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NordVPN Review: How Safe and Effective Is It?

Welcome to my no-bullshit, no-corners-cut review of NordVPN.

There’s no scarcity of NordVPN reviews on the internet, partly because NordVPN is ridiculously good at marketing. It seems like everyone and his mother is promoting NordVPN in some form or another these days.

So what makes this NordVPN review any different from the rest of the pile?

Well, for starters, I’m not giving NordVPN any special treatment. When NordVPN found out we were doing this review, they were quite open about asking us to rank NordVPN as highly as possible on our site. They even asked if we had any special “requirements” to make this happen.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I assure you that even if NordVPN offered me an all-expenses-paid junket to Panama and gave me a personal tour of their servers around the world, my rankings of their services would not budge an inch. Call me naïve, but I just can’t sacrifice my impartiality like that.

That said, NordVPN deserves much of the attention it receives. While not perfect, it’s about as perfect as you’re ever going to get—unless you’re willing to fork over much more cash.

As an inveterate skeptic, I can’t endorse most of the hyperbolic language used to describe VPN services (like “military-grade” or “100% anonymous”). I can only evaluate claims that I can test with my own eyes and my own equipment. In this regard, NordVPN performs exceptionally well.

In my detailed review below, I’ll describe some of my reasons for recommending NordVPN, as well as caveats to keep in mind as you decide if NordVPN is the right VPN for you. Feel free to skip to the sections that interest you.

NordVPN - Best Overall VPN

No logging, committed to privacy. P2P-friendly. Offers OpenVPN, Tor access, multi-hop, and more. 3-day free trial, 30-day money-back guarantee.

$5.75 per month

Privacy and Anonymity

As a Panama-based company, NordVPN is far away from the jurisdictions of the 14 Eyes. Most importantly, they claim to keep no logs whatsoever—no timestamps, bandwidth data, or IP addresses—that could be used to identify users. As they confirmed to TorrentFreak this year, “our zero-log policy means that we don’t have any information about our users’ online activity.”

Whereas other VPN services like to hide exceptions and clarifications to their policies in hidden fine-print agreements, NordVPN is fully consistent with all of its privacy claims, and its policies have remained unchanged over the years. If you use NordVPN, it’s unlikely that your data will be shared with the likes of the NSA, GCHQ, Google, or Facebook.

I say “unlikely” because NordVPN’s privacy policy has yet to be tested in the real world. Unlike with Private Internet Access or Perfect Privacy, there aren’t any failed court-ordered requests for user data on the record to prove that NordVPN keeps no user information whatsoever.

I’m not saying that I don’t trust NordVPN—but my standard is usually “trust, but verify.” In the absence of real-world proof, you’ll have to accept a small level of risk. If you need 100% privacy with NordVPN, I would recommend using it alongside the Tor browser on your computer.

NordVPN also allows anonymous payments via cryptocurrency (such as bitcoin). While they don’t accept gift card payments, you can pay in cash if you live in the US and are able to visit a nearby Fry’s Electronics or Micro Center location. The only personal information they need from you to accept a payment and register your account is your email address.

The only real anonymity concern I could identify with NordVPN was their support system, which relies on Zendesk and other third-party tools. This is a known privacy issue with many VPN services, though it isn’t a major cause for concern in itself. Simply keep in mind that you should avoid sharing any sensitive information when contacting your VPN provider, as any data or information you share with them may be stored or processed by a third-party.

VPN Features

Connections and Bandwidth

NordVPN lets you connect up to 6 devices at the same time using a single subscription. At only $0.96 per connection per month (under the annual plan) this makes NordVPN a good deal if you’re looking to connect multiple devices to your VPN. If you travel for business or with family, this can be incredibly useful, as multiple people will be able to connect all of their devices to the same VPN subscription when you’re on the go.

As NordVPN offers unlimited bandwidth, you will not find your internet speed or data usage restricted in any way when you use their service, even if you connect multiple devices.

Like most high-quality VPN services, NordVPN, supports nearly all devices and operating systems you could possibly think of. Whether you’re running Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Android, iOS (iPhones/iPads), a Roku box, a router, or Linux, you can be sure that it will be possible to set up NordVPN on your device.

Six simultaneous connections is above average for the industry, but if you’re thinking that you’ll need to connect more devices, the industry leaders are still IPVanish (with 10 simultaneous connections) and Perfect Privacy (unlimited connections). The trade-off, of course, is that these services offer fewer protocols (in the case of IPVanish) or fewer servers (Perfect Privacy).

Servers

NordVPN offers more than 3,000 servers in 60 countries. They have one of the largest selections of countries of any major VPN service, and exotic server locations that are rarely covered by VPNs, such as Latvia, Vietnam, and Cyprus, are possible. (See the full list here.)

Switching between servers around the world is one of the easiest to ways to become a (virtual) citizen of the world, and switching locations regularly may also enhance your privacy.

