NordVPN is ranked second in our VPN reviews, falling just short of our top provider, ExpressVPN. While the two traded blows well in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison, it was clear from the onset that ExpressVPN had enough advantages to be the victor.
That didn’t come as much of a surprise, though. Instead of putting it against out top dog this time, we wanted to match NordVPN up against a similarly ranked provider: CyberGhost.
While we rated CyberGhost lower than NordVPN, the recent release of version 7 may push it into the spotlight. Its overhauled interface, updated feature set and same excellent value is a lot for NordVPN to contend with.
In this NordVPN vs. CyberGhost matchup, we’re going to try to find the best VPN for your money. We’ll compare the providers in five rounds, going over where they excel and fall behind in each.
We’ll pull in other providers for context while making the comparison, but most of it will be focused on the competitors. If you want to see how they stack up in the broader field of virtual private networks, make sure to read our NordVPN review and CyberGhost review.
- NordVPN$$ Best Budget VPN 2020 $$
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- Allows torrenting
- No-logging policy
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Setting Up a Fight: CyberGhost vs NordVPN
Our VPN reviews have many sections. There’s a lot to cover, including server locations, speed and supported devices. For comparisons, though, we’ve decided to condense those sections to level the playing field.
That’s because we give the rounds equal weight, and a win in supported devices wouldn’t be as valuable as a win in security. We’re still going to cover all the aspects our VPN reviews do. It’ll just be in a way that makes the comparison fair.
The providers will duke it out in five rounds: features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security. During each round, we’ll give an overview of what we’re looking for, see how well each provider performs, offer our thoughts on how they compare, then declare a victor. The provider that takes three or more rounds will be the overall winner.
As with all of our comparisons, we urge you to read through each section entirely. CyberGhost and NordVPN are among the best providers on the market, so there’s room for personal preference.
Neither is a bad choice, which isn’t always the case, as you can see in our PureVPN vs. ExpressVPN comparison. You could reasonably choose either, so make sure to read our thoughts and come to your own conclusion.
With that out of the way, it’s time to battle.
Usually, we’re pulling our hair trying to find useful or unique features with a VPN provider, but that isn’t the case here. NordVPN and CyberGhost are bursting at the seams with them. Instead of just evaluating if a feature set is even present, we’re going to look at how functional each of the features is.
We’ll also touch on streaming performance in this round.
NordVPN has a long list of features that give users a firm grip on the platform. While it’s not as customizable as TorGuard (read our TorGuard review), it goes a long way toward making sure the VPN experience is more than the sum of its parts.
Though it isn’t a replacement for the best antivirus software, CyberSec performs better than most VPN-provided utilities. It’s a small but effective layer on top of your VPN connection that, when paired with a secure antivirus, can provide the best in cybersecurity.
NordVPN also includes “specialty servers” designed for different tasks. For example, the peer-to-peer servers are targeted at torrenting and the gaming servers have dedicated IP addresses. There are four specialty server types, with the other two being geared toward security.
“Onion over VPN” servers are there to connect to Tor through your VPN connection. Tor is a special browser that, in most cases, is used to access the dark web. You can learn how it differs from a normal VPN connection in our VPN vs. proxy vs. Tor rundown.
You can also use NordVPN’s double-hop servers, which allow you to route your connection through two VPN servers before venturing on to the unsecured internet. That is a rare feature among VPN providers that gives you an extra layer of security on top of your already-secured connection.
There’s a killswitch, which isn’t surprising given the league NordVPN is in. A killswitch is an essential feature for VPNs that cuts your internet connection if your connection to the remote server is lost.
It can be configured to only run on specific apps, which is great for torrenting or streaming movies online. Setting the killswitch up that way means you’ll still be able to do things like browse the internet if the VPN fails, which is a function similar to split tunneling. Unfortunately, true split tunneling is unavailable.
As far as streaming goes, NordVPN is among the best. It has a seat in our best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for BBC iPlayer guides because it was able to access those services, along with Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, on almost every server we tested.
The previous version of CyberGhost had a lot of features, but version 7 ups the ante even more. That said, though it mirrors most of NordVPN’s features, not all of them meet the same standards.
That’s demonstrated by CyberGhost’s version of an ad and malware blocker. There are settings in the interface for turning on ad and tracker blocking, warning of malicious websites and redirecting to HTTPS secured domains. During out testing, though, those settings didn’t seem like anything more than toggle switches.
