NordVPN Review Overview
- 5500+ servers
- Works with streaming services
- Onion over VPN feature
- Not in the location they say they are
- 36 month plan - $3.49 per month ($125.64 total cost)
- 24 month plan - $3.49 per month ($83.76 total cost)
- 12 month plan - $6.99 per month ($83.88 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $11.95 per month ($11.95 total cost)
When it comes to the VPN industry, some providers are better known than others. NordVPN is one such example. In our NordVPN review, we look at what makes this VPN one of the best.
There’s almost a mythical status built up around NordVPN, to the point where users and review sites passionately proclaim the provider to be the absolute best VPN on the market.
But as we know too well, myths are built on a foundation of truth and embellishment alike.
For this reason, we decided to take a look behind the wizard’s curtain and see just how much of the hype around NordVPN is fact-based… and how much is embellishment driven by a lucrative affiliate program.
NordVPN announced on October 21, 2019 they were hacked back in March of 2018. The breach was a result of NordVPN’s Finland datacenter being accessed without authorization.
According to NordVPN, this was done via a vulnerability the service provider didn’t disclose to the VPN provider. Also according to NordVPN, no user data was accessed during the breach, nor does the breached server exist anymore.
That said, with insight from Tom’s Guide, NordVPN appears to be walking on sticky soil – and there might be more to the story than the VPN provider is willing to admit. At the current moment, we are unsure how this will affect NordVPN’s reliability in the future.
NordVPN is riding a roller-coaster out of the year 2019 – with ups and downs alike. This time, NordVPN celebrated a surprisingly high “up” when they were featured on prime time ITV (one of the leading UK television channels) in November 19. This was a huge step forward in the VPN industry – hopefully, the first of many.
How NordVPN Compares to the Competition
Let us try an clear this up. NordVPN are owned by Tesonet. Tesonet is based in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Does this pose a risk to NordVPN users? No it does not. Because Nord is registered in Panama, they are subject to Panama laws and when it comes to data, well the authorities in Panama have zero rights to demand access to data.
We undestand this move by Nord as whilst Lithuania isn’t the worst place for a VPN to be based in – they’re not located in a 5, 9, or 14 eyes jurisdiction for example, they do have some iffy data privacy laws.
Strict No-Logs Policy
While NordVPN advertises themselves as a no-log VPN service, others like PureVPN were caught giving user data to the authorities despite making the same promises.
This means your email address and payment data (for creating and purchasing an account), as well as some diagnostic data used to “recommend the most suitable servers to our customers” is collected.
A slight hiccup is the fact that when you pay for your NordVPN subscription, payment goes to CloudVPN – a US company, and therefore not in a VPN-friendly jurisdiction.
However, we contacted NordVPN’s live chat support team and discovered the following:
So this isn’t really a big issue, but we would still prefer to see more transparency.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
A VPN company itself is one possible threat to your online privacy when using its services. We already know NordVPN isn’t a problem in this regard, but what are they doing to help protect you from external threats?
Well, first of all, they use military-grade encryption to obfuscate your data. More specifically, NordVPN uses 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Galois/Counter Mode (GCM).
For most of their clients, this is further enhanced with a 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman (DH) key exchange – for users with an Apple product, the DH key gets boosted up to 3072-bit as the default.
That’s largely the encryption used with the IKEv2/IPSec VPN protocol. NordVPN also offers the OpenVPN protocol, which can be used with either TCP or UDP ports. Here, you get 256-bit AES Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) with the 2048-bit DH key.
So there’s no way anyone will decrypt your data, even if they work on it until the end of time.
And both options are incredibly robust, though we do favor OpenVPN over IKEv2/IPSec. Our reasoning is too complicated to explain here, but you can read all about it in our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols.
Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection
NordVPN has a very robust Automatic Kill Switch that can be used in 2 different ways.
For general users, the system-wide kill switch will end all applications if the connection is interrupted.
But if you’re an advanced user, you can specify which apps are covered by the kill switch. For example, your browser, but not your email client (such as Microsoft Outlook).
This is coupled with NordVPN’s DNS Leak Protection. The Domain Name Service (DNS) turns the website name you type into your search bar into an Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a number servers use to identify each other.
A DNS leak happens when, instead of using the VPN’s DNS servers, your system reverts back to your ISP’s default.
And this means your ISP is able to see what you’re doing online and can potentially sell that information to third-parties without telling you. DNS Leak Protection stops that from happening.
One feature NordVPN doesn’t offer is Split Tunneling, which is used to choose which apps connect via the VPN and which ones continue to use your original connection.
So, to repeat an earlier example, you could decide to let your browser run via your VPN while your email client doesn’t.
It’s not an absolutely crucial feature, but it’s definitely on our list of “nice-to-haves.”
Onion Over VPN TOR Capability
Another feature we consider a “nice-to-have” (unless you live in a country with ridiculous online censorship laws, such as the UAE and China, in which case it becomes a “must-have”) is TOR capability.
TOR, or The Onion Router, is a free browser that helps internet users get a little closer to the mythical 100% true online anonymity.
Basically, it reroutes your traffic via 3 servers and blocks tracking. It does slow your internet connection though (sometimes rather substantially), so it’s not a great option for streaming or torrenting.
But for general use, if you’re super keen on protecting your online privacy, you can use TOR over a VPN. This basically means you connect to your VPN and then to the TOR network.
