Model T is a successor of one of the most popular hardware wallets in cryptocurrency ecosystem – Trezor One. In this article, I will take an in-depth look at the functions, security, design, and improvements that this newly launched product brings.
What is Trezor Model T?
Trezor model T is a cryptocurrency hardware wallet. It allows you to store, generate, import/export your private key, internally, on a device and use it to sign transactions and broadcast them. Unlike traditional, software wallets, hardware wallets are more resilient to malware and phishing attacks and are, generally more secure.
The company behind Trezor is Satoshilabs. Like their fierce competitor Ledger, they reside in the European Union. The location of their office is the Czech Republic. The device itself is developed and manufactured in Prague, the capital city.
This wallet protects users from phishing attacks by showing your sending/receiving address on the screen which needs to be verified by the wallet owner before sending. Transaction confirmation is achieved physically on a touch-screen. The device offers a wide variety of features including the U2F authentication, SSH login, and a password manager.
The retail price of the Model T is 149 EUR (170$) which is quite a price increase compared to earlier 89 EUR price tag on the Trezor One. Will the new features, security improvements and a brand-new look justify the price? Let’s find out.
The box in which Trezor Model T arrives is slightly larger than the one of its predecessor. Similarly to the model released a few years back, the new Trezor T box is sealed with a shrink-wrapped plastic. Once unwrapped, you’ll notice that the packaging consists out of two pieces: a cardboard sleeve and a black rectangular box.
On the front side of the sleeve, there’s a warning which says “If you suspect the package has been opened by someone else, keep the box as it is and contact our support at trezor.io/support.” This warning made me chuckle a bit since it’s evident that the plastic wrapper they had can’t be an indicator that someone may have tampered with the package. Like any box, it can be replicated if the individual had enough resources and patience.
The black-colored box has a magnetic lid which can be conveniently opened. On the front, you can see the Model T through a transparent plastic window and a sign “The safe place for your coins.” The material of the box feels the same as the one the Czech company used on the earlier model.
Throughout the unboxing, I felt that the packaging has been taken to a better level. The contents of the package are better organized and don’t come out messy. When you open a box, on the front inner side, there’s a quick startup instruction, with three easy to follow steps, and a 4th bonus step, which can be seen once you remove the content of the box.
When I opened my Trezor One, I remember I was at a lost, until I found the manual online, but the Model T nailed that initial confusions consumers can have with a new product. The package itself guides you through the setup.
Once you lift the magnetic holder, on the left you’ll see the hardware wallet and on the right-hand side the mini box with accessories. When I tried to lift a wallet, I noticed it’s attached to a magnet. The magnetic dock is a great accessory. I’ll talk about it in a moment, but let’s now see the content of the box.
Important note, since my unit is a pre-order batch, the package is slightly different. Trezor updated the package design by printing Trezor on the front. Furthermore, they changed the color of the black mini box font. Most importantly, the recovery seed cards are a thing of the past, since they discontinued them and reverted to more traditional paper-booklet style.
What’s inside the box?
The content of the box includes:
- 1x Trezor T device
- 1x magnetic dock
- 1x USB A to USB C Cable
- 1x Getting Started Guide
- 2x Recovery Seed Card
- 4x Stickers
The only accessory which arrives with the hardware wallet is a magnetic docking station. It’s a slim magnet holder with 3m self-adhesive tape. You can attach your hardware wallet to it and stick it under a desk or any other surface. I found the dock quite handy.
The 3M tape is tough to remove once you stick it to the surface. You can always get a spare 3M tape of eBay or Amazon if you mess things up. Satoshilabs confirmed that the dock wouldn’t cause the magnetic interference or break the wallet.
USB A-C Cable
Compared to the Trezor One, Trezor T has a different USB cable. Satoshilabs decided to add USB-C cable, which is becoming an industry standard. One thing to note is that like the previous; this one is – short. If by any chance your PC is on the floor, it won’t be able to reach the desk most likely.
