NordVPN Review

Check out DataProt’s list of the best VPN services on the market.


Introduction

Virtual private network woes are a hot topic these days: DNS leaks, problems unblocking content, privacy breaches – the list goes on and on. In short, if you’re getting a VPN, make sure you choose a trustworthy and reliable one, or you may wish you hadn’t gotten a VPN at all. Our NordVPN review will take a look at one of the best-known VPN services on the market and try to determine whether it’s truly as good and reliable as the internet seems to claim. Read on to find out more.

Key features:

  • More than 5,000 servers. in more than 50 countries
  • No data cap
  • A maximum of six simultaneous connections
  • 256-bit AES encryption with 4096-bit DHE-RSA keys
  • Highly effective kill switch and ad blocking
  • Unblocks geo-restricted streaming for Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Hulu, and Netflix.

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fantastic security features
  • Strict no-logging policy with privacy audits
  • NordLynx provides phenomenal speeds
  • Unblocks Netflix and other streaming services easily
  • No split tunneling
  • Slightly expensive for short-term plans

Pricing

With the wealth of VPN service providers on the market today, it has become a very competitive niche both in terms of price and features. With many VPN services costing less than a pint of beer per month, it’s tempting to overlook more expensive companies such as ExpressVPN on price alone.

When it comes to NordVPN, the price sits at that sweet spot just below the most expensive offerings on the market, with long-term plans offering significant savings that make it competitive with much more affordable VPN solutions.

While there is no NordVPN free version, a trial is available with all paid plans. NordVPN’s trial offer is pretty standard fare, and it offers up to 30 days of risk-free program testing with any purchase. While you can’t try it out without paying anything, we refunded our purchase about 10 days into a one-year subscription with no issues whatsoever.

Speaking of subscriptions, at the time of this NordVPN review there were four options available. They all provide exactly the same features, including support for up to six simultaneous device connections and no data caps. The only real differences between them are the subscription length and price. So, how much does NordVPN cost per month? At the moment, the longest subscription on offer is for two years, which is currently discounted to just $3.71 per month. There is also a one-year option that costs $4.08 per month.

Other NordVPN plans include a six-month subscription for $9 per month and a monthly subscription that ends up costing you $11.95 (and being a pretty bad deal in the process). As mentioned, each of these can be tested out for 30 days, and a NordVPN refund is easy and quick to get.

Ease of use

This section will cover information about the installation procedure, supported operating systems, and general user friendliness of the interface across the desktop and mobile apps. In general, NordVPN does very well across the board here, but let’s start at the beginning: setting up your VPN installation.

Installation procedure

Before you get to the NordVPN login screen, you’ll have to create an account, choose your subscription, and download the appropriate app from the website. Unlike ExpressVPN, which gives you a login token on the website, here you log into the desktop app the traditional way – with your login credentials and a password. After logging in, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can select a server, choose quick connect to automatically be connected to a recommended server, or go into the program settings. The entire procedure should only take you a couple of minutes.

Supported platforms

As you can see above, NordVPN supports just about any platform you can think of and more. In addition to the desktop NordVPN Mac and PC versions, there is also a NordVPN app available for Android and Android TV, iOS and iPad, as well as Linux. In addition, the company also offers browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome.

There’s even a NordVPN Android browser extension, which is not something that many competitors offer. Mobile platforms also have a native built-in, system-wide kill switch, which is another commendable feature worth mentioning.

User interface

NordVPN has gone through many graphical revisions, but the core experience of the user interface has stayed mostly the same – clean and predominantly blue and white.

The main screen of both the desktop and mobile apps allows you to select one of the many NordVPN servers by clicking on them on the world map, finding them in the left-hand panel, or doing a manual search through the magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner.

NordVPN has locations all over the globe, and the left-hand menu further simplifies the navigation by including recent and specialty server menus, as well as an alphabetical list of servers sorted by country.

NordVPN server locations

The settings menu lets you turn the kill switch on and off and activate CyberSec, NordVPN’s automatic ad blocking, malware, and phishing protection tool. You can also make your computer invisible on local area networks, choose whether to start the program together with your operating system, or turn on auto-connect, which will automatically connect you to the server of your choice whenever the app starts up.

NordVPN settings

After the desktop version, we took NordVPN Android for a review, followed by a quick comparison against the iOS app. As mentioned earlier, the mobile apps function mostly the same as their desktop equivalents, although navigation through the server world map is a little more convoluted on mobile devices, as you have to zoom out of your chosen location before picking another one.

In terms of features, you have slightly fewer choices when it comes to protocols (more on that later). You can pick whether to use the VPN when connecting over WiFi or mobile networks, and decide whether you need the CyberSec ad, malware, and phishing blocker.

Although we didn’t test NordVPN on Mac, our review briefly tried out the iOS version. It’s mostly the same as its Android app, with the additional option of adding NordVPN’s connections to Siri for a seamless connection to virtual private networks through your mobile OS assistant. Kill switches are baked into both of the mobile apps, but can be switched on and off through the Always On VPN option in the advanced settings menu.

