NordVPN Review

When reviewing this service, we tested it on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. We really liked how the apps looked – they were all really easy to use and they performed very well.

We found NordVPN did a great job at combining a strong focus on privacy, the ability to unblock content, and performance, making it a fantastic all-around VPN. In fact, we think it is so good that it made it onto our list of the best VPN services in 2021.

Before we get into our NordVPN review, here's a quick rundown of what we liked and what we didn't like:

Pros

Cons

  • IKEv2 client for Mac has fewer features than Windows
  • Doesn't offer users a free trial
  • Command-line only for Linux users
Our Score
4.3 / 5
Readers' Rating
3.5 / 5
Pricing
$3.29 - $11.95
Simultaneous connections
6
Server Locations
60 countries
Jurisdiction
Panama
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average)
85.9 Mbps
Available on:
Works with:
Visit NordVPN

NordVPN Video Review

Check out our in-depth video review below to see how NordVPN compares to competitors. 

NordVPN Review 2021🗻Is it as good as they say?✅

NordVPN Review 2021🗻Is it as good as they say?✅
NordVPN Review 2021🗻Is it as good as they say?✅

How much is NordVPN?

Like most market-leading providers, NordVPN has a single plan that can be purchased for varying lengths of time. We have listed the current prices below:

Compared to its competitors, NordVPN is surprisingly cheap and if you sign up for a longer period then you do get a discount on the price. However, it's important to bear in mind that you will have to pay upfront for all plans. This is common in the VPN industry.

If you do sign up for NordVPN then you will have a chance to change your mind as they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. This is something that a lot of the top providers offer and we think it's a great idea as it gives you a chance to test the service.

As well as credit/debit card, NordVPN also accepts payment via Bitcoin, which allows for anonymous payment. See other payment methods below.

Supported Payment Platforms

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

NordVPN's features

NordVPN offers users a whole host of features. We have listed some key information below and have taken a look at the most noteworthy features within this section.

Simultaneous connections 6
Total servers 5130
Server Locations 60
Routers Supported
Split Tunneling

Double VPN

This feature allows you to "chain" VPN servers so that your data is routed between two VPN servers as it travels between you and the internet.

A diagram of how double VPN works

NordVPN offers several double VPN combinations.

Such chaining can provide some security benefits, but will always result in a major loss of speed. I think the privacy/security benefits of "double-hop" VPN servers are rather limited. But I understand that this is not a view shared by everyone. For those who value the feature, NordVPN is one of only a few providers to offer it.

Tor over VPN

For a full discussion on the pros and cons of using Tor over VPN (or Onion over VPN as NordVPN terms it). In this configuration, you connect first to a NordVPN server and then to the Tor network before accessing the internet:

A diagram of how Tor over VPN works

NordVPN achieves this using an OpenVPN configuration file which transparently routes your data from the VPN tunnel to the Tor network. This means that your entire internet connection benefits from Tor over VPN.

This setup does offer some privacy and security advantages, but a similar effect can be achieved simply by using the Tor Browser while connected to the VPN. Crucially, such a setup is much more secure than the method offered by NordVPN.

Tor over VPN (however you do it) will seriously slow down your internet speeds as you get the combined hit of using both the Tor network (which is very slow) and the VPN.

XOR Obfuscated Servers

NordVPN runs obfuscated servers in a number of counties: the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, and Egypt. These use the XOR encryption algorithm to overcome VPN censorship blocks put into place by authoritarian governments.

XOR is often used by malware to hide from detection, but it also works just as well for hiding VPN ciphers! This means users in places such as China and Egypt should be able to access the open internet by connecting to one of NordVPN's obfuscated XOR servers.

CyberSec

CyberSec is a new feature. It blocks DNS requests based on a real-time blocklist of harmful websites that may host malware. As such, it should shield you against malware, help prevent botnet control, and block many intrusive web ads.

I can't comment directly on its effectiveness, but the principle is sound and there is no reason to believe it does not work as advertised.

WiFiSec

This new feature will automatically initiate a VPN connection whenever a Wi-Fi network is joined. It can be set up to auto-connect to Nord on both secured and unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Visit NordVPN

The VPN market is becoming increasingly competitive, with the result that many providers are becoming very generous with the number of devices they allow to connect at once. Permitting up to six simultaneous connections, NordVPN has joined this trend.

