With so many VPN options in the digital wilderness, it's more crucial than ever to know the ins and outs of your VPN provider. I've spent years exploring the nooks and crannies of NordVPN's services to bring you a comprehensive, unbiased review.
From its ability to navigate the murky waters of geo-blocking to the strength of its encryption that shields us from the prying eyes of cyber pirates, NordVPN has a lot to offer. But does it really stand up to the hype? Will it protect your online privacy while delivering speedy connections from Timbuktu to Tijuana and every place in between?
Whether you're a VPN veteran or a newbie just beginning your online security and privacy journey, this review is for you. So buckle up, my friends, as we embark on this digital journey together, exploring the high seas of the virtual world with NordVPN as our compass. Stay tuned!
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) market has been on the rise and so has the number of providers. Yet how do most peopled distinguish one from another? With the stakes being personal privacy and security, choosing the right VPN is a matter that needs close attention.
This NordVPN review puts it through the paces and tests this provider extensively for security, speed, stability, usability, and more.
- NordVPN Security Features
- NordVPN Privacy Features and Policies
- Speed Test Results: How Fast is NordVPN?
- NordVPN Streaming and P2P
- NordVPN User Experience
- Plans and Pricing: How Much is NordVPN?
- NordVPN Review vs ExpressVPN
- NordVPN Review Verdict: Is it Worth Getting?
- NordVPN Frequently Asked Questions
- Military-grade encryption.
- Extra protection with Double VPN.
- CyberSec blocks ads and malicious sites.
- NordLynx protocol is super fast.
- Create a personal VPN with MeshNet.
- User-friendly interface.
- More expensive than some competitors.
- Lackluster customer service.
NordVPN Security Features
Keeping your identity safe is one of the core pillars for any VPN service provider to adhere to. You can imagine our surprise last year when it was discovered that IPVanish handed over user logs to the US Department of Homeland Security.
Before anyone could protest, the company was sold, and the new owners clammed up, saying the incident was the sole realm of the company’s previous owners.
In some cases, you may be unable to connect to a VPN service due to firewall restrictions. This also applies to some situations with country-wide bans on VPN services, such as in China. This may result in you being unable to use your NordVPN connection in the usual manner.
If this is the case, NordVPN offers some servers which it calls obfuscated servers. These are specially designed to fool networks into thinking that VPN traffic is simple regular data streams.
However, while it may offer a way out in limited situations, NordVPN does not recommend the usage of these servers unless necessary.
Military-grade AES-256 encryption
Arguably the cornerstone of any VPN service, encryption transforms your data into unreadable gibberish for anyone who might try to intercept it. NordVPN employs Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys, commonly called AES-256.
This is the same level of security used by the US government to protect classified information. If it's good enough for Uncle Sam, it's good enough for us, right?
Double VPN Increases Security
If one isn’t enough, take two! Jokes aside, for the truly paranoid, double VPN is precisely how it sounds. With NordVPN's Double VPN feature, your connection is routed through two VPN servers. You connect to one VPN server, it sends your traffic to another server, then the data heads out to whatever destination address you want.
This means that not only does your source IP change twice but encryption is also doubled. By design, if using this service, NordVPN randomly changes connection types between UDP and TCP for added security.
As part of our NordVPN review, we did an overall market assessment on specific areas and found that NordVPN is one of several service providers that offers a double VPN routing service. Although some call it other things, It isn't available on all providers. Double VPN is also sometimes called multi-hop.
CyberSec Blocks Ads
Next up, we have CyberSec, NordVPN's built-in ad blocker and malware shield. CyberSec is like a bouncer for your device, keeping annoying ads and dangerous websites at bay.
It enhances your browsing experience by blocking pop-up ads and provides an extra layer of security by preventing you from accessing sites known for hosting malware or phishing scams.
