NordVPN Review

Last updated: September 20, 2021

Your personal information is at stake when you connect to the web. Anyone snooping on your connection can see what you’re doing and steal sensitive information.

One way to protect your identity online is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) — software that establishes a secure and encrypted connection over the internet.

You’ve likely heard of NordVPN. As one of the leading VPN providers, NordVPN offers a secure way to browse the web anonymously from all your devices.

But is NordVPN right for you?

To help you make an informed decision, we put together this in-depth NordVPN review where we’ll look at the different features they offer and more. If you decide to look at other options on the market, we’ll also cover two leading alternatives.

Get NordVPN here

What to look for in a VPN

Choosing a VPN is no different than shopping for any other product — you look at your options and weigh the features against how much you’re willing to pay.

But you’ll have to know what to look for in the first place to make an informed decision. That can be challenging as a new VPN user, given how technical VPNs are.

illustration showing a woman searching using a VPN

Here’s what you should look for when choosing a VPN service.

Fast connections

Factors like server locations, security protocols, and network load affect internet speeds. The good news is these factors are mitigated when you choose a fast VPN.

In some cases, a VPN can even increase your connection speed. This can happen if your Internet Server Provider (ISP) throttles your internet connection based on your online activity.

Look for a VPN company that offers fast browsing performance. They should also have an extensive network of available servers you can connect to.

Advanced security

Choosing the fastest VPN shouldn’t be your only concern. Encryption protocols and privacy policies are equally important.

Look for a VPN with the following security features:

  • 256-bit encryption: Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption is so secure that it would take millions of years for a supercomputer to crack.
  • No logs: A no-log VPN means that they don’t store or “log” any information that could be traced back to you.
  • Kill switch: A kill switch or network lock automatically disconnects your device from the internet if your VPN connection drops.
  • DNS leak protection: Data about the websites you visit can be exposed in what’s called a “DNS leak.” Look for a VPN that operates its own private and encrypted DNS servers to protect against these leaks.

Server locations

VPNs allow you to circumvent geo-blocking restrictions that some countries have in place. For example, China blocks Facebook and a number of other social media sites.

Some streaming services also use geo-blocking technology to limit access to certain types of content. That means you may not be able to access certain shows if you’re traveling abroad.

Look for a VPN with servers in different locations around the world. This will allow you to “change” your location, making it appear that you’re accessing the web from a specific location.

Unlimited bandwidth

Some VPNs have free plans with bandwidth limits. While this might be ideal for occasional use, you’ll want to opt for a VPN that has no bandwidth restrictions.

This will allow you to securely browse the web without worrying that your connection will cut off if you use up your available bandwidth.

Device compatibility

Chances are, you use a multitude of devices that connect to the internet.

Look for a VPN that supports the devices you use. This will allow you to keep your personal data safe whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, desktop, or streaming device.

Pricing

The prospect of using a free VPN is certainly appealing. But just know that you’re putting your online safety at risk when using a free VPN.

Operating a VPN isn’t cheap as there are high overhead costs. To cover these costs, some VPNs may offer services for free at the cost of your privacy. Free VPNs may sell your personal information or even inject ads into your browser.

A good VPN costs money, but it’s worth it.

Ask yourself which costs less: Paying less than a hundred bucks a year for a secure VPN or having to deal with identity theft because someone stole your bank details?

Now that you have a better idea of what to look for, here’s our NordVPN review.

NordVPN review

Nord VPN pros and cons

What we liked

  • Over 5,400 servers in 59 countries
  • Extra security with Double VPN and Onion over VPN
  • Connect up to six devices simultaneously with one account
  • No-log user policy

What we weren’t so sure about

  • Above-average prices compared to other VPNs
  • Performance can be hit or miss on some servers
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing only available on some servers
  • Configuring OpenVPN isn’t user-friendly

Speed and performance

Protecting your privacy online shouldn’t have to come at the cost of slower speeds.

