Last update: 12.14.2018

Overview

Top-notch security, an absurd 5,200+ servers all over the world, great features and speed – all these factors make Nord’s leading industry status well-deserved. Read our NordVPN review to learn more!

It seems that NordVPN created their destiny when they came up with that name and logo. Nothing on this earth can be more solid than a mountain, only a frozen mountain. You couldn’t come up with a more fitting image for one of the most secure VPNs on the market. To get the full picture, read our full NordVPN review below the introduction.

Nowadays, when most people spend a good portion of their day in the virtual realm, cybersecurity and anonymity become a crucial priority. Our mission with this assessment is to help you understand the challenges we all face on the net and to give our opinion on one of the most popular tools to combat them.

One of the strongest aspects of NordVPN is its security.

Security is one of the strongest aspects of NordVPN. Just as most other premium VPNs out there, Nord offers a 2048-bit handshake and 256-bit data encryption. They have a number of security protocols available (OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, PPTP, SSTP), a kill switch for unnoticed disconnects, P2P over VPN for your significant torrenting needs, and other important security features: onion over VPN, Double VPN, etc.

The overwhelming majority of VPNs have some leaking issues. Many are protected from DNS and simple IPv6 leaks, but WebRTC still remains a vulnerability. NordVPN has literally none of these problems, making it very safe.

They don’t keep any more logs than is necessary for effective operation, and they’re based in Panama – a country with no data retention laws. Panama is also outside the reach of the 5 eyes and 14 eyes intelligence framework.

They’re not the fastest service out there but they’re not exactly slow.

Speed and security are inversely proportional: more safety means slower speeds and vice-versa. With these considerations in mind, we can say that Nord scores well indeed. This has a lot to do with the huge number of servers they own around the globe. Currently, they’re over 5200 and that number is always growing. They’re not the fastest service out there (if that’s your primary concern) but they’re not exactly slow, and the tradeoff between security, features, and speed is reasonable.

With Nord, you’ll be able to torrent to your heart’s content and bypass geo-blocking restrictions. We have tried using it with Netflix and the BBC iPlayer and were unable to get locked out. If that does happen, NordVPN’s support staff are very capable and available 24/7 via live chat.

The punchline is this – despite being one of the very best, Nord is also one of the most decently-priced VPNs available. Their 1-month plan is $11.95, their 1-year plan is a mere $6.99 per month, their 2-year plan is only $3.99 per month, and they also offer a Cyber Monday 3-year subscription at $2.99 per month until November 30. Compared to some of the competition, that’s a very good price, even without taking quality into account. There’s no NordVPN free version, but you’ll probably forgive them!

We consider this a good all-around choice. Read the rest of our NordVPN review to find out more!

Is NordVPN safe to use?

While most top-notch VPN services offer similar security options, NordVPN works hard to take it to the next level. Here’s how they take maximum care of your online privacy and security:

is nordvpn safe

  • Military-grade AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption: Nord applies the same AES encryption algorithm to protect your online activities as the US government and the NSA. This is, in fact, the safety standard for data protection.
  • Minimal logging: most VPNs log data to some extent and many have been caught lying about it. Nord keeps only the bare minimum necessary to keep the service running. That means perfect anonymity – no personally identifiable data. Pirates can breathe freely.
  • Double VPN: what could be more effective when it comes to cybersecurity and online anonymity than using double encryption for an extra layer of privacy? Of course, this comes at a price, i.e., a slower internet speed due to the double encryption. To make this as painless as possible, NordVPN offers the fastest servers possible to pair with your chosen location.
  • DNS leak protection: if your computer uses your regular DNS instead of the VPN’s DNS – you’re exposed. For this reason, NordVPN DNS servers are used, and the apps have inbuilt DNS leak protection. Our tests for this NordVPN review indicate that it’s a secure tool when it comes to DNS protection.
  • Onion over VPN: if you are looking for top-level privacy, this may be the option to go for. Onion over VPN can offer you the maximum level of online security and privacy by combining the powers of Nord and the Onion network. This rather unique solution makes it virtually impossible to trace any Internet traffic back to you.
  • CyberSec: some of the main sources of malware infections and potentially unwanted programs are suspicious websites and corrupt third-party advertisements (such as banner and pop-up ads). If you enable the CyberSec feature, you can automatically block these and enjoy a more secure online experience… Or so they say. Independent tests suggest their online protection feature still needs some work. Don’t rely on CyberSec alone!