CyberGhost failed to block ads, which is disappointing given the wealth of free ad blockers online. You’re better off using a tool from our 99 free tools to protect your privacy guide.
Thankfully, the other features are better. CyberGhost includes “smart rules,” which let you automate different aspects of the VPN. For example, you can set it to automatically connect or disconnect on certain WiFi networks or launch a web browser after connecting.
In the same tab as smart rules, you’ll find the exceptions list, which is only called upon when using the OpenVPN protocol. We’ll talk more about that later. Exceptions are like split tunneling in that you can exempt certain URLs from the VPN tunnel, but they’re more limited.
CyberGhost has a killswitch, as well, but you won’t find settings for it. Unlike NordVPN, CyberGhost always has it enabled and, during our testing, we found it to be effective. Even so, manual control would be nice.
That said, like NordVPN, CyberGhost has many specialty servers. Though there aren’t dedicated servers for double-hop connections or Tor, it includes options for streaming and torrenting. In fact, it earned a spot alongside NordVPN in our best VPN for torrenting guide.
It’s no slouch when it comes to streaming, either. CyberGhost took third in our best VPN for streaming guide with its impressive array of optimized servers. It’s effective at breaking down the walls of Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video, as well as other streaming platforms.
There are around 50 dedicated streaming servers, each optimized for a different platform. Notable inclusions are Crunchyroll, YouTube Red, Channel 4, Spotify and ESPN. That last one earned CyberGhost a spot in our best VPN for ESPN guide, too.
Round 1 Thoughts
As far as the number and quality of features, NordVPN and CyberGhost are evenly matched. NordVPN is better in that its ad blocker works, but that’s a small feature.
That said, there is a clear difference in their mindsets. NordVPN is geared for security. A look at its killswitch options and specialty servers will verify that. CyberGhost is for the the entertainment junkies, focusing its special servers on streaming and torrenting and going as far as removing killswitch settings from its interface.
While attractive, CyberGhost isn’t adding functionality that NordVPN doesn’t already have and the same can’t be said the other way around. Because of that, NordVPN is the better option this round.
NordVPN and CyberGhost have similar pricing. They have the same monthly rate as ExpressVPN — though more simultaneous connections, as you can see in our ExpressVPN review — and many durations for extra value. Given that, we’re focusing more on the discounts on long-term plans, the refund period and the number of simultaneous connections.
NordVPN provides an excellent value, but a quick look at its monthly rate of $12 per month would leave you with a different impression. That’s common among top-shelf providers, with the exception of Private Internet Access, and, like almost all the others on the market, it’s just about the worst value available. Read our PIA review if you favor month-to-month options, though.
1-year plan $ 6.99/ month
$83.88 billed every year
Save 42 %
2-year plan $ 4.99/ month
$119.76 billed every 2 years
Save 58 %
3-year plan $ 3.49/ month
$125.64 billed every 3 years
Save 71 %
That said, NordVPN doesn’t get points in this round for its monthly rate. It gets points for the long-term options. NordVPN is unique in the VPN space because it offers biennial and triennial plans, both of which are only a few dollars more than buying for a year.
The three-year option is just about the best value on the market. You’ll pay a little over $20 more than the annual rate, bringing the price to under $3 per month (and a little over $35 for the year). That’s approaching e-VPN levels of cheap, though with much better service. You can read about that in our e-VPN review.
That’s a downside, too, though. NordVPN isn’t as attractive month-to-month or annually. You’re rewarded for purchasing a long-term subscription, but that may not be what you’re looking for. Thankfully, even if you don’t spring for the three-year option, you’ll still get six simultaneous connections.
The downside is somewhat offset by NordVPN’s generous refund period. You can test out the service for a month with no risk of your money disappearing into the ether. We even tested the money-back guarantee — without NordVPN knowing it was us, of course — and are happy to report that we received our money back without issue.
As far as payment methods go, you’re covered. NordVPN supports major credit cards, PayPal and a host of local payment methods, including AliPay and iDeal. You can pay with three types of cryptocurrency, too: bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple
CyberGhost has worse pricing on month-to-month plans, but better pricing on annual plans. Unfortunately, it lacks the long-term options NordVPN offers, a downside that’s remedied by the level of the discount you’ll get.
