NordVPN review: Fast and packed with features
At a Glance
- Great feature set
- Excellent speeds
- No-logs policy
- Attractive and intuitive interface
NordVPN offers a lot. There are a ton of country connections available—all of which seem to work with Netflix—built-in antivirus and ad blocking, and some of the fastest server speeds around. It also offers multi-hop connections, P2P file sharing, and split tunneling. It’s expensive, but you get a lot of great value for your money.
Price When Reviewed
$4.92 per month
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NordVPN in brief:
- P2P allowed: Yes, on dedicated servers
- Simultaneous device connections: Up to six
- Business location: Panama
- Number of servers: 5000+
- Number of country locations: 60+
- Cost: $12.99 per month or $100.56 for two years
NordVPN is one of the most well-known VPNs with a massive user-base. The trusted premium service is notable for its excellent speeds, a generous and wide server spread, and an impressive set of security features. And in its aim to be more than just a VPN, the service has expanded into a larger umbrella organization known as Nord Security, offering other services such as the NordPass password manager, NordLocker for secure file storage, and business tools like NordLayer and NordWL.
Note: See our roundup of thebest VPNs to learn more about competing products, what to look for in a VPN, and product recommendations.
NordVPN: Features and services
Let’s get this out front right now, NordVPN is one of the largest and most well-funded VPNs around. It has a user base of over 14 million and is only one part of the larger conglomerate known as Nord Security. As one would expect, it has all of the features users have come to expect from a top-level VPN service and more.
The VPN itself is supported by most major platforms such as Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and a lot more. It also allows for six simultaneous device connections, which, while okay, is not extraordinary. It is honestly a little disappointing that a VPN service as large as NordVPN doesn’t allow for unlimited device connections like some of its competitors.
Its customer support services are available 24/7 via chat or email and it also has an extensive blog and FAQ section on its website should you run into trouble and want to solve the problem on your own.
When you first open NordVPN on Windows, you’re presented with a minimalist and user-friendly interface. The left-hand rail includes quick links for VPN, Threat Protection, Meshnet connectivity, and Dark Web Monitoring. At the bottom you also have interface options for Contact Usyour personalized Security Score, and Settings. The rest of the app window is filled with a world map that you can drag around and select a specific country and server to connect to for the VPN. There is also a small box with options for quick connect—allowing you to automatically connect to the fastest available server, and a history of the last five servers you connected to for reference.
Digging deeper into the Settings menu, you’ll find a ton of power-user options including a Kill Switch and App Kill Switch. The latter stops any app from connecting to the internet if an active VPN connection drops, while the former does that for the entire PC.
There are also options for Split Tunneling and Auto-connect. Split Tunneling allows you to choose which apps you specifically want to run through a VPN connection and which you do not. This is really useful if you want to surf the web while protected with a VPN, but also play games without the potential extra latency that comes with an active VPN connection.
Auto-connect is a nice feature that comes standard with most VPN services. However, what makes NordVPN’s auto-connect feature stand out is the ability to customize the connection itself. You can, for example, automatically connect to a double VPN or a specific country. You can also choose whether to connect whenever the app starts or only on “unsecure networks.”
Heading back out to the main menu, you’ll be able to check out the other features that come included in the NordVPN subscription. Under the Threat Protection menu you’ll have options to enable Nord’s CyberSec, which provides real-time protection against malware and trackers, as well as ad blocking and file-download protection.
NordVPN has also recently upgraded its services to offer Meshnet. Powered via NordLynx (NordVPN’s version of the WireGuard VPN protocol), Meshnet allows you to connect to another device instead of a VPN server, thereby routing online traffic through another machine. Device pairings are required to be authorized by any and all parties, and once connected, traffic between devices is still encrypted. This is a really unique feature and allows users to collaborate with remote file sharing, or resurrect old-school LAN parties, or even gives users the option to connect to the internet via a home computer from a different location.
During our testing we rated connection speeds across NordVPN’s servers in five different countries around the world and then compared them to our baseline internet speed. NordVPN’s server speeds came through with flying colors. We noted an impressive average of 73 percent of the base download speed and an even more impressive 80 percent of the base upload speed. That easily makes it the VPN with the fastest average connections we have ever tested.
With those speeds, users will have no issues being able to stream HD video or play games across almost any NordVPN server—depending of course on their own home internet speed. Please note, however, that this is a single experience on a limited number of machines, and your own experience may vary.
NordVPN also advertises that it works with Netflix, and during testing we found that this was true for all of the servers we tried. However, even with top VPNs, it’s not uncommon to experience streaming-service issues. This is because there’s a continual cat-and-mouse game between Netflix’s anti-VPN enforcement and VPN service providers that try to maneuver around blockages.
NordVPN: Security and privacy
During our review, we found that NordVPN goes to great lengths to honor user privacy. Even during sign-up, it only requires an email address. Paying for the service can be done via credit card, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, or various cryptocurrencies, thereby maintaining another level of anonymity.
Since the company is based in Panama, it’s not subject to mandatory data-retention laws or other internet surveillance rules. Additionally, NordVPN states that it has a “strict no-logs policy,” meaning that it doesn’t store timestamps, browsing data, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses, or any other personally identifiable information on users. This no-logs policy has been confirmed three times by independent auditors—once in 2018, again in 2020, and the latest in January 2023.
NordVPN uses standard AES encryption with 256-bit keys. A few years ago it also jumped on the diskless production-server bandwagon for added security. Diskless servers don’t store any information on them at all. They are controlled and booted from a remote server and everything thus runs on RAM. This process makes it extremely difficult to pull any user data from these servers.
The service offers three internet protocols: IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and NordLynx (NordVPN’s proprietary version of WireGuard VPN). NordVPN recommends NordLynx as the go-to protocol due to its potential for better speeds and security.
There’s been a lot of effort to get users to trust NordVPN since it was hacked back in 2018, and we’re happy to see all of the great strides it’s made. The no-logs independent audits, the diskless servers, and the increased transparency of its company structure as a whole have all been extremely positive in helping promote privacy and repair trust among its user base.
Should you use NordVPN?
NordVPN continues to be a fantastic service that only keeps getting better with each new added feature. Admittedly, the price is on the high side for a VPN. But with such a rich feature set, NordVPN users will undoubtedly get their money’s worth.
Despite all of its value, there are other competitors with certain individual features that are better than NordVPN’s. Bubbles VPN does more to maximize anonymity, while services such as Surfshark VPN and IPVanish offer unlimited simultaneous device connections.
In an ultra-competitive market, what ultimately makes NordVPN stand out from its competitors is its consistent growth and optimization. It is continually upgrading its security features and incorporating new technologies such as Meshnet and NordLynx. If you add this perpetual improvement to a service that already has solid speeds, admirable security features, and works with Netflix, then NordVPN deserves its place as one of the best choices around.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
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Author: Sam SingletonAssistant Editor
Sam Singleton is a tech editor located in Japan. At PCWorld, he covers productivity software, laptops, and a wide gamut of consumer-grade hardware and software.