Outside the technical realm there’s another important security consideration – where is NordVPN based? Well, the truth is we don’t know, but the truth doesn’t matter that much, because their company is registered in Panama. There are good reasons for that. Firstly, this small country in the Carribean has no data retention laws, meaning they’re not legally required to keep any of your data. Secondly, Panama is not a member of the 5 eyes or 14 eyes groups (which share intelligence information). Thus, Nord is ideally located to bypass surveillance efforts.

More and more people are coming to the conclusion that you really can’t be too cautious online. Your private data could be used in any number of undesirable ways – from the rather benign, such as targeted advertising, to extremely malicious, such as identity fraud. There aren’t many tools capable of addressing these modern concerns. NordVPN seems to be one such tool – strong encryption, great security features, and a strict no-logging policy bring it to the forefront of the fight for privacy and data protection.

NordVPN Speed & Performance

This tool is not only very secure – as our NordVPN review shows, it is also one of the faster VPN services on the market. They have a whopping number of servers at 5,200+ in 62 countries all over the world. While that’s more than anyone else has, it doesn’t necessarily make it is the fastest VPN.

For comparison’s sake,  ExpressVPN, one of the best all-around VPN providers, has “only” 2,000+ servers, but they’re spread out over 90+ countries. This kind of coverage may result in better speeds, and in this case, it does. However, ExpressVPN also happens to be one of the most expensive VPNs around.

Speed is certainly an area where NordVPN can improve in the future to stay at the top of the game. Is Nord slow? Not at all, and the good news is they keep expanding their server list to be able to offer the best possible speeds for its customers.

Nord speed test

nord vpn speed

Nord VPN Singapore

In the end, there are many other factors that can influence your Internet speed, such as the time of day when you try to use a server, the number of users connecting to the same server, the location of the server and so on. Therefore, don’t just blindly trust our NordVPN review – it’s always best to try running your own speed test to see whether a VPN is fast enough.

NordVPN servers

Yes, this calls for a special section – the NordVPN server list is just that impressive. Also, there‘s a lot more to it than just pretty numbers.

NordVPN server location map

Nord has the most servers of any VPN service. The number is constantly growing, and last time we checked, it was over 5,200. You‘re probably looking at an outdated figure already. An overwhelming majority of NordVPN server locations are in the Americas and Europe (2294 and 2331 respectively). A further 451 servers are spread out across the Asia Pacific region, and 61 are in Africa, the Middle East, and India. In total, the number of countries where you will find NordVPN servers numbers 62. While that covers a large part of the globe, it is certainly not the highest level of dispersion we‘ve seen on the VPN market (e.g., main competitor ExpressVPN covers 94 countries). That isn‘t necessarily a very big deal, but it‘s true that Nord‘s network has some holes where the service might not be quite as good. The good thing is that the NordVPN server list doesn’t seem to be artificially inflated through the use of Virtual Private Servers, ensuring the highest level of performance possible.

A further measure Nord have taken to make their server list more efficient is specialization. One example is their decision to provide P2P servers instead of allowing P2P on every server. Use of P2P technology, such as torrents, is optimized on these servers, granting the users awesome speeds. Nord also has servers specifically for use with their two heavy-duty flagship security features – Double VPN and Onion Over VPN.

Finally, there are Obfuscated servers for use in countries where VPN use is restricted (China, Russia, etc.), and Dedicated IP servers for those for those who chose to ask NordVPN for a personal IP address.

How to download it

We went through the whole process while working on this NordVPN review. Here’s how it goes:

  1. Choose a plan that seems the best for you. Nord usually offers you three types of plans: A 1-month, a 6-month, and a 1-year plan. All of these give you the same set of features.
  2. Create a secure account by entering your email address.
  3. Choose your preferred payment method. Nord offers many choices, which will be detailed further down in the Pricing section.

You are now ready to download the application for the platform of your choosing. It should take a few seconds depending on your Internet speed.

How to install it

NordVPN is very user-friendly. Even if you’re not an IT expert, you can easily make the best of it. 

