If NordVPN really has all those premium features they promote, how can it possibly be so cheap? With this question in mind, I dug into NordVPN, hoping to find the catch and prove that it isn’t as fast and secure as their ads promise.
After testing it thoroughly for two weeks, I found that:
Regretfully, NordVPN doesn’t work well in countries with strict internet regulations (like China and Turkey). It’s not the fastest VPN on the market either. Despite all its marketing efforts, NordVPN doesn’t quite live up to the hype of being the best VPN on the market today.
With a huge network of over 5400 servers across 59 countries, fast speeds, and military-grade encryption, NordVPN is a reliable VPN.
NordVPN offers industry-standard security features in its affordable subscription plan, including 256-bit encryption, OpenVPN/IKEv2/WireGuard protocols, a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a strict no-logging policy. It also offers unique safety features that most other providers don’t, like double encryption, Onion Over VPN servers, obfuscated servers, and P2P support.
Additionally, NordVPN’s technology is so advanced that it is one of the few providers that can unblock Netflix and other top streaming sites. Most providers are blocked because of weak encryption or limited servers, but you won’t have to worry about that with NordVPN.
NordVPN is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. It can also be used as a browser extension in either Firefox or Chrome, or as an app for Android, AndroidTV, and iOS. When you buy a subscription, you can use NordVPN on up to six devices. And if you experience any issues, 24/7 customer support is available via the live chat feature.
In this review, I test NordVPN thoroughly to see whether it lives up to its reputation.
Note: This product is currently not available on our site.
NordVPN has a feature called SmartPlay which claims to unlock over 400 sites with geo-restrictions. I tested geo-restricted content from the US, Australia, and Europe, including the regional news sites ABC News, France2, and SBS Australia. I also tested the streaming sites Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. The results? I was able to successfully stream all the content I attempted to watch on these sites.
NordVPN wasn’t able to unblock DAZN though (which has very sensitive VPN detection), but very few services are able to do this.
Netflix attempts to detect and block VPNs, and many VPN services fail to access it. I ran tests using Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone, and iPad and had similar results. I didn’t recommend NordVPN for Android TV and Fire Stick in the past as they weren’t supported, but I certainly do now that their new app fixed all previous issues.
NordVPN’s SmartPlay technology allows you to access local Netflix content (only in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Spain, and India) by connecting to one of those country’s servers. If you connect to any other server, NordVPN will take you straight to the US Netflix page. I thought I would be missing out on some local content because of this small restriction, but I found that these libraries contain 99% of Netflix’s exclusive shows anyway, so I didn’t need to access any other country’s library at all.
Top Tip: Netflix is constantly identifying and banning VPN servers, so you might occasionally find yourself seeing the proxy error message. It’s easy to fix though — here are some quick solutions.
Amazon Prime Video is very tricky to unblock, but NordVPN easily bypassed its proxy detection technology. I tested multiple US servers in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago and was able to stream The Boys in HD-quality video on them all. My speeds were excellent, averaging 78Mbps — I didn’t have to wait for my content to load or buffer before I started streaming.
I didn’t have any trouble unblocking Hulu on 10 different US servers, including the “Quick Connect” server. Impressively, I got HD streaming quality on every server with zero buffering or lag.
I tested NordVPN with Disney+ US, UK, Australia, and the Netherlands, and I was successful each time. The login page was a little slow to load (I sometimes waited up to a minute in every country), but I didn’t have major speed problems once I reached the homepage. I streamed entire movies with no lag — only a couple of seconds of buffering at the start.
I was able to get onto HBO Max with every single NordVPN server I tested. I barely had to wait for movies or shows to load, and the streaming quality was always HD or higher.
The company operates its servers on 10Gbps (instead of 1GBps like many competitors), which allows NordVPN to reduce any congestion and deliver the fastest possible speeds.
NordVPN offers 3 different protocols for your VPN connection: NordLynx, OpenVPN UDP, and OpenVPN TCP. Both are highly secure and fast. NordLynx is NordVPN’s proprietary protocol, designed to improve connection speeds while maintaining user anonymity. OpenVPN is one of the most well-known, secure, and trusted VPN protocols in use today.
I connected to 5 different server locations with all 3 protocols and ran a series of speed tests — NordLynx was the fastest protocol each time. Even when the difference in speed was minor, I noticed that my actual connection time was instant with NordLynx. With OpenVPN, I’d have to wait up to 10 seconds to establish a connection with the server. So not only does NordLynx provide better download speeds, it also cuts out the annoying wait time to connect to a server.
