NordVPN talks a good game. It claims to be the best VPN for whatever use you need it for. In the VPN-community, it is widely popular and much loved by users – if the reviews on its website are anything to go by.
I decided to put this provider to the test. I carried out performance reviews using several metrics. These metrics cover the major considerations any user may want to sort out before settling for a VPN. I do not want to pre-empt you, so I will tell you my impressions of this VPN when you get to the end. But first, read through to find out how NordVPN fared on my tests.
The number of servers a VPN has is one of the first considerations to have when choosing a VPN. This is because the higher the number of servers a provider boasts of, the more options you get.
Furthermore, if you are looking to enjoy a location-based service, your VPN-provider should have a server in that location. That way, you can connect to the server(s) and access the service. Thus, the higher the number of countries a VPN is present in, the better for you.
NordVPN has more than 5000 servers spread out in 59 countries. This is impressive, judging by any standards. In fact, there are only a few other providers who I am aware of that match this number. With this remarkable number, you will not run out of options when you need to connect to a server.
I checked out how the servers are spread out; they are as follows:
The Americas – 2474 servers
Europe – 2148 servers
Africa and the Middle East – 114 servers
Asia Pacific – 663 servers
Apart from the regular servers, NordVPN has some speciality servers. They include:
- Obfuscated servers: These servers are ideal for locations with heavy internet censorship.
- Double VPN servers: You can run your internet traffic through two different VPN servers. This doubles your encryption and security.
- P2P servers: You can torrent and share P2P files with these.
Some providers offer virtual servers. These are servers that are not physically located in the country it helps connect you to. However, NordVPN does not have any of those. Every server it has is currently located in the country it claims to be.
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Speed and Performance
There are a few things as frustrating as slow speeds while browsing. A slow network could suck the fun out of your internet experience. Moreover, it could compromise your connection, leaving you exposed.
Typically, connecting to a VPN slows down your internet speed. However, the top VPNs try to keep this interference minimal.
I carried out several tests to ascertain the speed on NordVPN’s servers. First, I made use of its Quick Connect feature. It mostly connected me to servers located in the United States and the United Kingdom. These servers were fast. I didn’t really notice any difference between my usual surfing speed and when connected to the VPN.
I noticed that the same was the case when I connected to a local VPN. My speed was quite fast. I could download and stream content in HD without any challenges.
For the long-distance tests, I connected to servers in the Netherlands. The speed was not as fast as when I connected to a local server. However, it still served me well.
Generally, NordVPN lives up to its claim to be (one of) the fastest VPNs available.
Safety and Security Features
One of the most important jobs of a VPN is securing your data. At any given time, nefarious elements are lurking around, looking to intercept your data. When they succeed, they could cost you losses running into the thousands. They may even go as far as fleecing off your loved ones.
On the other hand, you also have the government. They may be interested in monitoring and censoring your online presence. This is mostly done under the guise of safeguarding the overall safety of the state.
A VPN eliminates these security challenges. It routes your network traffic through a secure channel. It further hides your IP address, ferrying you to and fro your online destinations undetected. The strength of the encryption on the servers determines whether they escape government surveillance or not. In addition, the nature of the other security features of the VPN determines its strength and efficacy.
I checked through NordVPN’s security features. The results I found showed me that this provider is one that takes the subject of security very seriously.
In the first instance, I found that the provider makes use of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). This is the level of encryption used by top security outfits all over the world. NordVPN combines its AES with 256-bit keys. The strength of this protection makes it impossible to penetrate. Simply put, the resources necessary to hack this encryption is currently unavailable.
NordVPN also makes use of three different protocols to protect your data. These are the popular OpenVPN protocols, as well as other great options like IKEv2/IPsec and NordLynx. The latter is unique to NordVPN. Some of the specific security features of the VPN are discussed below.
NordVPN allows for double encryption. As you must have guessed, this feature routes your traffic through two servers instead of just one. This encrypts your data not just once, but twice. The network is first encrypted on your device. Afterwards, it gets redirected to a remote VPN server. There, the traffic gets encrypted the second time. From there it heads to its final destination.
This increased protection might be ideal for people in high-risk jobs. Also, if you may want to consider this option if you engage in activities that bring you in direct conflict with the government. For instance, if you are a civil rights activist.
Onion Over VPN
This is another premium security feature I found that NordVPN offers. With this feature, NordVPN sends you through several encrypted tunnels. This adds a second layer of security to your network and browsing.
In addition, it protects your details from snoops and hackers. Even your Internet Service Provider will be unaware of the activities you carry out with the VPN. The ISP will see that you use Onion, but cannot tell what it is for.
You need not worry about the complexities of getting on the Onion network. I discovered that I could easily fix things up with just one click.
A kill switch Is a feature that protects your privacy if the VPN ever falters. When you momentarily lose the VPN’s protection, the feature kicks in, taking you off the internet immediately. This then makes sure that your data does not get exposed.
NordVPN has different versions of the kill switch for its different apps. The PC version is known as “App Kill Switch” and is available for Windows and Mac versions. It prevents you from continuing to use your regular network once the VPN fails.
