NordVPN Review

Pinnacle of VPN Services or Just Another VPN?

Updated: November 18,2022

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NordVPN has become a synonym for internet security and privacy, and for good reason. It is the VPN provider that’s easiest to recommend, with numerous servers, excellent security features, privacy, and an affordable price

Keep reading our NordVPN review to see why it’s so highly regarded among VPN users, if it stands up to our tests, and what you get for your subscription.

NordVPN
NordVPN
5
VISIT SITE
Price range:
$3.69 - $14.9/month
AVAILABLE ON:
iOS
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Mac
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Linux
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Chrome
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Fire TV
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Android
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Firefox
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Windows
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Android TV
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KEY FEATURES:
  • Number of server countries: 59
  • Maximum simultaneous connections: 6
  • Split tunneling: Yes
  • Kill switch: Yes
  • Ad blocking: Yes
  • Supported protocols: OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), NordLynx (WireGuard), IKEv2/IPsec
  • Streaming services supported: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, HBO Max
  • Best price: $5.89/mo
pros thumb up Pros
  • Obfuscated servers
  • OpenVPN and NordLynx protocols
  • Excellent connection speeds
  • Tor over a VPN
  • Split tunneling
  • RAM-based servers
pros thumb down Cons
  • App login through default browser
  • Lack of options for advanced users
  • Skewed towards a long term payment commitment

What is NordVPN?

If you don’t want your ISP (internet service provider) snooping around your internet history or selling it, NordVPN is the tool for you. Additionally, NordVPN is essential for keeping your devices safe while accessing public Wi-Fi networks.

Nord Security was founded in 2012, and at the time, it had six servers available. Since then, it has grown into one of the most recognized names in the cybersecurity industry

NordVPN has offices in the Netherlands, Panama, Lithuania, and the UK. So, is NordVPN safe and can it keep Five Eyes and other similar intelligence alliances from snooping? There is no need to worry. NordVPN operates from Panama under the local jurisdiction, which doesn’t include data retention laws. 

Nord Security has three more products, NordPass, NordLocker, and NordLayer. 

nordvpn additional products

NordPass, as its name suggests, is a password manager, and you’ll have the opportunity to try it out with your NordVPN Windows installation if you opt for a Plus subscription plan. 

NordLocker is encrypted storage you can use for free with limited storage space, while NordLayer is a SASE multilayer security system for businesses.

Anyone following the IT sector is aware of how the industry consolidates around major companies, and the VPN industry isn’t immune to such business decisions.

Nord Security announced the Surfshark merger in February 2022, meaning the company acquired another VPN service. This is the second VPN service provider acquired by Nord, after AtlasVPN, in October 2021

While such consolidations can potentially be bad for users as they reduce innovation in the industry and increase monopolization, it doesn’t necessarily need to be so. It still remains to be seen if a lack of competition will deteriorate product quality and increase prices in this situation.

NordVPN Breach

The VPN service didn’t have any notable controversies, such as deliberately disclosing user data to third parties or suffering major breaches. 

However, NordVPN reviews have to mention that the company didn’t reveal a security breach on one of its external servers. It had time to do so for six months after being officially informed by the third-party provider it employed. 

However, NordVPN did its due diligence after the incident and conducted an immediate audit of all of its servers (more than 5,000 at the time). The audit determined that the attack happened due to a compromised data center account that wasn’t managed by NordVPN

It’s important to note that the hack didn’t grant access to important user data, such as payment information or any central infrastructure point of the VPN.

NordVPN should have handled the event with more transparency and much earlier. However, we believe that the company has learned from its mistake and now conducts regular third-party audits

Server Network 

The NordVPN server list consists of more than 5,600 servers in 59 countries. Besides standard servers, NordVPN also offers those with in-built support for peer-to-peer traffic, obfuscated, double VPN, and with dedicated IPs.

Nord only uses dedicated servers and not virtual ones. This means that the server diverting your traffic is physically located in the country you are connecting to, which is much preferable to virtual servers.