Whether you’re using a VPN to stream your favorite shows or browse the web securely on a public Wi-Fi network, you want a VPN with fast connections.

To date, NordVPN operates 5,456 servers in 59 countries. NordVPN uses its own proprietary NordLynx technology by default (you can also choose OpenVPN and IKEv2).

This technology is built around WireGuard — a modern VPN protocol that offers advanced cryptography and vastly improved connection speeds.

Extensive testing has shown that NordLynx outperforms other VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and IKEv2.

Here are the results of an extensive speed test that NordVPN conducted:

NordVPN speed test

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These charts show that the NordLynx protocol has faster download speeds on average than two of the most widely used VPN protocols.

Here’s another dataset that illustrates just how fast the NordLynx protocol is:

NordVPN distance speed test

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One factor that affects download speeds is server location. If you’re in the US and you connect to a VPN in the UK, the data you send and receive has to cover more distance.

With NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol, you can expect nearly double the download speeds when you connect to a VPN that’s close to you. Even if you connect to servers that are farther away, you can still expect faster connections over OpenVPN and IKEv2.

These results came directly from NordVPN. We wanted to test the performance of their servers for ourselves.

With NordVPN on, we managed a respectable 48.5 Mbps download speed, and 17.7 Mbps upload speed.

Download and upload speed with NordVPN turned off

Connecting to NordVPN reduced our download speed by about 25% and our upload speed by about 29%.

While not as fast as other services like ExpressVPN, we found that NordVPN was more than up to the task. Connections were reliably fast, and we didn’t experience any interruptions.

However, we found that switching from one server to another wasn’t always smooth sailing. This is a little disappointing given the price point.

In particular, servers in North America and Asia took their time to connect. We’re based in the UK, so this is likely due to the distance between the servers. Connecting to a server that’s closer to your location will reduce latency.

NordVPN promises a fast VPN experience, and our own testing confirms those claims. We registered some impressive speeds on the servers we connected to.

For reference, that’s fast enough to stream video in 4K resolution, and broadcast live in HD (1080p) without any hiccups.

For ping (how long it takes to fetch data from a server), anything less than 20ms is considered great. This means you won’t experience any lag during gameplay.

With NordVPN on, we managed to get a ping of 24ms, which is still considered “good” for fast-paced multiplayer games like Fortnite and Overwatch.

With the VPN off, we managed to hit 64.4 Mbps download speeds and 25 Mbps upload speeds.

Download and upload speed with NordVPN turned off

Connecting to NordVPN reduced our download speed by about 25% and our upload speed by about 29%.

While not as fast as other services like ExpressVPN, we found that NordVPN was more than up to the task. Connections were reliably fast, and we didn’t experience any interruptions.

However, we found that switching from one server to another wasn’t always smooth sailing. This is a little disappointing given the price point.

In particular, servers in North America and Asia took their time to connect. We’re based in the UK, so this is likely due to the distance between the servers. Connecting to a server that’s closer to your location will reduce latency.

NordVPN promises a fast VPN experience, and our own testing confirms those claims. We registered some impressive speeds on the servers we connected to.

NordVPN speed testDownload and upload speed with NordVPN turned off

Streaming and torrenting

NordVPN works with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more. This means you can view content that’s available in another region by simply changing your server location.

In our speed tests, our download speeds clocked in at 48.5Mbps — fast enough to stream video in 4K without any buffering or interruptions.

Unfortunately, NordVPN doesn’t tell you which servers provide access to what.

You’ll have to do some testing on your own or dig into their knowledge base. It’s a minor inconvenience, but you can avoid this by adding the ones that work best to your favorites list.

NordVPN also allows unlimited peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic over BitTorrent or other torrenting software. Because your traffic is encrypted, you can download torrents safely without worrying that your ISP will take action.

Only certain servers allow P2P traffic. To find out which ones, NordVPN offers a handy server recommendation tool that shows you the server you should connect to.