The Kill Switch on Android devices is available for both Android 8.0 and 7.0 versions. It blocks any use of the internet during the period the VPN is down. It is always turned on, so you do not have to enable it at any point.
For iOS devices, the Kill Switch disables system-wide internet access when the VPN fails. This way, it protects your apps without turning them off entirely. You also get connected to the last server you were making use of before the interruption.
This is also another excellent security feature. A VPN encrypts all of your traffic. However, in some cases, you may want to carry out some actions using your regular IP address. Split tunneling allows you to do that, without getting off the VPN’s protection entirely. Some aspects of your traffic will have the VPN’s protection, while some others wouldn’t. Split tunneling is available for all its mobile apps, as well as on its Chrome and Mozilla browser extensions.
Dedicated IP Addresses
NordVPN is actually one of the few providers that allow users to get dedicated IP addresses. A dedicated IP address is a unique address assigned exclusively to one user. One of the benefits of this is that it tightens your security. You can make secure online payments, skip the request for Captchas and have access to secure business servers using the dedicated IP address.
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Anonymity and Privacy Features
When you log on to the internet, every action you take goes through your Internet Service Provider. Basically, you are left at the mercy of the ISP. Typically, the relationship between the user and the ISP is such that the internet provider cannot compromise the user’s security. Hence, for the most part, ethical providers ensure that they do not access your data. However, some unscrupulous ones could keep tabs on your online activities. They collate such data to sell to third parties. These could include data mining companies, and even hackers in some cases.
Additionally, the government could compel ISPs to release the data of their users. This is commonplace in jurisdictions with repressive regimes. When the pressure gets heightened, some of these ISPs could cave in and yield to the demands from the authorities.
That said, I found that NordVPN excelled on all counts.
This provider claims not to store the data of users. On its website, it states that it does not record timestamps, session information, user bandwidth, IP addresses or any other data. When nothing is stored, nothing will be given up, even if the government subpoenas the provider.
It is typical for VPN service providers to claim that they keep no logs. In fact, I have found this to be the case with almost every provider I’ve encountered. So, how can you tell if NordVPN is legit? Well, it has been endorsed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. This independent auditing firm confirmed that the provider keeps no logs.
NordVPN is based in Panama. This region is well-known for its friendly privacy policies. It is outside of the purview of the 14 eyes network. It is also outside of the jurisdiction of both the United States and the European Union.
Finally, the provider allows payment with cryptocurrencies. You can pay for your subscription plan using Ethereum or Bitcoins. This anonymous payment option makes you virtually untraceable.
Device compatibility is also one important consideration you should pay attention to. A typical user has more than one device and may want to have the VPN’s protection on them all. The only way to do so is if the VPN-provider has compatible apps across the board. If not, you can run the risk of having to get on different subscription plans for your various devices.
I can confirm that NordVPN has apps for most device types. It boasts of apps for iOS and Android devices. These apps are easy to download and install. I was able to find the apps on both Android and Apple Play Store.
One exciting thing to note is that you get top-tier quality of service regardless of the device. There are a few variations, though. For one, you will be able to find both IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN protocols on its iOS versions. However, only the OpenVPN protocol is available for Android users. However, they both enjoy the protection of the AES 256-bit encryption. Hence, you do not worry about being compromised.
NordVPN has extensions for Mozilla Firefox and Chrome. One unique thing about this provider is that these extensions are available for mobile devices. Other providers make it exclusive to PCs and desktop devices. However, with NordVPN, you can download and use these extensions for your mobile devices. In addition, you will not be restricted in the number of servers you can access with the extension.
You must understand that the extensions only protect the traffic coming from your browsers. This is a little like split tunneling. It does not offer protection to the entirety of your device. Hence, you may still be exposed through the other apps you are making use of on your device.
NordVPN also has apps for routers. This is great news because a lot of other providers are not router-compatible.
Why do you need a router? It gives you an unlimited number of connections. When you install the app on the router, you can hook up as many devices as you want. This is because only the router will be shown as the connected device.
A router is also ideal for devices such as smart TVs and game consoles. These devices do not typically allow a VPN connection. However, with a router, you can bypass this challenge.
You do not have to worry about setting up the router. I found tutorials on NordVPN’s website that explains the entire process. It is easy-peasy.
NordVPN allows for six devices simultaneous connections.
Streaming and Torrenting
Most users make use of VPNs to access streaming sites. Streaming sites usually make use of geo-blocks. These prevent users from accessing content meant for other locations. Thus, for instance, a Netflix user in the United States will be unable to access Netflix Japan and vice versa. However, a VPN can get around these obstructions.
I checked to confirm if NordVPN gets you access to streaming sites. The most popular of them is Netflix. This is because of its impressive library. More so, it has one of the toughest encryptions to beat. Thus, naturally, that was my first port of call.
The first thing I noticed was that NordVPN has a special feature designed to bypass geo-blocks. This is known as its SmartPlay feature. One amazing thing is that your security is not compromised at all. This is because this provider combines the SmartPlay feature with its DNS technology that prevents data leaks.
I started the test with servers located in the United States. It was pretty straightforward to access Netflix on any of them. Even though I was outside of the United States, I could access the videos in HD’s sparklingly clear quality.
