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NordVPN is probably the most popular VPN on the market with a huge customer base around the world. It also gets a lot of attention from various “review” websites and it can be difficult to find honest information about this VPN.
To answer this question, I put NordVPN through extensive testing and let the test results stand on their own.
- Does NordVPN offer good speeds?
- Is NordVPN secure (no leaks)?
- Do all of the features work correctly?
- Is it actually worth the price?
As you can see with all of the screenshots below, NordVPN was extensively tested for this review to conclusively answer all questions. Now let’s examine the results.
While NordVPN is definitely a solid choice, it’s definitely not the best VPN on the market. It is currently trailing behind ExpressVPN (#1) and Perfect Privacy (#2). For a fully-featured VPN, however, NordVPN is among the best values you’ll find when you use the 70% discount coupon. Nonetheless, it also comes with a few drawbacks.
Pros of NordVPN
- Strong privacy features
- Secure apps with no leaks
- Excellent prices (best value VPN)
- NordVPN’s large server network
- Great customer support
- Verified no logs VPN provider
- NordVPN based in Panama (good privacy jurisdiction)
Cons of NordVPN
- Variable speeds (slower than some competitors)
- Mac OS OpenVPN app has no “internet” kill switch
Additional research findings
- Does NordVPN work with Netflix?
- Is NordVPN good for torrenting?
- Does NordVPN use virtual server locations?
- NordVPN dedicated IP address options
- NordVPN router options
Pros of NordVPN
Here are the pros (advantages) of NordVPN.
1. Strong privacy features
NordVPN offers some solid features to enhance user privacy and security. Let’s take a look at a few of these features.
NordVPN CyberSec is a security feature that includes a malicious sites filter and an advertisement and tracking blocker. I found it to work well in testing, effectively blocking all advertising domains on different sites I visited.
Two other VPN services that also offer a similar feature are:
- Perfect Privacy – Perfect Privacy offers a TrackStop feature to block ads, tracking, and malicious domains at the VPN server level. It also has a parental filter and filters to block Google and social media domain tracking.
- VyprVPN – VyprVPN offers a malicious sites filter that will block dangerous domains, but it does not provide ad blocking.
NordVPN’s CyberSec feature seemed to do well with blocking ads in the basic tests I ran for this review.
Tor (Onion) Over VPN
Despite the drawbacks of the Tor network (namely slow speeds and the potential for IP address leaks), it can still be combined with a VPN for more privacy. Keep in mind, however, that combining Tor with a VPN may not be the best idea, due to the drawbacks.
NordVPN offers three server locations that exit onto the Tor (onion) network:
Unfortunately, I found the Onion-over-VPN servers to be rather slow, but this is entirely due to the Tor network, which routes all traffic through three different relays, thereby slowing everything down.
Double VPN (multi-hop)
Using a multi-hop VPN offers many advantages over a standard VPN setup (single server). If a server were to be targeted (monitored), a multi-hop VPN configuration would add further protection by helping to conceal incoming and/or outgoing traffic.
NordVPN currently offers 16 double-hop VPN configurations, which they list on their website. For those wanting a higher level of privacy and security, the double-encryption is worth the performance tradeoff.
NordVPN kill switch
NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that offers two different kinds of kill switches. A kill switch is important because it blocks traffic if the VPN connection drops, which protects you from de-anonymization and your regular traffic being exposed.
In the screenshot below you can see the two different kill switches:
- Internet Kill Switch – This will block all traffic if the VPN connection drops (recommended).
- App Kill Switch – This will close applications if the VPN connection drops, but will not block any traffic.
If you are concerned about IP address leaks it would probably be best to use the “Internet Kill Switch” as this will offer the most protection and block non-VPN traffic through the firewall.
I tested the Internet Kill Switch and found it to effectively block traffic when there was not an active connection to a VPN server.
(Note: There is one drawback, however, with the Mac OS OpenVPN client’s kill switch, as we’ll cover below in the Cons section.)