Design and build quality
The Model T preserved the form factor of its predecessor. It’s slightly bigger but featherweight with only 0.53oz (15 g). Being named after Ford’s Model T, it’s no surprise that the hardware wallet is available in a single color only – black. ( “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black” – Henry Ford).
The front side of Trezor T depicts a touchscreen and the logo above it. There are no phisical buttons.
While not waterproof or shock-proof, Trezor is very solid built for a device with a touch-screen. I would like to see more physically rigid hardware wallet which can survive water and physical damages. On a side-note, it looks like Trezor T passed the “beer test.”
The touch-screen and that allows users to enter the protection PIN and an encrypted passphrase right on the device, avoiding any data entry on a PC. That means that information entered never leaves the device. People with big hands and sausage fingers might have difficulties navigating the wallet. Even though the design has decent ergonomics and no physical buttons, the appearance cannot be considered minimalist. Trezor T has no battery and can get power from an external power source only.
At the bottom, there’s a USB type C port, whereas on the right-hand side contains a MicroSD slot. The tamper sticker is placed over the USB port. The sticker is quite hard to remove and leaves the glue trace when doing so. If you wish to remove the marks of the label, rub it off gently with a finger or use an electronic-safe residue.
I have to say that this sort of protection is only psychological. It can be quite easy for a potential attacker with enough resources and connections to intercept your package, remove the sticker and even replace the entire device. While this scenario is unlikely to happen, I believe it’s important to point out that tamper-evident stickers or bags are a weak defense point. With that in mind, I think that if they have to use the sticker, I’d prefer if they placed it on a box, since removing the sticker from the device itself is quite annoying and you can either scratch the device or have label remains in the USB-C port. Trezor’s devices have others ways of protecting against the man in the middle attacks, and I’ll cover them through this article.
SD Card Slot
On the side, a hardware wallet has a MicroSD slot. Even though the device is available for sale on their website, it’s still unclear what will be the use of an SD card slot. Trezor support remained secretive about the features or the functions. When it was first announced, however, they said it might be used as for “encrypted data storage.” I can only speculate, but there is a possibility they will allow the private key export onto an SD card, similar to what Digital Bitbox has.
Trezor Model T Supported coins
At the time of writing, Trezor Model T supports the following coins:
|Supported coins in Trezor|
|Bitcoin (BTC)||Trezor wallet|
|Litecoin (LTC)||Trezor wallet|
|Zcash (ZEC)||Trezor wallet|
|Bitcoin Cash / Bcash (BCH)||Trezor wallet|
|Bitcoin Gold (BTG)||Trezor wallet|
|Ethereum Classic (ETC)||MyEtherWallet|
|NEM (XEM)||NEM Nano Wallet|
|Bitcoin Testnet||Custom TREZOR Wallet|
Currently, the support of coins is the same across both devices, but it’s very likely that in future, some of the coins such as XPR or XMR will be added only in the Model T.
Please see this page for up to date coin support overview in Trezor One and Model T.
Unlike with the earlier model, thanks to great instructions on the package, you’ll be able to initialize the device quite quickly, without much tinkering. Once you removed the tamper-proof sticker, connect the hardware wallet to your PC with the USB cable which arrived with the wallet.
Trezor Model T arrives with a bootloader and with no firmware installed. Because of that, you’ll have to connect it to the internet to install the firmware from the official website. The reason for the device arrival with no firmware is straightforward – they want to protect customers from an unauthorized third-party firmware installation. Since there’s no firmware, you have to connect Trezor to the internet through their website, download the firmware signed by the manufacturer.
When you plug the device, you will see a welcome screen informing you to go to trezor.io/start in your browser. In case you never had a Trezor device before, you’ll be asked to download to a little plugin called “Trezor Bridge” which allows the communication between the device and your browser wallet.
On the start page, there are two options:
- Trezor One
- Trezor Model T
It should be a no-brainer which one to select since you’re configuring the T, however, if you choose the T, you will be redirected to their “beta wallet” and welcomed with a warning pop-out screen.
