Review: Blockstream Jade hardware wallet

Jade is a very affordable hardware wallet from Bitcoin company Blockstream, with a price tag of around ??50. It is the only hardware wallet that supports Liquid and it has an innovative security model. In addition, Jade has Bluetooth, a color display and a built-in camera. Our expectations are high, but does Jade live up to them? Read our review below.

To manage a Bitcoin wallet in a secure way, a hardware wallet is often recommended. A seed phrase , recovery seed, recovery phrase, or recovery phrase in Dutch, are different terms for the same thing: the series of 12 or 24 English words that are the secret code that gives you access to a Bitcoin wallet. Protecting the seed phrase is therefore paramount when it comes to Bitcoin. If someone else has access to your seed phrase, they will have access to your Bitcoin wallet and all the funds in it. You should protect and store the seed phrase securely, because if anything ever happens to your phone, computer or hardware wallet, the seed phrase is the only thing you can use to restore the Bitcoin wallet. protect your wallet and keep it out of reach from digital threats such as hackers. We already wrote about the operation and usefulness of hardware wallets in an earlier article.

Blockstream Jade

The Blockstream Jade first came onto the market in January 2021, making it a relative newcomer among hardware wallets. Blockstream is a leading Bitcoin company, led by renowned cryptographer Adam Back, so our expectations for the Jade hardware wallet are quite high.

Unboxing

The packaging gives a good impression. Jade comes packaged in a small, solid black box wrapped in plastic wrap. On the back of the box are two shiny seals for protection, which indicate whether the box has been opened before.

After breaking the seals and opening the box we find the Jade hardware wallet, a USB-C cable and two small sheets of paper.

The first sheet links to Blockstream’s website for installation instructions, and the second sheet can be used to record a seed phrase.

Appearance

The Blockstream Jade has a sleek look and the material feels solid, not like cheap plastic. On top of the Jade is a turning mechanism with which you can navigate left and right and on the front is a push button with which you can confirm. At the bottom is a button with which the Jade can be switched on and off.

The buttons feel good quality and will probably last a while. The rotating mechanism takes some getting used to and makes one wonder whether it is just as durable with regular use.

There is a USB-C input on the side. You use it to charge the device or connect it to a computer or mobile device.

There is a camera on the back. Interesting, but also somewhat disappointing: at the time of writing you can’t do anything with it yet. Blockstream indicated that users will be able to scan QR codes with it to, for example, restore a seed, but that functionality is currently missing.

According to Blockstream, this functionality will be enabled in an upcoming software release ( Update: Blockstream informed us that the SeedQR functionality just happened to be added ). The metal-colored screws on the back are a bit out of place given the rest of the Jade’s appearance.

Jade has a 1.14 inch IPS LCD screen with 240×135 pixels – slightly larger than the Ledgers screens and slightly smaller than the Trezors. It is a color display, which looks nice and sets it apart from the competition.

Set up

Setting up Jade is largely similar to other hardware wallets. First you get the choice to create a new wallet or to restore an existing wallet. By default, Jade is set to a seed phrase of 12 words, but 24 words is also possible.

When you create a new wallet, Jade provides you with a seed phrase, after which Jade checks that you have written the words correctly by asking you to confirm some of the words.

When restoring an existing wallet, enter an existing seed phrase. Letters appear on the screen in alphabetical order and with the rotary mechanism on top you can scroll left or right through the letters, to confirm your selection with the push button. The rotary mechanism does not necessarily work better than the selection buttons that competitors use and in practice it remains a time-consuming job that results in tired fingers.

Optionally you can use a passphrase . That is an extra word of your choice, which is added to your seed phrase as extra security. If someone manages to get hold of the words of your seed phrase, your wallet is still protected by the passphrase – provided you haven’t kept it in the same place as your seed phrase.

Passphrases basically offer the possibility to create multiple wallets based on a single seed phrase. Each passphrase leads to a unique Bitcoin wallet. Different hardware wallets offer options to easily switch between those different wallets, but Blockstream Jade does not.

Plausible deniability Plausible deniability A security strategy aimed at plausible deniability. That is when you fill one or more ‘fake wallets’ with a small amount, while keeping most of your money in another, secret wallet. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are forced to provide access to your Bitcoin wallet, you can try to convince the attacker that you only own the fake wallets and reveal them. It is important that there are sufficient funds in the fake wallets, otherwise a malicious person may not find it plausible. is therefore not impossible with Jade, but it is not made easy: to switch to another passphrase you have to reset the device and re-enter the complete seed phrase plus the passphrase.

blind pin server

After entering the seed phrase (and possibly a passphrase), Jade asks you to choose a six-digit PIN code. This prevents anyone from gaining access to your seed phrase if they get their hands on the device.

Jade goes one step further in security than other hardware wallets. The seed phrase is encrypted on the basis of the PIN code and the keys are distributed via the wallet application between the Jade and a Blind PIN server.

With only the encrypted information on the device, a possible attacker has no access to the seed phrase, because the information can only be decrypted using the Blind PIN server, which only provides the key when the correct PIN code is entered .

