NordVPN gives you one of the best VPN services you’ll find anywhere, with very few compromises in return. No matter what list we make — whether we’re after the best VPN for Netflix or a strong option for torrenting — NordVPN always winds up at the top. In this NordVPN review, we’ll explain exactly why.
- NordVPN lives up to its strong reputation with fast download speeds, a well-designed interface and plenty of features.
- If you primarily use a VPN for streaming, NordVPN is an ideal choice.
- For the number of features you get, NordVPN’s one-year and two-year plans are almost absurdly cheap. It also currently has an autumn deal where you get three months free.
The reasons why NordVPN is one of the best VPNs is easy to summarize. NordVPN is so fast you’ll hardly notice it’s running. It has an excellent record of finding and fixing security vulnerabilities and offers great savings on its annual plans. However, those aren’t the only features that set this top-performing VPN apart.
In this ultimate NordVPN review, we’ll explore every corner of NordVPN’s service, including its features, pricing, user interface, speed, security, privacy, streaming performance, server network and customer support. We’ll also take a frank look at areas where it falls short, and by the end, issue a verdict on whether it’s worth your time and money.
Cloudwards completed a fresh review of NordVPN. Since our last review, the VPN has added split tunneling and dark web monitoring. It has also improved its auto-connect server location speeds, and changed the default protocol from OpenVPN to NordLynx, a version of the WireGuard protocol.
Added information about Surfshark and NordVPN merging.
Updated the review to include information about NordVPN’s new feature, “threat protection.”
Updated the “pricing” section to reflect NordVPN’s shift toward a full security package option.
Updated to include new Meshnet feature.
Updated with new speed information from Cloudwards’ automatic speed tests.
This review has been fully updated for 2022 to reflect changes in NordVPN’s pricing and features.
NordVPN’s Windows app was overhauled for better organization and usability. This impacted our review, which now features separate sections for the Mac and Windows versions of the app.
NordVPN Review Video
No. This VPN service masks your IP address and encrypts your traffic, and doesn’t spring any DNS, IP or WebRTC leaks.
Yes, if its response to the 2018 hack is anything to go by. NordVPN learned from its mistakes and implemented several measures to prevent and mitigate future incidents.
No. NordVPN is legally incorporated in Panama and owned by Nord Security. There’s no evidence of any Chinese connection.
Average speedDownload Speed96 MbpsUpload Speed8 MbpsLatency127 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed91 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency5 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall
- : 5
Average speedDownload Speed66 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency40 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 5
Average speedDownload Speed88 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency4 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
NordVPN Review: Strengths & Weaknesses
- Extensive security features
- User-friendly desktop UI
- Fast download speeds
- Strong, up-to-date security
- Cheap long term plans
- Unblocks all streaming apps
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- macOS lacks split tunneling
- Few servers in Africa
- No specialty servers on NordLynx
- High latency on distant servers
- Difficult mobile map UI
NordVPN is rich in all the features you could want from a VPN, and it implements them well. Although you won’t find a lot of surprises here, NordVPN has wisely prioritized quality over innovation for its own sake. The only true disappointment is the absence of split tunneling on all platforms except Windows and Android.
VPN features are often pretty similar between VPN services. While you see innovations from time to time, success in the VPN world is more about singing the standards well than composing your own tunes. That’s where NordVPN excels.
NordVPN Platform Support & Simultaneous Connections
NordVPN is available on a wide range of devices. It has desktop VPN apps for Windows, macOS and Linux. Android and iOS have mobile apps, and browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox and Edge. You can install NordVPN on Android TV and Amazon Fire Stick, and almost all routers (see the full list).
By installing NordVPN on a router, you can protect any other internet-capable device in your home, including game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Quest) and miscellaneous devices (Raspberry Pi, Chromebook, Chromecast, Kindle Fire).
Every NordVPN plan allows for six simultaneous connections. That means active connections. You can install the NordVPN app on as many devices as you want, as long as no more than six are connected at one time. Since you can install NordVPN on a router, it’s easy to make this number irrelevant.
NordVPN General & Auto-Connect Features
Let’s start at the top with the “general” preferences. You can set NordVPN to open automatically as soon as you start up your computer. CyberSec is NordVPN’s adware and malware blocker, which we’ll get into in a moment. You can toggle between four VPN protocols (see “security”) and decide whether to automatically send crash reports.
