TREZOR vs. LEDGER – Hands On Hardware Wallets Review

23

I finally got my hands on a Ledger Wallet – a Bitcoin hardware wallet. It’s basically a device that allows you to store you private keys on it. If you follow this blog you probably know already that I’m a big TREZOR fan – the first widely spread Bitcoin hardware wallet. But since up until today there was no real competition to TREZOR I jumped on the opportunity to review this cool new device.

The ordering process was pretty intuitive and the package arrived quickly even though I live in Israel and it was shipped from overseas.

ledger packaging

My first impression – Ledger has style

When you open up Ledger’s package you immediately notice that it comes in style. Other than the Ledger flash drive itself you also get a PU leather wallet, a ledger security card which kind of looks like a credit card and a chain strap the ledger to your neck if you wish.

TREZOR’s device is kind of clunky compared to Ledger’s sleeker design. It’s also much easier to carry the Ledger around since it’s substantially smaller than TREZOR.

Ledger content

Setting up Ledger – not as secure as TREZOR

Installing and setting up your Ledger requires the use of a Chrome application. Once you fire up the application from Ledger’s website you will be presented with a setup wizard. The first thing I’ve noticed that was different between Ledger and TREZOR is that Ledger requires a “private or trusted computer”.

As a layman user I’m not sure what that means ? Does it mean that I now have to scan my device for malware ? Or is it just OK if it’s my own personal computer and not some public device.

TREZOR works differently. By utilizing a small screen on the device itself it’s possible to set up the device even from a compromised device which makes me feel much more at ease. Here’s an example of how this works with TREZOR:

Setting up your security – PIN code and recovery seed

The PIN code is an added layer of security to make sure that even if someone stole your Ledger from you they will still have a hard time logging into your account. Enter a wrong PIN code 3 times and the device wipes itself clean.

Once you’ve set up your PIN code it’s time to move on to the recovery seed. A recovery seed is a set of words that when put together in a certain order can help recover your private keys in case the device is broken or lost.

This means that even if you completely trash your Ledger you’ll still be able to recover all of your lost Bitcoins through this seed. It’s also why it’s very important to write it down in a safe place where no one can access it since if someone gets a hold of this – they can access your funds.

The process is pretty similar to TREZOR’s setup only there isn’t a “double layer” protection since everything is shown on your computer’s screen (unlike TREZOR where the seed is shown on the device itself as seen in the video above).

Here’s a screenshot of my Ledger’s recovery seed. Once I post this it means I will have to reset this Ledger device since anyone can steal my funds at the moment. However, if I were to use TREZOR my seed wouldn’t even appear on my computer screen which would make it much more safe.

ledger recovery seed

Using Ledger – short and sweet

Once the setup is complete you can start using your Ledger. Just replug the flash drive, enter your PIN code and you’re good to go. The interface is extremely intuitive and doesn’t require much explanations.

Since there’s no way to access your wallet without the flash drive connect to your computer it creates a much safer environment to send and receive Bitcoins. This means that even if someone knows your PIN code he can’t access your coins because he doesn’t have the physical device.

It also means that even if the computer that you’re using to send Bitcoins from is compromised, since you’re using what’s known as two Factor Authentication (2FA) you’re still less likely to be exposed to any sort of threat (especially Man-In-The-Middle attacks).

Ledger interface

So here’s what I liked about Ledger

First and foremost it’s sleek design and intuitive user interface. In other words, it doesn’t require a manual to operate it. Also the fact the it fits in your pocket easily is awesome. The price also makes it very attractive.

Here’s what I didn’t like about Ledger

Ledger seems to be a secure hardware wallet but not an ULTRA secure hardware wallet. Of course even the most secure wallets (i.e. TREZOR) have vulnerabilities. But since hardware wallets are used to store large amounts of money they should inherently be super secure.

Although using Ledger is a more elegant solution than your everyday paper wallet I personally find it neither here nor there. The main issue that bugs me is that the device has to be set up on a 100% safe computer which is not an easy task for non technical people.

All in all Ledger is nice to have but not a must

I think the folks over at Ledger did a fine job with their product, I just don’t think it’s the best solution to my specific security issues. A companion app should be coming out soon which will make the app more secure using a different device to display sensitive data, but until then I think I’ll stick with the more expensive and secure  TREZOR.

Find the best exchange to buy Bitcoins


Ofir Beigel

Owner at 99 Coins ltd.
Blogger and owner of 99Bitcoins. I've been dealing with Bitcoin since the beginning of 2013 and it taught me a lesson in finance that I couldn't get anywhere else on the planet. I'm not a techie, I don't understand "Hashes" and "Protocols", I designed this website with people like myself in mind. My expertise is online marketing and I've dedicated a large portion of 99Bitcoins to Bitcoin marketing.

