- 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 review, 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.
A hardware wallet’s functionality is to secure large amounts of crypto.
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:
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 Crypto Assets
Here’s an overview of some of the 1000+ digital assets it supports:
The Ledger Nano S supports more digital assets than its main competitor:
Since we get a lot of requests:
Yes, the Ledger Nano S does support Ripple (XRP).
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 Nano S USD price tag makes it equal to the Trezor One.
Make sure you NEVER buy a Ledger Nano S or any other hardware wallet from eBay.Only buy from the Ledger's store.
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 3 million Ledger devices and have clients in over 200 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 configure it up.
It’s up to you whether the easy setup and ability to use with iOS devices is worth the extra money.
The Nano S’s screen means, like other hardware wallets, such as 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 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 (BTC) 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 that the piece of hardware is genuine and/or has not been tampered with. This software is called “Root of Trust”.
Apps like root of trust should help minimize supply chain attacks like those found by Kraken where a user was able to compromise a Nano X to behave as a keyboard when connected to a computer.
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 altcoins 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 crypto assets are stored offline and out of reach from hackers.
The Nano S also lets you create backups of your crypto wallet by writing down a 24 word phrase.
Ledger provides paper to write down your seed phrase:
This seed 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.
Privacy Pro’s 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.
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.
Make sure you only download the app through the link on the Ledger Live page on Ledger’s site.
Once opened, select the device you’re setting up. Choose Nano S.
If your device is brand new, select “Initialize as a new device”:
In this step, set a pin code on your device. You don’t actually need to use the app for anything yet, the app is just guiding you through the steps.
Ledger provides a piece of paper you can use to write down your phrase.
Ledger’s app has some really nice security suggestions. Follow them!
Now, write down the 24 words that you will see on your Nano S’s screen. You still don’t need the app yet, it’s just guiding you.
Ledger offers more tips here, definitely make sure you’ve followed all of their suggestions in order to keep your Bitcoin and cryptocurrency safe!
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.
Ledger will ask you to confirm that you followed their advice.
Ledger Live will tell you to set a password lock. This is so if someone gets access to your phone they can’t see any information about which coins are on your Ledger. This is mostly a privacy concern and not a security concern.
Setting a password:
Ledger offers some warnings about your password:
After that, choose which data you’re willing to share with Ledger:
That’s it, the device is ready to use! Although this process seemed long, it didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to complete all of it.
One last warning from Ledger:
Now you can optionally add a passphrase for extra protection.
Passphrase support lets you add custom text or an extra PIN number onto your 24 word recovery phrase.
As we mentioned earlier, 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 crypto 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.
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 digital assets.
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.
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 (BTC) 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.
- Quick Review - What is a Hardware Wallet?
- A Great Tool for Cryptocurrency Investors
- Cryptocurrency Investors Who Invest in Lots of Different Crypto Assets
- Background on Ledger - A Bitcoin Security Company
- What About the Ledger Nano X?
- Device Appearance
- What’s in the Box
- Setup Guide
- 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
- Paraswap Support
- Using Ledger Nano S with Uniswap
- Ledger Nano S Full Node Support
- Ledger Nano S Coin Control
- 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
- How to Restore Ledger Nano S Seed with Mycelium (Android)
The screen makes it easy to confirm that the payment you’d like to send is for the correct amount and to the right wallet address.
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 a secure element/chips (ST31H320 with a CC EAL5+ certification), while KeepKey is essentially a mini computer.
A KeepKey costs $49 while the S costs just $59.
The main difference is that the Ledger Nano S uses a secure element/chip (ST31H320 with a CC EAL5+ certification), while TREZOR is essentially a mini computer.
A TREZOR T costs $320 while the S costs just $59.
The TREZOR Model T 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
The Ledger Nano S does indeed work with Ethereum (ETH) and also Litecoin (LTC).
In July of 2021, Ledger announced that its hardware wallets would now work with the DEX aggregator Paraswap.
You can use this service by downloading the Paraswap app in the Ledger App store and following the steps in this video.
Using Ledger Nano S with Uniswap
The best way to make trades on Uniswap using your Ledger Nano S is to connect your ledger wallet to MetaMask, one of the more well-known Ethereum (ETH) desktop wallets (MyEtherWallet or MEW).
Once you get your Ledger connected to Metamask, then you can easily connect Metamask to your Uniswap account.
Just go to Products -> App in the top menu of Uniswap
Then select “Connect to wallet” and choose Metamask from the pop-up.
From there, just follow the prompts.
It is worth noting that many users are experiencing issues with using their Ledger wallet to make Uniswap trades, however it is unclear if this is an issue with Ledger, Metamask, Uniswap, or some combination of the three.
Ledger Nano S Full Node Support
Ledger recently announced that full node support is now live through its Satstack software.
With Satstack full-node support, users can now connect their full node to Ledger Live, Ledger’s native wallet software, so that they no longer need to utilize Ledger’s node and thereby expose their XPUB (and, by extension, all of their blockchain activity).
However, you will need to be able to use a command line interface for now.
Ledger Nano S Coin Control
Coin Control is the ability to select which UTXOs you spend so that you can decide between a LIFO (Last In, First Out) or FIFO (First In, First Out). This has tax implications but also security implications as well. If you have tiny amounts of Bitcoin in a UTXO, you can avoid spending it, which prevents others from tracking you in what is called a ‘dust attack’.
In the same announcement mentioned above, Ledger promised that Coin Control would be coming to Ledger Live, and now its finally here as part of Ledger Live’s advanced settings. That makes Ledger the only one of these hardware wallets to support coin control natively.
Is there a Ledger Nano S 2 or Ledger Nano S 3?
There is not a Ledger Nano S 2 announced as of now.
There is the Ledger Nano X, the pro version of the Nano S.
- Bluetooth functionality
- a larger hard drive to hold more apps
- a batter for mobile use - no need to plug into a computer
- a higher resolution screen than the Nano S.
It does not, however, offer any extra security so its $150 price tag may not be worth it.
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.
To be clear, this breach did not affect any customer funds held on Ledger devices. This was a breach of Ledger’s e-commerce 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.
There have also been scams involving fake versions of their hardware manager app, Ledger Live.
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
- Bitcoin Cash (Bcash)
- 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.
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.
Review By: Jordan Tuwiner