To install, locate “NordVPNSetup.exe” (the installer) and launch it. If a pop-up comes up asking you to allow this app to make changes to your system, you can safely click “Yes” to proceed. After that, click Next until the installation ends.

That is all there is to it. Now, you can customize your NordVPN app the way that works best for you.

How to use NordVPN

After writing our NordVPN review, we can state one thing conclusively – this service has a user-friendly interface.

First, you’ll need to log in with your NordVPN credentials.

If you click the Quick Connect button at the top of the app window, the app will connect you to the fastest (usually closest) server.

Quick Connect

Another way to find a preferred server is through the Search feature. If you click the Magnifying Glass button, you can start typing a country name – you’ll see a list of available servers appearing right below the search box. Simply pick one and click on it to connect.

Let’s see what else this VPN app has to offer. There are three main menus in the top left corner, namely:

  • Map: you can quickly choose a preferred location by clicking on one of the 60+ country indicators on this zoomable world map. Our experience when writing this NordVPN review was that, on average, it takes around 15 seconds to connect to any NordVPN server.
  • Countries: this menu has three submenus:
    • Countries: by choosing this submenu you can see the list of the 62 countries that are currently available to connect to. If you mouse over each country name, you will see two buttons appear on the right end of the row: A Connect button and a List button. The List button displays the list of available servers in the respective country. You can mark servers by clicking the Heart icon and thus make them part of your favorites list. Or you can directly connect to any server in the list.
      NordVPN server list
    • My Favourites: this screen lists all the locations you have favorited in the Countries screen. You can choose your list to be sorted by “The Best Servers for you,” “Alphabetical order,” “Least Loaded,” and “Closest to you”..
    • Specialty Servers: this option is for those who have specific needs. There are five specialty server types you can choose from:
        • Anti-DDoS servers
        • Dedicated IP servers
        • Double VPN servers
        • Onion Over VPN servers
        • P2P servers
    • You can connect directly to the default server recommended by Nord (for each server type). Alternatively, you can display a list of servers related to a certain type by clicking the List button.
      • Settings: This is where you can customize your VPN. These are the submenus you will find on the left panel:
      • General: Auto connect, Start NordVPN on startup, Internet Kill Switch, Invisibility on LAN, App Kill Switch, etc.
      • My Account: changing your password.
      • Help Center: this opens the support webpage in your default browser.
      • Logout: you can log out of NordVPN and abort your connection.

Apps & Extensions

NordVPN is now available on Windows, Mac, Linux (no GUI), Android, and iOS. In addition to these clients, you can also install browser extensions for a more secure browsing experience (on Chrome and Firefox). NordVPN Mac is practically identical to the Windows app that we have discussed in the section above.

apps and extentions

NordVPN Android is also a very powerful client, with an awesome GUI. It’s very comfortable to use on mobile even if you have the fattest thumbs on the planet. It is similar to the desktop apps both in terms of appearance and functionality – Nord makes CyberSec, Specialty servers, Obfuscated servers and more available for your Android device. As is often the case, there is no kill switch feature on NordVPN’s Android app, however, there is an inbuilt Android 7+ feature called Always-on VPN. This works well with Nord. Users can download NordVPN Android from the Google Play store or get the .apk straight from the NordVPN website.

Nord’s recently upgraded iOS app is one of the best among the competitors. It boasts a kill switch which is not that commonly found on iOS devices. It should be noted that Apple is infamous for not approving the inclusion of OpenVPN in their apps. NordVPN is not an exception to this rule and the default protocol is IKEv2. This isn’t bad, and we would even argue that the latter may be better for mobile devices. With that said, if you insist on using OpenVPN, you can – just download the OpenVPN app and use Nord that way.

The NordVPN Chrome extension (and Firefox extension) is essentially a proxy service. The NordVPN proxy approach is convenient and may come in handy, but you should be aware that it covers only your browser traffic. This means you’ll have to use the regular VPN app for things like torrenting.

You can use NordVPN on router devices, but unlike some other VPNs, Nord doesn’t have a custom router app – you’ll have to follow the instructions on the nordvpn.com website to get the service running on routers. There you’ll also find instructions detailing the setup process for many other devices. We haven’t tried using it on other devices for our NordVPN review, but comments claim it works fine.

