One of the better providers on the market today is NordVPN because of its vast server network, exceptional security, and ease of use. More information about how well this service performs will be discussed in further detail in this extensive review.
NordVPN could effortlessly surpass ExpressVPN as one of the best VPNs in existence. The reason it does not surpass ExpressVPN is because they are consistent, while NordVPN struggles with consistency.
There are a variety of pros and cons that will be discussed at length in this review. Customer support, server locations, streaming, privacy, security, speed, user-friendliness, pricing, and features will also be discussed throughout the course of this review. A verdict on NordVPN will be given towards the end of the review on whether this service is actually worth the money.
To cut to the chase, while it is worth the money for many worthwhile reasons, there are some stipulations. Inconsistent server speed doesn’t mean that a user is optimizing their connection. They might not have an internet connection either. But if a user is willing to put in the time to find a server that will suit their needs, NordVPN can’t be beat.
Pros and Cons
NordVPN has the following strengths and weaknesses:
NordVPN’s features are what set them apart from other virtual private network providers, along with their streamlined user experience. NordVPN’s features not only make the application fully functional but also protect users from risky situations with its advanced security settings.
NordVPN allows users to specify the server they want to connect to prior to start-up, which is quite useful as other VPNs default to the fastest location available.
As far as security is concerned, NordVPN includes the CyberSec malware and ad-blocking tool for free with any subscription, as well as a kill switch. While it’s not a replacement for a good antivirus software, as far as VPNs are concerned, it’s a pretty good ad-blocking tool.
Kill switches aren’t that big of a deal, but NordVPN’s is different. Kill switches typically make it to where a user can only access the internet whenever a VPN is active so that their personal information doesn’t wind up in the hands of a cybercriminal. NordVPN’s kill switch does this, but it also allows users to appear invisible to all devices on their local network, and specify which apps they wish to use the switch with.
Otherwise known as “app kill,” this type of phenomenon is not too common with VPNs. Split tunneling allows users to send certain traffic through a VPN tunnel while other people are using their normal connection. Not very many providers find ways to set VPNs up in the interface, despite the fact that almost any VPN could be set up this way. Out of all of the many features NordVPN has available, it is missing this particular feature.
While NordVPN’s start-up control, app kill, and CyberSec tool are great features to have, their specialty servers are essential. There are four different servers to choose from: Double VPN, Onion over VPN, P2P, and Dedicated IP. NordVPN’s peer-to-peer speakers can be used for torrenting just like dedicated IP servers, but the Onion over VPN and Double VPN servers do much more than that.
Double VPN’s servers use something called a “double-hop” connection. Windscribe introduced this awhile back. Users will bounce back and forth between different servers instead of connecting to only one server, which dramatically increases their security, hence the reason why NordVPN is among one of the best VPN providers to use in China.
Onion over VPN allows users to use a VPN connection to connect to Tor. The Tor network has some negative aspects about it, as mentioned in the VPN vs. Tor vs. proxy article, but it does a good job of keeping a user’s activity anonymous.
In the options menu, NordVPN can be set to connect to only obfuscated servers which will scramble each data packet that’s sent, allowing users to bypass harsh censorship.
Compared with other VPNs, NordVPN is one of the least expensive. The cheapest price is a month-to-month plan through Private Internet Access. On the other hand, NordVPN offers multi-year high-value plans. However, if users aren’t comfortable paying $125.00 up front during the initial sign-up period, they will have to sign up for a month-to-month plan.
NordVPN’s monthly plans aren’t the best but they’re not bad either. TorGuard and PIA are half of what NordVPN charges. Astrill and Hide.me are twice as expensive. The editors felt that NordVPN’s monthly plan was one of the worst options available in their overall lineup.
NordVPN’s annual plan isn’t much better, but it could save users between $5 and $10 over other providers. However, when compared to the two and three-year plans, their one-year contract isn’t very practical.
For instance, NordVPN’s two-year plan is exactly the same price as a one-year plan with other providers. For a few more dollars a month, the three-year plan would be the best choice for most users, as a majority of providers don’t offer this kind of plan. CyberGhost, NordVPN’s sole competitor, has even cheaper two and three-year plans.