Ever wonder what happens if your VPN connection suddenly drops? Well, NordVPN has you covered with its Kill Switch feature. If your VPN connection unexpectedly drops, the Kill Switch stops your device from accessing the internet until the VPN connection is restored. This ensures that your real IP address and personal data don't get exposed, even for a moment.
Onion Over VPN Increases Anonymity
NordVPN also offers the Onion Over VPN feature, combining the security of a VPN with the anonymity of The Onion Router (TOR) network. Your traffic first goes through the VPN and then enters the TOR network, providing you with high privacy and anonymity.
All these features work together to create a formidable fortress of security around your online activities. With NordVPN, you're not just browsing the internet but navigating the digital seas in an armored battleship. But remember, my fellow internet adventurers, no VPN can provide 100% security.
Personal NordVPN Servers With MeshNet
One of the latest and most innovative features of NordVPN is the introduction of NordVPN MeshNet. With just a few clicks, MeshNet allows any NordVPN user to create their own mesh VPN, connecting up to 60 different devices at once, no matter their global location. This has been hailed as a game-changer transforming how users utilize NordVPN.
Primarily, a mesh network is used for securing your workload, making it an incredibly secure VPN solution for businesses needing to connect their remote teams safely. However, NordVPN's MeshNet opens up a new range of VPN uses. Here are a few scenarios where it can prove beneficial:
- File Sharing: With MeshNet, you can securely share files among colleagues, family, and friends almost instantly without needing to host these on a different server or cloud space.
- Gaming: For gamers, MeshNet can function as a virtual Local Area Network (LAN), allowing you to play multiplayer games with friends around the world without needing any LAN cables.
- Virtual Routing: If you're traveling abroad but want to browse via your home IP address, MeshNet can route your internet traffic via your home laptop instead of NordVPN's servers.
NordVPN Threat Protection
In 2022 NordVPN just added Threat Protection to their VPN service. Instead of merely blocking ads it now goes full-on to include blocking harmful websites, infected files, and more. What's better is this feature is fairly flexible. You get to choose what level of Threat Protection you prefer in the settings panel.
Threat Protection is essentially similar to the Internet Security applications like those sold by Norton and Kaspersky. However, this is a new feature of theirs so I wouldn't ditch your Internet Security app altogether yet – just in case.
Also Read: VPN vs Antivirus: Do You Need Both?
NordVPN Privacy Features and Policies
Based in Panama
Thankfully, NordVPN has a better track record than that. The fact that the company is registered in Panama is even more reassuring, as we consider it a ‘safe zone’ with little or no data retention laws.
We highly recommend that users do not seek out a VPN service provider which is based in any of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or Fourteen Eyes countries. No matter how much companies deny keeping track of their users, this is lip service at best if the countries they are based in have laws demanding data retention.
Strict No Logging Policy
When using any remote server under a third party's control, they often keep usage logs for various purposes. In the case of a VPN, this is undesirable since anonymity is one of the main reasons for using it.
Our NordVPN review found that this provider has a strict no-logs policy. This means that they don’t keep records of what you do via their servers or about your source device. That includes your actual IP address or anything you do online, such as what sites you visit or files you download.
This means that even if authorities somehow tried to demand the company produce this information, there is nothing to hand over.
Also Read: How Reliable is the NordVPN No Logs Policy?
Speed Test Results: How Fast is NordVPN?
NordVPN is extremely fast, especially if you're running their NordLynx protocol. It's one of the fastest we've tested. But the proof is in the pudding, and we've run extensive NordVPN speed tests to prove the point. Read on to see how it performs.
Speed tests for NordVPN were done on a 500Mbps line. However, due to hardware limitations and other factors, we ran an unfiltered speed test to establish a baseline speed for our setup. With no VPN running, we achieved over 500 Mbs upload and download to a local server within the country.
For the following speed tests in various regions, remember that the further your physical location is from a VPN server, the more likely your line speed will drop. This applies to ping responses as well. Our tests were performed from Malaysia, so we would likely get faster speeds connecting to VPN servers in Asia.