Obfuscated Servers 

Keep in mind that not all servers offer obfuscation, and only some of them can be used to disguise your data packets. Most importantly, those servers are located in the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, UK, Germany, France, and several other countries you’ll likely connect to anyway. 

Obfuscated servers aren’t enabled by default, and you’ll have to change some settings if you already haven’t. First, you’ll need to use the OpenVPN protocol, so go to Settings and choose OpenVPN. 

We’ve used OpenVPN (UDP) as we had better bandwidth during our test, as you’ll see in the section where we tested VPN connection speed. If you choose the OpenVPN protocol, you’ll find the necessary servers with NordVPN obfuscation when you expand the server list in the locations tab. 

We’ve used Wireshark to scan our network packets and check how the network activity is detected through a non-obfuscated server. As you can see through the activity log that Wireshark scanned, the OpenVPN protocol is clearly detected as in use, and ISPs in countries where VPNs are illegal can detect such activity and block it. 

openvpn connection check

Then we tested how obfuscated servers appear in Wireshark or when someone scrutinizes your network activity. As a VPN service provider that can circumvent such restrictions, we had high expectations of NordVPN and weren’t disappointed.

nordvpn obfuscated servers test

When we established an obfuscated connection to a New York server, our network packets were disguised as UDP (user datagram protocol), which is nothing more than a low-latency internet connection that applications usually establish. 

NordVPN does an admirable job with its obfuscated servers and has decent enough bandwidth with the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol. 

Double VPN Servers

If you’re wondering how to use NordVPN and improve your anonymity further, the answer lies in using double VPN servers. Routing your traffic through two VPN servers results in twice-encrypted data. This makes NordVPN a convenient tool for journalists, political dissidents, activists, or whistleblowers.

Connecting through two VPN servers and having double encryption is a practice that slows down your internet speed, but not as much as VPN chaining does. Furthermore, with NordVPN, using more than two VPN connections to encrypt your online activity becomes redundant, as you’re already benefiting from double servers from a reliable and safe service.

We tested double encryption with NordVPN and locations on different continents. Our results, as expected, were not as great as when connecting through a single VPN server. When we tested our VPN connection speed, the results were 15% lower at the most than if you directly connected to a VPN server. 

Tor Over VPN

NordVPN also implements the Onion Over VPN as a unique feature. Your internet connection will have all the benefits of using Tor (The Onion

router) and the additional benefit of routing traffic through a VPN tunnel. NordVPN masks your IP addresses before you connect to the Onion network, and then, extra layers of protection kick in.

With NordVPN, we’ve seen some advantages and disadvantages to using the Onion Over VPN. The main drawback is that you can’t access sites that block Tor traffic. However, safe access to .onion sites, your IP being hidden from the Onion entry node, and your ISP not knowing you are connected through Tor are the main pros of using NordVPN. 

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many Onion Over VPN servers. You have only three at your disposal from the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Denmark. As most users won’t use these servers for their day-to-day as they serve a specific role, this isn’t such an issue.

P2P Servers

NordVPN has servers built for peer-to-peer traffic. These are better optimized for file sharing and perform better than regular servers. You have unlimited bandwidth with a NordVPN subscription, so you won’t have any issues even if you are not using dedicated servers. 

RAM-Based Servers

NordVPN upgraded its entire network to RAM-based servers. The advantage of RAM (random access memory) servers is that they do not have any locally-stored data. Each server is controlled from a central, secure NordVPN location. 

If anyone seizes such a server, they won’t find any data on it, as even the operating system isn’t installed on a local drive. That’s because RAM only holds information while the system is powered on. 

Connection Speed

The NordVPN speed test showed some exciting results. Below you can see the baseline speed from our European office, where we tested the VPN provider.

nordvpn speed test

NordLynx

First, we tested the NordLynx protocol and were impressed with the speeds we managed to maintain when connected through a VPN tunnel. Higher latency was to be expected as we moved further from Europe.

Still, the internet connection to servers in North America wasn’t lagging as much as we expected. 

