Beware! You may assume hackers are the biggest threats to your crypto fortunes, which is likely why you’re here. You’re researching whether the Nano S Plus, Ledger’s newest hardware wallet, is the best security tool for warding off malicious actors.
However, there’s an entity that’s far more dangerous to your digital assets than cybercriminals — you. Yes, you! You’re your own worst enemy. Fortunately, the Nano S Plus can stymie self-sabotage. “How could I possibly jeopardize my own crypto?” you may be wondering. Allow me to elaborate.
The crypto market, as you may know, is extremely volatile, subject to the whims of Elon Musk’s tweets and other frivolous occurrences. If you’re holding Bitcoin (BTC) in an online wallet, and its value plummets without warning, you may panic sell. Online wallets, also known as hot wallets, allow users to trade with a few easy, effortless clicks.
However, selling crypto with a hardware wallet isn’t as seamless — and this is by design. You’d have to retrieve it from its hiding spot, plug it into your PC, input a passcode and press a series of physical buttons before you can sell anything. The “red tape,” so to speak, thwarts you from panic selling, prompting you to second guess poor decisions. If your BTC can only be managed via Ledger's Nano S Plus wallet, you’ll think twice before doing something you’ll later regret (e.g., premature selling).
I spent two weeks with the Ledger Nano S Plus, transferring assets in and out of the wallet, experimenting with NFTs, and testing its staking feature (a perk that lets you earn interest on select cryptocurrencies). Read on to find out its pros and cons — and whether it’s worth the investment.
Ledger Nano S Plus price and availability
The Nano S Plus, at $79, won't give you the same sticker shock as the $150 Nano X (Ledger’s 2019 entrant to its hardware wallet portfolio), but admittedly, it’s still steep for a simplistic USB stick-esque device.
When I wrote the Ledger Nano X vs. Nano S face-off, a comparative analysis between the $149 Nano X and the $79 Nano S (now $59), I whined about their exorbitant price tags. Paying a dollar short of $150 for a rudimentary device seemed ludicrous at first, but I concluded that it’s well worth the expense for cutting-edge crypto security (and the frequently updated companion app “Ledger Live.”).
The Ledger Nano S Plus comes with 1.5MB of storage, supports up to 100 crypto apps, and a CC EAL5+-certified chip. If the latter sounds like gibberish to you, it simply means that the Nano S Plus passed a Common Criteria security evaluation. Ledger hardware wallets use state-of-the-art Secure Element chips, high-end security solutions that protect sensitive data (e.g., passwords, SIM cards and credit cards). As such, the CC EAL5+ certification ensures that the Nano S Plus' chip meets a certain security standard.
The Ledger Nano S Plus’ release date was April 5. You can purchase the new hardware wallet on Ledger’s official website.
|Ledger Nano S Plus||Ledger Nano X||Ledger Nano S|
|Crypto assets||Up to 100||Up to 100||Up to 6|
|USB type||USB-A to USB-C||USB-A to USB-C||USB-A to micro-USB|
|Mobile use||Android only||Android and iOS||Android Only|
|Battery||N/A||8 hours of standby||N/A|
|Screen||128 × 32 pixels||128 × 64 pixels||128 × 64 pixels|
|Size||2.2 × 0.7 × 0.36 inches||2.8 × 0.7 × 0.5 inches||2.3 х 4.1 х 0.2 inches|
How the Ledger Nano S Plus differs from the Nano S and Nano X
There are two other popular Ledger hardware wallets: the Nano S and the Nano X. You may be wondering, “How do they differ from the Nano S Plus?” The $59 Nano S may appeal to cash-strapped crypto investors, but keep in mind it only has 320kb of space and can only hold up to six cryptocurrency apps. Meh!
What’s a cryptocurrency app? Well, in order to hold digital assets in a Ledger hardware wallet, you need to install a cryptocurrency app for your specific token or coin. For example, if you want to move Bitcoin (BTC), Solana (SOL) and Dogecoin (DOGE) to your Ledger hardware wallet, you’ll need to install the Bitcoin, Solana and Dogecoin apps, respectively.
Some crypto apps can manage more than one digital asset. For example, Shiba Inu (SHIB) is a token that runs on the Ethereum blockchain, so you must use the Ethereum app to store it. It’s also worth noting that many NFTs run on Ethereum, too. This means that the Ethereum app alone can hold several assets: NFTs, SHIB, ETH and more.
If you’re a crypto investor who only works with a handful of cryptocurrencies, and you don’t foresee yourself developing an interest in a myriad of digital assets, the Nano S is for you. Keep in mind, though, the Nano S doesn’t have a battery (you must keep it plugged into your desktop computer or phone to operate it), it lacks Bluetooth support (useful for connecting to your mobile device sans a cable), and it’s incompatible with iOS (the Nano S works best with PC/Mac/Linux and Android phones).