Even though NordVPN packs a lot of value into their plans, their pricing system is far from perfect, as their annual and month-to-month plans don’t offer much value. Users are forced to purchase a two or three-year plan upfront. CyberGhost’s monthly fee is $20 less for a year of their service.
While this criticism about NordVPN is negative in nature, it’s relatively minor. NordVPN is still among the best values because of their multi-year plans, and six concurrent connections which make their packages quite attractive to the average consumer. Users can also give their plans a 30-day test drive and if they are not satisfied for any reason, they will receive a refund.
NordVPN’s payment methods are fairly good; however, unlike Mullvad, it doesn’t accept cash. Ripple, Ethereum, Bitcoin, regional payment methods, and credit cards are all accepted. PayPal payments are unfortunately no longer offered.
Ease of Use
It’s fairly easy to sign up for a NordVPN plan. Once a user has their plan selected, they will enter their e-mail address and choose a payment method. NordVPN will ask the user to set a password and verify their e-mail address. A burner account can still be used, but users will need to be able to access it when they’re activating their subscription. After the user has set up their password, NordVPN will automatically download the application.
The account dashboard can be found by locating the “my account” link in the top right-hand corner of the computer screen. There isn’t a need for a lot of access, but billing settings, plan changes, and IP address purchases can all be managed here. There are also several apps NordVPN offers, including their Firefox and Chrome extensions.
The extension for the browser is basic. It includes a connection process that’s stripped back, but worth installing nonetheless. The browser extension will allow users access to a tool that blocks WebRTC data as well as the CyberSec tool. The desktop application is best for connecting purposes and is recommended for regular use.
The application only takes several minutes to install, along with the virtual network card. Once that is complete, the user will log in to NordVPN, which will take them to its main screen.
Out of all of the other VPNs that have been tested, none have an interface quite like NordVPN. NordVPN includes a large map that displays all of the countries where their servers are located. The sizeable window allows users to view as little or as much of the map as they wish.
The list of countries is accompanied by NordVPN’s specialty servers and a view of the Earth. Both connection and navigation are built into the interface, providing users with an attractive, streamlined approach that is rarely seen among VPNs.
Once a user finds a country they wish to connect to, they will click on that specific map marker, which will connect them to that country’s best server. The map does not represent individual servers or regions. It represents countries only. If a user is searching for an exact location inside of a specific country, they must be prepared to put in the extra time to find it.
There are design flaws with NordVPN’s connection experience. On the left menu, users can choose a country they would like to connect a server to, similar to how they would on the map, but finding a particular server is not easy. Each country has three dots next to it that allow users to specify the region they want to connect to.
Users can choose individual servers from a tiny drop-down menu located in a region’s select pop-up. The U.S., for example, has over 2,000 servers, which can make it difficult for a user to find the location they desire. NordVPN doesn’t label where the servers are located either. Users will only receive specifications regarding the general region and the country itself.
The good news is that users can search for servers or favorite them. NordVPN automatically generates a new tab in the navigation menu near the top of the page with the user’s favorited places.
The specialty servers are above the list of general servers, as mentioned earlier in the review. Clicking on a specialty option automatically connects users to the quickest options available, similar to the other locations. Users will then identify where they wish to connect, using the three dots that are available for each option.
The settings tab is near the top of the interface. Most VPNs place multiple tabs in their settings menus. NordVPN tries to squeeze it all together on one screen. Each setting in this menu, including the CyberSec tool and the kill switch, has toggle switches that can turn these options off or on.
The advanced settings button is located near the bottom of the screen. This allows users to utilize obfuscated servers, set customized DNS, and change their transport protocol. NordVPN advises users to only change these settings if they’re knowledgeable about what they are doing.
Streamlined experiences for users are difficult to provide when there are thousands of servers in a typical user network. NordVPN’s efforts to address this issue haven’t gone unnoticed. The next section will address how difficult it is for users to find the best available server through NordVPN.
