NordVPN Reviews and Expert Opinion

What do we look at?

NordVPN Overview

Don’t buy NordVPN if you need to pay with PayPal; the Panama based VPN provider has removed that as an option from their site. If PayPal is the only payment method you can work with, check out our review of another top-rated VPN - ExpressVPN.

I purchased NordVPN a few months ago, I took advantage of their 3-year plan and paid less than $3.00 a month I wanted to see for myself if it really lives up to the hype it receives on various online forums.

I had three main categories that I wanted to test out:

  1. Bypassing Geo Blocks

  2. Security/anonymity

  3. Torrenting


After testing NordVPN on a variety of devices for several months, I can honestly say that, for the most part, I am extremely happy with its overall performance.

Can NordVPN Bypass Geo Blocks


As an American expat living abroad, finding a VPN that could bypass geo blocks without detection was very important to me. I did most of my testing on a Windows computer, Android phone, and Amazon Fire Stick.

I was able to stream from most of the major online content providers that restrict viewers from outside the US. This includes; Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling, ESPN, FuboTV, and all the local network TV websites. (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX). The one site I was not able to access was DAZN (although to be honest I only found a few VPNs that work with DAZN.)

Additionally, I also did extensive testing on major TV and streaming sites around the world and had mostly positive results. I was able to watch the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, France2, SBS Australia, and much more.

Can NordVPN unblock Netflix?


Despite Netflix’s attempt to block VPN traffic, I had no trouble connecting with servers in the US, UK, Canada, France, and Japan (the countries with the largest Netflix libraries) and streaming without any issues.

NordVPN Bypasses Netflix geo block

With NordVPN I was able to watch US Netflix without a problem


Overall, I am very happy with NordVPN’s ability to spoof my location and bypass the annoying geo blocks.

Fast Speeds = Bufferless Streaming


While VPNs will typically slow down your internet connection, I didn’t suffer from any noticeable slowdowns with NordVPN.

Unlike some of the other VPNs I’ve tested, I was able to enjoy streaming without having to sit through buffering, low-quality streams, or videos that didn’t load.

How Secure is NordVPN


I took a break from streaming TV from around the world to check out how secure NordVPN really is.

Here are the facts:

  • Security protocols: The native Windows and Android apps have two OpenVPN options, UDP and TCP, with UDP being the default protocol. If you want to use IKEv2 or IPsec, you can manually install them. Those protocols are built-in on the Mac and iOS apps.

  • NordVPN has a strict no-log policy. An independent audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the “Big 4” auditing firms, confirmed that NordVPN does not maintain any logs on their servers. This means is that if a government agency demands to see the NordVPN servers, they won’t be able to find any useful information that can lead them to you.

  • Your data is highly encrypted. When your data goes through the VPN tunnel, it’s protected by AES 256-bit encryption, which is as close to un-hackable as we have.

  • There is an Automatic Kill Switch. A kill switch will instantly block your internet connection should the VPN disconnect. This prevents IP and DNS leaks, which keep you anonymous online. The one thing about the Kill Switch that bothers me about the Kill Switch is the default setting is “off,” and you must go to Settings and turn it on.


NordVPN internet Kill Switch

You’ll have to turn on the Kill Switch to prevent any leaks



Will NordVPN Hide My IP Address?


Hiding your IP address is one of the primary functions of a VPN. I ran IP and DNS leak tests multiple times while testing NordVPN and never came across any leaks.

I tried several different sites when running the tests, and avoided NordVPN’s IP test because I wanted an unbiased report. Every test I ran showed me an IP address, location, and ISP of the VPN server, and I was able to remain anonymous.

NordVPN IP test

The IP test shows a US location – a few thousand miles from my actual location


 

Can I Torrent with NordVPN


While I had access to Netflix, Hulu, and just about any streaming site I wanted, there were still times that I wanted to torrent shows and movies.

NordVPN has dedicated P2P servers that are optimized for downloading torrents. There were times that I just connected with regular servers instead of a particular P2P server, and I didn’t notice any slowdowns.

All in all, I downloaded over 150 TV shows, movies, and songs from a variety of sites (YTS, the Pirate Bay, ExtraTorrents and EZTV were my go-to sites) and I never received any warning letters for copyright violations, warnings from my ISP, or speed throttling.