I was a bit surprised that the first thing that welcomed me is a giant warning pop-up which warned me that the wallet is still in beta.
So, I got back, selected Trezor One, and surprisingly enough, it allowed me to proceed by giving me the option to “install the firmware.” Since I did not want to use a beta, nor allow anonymized data collection about which they are transparent, I proceeded to Trezor One, even though I was setting up the other model.
As soon as you click on the “Install Firmware,” the device will begin downloading and installing the firmware right away. Wallet verifies that the manufacturer signs the installed firmware. In case your Trezor arrived with a pre-installed firmware not signed by Satoshilabs, you will see a warning.
The whole firmware installation process takes around 30 seconds.
Your device will show the progress on the screen. Once finished, the device will automatically restart.
Creating a new wallet
The most important step of all is the private key setup. If you already have a key, you can import it, but I’d recommend that you create a new one, primarily if your old key was generated online or on a mobile phone wallet.
- Select Create New.
- The pop-up screen will appear once again, emphasizing some features of the wallet and a few tips. Close it.
- Choose the orange “Create a backup in 3 minutes” button. Trezor T will show the warning on the touch-screen which you need to confirm.
The private key is a set of 12 randomly generated words. Trezor T will create those for you, internally, you need to write them down in the correct order. Use the recovery seed booklet which arrived with the device.
Trezor mixes entropy from its internal hardware random number generator and your computer to generate a private key for you. That provides better randomness and minimizes the risk of a backdoor. This recovery sentence is a master key for all of your cryptocurrencies, and it’s not device-dependent. You can import them any time into the wallet which is compatible. Take good care of your backup.
Double-check every word. If you lose your private key or miswrite them, you’ll lose your crypto assets. Never, ever store the words digitally or make digital photos of them.
Once you enter first six words, you’ll have to swipe down to reveal the next six randomly generated words. Write down all the words correctly and in the same order as they appeared on the screen, hold the button to confirm.
You can generate an unlimited amount of private keys on Trezor T.
- Hold to confirm
- Confirm two random words from your seed
Finally, to verify that you entered the seed correctly, you’ll have to enter two randomly selected words again. That’s the whole process. It’s quite user-friendly and displays warnings along the way, which is very important.
The Trezor Model T now generated the 12-word recovery (128 bits of entropy) seed for you.
Even though the 12-word master seed is safe, I prefer the 24 (256 bits of entropy) word one. It’s crystal-clear that the manufacturer tried to find the balance between the security and the user-friendliness.
I was surprised that there’s no option inside the web wallet which allows you to choose between 12, 18, and 24. I sincerely hope this feature will be added soon, as it’s undoubtedly one of the most requested on Reddit.
How to add 24-word recovery seed in Trezor Model T?
I said that it’s not possible to have 24 words in the web-wallet setup. That does not mean you can’t have a 24-word recovery master seed. Here’s what you’ll have to do to activate it on the Model T.
trezorctl reset_device -t 256
Much easier and newbie-friendly option is to set up your Trezor T on Electrum wallet.
Name Your Device
Trezor allows you to name the device. It might seem trivial, but it’s a good security practice to give a unique name to your wallet. Naming your Trezor wallet protects you from the “evil maid attack.”
Theoretically speaking, if a malicious third-party manages to replace your hardware wallet and tries to set you up with a fake, you will notice that the name is different.
Another good practice is that you mark your device physically somehow – sign it with a permanent marker.
Set up the Pin
One more protection layer from a physical attack is the PIN. The pin must be a numeric value from 0-9. The maximum length of the PIN is nine digits.
On the initial setup, you will be asked to choose the PIN and confirm it. Every time you plug in the device, or it becomes idle, you’ll have to enter a PIN to access the wallets. You have 16 PIN attempts, after which device wipes completely. Provided that you have written down the recovery seed correctly, in case you forget the PIN, you can easily access the funds after you perform a wallet recovery.
The web wallet
Trezor Model T works via web-wallet available on the web address https://wallet.trezor.io/. The wallet which establishes a connection via the web-browser is undoubtedly not the most private and trustless, but it’s one the easiest and newbie-friendly way to transact with your assets.