1-year plan $ 5.99/ month
$71.88 billed every year
Save 54 %
2-year plan $ 3.69/ month
$88.56 billed every 2 years
Save 72 %
3-year plan $ 2.75/ month
$99.00 billed every 3 years
Save 79 %
Monthly plans are $1 more than NordVPN, which makes that option even more unattractive. CyberGhost isn’t as expensive as Astrill (though few providers are, as you can see in our Astrill review), but its month-to-month rate is still unimpressive.
If the higher price wasn’t enough to steer you away, the limited feature set will be. Monthly plans don’t get CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers, a free security feature included with all other plans. Plus, monthly plans only come with a 14-day money-back guarantee. That isn’t horrible, but it’s mediocre compared to the service’s normal 45-day money-back guarantee.
The long-term subscriptions pack in more value. For six months and up, you’ll receive a year of McAfee’s security suite. You can read our McAfee Total Protection review to see why we don’t recommend paying for it, but it’s enticing as a free inclusion.
CyberGhost strikes a balance with its lineup. While the monthly plan is still the worst option, it has managed to make all other durations attractive. Semi-annual and annual plans are reasonably priced, which is something a lot of VPNs can’t attest to. Plus, it includes seven connections with each plan, around two more than most providers.
Payment options are fine, but CyberGhost is lacking options, such as AliPay and iDeal. You have the standard fare of credit cards, PayPal and bitcoin. While there aren’t as many options as you get with NordVPN, we can’t imagine anyone taking issue with the payment methods CyberGhost accepts.
Round 2 Thoughts
Both providers have their strengths in pricing. CyberGhost has a steeper discount on annual rates, but NordVPN offers a better overall value with its long-term plans. Based on monthly cost, NordVPN is the clear winner.
That said, purchasing three years of protection may be a tough sell, especially given how competitive the VPN market is. CyberGhost feels more reasonable with its lineup, plus the extra simultaneous connection doesn’t hurt. You’ll be spending around 50 cents more if you go with the 18-month plan, which is a fair tax for a smaller commitment.
Ease of Use
NordVPN is one of the most user-friendly VPNs on the market, which is one of the reasons we rated it above CyberGhost initially. That said, CyberGhost’s version 7 update has replaced the interface entirely, making for an overall more fluid experience.
This round is as neck and neck as any, so we’ll be focusing on subtle advantages. We’re going to go through the process from checking out to connecting to your first server to see which provider offers the better user experience.
Starting with NordVPN is simple. From the website, you’ll choose a plan, select a payment method and enter your email address. After confirming your order, NordVPN will send you an email with a link to the password creation page.
Nothing but your email and payment method is kept on record, not even your password.
It’s likely that the service is authenticating your password with a hash, which you can learn more about in our description of encryption guide. Password hashes have security vulnerabilities that NordVPN can’t account for, though, so make sure to generate a strong password and store it with one of our best password managers.
After setting your password, NordVPN will direct you to activate your account and install the application. NordVPN has clients for WIndows XP through 10, macOS, iOS and Android, and the download takes a single click. Linux is supported, too, but it takes some hands-on configuring.
The client is among the best we’ve seen. You’re greeted with a large map showing all the countries that NordVPN has a presence in. At the top is a large, conspicuous slider to turn on your connection, under which are an indicator light and your new IP address. If you can’t get connected using NordVPN’s interface, you probably shouldn’t be touching a computer.
Using the markers on the map, you can choose a location and connect to a server there. Note that the markers are not individual servers, though, they’re just the countries where NordVPN has servers. You’ll automatically be connected to a server in that country based on load and distance.
You can do the same thing by using the “servers” tab in the menu, which presents a more traditional list of options. There are more than 5,000 servers, so finding the one you want will be a hassle.
NordVPN gives you access to the full list of servers, but it doesn’t disclose where in the country a particular server is located. Russia #30, for example, was around 1,300 miles from our testing location, which tells us little to nothing unless we pull out a map and ruler. You’ll be shooting in the dark.
The distance does have strong points, though. You’ll know, for example, how far one server is in the U.S. from another, so you’ll be able to differentiate between the East Coast and West Coast. Good luck finding what you want in the Midwest, though.
If you don’t need pinpoint precision — and you rarely do with a VPN — then the lack of server location detail is a minor issue. NordVPN still offers one of the smoothest VPN experiences, despite its nontraditional server naming.
