Ledger Nano S Review (2022): Bitcoin Wallet on a Budget?

Ledger Nano S is still one of the most popular cryptocurrency hardware wallets out there, with more than 3 million units sold around the world. First released in 2016, the Nano S is still extremely secure with one of the lowest price points among all of the current wallets. This year, Ledger has announced that Nano S will be retired, letting its new and improved version, the Nano S Plus, take its place going forward. Even though Nano S will stop production, firmware upgrades for it will keep rolling out in the future.

It is still a good choice for casual cryptocurrency traders who do not trade a lot of altcoins, or those want to store their cryptocurrencies in multiple devices for security. The Ledger Nano S retails for USD$59.

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Key features of the Ledger Nano S

  • Top of the line security to keep your cryptocurrencies safe and secure from hackers.
  • Affordable price- suitable for beginners who want a cheap and reliable hardware wallet.
  • Unique staking features so you can EARN cryptocurrency whilst keeping them secure. Learn more about staking here.
Ledger Nano S
Ledger Nano S

Staking and Earning

Ledger Live allows for staking a growing number of coins, including ETH (Ethereum), SOL (Solana), ATOM (Cosmos) and DOT (Polkadot). Users can lock up their cryptocurrencies and in return they get interest. This feature expands Ledger into more than just a secure place to store your cryptocurrency, it can even help you grow your digital assets.

Depending on the coin, staking can be done natively on the Ledger Live app, or through a dedicated wallet that is hardware wallet compatible, such as Yoroi Lite for ADA (Cardano). Staking is done in 3 simple steps for coins that can be staked on Ledger Live.

First, freeze your assets by logging onto Ledger Live, choosing the relevant account for the asset you wish to stake and click “earn rewards”. A popup window will appear. There you will be allowed to select the amount in your wallet you wish to freeze. Secondly, vote for your validator(s) who will be making the blocks on your network and the cryptocurrency earned by making these blocks will be redistributed to voters. Lastly, claim your rewards by clicking “Claim” in your relevant account. Rewards are claimable every 24 hours.

Swapping

Ledger has released a Ledger Swap feature which allows users to exchange their cryptocurrencies through their partners Challengly, Wyre, Paraswap and 1inch. How this works is you send your cryptocurrency from your device to the exchange, which will then send you back the swapped cryptocurrencies.

To use this feature you will need: Ledger device, Ledger Live, the app for the crypto you want to swap and receive, and finally the exchange app.

Lending

Ledger is working with Compound (COMP), Aave (AAVE) to allow users to lend DAI, USDT and USDC through their decentralised finance (DeFi) protocols. The purpose of doing this is that the lender could earn an interest on their loan. Since June, Ledger Live has also integrated with Alkemi Earn, a lending-borrowing protocol that utilizes a permissioned liquidity pool of digital assets comprising ETH, wBTC and stablecoins to generate yield for liquidity providers.

There are numerous benefits when using Ledger to lend:

Control: You have control and proof that the crypto you lend and generated interest belong to you. This is because this feature is done through Compound, and when you lend on the platform you get “cTokens” in return. cTokens represent proof of your ownership of the cryptocurrencies lent and the interest generated. These cTokens are stored by you until you want your lent assets and interest back, and in which case all you need to do is to send the cTokens back to the smart contract.

Security: cTokens are stored on your ledger hardware wallets.

Convenience: Compound’s lending features are available directly through Ledger Live.

Lending crypto using Compound or Aave and Ledger Live is done in 3 simple steps. Firstly, on Ledger Live’s Manager, install the application for the cryptocurrency you want to lend and create an account. Secondly, enable your account to authorise Compound/Aave’s smart contract to interact with your account. Finally, select the amount of cryptocurrencies you want to lend and issue a transaction to Compound/Aave, verify and approve the transaction on your device.

Security Features

Ledger Nano S Security Features
Ledger Nano S features 2 hardware chips: ST31H320 & STM32F042

One of the key reasons to buy Ledger hardware wallets is the firms reputation for security. Cryptocurrencies hardware wallets are like bank accounts – they contain full access to funds and need banking grade security. Ledger Nano S contains two hardware chips:

  • Secure Element:  ST31H320 (secure) is independently certified CC EAL5+ and stores the private key and signs transactions
  • Operating system:  STM32F042 chip is responsible for Ledger’s BOLOS proprietary Operating System.