Overall, we can say the VPN has done a good job on their many versions – maybe Linux version would benefit from the GUI, but if you’re using this OS, you’ll probably do just fine without one.

NordVPN for Netflix

“You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy…”

If this error message rings a bell, you must have tried and failed to watch geo-blocked Netflix shows from outside the USA. Truth be told, many VPN services seem to lose this epic battle for unlimited and unrestricted streaming.

Netflix wasn’t blocked on any of the US servers we tried.

The main reason behind these geo-blocking issues is that there has been a boom in the use of proxies and VPN applications to access restricted Netflix content that’s only available to places like the US. The company has tried to patch up these loopholes and prevent copyright abuses. Although there is disagreement over the sincerity of Netflix’ efforts, it is nevertheless true that many VPNs are currently unable to get past the restrictions. This may be one of the reasons why NordVPN works hard to constantly increase its server roster. Whatever the case may be, for our NordVPN review we took it on a ride to popcorn land and had a magical time. Netflix wasn’t blocked on any of the US servers we tried – that’s quite a stunning achievement.

Of course, Netflix isn’t the only entertainment platform people are interested in accessing. There’s also Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and many more. We’ll admit to not having tried NordVPN on all of them, but we did try watching the notoriously problematic BBC iPlayer and it worked.

Additionally, NordVPN is a great Kodi VPN! Kodi is an essential tool for streaming fans, but you can benefit from it the most if your VPN can bypass geo-blocking restrictions and properly hide your identity. NordVPN is great at both, which makes it awesome for Kodi.

Read more about NordVPN for Netflix.

P.S. We would like to emphasize that it is not enough for you to have NordVPN installed on your device to be able to watch Netflix – you will also need their subscription.

NordVPN for Torrenting

Another reason people get tempted into using VPN is, of course, torrenting. Since your ISP normally knows more or less everything about your Internet traffic, security-minded computer users choose anonymity to stay out of trouble when downloading stuff using torrents.

NordVPN meets all the criteria for being a great torrenting VPN. They have P2P-optimized servers, great encryption and other security features, good speeds, and unlimited bandwidth. As a matter of fact, we tried it out for this NordVPN review and found the performance amazing.

Torrenting is a risky activity nowadays, especially in Western Europe. A VPN provider that doesn’t keep your personally identifiable information and can’t be compelled to hand it over to the authorities is crucial.

Is it good for users in China?

Yes – as a matter of fact, it’s one of the rare VPNs that consistently work in China nowadays.

It’s one of the rare VPNs that consistently work in China.

China’s massive firewall has recently begun using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to block OpenVPN traffic. That’s a very difficult issue to solve for most VPNs, and we’ve seen some of them resort to suggesting their customers use the IPSec/L2TP protocol. That’s all well and good, but there are issues with this approach. Firstly, the IPSec/L2TP provides a lower level of security than OpenVPN. Secondly, it’s doubtful whether this is a sound long-term strategy.

NordVPN Obfuscated servers, on the other hand, are a great way around the China issue. Using them may slow your connection down, but that seems like a good price to pay when the stakes are high. Obfuscated servers are accessible using the NordVPN Windows, Mac, and Android apps. Sadly, our the section on China in our NordVPN review is based on reports rather than tests, but we haven’t met any opinions to the contrary.

It should also be mentioned that China is not the only country this applies to. Russia, Turkey, Iran, India – all these countries have taken steps to keep your online freedom at a minimum. NordVPN is an equally good choice for users in these countries as it is in China.

Additionally, users in restricted countries frequently have higher security needs, which NordVPNs solid features meet in stride. DoubleVPN, VPN over Tor and other security functions make Nord a hard-to-beat choice for the most sensitive situations.

Support

It’s a rare thing, but if NordVPN won’t connect – you’re in luck. Apart from the usual fixed, searchable, and frequently updated FAQs, guides, and other self-help resources, they also offer you a 24/7 live chat support.

Nord has a very responsive live chat function on their website.