Location

Download (Mbps)

Upload (Mbps)

Ping/Latency (ms)

Without VPN

285.77

29.36

8

Berlin, Germany

278.00

27.38

41

Paris, France

264.04

27.73

34

London, UK

273.44

28.10

44

New York, US

222.89

18.86

112

Los Angeles, US

223.77

17.54

174

Toronto, Canada

249.30

21.31

137

Brazil

177.33

13.94

226

South Africa

181.70

8.32

204

Singapore

209.44

18.02

183

Japan

162.65

12.36

271

Sydney, Australia

164

10.83

306

As you can see from our NordVPN for Windows tests, server infrastructure in Europe and North America produced excellent results. 

NordLynx is Nord’s take on WireGuard, an open-source VPN protocol that’s lightweight and has a much lower impact on bandwidth than OpenVPN. It has only 4,000 lines of code, significantly less than the 70,000 OpenVPN has. 

OpenVPN (TCP)

OpenVPN is a staple protocol with more than 20 years of proven track record. It’s no wonder all the major VPN services are using it for their macOS and Windows apps. However, NordVPN servers that use the open source software through TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) have produced some disappointing results in our testing

Location

Download(Mbps)

Upload(Mbps)

Ping/Latency(ms)

Without VPN

285.77

29.36

8

Berlin, Germany

45.90

26.19

67

Paris, France

14.88

17.64

94

London, UK

36.02

8.66

66

New York, US

9.11

11.83

172

Los Angeles, US

5.63

8.14

349

Toronto, Canada

10.06

12.17

203

Brazil

4.72

6.51

326

South Africa

4.38

4.18

277

Singapore

4.41

8.11

281

Japan

3.57

5.57

367

Sydney, Australia

2.26

4.63

394

As you can see, in some instances we had more than 100 times lower download speeds, and ping was almost double that of the NordLynx’s. Is NordVPN good enough for users preferring to use TCP ports for their connections? 

Obviously, the connection is usable, but you won’t use it to stream Netflix. That’s where the UDP connection comes in. 

OpenVPN (UDP)

When we compare OpenVPN over UDP with NordLynx, you’ll notice that the biggest hit is taken by the download speed. On average, the download speed is 40% of our baseline speed.

Location

Download (Mbps)

Upload (Mbps)

Ping/Latency (ms)

Without VPN

285.77

29.36

8

Berlin, Germany

116.50

25.80

43

Paris, France

117.06

26.40

40

London, UK

112.79

26.37

45

New York, US

89.58

24.60

115

Los Angeles, US

84.83

16.34

174

Toronto, Canada

109.25

23.24

121

Brazil

75.68

9.96

224

South Africa

82.02

14.29

245

Singapore

81.01

13.33

272

Japan

80.01

9.97

278

Sydney, Australia

164.00

7.76

317

Upload and latency aren’t an issue with the UDP connection, and the results are close to those we had with the WireGuard based protocol. OpenVPN is needed for using specialty servers such as double VPN, NordVPN obfuscate, Onion Over VPN, and P2P.

Streaming Capabilities

Using a VPN with certain streaming services is getting increasingly difficult. Thankfully, there are services such as NordVPN that keep up with the changes and manage to consistently unlock regional content on services such as Disney+, HBO Max, and Amazon. 

Hulu

Hulu has been difficult for some VPNs to deal with, but it isn’t an issue with NordVPN. It has more than enough servers in the US and Japan, and the speeds we achieved with it are capable of streaming 4K content consistently, as the requirement is a minimum of 16 Mbps. 

Even if you have issues with unlocking Hulu content, it’s easy to troubleshoot and get it running on NordVPN. 

Netflix 

Using NordVPN for Netflix is a viable choice. We managed to unlock the US library without significant difficulties and stream content in high resolutions and without any lag caused by buffering. Watching Netflix with NordVPN is convenient as it also has a mobile version you can use to watch your shows while traveling.

Torrenting 

Many ISPs tend to throttle their users’ bandwidth when they detect increased peer-to-peer traffic, which is common when using torrents. Not only are there dedicated P2P servers ready to use, but you also have some NordVPN SOCKS5 proxy servers that will help you avoid any potential firewalls. 

There are multiple ways to set up the most optimal and fast connection for P2P traffic, and with NordVPN, you might even witness higher download speeds. 

