Ledger Nano S Review (2020)

Ledger Nano S
  • Beginner Friendly
  • Design
  • Security
  • Documentation & Support
  • Supported Cryptocurrencies
  • Community Sentiment
  • Price
4.9

Summary

The Ledger Nano S has sold over 1.4 million units since it was first released. It supports more than 1100+ cryptocurrencies, which includes all the most popular ones: from Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) to Ripple (XRP) and Monero (XMR).

It’s now priced just £55 in the UK, $59 in the United States, or €59 in the European Union. That’s incredible value for money considering the features that are packed into this.

The Ledger Nano S is a cryptocurrency hardware wallet which was released in 2016 by Ledger. It’s one of the most popular hardware wallets on the market. To date, more than 1.4 million units of the Ledger Nano S have been sold. I’ve consistently ranked the Ledger Nano S as one of the best hardware wallets.

But is the Ledger Nano S the right hardware wallet for you? 

In this Ledger Nano S review, I’ll cover everything you need to know: from what cryptocurrencies are supported to all the little extra features it includes which you’ll want to know about.

I’ll also cover some security stuff which will help you keep your cryptocurrencies secure and answer some FAQs about the Ledger Nano S after the main review.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages

  • One of the most popular hardware wallets available, which has a great reputation and is well-recommended.
  • Ledger Live (the wallet interface) is fantastic: it has made the process of sending, receiving, and storing your cryptocurrencies even easier than before.
  • Supports Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), Monero (XMR), and loads of other cryptocurrencies (more than 1100+).
  • Affordable price, at just £55 in the UK, $59 in the US, or €59 in Europe.

Disadvantages

  • Not all cryptocurrencies are supported via Ledger Live yet.
  • Hardware wallets aren’t feasible for storing low investments (e.g. <£1000).
  • Unlike the Trezor One, Ledger’s firmware is not open source.

What Is a Hardware Wallet?

The Ledger Nano S has its own screen which shows transaction information.

Hardware wallets like the Ledger Nano S make it simple to securely store your cryptocurrency.

They’re small USB devices (usually with their own screen) which don’t expose your private keys. This critical information is securely isolated and never passed elsewhere.

You connect these devices to a computer. On the computer, you’ll input all the transaction details (e.g. how much and where it’s going). You’ll then have to physically interact with the device to authenticate any transaction.

All transactions must be verified (i.e. signed) on the Ledger Nano S.

Even if the computer you were connected to was infected with malware, it can’t touch your cryptocurrency funds without authenticating the transaction through the hardware wallet.

While a hardware wallet isn’t considered as secure as cold-storage wallets (e.g. paper wallets) by some, they are much better than hot wallets (e.g. desktop or mobile wallets). They remain popular and well-recommended across the crypto-community for their ease-of-use and convenience.

Putting you in control

Using a Ledger Nano S also puts you in control of your cryptocurrency. Here’s an exert from a recent post on Hackernoon:

For those who don’t know, leaving your coins on an exchange does not mean those coins are yours. You are simply trusting the exchange to release them to you at some point if you so request it. You have no idea of what level of security these exchanges deploy, nor should you trust any security they report to have. Your coins are stored in a trust-maximized and centralized entity, almost entirely defeating the purpose of using Bitcoin.

I’m sure that lots of people leave significant funds on exchanges (like Coinbase or Binance). Because of that, centralised exchanges are big targets for attackers. There are details of the (numerous) previous hacks of exchange services here.

Supported Cryptocurrencies

The Ledger Nano S supports loads of cryptocurrencies – more than 1100 according to their website. This includes Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Ripple (XRP), and Monero (XMR). Lots of these supported cryptocurrencies are ERC-20 tokens, which are all supported through Ledger’s compatibility with MyEtherWallet.

Check whether your favourite cryptocurrency is supported.

Ledger is slowly adding support for more and more cryptocurrencies. You can check up on their progress (or submit your own request) here.

What’s in the Box?

