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  • Extensive security features
  • User-friendly desktop UI
  • Fast download speeds

NordVPN Review

Time and again, NordVPN tops our VPN lists, but can this leading VPN service stand up to close examination? Our NordVPN review covers every detail, examining the pros and cons of one of the most well-known VPN providers.

Samuel Chapman
By Samuel Chapman (Writer, Editor)
— Last Updated: 2024-04-16T13:28:49+00:00 Facts checked by Vildana Bratic

Key Takeaways: NordVPN

  • 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.

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 was even named by Time as one of the best innovations of 2022. The reasons why it’s among the best VPNs are easy to summarize. The app is so fast you’ll hardly notice it’s running. It has an excellent record of catching 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.

  • 07/23/2021

    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.

  • 01/25/2022

    Added new information regarding NordVPN’s privacy policy and its compliance with law enforcement.

  • 02/22/2022

    Added information about Surfshark and NordVPN merging.

  • 03/03/2022

    Updated the review to include information about NordVPN’s new feature, “threat protection.”

  • 06/28/2022

    Updated the “pricing” section to reflect NordVPN’s shift toward a full security package option.

  • 07/06/2022

    Updated to include new Meshnet feature.

  • 07/13/2022

    Updated with new speed information from Cloudwards’ automatic speed tests.

  • 08/21/2022

    This review has been fully updated for 2022 to reflect changes in NordVPN’s pricing and features.

  • 09/28/2022

    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.

  • 01/10/2023

    Updated to include NordVPN’s third independent audit finding by Deloitte, which confirmed its no-logs policy.

  • 05/25/2023 Facts checked

    Updated to include that Meshnet is now free and does not require a NordVPN subscription.

  • 03/18/2024 Facts checked

    Updated following NordVPN’s latest app update which introduced a new user interface on Windows.

NordVPN Review Video

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NordVPN Review: Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • 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 return

Cons:

  • macOS lacks split tunneling
  • Few servers in Africa
  • No specialty servers on NordLynx
  • Difficult mobile map UI
  • Suffered a server breach in 2018

Features

95 % – Excellent

NordVPN is rich in all the VPN features you could want, 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.

NordVPN Platform Support & Simultaneous Connections

NordVPN 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).

nordvpn platforms
The above platforms are the ones with dedicated NordVPN apps. The platforms in the “other” category have to be protected through a hotspot or router.

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 limit irrelevant.

NordVPN General & Auto-Connect Features

In the “general” preferences, you can set NordVPN to open 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.

nordvpn general preferences
It’s easy to find your way around NordVPN’s preferences control panel.

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.

nordvpn auto connect
If you often forget to connect to your VPN before going online, auto-connect is a great way to ensure you don’t accidentally expose yourself on a public network.

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

The “presets” tab 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.

nordvpn presets
NordVPN comes with three presets, but you can add as many others as you like.

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.

The “statistics” tab is rather pointless. You’d expect it to share speed tests and latency on the VPN servers, but all it does is tell you how long you’ve been connected to NordVPN.

nordvpn statistics
VPN users aren’t looking for Xbox achievements, so this tab doesn’t do much but take up space.

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.

SmartDNS

SmartDNS is an extra tool that you can use on smart TVs, which can’t usually host the full NordVPN app. When you activate it from the “preferences” tab, it changes your IP address to unblock 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.

nordvpn dark web monitor
We could have done without the upselling, but this is a fundamentally strong feature.

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. NordVPN has a kill switch on every version of its VPN app.

nordvpn kill switch
On every platform except Windows, the only kill switch option is system-wide.

On macOS, Linux, Android and the 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. You’re never limited to just these servers — for example, you can torrent on all NordVPN servers, not just the P2P ones. However, they’re designed to make their jobs as smooth as possible.

nordvpn specialty servers
You can find the specialty servers at the bottom of the server list.

NordVPN includes five types of specialty servers.

  1. 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.
  2. Double VPN routes your VPN connection through two VPN servers, adding a layer of redundancy. One server may succumb to a freak accident, but losing two servers in different countries at the same time is almost inconceivable.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

What Is NordVPN Meshnet?

One of NordVPN’s most unique perks, NordVPN Meshnet, allows users to encrypt any connection between two devices they own. In early 2023, NordVPN made Meshnet freely available to everyone, even without a NordVPN subscription.

There are several ways to connect two devices directly without going through an ISP. Remote access programs such as Microsoft Remote Desktop set up peer-to-peer connections, as do local area networks and desktop sharing folders. Without encryption, these exchanges are vulnerable; Meshnet helps secure them.

nordvpn meshnet
This Meshnet page shows a connected device on the same NordVPN account (IP addresses and Nord names blanked out).

Once you’ve connected a device to Meshnet, you can even use it as a personal VPN server, substituting its IP address for your real one. This is useful for accessing websites in your home country while you’re abroad — just connect to them through a device you left at home.

You can connect up to 10 devices on your own NordVPN account, and 50 other devices by sending their owners friend requests via email. Once you have a device in your network, you can use its “Nord name” to set up a Meshnet tunnel.

NordVPN Features Overview

General
Payment methodsPayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections 6
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available7 days on mobile
Refund period
Worldwide server amount5,800 servers in 60 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOS
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, Edge
Can be installed on routers
Streaming
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Security
Encryption types256-AES, ChaCha20
VPN protocols availableOpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynx
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Support
Live Chat24/7
Email support24/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase

Pricing

90 % – Excellent

Recently, NordVPN has shifted away from the typical VPN pricing structure you’ll find with the likes of ExpressVPN and CyberGhost — one VPN subscription plan for a few different lengths of time with progressively better deals. NordVPN now offers three different plans that include varying Nord security features, all at 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).

