Ledger Nano X vs Nano S: pros and cons of the two hardware wallets
Blockchain

Ledger Nano X vs Nano S: pros and cons of the two hardware wallets

By Emanuele Pagliari - 7 Sep 2019

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The French company Ledger has two different hardware wallets under its belt: Ledger Nano X and Ledger Nano S.

About a month ago we published a review of the Ledger Nano X hardware wallet, the latest Ledger product announced last January 2019 at CES in Las Vegas.

The Ledger Nano X inherits most of the features of the Nano S, offering mainly three important innovations: the ability to install up to 100 apps, using it on the move with a smartphone via Bluetooth and a larger screen for improved viewing of content.

However, the significant price difference between the two models (119 vs 59 euros) has left in doubt many buyers, who have not always understood the real differences in daily use between the two hardware wallets.

In this comparison, the advantages and disadvantages of the two models will be highlighted, as well as the reasons for choosing the new product over the old one and vice versa. The Ledger Nano X can be purchased on the official website for 119 euros, while the Ledger Nano S for 59 euros.

Ledger Nano X vs Nano S: pros and cons of the two hardware wallets

Duration

Unlike the old Ledger Nano S, the new Ledger Nano X integrates a 100 mAh lithium-ion battery. As a result, like all batteries, it deteriorates over time, leading to a decrease in charging and discharging efficiency.

This translates into a shorter life of the device, although in reality, thanks to the low number of charging cycles guaranteed by the more than satisfactory battery life, the deterioration suffered by the battery should be much lower compared to those used in smartphones.

Therefore, it is likely that a device like the Ledger Nano X can still guarantee several years of operation, surely many more than the common 2, 3 or 4 years that the batteries of today’s smartphones are capable of.

This talk about the lifespan of the battery is clearly reported and indicated on Ledger’s website in the FAQ section of the Nano X, though the company has not specified a minimum number of guaranteed charging cycles. However, a service life of at least 5 years is indicated.

Once the battery dies, the Ledger Nano X can still be used as a classic Nano S – therefore connected to a power source – while continuing to guarantee all the features and improvements introduced by the new model: larger screen, Bluetooth connectivity (on the move it sufficient to use a small power bank), more memory, etc..

The only real risk associated with any device equipped with a battery is the potential swelling of the unit.

By swelling, it could literally break the body of the device, as unfortunately happened in some smartphones after years of intensive use. It is, however, a very remote and rather extreme scenario. Clearly, this risk on a device without a battery (including the Ledger Nano S) is virtually zero.

Finally, the presence of a battery also entails some constraints related to the operating and storage temperatures of the devices, usually limited between -10°C and +50°C. In the case of the Ledger Nano X, the data specified by the company shows an operating range between 0 and +40°C. No data is given for the Nano S, which should therefore not have problems at extreme temperatures.

Usability

The Ledger Nano X has a screen twice as large as the Nano S, which allows it to show more data on the display. Needless to say, this is a significant step forward, which in some cases allows avoiding further interactions with the device.

Despite the larger screen, the responsiveness in use is practically the same, although the user experience has clearly improved significantly.

Memory

The increased memory is perhaps the key feature of the Ledger Nano X. This characteristic, in fact, solves the real problem of the Nano S, which has always been limited to the installation of a few applications (3-4), considering that when the device debuted in 2016, there were very few widespread and used cryptocurrencies.

This issue is not really a problem for those who use the hardware wallet only to safely store the private key, as it is enough to install an app, create a wallet, send coins to it and then uninstall it to makes space for other apps on the same device. It becomes an inconvenient solution when the user wants to make frequent transactions.

For this purpose, it is necessary to opt for the Ledger Nano X or other hardware wallets.

Compactness

Although the size of the two devices is very small, the Ledger Nano S is more compact. In both cases, the size and weight are comparable to a classic USB stick.

What makes the Ledger Nano X truly portable is the Bluetooth connectivity, which makes the device usable on the move directly from the smartphone thanks to the mobile application. It is also possible to use the Nano S from the smartphone, but under two conditions: the user requires an OTG cable and an Android smartphone.

Precisely for this reason, those looking for a portable wallet or simply to use it with a smartphone or a tablet (many people today prefer smartphones to PCs) the Nano X is an ideal solution.

Security

One of the most important aspects of any cryptocurrency hardware wallet is security. The debut of the Ledger Nano X was followed by many criticisms regarding the use of Bluetooth Low Energy 5.0, as it was considered unsafe compared to the traditional cable.

After all, it is quite easy to intercept the BLE and WiFi packets transmitted by a smartphone, a wearable and obviously also by the Ledger Nano X. However, these packets have end-to-end encryption (in some cases even double encryption) between the two BLE devices. This provides a high level of security

As with all hardware wallets, the private key is generated and saved exclusively within it. So it never leaves the device, which is why it is never transmitted and theoretically it should be impossible to access it from the outside. In other words, the information that is transmitted between the wallet and the app concerns non-sensitive data, such as transaction amounts, addresses, signed transactions to be transmitted to the mempool and other information that does not allow the theft of funds stored in the hardware wallet.

As such, the security of the hardware wallet does not depend so much on the type of connectivity, but on the chip integrated into it, which must be hacker-proof. If such a chip is vulnerable, it would be irrelevant whether the wallet connects with or without a cable to the PC or smartphone.

Surely the use of a wired connection allows a further shielding from the external world of data, which, although not very sensitive, must still be protected in the unfortunate event that some malicious person manages to breach the encryption adopted by the BLE or to intercept the private keys (not the SEED of the wallet, but the keys of individual packets transmitted).

In any case, the BLE has an operating range of a few meters (1-2 meters depending on the power level chosen), so the risk is quite limited. The most paranoid can use the classic cable, turning off the BLE or opting for the previous Nano S model. 

Emanuele Pagliari
Emanuele Pagliari

Telecommunications engineer with a strong passion for technology. His adventure in the world of blogging started on GizChina.it in 2014 and then continued on LFFL.org and GizBlog.it. Emanuele is in the world of cryptocurrency as a miner since 2013 and today he follows the technical aspects related to blockchain, cryptography and dApp, also for applications in the Internet of Things.

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