- Affordable hardware wallet with screen ($59)
- Lack of support for passphrases
Before we get into the main review, let’s go over who the Ledger Nano S is good for:
- Cryptocurrency investors who want the easiest and cheapest way to secure cryptocurrency
- An investor who plans to store many different coins
Quick Review - What is a Hardware Wallet?
Before we dig into the Ledger Nano S, here is brief refresh on what a hardware wallet does:
Hardware wallets are secure, offline devices. They store your cryptocurrency offline so you can’t be hacked.
Think of a hardware like your bank account. A mobile wallet–one you’d install on your smartphone–is more like your wallet that you carry cash in.
Your hardware wallet is used to secure larger amounts.
A Great Tool for Cryptocurrency Investors
Cryptocurrency investors are responsible for securing their own funds.
And if you’re looking to secure cryptocurrency, the Ledger Nano S is one of the easiest and cheapest ways.
Legendary Bitcoin author, developer and speaker Andreas Antonopoulos believes that hardware wallets are the best storage solution for the average person:
I'll go on the record and say the Hardware Wallets are better than software and paper wallets for all except a handful of opsec/infosec experts. Security isn't about absolutes. It's all relative and complexity/operator skill are of the utmost importance.— Andreas M. Antonopoulos (@aantonop) March 27, 2018
There are more complex solutions, but if you’re not a top of the line developer, losing money by accident is more likely than actually being hacked.
The Nano S and other hardware wallet simplify security for you.
Cryptocurrency Investors Who Invest in Lots of Different Coins
Here’s an overview of some of the 1000+ coins it supports:
The Ledger Nano S supports more coins than its two competitors:
Since we get a lot of requests:
Yes, the Ledger Nano S does support Ripple.
It also supports any ERC20 token on the Ethereum network.
The Ledger Nano S is priced at $59 USD. This also includes free shipping to almost every country.
The S’s $59 USD price tag makes it equal to the Trezor One; both slightly more expensive than the Keepkey at $49.
Make sure you NEVER buy a Ledger Nano S or any other hardware wallet from eBay.Only buy from the Ledger store or on Amazon.
Here is the Nano S compared to the other popular hardware wallets:
The real question is:
Does the Ledger Nano S’s lower price tag come with any security tradeoffs?
Background on Ledger - A Bitcoin Security Company
Ledger has been creating hardware products for Bitcoin security since 2014.
According to Ledger’s website, they have sold over 1,000,000 Ledger Nano S devices and have clients in over 165 countries:
What About the Ledger Nano X?
Ledger launched the Ledger Nano X in March 2019.
The Ledger Nano X will be easier to use. It can connect via bluetooth to Android and iOS devices, so you won’t need a computer to set it up.
It’s up to you whether the easy setup and ability to use with iOS devices is worth the extra money.
Here’s a picture of the Nano S just so you can see how it looks:
What’s in the Box
The Ledger Nano S 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 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.
The PIN code helps prevent the loss of bitcoins in case you 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.
Ledger no longer uses anti-tampering seals, since it is easy to counterfeit them. An anti-tampering seal could, therefore, give a misleading sense of safety.
Instead, Ledger has opted to provide software tools to verify is a peice of hardware is genuine and/or has not been tampered with. This software is called “Root of Trust”
You can learn more about Root of Trust here.
Offline Storage and Backups
Let’s get back to the main purpose of a hardware wallet.
It stores your keys in its offline, secure environment.
Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies stored on an online computer are an easy target for hackers, especially if you use Windows.
When you use a hardware wallet, which stores your bitcoins offline, then your coins are stored offline and out of reach from hackers.
The Nano S also lets you create backups of your wallet by writing down a 24 word phrase.
Ledger provides paper to write down your phrase:
This phrase can be used to recreate your wallet in the event that your Nano S is lost, damaged or stolen.
For the extra paranoid user, you may want to store your seed in a fireproof safe. Or, get something like the Billfodl.
The Billfodl is stainless steel. It allows you to backup your seed on material that is much more resistant to fire, water and other potential dangers to your backup seed.
For example, one user had $1 million worth of cryptocurrency backed up on a seed. His house was flooded, and the water destroyed his paper backup seed. This would not have happened had the user been storing his backup seed on stainless steel like the Billfodl.
