NordVPN in brief:
- P2P allowed: Yes. Dedicated servers
- Business location: Panama
- Number of servers: 5,500+
- Number of country locations: 57
- Cost: $84 (billed annually)
- VPN Protocol: OpenVPN (default)
- Data encryption: AES-256-GCM
- Data authentication: TLS 1.2 with 4096-bit DH
- Handshake encryption: SHA-512
If there’s one word that can describe NordVPN it has to be “impressive.” This VPN offers incredible speeds, a high country and server count, and an excellent selection of VPN protocols, including Wireguard. It’s also removing the hard drives from its servers to increase privacy and security. And in its aim to be more than just a VPN, its expanding its data-privacy options to include a password manager and secure file storage. Indeed, it’s only real shortcoming is its lack of transparency regarding company ownership.
When you first open NordVPN on Windows, you get a very user-friendly interface. The left-hand rail includes a list of all available countries in alphabetical order. This section also has quick links to NordVPN’s specialty servers, such as dedicated IP (for an extra cost), double-hop VPN, Onion over VPN, and P2P file-sharing servers. The rest of the app window contains a map that you can drag around to select a specific country.
NordVPN with an active connection.
Both the list and the map let you quickly decide where to connect. Two interface options are a bit redundant, but it makes space for both power users and novices.
The list in the left-hand rail is where most of the power user advantages reside. Hover over a country listing and click on the three dots to the left of the country name. This reveals a pop-up window where you can choose the region of a country (if applicable), as well as any of the servers listed in that region.
If you choose to connect to the U.S., for example, you’d pick the “region,” which is really one of a number of major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, or Phoenix. Then you can pick any of the servers listed there, and each server in the list displays its current load. If you don’t want to drill down that deep, NordVPN picks the fastest connection in the country of your choice.
The first time you use NordVPN it asks if you want to turn on the CyberSec feature. CyberSec blocks ads and protects against malware and phishing. If you ever want to turn it off you can do so in Settings > General. This section also has an internet kill switch, and an app kill switch. The latter stops any app from connecting to the internet if an active VPN connection drops, while the former does that for the entire PC.
NordVPN’s general settings.
There are also options to go invisible on the local area network, and a specialized auto-connect feature. Auto-connect not only connects you to the VPN automatically but lets you customize that connection. You can, for example automatically connect to a double VPN or a specific country. You can also choose whether to connect whenever the app starts or only on “insecure” wireless. The ability to customize the automated connection is an awesome little power user feature that you don’t often see on other VPNs.
Finally, you can set your own DNS if you like, as well as use obfuscated servers if you’re trying to use NordVPN is a place that blocks it.
NordVPN advertises that it’s compatible with Netflix, but in our experience it was hit or miss this time around. It seems the long arm of Netflix enforcement has, at least temporarily, caught up with NordVPN. I asked the company about this and a representative said there can be temporary issues due to the eternal cat-and-mouse game between VPNs and Netflix.
Privacy, anonymity, and trust
Selecting a granular connection with NordVPN’s advanced features.
To create an account, NordVPN requires an email address. It accepts payments via credit card, Amazon Pay, and cryptocurrencies. NordVPN costs $84 per year, or you can get two years for $120, or three for $125.64.
NordVPN is ostensibly based in Panama, and it appears there are a few employees who actually live there, according to LinkedIn listings. The rest of the team works remotely from various countries around the world.
NordVPN is owned by Tefincom S.A., which is a company based in Cyprus. Tefincom doesn’t have a website, and may be little more than a shell. Multiple reference websites, including a whois listing, name a Marios Papaloizou as a representative for Tefincom. I asked NordVPN to confirm if Papaloizou was a founder or owner of NordVPN. The company said Papaloizou is a former director for Tefincom but is neither a founder nor the owner of NordVPN.
The company also told us that the founders can easily be found on LinkedIn (a claim we disagree with), and “at the moment they prefer to avoid public attention.” The company also told us that transparency is a focus for NordVPN in 2020, and the situation with the founders will change in the coming months.
NordVPN also plans to follow in the path of VPNs such as OVPN and ExpressVPN by running diskless production servers. Currently, NordVPN has about half of its network running this way. Diskless servers don’t store any information on them at all. They are controlled and booted from a remote server and everything then runs in RAM. That makes it mighty difficult to pull any user data from these servers. NordVPN says it plans to go diskless for its entire server infrastructure within three to four months.
Landing page for the VPN Trust Initiative.
Another step NordVPN took to increase trust is joining the VPN Trust Initiative, an effort that includes ExpressVPN, Golden Frog (of VyperVPN fame), SaferVPN, Surfshark, Strong VPN, and IP Vanish. The VPN Trust Initiative’s goal is to strengthen trust and mitigate risk for VPN users.
The company also recently published a blog post detailing how it plans to prevent vulnerabilities like the one that occurred in 2018 (it was only reported in 2019). The new plan includes penetration testing, a bug bounty program, the new infrastructure audit, vendor assessments, and the aforementioned diskless servers.
That’s a lot of effort to get users to trust NordVPN, but we’ll feel a lot better once the founders and management go public. Anonymity for the people running a company that is supposed to be all about trust just doesn’t sit well with us. Especially when the service has a poorly understood parent company based on the other side of the globe from NordVPN headquarters.
Wow, is all we have to say about NordVPN’s speeds. In our tests over multiple days, NordVPN was able to maintain 60.40 percent of the base non-VPN speed. That’s still a little bit shy of our current speed champ, HotSpot Shield. Nevertheless, NordVPN is fast enough that you can use its connections to do pretty much anything reliably.
So what do we do with a problem like NordVPN? It’s a fantastic service that keeps getting better. The price is on the high side, but you get a lot more for that money than with other services. Still, we can’t bring ourselves to trust it as much as we do Mullvad or OVPN given the secrecy behind it. Once this situation changes we will re-evaluate.
Nevertheless, NordVPN’s excellent service can’t be ignored. For that reason, we’re creating a new category and calling NordVPN “the best full-featured VPN.” If you want something that appeals to power users, has multi-hop, solid speeds, and hopefully works with Netflix, then NordVPN is a solid choice. If, however, you want to remain as anonymous as realistically possible with a VPN, we suggest you look elsewhere for the time being.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
NordVPN offers a lot with its service. There are specialized servers for multi-hop connections, P2P file sharing, and dedicated IP addresses at an extra cost. It also offers a ton of country connections, and the ability to drill down to a specific server if you want. It also works with Netflix (though not consistently) and has malware and ad blocking, NordVPN is expensive, but you get a lot of options with this service.
- Excellent speeds
- Enough features to appeal to power users and novices
- No logs policy
- Beginning to use diskless servers
- Still not transparent enough about management
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.
Is NordVPN really the leading vendor it claims to be? Does its latest coupon make it better value for your money than ExpressVPN and CyberGhost? I ran every test possible to see how well it really performs.
From its encryption and security measures to its speeds and ability to get around geoblocking, you’ll find everything you need to know about NordVPN in this full review.
Before we dive right in, I will say one thing: NordVPN offers some of the best features around. In fact, its app is full of perks that some other VPNs haven’t even thought about yet. But are there any drawbacks? Yes, I found a couple of areas where NordVPN fell short.
NordVPN is a popular vendor that makes some substantial claims, like being “the best provider in 2020”. But good marketing doesn’t always mean good service, does it? With tougher geoblocks, more scrutiny over VPN use, and new, advanced features from other VPNs, the market is changing every day.
I’ve tested over 300 VPNs, so I know exactly what to look for, and see if NordVPN’s claims are true. I dove deep to test out each of its features and discovered how they actually work, from speeds and security, right through to streaming and ease of use. I even had my operatives in China, Russia, and America run the tests too, so I could give you the whole picture.
I looked at everything – from speed and streaming capabilities to security and customer support. Because, to be the best, a product has to deliver in every category.
NordVPN’s Secret: Are The Rumours True?
Some users have noticed that when signing up to NordVPN, the company they pay to isn’t Tefincom & Co S.A, the veteran Panamanian developer behind NordVPN. In fact, it turns out to be CloudVPN, Inc. Is this a front or something else? Could NordVPN be hiding something? There are many speculations, so I decided to run a thorough check.
I found that CloudVPN, Inc. is a US-registered firm, and not part of NordVPN’s actual developer. But how much of a risk is this to you? It raises all kinds of questions, especially since NordVPN is headquartered in Panama which is a privacy haven, but the US is the complete opposite.
My research went deeper, and I discovered CloudVPN is simply a payment collector for NordVPN, which means that there are no privacy concerns. While you might pay through a US-registered company, the VPN itself has no government back-doors or an NSA footprint – and this is the real NordVPN.
Streaming – Does NordVPN Work With Netflix?
Yes. Netflix’s tough geoblocks stop many VPNs from accessing the service, but not NordVPN. It has a SmartPlay feature that’s specifically designed to bypass geoblocks and keep you secure at the same time. It combines DNS with VPN technology to easily evade blocks, but always maintain your security. I put it to the test to see how easily I could access Netflix US.
I tested 133 NordVPN US servers, including the fastest US server, and I was able to get onto Netflix with every single one. The streaming quality was ultra HD, and there was no buffering or lag.
Browse the Netflix home page connected to, and protected by NordVPN.
I then headed over to Netflix Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, and I had no problems there, either. I finished my tests by trying to access the Brazilian and German libraries. No matter which library I tried, my streaming stayed consistent and in ultra HD quality—even when I switched between servers in the same location.
One thing’s for sure: NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature really does work. It flies past geoblocks with ease and guarantees fast, high-quality streaming whether you’re connecting to a server nearby or on the other side of the world. In fact, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for bypassing Netflix’s strict detection measures—it consistently outperforms other vendors in our tests.
I also tried NordVPN with other streaming platforms:
- BBC iPlayer: It has some of the toughest geoblocks, but NordVPN easily knocks them down.
- Hulu: Yes, I had no problem accessing Hulu.
- ESPN: You can stream your favorite sports, too—NordVPN can access ESPN.
- Amazon Prime Video: Yes.
- HBO GO: Yes, you can stream HBO GO with NordVPN.
- Hotstar: Yes, all your Bollywood movies are ready to stream.
Social media at the top of your list? NordVPN can unblock Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more.
Is NordVPN Good for Torrenting?
NordVPN has over 5390 P2P-optimized servers. You can access them easily from the sidebar in the app, which saves you the time of visiting its website to find out which servers you can use for P2P activity. Each server offers unlimited bandwidth and data, so you can send and share as many files as you’d like, without eating away at a restrictive data allowance. There’s a strict no-logs policy, too, so none of your torrenting activity is retained.
You aren’t restricted to just one torrent client, either. NordVPN works with all popular torrenting platforms, including uTorrent, BitTorrent, and Vuze. I’ve tested them all, using a number of different NordVPN servers. NordVPN’s speeds were faster than my standard connections and I was easily able to bypass my ISP’s throttling.
NordVPN offers another neat feature for quickly finding an ideal server. You can use the server recommendation tool on the website. Just select your location and a server protocol, and NordVPN will suggest the best.
Use NordVPNs server recommendation feature to find the best server for torrenting.
NordVPN also provides SOCKS5 proxies—you can easily set up your torrent client with one and even enjoy faster speeds. A SOCKS5 proxy isn’t fully encrypted, though, so for full security, use it alongside NordVPN.
With its exceptional P2P support, torrenting features, and super-fast speeds, NordVPN is easily one of the best VPNs for torrents I’ve tested.
NordVPN’s Quick Connect feature makes getting online very easy. Based on your location, it finds and connects you to the server with the fastest speeds available. When I tested it, I connected to servers in the UK and the US most of the time. More importantly, I always had lightning-fast speeds, so streaming, browsing, and gaming were a breeze. This top-level feature is one reason why NordVPN consistently comes out on top at speed performance.
NordVPN Quick Connect Feature
Remember, you can’t choose the location manually if you use this feature, because the app decides for you. If you just want fast speeds, go this route. But if you want to specifically unblock geo-restricted content or sites, pick your desired location. These are all available on the sidebar.
I used NordVPN’s Quick Connect feature first, which connected me to a London server. My starting speed was 78.50 Mbps, and my VPN-connected speed was 85.72 Mbps—my speed actually increased by over 9%. I tried streaming Netflix while connected, and the quality was superb. Plus, I didn’t need to wait for anything to load, so I dived right into ultra HD.
Displays the connection speed with and without NordVPN, including ping, download, and upload speeds.
Since the Quick Connect feature is optimized to provide me with the best speeds possible, I also wanted to try another local server.
I connected to a UK server that I picked myself and was rewarded with a speed of 79.35 Mbps. Again, my download speed increased! It was only by a small margin of 1%, but it’s still a fantastic result. Browsing was super quick, and when I tried a few Skype and WhatsApp calls, they were clear. In fact, I’d say the picture quality of my calls actually improved.
NordVPN connected to a UK server.
Long-Distance NordVPN Speeds
I started with a US server, and there was another increase in my download speed—this time by over 6%. I expected my speeds to be fast here since the majority of NordVPN’s servers are in the US and the Quick Connect feature sometimes chooses a US server. However, I didn’t think my speeds would actually increase.
NordVPN connected to a US server.
Then I connected to a server in Vietnam. This is where my speed results started to get interesting. I saw a significant decrease here: My download speed dropped by 40% and my upload speed by 96%.
However, I still had a download speed of 47.13 Mbps, which is remarkably fast. When I tested browsing and streaming on BBC iPlayer, I didn’t run into any buffering or lag. That said, my upload speed took a huge hit, so I did get some fuzzy pictures during my Skype call.
NordVPN connected to a server in Vietnam
Finally, I tested a server in New Zealand. I had much better results here than with the Vietnam server. My download speed decreased by only 20%, so I still had a speed of 62.63 Mbps, which is fast. Even though I was on the other side of the world, my browsing and streaming stayed unaffected.
But my ping significantly increased to 395 Mbps, which made gaming a little bit slower. Reaction times decreased and there was some lagging, but it didn’t cost me my whole gameplay, which is still impressive.
NordVPN connected to a server in New Zealand
NordVPN Speed: The Results
My results show that NordVPN really is the fastest vendor out there, knocking off competitors like ExpressVPN from the top spot. When I connected to local and US servers, my speed increased by as much as 9%, which improved the quality of my streaming and browsing considerably. Even when I connected to a server in New Zealand, on the other side of the world, my download speed stayed quick and steady, regardless of the speed loss.
However, the difference in speed when I connected to a server in Vietnam was significant. This is likely due to the distance of the server from my location, though, rather than a reflection of NordVPN’s server speeds. The further your data has to travel, the more speed loss you’ll experience.
If you want reliable, fast connections anywhere in the world, even over thousands of miles, NordVPN is a top contender.
Is NordVPN Good for Gaming?
Speed tests are one thing, but how well does NordVPN fare with a high-demand activity like gaming? If you’re a gamer like me, you know that excessive buffering and lagging is not only annoying, but it can make you lose the whole game. If you rely on speed tests alone to choose your VPN, you’ll never know how well it’ll hold up against your favorite game—it’s the true speed test for any VPN.
So I put NordVPN to the test on Fortnite, which we all know is a super-fast battle game that doesn’t leave any room for slow speeds. I first connected to a US server.
I ran a speed test while gaming, and the results speak for themselves. My speeds stayed steady, and while my ping significantly increased, I didn’t notice any lagging while I was playing online.
Logged into Fortnite while connected to NordVPN
I also tested an Australian server just for good measure, and it was just as impressive.
If you’re a full-time gamer, NordVPN definitely delivers on buffer- and lag-free gameplay. And if you’re not, you now know how much you can rely on NordVPN to provide lightning-fast speeds. Want to see which other vendors you can rely on for gaming? Check out our VPNs for gaming guide.
Private and secure browsing is NordVPN’s forté. But then again, it should be at the top of every vendor’s list, because VPNs are supposed to keep you safe online. I tested every aspect of NordVPN’s security features, looking closely at its encryption levels, kill switch, and leak protection.
NordVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption algorithm to hide your data, which is the most secure encryption available. It’s so secure that it’s even used by some government agencies to hide top-secret files. 256 refers to the size of the encryption key and the number of possible codes someone would need to try to break it. Rest assured, there’s almost an infinite possible number of codes with this level of encryption. No one is getting their hands on your data.
The 256-bit AES encryption is combined with a 2048-bit DH key, SHA2-384 authentication, and perfect forward secrecy. Basically, this is the cipher used to encrypt and decrypt your data. The authentication is particularly important, as this is what checks whether your data packets have successfully arrived at the correct server. It makes sure they haven’t been intercepted by a hacker trying to re-route them to another server.
Perfect forward secrecy, or PFS, assigns you a new key each time you log on to NordVPN, so essentially, it’s like you’re a new user each time. This means any data or activity from your previous session is completely wiped and unrelated to your next. It also means that if your connection is compromised, there’s nothing there to expose you—no personal data, no internet activity.
NordVPN uses two types of security protocols, both of which are my top choices: OpenVPN UDP/TCP and IKEv2/IPSec. OpenVPN UDP is the most secure protocol available, and it’s the default option for the majority of NordVPN’s apps.
You can choose other protocols, though, depending on your needs. However, it also depends on your device type. NordVPN uses IKEv2/IPSec as the default option for macOS and iOS devices, with the option to change to OpenVPN. Android and Windows users have OpenVPN only. To find out why, I spoke to their customer support team who told me that NordVPN simply provides greater choice for iOS users, which is a slight disappointment.
Security protocols can be confusing, even for advanced users. Find out which option is best for you and your device with our VPN protocol quick guide.
You may not realize you need a kill switch with your VPN, but it’s actually one of the best ways to stay secure. It blocks traffic leaving your device if your connection is ever compromised or disconnected, which stops your DNS requests and IP address from being leaked.
NordVPN has a kill switch for mobile and desktop users. It’s available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. But I noticed some differences between how it works per device. It’s automatically enabled on mobile. But it’s off by default on desktop, so you need to go into your settings and turn it on to benefit from maximum protection.
It’s also only automatically enabled on iOS mobile, but not Android. You only need to turn it on in your settings, but I’d still like to see less favoritism of iOS devices.