Secure elements are separate pieces of hardware (second layer of security) with their own storage and limited functionality that cannot be breached by hackers.

Even if your computer is hacked or compromised, the Ledger will still keep your cryptocurrencies secure. Devices like the Trezor One and Trezor Model T have chosen not have secure elements and only have a single layer of security.

The Nano X, Nano S Plus and Nano S are also the only cryptocurrency hardware wallets on the market to received CSPN (First Level Security Certificate) certification issued by the ANSSI (National Agency for Information Systems Security). The certification scheme evaluates multiple aspects of a device’s security including firewall, identification, authentication and embedded software by putting it through multiple attack scenarios.

Similar to the Nano X, users can also protect their funds using a PIN code and passphrase. The PIN code is to generally unlock your device to use it. Whilst you can also set up wallets protected by a passphrase in addition to your primary PIN code.

So say you are threatened to unlock your device, you can give them the PIN code to access wallets with fewer funds. Meanwhile, the bulk of your crypto assets are contained in passphrase protected wallets.

With firmware version 1.6., the security of the Nano S has been further enhanced.

  • 24 words recovery phrase confirmation has been simplified and shortened. Now for each of the 24 words of the recovery phrase, user will have to choose only among 4 words instead of 24, making it much easier to get through the process;
  • Control Center feature of the Nano X has been ported to the Nano S, allowing for functions such as accessing settings, locking device or deleting applications possible directly on the device;
  • Added support for Bitcoin Taproot upgrade;
  • Added support for the seed derivation algorithm EIP-2333, allowing you to securely sign a deposit contract transaction for Ethereum 2.0 on your device;
Before the firmware update
Before the firmware update. The power consumption is in a predictable pattern.
After the firmware update. The power consumption is in an unpredictable pattern and the PIN code display is inverted.

Using the device after the update, we find that being unable to enter PIN code digits in order anymore may be prove slightly inconvenient. However with cryptocurrencies, security always comes up top over convenience. And with the added partial screen inversion, we see that Ledger’s bounty program is not just a PR stunt. Ledger actually looked into submissions and made the security improvements even when the suggested hack was only hypothetical.

Ledger Hack?

In July 2020, Ledger confirmed they suffered a data breach whereby an unauthorised third party accessed Ledger’s e-commerce and marketing database. In collaboration with forensic firm Orange Cyberdefense, Ledger was able to establish that around 292,000 customers were affected, and approximately 20,000 customer personal records were exposed such as their first and last names, postal address, phone number and ordered products.

Ledger had reported the matter to authorities and are working with Orange Cyberdefense to investigate.

Subsequent to the data breach, users have been reporting receiving phishing emails and texts by asking them to download a new version of the Ledger software. If users click on the link in the email, they will be redirected to a fake cloned version of the Ledger site. Afterwards, if users download the “update”, which is in fact a malware, it would ask users for their Ledger’s recovery phrase. The entered recovery phrase is then used by the attacker to recover the user’s wallet and send the user’s cryptocurrencies to the attacker’s wallet. For a full explainer on how the phishing attack works see the report from Kraken.

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Phishing email sent from info@ledgersupport.io address (Image credit: Kraken)

Therefore this incident was a “data breach” rather than a “hack”. More importantly, this breach had no link or impact on the Ledger hardware wallets or the Ledger Live app. Cryptocurrencies stored on the Ledger devices have never been at risk.

Even before the firmware update the Nano S scored full marks on security, and we note that the hack does not affect the Ledger device itself, so our scores remain unchanged.

5/5 Security Rating

Multi-Currency Support

Supported Coins on Ledger Nano S
Supported Coins on the Ledger Nano S

Ledger has one of the most diverse support for different cryptocurrencies such as Algorand (ALGO), Solana (SOL) and Chainlink (LINK). With their open policy to development from project teams, the Ledger Nano S supports 1800+ different assets. Many of these assets like Vechain or NEO are not found on competitors like the Trezor Model T or KeepKey, making Ledger the only hardware wallet available for many coins.