NordVPN server recommendation tool

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These servers are specifically optimized for P2P traffic, so you can expect fast download speeds with them.

Security and privacy

NordVPN supports three tunneling protocols — OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, and NordLynx.

By default, NordVPN uses the NordLynx security protocol for its apps, but you can also switch to OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec.

Connections are encrypted with military-grade AES-256 encryption. This level of encryption is extremely secure and is used by governments and cybersecurity experts around the world. Your data is fully encrypted and will look like “gibberish,” even if it’s intercepted.

NordVPN also protects against DNS leaks — security flaws that leak information about the websites you’re visiting to your ISP or snooping third parties.

DNS leaks affect your online privacy as data is sent outside an encrypted tunnel. They can occur if your VPN connection suddenly drops.

NordVPN operates its own private and encrypted DNS servers. Our own tests on DNS leak test confirmed that our connection was protected against DNS leaks.

NordVPN DNS leak test

For extra peace of mind, NordVPN’s kill switch automatically disconnects your device (or the apps you specify) from the internet if your VPN connection drops. This eliminates the possibility of exposing your IP address and other sensitive information.

Their system also uses Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) or Forward Secrecy (FS) — a security feature that assigns a unique secret key to your device and changes it frequently. Even if someone gains access to your connection, they’ll get locked out when the key changes.

For an extra layer of security, NordVPN supports Double VPN. This allows you to route and encrypt your connection through not one but two VPN servers.

Double encryption makes it even harder for anyone (including government agencies) to spy on your connection. The trade-off with Double VPN is it may affect your internet speed as the data packets have to travel longer distances.

NordVPN maintains a strict no-log policy. This means the company doesn’t collect or record any data that could tie your online activity back to you — your IP address, timestamps, bandwidth usage, traffic data, etc.

Their privacy policy makes the following statement:

“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.”

Of course, any VPN provider can claim that they don’t keep logs. But NordVPN had their servers and technology independently audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The conclusion? PwC found no evidence that NordVPN collects or keeps data logs. In other words, NordVPN fully complies with its privacy policy.

NordVPN operates out of Panama. This is good news when choosing a VPN company because Panama doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws (unlike the U.S. and EU).

The only information that NordVPN has on you is your email address, payment information, and any messages you send to customer support. That’s it.

These measures should give you complete peace of mind.

Device compatibility

At the very least, you likely use a computer and mobile device to browse the web. But what if you want to protect online privacy for other devices you own?

The good news is that NordVPN offers a decent list of native apps. You can download and install a NordVPN app for the following:

You can also install NordVPN on Chromebooks, streaming devices like Fire TV Stick and Chromecast, and even gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox.

With a single NordVPN subscription, you can connect up to six devices at once. But what if you need to secure more than that?

The great thing is that you can install a VPN on your router, which allows you to secure every device on that network. This only uses up one slot of the six available spaces.

But you’ll need to make sure that your router is compatible with a VPN. These are the routers that NordVPN recommends for the best possible performance:

  • Asus RT-AX86U
  • Asus RT-AX88U
  • Asus RT-AC3100
  • Asus RT-AC5300

NordVPN’s knowledge base has in-depth tutorials on installing the VPN on different devices, including your router. As long as you have some basic tech knowledge, you shouldn’t have a problem getting these up and running.

If you’re looking for a more lightweight solution, you can also install browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Oddly enough, there isn’t a browser add-on for Safari.

A word of caution here: NordVPN’s Chrome extension only encrypts your browser traffic. This means any apps you use outside of Chrome can see your real IP address. If you want to secure your whole device, it’s best to stick with the desktop app.

Tech support

Whether it’s installing NordVPN on your router or troubleshooting a slow connection, you’ll likely need some help along the way.

NordVPN offers an extensive database of tutorials and how-to guides. Their knowledge base is easy to navigate and is grouped into different categories — FAQ, General Info, Billing, and Connectivity.