The cheapest plan, NordVPN Standard, includes everything you need from a VPN service. If you stick with Standard, you can get a year for $4.59 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 $3.09 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 $68.85 to $99.48, and the two-year plan will go from $83.43 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.

nordvpn pricing
The prices depicted are for the two-year 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, while checking 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. NordVPN covers every subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Even if you use it for 29 days, you can get a NordVPN refund just by asking the customer support team. Essentially, 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.

Additional Options

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.

User-Friendliness

90 % – Excellent

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.

nordvpn download
You can download NordVPN before or after you buy it.

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 NordVPN macOS App

nordvpn main ui
Find a server using either the list or the map — your choice.

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.

nordvpn server select
Clicking “quick connect” or the name of a country or city will connect you to the fastest server in that location.

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 do 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.

nordvpn appearance
You can use the “appearance” tab to toggle where NordVPN appears on your device.

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, which addressed a few issues we’ve had in the past. For example, 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.

nordvpn windows app
The overhauled Windows app features a better-looking interface.

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 widget in the top-left corner with 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 mouse over it. 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.

nordvpn windows server list
The Windows app now shows all server types, no matter the protocol you’re using.

The “settings” menu has 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 dark mode, are found in the “general” menu. The kill switch and split tunneling features get their own separate menus, as well.

nordvpn windows settings
NordVPN’s menu is cleanly and rationally organized on Windows.

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.

NordVPN’s New Homepage

NordVPN new home page
NordVPN’s new homepage design simplifies the user experience even further, though it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the map view.

In 2024, NordVPN introduced an updated homepage design for its Windows app. The new layout brings all of the VPN’s top features together on the homepage, which makes them both easier to access and a little less scary to play with.

In addition to the mandatory server search bar and quick connect options, the home screen now includes a shortcut to activate Threat Protection, as well as a new file sharing interface that works as a simplified UI for Meshnet.

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.

nordvpn mobile ui
NordVPN’s mobile app looks very similar to its desktop app.

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.

Speed

95 % – Excellent

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

LocationPing
ms
Download
Mbps
Upload
Mbps
Unprotected2327.245.67
North America
26
25.35
5.58
United Kingdom
319
26.71
4.19
Brazil
396
26.33
5.47
Singapore
412
23.78
5.56
South Africa
635
24.32
3.25
Australia
500
21.20
5.61
Average
381
24.62
4.94

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 low 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.

Security

90 % – Excellent

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).

Protocols, Encryption & Leak Tests

nordvpn protocols
You can switch VPN protocols on the “general” tab.

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.

nordvpn ip leak test
The IP address in the screenshot belongs to one of NordVPN’s servers. If it showed our real address, we’d have a leak on our hands.

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.

Privacy

95 % – Excellent

With your internet connection protected by a VPN, nobody can track your browsing activity except for the VPN provider itself. That’s why it’s so important for a VPN provider to have a privacy policy and stick to it. NordVPN has a strong privacy policy, backed up by both an independent audit and a decade-long history of not giving up information.

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, HideMyAss review and NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison). Knowing that, how can we be so sure NordVPN is trustworthy?

NordVPN’s Privacy Policy

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.

However, to be certain there’s nothing shady in this privacy policy, we have to look in “section 3: Sharing Your Personal Data.”

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.

nordvpn privacy policy
Although NordVPN may be unable to ignore a subpoena, it likely won’t have any evidence to turn over.

In January 2023, NordVPN published the findings of its third independent audit. Deloitte examined its services and tested the no-logs claim, and it confirmed NordVPN’s no-log policy.

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.

However, as the privacy policy acknowledges, there is an outside chance that the authorities in another country might successfully issue a subpoena through Panamanian channels. In those cases, all is still not lost. 

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.

There’s only one part of NordVPN’s approach to privacy in which it loses its points with us; and it’s not in the privacy policy, but in the app itself.

nordvpn help us improve
The “help us improve” box, located under the “general” tab, is checked by default.

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.

Streaming Performance

100 % – Excellent

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.

nordvpn unblocks hulu
NordVPN easily accesses Hulu, a streaming service with some of the toughest anti-VPN measures around.

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?
Netflix
Hulu/ESPN
Amazon Prime Video
BBC iPlayer
Max
Disney+

Server Locations

90 % – Excellent

NordVPN has more than 6,000 servers worldwide, located in 61 countries. 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.

Region:CountriesLocations
North America421
South America44
Europe3743
Asia910
Africa11
Oceania26
Middle East33

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.

nordvpn server locations
NordVPN has servers in over 35 European countries.

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.

Customer Support

95 % – Excellent

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.

nordvpn knowledgebase
You can dig into the articles, or click the speech bubble in the bottom-right corner to open up the chatbot.

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.

nordvpn help article
It may look like there’s a lot of technobabble here, but the links all go to other knowledgebase articles that explain the topic to the layperson.

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.

nordvpn chatbot
Starting with a chatbot is annoying, but it doesn’t take long to get in touch with a real person.

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.

nordvpn email support
This is a bit disappointing if your problem is that you can’t even open the VPN app, but there’s live chat for that.

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.

The Verdict

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 and offers top value for your money.

FAQ

  • Yes. NordVPN’s privacy policy passed an external audit. Furthermore, the company has been in business for over 10 years, and has never been caught logging or selling user data.

  • 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.

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