NordVPN is among the best VPNs available. It’s a premium service that combines lots of useful features to give you really what is almost the complete VPN. NordVPN is known for its superb security that is arguably one of the best in the market. It also works with Netflix and other major streaming services.
In June 2017, NordVPN announced that it now works in China, thanks to an obfuscation technology integrated into their client. Nord promises an “Internet with no borders” and in this NordVPN review we’ll take a closer look to see what makes it one of the best VPNs on the market.
What we liked
- Zero logs
- 24/7 customer care
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- 5000+ servers
- Process-specific kill switch
- Double VPN
- Obfuscation features
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Dedicated torrenting profile: Yes, P2P specialty servers available
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, Sling TV
- Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Routers, Raspberry Pi, Android TV, Chrome, Firefox
- Data logging: Strict no-logs policy
NordVPN speeds are not the best on the market, but there’s a good reason: this can be attributed to the excellent layers of security offered.
For this NordVPN review, I conducted various speed tests. The first one was done without a VPN to give us the baseline.
We then connected to a server that wasn’t too far away from my location.
As you can see, there’s only a small reduction in speeds. NordVPN has very many servers, and so connections are always reliable.
However, you can expect to get your speeds reduced further when using the double-hop or Tor Over VPN features.
For all connections, NordVPN offers unlimited bandwidth, and so capping should be the least of your worries with this VPN. Server switches are also unlimited. However, it doesn’t provide split tunneling to allow you to use the VPN with other mobile security domains.
This speed test was recently conducted on April 14, 2019
Security & Privacy
When we talk about top-grade VPN security, NordVPN is usually mentioned at the top of the list. The VPN offers you top-of-the line security. NordVPN uses NGE (Next Generation Encryption) in IKEv2/IPsec, which is the default protocol in the apps for macOS, iOS. The ciphers used to generate Phase 1 keys are AES-256-GCM for encryption, coupled with SHA2-384 to ensure integrity, combined with PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) using 3072-bit DH keys. NordVPN apps for Windows and Android use AES-256-CBC encryption with a 2048-bit key.
NordVPN has also launched its VPN protocol IKEv2/IPsec, which employs a robust cryptographic algorithm. This protocol guarantees maximum security, stability and great speeds. In fact, NordVPN itself highly recommends using it and has actually replaced OpenVPN as the default protocol in the iOS and Mac OS apps. However, you still have the option of using OpenVPN, which has a great balance of security and speed. Other less secure protocols like L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and SSTP are also available.
To further enhance your security, NordVPN provides double-hop technology. This allows you to double-encrypt your data, and we’ll expand more on this in the features section.
Other valuable security features include a Kill Switch and IP Leak Protection.
NordVPN is registered in Panama, which is one of the best locations for a VPN. The Panamanian government is very supportive of internet freedom and does not require VPN providers to collect and store information about their users. The country also has zero government surveillance and is outside the reach of NSA and GCHQ, aspects that favourable for NordVPN to implement a Zero Logs Policy. NordVPN logging is therefore virtually non-existent. According to their website:
“NordVPN does not monitor, store or record logs for any VPN user. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses.”
NordVPN and the US
NordVPN is registered in Panama, but if you were to ask me whether it operates from there, I would say no. Registering a VPN company in a friendly country that is outside the 14 Eyes is a tactic used by a number of VPN companies.
This not meant to lure users into subscribing but instead functions as a means to ensuring that the VPN client does not keep user logs.
A close look at NordVPN PayPal payments shows that payment processing is done by CloudVPN Inc., a US company. Their Android app also shows that it’s developed by the same company, something that may raise a few questions regarding their location.
Pricing & Payment
NordVPN has various plans to choose from. Just like most top VPNs, all these plans have the same features, and so the only difference is in the length of a subscription.
Here is a breakdown of NordVPN’s plans:
1 month: This is usually the most expensive plan. It’s billed at $11.95 monthly.
1 year: The 1-year plan, at $6.99 per month, is billed at $83.88 every year. It saves 41%
2 year plan: This plan includes the biggest savings. It comes out to $3.99 a month, billed at $95.75 every 24 months.
3 year plan: The 3-year plan is $2.99 per month.
All NordVPN plans are eligible for a 30-day money back guarantee. This comes in handy in case you experience any doubts about the VPN during the first month of purchase. Thanks to this, you can try out NordVPN without any risk.
Note: It’s important to note that the 30-day refund policy does not apply if you get the app via iTunes/App Store or Google Play Store. In such a case, the refund policies of those stores apply. This is because they process the payments.