Features

The next section is all about the ins and outs of the program itself. We’ll be looking at the server selection, overall NordVPN speed, security and privacy features, as well as how the software handles streaming services and torrenting. We’ll also talk about some unique features, such as the NordLynx protocol, Double VPN, and more.

Server selection

When it comes to server selection, NordVPN’s server list is up there with the best of them. While CyberGhost has even more servers and ExpressVPN has an unmatched number of countries covered, NordVPN’s 5,000+ servers in 59 countries across the globe is bound to get you a fast server no matter where on the planet you are at the moment.

For the purposes of our review, NordVPN took us on a journey across the planet, from servers in Serbia all the way to New Zealand. We’re pleased to report that unlike most competitors, all of their servers were the real deal – no virtual servers here.

There are also obfuscated servers if you connect over OpenVPN, which make your VPN traffic appear as regular HTTPS traffic, for the purposes of overcoming VPN blocks and state censorship without appearing like you’re doing anything unusual.

You can also pick from a selection of specialized P2P servers for torrenting or boost your online privacy further by using double VPN protection. As our review of NordVPN has mentioned already, the options don’t stop there. Those still not satisfied with this level of privacy protection have the option of using Onion over VPN to get their traffic routed not only through NordVPN’s servers but the Onion network (of the Tor Browser fame) as well. We’ll talk a bit more about these options in the security section of the review below.

Server speed

It used to be that ExpressVPN was the undisputed king of speed when it came to top VPN services on the market. That was until NordVPN started investing in its own version of the very popular new protocol, Wireguard.

As our NordVPN speed test showed with some aplomb, NordLynx is truly the next level of technology when it comes to VPN protocols, and we can expect it to slowly start replacing the previously uncontested OpenVPN protocol with more VPN providers soon. ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol may pose a stiff challenge once it’s out of beta testing, though.

For the purposes of our testing, we put the VPN service through its paces by not only connecting to various servers around the world, but also checking out NordVPN gaming performance, traditionally the toughest test for a virtual private network connection.

Speaking of NordVPN vs ExpressVPN, they both have very good automatic server recommendations, but the former was a little more consistent in our tests, almost always giving us the fastest possible server to connect to.

After trying out a few automatic recommendations, we started our tests from Europe. Servers in Hungary and Italy were particularly fast, slowing down our 100 Mbps connection by only 10% max, while moving further away brought the number closer to a 20% slowdown. NordVPN download speeds remained impressive throughout our trek through the European servers.

US servers hovered between 65 and 75 Mbps, while those in South America were a little slower than that still. The worst results in our NordVPN test predictably came from the Pacific region, but we were still able to get a manageable ping when connecting to a server all the way out in New Zealand. It did bring our speed down to around 30% of the original value, but that’s to be expected from a server literally on the opposite side of the world.

What really solidified its performance for us was how it handled us playing a couple of games of CS:GO and Valorant. Competitive shooters tend to be very picky about connection speed, especially due to the packet loss usually associated with VPN connections to distant servers.

With NordVPN, the cost of playing through a VPN was minimal. We still recommend doing the smart thing and picking a recommended server in your own country or nearby, but with NordLynx, your ping should stay under 300 even with servers halfway across the globe, which is certainly impressive.

Security

Speaking of impressive, just check out almost any NordVPN review on Reddit: people are almost unanimously impressed by the software’s security features, and for good reason.

Starting out with the basics, it features military-grade AES-256 encryption, combined with a 4096-bit DHE-RSA key, SHA2-384 authentication, and perfect forward secrecy. NordVPN encryption is absolutely top-notch, but perfect forward secrecy ensures that every session is given a completely new encryption key, to make things even more difficult for would-be hackers.

That said, while ExpressVPN already runs all of its servers on RAM, this transition is something that NordVPN is still working on. On the upside, the company offers Double VPN functionality, which routes your data through two different VPN servers for maximum security. While this does slow down your connection speed a little, NordVPN security through this method is second to none. Having a VPN within a VPN on a military-grade encrypted connection that changes keys every time you reset your connection should be more than enough for even the most paranoid internet users out there.

We’ve already talked about NordVPN’s excellent implementation of the Wireguard protocol within its NordVPN Lynx technology. Besides this default protocol, you can also opt for the standard OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), as well as IPSec/L2TP and IPSec/IKev2 protocols, depending on your device.

In addition to the aforementioned internet kill switch, the software has IP address leak protection for both IPv6 and IPv4, as well as excellent DNS leak protection. NordVPN reviews often praise the company for excellent its security and privacy protection, and our tests for both IP and DNS leaks confirmed this. We ran multiple tests and confirmed absolutely no leaks, so full marks to NordVPN here.

Privacy

When it comes to privacy, Nord takes matters very seriously. Although the company is still in the process of migrating all servers to RAM-only usage (ensuring that data gets wiped every reset), it is the only VPN provider we know of that has performed not only external security, but privacy audits as well.