NordVPN settings page
NordVPN offers something else with its kill switch, too. You can control which apps are blocked—this is NordVPN’s kill switch extension.
If your VPN connection drops, you can stay connected to the internet, but also block risky apps until the VPN is restored. It’s great for torrenting because your P2P traffic is immediately shut down to protect you from IP leaks—but you can keep browsing while you’re waiting to reconnect. NordVPN is the only vendor I’ve seen with this flexible option. Added control for users and extra protection? NordVPN’s kill switch is up there with the best.
NordVPN doesn’t have split tunneling for desktop, but you can use the browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox to do something similar. If you download these addons, only your browser traffic is encrypted. Apps outside your browser still use your local IP address, which is exactly how split tunneling works.
On mobile, things are different. NordVPN offers a specific split tunneling feature for mobile. Its default setting is to route all your apps through the VPN, but you can easily change it. Simply add apps to your Trusted Apps list so these are routed through your VPN and assigned a foreign IP.
NordVPN split tunneling feature for mobile devices.
Does it work? Yes. I tested the split tunneling feature for mobile several times. I left out my streaming apps for the UK, banking apps, and YouTube, and I was able to use them all with my local IP address while also browsing encrypted. The browser extensions also work just fine, but I’ll monitor NordVPN to see if it extends its split tunneling feature to desktop. In the meantime, ExpressVPN offers split tunneling for desktop users.
Leak Tests and Leak Protection
Leak protection is a particularly important feature, and it should be high on your list when you’re choosing a VPN. Sometimes, software faults and browser security flaws can leak your DNS requests and IP address, making your location and online activity visible to hackers and your ISP. It also makes you vulnerable to tracking and spies who can see your real location and online traffic.
NordVPN offers DNS and IP leak protection that claims to stop any accidental exposure. I put it to the test using my Windows and Mac devices, on UK, US, Netherlands, and China servers. I didn’t detect any leaks, even across multiple servers, on both desktop and mobile.
Leak test for NordVPN
As you can see, NordVPN successfully blocked IPv6. This isn’t usually protected when you connect to a VPN, so if you open up an IPv6-compatible site, you’re exposed. But NordVPN blocks IPv6 so you’re always invisible to any outsiders. It’s safe to say NordVPN shields your anonymity and makes sure you’re secure, wherever you connect, and with whichever device you’re using.
Tor Compatibility, Security Audits, and Security Breaches
NordVPN is compatible with Onion over VPN and even has dedicated Onion over VPN specialty servers. This creates a seamless connection with the Tor network with a simple click, so you don’t even need to open up Tor. You can also connect to a NordVPN server first manually, and then fire up the Tor browser if you prefer.
It’s rare to see a VPN that’s compatible with Tor, but NordVPN offers that and more. In fact, it’s the only VPN I’ve seen that lets you access the Tor network through any browser— that’s why it’s our top choice for Tor compatibility.
NordVPN has recently completed not one, but two, independent security audits by leading security experts VerSprite and PricewaterhouseCoopers AG. The tests showed no critical vulnerabilities, and any small issues were rectified by NordVPN before being tested again. You can download the reports to read for yourself—that’s honesty and transparency at its best.
There was one security breach recorded in October 2019, but it actually proved that NordVPN is safer than you might think. Even though a hacker managed to access a rented server, they couldn’t find anything other than what an ISP would see, since NordVPN doesn’t store any data or activity.
The verdict? NordVPN is safe, secure, and really does offer the no-logging policy it talks about. Even the potentially worrying information I found, like security breaches, actually showed me why NordVPN is the industry-leading vendor it claims to be.
My tests showed that NordVPN takes security one level higher than other vendors. It offers double VPN, where it routes your traffic through two servers rather than one. This means it’s even harder to find you and trace your online activity, because there’s no single line of traffic. Your traffic bounces between servers in different locations.
I made sure it works by testing it out myself. It sent my traffic through the Netherlands and then Switzerland, but there’s a full list of servers you can choose from if you need certain geoblocked sites. My speeds were noticeably slower, though, so I’d avoid it if you need speedy browsing and streaming.
Want to securely upload your files to the cloud? I found another neat feature from NordVPN that does just that. NordLocker encrypts your files before you share or upload them to the cloud. Of course, you can only share them with people who have NordLocker so that these files can be decrypted. But it means less risk of man-in-the-middle attacks because hackers can’t decrypt your files, and even if they could, they wouldn’t be able to read the code.
Even better, you can actually get 5GB of data for free when you first sign up for it. After that, you pay on top of your monthly subscription.
NordVPN is registered in Panama, which is far away from Fourteen Eyes Surveillance. This is very important for privacy. Any VPN in these areas is within reach of a massive spy network that’s known to gather and share all kinds of sensitive user data. But Panama doesn’t have any invasive data retention laws, so you’re safe.
Does NordVPN Have an Adblocker?
I always score VPNs that offer adblockers more highly. It’s an important feature to have, as it keeps you safe from online profiling, trackers, and phishing scams. Not to mention it blocks annoying pop-ups to save you from waiting for pages to load, too.
NordVPN provides adblocking and extra malware protection with its CyberSec suite, which is built into the app. I tested it over a two-hour period and didn’t encounter any annoying ads, even on YouTube.
Does NordVPN Keep Logs?
Server Number and Locations
- 5390 servers
- 62 locations
- Servers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Hong Kong, and more
Worldwide coverage is an area NordVPN really excels in. It has multiple servers in nearly every country, though the majority of its servers are in the US—there are over 1,600 servers there. NordVPN even has servers in intensely restricted regions like Turkey and the UAE. There are plenty close to China, too, including Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia, which makes it a reliable VPN for China. Actually, it’s our top choice.
Want to learn more about NordVPN? Head back to the topic list.
Server Security Standards
NordVPN uses hard drive storage rather than RAM on its servers, which surprised me. This means that all stored data is kept on a physical hard drive until it’s manually erased. However, remember that your personal information and activity aren’t stored since NordVPN doesn’t keep any logs.
I dug deeper to find out why NordVPN doesn’t use RAM storage. But it seems there are changes ahead: NordVPN is moving towards RAM to provide greater anonymity. This means any data is automatically deleted after every machine reboot, so there’s nothing physically stored anywhere. That also means no risk of hackers looking to intercept and steal your data.
Shared IP addresses
NordVPN uses shared IP addresses on its servers, which gives it an extra security advantage compared to other vendors. When you connect to a server, you share the same IP address as every other user connected to that server. This makes it incredibly difficult to find you because the IP address can’t be traced to a single individual.
Another great privacy feature from NordVPN is its obfuscated servers. These are designed for locations with heavy digital censorship that makes it difficult to use a VPN. However by hopping onto one of NordVPN’s obfuscated servers, not only are your internet traffic and location hidden, but so is your VPN activity. In places like China, Turkey, and the UAE, these help you bypass geoblocks and avoid government surveillance, so NordVPN is ideal if you find yourself in a restricted country.
Virtual Server Locations
It’s quite common for VPNs to use virtual servers, where the physical location of the server is not actually in the country you’re connecting to. This is designed to give you better connections and speed as your traffic is routed through a country with a better connection. NordVPN doesn’t offer any virtual server locations, so you can trust that your connection really is routed to the country you intended.
Does NordVPN Offer Static/Dedicated IP Addresses?
Yes. You can purchase a static IP address to use with your VPN subscription and quickly switch between it and other servers in the app.
With a static IP address, you’ll use the same IP address each time you connect to the VPN. Static IP addresses offer several benefits, the biggest being that you can access streaming services from a particular country, even if NordVPN’s own public IP addresses are all blocked. If you’re the only one using a particular IP address, streaming services won’t ever flag it as belonging to a VPN. Even leading vendors like ExpressVPN and Surfshark don’t offer this feature—I’m impressed.
NordVPN dedicated IP option
Apps, Extensions, and Compatibility
NordVPN is compatible with all major devices, including Android, Windows, and iOS. My tests did show some differences between the iOS and Android apps, though these are more due to Apple’s restrictions than NordVPN’s. It’s the same for the Windows and macOS apps, too.
iOS and Android Apps
Setting up on mobile is easy with one-click connection. After installing the app, you just need to sign in and enable the ad blocker, and then you can connect to a server right away. It’s even quicker if you use the Quick Connect feature, but you can also search for servers manually.
Although the interface is similar on both mobile apps, I found a few noticeable differences during my tests. The iOS app has more options for security protocols. If you’re an Android user, you can only use OpenVPN; but iOS users can also choose IKEv2—this is actually the default option.
The specialty servers are also different. On Android, you can access P2P, obfuscated, double VPN, and dedicated IP servers, but you can only use Onion Over VPN and P2P on iOS. It’s probably due to Apple’s strict security standards that regulate what you can and can’t do, but I’ll be waiting for NordVPN to reduce these inconsistencies—especially Onion Over VPN on Android. Still, most vendors don’t allow Tor on mobile at all, so NordVPN is still way out in front in this area.
NordVPN specialty server options
Both apps offer some standout features, including auto-reconnect options, automatic connection on WiFi and mobile networks, and the CyberSec ad and malware blocker. You can use split-tunneling on mobile, too.
NordVPN offers browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome, which you can use on either desktop or mobile. I’ve not seen another vendor that lets you use browser extensions on mobile, so this is interesting. Some vendors limit the servers you can access, but NordVPN doesn’t. You can connect to any of the 5,900+ servers in 59 countries.
You can install the lightweight addons directly to your browser so they encrypt only your browser traffic. This means they function like a split tunneling feature, because anything you do outside of the browser keeps your real IP address. They’re a great function for extra flexibility, but if you want maximum security across your whole device, stick with the app.
NordVPN also adds extra leak protection with the Block WebRTC feature. It’s automatically enabled in the app and protects you from accidental leaks that might reveal your IP address. Web browsers are known for causing WebRTC leaks, so the added security is a strong standout. And NordVPN encrypts your traffic with Transport Layer Security (TLS v1.2)—it secures your connection, even when you visit sites that don’t have HTTPs protection, so you’re always anonymous and can’t be intercepted.
You can also use the ad blocker, Cyber Sec, with the browser extensions.
NordVPN browser extension
NordVPN has an app for VPN-compatible routers. If you install the app at router level, you get unlimited simultaneous connections, because the router is classed as the connected device. This means you can also use NordVPN on WiFi-only devices, such as games consoles and smart TVs, which wouldn’t usually allow a VPN connection.
There are tutorials available to walk you through set up. Just head over to the tutorials section of the NordVPN website and find your specific router, alongside the security protocol you want to use, and then follow the easy steps.
Breaking Geoblocks: Can it Work in China?
It’s not easy to find a VPN that works in China. That’s because the restrictions and government surveillance are so intense that some VPNs simply aren’t powerful enough to get around them. In these countries, you can’t even get onto most vendors’ sites, never mind download the app to use them. But thanks to extra obfuscation and bulletproof encryption, NordVPN is one of the best services you can bring with you to China. However, you do need to install the app before you get there, otherwise you won’t be able to access it.
NordVPN uses obfuscated servers that fly past the Great Firewall of China. These servers not only encrypt your traffic, but they also hide the fact that you’re using a VPN at all. This means the Firewall can’t see that you’re using a VPN, so it can’t block your traffic, so you’re completely anonymous and undetected while browsing your favorite sites. Whether you need Google, Facebook, YouTube, or just your Hotmail account, NordVPN guarantees access from inside China. I ran into zero geoblocks during my tests.
While there are no servers in China, NordVPN has plenty in nearby locations, like Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. So you can also tune in to Chinese TV or other domestic sites with NordVPN, too.
NordVPN’s obfuscated servers also work in other hard-to-reach locations, like the UAE, Iran, and Qatar. In fact, NordVPN offers obfuscated servers in 13 of its 59 locations to help you easily get around geoblocks in restricted locations.
How Many Devices Can I Connect With NordVPN?
You get six simultaneous connections with NordVPN. This includes computers, laptops, phones, tablets, and any other devices on which you can install a NordVPN app.
However, remember that if you install the VPN on your router, you’ll enjoy unlimited simultaneous connections for all devices that connect through that router. This means you can also protect WiFi-only devices that connect through the router, such as Xbox and PlayStation consoles, smart TVs, and streaming media players.
I’d like to see NordVPN add more direct connections, especially since leading vendors like Surfshark offer unlimited simultaneous connections without needing to use your router.
Comparison: Is It Better Than the Competition?
NordVPN is known for being an industry-leading vendor, but there are many others out there, too. ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost are NordVPN’s most fierce competitors, and each vendor offers something slightly different—whether that’s a cheaper price point or an extra feature. How well does NordVPN stand up against the competition?
NordVPN offers a compelling mix of features for the privacy-minded and Netflix-faithful alike, at a competitive price.
Launched in 2008, NordVPN is arguably one of the more popular, high-profile VPN service providers operating today. While payments for service are processed through CloudVPN—a company based in the United States—NordVPN is based in Panama (a country that doesn’t participate in the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or Fourteen Eyes communications interception/sharing agreements). Accordingly, users should be safe from untargeted government data trawling.
Update 10/28/2019: NordVPN recently revealed that one of its servers was hacked in early 2018. This news event does not change our recommendation as the risk to users was very low. The attack was against a single misconfigured server run by one of NordVPN’s contractors in Finland. The hackers were able to extract an expired TLS key, which cannot be used to decrypt user traffic. No customer account information was revealed during the intrusion. The hackers could’ve used the stolen TLS keys to impersonate the NordVPN website in a targeted attack, but it appears that didn’t happen. For anyone who is concerned about the attack, an option is to go with a VPN service that is directly responsible for its server network and does not use third parties, such as Mullvad or VyprVPN.
NordVPN: Security, software, servers, and speed
NordVPN takes security seriously. The company’s Mac client defaults to IKEv2/IPsec security, and other industry standards are also supported. IKEv2/IPsec utilizes AES-256-GCM encryption—if it’s good enough for the military, it’s likely good enough for you.
Anyone with a good reason to be paranoid will be happy to know that the company offers a number of connections that employ double encryption. That option pushes your data through two servers instead of one, ensuring that the information you access will be sent/received—albeit very slowly—in the most secure manner possible.
The company also offers a few security extras, such as a software kill-switch baked into its desktop app to stop all web traffic if your computer is disconnected from a VPN, ad-blocking functionality, and automatic blacklisting of webpages with questionable security practices or that pose a phishing threat.
NordVPN has over 2,863 servers in 59 countries.
At the time of this review, NordVPN’s website claimed that the service had over 2,863 servers in 59 countries. Many of these servers aren’t owned by the service, but this is relatively common amongst VPN providers. If you’re interested in dealing with a VPN service that owns all of the server hardware it operates on, check out VyprVPN. This means that you’ll be able to spoof your location in a large number of countries, with less chance of experiencing drops in your speed due to too many individuals accessing the company’s servers at the same time.
You can link up to six devices at a time to NordVPN’s servers. We found that the company’s Mac software client was easy to use. The company also offers apps for iOS, Android and Windows.
During testing, connecting to NordVPN’s servers resulted in the following upload/download speed reductions versus connecting to the internet without a VPN.
NordVPN offers three different pricing options. A one-year plan costs $5.75 per month, while a two-year plan is $3.29 per month. To get these monthly rates, you’ll have to pay for the entire term of service upfront ($69 for one year, $79 for two years). It’s possible to buy into the service one month at a time, but you’ll pay a punishing $12 per month for the privilege. That’s $143.40 per year. Ouch.
No matter which plan you opt for, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Payment can be made through a number of options including credit card, PayPal, or Bitcoin. Be aware that NordVPN’s payment processor, CloudVPN Inc., stores payment information—anyone interested in a maximum amount on online anonymity should pay for their service using Bitcoin.
While not perfect, NordVPN is a compelling option for VPN service due to its mostly competitive pricing, massive number of available servers and server locations, easy-to-use interface, and slew of options to protect users’ online privacy.
Editor’s Note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
NordVPN is a compelling option for VPN service due to a well-rounded set of features and mostly competitive pricing.
- Easy-to-use software interface
- Double-encrypted connection option provides additional data security
- Subscriptions can be purchased with Bitcoin
- Large number of servers and international server locations
- Panamanian offices keeps servers tucked away from digital intelligence sharing countries
- Middling connection speeds
- Torrenting limited to a small number of servers
- Pricey month-to-month subscriptions
ordVPN sits among the best VPN providers around, offering fast and secure connections across the globe. Its recent security breach has caused some uncertainty in the service, bringing into question if it should be as popular as it is. We’re here to answer that question in our updated NordVPN review.
We’re going to look at its features, pricing, speed, privacy, ease of use and, of course, security to see if NordVPN is still among the best VPN options. We’ll bring in other top-tier providers for reference throughout, such as ExpressVPN, which currently sits at the top of our VPN rankings.
If you want the short answer: yes, NordVPN is still among the best VPN options. There have been a lot of changes to the service, including the release of the extremely impressive NordLynx protocol. If you’d rather take it for a spin yourself, you can sign up risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Very fast
- Easy to use
- Inexpensive long-term subscription
- No-logs policy
- P2P servers
- Double-hop servers
- Expensive monthly plan
- No free trial
- Obnoxious live chat bot
- Doesn’t accept PayPal
Alternatives for NordVPN
For how robust NordVPN is in nearly all areas, it’s surprisingly light on features. The essentials are there, and NordVPN goes further with a range of unique servers, but there are some small extras missing. Namely, there isn’t a speed test or dedicated split tunneling, which ExpressVPN and PureVPN both offer.
That doesn’t mean NordVPN is devoid of features, though. You get a kill switch, which will automatically disconnect you from the internet should the VPN fail. There’s also “app kill,” which is similar to split tunneling, allowing you to use the kill switch only on certain apps. Still, your entire connection is going through the VPN tunnel.
Furthermore, you can set custom DNS servers and obfuscate your OpenVPN packets, though these features have become increasingly common among VPNs. What isn’t common is NordLynx, NordVPN’s proprietary take on WireGuard. We’ll talk more about that in the “security” and “speed” sections below.
