Editor’s Rating: 9.3/10
Whether you’re new to the world of virtual private networks or you’re a seasoned pro who is always on the lookout for the best service, you’ve probably seen NordVPN come up on more than one occasion. NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN service providers out there. The company has a large server network and over 12 million users around the globe.
We’ve put NordVPN to the test over a number of different criteria. See what we think of NordVPN and whether its the right VPN choice for you.
UPDATE: 20th May 2019
If you’re traveling abroad or using the wi-fi at your local coffee place, a simple and effective way to secure your data is through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). NordVPN is a product that ensures that your private data and information is not intercepted and that you’re not interacting with fake websites. NordVPN has over 2000 servers globally which also includes optimized servers as well. NordVPN provides the safety for your data in a user-friendly client that works consistently across various platforms. This VPN service also offers the facility of ad blocking. NordVPN has received rave reviews for the best user experience and great service.
Why is NordVPN so popular? What are the limitations of using this VPN provider? If you’re considering signing up with NordVPN, then take a look at the many advantages and a few drawbacks of this VPN provider. This can help you make up your mind on whether NordVPN is the right VPN service for you.
The Good. Advantages Of NordVPN
In less than a decade, NordVPN has fine-tuned its service to provide people with the features they need the most. There’s a good reason why so many web users trust this VPN for all their security needs. Here are some advantages that NordVPN has to offer.
Strong Security Features
At the heart of every VPN service is its security features. NordVPN offers some of the most secure protocols in the industry. Its primary method for securing your connection is OpenVPN. OpenVPN is incredibly versatile. It trumps the alternatives in terms of efficiency, mostly in part due to its open-sourced nature. The protocol is constantly improving, ensuring that you have the most security possible.
Other options are available as well. For example, Mac and iOS devices typically use the IKEv2/IPsec protocol by default. Though, you can also choose to use this option on your other devices. Like OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec is considered to be very safe for all your browsing needs.
In late 2018, NordVPN stopped using a couple of different protocols. Most notably, the provider discontinued L2TP/IPsec and PPTP. While some may view fewer options as a negative, NordVPN stopped using those protocols due to security concerns. They are considered relatively obsolete as they can’t provide the same levels of protection as OpenVPN.
When you connect to a NordVPN server, your data is heavily encrypted. Not only do you get to reap the benefits of the security protocols, but your personal information can stay safe thanks to the military-grade encryption techniques. This is ideal for keeping your login data, banking information, and everything else you do safe from prying eyes.
Essentially, your data is scrambled before it even begins its journey to your destination website. NordVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption. It’s the same technology used by banks, government institutions, and the military. Even if your data is stolen by a hacker, the AES encryption will make sure that they have no way of deciphering what those scrambled bits mean.
For even more protection as you surf the web, NordVPN offers a selection of double VPN servers. As the name implies, this feature pushes your Internet traffic through two separate VPN servers. This process basically provides double-encryption, keeping your traffic and data as safe as possible.
Shared IP Addresses
Primarily, NordVPN uses shared IP addresses to keep your Internet activity anonymous. When you’re browsing the web through your standard ISP connection, everything you do can be traced back to you. This is done through your IP address, which is an identifying series of numbers that’s unique to your device and connection.
With a VPN, your connection is pushed through a secure tunnel before it makes its way to the World Wide Web. When it comes out of the other end of this tunnel, your connection is assigned a brand new IP address. The unique thing about shared IP addresses is that you’re using the same one as many other people on the network. This helps to shield your identity even further.
Say, for example, that the VPN IP address you’re using is flagged for visiting a website that’s restricted in your area or for torrenting large files. Usually, that IP address would be used to trace that activity back to a single person. However, if there are multiple people using a single IP address, there’s no way to definitely pinpoint that activity back to one person.
Available Dedicated IP Address
On the other side of the spectrum, NordVPN also offers dedicated IP addresses. It should be noted that this service is an optional add-on that comes with some extra costs. Dedicated IP addresses have a couple of benefits over shared IP addresses.
The biggest is providing secure access to company servers. This is a popular option for large companies with remote workers. Accessing these sensitive systems is risky over a standard ISP connection, so many businesses use VPNs to keep data secure. A dedicated IP address lets your company’s network administrators provide online access to specified IP addresses.
