Ledger Nano S Review 2018
Table of Contents
- 1 First Impression
- 2 Setting Up the Ledger Nano S
- 3 Ledger Nano S Handling
- 4 Supported Devices and Currencies
- 5 Documentation and Support
- 6 Security Aspects of the Ledger Nano S
Together with TREZOR, the Ledger Nano S is one of the most popular hardware wallets on the market. Founded in 2014, Ledger has already sold over one million devices in over 160 countries.
I bought the Nano S in the Ledger Online Shop. In the following I will take a close look at everything from unpacking to completing the first transaction and write down any conspicuous facts and helpful advices.
At the beginning of each hardware wallet is the purchase in an online shop. Until now, hardware wallets have been available almost exclusively on the Internet.
The Ledger webshop is very clearly arranged and all prices are displayed directly. This results in a price of 94,01 € (click here to check the current price) for the Ledger Nano S at the time of the test. As payment methods they accept not only Bitcoin but also credit cards and Paypal. Free shipping in most countries of the world is included.
Hardware wallets should preferably be ordered directly from the manufacturer or official resellers.
Dubious shops or private sellers on platforms such as ebay or amazon could manipulate the devices for their purposes or trick the buyer. This way the thieves can steal all coins from your hardware wallet at a later time. Unfortunately, there have been such cases in the past.
Once you have completed the order and waited patiently for your delivery, it’s time to unpack.
The Ledger Nano S is packed in a small, very high quality, white packaging. It is very similar to the packaging of Apple products, which also rely on such a grey and white style.
On one side the package is protected by a seal, whereby the package can be opened without breaking the seal. But do not worry this is intended because the Ledger Nano S is also protected from firmware modifications on the software side.
A conventional seal, which is supposed to securely seal the packaging, induces deceptive security. It is possible that for example, the packaging was replaced after modifying the hardware wallet or that the seals could be opened by a special process without breaking.
Scope of Delivery for the Ledger Nano S
If you now open the carton, the Ledger Nano S lights up directly towards you, which is protected in a shock-proof foam. Display, buttons and USB port are protected by an aluminum cover, similar to some USB sticks.
On one side the company name “Ledger” is engraved, on the other side the saying “vires in numeris”, which is Latin for “strength by numbers”.
In the second level of the packaging you will find a small folder with the “Getting Started” guide and a pre-printed form for the Recovery Seed. On this one, the 24 words are later written down which represent the access to all your cryptocurrencies.
There are also ribbons and rings to carry the hardware wallet around the neck or on the keychain. And of course the USB to Micro USB cable to connect the hardware wallet to a computer.
First Impression: Conclusion
The order is very inviting due to the different shipping and payment methods in the Ledger Shop.
All in all, the content is extensive and well manufactured. The Ledger Nano S in particular stands out due to its aluminium casing.
Setting Up the Ledger Nano S
Never use a hardware wallet that is already set up. You must choose your own PIN code and write down the backup yourself. This is not given by anyone!
The hardware wallet is now unpacked. But it takes a short set-up before you can really manage crypto currencies.
The included “Getting Started” card gives you a short hint about the right way: Go to start. ledgerwallet. com. Here you first select the correct hardware wallet and then select the item “configure my device”. Now, five points explain how to make your Nano S ready for operation.
Connecting and Brief Instruction
First, you connect your Ledger Nano S to a computer using the supplied USB cable. If you are very concerned about your safety, you can alternatively connect the Ledger Nano S directly to the power socket with an adapter or use a power bank. No matter how you supply the Ledger Nano S with power, now you can continue with the equipment.
First of all, the use of the two buttons is explained: Pressing both buttons simultaneously equals “OK”. Scroll through lists by pressing the left and right buttons. After pressing both keys to confirm, the configuration is started.
You will be asked at the beginning if you want to configure the device as a new device or if you want to use your existing recovery seed to restore an old wallet on it.
Since I want to completely reconfigure the hardware wallet and I do not have a Recovery Seed yet, I choose the right button.
Assign Pin Code
Now you will be prompted to enter a PIN code. This secures the hardware wallet against unauthorized use by being queried every time the device is switched on. This must be entered twice to exclude a typographer.
You can assign up to eight digits, four of which are the minimum. A character can be deleted by selecting the “delete”symbol below 0.
Create Recovery Seed
You will then be prompted to write the 24-word Recovery Seed key on the included sheet.
Your recovery seed is the backup key to all your cryptocurrencies and applications. The recovery seed (backup) can only be displayed once. Never make a digital copy of the recovery seed and never upload it online. Keep the recovery seed in a safe place, ideally safe from fire and water, for example with Billfodl.
Nobody but yourself can be held liable for financial losses caused by improper handling of sensitive data.