Other than those features, there isn’t much. NordVPN offers a few automation options, allowing you to customize how auto-connect works, but that’s it. We like the list of features, overall, though the lack of split tunneling is disappointing. If that were included, this VPN would offer a well-rounded, concise list of features.
The only standout feature is CyberSec, which will block ads and malware when enabled (it’s turned off by default). Although NordVPN claims CyberSec is “an advanced technology solution,” it’s actually pretty simple. It blocks ads and malicious sites using a known blacklist.
In short, whenever you connect, CyberSec will automatically sift through the requests your browser makes. If any of them are directed at a hostname on the blacklist, that request will be blocked. This is far from new tech — nearly every ad blocker in the Chrome store does the same thing — but it’s nice to have bundled with your VPN.
The important thing to note with CyberSec is that it’s an ad blocker first, malware protection second. Sure, it can block malicious sites, but only those on a blacklist. A secure antivirus can usually detect sites and apps that haven’t yet made it onto a blacklist using machine learning.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t use CyberSec — it’s a great ad blocker in its own right — but it’s not a replacement for antivirus software.
Torrenting With NordVPN
The main draw for NordVPN is its unique server offerings, which we’ll get into in the “server locations” section below. On the list are peer-to-peer (P2P) servers, which are built specifically for torrenting. Although you get unlimited bandwidth no matter which server you choose, you should use the P2P ones for torrenting.
Torrenting copyrighted content is illegal in most countries, and although we’re not advocating for breaking the law, you should probably use a VPN if you’re going to torrent. Thankfully, NordVPN is a fine choice for the job, earning the top spot in our best VPN for torrenting guide. The P2P servers, combined with NordVPN’s excellent speeds, make it perfect for digital pirates.
NordVPN Router Support
With the goodies out of the way, let’s talk about a less exciting area of features: platform support. Nord offers VPN apps for just about every platform out there, with decent legacy support, to boot. Windows 7 to 10, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux are fully supported with applications. However, you can get NordVPN working on just about any operating system.
NordVPN has a setup guide for nearly every platform you can dream up, from Western Digital network-attached storage to a BlackBerry. If you’re bumping up against your simultaneous connection limit, you can install the VPN on your router, too. Although all local traffic will flow through the VPN tunnel, your router counts as only a single device.
NordVPN Features Overview
Starts from$ 349per month
Free trial available
Worldwide server amount
Windows, MacOS, Linux
Android, iOS, Android TV
Can be installed on routers
Can access Amazon Prime Video
VPN protocols available
OpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynx
Enabled at device startup
Malware/ad blocker included
NordVPN isn’t a cheap VPN service, especially on the monthly end of things. Sure, the month-to-month and annual cost isn’t bad, especially compared to services like Hide.me and Astrill, but we’ve seen cheaper. For example, Mullvad costs only $5 per month, no matter how long you subscribe.
NordVPN comes into its own with long-term subscriptions. With how cheap the per-month cost is for the two- and three-year options, the monthly and annual choices are nearly obsolete. We’re glad they’re around if you can’t drop more than $100 on a VPN at once. Still, if you want to buy in, it’s best to buy in for the long term.
The monthly cost is too high, as is the annual cost, rivaling even ExpressVPN (see how the two compare directly in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison). If you’re interested in a month-to-month or annual subscription, TorGuard and PIA offer excellent rates for durations of less than a year.
Each subscription comes with six simultaneous connections, which is fine considering NordVPN can easily be installed on a router. ExpressVPN offers five simultaneous connections, and CyberGhost offers seven, so six is a fine middle ground.
As for payment, NordVPN accepts nearly everything outside of straight up cash, including bitcoin. The only other thing missing is PayPal, which NordVPN removed about a year ago.
It’s important to note that although NordVPN limits you to six simultaneous connections, you can install the app on as many platforms as you want. That said, only six of those devices can actively be connected at any one time.
Does NordVPN Have a Free Trial?
You’ll get the best value with NordVPN by subscribing for a year or more, but you’ll need to pay upfront. NordVPN doesn’t offer any sort of free trial on its desktop app, at least not in the traditional sense. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee in place, so you have up to a month to change your mind and get a full refund, no questions asked.
There is, however, a week-long VPN trial on mobile. Simply download the NordVPN app on iOS or Android and get started. The trial is tied to Google Pay or Apple Pay, depending on your platform, and you’ll need a card on file to take advantage of the trial. Still, that’s a week of protection without spending a dime, at least on your mobile devices.
NordVPN is dead simple to use, from the no-nonsense signup process to making your first VPN connection. Although the app isn’t as streamlined as services like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, it’s highly intuitive. There’s rarely a question about what you need to do to secure your connection.
Let’s start at the top, though. Signing up for NordVPN is straightforward, with multiple buttons on the site leading to the checkout page. If you can’t find a way to make it to the checkout page, a VPN is probably above your pay grade. Once there, all you need to do is select a plan, enter your email and choose a payment method.
You can then download the app, either by going to the “VPN apps” section of the site or by logging in and going to the “downloads” tab. When you log in, there’s a dashboard where you can purchase a dedicated IP, view your billing history and set up the browser extension. More on that last one in a bit.
Using NordVPN on Windows
After installing the NordVPN app, you’ll be connected right away; no need to sift through IP addresses or VPN protocols. NordVPN automatically chooses the best location and connects you to it. You don’t need to change anything, really. OpenVPN is the default protocol, which is great, and the server selection — although not perfect — gets pretty close.
NordVPN’s large global map is begging for you to explore it, though. If you want to switch your location, you can drag your way around the map until you find the country you’re interested in. This isn’t the best way to pick your location, though. Using the app is like using the left-side menu. You have the choice of which country you want to connect to, but that’s it.
If you want more control, you’ll need to use the left-side menu. Find the location you want and click the three dots next to it. You can then choose the region you want to connect to within a country, or choose the specific server you want to connect to. You can also favorite servers for quicker access in the future.
The individual servers are only noted by numbers, though: “Canada #704,” for example. You can see the relative load on the server, but that’s it.
Given that you have the choice in not only the region you want to connect to, but also the specific server, it seems like more could’ve been done with this system. NordVPN could show the relative distance or, better yet, split off individual server selection into its own window.
That’s a small gripe, all things considered. NordVPN isn’t as focused as ExpressVPN in its design. It trades the smartphone-style app for an impressive server map, which gives you a sense of just how far you’re traveling virtually. It’s a different take on VPN UI design, and it works.
Using the Chrome Extension
NordVPN’s Chrome extension is largely unnecessary when the app is available. You’re given far less control over the location you want to connect to, and the only extra feature it adds is WebRTC request blocking. Other VPNs are starting to take advantage of the browser extension more — Windscribe comes to mind — so it’s disappointing to see NordVPN’s offering.
That said, we’re happy to see that a browser extension is available. Although NordVPN’s offering is the epitome of bare bones, it allows those not using one of the supported OSes to stay protected. For instance, you can set up NordVPN on a Chromebook with the extension. That said, using the browser will protect only internet traffic (read our best VPN for Chromebooks piece).
As with all of our speed tests, we tested NordVPN using OpenVPN UDP with AES-256 encryption. That way, we can easily compare NordVPN with the fastest VPN providers out there because OpenVPN with AES-256 is pretty much universal across servers.
Outside of the New York location, we let NordVPN do the heavy lifting, automatically selecting the fastest VPN server for the region we were testing.
|United States #4162 (Automatic)||39||179.7||18.95|
|United States #5140 (New York)||79||131.66||18.3|
|United Kingdom #1429||112||220.05||18.36|
NordVPN gave us some wildly inconsistent results on OpenVPN, at least at first. For instance, the automatic server in the U.S. returned a download speed of around 1 Mbps on our first trial. That’s not a typo. We mean one megabit per second for a server that should be down the road.
With our speed testing tool, we had to manually select a testing location because it picked a server in France to test from. This is similar behavior to what we experienced with AirVPN.
This didn’t happen across locations, though. For example, our manually selected New York testing location, had no problems. Either our ISP or the operator of the data center is routing the connection through another location (in this case, France). Still, NordVPN showed impressive results when everything was working properly.
That said, NordVPN didn’t display the gradient we expect when moving further from our testing location. For instance, the UK server was faster than the recommended server in the U.S.
As we’ve seen with NordVPN before, it’s not always the best at selecting the fastest location (though it seems to have improved). Because of that, it’s worth manually selecting a server if your connection is slow.
OpenVPN is what we use for comparing VPN services, though that could change in the coming years as WireGuard becomes an increasingly popular protocol option (read our Private Internet Access review to learn all about WireGuard). NordVPN now offers its own take on WireGuard: NordLynx.
Of the features laid out in NordVPN’s blog post about NordLynx, the greatest focus was on speed, with NordVPN claiming it’s “the fastest VPN protocol at [its] disposal.” We wanted to put that to the test, so we enabled NordLynx and ran a smaller batch of tests, which you can find below. Our unprotected speed is there for reference, too.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Unprotected (St. Louis)||8||459.63||21.99|
|United States #3849||14||415.8||21.4|
|United States #4593 (New York)||34||427.64||20.97|
|United Kingdom #1823||112||418.38||18.94|
There isn’t much to say here. NordLynx is faster (like, way faster). We were easily hitting near-unprotected speeds across locations with little fuss. Nord’s server selection still isn’t perfect — our manually selected server in New York was faster than the automatic one — but to say we’re impressed would be understatement.
NordVPN isn’t the only service with WireGuard support (see our TorGuard review), though it’s the only provider we’re aware of with a proprietary take on WireGuard.
NordLynx takes the extremely streamlined code of WireGuard and adds a double NAT for quick and secure VPN connections. As for what else NordVPN has going on behind the scenes, we don’t know. We do know, however, that it’s working.
In recent versions of the app, NordVPN has done away with less secure VPN protocols. On Windows, you get the choice between OpenVPN and NordLynx, the latter of which is NordVPN’s take on WireGuard. NordVPN supports IKEv2/IPSec, too, though you’ll need to configure it manually.
As far as VPN security goes, OpenVPN with AES-256 has been the standard for decades, and that’s what NordVPN uses out of the box. AES-256 is nearly impossible to crack without a few billion years and a supercomputer.
Still, NordVPN is looking toward the future. Although OpenVPN is and has been the best option, it will become outdated at some point.
That’s where NordLynx comes in. NordLynx is basically WireGuard with a double NAT for a secure connection. WireGuard’s streamlined code makes it ideal for speed, but it’s no slouch when it comes to security. WireGuard uses the newer ChaCha20 cipher for encryption, which offers 256-bit encryption while being, apparently, faster than AES.
With the limited information about ChaCha20, it appears faster and more secure than AES. That said, AES has been around much longer than ChaCha and, as such, has been used and tested far more. ChaCha20 is more efficient while providing similar levels of security, though it’s still not as widely adopted as AES.
All of this is to say that NordLynx is impressive, but it hasn’t been put through the wringer quite yet. That’s not to say it’s insecure — far from it, in fact — just that you probably shouldn’t use it in high-risk situations. For streaming and torrenting, though, ChaCha20 provides ample protection while being much faster.
To test its security, we ran a series of DNS leak tests, seeing if NordVPN was leaking DNS and WebRTC requests or our source IP address. On OpenVPN, everything was fine, which isn’t too surprising. Everything was fine with NordLynx, too, though. Rerunning the tests, we didn’t encounter any leaks, even when using Nord’s ultra-fast new protocol.
The NordVPN Hack
We don’t want to add fuel to the fire that was the coverage of NordVPN’s security breach. NordVPN received a lot of bad press, and rightfully so. However, we’re not in the business of spreading misinformation about the specifics of the breach, even if it’s severity was high. We’re here to simply let you know what happened.
In short, an attacker got a hold of a server configuration file from a location in NordVPN’s network. That attacker found a vulnerability, stealing the NordVPN TLS certificate and gaining access to a single server.
Although it was a severe breach, nothing came of it. There’s no evidence that the attacker monitored any traffic, and the TLS key expired well before the attacker could put up a fake NordVPN site.
It’s a serious problem and, as such, NordVPN responded seriously, auditing every server in its network and commissioning security testing.
However, it’s important to remember that this is a data center issue. Although VPN providers often own the servers in their network, they rarely operate them. The vulnerability was a result of the data center’s poor security practices, not NordVPN’s.
Still, it’s NordVPN’s problem by proxy, and responding with an audit is the best answer. Nord isn’t off the hook, though. Out of this whole mess, the problem isn’t that NordVPN was hacked. Rather, it’s that NordVPN didn’t make the issue public until a year after it happened, presumably in response to the growing number of users speculating about it online.
Sometimes breaches happen, and it’s better to judge the company on how it responds, not on the breach itself (read our review of LastPass to see the best way to respond to a hack). NordVPN wasn’t upfront about the problem right away. Although it eventually ‘fessed up, it came far too late.
NordVPN in China
With the breach out of the way, let’s talk about practical security. NordVPN is better suited to tackle high-risk countries, like China, than most other VPN services. NordVPN does work in China, but although a standard server with OpenVPN and TCP is enough to tunnel out to watch some Netflix, NordVPN’s specialty servers are equipped to handle more dangerous tasks online.
As for which speciality server is best in China, take your pick. NordVPN made our list of the top VPN services for China because it’s hard not securing your connection while using one of the specialty servers.
We prefer the obfuscated servers most, though. You’re getting the benefit of scrambled packets without the speed loss that comes with Double VPN or Onion over VPN.
Before getting to the VPN, let’s talk about what information is collected when you sign up. NordVPN requires an email address and payment method. Your email address must be valid — meaning you have to have access to it — so you can’t create one just to sign up. Depending on your payment method, you’ll also need to provide billing information, though this data is handled by a third party.
That’s it, as far as signup information goes, which isn’t bad, all things considered. Yes, you’ll need access to the email you signed up with, but there are plenty of anonymous email options. Nord also accepts crypto, so you can pay anonymously, too.
When you actually use NordVPN, it knows nothing about you. Your login information is used for authentication, but that’s the extent of collection for the local application. The only thing Nord collects is some server load information, which allows it to recommend the fastest locations without needing to dig through the massive service list.
Privacy is all thumbs up, outside of a sneaky setting hidden inside NordVPN’s app. The “help us improve” setting sends anonymous data to Nord, which includes crash reports, your OS version, how you use features in the app and “marketing performance.”
“Marketing performance” is the kicker. In an app designed to maintain your privacy, there’s a setting that helps the company providing the app gauge its marketing performance.
Furthermore, this setting is enabled by default. This is all anonymous data, and frankly, it’s fine that NordVPN wants to collect it. The problem is that the setting is turned on from the get-go. This should be turned off, with the option to opt in, not opt out. Still, as long as you go in the settings and flick the toggle, it’s a non issue.
NordVPN’s streaming performance is excellent, for the most part, which is why it made our list of the best VPNs for streaming. That said, we encountered some strange behavior when using NordLynx. Although we never got a proxy error, the stream would sometimes refuse to load, forcing us to reconnect.
On OpenVPN, though, everything was fine. We were able to access Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and BBC iPlayer without any problems. NordVPN has always been a streaming behemoth, and that hasn’t changed. Even when switching servers multiple times, each streaming platform loaded like it was a local session.
Using NordVPN With Netflix
With OpenVPN, NordVPN is great for streaming. However, as we mentioned, we encountered some issues with NordLynx. They happened across Hulu and Netflix, but more so with Netflix. NordVPN is still on our list of the best VPNs for Netflix, but we had to reconnect multiple times with NordLynx to get a stream working.
Other times, though, it works without any problems. NordVPN is still a great choice for Netflix, especially with how fast NordLynx is. Be warned, though, that it seems to be a little temperamental right now.
We’re not sure what’s causing the slowdown, because Netflix isn’t actually blocking the NordLynx connection. Hopefully it’s a small issue on NordVPN’s end that can be fixed in a patch.
NordVPN has one of the largest networks out there, with nearly 5,700 server locations spread across 59 countries (5,690 at the time of writing). They’re spread out well, too. The Americas get about 2,300 servers, Europe has 2,600 servers, and the remaining 1,000 or so servers are dedicated to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The server count may not look all too impressive next to HideMyAss, which connects to nearly 200 countries, or CyberGhost, which has a server count that tops 6,000. The difference is that NordVPN doesn’t have any virtual servers. Even with the massive number of servers in its network, all of the server locations feature real, bare-metal servers.
A common practice among VPN services is to route one server’s traffic through another location. Although you’ll end up with, say, an Afghan IP address, your traffic is actually going through a server in a location with more infrastructure (the Netherlands is a popular choice for this). It’s a cleaver tactic, but not one free of fault. There are plenty of security risks when using a virtual server.
With NordVPN, that’s not a concern. When you’re connecting to a location, even a remote one like Iceland, you’re connecting to a server that’s physically in that location. Furthermore, NordVPN offers a range of specialty servers across its network.
We have a help guide for if NordVPN is not connecting.
NordVPN’s Specialty Servers
NordVPN offers six types of servers. There are your standard servers, which encrypt your traffic and make up the majority of the network, as well as dedicated IP servers, which are available at an additional cost. Everyone has access to the four specialty server types, though, which can bolster your security in a number of ways.
Of the lot, the Double VPN servers are the most interesting, which sends your connection through two VPN tunnels before going to the open internet. This technique — first used by our best free VPN Windscribe — doubles up the encryption of your connection at the cost of speed. For situations where security is important above all else, though, they’re nice to have.
Otherwise, you have access to dedicated P2P servers, obfuscated servers and Onion over VPN servers. Although NordVPN offers a lot of different server types, they aren’t available across locations.
For example, the U.S. location has access to everything, while Germany is missing a Double VPN option. Thankfully, it’s easy to filter by server type in the app so you can quickly find a location.
NordVPN has one of the best support teams we’ve seen. The support section is very well maintained, and each time we had a question, a support rep was quick to answer it over live chat. That said, we’re not happy with the direction support is taking, particularly when it comes to live chat.
Let us make it clear: live chat is great, when you’re chatting with an actual NordVPN support rep. However, Nord has started using a chat bot, too.
