The Ledger Nano S is one of the simplest yet most effective devices on the market, offering a secure interface for more than 1200 cryptocurrencies and tokens. For roughly $100*, you get a small device that isn’t flashy and could easily be mistaken as a USB flash drive by the nosy airport agents. And despite the extravagant Lambo culture that crypto enthusiasts are portrayed to enjoy, not standing out in the crowd and potentially benefiting from greater privacy is a wise security choice.
However, the Ledger Nano S isn’t only about aesthetics and it shouldn’t be characterized only by the hardware you find inside. If you were to buy the parts and build a hardware wallet of your own, you could probably do it for a few dollars (or satoshis). Yet the strongest part of the device is the friendly and accessible user interface, which is accompanied by technical support from dedicated specialists. Much like an Apple product (whose packaging the Ledger resembles, as you can see in the unboxing video), you pay a premium for the software and the promise of long-term support.
My personal experience with the Nano S has been nearly flawless, though there has been a moment when the software stopped responding and I had to restart it (you will notice it in the video, around the 35-minute mark). Getting to try the Mac software was interesting, and it was a pleasure to see that the whole pleasure takes about one hour, including multiple checks to insure safety and information correctness.
At press time, the latest model is the Ledger Nano X, which is priced at approximately $130*. However, the simpler Nano S is equally competent and its basic design may be slightlty more secure in some circumstances.
What’s in the box?
The sealed iPhone-like box contains the Ledger device, two instruction cards, three recovery sheets which serve as templates for the 24-word mnemonics/seed keys/recovery phrase, a glossy USB to USB micro cable which is customized with the Ledger logo, a ring with a string to carry the device with your keys, and a lanyard which is also stamped with the company’s logo.
All of these elements are more than enough to get you started, help you understand the steps that you need to take to set up your hardware wallet, and teach you a little something about fashion. In France, the Ledgers are accessories that people must proudly carry around their necks!
How easy is the set up?
Setting up your Ledger Nano S and sending BTC to your new address is an experience which takes about an hour. Most of the steps you need to take are straight-forward and mostly involve pointing your computer mouse and clicking. The only awkward part can be the navigation in the device’s menu, as the two buttons take a little time to get used to.
Essentially, if you’ve ever owned one of those Casio electronic watches, then you know how to operate the buttons. In this particular case, the individual press of a button selects the option, and the pressing of both acts as a confirmation which takes you to the next menu.
The parts which take most time don’t involve installing the software or synchronizing the device – but rather writing down your recovery phrase, setting up a PIN (which you have to input every time the device has been removed or shut down), and confirming everything twice just to make sure that you got it right.
Regardless of your experience, you should be able to complete all the steps even if you don’t know anything about cryptocurrencies and this is your first time using a QR code. Everything is straight-forward, easily comprehensive, and friendly also to the newcomers.
The identified issues
In this whole process, I’ve only encountered two inconveniences: first of all, after the software update took place I witnessed how the Mac application stopped responding and was no longer operable. It was annoying just because I had to once again input the PIN, the password, and wait for the synchronization. It wasn’t a major set-back and it only took a few minutes of backtracking and trying to figure out what went wrong. Thankfully, the good old restart has worked wonderfully – as can be seen during the review video around the 35-minute mark.
Secondly, I’ve made the mistake of pressing the wrong button while verifying the Bitcoin address, which made the device momentarily reject a public key to which I had already sent $100 worth of BTC. Luckily, the same one was displayed when I quickly backtracked. It would certainly be better if this step required a double confirmation, or if the accessing was done by pressing both buttons (like in the case of opening items in the menu). More details on the small incident can be found in the review video around the 48-minute mark.
A minor interface problem that I’ve noticed has to do with the fact that the Mac software doesn’t check the installed cryptocurrency app, so that you can try to run the process once again, actually wait for the installation, and then finally get an error message. May be that my installation was glitchy, but I still don’t see any kind of indication (a tick or color change) to inform me that I’ve already installed the app for that particular cryptocurrency. Find more details around the 40-minute mark.
If the purpose is to begin nit-picking, then one can also complain that the font used is not always the clearest and most readable. Understanding the exact spelling of words is essential during the recovery phrase generation process, and sometimes there are words that aren’t very easy to read due to the font.
Final rating: 8/10
The Ledger Nano S feels solid, rugged, and well-built. It benefits from an easy interface which is available for all the major computer operating systems, and offers anyone a seamless experience which guarantees the perfect middle ground between security and liquidity. Even the inconveniences listed above are workable and have proved to be minor issues along the way. Nevertheless, for the sake of journalistic honesty and objectivity, they have been noted accordingly.
There are two reasons why the Ledger Nano S is perfect for the cautious individuals: firstly, it looks a lot like a USB flash drive and doesn’t stand out, which means that people living under oppressive political regimes or flee their countries will have an easier time not attracting the intrusive gazes of border patrols. Secondly, it’s the simple device which has no gimmicky features and offers only the essential parts. Not being able to access it via bluetooth or WiFi means that you have one less security hole to worry about.
Just like in the case of a real wallet, make sure you don’t hand it to any stranger if you care about your funds. Also, read more about the Wallet.hack reveals if you want to understand what kind of protection you should be providing to your Ledger device.
At the retail price of approximately $100*, the Ledger Nano S offers all the security and features you need to store and transact cryptocurrencies without exposing yourself to the risks of malware, spyware, and other hacking methods. The software checks its integrity before booting, and you should be aware that you have to insert your PIN and password after being idle for more than a few minutes. As a piece of advice – don’t buy hardware wallets for cryptocurrencies from resellers: always go for the official source or the authorized retailer (the Ledger website and the Casa store, respectively).
With a few software tweaks and constant support to feature all the major cryptocurrency projects, the Ledger Nano S can turn into the perfect hardware wallet. And given the fierce competition from Trezor and the increasing demand for this devices (which should allow the company to invest more in research and development), we should be expecting a lot of good news on improvements.
The following review is not paid or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned. The opinions expressed belong to the author and are based on empirical evidence.
If you would like to have your products reviewed by one of the Crypto Insider team members, please write an e-mail at [email protected]
Later edit: According to a correction made by Ledger CEO Eric Larchevêque, the retail prices of the Ledger Nano S and Nano X are $59 and $119 respectively. The prices written on the article are based on the Casa Store listing, as well as on the conversion from RON (the Romanian currency, which is displayed on the website) to USD. Shipping taxes are not included.