NordVPN Review

Company Location Panama
Integrated Network Kill Switch Yes
Number of Servers 5400+ in 59 countries
Platforms Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux
Number of Devices 6
Refund Policy 30 days
Minimum Term 1 month (free trial available)

Strengths

  • Large amount of server options
  • Support for 6 devices simultaneously
  • Some of the fastest speeds of any VPN we tested
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Based in Panama, non-member of 4 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes

Weaknesses

  • Has precedent for being compromised in 2018
  • User experience is not as streamlined as other options (but the tradeoff here is far more customization)

NordVPN’s service is one of the most recognizable names in the business. The company has a long history of offering personal VPN solutions, and over the years, it has built upon this pedigree to develop one of the most robust, complete packages money can buy.

NordVPN Essential Features

NordVPN supports the platforms you’d expect: both iOS and Android apps are available, alongside Windows, Linux and Mac support. This VPN also has more server options than almost any other VPN – over 5400 across 59 countries.

You can connect up to six devices simultaneously with NordVPN. Five devices is about as close to “industry standard” as it comes, so Nord has a bit of an edge from that perspective. That said, some VPNs are beginning to allow for unlimited devices, which should be a consideration if you have a large family of products you need to secure.

Above and beyond the basic VPN functionality, NordVPN includes an integrated ad blocker, alongside some more advanced features that we’ll discuss in a moment. First, though, let’s take a brief look at how the service is priced.

NordVPN Pricing

NordVPN offers one month, one year, and two year plans:

Term Length Price Per Month Total Price Refund Policy
1 Month $11.95 $11.95 30 days
1 Year $4.92 $59.00 30 days
2 Years $3.71 $89.00 30 days

As you can see, some pretty hefty monthly discounts are available when you purchase a longer term. As a general guideline, I always recommend buying a 1 month plan first in order to evaluate a given service and confirm whether it meets all of your needs or not. This is especially true for services that don’t offer a free trial period, but Nord does in fact offer one, so up to you on how to proceed.

Overall, I’d argue that these prices are quite competitive relative to the value that NordVPN offers. Keep in mind, however, that if you want the full suite of features, additional charges will be added to this. We’ll get into those below.

NordVPN Encryption Protocols

NordVPN has four different encryption protocols that can either be set to automatic, or manually selected in the menus:

  • IKEv2
  • OpenVPN (UDP)
  • OpenVPN (TCP)
  • NordLynx

Previously, the app did not allow users to manually change this setting, so this is a welcome improvement that I’ve only just noticed in recent months. Still, most users will, of course, be fine letting the automation do its thing.

For more advanced users, NordLynx is essentially the company’s own implementation of WireGuard, which has been hyped up as the new frontrunner in terms of encryption in recent months, thought to be the first viable competitor to OpenVPN. I found it to be incredibly fast and versatile in my own tests, and for the vast majority of users, it should be the go-to (my client defaulted to it when choosing auto-connect).

NordVPN User Experience

Nord’s interface on macOS is streamlined, perhaps even spartan. The same is true of other platforms, but Mac devotees will feel right at home, as the app could easily pass as being Apple-designed in my eyes. When open in window mode, you’ll be presented with a nicely-stylized map, with server selections laid out both visually and in list form:

NordVPN for Mac
NordVPN for Mac

You can choose a country from this screen, or simply hit the quick connect feature to be instantly connected to the server closest to you. Additionally, you have access to several “specialty servers,” which provide a variety of advanced security features:

NordVPN Specialty Servers
NordVPN Specialty Servers

The most interesting of these is the Double VPN, which is a “multihop” function that allows your connection to be routed through more than one location. This means that if one connection was somehow compromised in any way, you would still be safely hidden by the secondary connection (including from your own internet service provider). The tradeoff for this extra layer is reduced speed, so most users probably won’t find a lot of value here, but for the security-minded, this is an excellent touch (alongside P2P, dedicated IP, and server obfuscation).

NordVPN Mac General Preferences
NordVPN Mac General Preferences

The settings available within NordVPN are straightforward, yet still provide a decent amount of flexibility for users to customize their experience. The CyberSec function, which blocks ads and malware when the VPN is enabled, is a handy addition that you should consider enabling if you frequently find yourself annoyed by pop ups and banner ads around the web.

The auto-connect tab lets you set up a process for having the VPN automatically enable itself when it detects that you are connected to an untrusted network. This should be a standard feature on every VPN in 2021, but the fact that it isn’t makes it a really underappreciated and useful gem.

NordVPN Review for the Android

Once I logged in with NordVPN, I was instantly pointed to the quick connection to secure my device. In addition, I could see a worldwide map with all of NordVPN’s server locations from the main dashboard and a list of these same servers.

NordVPN Android Quick Connect
NordVPN Android Quick Connect
NordVPN Android
NordVPN Android

I went into the settings looking for the kill switch and protocols, which NordVPN organizes in a drop-down list; the lists also includes a general section, VPN connections, tools, and a help center. NordVPN includes a short description of specific features to help users understand what they’re enabling.

NordVPN Android Account Settings
NordVPN Android Account Settings

One feature that I appreciated was tapjacking protection. With this, NordVPN would alert me if an app used a screen overlay to access private information.

NordVPN Android Features and Tools
NordVPN Android Features and Tools

My download speed was about 80 percent slower than without a VPN, while my upload speed increased by over 162 percent. Though slower, I didn’t experience any waiting time while watching movies on Amazon Prime and YouTube. I also didn’t have to go through extra steps, like split tunneling, to make Prime work.

