When it comes to the safety of your valuable cryptocurrencies, there isn’t a better way to store them than on a hardware wallet. The question boils down to which of the two most popular hardware wallets does the best job- Ledger or Trezor?
Use this guide to compare supported crypto assets, ease of use, level of security, and more, to decide which of the two is the best hardware wallet for you.
Trezor: Model T
SatoshiLabs is the oldest hardware wallet company, starting with the tried and true Trezor One in 2012. Its simple design and unbreachable security have earned it a vast following. Trezor’s newest hardware wallet, the Model T, saw its launch in February 2018. Let’s take a look at what improvements we can expect from the new and improved model.
Possibly the most significant upgrade on the new Model T is the bright LCD touchscreen. It’s an intuitive interface that enables its users to breeze through any operation while looking extremely modern. It’s the first hardware wallet to implement a touchscreen and has made all other hardware wallets look outdated.
The screen is larger than the previous model and allows for customization such as color pictures in the background. The device fits comfortably in the palm of your hand without being too bulky or too small, and the black finish makes the device stand out.
What’s in the Box?
The sleek looking package comes with:
- Trezor Model T device
- USB-C cable
- 2x recovery seed booklet
- Magnetic docking station
- Trezor stickers
You’ll notice that the device has a tamper-proof sticker on the port, rather than being on the box itself. The USB-C cable has much more length compared the previous model’s 2-inch cable.
It’s a painless experience with the Model T. Users will follow the instructions on the screen once plugged into a laptop or phone, and download the latest firmware, add a PIN, and carefully write down the recovery seed on the two provided booklets.
The addition of the color touchscreen has made for a considerable improvement in the usability of the Model T. Whereas in the previous model, users had to look back and forth, between a computer screen and the device’s screen to confirm transactions; but now, every transaction is confirmed solely on the device’s interface.
The intuitive touchscreen also does away with buttons on the device. This streamlined design allows for a seamless experience when accessing, navigating, and confirming transactions, all with the swipe of a finger.
If this is your first hardware wallet, you’ll enjoy its usability and simplicity. If this is an upgrade from the previous model, you won’t notice any tremendous differences other than the touchscreen upgrade.
The device’s security is the most critical factor because what good is a stylish looking wallet that functions flawlessly, but doesn’t protect your valuable crypto assets?
When users unbox the Model T, it’s a reassuring sight to see a thick tamper-evident sticker over the port. This sticker leaves a sticky residue and will be extremely obvious if someone attempts to scratch it off.
The Model T prompts users to write down their 12-word recovery seed after the initial phase of generating a wallet. The words are shown on the device’s screen, and the user will need to enter two random words for verification. This safeguard is the first important step in securing your wallet because the recovery seed is your second chance in regaining access to your funds if your Trezor is lost or stolen.
The 12-word recovery seed has 128bits of strength to sufficiently obfuscate the ordering of your seed during recovery. The reason that Trezor developers opt for this strength over the 256bit seen in the previous model is that the recovery process happens on the device itself, rather than on the computer.
Next, the prompt guides you to create a PIN to better safeguard your Trezor. You can use up to nine digits, so use something more creative than your birthday or 0000.
The Model T employs entirely new code, Trezor Core, a custom-made operating system. This new operating system allows the Model T to be malleable for future updates, such as coin support, firmware, and security fixes. This flexibility is much needed in the fast-paced world of cryptocurrencies, where development is always on the move.
The wallet protects its users from malicious phishing attacks by making it mandatory for the wallet owner to review both the transaction amount and address before sending. All transactions are completed entirely on the device itself, so only the wallet owner with physical ownership and the PIN can green-light a transaction. The wallet also employs security mechanisms that can pair with the device:
- Two-factor authentification (U2F)
- Password manager (encrypt passwords on the device)
- Cryptographic tools such as GPG and SSH. These allow for functions such as requesting passwords/PIN and unlocking all without ever touching a computer and remaining isolated on the Model T.
- Advanced passphrase
Usually, the second most significant factor for most users will be the variety of coins that the wallet supports. Not all wallets are created equal, and coin support is a crucial factor when deciding which to buy.
So far, Trezor’s Model T supports all top ten coins by market capitalization, along with a vast array with others. Where the previous Model One fell short, the Model T prevails.
Regardless of the features, the price of the wallet can become the ultimate deciding factor. The Model T sells for 180 EUR, or $204, making it the most expensive option of any hardware wallet.
Ledger: Nano S
Founded in 2014, Ledger specializes in security and infrastructure solutions for blockchain communities and digital assets. Their break-out product is the Nano S, a USB-sized hardware wallet that packs a mighty punch in asset security and support. Let’s take a look at what makes this hardware wallet so popular.