CyberGhost has revamped its interface, and we like what’s been changed. The old tile-style user interface is gone. Instead, it focuses on getting you connected and not much else. Even so, there are a few issues during the sign up process.
The checkout itself is smooth. As with NordVPN, you’ll choose a plan, select a payment method and enter your email. After that, CyberGhost will direct you to the “download” area of the checkout process.
That’s where the problem is. “Download” is a name that implies it’s the section of the checkout process where you’ll download the installer, but the only thing you can download on the third and final screen is your invoice.
To properly set up CyberGhost, you’ll have to go back to the homepage and select “my account.” You’ll then be prompted to create a username and password. Once that’s done, you’ll finally be able to download the installer from the “my devices” tab.
CyberGhost handles simultaneous connections differently than other providers. You can only have it installed on seven devices at a time, so you’ll want to get familiar with the “my devices” screen if you plan on swapping things out.
When the installer finishes, CyberGhost will appear in a small, smartphone-sized window near the tray, indicating that it’s a tray application. It’s not, though. You can drag the window freely around your screen.
The condensed interface shows the ready-to-go mentality of version 7. All you need to do to get connected is use the large “on” toggle in the middle of the UI. CyberGhost will use the fastest server based on your location by default.
That’s reflected in the small “connect to” drop-down menu below the “on” switch. That menu is your favorite servers list and CyberGhost includes a few options in it by default. To change your favorites, or just browse the full list of servers, click the yellow arrow next to the drop-down menu.
CyberGhost will expand into a more traditional VPN interface. You’ll be able to see the server list, as well as information about distance and load. Note that it doesn’t allow you to connect to individual servers, though. Clicking a country will connect you to a server there based on distance and load.
Below that, you’ll find the servers for streaming and torrenting. The torrenting servers are straightforward, but the streaming servers are interesting. Instead of showing distance and server load, CyberGhost shows what each is optimized for and the list is extensive.
Under the server menus are the options for smart settings and the ad blocker. Those menus handle some of the features of the VPN, but core options are found in the “settings” menu at the bottom of the UI.
There, you can configure your protocol, change your encryption, turn on DNS leak protection and configure what port you use. One interesting setting is “repair virtual network card,” which allows you to scan the virtual card VPNs use for issues or conflicts and patch them with a single click.
Round 3 Thoughts
You’ll be fine with either interface, but that was apparent from the start of this round. CyberGhost and NordVPN make compelling arguments, so it’s going to come to what you prefer.
While CyberGhost is usable — good, even — we can’t get over flying across NordVPN’s map. The visual is unique to NordVPN, and something more providers should try in their interfaces. Though entirely aesthetic, it’s enough of an advantage for NordVPN to take this round.
Speed is much more cut and dry than we anticipated. With two top-shelf providers, we assumed that they’d be neck and neck, battling over 2 megabits per second here and there. That isn’t the case, though. One of our contenders is among the fastest VPN providers, while the other just doesn’t impress.
Surprisingly, NordVPN isn’t among the fastest VPNs, despite claiming to be. It manages usable speeds that vary wildly depending on the server you’re connected to. The initial connection drop is big, too, leaving NordVPN more than a few steps behind the top dogs.
We tested five locations, as well as a DoubleVPN server, from Amsterdam. Connecting to server #229 in the same city saw a fairly large speed degradation. The ping doubled, which isn’t the worst thing given how low it was initially, and we gave up almost 10 Mbps on our download speed.
Outside of the Amsterdam location, we weren’t able to get above 10 Mbps on our download speed, which is a pity considering NordVPN is particularly good at beating the Netflix VPN ban. It’s fine if you’re streaming from a close location, but traveling any reasonable distance will result in slow streaming. If you travel enough distance, you may not even be able to stream in high-definition.
There’s some good mixed with the bad here, though. The DoubleVPN server had excellent results, dropping only a bit of download speed from the normal Amsterdam connection and increasing our upload rate.
NordVPN isn’t the slowest provider out there — read our Surfshark review to see a terrible performer is that regard — but it’s mediocre over long distances. Our results from the DoubleVPN and Amsterdam servers suggest it’s tuned for connections close to home. If that’s what you’re interested in, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
CyberGhost is among the fastest VPN’s on the market, though the initial connection takes more of a tax that we’d like to see. For it, we tested five locations from the U.S.
|Location:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|Unprotected (St. Louis):||10||65.69||11.39|
|United States (Streaming):||17||25.25||10.46|
There’s a disappointing drop in download speed when you first connect. When tunneling in the U.S., the server took more than 40 Mbps off our unprotected rate, which is surprising given how well the latency and upload speeds held.