2. Secure apps with no leaks
Once again, NordVPN has made some excellent improvements in the areas of privacy and security in the past year. Extensive testing did not find any leaks with the NordVPN Windows or Mac OS clients.
I tested the Windows and Mac OS clients using the basic VPN tests and checks with the site ipleak.net.
Overall the test results were good:
- No IPv4 leaks
- No IPv6 leaks
- No DNS leaks
No leaks – here is a test result showing everything working correctly with the NordVPN client (no leaks).
You can see in the image above that the NordVPN Netherlands server is providing me with an IPv4 address, blocking IPv6, and handling DNS requests. The WebRTC leak test results above are local IP addresses (not leaks).
With the latest update to this review, it is clear that NordVPN has made some great security improvements with its Windows and Mac OS applications.
3. Excellent prices (best value VPN)
NordVPN is one of the cheapest VPN services you will find (that is still good quality). Right now NordVPN is offering a discounted three-year subscription price with the three-year plan. While the duration is certainly long, the savings are indeed significant, at only $3.49 per month.
Below are the discounted NordVPN subscription prices:
- $3.49/month for the 3-year plan
- $4.99/month for the 2-year plan
- $6.99/month for the 1-year plan
- $11.95/month for the 1-month plan
You can pay with all major credit cards, Amazon Pay, Alipay, UnionPay, and even a variety of cryptocurrencies. One drawback, however, is that NordVPN is no longer supporting PayPal payments.
NordVPN Refund policy (30 days)
NordVPN provides a 30 day money-back guarantee, which is quite generous for VPN standards. This is one of the best VPN trial windows you will find, as I explained in my guide on VPNs offering free trials. I put their refund policy to the test and they were quick to issue me a refund.
If you are hesitant about the two or three-year subscription plans, NordVPN also offers shorter duration subscriptions, but they are more expensive. (I’m also maintaining a NordVPN discounts page to track the latest offers on NordVPN.)
4. NordVPN’s large server network
NordVPN boasts a huge server network, which currently includes about 5,200 servers in 60 countries.
In the past few years NordVPN has continuously expanded and updated its server network to improve performance. This has resulted in less congestion and better speeds for all users. You can see real-time bandwidth stats for every server on the NordVPN website (see Servers in the navigation menu at the top).
Obfuscated servers – NordVPN also has a nice lineup of obfuscated servers, which will automatically obfuscate (hide) all VPN traffic to look like regular HTTPS traffic. This is useful wherever VPNs may be getting blocked, as explained further in the best VPNs for China guide.
5. Great customer support
NordVPN now offers 24/7 live chat support and the representatives are quite helpful.
Chat support is accessible directly on the NordVPN website in the bottom right corner.
I tested out the NordVPN chat support a few different times for this review, asking them basic questions, and it worked well without any issues.
In all my interactions with NordVPN support, it did not take long to connect with a representative (under a minute). The support staff was helpful in answering all my questions.
Support with some of the larger VPN providers can be hit or miss. With NordVPN, support seems to be very good right now.
6. NordVPN no logs policy
Another important aspect in terms of privacy and security is NordVPN’s logging policy. As we covered in the verified no logs VPN guide, NordVPN is one of the few VPN services that has been verified to be truly no logs.
In November 2018, NordVPN underwent an audit to examine all aspects of the service and verify the “no logs” policy. The audit was performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the auditing firm is not allowing for the public release of the results, but existing NordVPN customers can view the full report in the NordVPN member’s area.
I obtained a copy of the audit and examined the findings. Here is a brief summary that I posted in the no logs VPN guide:
- NordVPN was audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, Zurich, Switzerland, which had full access to examine NordVPN’s servers, interview employees, observe operations, as well as inspect configurations, databases, and any other relevant aspect of the VPN service.
- The audit officially verified NordVPN to be a “no-log service” that remains true to its policies.
- NordVPN does not store connection logs, IP addresses, traffic logs, or any internet activity information.
