When you load up the NordVPN website, you’ll see a bold claim saying: “the Best VPN service”. Short and to the point, but is it accurate? To determine if this VPN is still worth its subscription price in 2021, we’ve run thorough and detailed tests on NordVPN, covering everything from safety to speed and performance.
Before we dig deeper into every aspect of this VPN, we should give credit where credit is due. NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market. It offers excellent network speeds and has a well-spread out grid of over 5500 servers. It’s capable of unblocking every streaming platform out there and supports P2P file sharing. There’s a streamlined app for almost any device, which allows you to tailor your experience by adjusting many in-app settings. With all of this in mind, there are a few aspects where NordVPN missed the mark with its service.
TL; DR – Table Overview of Crucial NordVPN Features
Excellent server speeds
Expensive unless you opt for a more extended plan
Easy-to-use and optimizable apps
Streaming servers aren’t marked in any way
Robust security (CyberSec, Double-VPN, kill switch, split tunneling)
A relatively low number of allowed connections (6)
Can unblock all major streaming platforms
Strict no-logs policy
How Fast is NordVPN? – Speed and Reliability Test
NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs on the market. But, more important than this epithet itself, it’s great to know that NordVPN does not apply any bandwidth and speed limits.
So, no matter how fast your network connection is, NordVPN can keep up with it. This is the main reason why this VPN is so popular among users who highly-prioritize speed and performance.
Connection speed is one of the essential factors to factor in when considering a VPN service. To see how well this VPN performs, let’s test its speed on an average-performing network suitable for 1-2 users. With that in mind, as a base value, the network speed without a VPN is:
Next, we’ve used NordVPN’s “Quick Connect” feature to connect to the most suitable nearby server. As you can see, there’s a little dropdown in performance across the board:
Then we used NordVPN’s interactive map to connect to a server from halfway around the globe to test the service’s long-distance performance:
Aside from the large increase in ping with the increase of server distance, NordVPN fared pretty impressively in download and upload performance. Distance definitely played a factor in the VPN’s performance, but to a much lesser extent than what we expected before the test.
Lastly, we tested on a nearby server again to determine how NordVPN performs with their NordLynx protocol:
We should also mention that the company started rolling out 10Gbps servers at the end of 2020 and will continue adding new 10Gbps servers this year. This is a significant speed upgrade for their service. It will provide a more stable infrastructure for existing customers and future-proof NordVPN’s servers for the next several years.
NordVPN Servers – Locations and Availability
NordVPN has over 5500 servers in its network in 59 countries globally. Although this isn’t the most extensive VPN server network you can find, it offers you more than enough options for all of your online activities.
More important than sheer numbers alone, NordVPN’s network is very well-spread out across all regions worldwide. No matter where you’re physically located, you can count on a good connection. From sought-after servers in the USA, the UK, and Australia to half a dozen servers in Africa, India, and the Middle East. You can even connect to a Turkey-based server optimized for P2P file sharing.
How to Find the Best NordVPN Server?
NordVPN provides you with several convenient ways of finding the best and most suitable server for your online demands. When looking at the server section of the NordVPN apps, either on your phone or your desktop computer, it’s always divided into two sections – the server map and the scrollable server list.
There’s also a useful search function that you can use to promptly find a specific server you have in mind. If you don’t want to take advantage of any of these features, you can use the “Quick Connect” option, which will connect you to the most suitable VPN server located nearby.
Aside from this, it’s useful to know that the entire NordVPN infrastructure runs on RAM-disk servers. This means that nothing is stored locally. In case there’s a breach or someone physically seizes their server hardware, there’ll be no data or usable configuration files on it.
NordVPN Server Colocation
After the infamous server breach at one of their third-party data centers in 2018, NordVPN introduced a new security plan to overhaul its service and boost overall server security. A big step towards this direction came in October 2020, when NordVPN introduced its first colocated servers. These servers are managed and controlled entirely in-house. The complete ownership of such servers guarantees that there’s no risk of third-party breaches.
Are there any Virtual Servers?
Unlike its biggest competitor, ExpressVPN, NordVPN doesn’t use any virtual servers. This is a critical aspect to keep in mind, as virtual VPN servers are generally considered the less-ethical and more unreliable option. NordVPN maintains a hard stance that all of their VPN servers are based in real-world locations correctly indicated in their server list.