The Billfodl protects your seed from both fire and potential floods. For $80, this can be worth it depending on the amount of cryptocurrency you’re storing on your device.
This is the feature I’m DYING for Ledger to add!
One feature that the Ledger 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.
Setting up the Ledger Nano S is actually quite easy.
Here is a video if you prefer that, otherwise follow along with my steps below.
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.
Make sure you write down your seed and store it in at least 2 separate physical locations.
Install Ledger Apps
You’ll need to install the Ledger Manager app to interact with your Ledger Nano S from your computer.
The manager app allows you to install software onto your Ledger Nano S for different coins.
Then, you’ll also need one of the three other apps depending on which coins you’re using:
Now, let’s say you want to receive bitcoins.
First, open the Bitcoin Ledger Application.
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 Bitcoin 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.
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 verification 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.
- Quick Review - What is a Hardware Wallet?
- A Great Tool for Cryptocurrency Investors
- Cryptocurrency Investors Who Invest in Lots of Different Coins
- Background on Ledger - A Bitcoin Security Company
- What About the Ledger Nano X?
- Device Appearance
- What’s in the Box
- Setup Guide
- Recovery Phrase Notice!
- Why is the Nano S’s screen Important?
- Ledger Nano S vs KeepKey
- Ledger Nano S vs TREZOR
- SafePal vs Ledger Nano S
- Ledger Nano S Ethereum
- Is there a Ledger Nano S 2 or Ledger Nano S 3?
- How to Turn Off Ledger Nano S
- What to Know About Ledger Nano S Firmware Updates
- Has Ledger ever been hacked?
- Avoiding Scams with the Ledger Nano S When Ordering
- What Coins Does Ledger Nano S Support?
- Ledger Nano S Legacy or Segwit
- End of Review
- How to Use Ledger Nano S with Mycelium (Android)
- How to Restore Ledger Nano S Seed with Mycelium (Android)
- How to Use Ledger Nano S with Greenbits
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.
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 $59.
The KeepKey has a more “premium” feel to it although that is just a matter of personal taste!
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 $59.
The TREZOR has an advanced recovery feature that the Nano S does not have. This recovery feature makes sure that your TREZOR recovery phrase will not be exposed to the computer when recovered.
SafePal vs Ledger Nano S
The Ledger Nano S has been out for a while, while the Safepal is new. With hardware wallets, it’s better to used tried and tested hardware over new devices.
Ledger Nano S Ethereum
Is there a Ledger Nano S 2 or Ledger Nano S 3?
There is not a Ledger Nano S 2 announced as of now.
The Ledger Blue is another hardware wallet made by Ledger. It uses bluetooth and has a screen, so it works like a tablet.
It does not, however, offer any extra security so its $229 price tag may not be worth it. It’s also out of stock now, anyway.
How to Turn Off Ledger Nano S
The Ledger Nano S has no battery, so it’s automatically turned on when plugged into a power source (computer or wallet).
It is automatically turned off when unplugged.
What to Know About Ledger Nano S Firmware Updates
Most firmware updates are fine.
Some users have had issues when updating to new firmware. This is why it’s super important to make sure you have backups of your 24-word seed before updating firmware. You don’t need the seeds with you, but make sure that they exist so that in case your Ledger resets you can go access the seeds and recover your coins.
Has Ledger ever been hacked?
There has never been a known instance of a Ledger getting hacked in a non-laboratory setting. That means that security researchers have been able to compromise a Ledger device in a lab setting with unlimited time and resources and lots of expertise. However, no user has ever reported a device being compromised in the real world by an attacker who was not able to socially engineer someone to open the device for them.
That being said, Ledger (the company) has had its databases hacked. On July 29, 2020, Ledger sent out an email to all previous customers that began,
Our ecommerce and marketing database leaked. We immediately fixed the breach. Contact and order details were involved. Your funds are safe.
You can read the full report here.
To be clear, this breach did not affect any customer funds held on Ledger devices. This was a breach of Ledger’s ecommerce customer database. For the most part, emails and addresses were leaked, and for some customers, what they had ordered in the past was also leaked.
Avoiding Scams with the Ledger Nano S When Ordering
I mentioned it at the beginning of the post but it’s worth repeating again:
Never order a Ledger Nano S from eBay!