This chat bot tool is really only useful for redirecting you to knowledgebase entries, which is the exact opposite of what we like to see from live chat. It’s even more disappointing compared to NordVPN’s normal live chat, which is usually very helpful.
It’s confusing, too. Clicking on the “help” button at the top of the screen, you’ll be redirected to the knowledgebase, with a live chat icon in the corner. This opens the bot. The only way to speak to an actual support rep — or send an email, for that matter — is to go to the footer of the site and click “contact us.” We like the contact options, but they could be more clear.
Thankfully, there’s a wide range of self-help resources if you don’t want to fuss around with the bot. NordVPN has articles ranging from setup to troubleshooting, covering everything from nontraditional installs to driver errors. Frankly, with how many articles there are, you shouldn’t need to contact NordVPN at all.
NordVPN has some of the best support we’ve encountered, but it’s not laid out in the best way. Live chat has always been a strong point, and the new bot weakens that experience considerably, making it feel more like an advanced search bar than a support rep.
NordVPN is and has been one of the best VPN services out there. A lot has changed since the last time we looked at the VPN, some things for better and others for worse.
NordLynx is the standout new feature, boasting speeds that other services simply can’t rival. That said, there are some small changes we don’t like, namely the changed live-chat system and lack of support for PayPal.
Thankfully, those issues are easy to overlook, considering how much NordVPN has to offer. Although it still doesn’t quite rank first, it’s undoubtedly among the best VPNs out there.
What do you think of NordVPN? Are you going to sign up for an account? Let us know about your experience in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.
Is NordVPN Really Private?
NordVPN maintains a strict no-logs policy, which has been audited by a third party. That means that the VPN can’t see your source IP address, browsing history or anything else about you. The only thing NordVPN keeps on record is an email address for account creation purposes.
How Much Does NordVPN Cost per Month?
NordVPN costs $11.95 per month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can save a lot by subscribing for a longer duration, though. For example, the three-year plan costs only $3.49 per month.
What Does NordVPN Actually Do?
NordVPN is a virtual private network that encrypts your internet traffic while spoofing your IP address. In short, that means no one can see what you’re doing online. Furthermore, you can get an IP address in another location to unlock region-specific streaming libraries.
Secure and user friendly, we can recommend NordVPN to anyone
NordVPN is one of the best VPN providers out there, thanks to its ease of use, excellent security and wide server network. Find out more about what we liked and disliked about the service in this comprehensive NordVPN review.
Starts from$ 349per month
Secure and user friendly, we can recommend NordVPN to anyone
NordVPN is one of the best VPN providers out there, thanks to its ease of use, excellent security and wide server network. Find out more about what we liked and disliked about the service in this comprehensive NordVPN review.
Starts from$ 349per month
When it comes to security, cheap products worry me. It’s not an area I advise skimping on.
Substandard VPNs have been caught with flawed technology that leaks the very data a VPN should protect.
DNS and IP leaks are a particular blight of many VPN services (I’ll share my findings from leak tests I ran on NordVPN later in this review).
‘Low cost’ VPN services like PureVPN have been caught making false claims about logging policies, and others, like Hola, were exposed for selling its users’ bandwidth.
Other ‘budget’ VPNs are slow or won’t work with your favorite streaming services such as Netflix.
I could go on about the dangers of cutting corners with a VPN, but you get the picture. It costs money to run a good VPN service, which makes me suspicious about services costing as little as NordVPN.
Any yet NordVPN scores highly on many review websites…
I wanted to see for myself if NordVPN was too good to be true.
In my 2020 NordVPN review, I put the service through its paces on both desktop and mobile to find out:
- Can NordVPN unblock websites (Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC and others)?
- Is NordVPN fast enough to stream video?
- How good is NordVPN’s security and what data does it log on users?
- Does it allow torrenting on its network?
- How would NordVPN stand up to the barrage of tests I put it through.
- How does NordVPN compare with its more expensive rivals such as ExpressVPN?
And pretty much everything else you’d want to know. My time with NordVPN ranged from rigorous performance testing to day-to-day usage to find out how it stacks up against the crowded field of competitors.
I’ve summarized my thoughts on NordVPN but you’ll need to read the whole review to see the full extent of I what uncovered during the testing process.
Do I recommend NordVPN?
I recommend NordVPN to people who value both privacy and speed, need something inexpensive, and want something that can unblock websites and apps like Netflix. NordVPN works in China and it’s easy for beginners to pick up in a few minutes. NordVPN’s apps include a handful of specialty servers including double VPN, P2P, and dedicated IP addresses.
NordVPN operates more than 5,200 servers in 60 countries, and that number will probably have gone up by the time you read this. NordVPN employs military-grade 256-bit AES encryption. The apps use the NordLynx protocol by default. Torrenting is allowed, and the service follows a strict zero-logs policy.
|OVERALL RANK: #2 of 42 VPNs|
|Average Speed *:||115 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K UHD|
|Other Streaming Services:||Hulu, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Now|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES|
|Log Policy:||Zero logs|
|Protocols:||NordLynx, IKEv2, OpenVPN|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$2.99|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
NordVPN Pros and Cons
I summarized what I liked and what I didn’t from my time reviewing NordVPN. I’ll go into detail on each of these points and more later in the review.
- Strong security and no logs
- Unblocks sites like Netflix that most VPNs can’t
- Extremely fast
- Works in China
- Up to six simultaneous connections
- Huge global server network
- Streaming servers aren’t labeled
- Cumbersome desktop app
- No kill switch on Android
Speed: Is NordVPN fast?
In 2020, NordVPN launched a proprietary VPN protocol called NordLynx that vastly improved its speeds. This secure protocol is an extension of Wireguard, which is newer and more efficient than older protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2.
As a result, NordVPN now tops the list of the fastest VPNs. It’s fast enough to stream video in 4K resolution, livestream HD video, and high quality video conferencing without sacrificing security.
I ran speed tests at multiple times of day on NordVPN servers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Across all times and locations tested, NordVPN averaged a download speed of 115 Mbps.
Here are the results broken down by region:
- North America: 112 Mbps
- Europe: 122 Mbps
- Asia: 112 Mbps
Most users won’t notice much of a difference unless you’re on a really fast connection, like 100 Mbps or more. I had plenty of bandwidth for high definition on-demand video streams and decent quality live streams without buffering. I was able to play fast-paced online games like Brawlhalla and Rocket League by choosing a VPN server either near myself or the game server.
It’s worth noting that I encountered the occasional slow server, or one that just wouldn’t connect. It seems like the NordVPN app isn’t that great at automatically selecting the best server, and I had better luck going into the server list and choosing one myself. In its latest redesign, Nord finally added the option to select a specific city in countries where it operates servers in more than one location, such as the US and UK. Choosing a nearby server improves speeds overall.
Note that these tests can only serve as a general indication of the performance you might see and cannot be considered definitive. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness. Users with faster connections will likely see larger discrepancies in speed.
NordLynx is twice as fast as other protocols
NordLynx is the new default VPN protocol on NordVPN apps, though you can also choose from OpenVPN and IKEv2. These are also good, secure options, but NordLynx offers almost double the speed according to our tests.
NordLynx is an extension of Wireguard, a modern VPN protocol that claims to be more efficient, simpler, and easier to audit than rivals like IKEv2 and OpenVPN. Wireguard, however, assigns each user a static IP address, which requires storing user data on the VPN server.
Because NordVPN is serious about its zero logs policy, it created its own “double NAT” system to establish a secure VPN connection without storing any identifiable user data on its servers. NordVPN dubbed the new and improved protocol “NordLynx”.
The company explains, “The double NAT system creates two local network interfaces for each user. The first interface assigns the same local IP address to all users connected to a server. Once the secure VPN tunnel is established, the second network interface with a dynamic NAT system kicks in. Dynamic local IP addresses remain assigned only while the session is active and allow not to store any identifiable data on the server.”
Apps: What devices work with NordVPN?
NordVPN allows up to six devices to connect at the same time on one account, so it’s a great option if you want to share with family or a roommate. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV.
NordVPN offers encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers. Think of these as VPN-ish tools that only encrypt and reroute web traffic from your browser and not from your entire device.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
Does NordVPN work with Netflix?
Yes, and better than most at that.
Check out this video of me accessing US Netflix from Canada with NordVPN to see just how easy it is.
NordVPN unblocks several streaming sites including but not limited to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ABC iView, and Hulu. NordVPN accomplishes this through its trademarked SmartPlay feature, which is toggled on in the settings by default. A quick test by us proves NordVPN works as promised with Netflix. We’ve rounded up here a list of other VPNs for Netflix which have worked in our testing and here are more details on NordVPN and Netflix.
If I want to access another country’s Netflix library, NordVPN can unblock Netflix Australia, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, UK, and USA. You can connect to pretty much any server to unblock Netflix from abroad, but all of them except those I just mentioned will redirect you to the US version.
Not all servers in a given country will unblock streaming video. Unfortunately, NordVPN doesn’t show you which servers unblock what in the app. For some streaming services, I had to check NordVPN’s knowledge base on the web to find out which servers to use. Thankfully, this is just a small detour and I can favorite the servers that work so I can find them more quickly later.
NordVPN has been unblocking streaming services a lot longer that most providers, which makes me optimistic that it will continue to do so.
The apps work with all of the Kodi add-ons we’ve tested them with. The Linux and Amazon Firestick NordVPN apps are particularly useful to Kodi users who stream on those devices.
Does NordVPN allow torrenting?
NordVPN allows users unlimited P2P filesharing over BitTorrent or any other protocol. Some servers are specifically designated for torrenting, but it’s up to you whether you want to use these or not.
NordVPN’s security is airtight and the service doesn’t store any logs. Zero. Zilch. Nada. The company is incorporated in Panama, which doesn’t have any legal data retention requirements. NordVPN will never know what you do online while connected to the VPN.
Kill switches are built into the Windows, MacOS, and iOS apps. When enabled, the kill switch feature will cut off internet to your device to prevent leaks of unencrypted data onto your ISP’s network. On desktop, you can specify which apps are protected by the kill switch and which are not. For example, you can protect your browser from unexpected disconnections, but not your web browser. Unfortunately, NordVPN lacks a kill switch on its Android app as of time of writing.
Here’s the encryption specs:
- 256-bit AES channel encryption
- SHA384 authentication
- 3072-bit DHE-RSA key exchange
- Perfect forward secrecy
If none of that means anything to you, don’t worry. NordVPN’s encryption meets military-grade standards and goes above and beyond the security needs of an average user.
The apps don’t leak any DNS or IP traffic while connected. However, I did discover a persistent IPv6 WebRTC leak when testing the desktop app. Here are the side-by-side test results from browserleaks.com:
As you can see, my real IPv6 address is exposed when connected to the VPN through WebRTC. This indicates a persistent IPv6 WebRTC leak.
So what does that mean?
Well, most people don’t have IPv6 in their homes, but many do. Google “what’s my IPv6 address?” if you aren’t sure.
Most web pages don’t use WebRTC, which is a protocol used mainly for voice-over-IP communications, including the browser-based versions of Skype, Discord, and Google Hangouts.
So most people don’t have IPv6 and most websites don’t use WebRTC, but the fact that the leak is persistent—it leaks all the time—is a bit of a concern. It could be used by a website to reveal my real IP address, and in turn detect whether I’m using a VPN if I do happen to have IPv6 connectivity.
When it comes to dropped connections, which Nord has thankfully few, NordVPN has my back. I can opt between an all-or-nothing kill switch that completely disconnects the internet if the VPN connection drops, or an app-specific kill switch that lets me choose which programs are protected.
A recent addition to the NordVPN apps is CyberSec, which when enabled blocks ads, malware, and phishing threats. If you’re like me, you’ve already got most of that stuff set up on your browser and antivirus program, but another layer of security never hurts.
NordVPN recently added a security featured dubbed WifiSec. With this enabled, the app automatically initiates a VPN connection whenever I connect to a new wifi network. I can set it to auto-connect to Nord on both secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
Does NordVPN work in China?
NordVPN announced in late June 2017 that it can unblock websites and content that are censored in China. Most users in mainland China should be able to simply connect to a server the normal way to bypass the Great Firewall.
If that fails, however, Nord instructs users to go into its app’s Settings menu, select Advanced Settings, and toggle on Obfuscated servers. This makes encrypted internet traffic look unencrypted, which prevents China’s deep packet inspection system from identifying VPN connections. It might add a small amount of latency, but most users probably won’t notice a difference in speed overall.
The obfuscated servers feature is currently only available in the Windows, Android and MacOS versions of the app.
Is NordVPN’s Customer Service Any Good?
NordVPN offers both round-the-clock live chat support and a ticket submission system.
I was connected to a representative on live chat support within two minutes. The rep seemed knowledgeable about the product and not like an outsourced firm that copies and pastes answers.
The website includes a decent array of search-able help and tutorial articles in the support section, including which servers to use to unblock streaming sites. Both the website and app are ad-free, and I didn’t receive any unsolicited emails during the test period.
On a budget? No worries.
NordVPN’s three year plan costs $3.49 per month, the one year plan rises to $6.99 per month and the 1 month plan a steep $11.95 per month.
NordVPN is cheap, especially if you opt for the multi-year plans. And if you’re splitting the bill with a close friend or loved one, it’s basically pocket change. At the current price, it would be tough to find a better all-round VPN.
|3 year plan||2 year plan||1 year plan||1 month plan|
|$2.99 per month||$3.99 per month||$6.99 per month||$11.95 per month|
It’s worth noting that all plans include a 30 day money-back guarantee so you can try the service risk free and cancel if you are not entirely happy.
Should I buy NordVPN?
Now that I’ve used NordVPN for a few weeks, would I recommend it to others?
Despite its low price, NordVPN offers a quality service with a sterling reputation. I strongly recommend it if you want to unblock region-locked content from abroad, bypass censorship in countries like China, or just hide your torrenting activity from your ISP. The apps are easy to learn whether you’re new to VPNs or have been using them for years.
The desktop apps can be a bit sluggish and the Android app sorely needs a kill switch, but those are minor complaints on the whole. I found a leak that could expose the IP address of users with IPv6, so I hope that gets fixed soon.
Limited Offer - 70% off a 2-year OR 3-year plan
Discount applied automatically
NordVPN is great, but it has some strong contenders.
ExpressVPN is more expensive, but with that extra cost comes a truly premium experience. It’s about the same as NordVPN when it comes to unblocking streaming sites, speed, and security, but it offers better router support and includes a smart DNS proxy service to unblock streaming video on devices that don’t normally support VPNs. The apps also support split tunneling.
If you want a more budget-friendly alternative than Express, consider CyberGhost. It’s the fastest VPN I’ve tested and costs about the same as NordVPN, while offering competitive security. It doesn’t work well in China, though, and it doesn’t unblock quite as many streaming sites.
Here’s a breakdown of how NordVPN compares to two of the most popular services, ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA).
NordVPN is listed among the top VPN providers for many reasons - it unblocks all the important geo-restricted services, facilitates torrenting, delivers perfect anonymity, and isn’t expensive.
- Low price
- Unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Independently confirmed no-logs policy
- Large server network
- No free trial
- Some performance issues
[This review was originally published in June 2017. It has been updated several times to reflect additional features and server locations.
Operating under the jurisdiction of Panama, NordVPN is a VPN developed by the company Tefincom & Co. in 2012. It has since been one of the favorite choices for privacy services, providing them to over 12 million customers.
Costs and What's Covered
Subscription plans include the 1-month option at $11.95 per month, 1-year plan at $6.99 (billed $83.88 every year), 2-year option at $4.99 (billed $119.76 every two years), and the cheapest, 3-year subscription that includes the biggest savings and is available for the price of $3.49 per month (billed $125.64 every three years).
NordVPN accepts various payment methods, including credit cards, Amazon Pay, PayPal, Alipay, UnionPay, Sofort, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum). You can use the latter for extra anonymity. The availability of some of these payment options depends on your current location.
All of the plans are backed by the company’s generous, risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee. During these 30 days, you can fully explore the services and decide whether you want to continue using it or cancel the subscription and get a full refund. This sort of replaces the traditional free trial (which NordVPN doesn’t have), although you still have to pay for it first.
This VPN service is compatible with a long list of platforms. It provides native apps for all the major ones - Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, Android TV, and Linux. Chrome and Firefox can be protected with native NordVPN proxy extensions. Further support and tools are available for other devices like routers, BlackBerry, MikroTik, Raspberry Pi, QNAP, Synology NAS, and more.
All of the apps are very comfortable to use, even for beginners. The browser proxy extensions don’t have the full functionality that most other VPN browser extensions have, but are still effective in providing extra protection from IP leaks and blocking malware and ads.
What you get
This VPN vendor provides services with the help of over 5,640 servers scattered across 60+ countries worldwide. It allows you to connect up to six devices simultaneously, with a possibility for even more if you set it up on a supported router.
Unblocking of popular geo-locked streaming channels is a must-have for any self-respecting VPN service and NordVPN is no different. If you opt for this provider, you’ll have uninterrupted and secure access to content on Netflix (US, Canada, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy), BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Kodi, and Amazon Prime wherever you are, thanks to the SmartPlay technology employed by all of NordVPN apps.
Torrenting is also supported, albeit not all servers are P2P-friendly. Regardless, there are more than plenty of those that are. You’ll be able to experience full-speed torrenting, especially since the service can recognize if you’ve opened a torrenting client and automatically switch you to a server that supports it.
One of the features that are essential to a full VPN experience is the kill switch. It is a mechanism that forcefully blocks the entire Internet access if the VPN connection suddenly drops, effectively preventing your sensitive data from leaks. NordVPN has not one, but two kill switches - the regular one, plus an additional, app-level kill switch that shuts down only those apps that user chooses to if the VPN connection is interrupted.
There are also some extra features, like the DoubleVPN option that directs your traffic through two VPN servers. You can also turn on the Onion over VPN feature which routes the traffic through the Onion network, in addition to directing it through NordVPN’s network. And let’s not forget the CyberSec technology, which is essentially a blocker of malware, malicious websites, phishing, and ads.
