Norton Secure VPN Review
Norton Secure VPN is part of the wider Norton family by Symantec. It's a fine VPN, but comes with limited customizability, as well as some minor issues with bugs. Total novices might like it, but more experienced users likely will not. Read our full Norton VPN review to find out why.
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Symantec, the company behind Norton, has been in the PC security game a long time, and it has improved since the dark days of being bloated and hard to remove in the ‘90s. As our Norton Security review shows, we say a lot of good things about the company when it gets it right. The same goes for its VPN product, Norton Secure VPN, formerly Norton Wifi Privacy.
We’re judging Norton Secure VPN on its own merits, which means conducting a full review to find out the pros and cons. We’ll be testing it for speed and security, as well as checking out its privacy protection. We’re also going to look at streaming performance, customer support, ease of use and the number of servers before giving our verdict.
- Works with Netflix
- Cheap, with multiple price plans
- Beginner friendly
- Fast speeds
- Some data is monitored in real time
- Five Eyes jurisdiction
- No support for torrents
- Limited server and location choices
- Limited customization
Norton Secure VPN isn’t a service for those who want to choose their encryption protocols or customize their VPN experience. If that’s what you’re looking for, consider NordVPN. Read our NordVPN review to learn more about it.
Norton Secure VPN doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to features and that appears to be by design. There are clients for iOS, Android, Windows and macOS, but there’s not Linux client.
VPN protocol and encryption choices are a no-go, too. Norton Secure VPN doesn’t make it clear on its website or in its client what protocol it uses for VPN connections. You can’t customize that protocol or choose the level of encryption on your connection, either.
The only feature that stands out with Norton Secure VPN is an ad tracker. According to Norton, it’s a privacy feature that blocks targeted ads when you’re browsing the web. It’s activated by default when you connect to a server, but you can turn it off with a switch in the client.
Auto-connection and auto-server selection are enabled by default, too. That, again, appears to be designed to help make the VPN experience seamless. Norton Secure VPN discourages interaction.
Such a limited set of features puts Norton Secure VPN in the same league as KeepSolid VPN Lite, as our KeepSolid VPN Lite review shows. Like that provider, Norton Secure VPN excluded features for the sake of simplicity, providing a rather basic service overall.
For VPN users who just want to protect themselves when they connect to their coffee shop’s WiFi, that’s fine. For power users or anyone else expecting typical VPN features, such as a killswitch, it’s going to be off-putting, especially when most services listed in our VPN reviews offer much more.
To recap, Norton Secure VPN doesn’t offer advanced features beyond an ad tracking blocker. Services such as Windscribe (read our Windscribe review) offer ad blocking as standard, so it isn’t a stand-out feature.
Norton Secure VPN is as basic as it gets. Our VPN library might be a good place to start looking if you need a service that offers more. If you’re running Windows, you can also take a look at our best VPN for Windows guide.
Norton Secure VPN Features Overview
Though Norton Secure VPN is light on features, it’s equally light on cost. At $4.99 a month for the cheapest rolling monthly package, it’s nearly half the price of some of its top-shelf competitors, such as CyberGhost (read our CyberGhost review).
1-year plan $ 4.17/ month
$49.99 billed every year
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1-year plan $ 6.67/ month
$79.99 billed every year
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1-year plan $ 8.33/ month
$99.99 billed every year
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Price packages for Norton Secure VPN are determined by two criteria: the number of devices you want to use and whether you want to pay yearly or monthly.
Norton Secure VPN offers a 60-day refund policy for subscribers to its annual packages, but that guarantee isn’t extended to those who are buying it on a monthly basis.
The pricing is cheap, and we assume that’s because of Norton Secure VPN’s feature set, as well as it being used as an entry point for more expensive Norton products. Being able to install it on up to 10 devices for under $10 a month is impressive and can probably only be beaten in number by GooseVPN (read our GooseVPN review).
If you’re looking for a VPN that allows for many devices, Norton Secure VPN compares favorably to the services on our best VPN for multiple devices list.
As mentioned, Norton went for a simple approach with Norton Secure VPN. It’s not designed to be complex, but instead an install-and-go solution for people who aren’t interested in lots of choices.
Registering for Norton Secure VPN is straightforward. You select your package and go through the checkout process, during which you’re required to create a Norton account.
You’re forced to hand over your name and cell phone number, which are personally identifying features, before you can register. Privacy-focused individuals would be better served by a service such as TorGuard instead (read our TorGuard review.)
Once you’ve registered and paid, you’ll get an email with instructions on how to download the client, with a direct link provided. Installation is simple. It just takes a few clicks for the client to be ready.