Next up is “auto-connect.” On this tab, you can set NordVPN to connect automatically to all but your trusted WiFi networks, and choose what server it connects to on those occasions. To designate a WiFi network as trustworthy, just click “trust” next to its name while connected.
It’s not as robust as options like CyberGhost’s “smart rules” (see our NordVPN vs CyberGhost comparison), but it’s still a nice, convenient feature.
NordVPN Preset & Statistics Features
Next up is the “presets” tab. This panel lets you save a configuration of settings so you can return to it with a couple of clicks. The main draw of presets is the ability to add shortcuts to apps or websites for which you’ll need your VPN connection. You can also instantly connect to NordVPN servers you may need for specific tasks, like a U.S. server to watch Hulu.
You can add up to six shortcuts for each preset. If you use your VPN primarily to watch streaming services from other countries, you could set NordVPN to make Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer available as soon as you’ve connected.
You can also edit your presets whenever you like. People who are time-optimizers will be in heaven, though the average user might find that presets don’t save that much energy long term.
The “statistics” tab is rather pointless. You’d expect it to share speed tests and latency on the VPN servers, or perhaps to list viruses and malware caught by CyberSec. Instead, all it does is tell you how long you’ve been connected to NordVPN.
There is one thing we like about the statistics tab, though: It shows your current IP address, updated in real time. If you know your unprotected IP address, you can keep watch for DNS leaks while you’re connected to NordVPN.
Speaking of DNS leaks, another useful feature NordVPN offers is SmartDNS. It’s an extra tool that you can use on your smart TV if you can’t install the full NordVPN app on it. Even if you do have the NordVPN app on your TV, you can still activate it from the “preferences” tab if you’re having trouble unblocking a streaming service.
Be aware that it’s not available for Hulu or BBC iPlayer, but works on all other major streaming services. Additionally, SmartDNS alone can’t encrypt your traffic, unless you’re also using the NordVPN app alongside it. It also needs to record your current IP address to allowlist it, though NordVPN claims it scrubs the address once the session is done.
Does NordVPN Support Split Tunneling?
Split tunneling lets you decide what traffic from your device runs through the VPN. You can enjoy unprotected speeds for safe tasks like domestic streaming, while retaining VPN protection for more sensitive operations like torrenting or financial transactions.
It’s a key feature we look for on every service we review, and the source of one of NordVPN’s few missteps. Split tunneling is only available on the Windows app and Android app options — macOS, iOS and Linux users are out of luck.
Plenty of other VPN services offer split tunneling to every user, including NordVPN’s closest competitor, ExpressVPN (see our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup) so there’s really no excuse.
Dark Web Monitor
Dark web monitor is a standout feature on NordVPN. Active by default, it constantly patrols known sources of stolen credentials on the dark web and sends you an alert if it discovers your email address anywhere.
The dark web monitor has some limitations. It only searches for the email address associated with your NordVPN account, but it’s still a great feature we hope to see expand soon.
How Does NordVPN Kill Switch Work?
A kill switch is another feature we look for on every VPN. It cuts off your computer’s internet access if your VPN connection drops for any reason, preventing you from spending a second online without protection.
Over the years, it’s gone from an exciting bonus to necessary table stakes. Luckily, NordVPN has implemented a kill switch on every version of its VPN app.
On macOS, Linux, Android and iOS app, the kill switch is automatic, and cannot be turned off. However, you can toggle it on and off in Windows. There’s also an “app kill” option in Windows, which shuts down specified apps entirely if the kill switch activates.
There’s also an advanced kill switch, which protects against an extremely rare form of IP leak by turning your device into a fortress with no external communication whatsoever. Be careful if you activate it — no communication means no communication.
NordVPN Specialty VPN Servers
Several servers in NordVPN’s network are set up for special purposes. These specialty servers aren’t always the only NordVPN servers that permit the tasks they’re set up for — for example, you can torrent on all servers, not just the P2P ones. However, they’re designed to make their jobs as smooth as possible.
NordVPN includes five types of specialty servers.
- Dedicated IP is misleading. These are actually static IP address servers. They always have the same IP address, but you’ll have to share it with other people. NordVPN does allow users to purchase private dedicated IPs, but at a high annual cost that often equals or exceeds the subscription fee.
- Double VPN routes your VPN connection through two VPN servers, adding a layer of redundancy. One server may succumb to a freak accident, but two servers in different countries going down at the same time is almost inconceivable. Double VPN isn’t always necessary, but it’s perfect for those moments when you need extra confidence in your VPN connections.