If you are in another country, the speeds will adjust according to your distance from your chosen VPN server.
Note: The speeds below were achieved on the highest encryption settings using the NordLyn protocol.
US Server Speed Test
Connected to a US server gave us a ping of 206 ms which wasn’t too bad considering it is on the other side of the world. Line speeds were impressive for the distance, at over 400 Mbps down and 110 Mbps up.
Europe (Germany) Server Speed Test
We went with Germany as our VPN server location for Europe since that was a more centralized area of the Euro region. It also helps that Germany has some excellent infrastructure for potentially decent speeds. Speeds were good through this connection, with a mind-boggling 432 Mbps down and 261 Mbps up. As you can see, speeds, in this case, were faster with NordVPN active, including a lower latency.
Asia VPN Server Speed Test
Closest to our location in the Asia region is Singapore, a good choice also because of its strategic location and excellent infrastructure. This brought our line speed with NordVPN running up to 431 Mbps down and 336 Mbps up.
Australia VPN Server Speed Test
This location is also relatively close to Malaysia, so it was not surprising that there were decent speeds for the NordVPN Australia servers. We got 464 Mbps down and 290 Mbps up with a 54 ms ping.
WireGuard Adoption on NordVPN
One of the more exciting things about NordVPN has been its adaptation of WireGuard. NordLynx is NordVPN's modified version of WireGuard and it's designed to deliver a faster, more secure VPN connection. While WireGuard has a lot of potential it wasn't initially designed with privacy in mind – a critical aspect for any VPN.
Because of those concerns, NordVPN took the WireGuard protocol and added a double NAT (Network Address Translation) system. This system creates two local network interfaces for each user, maintaining the speed benefits of WireGuard while ensuring that no identifiable data is ever logged on the server.
Final Thoughts on NordVPN Speed
NordLynx is an absolute game-changer. Our speed tests over the past year and more show that NordLynx consistently outperforms other protocols in terms of speed. Surprisingly, it even outperforms some VPN providers' implementation of WireGuard. We can only assume some of those brands run less capable servers.
In essence, NordLynx combines the best of both worlds: the speed and efficiency of WireGuard, and the privacy and security that NordVPN is known for. It's like having a sports car with the armor of a tank. So, whether you're streaming your favorite show, gaming with friends, or browsing the web with NordLynx, you're doing it in the fast lane.
Remember, though; numerous factors can impact your connection speed, including your internet service provider, distance from the server, and even the device you're using. So, while NordLynx can offer significant speed improvements, it's essential to keep these other factors in mind.
NordVPN Streaming and P2P
We do stream movies from time to time, although, to be honest, it isn’t really that big a thing with us. After all, there is Kodi. Yet we can see the appeal to lovers of Netflix and other streaming services.
It usually is quite easy for websites to tell if users use their site via a VPN. This can be for various reasons, such as connection patterns, IP matching, etc. While not many really care, some services dislike their users using VPNs.
For example, the case of Netflix, which needs to keep content for various regions of the world siloed. Mainly, this is due to copyright measures and to combat piracy. Theoretically, by using a VPN, users can circumvent these silos.
Thankfully, in our NordVPN Review, it worked fine for us, and we could use Netflix (See our article on how well NordVPN works with Netflix) and the UK’s BBC iPlayer with no issues. iPlayer, for example, is usually restricted to UK zone devices, and using Nord and a UK server, it ran with no issues.
Decent Torrent Speeds on NordVPN P2P Optimized Servers
Torrenting is most dear to our hearts, though, and we are happy to report that just by clicking on the P2P option in the NordVPN client, we could download to our heart's content at any time. NordVPN has dedicated P2P servers for you to torrent with, and this shows in the speeds we were able to achieve;
While the line did take a minute or two to stabilize, torrent downloads were fast and smooth. No issues whatsoever at all here. We were surprised that the ideal torrent connection for us was via Singapore since the country is known for its strict copyright enforcement.
