NordVPN is one of the best VPN providers out there, thanks to its ease of use, excellent security and wide server network. Find out more about what we liked and disliked about the service in this comprehensive and fully updated NordVPN review.

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NordVPN sits among the best VPN providers around, offering fast and secure connections across the globe. Its recent security breach has caused some uncertainty in the service, bringing into question if it should be as popular as it is. We’re here to answer that question in our updated NordVPN review.

We’re going to look at its features, pricing, speed, privacy, ease of use and, of course, security to see if NordVPN is still among the best VPN options. We’ll bring in other top-tier providers for reference throughout, such as ExpressVPN, which currently sits at the top of our VPN rankings (read our ExpressVPN review).

If you want the short answer: yes, NordVPN is still among the best VPN options. There have been a lot of changes to the service, including the release of the extremely impressive NordLynx protocol. If you’d rather take it for a spin yourself, you can sign up risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

Very fast
Easy to use
Inexpensive long-term subscription
CyberSec
No-logs policy
P2P servers
Double-hop servers

Cons:

Expensive monthly plan
No free trial
Obnoxious live chat bot
Doesn’t accept PayPal 

For how robust NordVPN is in nearly all areas, it’s surprisingly light on features. The essentials are there, and NordVPN goes further with a range of unique servers, but there are some small extras missing. Namely, there isn’t a speed test or dedicated split tunneling, which ExpressVPN and PureVPN both offer.

That doesn’t mean NordVPN is devoid of features, though. You get a kill switch, which will automatically disconnect you from the internet should the VPN fail. There’s also “app kill,” which is similar to split tunneling, allowing you to use the kill switch only on certain apps. Still, your entire connection is going through the VPN tunnel.

Furthermore, you can set custom DNS servers and obfuscate your OpenVPN packets, though these features have become increasingly common among VPNs. What isn’t common is NordLynx, NordVPN’s proprietary take on WireGuard. We’ll talk more about that in the “security” and “speed” sections below.

Other than those features, there isn’t much. NordVPN offers a few automation options, allowing you to customize how auto-connect works, but that’s it. We like the list of features, overall, though the lack of split tunneling is disappointing. If that were included, this VPN would offer a well-rounded, concise list of features.

CyberSec
The only standout feature is CyberSec, which will block ads and malware when enabled (it’s turned off by default). Although NordVPN claims CyberSec is “an advanced technology solution,” it’s actually pretty simple. It blocks ads and malicious sites using a known blacklist.

In short, whenever you connect, CyberSec will automatically sift through the requests your browser makes. If any of them are directed at a hostname on the blacklist, that request will be blocked. This is far from new tech — nearly every ad blocker in the Chrome store does the same thing — but it’s nice to have bundled with your VPN.

The important thing to note with CyberSec is that it’s an ad blocker first, malware protection second. Sure, it can block malicious sites, but only those on a blacklist. A secure antivirus can usually detect sites and apps that haven’t yet made it onto a blacklist using machine learning.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t use CyberSec — it’s a great ad blocker in its own right — but it’s not a replacement for antivirus software.

Torrenting With NordVPN
The main draw for NordVPN is its unique server offerings, which we’ll get into in the “server locations” section below. On the list are peer-to-peer (P2P) servers, which are built specifically for torrenting. Although you get unlimited bandwidth no matter which server you choose, you should use the P2P ones for torrenting.

Torrenting copyrighted content is illegal in most countries, and although we’re not advocating for breaking the law, you should probably use a VPN if you’re going to torrent. Thankfully, NordVPN is a fine choice for torrenting, earning the top spot in our best VPN for torrenting guide. The P2P servers, combined with NordVPN’s excellent speeds, make it perfect for digital pirates.

NordVPN Router Support
With the goodies out of the way, let’s talk about a less exciting area of features: platform support. Nord offers VPN apps for just about every platform out there, with decent legacy support, to boot. Windows 7 to 10, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux are fully supported with applications. However, you can get NordVPN working on just about any operating system.

