If there’s one word that could be used to describe the majority of crypto hardware wallets to date, it’s “functional.” Resembling USB sticks, remote car key fobs, and pocket calculators, their appearance belies the sometimes eye-watering amounts of money they secure.
With its latest device, the Stax, French hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger is aiming to change all that—this is a polished-looking piece of kit that wouldn’t look out of place next to an iPhone.
Decrypt got to handle the Ledger Stax at the NFT Paris conference, and while it was only a brief look at the device, here are our first impressions ahead of a full, in-depth review.
There’s no denying that the Ledger Stax looks like no other hardware wallet out there. Ledger enlisted the designer of the original iPod, Tony Fadell, to craft a slick-looking device with industrial design innovations like the first curved E Ink display.
That display is at the heart of Ledger’s ambitions for the Stax; it’s meant to be a desirable object in its own right, a showcase for visually-striking assets like NFTs. The curved screen wraps around one side of the device; on the narrow face it displays info including the battery level and device name. The rest of the device is made of aluminum and plastic, with the rear face displaying Ledger’s new-look logo.
The bottom of the device sports a USB-C connector, while there’s a sleep button on the side. The Stax can charge wirelessly, and communicate with other devices using Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication, the same technology employed by credit card chips).
The Stax measures at 85mm × 54mm—the same length and height as a credit card, though at 6mm thick you’ll struggle to cram it into a wallet. It weighs in at just over 45g—we were pleasantly surprised by how light it felt in the hand, though a bit more heft might have helped to sell it as a premium product.
The Stax also includes magnets that enable you to stack (get it?) a number of wallets together, like a pile of books—hence the ability to write the name on the “spine” of the device. Though at $279 a pop, we’re not sure who’s going to be buying more than one of these; even a multimillionaire Bored Ape collector who likes to splash the cash and flash their stash would be better served buying a single Stax with a Nano S Plus as backup.
Most of the Stax’s functions are controlled through the accompanying Ledger Live app.
To use the Ledger Stax, you’ll need to pair it with a smartphone using Bluetooth. To send Bitcoin, Ethereum, or another cryptocurrency, you set up the transaction in Ledger Live before checking the details on the Stax and signing it. Signing is done using a long press on the E Ink screen, rather than the two-button press employed on previous Ledgers.
Receiving a transaction is easy thanks to the E Ink screen, which can display your wallet’s QR code.
We were also treated to a demo showing how to set up an NFT on the Stax’s screen using Ledger Live. Tap through to “lock screen picture” and you’re presented with your NFT collection. Click on your NFT of choice and you’ll have the option to adjust contrast levels to make your picture pop.
It’s all very slick and streamlined, though while some are already calling the device “Web3’s iPod moment,” it’s only simple up to a point; crypto neophytes will still need to grapple with concepts like wallet addresses and signing transactions.
Those who focus on security above all else, meanwhile, will continue to quibble over the inclusion of Bluetooth. While your private keys never leave the device’s secure element, even Ledger acknowledges that some users might not be comfortable using the wireless protocol.
And while the wallet is a quantum leap in terms of industrial design, it still falls short in one key respect. Black-and-white E Ink is never going to be the best medium for NFTs, which are usually rendered in full color, often animated to boot.
Unless and until Ledger launches a future iteration of the Stax with a color display, though, this is likely the most premium hardware wallet out there. We’re looking forward to being able to give a full verdict in our final Ledger Stax review as soon as we’ve got our hands on a review unit.