It was tough to judge NordVPN’s speed. In a recent guide of fast VPNs, NordVPN was among the fastest; however, the speed is either terrible or mediocre in terms of the majority of the network as a whole. The suggested server based on the location of the editorial office couldn’t load a speed testing tool that the editors use to perform speed tests.
Here are several notes about NordVPN’s connection. For one thing, NordVPN’s network is huge. There are good as well as bad performers in their network. The editors have always used whatever recommended server was available in a certain country. The connection was either quick or it failed.
It was frustrating trying to test NordVPN’s speed, because some servers might connect but wouldn’t load any webpages, while other servers connected relatively quickly. It’s an understatement to say that NordVPN’s performance is sporadic at best. Of all of the VPNs that have been tested, NordVPN’s variance is among the highest. With this said, there are as many lows as there are highs.
NordVPN’s recommendation system malfunctions quite often. For instance, the connections continuously failed whenever anyone in the editorial office attempted to test a Double VPN server. On the other hand, when the editors tested their own server, the connection was a success.
It’s obvious that these problems became burdensome as far as locating a server was concerned. The “user affability” section gave NordVPN a commendation for making an effort to streamline a rather large network, but the system’s logic is highly flawed. The server performance is too variable and their recommendation system isn’t helping things.
The good news is that users are able to obtain fast speeds. Whenever NordVPN is fully operational, it outplays all of the other providers tenfold. Its low latency is one reason why the company received a silver medal in the best gaming VPN guide.
Based on recent testing, users should try to find a region with a server that has the least load. The editors aren’t sure if NordVPN’s attempting to fill a server prior to recommending another server. Whatever the case may be, their subpar recommendations aren’t characteristic of what their network is truly capable of.
Security (86% Approval Rating)
IKEv2 and OpenVPN are both supported by NordVPN. These are two of the best available options, according to a protocol breakdown of VPNs. At first, it’s not apparent that both of them are available, as users can only install OpenVPN on their desktop, while IKEv2 must be manually installed.
What users should typically look for in terms of security is OpenVPN with AES 256-bit, which NordVPN has. Less common protocols including L2TP and PPTP are unavailable. While this information is irrelevant to most people, NordVPN doesn’t include the necessary capabilities to use these lesser-known protocols.
The security features included with NordVPN more than make up for their lack of protocol options. All of their specialty servers are focused entirely on the ability to obfuscate packets as well as security. Even if a user doesn’t have an exclusive protocol like VyprVPN, NordVPN builds upon the open-source nature of OpenVPN to take security to the next level.
DNS leaks were one of the things the editors looked for in their NordVPN tests. It passed with flying colors without numerous DNS redirects.
Two pieces of information is given to NordVPN when a user creates an account: their payment method and e-mail address. A burner e-mail can be used, but the user must be able to access it in order to complete the registration process.
Billing information is collected from NordVPN’s payment partners whenever a user pays with a credit card. The information isn’t directly tied to their VPN usage, unlike Buffered VPN.
NordVPN’s website uses cookie data for customer service inquiries, analytics, and affiliate tracking purposes. Server load information is the only user data that’s collected while the VPN is in use. The data spots outages and gauges server performance. It does not identify users.
Users are virtually off the record, as most of their data is nearly anonymous. NordVPN takes privacy very seriously, as it operates under Panama’s jurisdiction, which has the toughest privacy laws in the world, thus guaranteeing the no-logging policy can be strictly adhered to.
It was just as frustrating for editors to test its streaming performance as it was for its testing speed, as NordVPN’s suggested servers were entirely too slow to load any content. When the editorial staff was able to find a server on their own, it was a lot better. So much so that NordVPN was included in the VPN streaming guide because of it. It also earned spots in the BBC iPlayer and Netflix VPN guides, as NordVPN was able to connect to both platforms with ease outside of finding a decent server. Likewise, NordVPN worked well with Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
NordVPN’s Netflix Performance
Server selection made the difference in terms of streaming quality on Netflix. NordVPN’s suggested servers could connect to their site; however, the content couldn’t be streamed. The editorial staff didn’t get a proxy error, but the server speed was too rough for the website to stream much of anything. Users should try to find a server with the least load in a particular region in order to get Netflix to work.
