Ledger Nano S At a Glance
- Best selling hardware crypto wallet
- Alternative to the Ledger Nano X
- Support for 1000+ cryptocurrencies
- CC EAL5+ Secure Element
- Screen resolution is not as high as newer models
- Less non-essential features than other models
Those looking for a no-frills cold storage solution for storing their crypto need look no further than the Ledger Nano S. Released in 2016 by Ledger, the Nano S has gone on to sell over 1.4 million units worldwide, making it still the most popular hardware wallet to date.
As more and more people choose to invest in cryptocurrency, the popularity of cold storage solutions such as the Nano S is only going to go up. Choosing a reliable hardware wallet means your cryptocurrency will remain safe no matter what, ring-fencing your crypto from the rest of your PC and the internet.
While the Nano S may appear a little barebone compared to some hardware wallets, its simplicity is its strength, making it an affordable solution that appeals to the majority of crypto holders.
Read on to find out more and see just why the Ledger Nano S is still the most popular hardware wallet for storing crypto.
- Ledger Nano S
- USB type micro-B cable
- Private seed word backup cards
In terms of design, the Ledger Nano S keeps things simple.
The box itself is clearly labelled and branded, with a design aesthetic similar to that of Apple. Keeping with the crypto spirit, everything is clearly visible and presented. Befitting its purpose of storing valuable assets, the presentation is professional and comes shrinkwrapped for security, making it obvious if tampered with.
More recent units will no longer have tamper-proof stickers sealing the box. This is because Ledger now makes use of the Secure Element chip to prevent interception or physical replacement attempts of the device. According to Ledger, their “…devices are engineered to be tamper-proof.”
As well as the obligatory USB wire for connecting the Nano S to your devices, lift up the foam insert that contains the unit and you’ll find 3 cards for making note of your seed phrases. These physical copies of your seed phrases can be used to restore and transfer your wallet to a new device. Even if you completely lose your hardware wallet, with these words you can be back up and running in short order. You’ll also find a card directing you to visit start.ledgerwallet.com to begin setting up your device.
Unlike its rival, the Trezor One, the Nano S sticks with the USB storage stick design.
This design choice leaves the Nano S with a sleek and non-ostentatious exterior that won’t look out of place hooked onto your keychain alongside your house and car keys. There is a variety of colors to choose from, all coming with a swivel-mounted aluminum sheath. This protects the relatively high-quality plastic from being scratched, cracked, or crushed as you go about your day.
With the aluminum cover swiveled up and over, the device’s screen is revealed, embedded in the plastic body of the Nano S. On the side of the device are the two control buttons and at the bottom is the USB port. While the screen is not the highest resolution, the text is legible, bright, and clear.
Overall, the device looks good and feels solid, despite only weighing 16 grams. The combination of textured plastic and aluminum cover go well together, making for a design that doesn’t scream “hardware wallet.” Instead, what you’re left with is a small and discrete unit that won’t draw attention to itself, but still looks smart.
Delving into the device itself, we find a well-rounded suite of functions that should suit most users of crypto.
The built-in display can be used to check data and confirm transaction information is correct. With not all hardware wallets featuring a display, this puts the Nano S ahead of the competition.
As well as support for the most popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, USDT, and Solana, the Nano S can store a tonne of other tokens. Currently, there is support for over 1,100 currencies but this number is growing rapidly as the space continues to develop.
Thanks to the built-in CC EAL5+ Secure Element, the Nano S is as safe as it gets to storing crypto on a hardware wallet. This technology, similar to that used in credit cards, physically isolates data ensuring data breaches are impossible.
In tandem with the CC EAL5+ Secure Element chip, the Nano S features the proprietary BOLOS operating system. This is Ledger’s highly secure software used for managing the device and running additional apps. BOLOS is not open-source, however, but makes use of a non-monolithic design to keep each cryptocurrency separate on the device. By using an OS rather than running on the firmware, BOLOS isolates each currency for better security while also enabling third-party development.
The device does not contain a built-in battery, relying on a manual connection to power it and conduct transactions. For many, this physical connection adds an air of security to transactions and also keeps the device’s weight down. For those who insist on a battery and wireless connection, the more expensive Nano X is the solution.
Getting started with the Nano S
To connect your device, you simply use the supplied USB cable, connecting the micro type-B end of the Nano S and the other to your computer. In order to connect your Nano S to your Android device, you’ll need an OTG cable.
Upon starting your Nano S you’ll be greeted with a prompt on the device’s screen to set up a pin. This pin code can be anything from 4 to 8 digits long. While you can, of course, opt for a shorter 4 digit pin, for security reasons it’s worth going for the full 8 digits.
The pin is used to unlock the device and enable its use. While the pin is essential to the use of the Nano S, it’s important to remember that your crypto is not literally stored on your device. Cryptocurrency is always stored on the blockchain, distributed across the entire network on the immutable digital ledger. Devices such as the Nano S are ways of accessing your crypto conveniently and securely through your seed phrases. This means, therefore, that should your device somehow become damaged, or corrupted, your crypto is still 100% safe. All you need is your 24 seed phrases to restore your wallet and reassess your crypto.
To set your PIN code:
1. Press both of the buttons when “Choose a PIN” is displayed on the screen.
2. Press the right or left button to choose the first digit of your new PIN code.
3. Press both buttons simultaneously to select the digit.
4. Repeat the process until all of the PIN-code digits are selected.
5. Select the tick icon (✓) and press both buttons simultaneously to confirm.
After setting up your pin, you’ll be told your 24 seed phrases that are needed to recover your wallet in the event of an accident or damage. The device will display each phrase one at a time. You will need to write these down on one of your backup cards or in any secure manner you wish, bearing in mind they are necessary for wallet restoration.
Once you’ve written down the current word, simply use the right button to navigate to the next, doing so for all 24.
After you’ve set up your PIN and backed up your seed phrases, you’ll want to install the Ledger Manager app on your PC or phone. This will allow you to install the different “apps” on your Nano S to store different kinds of crypto coins. For example, if you wish to store Ethereum on your Nano S, you’ll scroll through the apps on your device until you see the Ethereum logo. Then proceed by pressing both buttons simultaneously and the device will then be able to communicate with your PC or phone.
A point worth mentioning here is that the Nano S can only store around 3-10 apps. Compared to its big brother the Nano X which can store up to 100, this could be a limiting factor for some with diverse portfolios.
Note, however, that apps can be uninstalled and reinstalled at will, with your crypto still safely stored on the blockchain.
Security is where Ledger’s devices shine. With both the Nano S and Nano X featuring the isolated CC EAL5+ Security Element, all data is secure and cannot be accessed even if your PC or phone has been compromised.
The technology being used by Ledger here is similar to that in modern passports and credit cards, keeping data isolated throughout data exchange. In practical terms, this means at each stage of transferring crypto to and from the device, your seed phrases encrypted on the device are kept entirely isolated from the applications running on the device.
In addition to the CC EAL5+ chip, each transaction requires manual confirmation using the device’s buttons. This physical deterrent adds an unhackable element to the security of the device and ensures only transactions you confirm are actually conducted.
This, combined with the custom BOLOS operating system, means users have a market-leading security solution that should put any user’s mind at ease, whether they’re holding a small amount of crypto or a whale-load.
The Ledger Nano S is available for $59, which makes it one of the more affordable crypto wallets on the market. Its main rival, the Trezor One retails for around $20 more and for some falls short in the design department when compared to the Nano line.
While, for some, the exclusion of a battery and wireless connection is a deal-breaker, for most the Nano S is a great crypto wallet offering everything you’d need to store a limited portfolio.