After that, though, CyberGhost is resilient. It stayed above 10 Mbps on download speeds no matter where we tested. The latency stayed low, too, making the service a near-automatic inclusion in our best VPN for gaming guide.
The most surprising result came from Indonesia, which, at nearly 10,000 miles away, was the farthest location from where we tested. Though unexciting, the results are completely usable, earning CyberGhost a spot in our best VPN for Indonesia guide.
Round 4 Thoughts
The competitors traded blows well in previous rounds, but this one is clear. If you want to stay close to home, NordVPN is better, but for any reasonable distance, CyberGhost is king.
Security & Privacy
Security is perhaps the most important aspect of VPNs. After all, you’re handing the data you don’t trust with your internet service provider or government to the VPN provider and expecting it to handle the data responsibly. We’re going to look at how well the providers protect your data from outside eyes and themselves.
NordVPN is the sole provider in our VPN reviews to earn a 100 percent rating in this category. It even beat ExpressVPN, though only by a few percentage points. With top-notch encryption and many specialty servers, NordVPN may be the most secure provider on the market.
Its Tor and double-hop options are excellent for bypassing even the strictest censorship. NordVPN ranked among the best VPN services for China for that reason. It can easily make it past the Great Firewall and all the deep packet inspection that China is notorious for.
That’s partly because of the specialty services and partly because of the encryption. NordVPN uses AES 256-bit with the OpenVPN protocol by default. You can also secure your connection with PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and IKEv2/IPsec, but, for security, OpenVPN is your best bet.
Its services held up well during testing, too. We ran DNS, WebRTC and IP leak tests and NordVPN came back squeaky clean, meaning it’s safe to use.
NordVPN is secured from outside eyes, as well as inside ones. It maintains a strict no-logging policy, meaning nothing is kept on file, not even temporarily. If anyone came knocking, NordVPN would have nothing to hand over but a blank hard drive.
The only thing NordVPN knows about you is your email address and payment method. Your bandwidth usage, origin IP address and location aren’t monitored or logged.
CyberGhost has excellent security, too, but it wasn’t rated quite as high in our review. Though it adheres to similar security standards, it lacks the specialty servers that NordVPN has, making it a less ideal choice for risky connections.
Your connection is secured with AES 256-bit over IKEv2/IPSec by default. CyberGhost also supports L2TP and OpenVPN, and we recommend changing to the latter as soon as you can. IPSec is easier to block than OpenVPN because it secures connections on an IP level and not in the transport layer. While a strange choice on the provider’s part, it’s nothing you can’t fix with a couple of clicks.
CyberGhost is solid on the security front, which we verified verified through our testing. We ran the same leak tests and CyberGhost passed without issue.
It has interesting security features, too. You can access the NoSpy servers on semi-annual plans and above. They are built with premium hardware outside of the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes, providing the best in speed, uptime and privacy.
Plus, CyberGhost has a setting to disable IPv6 connections. If you’re curious how they affect VPNs, make sure to read our IPv4 vs. IPv6 guide.
Its privacy is solid, as well. CyberGhost is based in Romania, which is one of the most privacy-friendly countries in the world. It maintains a no-logs policy, so there’s never anything to hand over. With CyberGhost, you’re off the record.
Round 5 Thoughts
NordVPN and CyberGhost use top-level encryption and maintain a no-logs policy. As far as secure VPN practices, they’re both sound choices, so this round really shouldn’t sway your opinion in one direction or the other.
While close, NordVPN still has an advantage. The specialty servers allow you to set up a double-hop connection or use your VPN with Tor. Though most users won’t touch those options, the few that do will be happy they’re there.
CyberGhost’s update did a lot for it in terms of ease of use, but it wasn’t quite enough to take down NordVPN. Even so, both are among the best VPNs on the market, so don’t feel too bad if you prefer our silver medalist.
NordVPN takes the crown, but it’s not without fault. The Achilles’ heel of this provider is its speed, which is much slower than we’d expect given how much else it gets right. That may be enough to swing you in the other direction toward CyberGhost.
Still, NordVPN remains our champion. Do you agree that it should be? Let us know why or why not in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.