Here’s what’s in the box:

  • Ledger Nano S
  • 100cm (USB to MicroUSB) USB Cable
  • Instructions
  • Recovery Sheet
  • Lanyards

The box and device don’t have any anti-tamper seals. Don’t be worried about that. Check out this Ledger blog post to learn why.

Trezor devices have anti-tamper seals, but I think they offer a false sense of security.

Setup Your Ledger Nano S

The Ledger Nano S guides you through the setup process when you plug it in.

It only takes about 10 minutes to setup the Ledger Nano S.

The Ledger Nano S comes with instructions and guides you through the process on the device itself. Ledger Live (desktop app) also walks you through the setup process. It’s straightforward enough and you shouldn’t have much issue.

Ledger Live provides an excellent walkthrough of the setup process too.

During setup, you’ll be asked to record (and confirm) your recovery seed. It’s really important that you keep this safe. If your Ledger Nano S is lost or stolen, you can use this recovery seed to access your entire cryptocurrency balance.

Ideally, you should:

  • Not store your 24-word seed on a digital device (otherwise things like this can happen). Use the provided card or something like Cryptosteel.
  • Never enter your seed into any website.
  • Split the 24-word seed into multiple parts.
  • Create (at least) two backups of your 24-word seed and store them in two separate locations.
  • Keep the location of your 24-word seed secret. Only share this with trusted parties (e.g. your beneficiary).
  • Enable your hidden wallet (see below)
  • Consider storing your 24-word seed in a fireproof safe or storage box.

Taking these extra steps is annoying. However, this little bit of extra effort protects you against the possibility that one of your backups is compromised in some way (e.g. house burns down or is burgled).

Design

For the most part, it just looks like a standard USB drive.

I appreciated that the Ledger Nano S is small and discrete. When closed, it’s just 60mm x 18mm x 9mm.

It looks loads better than the Trezor One, mainly because of the metal protector. It also seems sturdier. I’ve never been afraid to take this out and about.

The Ledger’s screen is small, but I’ve always found it clear enough and easy to read (250 x 30px).

When the screen shows any details, it’ll slowly scroll through the information. You can then interact with the device with the two buttons at the top of the device.

You’ll interact with the device using these two buttons.

Wallet Interface

Ledger Live looks fantastic.

Ledger recently launched Ledger Live, an all-in-one companion application for the Ledger Nano S. With Ledger Live, you can access all of your cryptocurrency accounts in one place.

It looks great. It’s also easier and more intuitive than their previous system which required the installation and management of multiple Chrome-based apps.

However, Ledger Live does not support all of the 1100+ cryptocurrencies supported by the Ledger Nano S. In some cases, you still need to go through a clunky and awkward process in order to install and use some cryptocurrency wallets.

Hidden Wallets

The Ledger Nano S has a plausible deniability function which allows you install a second (hidden) wallet on the device which is accessed through an alternative pin. If someone is forcing you to open your Ledger Nano S, this security feature allows you to misdirect the attackers away from the wallet with the majority of your funds.

The official Ledger website recommends that you:

  • Use the first PIN code (the main wallet) for smaller amounts (i.e. daily use).
  • Use the second PIN code (the hidden wallet) for saving and hiding larger amounts (i.e. irregular use).

In the event that attackers accessed your 24-word seed, only the main wallet (with the smaller amount of funds) would be displayed if you set it up as described above.

Take steps to prevent a devastating wrench attack.

It’s important to understand this function properly before you enable it. Although I recommend using this function, it isn’t mandatory – you can always come back to this and set it up later when you find it necessary (or you understand it better).

Additional Features

The Ledger Nano S can also be used as a FIDO U2F (Universal Two-Factor) authentication device. This is like Google Authenticator, but more secure. It works with services like Dropbox, Google, and GitHub.

You can access more features by showing developer items in the Ledger App Manager. These advanced features include:

  • Password manager
  • OpenPGP support
  • Generate and store SSH keys

Ledger Nano S Price

When should I buy a hardware wallet?

Consider buying a hardware wallet like the Ledger Nano S when you have about £1000 worth of cryptocurrency (i.e. the cost is less than 10% of your total cryptocurrency holdings).