Military-grade encryption is guaranteed by the AES-256-GCM algorithm with OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec transfer protocols. If your device of choice uses the Windows or Android operating system, OpenVPN is implemented by default. If you’re using an iOS app, then IKEv2/IPSec is the default for you. Mac users have the freedom of choice between these two.
The zero-logs policy lists the usual - there will be no storing of connection timestamps, session information, traffic information, IP addresses, bandwidth used, and other data. To prove it sticks to the ‘practice what you preach’ motto, the company has enlisted the help of PwC, one of the Big 4 auditing firms. PwC performed a public audit of NordVPN’s no-logging claims and reported that all of them were accurate.
The country of its registration, Panama, has no mandatory data retention laws and doesn’t participate in the ‘prying eyes’ alliances (Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or Fourteen Eyes) that share intelligence information among themselves.
NordVPN delivers solid results in terms of performance. While connectivity errors do occur regularly, connection times and download speeds are largely optimal. Latencies are expected of some places further away from the user’s current location and those with poorer infrastructure.
If you need any help installing and using the VPN, or are just plain interested in what this provider has in store, you can find useful information on the website. The support section is divided into categories - general info, billing, connectivity, and frequently asked questions.
Digging around the website a bit you’ll quickly find a blog with lots of useful and interesting content such as what to do if your data is leaked, how safe jailbreaking of iPhone really is, how to delete your LinkedIn account, and more.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for or would rather talk to a knowledgeable person working at NordVPN instead, you can quickly reach them at any time of day or night via live chat or email.
NordVPN is affordable and offers all the features that even the hardcore VPN elitists will find suitable. It is compatible with many devices, provides strong security, and its no-logging policy has been independently verified. It can be used to access popular streaming services, as well as P2P torrents.
Aside from the traditional VPN mechanisms, it has its own additions - Onion over VPN technology, CyberSec, and DoubleVPN. It does have some minor issues to deal with, but the general impression is that this is one robust and complete VPN service.
Our score: 4.5/5
Client software platforms: Win, Mac, Android, iOS
Native support platforms: Win, Mac, Android, iOS, Chrome OS, Linux, Windows Phone, open-source and branded routers
Supported protocols: L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, IKEv2, PPTP, SSTP
No. of servers: 5,551
No. of countries: 59
Country of registration: Panama
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Ethereum, UnionPay, Alipay
Real name necessary? No
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no, of simultaneously connected devices: Six
Customer support: Email
Can one of the most popular VPNs on the market also provide premium speeds, fully-featured VPN apps, and strong security, despite the below-average price?
In this updated NordVPN review for 2020, I put the service through extensive testing to see how it compares to the competition. All test results are backed up with screenshots posted below in the review:
- Numerous speed tests conducted with NordVPN servers around the world
- Leak tests conducted on the desktop applications (checking for IPv4, IPv6, and DNS leaks)
- Testing the kill switch and leak protection features
- Streaming compatibility checks with Netflix on US servers
- Testing the specialty servers, including the Double-VPN and P2P servers
This NordVPN review is an in-depth summary of test results and research. Here is a brief overview of my findings:
Pros of NordVPN
- Strong privacy and security features
- Premium performance: fast speeds, great reliability, and instant connections
- Secure apps with no leaks
- Large server network (with no virtual locations)
- Great customer support
- Verified no logs VPN provider (audited)
- NordVPN based in Panama (good privacy jurisdiction)
- Security upgrades for 2020 and beyond
- Full WireGuard support with NordLynx
- Excellent support for Netflix and other streaming services
- Fully-featured mobile clients
- Low prices and good refund policy
Cons of NordVPN
- Big discounts only available for longer subscriptions
- No dedicated router app (but still works on routers)
Additional research findings
- Is NordVPN good for torrenting?
- Does NordVPN work in China?
- Can you get a Dedicated IP address with NordVPN?
So now let’s dive into the details of NordVPN.
Pros of NordVPN
Here are the pros (advantages) of NordVPN.
1. Strong privacy and security features
NordVPN offers some solid features to enhance user privacy and security – above and beyond most other VPNs. Let’s take a look at NordVPN’s encryption and some of these enhanced features.
Strong encryption standards and VPN protocol selection
NordVPN’s OpenVPN clients use an AES-256-GCM cipher and HMAC SHA256 hash authentication. Additionally, NordVPN utilizes Perfect Forward Secrecy through a DHE-4096 key exchange. The AES-256-GCM cipher is also used to encrypt traffic with the IPSec/IKEv2 protocol.
In addition to OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2, NordVPN also supports the WireGuard VPN protocol directly in all VPN apps. NordVPN’s implementation of WireGuard is called NordLynx. You can easily switch between VPN protocols under Settings:
NordLynx (WireGuard protocol) offers serious performance and security advantages, which we will see further below.
NordVPN CyberSec is a security feature that blocks trackers, ads, and malware domains. I found it to work well in testing, effectively blocking all advertising/tracking domains on different sites I visited.
CyberSec is activated directly from within the NordVPN client, as you can see below.
There are three distinct benefits of CyberSec for NordVPN users:
- More privacy – In today’s world, ads are advanced tracking tools that record your online activities and match this up to your data profile. This is how ad networks come up with targeted advertising. Blocking ads via CyberSec is crucial for privacy reasons.
- More security – The CyberSec feature is also critical for security. Online ads are usually fed in through third-party domains, which can be malicious. These malicious domains will use ads as an attack vector to infect your device – even if you don’t click them. CyberSec protects you against this by blocking domains based on a real-time threat list.
- Faster page load speeds – Ads can eat up a lot of bandwidth and really slow down page load speeds, especially on mobile devices. Blocking ads can significantly improve performance, and help conserver your data plan.
NordVPN’s CyberSec feature seemed to do well with blocking ads in the tests I ran for this review.
Note: CyberSec uses real-time filter lists that are blocked via DNS requests. Therefore this feature is only active when connected to the VPN.
Double VPN (multi-hop)
NordVPN is one of a handful of VPN providers that offer multi-hop functionality – or in this case, double-VPN servers. With NordVPN’s double-VPN servers, your traffic is encrypted across two separate VPN servers before exiting onto the regular internet. This also offers some advantages.
- Double-VPN gives you an extra layer of encryption between your device and the regular internet.
- This could also protect you against a compromised data center. In a double-VPN setup, no single server can see both your IP address and sites you visit.
- Distributes trust across two different servers.
Unlike the photo above, I would not recommend using a double-hop on the other side of the world due to the performance tradeoffs (high latency). You’d be better off with nearby double-VPN servers that provide the same security benefits, but with better speeds.
Using a multi-hop VPN is certainly not a bad idea. Surprisingly, performance with the double-VPN servers was excellent, with speeds ranging from 195 Mbps to 214 Mbps (screenshots posted below).
NordVPN currently offers 31 double-hop VPN configurations. These can easily be selected from within the NordVPN client. For those wanting a higher level of privacy and security, the double-VPN servers are a great option to consider.
If you are looking for additional encryption and anonymity beyond a single-hop VPN server, another option is to use an Onion-over-VPN server. NordVPN currently offers two locations for this: Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Onion-over-VPN servers encrypt traffic with the Tor Network, in addition to the regular VPN server. However, because the Tor network is very slow, your speeds will slow to a crawl. I’d recommend the Double-VPN servers instead, which offer extra encryption with great performance (around 200 Mbps).
2. Premium performance: fast speeds, great reliability, and instant connections
For this NordVPN I ran dozens of speed tests using different VPN protocols and also various servers around the world. My baseline speed for testing was about 480 Mbps on a wired ethernet connection (no WiFi). Overall, the NordVPN speed test results were phenomenal.
To get the best performance, I selected the NordLynx protocol in the Settings, and then tested different server locations.
First, I tested a nearby NordVPN server in Seattle, which gave me 445 Mbps.
This is the fastest VPN speed test result I’ve ever done. It is much faster than OpenVPN, and is not far from my baseline speed.
Next I tested a NordVPN server in Los Angeles, which give me about 304 Mbps:
At over 300 Mbps, it is clear that NordVPN is in the “fastest VPNs” category.
Then I tested a NordVPN server in New York, and it was again very fast at 280 Mbps.
Next, I tested a NordVPN server in the UK, with speeds around 295 Mbps:
Without a doubt, these are the best speed test results I’ve ever gotten with NordVPN. It is clear that the WireGuard VPN protocol is a big factor. In my WireGuard vs OpenVPN comparison, I found WireGuard to be about 58% faster than NordVPN in my tests.
NordVPN Double-VPN speeds
Lastly, I also ran a few tests with NordVPN’s double-VPN servers to check for speeds.
To access the Double-VPN servers, you’ll need to switch to the OpenVPN protocol.
First, I tested the double-VPN server configuration for USA > Canada and was able to get about 214 Mbps.
For a double-VPN connection, these speeds are excellent. Not only is traffic getting encrypted and routed over two servers, but this is also with the OpenVPN protocol, which is slower than WireGuard.
Next, I tested the double-VPN servers for Switzerland > Sweden and again got great speeds: 195 Mbps.
Reliability and connections
On the topic of performance, it’s also important to discuss reliability and connections:
- Reliability – I found NordVPN to be very reliable. The servers were consistently fast and I did not experience any dropped connections.
- Connections – When using the WireGuard VPN protocol, I found that NordVPN was extremely fast at establishing a connection — nearly instantly. While NordVPN can take a few seconds (or longer), WireGuard offers near-instant connections. This makes switching VPN servers all the more quick and easy.
Conclusion on performance – With the latest round of speed tests for this review, I can conclude that NordVPN offers fast, consistent, and reliable speeds. This is the fastest I’ve seen NordVPN in all my years of testing it. It also consistently comes out on top in comparison with other VPNs, such as in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison.
3. Secure apps with no leaks
NordVPN also offers a nice lineup of secure apps (clients) for all major operating systems and devices:
- Mac OS
- Android and iOS (mobile)
- Android TV
Here were my main takeaways from testing and reviewing the NordVPN clients on Windows and Mac OS:
- Fully-featured – The NordVPN apps are loaded with features, to include specialty servers, leak protection, and startup/connection settings.
- Easy to use – Whether you are new with VPNs or a seasoned pro, you should find the NordVPN clients user-friendly and intuitive. Adjusting settings and selecting features is simple.
- Secure – Aside from the strong encryption we discussed above, NordVPN also secures data with a kill switch. This blocks traffic (or closes applications) if the VPN connection drops for any reason. We’ll examine this more below.
NordVPN Windows client
The NordVPN Windows client utilizes the OpenVPN and WireGuard VPN protocols and offers all features.
To connect to a server in the NordVPN Windows client, you can use the list on the left or click a location on the map. In the screenshot below, I’ve selected the double-VPN servers from the list of “Specialty Servers”.
I found connection times to be very good, with NordVPN quickly connecting to servers (no long delays). If you use the NordLynx (WireGuard) protocol, you’ll enjoy near-instant connections. After lots of testing and comparison, we have rated NordVPN as one of the best VPNs for Windows.
NordVPN Mac OS client
For this NordVPN review, I also tested out the Mac OS client. The Mac OS client offers all of the same features and a built-in kill switch that automatically blocks traffic if the connection drops.
With the Mac OS client, you can select between the following VPN protocols: IKEv2, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, and NordLynx (WireGuard).
NordVPN kill switch
NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that offers two different kinds of kill switches. A kill switch is important because it blocks traffic if the VPN connection drops, which protects you from de-anonymization and your regular traffic being exposed.
In the screenshot below you can see the two different kill switches on the NordVPN Windows client:
- Internet Kill Switch – This will block all traffic if the VPN connection drops via the firewall (recommended).
- App Kill Switch – This will close applications if the VPN connection drops, but will not block traffic.
If you are concerned about IP address leaks, it would be best to use the “Internet Kill Switch” as this will block non-VPN traffic via the firewall. And if you are using the Internet kill switch, then you probably don’t need to use the App kill switch.
NordVPN leak tests (no leaks found)
I ran the NordVPN Windows and Mac OS clients through some basic VPN tests and checks to identify any leaks or problems. Additionally, I also tested out NordVPN’s kill switch to see if it was effectively working in both clients.
With the NordVPN Windows client, I did not find any IP address leaks or DNS leaks. In the screenshot below, you can see:
- the IPv4 address matches up with the VPN client (no IPv4 leaks)
- IPv6 is effectively being blocked (no IPv6 leaks)
- No WebRTC leaks (but this is blocked in your browser)
- DNS requests are being handled by NordVPN’s server (no DNS leaks)
No IP address leaks or DNS leaks were found with NordVPN.
I also found the Internet Kill Switch and App Kill Switch to work well – no issues or problems to report.
Mac OS leak tests – I ran the Mac OS clients through the same tests as above with the Windows client. The results were the same in that I did not find any leaks or problems. Additionally, the Mac OS kill switches worked correctly without any issues.
Android leak tests – Heinrich tested out the NordVPN Android client when working on the VPN for Android roundup. He found it to perform very well without any leaks or issues.
4. NordVPN’s large server network (with no virtual locations)
NordVPN boasts a huge server network, which currently includes over 5,000 servers in 59 countries.
NordVPN has announced significant network upgrades for 2020 to further improve performance and also security. We’ll cover these more below.
NordVPN obfuscated servers
We have already covered the Double-VPN and Onion-over-VPN servers above. In addition to these specialty servers, NordVPN also offers Obfuscated servers.
The Obfuscated servers are available directly in the VPN client when you are using the OpenVPN protocol. These servers hide (obfuscate) VPN traffic to appear as regular HTTPS traffic and are useful in the following situations:
- When you need to get around VPN blocks at work, school, or restricted networks.
- To evade state censorship efforts and VPN blocks in certain countries, such as in China, UAE, and others.
The selection of obfuscated servers make NordVPN a great option if you need a VPN for China or any other restricted country.
Does NordVPN use virtual server locations?
In the past, we have investigated the issue of virtual server locations. This is when a VPN claims to have a server in one country, but it’s actually in a different location. While there are justifiable reasons for doing this in some cases, transparency is also important.
In the case of NordVPN, we did not find any virtual server locations. Additionally, a NordVPN representative confirmed with me that no virtual locations are in use. In other words, NordVPN truly has servers in all of the advertised locations.
5. Great customer support
NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat support and the representatives are quite helpful.
Chat support is always available through the NordVPN website in the bottom-right corner. You don’t have to log in, simply click on the chat icon and you’ll be connected with a representative.
I tested out the NordVPN chat support a few different times for this review and it worked well without any issues.
In all my interactions with NordVPN support, it did not take long to connect with a representative (under a minute). The support staff was helpful in answering all my questions.
Support with some of the larger VPN providers can be hit or miss. This is especially the case because support is often outsourced to third parties. NordVPN handles all support in-house with trained technicians (no external third parties).
6. NordVPN no logs policy (audited)
Another important aspect in terms of privacy is NordVPN’s logging policy. NordVPN is one of the few VPN services that has had its no-logs claims audited and verified. It underwent a full audit to examine all aspects of the service and verify the no-logs policy. The audit was performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
I obtained a copy of the audit and examined the findings. Here is a brief summary of the audit:
- NordVPN was audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, an auditing firm based in Zurich, Switzerland.
- The auditors had full access to examine NordVPN’s servers, interview employees, observe operations, and inspect configurations, databases, and any other relevant areas deemed necessary.
- The audit officially verified NordVPN to be a “no-log service” that remains true to its policies.
- NordVPN does not store connection logs, IP addresses, traffic logs, or any internet activity information.
NordVPN strictly keeps no logs of your activity online. That means we do not track the time or duration of any online session, and neither do we keep logs of IP addresses or servers used, websites visited or files downloaded. In other words, none of your private and secure data is logged and gathered at any time. As a result, we are not able to provide any details about your behavior online, even if you request it yourself.
NordVPN is based away from the EU and US jurisdiction and is not required to collect your personal data and information– it means nothing is recorded, monitored, stored, logged or passed to third parties.
Overall, NordVPN is a solid choice if you are looking for a no logs VPN provider that has been verified and proven to be true.
7. NordVPN based in Panama (a good privacy jurisdiction)
Another advantage of NordVPN is that it is based in Panama. Panama is not a member of any international surveillant alliances (see the Five Eyes) and it remains an excellent jurisdiction for privacy.
As NordVPN explains this issue further on its website:
We are based and operate under the jurisdiction of Panama. There is no mandatory data retention law in Panama so we do not need to store logs which is perfect for a VPN provider.
Being based in Panama is indeed a good jurisdiction that gives NordVPN advantages over other VPN providers, as I also explained in my NordVPN vs PIA comparison.
8. Big security upgrades for 2020 and beyond
NordVPN is currently investing significant resources to improve security and network infrastructure. These changes will be permanent for 2020 and beyond. Here’s an overview of NordVPN’s security upgrades:
1. Ongoing security audit
NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that has undergone a full third-party security audit. Here is an overview of the security audit, conducted by Versprite, and the results:
We invited VerSprite, a leading security research group specializing in software vulnerabilities, to search our apps inside and out with total access to ensure they found everything possible.
After analyzing our infrastructure, their team simulated malicious attacks on the apps from every angle (a penetration test) while also identifying internal architecture that could make the apps vulnerable to those attacks. As soon as they found and documented a vulnerability, they reported it to us so our team could get to work. Every single potential vulnerability they found was meticulously eliminated and then tested again.
NordVPN is continuing to work with Versprite and their in-house team of penetration testers to ensure the highest security standards:
- Comprehensive penetration testing;
- Intrusion handling;
- Vendor risk assessment;
- Source code analysis.
The main audit (and findings) were completed in late 2019, but it is a continual process going forward.
2. Bug Bounty Program
NordVPN has officially launched a bug bounty program and it is now live. They will reward anyone who finds security vulnerabilities with NordVPN.
Our job is to anticipate and prevent bugs before they ever go live. If one does slip past us, the next best line of defense is a vigilant and engaged cybersec community prepared to help catch and fix it before it puts anyone at risk.
3. Infrastructure security audit
Another aspect of NordVPN’s security upgrades is a full infrastructure audit. This includes all physical infrastructure of their VPN service, as they explain:
We are setting the groundwork for a full-scale third-party independent security audit in 2020.