If you connect devices to the same server, you must choose different protocols for the VPN connections. OpenVPN TCP and UDP are counted as different protocols, so you can connect one device using TCP and another using UDP. We do not consider this to be a major limitation,

Unlike some providers, this VPN allows torrenting on all its servers, although it does not support port forwarding. It also doesn't support port selection, so you can't specify OpenVPN to run over TCP port 443 in order to bypass VPN censorship. This should not be necessary, however, as NordVPN offers Xor obfuscation instead.

NordVPN's use of mixed bare metal and virtual servers is not a big issue for us, although as with other VPN services, we do wish it clearly labeled which are which so that users can make an informed decision about the servers they connect to.

WireGuard (Added April 2021)

Dubbed NordLynx, NordVPN has started rolling out support for the WireGuard protocol in its apps. We have only tested it in the macOS IKEv2 client, but we understand that WireGuard support is being built into all its custom software.

WireGuard is a lightweight but cryptographically secure new VPN protocol, which is widely regarded as the future of VPN technology. It should be noted that whatever its merits on paper, OpenVPN has been around for longer and is still regarded as the most secure VPN protocol out there.

The Linux version of WireGuard recently exited beta and is to be included in all future Linux kernels. This bodes well for the protocol, but on all other platforms, it remains in beta, and should therefore be regarded as experimental. OpenVPN or IKEv2 are still recommended for maximum privacy. 

One of the biggest mooted advantages of WireGuard is that it is faster than most other VPN protocols. We put this to a quick-and-dirty test using speedtest.net, connecting to nearby VPN and test servers (showing download results only):

No VPN: 126.48 Mbit/s
OpenVPN: 63.49 Mbit/s
IKEv2: 70.8 Mbit/s
NordLynx: 76.88 Mbit/s

So that's a clear win for WireGuard!

Smart DNS ("Smart Play")

Smart DNS is a technology that enables you to pretend to be elsewhere by resolving DNS requests at a specified location. This makes it an ideal VPN for streaming geo-restricted content.

According to NordVPN, users can access over 150 streaming services using NordVPN Smart Play. These include Hulu, Amazon Prime, ABC Go, Zattoo, Cartoon Network, Shudder, WeTV.com, Telemundo, VH1, Vevo, TNT Drama, Sundance.tv, StarTrek, Spike, PBS, Slacker, NBC Sports, FoodNetwork, DramaFever, Discovery, Crackle, and many more. We tested it with US Netflix from the UK and BBC iPlayer from Hungary and we were able to unblock them.

NordVPN's implementation of Smart DNS is unusual. For a start, it uses an encrypted proxy connection. We are not sure what advantage this brings over an unencrypted connection, as Smart DNS is not really about security or privacy. On the other hand, though, it can't do any harm.

For a second, it requires no additional configuration. It runs inside all NordVPN's apps (we are told), and when you are connected to a VPN server, it detects whether the streaming service requires additional DNS routing. In practice, this meant that we could watch US Netflix even when connected to a non-US server.

One downside of this setup is that you cannot configure NordVPN's Smart DNS to run on devices that cannot run a VPN client: such as your smart TV, games console, or Roku.

Diskless RAM servers

As of May 2021, NordVPN is transitioning to diskless RAM servers, with around half of its infrastructure moved to the diskless setup. NordVPN tells us that "if everything goes as expected, the transition should be completed within a few months."

This is a great move, as it ensures no user data persist on a server once it has been rebooted. Booting from a read-only disk also helps to prevent security issues developing and persisting in servers.

Nord Teams - for Businesses

NordVPN has now released a business edition of its VPN service that is aimed at teams. The service provides access not only to traditional pass-through VPN servers for spoofing your location, but can also be set up as a VPN intranet to provide access to business LAN and cloud resources. It is a highly versatile and customizable business VPN for teams that can be set up depending on the needs of individual businesses. 

Other stuff

NordVPN is the only VPN service we know of to offer a transparent and public bug bounty program. It is a founding member of the i2Coalition, which aims to improve standards and improve consumer trust across the VPN industry.

The NordVPN desktop apps have a system kill switch. The Windows VPN app also features a per-app kill switch. The iOS app features a kill switch. They all provide IPv4 and IPv6DNS leak protection, plus WebRTC leak protection. As we have seen, in our tests, these features all performed well (IPv6 WebRTC leak on the OSX OpenVPN client excepted).

NordVPN privacy and security

Check out the table below to see how NordVPN compares to its competitors when it comes to privacy and security features. 

NordVPN ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection
Self-hosted DNS
Bare Metal Servers?

VPN Protocols and Encryption

NordVPN ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
WireGuard
Catapult Hydra
Shadowsocks

NordVPN can be configured using the most common VPN protocols. OpenVPN is used by default in its Windows and older OSX clients, but its iOS and new macOS VPN app use IKEv2 and WireGuard instead.

