Simply one of the best VPNs for privacy and security on the Web
If you’re looking for a top-notch VPN, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better service than NordVPN. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top VPN providers, with over 5,225 NordVPN servers across 60 countries. Offering 256-bit military-grade encryption, robust torrenting support, and optional Double VPN protection — it’s no wonder this Panama-based VPN provider is popular with millions of privacy-driven Web surfers around the world.
What We Like
- Choose from over 5,200 servers in 60 countries
- One of the best VPNs for streaming Netflix catalogs
- Quick Connect button, dedicated P2P servers, enhanced security
- Works on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Android TV
- Encrypted proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox
- Ad blocking and malware protection
What We Don’t Like
- No free trial (only a 30-day money-back guarantee)
- To get the best price of $3.49/month, you have to commit for three years
- The 30-day money-back guarantee does not apply to purchases from Apple’s App Store or authorized resellers
- The company admitted to a security breach that happened in March 2018 (one of the data centers in Finland was access without authorization)
We thoroughly tested NordVPN to see if its reputation is all it’s cracked up to be. Among other things, we evaluated how easy it was to set up and use, cost and speed, as well as encryption options to determine if it’s worth buying a subscription. (Spoiler alert: Yes).
In October 2019, NordVPN confirmed an expired internal private key was exposed. This allowed hackers unauthorized access to one of its servers in Finland. However, the company assured users that customer data was not exposed and the problem has been corrected. Due to this, we have revised our original star rating to take this circumstance into account, even though it is still a reputable service that many use and recommend.
Setup Process: Simple and straightforward
We found the setup process for NordVPN to be exceptionally easy and straightforward. From the NordVPN website, download the appropriate software for your device and operating system, and follow the installation steps on your screen. With NordVPN, you don’t need to download any extra configuration files or do any additional tweaking to the program to make it work. It works right of the “box,” and we like that a lot.
Design: User-friendly and intuitive
NordVPN’s engineers have taken complex VPN technology and made it simple to use — even if you’ve never used a VPN before. The desktop interface is clean, sleek, and intuitive.
To get started, you simply use the Quick Connect button at the top, or manually select which country you want to connect to. NordVPN automatically selects the best server for you, connecting you in seconds. The visually-based interface also features a map that shows the location of your server (in green). At any time while surfing, you can choose another server (in blue) without your internet connection being dropped.
Once you’re connected, you’re protected. You can check the connection status at the top of the screen or in your computer’s menu bar.
Performance: Excellent, with minor blips
With NordVPN, the connection and surfing speeds are excellent. We were able to achieve connection speeds of 229Mbps on a 300Mbps connection, so this is a VPN that isn’t likely to slow you down much.
We did notice a slight lag when opening up new web pages, but it was minor and did not significantly detract from the browsing experience. (In the case of one banking website unable to load, switching the server quickly resolved the issue.)
We were able to achieve connection speeds of 229Mbps on a 300Mbps connection, so this is a VPN that isn’t likely to slow you down much.
Embedded videos loaded quickly, and there was virtually no buffering or freezing. We also viewed videos on news sites such as CNN, plus movie-length videos on YouTube and paid streaming services like Amazon Prime. For faster streaming, NordVPN gives you the option of UDP over TCP (User Datagram Protocol over Transmission Control Protocol), which is faster than TCP and provides reduced latency.
With such a large variety of high-quality servers, NordVPN is even suitable for most types of gaming. When connecting to a West Coast server from the East Coast, we noticed a marginal 1ms increase in ping, zero packet loss, and just 5.56ms jitter.
Streaming: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and more
Streaming services typically try to block VPN connections whenever they can, but NordVPN is consistently ahead of the curve. NordVPN provides a number of dedicated streaming servers that provide the kind of speed, reliability, and compatibility with streaming services that you need to keep up with your favorite shows without worrying about region locked content.
During our hands-on testing, we were able to watch Netflix when connected to U.S., Japanese and U.K. servers, BBC iPlayer when connected to U.K. servers, and Hulu when connected to U.S. servers. NordVPN’s streaming servers do get caught and blocked from time to time, just like any VPN, but our overall streaming experience was very positive.
During our hands-on testing, we were able to watch Netflix when connected to U.S., Japanese and U.K. servers.
NordVPN is strategically located in Panama, which is considered a privacy haven thanks to having its own laws and jurisdiction. Specifically, Panama isn’t subject to U.S. data retention laws or the EU DRD (Data Retention Directive). This allows NordVPN to guarantee their strict no logs policy, making it a safe haven for privacy-seekers, torrenters, and anyone looking to circumvent surveillance and draconian censorship laws.
From the NordVPN website: “NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data.”
While NordVPN’s billing provider is based in the U.S. (primarily to prevent payments from being flagged), it has nothing to do with the VPN service itself.
Security Features: Extensive and impressive
When it comes to security, NordVPN goes above and beyond the usual VPN service. Whether you’re a casual Web surfer, work with sensitive data, or a need to keep your information out of the hands of the government — NordVPN offers multi-pronged protection over a variety of platforms.