This will include and may not be limited to: infrastructure hardware, VPN software, backend architecture, backend source code, and internal procedures.
4. Vendor security assessment and higher security standards
This part of the security plan deals with the third-party data centers where NordVPN servers are physically located. This is a two-part plan. First, NordVPN will be upping their requirements for data centers. Second, they will also be implementing their own (self-owned) servers.
Right now, the majority of the datacenters we work with meet or exceed numerous stringent security standards. As we continue to review our infrastructure, however, we will hold the datacenters we work with to even higher standards than before.
At the same time, we will also begin to build a network of collocated servers. While still located in a datacenter, collocated servers are wholly owned exclusively by NordVPN.
5. Diskless servers
Lastly, NordVPN will also be implementing diskless servers (running their network on RAM-disk memory rather than hard drives). This is a smart move that we’ve already seen with other VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN and also Perfect Privacy.
We are preparing a plan to upgrade our entire infrastructure (currently featuring over 5500servers) to RAM servers. These will allow us to create a centrally controlled network where nothing is stored locally.
As of the time of this review, most of NordVPN’s network has already transitioned to diskless servers.
9. Full WireGuard support with NordLynx
Some people are looking to use the (relatively new) WireGuard VPN protocol. There are many reasons for this:
- WireGuard is the fastest VPN protocol available (much faster than OpenVPN)
- WireGuard will connect faster and offer better reliability, especially on mobile devices
- Updated encryption algorithms are used with WireGuard
NordVPN is one of only a few VPNs that offer full WireGuard support directly in the VPN apps. As we’ve already covered above, WireGuard speeds with NordVPN are amazing. The upgraded security and encryption with WireGuard are additional benefits to consider.
In terms of privacy, NordVPN has gone to great lengths to ensure NordLynx ensures user privacy remains protected. To do this, they have implemented a “double NAT (Network Address Translation) system” with NordLynx. NordVPN explains the benefits as follows:
The double NAT system allows us to establish a secure VPN connection without storing any identifiable data on a server. Dynamic local IP addresses remain assigned only while the session is active. Meanwhile, user authentication is done with the help of a secure external database.
To use WireGuard with NordVPN right now, simply go into the settings and select NordLynx from the available VPN protocols.
10. Excellent support for Netflix and other streaming services
As is the case in all of my VPN reviews, I ran NordVPN through a number of tests to see how well it works with Netflix and streaming services.
I used NordVPN servers in the US to access my American Netflix account. Everything worked perfectly without any issues.
In the screenshot above, you can see the Netflix movie I was streaming with the connected NordVPN app in the background (right). NordVPN did well in all these tests. It unblocked Netflix without any issues and gave me fast speeds for HD streaming without interruption.
With NordVPN you can get full access to the following Netflix regions: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Australia, India, and Italy. (Other regions may also work, but were not tested for this review.) With full regional support, NordVPN is definitely one of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Other streaming services – NordVPN also works with other streaming services, such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and others.
Note: If you have any trouble getting Netflix to work with NordVPN, simply ask support. The live chat representatives will tell you exactly what servers to use.
11. Fully-featured mobile clients for Android and iOS
Many VPNs skimp on their mobile VPN apps. That is not the case with NordVPN.
The NordVPN clients for Android and iOS offer full support for the following features:
- OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols
- Specialty servers (Double-VPN, Onion-over-VPN, Obfuscated, and P2P servers)
- Built-in leak protection settings
Here is a look at the NordVPN Android client:
It took the top spot as the best VPN for Android, even beating out ExpressVPN.
12. Low prices and good refund policy
NordVPN is one of the cheapest VPN services you will find that is still good quality.
At the time of this review, NordVPN is offering a discounted three-year subscription price with the three-year plan. While the duration is certainly long, the savings are indeed significant, at only $3.49 per month.
Below are the NordVPN subscription prices:
- $3.49/month for the 3-year plan
- $4.99/month for the 2-year plan
- $6.99/month for the 1-year plan
- $11.95/month for the 1-month plan
The longer plan at only $3.49 per month makes NordVPN the best cheap VPN in my opinion.
You can pay with all major credit cards, Amazon Pay, Alipay, UnionPay, and even a variety of cryptocurrencies. One drawback, however, is that NordVPN is no longer supporting PayPal payments in the US.
If you are hesitant about the two or three-year subscription plans, NordVPN also offers shorter duration subscriptions, but they are more expensive. (I’m also maintaining a NordVPN coupon page to track the latest offers and deals.)
NordVPN refund policy (30 days)
NordVPN provides a 30 day money-back guarantee, which is quite generous for VPN standards. The refund policy does not include any hidden clauses or restrictions.
Cons of NordVPN
Now we’ll examine the cons of NordVPN.
1. Big discounts only available for longer plans
One gripe I have with NordVPN is that the discounted rates are only available with the three-year subscription. Three years is a long commitment to make for a VPN service. Although the 30 day refund window gives you plenty of time to test everything.
Along these same lines, the one-month deal is rather pricey at $11.95 per month. This is more than three times the monthly price of the three-year plan. But steep discounts for long subscriptions are becoming more common in the industry – so it’s not surprising.
2. No VPN router app (but still works on routers)
Some VPN services, such as ExpressVPN and VyprVPN, offer a dedicated router app for certain router models. This makes it easier to get a VPN up and running on your router.
Currently, NordVPN does not offer any VPN router app. Nonetheless, you can still use NordVPN with a router. Here are three ways to do that:
- Get a pre-configured router from an outlet such as Sabai Technology or FlashRouters. These will be somewhat expensive, but it will be ready to use with NordVPN right out of the box and pre-configured with the router firmware you need.
- Get a VPN-enabled router that can be used with a VPN without any flashing required. The best selection of VPN-enabled routers comes from Asus. Asus offers numerous routers that can be easily loaded with OpenVPN configuration files (from any VPN provider) and be working in just minutes.
- Flash your existing router. This can be tricky and somewhat risky (bricking your router), so you will want to proceed with caution if you go down this route. The degree of difficulty will depend on the router you are using.
Tip: When using NordVPN on a router, connect to the nearest server with the lightest load.
Overall, not having a router app is not really a dealbreaker since there are still many ways to use NordVPN on a router. And as always, NordVPN support can help you get everything set up correctly.
Additional research findings
Here are the additional research findings for this NordVPN review, based on my own tests.
Is NordVPN good for torrenting? (Yes)
NordVPN is an excellent choice if you need a good VPN for torrenting. Here are three reasons why.
- Fast and consistent speeds – This will be useful when torrenting large files.
- Leak protection – The NordVPN apps come with built-in leak protection settings. This allows you to torrent for hours without worrying about your IP address being exposed.
- Safe jurisdiction – NordVPN is based in Panama. Unlike the US and Europe, Panama does not have draconian copyright laws. NordVPN can simply ignore DMCA/copyright requests from other countries.
Additionally, NordVPN also has dedicated P2P servers. These servers are listed under the “Specialty servers” and are fast and ideal for torrenting. I tested out the NordVPN torrenting servers and everything worked well.
The NordVPN app will automatically connect to the fastest P2P server for a given country you select. Additionally, you can also manually connect to certain torrenting servers through the NordVPN app.
When torrenting with NordVPN, be sure to enable the kill switch to protect your IP address in case the connection drops. You can also find guides showing you how to setup NordVPN with uTorrent and BitTorrent clients on the NordVPN website.
Does NordVPN work in China? (Yes)
Many people are looking for the best VPN for China that will provide privacy and access to online content. In this case, NordVPN is a great choice. It offers built-in obfuscation features that will conceal VPN traffic and get around the Great Firewall of China.
To use NordVPN in China, simply connect to one of the Obfuscated servers in the VPN client. When you use one of these servers, the NordVPN client will automatically obfuscate your VPN traffic to make it appear as regular HTTPS encryption. This makes NordVPN a great choice for China or anywhere else that VPNs are blocked.
Can you get a dedicated IP address with NordVPN? (Yes)
Yes, NordVPN offers dedicated IP addresses which can be added on to your VPN subscription.
NordVPN also gives you the option to get a dedicated IP address, which may be beneficial in some use cases. They offer dedicated IP addresses for the following locations:
- United States (Buffalo, Los Angeles, Dallas)
- Germany (Frankfurt)
- United Kingdom (London)
- Netherlands (Amsterdam)
The cost for a static IP address from NordVPN is $70 per year, regardless of the location you choose. NordVPN is probably the best VPN for a static IP. You can purchase a dedicated IP address by contacting NordVPN support to arrange the IP location you want.
NordVPN review conclusion
I’ve been testing NordVPN for about five years now, as both a personal user and also for VPN reviews. This NordVPN review for 2020 is one of the best I’ve published, simply because of the good test results. With this level of performance, NordVPN is a premium VPN at a very reasonable price.
NordVPN has made major improvements over the past six months in many areas and continues to get better. Here’s what stands out to me with the latest review:
- Faster speeds and better reliability throughout the server network
- Improved application stability and features (CyberSec)
- Big security upgrades, to include an ongoing third-party audit and bug bounty program, rolling out self-owned servers, and converting the network to run only in RAM-disk mode
- Full support for the WireGuard protocol directly in the VPN apps
- More support for Netflix and other streaming services
While there are a few minor drawbacks, NordVPN is a solid choice and is one of our top recommendation in the best VPN report.
It’s great to see NordVPN continuing to improve and upgrade their service with the latest developments. If you want to test-drive this VPN, give it a shot with the coupon below.
On paper it's hard to beat a VPN service like NordVPN. It has a large and diverse collection of servers, an impressive arsenal of rarely seen tools, strong privacy and security practices, and approachable clients for every major platform. After a data breach, the company says it stepped up its security game, putting it in a good position for the future. Its challenge now is rebuilding trust, which takes longer than setting up new servers. Still, it's an excellent service, and one that performed well in our testing.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server controlled by the VPN service. All your web traffic is routed through this tunnel, meaning that no one—not even someone on the same network as you—can sneak a peek at your data. It also prevents malicious network operators from intercepting your information or using DNS poisoning techniques to trick you into visiting phishing pages. A VPN even protects your web traffic from being monitored by your ISP, which is critically important now that ISPs can sell anonymized user data.
NordVPN Pricing and Features
NordVPN offers four pricing tiers: $11.95 per month, $83.88 annually, $119.76 every two years, or $125.64 every three years. The company accepts credit cards, various anonymous cryptocurrencies, and PayPal, as well as other online payment methods.
As of this writing, the average price for a VPN service is about $10.10 per month and $73.05 per year, putting a NordVPN subscription well above most other VPN services. Some VPNs cost significantly less. Kaspersky Secure Connection, for instance, is just $4.99 per month. Windscribe VPN, alternatively, lets you build your own plan to fit your budget.
If that's still too pricey, a few free VPNs are worth considering, with ProtonVPN being foremost among them. While all free VPNs have some kind of limitation, ProtonVPN is the only one I've tested that doesn't limit the amount of data free subscribers can use. NordVPN has discontinued its free trial offering, stating that scammers were taking advantage of it. Instead, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You can use up to six devices simultaneously on NordVPN, though there are some limitations concerning connecting multiple devices to the same server at the same time. Most VPN services limit you to five simultaneous connections, but that's starting to change. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN allow an unlimited number of devices. Most services let you add more device slots to your subscription for a fee, but NordVPN does not give you that option.
One of the perks of using a VPN is that your actual IP address is hidden from the outside world. Some people may also want a static IP address, which NordVPN can provide for $5.83 per month ($69.96 per year). NordVPN offers dedicated IP addresses in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
There are several ways to establish a VPN connection, and my preference is for services that use the OpenVPN protocol, which is open source and therefore has been thoroughly examined for potential problems. NordVPN supports OpenVPN and my second-best choice, IKEv2/IPSec, on all platforms.
The new hotness in the world of VPN protocols is WireGuard. This technology is still under development, but NordVPN is already tinkering with the technology. I've done some limited testing of NordVPN's Linux implementation of WireGuard and the results were, frankly, astounding. A company representative informs me that WireGuard is now available in the company's iPhone app, too.
VPN Servers and Server Locations
Part of what you're paying for when you buy a VPN subscription is access the company's network of VPN servers. The best services offer lots of server locations, giving you many options for spoofing your location and improving the odds that there will be a server near your actual, physical location. That's important, because the closer you are to the VPN server you're using, the better performance you're likely to experience.
NordVPN lets you select one from a list of 59 countries. The bulk of NordVPN's servers are in the US and the UK, which is not unusual for VPN companies. However, NordVPN also has a good mix of servers the world over, covering several locations across Asia, Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and a handful in India and the Middle East. The company currently offers one location in Africa (South Africa), a region ignored by most other VPN services.
NordVPN provides good geographic diversity with its servers, but other VPN companies outshine it. ExpressVPN, for example, covers 94 countries.
One notable feature of NordVPN is that it has around 5,300 servers available. That's second only to CyberGhost's network of 5,900 servers. VPN services spin up new servers on an as-needed basis, so the total number of servers is partly a reflection of how popular a service is. Ideally, a large pool of servers ensures that no one server becomes overcrowded. You can't correlate performance directly to server count, but the sheer size of NordVPN's network suggests that you're unlikely to encounter an overburdened server.
While most of us think of a server as a physical box with computer guts inside, it's also possible to create multiple virtual servers hosted on a single, physical machine. Many VPNs use virtual servers to keep up with demand, but some VPNs configure their virtual servers to appear in a different country than the physical machine that hosts them. Virtual servers aren't necessarily a bad thing, but it should be clear to users where exactly their data is headed.
A NordVPN representative told me that all of its servers are dedicated, and none are virtual servers. That means that the servers are physically located where they claim to be. Other services approach virtual servers differently. ExpressVPN has three percent of its servers in locations other than where they are listed, and offers a list of those servers' true locations. HMA VPN, on the other hand, claims to have servers in 190 countries, but only has physical hardware in 56 sites.
VPNs are sometimes used to bypass government censorship by connecting to a VPN server in another country. We don't make a specific recommendation for a VPN to bypass government censorship, because the stakes of getting it wrong are simply too high. NordVPN does provide obfuscated servers designed to be accessible from within China.
Notably, NordVPN offers servers in Hong Kong, Turkey, and Vietnam, all of which have restrictive internet policies. Connecting to one of these servers will not bypass censorship, but it could provide a modicum of privacy when browsing the web within those countries.
NordVPN's best feature is the variety of additional tools it provides for improving your privacy. It and ProtonVPN are the only two VPN companies that provide direct access to the Tor anonymization network. This makes it even harder to trace your connection, and it lets you access hidden websites, though at greatly reduced speeds.
If Tor isn't already overkill (and in many cases, it is) NordVPN also offers multihop connections, which it calls Double VPN. This way, if one leg of the connection is somehow compromised, you can be assured that your connection is still secure. IVPN, Mullvad VPN, ProtonVPN, Surfshark VPN, and VPNArea all offer this feature. ProtonVPN is notable for the extreme lengths it goes to secure its multihop connections, in some cases storing secure servers in an old NATO bunker. Whether that's safer than the average server farm is open to discussion.
In addition to its network protections, NordVPN offers malicious site protection with the CyberSec tool. We don't test the efficacy of malicious site blocking, but it's nice to see. It is not, however, a replacement for standalone antivirus or a dedicated tracker blocker. NordVPN also offers standalone products: an encrypted file vault called NordLocker and the NordPass password manager.
2018 Server Breach
In October 2019, a Tweet storm surfaced alleging that NordVPN and TorGuard VPN servers had been breached in 2018. NordVPN confirmed that its VPN server in Finland had a remote access feature that the company was not aware of, which was used by an attacker to access this one server. The upshot is that the attacker could potentially have observed the traffic moving through that server, and used the TLS keys to launch a man-in-the-middle attack. NordVPN says there is no evidence that either event occurred, and would have been prohibitively difficult.
In this era, it's unfair to judge a company too harshly for security incidents because attacks are a frequent occurrence. It's better to judge a company on how it handles a security issue, rather than hold them to the impossible standard of perfection. And it's in that way that NordVPN fell short. The company took over a year to disclose the incident, and the only after being called out on social media. While a company representative tells me that NordVPN has learned its lesson about disclosing security events, it will take some time to rebuild its damaged reputation.
Since the breach was disclosed, NordVPN has taken several steps to improve its security and win back the trust of the public. In addition to the privacy practices outlined below, NordVPN has launched a bug bounty program with HackerOne, to reward people who disclose potential vulnerabilities.
The company has also made moves to harden its infrastructure. A company representative tells me that NordVPN is in the final stages of auditing the datacenters it contracts with and terminating relationships with vendors it deems unsafe. NordVPN is also building a network of collocated servers exclusively under the company's control. Additionally, NordVPN has pledged to undergo an audit of its infrastructure which, I am told, includes "the audit of infrastructure hardware, VPN software, backend architecture, backend source code, and internal procedures." In a similar vein, the company is switching to diskless servers, which are run only on RAM. That way, if a server is disconnected, there's nothing left to examine. This effort, I am told, is ongoing and rolling out "slowly."
Finally, NordVPN joined with several other VPN companies to form a trade group called the VPN Trust Initiative. Its aim, among other things, is to set standards for the industry, perhaps bringing some clarity to this rather opaque world.
These are all excellent improvements, and NordVPN will a better company for them. While all of these show a good-faith effort from NordVPN, most of these initiatives have yet to be completed.
For a much deeper dive into the breaches, please read NordVPN and TorGuardVPN Breaches: What You Need to Know.
Your Privacy With NordVPN
When you use a VPN, it has as much insight into your online activities as your ISP does. If it desired, it could examine every bit of information passing through its system. It also can potentially identify you to another party (read: law enforcement), making it possible to track you online. That's why it's important that before you buy a VPN subscription, you understand and are comfortable with the steps the company takes to safeguard your privacy.
In general, I'm satisfied with NordVPN's stance on privacy and the efforts it makes to protect customers. It is difficult, however, to fully endorse the privacy practices of any given VPN company. To do so would require deep access to the company's code and hardware, as well as the technical expertise to interpret it all. As always, however, you as the consumer should ask yourself whether or not you are comfortable with trusting any given company with your personal information.
