NordVPN was launched in 2012 in Panama with the idea of making Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a truly open Internet a reality. Thanks to its advanced features, solid security, and excellent customer service, the company quickly became one of the most famous VPN providers on the market with more than 12 million customers across the globe.
Our comprehensive NordVPN review will go over this popular VPN’s general performance, explore its server network and overall security setup, check how it handles geo-restrictions on popular streaming platforms, discuss its pricing model, and much more.
Speed & Performance
Historically, NordVPN did not provide great speeds, but it made up for average performance with other aspects of its service. However, our testing circuit for this NordVPN review showed significant improvements in this area, so it is safe to say that it has become one of the fastest VPN services out there.
Our team tested more than 50 NordVPN servers located in Europe, the Americas, and Asia & Oceania – and the results were much better than those in 2018. However, you should note that activating the double VPN layer significantly reduces Internet speed simply because traffic is being routed through two different servers. Having said that, if you are using NordVPN just to unlock Netflix US or download torrents, you do not need this feature.
According to the official FAQ, you can expect up to a 30% decrease in speed when you connect to one of the closest servers, which is what our test showed as well. Here are the results of our tests:
|New York, US
|San Francisco, US
Being one of the top VPN providers on the market, NordVPN covers all the popular platforms and devices and then some. Apart from dedicated extensions for Chrome and Mozilla, the company currently offers native apps for Windows 7, 8, and 10, Android, iOS, and macOS. You can also set it up on Windows Vista/XP, Linux, DrayTek, FlashRouters, Tomato, Synology, Asustor, ASUS WRT/MERLIN/PADAVAN, OpenWrt, QNAP, Blackberry, Raspberry Pi, Kodi, Amazon Firestick, and many other platforms and devices. Platforms like Roku, Chromecast, and gaming consoles do not have an integrated VPN functionality, so you either have to set up your router with a VPN or share the VPN connection from your PC.
NordVPN currently operates over 5400 servers in more than 60 countries around the world. The company has 2,300+ servers in Europe, 540+ in the Asia Pacific, 2,100+ in the Americas, and around 80 servers in Africa, India, and the Middle East.
Apart from its VPN servers, NordVPN features proxy servers that solely obfuscate your actual location without offering any protection. This makes them ideal for streaming and accessing popular online platforms in spite of any geo-blocking measures. HTTP proxy servers are compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer.
In case you do not want to limit yourself to streaming and geo-spoofing, you can use NordVPN’s SOCKS5 proxy servers that offer more flexibility and compatibility with all kinds of Internet traffic, including SMTP and POP3 for emails, P2P, and FTP for uploading files to websites. Naturally, they are a perfect match for software like uTorrent, BitTorrent, Deluge, Vuze, Skype, and more. SOCKS5 servers are slower than HTTP proxies but considerably faster than services with encryption. NordVPN has 1 SOCKS5 and HTTPS proxy at each of its server locations.
NordVPN has obfuscated servers in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, the US, Canada, Turkey, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. These servers utilize the XOR encryption algorithm to go under VPN censorship. Yes, XOR is usually used to hide malware from detection, but that is what makes it perfect for hiding your VPN ciphers too.
NordVPN keeps all ports open on its servers except SMTP (you can use ports 456 and 587 instead) and NetBIOS for outgoing connections. Since the company does not offer port forwarding, no incoming connections can go through. Additionally, they’ve just added a cool new feature, NordLynx making their servers faster and more secure at the same time. You can read all about it here: With NordLynx, NordVPN is the fastest VPN on the market.
Finally, if you are not sure about the optimal server for your geographical location, NordVPN software will automatically connect you to the best option at any given moment.
Safety & Security
NordVPN is one of the rare providers that offer the option of using double encryption, also known as server chaining. The principle behind this tech is rather simple – instead of hiding your online traffic behind a single server (and encryption), NordVPN sends the already encrypted data through yet another server and encrypts it one more time. The connections are also mixed between TCP and UDP protocols, which increases the overall level of security even further.
Having said that, you will only require this kind of security if you are a journalist, political activist or person who works with sensitive data on a daily basis. It is also a great tool if you are trying to avoid government surveillance. Keep in mind, however, that this feature will have a significant impact on your speed so you should avoid using it for everyday browsing or surfing the Tor network since NordVPN features Onion Over VPN specifically for that purpose.
When it comes to the type of encryption, NordVPN utilizes AES-256, which is what companies refer to when they mention “military-grade” or “bank-grade” encryption. AES with 256-bit keys is officially recommended by the NSA for securing classified data, which includes the TOP SECRET level. To put things into perspective, in order to break it, hackers would require a supercomputer (which cannot be built with our current tech) that would still need to decrypt it for billions of years in order to find the right key.
As NordVPN puts it, “There is not enough time in the Universe to crack AES 256-bit encryption.”
At the moment, NordVPN uses OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols. OpenVPN is used as the default option on Windows and Android apps and it comes with AES-256-GCM encryption with a 2048-bit DH key. On the other hand, IKEv2/IPsec is the default option on iOS and macOS apps and it features NGE encryption. Linux users also have the option of activating the so-called NordLynx, which is a technology based on the WireGuard protocol. The service does not support IPv6 at the moment.
NordVPN also comes with CyberSec that allows the software to block ads and malware automatically by restricting your access to suspicious websites. Additionally, your device will be able to resist DDoS attacks even if it already got infected with malware. In other words, you will be secure from ever joining a botnet zombie army.