Gaming Optimization 

NordVPN doesn’t have a dedicated mode for gaming. This isn’t really an issue as using the service, even with the default settings, will provide for a decent gaming experience. 

We’ve already showcased some of the results we got through testing. Upload and download aren’t going to be an issue with NordVPN if you want to play on any NordLynx server, but latency will directly depend on the protocol you are using and your distance from the VPN server

Games such as CS:GO and other quick-paced shooters will have issues on any VPN, but the impact on games like MMORPGs (massively multiplayer role-playing games) will be marginal. This is mostly due to latencies of up to 120 ms not having as significant an impact.

Therefore, if you are interested in playing some titles reserved only for the Asian or North American/European markets, you’ll have to use NordVPN’s WireGuard protocol.

VPN Protocols 

NordVPN uses OpenVPN, NordLynx, and IKEv2/IPsec protocols. They are not all available across all supported platforms, as IKEv2/IPsec can only be used on iOS and macOS.

In December 2018, NordVPN reduced the number of protocols it offered to its users, as its support for L2TP/IPsec and PPTP had been discontinued. It is public knowledge that L2TP/IPsec is compromised by intelligence agencies and that PPTP has security issues, making them both considered unsafe by experts

The decision NordVPN made was additionally strengthened as only a small portion of the Nord Security community used these VPN connections. 

OpenVPN and NordLynx (WireGuard) are the go-to protocols for most serious VPN providers, and we’ve seen that they offer a great balance of performance and security for a wide number of users.

Other Features

So, is NordVPN worth it? Even without extra features, it would be one of the more reliable products on the market, but Nord has more features packed into its VPN app. 

NordVPN has split tunneling, a great feature if you want some of your applications not to go through a VPN while you have it enabled for everything else. 

For example, if you want your game to run outside of the VPN tunnel in order to reduce latency, but you want other traffic safely routed through the VPN server, you’d need split tunneling. 

nordvpn split tunneling

NordVPN on Windows allows access to app-based and inverse split tunneling, while Android devices mostly rely on inverse tunneling.

Nord’s version of multihop is the double VPN server connection we already mentioned. The second server you are accessing doesn’t get any information from your side as your IP connection is already scrambled by the first VPN server. 

nordvpn double vpn feature

NordVPN has a kill switch feature, as you would expect from a premium VPN service provider. The apps for Windows, Linux, iOS, macOS, and Android all have this feature, which blocks internet access if your VPN connection drops. 

nordvpn kill switch

Threat Protection

Sometimes, just encrypting your internet traffic is not enough. That’s why NordVPN comes with a Threat Protection mode.

nordvpn threat protection mode

Although we are grateful to have this function without it increasing NordVPN’s cost, the level of security you are receiving is debatable. If threat protection is enabled, NordVPN will notify you that it won't be as effective as expected if you have another antivirus program running.

nordvpn antivirus conflict

Having to choose between “threat” protection and antivirus with active malware scanning running in the background isn’t even a question. You should always have the antivirus enabled, regardless of whether it may intrude on Nord’s additional features.

nordvpn threat protection settings

Still, we should point out that the Threat Protection feature targets some severe threats, such as malicious ads, web trackers, and phishing sites, and scans files for threats. There’s no way of running an active scan as you would with a regular antivirus program, so we have to take NordVPN’s word for it. 

Threat Protection also includes DNS filtering when connected to a VPN server. 

Meshnet

With your Nord account, you can also access the Meshnet module. The feature enables multiple-computer communication through encrypted connections. This is a terrific function for someone who needs to access their files from a computer at their home office while traveling for work or from any other remote location.

nordvpn meshnet

Only NordLynx is compatible with Meshnet, and if you were using OpenVPN, it would automatically switch to a different protocol.

nordvpn meshnet protocol change

Dark Web Monitor

NordVPN’s dark web monitor is underwhelming. Results aren’t tangible, and you can only monitor a single email you are using for NordVPN. Nord Security even advertises NordPass on this particular module, which, in our opinion, isn’t the best way to promote a decent password manager. 

nordvpn dark web monitor

Privacy and Security

We’ve already established that you wouldn’t find any information by digging through the NordVPN servers. The data is stored off-site, and the provider exclusively uses RAM-based servers without local storage. But does NordVPN keep logs?

