What are Hardware Wallets?
A hardware wallet is a device which will manage cryptographic key pairs (in our case, Ethereum keys). The wallets usually have safe mechanisms for both generating cryptographic keys and signing transactions (among other things).
The idea behind them is that normal computing devices are often plagued by vulnerabilities because we (consumers and developers) use them in many different ways for many different things...often with constantly changing software as well. We are opening the doors for malware and unsafe computing practices.
A hardware wallet is a safe device, that is not updated often. Its purpose is for the safe generation and computation of keys and signatures. Some hardware wallets, such as the Ledger S Nano, go even further and allow you to store things like your two-factor identities on them.
You can think of hardware wallets as little safe computers, working for you to defend your precious keys (and effectively access to your money).