Another benefit of a dedicated IP address is that they avoid the pitfalls that often come with using a shared VPN server. These include online banking and VPN blacklisting. If you use a VPN server to perform online financial tasks, your bank will see that your activity is coming from many different IP addresses.
This could raise a red flag within their systems, resulting in access issues. A dedicated IP will avoid unwarranted suspicion and help prevent those annoying captchas from interrupting your errands. The same goes for blacklisting. You’ll be able to browse with one IP address, bypassing any blocks or restrictions that may come with a shared alternative.
Leaks can still occur on even the most secure VPN network. Often times, these leaks happen discretely without Internet users even knowing. Even the most innocent leak can lead to some pretty serious ramifications, as they expose your real IP address and activity for recording. Tests show that NordVPN does an excellent job at preventing many different types of leaks.
One of the most common issues that VPN users face is DNS leaks. When you type a website address into your browser, your computer must make a DNS request to figure out where it needs to send your data. DNS stands for Domain Name System. It’s basically an address directory for the Internet that translates “Twitter.com” into the actual server IP address for that website.
Unfortunately, DNS leaks are far too common. They happen when your computer sends those DNS requests to your ISP’s DNS servers. Internet Service Providers record these requests, essentially making the VPN useless.
NordVPN offers its own DNS resolution system. Every time you’re connected to the VPN server, your DNS queries are sent to a no-knowledge DNS server that’s operated by NordVPN. As a result, each request you make is anonymous.
Kill switches are a must-have in any VPN service. Your real IP address can be recorded by your ISP or the website you’re visiting because the VPN server is down. While most providers do a lot to keep servers up and running smoothly, issues do occur. A kill switch can prevent accidental leaks by terminating your Internet connection the moment that the servers go down. This feature is automatic, providing you with peace of mind as you browse.
WebRTC Leak Prevention
WebRTC, or Web Real-Time Communication, is an innovative protocol that allows you to send audio and video feed to another person on the other side of the world in real time. It’s primarily used by web browsers for chat sites. While it’s great for communicating, it has many security flaws.
The data line between you and your recipient share a lot of information, including your real IP address. Many times, this connection is made outside of the VPN tunnel, making your activity vulnerable. NordVPN has a special feature that authorizes these types of connections through an anonymous IP address.
NordVPN offers a huge network of over 5,000 servers. These servers are spread out across more than 60 countries around the world. This impressive network is one of the largest available. Having a high number of server options can only benefit you. Not only do you have more opportunities to find a network that’s right for your needs, but you can access more content without restrictions. The NordVPN client provides you with a server list, allowing you to make your connection look like it’s coming from an entirely different country. Servers can be found in Europe, North and South America, the middle east, India, and Africa.
Many of the NordVPN servers are also fine-tuned to serve a specific purpose. For example, they have servers that are optimized for streaming, torrenting, and much more. To make things even easier for users, NordVPN has a smart algorithm. It automatically chooses the right server for your needs based on your activity, traffic load, and location.
Onion Over VPN
Another unique benefit that NordVPN offers is its Onion Over VPN servers. The Onion network, also known as Tor, is a great privacy tool that lets you access the Internet freely. It’s very similar to VPNs. However, Tor doesn’t offer the same levels of protection and privacy. Its biggest downfall is that your ISP can see that you’re connected to the Onion network. They may not be able to see what you’re doing on the network, but they can see that you’re connected.
The Onion Over VPN servers give you that extra layer of protection. Your data is encrypted multiple times over, ensuring that your browsing session is completely private. Not even your ISP will know that you’re using Tor.
The selection of obfuscated servers is great for people who live in countries with restricted Internet access. Many regions in Asia, such as China, forbid normal access to the World Wide Web. The obfuscated servers can help get around censorship and blocks.
To put it simply, the data that travels through these servers is disguised to look like normal HTML traffic. The websites you visit won’t know that you’re using a VPN. This can prove to be incredibly useful for bypassing blocks and keeping your online activity private from government bodies.
If you’re searching for ways to keep your Internet activity safe and private, you probably already have some form of antivirus or malware protection installed on your computer. However, you’ll be happy to know that NordVPN has its own malware protector that works at the source. Called CyberSec, this advanced feature is capable of cleaning up your browsing experience significantly.