Both are solid protocols: OpenVPN is much more battle-tested than IKEv2 from a security standpoint, but IKE2 is also considered very secure and is faster than OpenVPN. NordVPN uses the following encryption settings for OpenVPN connections:

Data channel: an AES-256-CBC cipher with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication.

Control channel: an AES-256-CBC cipher with an RSA-2048 handshake and HMAC SHA256 data authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) is provided by a DHE-4096 key exchange.

This is a very strong setup designed to keep you safe.

NordVPN's iOS VPN app uses IKEv2 with an AES-256-GCM cipher and HMAC SHA2-384 data authentication. PFS is provided by a DHE-3072 exchange. The Mac App Store software uses IKEv2 with Cisco's NGE (Next Generation Encryption) protocol.

NordVPN Logging Policy

NordVPN promises to keep no logs at all:

NordVPN does not monitor, store or record logs for any VPN user. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses.

NordVPN

What's more, its logging policy has been verified by two independent audits by a third-party Swiss CyberSec firm. This gives us a lot of confidence in what NordVPN is doing and is one of many reasons why we often recommend them to our readers.

Jurisdiction

NordVPN is based in Panama, which has a completely uncensored internet and zero government surveillance. It is also comfortably outside the direct influence of the NSA and GCHQ. The simple fact that this provider is based in Panama makes it one of the best choices available for privacy fanatics.

There has been a great deal of speculation on the internet of late of NordVPN ties to Lithuanian infrastructure provider, Tesonet. 

Independently Audited

Since NordVPN is a closed-source VPN, it's difficult to trust the company when you only have its word that it is doing the things it says. Fortunately, Nord realizes this, which is why it has reached out to third-party cybersecurity firms to audit its applications and its no-logs policy.

In 2018, NordVPN partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland for the first evaluation of its no-logs policy. Of course, things can change over the years, which is why Nord has continued this partnership into 2021, allowing PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a second analysis of its Standard VPN, Double VPN, Obfuscated (XOR) VPN, and P2P server configurations.

What was true then is true now. We do not, nor will we ever, monitor your internet activity for any reason.

NordVPN

In an effort to prove its trustworthiness, NordVPN even entered into a "strategic cooperation" with VerSprite in 2019. The CyberSec company conducted a comprehensive audit around Nord's various VPN applications, keeping them all up to scratch.

Website tracking

The NordVPN website uses a number of trackers, but these seem fairly benign and non-invasive. Importantly, there are no Google Analytics or Facebook trackers.

Please check our VPN review process overview for a discussion on website tracking.

Payment processors 

All payments are handled by a company called CloudVPN, which is based in the United States. NordVPN explained the situation to us:

Being based in Panama has a downside. It complicates our ability to sign our apps, place them in stores and process our payments. Therefore, we've established a proxy-based in the US, which in a nutshell acts only as our payment processor and has nothing to do with the actual service... It's not a third-party company, it's under our control, and we use it to process our payments. In short - we handle payments ourselves, just through another company.

What streaming services does NordVPN unblock?

NordVPN is a service that works tirelessly to keep providing access to popular streaming services. Unblocking streams is one of its primary selling points, and for this reason, it ensures that users have access to both VPN servers and a Smart DNS feature (called Smart Play) that is there to catch the slack if one of its VPN servers is temporarily blocked by Netflix (or any other stream provider). SmartDNS services are also great for unblocking content on devices like Smart TVs or consoles, as you can't download a VPN directly onto them.

You can see what streaming sites it unblocking in the table below.  

NordVPN ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
Netflix
iPlayer
Amazon Prime
Hulu
Disney+

In our tests, we were able to unblock US Netflix, restricted YouTube videos, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and more without any issues on Windows. Unblocking the same services on Mac proved to be more difficult. There are two Mac clients, which is a little confusing. We were able to unblock Netflix using their older Mac OSX OpenVPN client, however, we couldn't access US Netflix using its new macOS IKEv2 app.

We also had issues when trying to unblock Netflix and iPlayer using NordVPN's Firefox add-on. 

How fast is NordVPN?

To test VPN speeds we use a proprietary, scientific, server-based speed test system. This tests the speed of all market-leading VPNs; three times a day. We recently updated our speed testing algorithm to account for VPN services like NordVPN - whose software selects the best possible server automatically to provide faster speeds to users. This provides a much fairer comparison between this kind of setup and services that load-balance across a number of servers at a given location.