Many VPN services today boast of offering P2P capabilities, but the proof is in the pudding in this case with NordVPN.
NordVPN User Experience
Signing up for NordVPN is easy and not unlike any other service. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the VPN client, all you need to know is your username and password (from when you registered your account).
User-friendly VPN App
Firing up the NordVPN client for Windows, a world map greets you. Yes – a virtual map. To connect to a VPN server, scroll the map and click on the pinpoints. For us, NordVPN for Windows worked right out of the box, and we recommend you try that before fiddling with the other settings.
We've used this service on and off for over three years, and it has never failed to run smoothly. I would say that regarding user experiences, NordVPN offers one of the most seamless and pain-free experiences available in the market.
Disappointing Customer Support
If there is a single down point on NordVPN, we would consider it their customer support. Yes, NordVPN has various channels through which you can contact customer support which it claims is ‘24/7’ but – no, not really.
The ticketing system is a little slow, and often it takes a day or two for any response to get back to you. This means that even trying to resolve minor issues could take a couple of days if you're lucky. To be fair, this problem is pretty endemic for many online services, though.
Our NordVPN review process found some of their customer service staff unable to manage technical issues very well. We felt they were more interested in resolving issues by having you remove every application on your PC if possible – even if the problem you're facing is unique to their VPN service.
Plans and Pricing: How Much is NordVPN?
NordVPN costs $3.99/mo if you subscribe to their 2-year plan. If you plan on signing up for shorter durations, then the price increases. You can expect to pay $4.99/mo for a one-year subscription. The most expensive plan is monthly at $12.99/mo.
NordVPN often has “bonus” gifts for subscriptions. Currently, they're giving away random plan extensions ranging from one month to 2 years extra on top of your subscribed plan. Check out the bonus here.
It should be no surprise that NordVPN accepts almost all known digital payment methods, including credit cards. For the ultra-cautious who are deeply concerned about true anonymity, you can also pay with some cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin.
The payment process was also smooth (we signed up with Paypal). Do note, though, that NordVPN no longer supports payment via PayPal.
Price-wise, this is where it really gets interesting. As far as we know, most VPNs come similarly priced for short-term plans, and NordVPN is no different. They've recently updated their pricing and removed the three-year plan. Their two-year plan is still highly competitive and comes at a price tag of only $3.71 per month.
That's a massive savings of 68%, and for a top-tier VPN service like NordVPN, a very hard-to-resist offer. If all of this still isn't convincing enough, why not consider getting a NordVPN Free Trial?
NordVPN Review vs ExpressVPN
NordVPN has always been compared to many other VPN service providers simply because they are one of the more popular choices. However, when it comes to a comparison with ExpressVPN, there is often heated debate.
We've tested both NordVPN and ExpressVPN thoroughly and extensively and, honestly, face difficulties in making a final decision. ExpressVPN offers one of the most solid experiences we've ever encountered, but a big issue many people face with them is pricing.
Higher or lower prices are expected sometimes, but the comparison is a little skewed when you can get NordVPN, which is such a strong contender for half the price of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN Review Verdict: Is it Worth Getting?
In a word – YES. Through our extensive NordVPN Review process, we find that it is simply one of if not the best at what it does. It has hit the perfect sweet spot with a fantastic balance of excellent performance, extensive features, user-friendliness, and awesome pricing. There is so much to love that you really need to try it out for yourself.
If you’re the kind that likes to continuously tinker with all the settings an app has to try and tweak it better, you might be disappointed. NordVPN mostly works out of the box and is limited in what you can tweak. This is for simplicity, as well as to protect users from themselves.
We especially like that this company doesn't just create a product and throw it out there with a complete stop but continually updates and improves itself. Highly recommended for anyone who is seeking to explore the Internet safely and anonymously.