If you’re planning to purchase more cryptocurrency in the future, buying a hardware wallet when you have less than £500 might not be a bad move either.

If you’re on a budget, the Ledger Nano S is likely the most affordable option.

The Ledger Nano S is available from the official website for:

  • £55 in the United Kingdom
  • $59 in the United States
  • €59 in the European Union

You can pay with a debit/credit card, PayPal, or Bitcoin (BTC).

WalletPrice (incl. Tax)Website
Trezor One£51 / €59Official Site
Trezor Model T£156 / €180Official Site
Ledger Nano S£55 / €59Official Site
Ledger Nano X£109 / €119Official Site

Caution: Buying Used Hardware Wallets

Back in December 2017, a simple scam kept popping up.

When people were buying hardware wallets from non-official sources, scammers were selling hardware wallets which were already setup. People were receiving things like this.

(Click to enlarge) Source.

As you can see, the recovery seed (and PIN code) have already been setup. This means that the Ledger Nano S is not secure as the seller would know it as well.

Alternatives

From left: Trezor One, Ledger Nano S, & Trezor Model T.

The clearest alternative to the Ledger Nano S is the original Trezor (i.e. Trezor One).

The Trezor was the world’s first cryptocurrency hardware wallet. It’s about the same price as the Ledger Nano S and supports almost as many cryptocurrencies (advertised as 1000+). However, it doesn’t support popular cryptocurrencies like Ripple (XRP), Monero (XMR), and others.

Check out my Trezor review to learn more about it.

The Trezor Model T (the follow-up to the Trezor One) was launched in May 2018 and it’s worth checking out too. It’s about £100 / €120 more expensive than the Ledger Nano S but has an excellent full-colour touchscreen which makes it easier to use and more intuitive. It’s a premium option which is probably best suited for die-hard cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Summary: Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet?

The Ledger Nano S is a feature-packed and affordable hardware wallet. It supports more than 1100 cryptocurrencies, which includes some popular cryptocurrencies like Ripple (XRP) or Monero (XMR) which aren’t supported by alternatives.

The Ledger Nano S is a great option which continues to rank as one of the best hardware wallets.

Here’s why you should consider picking one up:

  • Secure: Prevents malware from hijacking your funds. All transactions must be verified on the device itself (not your computer) before they are broadcast.
  • Convenient: Supports a growing number of cryptocurrencies which you can store in one place.
  • Affordable: It costs just over £50. That’s not much (it was double the cost when I bought it!) and 100% worth it for the peace of mind which it offers.
  • Easy to use: No need to be a tech wizard. Just follow some simple directions.
  • Compact and discrete: It’s the size of a normal USB drive, with a metal casing. It is branded on the outside, but it is still discrete and portable.

Ledger Nano S FAQs

If I uninstall applications on the Ledger Nano S, will I lose all my coins?

No. Ledger support staff have clarified that you can hold up to 18 applications at the same time on the Ledger Nano S. However, removing an application won’t make you lose your coins.

Why does my Bitcoin (BTC) receiving address change every time I use it?

This is a feature which helps protect your privacy. All of the addresses it gives you are linked to the same wallet though. And if you do want to use each of the addresses it gives you more than once, then those will still work.

What happens if I lose my Ledger Nano S?

If someone attempts to access your Ledger Nano S, it will be wiped if the incorrect PIN is input 3 times. You can select a PIN code which has 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 digits from 0-9.

For a 4-digit PIN, there are 10,000 possible combinations. There are 100,000,000 combinations if you use an 8-digit PIN. If you’ve selected a truly random PIN code, the chances of someone guessing it in just 3 attempts are extremely low. Check out this post and don’t set a PIN which is easy to guess (e.g. your birth year, repeating digits, 1234, etc.). I’d recommend you set a randomised 8-digit PIN.

You can access your wallets (and funds) by restoring on another Ledger Nano S using your 24-word seed. Even if your old (1st) device is not wiped, you can restore and access your wallets on another (2nd) Ledger Nano S by going through the restoration process on it without impacting the state of the old (1st) device.

