NordVPN is perhaps the world's most beloved VPN. With glowing reviews all across the web, highlighting the platform's high speeds, online security tools, streaming and torrenting capabilities, and web browsing tools – it's certainly a product worth your attention.
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market in 2023. Headquartered in Panama, this VPN service offers its in-house built NordLynx tunneling protocol that guarantees top speeds. There’s unbreakable encryption and an independently-audited no-logs policy for complete anonymity. Its intuitive apps are packed with unique features, such as free-of-cost Meshnet, making NordVPN an excellent option for beginners and power users.
However, you can also come across some spotted kinks of NordVPN. For instance, annoying glitches after software updates are the ones that put its users in doubt.
But let's dig a little bit deeper with this NordVPN review: how good is this VPN for beginners and power users? Is NordVPN safe? How does it perform in terms of streaming and torrenting? Read on to find out.
NordVPN pros and cons
Excellent performance and speed
Intuitive apps for most devices
Solid, independently audited security features
Unblocks many streaming websites
Great 24/7 customer support
30-day money-back guarantee
7-day free trial
Linux client has no graphic interface
No unlimited free plan
Is NordVPN safe?
NordVPN is one of the safest VPN providers. Market-leading encryption and secure tunneling protocols ensure that your data is safe, and all of NordVPN's servers run on RAM. RAM servers are extremely useful for a VPN: as the data gets wiped out every time your server is restarted, there is no information for anyone to steal. A lot of NordVPN servers use this technology.
After creating your account and installing your client, you can connect to any server on NordVPN's network. This connection is encrypted, making your traffic unreadable for external watchers. For that, NordVPN uses the AES-256-CBC cipher, so far still the gold standard in the VPN market. On top of that, NordLynx uses the ChaCha20 protocol, meaning you're guaranteed even more privacy and security.
You’ll be given access to the server through the use of the SHA-512 hash function. It scrambles your credentials into 512 binary digits, which to all outsiders are meaningless chunks of data. These are then compared to the cryptographic hashes generated and stored on their servers when you were creating your account, and if they match – you can come in.
This hash is actually beyond a VPN market standard. Many competing VPN providers use SHA-256. So, NordVPN is really pushing the envelope here in terms of what's possible. The SHA-512 function is more secure, granting much better safety for its users, and much more difficult to crack for anyone trying to get in.
Your data is transferred between the VPN server and your device using tunneling protocols. NordVPN supports these three main options.
Protocol Best for
OpenVPN Versatile, all-around security
IKEv2/IPsec Mobile devices, cellular/wifi data
NordLynx Best option overall
Here’s what they are – and what should you choose them for:
OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) – this is an open-source VPN protocol, used by many major VPN providers. It is secure and works on multiple platforms. On NordVPN, you can choose which option you like more. You can pick a safer (TCP) or faster (UDP) method. Available on all NordVPN clients.
IKEv2/IPsec – best used on mobile devices. It’s much less CPU intensive, and excellent in establishing a reconnection, making it ideal for a seamless switch between wifi and cellular data. Available on iOS, Windows, Linux, and macOS.
WireGuard (NordLynx) – this is NordVPN’s custom take on next-gen WireGuard VPN technology. It’s an upgrade on older protocols, with superior options for both speed and security. Available on all NordVPN clients.
Note: If you're setting up a VPN connection on Windows manually – beware of DNS leaks. During tests, the IKEv2 connection on Windows leaked DNS addresses. This was fixed by setting NordVPN's DNS addresses as default on my Ethernet, and IKEv2 adapters instead of Cloudflare's. So, if you're planning to go through the route of manual set up, make sure to use their proprietary DNS servers, and you should be in the clear.
Most VPN service providers are merely renting the servers they're offering to customers. This often means they only manage them by installing custom software, leaving some control to the third-party owning the data center. This can easily backfire.
Following a data breach at a third-party data center in 2018, NordVPN has taken major steps and converted most of their rented servers into an owned, maintained, and fully managed network. This reduces a chance of an external data breach to a minimum.
All of their servers only store data in RAM, meaning that it gets wiped off every time a server gets restarted. With no disk drives, there’s no permanent data saved.
NordVPN isn’t the first VPN provider to offer colocated servers – but it’s by far the biggest one. Here’s how NordVPN stacks up with other providers offering such a feature.