NordVPN’s privacy policy is very clear on the no-logging aspect. Two independent audits (in 2018 and 2020) were performed by the industry-leading auditing and assurance firm – PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland – and NordVPN aced the tests both times.

The previously mentioned Double VPN feature encrypts your data through two servers instead of one, as well as obfuscated servers, which make your traffic appear as if it wasn’t running through a virtual private network. Both inevitably slow down your connection, but provide an extra layer of security or a way to avoid VPN detection.

Our NordVPN review should also mention that the company’s headquarters are located in Panama. Why is this important, you ask? Simply put, as safe and private as the best VPN service providers are these days, if they are located within the borders of countries that fall under the jurisdiction of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, the law has the option of demanding user logs from them.

It’s nice to know that your VPN solution is based in a country where no data privacy laws will compel them to hand over sensitive user data. This allows them to live up to their promise about having a strict no-logging policy.

CyberSec

Our NordVPN Cybersec review will be brief. Simply put, this handy tool puts the power of ad, malware, and phishing blocking programs such as AdBlock right into your VPN solution. While we question the necessity of such a feature considering the wealth of well-featured and free software that does the same job, we won’t complain about anything that’s free and works well.

In our testing across the internet, the Cybersec suite performed its job admirably, keeping our YouTube experience blissfully free of annoying ads, and automatically warning us about potentially shady sites. The entire functionality can also easily be switched off from the settings menu if you find it invasive or pointless, but we recommend leaving it on.

Streaming services

A lot of people sign up for a NordVPN account just to be able to watch shows on regional versions of Netflix and other popular streaming services. NordVPN has Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, BBC and more covered easily through its proprietary SmartPlay feature. Specifically designed to overcome geoblocks, it was able to give us ultra HD quality in testing regional versions of all the popular streaming services on pretty much every single server (from the US to Germany).

We’ve already mentioned obfuscated servers a few times. It’s worth mentioning here that they represent an excellent way to use a VPN to get around content blocks at the workplace or in school, as streaming services still work well, but your connection won’t look suspicious.

Torrenting

Of the many cool NordVPN features we’ve mentioned so far, having dedicated servers for specific uses is one that’s perhaps the least impressive. Considering the great speeds across the board, one may think specialized P2P servers aren’t really necessary.

That said, Nord specifically restricts traffic to P2P usage on these servers, and optimizes them for it. They even route your traffic through them if you start conducting file sharing activities while on automatic settings and connected to another type of server.

In addition to being able to bypass your ISP’s throttling, Nord also provides SOCKS5 proxies that you can set your favored torrent client up with to get even higher download and upload speeds. Put together, it is the ultimate torrenting and file sharing experience when it comes to VPN services.

Conclusion

NordVPN has a rating of 4 on GooglePlay and 4.6 on the App Store. We are much more inclined to agree with the latter. It’s not a perfect piece of software: there is no split tunneling, for example, and server migration to RAM is still an ongoing process. NordVPN prices are also skewed too much in favor of committing over the long term, in our opinion.

All that being said, these guys have become the defacto leaders on the VPN market for a reason. Combining unprecedented connection speeds through its adaptation of the Wireguard protocol (NordLynx) with state-of-the-art security features, external audits to confirm its dedication to user data privacy, and a fantastic geoblock bypassing functionality, there’s very little here that’s not at the top of the game when it comes to VPN services.

Competitors like SurfShark and CyberGhost still have a way to go in catching up, while ExpressVPN is simply a more expensive, though equally good, alternative.

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fantastic security features
  • Strict no-logging policy with privacy audits
  • NordLynx provides phenomenal speeds
  • Unblocks Netflix and other streaming services easily
  • No split tunneling
  • Slightly expensive for short-term plans

FAQ

Which is better, NordVPN or ExpressVPN?

Both are excellent choices.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN is a raging debate on the internet these days. The former is more expensive and used to be faster, as well as having servers that run only on RAM and the option for turning on split tunneling. 

However, until ExpressVPN moves to the new Lightway protocol, NordVPN has surpassed it in speed, and offers a cheaper alternative with a more secure Double VPN and dedicated P2P servers.

Is NordVPN safe?

Very much so. 

This has to be the most commonly asked question that we get, right after is NordVPN good and is NordVPN worth it? Our answer to all of them is a resounding YES. The company uses military-grade encryption and has numerous safety- and privacy-related features aimed at keeping you and your data safe online.

Does NordVPN keep logs?

No.

One of the main draws of using its software is the strict no-logging policy that it enforces. You can read our NordVPN review above for more details.

How many devices can NordVPN support simultaneously?

Six.

This includes everything from personal computers and laptops to mobile and smart devices, and even routers. In fact, you could theoretically have unlimited devices connected to VPN on your home network if you set up your router properly.

NordVPN review
Price $6.58/mo
Visit Website