Ledger Nano S Review
If you’ve considered a cryptocurrency hardware wallet, then you’ve probably already come across the Ledger Nano S. And for good reason! The Nano S is the result of success of the original Ledger Nano. A screen and pair of buttons helps the user enter information on the device directly. But perhaps the most sought-after aspect of the Ledger Nano S is its multiple token support.
Multiple token support
In the beginning, hardware wallets were primarily designed solely for use with Bitcoin. Even as alternative cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin started popping up, no hardware wallets were made to support this. Part of the problem is differing cryptographic algorithms. Ledger decided to solve with this with Ledger Blue and Ledger Nano S devices, which support apps. That’s right, the app model is now prevalent on our security devices!
This app functionality of the Ledger Nano S allows users to install and use the device for more than just blockchain tokens. Besides apps for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and more, the Nano S can serve as a two-factor authentication device. This functionality is called U2F and allows for browsers to talk to the Ledger Nano S and securely authenticate on websites without having to type any special codes in or answer easily-guessable “security questions”.
Small but effective screen
Ledger, the company behind the Nano S, recognized that each user of hardware wallets will use their devices differently. Beyond the Nano S, Ledger also made a Nano (no screen) and larger Nano Blue (full touchscreen). What we’re left with on the Ledger Nano S is a small 2-line LCD screen. So, how do you operate a with such a tiny screen? The Ledger team have done a great job at presenting key information on a scrolling display. The screen displays address, amount, and fee for the user to verify before confirming or rejecting the transaction. To ensure everything is okay, always verify the hardware wallet device displays the correct transaction information.
Because the Ledger Nano S is such a small device, the amount of room left for user input is limited. A full keyboard is completely out of the question. Apple went the route of a scroll wheel, which could be nice if the Nano S had sufficient room. Instead, the Ledger Nano S employs a mere two buttons. This makes a lot of sense, since users minimally need to accept or reject a transaction. Inputing a PIN code to unlock the device is relatively easy and shouldn’t present a problem for the average user. However, the most difficult part comes if the device needs to be restored. To ensure security, users need to re-initialize their 24 word seed with just these two buttons. The process isn’t hard, but it will take a few minutes and can be easy to make a mistake.
An increasingly popular way to write and distribute blockchain software is via browser extensions–especially for Google Chrome. The same is true for the Ledger Nano S, which actually requires a small handful of Chrome extensions to fully utilize. The first thing new users will want to install is the Ledger Manager, which allows for upgrading of the firmware and apps installed on the hardware wallet itself.
Beyond that, most cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens can be accessed via the Ledger Bitcoin extension–most notably those directly derived from Bitcoin itself. By contrast, Ethereum has its own Chrome extensions and features, which may vary between the two as the two blockchains support different functionality.
An increasing concern for security-minded users is plausible deniability. This features provides an extra layer of security when threatened under force to reveal a PIN or password. The idea is simple: other profiles are established so that opening an alternative account looks no different than the main account. By mocking transfers in another profile, it appears that this is the main account with no way of providing otherwise.
Putting it all together
Is Ledger Nano S the ultimate hardware wallet? For many blockchain enthusiasts, the answer is a resounding “YES”. The Ledger Nano S is one of the most compact cryptocurrency hardware wallets. And the fact that it also has one of the most robust capabilities, it’s not hard to see why. Since the firmware and apps are upgradable on the Nano S, is there a downside?
The one area in which some users have run into problems, is when you want to actually use all the features at once. Device storage is limited and you may find it difficult to upgrade if too many apps are loaded. Fortunately, this won’t affect your tokens at all. Like most other hardware wallets, the Ledger Nano S generates HD wallets. This makes it easy to restore your wallet should it ever be lost. Another benefit is that uninstallation and re-installation of apps is simple and frustration should anything go wrong.