One of the initial weaknesses of the Nano S was that it was only possible to fit 2-3 apps on the device. However the NEW Firmware Version 1.6 released on 13 November 2019, users can now install 5-11 apps (depending on the type of app installed). This will certainly answer the prayers of a lot of average cryptocurrency holders who generally hold around 5-10 different coins.

If you still need more apps, one way around this limitation is to uninstall apps that are not being used and reinstall them in the future. Uninstalling apps will not delete coins – all account information will be retained. The newly released Ledger Nano X fixes this problem by increasing the internal memory to 2 MB.

Ledger’s firmware update directly addressed a significant weakness in the Nano S. Whilst it still can’t beat the Nano X in terms of multi currency support, the update will certainly be good enough for your typical cryptocurrency trader. For this reason, we give our thumbs up and bumped the score up from 4/5 to 4.5/5 for multi currency support.

4.5/5 Multi Currency Support

Hardware Design

Ledger Nano S Screen
Ledger Nano S compared with Nano X

Ledger Nano S has two hardware buttons – located on the top of the device. These two buttons allows us to access menus (hold both buttons), make selections (press both buttons), and even input recovery phrases (use buttons to scroll). We found that entering PINs and recovery phrases to be tedious with only 2 buttons – perhaps a touchscreen or additional buttons could have helped.

With the update 1.6, the Ledger Nano S has an improved display UI where the full cryptocurrency address is shown without scrolling. This allows for easier verification of the target destination. The Nano S uses a USB micro-B interface for charging and connecting to the PC.

With its plans to continue its firmware upgrades in the future, it is clear that Ledger still expects customers to seriously consider the Nano S a device worth getting even in 2022.

3.5/5 for Hardware Design
4/5 of Ease of Use

Why Use a Hardware Wallet

With traditional currencies, you, the user, are the most important person. If you have ever lost your bank card, you can always go to the bank with some sort of identification and request for access back to your account.

Cryptocurrencies, however, don’t care about the physical person but rather the private key associated with the wallet. The private key is used to verify the account and transactions. Anyone who has access to this key can send funds and that is why you must keep it safe. Another thing is that cryptocurrency transactions cannot be reversed.

Hardware wallets can protect you against these things. They add an extra layer of security by storing the private key on the device itself. The only way to hack it would be to have physical access to the hardware wallet or with the backup phrase.

Ledger Nano S Worth it in 2022?

In short, the answer is: yes… while you can. Ledger is about to retire the Nano S the moment the last of the 10,000 Final Edition Nano S’s are sold. This means that after that the only places where you’ll be able to buy them will be from 3rd party sellers or someone selling a used Nano S – both of which options we highly advise against, as the device might’ve been tampered with.

Mind you, Ledger will continue to support the Nano S’s firmware so it stays up-to-date. So while the devices are available on the Ledger website, they’re certainly still worth a buy for those who don’t want to spend an extra 20USD for a Nano S Plus or don’t mind the inconvenience of having to uninstall and reinstall apps to send and receive their coins. For HODLers who want more safety and want it as cheap as possible, the Nano S is the perfect buy because it still is highly secure and reliable even after all these years in circulation.

Reviewed on 16th May 2019 by Michael Gu
Updated on 23rd April 2020 by Michael Gu on staking features and updated review summary
Updated on 13th May 2020 by Angela Wang on latest discounts.
Updated on 18th May 2020 by Angela Wang to reflect the latest prices.
Updated on 22nd Nov 2020 by Angela Wang on the latest features
Updated on 11th July 2020 by Cindy Bloch on the latest features

The Ledger Nano S retails for USD$59.

CLICK BELOW TO BUY!

Learn how to properly setup your Ledger Nano S with our guide.

Product Specifications (Technical Specifications)

Ledger Nano S Product Specifications:

Processors ST31H320 (secure) + STM32F042.
Compatibility 64-bits desktop computer (Windows 8+, macOS 10.8+, Linux) excluding ARM Processors. Also compatible with smartphones (iOS 9+ or Android 7+) via OTG cable.
Connector USB micro-B
Security Certification CC EAL5+
Size Size: 56.95mm x 17.4mm x 9.1mm
Weight: 16.2g
Supported Assets 1100+ Supported assets

Source