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NordVPN review

A quality VPN, but one with past security issues: our NordVPN review

NordVPN review
(Image: © NordVPN)

Our Verdict

NordVPN is a fast, cost-effective VPN with P2P-optimized servers, Bitcoin support and a host of great privacy and security features. It’s easy to use too, even for beginners. Server hacks led to this losing points in 2020, but it's otherwise fantastic.

For

  • Affordable and feature-packed
  • Wide server coverage
  • Double encryption
  • Privacy audited no-logging claims

Against

  • Torrenting not supported on all servers
  • Hacked in 2018
NordVPN: at a glance

Best for: High security, 
speed, streaming
Price range: $2.99-$11.95
Location: 60 countries 
Servers: 5,600+
Netflix: Unblocks Netflix
Torrenting: P2P and torrenting
Logging: No logging policy
Number of devices: Six, 
unlimited with a router
Operating systems: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, routers
Browser extensions: Chrome, Firefox

While creating our NordVPN review for 2020, we had a few things to consider. There's no doubt that Nord is a fantastic VPN provider, and it remains one of our favorites, but in 2018 it suffered a security breach that saw the brand lose some user trust. NordVPN announced that it had a security breach at one of its many servers in March 2018, and while it maintains that activity logs, usernames and passwords remained secure however some parts of some of its users' search history was potentially exposed.

If anything, the attack has led to redoubled efforts on security, which means you're getting a very diligent and security-conscious service here. Combine that with all the other features on offer, and you're getting one of the best VPN services available. Here's all you need to know.

NordVPN review: Privacy

NordVPN guarantees its users anonymity and privacy with the use of the AES-256-GCM encryption algorithm, as well as IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN protocols. Furthermore, the company has released a press statement announcing the testing of WireGuard, a new VPN protocol aiming to become a worthy alternative to the IPSec and OpenVPN.

Features like Onion Over VPN, which combines all the advantages of The Onion Router (Tor) with the regular VPN tunnel, and Double VPN, which makes sure your internet traffic goes through two separate VPN servers, add additional levels of security.

In accordance with the common no-logs policy, NordVPN also promises not to keep track of, collect, or share your private information with third parties. As mentioned above, the company’s no-logging policy was subject to an independent audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which confirmed the quality of NordVPN’s infrastructure, services, and privacy policies. NordVPN is also registered in Panama, a country that has no data retention laws, so all your sensitive data is safe from prying eyes.

Nord VPN review: Features and apps

NordVPN is one of the few providers that's able to match the mighty ExpressVPN in terms of features. Available on a long list of platforms that includes Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, as well as IPFire, Sabia, Tomato Firmware, and EdgeRouter, NordVPN has several VPN levels to choose from. 

In addition to standard and P2P servers, it offers dedicated IP servers, double VPN servers, obfuscated servers, as well as Onion Over VPN servers. NordVPN also has a standard automatic kill switch which prevents your sensitive information from becoming exposed if the VPN connection breaks. 

An interesting addition to the mix is CyberSec, NordVPN’s version of ad blocker. Not only does it remove all annoying advertisements, but it also blocks suspicious websites which could contain malware. What’s more, if your device has already been infected, CyberSec will prevent its participation in DDoS attacks.

Another important feature that separates NordVPN from the rest of the crowd is its access to services not available in all regions, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, certain Youtube content, etc. NordVPN’s SmartPlay technology enables you to watch such geo-restricted content without issues that affect viewing experience, like bandwidth throttling, incessant buffering, and slow connection speed. 

It’s one of the best services for P2P and torrenting. However, such traffic is only available on certain servers. The provider’s website has a tutorial on proper server selection for torrenting.

NordVPN review: good deals can be had

You can often find a good deal on NordVPN (Image credit: NordVPN)

NordVPN has apps suitable for a wide array of devices and platforms including: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Windows Phone, Chromebook, Routers, BlackBerry, Raspberry Pi and QNAP.

A lengthy list of more than 50 tutorials explains how to manually set up the service, and includes coverage of a further 20 platforms and device types (Chrome OS, Windows Phone, Raspberry Pi, routers, NAS devices, more). The website also has tutorials for setting up NordVPN as a SOCKS5 or browser proxy for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer, Skype, BitTorrent, uTorrent, Deluge, and Vuze.

NordVPN review: Speed

We ran manual speed checks from a dedicated server in the US. Peak performance was excellent, with speeds ranging from 90-100Mbps. UK speeds averaged at 80Mbps, as did near European countries, while Asia and Australasia peaked at 45Mbps, with Malaysia and Indonesia dropping to 5Mbps. 

Although connection failures happen now and then, the connection and download speeds are quite consistent with minimal latencies recorded. Download speeds tend to drop a bit for servers further away, as expected. The download speeds are also negatively affected by the Onion Over VPN, which is again expected as the traffic goes through another layer of security. If you're looking for speed, something like Hotspot Shield is a slightly better option.

NordVPN review: Pricing

NordVPN is very cost-effective, with more pricing models than its competitors. NordVPN also offers a 15% student discount for its three-year plan, and its Nonprofits program offers eligible organizations and individuals VPN subscriptions at reduced prices. On top of that, the company also provides a free emergency VPN access upon request, in extreme cases of censorship or online privacy violations.

Monthly plans start at $11.95 per month, or go for a year and pay $6.99 per month. There is also a three year plan that works out at $3.49 per month.

NordVPN accepts multiple payment options, including credit cards and cryptocurrencies. You can test the service for free as part of a seven-day free trial. The only catch is that it includes an automatic one-month subscription that is billed after the free trial. If you want to avoid being billed for the whole month, you need to cancel the subscription before the trial ends. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the service.

NordVPN review: Customer support

Another thing that makes NordVPN one of the top VPN services is its customer support. The company’s experts are available at any time of day or night and can be reached through live chat and email. NordVPN is extremely easy to get around, even for beginners. That said, if you do get stuck while using it, be sure to visit NordVPN’s help section or contact the friendly user support for help.

The client setup is easy. All you need to do is download the app from the website or an app store, enter your sign-in information and you’re good to go. Before you can do this though, you need to setup your account, which is also a piece of cake and can be done via the website. 

If you need help, there are more than 50 tutorials at your disposal to guide you through every little detail, including setting up VPN on your router to protect each and every device in your home or office, even those that don’t support VPN by themselves. Router counts as only one device.

NordVPN review: a great all-rounder

NordVPN is a great all-rounder (Image credit: NordVPN)

Should I buy NordVPN?

If we disregard some minor connectivity issues, NordVPN is a high-quality contender to the VPN throne, thanks to a set of valuable features focused on privacy and security. It is very cost-effective, especially considering the large number of servers scattered around the globe, the range of platforms supported, and multiplicity of features. 

This sturdy platform offers one of the highest server counts on the market, accompanied by access to a wide range of geo-blocked services and a proven no logs policy. Its reasonable prices and friendly customer support place it among the industry leaders. Moreover, its strict no-logs policy is more than empty words, as it was confirmed in a public audit. The security breach in 2018 has, if anything, strengthened NordVPN in features, if not in trust.