NordVPN has over 5,191 servers so far, making them a leader in the VPN industry. While their number of servers is quite high, the speed, as previously mentioned, needs some improvement.
NordVPN has a presence in 62 countries – more than the average VPN provider. However, the numerous available servers provide users with a false sense of reality. HideMyAss has a presence in nearly 200 countries.
NordVPN, when compared to other providers, surpasses the bar by a razor-thin margin. Most of their locations are either in Europe or the Americas, but there are other locations in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. Some of these exotic options aren’t available through ExpressVPN or HideMyAss.
NordVPN has another strong point – their customer service. Most questions can be answered through their knowledgebase, which is divided into four different categories and does a great job explaining each topic. The only downside, albeit a small one, is that the knowledgebase also mixes in some frequently asked questions, which could make it difficult for users to find the information they need.
The search bar helps to offset this issue somewhat, as it can quickly find articles pertaining to almost any topic. Other providers’ search engines only pull up articles based on specific keywords.
Direct support can’t be found from the knowledgebase, but there is a “contact us” button in the footer that will pull up additional options. Their live chat is good as well, as most of their employees are quite knowledgeable about the company’s product. Live chat functions on other VPNs are mediocre at best. They can direct you to their knowledgebase or answer basic questions, but that’s about it.
E-mail support can take several hours to generate a response, whereas live chat only takes several minutes. The editorial staff sent a question about protocols through both e-mail and chat and got nearly the same response.
For the most part, the editors were very confident in NordVPN’s customer service abilities. They give users the answers they need relatively quickly without any difficulties.
NordVPN wasn’t everything the editorial staff thought it was. In order for them to be better, consistency would have to be more prevalent across locations, and the recommendation system would need to be overhauled. The large gap between bad and good servers, as well as finding options that are suitable for users, is extremely frustrating.
That being said, NordVPN is generally good as far as most VPNs are concerned. There are a variety of different features, some fast speeds on certain servers, and the company is dedicated to privacy. This is probably one of the better options available out of all of the VPN reviews that have been done over the years.
Is there a free trial?
As NordVPN is a paid service, there are no free trials as such. Users who are unhappy with the service can receive a refund, as NordVPN is backed by a 30-day money-back policy.
How can users download it?
Users can download NordVPN by signing up for a new account and logging into their dashboard.
Can NordVPN be used with Netflix?
NordVPN can be used with Netflix. Multiple tests have shown that Netflix can be accessed without any problems.
Is NordVPN free to use?
NordVPN isn’t free and there isn’t a free trial. Users can try it for 30 days with the risk-free guarantee.
How many servers does this provider have?
The number of servers NordVPN has is 5,000 in 60 different countries. This number can change sometimes, so users should check their server status page for the latest information.
How can users log into NordVPN?
Users can log into their NordVPN accounts from any browser by using the “my account” button that’s located on the home page. Whenever a user accesses the local application, it will ask them to log in each time.
How much does NordVPN cost?
NordVPN is $11.99 a month, $83.88 for a year of service, $95.75 for two years of service, or $107.55 for three years of service. The three-year plan is the cheapest, as it equates to around $3.00 a month. If a user is unhappy with their service for any reason after 30 days, they can request a refund.
Can NordVPN be used with Chrome?
NordVPN has a Chrome extension that is similar to its local application. If the application is locally installed, the Chrome extension isn’t required.
Can NordVPN be used for torrenting?
NordVPN is good for torrenting. They support it enthusiastically with their unique P2P servers. It’s a top pick for sharing P2P files.
Note About NordVPN Hacking
In 2018, NordVPN was hacked, according to numerous news sources. Several media services and competitors made hay as a result, and it surprised a lot of employees in the editorial office.
NordVPN’s response to the hacking was that these occurrences happen sometimes and they were actively taking steps to resolve the issue. Their security rating was slightly lowered, due to the company’s lack of transparency in the hopes this situation won’t happen again.
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