What About the NordVPN Obfuscated Servers?
Another useful piece of information to know is that NordVPN offers obfuscated servers capable of bypassing even the most stringent geo-restrictions and network firewalls.
That said, there’s not so much information on their site on how these obfuscated servers actually work. What obfuscated servers are, are dedicated algorithms that mask the fact that you’re accessing the website through a VPN connection. This makes them a handy tool if you live in a country with heavy censorship.
Is NordVPN Safe? – Security and Privacy
NordVPN comes packed with a long list of security and privacy features that make it one of the safest VPNs on the market. The essential NordVPN security features include:
- CyberSec – This security solution blocks all sites known for hosting malware and phishing scams. It also removes the ads, making your experience faster and more enjoyable. The full CyberSec feature is currently available in NordVPN apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. You can enable it in the app settings menu.
- DDoS Protection – NordVPN can protect you from DDoS and other costly cyberattacks you would otherwise be susceptible to.
- Onion over VPN – With this feature, NordVPN creates a safe connection that routes your traffic through the secure NordVPN network and the Tor network. This combines the best parts of NordVPN’s security and Onion Router’s anonymity and makes for an even safer online browsing experience.
- Kill Switch Feature – If your connection accidentally drops while on one of NordVPN’s servers, the Kill Switch automatically blocks your device from accessing the web. The NordVPN app allows you to tailor your Kill Switch settings and add any other apps that you want to close in case of connection drops.
- DNS Leak Protection – When connected to one of their servers, your devices only use DNS servers operated by NordVPN. You don’t have to worry about any DNS leaks or any data falling into the wrong hands this way.
- Split Tunneling – The NordVPN split tunneling feature allows you to have a specific part of your internet connection to be rerouted outside of the VPN. This option is currently available only on Windows, Android, and Android TV.
Does NordVPN Log User Activity?
What’s more, since this service allows you to pay in cryptocurrencies, you can set up your account so that your burner email is the only piece of information you share with them. You can even purchase a NordVPN subscription in cash in a retail store if you don’t want to leave any trace.
The company regularly undergoes independent audits. NordVPN was the first provider to order an independent assurance engagement, which they did in 2018. The independent auditors at PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland determined that NordVPN did not violate its data-logging policy in any way.
NordVPN Available Protocols
To offer you a comprehensive rundown of all NordVPN features, even the lesser-known ones, we also want to highlight all of the NordVPN available protocols:
- IKEv2/IPSec – This protocol comes as the default option on all NordVPN iOS and macOS apps. It offers maximum security and privacy, with reliable and stable network speed. NordVPN’s IKEvs/IPSec protocol uses NGE (Next Generation Encryption).
- OpenVPN – A mature and versatile protocol suitable for a variety of online activities. It can be used on both TCP and UDP ports. You can enable OpenVPN directly in the NordVPN app, under “Advanced Settings”.
- NordLynx – Combining WireGuard and NordVPN custom network system, NordLynx makes a highly-performing protocol that works without storing any identifiable data on the VPN’s servers. But, more on this protocol in the following section.
NordLynx – Unmatched Inhouse Protocol
NordVPN has always maintained a reputation as a VPN that pushes the boundaries of innovation. Their new, custom in-house protocol, called NordLynx, perfectly exemplifies this. Built around the WireGuard protocol, NordLynx uses a Double NAT (Network Address Translation) system.
NordLynx came about as NordVPN’s goal to create a high-speed protocol that doesn’t compromise security features. NordLynx’s Double NAT-system allows the protocol to establish a secure VPN tunnel without storing any of your activity data.
The provider does have a disclaimer regarding potential WireGuard-related bugs, citing that it might still have some bugs, as it’s not yet a fully fleshed-out product. However, there haven’t been any user complaints regarding this feature.
How Effective is the NordVPN Double-VPN Feature?
NordVPN’s Double-VPN feature is an effective tool that routes your network traffic through two VPN servers, encrypting your data twice instead of once. This provides you with enhanced protection and complete privacy, as even NordVPN’s second VPN server doesn’t have your actual IP address. Here’s how to Use Double VPN on your NordVPN app:
- Open the NordVPN app.
- Click on the “Specialty Servers” tab.
- Click on the Double-VPN option to connect automatically or on the settings icon beside it to manually choose your desired server.