Logging in is straightforward. All you’ll need is your email and password. Once you’ve logged in, the client will automatically connect you to a server it selects.
There are three main areas in the client. The “secure VPN” section shows you your current IP address and location alongside a little map and provides a button that allows you to quickly connect or disconnect from the VPN. It’s a simple, clean interface that doesn’t aim to confuse users.
The “virtual location” area gives you a list of countries with VPN servers that you can connect to. You can select a nation, but you can’t narrow it down to a city. The interface, again, is quite clean and simple, with your current selected region at the top. Selecting a server will instruct the client to attempt a connection.
That seems easy enough, but through testing, the client proved to be buggy. Server connections didn’t always stop when we chose to cancel a connection, and too many server changes simply caused the client to crash, forcing us to close it and restart.
The third area is the “ad tracking” section, which gives you the option to enable or disable the ad tracking blocker and lists how many ad trackers Norton Secure VPN has blocked over time. If you’re looking for a full-featured ad blocker, you might want to check out the best pop-up blockers instead.
As mentioned, there isn’t much in the way of a “settings” area. In the top right of the client, there are options for your account and a brief settings menu for the client.
The client only allows you to alter two distinct settings. By default, the client will auto-connect you to a VPN server when the client loads, as well as launch the client when you start your PC. You can disable those from the settings menu.
It all goes back to simplicity with Norton Secure VPN. With options such as auto-start and auto-connect enabled automatically, Norton has designed a service that requires little input from the user once it’s installed. There are few choices outside of those, beyond choosing a server based on country.
Norton can’t rely on simplicity if it wants its VPN service to succeed. Speed is equally important. That’s why look at how quick Norton Secure VPN is, especially compared to the entries in our fastest VPN services list.
We ran speed tests on several servers around the world, comparing the results to our unprotected location in the UK. The results are shown in the table below.
|Locations:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
Norton Secure VPN did well in our speed tests, especially in Europe.
The comparable European server locations in Italy and Belgium performed at near-identical speeds to the unprotected connection, with only about a 1 megabit per second loss on download speeds. Latency was also close to the original connection, as were upload speeds.
Our speeds dropped as the distance to the servers we tested increased. Israel’s download speed dropped to around 24 Mbps, but the upload speed remained close to the original. Latency, at 80 milliseconds, was also reasonable considering the distance.
If you’re using servers nearby, or within the same continent, Norton Secure VPN could be a good option for streaming content or playing games, even compared to those on our best VPN for gaming shortlist.
Our tests of a U.S. server showed impressive latency given the distance. At 106 ms, streaming or gaming from a U.S. server connection would be acceptable, putting it in the same league as Mullvad (read our Mullvad review.) Download and upload speeds were also quick.
The only slow server we tested was in Hong Kong. It had a latency of 401 ms and a download speed of less than 5 Mbps. At around 6,000 miles from the UK, that’s unsurprising. You may get better speeds if you’re based closer to Asia.
Norton blocks torrenting, so though the speeds are great, Norton Secure VPN isn’t a contender for the best VPN for torrenting. If you’re looking for a quick VPN, you could do worse than Norton Secure VPN. Read our BoxPN review to see what we mean.
Though Norton claims to offer “bank-grade encryption” for your connection, there’s no information on the Norton website about the VPN protocols or encryption it uses to do that.
Looking at the Windows client files, we found that Norton Secure VPN uses OpenVPN. You can’t customize your connection security, so it appears to be the only protocol available to you. As our VPN protocol breakdown explains, OpenVPN is one of the best options for most users thanks to the speed and security benefits.
A conversation with Norton chat support confirmed that Norton Secure VPN uses AES 256-bit encryption and OpenVPN for Windows and Android, but, rather mysteriously, the protocol for macOS couldn’t be disclosed for security reasons.
Our gut feeling is that the support agent just didn’t know the information. We’ll discuss the quality of the customer service in greater depth later in this review.
To see how secure Norton Secure VPN is during use, we ran a check for WebRTC, IP and DNS leaks. There were no issues. There are no advanced security features, such as a killswitch or split tunneling, with Norton Secure VPN, so it won’t be making our most secure VPN shortlist.
If you’re looking for a VPN that has more advanced security features, as well as more customization than get with Norton Secure VPN, take a look at AirVPN (read our AirVPN review.)
If you’re worried about privacy or security, it’s advisable to avoid U.S.-based VPN companies, especially because the U.S. is the main component of the Five Eyes intelligence network. If you’re not a fan of government surveillance, look for VPN services hosted in the countries with the best privacy laws, such as the Seychelles.
