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Ledger Nano S vs. X: Which crypto hardware wallet is best for you?

Ledger Nano S vs. X
Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Future)

Ledger Nano S vs. X is the crypto hardware wallet face-off you’ve been waiting for, and in this article, we’re going to determine which one is best for your needs. The Ledger Nano S and Ledger Nano X are known as “cold wallets.” In other words, they are physical devices — à la flash drives — that allow you to store your precious tokens and coins offline as opposed to holding them in “hot wallets” (internet-connected storage like Coinbase Wallet and Metamask).

Cybercriminals lurking on the dark side of the internet love hot wallets. Hackers can exploit security vulnerabilities, stick their grubby hands into your online account, and snatch all of your digital assets. As such, crypto pundits typically recommend hardware wallets (e.g. the Ledger Nano and Trezor Model series) to secure your cryptocurrencies away from devious computer nerds who have enough technical talent to breach online systems.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Ledger)

However, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the 2020 hack that sullied Ledger’s reputation. Last July, the Paris-based crypto firm publicly announced that it suffered a data breach. The phone numbers and home addresses of 270,000 customers, as well as the emails of millions, were exposed, according to Crypto Briefing. 

Customers’ cryptocurrencies were not compromised in the hack. The cybercriminals couldn’t get their hands on customers’ private keys (and without those, they couldn’t steal anyone’s digital assets). Some investors were turned off by the data breach and perceived it as a red flag while others were just relieved that their cryptocurrencies were kept safe.

After the hack, Ledger laid out its plans to prevent future data breaches. Ledger is far from perfect, but keep in mind that your digital assets are more susceptible to being hacked while sitting in a hot wallet as opposed to a cold one. After determining that you’re ready to purchase a Ledger hardware wallet, you’ll have to make an important decision. Should you buy the Nano S or the Nano X? Don’t worry! This face-off will iron out all the details so you can figure out which is best for you. 

Ledger Nano S vs. X
Ledger Nano SLedger Nano X
Price$59$119
Crypto assetsUp to 3Up to 100
Bluetooth supportNoYes
USB typemicro-USBUSB-C
Desktop useWindows 8+, macOS 10.10+ and Linux, but systems with ARM processors are excluded.Windows 8+, macOS 10.10+ and Linux, but systems with ARM processors are excluded.
Mobile useAndroid onlyAndroid and iOS
BatteryNone8 hours of standby
Screen128 × 32 pixels128 × 64 pixels
Size2.2 × 0.7 × 0.36 inches2.8 × 0.7 × 0.5 inches
Weight0.6 oz1.1 oz

Ledger Nano S vs. X: price and value

I initially thought that the Ledger Nano S and X were overpriced; they’re lightweight USB devices with rudimentary user interfaces that are reminiscent of 90’s Tamagotchi toys. The Nano S costs $59 while the Nano X’s price tag is doubled at $119. However, I eventually concluded that a peace of mind — knowing that your cryptocurrencies are safe from the perils of internet hacks — is priceless.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S (Image credit: Ledger)

You may be wondering, “Why is the Nano S half of the price of the Nano X?” Well, the most standout reason is that, according to the official Ledger website, the Nano S can only hold up to three cryptocurrencies — give or take. The Nano S only has 160kb of storage.

The Nano X, on the other hand, has 1.8Mb of storage and can hold up to 100 cryptocurrencies. It’s worth noting that the Nano S and X support over 1,000 tokens and coins, but you can only load up to three on the former and up to 100 on the latter.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano X (Image credit: Ledger)

Ledger also offers bundles. There’s a Crypto Starter Pack that costs $69 and comes with the Nano S, a beginner’s PDF guide, and a $25 voucher to purchase your favorite crypto. For folks who want to make cryptocurrency investing a family affair, there’s also a $139 Ledger Family Pack S that comes with three Nano S’s.

Winner: Ledger Nano S 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: design

From afar, the Ledger Nano S and X look like run-of-the-mill USB sticks. If you had one sitting on your desk, a passerby would never know that your unassuming device is holding precious, valuable digital currencies.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S (Image credit: Ledger)

The Nano S and X both sport a small screen on an onyx rectangular prism. They also have steel-colored cases attached by a hinge that can be swung around to reveal their USB ports, but that’s where their similarities end.

Users can navigate the Nano S’s OS by using the two buttons positioned on the edge of the prism. The Nano X’s dual buttons, on the other hand, flank the display. Unlike the Nano X, the Nano S features a hole that’s convenient for attaching to a set of keys, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Your Ledger Nano should be kept somewhere safe.