- Obfuscated servers scramble the metadata of your VPN connection, not just concealing your traffic, but also hiding the fact that you’re using a VPN. This lets you get around bans or firewalls that blanket-block all VPN server traffic.
- Onion over VPN allows you to use NordVPN in conjunction with Tor browser. This is one of the most secure ways you can browse the internet, as the two security measures shore up each other’s weaknesses.
- P2P servers give you better speeds while torrenting, but be warned that extra traffic on these servers can sometimes render the benefits minimal.
NordVPN CyberSec & Threat Protection
Two features help block ads and malware while NordVPN is active. CyberSec blocks requests to any domains found in a known database of malware or spam purveyors.
CyberSec isn’t a substitute for secure antivirus software. Antivirus programs use machine learning to update their threat detectors in real time; NordVPN isn’t set up for that. The main attraction of CyberSec is bundling your blocker with your VPN instead of having to download a separate app or extension.
Threat Protection adds a little more antivirus functionality to NordVPN — not so much that it replaces dedicated antivirus software, but enough that we’re prepared to call it the best VPN with antivirus. With threat protection, NordVPN can scan files for malware and delete them before they download. It also blocks trackers.
What Is NordVPN Meshnet?
Meshnet lets you add an encrypted tunnel between two devices, so you can use a home device from anywhere in the world. You can turn any private device into a temporary VPN server (with the consent of its owner), then use NordVPN to connect to it remotely.
Note that Meshnet doesn’t encrypt any outbound traffic from the private device — you still need a VPN connection for that. It’s most useful for accessing files and software remotely or watching your home country’s streaming libraries while traveling.
NordVPN Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available||7 days on mobile|
|Worldwide server amount||5,000 servers in 59 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Edge|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|Encryption types||256-AES, ChaCha20|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynx|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Recently, NordVPN has shifted away from the typical VPN pricing structure — which is to offer one VPN subscription plan but with a few different lengths of time that offer progressively better deals the longer you subscribe. This is the pricing structure that you’ll find with other VPN companies, including ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.
NordVPN restructured its pricing in 2022 away from this VPN model, to more like a security suite. It now offers three different plans that include varying Nord Security features, all with different lengths of time.
Standard gets you the complete VPN service. Plus adds a subscription to the NordPass password manager and includes a data breach scanner. Complete adds 1TB of encrypted cloud storage through NordLocker (read our NordLocker review).
- : Unlimited GB
- : 6
- : Unlimited GB
- : 6
NordVPN currently has an autumn deal where you get three months free, running until Oct. 17, 2022.
The great news is that the cheapest plan, NordVPN Standard, includes everything you need from a VPN service. If you stick with Standard, you can get a year for $4.99 per month, more than $3 per month less than you’d pay for a year of Hide.me or Astrill — two services that trail NordVPN in almost every respect (see our Hide.me review and Astrill review).
The two-year Standard plan is an even better deal at $3.29 per month. There are similarly cheap VPNs (see our CyberGhost review for an example), but none that offer so much value per dollar.
Return VPN Customer Pricing
Note, though, that the prices listed on the website are the intro deals. After the initial VPN subscription completes, if you want to re-sign up for NordVPN, the prices will increase to their “normal” rates.
For the Standard plan, that means the one-year plan will go from $59.88 to $99.48, and the two-year plan will go from $78.96 to a whopping $223.83, which doesn’t make sense, as NordVPN users would just be incentivized to switch to the cheaper annual plan instead.
However, this pricing structure is new to NordVPN, so we expect future fluctuations in the pricing until Nord Security figures out its sweet spot with deals and returning VPN customers.
NordVPN Plus & Complete
Now let’s talk about NordVPN’s new security subscription tiers, Plus and Complete. The website (see the screenshot below) suggests that the Plus tier is required to access malware protection and the tracker and ad blocker, but this appears to be inaccurate, as CyberSec is available on the Standard plan.
You can also subscribe to NordPass or NordLocker separately. However, as our NordPass review explains, this password manager isn’t really worth it on its own. It just barely made our best password managers list.
NordLocker likewise doesn’t make our top 10 best cloud storage services, but to be fair, it’s mostly been an encryption service until recently.
Overall, we’d suggest sticking with the Standard plan for VPN protection and to check out other password managers and cloud storage services for your online needs.
