NordVPN Review

NordVPN logo
  • Raiting: 9.0 / 10
  • Pricing (monthly): $11.95
  • Pricing (yearly): $59 (equivalent to $4.92 per month)
  • Pricing (two yearly): $89 including discount and three free months (equivalent to $3.30 per month)
  • Simultaneous Connection: 6
  • Server Locations: 60 Countries
  • Jurisdiction: Panama
  • Can be used on:
  • Can unblock:

NordVPN is a premium VPN service based in Panama that markets itself as having one of the best performances thanks to its bespoke NordLynx protocol that implements a double Network Address Translation (NAT) system on a WireGuard backbone. Users have the option to switch to using OpenVPN (UDP or TCT) or IKEv2/IPsec if more transparency in the protocol is wanted.

Its primary selling features are its zero-logging policy and claimed super-fast network speeds. It offers subscribers unlimited bandwidth for up to six devices, and the company claims never to throttle speeds. There are currently no data collection and retention laws for services based in Panama, unlike other regions such as Europe. An audit of the logging claim by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, Zurich, Switzerland reports this policy description is fair and accurate. Combined with this zero-logging policy, this means that, in theory, user privacy should be guaranteed.

Subscriptions can be taken out monthly, annually, or on a two-year subscription. The latter offering the best value for money over the long term as it currently includes an additional three free months and a 70% discount. With the discount, the cost of the basic service is comparable with other popular premium VPN service providers. Without the discount the price is eyewatering.

A standard subscription does include the CyberSec pop-up advert and malware blocking function and a Dark web monitoring service. The NordPass Premium password manager and the NordLocker Premium cloud file backup services are both available to purchase at additional monthly cost. The 79% discount offered for the two-year NordVPN subscription also applies to these two add-ons.

The VPN apps support the most popular devices and platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. There are also lightweight browser extensions available for Chrome and Firefox. The VPN apps have limited configuration options, though they were found to have most features disabled by default. The one option that was enabled by default was the sharing of aggregated usage data that is claimed to be anonymous.

The NordVPN service includes an automatic Kill Switch to prevent any data leakage should the VPN connection drop out during use. Accessibility to streaming services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer are generally suitable for users looking for legitimate access to these services while maintaining browsing history privacy. The NordVPN service terms of use do not permit the violate or infringement of copyright or the sharing of illegal material. The majority of the NordVPN servers currently allow streaming of geo-blocked content that are known to resist VPN usage. Where services block VPN traffic, the NordVPN service include availability of obfuscated servers which will hide VPN use and hence bypass such blocks.

Pros & Cons of NordVPN

  • Access to the NordVPN service can configured to use multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • The NordVPN service can configured to use either its bespoke protocol or trusted open-source VPN protocols.
  • The subscription fee for the NordVPN service covers the simultaneous use of up to six different devices.
  • The NordVPN subscription fee can be paid using anonymous payment methods.
  • The NordVPN service includes Double VPN connection, routing traffic through two VPN servers to provide additional protection.
  • The NordVPN service includes an Onion over VPN connection, routing traffic through onion servers for additional VPN routing obscuration and to support torrenting.
  • The PIA VPN service can include a dedicated IP as a relatively expensive extra paid-for option.
  • The application has very limited configuration options and uses a fixed encryption algorithm. In addition, the iOS app had less configuration settings than the Windows app.
  • The application is insecure by default on installation, important features like the kill switch are disabled and require users to access the non-intuitive configuration settings to enable.
  • The user interface for the application is basic and offers limited information.
  • The website support options are limited to email, web forms and a live online helpdesk popup. The iOS app only appears to include the email support option.
  • The number of locations with servers outside of the US is limited, and no server in China and only one location in the entire continent of Africa.
  • Subscription options do not include PayPal and there is no option for a free trial or automatic refund for iOS app users in the event that the service is unsatisfactory. Subscribing through the website does provide a 30-day money back option through the support function.
Screen shot of the iOS app main screen

Using NordVPN

The NordVPN application is straightforward to install but configuration options are limited and vary by host OS. For example, the Windows app offers more setting options than the iOS app. Troubling, the configuration settings were found to be set to the least secure options by default.

Applications are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Chrome and Firefox. For this review, the iOS app was installed on an iPad and evaluated with addition testing using the Windows app.

The interface is minimalist, with connectivity status indicated with a color banner an the indication of the connected VPN server on a pop-up menu.

In addition, the display includes a world map with a dot highlighting the geographical location of the linked server. The app allows the user to scroll and zoom in on the world map.

Switching to a different server was straightforward. A quick-connect list of the last five servers used is available if needed.