The Blind PIN server is ‘blind’ because it only has one of the two keys, but otherwise does not know which wallet it belongs to. By default, Jade uses a Blind PIN server from Blockstream, but you can also set up your own Blind PIN server.

This distinguishes Jade from popular competitors, such as the hardware wallets from Trezor and Ledger. Trezor’s security model is mainly based on open source, but the device is therefore somewhat vulnerable to some very sophisticated physical attacks that try to read information from the chips. The security of Ledger hardware wallets, on the other hand, is mainly based on the strong security of a (closed source) secure element chip that protects against this, but there is a small risk that the manufacturer or supplier is unreliable.

Jade’s security model solves both problems. Jade is open source and does not use a secure element, so the necessary trust in the manufacturer is less, but at the same time it offers protection against advanced physical attacks because a malicious person is unable to decrypt the information in the chips with the device alone. because this requires the cooperation of the Blind PIN server.

In our experience, this innovative approach does cause a slight delay when using Jade, presumably due to the mutual communication between the hardware wallet, the wallet application and the Blind PIN server.

Wallet application

After creating or restoring a wallet, Jade asks to contact a wallet application. This can be done via the USB cable or via Bluetooth. Bluetooth is suitable for smartphones or mobile devices, while the cable is especially useful for desktop computers.

Jade can currently be used with four wallet applications: Blockstream’s Green wallet, Specter wallet, or Electrum. Green wallet is accessible and accessible and is offered by Blockstream, but Specter, Sparrow and Electrum offer more extensive functionality and are probably more interesting for more advanced users.

When the connection with the wallet application has been successful, you can update the firmware. The pairing via Bluetooth works reasonably well, but there is sometimes a delay in the feedback that Jade shows on the screen. This may be due to the aforementioned communication with the Blind PIN server. For new users, it can be equally confusing if Jade doesn’t respond for a few seconds.

Once Jade has connected to the wallet application, you can choose what kind of wallet you want to open. Jade supports normal ‘singlesig’ Bitcoin wallets, which require one signature, or multisig Bitcoin wallets, which require multiple signatures.

You have access to a Legacy wallet and a SegWit wallet. Legacy wallets are the most old-fashioned kind of Bitcoin wallets with relatively expensive transaction fees, while SegWit wallets are more modern and cheaper.

Liquid

Jade also offers support for the Liquid sidechain. So far, Jade is the only hardware wallet to do so. That is not very strange, because the Liquid sidechain is also a project of Blockstream and in a sense Green wallet, Jade and Liquid are all three puzzle pieces of a larger ambition.

The Liquid sidechain is linked to the Bitcoin blockchain, but has a different consensus mechanism and trust model. Among other things, it offers more privacy, lower transaction costs and new functionality such as token issuance. Those Liquid tokens can be managed with Green wallet and Jade.

Incidentally, there are not many Liquid tokens yet. Right now, three are listed on Blockstream’s website: Bitcoin Mining Note (BMN), Infinite Fleet (EXO), and SideSwap (SSWP). The three Liquid tokens are explicitly described as securities . In addition, there are also implementations of stablecoins stablecoins A stablecoin is a digital currency whose price is equal to a fiat currency, such as the dollar or the euro. Stablecoins are often offered by a service provider and backed by reserves. The vast majority of bitcoin trading is done with stablecoins. on liquid.

Conclusion

Jade is a great hardware wallet, especially at this price. The ease of use of Jade is broadly comparable to other hardware wallets, but with its appearance, color display and Bluetooth functionality, it clearly belongs to a newer generation than entry-level models from other manufacturers.

It is also the only hardware wallet that supports Liquid. If you’re interested in that, Jade is an obvious choice. The innovative safety model also makes Jade an option worth considering. You could also call the development by Blockstream an advantage.

Still, Jade isn’t perfect. It is a pity that the camera functionality has not yet been implemented after two years ( Update: it has now been partially implemented ) and we also find the lack of options with passphrases a loss. Sometimes it seems as if Jade’s development is not quite ‘finished’ yet.

The relatively large color display is beautiful, but does not provide a better user experience , while it could serve that purpose. Jade has few menus and hardly any options that utilize the screen. In the few situations where the larger screen would be useful, such as bitcoin address verification, Jade doesn’t use the extra space to display the entire address at once.

However, for ???????50 euros ($49.99) that is a bit of nitpicking. After all, the cheaper entry-level models from other manufacturers are not perfect either. In addition, Jade comes with Bluetooth and Liquid functionality, plus a camera. And that for a price that is about 30-40% lower than the competition. That’s not a bad deal. You do have to take into account shipping costs from Canada if you order from Blockstream.

Is it recommended then? It depends on. In any case, it is not recommended. For someone looking for a first hardware wallet, Jade is a great choice, perhaps even better than the other options. It can also be of interest to more advanced users, but some may need more extensive functionality and options that you find in some more expensive models.

For more information or to purchase, please visit the Blockstream website.

Advantages

  • Open source
  • Liquid Network support
  • Innovative security via Blind PIN server
  • Color display
  • bluetooth
  • Modern housing

Cons

  • Awkward with multiple passphrases
  • Slight delays in use
  • Camera functionality is (at the moment) still limited

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