NordVPN has a setup guide for nearly every platform you can dream up, from Western Digital network-attached storage to a BlackBerry. If you’re bumping up against your simultaneous connection limit, you can install the VPN on your router, too. Although all local traffic will flow through the VPN tunnel, your router counts as only a single device. Plus, NordVPN is one of our best VPN for routers picks.

Pricing

NordVPN isn’t a cheap VPN service, especially on the monthly end of things. Sure, the month-to-month and annual cost isn’t bad, especially compared to services like Hide.me and Astrill, but we’ve seen cheaper. For example, Mullvad costs only $5 per month, no matter how long you subscribe (read our Mullvad review).

NordVPN comes into its own with long-term subscriptions. With how cheap the per-month cost is for the two- and three-year options, the monthly and annual choices are nearly obsolete. We’re glad they’re around if you can’t drop more than $100 on a VPN at once. Still, if you want to buy in, it’s best to buy in for the long term.

The monthly cost is too high, as is the annual cost, rivaling even ExpressVPN (see how the two compare directly in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison). If you’re interested in a month-to-month or annual subscription, TorGuard and PIA offer excellent rates for durations of less than a year.

Each subscription comes with six simultaneous connections, which is fine considering NordVPN can easily be installed on a router. ExpressVPN offers five simultaneous connections, and CyberGhost offers seven, so six is a fine middle ground.

As for payment, NordVPN accepts nearly everything outside of straight up cash, including bitcoin. The only other thing missing is PayPal, which NordVPN removed about a year ago.

It’s important to note that although NordVPN limits you to six simultaneous connections, you can install the app on as many platforms as you want. That said, only six of those devices can actively be connected at any one time.

Does NordVPN Have a Free Trial?
You’ll get the best value with NordVPN by subscribing for a year or more, but you’ll need to pay upfront. NordVPN doesn’t offer any sort of free trial on its desktop app, at least not in the traditional sense. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee in place, so you have up to a month to change your mind and get a full refund, no questions asked

There is, however, a week-long VPN trial on mobile. Simply download the NordVPN app on iOS or Android and get started. The trial is tied to Google Pay or Apple Pay, depending on your platform, and you’ll need a card on file to take advantage of the trial. Still, that’s a week of protection without spending a dime, at least on your mobile devices.

User Friendliness

NordVPN is dead simple to use, from the no-nonsense signup process to making your first VPN connection. Although the app isn’t as streamlined as services like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, it’s highly intuitive. There’s rarely a question about what you need to do to secure your connection.

Let’s start at the top, though. Signing up for NordVPN is straightforward, with multiple buttons on the site leading to the checkout page. If you can’t find a way to make it to the checkout page, a VPN is probably above your pay grade. Once there, all you need to do is select a plan, enter your email and choose a payment method.

You can then download the app, either by going to the “VPN apps” section of the site or by logging in and going to the “downloads” tab. When you log in, there’s a dashboard where you can purchase a dedicated IP, view your billing history and set up the browser extension. More on that last one in a bit.

Speed

As with all of our speed tests, we tested NordVPN using OpenVPN UDP with AES-256 encryption. That way, we can easily compare NordVPN with the fastest VPN providers out there because OpenVPN with AES-256 is pretty much universal across servers.

Outside of the New York location, we let NordVPN do the heavy lifting, automatically selecting the fastest VPN server for the region we were testing.

NordVPN gave us some wildly inconsistent results on OpenVPN, at least at first. For instance, the automatic server in the U.S. returned a download speed of around 1 Mbps on our first trial. That’s not a typo. We mean one megabit per second for a server that should be down the road.

With our speed testing tool, we had to manually select a testing location because it picked a server in France to test from. This is similar behavior to what we experienced with AirVPN.

This didn’t happen across locations, though. For example, our manually selected New York testing location, had no problems. Either our ISP or the operator of the data center is routing the connection through another location (in this case, France). Still, NordVPN showed impressive results when everything was working properly.