NordVPN accepts payments through credit and debit cards and PayPal. You can also pay for your subscription using various cryptocurrencies, which is great in helping preserve anonymity. Additional payment methods are available through Paymentwall.
Servers & Location
Servers and locations are normally very important factors when it comes to choosing a VPN service. NordVPN takes this into consideration and offers an extensive network of servers and locations – the most of any VPN provider on the market right now. NordVPN has 5,000+ servers located in 60 countries. In addition, their network is always expanding, and so the NordVPN server list is likely to further increase with time. As an example, they boast 1758 servers in the US and 673 in the U.K
The only downside to this is that NordVPN doesn’t identify the specific regions where their servers are located. They only analyze the best server near your location or in a specific country and then suggest it for you.
NordVPN servers support both shared and static IP addresses.
One interesting feature that NordVPN offers is that it has various dedicated servers that you can choose depending on the task you want to undertake. These are the servers they offer:
Anti DDoS: These are servers with an advanced stability system to ensure that you don’t experience any interruptions to your connection.
Dedicated IP servers: When you order a dedicated IP address with NordVPN, you get the ability to use their dedicated IP servers.
Double VPN servers: These servers enable you to pass your traffic through two servers instead of one, achieving double encryption, which translates to double security.
Onion over VPN: These special servers route your traffic first through the VPN, and then exit into the Tor network. This adds anonymity to privacy.
P2P Servers: P2P servers are servers optimized for torrenting. They allow safe file sharing.
Obfuscated servers: These are special servers for people in highly censored countries. These servers break down VPN traffic and disguise it like regular HTTPS traffic to avoid being blocked.
SmartPlay is basically a Smart DNS for NordVPN. It is automatically activated in the background of your VPN app and allows you to access websites that would otherwise be unavailable due to internet censorship.
NordVPN’s Smart Play technology helps you combine the many benefits of a VPN with the high speeds and stability of Smart DNS.
This feature is easy to use, too. By integrating it at the server level, you don’t even need to set up, update or even activate it. Once you connect to a NordVPN server through any of their apps, Smart Play is automatically activated, and you can use you to gain access to blocked streaming sites and websites.
DoubleVPN is a security feature implemented by NordVPN to offer a double layer of security to users who require an extra level of security.
Normally when you connect to a VPN, your traffic is tunneled to a VPN server and then to the internet. With double VPN, your traffic is taken to a VPN server that then directs it to another VPN server before your traffic is taken to its destination.
With the first server, your traffic is encrypted. When routed through the second server, it’s once again encrypted. This, therefore, means double security.
However, traffic encryption always results in reduced speed. Now that traffic is being encrypted twice, you will likely experience poorer speeds than when using a standard VPN connection.
DoubleVPN is not available on all servers, and here is a list of the possible double-hop combinations: Canada-US, Netherlands-Russia, Sweden-Netherlands, UK-France, UK-Netherlands, and Taiwan-Hong Kong.
The feature really comes in handy for users who live in countries with extensive censorship and strict internet regulation policies.
This is another special NordVPN feature that automatically blocks suspicious websites in order to ensure that you are not under the threat of malware or other cybersecurity threats.
NordVPN CyberSec also helps you avoid botnet control, therefore securing your device from participating in DDoS. It also acts as an ad-blocker by hiding unwanted pop-ups, autoplay video ads and other advertising material the moment you enter a website.
NordVPN has a Kill Switch option in its client apps. A Kill Switch is a very useful feature cutting your internet connections in case your VPN connection is lost. An example of this is when you are switching to a different server. A Kill Switch avoids letting your connection being exposed during that time frame.
NordVPN Kill Switch works seamlessly. It is developed to allow you to kill your internet for particular services. By clicking Add Apps, you can Add a program to Kill list. Programs in the kill list will be blocked every time the VPN is not connected.
Regarding compatibility, NordVPN is arguably the most compatible VPN service. The VPN supports almost all devices and platforms that can run a VPN. Some common platforms that are compatible are Windows, iOS, OS X, Android, Linux, Blackberry, Chrome OS, DD-WRT and more. Compatible devices including the iPhone, iPad, Routers, Raspberry Pi, Game Consoles and more. To help you cover as many devices as possible, NordVPN gives every account up to 6 simultaneous connections.
DNS Leak Resolver
DNS Leak is one of the biggest threats you may face while using a VPN. In some cases, the Domain Name Server (DNS) may send unencrypted queries outside the VPN tunnel. In such cases, you are exposed and are no longer private.