Below, you can see the results of NordVPN's test results compared to a number of market-leading VPN services.

NordVPN ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
IPv4 leak detected?
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 85.9 60.3 62.2
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 568.0 565.7 254.93

As you can see from our tests, NordVPN is a remarkably fast service that provides superb burst (max) speeds and outstanding averages. This means that the NordVPN is ideal for streaming in 4K and doing other data-intensive tasks like torrenting.

We decided to test the OpenVPN connection a bit more and found the results were definitely location-dependent. We found many European servers to be faster than local UK ones even though they were physically closer to us. This could be because of added congestion on those servers.

We did also have a little trouble connecting to some servers (most notably ones in the Netherlands), but this is likely to have been a temporary issue. As far as reliability is concerned, we had no disconnections during our tests, which is great.

Testing for IP Leaks

We didn't find any IP leaks in NordVPN's Windows client or the new macOS IKE2 client we detected. This means that our location was kept private when visiting websites. The table below shows the results of our tests.

IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
IPv4 leak detected?
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 85.9
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 568.0

Using the older OSX OpenVPN client, though, we detected an IPv6 WebRTC leak. So, if you are a Mac user with an IPv6 connection, you should use the IKEv2 client, disable IPv6 on your system, or disable WebRTC in your browser (all easy to do). 

Ease of use

NordVPN provides custom GUI apps for Windows, macOS, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, FireStick and has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. If you're a Linux user then you should be aware that it only offers a command-line OpenVPN client for Linux. It also provides manual setup guides for all these platforms, plus Blackberry 10, Chromium, and various routers and NAS. These guides look a little on the bare-bones side, but should work well enough.

It is also possible to purchase a pre-configured NordVPN router from .

Here's a quick demo of their service below; this is a screen recording of the OpenVPN Mac app. However, the appearance of the apps for Mac and windows are very similar.

Nord Demo

Nord Demo
Nord Demo

The NordVPN Windows client

The NordVPN app home screen is shown below.

Screen shot of the home screen of nordvpn windows client

The map makes the service really easy to use and if you're a VPN newbie you might find the Connection Wizard (bottom left) handy.

nordvpn server selection

As we have already seen, there are lots of servers to choose from. These include many specialized servers.

nordvpn speciality servers

There is a per-app kill-switch. You can choose which apps will be shut down in the event of a VPN disconnection. This is very handy, but note that it is not a firewall-based kill switch. So if the NordVPN client itself crashes, the specified apps will not shut down, and can continue to access the internet.

nordvpn features

DNS leak protection is enabled by default

The NordVPN Windows client, then, is very fully featured, looks good, and is easy to use.

NordVPN's Mac clients

NordVPN offers two Mac clients: the older OpenVPN client for Mac OSX, and the newer IKEv2 client for macOS. The newer app is available to download from the App Store.

The older client features a kill-switch, which the newer one doesn't, but we detected a WebRTC IPv6 leak in the older app, which we didn't in the newer one. The older app also allows you to switch between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, which can be useful for defeating modest VPN blocks.

Other than that, neither app offers any features worth mentioning, which makes them much less fully-featured than the Windows version of the software. Check out our best VPN for Mac page for some alternatives to NordVPN.

Now compatible with the M1 chip!

With the launch of the latest version of the app, NordVPN now runs natively on M1 Macs. This means you don't have to worry about your VPN becoming a drag on your processor – some VPNs aren't built to work on the M1 chip and they can put significant strain on your Mac if you use them. Fortunately, Nord put the user first when updating the app:

We reworked the NordVPN app to run natively on M1 Macs, which will optimize app performance and user experience for users with newer devices. Additionally, when reworking our app to run natively on different operating systems, we kept in mind the switchover process and maintained the user at the forefront of our minds.

Vykintas Maknickas, Product Strategist

 

NordVPN's Android and iOS apps

The NordVPN Android and iOS apps are very similar in terms of appearance and the feature offered. The iOS app, however, does not offer OpenVPN encryption as standard. Instead, it has IKEv2 and WireGuard. There are guides on NordVPN's website if you want to configure OpenVPN manually.  

nordvpn mobile app

The apps look remarkably similar to the desktop clients, which is a good thing.

nordvpn country selection mobile

I detected no IPv4 or WebRTC leaks while using either app, but please bear in mind that I can't test for IPv6 leaks on mobile platforms at this time.