The Nano S Plus has similar limitations: it doesn’t have a battery, it lacks Bluetooth support and it’s not compatible with iPhones. However, unlike the Nano S, it has 1.5MB of storage and can hold up to 100 crypto apps — much better than the Nano S’ puny six. The Nano X can also juggle up to 100 crypto apps, but has a little more storage space (2MB). It also has Bluetooth support, allowing users to connect their Nano X with an Android or iOS mobile device. Plus, it has a battery that offers an 8-hour standby runtime.
To conclude, the Nano S is best for crypto investors who only want to store a handful of digital assets. The Nano X is imperative for iPhone owners (i.e. the Nano S series doesn’t jive with iOS). The Nano S Plus gives you the best bang for your buck. No, it doesn’t come with Bluetooth nor a battery for untethered connectivity, but who cares? If it’s necessary for you to pair your Nano S Plus with your phone, you can still use a USB cable.
Ledger Nano S Plus design
I have a bone to pick with Ledger when it comes to the Nano S’ awkward design, but let’s start with the pros. The Nano S Plus, reminiscent of a USB stick, has a fit-into-the-palm-of-your-hand footprint, allowing it to fit into small pockets and other tiny compartments inside your favorite laptop bag.
The Nano S Plus sports an onyx rectangular prism that features a 128 x 64-pixel display. This panel, by the way, is noticeably larger than its predecessor’s screen. On top of the prism are two buttons that help users navigate the hardware wallet’s OS. Now here’s where things get bizarre. The Nano S Plus has a brushed stainless steel case that can be swiveled around to hide the USB-C port. What I don’t like about the case is that it has a hole that tacitly encourages users to attach the Nano S Plus to keychains and other objects.
The Nano S Plus shouldn’t be out in the open on keychains nor swinging off bookbags; it should be kept in a safe, a locked drawer or wherever you prefer to stash your treasures.
Unlike the Nano S, which comes in a variety of colors (i.e. Matte Black, Saffron Yellow, Flamingo Pink, Jade Green, Lagoon Blue and Transparent), the Nano S Plus only comes in black (with a silver case) — a plus for heightened discreteness. I personally wouldn’t want a Flamingo Pink crypto hardware wallet; it’d attract too much attention!
Ledger Nano S Plus setup
The Nano S Plus comes with a small booklet of instructions on how to set up the hardware wallet. If this is your first time using a Ledger product, you likely don’t have the Ledger Live app yet. That’s alright! Head to Ledger.com/start to download the companion app.
After launching the desktop Ledger Live app and plugging in my Nano S Plus (with the provided USB cable), I stumbled upon a slideshow of instructions on how to initialize my hardware wallet. I love that Ledger kicks off the slideshow guide with a mini-lesson on how hardware wallets work (there are many misconceptions).
Ledger reminds users that although they may use the Nano S Plus to move their Bitcoin from a hot wallet (e.g., Coinbase Wallet or Metamask) to a cold wallet (e.g., Nano S Plus), their crypto assets are still stored on the blockchain. For example, this is why you must pay a gas fee to transfer your Shiba Inu from Metamask to the Nano S Plus. Shiba Inu is still running on the Ethereum blockchain and you must pay a fee to the protocol so that it can execute the action of moving it to a new ETH wallet address (i.e., your Nano S Plus).
Next, I interacted with the hardware wallet to finish the setup; I was prompted to create a PIN code. Each Nano S Plus device generates a unique set of 24 words — this is your recovery phrase. If you lose your Nano S Plus, you need this 24-word phrase to regain access to your crypto. You’d have to purchase a new hardware wallet and reinitialize it with your recovery phrase.
There’s no easy way to say this, but if you lose your recovery phrase, you’re screwed. Ledger doesn’t own a copy of it. As such, it’s up to you to write down your recovery phrase and keep it somewhere safe. Nano S Plus comes with a tiny leaflet for writing down your 24 words. Funnily enough, some crypto users would shun this because the leaflet is made of paper. They’d implore you to store your recovery phrase on metal plates, reducing its potential for damage in the event of a fire, flood, earthquake or other unexpected disasters. Your home may be burned to smithereens, but you’ll still have crypto!
To ensure that I wrote down my 24-word recovery phrase (there’s always a select few who don’t listen), the Nano S Plus asked me to confirm each word — in sequential order. For example, if the first word of your recovery phrase is “table,” the device will ask you to cycle through a carousel of incorrect words until you find the right one. Once you find “table,” you must confirm it. Once the device validates that the selected word is correct, it will move on to the second word — this process will continue until you’ve reached the 24th word. Yes, it’s extremely tedious, but it’s worth it.