Note that the Double-VPN feature won’t appear in your app sometimes if you’re using the default protocol. We’ve encountered this issue several times, especially when testing the NordVPN Windows and android apps. If this happens to you, restart the app or switch to a different protocol and then access the “Specialty Servers” tab again.
To directly compare how our experience was with the Double-VPN feature, let’s take a closer look at how our network performed with a regular VPN connection:
And here’s how it fared with the Double-VPN feature on:
The two pictures depict the average result of ten individual speed comparison tests on servers based in the same country. From these numbers, it’s clear that the Double-VPN feature significantly increases ping and has a noticeable impact on overall download speed. The upload speed surprisingly changes in favor of the Double-VPN connection but to no discernible difference.
NordVPN Streaming Capabilities
When it comes to unblocking streaming platforms globally, few VPNs can match up to NordVPN’s capabilities. Their server speeds are suitable for supporting Ultra HD quality streaming.
NordVPN’s SmartPlay feature, which helps you access certain websites that employ heavy geo-blocking mechanisms, comes in particularly handy when it comes to unblocking streaming sites. Here’s a rundown of the major streaming platforms NordVPN can help you access:
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime Video
- HBO GO
Unlike some of its competitors, NordVPN doesn’t label streaming servers nor highlight which server locations might be most suitable for unblocking major streaming sites. This can be a bit frustrating, as you can never know whether or not the server will work before trying it out.
To be completely objective, we should say that in most cases, it works. However, sometimes you’ll need to switch between servers to find one capable of accessing the site you want to open. If the latter happens to you, it’s always best to reach out to support, as they’ll promptly recommend you a server you can connect to.
Additionally, you can also browse through their Help section. You can find recommended servers capable of reliably and consistently unblocking the most popular streaming platforms.
NordVPN P2P Support – Can You Torrent Using this VPN?
NordVPN makes P2P file sharing extremely easy. You can find a detailed list of all servers suitable for torrenting right on the VPN’s site. Although most NordVPN servers support torrenting, this option isn’t available on every server location. This is most notable in the Asia Pacific region, where over half of their servers aren’t suitable for P2P file sharing.
If you want to download and share content online but don’t want to go through the hassle of choosing the right P2P servers, NordVPN has created a P2P tab in the “Specialty Servers” section of every app. By clicking on this prompt, the VPN will automatically connect you to the best P2P server according to your location.
With all of the above in mind, the best way to determine just how well NordVPN performs in the torrenting aspect is to put it to a direct test. Firstly, we tried downloading a file without a VPN connection. Here are the performance results for the base test:
Afterward, we’ve downloaded the same file from the same client. The only difference this time is that we were connected to one of NordVPN’s P2P servers. Here’s how NordVPN performed for torrenting:
Additionally, we also ran the tests while connected to NordVPN’s in-house NordLynx protocol. Here’s how NordLynx performed for torrenting files:
Both the average and maximum download speed experienced an unmistakable drop-down when connected to a P2P VPN server. The case was similar even when using the NordLynx protocol, although NordLynx provided better torrenting performance than OpenVPN. Although test results can vary depending on the particular P2P file itself and the number of seeds/peers, you can always expect a noticeable difference.
Is NordVPN Expensive? – NordVPN Subscription Plans and Prices
NordVPN offers three price plans – a monthly, yearly, and bi-yearly plan. Looking at their monthly subscription fees ($11.95 per month), you can see that NordVPN is more expensive than most other VPNs on the market.
If you commit to one of their more extended plans, you can save up more money long-term. So much so that when divided, the bi-yearly plan costs less than a third as much per month ($3.71) that the monthly subscription plan.
That said, you’ll still have to cash out a fairly substantial amount up front ($89 for the bi-yearly plan), which not most online users are comfortable doing. Besides the base VPN subscription cost, you also purchase the NordPass service, which adds another couple of dollars to your billing cost.
In terms of payment, there’s a substantial variety of payment methods to choose from. You can pay with Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express cards, or cryptocurrencies. You can also purchase a NordVPN plan through Amazon Pay, GooglePay, iTunes, or payment services such as Sofort and PayPal. Plus, as we mentioned above, you can purchase the subscription in one of the retail stores NordVPN has partnered with.