Based on my tests, NordVPN’s global servers are more than enough for streaming, downloading, and torrenting.
Even when connecting to the server in New Zealand, which was furthest away and had the slowest speeds, I was able to stream Netflix and YouTube in UltraHD with no buffering or lowering of resolution.
A minor downside is that NordVPN isn’t quite the fastest option on the market. To test this, I connected to one of NordVPN’s New Zealand servers from the UK and measured the drop in speed from my regular connection. NordVPN’s connection gave me a 44% decrease in speed (although it was still fast enough to stream, torrent, and browse without any lag or buffering). ExpressVPN has the fastest server connections with a drop of only 25% when connected to a New Zealand server.
Of course, your fastest server connections will always be servers that are closer to your physical location. However, it’s reassuring to know that if you travel or want to access blocked content in another country, NordVPN is a fast and reliable option. It’s worth noting that while NordVPN will automatically connect you to its recommended fastest server, you do have the option to manually choose a server too.
As an avid gamer, it’s important that my VPN can maintain consistently fast speeds for me to play online without annoying lag or connection issues. This not only means I need fast download speeds, but I also need a low ping — this is the amount of time it takes for data to reach the server from my PC and send a response. As long as the ping is below 60ms, gameplay will be acceptably smooth and lag-free.
To test NordVPN, I connected to a US server and loaded up a multiplayer match on Left 4 Dead 2. When the game started, I noticed my gameplay was smooth — I wasn’t lagging at all, scenery populated quickly, and my movement response time was almost instant. It was like I was playing without being connected to a server 5,500+km away. I ran a speed test and found NordVPN’s ping was 38ms which is impressively fast, considering the physical distance from my PC to the server.
When I tested other servers, my speeds remained fast but my ping wasn’t as low. In New Zealand, my ping got up to 240ms and my game wouldn’t load at all due to the intense lag. It’s always best to connect to a local server to get the highest speeds, but I like that I have the option to connect to other countries to game. This means you can play with friends abroad easily and access special events that are limited to different locations.
The first thing to do is to try changing the server. Even with several thousand servers, the server you connect with may simply be overloaded and running slow. NordVPN gives you the option of choosing the “Fastest” server for each location.
You should also check which security protocol you are using — NordLynx is designed for optimal speed and security. During my tests, I found NordLynx was usually the fastest protocol and it connected to servers instantly, rather than taking 2-4 seconds like OpenVPN.
Finally, I suggest switching on NordVPN’s CyberSec feature to enable its ad-blocking function. Loading ads takes up bandwidth and means web pages take longer to fully populate. By turning on CyberSec, NordVPN stops ads from loading to help improve browsing speeds.
Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.
NordVPN has over 5400 servers across 59 countries. This is a decent size but it’s not as extensive as CyberGhost, which has 6900 servers in 90 countries. The majority of NordVPN’s servers are in the US and the UK, which is great for unblocking streaming content. I’m also impressed to see that NordVPN offers wide coverage in underserviced parts of the world, including South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Many of these regions are often ignored by VPN services.
Notably, NordVPN doesn’t have any servers in Russia or China. This is common among VPN providers as both countries are known for their oppressive internet laws. Fortunately, you can still use NordVPN to access servers abroad if you’re in Russia or China. The closest server locations are Ukraine (for Russia) and Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea (for China).
In addition, the company has been developing and expanding its network of colocated servers. These are servers entirely owned, operated, and maintained by NordVPN. By taking over total server control, the company can guarantee top-tier security and quality — and protect you from any risk of third-party interference or mismanagement. I find this is a significant improvement to a service that is already very well-defended.
It also offers a number of specialty server types, including:
To get an idea of the performance of NordVPN’s servers, I tested servers in several countries to see whether there were any connection issues and how long it took to connect to them. Again, all tests were conducted from the UK using a fiber broadband connection. There were no connection issues with any of the servers tested, and all connected in a reasonable time given the distances involved.
|Country||Connection Issues||Time taken to connect (seconds)|
I also ran tests to check whether NordVPN’s servers were in the locations they claimed to be. Many providers use virtual server locations as a cost-cutting measure, which could be a problem if you want to avoid routing your traffic through certain countries.
To establish the servers’ likely locations, I used a tool to run ping tests from 90 different locations. By looking at the time it takes to ping from each location, you can get a good idea of where the server is. For example, pinging a UK server from Ireland should take much less time than pinging it from the US. If none of the numbers seem to check out, the server’s location may be spoofed.
