NordVPN Review: The Best Affordable Service?
It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago NordVPN was associated with slow speeds, unstable servers, and untimely support responses.
But it looks like recently things have changed recently because we keep hearing the opposite.
That’s why we decided to test how good they became ourselves, not just take other peoples word for it. In this NordVPN review, we’ll examine their speeds, reliability, security, support, and other aspects.
To be honest, we were pleasantly surprised by its current performance, but more on that later.
You can get it only for $2.29 per month. For comparison, its closest competitor ExpressVPN starts at $6.67 per month.
Although NordVPN isn’t the cheapest, it’s definitely on the affordable end.
You could find something cheaper, but most of the times it’ll be lacking in other aspects, like the speed, support, working in censored countries, e.t.c.
NordVPN is available in 60 countries and has 5000+ servers. No other service offers more servers, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular.
They also have a large variety of specialty servers, as opposed to their competitors:
When compared to other popular providers, they use some of the best security standards out there.
NordVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption with OpenVPN, which is considered the securest encryption method out there.
If that’s not enough, you can connect to a ‘double VPN’ server, which will pass the connection through two VPNs. This level of security should make even the most paranoid minds calm down with ease.
Although not on all servers, it still works with Netflix.
They keep an updated list on their website of all the servers that are currently working with Netflix. Just go to the site, find a server that’s working, connect to it, and you’ll be able to bypass the Netflix’s location block.
The streaming quality was clear and stable, not at all what you would expect from a cheap provider.
They offer a 30-day period, in which new customers can get a full refund if they’re not satisfied with their services.
We tested if the refund isn’t just empty words, and were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. We managed to get a full refund after a few days of using their services.
It limits the connection count to six instances. So basically, you can purchase one subscription, and share it with your family or friends. This way, you’ll save some money.
To compare, ExpressVPN allows only three.
We weren’t fully convinced that NordVPNs private offshore jurisdiction is that secure.
They state that they’re located in Panama, but they accept payments through a U.S. company. They explained that the U.S. company isn’t directly dealing with customer data - just with payments, but this still isn’t ideal.
Also, some red flags have been raised about their ties to a Lithuanian data mining company.
We doubt that there’s anything to worry about for regular users, who use VPNs for torrenting and Netflix, but we wouldn’t recommend their services for those who need complete privacy.
Don’t get me wrong; Their speeds and reliability are pretty good. Better than most competitors at least. But we’ve seen better results from IPVanish, ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and Private Internet Access.
It will work pretty fast from Europe and the U.S., but we experienced over 90% speed losses from Asia.
Speed and reliability
To see if NordVPN has improved the server performance, we made several speed tests and tested the reliability.
Speed results without a VPN
First, we tested the ping, download, and upload speeds without a VPN. We performed our speed tests from central Europe, and on average we got 18-25 Mbps without a VPN.
All we had to do now was test other locations and record what speed drops we got.
Speed results with NordVPN from Europe
From Germany, our download speed was 18.50 Mbps.
From the Netherlands, our download speed was 16.68 Mbps.
From Sweden, our download speed was 12.66 Mbps.
On average, from Europe, it was working with 20-40% speed losses, which was a pretty good result. Although we’ve seen better, these speeds are passable, especially given the low price of NordVPN.
Speed results with NordVPN from the U.S.
From the first U.S. location, our download speed was 11.31 Mbps.
From the second U.S. location, our download speed was 10.67 Mbps.
From the third U.S. location, our download speed was 15.67 Mbps.
For the U.S., we expected to see 30-50% speed losses, based on the industry average. And we hit the target with this guess because all of our tests more or less fell in that range.
Speed results with NordVPN from Asia
From Singapore, our download speed was 1.66 Mbps.
From South Korea, our download speed was 0.99 Mbps.
From Thailand, our download speed was 1.30 Mbps.
For Asia, we expected to see 40-70% losses.
We were surprised to find that it worked with over 90% speed losses from Asia. We’ve seen much better results from other providers, so this is definitely a weak spot for this provider.
How fast is NordVPN?
After finishing our tests, we can confirm that this provider is not considered slow anymore. They’ve fixed their speed issues (in Europe and the U.S.) and now are competing with the big boys.
Though, we weren’t so satisfied with the Asian servers, which experienced significant speed losses. At times, we couldn’t even connect to them, because the connection was too slow.
Is NordVPN reliable?
To test reliability, we repeated these tests at various times, spread over several days. We saw that the speed results were consistent enough, except for some servers.
Sometimes a specific server was not working or became too slow. Though, this was compensated by other servers, because NordVPN has a large variety to choose from.
We’d say that it is pretty reliable, but if you look hard enough, from the 5000+ servers, you’ll find 100 - 300 servers that are slow and unreliable.
How often is NordVPN down?
We looked through Twitter, Reddit, and several forums and we couldn’t find any traces of downtime. Most of the times, the company reached out to the person who stated otherwise, clarified that everything is working on their part, and told them that they should contact their support to determine the issue.
You shouldn’t worry about downtime with this provider.