With the help of this key you can restore the hardware wallet’s cryptographic currencies to any ledger device, but also to other software, online or hardware wallets. Most importantly: Write the words carefully and in the correct order on the page. For maximum security, I recommend that you write off the Recovery Seed once again and store it in a second location, for example in a bank or with friends or relatives. But keep in mind that anyone who has access to this sheet will also have access to your crypto currencies.
Once you have noted the last word, press both keys to confirm.
Subsequently, a few words are sampled from the Ledger Nano S to check that the words have actually been recorded.
I give a big plus for this, because Recovery Seed is the key to your money and must be noted down. This allows you to quickly rule out any mistakes, for example a forgotten word.
Once backup has been correctly confirmed, the device is ready for use. In the as-delivered state, some apps for cryptographic currencies are already pre-installed in addition to the settings app.
If you want to use additional apps for other currencies or functions, you can install them later. In addition, the corresponding software must be installed on the PC.
Once the configuration has been successfully completed, you can install the ledger apps and software necessary to manage the wallets of the cryptographic currencies. You can find these here: Ledger Apps. There are two different types of apps:
On the one hand, there is the software for the computer client. These are currently mainly chrome extensions like Ledger Wallet Bitcoin or Ledger Wallet Ethereum, but there are also independent software like for Ripple or ERC-20 Tokens (myetherwallet). Which software is needed for which coin can be found in the list on the manufacturer’s page: Ledger Nano S Cryptocurrencies. This software is used to manage the wallets and make transactions on the computer. They are the counterpart to the Hardware Wallet.
However, these do not work completely until the corresponding device app is installed on the Ledger Nano S. For instance, to use the Bitcoin Wallet you need the Chrome extension but also the App on the Hardware Wallet itself as a equivalent.
Ledger Nano S Apps
The Ledger Nano S requires the Chrome Enhancement Ledger Manager to manage the apps on the Ledger Nano S.
This extension must be installed via Chrome. If you open it after installation, you will get a list of possible apps.
An Overview on the different Apps
In addition to the well-known cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum, there are apps for so-called “forks”, i. e. forks from other block chains. This includes for example Dogecoin. There is no extra chrome app for this, but you can use the Ledger Wallet Bitcoin.
In order to use the device’s cryptography, there are also apps for other areas of application in addition to the currencies. For example, an SSH agent.
If you click on the link “Show Developer items” in the lower right corner you will see more apps like a very simple password manager. This generates random passwords and can transfer them to the computer via the USB connection as keyboard input.
App for the Fido U2F Standard
There is also an app called Fido U2F.
With the Fido U2F standard, you can use your Ledger Nano S as a second factor when logging in to different services.
For example, if you introduce your device to your Google Account, you must always connect the hardware wallet to your computer when logging in untrusted devices. This should make it impossible for hackers to log in with your accounts.
This is also possible with Facebook, Dropbox or GitHub, for example, and is now a good thing with hardware wallets.
For installing an app you only need to click on the download icon on the right side of the app in the Ledger Manager.
Now you have to confirm the installation by pressing the right button.
Advice on App Limitation
For a long time, only about five apps could be installed simultaneously on the Ledger Nano S due to the low storage space, but sometimes even more. This space depended on which apps were installed and in which order.
Since March 2018 with the latest firmware version it may be possible to install many more apps on the Nano S. Because many cryptocurrencies are forks of Bitcoin, which makes large parts of the code similar to the apps of these forks. Ledger has therefore added this common code base to the Bitcoin app, which has significantly reduced the size of the other apps. According to this principle, it is possible to install up to 18 applications that share this library.
However, if applications with a completely different code base are installed (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, FIDO U2F, Password Manager), you are still limited to 4 or 5 applications.
In summary, a completely different result can be achieved depending on the type of applications installed. Most likely you will be able to install about 10 apps.
Nevertheless, you can still manage all apps by not installing them all at once. Simply uninstall and install apps from the Ledger Manager if you want to use them. These steps only take a few seconds.
So don’t worry: even if you uninstall an application, you won’t lose your coins. Because the seed remains.
If you are uncomfortable with this, you can of course also use a second Ledger Nano S. Or you choose the Hardware Wallet Ledger Blue.
The problem has been identified and the Ledger Blue has been given about 50% more memory.
|Ledger Nano S||320 kilobyte||10 kilobyte|
|Ledger Blue||480 kilobyte||12 kilobyte|
All specifications have not yet included the operating system of Ledger. This effectively reduces the amount of space available for apps on devices.
The Ledger Blue offers space for eight to 10 apps with different code bases.
Now you only have to open the Chrome extension on your computer, in my example the Ledger Wallet Bitcoin and on the Ledger Nano S, navigate to the Bitcoin App or a fork and open it with both buttons.
Transactions can now be done on any computer. No matter if it is infected with viruses and malware or if it is in a public network. The transactions are verified by the hardware wallet and validated by the display and buttons of you.