The Nano S is slimmer and lighter than its pricier counterpart. The Nano S weighs 16.2 grams and its dimensions are 56.95mm × 17.4mm × 9.1mm. The Nano X weighs 34 grams and its dimensions are 72mm × 18.6mm × 11.75mm. 

The Nano X’s 128 × 64-pixel display is already pretty damn small, but the Nano S’s 128 x 34-pixel display is even tinier. If you don’t want to squint for dear life to see what’s on the screen, you’d be better off with the Nano X.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S colors (Image credit: Ledger)

If you want your Ledger Nano to have a pop of color, you’ll have no choice but to opt for the Nano S. While the Nano X only comes in Matte Black, you can get the Nano S in Saffron Yellow, Flamingo Pink, Jade Green and Lagoon Blue. Hell, there's even a transparent design for those who want to peek into the inner workings of the Nano S.

Winner: Ledger Nano X 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: security

Hide your Dogecoin, hide your Cardano! The cryptocurrency world is awash with hackers finding ways to exploit hot-wallet security holes. Let me give you a scenario to help elucidate how Ledger Nano devices help secure your funds.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Ledger)

Let’s say you want to take a risky plunge and invest half of your savings in Bitcoin. Now, $25,000 worth of Bitcoin is sitting in your Coinbase account. Does that make you nervous? It should! What if Coinbase gets hacked? What if a cybercriminal manages to get a hold of your account and drains it? How could you sleep at night? Losing $25,000 worth of BTC would be devastating. However, for peace of mind, what you can do is simply transfer your Bitcoin to your Ledger Nano device. To do this, you’d have to connect your Nano S or X to Ledger Live (the companion app) and obtain your Ledger’s BTC wallet address (think of crypto wallet addresses as “email addresses” that tell exchanges where to send crypto). Next, you’d open Coinbase, send your BTC to the wallet address, and now your BTC is sitting in an offline wallet as opposed to a vulnerable, exposed hot wallet.

Keep in mind that all transactions are still conducted on the blockchain, but your Ledger stores your Bitcoin’s private keys offline and significantly reduces your chances of being hacked.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Ledger)

The Nano S uses the ST31 security chip while the Nano X has the ST33 security chip. Although the latter is slightly more powerful, they’re both rated CC EAL5+ by ANSSI (a France-based cybersecurity agency). This just means that the Nano X and the Nano S got two thumbs all the way up for its secure tech.

Both cold wallets require a pin code (a minimum of 4 numbers). Initially, I got annoyed with how often I was prompted to input my pin code for my Ledger Nano X, but I eventually grew to appreciate the process. A little inconvenience is worth it for tight security.

Winner: Tie 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: ports and connectivity

The Ledger Nano S, launched in 2016, is the OG of the two. It’s a cane-holding, old timer that still has an ancient micro-USB port. The Nano X is the modern, hip-and-happenin’ device that swooped in to take the Nano S’ place in 2019. Unlike the Nano S, the Nano X has a USB-C port.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S (Image credit: Future)

The Nano S ships with a USB-B to USB-A cable, so if you have a laptop that only sports USB-C ports (e.g. a MacBook Pro), you’ll need a USB-C adapter to connect the Nano S to your PC. The same can be said for the Nano X, which ships with a USB-C to USB-A cable.

On top of that, the Nano X is a Bluetooth-enabled device while the Nano S is not. I’m not sure how I feel about the Nano X having Bluetooth connectivity. As we recently reported, Bluetooth is notorious for being used as a backdoor to victims’ phones and laptops. However, Ledger asserts that the Nano X’s Bluetooth Low Energy tech is secure.

“As security is the most important aspect in all our products, the Bluetooth feature does not expose the Ledger Nano X to any security vulnerabilities since private keys never leave the secure chip and Bluetooth connection is end-to-end encrypted to protect your privacy,” Ledger said.

In other words, even if a cybercriminal intercepted your Bluetooth communication while it’s in transit to another device, they wouldn’t be able to get your private keys nor confirm any transactions you don’t want to send. However, if this isn’t convincing enough, you can always disable Bluetooth on the Nano X.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Ledger)

Thanks to the Nano X’s Bluetooth feature, Ledger assures that you can transact on-the-go using the Ledger Live app on Android or iOS. The Nano S can only connect to the mobile Ledger Live app on Android devices using an OTG cable.

Winner: Ledger Nano X

Ledger Nano S vs. X: Cryptocurrencies

Both the Ledger Nano S and the Ledger Nano X can store any of the 1,150+ supported cryptocurrencies, including Cardano (ADA), Bitcoin (BTC) and Ripple (XRP), but as mentioned, the Nano S can only manage up to three while the Nano X can pack up to 100.

