NordVPN is one of the best VPN providers out there: it's fast, gets into Netflix and offers great privacy and security.
By Stephen Ayton – Last Updated: 08 Oct'17
VPNs provide privacy and also enable access to geoblocked sites, like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon. The ability to circumvent such restrictions is an important selling point for any of our best VPN services and NordVPN is one of the few that can get you into all of them (read our ExpressVPN review for another).
This review will tell you all about NordVPN and give pointers on how to install the service and use it. If you’ve never used a VPN before, you’ll be able to start with NordVPN like a seasoned pro thanks to our guide. Read on to find out why NordVPN is one of the top services in our VPN comparison chart.
- Easy installation process
- Easy to use interface
- Works on most OSes
- Streaming-optimized servers
- P2P allowed
- 821 servers in 57 countries
- Gets into Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Accepts Bitcoin
- Choice of VPN protocols
- Strong encryption
- Private DNS server
- Kill switch
- IP leak protection
- Automatic WiFi protection
- Double-hop encryption
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Strictly no logs
- Not very fast
- No native Linux support
- Pricey monthly plan
NordVPN’s website is packed full of information about all of its unique features. It could easily take several days just to comb through all of the information there.
The criteria section of this report divides up those features into categories, and here, you will learn about the general features of this VPN service:
- 821 servers in 57 countries
- Support via email, web form, and live chat (with instant responses)
- Unlimited bandwidth
- No application throttling
- Bypasses Netflix in the U.S., the UK, Canada, France and India
- P2P allowed with specialized servers for optimize downloads
- Specially optimized servers for streaming and gaming
- Can be used in conjunction with Tor
The price for a pre-paid, one-year subscription puts NordVPN somewhere in the middle of the price range on the market. Given Nord’s prowess on getting into just about every streaming service in the world, this cost position makes it extremely competitive.
You are allowed up to six simultaneous connections with this service. That makes account sharing possible, which brings down the cost of using NordVPN.
$ 11 95monthly
$ 42 006 months
$ 69 00yearly
|Bandwidth||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
However, if you’re prepared to pay upfront for two years, you can get an even cheaper deal.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee, which is one of the longest in the business, and the company accepts PayPal and Bitcoin as payment methods, alongside major credit and debit cards.
The application pretty much installs itself and won’t challenge you with any technical questions. Just click to download the correct version of the app for your operating system. After clicking on the downloaded file, the installation process will happen automatically.
The app’s main screen centers on a map of the world with markers for each country where NordVPN has servers. Just click on a tag and then tap on the big connect button at the top of the screen. If you aren’t interested in technical matters, that’s all you need to know.
Wait for the location marker to turn green before switching to your browser and surfing.
Switching to the server list view provides more options. Here you’ll see specialized servers that don’t appear in the map view. These activity-related servers enable double encryption, anti-DDoS protection, and VPN servers to use with Tor and P2P. Owners of dedicated IP addresses will need to look in the server list for their service.
NordVPN's app is available for Wondows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
There is a version of NordVPN for Linux, routers and set-top boxes, but it needs to be installed manually and don’t sport the benefits of a native app, a manual setup can also be applied to Blackberry phones.
NordVPN allows up to six connected devices at any one time, meaning that you can have your entire family on it for a single price.
NordVPN’s network sports 821 servers in 57 countries.
NordVPN’s outstanding success at getting around the Netflix proxy detection system in the U.S., the UK, France, and India means you have a great chance of getting around the Great Firewall of China.
Chinese restrictions are the most technologically advanced in the world, and even the most adept VPNs get knocked out by its VPN detection system from time to time. Chinese users should select the Hong Kong server, which is the closest server to the mainland and is naturally placed to catch customers in the People’s Republic.
Servers in the Middle East help the repressed Web surfers of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, make connections abroad. Users in South Africa and New Zealand will be pleased that their countries are represented on the list — enabling them to check back home for local TV content, when abroad.
The speeds offered by NordVPN aren’t very good and serve as the service’s weak point. Cheaper providers offer much better speeds to their customers. Although NordVPN can get you into many streaming services, which other vendors can’t, the slow speeds may make it impossible to watch the entertainment provided by those sites.
The data shown in this speed test were measured using speedtest.net and was performed from the Dominican Republic — a developing country with lousy Internet speeds.
However, on connections to the UK and the US, I was able to watch shows on Netflix and BBC iPlayer without breaks in the video. I have also used NordVPN to watch Netflix shows in France and India. Therefore, although the speeds NordVPN achieved in these tests were slow, they were good enough to deliver streaming video.