How secure is NordVPN?
It allows OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, and IKEv2/IPsec tunneling protocols.
By default, you cannot switch between IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN. Android and Windows come with OpenVPN, while MacOS and iOS come with IKEv2/IPsec. To change the tunneling protocol, you’ll have to download the config files follow the guides on nordvpn.com.
We’ve seen easier setups on other VPN providers, where you can switch between more protocols through apps.
If, however, you’re not an advanced user, we recommend that you just leave the tunneling protocol at default settings, which will be secure enough.
It uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption with a 2048-bit DH key.
The AES 256-bit is often used by the best providers because it’s the most secure encryption method. It’s considered undecipherable, and used by the U.S. military,
It also offers double VPN servers, which pass your connection through two VPNs. This slows down the connection, but it’s worth it for people who are paranoid about getting hacked.
Overall, it is one of the securest services we’ve seen. They use top of the line security measures and go above the industry standards.
No IPV4, IPV6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks
Avoiding leaks is crucial in keeping your connection private. Through these leaks, your Internet service provider (ISP) may see what websites you visited.
That’s why it’s essential to use a VPN provider that blocks IPV4, IPV6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks.
We tested for any leaks through various services, and we couldn’t find any. You can see that here:
NordVPN offers dedicated IP addresses
Not all VPN providers offer dedicated IPs which is why we’re so excited that this provider does.
Why you would need a dedicated IP
Whenever you’re connecting to a VPN normally, you’re assigned with a shared IP, which means that many people use the same IP address.
Often, Shared IPs cause many issues, like:
With a dedicated IP, your IP will always be identical, so all of these problems are eliminated.
Pricing and locations
You’ll be able to get a dedicated IP for an additional $70 per year. You can order the dedicated IP by going to “My Account,” and clicking “Get Dedicated IP.”
They offer dedicated IPs in Germany, United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.
24/7 live chat support
We heard that their support was kind of bad (emphasis on WAS.) It was available only through email conversations, and you had to wait several days for them to respond. But recently, they’ve made some serious changes and added 24/7 online chat support.
To see how fast and polite they are, we tested if the 30-day refund is legit.
You can see how the conversation went:
Overall, we’re quite happy with the results. Although it seems that they’re using standard messages for people who want a refund. If you continue asking, they’ll eventually accept the return.
The conversation went for no more than five minutes, and the chat representative was polite and fast to respond.
So overall, their customer service is pretty good. That’s good to know if you ever run into any troubles.
NordVPNs device compatibility and apps
Although ExpressVPN has a larger variety of apps, NordVPN covers almost everything that you would need.
Although they haven’t covered Safari and Opera, you will find extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
And if you need to connect any other devices, like routers and other operating systems, they’ve got an extensive collection of setup tutorials for:
You can tell that it is designed for those who aren’t that tech-savvy. The signup process, the app interface, and their website panel are all pretty easy to navigate, and not too complicated.
The signup process
Although the signup process wasn’t too long, ExpressVPN offered an even simpler setup because they didn’t ask for email verification.
The process went as follows.
App user experience
Here are the Windows and Android apps side by side.
The apps are pretty simple to use, but they could be narrowed down even further.
For instance, we’re not a big fan of the large map, that’s basically pointless because everyone selects servers from the list anyway. And you can’t minimize the map - you’re stuck with it.
But other than that, we think that both apps were great. You can quickly navigate through all the servers, even the specialty ones, and select which one you need.
Here’s a screenshot of the settings for the Windows app.
And when you open up advanced settings, you get these additional options:
As you can see, they have pretty solid options, even for advanced users. They offer more customization and configuration options than most other competitors. So we definitely liked that about their apps.
Locations and servers
NordVPN has a staggering amount of servers - you’ll be able to choose between 5000+ servers in 60 countries. To Compare, ExpressVPN offers only 3000+ servers.
You’ll find around 2500 servers spread across Europe, 2200 in the Americas, and 600 in Asia, Africa, India, and the Middle East.
Also, it offers many specialty servers, optimized for specific uses.
Peer to Peer (P2P) servers
Peer to Peer is a file-sharing technology, where users download parts of the files from other users. Most commonly, people use it for torrenting.
Although you can use torrents on all servers, they encourage their users to use the P2P servers instead, which are optimized for the fastest possible bandwidth.
Servers with a dedicated IP
If you purchase a dedicated IP, you’ll be allowed to connect to these specialty servers. By using them, you’ll get a private IP that won’t change.
Double VPN servers
It also offers double VPN servers, which do exactly what they say they do - pass the connection through two VPNs. Combined with an internet kill-switch, this makes the connection really secure.
Some say that double encryption is basically useless because even a single VPN connection is close to impossible to hack. However, some people who are paranoid about their security may find it useful.
These servers are made to bypass censorship from highly censored countries, like China or the Middle East. Sometimes, regular servers may not work there, because these countries are using advanced methods for detecting VPNs
As a solution, they offer obfuscated servers, which use more advanced techniques to bypass the restrictions.