23 Comments

  1. Trezor is the gold standard in bitcoin hardware wallets, having been in production for two years now. It offers features that most other wallets lack (hidden wallets) and works very well with Mycelium on Android. You do need a connecting cable of course.

    2016 is going to bring some more competition to Trezor. Ledger will be bringing out their credit card sized wallet that will communicate with your Android or iPhone by BLE. Bitlox already has their metal cased hardware wallet shipping and works via USB, and iPhone or Android using Bluetooth.

    Right now Bitlox is arguably the most advanced bitcoin hardware wallet you can buy, offering all features Trezor does and cordless communication with your phone. If you need a hardware wallet that works with your iPhone Bitlox is your answer.

  2. When you are storing multiple private keys to the value of thousands of dollars, the price of the Trezor v Ledger is immaterial – If you are concerned about $80.00 then keep your money in a bank – the most important criteria has to be security – I am sure the Ledger is a very good device and I would be happy to experiment with one, however at the first step, and subsequent times when one is going to want to restore the wallet, the “trusted computer” scenario doesn’t sound like rock solid security to me.

  3. A device that adds additional security is always a plus. I had no idea hardware wallets were even in existence until reading this article. Sounds even more secure than software wallets.

    • Kamil Brejcha on

      You can use any 3rd party wallet with Trezor support. Electrum and Multibit, just released their beta version,more wallets are to to come. The beauty of Trezor is, that you basically cannot loose your funds, until you have your seed safely backed up!

  4. Great review, I wanted to add what I consider to be a very important difference; the TREZOR’s screen and buttons. With the screen and buttons transactions are visually and physically confirmed on the device before signing, preventing an unauthorized transaction from being signed by the device.

    • Eric Larchevêque on

      Ledger has of course also a second factor confirmation allowing to check what the chip is signing:

      * solve a challenge based on a unique security card and the destination address (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFvHq8zEgd8 for a demo, at 2:25)

      * pair a smartphone (once, using the security card), and you confirm/reject on your mobile with a full visual confirmation of the transaction (see http://imgur.com/kgbGpUp)

      The second method will be available with the next firmware release, in the coming weeks.

  5. Eric Larchevêque on

    I’m the CEO of Ledger. Thank you for this review! The “private or trusted computer” explanation is indeed maybe too abstract, we are going to make it better (basically it means that since we will print the seed on the screen, you need to make sure you are not in a cybercafe or that your computer does not have malware making random screenshots).
    When the Ledger has been set up with the seed, it is then as secure than the TREZOR (your seed will never be exposed again to the host computer). The USB stick is actually a smart card (secure microcontroller) and not a flash drive. It is like a small secure microcontroller communicating to the host through USB. The transaction signing is done inside the Ledger Nano.
    Our next product will add NFC/BLE (blutooth) compatibility, and feature an embedded screen/keyboard, with a credit card size form factor. We’ll then achieve maximum security with total usage ubiquity (first prototypes will be presented at MWC Barcelona this March).

  6. I wonder: “is it better that you need that Chrome application to set use Ledger or is it a potential security issue?” I’m not sure, but this doesn’t sound good – don’t know why exactly but it just doesn’t look like a secure device.

  7. I’ve had a look at the new Ledger and honestly it doesn’t seem like much to me. I think the difference in pricing is because, well, TREZOR is 3 times better. I won’t go changing it anytime soon.

  8. Parker Bennett on

    I’m a bit panicky and never use my TREZOR when I’m not at my home PC. I just don’t feel safe doing this someplace else.

    • Well there’s no actual connection between what computer you use your TREZOR on and how safe it is. That’s kind of the idea of a hardware wallet. All of the transaction signing is done within the device.

  9. Yeah, I also don’t understand what a “private or trusted computer” means? I’m not a techie by any means so they should explain this much better so anyone can get it.

  10. Victoria Garcia on

    I actually love the fact that TREZOR is chunkier because this way I’m pretty sure I won’t lose it! I tend to lose things so the bigger the better in my case :).

  11. Xavier Price on

    WOW! 3 times cheaper! I paid $119 for my TREZOR and the Ledger is just $40! Pretty huge difference in pricing although it seems TREZOR still has the upper hand (but I do like the look of this new device).

  12. If they update the security issues, I might give this Ledger a try, but until I am certain it’s top notch I’m also sticking to my TREZOR.

  13. Dominic Kelly on

    The Ledger wallet is so much cheaper than TREZOR! And it looks pretty darn cool – thanks for talking about it!

Leave A Reply