Photo: Fred Thoughts
After opening the box, users will find the extremely humble Nano S hardware wallet, along with a USB connector. The main body is plastic, and the movable outer body consists of stainless steel.
The Nano S has a vivid display screen so that you can easily verify transaction details. Its two button design makes for an effortless experience when tracking through commands. It fits in your hand comfortably and holding it while pressing the buttons isn’t awkward.
Overall, the design is basic and leaves a bit to be desired after seeing the Model T from Trezor.
What’s in The Box?
When opening this modern looking package, you’ll find:
- Ledger Nano S hardware wallet
- USB cable
- Keychain and lanyard
- Three paper cards: get started, did you notice, and your seed recovery card.
Ledger deliberately doesn’t use tamper-evident seals on its packaging because they claim that it’s easy to counterfeit. Rather than stick a label somewhere on the device, the tamper-proof device is located within the Nano S. Ledger installs a secure chip in every device that prevents any physical manipulation.
Out the box, the initial setup for the Nano S is a breeze. You’ll need your Nano S plugged into a computer. Follow the instructions- it will walk you through steps to open your new wallet or to recover your old wallet.
Ledger Live (Nano’s setup guide) will guide you through each step, eventually, you’ll land on the page that allows you to create a 4-8 digit PIN. Next, you’ll start the seed recovery list, where you will copy down 24 words that are shown one by one on the device.
Now that your initial wallet setup is complete, it’s time to add extra layers of security or start adding your digital assets to your wallet.
The Nano’s two-button system enables users to quickly scroll through options, such as selecting assets and confirming transactions. This method of pressing buttons seems a bit archaic, but it gets the job done.
The small screen is bright and generally easy to read, but a larger screen would do the job of confirming long addresses much easier.
Ledger’s team commits itself to build enterprise-grade security layers to safeguard a vast arena of crypto users, from hedge funds to retail investors. Here are the security protocols that Ledger takes to ensure that your coins will remain exactly where they should- in your wallet.
- The Secure Element chip within the Nano S will alert its user upon its initial boot-up. This alert will only happen if your Nano S was tampered with before receiving it. This is the reason why Ledger doesn’t bank on tamper-evident stickers since a sticker can be counterfeited. It’s also responsible for isolating your private keys within an isolated environment.
- A hidden passphrase option allows its users to create the 25th word on top of the 24 seed recovery. This enables users to create a secret account that can only be seen with the secret 25th word. This method was built for a “plausible denial” event, where someone experiences physically force to hand over a PIN, in which the real account is found in a hidden wallet.
- Bolos: Ledger’s unique proprietary software that powers the Nano S. It creates a secure environment around each application, this ensures that your sensitive information is safe from malicious actors, even if you connect to an unsafe computer.
- The Nano S used a randomness generator to create its 24-word seed. It’s been audited with top marks and withstood extreme stress tests to guarantee that its seed generation would prove impossible to hack.
- Just like the Trezor, the Nano S is a physical device, and transactions can only be confirmed with the device in your hand.
- Backup Recovery Seed: 24-words to ensure that you have access to your accounts if your Nano S is lost, destroyed or stolen.
- A PIN that acts as your password to access the device and your accounts. Safeguarding your PIN and device is paramount to keeping your wallet safe.
Ledger has been at the forefront of rolling out support for a wide range of coins long before Trezor. Their team is dedicated to creating a seamless experience for its users and is active by synching with decentralized apps such as MetaMask, wallet provider BitGo, and decentralized exchange Kyber. With so much activity in the coin support realm, Ledger’s Nano S is ahead of the curve.
This is the selling point for the Nano S- it’s only $100. It’s a comparable price to Trezor’s previous Model One, but the Model One doesn’t offer nearly the same amount of currency support as the Nano S.
Regardless of the outcome of this head-to-head, both are fantastic hardware wallets, and it’s a small investment to make in comparison with the overall value of the digital assets you may hold.
Although the Trezor Model T is a beautiful piece of equipment, the Ledger Nano S takes the cake. Both employ top-of-the-line security measures to ensure that their customers are completely safe. Both are equal in their ease-of-use, and both support nearly the same coins. So what was the deciding factor?
The deciding factor was the price point and the extremely high activity of development from Ledger’s team. At $100, the Nano S is significantly cheaper than the Model T, and we can’t justify spending an extra $100 on a touchscreen. Constant news of Ledger teaming up with teams within the crypto community was also a huge deciding factor because this means that the Nano S is exceptionally compatible with various projects and cryptocurrencies.