That said, NordVPN didn’t display the gradient we expect when moving further from our testing location. For instance, the UK server was faster than the recommended server in the U.S.

As we’ve seen with NordVPN before, it’s not always the best at selecting the fastest location (though it seems to have improved). Because of that, it’s worth manually selecting a server if your connection is slow.

Security

In recent versions of the app, NordVPN has done away with less secure VPN protocols. On Windows, you get the choice between OpenVPN and NordLynx, the latter of which is NordVPN’s take on WireGuard. NordVPN supports IKEv2/IPSec, too, though you’ll need to configure it manually.

As far as VPN security goes, OpenVPN with AES-256 has been the standard for decades, and that’s what NordVPN uses out of the box. AES-256 is nearly impossible to crack without a few billion years and a supercomputer (read our description of encryption for more on that).

Still, NordVPN is looking toward the future. Although OpenVPN is and has been the best option, it will become outdated at some point.

That’s where NordLynx comes in. NordLynx is basically WireGuard with a double NAT for a secure connection. WireGuard’s streamlined code makes it ideal for speed, but it’s no slouch when it comes to security. WireGuard uses the newer ChaCha20 cipher for encryption, which offers 256-bit encryption while being, apparently, faster than AES.

With the limited information about ChaCha20, it appears faster and more secure than AES. That said, AES has been around much longer than ChaCha and, as such, has been used and tested far more. ChaCha20 is more efficient while providing similar levels of security, though it’s still not as widely adopted as AES.

All of this is to say that NordLynx is impressive, but it hasn’t been put through the wringer quite yet. That’s not to say it’s insecure — far from it, in fact — just that you probably shouldn’t use it in high-risk situations. For streaming and torrenting, though, ChaCha20 provides ample protection while being much faster.

To test its security, we ran a series of DNS leak tests, seeing if NordVPN was leaking DNS and WebRTC requests or our source IP address. On OpenVPN, everything was fine, which isn’t too surprising. Everything was fine with NordLynx, too, though. Rerunning the tests, we didn’t encounter any leaks, even when using Nord’s ultra-fast new protocol.

The NordVPN Hack

We don’t want to add fuel to the fire that was the coverage of NordVPN’s security breach. NordVPN received a lot of bad press, and rightfully so. However, we’re not in the business of spreading misinformation about the specifics of the breach, even if it’s severity was high. We’re here to simply let you know what happened.

In short, an attacker got a hold of a server configuration file from a location in NordVPN’s network. That attacker found a vulnerability, stealing the NordVPN TLS certificate and gaining access to a single server.

Although it was a severe breach, nothing came of it. There’s no evidence that the attacker monitored any traffic, and the TLS key expired well before the attacker could put up a fake NordVPN site.

It’s a serious problem and, as such, NordVPN responded seriously, auditing every server in its network and commissioning security testing.

However, it’s important to remember that this is a data center issue. Although VPN providers often own the servers in their network, they rarely operate them. The vulnerability was a result of the data center’s poor security practices, not NordVPN’s.

Still, it’s NordVPN’s problem by proxy, and responding with an audit is the best answer. Nord isn’t off the hook, though. Out of this whole mess, the problem isn’t that NordVPN was hacked. Rather, it’s that NordVPN didn’t make the issue public until a year after it happened, presumably in response to the growing number of users speculating about it online.

Sometimes breaches happen, and it’s better to judge the company on how it responds, not on the breach itself (read our review of LastPass to see the best way to respond to a hack). NordVPN wasn’t upfront about the problem right away. Although it eventually ‘fessed up, it came far too late.

Privacy

NordVPN makes it clear at the beginning of its privacy policy that its top priority is customer data security. It maintains a no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t monitor or store any information about your connection or what you do online. It’s location in Panama helps the matter, too, as this country has some of the best privacy laws in the world.

Before getting to the VPN, let’s talk about what information is collected when you sign up. NordVPN requires an email address and payment method. Your email address must be valid — meaning you have to have access to it — so you can’t create one just to sign up. Depending on your payment method, you’ll also need to provide billing information, though this data is handled by a third party.