Regardless of which NordVPN subscription plan you opt for, you can count on the same security features, unlimited bandwidth, and up to six simultaneous connections. Let’s take a close look at the prices for each of their subscription plans:
As you can see from the image above, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee to all of its new customers. When requesting a refund for your purchase, NordVPN will ask you for a reason for your cancelation but will always give you your money back.
Keep in mind that NordVPN can’t directly refund your payment if you purchased Apple’s App Store. Their money-back guarantee doesn’t apply to subscription renewals if you cancel after the renewal.
NordVPN Apps and Programs
NordVPN offers its users the option of choosing from a long list of supported apps. Here’s a full list of available NordVPN apps:
NordVPN for Windows
The NordVPN Windows app is a robust client with tons of features. It’s easy to install and comes with a simple overlay that makes choosing servers quick and straightforward. Compared to all other apps, it offers you the most options. You can select a dedicated IP, connect to a P2P specialty server, go for an Onion over VPN connection, or run your traffic through two servers by choosing the Double-VPN feature.
The app connects you very quickly, and there’s an option to pause the connection for a set amount of time or disconnect immediately. The Windows app also comes with a kill switch feature, CyberSec, and from the start of this year, split tunneling. Other advanced features include obfuscated servers, custom DNS, and Invisibility on LAN.
NordVPN for macOS
Much like its Windows counterpart, the macOS app comes with all of the security bells and whistles. It is similarly designed and equally easy to use, with all of the Specialty Servers options available as in the client above. The extra features include CyberSec, obfuscated servers, custom DNS, TCP/UDP, and NordVPN’s in-house NordLynx protocol. It also has a kill switch feature.
NordVPN on Android
With over 10 million downloads and a solid rating of 4.3 on Google’s Play Store, the Android app is very streamlined and easy to use. It comes with many similar features as its Windows counterpart.
NordVPN’s Android client has a split tunneling option and also supports CyberSec. The Advanced Settings section allows you to choose which protocol you want to use, select custom DNS, and turn on Tapjacking protection for your phone. It’s useful to know that the NordVPN Android app doesn’t include a kill-switch feature.
NordVPN for iOS
Simple, intuitive, and fast enough to take advantage of the full potential of iOS devices, NordVPN’s iOS app maximizes everything its NordLynx protocol has to offer. More than just encrypting your iOS device, you can also take advantage of various other advanced features.
The iOS app comes with the Specialty Servers option as well, including Onion over VPN and P2P. Additionally, you can set up a DNS server address if you want to. Plus, unlike the Android version, the iOS app even has a built-in kill switch to ensure an enhanced privacy level.
NordVPN for AndroidTVs
The NordVPN APP for AndroidTV is a convenient way of unblocking any streaming sites directly from your TV. Even more important, it comes with several essential security features.
This includes CyberSec, TCP, and UDP protocols and even offers you specialty servers so you can choose between P2P, Onion over VPN, Double VPN, and Obfuscated servers.
You can add the NordVPN app for Android TVs quickly and simply download it on your TV from the Google Play Store. After that, you have to log in and set up the app to use it.
NordVPN Browser Extensions
If you don’t want to encrypt the entire connection on your device but just the traffic that goes through your browser, NordVPN offers you a perfect solution. There are browser extensions available for Chrome and Firefox. Both versions come with WebRTC leak protection, so you don’t have to bother with installing any additional plugins or managing settings.
You can find the app in the Chrome Store or add it from the Firefox Add-ons page. There are much fewer features available compared to the apps, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a capable and secure VPN connection.
NordVPN for Routers
Although there’s no NordVPN app for your router, you can still set this VPN to your router and secure your entire network. You can do this by reconfiguring your router settings to redirect traffic to a chosen VPN server. Keep in mind that NordVPN can’t work on all routers. For NordVPN to work on your router, it has to support OpenVPN as a client instead of as a server.
Aside from these apps and extensions, you can set up NordVPN to a number of other devices. This includes gaming consoles, Linux, Amazon Fire devices, Raspberry Pi, and many other devices.
How to Install NordVPN Apps?
Justifying their reputation as one of the best VPNs when it comes to customer support, NordVPN has created separate VPN Setup Tutorials for each device and platform that their service can run.
This is excellent to see on their part, as each device and platform has its own different installation steps you need to follow. That said, some actions apply across the board, for all devices. Here’s a short step-by-step guide on how to install NordVPN apps:
- Go to the NordVPN site and choose the appropriate app for your device.
