Ledger Nano S Review 2018
If you are even remotely serious about investing in the cryptocurrency asset class, you need to approach security from the non-conventional perspective.
We need not pay much attention to cybersecurity with it comes to traditional forms of financial services. However, cryptocurrencies are anything but traditional or conventional. It demands a bit more attention from us, but the potential rewards completely justify the extra effort.
Lucky for us though, the cryptocurrency space has matured quite a bit. You no longer need to overwhelm yourself with technical information. You no longer need to manually setup cold-storage devices. In this article, I will talk about Ledger Nano S, a cryptocurrency hardware wallet that has forever simplified the security aspect of cryptocurrency investing.
What I Like and Dislike about Nano S
What I like
What I dislike
If you’re new to hardware wallets in general, I’d recommend that you check out this fantastic overview of hardware wallets.
Summary of Features
The ledger Nano S is by far the most inexpensive option currently available on the market. Currently available for 79 €, no other ledger nano alternative comes even close to it in terms of pricing and affordability.
Ease of Use
Out of all the cryptocurrency hardware wallets, Ledger Nano S stands out in terms of the simplicity offers, making it by far the most user-friendly device on the market.
The impressive price tag and ease of use comes at a cost and this cost manifests in the number of security features it offers compared to the features offered by other hardware wallets.
Although Ledger Nano S supports a wide range of altcoins, the number of coins it supports does fall short of its two other competitors.
The Company Behind Ledger Nano S
The ledger nano S is designed and manufactured by Ledger, a French cryptocurrency-based company that is involved in the development of security and infrastructure systems in the cryptocurrency and blockchain arena.
The company came into existence in 2014 when eight security and cryptocurrency experts came together to actualize their entrepreneurial zeal. Over the years, the company has grown to over 80 employees and has a physical presence in Paris, San Francisco, and Vierzon.
First Look: Ledger Nano S Review
Ledger Nano S is a cryptocurrency hardware wallet that can connect to any computer via a USB port. The wallet is the size of a USB device. It has a built-in OLED display screen that is used for double checking each and every transaction and physically confirming transactions using its side buttons.
Despite its size, it offers almost all of the security features we’ve come to expect from hardware wallets. It offers U2F authentication of every individual transaction using its side buttons. It has a built-in security PIN lock. It supports BIP39 seed functionality for simplified backups and easy recovery.
The device runs on a proprietary operating system called the BOLOS platform, which was developed specifically for the ledger hardware wallets. The OS allows the community to develop open source applications for the wallet without actually tinkering with the firmware of the device.
Ledger Nano Review: The Unboxing
The Ledger Nano S comes in a box that is sealed with tamper-evident tape. This ensures that your hardware wallet was not tampered with while being shipped from France. After opening the box, you will notice that the company modeled their packaging style after Apple products.
You can watch the YouTube video to get a better idea of what I am trying to say about the packaging. The device is encased in a pressure-resistant aluminum casing, which makes the device quite durable.
Inside the box you will find:
General Features and Specifications
The Ledger Nano S was designed to provide an extra layer of security while we interact with various cryptocurrencies. It isolates our private keys from the computer it is connected using a virtual form of vacuum. This means we can use the device on a computer that is infected with malware and not expose our private keys to any form of risk.
How Does it Work?
The Ledger Nano S is a special purpose chipset that operates on a proprietary operating system developed by Ledger specifically for their hardware wallets. The main principle behind how the wallet works is that it completely isolates the private keys stored on the device, even when the device is connected to a computer that is online.
This basically means that whether your computer is infected with some form of malicious software or even if a hacker has access to your computer, your private keys will be safely stored behind a firewall that is virtually impossible to crack.
The ledger Nano S allows us to safely store our cryptocurrencies while still being easily accessible, convenient and available on-the-go.
Ledger Nano S
Coins and Tokens
4 Digit PIN Code
4 to 8 Digit PIN Code
Encrypted on Device
Encryption Via GPG
On Device Encryption
Micro SD Card Support
Security Features and Privacy
Let’s examine all of the security features that Ledger Nano S offers.
Private keys are essentially what determines the ownership over all cryptocurrencies. As cryptocurrency investors, we want to make sure that we maintain complete control over our private keys.