Finally, Ledger Live ran a check to ensure my device is genuine. After that, I was all set to use the Nano S Plus. It took about 30 minutes to set up the device. Was it a lengthy process? Yes, but it’s all for the sake of tight security. Plus, I can’t complain — the process was seamless and efficient.
Ledger Nano S Plus security
So you may be wondering, “Why should I get a hardware wallet as opposed to keeping my crypto in an online wallet? What makes it safer?” What I love about the Nano S Plus is that it keeps your recovery phrase — the key to your crypto — offline. Unlike hardware wallets, Metamask digitally stores your seed phrase online. Sure, it’s encrypted, but who knows? What if a highly skilled, seasoned hacker figures out how to breach the Chrome extension, uncovers your seed phrase and snatches all of your crypto? You’ll never get it back!
However, with the Nano S Plus, thieves would have to break down your door and physically get their hands on your recovery phrase (which you’ve hopefully placed inside a locked safe) before they can steal your digital assets.
Using the Nano S Plus to circumvent malware
One applaudable Nano S Plus security feature is that it compels you to double-check your “receive addresses” (alphanumeric strings that tell folks where to send your crypto). For example, if you want to send Dogecoin from your Coinbase Wallet to Nano S Plus, you have to get the receive address from Ledger Live so that Coinbase Wallet can “inform” the blockchain where it should send your DOGE. Ledger Live will pull up the receive address for Dogecoin on your desktop, allowing you to copy it. It will also ask you to double-check the receive address by displaying it on your Nano S Plus’ screen, too. If they match, you can click “Accept” on the hardware wallet and carry on.
“So? Why is this important?” you may be wondering. Well, there’s a frightening malware called Clipper. This hair-raising, malicious software can “recognize” crypto wallet addresses and automatically switch them with the hacker’s own addresses. As a result, you may think you copied and pasted your wallet address, but as it turns out, you’ve inputted the hacker’s wallet address. Once you hit “Send,” it’s too late. You’ve been tricked into sending your own funds to a cybercriminal’s lair!
As such, I appreciate Ledger Live asking users to double-check whether the receiving address on the desktop UI matches what’s displayed on the hardware wallet’s panel. It’s a process that keeps you vigilant; you’re more likely to spot an unfamiliar, foreign wallet address because you’ll be conditioned to remain hawk-eyed for funny business.
How the Nano S Plus saves you from yourself
As mentioned in the beginning, crypto investors are their own worst enemies. You are more likely to sabotage your own digital assets — not a hacker. Consider this scenario: Let’s say you’re at work and decide to check on how well the market is doing. Your jaw drops as Bitcoin’s value sinks, and you’re tempted to sell in a moment of panic, but you can’t. Your Nano S Plus is at home, sitting pretty in a safe. Ha!
Hardware wallets are purposely inconvenient to use for day trading, which makes them appealing to investors who need long-term storage and don’t want to self-sabotage, especially if they’re prone to emotionally charged decision making.
Ledger Nano S Plus for securing NFTs
Don’t lose your precious NFTs to an online hack!
OpenSea, one of the most popular marketplaces for Ethereum-based NFTs, is a hacker’s haven. There are many reports of users losing NFTs to OpenSea vulnerabilities or phishing attempts. You can leave your Bored Ape Yacht Club or CryptoPunk NFTs unprotected if you want to, but don't say I didn't warn you!
For this review, I decided to mint one of my comics from Systems of the Stars (a Laptop Mag series that interviews celebrities on their tech possessions) into an NFT on OpenSea, which uses the Metamask wallet to hold non-fungible tokens. Securing my NFT with the Nano S Plus was smooth as Sunday morning.
First, I imported my Nano S Plus account to my Metamask wallet (Ledger has a step-by-step video on how to do this). Keep in mind that Metamask can hold several accounts. I have an older Metamask account holding my Systems of the Stars NFT; I also have my newly imported account that holds my Nano S Plus assets. Unlike the former, the latter triggers Metamask to use my Nano S Plus to execute transactions (e.g., selling), ensuring that my NFT is protected from the perils of the internet.
Next, I transferred the NFT from my old account to my Nano S Plus-based account, paid gas (I had to shell out $30 worth of ETH, ugh!), and voila, my NFT is now secured with my hardware wallet. In other words, a cybercriminal would need to physically have my Nano S Plus in their hands to do anything with my NFT. A Metamask account sans hardware-wallet integration, on the other hand, processes transactions with a digital UI, which is more susceptible to hacking.