NordVPN Free Trial & Money-Back Guarantee
NordVPN offers a free trial only on its mobile apps. Android and iOS NordVPN users can try the NordVPN free trial to test it for seven days before buying. Desktop users aren’t out of luck, though.
However, NordVPN covers every subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Even if you use it for 29 days, you can get your refund just by asking the customer support team. This means you can use NordVPN’s money-back guarantee as a 30-day trial.
NordVPN Payment Methods
NordVPN offers a staggering array of payment choices. You can pay with a credit or debit card, PayPal, Google Pay, AmazonPay or ACH transfer via Plaid. You can also make a payment through iTunes.
There are also several choices for even greater anonymity. Bitcoin, Ethereum and X-Coin cryptocurrencies are all supported. You can even visit an electronics retailer (Target, Best Buy, Amazon and London Drugs are mentioned specifically) and buy a totally anonymous copy of NordVPN with cash.
You can purchase a dedicated IP address for $70 per year on top of your regular NordVPN subscription. Dedicated IP addresses are available in all the same locations as shared static IP addresses: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Finally, there’s NordVPN Teams, which we crowned the best business VPN. It comes with centralized billing, dedicated account managers and the option to tailor an enterprise plan to your business needs.
Simplicity is a huge part of NordVPN’s brand, and the experience doesn’t disappoint. While testing this VPN, we never found ourselves stumped about where to find something or what to do next. It’s clearly an experience designed for the widest possible user base, from neophytes to the tech-savvy.
How to Download NordVPN
Downloading and installing NordVPN couldn’t be simpler. First, click the “download VPN” tab on the NordVPN website. The site will detect what system you’re using and take you to the appropriate tab. Click the “download app” button on the page that appears to start the download process.
Once you choose a subscription and pay, you’ll be prompted to create an account. Enter the login credentials for that account on the app you downloaded. That’s it! You’re now ready to start using NordVPN.
Using the NordVPN App
The NordVPN client app is very similar on both desktop and mobile platforms. The only difference is that on mobile, you can’t choose a server within a location — the app automatically chooses the fastest. The screenshots below come from the macOS desktop version.
The macOS App
Upon launching NordVPN, you’ll be presented with two methods of choosing a VPN server. The server list is arranged in alphabetical order by country. Servers you’ve used recently are at the top, and specialty servers are at the bottom. Your preset server selections can also be found here.
Click on the three dots next to any country to see a list of the locations within that country. Clicking “servers” lets you choose individual servers, and you can click the heart next to a server location to add it to your favorites.
You can also find your server of choice by clicking and dragging the world map. It’s fun to see a representation of how far your connection is traveling, but the list is ultimately a lot easier to use. This is especially true with the mobile app, where the world map view makes it challenging to quickly select the country server you want to connect to.
That’s the vast majority of what you’ll be doing with NordVPN. Connecting and disconnecting is a fluid, well-designed loop. The only hiccup comes from the specialty servers, which can be hard to find and use. They’re at the bottom of the list, where most users won’t think to look, and two types (obfuscated and dedicated IP servers) are invisible unless you’re using the right protocol.
For the rest of the app’s functions, visit the “preferences” menu by clicking one of the three symbols on the left-hand bar: the two squares for presets, the bars for statistics or the horizontal lines for general.
Navigate the “preferences” panel by selecting tabs on the left-hand side. Controlling each one is rarely more complex than checking a box or selecting an option from a dropdown menu.
The NordVPN Windows App
The Windows app recently got a facelift, and it’s addressed a few issues we had in the past. For example, formerly some specialty servers wouldn’t show up unless you were on a particular protocol, including the paid dedicated IP servers — this muddied the experience, especially for newcomers. However, the latest version of the app solves all of those issues.
The first change you’ll notice is the world map’s increased resolution. This is more of a minor change, but it can help you find your way around the densely packed countries in Europe or some of the smaller U.S. states.
There is now a little widget in the top-left corner which houses a “quick connect” button, as well as buttons to stop, pause or refresh the VPN connection. There’s also an icon that shows your current IP address and ISP when you hover your mouse over it.
Lastly, the widget also contains the revamped server list. Below the connection control buttons, you’ll see the five locations you’ve connected to most recently.
The arrow button expands the dropdown server list, where you’ll find the specialty servers listed at the top, followed by a list of Meshnet devices; at the bottom you’ll find the alphabetical county list.
Thankfully, all specialty servers now show up in the list, regardless of what protocol you’re running.