NordVPN operates under the legal jurisdiction of Panama, where there are no laws requiring the company to retain data for any period of time. The company says that were it to be subpoenaed, it would only respond to a court order or subpoena issued by a Panamanian court. Furthermore, the company says it holds no information on user activity.
A representative from NordVPN assured me that the company does not profit from the sale of user data. The company does not generate revenue from sources other than customer subscriptions.
In November of 2018, NordVPN announced that it had passed a third-party audit of its no-log policy by PricewaterhouseCoopers, with a second audit. NordVPN has said it intends to do such audits annually. In October, 2019, the company also underwent an audit of its apps by VerSprite. Penetration testing revealed several vulnerabilities the company patched. NordVPN joins several VPN companies, including TunnelBear VPN, that are undertaking similar audits. We appreciate these efforts at improved security and transparency, though it's worth noting that not all audits are created equal. Still, NordVPN's continued efforts are laudable.
NordVPN also does not make it easy to find the name of its parent company, or information on corporate leadership, on its website. A company representative told me that it is owned by Tefincom S.A., however. NordVPN does not issue transparency reports about requests for informations by law enforcement, but does maintain a warrant canary that indicates it has not received any National Security letters, gag orders, or government-issued warrants. A company representative told me it has not received any government or law enforcement requests for information.
NordVPN says that its policy is to disclose any security incident "that involves the data of our customers immediately after the vulnerability is patched."
Security is really an issue of trust. Even if a company does everything right, it doesn't matter much if you, the customer, don't trust them. We recommend that consumers consider this information, and choose a service based on which company they feel they can trust.
Hands On With NordVPN
While you can always opt to manually set up your VPN, I highly recommend using apps provided by the VPN company. These are not only easier to use, they do all the hard work of staying up to date, and they let you access features beyond VPN protection that you simply can't get at via a manual installation. I used a Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) laptop running the latest version of Windows 10.
NordVPN has always offered an excellent user experience with its apps, regardless of the platform you use. The Windows client shares a lot of design features with the NordVPN mobile apps, with a monochrome blue map as its focus. It's a bit whimsical, with submarines and ships on the cartoon seas, but it's an easy way to select the server you want.
Clicking the Quick Connect option at the top of the screen or the System Tray connects you to the VPN server that NordVPN thinks is best (generally, the closest). That's a great option for people unfamiliar with VPN services. You can change servers by clicking a location on the map, or with the search bar at the top of the screen if your geography skills are lacking. NordVPN's specialized servers are at the top of the list, putting them within easy reach. I like that NordVPN gives you the option to drill down to specific cities and servers, and that it shows the current load on those servers.
NordVPN does not support split tunneling, which lets you designate which apps send their traffic through the VPN tunnel and which do not. It's useful for apps that require a more robust connection but don't need additional security, such as video games. TunnelBear($4.99 Per Month at TunnelBear) and ExpressVPN include this feature. The client also includes a Kill Switch that shuts off access to the internet for specific applications, should your computer become disconnected from the VPN.
One concern is that your VPN may be leaking your true IP address or DNS information. In my testing, NordVPN successfully changed my IP address and hid my ISP information. The DNS leak test tool indicated that the server I was connected to did not leak my DNS information.
NordVPN and Netflix
I am pleasantly surprised that Netflix did not block me from streaming content while I was connected to a US-based NordVPN server when I tested it. That's great, because Netflix blocks VPNs aggressively. Previously, I was able to stream content from Netflix while connected to NordVPN servers in Australia, Canada, Japan, and the UK. In the past, it has been the most compatible with Netflix, but that could change at any point as Netflix often manages to block services that previously worked well.
Speed and Performance
When you use a VPN, it will have an effect on your web browsing performance. To get a sense how great an impact a VPN has, we conduct a series of speed tests using the Ookla speedtest tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.) We explain our speed testing methodology in depth in our piece on How We Test VPNs.
In my testing, NordVPN performed very well while connected to a local server. It's in the top ten fastest VPNs. It reduced download speed test results by 63 percent and upload speed test results by 57.3 percent. My tests showed that NordVPN increased latency by 67.5 percent. NordVPN beats the median result in all categories, though it was very close in some cases.
You can see how NordVPN compares in the chart below with the top performers among the over 40 services we tested. Note that these are ranked by download results, in descending order.
My tests showed that Hotspot Shield VPN is the fastest VPN, having the smallest impact on both download speeds and latency. Surfshark VPN, notably, snuck in excellent upload speed test results. That said, speed alone shouldn't be the only criteria you use to choose a VPN. Value, ease of use, and a commitment to privacy are far more important factors.
NordVPN on Other Platforms
NordVPN supports Android, Chrome, Firefox, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. Notably, its iOS client supports WireGuard. NordVPN's mobile clients both allow you to purchase full subscriptions through their respective app stores. Alternatively, you can configure some routers to connect via NordVPN. Doing so supplies coverage for all the devices on your network, including smart home devices that can't run a VPN on their own.
NordVPN also offers plugins for Firefox and Chrome. Note that, like all proxy browser plugins, the NordVPN plug-ins only secure the traffic of those respective browsers.
An Excellent VPN
NordVPN has long been at the top of PCMag's ranking of VPNs, and it's easy to see why. It commands an enormous fleet of servers across the globe, and takes a kitchen sink approach to security features. It does all that while not ignoring the user experience, featuring simple, approachable apps that anyone can get the hang of in a few seconds. The company is also looking forward, incorporating new technology like WireGuard into its core products.
Historically, the only drawback to NordVPN has been its price, which is still significantly higher than the average. That all changed in 2019, when the details of a server breach from the previous year emerged. The threat to users from the breach is debatable, and the steps that the company has since taken to secure its infrastructure may mean that the company is on firmer footing for security and privacy than ever, but the enormous delay in disclosing the incident is far more concerning. Every product or company is going to have some kind of security failure eventually, what matters is how the failure is handled. NordVPN initially fell short in its response, and while it remains an excellent product, it now has to follow through on the fence-mending work of rebuilding trust.
Multihop and Tor connections.
Easy to use.
Allows up to six simultaneous connections.
Numerous server locations.
Blocks ads, other web threats.
Strong customer privacy stance.
Has had issues with server security.
The Bottom Line
NordVPN wraps a slick client around a strong collection of security features and an enormous network of servers. It's an excellent VPN that's working hard to rebuild its reputation after a breach.
Because of prime time television ads and sponsorship deals with the likes of Liverpool Football Club, NordVPN is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. NordVPN is certainly talking the talk, but can they walk the walk? Let's find out...
It accepts payment via credit/debit card. It also accepts Bitcoin, which allows for potentially anonymous payment. However, as always, please remember that NordVPN will know your true IP address, regardless.
Whether thanks to its Smart Play feature or not, a wide range of streaming services including Netflix and BBC iPlayer work flawlessly with the VPN connected in Windows and using the older Mac OSX OpenVPN client.
However, although NordVPN says Smart Play is enabled in all its apps, we could not access US Netflix using its new macOS IKEv2 app or its Firefox add-on. This VPN will also unblock YouTube videos that are restricted within your region.
We have now improved our speed testing algorithm to account for VPN services such as NordVPN whose software selects the best server for its users to offer improved speeds. This provides a much fairer comparison between this kind of setup and services that load-balance across a number of servers at a given location.
We decided to give the OpenVPN connection a bit more testing, and found the results were very server dependent, with many European servers proving faster than local UK ones. We did however sometimes have trouble connecting to some servers at all (most notably ones in the Netherlands). As far as reliability is concerned, we had no disconnections during our test period.
We also tested for IP leaks In Windows and using the new macOS IKE2 client we detected no IP leaks whatsoever. Using the older OSX OpenVPN client, though, we detected an IPv6 WebRTC leak. If you are a Mac user with an IPv6 connection, you should use the IKE2 client, disable IPv6 on your system, or disable WebRTC in your browser.
Ease of use
Signing-up for the service is a straight-forward affair. A valid email address is required, but there is no reason this cannot be a disposable one. Unless paying in Bitcoins, of course, NordVPN will know your payment details, anyway.
Once signed up, you will can download NordVPN’s software immediately, and will receive a confirmation email containing some useful links.
NordVPN provides custom GUI apps for Windows, macOS, Mac OSX, iOS and Android. It now even offers a command-line OpenVPN client for Linux. It also provides manual setup guides for all these platforms, plus Blackberry 10, Chromium, and various routers and NAS. These guides look a little on the bare-bones side, but should work well enough.
It is also possible to purchase a pre-configured NordVPN router from .
The NordVPN Windows client
The map is pretty. VPN newbies might find the Connection Wizard (bottom left) handy.
As we have already seen, there are lots of servers to choose from. These include many specialized servers.
There is a per-app kill switch. You can choose which apps will be shut down in the event of a VPN disconnection. This is very handy, but note that it is not a firewall-based kill switch. So if the NordVPN client itself crashes, the specified apps will not shut down, and can continue to access the internet.
DNS leak protection is enabled by default
The NordVPN Windows client, then, is very fully featured, looks good, and is easy to use.
The Mac clients
NordVPN offers two Mac clients: the older OpenVPN client for Mac OSX, and the newer IKEv2 client for macOS. The newer app is available to download from the App Store.
The older client features a kill switch, which the newer one doesn’t, but we detected a WebRTC IPv6 leak in the older app which we didn’t in the newer one. The older app also allows you to switch between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, which can be useful for defeating modest VPN blocks.
Other than that, neither app offers any features worth mentioning, which makes them much less fully featured than the Windows version of the software.
The Mobile apps
The NordVPN Android and iOS apps are very similar.
The apps look remarkably similar to the desktop clients. Which is a good thing
I detected no IPv4 or WebRTC leaks while using either app, but please bear in mind that I can't test for IPv6 leaks on mobile platforms at this time.
The browser add-ons
The Chrome and Firefox apps connect to a NordVPN's HTTPS proxy servers. They provide many of the benefits of a true VPN but limited to just the browser. These include spoofing your real location and encrypting your internet connection so that you cannot be spied on. Which can be very handy!
You need a full NordVPN account to use its browser add-ons. Interestingly, the Firefox add-on was able to unblock BBC iPlayer for me, but not US Netflix.
24/7 customer support is provided via a ticket system (web form), Facebook, Twitter, or email. A live chat option is also available. When I contacted support via live chat, I usually received an instant or very quick response.
In the past, I have found the quality of its support to be somewhat uneven, but NordVPN seems to have upped its game of late. So much so, in fact, that it won "Best Customer Service" award in our 2018 ProPrivacy.com Awards. NordVPN provided fast, detailed, and knowledgeable responses to our battery of customer service tests, so hats off to them for that.
A small knowledge-base plus various setup tutorials are also available. A regularly updated blog discusses internet security issues in general, plus NordVPN-specific topics.
While COVID-19 has been a thorn in the side of many businesses across the world, NordVPN has assured us that it is currently “working with full ammunition” and shouldn’t see interruptions to its service. This could change if the coronavirus pandemic worsens, but we recommend understanding where possible, as we all need to come together during this difficult time.
Privacy and Security
NordVPN is based in Panama and promises to keep no logs at all:
“NordVPN does not monitor, store or record logs for any VPN user. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses.”
Panama has a completely uncensored internet and zero government surveillance. It is also comfortably outside the direct influence of the NSA and GCHQ. Indeed, the simple fact that this no-logs VPN provider is based in Panama makes it one of the best choices available for privacy fanatics.
There has been a great deal of speculation on the internet of late of NordVPN ties to Lithuanian infrastructure provider Tesonet.
With so much unseemly mud-slinging on all sides, ProPrivacy.com prefers not to enter the debate at this time. But we are monitoring it and performing our own investigations. We will therefore update this review as necessary.
The NordVPN website uses a number of trackers, but these seem fairly benign and non-invasive. Importantly, there are no Google Analytics or Facebook trackers.
Please check out ProPrivacy.com’s VPN Review Process Overview for a discussion on website tracking.
All payments are handled by a company called CloudVPN, which is based in the United States. NordVPN explained the situation to us:
Being based in Panama has a downside. It complicates our ability to sign our apps, place them in stores and process our payments. Therefore, we've established a proxy based in the US, which in a nutshell acts only as our payment processor and has nothing to do with the actual service... It's not a third-party company, it's under our control, and we use it to process our payments. In short - we handle payments ourselves, just through another company.
VPN Protocols and Encryption
NordVPN can be configured using most common VPN protocols. OpenVPN is used by default in its Windows and older OSX clients, but its iOS and new macOS app use IKEv2 instead.
Both are solid protocols: OpenVPN is much more battle-tested than IKEv2 from a security standpoint, but IKE2 is also considered very secure and is faster than OpenVPN. NordVPN uses the following encryption settings for OpenVPN connections:
Data channel: an AES-256-CBC cipher with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication.
Control channel: an AES-256-CBC cipher with an RSA-2048 handshake and HMAC SHA256 data authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) is provided by a DHE-4096 key exchange.
This is a very strong setup.
NordVPN’s iOS VPN app uses IKEv2 with an AES-256-GCM cipher and HMAC SHA2-384 data authentication. PFS is provided by a DHE-3072 exchange. The Mac App Store software uses IKEv2 with Cisco’s NGE (Next Generation Encryption) protocol.
The NordVPN desktop apps have a system kill switch. This Windows VPN app also features a per-app kill switch. The iOS app features a kill switch. They all provide IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection, plus WebRTC leak protection. As we have seen, in our tests these features all performed well (IPv6 WebRTC leak on the OSX OpenVPN client excepted).
This feature allows you to “chain” VPN servers so that your data is routed between two VPN servers as it travels between you and the internet.
NordVPN offers several double VPN combinations.
Such chaining can provide some security benefits, but will always result in a major loss of speed. I think the privacy/security benefits of “double-hop” VPN servers are rather limited. But I understand that this is not a view shared by everyone. For those who value the feature, NordVPN is one of only a few providers to offer it.
Tor over VPN
For a full discussion on the pros and cons of using Tor over VPN (or Onion over VPN as NordVPN terms it). In this configuration, you connect first to a NordVPN server and then to the Tor network before accessing the internet:
NordVPN achieves this using an OpenVPN configuration file which transparently routes your data from the VPN tunnel to the Tor network. This means that your entire internet connection benefits from Tor over VPN.
This setup does offer some privacy and security advantages, but a similar effect can be achieved simply by using the Tor Browser while connected to the VPN. Crucially, such a setup is much more secure than the method offered by NordVPN.
Tor over VPN (however you do it) will seriously slow down your internet speeds as you get the combined hit of using both the Tor network (which is very slow) and the VPN.
XOR Obfuscated Servers
NordVPN runs obfuscated servers in a number of counties: the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, and Egypt. These use the XOR encryption algorithm to overcome VPN censorship blocks put into place by authoritarian governments.
XOR is often used by malware to hide from detection, but it also works just as well for hiding VPN ciphers! This means users in places such as China and Egypt should be able to access the open internet by connecting to one NordVPN’s obfuscated XOR servers.
CyberSec is a new feature. It blocks DNS requests based on a real-time blocklist of harmful websites that may host malware. As such, it should shield you against malware, help prevent botnet control, and block many intrusive web ads.
I can't comment directly on its effectiveness, but the principle is sound and there is no reason to believe it does not work as advertised.
This new feature will automatically initiate a VPN connection whenever a Wi-Fi network is joined. It can be set up to auto-connect to Nord on both secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
The VPN market is becoming increasingly competitive, with the result that many providers are becoming very generous with the number of devices they allow to connect at once. Permitting up to six simultaneous connections, NordVPN has joined this trend.
If you connect devices to the same server, you must choose different protocols for the VPN connections. OpenVPN TCP and UDP are counted as different protocols, so you can connect one device using TCP and another using UDP. We do not consider this to be a major limitation,
Unlike some providers, this VPN allows torrenting on all its servers, although it does not support port forwarding. It also doesn't support port selection, so you can't specify OpenVPN to run over TCP port 443 in order to bypass VPN censorship. This should not be necessary, however, as NordVPN offers Xor obfuscation instead.
NordVPN's use of mixed bare metal and virtual servers is not a big issue for us, although as with other VPN services, we do wish it clearly labeled which are which so that users can make an informed decision about the servers they connect to.
WireGuard (new April 2020)
Dubbed NordLynx, NordVPN has started rolling out support for the WireGuard protocol in its apps. We have only tested it in the macOS IKE client, but we understand that WireGuard support is being built into all its custom software. WireGuard is a lightweight but cryptographically secure new VPN protocol, which is widely regarded as the future of VPN technology. It should be noted that whatever its merits on paper, WireGuard is nowhere near as "battle-tested" as OpenVPN.
The Linux version of WireGuard recently exited beta and is to be included in all future Linux kernels. This bodes well for the protocol, but on all other platforms it remains in beta, and should, therefore, be regarded as experimental. OpenVPN or IKEv2 are still recommended for maximum privacy.
One of the biggest mooted advantages of WireGuard is that it is faster than most other VPN protocols. We put this to a quick-and-dirty test using speedtest.net, connecting to nearby VPN and test servers (showing download results only):
No VPN: 126.48 Mbit/s
OpenVPN: 63.49 Mbit/s
IKEv2: 70.8 Mbit/s
NordLynx: 76.88 Mbit/s
So that's a clear win for WireGuard!
Smart DNS (“Smart Play”)
Smart DNS is a technology that enables you to pretend to be elsewhere by resolving DNS requests at a specified location. This makes it ideal for streaming geo-blocked content.
According to NordVPN, users can access over 150 streaming services using NordVPN Smart Play. These include Hulu, Amazon Prime, ABC Go, Zattoo, Cartoon Network, Shudder, WeTV.com, Telemundo, VH1, Vevo, TNT Drama, Sundance.tv, StarTrek, Spike, PBS, Slacker, NBC Sports, FoodNetwork, DramaFever, Discovery, Crackle, and many more.
