Before we get into the main review, here are a few things I like and don’t like about the Nano S:
- The Nano S is currently the cheapest hardware wallet with a screen*
- The Nano S is easy to setup and use on any desktop computer
- No passphrase support (I'll explain more on this later)
*I’ll explain in a bit why you NEED to use a hardware wallet with a screen.
The Ledger Nano S is different than Ledger’s other two hardware wallets—the Ledger Nano and Ledger HW.1—because it has a screen. The Nano S’s screen means, like other hardware wallets (like KeepKey or TREZOR), it can be used even on a computer that is infected with malware.
Here’s a picture of the Nano S just so you can see how it looks:
What’s in the Box
The Ledger Nano comes nicely packaged and includes the following items:
- Ledger Nano S
- 1 micro-USB cable
- Lanyard for wearing device around neck
- One keychain and key ring
- Recovery sheet for writing down seed
The Ledger Nano S is priced in euros at €58, which is about $65 USD.
The S’s $65 USD price tag makes it the cheapest among the three hardware wallets with screens.
Make sure you NEVER buy a Ledger Nano S or any other hardware wallet from eBay.
Only buy from the Ledger store or from Amazon.
If you’re on a budget, checkout Ledger’s Nano hardware wallet–but it does not have a screen.
Here is the Nano S compared to the other three popular hardware wallets:
|Ledger Nano S||2016||58€|
The real question is:
Does the Ledger Nano S’s lower price tag come with any security tradeoffs?
The next few sections will outline some of the S’s security features.
Like the TREZOR, the S also has two physical buttons which add to its security.
In order to confirm a payment you need to physically press both buttons at the same time. This makes it so no hacker could hack into your device and confirm a payment.
The Ledger Nano S also requires the user to create a PIN code on setup.
- What’s in the Box
- Why is the Nano S’s screen Important?
- Setup Guide
- Recovery Phrase Notice!
- Ledger Nano S vs KeepKey
- Ledger Nano S vs TREZOR
The PIN code helps prevent the loss of bitcoins in case your lose your device.
A stranger would not be able to send bitcoins from your Nano S because he/she would not know your 4 digit pin code. After three incorrect guesses of the pin code the device wipes itself.
Let’s get back to the main purpose of a hardware wallet.
It stores your keys in its offline, secure environment.
Bitcoins and private keys stored on an online computer are easy target for hackers.
When you use a hardware wallet, which stores your bitcoins offline, then your coins are stored offline and out of reach from hackers.
The box ships with tamper-proof tape around the packaging. If this tape appears to be altered in any way, it is likely someone tampered with your device before it arrived to you.
Be sure to email level to return it and request a new device!
This is the feature I’m DYING for Ledger to add!
One feature that the Nano S lacks is passphrase support.
Passphrase support lets you add custom text onto your 24 word recovery phrase.
As we mentioned early, if anyone gets access to your recovery phrase they also have access to your bitcoins.
A passphrase prevents this because in addition to the 24 word recovery phrase, a thief would need the seed plus the passphrase used to create the wallet, which is memorized by the wallet’s creator.
The good news is, Ledger plans to add this feature to the Nano S soon.
The Nano S also does not run on a battery, meaning when it is not plugged in it is completely offline and turned off.
Why is the Nano S’s screen Important?
The S’s screen helps with a few things:
When you setup your Nano S, the wallet generates a recovery phrase. The recovery phrase is a complete backup of your wallet.
On a normal Bitcoin wallet, like an iPhone wallet, the recovery phrase is displayed on your phone’s screen.
In most cases your phone is probably secure enough.
Since your phone is connected to the internet, it’s very possible that someone could hack into your phone to 1) steal your bitcoins or 2) snatch your recovery phrase.
When you use a hardware wallet like the Nano S, the recovery phrase is generated offline and displayed on the Nano S’s screen, which ensures that the recovery phrase is never on an internet-connected device.
How else does the screen help protect you?
The screen provides an extra layer of verificaiton when sending payments.
The screen makes it easy to confirm that the payment you’d like to send is for the correct amount and to the right address.
Setting up the Ledger Nano S is actually quite easy.
First, plug it into your computer to turn it on. You’ll need a micro-USB cable.
You’ll be asked to create a four-digit pin code using the device’s screen. You can slide the numbers higher or lower using the buttons.
Once you reach the desired number, press both buttons at the same time to select the next number. You’ll then have to repeat this process to confirm your pin code.
After you’ve set a PIN code, you’ll be asked to write down the Ledger’s 24-word recovery phrase. Words will show up one at a time, just click the right button to see the next word.
Ledger provides a piece of paper you can use to write down your phrase:
The Nano S will then ask you to confirm your seed by asking for two random words of your seed.
If, for example, it asks for the 10th word of your seed, scroll through the words and press both buttons when you see the 10th word of your seed.
If you have the Ledger Chrome application installed you can now access your wallet.
On your Ledger Nano S’s screen scroll through the options and press both buttons on the “B” icon that says “Bitcoin”.
Once you do this you should now see a wallet interface in the Ledger Chrome app. And that’s it!
You can now receive payments to your Ledger Nano S.
Recovery Phrase Notice!
Once your wallet has been setup and bitcoins are sent to your hardware wallet, anyone who has access to this recovery phrase can gain control of your bitcoins.
Make sure you don’t share your seed with ANYONE!
Keep it in a safe place that only you have access to.
The Ledger Nano S can actually be setup without even being plugged into a computer.
Once setup, the best wallet option for privacy to use with Ledger is Electrum on desktop, or Mycelium on Android.
The Open Bitcoin Privacy Project ranked Ledger’s wallets as the most private Bitcoin wallet in their 2016 report.
Ledger Nano S vs KeepKey
The main difference is that the Ledger Nano S uses two secure elements/chips, while KeepKey is essentially a mini computer.
A KeepKey costs $99 while the S costs just $65.
The KeepKey has a more “premium” feel to it although that is just a matter of personal taste!
Ledger Nano S vs TREZOR
The main difference is that the Ledger Nano S uses two secure elements/chips, while TREZOR is essentially a mini computer.
A TREZOR costs $99 while the S costs just $65.
Review by: Jordan Tuwiner
Rating: 4.8Buy a Ledger Nano S