Certified Android security

Nord VPN has teamed up with the Internet of Secure Things Alliance (ioXt) to assess and certify the security of its Android app. Nord hopes that this partnership is a step towards a greater standard of security in everything "from a VPN to a lightbulb". The ioXt's Chief Technical Officer explained that:

Consumers count on their VPN to protect their data and identity. The ioXt Alliance certification program provides the confidence and transparency needed for consumers to make informed decisions when picking a VPN.

Brad Ree, CTO of ioXT

Check out the certificate

NordVPNs browser add-ons

The Chrome and Firefox apps connect to a NordVPN's HTTPS proxy servers. They provide many of the benefits of a true VPN but limited to just the browser. These include spoofing your real location and encrypting your internet connection so that you cannot be spied on. Which can be very handy!

You need a full NordVPN account to use its browser add-ons.

NordVPNs customer service

24/7 customer support is provided via a ticket system (webform), Facebook, Twitter, or email. A live chat option is also available. When I contacted support via live chat, I usually received an instant or very quick response.

In the past, I have found the quality of its support to be somewhat uneven, but NordVPN seems to have upped its game of late. When testing their customer service recently, NordVPN customer support team provided fast, detailed, and knowledgeable responses to our questions.

A small knowledge-base plus various setup tutorials are also available on their website. A regularly updated blog discusses internet security issues in general, plus NordVPN-specific topics.

Check out the table below to see how NordVPNs customer support compares to competitors.

NordVPN ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
Money-back Guarantee
24-hour support
Live chat
Money-back guarantee length 30 30 30
Free Trial

Please Note

While COVID-19 has been a thorn in the side of many businesses across the world, NordVPN has assured us that it is currently "working with full ammunition" and shouldn't see interruptions to its service. This could change if the coronavirus pandemic worsens, but we recommend understanding where possible, as we all need to come together during this difficult time.

Conclusion

NordVPN offers a fully-featured service. The fact that it is based in Panama and keeps no logs is a big draw for those who care about privacy, and its software looks good and performed very well in our tests.

Speed performance is an issue that has plagued NordVPN since it was launched. However, after implementing our new test algorithm, it did produce better results – with some fairly decent average and max burst speeds. This puts Nord in the top half of the industry and makes it much more competitive than it used to be. Let's hope it keeps this up.

The 30-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of opportunity to ensure that everything works for you as it should. What you get with NordVPN is a very fully featured, privacy-friendly VPN service with decent speeds and the ability to access restricted content on major streaming platforms such as Netflix. 

Overall, we recommend NordVPN! But if you're still not sure, why not compare NordVPN and ExpressVPN side-by-side?

Visit NordVPN

8 User Reviews

gravatar profile picture
Jim Parshall
on 2021-07-25 14:24:52.
Overall score: 5
I have used NordVPN for years literally and also use several other VPNs as I teach security for both computers and real world so I feel I should be acquainted with a variety of products. I have no hesitation recommending NordVPN. It is very fast, easy to connect to, and pretty easy to use. Speed is great actually and was / is one of the things I have always liked about their service. Of course, there are other decent VPNs too (ExpressVPN comes to mind), but for my daily use and the one I use on both my iOS and Android phones... yeah, NordVPN gets the nod.
gravatar profile picture
PanamaVet
on 2021-05-11 13:12:27.
Overall score: 5
I have been extremely pleased with NordVPN for the past year. I had trouble using Netflix until I switched from OpenVPN to Nordlynx. It works great! I use it with Windows and IOS.
gravatar profile picture
Fred
on 2020-09-28 23:15:19.
Overall score: 5
Works like a charm. Nice app. Very seldom any problems. And the new Nordlynx protocol is lightning fast.
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This review is available in: Spanish English

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

201 Comments

John
on March 4, 2021
Reply
I got a VPN to feel safer on the Internet (personal reasons) and I will personally stick with Nordvpn because of their no-logging policy. The day they will change it I can't promise I won't change either but for now that's perfect for me.
Keith
on February 3, 2021
Reply
The review reflects pretty well what you can get with Nord VPN, for sure you won't be disappointed. So far I am happy with it and so are the person with whom I share my account. Let's be honest, this sharing policy is very nice !
Wayne
on June 27, 2020
Reply
I see that Nord have changed there privacy policy! Is there anything that effects the no logging policy ?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/ray-walshjpeg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-ima-7df05c2bafe5e85cb7cb582cd8351a9bpng-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Ray Walsh replied to Wayne
on July 9, 2020
Reply
Not that we have heard or seen, as far as we know it is still an absolutely no logs service - but we will look into it to be sure. Thanks.
Mudassir Mirza
on February 8, 2020
Reply
Nice Review........Thanks for sharing it
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