NordVPN’s implementation of Smart DNS is rather unusual. For a start, it uses an encrypted proxy connection. We are not sure what advantage this brings over an unencrypted connection, as Smart DNS is not really about security or privacy. On the other hand, though, it can't do any harm.
For a second, it requires no additional configuration. It runs inside all NordVPN’s apps (we are told), and when you are connected to a VPN server it detects whether the streaming service requires additional DNS routing. In practice, this meant that we could watch US Netflix even when connected to a non-US server. We have not tested, but NordVPN says all its UK servers now work for BBC iPlayer (both for mobile and desktop).
One downside of this setup is that you cannot configure NordVPN’s Smart DNS to run on devices that cannot run a VPN client: such as your smart TV, games console, or Roku.
Diskless RAM servers
As of May 2020 NordVPN is transitioning to diskless RAM servers, with around half of its infrastructure moved to the diskless setup. NordVPN tells us that "if everything goes as expected, the transition should be completed within a few months."
This is a great move, as it ensures no user data persist on a server once it has been rebooted. Booting from a read-only disk also helps to prevent security issues developing and persisting in servers.
NordVPN is the only VPN service we know of to offer a transparent and public bug bounty program. It is a founding member of the i2Coalition, which aims to improve standards and improve consumer trust across the VPN industry. NordVPN has also entered into a "strategic cooperation" with US cybersecurity consulting company VerSprite to improve its security handling and reduce risk to customers.
NordVPN offers a very fully featured service. The fact that it is based in Panama and keeps n1o logs is also a big draw for those who care about privacy. Its software looks good and works well.
Speed performance is an issue that has plagued NordVPN since its beginning. Implementing our new test algorithm did produce better results with some fairly decent average and max burst speeds.
The 30-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of opportunity to ensure that everything works for you as it should. What you get with NordVPN is a very fully featured, privacy-friendly VPN service with decent speeds and the ability to access restricted content on major streaming platforms such as Netflix.
Overall, we recommend NordVPN! But, if you're still not sure - why not compare NordVPN and ExpressVPN side-by-side?
NordVPN is rated 1st out of 78 VPNs on TheBestVPN.com
To sum up: NordVPN is a secure, fast and incredibly easy to use VPN.
Their VPN app uses the industry standard 256-bit AES encryption and OpenVPN tunneling protocol (by default).
Their server park is large, with 5300+ servers across 59 countries. This makes streaming videos and accessing blocked content a walk in the park. In our tests, Netflix streaming worked with over 90% of servers we tested. This is the highest, we’ve seen.
Since they have so many servers, it’s easy to find a fast performing server – especially important for torrenting. NordVPN also supports P2P & torrenting on all servers and also have an Onion over VPN feature for the ultimate privacy and anonymity.
NordVPN does not collect any logs and they operate out of a country with no data retention law (Panama).
Their pricing starts from $3.49 up to $11.95/mo depending on your subscription length.
|OVERALL RANK:||#1 out of 78 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Very Easy To use|
|LOG FILES:||Strict No Logging Policy|
|LOCATIONS:||59 countries, 5200+ servers|
|SUPPORT:||Live Chat (24/7)|
|TORRENTING:||P2P & Torrenting Allowed|
|NETFLIX:||Unblocks Netflix USA|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||256-bit AES/OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2|
1. The Biggest Server Park We’ve Seen
With over 5,200 servers across 59 countries, NordVPN automatically selects the best server based on location, loads, or your specific needs.
Take your pick from a plethora of servers from almost anywhere in the world.
2. Fast Speed on All Three Tests
Speed, along with the stability and consistency of that speed, is necessary when comparing VPNs to be sure that loss of speed is not significant, and to ensure a positive online experience.
Our benchmark ISP connection speed is 250Mbps down and 25Mbps up as you can see below.
I tested the download speed with NordVPN in three locations: two in the US and one in the UK. You’ll see in the results below that download speed was above 110 Mbps for all three tests, which is among the best VPN speeds with current VPNs. This speed and stability easily allow for torrenting and streaming.
New Jersey (Quick Connect: Fastest/Closest Location)
- Ping: 18ms
- Download: 131.44 Mbps
- Upload: 9.10 Mbps
- Ping: 18ms
- Download: 140.52 Mbps
- Upload: 11.28 Mbps
- Ping: 154ms
- Download: 110.82 Mbps
- Upload: 11.47 Mbps
3. 95%+ Servers Worked with Netflix
Since geo-locations and restrictions are often found with Netflix, NordVPN allows you to bypass these restrictions. When attempting to unblock Netflix with NordVPN, we found that while not all servers worked with Netflix because of Netflix’s crackdown of certain IPs that belong to VPNs, 14 out of 15 US servers work, 3 out of 3 CA servers work, and the UK server works. You can view the specific results below.
- 14/15 US servers work
- 3/3 CA servers work
- UK server works
I selected the region and connected to the fastest server.
- Manassas (US) – Yes
- San Francisco (US) – Yes
- Dallas (US) – Yes
- Chicago (US) – Yes
- Seattle (US) – Yes
- St. Louis (US) – Yes
- Phoenix (US) – Yes
- Los Angeles (US) – Yes
- Miami (US) – Yes
- Buffalo (US) – Yes
- Atlanta (US) – Yes
- New York (US) – Connection Issues/Proxy Detected
- Charlotte (US) – Yes
- Salt Lake City (US) – Yes
- Denver (US) – Yes
- Vancouver (CA) – Yes
- Toronto (CA) – Yes
- Montreal (CA) – Yes
4. Usability: An Extremely Smooth & Satisfying User Experience + Wide Range of Features
The 3-step process for signing up and installing NordVPN is extremely simple. First, head to NordVPN.com to choose your payment plan. You can choose between 1-month, 1-year, 2-year, and 3-year plans. Once you select and create an account with your billing information, you’ll be directed to the setup process you see below.
Be sure you have at least 19 MB of free space on your local drive. Choose which drive you would like to install NordVPN.
Select where you would like to create shortcuts for NordVPN. The setup wizard gives you the option to select between the desktop and start menu/finder folder, or both.
And it’s as easy as that! NordVPN has been installed. From here, you can automatically launch and begin using your VPN for secure browsing, streaming, and torrenting.
Once installed, NordVPN will provide an automatic software update if available. You can either choose to do so then or remind you of the update at a later time.
One feature of NordVPN is CyberSec, which you will be prompted to add after the completed install. This can further protect you against intrusive ads, malware, phishing attempts, and other threats.
While it is optional, there are three major benefits to enabling CyberSec:
- First, the main feature of CyberSec is integrated protection from phishing scams and major cyber threats. It immediately compares websites you’re browsing with known blacklists and will block your access if malware, spyware, or any malicious software is known.
- Second, CyberSec will protect from any DDoS attacks, even if malware has already begun to infect your device. CyberSec will immediately eliminate connection and communication between your device and the control server of the botnet.
- Third, CyberSec will hide any of those pesky pop-ups, autoplay ads with or without audio, and other distracting advertisements. This allows for faster load speed and an all-around better browsing experience.
NordVPN offers multiple types of specialty servers, allowing you to choose which best fits your needs:
- With dedicated servers, you can select an IP address that is unique to you and unable to be shared with any other NordVPN user, creating an even more secure browsing experience.
- Need extra security? NordVPN offers double encryption while sending your information through two secure VPN servers.
- Trying to load information abroad in a location with restricted internet access? With NordVPN, you can browse or stream using one of their obfuscated servers that gives you full access to the information you need right away.
- If you’re looking for even better security in protecting your data and behaviors online, NordVPN can be paired with The Onion Router, or Tor, that enables anonymous communication and protects from traffic analysis.
- Have no limit on peer-to-peer file sharing with NordVPN, with no bandwidth threshold or activity tracking.
NordVPN’s features create a secure online experience for you, whether it’s protecting you while on a public Wi-Fi network or giving you access to any content while traveling. While NordVPN’s setup and use are extremely simple, their 24/7 support is one of the strongest features that will help you along the way.
Military-Grade Encryption and Data Protection
NordVPN’s military-grade encryption protects your connection to the internet and ensures your privacy, but not just from hackers. Did you know that internet service providers often track your internet usage to sell that data to advertisers? As well, any of your internet usage and traffic can be summoned by the government for your activity logs. Any time you are connected to the web, these logs and activities are being tracked, unless you use a VPN. With this military-grade encryption, your data, IP address, and location are entirely private.
Many people think they may not have anything to hide, but so much of your data can be used against you without you knowing. Your medical history, banking information, work emails, etc. can all be at risk of being accessed when not using a VPN. NordVPN uses an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys, which is recommended by the NSA for securing any classified and top-secret information.
Nord VPN also uses two different VPN protocols. However, there is no need for you to determine which is best for you since NordVPN aims to make using their VPN easy. The IKEv2/IPsec protocol is default for iOS and macOS apps, while the OpenVPN is the default for Windows, macOS, and Android apps. This means that macOS users can choose between the two, but both are dependable and recommended by NordVPN.
One is good enough, but two is even better! With NordVPN, you have the option to enable Double VPN, which means as your traffic passes through the first remote VPN server to be encrypted, it passes through a second VPN server to be encrypted a second time before reaching your online destination securely. This allows for double encryption, increased security, and IP address privacy and protection.
While not everyone needs Double VPN, you have the option to protect your communications and information securely with this feature. NordVPN recommends disabling it for private everyday browsing, when you need high-speed internet, and for browsing the Tor network. Double VPN is included in the NordVPN subscription package (and can be enabled whenever you feel it is needed) in their Android, macOS (OpenVPN), and Windows apps.
No Logging Policy
Using a VPN keeps your online activity and logs completely private. With NordVPN’s no-log policy, they promise that no logs are kept of connections or usage, which means no connection timestamps, no IP addresses, and no traffic data. They go a step further to accept multiple cryptocurrencies for payment to ensure you leave no trace of who you are.
However, they do monitor some lesser important data, such as:
- Service performance data (for recommending most suitable servers)
- E-mail address
- Payment data (but you can also use bitcoins)
That’s the regular stuff that most (if not all) VPN providers are logging and it’s nothing you should be worried about. Especially when NordVPNs payment processor isn’t tied up with their main company. If you want to, you can read their logging policy.
NordVPN ensures your greatest protection with their Kill Switch feature. This is an advanced security measure that immediately blocks your device from accessing the web if your connection to the VPN server is dropped. NordVPN will continue to keep you blocked until the VPN tunnel is restored or you manually disabled the Kill Switch.
Internet Kill Switch
App Kill Switch
DNS Leak Test
If you are running Windows or have set up a VPN manually, your system can revert to the default Domain Name System (DNS) servers, allowing your ISP to see what websites you are visiting. Oftentimes, you may not even know a leak like this has happened unless you choose a VPN service that guarantees DNS leak protection.
With NordVPN, your devices only use DNS servers operated by NordVPN, so you don’t have to worry about your information leaking and being sold to third parties. As well, NordVPN promises that if you test and still see a DNS leak with NordVPN, they will immediately help to sort out any issue.
NordVPN supports simultaneous connections and allows you to secure up to six devices with one account, no matter what operating system you use. What is great about NordVPN as well is that you can connect to your router, which allows you to secure every device connected to that network, while only using one of the six available spaces.
5. Torrenting/P2P Supported + Onion Over VPN Special Feature for Tor Users
NordVPN allows peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic on certain servers, but you will need to find which server to connect to with their server recommendation feature. With this option, you instantly get a suggestion for the best server for you. For further security, if you connect to other NordVPN servers using P2P, the app will automatically reroute you to servers in Canada or the Netherlands.
With NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN feature, you gain the advantage of Tor combined with the security of a VPN tunnel. The Onion Router (Tor) allows you to browse while hiding your identity, but the entry node can still see your real IP address. Using the Onion Over VPN feature, not even the entry node can see your IP address.
Have complete anonymity while using Tor, as NordVPN keeps third parties from seeing that you use Onion and does not track your online activity. Onion servers are often volunteer-operated which means that anyone can run them, which allows you to be open to attack. Onion Over VPN ensures that you are fully protected from these attacks while still securing your anonymity.
6. Absolutely No Leaks Found In Five Tests
For this VPN review, I ran IP and DNS leak tests to ensure that NordVPN’s claims were accurate. I used:
You can see the full results below. Every test ensured our confidence, as well as NordVPN’s claims, on their leak testing and protection.
IPLeak.net Test – No Leak
VirtualTotal.com Report – Scan on the Installer
There were no viruses detected in the installer package.
7. Jurisdiction & Location – Panama (Great For Privacy, No Data Retention Law)
NordVPN is based and operated under the jurisdiction of Panama. Because of their “no mandatory data retention” law, NordVPN does not need to store any logs.
There are no obligations in which NordVPN is required to keep the activity or communication logs of its users.
8. Knowledgeable Customer Support via Live Chat
NordVPN can be contacted by [email protected] or through live chat.
Even after reviewing over three dozen different VPN providers, hundreds of hours of testing, examining and reviewing, we still have questions or need for technical assistance. Whether it’s to double check the encryption offered for your router, or a simple troubleshoot on a newly built rig, you will be forced to deal with the customer support of your VPN of choice.
If you’re a newcomer or not technically inclined? You might have some technical questions. Any VPN worth their salt will have a prolific database of tutorials, how-to guides and informational articles in addition to live chat & quick email support.
Live Chat & Email
No different to the best of the best, NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat that will assist you with any question you may have. I used their live chat twice, for an encryption question and an open-ended question.
Both times the Customer Support Rep was quick to help, but came with copy & paste answer. Should you opt to use their email support, for more technical questions or if the live chat agent did not fully resolve your issue, you’ll receive another assistant who will help you with your VPN.
Just as important as live assistance for minor questions is the vast directory of support articles you will have access to. For a topic as technical as networking, making it accessible to your everyday layman is no small task.
After going through their directory and quickly skimming to any support related page I could find, I estimate NordVPN to have well over 500 guides and tutorials.
9. Great VPN for Gaming
NordVPN excelled once again. They had fast server connections, good stats and we had zero issues while gaming. Besides being awesome at gaming related stuff they are also our overall top-rated provider.
Haste Game Recap
While connected with their Quick Connect feature, NordVPN had a connection speed almost identical as without VPN. Ping was down only 5.1ms and a total Packet Loss was a mere 0.1%.
- Ping: 54.9ms (+5.1ms)
- Jitter: 1.3ms (+0ms)
- Packet Loss: 0.1% (+0.1%)
In our test, the ping climbed from 7ms without VPN to 22ms with VPN, which in all honestly was not even noticeable. Download speed loss was 1.31Mbps and Upload loss was 0.20Mbps.
- Ping: 22ms (+16ms)
- Download: 19.64Mbps (-1.45Mbps)
- Upload: 2.12Mbps (-0.67Mbps)
We also took a look at the Apex Legend’s own servers to guarantee that we are always connected to the best server available. The best ping happened to be their Amsterdam server, coming in with 58ms.
Playing on US Servers
Of course, when connecting so far away there is going to be a delay in your connection. Just based on the physical distance the data has to travel there is going to be a loss on connection time, nothing a VPN provider can do about that. But what they can do is minimalize extra time on their end, and NordVPN has done it very well. Here are some stats about our connection to the US server.
- Ping: 132.6ms (+82.8ms)
- Jitter: 3.3ms (+2.0ms)
- Packet Loss: 0.0%
- Ping: 128ms (+122ms)
- Download: 11.27Mbps (-9.82Mbps)
- Upload: 2.00Mbps (-0.79Mbps)
Gaming Session Recap
- Ping (EU to EU): 54.9ms (+5.1ms)
- Long Distance Connection PING (EU to US): 128ms (+122ms)
- Download: 19.64Mbps (-1.45Mbps)
- Upload: 2.12Mbps (-0.67Mbps)
1. Apple iTunes/App Store Purchases Will Not Be Refunded
Unfortunately, NordVPN notes that if you purchase NordVPN through the Apple iTunes/App Store, refunds must be requested with iTunes/App Store support and cannot be processed directly with NordVPN. In addition, payments made using any prepaid or gift cards cannot be refunded. NordVPN cannot process purchases made through resellers, including Amazon, BestBuy, StackSocial, etc.
Pricing: Subscription Plans, Payment Options, and Money-Back Guarantee
NordVPN offers tiered pricing depending on the length of the plan you can commit to. Beginning with their one-month plan at $11.95 per month and going all the way to $3.49 per month if committing to three years billed annually, NordVPN has a very clear pricing policy with no hidden fees. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for all pricing packages.
- Monthly: $11.95/mo ($143.4 per year)
- 1-Year: $6.99/mo ($83.88 per year)
- 2-Year: 4.99/mo ($59.88 per year)
- 3-Years: $3.49/mo ($41.88 per year)
With one plan, you can secure up to six devices, including a smart TV and router.
All those subscriptions come with a one-size-fits-all plan. Including:
- No logging: Yes.
- Ease of the VPN software: Signing up and using the app was VERY user-friendly.
- Hidden fees & clauses: They cannot grant refunds if you purchased an app directly through the iTunes/App Store. Payments made using pre-paid cards or gift cards will not be refunded.
- Upsells: No upsells.
- DNS leaks: None.
- Jurisdiction: Panama
- Protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec, PPTP & L2TP.
- Kill-switch: Yes.
Personally, I am all in favor of simplicity and fairness when it comes to pricing. Give me one plan all-inclusive plan and a few payment options and I’m happy. What’s more, they don’t set a bandwidth limit like many free VPNs.
Along with all major credit cards and payment services, NordVPN accepts multiple cryptocurrencies for payment. PayPal is currently not supported.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for any accounts that are in good standing. Simply contact their customer support team, which is available 24/7, to request a refund.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend NordVPN?
NordVPN has been one of the leading VPN providers with the best security. As you can see throughout this NordVPN review, the reasons for their popularity are valid. It’s secure, fast, and easy to use, with some amazing features to ensure your data and information are always protected. That’s why they take the first place on our list of VPNs.
Also, with a customer support team like NordVPN’s, you’ll never have to feel alone in ensuring you’re browsing securely.
I absolutely recommend NordVPN if you’re looking for a great solution for an even better price!