It automatically blocks suspicious websites. VPN connections are scanned against a reference list of dangerous sites. As a result, you can stay protected from phishing scams, trackers, malware, DDoS attacks, and more. CyberSec also blocks unwanted ads, so say goodbye to flashy graphics and waiting to skip annoying YouTube ads.
This feature is especially useful if you plan on using the VPN connection on a router and multiple devices. Instead of having to install antivirus software on each gadget, you can rest assured knowing that your connection is safe from the jump.
When you’re browsing the web at home on an unsecured network, you’re susceptible to a number of different online threats. However, those risks are even more serious when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. These public networks are unsecured, leaving your data open to theft, phishing, malware, and many other cybercrime attacks. Having a VPN connection on your mobile device is crucial. Luckily, NordVPN supports many popular mobile platforms.
In 2018, NordVPN introduced the Auto-Connect feature. It’s a convenient feature that provides you with protection whenever you’re out and about. Best of all, it does so with absolutely no effort. Within the mobile apps, you can configure this feature to set up a VPN connection anytime there’s an open Wi-Fi connection available. This can be set to unsecured networks or password-protected networks that you have access to. Whenever you’re in range, your smartphone or tablet will establish the connection so that you don’t have to remember to connect to the VPN at all.
Privacy-Centered Logs Policy
A VPN service provider’s logging policies can ultimately affect how private you really are on their network. Sure, VPNs are aimed at anonymous browsing, but the fine print may show that there is some information collected about you. NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy. They don’t keep any connection logs or usage logs.
This feature is very important when you’re investing in a VPN for privacy. Connection logs often include your real IP address, when you connected to the network, how much data you used, and more. Usage logs delve a bit deeper by recording what websites you visit and what kinds of files you’re downloading. NordVPN is very transparent about its logging policies. They do collect a small bit of information, but it can be non-identifiable. It includes your email address associated with the account and your payment method. You can, however, keep your payment and account information anonymous. More on that a bit later.
To provide extra peace of mind to users, NordVPN is audited regularly. They use a third-party auditing firm to check on their logging policy. NordVPN was approved, as the firm found that its policies were accurate and fair.
The main factor that determines a company’s logging policies is the jurisdiction of where they operate. Some countries are better with privacy logs than others. In many countries, such as the United States, VPN companies are even required to share logging information if they ever receive a government subpoena.
NordVPN is based out of Panama, which is a great country in terms of Internet privacy. Panama has no data retention laws, making it possible for NordVPN to not record any information about your time on their network. It’s considered to be one of the best countries for VPNs. Panama is also not part of any known surveillance programs or alliances. NordVPN.com even has a warrant canary, which states that they have not received any subpoenas or gag orders.
Good Connection Speeds
Connection speeds are an important thing to consider when you’re choosing a VPN. The very nature of how a VPN service works will result in slower speeds than you’re used to. NordVPN does a pretty good job at minimizing the decrease and providing you with consistency. Speed tests show that local servers are capable of providing download speeds that are pretty close to what you would get with your standard ISP connection. Of course, the data transfer speed will get a bit slower the more distant the server you’re connecting is.
Like any provider, NordVPN is not capable of providing you with more speed. What you can achieve on the VPN network is dependent on a number of factors, including how fast your connection normally is.
Avoiding Data Throttling
This provider offers unlimited bandwidth. This means that you can stream or download as much content as you want without having to worry about NordVPN cutting you off. To make things even better, NordVPN is capable of helping you get around throttling by your ISP. Many Internet Service Providers are starting to implement data caps into their plans. If you reach the threshold, you may experience throttled speeds and extra fees. It’s a completely unnecessary money-grab that web users have to deal with.
A solid VPN provider like NordVPN hides your traffic from your ISP completely. They won’t even know that you’re using a VPN. They can’t keep track of data they can’t see. So, you can enjoy the Internet unencumbered and browse all you want without throttling from your ISP.
While streaming has revolutionized the way we consume digital media, it’s far from perfect. Some of the most popular streaming platforms restrict content based on your location. These platforms include Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and even YouTube. This is all due to content licensing laws, which differ all around the world. Its why the American Netflix library has a larger selection of TV shows and movies than the library in countries like the United Arab Emirates or Australia.