Geoshifting (Netflix, Hulu, BBC, YouTube, and more)

P2P File-Sharing (BitTorrent)

Censorship Bypassing (China, Schools, Hotels)

Advanced Protocols (Multi-hop, SOCKS, Tor)

Usage Test

Desktop

NordVPN offers apps for most platforms, including macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows. In this section, I’ll be testing the IKE app for macOS.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of VPN apps. I’d rather use an open source option, such as Tunnelblick, or connect using the native functionality of my device. Apps are notorious for tracking users, and if you download an app from the Mac or Android stores, your usage data will be passing through Apple and Google.

That said, I will be testing the Mac app because that’s what most users are going to be using. After signing up for NordVPN, I was redirected to the download page.

 

Mobile

Speed Test

Customer Service and Support

Verdict

Privacy

 

P2P File-Sharing

NordVPN is an excellent choice for users looking to use BitTorrent or engage in P2P file-sharing. P2P traffic on their VPN service is automatically rerouted through dedicated P2P servers, which helps keep the network fast for everyone.

They don’t monitor, censor, or otherwise tamper with P2P traffic, and they won’t serve you with copyright notices or notify third-parties about your P2P activities (which they can’t do, even if they wanted to, as they don’t keep logs).

Travel, Geo-Shifting, and Unblocking

 

NordVPN is also the only VPN service that we know that reliably unblocks Netflix, Hulu, and other geographically-restricted content sites from around the world (without needing to pay an additional fee). Netflix, as you may know, is particularly adept at blocking VPN users from accessing their site—but NordVPN has no problem at bypassing Netflix’s blockers.

This means that if you live or travel outside the US, NordVPN will allow you to access Netflix’s US site without a hitch. The same goes for users who want to access Canadian, European, or other local Netflix sites without physically residing in those countries.

Even if the ability to change your location isn’t of paramount importance to you, NordVPN’s abundance of servers makes it more likely that you will be able to enjoy faster browsing speeds, no matter where you are in the world.

In particular, if your local internet connection is censored or monitored, NordVPN can also route your traffic through countries with less restrictive internet policies. And if you’re planning to travel to a country with a highly restricted internet (such as China, Iran, or Turkey) NordVPN offers special obfuscated servers that can bypass the VPN blockers that are used in those countries and help you connect to the web.

But that’s not the only reason you might need to use NordVPN’s obfuscated servers. An obfuscated connection will actually allow you to disguise your connection so it won’t be identified as VPN traffic. Since many hotels, businesses, and schools around the world have taken to blocking or monitoring VPN users, NordVPN is one of the few VPN services that lets you actually bypass these blockers by connecting to its obfuscated servers.

VPN Features

 

If you’re looking to use a particular protocol to connect to VPN, NordVPN has support for OpenVPN, L2TP, multi-hop, Onion over IP, and other major protocols. For instance, if you have particular privacy or security concerns, using multi-hop and Onion over IP (Tor) can significantly increase your privacy.

As we’ve already mentioned, NordVPN also offers obfuscated servers that allow you to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN from anyone who might be monitoring your connection.

Conclusion

Very few VPN providers offer as many features as NordVPN does—and the ones that do charge much more. In fact, we’re convinced that NordVPN is still one of the best VPN services currently available, at any price. At only $5.75 per month for an annual plan, NordVPN sets the standard for both value and excellence in terms of service and feature offerings.

Our only quibble with NordVPN is the speed of the service, which tends to vary depending on the server you select and the time that you log in. If speed is a major concern for you, you should expect to pay slightly more (check out our review for ExpressVPN, one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tried).

If you’re not planning to use your VPN often, or if $5.75 a month is still too expensive for you, there are several cheaper VPN services that we recommend (Private Internet Access being the cheapest and our next-best pick, at $3.33 per month).

NordVPN offers a generous 3-day free trial, so we’d recommend that you test their service by trying it out yourself, at no cost to you. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee (far more than many other VPN providers that we know).

Simply put, if you’re looking for value, NordVPN offers more protocols and features than more expensive or similarly-priced services, so you should keep that in mind as you decide on a VPN provider.

9.1 Total Score
NordVPN - Best Overall VPN

No logging, committed to privacy. P2P-friendly. Offers OpenVPN, Tor access, multi-hop, and more. 3-day free trial, 30-day money-back guarantee.

Privacy
9
Price
9
Protocols and Features
9.8
Speed
7.5
Ease of Use
9.7
Support
9.5
PROS
  • Absolutely no logging 
  • Unblocks Netflix and Hulu reliably 
  • Allows anonymous payments
  • Based in Panama
  • Travel-friendly: 3,000+ servers in 60 countries
  • P2P-friendly, no restrictions 
  • All major protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP, multi-hop, Onion over VPN
  • Up to 6 simultaneous devices supported
  • All major platforms: macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.
  • 3-day free trial
  • 30-day money-back guarantee 
  • Yearly plan only $5.75 per month 
CONS
  • Servers can get a bit slow, especially during peak hours
User Rating: Be the first one!
NordVPN - Best Overall VPN

No logging, committed to privacy. P2P-friendly. Offers OpenVPN, Tor access, multi-hop, and more. 3-day free trial, 30-day money-back guarantee.

$5.75 per month

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