Download Speed Upload Speed
No VPN 237.65 Mbps 11.17 Mbps
With NordVPN 47.79 Mbps 30.57 Mbps
NordVPN Android Server Search
NordVPN Android Server Search

Since NordVPN lists their servers on the main screen, I quickly became familiar with searching for them, using both the map and list. While the map doesn’t show each server in the country, by clicking on the location marker, a list of cities popped up with the total number of servers in each town.

Overall, NordVPN is best for those who want to use streaming services from their device and enjoy extras like tapjacking protection and CyberSec (which blocks malicious sites). While NordVPN has an extensive package of amenities (tapjacking protection, kill switch, CyberSec, etc.) and a straightforward app, it comes at a slightly higher price than other VPNs out there.

NordVPN Review for the iPhone and iPad

As expected, the NordVPN user experience on iOS was extremely satisfying, feature-rich, and easy to use. NordVPN goes above and beyond by offering users more than just simple protection online. Your NordVPN subscription comes with a number of tools such as CyberSec, which blocks ads and malware-hosting websites, and a Dark Web Monitor that alerts you if your credentials have been exposed. This tool allows you to secure your privacy by telling you which websites have experienced data leaks so you will know which passwords you need to reset.

When you first open NordVPN on iOS you will be presented with a map, a server location, a connect button, and, while connected, a pause button.

NordVPN iPhone
NordVPN iPhone

From this menu, you can choose your server location by simply clicking on your country of choice. If you prefer to choose your location from a list, you can swipe up twice to bring up the list of locations.

NordVPN iPhone Server
NordVPN iPhone Server

If you click on specialty servers, you will have one option: P2P. This option will connect you to a server that is optimized for P2P downloads. Otherwise, you can choose any other country. Unfortunately, NordVPN on iOS does not allow you to choose a specific server or even a specific city. Thankfully, they make up for it with other configuration options such as allowing you to choose from four unique security protocol options, as well as the ability to setup custom DNS right from the app.

NordVPN iPhone Encryption Protocol Selection
NordVPN iPhone Encryption Protocol Selection

When it came to speed tests, NordVPN continued to impress. Below, you can see the difference when connected to NordVPN as opposed to my normal internet connection.

Download Speed Upload Speed
No VPN 9.08 Mbps 4.40 Mbps
With NordVPN 10.54 Mbps 2.52 Mbps

While NordVPN slowed my upload speed slightly, it also slightly increased my download speed. This is an extremely rare result as most VPNs will slow your connection speed a considerable amount (usually 30 percent or more.) NordVPN is the fastest VPN on iOS that I have tested to date from my iPhone and iPad.

Overall, the user experience and design of NordVPN’s iOS app is extremely user-friendly and intuitive. While I would prefer to be able to choose a specific city within my target country, NordVPN more than made up for the inconvenience.

NordVPN User Privacy

NordVPN is based in Panama, a country that isn’t subject to cooperation with 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes agreements. Nord has previously stated that it would only comply with court orders that come directly from a Panamanian high court.

Additionally, the company’s transparent no-logging policy is one of the strongest I’ve seen in recent years. No “connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data” are saved, with the only information kept being your personal username and time of the last session. However, this information is reportedly only kept for 15 minutes after disconnecting, which is different from how many, many competitor services operate.

In March 2018, one of Nord’s severs was compromised in a high-profile breach that saw the company drawing criticism for not moving more quickly to disclose the situation, which they ultimately only did after details of the breach became available on Twitter. This may rattle you a bit, but on the upside, the company has taken several tangible steps toward preventing this same sort of breach from happening again, even going so far as to launch a bug-hunting bounty, inviting users to submit flaws in the software for a monetary reward.

NordVPN also features an advanced “killswitch” function, which will automatically cut a connection if communication with the VPN server is interrupted. The app takes it one step further in the settings, allowing you to automatically quit a predefined set of applications if this occurs.

NordVPN Kill Switch
NordVPN Kill Switch

NordVPN Streaming Test

NordVPN has a SmartDNS function called SmartPlay that helps unblock region-locked content from popular streaming providers. We tested this feature with Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, and the BBC iPlayer, all of which worked without issue. There’s nothing to configure here; you simply connect to a server, and you’re good to go.

For users looking to get the most out of their streaming subscriptions, this is a must-have. Not every VPN can unblock content, so be sure to take this into account when choosing one. In addition, what worked for me isn’t guaranteed to work for you, especially depending upon which server you choose, so some trial and error might be needed here.

NordVPN Extras – Beyond VPN

The company behind NordVPN offers a few additional services, for a few additional fees. First, there’s NordPass, a secure password management suite. Then, there’s NordLocker, an encrypted cloud storage service. Each of these have various plans and features we won’t get into here, but when taken together, Nord’s services offer one of the most complete digital security suites available in 2020.

NordVPN Speed tests

Download Speed Reduction Upload Speed Reduction Latency Increase
None (19% increase) None (65% increase) 33%

NordVPN’s servers held up exceedingly well in our speed tests. So well, in fact, that upload and download speeds actually received a noticeable increase over my unprotected network on a Macbook Pro. Download speeds increased by 19%, while upload speeds saw a whopping 65% increase. The company’s servers are robust, generating similar speeds across many different cities, only starting to slow in the most distant locations.

NordVPN Speed Test Results
NordVPN Speed Test Results

Summing Up: Is NordVPN For You?

Taken together, NordVPN is one of the best VPN offerings I’ve ever used. Combining excellent speed and performance, a wide variety of server options, and advanced features like SmartPlay and Double VPN, there truly is a lot to love here.

Best of all, NordVPN is priced competitively, especially if you’re set on making a one or two year commitment. It may not be the perfect solution for everyone (users who need more than 6 simultaneous devices, for instance, might be better suited looking elsewhere) but what NordVPN does, it excels at.