The setup is very easy, because you are guided through the website step by step through the process. If necessary, you can also switch to your mother tongue at the end of the page.
The only point of criticism is the complicated app administration, because you have to install the app for the desired cryptocurrency before you can start it.
This way of building, however, also offers developers the opportunity to create unique apps. In the long term, this benefits every user of a hardware wallet from Ledger.
Ledger Nano S Handling
The hardware wallet is now configured and secured. The following test section shows how the Ledger Nano S has proven itself in my everyday life.
At the beginning, the most important function is examined: Performing a simple transaction.
Performing a Transaction
Transactions can be carried out with various software wallets that support Ledger (see also test area compatibility).
I recommend and use the Chrome Extension ‘Ledger Wallet Bitcoin‘, created by Ledger itself. To start a transaction, I start the corresponding Ledger Wallet Bitcoin and on the Ledger Nano S the Bitcoin App.
Now, of course, there is still a balance of 0, which is why some money must first be transferred to the new wallet. To do this, I click on the RECEIVE tab and send my bitcoins to the appearing address.
You can choose the account to receive money. It is also possible to create different accounts. For this purpose, however, money must already be available in all other accounts.
By clicking on the button the address is shown on the hardware wallet as well as on the display of the PC. Only if the two addresses match, you should send your bitcoins to this address. Otherwise your computer may have been hacked and the displayed address on your monitor manipulated.
You now have the possibility to copy the address or scan it with the QR code. You can also print the address here or send it by e-mail. If you confirm the address on the Hardware Wallet, the window closes again.
Once the transaction has been confirmed several times and has arrived on the Wallet, I click on the SEND tab to make a transaction to someone else.
By clicking on MAX, I have selected all the bitcoins available in the “My Account” account for sending. You can also set the fees yourself. Clicking on SEND sends the address to the hardware wallet for verification.
The hardware wallet now displays the entire transaction including fees.
Finally, the right-hand key is used to verify the transaction directly on the device, so that the private keys never come into contact with the PC.
Create different Accounts
The Ledger Wallet Bitcoin allows every user to easily create wallet accounts.
For example, you can separate private from professional expenses or create your own account for certain purposes. All this always under the protection of the one recovery seed that was written down at the beginning.
To create a new account, however, money must have been transferred to all other accounts before you can create a large number of empty accounts.
General Functions of the Ledger Nano S
As already mentioned, the operation of the hardware wallet Ledger Nano S itself is very simple and uncomplicated:
Scroll through lists and menus by clicking a button at the moment. Confirmation or a selection can be made by pressing both buttons simultaneously.
This works without delay and very reliably.
The only point of criticism here is the input of the recovery seed, which usually takes a long time. Scrolling through the alphabet with just two buttons can be a nerve-wracking process. It is enough to enter the first 2-5 letters of each word and scroll through a list of words, but this requires a lot of patience.
However, since this is very rare, it is too painful. In addition, this method has the great advantage that the seed can be typed directly on the device and you are safe from keyloggers.
The Chrome extensions are all the same from the user interface, and are easy to use. I haven’t missed any features yet. The only point of criticism here is that the browser chrome from Google is needed.
Turning off the Ledger Nano S
It is a little unusual to quit and shut down the Hardware Wallet Ledger Nano S: To do this, simply disconnect the cable and deenergize the device. The Chrome extensions are closed with the normal “x”.
Everyday use is easily possible with the Ledger Nano S hardware wallet. The software provided by Ledger offers all basic options and operation via the two keys is quick and easy. The only disadvantage here is the dependence on chrome.
In summary, it is very easy to make a transaction. One additional keystroke on the device is not a major limitation, but guarantees a high degree of safety.
Supported Devices and Currencies
According to Ledger, the Ledger Nano S is compatible with almost all operating systems. An installed Chrome Browser is required.
Ledger’s hardware wallets are clearly ahead when it comes to supported cryptocurrencies. New cryptocurrencies are regularly implemented here, both for the hardware wallet Ledger Blue and the Ledger Nano S. The following cryptocurrencies are currently supported:
- Bitcoin Private
- Bitcoin Gold
- Bitcoin Cash
- Ethereum Classic
- ERC-20 Tokens
A complete list together with the corresponding software wallet can always be found on the manufacturer’s website: Ledger Nano S Cryptocurrencies.
The only interface used is the USB port. The Ledger Nano S therefore does not allow you to carry out wireless transactions. However, you can also verify transactions with the Android smartphone via an OTG cable using compatible apps such as GreenBits.
IPhones have installed the more limited operating system iOS, which unfortunately cannot handle USB devices. Alternatively, you can use the watch-only function of your hardware wallet and install an app that only monitors the wallet and can’t make transactions.
