I've been a long time user of the Ledger Nano S as the hardware wallet of preference. The upgraded version of the venerable Nano S launched into the red seas of 2019 and was on my wistlist for quite some time. I did pick it up sometime during 2019, but I have been putting off writing a review until I've had some good amount of use time with it.
Now, almost a year on... how am I finding the Nano X? It is t worthy upgrade to the old Nano S? Should you pay that little bit more for the newer and shinier version?
The Nano X comes pretty simply packaged, with only a single braided USB type C cable as an extra. The device is built in a more premium style than the original, with the familiar swing out metal sleeve that encases the screen and chip. There is no real need for anything extra, but the braided cable is a nice extra.
The Nano X is a little bit chunkier than the original Nano S, it isn't terribly larger, but it noticeable. Of course, this is the sort of thing that gets put away somewhere safe anyway, unless you have custom designed a snug fitting lockbox for it... well, it won't matter to most people.
The bulk does go towards houses an internal battery and the Bluetooth module. So, definitely worthwhile inclusions. Actually, I probably could do without the Bluetooth module as I don't use the Ledger Live app on the phone or mobile devices... For those who are worried, the Bluetooth module is of a similar safety as a USB cable. Sure, you are broadcasting and receiving signed transactions from the mobile app... but the likelihood of signing a man-in-the-middle transaction that suddenly appeared to you at the moment of signing a valid transaction is vanishingly small. Plus, the range of Bluetooth is definitely not that great, as any experience with Bluetooth headphones will tell you!
No, the greater security threat is definitely on your phone/computer. With false transactions replacing the valid ones... thankfully, the private keys are not exposed in either case... the Ledger only does the signing, no exposing of keys required.
An additional benefit of the larger device footprint is the larger screen. Using the old Nano S would have addresses constantly scrolling left and right as the addresses for transactions would generally be much longer than the ability to fit them on the screen! So, that made confirmation of transaction addresses just that little bit more difficult and annoying.... and it was annoying enough!
Now, the addresses fit completely on the screen with no scrolling... making a fairly unpleasant experience that little bit smoother.
The two buttons that are used for menu selection and interaction have moved to the swivel hinge and another black button on the right of the screen. They no longer stick out the top of the screen and I do prefer this orientation much better... especially as the device is larger. The buttons are nicely clicky and not at all mushy. Mushy buttons are the feature of cut corners in development, and not having tactile feedback can lead to mistakes.
USB interfacing is handled by the newer Type C hole (old one was micro USB). It's always great to see newer devices adopt the newer standard... any manufacturer releasing a USB micro shaped interface should be shamed!
The interface not only handles the cable for interfacing with the computer and Ledger Live, but it also serves as the charging port for the little 100 mAh battery that powers the screen and Bluetooth connection. The battery is more than enough to power the secure chip and monochromatic screen for quite a long time. I've not really purposefully recharged it for a while now... plus, it is recharging when you use it anyway!
Setup is the usual... input your seed phrase from your old device and you are good to go. For extra security, use the 24+1 version.
Now, the biggest upgrade of the Nano X over the old S version is the MUCH MUCH larger internal storage for the crypto apps that it needs to run. The old Nano S would old 5 crypto apps maximum... in practice, more like 3 due to dependencies. That meant that changing between blockchains would require constant installing and uninstalling of apps on a very very slow onboard processor! Or buying many Nano S's.... either way a terrible experience.
The Nano X now can store more crypto apps than you will ever need... at the moment, I have 28 apps on there with room for more. So, no problem!
A year ago, when the Nano X was newer and shinier, the Ledger Live software ecosystem wasn't quite up to snuff with the newer hardware. It treated the Nano X like it's ancestor... and that meant that updating crypto apps would mean that the all the dependencies would need to be updated first. However, that would be really annoying as there was no automation of the updates... and the dependencies were only listed on an obscure page on the Ledger website! So, most often it would be Bitcoin or Ethereum... but it would mean uninstalling the dependent app, uninstall ALL the other dependent apps, uninstalling and updating the ROOT app... and then reinstalling the rest. Needless to say, a painful experience!
However, the newer versions of the firmware and software mesh together in a more user-friendly way. Updates are handled automatically in a way similar to a mobile phone app store, you just tap update all or individually... and away it goes in the background!
I would have to say that the Nano X is a worthwhile upgrade from the original Nano S if you are using more cryptocurrencies than a handful that the Nano S can keep on internal storage. The ability to easily switch between chains and interact with them on a secure hardware wallet is a boon for security. Now that the entire ecosystem has been updated to make the experience painless, it is a plus for user experience AND security!
If you are looking to purchase a new Ledger, then I would definitely recommend this as a better future-proof alternative to the cheaper version.
Soon to come, a hands-on and review of the Ledger Live software!
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Ledger is one of the leading providers of hardware wallets with the Ledger Nano S being one of the most popular choices for protecting your crypto currencies. Leaving your holdings on a crypto exchange means that you don’t actually own the digital assets, instead you are given an IOU that may or may not be honoured when you call upon it. Software and web based wallets have their weakness in your own personal online security, with your private keys being vulnerable in transit or whilst being stored upon your computer. Paper wallets are incredibly tiresome and still vulnerable to digital attacks (in transit) and are also open to real world attacks (such as theft/photography).
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