I assume that shortly, Trezor will follow the competition and launch a stand-alone desktop client. It’s a feature that’s needed.
The web-wallet has a clean design, and a ‘s straightforward navigation. It consists out of 4 main tabs and a settings sidebar.
- Sign and Verify
The transaction tab inside the wallet will show your transaction history of all incoming and outgoing transactions associated with your addresses for a specific wallet.
If you wish to enable labeling, you can connect your wallet to DropBox and add a description for each transaction. The search bar on top, allows users to search for a particular transaction by description, address, date or the amount. You can export transactions as CSV or PDF.
To access the receiving address, go to “Receive tab” and click on the “show full address” button. The receiving address will be shown on the LCD. Compare that address and the one shown on the screen.
If they are the same, double-check. Confirm on the device. You can also show the address in the form of a QR code on the device.
To send payment directly from your hardware wallet, go to the send tab. There, you can either scan a QR code via your web camera or enter the necessary information into the fields.
Fee estimation works very well in Trezor wallet in my experience. You can quickly make several payments at once, just by clicking on the “add recipient” button located in the bottom right corner.
Trezor T protects you from a man in the middle attack. Even if your PC has been infected with malware or phished, you won’t be tricked, because you will always see the real amount, fees, and the address. You need to approve each sending transaction by physically holding a button on a touchscreen.
The information on the touch-screen is legible and just the right size. Colored buttons and messages help user navigation. Overall, I was delighted with the function and user-friendliness of the touchscreen.
Sign and verify
To prove that you’re the owner of a particular Bitcoin address, you can sign it with your Trezor. You can also verify the messages someone else signed on it. The feature is very convenient in various situations. For example, you’ve lost the access to your account at a particular exchange. The only way to prove you’re the owner of the address is to sign it and provide proof that you own it. Trezor will sign the message, and the private key will never have to leave the device.
In the sign and verify tab, fill the public address for which you’d like to prove the ownership. Enter the message and click on the “Sign.” You’ll receive an encrypted signature.
Unlike in my previous Trezor One review, where I explained every option within a web-wallet since the two products use the same wallet, I’ll just briefly touch the new and essential features.
Basic device settings
To change some of the most basic settings on your Trezor T, click on the wallet icon below the coin logo.
If you want to change the name of your device (displayed in the web-wallet and on Trezor T screen), you can do it here. It’s not possible to leave it blank.
To change the PIN you set in the device initial setup, click “Change PIN.” Confirm that you want to change it, on the device. Enter your current PIN and a new one. Confirm the New PIN. To disable pin, you’ll have to go to > Advanced Tab.
Account public keys (Xpub)
If you want to have a watch-only wallet, you can import your XPUB(YPUB) public keys into any compatible wallet. The watch-only wallet means you can only have an overview of your transaction history. You cannot send your coins with it. Whoever has access to your Xpub key, can see your transaction history, but won’t have access to your coins.
Setting up the watch-only wallet – Sentinel
The developers of one of the best mobile wallets for Android, Samourai, created Sentinel, a watch-only Bitcoin wallet. Sentinel allows you to track transactions from your hardware wallet or cold-storage on your mobile phone. The wallet does not need, nor will ever request you to provide or import your private keys. Private keys have nothing to do with Xpub (public keys), nor it’s possible to access your private key from your public key.
Just like Samourai, Sentinel is entirely open-source. To set up your Trezor hardware wallet with Sentinel, you’d have to download the app from Google Play store. At the moment, this wallet is not available for the iOS devices.
When you open the app for the first time, the pop-up window provides great information about how the wallet works, what you can and cannot do with it. The app will need access to your camera to scan the QR Xpub code from your Trezor. Click on the start + icon and select the third option if you have a SegWit wallet, or the second if you have the legacy wallet.
If you’re unsure, check your receiving address, if it starts with “1”, it’s legacy, if it starts with 3, it’s SegWit. You can also follow a single Bitcoin public address that you own, without importing anything.