NordVPN is a no-log VPN service. This was confirmed by independent third-party audits conducted by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in 2018 and 2020. This is also made possible as Panama, under whose jurisdiction the service operates, has no data retention laws. 

Privacy and security of your information wouldn’t be possible without some kind of encryption. NordVPN uses a 256-bit AES encryption algorithm in synergy with a 4096-bit DH key for its OpenVPN protocols. Let's just say that without some cutting-edge, futuristic supercomputer, nobody will get your data.

The only data the company collects is information that will help improve the application. This includes information like crash logs, whether the connection was successful, how users interact with the app and some information about the device used.

The data is collected in a completely anonymous way and is not associated with anyone in particular. However, you can opt-out even from anonymous data collection.

IPv6 and WebRTC Leak Testing 

So, how does NordVPN work and perform when it comes to leaking confidential information? We have no complaints as we conducted multiple WebRTC and IPv6 leak tests, during which the VPN performed admirably. 

There was no private information getting out of the VPN tunnel like with some other VPN services on the market. The only IP address showing was from the VPN server we were connected to. 

nordvpn leak testing

nordvpn leak testing 2

Interface and Ease of Use

After a brief NordVPN download and installation process, we logged into our application through the browser, which then redirected us back to the app. Previously, you were able to log in with your account information without the need to log in through a web portal, and this change has some potential issues. 

Average users won’t have any issues with this new method of authenticating their accounts. However, VPNs are both necessary and illegal tools in countries with rampant censorship and repression. VPN providers with servers that hide their use are essential for those who live in these countries. 

If a government agency told an Internet service provider to block the NordVPN login page, you wouldn't be able to use the app.

This is a change NordVPN implemented to reduce the number of access points it needs to protect from malicious parties. While it seems reasonable, as it follows the basics of access control and security practices, we think it defeats the purpose. Free access to information is more important than watching a Netflix show. 

Otherwise, the interface is user-friendly and easy to understand by any novice VPN user. Finding a server is visually appealing as you can either click on a point on a map or quickly search for your preferred location. 

The only issue we found is that the three dots you see when a country has additional servers are not as obvious as they should be. In this instance, the UI could be more intuitive in presenting additional options

nordvpn interface

One of the main sections of the NordVPN app reviews your system security. We find this a bit disingenuous as it’s nothing more than an arbitrary score showcasing if you have certain features turned on

Not all users will necessarily want to chase a perfect score on this chart, and not all options are equally significant for safely surfing the internet. 

nordvpn security score

The Settings section has some basic options relating to appearance, connection, profile, kill switch, and split tunneling. It also has tabs that promote other Nord Security products and a referral program. Other than that, settings seem slim for advanced users, while beginners will feel like they have plenty of options. 

nordvpn general settings

Platform Availability

There are multiple platforms you can use NordVPN on, but how many devices you can cover with a single subscription is rather limited, as one account allows for only six devices. 

NordVPN apps can be installed on Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Xbox, Playstation, Oculus Quest, Chromebook, Raspberry Pi, Chromecast, Amazon Kindle, and Nintendo Switch.

The NordVPN extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. 

Pricing

NordVPN has different prices depending on what subscription model you choose. If you decide on a monthly payment plan, you will pay the highest rate at $11.99 per month just for VPN, tracking and ad blocking, and malware protection.

The same features will cost you $3.69 per month, with a bonus of three free months if you pay for two years in advance. 

nordvpn pricing

For a bit higher monthly subscription of $5.89 per month on a two-year plan, you can also get access to NordPass and NordLocker. As far as NordVPN’s price goes, this is what we would recommend if you don’t already have a reliable password manager and cloud storage or backup.

Unfortunately, there’s no NordVPN free trial version of the program, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee for anyone that decides to opt out from further using this VPN provider. 