NordVPN strictly keeps no logs of your activity online. That means we do not track the time or duration of any online session, and neither do we keep logs of IP addresses or servers used, websites visited or files downloaded. In other words, none of your private and secure data is logged and gathered at any time. As a result, we are not able to provide any details about your behavior online, even if you request it yourself.
NordVPN is based away from the EU and US jurisdiction and is not required to collect your personal data and information– it means nothing is recorded, monitored, stored, logged or passed to third parties.
Overall, NordVPN is a solid choice if you are looking for a no logs VPN provider that has been verified.
7. NordVPN based in Panama (good privacy jurisdiction)
As NordVPN explains on its website:
We are based and operate under the jurisdiction of Panama. There is no mandatory data retention law in Panama so we do not need to store logs which is perfect for a VPN provider.
Over the past year there have been various allegations about NordVPN’s connection to other countries in Europe, which I explained in the NordVPN Tesonet article. However, what some people simply fail to understand is that nearly every tech company employees people all over the world, including NordVPN. This fact is entirely irrelevant to the official jurisdiction of the company, which is based on where the business is incorporated. This is a formal, legal designation and it determines under which laws the VPN operates.
Being based in Panama is indeed a good jurisdiction that gives NordVPN advantages over other VPN providers, as I also explained in my comparison of NordVPN and Private Internet Access.
Cons of NordVPN
Now we’ll examine the cons of NordVPN.
1. Variable speeds (slower than some competitors)
NordVPN has significantly improved speeds since I first started testing it many years ago. Nonetheless, the latest tests for this NordVPN review show there is still room for improvement.
All of the speed tests with NordVPN were conducted on a 160 Mbps connection using the 256-bit OpenVPN UDP protocol. I did not connect to any overloaded servers and used the NordVPN auto-connect feature, which chooses the best server for performance in a given region based on proximity and server loading.
First, I tested a nearby server in Germany, which gave me 74 Mbps:
This isn’t horrible, but it’s certainly not great, especially in comparison to other VPNs, such as ExpressVPN, which give me around 150 Mbps (basically maxing out my connection speed).
Next up was a NordVPN Switzerland server: 17 Mbps
Again, not the best speeds.
I also ran some tests with NordVPN servers in the UK, where speeds were better: 81 Mbps
If you need a VPN for the UK, NordVPN wouldn’t be a bad option.
For this review, I also tested a number of NordVPN servers in the United States and Canada. The results were similar.
Here I’m testing a NordVPN server in New York and getting around 53 Mbps:
Speeds with the NordVPN Chicago server were a bit lower as well at 34 Mbps:
Speeds with all the US servers I tested were generally in this range. I also tested a few servers in Canada. Here is a NordVPN server in Montreal at 62 Mbps:
Overall these speeds aren’t amazing, but they also aren’t horrible. If you need a basic VPN for browsing and streaming Netflix, NordVPN should definitely be adequate.
I also ran numerous speed tests for the comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN came out on top in all locations tested.
2. Mac OS OpenVPN app has no “internet” kill switch
Another drawback with NordVPN is that the Mac OS OpenVPN client does not have an “internet” kill switch. As we explained above, however, the Windows app offers two types of kill switches, which is a good security feature.
With NordVPN’s Mac OS OpenVPN client, however, you only have the application-level kill switch:
This is indeed a drawback for Mac OS users who want the full internet kill switch to block all traffic if the VPN connection drops. On a positive note, the Mac OS IKEv2 app does offer the full “internet kill switch” and also the “app kill switch”.
So if you are a Mac user and are looking for the best Mac OS VPN services, you may want to consider other options.
That is about all I could find for cons with NordVPN. Overall it remains a good option at a low price.
Additional research findings
Here are the additional research findings for this NordVPN review, based on my own tests.
Does NordVPN work with Netflix?
Yes, NordVPN continues to work well with Netflix, even though most VPNs are getting blocked by the service.