In the test’s first phase, I established a baseline by monitoring the speeds achieved without NordVPN turned on. Here is the performance of an unprotected connection to a local server.
Here is the speed on a regular connection to Miami.
Here is the performance of a connection to London (again, without a VPN).
I selected a server in the US and re-ran the test on a local connection from the Dominican Republic.
Applying the VPN impaired download speeds to a level below that’s usually recommended for video streaming. However, this task required the connection to loop out to Miami and back, just to contact a server down the road, which is not a realistic scenario.
NordVPN bypasses the geo-location restrictions of U.S. streaming services, so here is the speed of the connection to Miami, with NordVPN’s U.S. server mediating.
This download speed is just good enough to watch standard quality videos on Netflix. If you have a subscription to HBO and want to watch Game of Thrones on HBO GO, or if you want to access HBO NOW from abroad, you’ll be struggling with these speeds.
HBO only transmits streaming video in HD quality, and they recommend download speeds of at least 3Mb per second, to enjoy uninterrupted service. The test of a connection to the UK with NordVPN’s UK server yielded rates just good enough to watch most SD streaming services from there.
NordVPN’s default protocol is OpenVPN, which uses 256-bit AES encryption.
This combination is the industry’s preferred methodology and means NordVPN provides cast-iron security. A user can choose to switch to an IKEv2 and IPSec protocol combination, or L2TP and IPSec (or PPTP), instead of OpenVPN. The only problem with the implementation of these other VPN protocols is that they are not available from within the app, so you have to set them up manually.
An article in the knowledge-base explains the difference between these protocols.
NordVPN manages DNS calls to prevent information about your web activities getting exposed. The Domain Name System is a translation service that enables browsers to turn web addresses into IP addresses.
There are various points in a connection where the real IP of a source is exposed, and NordVPN has some procedures to prevent such events from occurring. Among them is something called a killswitch, which blocks a computer from connecting to the Internet without the VPN first being active.
As a bonus, you can choose to have a dedicated IP address with NordVPN. The service will give you an IP address from its vast pool of addresses. The advantage of this system is that you could be one of the thousands of different people accessing the web, yet remain utterly obscured.
However, the disadvantage of this system is that some VPN blocking systems log the IP addresses of any VPN-related traffic that it detects. Which means you may be allocated an address for a session, that later gets you blocked from everything because it got caught.
Having a dedicated IP address helps avoid this trap. Another smart security feature of NordVPN is the option of having Internet traffic doubly encrypted, making communications impossible to read.
NordVPN is based in Panama, a country that imposes no legal requirements on VPNs (or other Internet services) to keep online activity logs. NordVPN takes advantage of this legal situation and has a strict no-logs policy.
The absence of records and the company’s location outside of the U.S. are particularly important for those who like to download torrent files. Which is great, since pesky copyright holders in the U.S. have become increasingly more aggressive in pursuing those who copy entertainment without paying for it.
In some cases, they have forced torrent sites to hand over lists of people who’ve downloaded from them. This scenario cannot happen with NordVPN, even if lawyers are prepared to go through the expense of traveling down to Panama and learning the local legal system; they can’t force a VPN to hand over records that they do not have in the first place.
You can get to the customer support system by clicking on Help in the menu bar, at the top of every page on NordVPN’s website.
Doing so gives you access to a knowledgebase where you can search through pre-written advice that provides answers to common problems, encountered by NordVPN’s customers.
If the Help Center’s advice doesn’t solve your problem, you can raise a support request by clicking on the “submit a request” button; this provides access to a standard web form to fill in. Don’t forget to check your inbox for the response. The first email you get will be an auto-response message saying the help center has received your request.
The website also has a live chat system for quick questions, but it isn’t always manned. Clicking on the blue speech bubble symbol in the bottom right of any page will open a live chat session.
But first, you should check through the knowledgebase to see whether an article there can help. If not, click on the “live chat” button to speak to a support assistant.
Overall I was very impressed with the support system. I think it’s one of the best managed and organized help centers we’ve found in all our other VPN reviews.
Checking out NordVPN for this review was a great pleasure.
The interface is incredibly easy to install and use, and the two-year subscription offer makes the service very affordable, plus the six simultaneous connections bring down the cost of the service even further, by sharing a subscription with pals or family.
NordVPN has it all, except for speed. If the company’s technicians can speed up connections, it could be one of the best VPN services in the world. Have you tried NordVPN and experienced better speeds? Do you know of another VPN service that can get into Netflix for as many countries? Have your say in the comments section below and thanks for reading.