NordVPN knowledge base

Some of their guides even feature videos like this one on installing the VPN on Amazon Fire devices:

Article on installing NordVPN on Amazon Fire devices

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You can also use the search widget to quickly find what you’re looking for.

If you’re outside the UK and want to watch shows on BBC iPlayer, you can search NordVPN’s knowledge base for “BBC,” and you’ll see the following:

NordVPN knowledge base search

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The result tells you exactly what servers work with BBC iPlayer. The page is regularly updated when these configurations change.

Unfortunately, phone support isn’t available. But NordVPN offers 24/7 customer service through live chat along with email through a ticket system.

Price

NordVPN offers three plans:

  • $11.95 per month for one month (billed every month)
  • $4.92 per month for one year ($59 for the first year)
  • $3.71 per month for two years ($89 for the first two years)

NordVPN pricing

All plans include the same features. The only difference is you’ll save more when subscribing to a longer-term plan.

Each plan is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not happy for any reason, you can get a refund by contacting the NordVPn support team through live chat or email.

Summary

NordVPN checks all the right boxes. It offers strong security features, a strict no-logs policy, a vast network of fast servers, 24/7 customer support, and more.

While NordVPN is on the more expensive side compared to other VPNs, the price is more than justified for what you get. Plus, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you pony up for the three-year plan.

Click here to get NordVPN

Leading NordVPN alternatives

NordVPN is undoubtedly one of the best VPNs. But it has some serious competition that gives it a run for its money.

Here’s a look at two of the best NordVPN alternatives on the market.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN homepage

ExpressVPN is a top-notch alternative to NordVPN.

It features fast connections along with enhanced security features like AES-256-bit encryption. Like NordVPN, ExpressVPN also runs its own private DNS servers to keep your connections secure.

ExpressVPN is available for download on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. There are also detailed setup guides for Chromebooks, ebook readers, streaming services, gaming consoles, and more.

ExpressVPN doesn’t store any data that could compromise your privacy. Its TrustedServer technology has even been independently audited to confirm that the company follows its own policies.

ExpressVPN pricing

ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, but it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied for any reason, reach out to customer support, and they’ll refund your money.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface that’s easy to use
  • Over 3,000 servers across 94 countries
  • Supports up to five simultaneous connections
  • Configure which apps to route traffic through a VPN
  • Works with Netflix and other streaming services
  • Unlimited bandwidth

Cons

  • More expensive compared to other VPN providers
  • Customer support limited to live chat or email
  • Browser extensions require the desktop app

Pricing

ExpressVPN has three plans available:

  • $12.95 per month for one month
  • $9.99 per month for six months
  • $8.32 per month for 12 months
Get ExpressVPN here

2. Surfshark

Surfshark homepage

Surfshark offers an easy-to-use VPN with strong security and privacy features. To date, they operate over 3,200 servers in 65 countries.

Surfshark keeps your connection secure with AES-256 encryption. It offers compatibility with the WireGuard protocol on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices, meaning you can expect fast connections.

You also get split tunneling. This feature lets you specify which apps to route through the encrypted VPN tunnel and which ones to route through your regular connection.

While Surfshark is more expensive than other VPN providers on the market, you get great value for your money.

Surfshark pricing

You’ll save more when you subscribe to a longer plan. Surfshark also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Multi-hopping and split tunneling features
  • Unblocks all major streaming sites
  • Strict no-logs policy

Cons

  • A limited number of P2P servers
  • Not the fastest VPN
  • No option to select specific servers

Pricing

Surfshark offers three plans:

  • $12.95 per month for one month
  • $6.49 per month for six months
  • $2.49 per month for two years
Get Surfshark here

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a safe and secure VPN, you can’t go wrong with NordVPN. It offers an extensive network of servers, strong privacy and security features, and uninterrupted connections to all your favorite streaming services.

Protect your online privacy with NordVPN today. You can get started with a monthly plan or save more when you subscribe over a longer period.

Click here to get NordVPN now