The Ledger Nano S supports the following third-party vendors, among others, wallets and services:
- Ledger Wallet Bitcoin
- Ledger Password Manager
- Ledger Wallet Ethereum
The Ledger Nano S can be used both mobile (Android) and with the desktop computer. It also offers many other options, such as compatibility with stock exchanges such as Bitstamp or its use as a universal second factor.
The only disadvantage at the moment is that Chrome extensions are necessary for the setup and standard use of Chrome and therefore you are dependent on the browser of Google.
Documentation and Support
As already described, there is no manual included but only a quick start guide for the setup. However, Ledger offers a comprehensive online documentation for its hardware wallets. It is constantly updated and expanded and provides answers to almost every question.
If you still have any questions, you can contact Ledger Support directly. This takes place primarily in writing via the support platform zendesk. Just visit the contact page of the Ledger homepage and open a ticker. If you like, you can get to know a part of the team personally and visit the official shop in Paris.
Both documentation and support will preferably be provided in English.
In the event of a defect or malfunction, and if the device was purchased directly from www.ledgerwallet.com and not from a reseller, the device is replaced free of charge after requesting an RMA number from the support team.
Security Aspects of the Ledger Nano S
The BOLOS plattform
The Ledger Nano S is built around the BOLOS platform. BOLOS is short for Blockchain Open Ledger Operating System and is a development of Ledger to enable any developer in the world to write apps for ledger devices. They can take advantage of the secure features of the hardware wallet without causing any damage, as each app is executed in complete isolation.
BOLOS is a way to transform hardware wallets into personal security devices. Users can install third-party applications that add new privacy features via their own shared set of cryptographic material without actually being able to read this material.
Every time you turn it on, you must enter the pin, which can consist of four to eight digits.
In the settings you can also set that the number of starts always changes and that it is not possible to read the pin by finger movement of third parties.
It is also possible to lock the wallet automatically after a few minutes with the current firmware. You can manually lock the Hardware Wallet at any time by pressing both buttons for three seconds.
If the pin is entered incorrectly three times, the Ledger Nano S will be reset. You now need your recovery seed to recover your addresses.
The Ledger Nano S always creates a recovery seed of 24 words. In case of theft or damage, you can recover your wallets with a compatible hardware or software wallet using recovery seeds.
A Ledger Nano S can be used to recover a recovery seed consisting of 12,18 or 24 words, including competing products such as Trezor or Keepkey. This worked without any problems in my tests. I also recommend to test this at the beginning as long as there are only a few bitcoins on the device.
Display and buttons
A transaction is always verified one time via the display and on the buttons in order to prevent malware from falsifying the transaction on the computer.
Setting up the Wallet can also be done separately from a computer, so that no one can assign the IP address to this Wallet. After the setup you can use another private wallet software like Electrum.
Encryption via passphrase further increases security by using additional passwords at startup.
Never use a hardware wallet that is already configured. You must choose your own PIN code and write down the backup yourself. This is not given by anyone!
The password should be used for two main reasons:
- If someone gets access to your 24 recovery key, the game is actually over. However, if there is an additional password, you will not be able to access the original account without it.
- In case of blackmail, you can give out a wrong password with little money.
Entering the password every time you start the Ledger Nano S would be very impractical. Therefore, the password is linked to another PIN, which can be entered instead of the normal PIN at startup. This gives you a second access, which is valid for all cryptocurrencies. One wallet is for example for daily use and one hidden wallet for savings deposits.
In contrast to TREZOR, the firmware is not open source because of a non-disclosure agreement with a security chip manufacturer, only the software is open source.
However, the specifications are fully disclosed and all cryptographic operations are deterministic. This means that every user can check whether the card answers, what it should do and if there is no side channel. This approach is widely used in the smart card industry and is generally used to obtain security certificates for bank and identity products.
The aspects mentioned above makes the Ledger Nano S a very secure way to store cryptocurrencies. It is not for nothing that Ledger occupies first place in the Bitcoin Wallet Privacy Rating Report 2016.
User Reviews 5
|Platform||Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, Chrome OS|
|Compatibility||Ledger Wallet Bitcoin, woleet, OpenPGP, Ledger Password Manager, Ledger Wallet Ethereum, Mycelium, Copay, Electrum, MyEtherWallet, GreenBits, BitGo, FIDO/U2F, Bitstamp|
|Supported Coins||35 Coins|
|FIDO U2F Authenticator|
|Cryptocurrencies||Bitcoin, Nano, Nimiq, Bitcoin Private, ZenCash, NEO, StealthCoin, Bitcoin Gold, Stellar, Hcash, DigiByte, Qtum, PivX, Vertcoin, Viacoin, Ubiq, Expanse, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Zcash, Dash, Stratis, Ripple, Komodo, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum Classic, ERC-20 Tokens, PoSW, ARK|