Customer Support

While there is no direct phone support, you can find help through a comprehensive knowledge base, FAQ, live chat, email, and in-built contact form directly from the app

nordvpn customer support

Even if you decide to use email for correspondence, the customer support team is quick to respond. We contacted them about the issue we had with the VPN disconnecting us from the internet even though we didn’t enable the kill switch, and we managed to find the solution after a few exchanged emails. 

How Does NordVPN Compare to Other VPN Services?
NordVPN Review Logo
NordVPN
$3.69 - $14.9/month
Servers:
5,600+
Aplication:
ios icon mac icon linux icon chrome icon firetv icon android icon firefox icon windows icon androidtv icon
ExpressVPN Review Logo
ExpressVPN
$6.67 - $12.95/month
Servers:
3,000+
Aplication:
ios icon mac icon linux icon chrome icon android icon netflix icon torrent icon windows icon
PureVPN Review Logo
PureVPN
$1.99-$10.95/month
Servers:
6,500+
Aplication:
ios icon mac icon kodi icon linux icon chrome icon android icon torrent icon windows icon

Surfshark vs. NordVPN

NordVPN and Surfshark are both reputable VPN providers. They are, as of this year, owned by the same parent company. Based on virtual private network reviews, both have countless satisfied users, so a deeper dive is needed. We compared them, and here are the results of our testing:

Both VPNs provide good server speeds, but the NordVPN network of servers is much more extensive than Surfshark’s. Both providers allow you to stream Netflix. However, NordVPN tested faster, but not by much, as Surfshark had no issues with buffering video.

Speaking of NordVPN’s maximum devices supported, the company allows you to have up to six simultaneous VPN connections. However, Surfshark outperformed NordVPN in this category, allowing users to have an unlimited number of connected devices at the same time.

The next category in which Surfshark performs better is torrenting. Based on our testing, NordVPN has slower torrenting speeds than Surfshark. However, NordVPN offers more servers that are torrenting-specific.

When it comes to pricing, both VPNs offer various subscription models. You can choose between monthly or yearly plans. Currently, Surfshark’s pricing for a two-year plan is a bit cheaper than NordVPN’s, but it comes with no additional features.

NordVPN vs. IPVanish

Based on our testing, both providers offer incredible browsing speeds. Like Surfshark, IPVanish allows users to connect as many devices as they want, while NordVPN is limited to six.

While all IPVanish servers support P2P traffic, necessary for torrenting, NordVPN doesn’t have P2P on every server. However, the provider will automatically switch your connection to the server that supports P2P when needed, and you’ll get the maximum torrenting speed.

Both providers show great upload and download speeds, too. You can choose among 15 NordVPN US server locations, and IPVanish has even more servers located in the US. It also offers more server locations worldwide but fewer servers overall (IPVanish’s 1,900+ vs. NordVPN’s 5,600+).

The security features are another thing we compared between these two providers. We can confirm that both VPN companies keep your data private and secure using the latest security protocols and military-grade 256-bit AES encryption.

Conclusion

So, is NordVPN worth it? The answer is a definite yes. The last time we had the chance to review this VPN service, it had lower scores on both Google Play and the App Store than it has now. It raised both scores to 4.5 and 4.7, respectively. The company successfully transitioned to RAM-based servers and still maintains competitive prices while offering additional features that most other VPN providers don’t include in their offers

For a good reason, the company still maintains its influence as a leader in the cybersecurity industry and the VPN market. NordLynx, a proprietary WireGuard adaptation, boasts fantastic connection speeds and regular external audits. Overall, NordVPN is on top of its game. 

We experienced some minor grievances with the app itself, such as the lack of options for advanced users. Even while more thorough anti-malware features would be nice to have, they are not the main reason to use NordVPN, thus this is not something to be concerned about.

Lastly, in our opinion, NordVPN pricing is too skewed in favor of committing over the long term.

If you want the best VPN, you can’t find many better solutions among the competition. NordVPN establishes a standard of peak performance among VPN providers.

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, on top of having servers that run only on RAM and the option for turning on split tunneling.

Is NordVPN safe?

NordVPN is very safe. 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 these inquiries 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 NordVPN 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 a VPN on your home network if you set up your router properly.