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.

  • “Nano S is also the first hardware wallet where your seed is only ever displayed on the screen of the device.”

    That’s not true – the Trezor and KeepKey both use a setup process which generates the key on-device and displays it on the screen.

    • You are correct about setup but the crucial difference between Nano S and the competition is restoring the device. If you lose your Nano S and need to restore the seed to a new Nano S the seed is entered on the Nano S, not the computer. Your host computer never sees the seed. This difference combined with the smart element makes Nano S the most secure ether and bitcoin hardware wallet you can buy at this time.

      • Jez

        allegro101, you are mistaken on this restore point on trezor, please change your article and comment.

        When you do a restore on the trezor, it is mostly done in the trezor, and not done on the computer. you claim the host computer sees the seed, which is untrue and you clearly haven’t used a trezor if you say that. it asks for random words from your seed – on the trezor device – and you enter them one at a time on the computer. you start typing and can use the cursor keys to choose the words you want. even if someone were capturing your screen or keyboard with malware, they wouldn’t have access to your key (and at worst they’d know the 24 words but not their order!). i think the process is secure (and much easier to do than the ledger nano s, which is quite fiddly entering 24 words with just two buttons, a letter at a time). you can do a restore on a trezor much faster than a restore on a ledger nano s. luckily we don’t do that very often, except in test.

        On the whole i agree with your review, however to be fair, you need to point out some features its missing, as well.

        1. doesn’t support HD wallets on the Ethereum side. i.e.: it only has one account and you cannot (as yet) change the address. As you know, bitcoin people stopped re-using addresses a long time ago for security and privacy reasons. Ledger says they will implement multiple accounts but not HD wallets) in the near future.

        2. (also on ethereum side) doesn’t yet support sending or receiving ether to contract wallets (the main wallet recommended to use with the official ethereum wallet). yet again, they say they intend to add this feature in the future.

        3. it doesn’t support passphrase for its bip39 solution yet (bitcoin hd wallets with additional passphrase). and although they plan to implement something similar, it may not be trezor/myceilium compatible. trezor users often use a passphrase for additional security – which allows multiple accounts and also ‘duress’ accounts. i tried to restore my trezor 24 word phrase on the nano s and didn’t end up with the same wallet, because the nano s doesn’t support passphrases.

        4. as mentioned above, its quite fiddly to enter text using the two button system. its quite a process to enter the 24 word recovery phrases this way. it works, and i did it, but i don’t feel like rushing to do it again.

        5. the wallets only support chrome. i prefer safari. some other hardware wallets (like keep key) also only support chrome – but trezor supports other browsers too.

        i only mention the above so that you have a balanced review. but the ledger nano s is a great product and is very well priced.

        in short, i like the ledger nano s a lot. i think its an excellent piece of hardware. i plan to use it as my daily wallet and hope their software improvements come through soon as ethereum not only needs a hardware wallet but a hardware wallet with hd address type features to give added privacy as well as security. not just a secure key but all the other stuff that goes along with it.

        bottom line: is it better than a trezor? well, temporarily it is because it supports ethereum and trezor doesn’t, yet. but satoshilabs says trezor ethereum support is coming. so we’ll see when that comes out which is better. there’s much too like about the ledger nano s. i was happy there is SOME ethereum support in it, but its very basic, bottom level support and i was hoping for much more – which Ledger says – will come.

        its also quite a bit cheaper than a trezor. personally i think its too cheap and that they could easily sell it for more… they don’t need to undercut their competition by this much… they can make more margin and still undercut the competition.

        • Sorry, you are mistaken about the restore process on Trezor. I have restored Trezors several times (anything electronic breaks after all) and your full 24 word seed is displayed on the computer screen out of order. No changes to the article will be made unless the Nano S is improved with firmware updates.

          Nano S is the only Ether and Ether Classic hardware wallet you can buy at this time and improvements are to be expected with firmware updates.

          I agree with you that I prefer to protect my seed with a passphrase. A Ledger developer has already told me that passphrases will be enabled soon for the Nano S with a firmware update.

      • Steve Azzopardi

        Please tell me how this is done how do you put the seeds inside the ledger nano s

  • On August 4 Ledger updated the Ledger Wallet Ethereum app to prevent replay attacks. Latest version is now 1.0.5. The receiving addresses in the ETH and ETC wallets are now different.

  • If you are using the Ledger Nano S with the Chrome app there have been times on weekends when the servers maintained by Ledger malfunction and you can not send Ether from the Chrome app. Remember in that case you can always use MyEtherWallet as directed in this tutorial from Ledger: https://ledger.groovehq.com/knowledge_base/topics/how-to-use-myetherwallet-with-your-nano-s

  • Wayan

    Using Linux Mint 17.3 / 18.1 or Ubuntu 16.04 nothing is working.
    Crhome App is not working.
    Also Myetherwallet.com is not working with Leger Nano S.
    It was a waist of money and ! Time !

    2 emails to the support = no answer