NordVPN can help you access content libraries from anywhere in the world. When you choose a country from NordVPN’s server list, you’ll be assigned an IP address that corresponds with that particular region. For all the streaming platform knows, that’s where you are located. As a result, you can watch all the content you want without being faced with that dreaded “Not Available In Your Region” screen.
Not all VPN providers can help you achieve this. Netflix and BBC iPlayer have been cracking down on VPN usage in recent years by blocking any known IP addresses. NordVPN gets around these blocks through obfuscation, which hides the fact that you’re even using a VPN. Not only that, but they keep an active list of which servers have access to a particular streaming platform. They have optimized servers as well, helping you watch high-quality content without buffering or data throttling.
NordVPN also has a unique feature called SmartPlay. It lets you access over 400 different geo-restricted platforms without having to go through any unnecessary hurdles. The feature is completely private as well, ensuring that you can watch content when you’re on public Wi-Fi, traveling abroad, or simply chilling in your living room. All you have to do is connect to the appropriate server and start streaming. It’s a unique feature that’s not offered by many VPNs, so it’s nice that NordVPN goes the extra mile to help you access the content that you love.
Some VPN providers don’t really like it when users take advantage of p2p file sharing. Despite all of the negative connotations that torrenting has, the act of torrenting is perfectly legal. NordVPN recognizes this and has no problem with p2p file sharing. In fact, they practically encourage it.
NordVPN has a number of optimized p2p servers that are catered to those who want to torrent. They make it easier to establish a faster connection with others around the world. This can help you download large files in a relatively short amount of time. NordVPN’s stance on torrenting is proudly displayed on their website.
There are many great features that can help you stay safe while torrenting. For one, NordVPN doesn’t keep any logs. Even if you were to download a copyrighted file, copyright holders would have no way of finding out who you are. Furthermore, all of your data is encrypted and pushed through that secure VPN tunnel. This encryption isn’t just limited to web surfing. It also works on any files you download. You can stay safe and anonymous.
Great Customer Support
You’d think that VPN service providers would be on top of helping their paying customers when any issues arise. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, many popular providers seriously fall short in the support department. NordVPN is not one of those providers.
Their support section is quite detailed. There’s a relatively large knowledge base that’s separated into various categories. Simply click on the category that your issue is pertaining to and go through the menus until you find your problem. Detailed guides can help you resolve problems on your own. There’s even a quick search bar to help you find answers to your questions with just a few keywords.
Of course, assistance from a real live person is also available. NordVPN has a 24-hour live chat function. Support specialists are knowledgeable and quite friendly. They are able to answer questions quite quickly. If your issue doesn’t require immediate attention, there’s also a support ticket system. With this option, you’ll receive an email response that’s just as helpful.
The Bad. Disadvantages Of NordVPN
While NordVPN is known for all the good that they do, no VPN service provider is perfect. These disadvantages won’t affect the VPN experience for most users, but they are still worth noting.
American Payment Processing
This is a bit of a unique issue that you may not even notice unless you’re really paying attention. NordVPN accepts many different payment methods, which we’ll discuss later. However, electronic payments are processed by a different company, called CloudVPN Inc. CloudVPN Inc. is based in the United States. This can get a bit confusing, considering that the company is based out of Panama. Anything regarding US-based VPNs is generally something that should be avoided. The United States is a known member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. The country also has some not-so-friendly privacy laws.
Upon further investigation, CloudVPN is used to avoid payment issues with banks and processors. Customer support is pretty transparent about this fact and will explain it to you fully if you need clarification. Basically, this is done because many banks find transactions to Panama suspicious. The banking institution may freeze payment to NordVPN as a result. CloudVPN processing helps to avoid this. This is just something to keep in mind if you’re very conscious about your anonymity.
Long Refund Processing Times
In the event that you’re not satisfied with NordVPN’s service, you may have to wait to get your money back. The company has a standard 30-day money-back guarantee. However, that refund could take as long as 30 days to process. NordVPN states that most refunds are processed in as little as a day. Though, your exact payment method could slow down the process.