Symantec, the company behind Norton, is based in California so from a privacy point of view, you’re in the lion’s den. That said, Symantec says Norton Secure VPN doesn’t keep logs, but that depends on your definition.
Symantec performs real-time analysis as part of its “automated rule-based traffic management,” presumably to monitor for anybody abusing its service with significant data usage. It says it may monitor “destination websites or IP addresses,” which, though Symantec doesn’t log that information, can be done at any time.
The policy says that services you use, websites you visit and anything you do with your connection aren’t logged.
From a privacy point of view, Symantec offers a mixed bag for users. It advertises a service that doesn’t save or log information, but it’s worrying that its systems monitor, in real time, the services and websites you visit, even if they aren’t technically logged.
Given that Symantec is also based in the U.S., we can’t recommend it for those who really worry about their privacy.
Norton Secure VPN isn’t advertised as a streaming-friendly service, but streaming is one of the biggest draws for VPNs, so it’s worth seeing how well a service performs when you’re looking to stream content online.
To that end, we tested Norton Secure VPN’s streaming potential on services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix. We were able to get into geoblocked Netflix locations, including the U.S., from our base in the UK, making Norton Secure VPN a strong option for users, especially compared to the VPNs on our best VPN for Netflix shortlist.
Similar testing of BBC iPlayer, using the UK server, worked well. There were no errors, and streaming was quick and didn’t buffer.
As our speed tests showed, Norton Secure VPN has great speeds and low latency. The ease in which it bypassed geoblocking and the streaming quality make Norton Secure VPN a good alternative to the VPNs in our best VPN for streaming breakdown.
It’s unclear how many servers are in the Norton Secure VPN network because Symantec doesn’t make this information available. There are 29 countries listed in the client, though.
It’s disappointing that Symantec hasn’t made the information public. They may, for instance, have hundreds in the U.S., but only one in Israel. We just don’t know, and they weren’t willing to part with that information via the live chat.
There aren’t many countries hosted by Norton Secure VPN, either. Most are based in Europe or North America, with a few servers in Asia and Oceania. There’s only one server each for Africa, located in South Africa, and South America, located in Brazil.
No matter how you spin it, that isn’t great geographical coverage, especially compared to ExpressVPN or CyberGhost, with thousands of servers between them, as our ExpressVPN vs. CyberGhost comparison explains.
With the Norton brand and the pedigree that Symantec has, we were expecting big things from Symantec’s customer service. You can get help through a few different methods, including 24/7 live chat and phone support.
If you’d rather ask questions of the Norton community, a forum is available for users to post questions and feedback. There’s also a knowledgebase with basic questions and an FAQ.
To test Symantec’s customer support, we decided to ask a few questions using the live chat about things that weren’t immediately clear on the product’s website, including which VPN protocols Norton Secure VPN uses, what level of encryption is available and how many servers it has.
We waited a few minutes for a response, but we did get answers. Though they wouldn’t tell us how many servers are in use, they did give us information on encryption and protocols. Responses were quick, but they wouldn’t answer our question about macOS protocols.
It’s possible our support agent didn’t know what they were talking about, which may explain their answer.
Overall, customer service is fine. It’s a nice touch that it’s available 24/7, and you’re well-served by the support forum and live chat for basic questions. That said, the knowledgebase is basic.
Unlike most VPNs we review, Norton is a brand that has name recognition — even your granny has probably heard of it. Norton Secure VPN isn’t a bad VPN when you consider who it’s being aimed at and why.
It’s a basic service that’s designed to encourage users to upgrade to one of Norton’s better, and higher-priced, security suites. It’s simple, and some might call it bare-bones, but it’s also one of the quicker VPNs we’ve seen. It’s functional, it works and, for beginners, it does almost everything for you, including choosing a server.
Advanced users aren’t going to be happy with Norton Secure VPN because there are almost no options to customize the VPN experience. That’s reflected in the price, though, with one of the cheapest monthly packages we’ve seen.
That said, streamers will be happy: Norton Secure VPN streamed Netflix and BBC iPlayer without problems or slowdowns. It would be a contender in our best VPNs for BBC iPlayer list. Torrenting is blocked by the service, though, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re a pirate.
Norton Secure VPN isn’t as good a service as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, but if you want a cheap, no-frills VPN, it could be for you. Just be aware that it’s a U.S.-based VPN provider, so hiding from Uncle Sam will be tricky, even though it’s advertised as a “no-logs VPN.”
Got your own thoughts on Norton Secure VPN to share? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for taking the time to read this review.