That’s it, as far as signup information goes, which isn’t bad, all things considered. Yes, you’ll need access to the email you signed up with, but there are plenty of anonymous email options (read our ProtonVPN review for more on that). Nord also accepts crypto, so you can pay anonymously, too.

When you actually use NordVPN, it knows nothing about you. Your login information is used for authentication, but that’s the extent of collection for the local application. The only thing Nord collects is some server load information, which allows it to recommend the fastest locations without needing to dig through the massive service list.

Privacy is all thumbs up, outside of a sneaky setting hidden inside NordVPN’s app. The “help us improve” setting sends anonymous data to Nord, which includes crash reports, your OS version, how you use features in the app and “marketing performance.”

“Marketing performance” is the kicker. In an app designed to maintain your privacy, there’s a setting that helps the company providing the app gauge its marketing performance.

Furthermore, this setting is enabled by default. This is all anonymous data, and frankly, it’s fine that NordVPN wants to collect it. The problem is that the setting is turned on from the get-go. This should be turned off, with the option to opt in, not opt out. Still, as long as you go in the settings and flick the toggle, it’s a non issue, unlike Encrypt.me which literally tells you it will contact you for marketing purposes (read our Encrypt.me review).

Streaming Performance

NordVPN’s streaming performance is excellent, for the most part, which is why it made our list of the best VPNs for streaming. That said, we encountered some strange behavior when using NordLynx. Although we never got a proxy error, the stream would sometimes refuse to load, forcing us to reconnect.

On OpenVPN, though, everything was fine. We were able to access Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and BBC iPlayer without any problems. NordVPN has always been a streaming behemoth, and that hasn’t changed. Even when switching servers multiple times, each streaming platform loaded like it was a local session.

Using NordVPN With Netflix

With OpenVPN, NordVPN is great for streaming. However, as we mentioned, we encountered some issues with NordLynx. They happened across Hulu and Netflix, but more so with Netflix. NordVPN is still on our list of the best VPNs for Netflix, but we had to reconnect multiple times with NordLynx to get a stream working.

Other times, though, it works without any problems. NordVPN is still a great choice for Netflix, especially with how fast NordLynx is. Be warned, though, that it seems to be a little temperamental right now.

We’re not sure what’s causing the slowdown, because Netflix isn’t actually blocking the NordLynx connection. Hopefully it’s a small issue on NordVPN’s end that can be fixed in a patch.

NordVPN’s Specialty Servers

NordVPN offers six types of servers. There are your standard servers, which encrypt your traffic and make up the majority of the network, as well as dedicated IP servers, which are available at an additional cost. Everyone has access to the four specialty server types, though, which can bolster your security in a number of ways.

Of the lot, the Double VPN servers are the most interesting, which sends your connection through two VPN tunnels before going to the open internet. This technique — first used by our best free VPN Windscribe — doubles up the encryption of your connection at the cost of speed (read our Windscribe review). For situations where security is important above all else, though, they’re nice to have.

Otherwise, you have access to dedicated P2P servers, obfuscated servers and Onion over VPN servers. Although NordVPN offers a lot of different server types, they aren’t available across locations.

For example, the U.S. location has access to everything, while Germany is missing a Double VPN option. Thankfully, it’s easy to filter by server type in the app so you can quickly find a location.

NordVPN FAQ

Is NordVPN Really Private?
NordVPN maintains a strict no-logs policy, which has been audited by a third party. That means that the VPN can’t see your source IP address, browsing history or anything else about you. The only thing NordVPN keeps on record is an email address for account creation purposes.

How Much Does NordVPN Cost per Month?
NordVPN costs $11.95 per month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can save a lot by subscribing for a longer duration, though. For example, the three-year plan costs only $3.49 per month.

What Does NordVPN Actually Do?
NordVPN is a virtual private network that encrypts your internet traffic while spoofing your IP address. In short, that means no one can see what you’re doing online. Furthermore, you can get an IP address in another location to unlock region-specific streaming libraries.