Finally, NordVPN features a reliable auto killswitch that will automatically detect any connection drops and block your apps or devices from accessing the Internet without VPN protection. Once a secure tunnel has been re-established, the killswitch will restore your Internet connection. Note that NordVPN implements different variations of the killswitch feature in its Windows/macOS and Android/iOS apps.
Apart from VPN protection, the company offers NordLocker, which allows you to encrypt files on your Windows/macOS devices or in the cloud so that you can prevent any privacy breaches even when offline, and NordPass, a proprietary password manager that remembers all the important keys for you.
Logging & Privacy
NordVPN has a strict no-logging policy and will never track, collect, and share your private data with any third parties. In other words, the company and its employees do not have access to your incoming/outgoing IP addresses, connection dates and duration, amount of transferred data, used VPN servers, visited websites, downloaded files, and software used.
If the company does not store your sensitive data, it will have nothing to share with any outside parties, including governments and international spy networks. Its headquarters in Panama have put it outside of EU and US jurisdictions, which translates to no mandatory data retention laws or any legal obligation to collect and hand your data over to anybody.
NordVPN has been audited by four different independent auditors and they all confirmed the company’s no-logging claims. On top of this, there is a warrant canary on the official website, where you can see a grand total of ZERO warrants, gag orders, and National Security Letters.
If you decide to purchase one of the available NordVPN plans, the company will collect the following data:
- Email address – Necessary for creating and managing your personal account, making a VPN connection, and resetting your password.
- Payment data – The company collects the bare minimum to make payments and refunds. Alternatively, you can also make an untraceable purchase by using cryptocurrencies.
- The timestamp of the latest session status – NordVPN allows up to 6 simultaneous connection per user and needs to connect the username with the timestamp of the last connection status in order to enforce this limit. The data is deleted 15 minutes after you disconnect.
- Customer service data – This includes chats and emails sent to the NordVPN customer support team. These communications help the support staff keep your “VPN medical history” in order to help you with any potential difficulties and problems. The data is deleted after 2 years, but you can request its deletion at any given moment.
As we already mentioned in this NordVPN review, the speed of the service has improved significantly over the years so streaming your favorite online content in full HD is not a problem anymore. Additionally, if you are not overly worried about your online security, you can use the company’s proxy servers that geo-spoof your location without encrypting your online traffic.
Apart from bypassing geo-restrictions implemented by Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer, NordVPN’s Smart Play service (an encrypted Smart DNS) allows you to unblock more than 150 services, including HBO GO and Showtime as well as websites like Twitch, Instagram, VKontakte, AskFM, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many more. If you are interested solely in Netflix US, you can read our full report on Nord’s Netflix-unlocking abilities and find some useful troubleshooting tips here.
Since NordVPN provides its users with unlimited bandwidth, speeds, and server switching, you never have to worry about any speed drops and buffering issues. Furthermore, the servers are never allowed to overcrowd so you will not experience diminished performance due to “server overselling.”
As stated in this NordVPN review, the company does not impose any limits on bandwidth, speed, and server switching. It allows P2P traffic and has hundreds of dedicated P2P servers. They are located all over the world and optimized for P2P filesharing. The solid security setup will prevent your ISP from detecting your P2P traffic and identifying it as such, which means you will not have to deal with any speed throttling on their part. This also goes for prolonged streaming marathons.
Note that NordVPN does not support downloading copyrighted material and advises its users against such behavior. Having said that, the company does not actually have a way of knowing what you are downloading due to its strict no-logging policy.
Plans & Pricing
You can purchase Nord’s monthly subscription for $11.99 per month, but if you plan on sticking with this VPN for months/years to come, longer plans save more money. With that in mind, the subscription for an entire year costs $4.99 per month ($59.88, billed every year), you pay $3.69 per month for 2 years ($99.63, billed every 2 years).
The company accepts all major credit cards (MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express), Alipay, WeChat Payments, PaymentWall, and major cryptocurrencies (BTC, ETH, XMR, LTC, Dash, XRP). There is no free trial, but all subscriptions come with a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. Note that NordVPN cannot issue refunds for purchases made through Apple’s App Store, but you can contact the store instead. The monthly payment will be charged automatically if you do not cancel recurring payments (there is a tutorial on Nord’s website).
PayPal was discontinued as a payment option since NordVPN wanted to unify all the payment methods on its official website instead of relying on a third party.
When you create your personal account and purchase one of the available subscriptions, you will also have the option of buying a dedicated IP address for an additional fee of $70. The official FAQ section also has a tutorial on how to do this since it requires registering another account and applying a coupon code, which may be too complicated for some users. NordVPN currently offers dedicated IP addresses in the US (Buffalo, NY; Dallas, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Matawan, NJ), the UK (London), Germany (Frankfurt), and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).
If you are a business user, you should contact NordVPN’s customer support to learn more about extra features offered to companies and how they differ from regular VPNs.
NordVPN’s customer support team is available 24/7 via email or live chat on the official website. Unlike many other companies, Nord employs a support team made of knowledgeable analysts that will be more than capable of answering any questions you might have.
NordVPN Pros & Cons
As we wrap up this NordVPN review, here’s a quick overview of the features that wowed us and the aspects of the service that could use some improvement.
- Double military-grade encryption (AES-256)
- Onion Over VPN
- Auto killswitch
- No IP or DNS leaks
- Strict no-logging policy
- Based in Panama
- More than 5,100 servers in 60+ countries (+ HTTP and SOCKs5 proxy)
- Smart Play for streaming
- P2P filesharing with dedicated P2P servers
- Excellent speeds
- Unlimited bandwidth and server switching
- More than 40 platforms supported
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Dedicated IPs
- Crypto payments accepted
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No 3 or 6-month plans
- No port forwarding