Ledger Live

Ledger Live app (Image credit: Ledger)

After you set up your Ledger Nano and connect it to the Ledger Live app, you’ll need to install “apps” for each individual digital asset you have. For example, if you have Dogecoin, you’ll have to install the Dogecoin app. If you have Solana, you’ll have to download the Solana app, and so forth. 

Each app has different file sizes. For example, Ethereum eats up 72kb while Dogecoin only takes up 4kb, which is why one Nano S owner could likely get up to three apps while another can only squeeze in two. It all depends on the file size of the apps you download.

Winner: Tie 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: User interface

The Ledger Nano S and X have a custom-built OS called Blockchain Open Ledger Operating System (BOLOS). As mentioned, the OS is a little bit raw and elementary (like using a two-button calculator), but this is by design. The UI isn’t designed to be fancy; it’s meant to be secure and lightweight.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano S vs. X (Image credit: Ledger)

Navigating the Nano S and X is essentially the same. You can use the left or right buttons to scroll through a carousel of options or apps. To make selections and confirmations, you’ll need to press both buttons simultaneously. The only difference is that, thanks to the larger screen on the Nano X, you can see more data and info on the display.

It will take some time to get accustomed to using the Ledger Nano devices, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Setting up the Ledger Nano when you first use it is the absolute worst. You'll be asked to write down your 24-word seed phrase (this will be used to recover your assets if you lose your cold wallet), but the Ledger Nano won’t take your word for it. To make sure that you, indeed, wrote it down, you’ll be required to confirm every single word in order. So if the first word of your seed phrase is “rich,” you’ll have to go through a carousel of 24 words to find the right word and confirm it — and you’ll need to do this 23 more times!

Despite the tedium of the set-up process, I recognize it’s all for my own good.

Winner: Tie 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: battery life

The Nano S doesn’t have a built-in battery, so you can’t “charge” it. To use it, you’ll have to turn it on by plugging it into your PC. 

The Nano X, on the other hand, has a 100 mAh battery and it can last for 8 hours on standby.

Winner: Ledger Nano X 

Ledger Nano S vs. X: Customer support

Whether you have the Nano S or X, the quality of Ledger’s support depends on what avenue you use to reach customer service. I own the Nano X and the USB cable that shipped with it arrived broken. I thought, “If I’m paying $115 for this thing, everything better be in working order!” I emailed Ledger (Ledger does not have phone support) and told them about what happened. Four days passed and I didn’t receive a response.

Ledger Nano S vs. X

Ledger Nano X (Image credit: Ledger)

I hopped on Ledger’s official Reddit page and reiterated my issue. Fortunately, a support team member reached out and asked me for the ticket number associated with my email request. Soon after, a Ledger agent finally emailed me back and shipped a new, working USB cable to me within a day or two.

I’m feeling a bit lukewarm about Ledger’s support. I got ghosted by the email team, but thankfully, a Ledger rep on Reddit vouched for me. My situation has been resolved and I’m content. If you need Ledger support, you’ll be better off heading straight to Reddit.

Winner: Tie 

Overall winner: Ledger Nano X

Truth be told, the Nano S doesn’t have any alluring selling points that make it a better pick over the Nano X. It doesn’t have a built-in battery, it has less storage space, it has a smaller display and its port is obsolete. Sure, it comes in a wider range of colors, but who cares? Whether your crypto cold wallet is Flamingo Pink or Matte Black should be the least of your worries.

Ledger Nano X

Ledger Nano X (Image credit: Future)

Ledger says that the Nano S targets “beginner crypto investors,” but I don’t agree. After all, wouldn’t a fledgling investor benefit from the learning opportunities that come from using a device that supports a larger set of cryptocurrencies? 

In my opinion, the target consumers for the Nano S are non-traders and non-investors with one or two virtual currencies for long-term holding. For example, let’s say you’re a parent. You don’t really care about cryptocurrencies, but all of this Bitcoin hoopla has caught your eye. As such, you want to try your hand at buying BTC for your kid’s future. You can transfer BTC into a Nano S, lock it inside a vault, and hope it grows astronomically by the time your child is 18-years-old.

The Nano S is also ideal for infrequent investors who have no interest in purchasing more than two or three digital assets.

Other than that, if you’re genuinely interested in crypto investing, whether you’re a novice or seasoned, the Nano X is the best of the two. There are other hardware wallets on the market (e.g. Trezor Model T), but I’ve noticed that the cryptocurrency world has fully embraced Ledger Nano devices, leaving Trezor out in the cold. For example, I recently purchased LUNA and NEAR, which only supported Ledger Nano devices for safekeeping tokens offline. Until that changes, the Ledger Nano X will continue to be the best option for security-minded crypto enthusiasts. 

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!