Onion over VPN servers
The Tor Browser, other called Onion, is a way to anonymously connect to the internet. By using this browser, you’ll be able to access .onion sites (referred to as the dark web,) which are entirely anonymous and can’t be tracked.
The problem is that governments don’t like people who use the dark web, so often internet service providers track info about anyone who accesses the Onion Browser. So if you want to use this browser, it’s highly advised to use a VPN, which makes tracking almost impossible.
Typically, you would have to download the Tor Browser, turn on the VPN and then do your searching through the Tor Browser. NordVPN has made life slightly easier with Onion over VPN servers.
By using NordVPN, you won’t have to use the Tor browser. Just connect to one of the Onion over VPN servers, and your connection will automatically be passed through a VPN and the Tor network, without the need to download the Tor browser.
Is NordVPN good for torrenting?
Some providers don’t allow torrents altogether or limit your speeds when they see that you’re using torrents.
Your connection can also be throttled by Internet Service Providers when they see that you’re using torrents. By using a VPN, they won’t know that you’re using torrents and your download speeds won’t be throttled.
NordVPN openly states that they allow torrents and all other uses of Peer to Peer (P2P) technology.
We tested how their torrenting works, both on regular servers and P2P servers, and the speeds were almost as good as without a VPN.
So yes - it is pretty good for torrenting.
Is NordVPN good for Netflix?
As we’re located in Europe, our goal was to connect to Netflix USA and watch U.S. TV series that aren’t available in Europe.
When we first downloaded NordVPN, our first tries were unsuccessful...
After that, we found out that NordVPN has a webpage, where they list all the servers that are currently working with Netflix. They keep the list updated, so all servers should be working with Netflix.
Of course, we tested that out, and every time we used the servers from this list, Netflix was working.
So to watch Netflix, you should first go to this page, copy a server name from this list, paste the number in the search box, and connect to that server.
So yes, it works with Netflix, and the streaming quality is pretty good.
Does NordVPN work in China and other censored countries?
Although we didn’t have the option of traveling to censored countries and testing it ourselves, we researched what other people had to say.
We found out that NordVPN works in Vietnam, China, the Middle East, and most other highly censored countries. However, some people said that sometimes even the obfuscated servers might be blocked. If that’s the case, you’ll have to switch between a few servers before finding one that works.
Note, that you should download NordVPN before going there because in most censored places the provider's website is blocked.
It is owned and operated by a company from Panama, Tefincom S.A.
To some, this may raise a red flag, but it’s common for most providers to be located in secure and protected jurisdictions, like Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Cyprus, e.t.c. It’s important because they’re out of reach for European and U.S. intelligence agencies.
However, we noticed two issues with their jurisdiction and privacy.
Firstly, although they say they’re located in Panama, their payments are processed by a U.S. company CloudVPN INC. In response, NordVPN stated that they’re only handling the payments and are in no other way connected to the company. Maybe, but that goes against their promise that customer data is handled in offshore countries.
Secondly, in 2018 a few people speculated that the company is tied with Tesonet, a Lithuanian based data mining company. This raised some suspicion, but no official sources were listed, and the story wasn’t run by any legit websites. We’re still not sure if this was a smear campaign by their competitors or not.
Because of these two issues, we advise being careful for those, who cannot reveal their identity at any costs.
NordVPNs ‘No logs’ policy
Generally, It’s a good idea to check that your VPN provider isn’t collecting any logs. If an intelligence agency or a government asks for information, the provider wouldn’t have any.
They have clearly stated in their terms of service that they don’t collect any logs. Here’s a citation from their TOS.
“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that the NordVPN Service is provided by an automated process, and your activities while using it are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection timestamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data.”
However, it does collect some information:
In case your connection with the VPN suddenly disconnects, the kill switch automatically blocks all traffic, so that your real IP isn’t revealed.
It offers two types of kill switches:
Ad blocking (CyberSec)
The CyberSec feature is unique to this provider and actually is pretty useful.
It works as an advanced web-shield, keeping your browser free from annoying ads and blacklisted phishing sites.
Here’s precisely what CyberSec does:
Pricing and discounts
Compared to other providers, it is pretty cheap. Especially, if you go for the 3-year plan, which costs $2.99 per month.
To compare, ExpressVPN starts at $6.67 per month for a 2-year plan. Although ExpressVPN is slightly better, NordVPN costs half the price. So if you’re on a budget, this is probably your best bet.
Although you won’t be able to pay with PayPal, you can pay with the most common payment options (including the anonymous Bitcoin.)
Our final verdict: Is NordVPN worth it?
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the current state of this provider. We’d heard that their support was pretty bad and that their speeds are slow, but our NordVPN review revealed that’s not the case anymore.
Yes, they have some problems here and there, like the jurisdiction transparency and slow speeds from Asian servers, but given their affordable prices, that’s not a big deal.
If you want one of the flawless VPN providers, get ExpressVPN, but it will cost more than twice as much.
For the average user who’s on a budget, we do believe that this is the best option (besides PrivateVPN). In the affordable range, you’d expect many more issues popping up.