Affordability is undoubtedly the strongest selling point of the Ledger Nano S. Although there are cheaper hardware wallet devices, these tend not to came with a screen and certainly not with the support that you find with the Ledger Nano S.
The size (roughly the size of a typical collapsible USB stick) is also one of the Ledge Nano S’ most valuable assets. Just slip it in your pocket, or tuck it away in a small bag pocket, and you’re ready to carry a portably secured private key with your wherever you need to go.
The Ledger Nano S also supports other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Ripple and Dash. Compared to most other hardware wallets, this stops you from having to purchase multiple devices, as you can handle your most frequently used cryptocurrencies all in one device.
Setting Up Your Wallet
- Unbox the device
- Turn it on
- Use the left and right buttons to navigate your display to the ‘set up as new device’ option
- You will be asked to enter a pin code. Use the left and right buttons to choose numbers. Make sure not to use something predictable like 000000
- At this stage your Ledger Nano S will give you a 20 word recovery seed. Make sure to write that down and store it in a place where you won’t lose it! The box comes with a little sheet that you can use to write down your recovery phrase. If you’ve stored the recovery seed properly, you won’t run into any issues if your device is lost or stolen
- Your Ledger Nano S will ask you to confirm the order of the words in your phrase
- Plug your device into your computer and download the chrome extension from the official Ledger website
- If your device is plugged in, it will synchronize with your chrome extension at first launch and you’re ready to start sending and receiving Bitcoin (or altcoins)
How to Use
As with all hardware wallets, you can receive transactions without connecting your wallet to your computer. However, if you want to send bitcoin you have to have your wallet connected to your computer. That’s because your private key needs to be used to sign your transaction, and as your private key is securely tucked away on your device, that can’t be done unless your chrome extension has access to you Ledger wallet via USB.
Also, it’s worth noting that another case where you’ll want to connect your device to your computer is when you want to update the software of your device. Other than that, you can let your device stay disconnected.
The Ledger Nano S hardware wallet comes with standard rectangle sized cardboard packaging. Aesthetically, it gives off the appearance of a quality product. There is tamper proofing like you’ll find with Ledger, which deters most third party vendors with malicious intent. However, you’ll only find one plastic strip at the top of the box, whereas the Trezor’s package has two plastic strips: one at the top and another at the bottom.
Arguably the greatest feature of the Ledger Nano S is that it’s compatible with all major computer operating systems, android, and even iOS devices. Desktops can communicate with the device through a chrome extension, while android and apple phones have tailored wallet management apps.
For $69.60 USD, the Ledger Nano S sells at a relatively lower price than Trezor. This makes a lot of sense considering that Ledger has a minimal hardware design that foregos the use of a dedicated CPU and a graphical screen. Either way, it’s fair to say that a lot of the price is contingent on the brand name because of the reputation that is associated with Ledger products.
Hardware Design Philosophy
The Ledger Nano S ships with an approach to its hardware that tries to strip it down to its bare bones. You’ll find this approach in many of the device’s design choices. For one, the chip that is used is made as self-contained as possible – meaning that it’s not meant to be a mini computer that’s marketed as a Bitcoin wallet. The chip was designed with Bitcoin specifically in mind. As in all things related to computer security, the fewer hardware features that a device has, the easier it becomes to secure. With this design philosophy in mind, the Ledger Nano S makes the secure storage of Bitcoin significantly easier for itself than most other hardware wallets.
- Case: USB shaped case with turnable metal cover
- Case dimensions: 98mm long, 18mm wide, 9mm deep
- Screen: 2 line LED screen
- Buttons: Two buttons on side of case to use with index fingers
- Weight: 16.2g
- Processing: Secure Element Chips
You can find a list of open source Ledger software on the home page. These include:
- Ledger Ethereum Wallet
- Ripple Ethereum Wallet
- Ledger Manager
- Ledger Authenticator
This year’s Defcon 25 brought light to potential hardware wallet vulnerabilities. But to ledger’s credit, the wallets that were shown to be the least secure were the ones that included at actual CPU as a hardware feature. The Ledger Nano S, on the other hand, uses secure element chips that are not as vulnerable to the type of hack disclosed at the hacker conference. Either way, hardware wallets are far more secure than any other type of electronic Bitcoin storage medium. But in terms of available hardware wallets, the Ledger Nano S is the upper end of the pack in terms of security.
One of the ways in which Ledger wallets stand out from competing devices is the open source software ecosystem that caters to developers of all kinds.
Ledger has an open source repository for a ‘high-level’ ledger wallet API, to allow for automated transactions. The ledger team also laid out an extensive Github page that lists all open-source resources for the project. These include the development environment, an SDK, and tools for Python development.
All in all, the open source development of Ledger software is likely another contributing factor to the high-end security of the device. Open source software development does not only improve the quality of code bases, it also increases the likelihood of a needed user interface feature to be implemented sooner than later. After all, if users really seek to have a feature included in the software, a developing customer always has the option to make that addition.
The ledger Nano S has an extensive FAQ list under the support section of the website. Most of your questions should be answered by the guide found on your page. If your question is more specific you can defer to the ‘click here to get help’ button which prompts you with an email form that can be used to get in contact with their support team. Conveniently, there are individual forms for orders and technical inquiries – a positive feature because it prevents your technical question from being lumped in with other people’s order inquiries. All in all, the support infrastructure seems like a standard effort, albeit rigorous effort to solve customer problems.