NordVPN Downloading Torrent

I had no trouble downloading torrents with NordVPN


Torrent Anonymously with NordVPN


 

Pros

  • Large network of servers worldwide
  • Native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Fire TV, and more
  • Fast Speeds
  • Bypasses the Great Wall of China
  • Simple installation
  • Connect 6 devices simultaneously
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • 24/7 customer support (You will get a real person, we tested it out)

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept PayPal
  • Doesn’t work with French Netflix
  • Limited security protocol options

Compare with Alternatives

9.9  / 10

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Speed9.6

For me, the biggest indicator of NordVPN’s speed came from the high-quality streaming and fast torrent downloads I experienced while testing the VPN.

I did run multiple speed tests using Ookla Speed Test to see how the VPN was affecting my speed. The tests were performed at various points throughout a day and night, so I could determine if the time of day affected my speed. I also ran the tests while connected to different servers in the US, Canada, UK, France.

I compiled all the data and came up with the averages that you see in the chart below.

What to Do If the Connection Speed is Slow


I’d be lying if I told you that the speed was always fast. There were some frustrating times where I had to do some troubleshooting to see why things weren’t moving at a faster pace.

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. There is the option to choose the “Fastest” for each location.

NordVPN find fastest server
Picking the Fastest server is a way to increase your speed

Another helpful tip I discovered is to check which security protocol you are using. The two options that come with the native app are UDP and TCP; if you are looking for faster speeds, then you should be using UDP (this is the default security protocol).

The final tip is to make sure that you aren’t connected using the DoubleVPN feature. This is an added security feature that gives your data encryption but will also slow down your internet connection.

Why Most Speed Tests are Pointless & How We Correctly Test VPN 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.

Servers9.8

NordVPN has over 5,400 servers in more than 60 countries.

I believe it’s the most servers of any VPN that I’ve tested. Aside from sounding impressive, having a large number of servers is a huge benefit for users. With so many to choose from, there is less of a chance of landing on an overburdened server.

Another benefit of having some many servers is the incredible number of potential IP addresses. This can make it difficult for websites to ban VPN traffic. In the event that they do block one or two of the servers, you can connect with a different one and access the site.

Choosing Your Server


There are several ways to connect with a NordVPN server.

The first option is to click on the Quick Connect button on the bottom of the map. This will automatically select a country and server to connect with, the server and location are determined by what NordVPN calls a “complex formula with various server parameters to the server recommended for you.”

NordVPN's Quick Connect

For the best available server, just click Quick Connect


 If you want to pick a particular location, which you would need to do if you plan to access content in a specific country, you have two options. The first is to click on the location icon on the map; this will automatically connect you with the best server in that location at that time.


The second option is to click on the three dots next to the country name. This will allow you to choose a specific server, see the server load, and mark it as a favorite server, making it easier to find again. It can be especially useful if you have a server that is successful in bypassing a difficult geo-block.

NordVPN Choose the best server location for you

You can choose the best server in each location by server load


There are five countries that NordVPN allows you to choose a server based on a specific location. They are:

  • US: 20 cities

  • UK: 2 cities

  • Australia: 5 cities

  • Canada: 3 cities

  • Germany: 2 cities


NordVPN choose by US city

Nord had added the option to choose a server located in select cities in certain locations



4 Specialty Servers to Choose From


To create the best user experience, NordVPN has several different server categories that you can choose from, depending on your needs.

NordVPN specialty servers

Choose from 4 specialty servers




  1. P2P – These servers are ideal for downloading torrents or any other P2P file transfers.

  2. Double VPN – These servers are ideal for users who want an extra level of protection. They will tunnel your traffic through two servers, which means it will also be encrypted twice. The major downside to these servers is it can slow down your speed.

  3. Dedicated IP – To use the Dedicated IP servers, you will have to purchase them for an additional $70. Currently, these are available in the US, Germany, UK, and Netherlands.