I pinged servers in 10 different countries (the UK, South Africa, Georgia, Hong Kong, Latvia, Israel, Malaysia, Slovakia, Serbia, and South Korea), and the results suggested that they were all where they claimed to be. Whilst this isn’t proof that NordVPN doesn’t use any virtual locations, it does suggest that at least the majority are genuine.
NordVPN does work in China, but not all the time. When my colleagues ran tests in China, they reported that connecting to NordVPN’s obfuscated servers ensures the highest success rate. Obfuscated servers only work on NordVPN’s OpenVPN app (unavailable for iOS), so you’ll need to set up a manual connection on a third-party OpenVPN app if you have an iPhone or iPad.
I strongly suggest you speak to NordVPN’s customer support team before arriving in China. The agent can give you useful tips, including which servers are most likely to connect and the addresses of several mirror sites.
I find it’s always best to have multiple VPNs in China. The government is known to regularly update and strengthen the country’s firewalls, which makes it challenging for VPN companies to keep up. ExpressVPN has been proven as one of the most reliable VPNs for China, and I believe it’s worth downloading as a backup option.
NordVPN has thousands of specialty P2P servers in 40+ countries, which have been optimized for torrenting and high amounts of bandwidth transfer. I tested multiple P2P servers with clients qBittorent, Transmission, and PopcornTime, and I had zero connection issues.
I especially like that NordVPN will reroute you to a P2P server if it detects that you’re trying to use torrenting. This even includes BitTorrent-based streaming platforms, like Kodi and Popcorn Time. However, it doesn’t quite compare to services like ExpressVPN, where P2P is available on all the servers.
Torrenting can be risky, so I’m pleased to see NordVPN has leak protection, a reliable kill switch, and an independently-audited no-logs policy. It even offers a free SOCKS5 proxy (and it’s one of the few VPNs to do so). I set up the SOCKS5 proxy on uTorrent, BitTorrent, and Vuze, and I got excellent speeds each time. While it’s a fast option that still hides your IP address, you should keep in mind that your traffic won’t be encrypted.
NordVPN recently introduced its best (and fastest) protocol yet — NordLynx. This hybrid protocol combines WireGuard’s security and speed with “double NAT,” a system that ensures your personal data isn’t ever written to the server. Better yet, unlike other protocols NordVPN offers, NordLynx is available on Linux, Windows, iOS, MacOS, and Android. To set it up, just navigate to app settings and select it from the protocol list under “VPN Protocol.”
On most apps, NordVPN uses the protocol OpenVPN. You can choose between the UDP and TCP versions — UDP is the default and should work faster. On Apple devices, IKEv2/IPSec is used instead.
Older protocols like L2TP/IPSec and PPTP aren’t supported, but since they use weaker encryption and have known security vulnerabilities, they’re generally best avoided. Overall, it’s difficult to fault NordVPN’s encryption.
NordVPN uses AES with 256-bit keys. This is an extremely strong cipher — it’s the same encryption standard that governments use worldwide. It would take a hacker billions of years to break it with a brute force attack. NordVPN combines it with Perfect Forward Secrecy, meaning the encryption key changes for each session. This avoids the security issues that can occur due to stolen keys.
You can rest assured that NordVPN makes sure your true IP address remains hidden. I ran five different IP and DNS leak tests, and each time the IP address and location of the server were displayed instead of my own.
NordVPN has a number of other security features too, like double VPN servers and a kill switch. The kill switch works by disconnecting you from the internet if the VPN stops working, making sure your traffic remains private. You also have the option of setting the kill switch to only stop certain programs or apps if the VPN goes down. Unlike with some services (e.g. ExpressVPN), the feature isn’t enabled by default, but it’s very straightforward to use. You can activate it with one click in the “Settings” section of the app.
One disadvantage is that the Mac OS OpenVPN client doesn’t have an internet kill switch, only an application-level switch. That means the apps you specify will be blocked from the internet if the VPN goes down, but not all your traffic will be hidden. So NordVPN may not be right for you if you want to use the internet kill switch with this client. However, It’s worth noting that the Mac OS IKEv2 client does have both types of kill switch.
The CyberSec feature automatically blocks malware, trackers, and phishing links while you’re browsing the internet. It’s a nice bonus feature to have, particularly since you won’t find it in every premium VPN service. For instance, ExpressVPN doesn’t have an in-built blocker, so you have to download a separate add-on for your browser.