The “settings” menu has also been redone. All VPN connection options (such as your VPN protocol and DNS service) are listed under the menu called “connection.”
General features, like startup behavior and the dark mode toggle, are found in the “general” menu. The kill switch and split tunneling features get their own separate menus, as well.
Several features find themselves outside of the “settings” menu. These are the threat protection, Meshnet and dark web monitor features, which are all too complex to be tucked away in another menu.
We expect the changes to the Windows app to transfer over to the Mac version sometime in the future. However, there’s no ETA on when the update will roll out to other platforms, and our talks with NordVPN support representatives yielded no information on any future mobile updates.
The Mobile Apps
The mobile app is almost the same as the desktop apps, with everything neatly fit into a smaller space. Like on desktop, you can select through the map or a server list.
The only difference is that you can’t pick individual servers within a city on mobile. NordVPN will automatically select the fastest instead.
In summary, NordVPN has a minimal learning curve. Its simplicity may frustrate more experienced users, but that’s not really the core audience. Security experts have options like AirVPN to keep them happy.
Every VPN says it’s the fastest, but according to our VPN speed comparison, only three have a strong claim to being speed champions: ExpressVPN (read our ExpressVPN review), Surfshark (see our Surfshark review) and NordVPN.
This may not be that surprising, given that the latter two recently merged — though we still find NordVPN to be the stronger product (read our Surfshark vs NordVPN matchup to see why).
We can call NordVPN the best fast VPN with confidence because of our automated testing process. Using a remote desktop, we tested NordVPN across six server locations, five times a day for several weeks.
NordVPN Speed Test Results
For latency, lower is better. For download and upload speeds, higher is better.
NordVPN does best in the download speed category. We look for a speed drop of less than 10% on nearby servers; NordVPN achieved that mark with flying colors, not just near our U.S. home base but also as far away as the U.K. and Brazil. South Africa and Singapore also did well, slowing our connection down by less than 20%.
Only Australia showed a significant loss of download speed, but for a country that’s half a world away, a slowdown of around 21% is extraordinary. Even then, we still had enough Mbps to stream HD video. Upload speed was a little more variable. Most server locations barely impacted it, but the U.K. and South Africa servers dragged a little.
The only real issue with NordVPN’s speeds is its latency on faraway servers. It had an imperceptible impact on our ping close to home, but connecting to overseas destinations sharply increased latency.
Latency vs Speeds
Now, latency increases aren’t great, but they may not be as much of a problem as the table makes them out to be. Remember that a high ping is most useful for gaming, video chatting and other tasks where two devices need to be in sync. There’s little reason to use a distant server for those tasks, unless you’re playing geoblocked video games online.
By contrast, the tasks you need specific locations for — like surfing, torrenting or streaming foreign content — are more dependent on your download speed. If you want one speed stat to be unaffected by distance, that’s it.
Our speed tests yielded one other insight that (among other reasons) led us to rate ExpressVPN slightly above NordVPN on our list of the best VPNs for torrenting. While it’s slightly slower overall, ExpressVPN performed much faster when torrenting, even when we tested NordVPN’s dedicated P2P servers.
To summarize: NordVPN’s speeds aren’t always perfect, but you’ll almost never see them get in the way of the task you’re trying to accomplish. This is a subjective measure, but as we tested the VPN service, we routinely forgot we were using it at all.
NordVPN has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to VPN security, both through the features on its app and its responses to flaws in its infrastructure. Those responses haven’t always been note-perfect, but NordVPN always does the right thing sooner rather than later.
Let’s start with the meat and potatoes. NordVPN supports four VPN protocols: NordLynx, IKEv2 and OpenVPN over TCP and UDP. You can choose your protocol manually, or have NordVPN choose the best protocol for you (though it’s not clear how it makes this choice).
There are few things to know about each protocol.
NordLynx is a protocol you’ll only find on NordVPN. It’s a proprietary implementation of WireGuard, an open-source protocol designed as a faster, less-vulnerable replacement for OpenVPN. In our tests, it was as fast and safe as promised.
OpenVPN works over two protocols, TCP and UDP. TCP requires confirmation for each data packet sent, making it slower but more reliable. UDP keeps sending packets even without confirmation, making it faster but slightly more prone to failure.
IKEv2 is available on Windows, macOS and iOS apps. It’s usually the fastest protocol, though slightly less secure. IKEv2 is most useful for mobile connections, as it can pick up the VPN connection quickly when moving from one WiFi signal or cell tower to another.