This should highlight why securing your 24-word seed is critical. If someone gets access to it (without you knowing), they can easily sweep all your funds. This is why I also recommend eventually setting up the hidden wallet function (see above) so that the majority of your funds are not lost if your 24-word seed is compromised.

What attacks are still possible?

Hardware wallets require you to verify transactions on the physical device before they are broadcast. Whatever is shown on the device (destination address, amount to send, and fee paid) can’t be changed thereafter.

As long as you verify that the address shown on the hardware wallet itself is correct, you should be fine. Even if malware modifies the destination address (when copy/pasting), you should be able to spot this when verifying the transaction details on the hardware wallet.

However, if the destination address is modified before you get to it (e.g. the address is changed on-screen before you copy it), then there would no discrepancy when verifying the transaction on the hardware wallet. In such cases, you might unknowingly verify a bad transaction. In such cases, the hardware wallet is not to blame (it fulfilled its purpose).

A Reddit user brings up a valid point here too. Mere ownership of a hardware wallet flags you as a cryptocurrency user, which might be something you want to keep secret. While the Ledger Nano S is more discrete than the Trezor, I would prefer something even more discrete than the Ledger for this reason. Just keep it well hidden when not in use and you’ll avoid this issue.

There is also the risk of a wrench attack. You can reduce your risk of being targeted by being sensible with the information your broadcast about your activities and investments online and in real life. If you do disclose information about your investments, do make sure you clearly convey the confidential nature to the other party (and the reasons why it has to be so).

How can I verify the integrity of the Ledger Nano S?

Ledger Nano S authenticates the hardware wallet each time it’s connected to a computer (or smartphone) using attestation. Without going into the details of this, if someone had intercepted your Ledger Nano S and changed the firmware, it would be flagged as non-genuine when you connect it to your computer.

According to Ledger:

There is absolutely no way that an attacker could replace the firmware and make it pass attestation, without knowing the Ledger private key.

Need help?

You can usually find answers to your questions, as well as the most up-to-date news, from these resources:

Alternatively, let me know in the comments below and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

6 thoughts on “Ledger Nano S Review (2020)”

  1. I have a different Neo wallet on two computers each containing different alt coins associated with each, as well as different amounts of NEO on each wallet. I have one account backed up with nano and one backed up on the other laptop with passphrase. My question: Can one nano back up two different wallets on two different computers, or would i neeed to purchase a second nano?

    Reply
    • Hey Clayton,

      For the main Ledger apps (Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin), you can have more than one wallet. For the NEO app, it doesn’t appear that the NEON integration supports it at this time.

      If you wanted to setup a second NEO wallet on your Ledger, a workaround would be to use a temporary passphrase (see here). Before diving into this, I’d strongly recommend you get familiar with this feature with a small amount of crypto (maybe some delicious DOGE) and practice setting it up and recovery.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Ledger are now out of stock of the Ledger Nano S and are taking pre-orders but they will not be shipped until the end of March at the earliest. They have also increased the price to €94.80. I want to take my coins off of the exchanges ASAP so I think I have 2 main options:

    1. Order a Ledger Nano S and move coins to software wallet(s) (Exodus, MyEtherWallet, etc.) while I wait for delivery.
    2. Order a Trezor which may not support all the altcoins I hold and costs more

    What would you suggest?

    Reply
    • Hey,

      Looks like Insignal (listed as a Ledger reseller) still has stock (see here). Might be worth a shot.

      I wouldn’t trust a software or mobile wallet with a significant amount of funds. Your best option would probably be to buy a Trezor, put the unsupported coins into paper wallets, and then pre-order the Ledger Nano S if the extra altcoin support is important (they have been known to ship in advance of their estimates). You can check out the currencies supported by the Trezor here, as it does still support a decent bunch of altcoins (including all ERC-20 tokens through MyEtherWallet).

      If the majority of your holdings are BTC, you might also consider the Opendime which is available through a UK reseller here. I haven’t got a hands-on impression of this yet, but it looks good (and cheaper than a Trezor).

      Hope that helps somewhat!

      Reply

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