This NordVPN review takes a look at one of the top VPN providers on the market. They deliver a sleek easy to use interface, and they have a vast network that covers the globe.
It is hugely popular among users, but they are still under a slight cloud of mystery, and it is difficult to find out a complete picture of this VPN provider.
In this updated review, we will take an in-depth look, and put the VPN through its paces to see if it is has improved since the last time it was tested.
In the world of VPN services, a lot of changes in the matter of a few months, so by the end, we should be able to find, how good is NordVPN?
- Large server network
- Affordable multi-year plans
- Malware blocker included
- Ad blocking feature (CyberSec)
- No-logging policy
- Unblocks Netflix
- Fast on specific servers
- Double-hop VPN servers
- Speeds across network not consistent
- Server recommendation feature not working
- No split-tunneling
- Slow refund for 30-day money back guarantee
Plans and Pricing
NordVPN has one plan which is simple and straightforward, and all that differs are the lock-in periods. Here is what they are now offering at the time of writing:
- 1 month: $11.95 per month
- 1 year: $6.99 per month, billed as $83.88 annually
- 2 year: $3.99 per month, billed as $95.85 every 2-years
- 3 year: $2.99 per month, billed as $107.55 every 3-years
Payment options available are major credit cards, three cryptocurrencies, and other online payment processing services.
This is well covered, and they do offer a few more options in the crypto department than other providers, and it accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.
The NordVPN price though for monthly use is now on the more expensive side for the number of features you receive.
NordVPN does offer a 30-day money back guarantee, and if you take advantage of this, you are in effect receiving a NordVPN free trial, but there are a few complaints that this refund isn’t as fast forthcoming back to users. Another 30-days from canceling is how long you can expect to wait for a NordVPN refund.
There are a few privacy features contained in the NordVPN that should make users feel safe.
CyberSec is the first and contains a filter for malicious sites or malware, ad-blocker and also a tracking blocker. In testing, these worked as advertised and blocks ads on all domains which were primarily advertising domains.
A Kill switch is included, in fact, they offer two types as you can see here:
- App kill switch: this closes all apps you are using, and that require internet access, but, it doesn’t stop any other traffic passing through.
- Internet kill switch: this is the better of the two options because this does stop all traffic if you lose your VPN connectivity.
With this, you can either have them both enabled or just the one you want. The internet kill switch is the one who will stop you having any DNS leaks during use.
You can also as Nord for dedicated IP’s, but these do cost extra. Finally, during testing it was found there were no IPv4, IPv6 or DNS leaks of any kind.
NordVPN uses OpenVPN protocol and AES 256-bit encryption as well as IPSec & IKEv2.
The company claims they have a strict zero-logging policy, and rumors were flying around they were retaining user data. However, Nord was independently audited, and they were found to be clean, and they don’t keep any data.
Like all VPN’s there is some connection data which is retained for troubleshooting etc., this includes server performance reports, email addresses, and payment details.
Although NordVPN is based in Panama, their payment system is based in the USA under a company called CloudVPN.
As we know, the US is part of the 5-eyes and the newer 14-eyes jurisdiction. This they only use for registering Android and iOS apps.
Ease of Use
Installation is easy, and when you start the VPN client, you are faced with a map and the server locations. This also displays the specialized servers it has. This is very similar to other VPN’s, so it isn’t much of a surprise. To connect to any service, all you need to do is left click on the server location.
This might sound straightforward, and it is, but it isn’t efficient. The main reason being if you are showing the USA map, for example, you need to pan across the map to reach a server which could be based in Europe, secondly, in the default zoom you get a cluster of server location icons, so they tend to overlap each other.
As a bit of redemption, there is also a country list which is alphabetically sorted. This is a far more natural way of finding the server you wish to connect to.
From here you can click, and you will get the servers that are based in that country. But, NordVPN falls down again because the cities tend not to be sorted alphabetically.
One other gripe is that when you save a favorite, it is assigned a number rather than the city name, so if you have multiple favorites, you will be hard pushed to know which was which.
There is an extensive range of device support which includes Windows, Mac, Linux. Mobile devices include Android, iOS and plenty of other mobile OS such as Raspberry PI’s and routers.
Some of the more exotic devices don’t have their own client software, but there are detailed configuration tutorials that cover most installations.
NordVPN now allows 6 simultaneous connections to various devices on their VPN service.
When it comes to the mobile NordVPN apps, these are continually updated and are available for both Android and iOS. In use, they are almost as good as the desktop clients to use, so there is no confusion when you change device.
There also browser extensions which are available, and although they might not be useful on a desktop, they do come in handy on your phone or tablet.
These extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox. There are plenty of browsers which are based on Chrome so it should run on these also.
The Android app is hugely popular and has around five million downloads. When you open the Android VPN app, you have the world map in the top of your screen, and underneath you have the servers list. In a way, this is a step up from the desktop client.
But, you do still need to pan around the map and zoom in to see the countries.
One downside to the Android app is that there is no kill switch, and you are unable to set your own DNS servers if you wish to do so. On iOS, you get the same interface, but it appears Apple devices can work with this layout better.
Signing up for NordVPN is painless, and they don’t even ask for all of your information. All they require is an email address. With the payments options, and especially the crypto offerings, you can sign up and be totally anonymous if you use a burner email.