To solve this type of issue, NordVPN offers a DS Leak Resolver in their apps. This ensures that there are no accidental data leaks over your connection.
Despite this, there have been some reports that at certain times, users get to see their original DNS even when connected to the VPN, as you will see in the testimonials section.
Onion Over VPN
If you want to add an extra layer of security to your connection, NordVPN allows you to connect to TOR (The Onion Router) through their VPN. The importance of this feature is that it allows you to connect to the TOR network without having to download the Onion Browser. To do this, you need to connect to a TOR Server within the NordVPN network.
However, keep in mind that Onion Over VPN greatly affects speeds. This option is useful if you just want to access various websites safely, but be aware that you can’t really stream HD with the speeds that you get.
NordVPN Setup & User Interface
A quick look at the NordVPN Website gives a very impressive impression. The website is well designed and super easy to use. There’s a direct download link for the client, so you can even download before creating an account. That link is found under VPN Apps.
Clicking Buy Now takes you to the sign-up page. To create an account, you will need to select a plan, provide an email address, and then choose your preferred mode of payment. If you wish to remain completely anonymous, you can use a temporary email address and use Bitcoin for payments. Creating an account with NordVPN takes less than 5 minutes.
In highly censored countries, most VPN websites are usually blocked. Since NordVPN offers some of the best services to users, they have to find a way of allowing users to register. To achieve this, NordVPN has created alternative website versions that are identical to the official website. For China, for example, you can use nord-cn.org or china-with-nord.org.
NordVPN Desktop Client
The NordVPN desktop client offers a simple and straightforward appearance. Considering the sheer amount of features provided by the client, this is quite admirable.
To get it running, you just need to:
- Create a NordVPN account
- Download the specific client for your device
- Run the setup
- Sign In using your credentials
- Toggle the On/Off Button
Clicking the on/off button automatically connects you to the optimal server depending on your location.
Server connection takes about 15-20 seconds.
Options for Customization
The NordVPN Android client gives you various options to customize your VPN depending on your needs. You can decide what features of the VPN to use and which are not necessary for you currently. You always have the option to change your mind about which features are relevant to you.
For connections, you can have servers grouped into whatever order you like.
NordVPN SmartPhone App
Though not entirely similar, the NordVPN smartphone app is just as straightforward as the desktop one. It has the same features and basically the same functionality.
You can also customize it from the Settings tab.
You can also choose from a number of servers depending on your needs.
China is probably the trickiest country in which to use a VPN, and most VPNs don’t work in China. China’s Great Firewall blocks OpenVPN traffic, therefore rendering most VPNs useless in the country.
NordVPN, however, updated their service last year, and now they claim their VPN works in China. They introduced Obfuscated Servers for the Windows client, which is the most used client. Obfuscation is sometimes known as stealth and it works by disguising VPN data packets as regular HTTPS traffic to overcome firewalls. In this way, the GF can’t recognize that this data is VPN traffic, and therefore it allows access.
This is big for NordVPN, as only a few VPNs can work in China. Further, the VPN has double-hop technology that you can utilize for extra security. The Taiwan-Hong Kong combination greatly suits China users.
We were very pleased to find that NordVPN works for Netflix. You can use it as a solution to Netflix’s extensive library of content and ultra-fast online streaming. With the help of SmartPlay, NordVPN can also access BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime and many more. One thing to point out, is that you may need to contact customer support by live chat to find out the particular server number that will work with Netflix USA and UK, as well as from Canada, Japan, Germany, France, and Italy.
- Android Boxes
- Router Configuration
- DDWRT Router
NordVPN support is pretty good. The VPN offers a 24/7 Live Chat support, something that every user will surely appreciate. Besides the Live Chat, you can also contact Support via email. You don’t have to contact support every time you have an issue. The NordVPN website offers a very comprehensive help section with troubleshooting shooting guides and FAQs. You can get there by clicking Help on the NordVPN website.
For this NordVPN review, we contacted customer support via both live chat and email to evaluate their service. We’re glad to report that the live chat support got back to me on average between 5-20 seconds, and they were friendly and helpful.
What you get with NordVPN is a featured-packed, premium VPN service that is entirely focused on your privacy and security. The great combination of features and functionality makes NordVPN live up to the hype of being one of the best VPNs on the market today. The VPN is stable, works with Netflix. These are attractive features that help you enjoy the full potential of the internet. The VPN is moderately priced considering what it offers, and you get a 30-day money back guarantee to make sure everything works just as you’d like.