One way to access chat is to visit the official support page,  type “chat” in the search box that says “What is it you would like to know?” and press “Enter”. A window will appear right below the box, which will display a Chat icon in its bottom-right corner. Click this icon and start your live support session. Nord isn’t the only VPN service to offer support over chat, but few are as responsive and helpful. Nord claims to “serve more than 3,000 user requests per day,” which could even be more now, depending on when they last updated this figure. Well, our experience with the support agents when writing the NordVPN review gave no such impression – the session wasn’t rushed, and the answers were detailed. Having received a more difficult inquiry, the agents followed up within a reasonable timeframe and were ultimately able to solve our imaginary NordVPN connection problems.

Pricing

 

nordvpn pricing plans

Running a VPN service is expensive – there’s so much infrastructure and other things to constantly worry about. Maintaining hundreds of servers all over the globe, keeping teams of developers and marketing people on your payroll, etc. VPNs must reach a certain scale to get the price down if they don’t want to jeopardize the quality of their service. Even then it must be quite a balancing act between price and quality. We say this because during our research for this NordVPN review, we were forced to admit that they’ve been able to reconcile these two aspects quite admirably. These are the pricing plans they offer their future customers:

  • 1-month plan: $11.95 per month
  • 1-year plan: $6.99 per month
  • 2-year plan: $3.99 per month
  • 3-year plan: $2.99 per month

All NordVPN deals offer the same suite of features and allow up to 6 simultaneous connections.

While the 1-month or even the 1-year plan may not be the cheapest on the VPN market, the 2-year plan at $3.99 a month is an awesome deal. Also, NordVPN is offering a 3-year plan for $2.99 (billed upfront for the whole period). Certainly no VPN as good as NordVPN is this cheap. Sure – Private Internet Access is cheaper by quite a bit, but, if we’re being reasonable, the two aren’t close in terms of quality.

Yes, it’s true that there used to be a (misguided) NordVPN lifetime plan. It was a short-term trend on the VPN market which received lots of criticism from reviewers and ultimately died. At the time of writing this NordVPN review, no lifetime plan exists.

The price is important but so are the payment methods. Users in some countries may want to keep payments for a VPN service off their balance sheet. Nord offers you a number of methods to pay for your plan, such as:

  • PayPal
  • Credit Cards: Visa, Master Card, Amex, and Discover
  • Cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple
  • Other: Alipay, UnionPay, Giropay, WebMoney, Yandex, SOFORT, and iDEAL

There’s no NordVPN free version, but if you’re not satisfied with the service, you can take advantage of their 30-day money-back guarantee. We did and got a refund almost immediately. Apparently, there’s also a NordVPN free trial, which you will find on their site via Google. This gives users 7 days of unlimited service.

Bottom line of our NordVPN review

Hopefully, by the end of our NordVPN review, you have a clearer picture of the product and why it is one of the best on the market. To recap, here are some of its strengths:

  • The highest level of online security and privacy. A couple of VPNs come close, but none can honestly say their product is more secure. In addition to the impressive technical details – the encryption level, the number of security protocols on offer, no leaks – NordVPN also offers unique features. DoubleVPN and Tor over VPN are just a couple of examples. The company behind the product is registered in Panama, where your data is beyond the reach of those who would use it for harm. Finally, Nord has given us no reason to doubt their no-logging policy.
  • You can use this VPN even in China and other restricted countries. Special obfuscated servers will allow users to bypass blocking attempts so that you can stay safe.
  • Great for accessing geo-blocked content. This includes streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.
  • Fast and secure torrenting. We all love torrents and P2P in general, but recently it has become a minefield. NordVPN will help you walk through it with all limbs intact.
  • Professional and fast 24/7 live chat support
  • A huge number of servers (5,200+) in 62 countries. Our NordVPN review shows that despite robust security this tool also has good performance
  • Reasonably low price
  • Great apps for Windows 10 and other versions, Mac, Linux, Android, Android TV, and iOS
  • You can use NordVPN on router devices and many other platforms
  • 30-day money-back guarantee (a NordVPN refund comes almost immediately)
  • 6 simultaneous connections allowed

At the end of this NordVPN review, we can say that it is indeed one of the best all-around tools for those in need of privacy and security. If your purpose for wanting a VPN is very specific, you may find something that better meets your needs. We, however, believe in covering all our bases, and Nord is one of the best at doing that.