The Ledger Nano S is essentially a secure storage mechanism for private keys. This means, as a Ledger Nano S user, you will be in complete control over your private keys and no one else, including the company, will have access to your private keys.
FIDO U2F Authenticator
The Nano S runs a certified U2F authenticator app that allows its users to use it a second security factor various compatible services. This system of 2-factor authentication allows us to avoid using conventional 2FA mechanisms such as SMS or OTP codes such as Authy and Google Authenticator. Hence, creating a far more secure and practical form of 2FA mechanism.
BIP39 Seed Code Backup and Recovery
The Nano S supports BIP39 Seed code, which allows us to generate a seed code that is used for creating a backup of the device. If you ever lose your device, you can simply recover your wallet onto another ledger hardware wallet. You would need to enter your 24-word seed recovery phrase and your wallet will be fully recovered on a new device.
When you initially set up your new Nano S device, the device will require you to create a PIN code. This PIN code acts as the first line of defense as it would prevent a stranger from simply accessing your wallet.
Moreover, you can’t simply guess the PIN code either. After three incorrect guesses, the device automatically resets itself, ensuring that your digital assets don’t fall into the wrong hands just because the hardware wallet somehow found itself in the wrong hands.
Initially, the Nano S wallet did not offer passphrase support. However, the passphrase feature was added after the 1.2 firmware update. The passphrase support allows us to add another layer of security to our digital assets.
So in addition to entering the recovery seed code, the device will also require the custom passphrase, which should be memorized by the wallet’s creator. Hence, in the unlikely scenario that someone gains access to your 24-word recovery phrase, your cryptocurrencies will still remain safe and in your possession.
As I mentioned earlier, Ledger ships its products, including Nano S, with a tamper-proof tape around the packaging. This ensures that your hardware wallet device has not been tampered with in any way. In the case that you notice signs of tampering with the tape, you should contact Ledger and you should get a replacement wallet.
Privacy and Secure Element
Ledger Nano S is designed on a dual-chip architecture with a security certification level of CC EAL5+. The firmware of the device is guaranteed through cryptographic attestation, which ensures absolute integrity of both the hardware and the software of the wallet.
Both of these factors work together to create something called the secure element that even the company cannot retroactive alter. Hence, your private keys will be walled off from both Ledger and other third-party actors. This ensures that each and every wallet remains decentralized and you act as your own bank.
Now that we understand all of the security features Nano S offers and the level of security we can expect, let’s look at its compatibility across various different platforms and services.
Ledger Nano S is compatible with all three major computer operating systems. In fact, the wallet itself has nothing to do with the operating system, instead, you need to install the wallet’s client app using Chrome.
In order to manage the device, you need to install its client application known as Ledger Manager. You can either download the client onto your computer or you can opt to use its Chrome browser extension app. This means that Chrome will be the primary browser for all of your Ledger related uses.
Ledger Nano Supported Coins
Ledger Nano S supports the following cryptocurrencies:
You can visit the ledger wallet website for the complete list of Ledger Nano supported coins and their respective compatible wallets.
Ledger Nano S has its own cryptocurrency wallet clients. However, it also supports a number of other third-party wallet clients. The following wallet services are compatible with Ledger Nano S:
However, an important note, Ledger Nano S can only operate five different apps at a time, which means, you can install only five different apps or wallets on your ledger wallet. This does not mean that deleting a wallet will make you lose your cryptocurrencies. You just wouldn’t be able to withdraw or interact with the cryptocurrencies until you reinstall its respective wallet client.
Due to the open source nature of the wallet’s client, Ledger Manager, it allows us to access a number of different third-party services. For example, you can choose to install different apps that will further increase the security of your wallet.
SSH/PGP Agent app is a one example of an app that you can install for greater encryption or the Dido U2F authentication system for an improved authentication mechanism.
Third-Party Wallet Recovery
Since the Nano S supports BIP39 for seed generation, you can use any other wallet or hardware wallet that supports BIP39 to recover your wallet. You should, however, make sure that the other wallet also utilizes BIP44 to generate account and addresses, as compatibility depends on the underlying systems and not the device.