Not all VPNs are TOR-compatible, but NordVPN most certainly is. In fact, they even have a special feature called Onion Over VPN.
This makes it easier to connect to the TOR network without having to first connect to the VPN and then open your TOR browser, which is the case with other VPNs.
Thousands of Server Connections, Double VPN – and a Dedicated IP Add-on
NordVPN is simply outstanding in this regard. The provider boasts the largest network of servers we’ve encountered: a whopping 5,572 servers in 60 countries.
And while it’s not true for all of them, most locations feature at least one server optimized for the Double VPN feature.
Double VPN works similarly to TOR and is a slightly better alternative. While there is some speed reduction, as you’re routing your traffic through 2 VPN servers, it’s considerably less than that of TOR.
NordVPN also offers an optional Dedicated IP add-on (at $70/year), which gives you your own secure VPN IP address.
It’s easier to track, but generally less likely to be tracked – and you’ll never have an issue with network overload.
Most providers claim they’re the fastest, but there are too many different things that affect server speeds on the user-end: your operating system, regular connection speed, and even your distance to the server’s location.
So when we test different VPNs for their server speeds, we use exactly the same devices, internet connection, and server locations.
It’s not entirely foolproof (network overload can vary and affect the results), but it’s the best way to get a more in-depth understanding of how well a VPN actually performs in comparison to its competition.
As for NordVPN – we were happily surprised to confirm its rumors of super fast speeds. Take a look for yourself:
Device Compatibility and Connections
Something else that divides good VPN providers from the bad ones – though not necessarily on a fundamental level – is the number of compatible devices and how many of them you can connect with at the same time.
NordVPN has both areas well covered, offering apps for:
- Smart TVs
- Chrome (browser extension)
- Firefox (browser extension)
You also get 6 simultaneous connections, but there’s a trick to boosting that number into infinity. All you need to do is connect your router to NordVPN and all the devices using that network will be connected too!
Subscription Plans and Pricing
NordVPN’s pricing isn’t the best, unfortunately. The provider is more budget-friendly than its main competitor, ExpressVPN, but it’s far from being a true budget option:
You get the best savings with the 3-year subscription, where it works out to just $2.99/month (at current sale price).
And NordVPN is far from stingy with their payment options: card, Alipay, and 3 different cryptocurrencies.
Unblock Websites for Unlimited Streaming
Let’s face it – chances are you’re looking to stream content that isn’t available in your location.
Whether the streaming service (like Netflix) couldn’t get licensing for your home country or in the country you’re visiting for business or pleasure, it’s a real drag not being able to access your favorite content.
Luckily, NordVPN is one of the best streaming VPNs. Their servers get right past the Netflix proxy detection to stay off their blacklist – and that goes for other streaming services too.
And because NordVPN has specialized servers with the Smart Play feature, you can either manually pick a streaming server or use Quick Connect to find one for you. For this reason, NordVPN easily makes our Netflix VPN list.
Of course, you still need a Netflix subscription to stream Netflix.
The same goes for all of their competitors – and considering they keep introducing exclusivity deals, keeping up with all your favorite content quickly becomes prohibitively expensive.
This is exactly why torrenting has become increasingly popular again.
We don’t endorse copyright infringement, but chances are you’re going to do it anyway.
So if you are, or if you need to use Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file transfers for legal purposes, then you absolutely need to do so via a torrent-friendly VPN.
NordVPN isn’t just torrent-friendly – they’re almost enthusiastically so. And they have hundreds of servers optimized specifically for torrenting.
Usability and Support
We don’t want a VPN app to take more than 5 minutes to install.
NordVPN met our expectations – within 5 minutes, we were connecting to one of their servers.
The app is rather attractive, even if it tends to take up a lot of screen space when it’s open.
There’s a big global map display with location markers where they have servers, which you can click to connect.
The only problem with that is you can’t zoom in, making finding the server you want rather difficult.
Luckily, that’s not the only way to connect. There are several other choices, including Quick Connect, P2P, Double VPN, and Onion Over VPN, as well as an option to view countries.
All-in-all, we found the Windows app very easy to use, though someone less familiar with VPNs might find the feature-rich display a little overwhelming.
And NordVPN’s 24/7 live chat support is easily one of the best systems we’ve encountered in the industry.
We never had to wait more than 2 minutes to get a response, and every question was answered promptly and in full, but without going into so much detail as to raise more questions.
How to Cancel NordVPN and Get Your Money Back
We certainly do recommend NordVPN, but in the spirit of transparency, there are some mixed user reviews.
If your experience with the provider is less than ideal, here’s how to cancel your subscription and get a refund:
- Log into your NordVPN Account
- Click “Cancel automatic payments” at the bottom of the Accounts Page
- Confirm cancellation
- Click on the Live Chat icon (bottom-right of screen) and request a refund
- You’ll be asked if you want NordVPN to try sorting out any issues you have
- After confirming you want to cancel and request a refund, you’ll be redirected to Billing
- You’ll be asked again whether you’re sure you want to cancel
- If you confirm, the Billing Agent will discretely check your account history to make sure you’re eligible for the 30-day money-back guarantee before processing a refund for you
That’s it! Within 5 business days, the money will be back in your account unless you paid for your subscription via the Apple Store or a third-party reseller.