Next, choose the method :
- Manual (you’ll have to enter the Xpub/Ypub key manually)
- Scan (scans the public key QR code with the camera)
You’ll now be able to track your incoming and outgoing transaction history.
In the home screen tab, you can customize your Trezor T by adding a pre-selected screen image or uploading one yourself. Changing the screen image can not only help you distinguish your device but can also make it less recognizable if you’re creative. If you’re uploading your picture, it has to be 144 x 144 pixels. I tried uploading a gif, but it was uploaded as a standard image. Although utterly unnecessary request, I’d like to see GIF format support for the home screen.
In advanced settings, you can check for the firmware version, enable/disable PIN protection for your wallet, set the passphrase encryption or wipe the device. Disabling the PIN can be a security risk from a physical attack.
Setting up the passphrase
A passphrase is an encryption method which adds a layer of security to your private keys. It acts like the 13th word of your recovery seed. It can be a word, a set of letters, numbers, strings or even a sentence. Passphrases are case-sensitive, so pay attention to the capital letters. Your wallet will not be able to recognize right or wrong entry. Every entry opens a secret wallet.
Imagine, that every passphrase, creates a new “user” to your wallet. There’s no right or wrong passphrase, so a new user will be added no matter what you enter. The new user will see the empty wallet and will have access to an entirely new set of addresses.
The purpose of the passphrase is to secure users in case of a threat known as the “5$ wrench attack.”
To enable the passphrase in Model T, go to Advanced Settings > Passphrase. Confirm that you want to allow it and disconnect your wallet as instructed. Plug the device back in, unlock it by entering a PIN. You’ll be asked whether you want to enter the passphrase on the device or a host.
I strongly recommend you that you enter the passphrase on the device. By entering it on a host (your laptop or a PC), you’re vulnerable to keylogger attacks. It’s unclear why entering the passphrase is even allowed on the host. In my opinion, it just weakens the defense against the potential keylogging threat.
When you finish with the passphrase entry, confirm it on a device, and Trezor T will open a whole new hidden wallet with no balance or transactions.
The ability to enter a passphrase on the device rather than on a PC is one of the most significant security improvements of Trezor Model T compared to the predecessor.
Remember, if you forget the passphrase, you have access to the hidden wallet and all of the addresses it controls, which in layman words means: you lost the money.
Before going too crazy with the passphrase, understand how it works and how it adds protection layer to your assets. At the same time, it’s a very dangerous tool, if you don’t understand how it works.
The passphrase is case-sensitive, so make sure to choose something memorable to you, but not to the others. It’s general recommendation that you write down the 12/24 words recovery seeds and keep the passphrase in your head, but if you’re oblivious, you might want to write the passphrase somewhere.
Forgetting the passphrase is probably the most common way to lose your money. Not a hacker, not an evil maid, you’re your enemy. Take time, educate yourself. Better safe than sorry.
Wiping the device means you’re performing a “factory reset.” Your wallets, settings, and customizations will be deleted entirely from your Trezor. People format their devices for different reasons. Someone wants to generate a new recovery seed; others want to clear their settings and start from scratch.
Wiping your device will not remove the firmware. That’s how you distinguish a wiped and a new device.
If you have any assets on your accounts, please make sure that your recovery seed is adequately backed up. You can also perform a “check recovery seed.”
Check the recovery seed
Making sure that you have correctly written down your recovery seed is probably a critical task. I highly recommend that you check yours as soon as you set up the device and before you start transacting. In the past, reviewing the seed was quite an advanced task. Furthermore, unless you used “advanced recovery” in the Trezor One, your seed could have been at risk.
I am delighted that in the new wallet, it’s now a breeze to perform this crucial task.
Trezor manager for Android is an open-source mobile app which allows you to connect your wallet to your phone and perform some essential functions. It’s available on the Google Play store, as an APK file or a source code on GitHub.
To connect Trezor T with the mobile app, you’ll need an OTG cable and a phone which supports USB host.
