and therefore did not recommend the wallet.

Until CoolWallet is back in production BitLox is the only hardware wallet that will work with your iPhone. For more information visit our BitLox bitcoin hardware wallet review.

Recommendations

Trezor has earned its reputation as the best bitcoin hardware wallet for 2015. It just works, and works very well at an affordable price.

If you need a bitcoin hardware wallet that will work with Mycelium on your Android phone Trezor is our favorite option. With a Trezor and OTG cable for your Android phone you have portable cold storage for your bitcoin that would have required two separate computers only a year ago.

On a budget? Consider a Ledger HW.1 and Starter for $25. While Ledger is less expensive than Trezor many feel Trezor is worth $75 more than a Ledger for the convenience of the screen. Trezor is easier to use with your phone than Ledger and you may prefer the advanced options Trezor offers.

However the Ledger HW.1 is a great hardware wallet and will serve you well if you do not need advanced features. Most users love their Ledgers, and if you are going to buy an HW.1 to carry on your keychain buy two. That way if one is lost or damaged you can immediately restore from seed with your spare. The HW.1 is one of the best deals you will find.

The Case hardware wallet really shines as the easiest way to spend bitcoin. Just scan a QR code and swipe your finger. Ledger Wallet has also announced they will have their own competitor to Case available mid 2016. The Ledger Blue will use NFC and Bluetooth instead of a GSM chip and will be compatible with desktops, Android and iOS.

The new KeepKey is a stylish, well made hardware wallet for $99 marketed to new users. Advanced users will take a pass on KeepKey as there is no option to use a passphrase unless you are willing to endure a difficult installation of Electrum 2.6.3.

KeepKey is only locked by a PIN and does not work with your phone. If KeepKey would simply add optional passphrase protection to the Chrome extension and the ability to work with an Android wallet they could give Trezor some competition. At present we recommend you buy a Trezor instead.

BitLox is the only other bitcoin hardware wallet that offers hidden wallets like Trezor, and the case is aluminum or titanium rather than the plastic of the Case or Trezor. It is also your only choice if you want a hardware wallet that works with iPhone at this time. BitLox does offer some options for advanced users that Trezor lacks although the price is $199, twice that of Trezor.

Accordingly our favorite bitcoin hardware wallet remains the Trezor. Trezor is (mostly) open source. It has advanced features that most of the other hardware wallets lack and the $99 price is reasonable. Trezor can easily be the only hardware wallet you will ever need to buy.

Trezor is also hard fork ready. In a recent post on Medium Can You Lose Bitcoins If It Comes to a Hard Fork? SatoshiLabs explained if a hard fork looked imminent they would prepare two instances of their online wallet: classic.myTrezor.com and core.myTrezor.com.

A Trezor owner would have control over which instance he or she would want to use. Customer support like this is why Trezor remains the top selling bitcoin hardware wallet. However, Ledger hopes to challenge Trezor’s dominance in the market. As of August 2016 Ledger is shipping a new bitcoin and ether hardware wallet with a screen.

Ledger Nano S Bitcoin and Ether Hardware Wallet

The new Ledger Nano S only costs $65. You can read our review at Ether Hardware Wallet: Ledger Nano S. Not to be outdone, Trezor is planning to introduce the new Trezor 2.0 at the end of 2016. Hardware wallets are becoming more versatile and affordable, good news for consumers.

Do you own a bitcoin hardware wallet? Please join in the Disqus discussion with your likes and dislikes.

  • Case is now taking pre-orders for their bitcoin hardware wallet! Cost is $199 with shipping early this summer. The initial product run will be limited to 1000 units so if you are interested in this state of the art bitcoin hardware wallet visit http://www.choosecase.com to place an order.

  • We have already had one successful giveaway for a free Trezor wallet? Would our subscribers be interested in a giveaway contest for the new Case hardware wallet?

  • Would our readers be interested in a giveaway contest for a free Case hardware wallet? Our contest for the free Trezor was well received.

  • Black Dynamite

    Case looks like it’s the next-generation of Bitcoin hardware wallets.
    BD

    • Kkurtmann

      Except that when Case the company disappears so do 2 of your 3 keys.

      • If you are concerned about the future of Case you have the option of storing the third key yourself. That way you would always have possession of two of the three keys needed to process a transaction.

  • Case sent us an email today. They announced the shipping date of the Case hardware wallet will be September 21, 2015.

  • The KeepKey hardware wallet is now available to buy for $239 with free shipping.

  • We are still waiting for Case to ship us our hardware wallet ordered back in May. If you would like a look inside the Case you can visit Case Wallet Teardown.

  • Most folks who pre-ordered the Case Hardware Wallet have not received theirs yet. Case finally sent an email out today that reads in part:

    “… I would like to be transparent about why the remaining devices have not
    been shipped. There will be a very short delay in shipping the remaining
    devices. This is due to a fault that was found in a few devices while
    broadcasting transmissions in low signal areas. It is important that we
    fix this issue before shipping any additional devices. We have isolated
    the reason for the fault and are working vigorously on a patch!”

    If you have been considering ordering a Case you may want to wait until we receive ours and publish a review.

  • SatoshiLabs has added a new look and several features like address labels to their web wallet. You can try the new wallet at beta.myTrezor.com

  • Case sent out yet another email concerning the delay in shipping their hardware wallet:

    “Case is resuming shipment of devices starting the week of November 9th. We uncovered an issue that appeared in areas with low signal strength which was unexpected and we apologize for the delay in shipment. Our development team is currently testing the updated firmware and creating a patch for the devices that are already shipped.”

    It looks like it wlll be the end of November before all who pre-ordered a Case hardware wallet will receive.

  • Ledger has reduced the price of their entry level HW.1 hardware wallet to less than $20 shipping included. Anyone even on a budget can now afford a hardware wallet to secure their bitcoin from theft.

  • BitLox bitcoin hardware wallet added to the list.

  • The very last twenty of the aluminum case Trezors went on sale today. Should sell out fast to collectors.

  • As expected the metallic Trezors sold out within a day. In other news KeepKey has reduced their price from $239 to $99.

  • Celebrate Bitfinex’ return! Get 20% off on your next TREZOR. Apply code “bitfinex” at checkout (no quotes.) Limited time only!

  • Case hardware wallet is no longer recommended. The Case does not have the ability for a user to set a higher transaction fee and default fees are too low. There has been no firmware update to correct this problem and the company seems to have abandoned customer support.