There are several brands of hardware wallets out there. Some are considered cold wallets and more secure because of their air-gapped nature.
What is Air-gapped?
Air-gapped is a state where a device is completely isolated from any form of connection. By connection, we mean anything that connects the device to another device or the internet, such as USB, Bluetooth, WiFi, Cellular, NFC. An air-gapped device is a device that is fully isolated and can never be connected to anything.
Why is it Important for Hardware Wallets to be Air-gapped?
Capable hackers always find a way to hack hardware wallets, as shown in the past: (Breaking the Ledger Security Model | Saleem Rashid). Fifteen years old hacker Saleem Rashid managed to hack the Ledger Nano S by connecting it to his PC through a USB cable and supplying malicious code to the wallet.
From this example, you can understand how connections lead to insecurity. You can imagine how other types of connections such as Bluetooth, WiFi, Cellular, NFC can provide even more attack vectors for hackers.
A fully air-gapped device does not allow any loophole for hackers to exploit. Until today, there haven't been any hacking reports of an air-gapped device, proving its superior security. Air-gapped hardware wallets are called "Cold Wallets".
Non-air-gapped Hardware Wallets
Here are some popular non-air-gapped hardware wallets in the world.
The Ledger brand is the most popular hardware wallet brand in the world. They hold the advantage of being one of the first companies to manufacture hardware wallets. With their simple device design that looks like a USB stick and affordable pricing, the Ledger is an easy choice for many. Nevertheless, recent device hacks and database hacks have created many discussions online.
Ledger's most famous product, the Nano S uses a USB to connect with a computer to carry out transactions. The newest model, the Nano X, uses both USB and Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth allows the Nano X to connect with a smartphone as well to carry out transactions.
It supports buying, selling, trading, accessing DAPP, managing NFTs which makes it a very useful wallet.
Trezor is the first company to manufacture hardware wallets for the masses. It is as famous and popular as Ledger. Trezor's best specialty is its open-source software. Many experienced traders prefer the Trezor because it is can be used with other third-party Apps outside of Trezor's PC App.
The Trezor uses a USB cable to connect to the PC to carry out transactions.
It supports buying, selling, trading, staking, managing NFTs, but no DAPPs.
Keevo is similar to Ledger X because it can utilize both USB and Bluetooth connections. It can be paired with a PC, smartphone APP, and also other 3rd party Apps. It is considered to be a very useful and versatile wallet.
One very unique feature of the Keevo is the fingerprint sensor that is used to verify the identity of the owner, similar to our smartphones. This helps increase the security of the wallet and makes sure that no one else except the fingerprint owner can unlock the wallet.
It supports buying, trading, DAPPs, and managing NFTs.
Air-gapped Cold Wallets
Although there are many great hardware wallets out there, it is best to choose ones that are air-gapped for the best security. With connections such as USB or Bluetooth, it provides attack vectors that hackers can exploit.
Currently, every cold wallet depends on QR-code technology instead of USB or Bluetooth to keep its air-gapped state. The cold wallet will have a camera and it will be used to scan QR codes to perform set up and sign transactions. As using a camera to scan requires no physical or wireless connection, it allows the wallet to stay air-gapped.
ELLIPAL was one of the first wallet brands in the market that embraced QR code technology and educated its users on why air-gapped is a very important feature. It is fully built from metal which makes it very sturdy and gives a high-end feel. It is very suitable for long-term use. It has a large touch screen and doesn't have any USB port for charging. It also has anti-disassembly and anti-tamper features, on top of being air-gapped. Overall, a very secure device. It pairs with its smartphone App for transactions and setup.
The ELLIPAL has one of the highest numbers of coins supported among all the wallets in the market. It also supports importing accounts from other wallets. It supports buying, trading, DAPPs, and staking. It is also a very useful wallet.
SafePal is one of the new faces of wallets that has gained a lot of popularity in a short time thanks to the fact that it is endorsed by the biggest exchange in the world, Binance. It is also one of the cheapest wallets in the market, making it a good choice for new investors of cryptocurrency. The SafePal pairs with its smartphone App to perform transactions with QR code
It supports buying, trading, staking, DAPPs, and managing NFTs. A very useful wallet.
Nonetheless, the build quality of the wallet itself may not be satisfactory for some as it is made of plastic and comes with a small screen and a few buttons only. Many users may feel it is not suitable for long-term use. The SafePal still uses a USB to charge the device and carry out updates.
Keystone is considered a well-built cold wallet and gives a high-end feeling. It isn't entirely made out of metal but it is sturdy and has a large color touch screen. A special feature is that it has a detachable battery so the wallet itself doesn't need any USB charging port, a very unique design. Overall, a very secure cold wallet. It pairs with its smartphone App for transactions and setup.
Despite being very secure, its usability is quite disappointing. Support for coins is still few and there is no buying, selling, trading, etc. features like the other wallets.
Verdict - Best Air-gapped Wallet of 2022
Compared to many years ago when cold wallets were terms used for customized network isolated computers, cold wallets of today are much more useful and easy to obtain. There is no reason to not choose a cold wallet and ignore its obvious security advantage. That being said, there are also a few choices to make when choosing a cold wallet.
My best choice of 2022 is ELLIPAL because it is the best all-around in terms of security, hardware build, and usability.
- In terms of security, there is no doubt that it is very secure. It is a 100% offline air-gapped device with no ports or equipment that can connect it to the internet. It also has anti-disassembly and anti-tamper features, meaning it can also protect against physical attacks, in case someone wants to tamper with the hardware itself.
- In terms of hardware, it is fully made out of metal and is very strong. It won't be easily broken and is very suitable to hold your coins for the long term. Despite being made out of metal, it is not heavy and fits perfectly in the hand, a very satisfying design.
- In terms of usability, it is also rated very highly. The number of coins supported means you can store almost every currency that you invest in, into this one device. With other supported features, you can also easily carry out the usual trading and investing directly on the wallet. It is very useful for beginners and experts traders alike.
Which wallet do you think the best air-gapped cold wallet of 2022? Let me know in the comment below!