Bitlox reached out to me and asked if they could send me one of their hardware wallets to look at. I asked for two, so I could tear one apart and have one for not tearing apart. The two Bitlox wallets arrived the other day. They sent these to me for no cost, and I made no promises about the content I post about their product. Nobody reviews or approves my content before I post it.
I wouldn't use a Bitlox.
There are several reasons, but the first reason trumps all others, and that's because it is not open source. The firmware is not available, and even after ripping one apart, I still do not know what hardware makes it tick. I'll get back to that in a moment.
Any closed source hardware/software wallet is a non-starter for me (and should be for you). If I'm interested in Bitcoin enough to purchase a dedicated device to store them, then I likely care about Bitcoin's open-source nature. Unreproducable solutions need not apply. Open source money wants to live in open source hardware.
Therefore this post is a 'first impressions' of the Bitlox hardware alone, and I'm unlikely to spend any time with the software used to interact with the Bitlox device to make a well-informed follow-up on the software components.
There's still enough to talk about:
At first glance, the Bitlox feels premium -- large, clear e-ink screen, dense but not too heavy, no case twisting (unlike the cheap feel of the Case wallet), and classy red accents in-between the keys.
But all that fades after the first press of one of those buttons. They are smushy beyond smushy, and the feel of the buttons at the left and right sides is far different than the ones in the middle. The '3', '4', '8', and '9' keys have a distinct point during the button travel where the press is activated, as you would expect a button to feel, but the buttons on either end have zero travel -- Zero! It feels like I'm pressing on a hard surface, and when some pressure threshold is exceeded, the button press is registered. I wouldn't want this behavior for any buttons, but this is especially terrible for the 'checkmark' button, presumably used for confirming actions such as Bitcoin transactions.
The front surface of the Bitlox is bowed out quite a bit, which I believe contributes to the terrible feel of the keyboard. Here, It feels like they are trying to fit in a battery that's too thick, but are including it anyway. This isnt the case, but that's the impression I had before popping it open.
In reality, its just a terrible keyboard design.
The connection between the keyboard and the pcb is a direct edge soldering that separated when prying the two pieces apart
The components are on the bottom of the pcb, and there was no easy way to get the pcb out of the bottom of the case. There was much spudging, and once separated, it was clear why
The black epoxy bonded the pcb to the rear shell tightly enough that come components were ripped off the board when I pried them apart.
And here's a view of the component side of the pcb. The bluetooth module appears to be an off-the-shelf module, there's an ARM chip from Atmel, and another small atmel mcu - likely a USB-to-serial bridge.
"But gbg, " you say, "what's the part number on the main Atmel chip?" I'd give it to you, but its been scratched off to hide its identity.
Under the microscope, I think I can make out that the part number starts with 'ATSAM' and ends with 'C':