First Review: Ledger Nano S Ether Hardware Wallet

Until this week there has not been an Ether hardware wallet available. That changed when Ledger started shipping the Nano S Ether and Bitcoin hardware wallet. I just received mine today and wanted to share my review and impressions of this important hardware wallet.

Trezor was the first commercially successful bitcoin hardware wallet, followed by Ledger. While Trezor used a microprocessor Ledger decided to use a smartcard secure element. While both firms had their fans there were a few problems with the first Ledgers. You had to initiate the Ledger on a secure computer and a security card had to be consulted to authorize a transaction. Ledger was not as easy to use as Trezor. That is no longer the case with the new Ledger Nano S.

The Nano S impresses as very well built and the plastic body measures just over a quarter inch thick.

Ledger Nano S

Unlike earlier Ledgers which plugged directly into your computer’s USB type A female port the Nano S has a female USB Micro B port. It ships with the necessary cable so nothing extra to buy unless you need to use it with a phone.

What Can the Ledger Nano S Do For Me?

The Nano S is a BIP44 HD hardware wallet that stores the private keys for Ether, Ether Classic and Bitcoin securely offline. Using the Ledger Chrome apps for Bitcoin and Ether you can easily send and receive both ETH, ETC and Bitcoin using Chrome Browser and soon Mycelium wallet for Android. Other browsers like Firefox will be supported soon as well.

The Nano S is FIDO U2F certified so you can use the Nano S to authenticate login to services like Dropbox, Github and Google. Just select the U2F app on device and pair it with your desired service.

Getting Started

Once you receive your Nano S use your Chrome browser to visit start.ledgerwallet.com. You will select Nano S from the choices presented:

Ether Hardware Wallet

Once you have selected Ledger Nano S you will next be presented with a screen for the first steps with your Nano S:

ledger ether hardware wallet

Select configure my device and the initialization process begins directly on your Nano S. Connect to your computer with the provided USB micro cable. You will set up a four letter PIN directly on your Nano S and be presented with 24 seed words to write down. The device asks you to confirm three randomly selected seed words before completing setup.

If you have not already visit Google Play store and install the Ledger Ether and Bitcoin apps to your Chrome browser and then reboot your computer.

Using the Ledger Nano S

Plugin your Nano S to your computer using the supplied cable. You will be asked to enter your PIN then confirm by pressing both buttons at the same time. You can then select Ethereum, Bitcoin or Fido U2F from the menu displayed on the device screen.

If you want to use Ethereum while Ethereum is displayed just press both buttons at the same time. The screen will say use wallet to view accounts now just open Chrome browser and select Ledger Wallet Ethereum app and a pop up screen will open to show your Ether wallet with a balance of zero. At the top of the window you can select send or receive using the up or down arrow symbols.

If you select receive Ether you will see a QR code to scan and two addresses you can copy and paste. The IBAN (or ICAP) address is above the standard hexadecimal address most often used. Since not all wallets support IBAN yet better to use the usual hexadecimal address at this time. A useful feature are two options on the screen to send addresses by email or just print.

If you want to use Bitcoin you simply open the Ledger Wallet Bitcoin app on Chrome instead. Addresses are input on the app screen and you are shown the address and fee on the screen of the Nano S before sending. You confirm the send by pressing the right button once.

Using Settings from the home screen on the Nano S you can adjust brightness, invert colors, update firmware or invert the unit so you operate the two buttons with your thumbs rather than your index fingers.

Ledger has online help available at help.ledgerwallet.com if you have questions.

Best Bitcoin Hardware Wallet For 2016 Also Supports Ether

Ledger has produced a next generation hardware wallet. The Ledger Nano S is the first Ether hardware wallet. It is also only the second hardware wallet where your seed is only ever displayed on the screen of the device (Bitlox was the first.) No information about your seed is leaked to your computer on set up or recovery. This makes Nano S the most secure Ether and Bitcoin hardware wallet you can now buy.

The Nano S will support Ether Classic as well as Ether using the Ledger Ethereum Chrome app. The company had some stability issues so delayed the Ether Classic option briefly. When ready, probably August 1st users will just need to update the Chrome app.

Complaints? It is hard to find anything to criticize about the Nano S. You can easily carry it on your key chain and should be able to also use it with Mycelium on your phone very soon. I would like a five digit instead of four digit PIN and the ability to use passphrases. Ledger developers have already posted on reddit that passphrase support is coming.

At the cost of 58 (about $65) the Ledger Nano S is the best bitcoin and only ether hardware wallet of 2016.