NordVPN’s enhanced security features include:
- Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): NordVPN uses military-grade AES with 256-bit keys. To break this, you would need supercomputers running for billions of years.
- Strict No-Logs Policy: NordVPN does not keep or save details about you and your online activity for any reason.
- Automatic Kill Switch: NordVPN’s kill switch provides continuous monitoring of your VPN server connection. If it drops for any reason, the Kill Switch blocks your device or specified apps from accessing the Web.
- DNS (Domain Name System) Leak Protection: With NordVPN, your device will only use DNS servers operated by NordVPN, not leaked to DNS servers at your ISP.
- Onion Over VPN (Tor): This is an exclusive NordVPN security feature that gives you the advantages of The Onion Router (Tor) combined with the security of a VPN tunnel.
- CyberSec: This is an optional feature in the NordVPN settings that automatically blocks ads and malware.
An Extra Security Feature: Double VPN
Besides the above security features, NordVPN also offers something called Double VPN. Just like the name sounds, Double VPN doubles your level of encryption. With Double VPN, your data traffic flows through two VPN servers, not just one. For anyone who needs a high level of online security and privacy, this feature can be invaluable. This might include journalists and political activists who need to protect their activities and sources from the government.
NordVPN is a safe haven for privacy-seekers, torrenters, and anyone looking to outsmart surveillance and geo-restrictions.
Torrenting: Plenty of P2P servers, and a kill switch
NordVPN offers exceptional support for Peer-to-Peer (P2P) traffic, offering over 4,433 active P2P servers in around 40 countries. Just choose the P2P option on the left-hand side of the menu, and you’ll automatically be connected to the best servers for torrenting. It probably goes without saying that if you torrent, always use a reliable and highly secure VPN service.
NordVPN offers exceptional support for Peer-to-Peer (P2P) traffic, offering over 4,433 active P2P servers in around 40 countries.
For added security, NordVPN offers a kill switch feature. This feature automatically shuts down all P2P traffic if your connection to the VPN is interrupted. This ensures that your real IP and identity won’t be revealed in the event that you are ever momentarily disconnected from NordVPN while torrenting.
Ad Blocking: DNS level ad blocking through CyberSec
The NordVPN app includes CyberSec, which is a feature that blocks ads, dangerous websites, and even protects you from botnets. It blocks ads at the DNS level, so you don’t even have to worry about your browser providing any compromising information to an unscrupulous ad server.
CyberSec is available through the Windows, macOS, iOS, and Linux NordVPN apps. It’s also built into the Android app, but that version is a little different. Due to Google’s policies regarding apps in the Play Store, the NordVPN Android app protects you from malicious sites but doesn’t block ads.
Customer Service: Live chat and e-mail
NordVPN offers a live chat option for customer service that’s available around the clock. If your issue is less pressing, or you just prefer asynchronous communication, they also provide an email-based ticket system. Agents may take up to 48 hours to reply through the ticket system, so make sure to take advantage of the live chat option if you have a problem that needs to be fixed right away.
Price: Very reasonable
In terms of pricing, NordVPN is very reasonably priced for all the features and options you get. Offering a choice of monthly, one-year, two-year, and three-year plans, you can get your monthly cost down to as low as $4.08/month (which works out to about 13 cents per day — a bargain by any standard). But if you’re not ready to commit to a longer term, you can still buy a monthly plan for just under $12, which is still an inexpensive 40 cents a day.
Competition: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN
You’ll often find NordVPN and ExpressVPN competing against each other, but there are some differences between the two services. For starters, NordVPN is the overall cheaper option, with plans starting as low as $3.49/month. The best-discounted price you can get for ExpressVPN is $8.32/month for a yearly plan.
Both services offer unique security features that don’t overlap. For example, NordVPN has Double VPN, while ExpressVPN has a split-tunneling option that allows you to route traffic over both encrypted and unencrypted connections.
When it comes to available platforms, you’ll probably get more choices with ExpressVPN, which even has apps for Kindle Fire and Nook. Both companies offer a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can take a test run and compare.
One of the best VPNs for your buck.
Offering multitudes of servers around the world, super-fast speeds, Tor, Double VPN, excellent torrenting support, the ability to unblock almost any website — and all of this at a reasonable cost — you’ll have a hard time finding a better service.
- Product Name: NordVPN
- Price: $3.49
- Speed (Fastest Observed): 229.37 Mbps (Tested on a 1Gbps connection)
- Operating Systems: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Android TV
- Devices: Six devices at a time
- Server Locations: 60 Countries
- Number of Servers: 5,200+
- Streaming: Dedicated servers, tested Netflix (US, Japan, UK), BBC iPlayer, and Hulu (US)
- Torrenting: Yes (optimized P2P servers)
- Encryption: 256-bit OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPSec
- Logging: No logs policy, transparency reports available
- Jurisdiction: Panama