With NordVPN you can get full access to American Netflix, UK Netflix, and some other regions as well. It is definitely a solid Netflix VPN service considering the server selection and performance.
In the best VPN for Netflix guide I ran NordVPN through a number of real-world tests to see how well it unblocks Netflix. Overall NordVPN did very well in these tests – both unblocking Netflix and also giving me good speeds for HD streaming.
Below I’m using a NordVPN server in New York to stream Netflix from my location in Europe:
You can check Netflix availability for the region you want to use on the NordVPN website.
Is NordVPN good for torrenting? (Yes)
Yes, NordVPN is an excellent choice for torrenting because it is a verified no logs VPN provider and there are zero restrictions on torrenting or P2P downloads.
When torrenting with NordVPN, be sure to enable the kill switch to protect you in case the connection drops. This will ensure your real IP address stays protected and secure. You can also find guides showing you how to setup NordVPN with uTorrent and BitTorrent clients.
See the VPNs for torrenting guide for additional information.
Does NordVPN use virtual server locations?
For this NordVPN review I also checked a number of different servers to verify the true server location. Some VPNs use what they refer to as “virtual server locations“. One example of this would be a server in Singapore spoofing a location of Sri Lanka. This is easy for VPNs to do because they can declare any location they want for a range of IP addresses they purchase.
To check for virtual server locations, you can simply ping the server from different data centers around the world and triangulate the location – see the steps outlined in this guide.
I tested various NordVPN server locations all around the world and everything checked out. NordVPN does not appear to be using any virtual server locations.
All of NordVPN’s servers appear to be in the advertised location (no virtual server locations). This is indeed a benefit for NordVPN users, while some VPNs rely heavily on virtual locations, such as PureVPN, for example.
NordVPN Dedicated IP addresses
NordVPN also gives you the option to get a dedicated IP address, which may be beneficial in some use cases. They offer dedicated IP addresses in the following locations:
- United States (Buffalo, Los Angeles, Dallas) – $70
- Germany (Frankfurt) – $70
- United Kingdom (London) – $70
- Netherlands (Amsterdam) – $70
The cost is for one year access to the dedicated/static IP. Despite the higher cost, NordVPN is among the best VPNs for a static IP. You can purchase a dedicated IP address by contacting NordVPN’s support to arrange the IP location and have them add it to your account.
NordVPN router options
NordVPN is also a good VPN to use on a router. I’ve tested many different VPN providers on various routers and put together an in-depth VPN router setup guide that answers most questions.
If you are looking to use NordVPN on a router, you basically have three different options:
- Get a pre-configured router from an outlet such as Sabai Technology or FlashRouters. These will be somewhat expensive, but it will be ready to use with NordVPN right out of the box and pre-configured with the router firmware you need.
- Get a VPN-enabled router that can be used with a VPN without any flashing required. The best selection of VPN-enabled routers comes from Asus. Asus offers numerous routers that can be easily loaded with OpenVPN configuration files (from any VPN provider) and be working in just minutes.
- Flash your existing router. This can be tricky and somewhat risky (bricking your router), so you will want to proceed with caution if you go down this route. The degree of difficulty will depend on the router you are using.
Tip – When using NordVPN on a router, connect to the nearest server with the lightest load. Also, be sure to use a router that has enough CPU to give you the speeds you need – see the best VPN router guide for benchmark guidelines.
NordVPN review conclusion
NordVPN earns a strong recommendation based on the latest test results for this NordVPN review. It has made great improvements over the last year, which include:
- Hundreds of new servers added around the world
- Great security and privacy features (CyberSec, ad blocking, specialty servers)
- Better apps with more security (improved kill switch functionality)
NordVPN is also one of the best values in the VPN industry with the current 70% off discount prices that drop the rate down to only $3.49 per month. And with the 30 day money-back guarantee, you can test the VPN risk-free to see if it works well for you.
If you have used NordVPN, feel free to share your honest review (good or bad) below.