All NordVPN protocols use the AES-256 cipher, a perfectly safe and reliable form of encryption. It’s done away with protocols like PPTP and L2TP/IPsec that use anything less safe.
Even the best VPNs and protocols can leak under certain conditions, so we used ipleak.net to test for DNS leaks and other security holes. NordVPN was watertight every time, even when we changed servers and protocols.
With all that said, there’s one black mark on NordVPN’s security record that we need to discuss before going any further.
The NordVPN Data Breach
NordVPN is safe in general, but it suffered a security breach in 2018. As far as we know, no data was compromised, but the potential for compromise did exist.
The incident occurred at a NordVPN data center in Finland. At the time, the center was managed by a third-party company through a remote access account. A hacker acquired the credentials for that account. NordVPN caught and removed the account about two weeks later, but during that time, the hacker may have had access to unencrypted web traffic.
To be clear, this isn’t as concerning a hack as you might think. Traffic on each NordVPN server is anonymized, so even if it’s not encrypted, it can’t be associated with individual IP addresses. The worst thing the hacker could have done was set up a fake NordVPN website to capture more credentials, but there’s no evidence that this happened.
In fact, far from truly endangering its users, the NordVPN hack just proved that the company takes security seriously. Although its blog post announcing the leak seemed to mostly point fingers at the Finnish data center company, NordVPN’s actions took clear responsibility for the failure.
In the years since the 2018 breach, NordVPN has audited its network to remove all potential remote management vulnerabilities, converted all its servers to encrypted, self-deleting activity logs and undergone a third-party audit that identified and addressed 17 other bugs.
The only other incident in NordVPN’s history came in 2019, when about 2,000 users had their accounts compromised. This can’t be blamed on NordVPN, though: the users had recycled the same weak passwords on multiple sites. No wall is strong enough if you forget to lock the gate.
Does NordVPN Work in China?
If you’re planning a trip to China, you’ll need a VPN with strong security. China’s Great Firewall imposes internet censorship on the whole country, so without a VPN, you can’t use the external internet at all.
NordVPN is normally one of the best VPN services for China, thanks to its strong security protocols, obfuscated servers and extra-secure multi-hop double VPN feature. Unfortunately, Windows users are currently unable to connect to China through NordVPN, but the team is hard at work on the problem.
This is a serious consideration. Certain VPNs — including IPVanish and HideMyAss — have produced evidence for police after claiming not to keep user logs (for details, see our IPVanish review and HideMyAss review). Knowing that, how can we be so sure NordVPN is trustworthy?
NordVPN doesn’t make its policy as clear to the layperson as some VPN providers, so we had to do a little digging to search for potentially problematic clauses. What we found was encouraging.
NordVPN only asks for two pieces of information about you: your email address for the account, and your financial information for the payment method. You can negate the privacy threat from either of these — the email address by using an encrypted mail service like ProtonMail, and the payment by using an anonymous method like ACH, bitcoin or cash.
In this section, NordVPN clarifies that it shares necessary data with some third-party service providers and advertisers for its website. Under the heading “requests for data,” it admits that the team may be forced to comply with a legal subpoena under certain specific conditions.
A Panama-Based Cloud Service
Let’s unpack that. NordVPN is based in Panama, a jurisdiction where the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements don’t provide any legal cover for a violation of your privacy. Panama also has no laws like the VPN ban in India that requires VPN providers to keep logs of user data.
That means if a country with a habit of seizing VPN data, like Turkey, demanded information from NordVPN, it couldn’t do anything without assistance from a Panamanian court.
As verified by audit, NordVPN doesn’t save any information that could attach activity to an identifiable IP address. It could technically comply with a legal request without sharing anything, because it doesn’t have anything to share.
All this is academic right now. As of August 2022, NordVPN has not been served with a search warrant or any other enforceable demand for information. If it ever was, though, we’re confident it wouldn’t reveal anything incriminating.
The “help us improve” box permits the NordVPN app to gather anonymized data about you for vague reasons like “marketing performance.” It’s nice that you can uncheck it, but we find it somewhat shady that it’s checked by default. With a VPN, users should have to opt in to share any information at all.
NordVPN is an excellent choice for unblocking streaming services. It’s near the top of our best VPN for streaming list, thanks to its dedication to getting around firewalls put up by the likes of Netflix.