Alternatively, pressing a dot on the world map brings up a list of all the available cities in that country that have servers if more than one is available.

While the service supports a global network, the focus is on the US. The application offers connections through servers located in 60 different countries and has options for 15 different cities in the US, 5 in Australia and 3 in Canada. However, there is just one option for the UK and other major European countries, and only one option for the whole of Africa. Support for Asia is better, but there is no server within China. Once connected, the VPN connection is transparent to the user. In addition, the VPN service includes an automatic Kill Switch function if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly, blocking the internet connection to prevent a data leak.

The service includes support for split tunnelling that allows users to choose which specific applications or websites do not connect via the VPN, connecting directly via the ISP server. The network traffic encryption uses AES-256, not configurable by the user.

A good feature is the inclusion of the CyberSec function that claims to block pop-up adverts and malware as part of the service. This feature needs to be enabled by accessing the application settings.

NordVPN also supports using an anonymous static IP address that can be purchased as an add-on to the product subscription for an additional fee.

Screen shot of the iOS app US cities screen

Payments Accepted by NordVPN

card_amazon_pay Created with Sketch.

NordVPN Speeds

NordVPN VPN Server Locations Download Upload
United Kingdon 732.38 Mbit 352.96 Mbit
Australia 148.82 Mbit 19.61 Mbit
Taiwan 81.91 Mbit 41.36 Mbit
South Africa 241.08 Mbit 15.89 Mbit
Arizona, USA 449.54 Mbit 8.99 Mbit
New York, USA 547.48 Mbit 31.71 Mbit
Germany 545.48 Mbit 96.32 Mbit
Spain 632.41 Mbit 128.17 Mbit
Brazil 390.1 Mbit 26 Mbit
Indonesia 124.18 Mbit 10.54 Mbit

Logging Policy and Privacy of NordVPN

NordVPN states that it operates a zero-logging policy to ensure the privacy and anonymity of subscribers' internet usage. This claim has been confirmed by the independent audit undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, Zurich, Switzerland. Evidence suggests that only information related to the latest fifteen minutes of a users’ concurrent active sessions are logged but not retained when the session ends.

NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, a country with no data retention laws. It is important to note that subscriber account and contact information is stored, comprising email address, associated payment information, details of the device that has been used to access the NordVPN service, and location information. In addition, user IP address is collected and stored when online support functions are accessed. Therefore, total anonymity can only be achieved if the subscriber can provide a non-attributable email address, uses an anonymous payment method, and avoids using support functions. Visitors to the website are presented with non-persistent cookies that manage the current session. In addition, cookies are used to store the device's geographic region that has a one-year expiration and Google Analytics cookies that have a two-year expiration. The use of these cookies is covered in the privacy policy for the website. This states that information collected by tracking cookies is shared with third-parties worldwide. .

One area of concern is that by default the application collects aggregated usage data that it claims is anonymized for use in a range of purposes from diagnostics to product improvement. The user will need to navigate the settings menu of each installation of the application to disable this feature.

Supported Devices and Operating Systems by NordVPN


Windows

Linux

Apple

Android

Chrome

Firefox

Platforms that can be Unblocked by using NordVPN


Netflix

Disney Plus

Apple TV

Sky Go

Amazon Prime Video

BBC
Screen shot of the advanced settings in the Windows App

Verdict / Conclusion

NordVPN is an expensive premium service that delivers impressive network speeds over reasonably stable connections through servers distributed in around sixty countries worldwide. Costs can be competitive if the two year subscription is taken in combination with the offer of heavy discounting. However, there is no guarantee that these favorable rates will be available at the time of renewal.

The NordVPN service operates an independently audited zero-logging policy. It retains limited subscriber information that, combined with the acceptance of anonymous payment methods, means that it is relatively straightforward to set up and operate an entirely anonymous VPN connection for users seeking absolute privacy. Combined with double VPN connections or onion routing, the service offers some of the best privacy protection options available. However, it must be cautions that identifiable information is collected when support functions are accessed.

The NordVPN Windows and iOS applications were fairly simple to install and set up due to the limited options available. Creating an account was more time consuming than other tested services. By default, the application was not configured to use the most security options, and critical features like the kill switch were disabled. Applications that are not secure out of the box are disappointing. In terms of configuration options and security features, NordVPN is very limited compared to its peers. The service is let down by its default collection of usage data and the requirement to provide identifiable data in the form of an IP address when using the online support.

Tests for accessing geo-locked content anonymously were positive with no issues encountered during any of the tests. Also, the inclusion of the CyberSec ad and malware blocker was a good touch, along with the dark web monitoring service. Overall, the privacy protection offered was robust and network speeds good and was seen to support access to popular online streaming services.