During my tests, CyberSec successfully filtered out all ads on the BuzzFeed news site.
You can turn CyberSec on in the “Settings” menu on the Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux apps. If you’re an Android user, I recommend you download the Android .apk file from the NordVPN website. Due to Google’s ad policies, CyberSec can’t block any ads in the Google Play store version of NordVPN.
Split tunneling is available on Windows, Android, and Android TV apps.
You can also achieve the same result by using NordVPN’s browser extensions for Chrome or Firefox. When you connect to a server with the browser extension, NordVPN only encrypts your browser traffic. This means all apps and programs outside of your browser won’t be connected to the VPN and your real IP address will be shown. Alternatively, you can add a list of websites to bypass the encrypted browser traffic. Simply go to the settings section of the browser extension, click “Bypass List”, and add your preferred websites.
In 2019, NordVPN experienced a security breach when a hacker accessed one of its rented servers in Finland. However, no user data could be accessed because NordVPN never logs or stores this data when customers connect to its servers. This meant user passwords, IP addresses, and online activity were all kept safe.
In light of this breach, NordVPN has since focused on further improving its security measures with colocated servers and by enlisting the help of ethical hackers. These hackers locate bugs and security issues so they can be fixed quickly, reducing any potential risks you could encounter. Combined with NordVPN’s colocated servers, security is tighter than ever so you can rest assured your data and activity is always private and anonymous.
NordVPN has clearly invested significant time into solidifying its privacy practices. This proves to me that NordVPN is truly committed to upholding its no-logs policy.
NordVPN is based in Panama, which is an excellent location for a VPN provider. Panama is outside the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes, which is an international spy network that includes the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and many countries across Europe. Better still, there are no invasive data retention laws or mass surveillance programs in Panama. This means any sensitive user data is kept private.
If there’s ever any legal trouble involving NordVPN, the company is only subject to the local laws in Panama. This is another safeguard that protects NordVPN from global interference and demands.
You can download the NordVPN app on Windows (7, 8, and 10), Mac (Sierra 10.12 or later), Android, iOS, Linux (Debian, Ubuntu, Elementary OS, and Linux Mint), Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick (2nd generation and later), Chromebook, and Android TV.
The NordVPN website is well laid out and easy to navigate. Downloading and installing the NordVPN apps is also a straightforward process, and I was connected within four minutes of getting a subscription. In every version (desktop or mobile), the menu makes it simple to choose between servers in different countries and select from the specialty servers.
There’s also a map feature, which allows you to pick a server by clicking on a pin. However, this feature is somewhat limited. For instance, Europe has so many servers that there are pins everywhere and you have to zoom-in a long way to work out which one is where. It’s a nice visual, but picking from the list of countries is much more practical.
The mobile apps are very similar to the desktop version, the only difference being that you access the list of servers by swiping up if you’re on mobile.
The one exception to NordVPN’s user-friendliness is the Linux version, which is command-line only. Then again, if you’re using Linux, you probably know your way around the command line so this may not be an issue.
Another app that we’ve used that still needs improving is the Fire TV app. When I first started testing NordVPN, it didn’t have a native app for Fire TV, and I had to jailbreak my Fire Stick to install it. Since then, NordVPN has released an app that works with Hulu, ESPN, HBO, and more.
But there are still slight inconveniences with the Fire TV app that could be improved on. For example, if you want to choose a server other than the default, you have to know the server number. You can’t search a list or by region like you can on the desktop and mobile apps. Additionally, it won’t automatically connect to that same server each time you log in, which means that you’ll have to either remember the server number, or hope to get lucky and find a good one the next time.
The browser extension gives you a quick way to connect to the VPN with options to “Search for a specific country” or “Quick Connect”. Better still, the browser extension doesn’t change the server the NordVPN desktop app is connected to, so you can even use it for split tunneling. Unfortunately, you can’t pick specific locations like on the desktop app — you’ll be automatically connected to the best available server instead.
NordVPN has a live chat feature available 24/7. I tested this and found that the responses were always prompt and thorough.
There’s an extremely detailed knowledge base on the website and in the mobile apps. There are articles about virtually anything you might want to know, from setting up the service on a router to troubleshooting connectivity issues on any device.
If you’re still having trouble, you can email the company. This may be more convenient than using the live chat for more complex queries. When I sent an email, I received a response within 3 hours.
NordVPN’s customer support is comparable to that of other leading VPN services like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. These services all offer a choice between email and a live chat feature. Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of NordVPN’s customer support.