Wireless • Large screen • Supports a huge number of cryptocurrencies
Pricey • Could be more intuitive
The Ledger Nano X is a great cryptocurrency hardware wallet. It fixes all the issues that its predecessor had, but does so at twice the price — which is still alright if you’re serious about crypto.
If you’re serious about cryptocurrency, one gadget that you simply must have is a hardware cryptocurrency wallet. One of the most popular such wallets is Ledger’s Nano S — a USB flash drive-sized, practical device that supports nearly every cryptocurrency you can think of.
But the Nano S has been around for a couple of years, and its age is showing — it’s fairly slow and its memory is limited, meaning it only works with a couple (typically 3) of different cryptocurrencies at the same time.
In January, Ledger announced a new hardware wallet, the Ledger Nano X. It’s a significant improvement over the Nano S in several key areas: It’s faster, has a bigger screen, it’s wireless, and it can support many more coins (up to 100) at the same time.
At $119, the Nano X also significantly pricier than the $59 Nano S, and now I’ve had the chance to test a review unit out and see whether the price premium is worth it.
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First, a short introduction to hardware cryptocurrency wallets. They are hardware devices which keep your crypto private keys and let you securely access your cryptocoins with a PIN. By requiring actual interaction with the hardware at certain points, such as pressing a key or confirming that a cryptocurrency address is accurate on the screen, they add a much-needed layer of security over software wallets.
On the Ledger Nano X, your cryptocurrency private keys (which are long strings of symbols that let you spend your cryptocoins) are kept “isolated” in a “secure element” chip and none of the applications interacting with the Nano X never get to see them. Even if you plug the Nano X into a compromised PC, your private key should remain safe.
As is the case with most hardware wallets, setting up the Nano X for the first time takes a while, but the process is largely painless. The device is, again, USB thumb-like in size, though it is a little bigger than the Nano S. It comes with a very short set of instructions, three seed phrase cards, and a USB-C to USB-A cable.
To start it up, I’ve pressed the button to the left of the screen, and I was greeted with a “low battery” message. Since I was supposed to continue setting up by firing up the Ledger Live software, for a moment I was unsure how to proceed: Should I charge the battery first, or simply connect the Nano X to my computer and start right away?
I’ve decided to wait until the battery’s charged to avoid any potential issues, and that moment of hesitation was the only issue I’ve had during installation. The rest was quite easy, and you do most of the setup on the device itself. You create your first wallet, go through the somewhat annoying (but completely necessary) process of writing down your seed phrase, which is used for restoring access to your funds in case the Nano X gets lost or broken.
At one point, Ledger will ask you to set a PIN code. This is very important: The Ledger keeps your private key safe, but if someone were to get a hold of your physical Nano X device and your PIN code, they can spend your crypto coins at will. You can also set an additional passphrase for added security.
Once you’re set up, you can either connect your Ledger Nano X to the Ledger Live software on your PC (in my case, a MacBook Pro, and yes, I had to use a dongle since the Nano X comes with a USB-C-to-USB-A cable), or connect (via Bluetooth) to the Ledger Live mobile on your phone. Either way you choose, you’ll be fine; I started with the PC and I was later able to transfer those newly created accounts to the app on my phone.
More apps, more speed
The Nano S is quite limited when it comes to the number of apps you can install, but the Nano X can support up to one hundred apps simultaneously. You need an app for each cryptocoin (well, for each one that has its own blockchain; you don’t need separate apps for Ethereum-based tokens) to be able to send and receive it. To test the Nano X, I’ve installed apps for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Chain, Zcash, and NEO without any issues.
One major difference between the Nano X and the Nano S is speed. The Nano S sometimes slows down to a crawl, even when you’re doing something very simple, for example punching in a PIN code. With the Nano X I’ve experienced no such issues — the device was snappy no matter what I was doing.
The Nano X also has a larger screen, which means you’ll be able to see, for example, an entire Bitcoin or Ethereum address on the screen during the verification stage of receiving or sending crypto. This is far preferable to having it scroll left and right as it does on the Nano S.
Ergonomically, the Nano X is an improvement over the Nano S, as its buttons are bigger and easier to press. The only (ever so slight) issue I’ve encountered was that the right button was sometimes a bit sticky, so pressing both buttons at once (a very common action when using Nano X) didn’t always work perfectly. Also, the screen is bigger than the one on the Nano S but it’s still quite small, and the fonts can be difficult to read. Visibility in the sunlight is not the greatest, either.
In terms of speed and ergonomics improvements, the Nano X delivers on all its promises. But the most important new feature it brings is wireless operation. And while it (mostly) works as advertised, I don’t see it as a major reason to upgrade. Working with crypto can be tricky, and you need to be focused and sitting down while performing certain tasks.
Furthermore, the Ledger Live app does not support Ethereum tokens, which are a big part of the cryptocurrency ecosystem these days (for example, major stablecoins like USDC, DAI and TUSD are all Ethereum tokens). That means you’ll have to rely on third party software, such as the MyCrypto wallet, to work with tokens, and that means going back to your PC.
Additionally, constantly having to approve various actions you’ve taken inside the mobile app on the device can get old pretty fast. Overall, it’s nice to have the ability to go wireless, but I bet most users will leave their Ledgers at home most of the time.
At $119, the Ledger Nano X isn’t cheap — it’s twice the price of the Nano S which offers you the same level of security. But for an advanced user, the price premium is worth it — faster operation, the ability to work with more coins and the larger screen are all big improvements, which essentially squash all the issues I’ve had with the Nano S. Wireless operation is nice and might even be crucial to some users; for me, it was just a cherry on top.
Ledger’s biggest competitor is the Trezor, whose top model, the Trezor Model T, is a bit pricier but comes with advanced features such as a color screen and a microSD card slot. Ledger supports more coins than Trezor (though Trezor has largely caught up lately), and has more support from decentralized exchanges such as IDEX and Binance DEX. Neither company’s wallets have had major security issues, so the decision to get one over the other will largely boil down to these minor differences and personal preference.