- The company has made things easy, and all you do is navigate to the site and click the get now button.
- You then select your plan
- At this point, you create your account (only email address)
- Select payment method – if you choose a credit card, you do have all your personal details for that card to enter.
- Click continue to finish, and the app will start to download
- Check your email, and you will have received a confirmation email. Verify your email address, and then set your password.
You are now up and running, and you can log into the NordVPN website, and from here you can do pretty much anything. Change your plan, change your password or download more apps, etc.
Signing up also allows you to be as anonymous as you wish to be, not that they will ever pass your details on.
When it comes to setting up NordVPN, it is one of the easiest clients there is. Once you have downloaded the client and installed it, there isn’t much left to do from the main screen. Even the apps are straightforward and can be obtained from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.
The most challenging part of the setup is when you have a device such as a router that doesn’t have client software.
They do have in-depth tutorials on how you can achieve this quickly. However, having to flash your router could leave you with no connection if things go wrong.
All of the client software and installation of apps is straightforward, but, it is when you have them running you feel as if something is lacking.
Tor over VPN (Onion) is a slow network, but for users who want that little bit more privacy, then the inclusion is welcome. NordVPN can utilize this for extra security, but this does come with a price.
When using Onion over VPN, there are only 3 VPN servers where your connection will exit, these are Latvia, Netherlands, and Sweden. This can even further slow your connection speeds because none are concerning the USA.
Double-hop is another feature, and NordVPN delivers 16 configurations to do this. Your connection passes through two routers before exiting, but unfortunately, these are set, and you have no way to alter them.
Stand out features are a little thin on the ground for NordVPN, but what it does do, it does do quite well.
NordVPN offers Chrome and Firefox proxy extensions where you can connect straight from your browser window. This makes it much easier than finding the client in your system tray and then logging in and finding the server you want.
With these browser extensions, you are not faced with the world map, and you are offered an auto-connect button. Clicking this takes you to the fastest server which is about your location.
You can choose another country, but there is no possibility of you picking a specific server. For simple website unblocking, these extensions are ideal, but they don’t offer anything spectacular in the way of functions. When you compare to other VPN extensions, they deliver much more functionality.
NordVPN now has a network that covers 61 countries and with a total of 5114 NordVPN servers. With a network of this size, you would expect them to land the top spot in the download speeds stakes. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, but they are better than most other VPN’s.
You can see server stats on the website which is handy, and they also have Obfuscated servers. These hide the VPN IP address that is being used, and it will appear like regular HTTPS traffic.
Although the network has been expanded, there was still some servers which gave a lackluster performance in speed testing, and in some instances, it was varying to the extent it is one of the worst tested. This often happened when trying to connect to a double hop server and the connection failed more than a few times.
If you are in the right region, you may never have a speed issue because when it is working as it should, it is one of the fastest VPN’s.
NordVPN customer service can be contacted by email or their live chat option which is a welcome addition after quite a long time. Here the staff will help with most questions, and their response is quick. However, the responses were copied and paste, so it wasn’t really a person who was typing the answers.
If using email for a more in-depth query, then you are passed onto another customer support rep who will assist you.
One thing where the company does excel is their knowledge base. It contains over 500 tutorials and guides which cover almost all you can think of.
This is one area where they have improved, but they still have some way to go before they match the best.
It has come to the stage where many VPN’s have given up trying to access Netflix. Luckily, NordVPN isn’t one of them.
There are plenty of VPN’s which use unblocking Netflix as a selling point, but NordVPN doesn’t actually claim they do or they don’t.
What they do say is you can access your favorite websites while forgetting about censorship. In a way that means they unblock Netflix. They are also pretty good at unblocking many other streaming services geo-blocking.
It did have a problem with connecting to the BBC iPlayer on one occasion, but that was out of almost ten attempts, and it did work in the end.
Users can safely say that Netflix access works, but we did see reports of users saying they were unable to get past the restrictions.
Many VPN’s don’t claim they allow torrenting, and NordVPN isn’t any different. To find their stance, you need to scroll toward the bottom of the website to see where they say torrenting is allowed.
Not all servers allow torrenting, but they do have specific servers in certain locations. Out of their network, they do have hundreds which are torrent compatible.
The service goes as far as re-directing your connection to a torrent server if you try and connect to a non-torrent server.
Because of the size of some torrent files, you might come under the fair use clause in their terms and conditions, but they do state unlimited bandwidth, so if this ever crops up, is hard to say.
NordVPN is one of the most highly ranked VPN companies on the planet. It holds this position for a good reason. They deliver military-grade encryption and does all it can to protect user privacy, aside from a couple of minor things.
They deliver reliable speeds on most occasions, and they have a good set of features, some of which aren’t found on other VPN networks.
When we began to test NordVPN, we had high hopes they would have improved some of their weakest areas. The live chat has been wanted for ages, but it is when connecting to NordVPN where users really want to see the difference.
The client interface is easy to use, and you can quickly navigate around the menus, but the server selection hasn’t been improved, so each time you want to change server, you have a lot of messing about to do.
Compared to many other VPN’s it is a good, decent service that will serve many users well.
However, when you make a VPN service comparison to the one which continually beats it in VPN reviews, you can quickly see where NordVPN falls down.
The things that need changing should be simple, but they are the things which are taking the time. Here’s hoping to see some differences in the next review.