- Follow the steps when prompted to complete the installation.
- Open up the app and log in.
- Connect to a server of your choice.
NordVPN Customer Support and User Experience
Even though NordVPN is one of the most reliable VPN services on the market, it’s useful to know that you have your back covered if you encounter any problems using one of their apps. And, when it comes to customer support, NordVPN can hardly be topped by any other service. With 24/7 user support, you can always rely on quick and efficient service.
Going through live chat is the fastest way to reach a NordVPN agent, although you’ll have to answer a few live chatbot questions first to get to a real person on the other side. There’s also an email contact option. If you contact them through email, you can expect a response within 24 hours.
Plus, if you’re feeling outgoing, you can even contact them via any major social media outlet. Their support staff is always friendly and eager to go a step beyond to ensure your problem has been resolved.
Another thing we found particularly convenient was their FAQ section. NordVPN offers a massive knowledgebase, covering everything you need to know about their service. Although the FAQ section is very comprehensive, it’s effortless to browse through. This is thanks to the functional search bar, which you can use to find a relevant answer to any question you may have regarding their service.
NordVPN Customer Experiences From Around the Web
NordVPN has a very strong online presence and is undoubtedly one of the industry’s best-marketed VPN services. Their marketing team has made sure that this VPN is present on every corner. From having a strong appearance on review sites to countless affiliate deals, it’s hard to find an unbiased opinion on NordVPN without really digging deep.
So, how can we know what the average NordVPN user thinks about this service? Reviews can be bought and faked, but not everywhere. Let’s take a closer look at the two platforms that offer the most reliable and consistent user feedback on NordVPN’s services:
How Does NordVPN Poll on GooglePlay?
On this platform, you can find a lot of useful information regarding almost any misconception, good or bad experience users have had with this VPN service over the years. With over 320,000 reviews on GooglePlay and a 4.3 rating, you can see that NordVPN fairs very well in the online world but is still called out on any flaws it exhibits from time to time.
Just from the comment thread above, you can see that NordVPN users don’t shy away from leaving honest opinions. But, what’s even more interesting than the provider’s reviews on GooglePlay is NordVPN’s dedication to answering all queries and help requests. These aren’t just generic copy-paste answers, but direct replies to what the users are complaining about—big props to their support staff for this practice.
What Does Reddit Think of NordVPN?
Aside from Google Reviews and impressions on similar review sites, you can also get a good perception of NordVPN’s services by browsing Reddit threads. This is because most people on Reddit are regular VPN users, tech-savvy, and most importantly, often brutally honest in public discussions on this platform.
The platform’s overall consensus is that this VPN service is still one of the very best in the industry, with many great features and a great server network. However, those users who are complaining about NordVPN often cite slow connection speeds and ineffectiveness on streaming platforms, mainly when it comes to maintaining stable streaming speed.
Is NordVPN worth its Price Point?
Yes, NordVPN is worth its price, especially when you opt for one of their longer subscription plans. The bottom line is, NordVPN offers everything you would look for in a top-quality VPN service.
It’s a great all-around VPN capable of meeting all of your requirements, whether you’re looking for a high-speed gaming VPN, torrent often, or are just looking for a reliable service to help you access your favorite shows.
Of course, it’s not perfect, but it’s still the best VPN you can find for your money today. It does a great job at making a very user-friendly VPN product, suitable even for those with no experience in using such tools. It’s polished, reliable, and works well on all devices.
Can NordVPN be Trusted?
Yes, NordVPN is one of the most trustworthy VPNs in the industry. The company has a warrant canary on its website, which it updates daily to keep its users in the loop. Most importantly, it employs a zero log policy and doesn’t hold any user data.
Where is NordVPN Based?
NordVPN is based in Panama, a very privacy-friendly country in terms of VPN services. Panama doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws and isn’t a part of the Five or Fourteen Eyes alliances.
How Many Simultaneous Connections Does NordVPN Allow?
NordVPN allows you to connect up to six devices at the same time. As you can connect your router to NordVPN servers to secure your entire household using only one connection, this VPN gives you many options to personalize your experience and take maximum advantage of its services.
Does NordVPN work in China?
Yes, NordVPN is one of the very few VPN services that can get through the Great Firewall of China. Moreover, you can also connect to NordVPN if you live in or travel to other countries with strong censorship, such as Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and even North Korea.