An effective kill switch can make a world of difference. Suppose you're trying to remain anonymous, but your connection to the VPN server drops. In that case, you could expose your location and IP address and not even know about it.
For this reason, NordVPN has a system-wide kill switch, and an app kill switch.
The Internet Kill Switch will disable all Internet access if the client detects that you're not connected to a VPN.
The App Kill Switch only affects a specific app – imagine that you're using a VPN for torrenting and don't want any of the P2P traffic to go directly through your ISP. App kill switch on µTorrent client would close the app to prevent data leaks.
On the iOS and macOS apps downloaded from App Store, the system-wide kill switch is enabled by default and built into the client. You won't see an icon, but it will kill your connection if the connection to the VPN drops. On Windows and macOS (sideload app), you can configure the kill switch on a per-app basis. On Linux and Android, you can only enable a system-wide kill switch.
It wouldn't hurt if their feature handling were more homogeneous. That said, as a user, you get a functional system-wide kill switch on all platforms. On some, you can go as far as configuring it for specific apps. Considering that some platforms like iOS rarely even get such features, that's a technical achievement in itself.
Cybernews Pro tip
Losing your VPN connection can be dangerous – especially if you're doing something sensitive. Always remember to keep your kill switch on when using NordVPN!
Get NordVPN now
With NordVPN, your device will be safer than ever before. This is thanks to a feature called Threat Protection. It works by blocking the following threats:
Malicious websites. You’ll be protected from accidentally visiting an infected website that could potentially infest your device with malware.
Online ads. Tired of seeing tons of ads whenever you visit your favorite pages? Well, Threat Protection will make sure you won’t have this problem anymore.
Trackers. With the help of trackers, websites can collect all sorts of information about you, including IP addresses and browsing habits. Luckily, NordVPN won’t let them do that anymore.
Dangerous files. Whenever you’ll download an executable file under 20 MB, Threat Protection will scan it for malware and viruses – just like an antivirus tool would.
Currently, the feature works on all NordVPN applications. However, you can also enable it on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari browsers.
It’s quite convenient that once enabled, Threat Protection always works in the background – you won’t need to connect to a VPN server to activate it.
Dark Web Monitor
This spooky-sounding feature warns you of your personal data vulnerabilities. It checks dark web marketplaces and pastebins for data associated with your email address. If it ends up there, there's a good chance that services you've been using were breached by hackers.
If you’re using the same password in several places, hackers can quickly compromise you on several other platforms as well. NordVPN notifies you if your email ever ends up in a dark web marketplace.
The feature is available to iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS users.
NordVPN is based in privacy-friendly Panama. If some government would like to ask for your usage logs, they would have to contact a Panamanian court. Given that Panama has no data retention laws, NordVPN doesn't have to keep any data on their users. This is why it's essential to select a VPN service provider that isn't located in a Five Eyes country, or an otherwise invasive country.
Nord guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that your internet activity while using NordVPN Services is not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party.
The only data their apps collect is related to crash error reports and application diagnostics data. Suppose you find that this is unacceptable to you. In that case, you can easily opt-out of anonymized app usage at any time from their client. Although, it's hardly a dealbreaker.
Security and privacy audits
If you were reading the previous section and thought, "Well, that's all very nice, but how do I know that these promises mean anything?" Well, NordVPN hired an independent agency, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), to perform an audit.
For reference, last year, PwC ranked #5 on Forbes' America's Largest Private Companies and is one of the Big Four accounting firms. NordVPN's no logs policy was audited twice: in 2018 and 2020, both times concluding that their privacy claims are valid.
NordVPN also put themselves through app security audits, as well. In 2019, cybersecurity consulting agency VerSprite conducted various penetration tests on their apps and infrastructure. You can familiarize yourself with the full NordVPN report here. All the discovered bugs were patched even before the release of the report.
Currently, they're still trying to improve their service and are offering bug bounties for those testers who manage to find bugs on their HackerOne page. So, as a cybersecurity products vendor, NordVPN is taking the necessary steps towards transparency.
Here are the key findings:
nordvpn ioxt certification
NordVPN scored the highest marks on all criteria, including the highest level 4 (highest) on the vulnerability reporting program. Not only does it accept external submissions, but it also has a public research rewards program. Even when it comes to password management, they got a level 4 ranking. Authentication is not the only requirement. App APIs require re-authentication for sensitive transactions. You can read the full certification report here.