Your VPN needs to be good at streaming for two main reasons: so you can protect yourself while watching TV and movies online, and so you can view media copyrighted in other countries.
The latter is the origin of the Netflix proxy error and other attempts by streaming platforms to block VPNs. They could get in trouble if you watch anything in a country where they don’t own the rights.
For a strong streaming performance, a VPN must be sneaky enough to get around the geoblocks, and fast enough for you to watch video without lag. NordVPN is both. No matter the streaming service in question — whether it’s Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu — NordVPN is one of the best.
|Streaming Service:||NordVPN access?|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes|
NordVPN has more than 5,000 servers worldwide, located in 59 countries, spread across 81 locations. In terms of sheer numbers, it’s one of the best in the industry, rivaled only by Private Internet Access and one or two other VPNs.
The servers are also well distributed. Like most VPNs, NordVPN has the vast majority of its servers in Europe and North America. However, there are also five locations in Latin America (Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina and Chile) and a wealth in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
The only disappointment is Africa, where only South Africa has a server location. Since a VPN performs better the closer you are to a server, NordVPN may not be the best choice for African users.
Besides being extensive, NordVPN’s network is reliable, using only brick-and-mortar servers. VPNs often bulk up their numbers using virtual servers — servers located in one country but programmed to appear as though they’re in another.
If you need to spoof a particular country for streaming, shopping or business purposes, virtual servers aren’t the most reliable. We’re happy to see NordVPN doesn’t employ them. However, this does mean NordVPN can’t offer certain IP addresses in high-risk countries, including Russia, India and more.
No VPN can be truly user-friendly without extensive customer support options. That’s another area where NordVPN shines. Its help options are all up-to-date, helpful and responsive, from live chat and email tickets to the knowledgebase and FAQ.
If you need help using NordVPN, you’ve got two choices: get help via the app, or go directly to the website. In the app, either select the “help center” tab or open the “help” menu. From there, you can access the online knowledgebase or submit a support ticket.
The knowledgebase articles are organized into four categories. They could be clearer — it’s hard to tell whether to look for some topics in “FAQ” or “general info.” However, once you choose a category, you’ll see all the other categories and subcategories listed in a sidebar. Each category includes its own FAQ that offers up almost every relevant topic with one click.
The articles are professionally written and organized with the user in mind. We checked out the macOS connectivity article to get a sense of the content and found a series of instructions that both technical and non-technical users could follow.
Live Chat Support
For cases when the articles can’t help you, NordVPN offers live chat support. Just visit any page on the knowledgebase and click on the question mark bubble at the bottom-right of the screen. You’ll first talk to the chatbot, which gives you some options to start getting help.
You can reach a real person at any time, but NordVPN makes it a bit harder than necessary. The only way to reliably connect with a human is to message “live agent” to the chatbot, information NordVPN isn’t too forthcoming with.
Once you send the message, you’ll be prompted to select a department, then get in line. It’s inconvenient, but rarely takes more than five minutes.
Your final option for getting help is to send an email ticket. This takes longer (on the order of a day), but you’re more likely to get a detailed answer to any unique problems. To send an email ticket, you’ll have to go to the in-app help menu — the option doesn’t seem to be available from the website.
Email support is a last resort, but NordVPN doesn’t treat it that way. Answers to our questions were fast and friendly.
Overall, we’ve got very few complaints about NordVPN’s customer support. The only addition that might be nice is a user forum. At the moment, users seeking community aid might wind up on the NordVPN subreddit, a somewhat toxic and unhelpful space.
NordVPN is so good that it’s hard to keep from sounding like salespeople when we talk about it. We have to make sure we’re dispassionate and restrict ourselves to opinions that can be verified by the evidence.
Fortunately for NordVPN, that’s still quite a long list. There’s no arguing with its greased-lightning download speeds. If you measure the cheap annual plan against the amount of features it grants you, the math will tell you that this is the most valuable VPN dollar-for-dollar. Likewise, it’s impossible to ignore that it gets into every streaming service without fuss.
NordVPN does have its faults. The biggest is the number of features restricted to a certain platform or protocol. Windows users don’t get IKEv2 without downgrading to a less secure cipher, and macOS users don’t get split tunneling or app kill at all. We also docked points for a scarcity of server locations in Africa, and for the high latencies on overseas servers.
Is this VPN perfect? No. Do the benefits outweigh the flaws? If you live in Africa, or play online games that are restricted to another country, you may want to keep looking. For anyone else, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs that offers top value.