  4. Onion Over VPN – These servers will give you an added measure of protection when surfing the Dark Web with TOR.


Can NordVPN Bypass the Great Firewall of China


While I haven’t personally gone to China recently, I did investigate quite a bit to find out whether NordVPN is currently able to bypass the Great Firewall of China. This included checking in with the NordVPN customer support team, but also checking out China travel forums and speaking with NordVPN users in China.

The best way to access the internet from China is to connect using the Obfuscated Servers. I don’t know why these aren’t listed with the other specialty servers. Instead, you have to go to the Setting Tab > Advanced Option > Obfuscated Server > then toggle on.

Important: Obfuscated servers only work with OpenVPN, this means that if you’re using an iOS device, you will need to download the OpenVPN app and create a manual connection.

While this is one of the best options for China, it’s important to note that nothing is perfect over there, and people have reported having temporary issues connecting, even with the obfuscated servers.

Pro Tip: Download the app before traveling. You won’t be able to download it once you’re in China since they’ve removed it from google play and the file will be stuck behind the Great Firewall of China.

Server Locations

United States
United Arab Emirates
Albania
Argentina
Austria
Australia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Belgium
Bulgaria
Brazil
Canada
Switzerland
Chile
Costa Rica
Cyprus
See all supported locations...

User Experience10

It took less than four minutes from when I purchased NordVPN until I connected to one of the servers.

While I was testing the VPN, several updates were released, which showed me that the development is always working on improving their app. From a user’s perspective, this was very important to me. They aren’t just happy with how things are, but making changes to the design, making it easier to connect with different regions and improving the overall design of the apps.

Both the Android and iOS apps have a very similar design to their respective desktop apps which is good to seeThe big difference between mobile and desktop apps the server locations are listed on the left-hand panel on the desktop app, and you have the swipe up on the mobile to find them. 

Comparing Mobile and Desktop apps

The mobile and desktop apps have a very similar UI


The one app that I’ve used that I feel still needs improving is the Fire TV app.

When I first started testing NordVPN, they didn’t have a native app for Fire TV, and I had to jailbreak my Fire Stick to install it. Since then, they’ve released an app, and while it works and gives me access to US Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, HBO, and more the app can use some improvement.

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.

CyberSec – Protecting You From Malware


One very nice feature that you get with NordVPN is CyberSec, a built-in ad online security tool. While the VPN will encrypt your data and change your IP address, CyberSec will block suspicious websites, ads, pop-ups, malware, and DDoS attacks from attacking your system.

You can turn it on or off in the settings section.

Support10

Throughout my time testing this product, I had plenty of questions for the customer support team. I like the live chat feature and used it whenever I had an issue.

I asked a range of questions, from technical questions to which is the best server to stream the Disney channel and the support staff was always quick with an answer and very knowledgeable.

NordVPN Customer Service Chat

An example of a conversation of the 24/7 Live Chat


If live chat isn’t your thing, you can also open a ticket or check out their extensive knowledgebase. The one time I submitted a ticket, I received an answer later that same day.

How We Test Customer Support and Why Should You Care

We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.

Pricing10

With all the features packed into NordVPN, it’s hard to believe that they can keep the price so low. You can get a three-year subscription for less than $3.00 a month (all paid up front). This is an excellent price for the value.

As with most VPNs, the price for a subscription drops significantly when you sign up for a long-term plan.

If you aren’t satisfied within the first 30-days of using NordVPN, you can return it and get your money back. I wanted to see just how easy it is to cancel and get refunded, so I purchased a second subscription under a new name and asked for a refund after 10 days.

I quickly found out that this isn’t a “no questions” asked return policy, and the support staff tried to help solve my problems. In the end, I chose a problem that they couldn’t fix, bypassing a geo block on DAZN, and they refunded the full three-year payment within a week.


It turns out you can’t just cancel for no reason


In addition to the money back guarantee, NordVPN allows users to get a free-7 day trial, and they don’t require you to use a credit card.


 

There are several accepted payment methods, including Bitcoin if you want to remain anonymous.

  • Credit Card — VISA, MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover

  • CryptoCurrency - Bitcoin, Dash, Ethereum, Zcash, Litecoin, Ripple, and Monero

  • Other — WeChat, AliPay, UnionPay, WebMoney, Yandex, Giropay, SOFORT, iDeal

NordVPN offers the following plans

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