You’ll be prompted to open Trezor Manager when this USB device is connected. Click OK.
There’s very little you can do with an app:
- Open MyCelium wallet
- Change the label
- Change the home screen
- Enable/Disable PIN protection
- Enable/Disable Passphrase encryption
- Update the firmware
- Wipe the device
If you’re connecting a wiped wallet, you can also set up your recovery seed from your mobile phone.
Currently, Trezor Manager is not a wallet, so you can’t send and receive payments through it. If you want to do that, you should use Trezor T with Mycelium wallet.
Little has changed regarding the mobile app development since the release of the Model T. Trezor Manager is at the same level of development as it was a few months ago. The iOS version of the app is not available at the moment. Overall, Trezor Manager can’t be considered very useful at this point.
Trezor Model T and Electrum
The model T is compatible with one of the most popular wallets out there – The Electrum wallet. If you’re not a fan of web-interface and would like a more privacy-orientated solution, you’d be glad that the hardware wallet works well with the Electrum client.
Understand that if you want to modify your device or change its settings, it’s achievable only through the web-wallet or Trezr Manager.
Electrum can help you improve the privacy and usability. It’s not the most beautiful wallet, but it’s without any doubt among the most feature-rich and robust on the market.
To set up your Trezor T with Electrum, follow the illustrated steps below.
Give your wallet a name. I used Trezor T.
Select the wallet type. You will most likely use “Standard wallet.” Electrum has a multi-sig option, which I’d highly recommend once you master your wallet, especially if you’re a company or a corporation.
Choose the device.
Select the format, if you’re using the wallet for the first time, or you have no idea about other formats, use the second option.
Finally, encrypt your wallet. That will also make sure that you can only decrypt the Electrum wallet with your Trezor T.
The procedure above is not only for the Trezor Model T. Basically; the steps are the same for any other Electrum-compatible hardware wallet. Now you can use your hardware wallet with Electrum and transact more privately. If you’d like to relay on your own node, you can use Electrum Personal Server.
Even though at first glance it may seem that Trezor T has not made much improvement over the Trezor One, from a security perspective, there are undoubtedly essential updates.
First of all, the device is wholly open-source and actively developed. So far all of the security vulnerabilities were promptly fixed and announced transparently.
The fact that you can now enter the PIN and the Passphrase on the device itself, without it ever talking to a PC, really raises the security wall that Treroz builds around the device.
The only thing that from a security standpoint that, I’d like to see improved is a secure open-source microchip to store the keys instead of the main micro’s flash.
Trezor T is a secure, open-source hardware wallet with timely support from the manufacturer and a massive community behind it. The documentation and articles provided by Satoshilabs are very informative and well-worth reading. The wallet itself is well-built, and the LCD makes navigation a breeze. Due to the screen size, people with larger hands might have difficulties getting used to it. Features like U2F authentication and SHH login, make this device more than just a hardware wallet.
Though Trezor T has great compatibility with mobile wallets and clients, it would be handy if they finally built their client and mobile app. The fact that device stores keys on the micro flash instead of the secure micro-chip are is a controversial topic in the community. Physical data extraction is hard and requires extreme financial resources and pricey equipment to attempt. A reliable, open-source microchip would undoubtedly make that even harder than it already is.
To sum up, Trezor did not disappoint with their latest product. Model T is an extremely reliable device and certainly one of the most secure and easy to use hardware wallets. With the competition increasing the hardware wallets industry, I can’t wait to see what Satoshilabs will come up with next. So far, they’ve done a magnificent job in keeping our coins safe.
- Secure and reputable
- Passphrase and PIN entered on a device
- Easy Navigation
- Extended coin support
- Open-source hardware and software
- Customer support
- U2F/SSH Login
- Check the recovery seed option
- Integrates well with third-party software
- Lightweight and durable
- No secure microchip
- Can’t generate a 24-word seed in a user-friendly way
- The form factor is not minimalist
- Relies on a web wallet
- Lacks mobile wallet
- The LCD might be hard to navigate for people with bigger hands