By the way, I can view my NFT by opening the Ledger Live app, clicking on Discover and launching the Rainbow.me app (see above).
Ledger Nano S Plus mobile app usage
You can use the Nano S Plus on any PC, Mac or Linux desktop, but you can also set up and manage your hardware wallet with your phone, but there are three things to keep in mind:
- The Nano S Plus is compatible with Android — not iOS.
- You need an appropriate cable (sold separately) to connect the Nano S Plus to your phone. (I used a USB-C to USB-C cable for my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra).
I easily synced the Ledger Live mobile app with the desktop version. How? I went to Settings > Accounts > Export. This brings up a QR code. I used my phone’s camera to scan it, and in just seconds, I saw my portfolio appear in the mobile app.
I didn’t notice any limitations carrying out my usual crypto activities, including cashing out on rewards from staking (more on that later), using Rainbow.me to marvel at my NFT, and checking out how the crypto market is doing.
How the Ledger Nano S Plus can improve
The Nano S Plus is far from perfect; there’s plenty of room for improvement. One aspect of Ledger Live I can’t get myself to rave about is its staking feature, which lets users earn money for holding select cryptocurrencies: Algorand (ALGO), Polkadot (DOT), Cosmos (ATOM), Tron (TRX) and Tezos (XTZ).
It’s not that Ledger’s staking is bad — it’s just that there are competitors that offer better services. I understand Ledger's primary focus is not staking; providing secure, long-term storage is their main mission. Still, I wish it was less of an afterthought. I'd love to see more cryptocurrencies supported for staking, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Ledger will continue to add to this list as the company matures.
Fortunately, I staked TRON without any issues. I also experimented with ALGO, but the Algorand protocol is no longer doling out rewards to holders as of April 2022. As such, Ledger might as well nix ALGO from its list of “stakable” digital assets.
I also dislike how the Ledger Live app doesn’t tell you the reward rates for each “stake-friendly” crypto. On the plus side, you can search for this information on the Ledger website. With a little digging, I discovered that holding ATOM offers an 8 to 10 percent annual yield. My only concern is that I’m unsure whether these articles are current and frequently updated; reward rates can increase or decrease over time.
The other rates, as of this writing, are:
Polkadot (DOT) - 10%
Tron (TRX) - 7%
Tezos (XTZ) - 6%
Competitors, such as Crypto Earn, offer higher reward rates for some cryptocurrencies (e.g., 12.5% for DOT), but the advantage the Nano S Plus offers is cold-wallet security. Another factor you must consider is that some cryptocurrencies require a minimum deposit. For example, I moved 5 DOT from Coinbase to my Nano S Plus to stake, but was annoyed to discover I needed at least 10 DOT. It’s an important nugget of information I wish Ledger made clear. If I knew about this earlier, I wouldn’t have wasted money on gas fees sending DOT to my hardware wallet!
Finally, I really wish the Ledger Live app had pop-up notifications and sound alerts for digital-asset arrivals. Instead, I need to keep refreshing the “Portfolio” page to see if my crypto made it safe and sound. It’d be easier to kick back and relax knowing Ledger Live will let me know about incoming transactions with notifications (or some other way to grab my attention).
The Nano S Plus is one of the most exciting products I’ve reviewed in a long time. Why? It’s the future of banking. I know, I know. It’s hard to wrap one’s head around the concept of everyone owning USB-esque sticks to manage “internet money” and digital collectibles. It seems ludicrous and wacky, but perhaps it’s not as far-fetched as you think.
Prior to the Nano S Plus’ launch, if you would’ve asked me which Ledger product I’d recommend, I’d point to the Nano X (I’ve owned one for more than a year). Now, I don’t see why you’d opt for the $149 Nano X over the $79 Nano S Plus — unless you have an iPhone.
The Nano S Plus offers almost the same storage capacity as the Nano X for $70 less. The Nano X adds Bluetooth and iOS support, as well as a battery, but I’m not convinced these are alluring selling points, especially if you’re an Android user. However, keep in mind that the Nano S Plus is the next iteration of the 2016 Nano S. It’s only a matter of time before Ledger releases the successor to the 2019 Nano X, which may blow the Nano S Plus away.
As mentioned, there’s still room for improvement. The crypto hardware wallet market is relatively new, and I’ve been observing Ledger — it’s constantly innovating. The Paris-based company consistently announces noteworthy collaborations (it recently partnered with The Sandbox, a leading metaverse platform), new app integrations for NFTs and crypto, and more. Plus, Ledger regularly rolls out firmware and software updates to users. Due to Ledger’s frequent tweaking to perfect its hardware wallet, the Nano S Plus earned an Editor’s Choice badge for this review.