Price Comparison and Ledger Nano Alternatives
As I mentioned earlier, the Ledger Nano S is unrivaled in terms of pricing. If the total cost is a major consideration in your decision, then you will definitely like the moderately price Nano S. The following illustration will you compare the different price ranges you can choose from when looking for a hardware wallet.
As you can see, the Trezor One is Nano S’s direct competitor and both of these devices are similarly priced. But we can’t ignore the fact that it really is difficult to beat Nano S when it comes to price. If you want a better understanding of the differences in the prices in terms of features these devices offer, you can also check out the review of Trezor One.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have hardware wallets that lean more towards smartphones and tablets with their full-color touchscreens and powerful operating systems. These devices cost considerably more and are better suited to be stored away rather than carried around like the Nano S or Trezor One.
I would highly recommend that you check out my review of KeepKey. It will help you understand why these other devices cost twice as much.
A Quick Setup and Initialization Guide
As I’ve mentioned earlier, you will have to download and install the Ledger Manager using the Chrome Browser. After that, the entire initialization process takes place on the hardware. Let’s go over the entire process step by step.
1) First thing you will have to do is install the Ledger Manager app using the Chrome browser.
2) After you’ve installed the Ledger Manager app, connect the wallet to your computer using the USB cable provided with the wallet.
3) After your device turns on for the first time, it will prompt you to configure a PIN code for your wallet. Make sure you remember the PIN code otherwise, you won’t be able to use the device.
4) After you’ve configured the PIN code, the device will ask you to either create a new seed or restore an existing seed. After you generate a new seed, make sure to write it down on the seed recovery card provided with the wallet. After that, the device will ask you to confirm four of the 24 recovery words.
5) After this, you will get the message saying, “Your Device is Now Ready”
6) Lastly, you will need to install specific apps to interact with the device and the different cryptocurrencies you intend to store in the device. For example, you will have to install a different app for Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, etc.
After you’ve completed the fifth step, your device should be ready. You can go ahead and generate an address and send the cryptocurrency to your new Ledger Nano S.
Reviews and Testimonials
Let’s briefly go over some of the reviews and testimonials found on Amazon.
One thing that particularly stood out for me when I was going through the reviews on Amazon was that most of the bad reviews were about the third-party sellers and not the wallet. Most of these bad reviews talked about the packing being tampered with, the tamper-resistant seal being removed and so on.
Aside from that, other reviews that didn’t give a perfect rating had the similar complaint that i noted earlier in the article. The fact that the wallets has a severely limited capacity for the number of apps that can be installed at the same time really affects its user experience.
It is a criticism I also pointed out earlier in the review, it is the same criticism you will find pretty much everywhere . Other than that, most users seemed satisfied with the wallet, particularly with its security features.
A Few Important Questions Before Getting Nano S
Question: If I want to invest in a large number of cryptocurrencies, would Nano S be a good option despite its the limited number of wallet apps it can install.
Answer: This is one of the major downsides of the wallet. However, it does not impede your ability to store more than 5 altcoins at the same time. It just means that you would have to continually remove and install different wallet apps in order to interact with all of the altcoins on the wallet.
Question: Would it make sense to get the Nano S when Ledger just recently started offering a newer model, Ledger Blue?
Answer: While it is true that Ledger Blue is one of the most advanced hardware wallets out there, I would like to remind you that Ledger Blue resides in a different price range and competes with KeepKey and Model T. Nano S being the most popular hardware wallet, at least, in term of total sales figures, we can expect Ledger’s continued support for the wallet.
My Final Thoughts
The Ledger Nano S has sold over a million times, so it's safe to safe that its a successful product. For a product that offers financial security as its primary purpose, there is not much room for error.
As the cheapest option on the market, I don’t think you can ask for more. It really does what it is intended to do. It will keep your digital assets safe. However, if you’re looking for the best user experience, then Nano S isn’t probably for you. It neither claims to offer the best possible user experience nor does it claim to be the most cutting-edge piece of technology.
It is, however, extremely easy to use. If you’re looking for your first hardware wallet just to acquaint yourself with the technology, Nano S is exactly what you’re looking for. If you want secondary hardware wallet to keep on hand at all times, Nano S is the wallet you’re looking for. In my opinion, the Ledger Nano S is quite elegant in the simplicity it offers.