Some users have done this and lost money.
Since they were new to cryptocurrency it did not mean anything to them when the secondhand Ledger device showed up already initialized!
Here’s how this scam works:
The thief sets up a Ledger Nano S and delivers it on eBay. Buyer sends money to the device, but the thief has the backup code. Once money is sent, thief sweeps funds using the backup, leaving the buyer with nothing.
Only order from the Ledger Store.
There have also been scams involving fake versions of their hardware manager app, Ledger Live.
⚠️ Please beware of fraudulent Ledger Manager apps going around on the Chrome web store. Always install our client applications from https://t.co/sGf0KTmar7 or https://t.co/nG1CwfwfgA— Ledger (@Ledger) July 25, 2018
You can report these fake applications as malware here: https://t.co/KvUrfVSjRC
Make sure you only download the app through the link on the Ledger Live page on Ledger’s site.
What Coins Does Ledger Nano S Support?
The Ledger Nano S supports the most coins out of any cryptocurrency hardware wallet:
- Bitcoin Gold
- Ethereum Classic
Ledger Nano S Legacy or Segwit
One confusing thing for users of the Ledger Nano S is whether to use Bitcoin with legacy addresses or segwit addresses. We suggest using Segwit addresses since this will save 40% on transaction costs when you go to send bitcoins.
End of Review
The rest of this article shows you how to use the S with certain wallets.
How to Use Ledger Nano S with Mycelium (Android)
This section details how to use a previously initialized Ledger Nano S with Mycelium. Your Nano S must be setup before use with Mycelium.
First, make sure you have the latest version of Mycelium installed on your Android device. Open Mycelium and select “new account”. If you already have Mycelium installed then skip this step.
Swipe right to move over to the “Accounts” tab. Click the key on the top right to add a new account.
Under “Import a Ledger-HD account” tap “Ledger”.
Plug in an OTG cable to your Android device and plug in your Nano S to the OTG cable.
Enter your Ledger Nano S pin code.
Mycelium will scan for accounts on your Nano S.
In this case there were no used accounts. If the Nano S had accounts, you would simply select the account you want to add Mycelium. In this case we will create a new account by selecting “Import next unused account”.
Name your Ledger Nano account on Mycelium.
You can now send payments from your Ledger Nano S with Mycelium.
Even if the Nano S is removed after use, the wallet and its addresses will still be viewable in watch-only mode. This way you can still view your balance, generate new addresses, and receive payments.
How to Restore Ledger Nano S Seed with Mycelium (Android)
If your Ledger has been lost or stolen, your funds can still be accessed by importing the recovery seed into Mycelium for Android.
A fresh install of Mycelium is required. If you already have Mycelium installed, backup your wallet and reinstall the application.
When opening Mycelium, you’ll be given two options: Restore Backup and Create New. Select Restore Backup.
All Ledger seeds are 24 words, so select 24 words:
Mycelium will have you enter the words one at a time.
You can now send any funds that were stored on your Ledger Nano S.
Note that the private keys from your Ledger Nano S seed are now stored in Mycelium. Your funds should immediately be moved to cold storage. The old Ledger seed is now insecure and should not be reused.
How to Use Ledger Nano S with Greenbits
This article details how to use a previously initialized Ledger Nano S with GreenBits. Your Nano S must be setup before use with GreenBits. Note that you won’t be able to use your accounts from the Ledger Chrome wallet. GreenBits is a multisignature wallet and can’t use the same addresses that are used in the Ledger Chrome app. With GreenBits and the Ledger Nano S, the Nano S acts as more of a login device that signs transactions. Again, accounts from the Ledger Chrome wallet cannot be used with GreenBits.
First, make sure you have the latest version of GreenBits installed on your Android device. Plugin your Nano via OTG cable and you will receive a pop-up message. Tap “OK”.
Type in the pin code you set when you initialized your Nano S in the Ledger Desktop wallet. The pin code is the only thing carries over from other accounts or wallets on the Nano S.
That’s it. You’ll now see the GreenBits wallet home page. All transactions with this wallet must be signed by your Ledger Nano S.
There is no watch-only mode. If you unplug your Nano, you’ll only be able to receive payments upon plugging it in again.
Review By: Jordan Tuwiner
Rating: 4.8Buy a Ledger Nano S