May Experience Inconsistent Speeds
As mentioned earlier, connections speeds are generally good with NordVPN. However, distant servers could pose a problem. Some users have experienced connection drops and slow speeds on servers in Asia. This is to be expected, as your data has to travel several thousand miles to reach its destination if you’re in the United States.
What Devices Does NordVPN Support?
One glance at the supported platforms page and it’s obvious that NordVPN cares about providing you with complete protection. The provider supports a wide range of devices. They include familiar favorites and lesser-known gadgets. With each paid plan, NordVPN allows you to have 6 simultaneous connections. You can mix and match the devices below to ensure that all your devices are covered.
Desktop and Laptop Computers
NordVPN has dedicated clients for many different versions of Windows and MacOS computers. The software clients can be downloaded directly from the website. They’re pretty easy to use. Once you’ve installed the software, you’ll be met with a user-friendly interface. To connect, simply choose your server and hit the “Connect” button. There are also more in-depth setting options to customize your VPN experience.
NordVPN even has its own Linux app. This is very rare for VPNs, as most require you to download APK files for specific distros. The Linux platform makes it much easier to establish a secure connection. There’s also support for Raspberry Pi computers, though NordVPN doesn’t have a separate app. There are, however, detailed instructions for installation and connection.
If you want to have a quick secure browse, NordVPN has extensions for both FireFox and Chrome. These extensions allow you to connect to a VPN server directly from the browser window. They include many of the same features as their computer counterpart. You can also use the extensions to split your connection between the VPN and your regular ISP.
Apps for Android and Apple devices are available. They’re available on the device’s respective app stores. They can be used with both smartphones and tablets. Like the computer clients, these apps are very easy to use. They come with the Auto-Connect feature as well for complete protection on the go. Blackberry is supported as well through connection settings.
If you have an Android-based smart TV or TV box, you can use NordVPN, too. The service works well with Kodi as well as a selection of other systems.
NAS Devices and Routers
Network-attached storage devices and Wi-Fi routers can be connected to the VPN for ultimate wireless protection. NordVPN supports many different platforms, including QNAP, Western Digital, EdgeRouter, and more. Setting up a connection with these devices can be a bit trickier, but NordVPN has step-by-step guides in their support section to help you out.
NordVPN Subscription Plans – Pricing
NordVPN offers a number of different plans to help you make the most out of your investment. Like most VPN providers, NordVPN offers some considerable savings if you pay for your plan upfront. All plans come with the basic security features and access to all servers. Only a few features, such as the dedicated IP address, will cost extra.
1 Month Plan: $11.95 per month
The most basic plan lets you try the service out without any long-term commitments. The rate is billed monthly. If you don’t like the service, you can also claim a refund with NordVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee.
1 Year Plan: $6.99 per month
If you choose to make a 1-year commitment, you can save 41 percent over the course of the subscription plan. While it equals roughly $6.99 per month, this plan is billed once a year for $83.88
2-Year Plan: $3.99 per month
With an impressive 66 percent savings, this is a very lucrative plan. It’s billed every other year at a price of $95.75
3-Year Plan: $2.99
For the equivalent of a few bucks a month, you can take advantage of all the security that NordVPN has to offer for a full three years. This is the most cost-effective plan that the provider offers. It’s billed every three years at a price of $107.55. That’s a savings of 75 percent when compared to the monthly plan.
What Payment Methods Does NordVPN Except?
Remember how we stated that NordVPN lets you keep your payment information anonymous? They can do this because they accept cryptocurrency for payment. NordVPN currently accepts BitCoin, Ethereum, and Ripple.
In addition to cryptocurrency, NordVPN accepts all major cards. These include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. They also take digital wallet services, such as Amazon Pay and Alipay. Other accepted methods include UnionPay and a selection of other banking methods. Recently, NordVPN stopped accepting PayPal. This was done in an effort to move towards payment processing that’s done in-house, which may help to reduce security risks.
Verdict – Do We Recommend NordVPN…. YES!!!!
So, how does NordVPN stack up? Well, this service provider is one of the most trusted names in the game for a lot of very good reasons. We would absolutely recommend NordVPN for anyone who is looking for a more safe, secure, and private browsing experience. With their top-notch features, large server infrastructure, and no-logs policy, NordVPN is a pretty safe bet in the sea of available VPN providers.