I carried out similar tests on Netflix Netherlands, Australia, Brazil and Germany. The VPN remained consistent in beating the blocks on all of these platforms. Really, this provider lives up to its assertion as being one of the best for accessing Netflix from any location.
This story of success is the same for other streaming platforms. When I tried accessing restricted content on BBC iPlayer, Hulu and ESPN, I discovered I could do so without any challenge.
You can also access social media sites with this provider. If you are situated in locations where they are banned, you need not fret. You can access Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with relative ease.
NordVPN further supports torrenting and P2P file-sharing. P2P stands for Peer-to-peer networking. It makes sharing of large files relatively easy. You can also use it to push software updates to users.
Most Internet Service Providers discourage torrenting and P2P file-sharing. Hence, they throttle the network of users they find torrenting. More so, on its own, this process of file-sharing can be risky. This is because everyone on the same network can see everyone else’s IP address. That is the only way that the process can work. Thus, you can potentially expose yourself to risks while accessing the files.
How does NordVPN protect you from this? Well, I found that the provider is P2P friendly. First, it provides servers that are optimized for P2P file-sharing. There are hundreds of them scattered across several locations. You can make use of any of those for your needs.
In addition to this, this provider makes sure that your speed is at its peak while you are torrenting. It has no bandwidth limit, and it also does not throttle your connection. Its NordLynx protocol is specifically designed to enhance the speed on its servers. You can rest assured that your speed will not drop while torrenting.
I have already pointed out NordVPN’s stellar security features. Those come into play here, too. Every file you download gets the highest level of protection available. The heavy encryption from the VPN makes it impossible for any hacker to intercept your data. Hence, the individuals on the network with you will also find the VPN-created IP address.
Plans and Pricing
Having checked out all of these stellar features, you must be curious about the VPN’s subscription plans. I was, too. NordVPN offers 3 unique plans.
1-month plan – $11.95
6-month plan – $9.00/month
2-year plan – $3.71/month
You can make use of any of the plans. You get the same level of protection regardless of the package you settle for. As expected, the longer you subscribe for, the cheaper it gets.
The monthly plan matches what most other providers offer. However, its 2-year plan is to die for. You get as much as 60 percent chopped off when you get on this plan.
One drawback I found was that this provider does not offer free trials. However, it does give you a 30-day money-back period. Within this window, you can make use of the VPN and request a refund if unsatisfied. In fact, the reason for requesting a refund hardly matters. You will get your refund, no questions asked.
NordVPN is one of the easiest VPNs to use. The learning curve is not steep. Also, you do not have to be a techie to know how to download, install and use the VPN.
To download, you can simply get the app from any Play Store. Then follow the prompts to install. Once the app is installed, you can launch and run the app. Basically here, you need to connect to a server in your preferred location, that will set the ball rolling.
This provider’s Quick Connect Feature is of immense benefit, especially to rookie users. It connects you to the best server based on your location. Alternatively, you can choose to make use of the list of countries on the left of the app. You can add servers to your favorites list, making it much easier for subsequent use.
NordVPN offers a 24/7 live chat system. You can expect someone to be readily available to address any concerns you have. You can also try out the chatbot, instead. The chatbot is useful for finding answers to basic questions and concerns.
I checked out the live chat service. I was able to get prompt responses at each point that I sent a message. The agents were courteous and extremely helpful.
Is the VPN Any Good for China?
You will be hard-pressed to find a VPN that works in China. This is because the Chinese government makes use of very intense restrictions. The encryption is so strong that only the strongest VPNs get around it. When I ran a check on NordVPN’s website, I discovered that this VPN is one of those you can actually use effectively in China.
NordVPN makes use of Obfuscated servers. They keep you safe, while at the same time making sure that you are undetected. The government routinely blocks any IP address it discovers is making use of a VPN. However, with NordVPN, you do not ever have to worry about being found out. Thus, whether you are traveling to, or resident in China, you can access social media sites, stream restricted content, use Gmail, and do virtually anything internet-related as long as you have the NordVPN.
One thing to note, though: you should download and install the app before touching down in China. It is harder to access and run the VPN if you are already in China. However, if you are resident in China and unable to travel, you can find a way to reach out to the VPN provider. You get directions on how to get and run the app from your location.
Pros and Cons
Here, I’ll run through the pros and cons of the VPN:
- Lightning-fast speed.
- Stellar security features.
- Remarkable unblocking ability.
- Compatibility with most device types.
- 30-day money-back guarantee offer.
- Allows 6 devices simultaneous connections.
- The subscription plans are a bit pricey.
- Torrenting may not be remarkable across all the servers.
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Recommendations and Conclusion
NordVPN is actually a remarkable provider. I was thoroughly impressed by the slew of amazing features it packs. You get top-tier service, regardless of the use you need it for. On the counts of security, streaming ability and speed – the holy trinity as far as I am concerned – NordVPN excels. The subscription plans are a bit pricey, especially its monthly subscription option. However, you can decide to pay for the 2-year plan, enjoying a whooping 60 percent discount. In all, you will not regret your choice, if you do eventually choose NordVPN.