Only recently has this certificate been applied to VPN apps. Previously it was exclusive to IoT devices. This new change also means that only a handful of VPN services can boast about having it. NordVPN is naturally at the forefront with the other industry leaders.
Be safe with NordVPN
Price (lowest price per month) 3.29/month 2.30/month 2.96/month 2.00/month 2.08/month 2.05/month
Free version Yes, 7-day Yes, 7-day No Yes, 7-day Yes, 7-day Yes, unlimited
Servers 5500+ servers in 60 countries 3200+ servers in 100 countries 2000+ servers in 50 countries 200+ servers in 63 countries 6500+ servers in 78 countries 1000+ servers in 42 countries
WireGuard tunneling protocol Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Streaming Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and more Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Disney+, and more Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, and more Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
AES-256 encryption Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Logging No logs, independently audited twice by PwC No logs, independently audited by Cure 53 No logs, independently audited by Leviathan No logs, not audited No logs, always-on audit by KPMG No logs, independently audited by VerSprite (iOS penetration testing)
Simultaneous connections 6 Unlimited Unlimited 10 10
Pricing: Which NordVPN plan is the best?
NordVPN doesn't have elaborate pricing schemes or complex plan options. There are only three main plans – the Standard, the Plus, and the Complete. The pricing depends on the subscription duration you choose. There are 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year options.
The best option is to buy the Complete plan which includes a bundle of Nord products. You get a secure VPN, a password manager, and an encrypted cloud storage for ultimate protection of all your data and activities.
Also, keep in mind that the longer the plan is, the better the savings. For example, just take a look at the price you’d pay for a 1-year and 1-month subscription:
The Standard: $4.59/month (1-year plan) and $12.99/month (1-month plan)
The Plus: $5.79/month (1-year plan) and $14.19 (1-month plan)
The Complete: $7.29/month (1-year plan) and $15.69 (1-month plan)
So, if you want to get the best value for your money in terms of features and price, NordVPN suggests the option itself: the best choice is the 2-year subscription of the Complete plan.
As for payment options, there are quite a few of them. You'll find the usual credit cards, AmazonPay, Sofort, PayPal, ACH Transfer, and even prepaid cards. There's also the option to pay using iTunes, or Google Pay if you find that more convenient. For the most privacy-cautious, there are also options to buy with cryptocurrencies and even from retail stores.
Here are the prices and benefits of each NordVPN plan with the 2-year subscription:
Can you get NordVPN for free?
Yes, you can get NordVPN for free, using a free 7-day trial. With this method, you'll be able to use NordVPN with any device that you'd like.
To make this work, you'll need to download NordVPN on your Android device. It's also important that this account shouldn't have any NordVPN accounts registered already.
After downloading the app and making the account, you’ll initiate your free 7-day trial. Afterwards, you can use NordVPN on other devices, too – simply download the app and log in with your current credentials.
But even though you’ve downloaded the VPN on your mobile device, you can use the same credentials on all of your devices.
After the trial period expires, a normal plan starts. Luckily, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you have a month to ask for a refund. In total, this can get you 37 days of free NordVPN. That's plenty of time to test the waters.
Free NordVPN is as safe as its regular version. It also uses solid encryption with top-notch tunneling protocols. Plus, you can connect to any server you'd like, just like you could when using paid edition.
How does NordVPN work?
NordVPN, like every other VPN service, creates an encrypted tunnel for your data and changes your IP address. This way, your ISP, the government, and other third parties can’t track your online activity. You can also easily unblock geo-restricted content, access your favorite streaming libraries, and more.
The job that NordVPN does for you involves numerous factors, such as applying strong encryption, offering the correct tunneling protocol, maintaining data secure during the transfer, etc. However, this provider is a consumer-focused VPN service. That means a VPN app is built to take away all the technical hassle of use from you so that you can be protected within a few clicks.
This VPN is available on a wide range of platforms: including various desktop and mobile OS options, as well as smart TVs and streaming sticks. Plus, the setup process and further experience remain similar and effortless on all devices. Below, you will find guides on how to download and use NordVPN.
How to download NordVPN
Go to the NordVPN website and click the button to get NordVPN.
Choose your subscription plan. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try NordVPN risk-free.
Fill in the necessary checkout information – only your email is required.
Download the NordVPN app on the devices you want to use it on.
Following the instructions, install the app
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