NordVPN is lightning-fast, and it is ultra-secure. It has specialized servers for specialized tasks. It unblocks Netflix US and even bypasses the Great Firewall of China with its obfuscated servers. It is reasonably priced.
Looking at all these factors, I can say for sure that NordVPN is one of the best VPNs available in the market. With military-grade AES encryption, 5700+ servers spread across 60+ countries, a strict no-logs policy, Nord has very few fierce competitors.
Yes, there are some drawbacks that I didn't like, but they are too few, and they should never be an impediment to selecting NordVPN as a trusted VPN provider.
Thus, without further ado, let us take a deep dive into NordVPN review and find out what makes it so powerful and which areas it has to improve on to become the undisputed king of the domain.
My Ratings for NordVPN | Overall: 9.90
This entire NordVPN review has eight broad segments, and the individual ratings for each section are in the table below:
|Parameter for Rating||Our Rating|
|UI and User Experience||9.8|
The Pros and Cons of NordVPN
Nord has its strengths, and then, there are weaknesses. Here is a quick list of the pros and cons of NordVPN:
- NordVPN has one of the largest server pools in the world. It has over 5700+ servers spread over 60+ countries.
- There are no virtual servers.
- There are multiple specialized servers.
- It is not a part of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes alliance.
- It has military-grade 256-bit AES encryption that is used by NSA (US intelligence) and US military.
- It offers the CyberSec security suite free of cost, which comes integrated with an adblocker.
- It offers double data encryption.
- It has no IP/DNS leaks.
- It is swift.
- It supports torrenting and other P2P activities.
- It is capable of unblocking geo-restricted content, including Netflix USA.
- It can comfortably bypass the Great Firewall of China.
- It is the best VPN for gaming because of its high speeds.
- It is capable of pairing with Onion Router (or Tor) to offer complete anonymity.
- It comes with an integrated Kill Switch.
- It has a collection of specialty servers, including obfuscated servers.
- It allows split tunneling (but only for mobile applications).
- It allows six multiple connections against a single license.
- The user interface is straightforward and easy, offering a great experience.
- It doesn't use RAM storage.
- Split tunneling is absent for the desktop version.
- There are inconsistencies in mobile applications (but that doesn't hamper the user experience).
- It is not capable of unblocking the DZAN streaming service.
- Low price is available only for long-term plans.
- There is no free trial.
- NordVPN does not offer discounts if you buy a subscription through Apple App Store or iTunes.
- There are some hidden clauses.
NordVPN at a Glance
Wondering where is NordVPN located or what are the platforms it supports? Here is a quick table to answer all your basic questions:
|Location of NordVPN||Panama|
|Year of Foundation||2008|
|Storage Type||Hard drive|
|Logging Policy||Strictly no logging|
|5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes Alliance||Not a member of any such alliance|
|Number of Simultaneous Connections||Six connections against one license|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Proxy, Router, NAS, and more|
|Refund Policy||30-day money-back guarantee|
Now that you are aware of NordVPN basics, it is time that I walk you through the NordVPN review and share my experience with this VPN. Gear up!
NordVPN Security – It's Fort Knox, It's Kremlin | Rating 10/10
In today's digital world, hackers aren't the only threat that we face. We have security agencies that keep a tab on our online activities.
We have our ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who are time and again blamed for tracking our online activities and then selling the same to companies.
Result? Unsolicited advertisements keep blasting us! ISPs are not the only culprits. Many websites and services keep doing so.
ISPs are also bound to disclose our information whenever the government asks for it. Some countries where this happens include the US, the UK, Russia, etc. Why does this happen? On the name of national security!
When ISPs share our information, both they and the governments breach our privacy. You and I have the power of stopping this from happening if we decide to use a VPN that will hide our online activities.
When we use a VPN, all our data and our online activities are encrypted. Our data passes through a protected tunnel. No one can see it. No one can access it. No one breaches our privacy.
But not all VPNs are trustworthy. Not every VPN has proper security features in place and often leak our information. No wonder, I always look at the security of a VPN before using it.
What did I find? Read on to know more.
Military Grade 256-bit AES Encryption
What is AES? It stands for Advanced Encryption Standard. The 256-bit AES encryption is the most advanced encryption algorithm available today. It is approved and recommended by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).
This encryption method takes a plain text and converts into ciphertext using a key that has a length of 256 bits. This length means that even if someone is trying to break it using a brute force attack, there will be 1.1 x 1077 possible combinations.
In simple words, the current computing power is simply not enough to break this encryption using the brute force method. NordVPN uses this encryption method.
In addition to this encryption method, NordVPN uses two different VPN protocols. The two protocols are:
OpenVPN is the default protocol for Windows PC, macOS, and Android. IKEv2/IPsec is the default for iOS and is also available for macOS apps. It doesn't matter which protocol you choose. Both are ultra-secure.
Double VPN Feature
In addition to the above encryption method and VPN protocols, NordVPN also provides a feature of Double VPN.
When you use a VPN, all your data gets encrypted. This the default method for any VPN. How about encrypting the data twice and that, too, using the 256-bit AES encryption?
NordVPN has this feature. If you wish, you can use the special Double VPN server where your data will pass through two different servers. The first server will encrypt the data. The encrypted data will get encrypted once again when it passes through the next server.
A single 256-bit AES encryption is impossible to break. Think about what happens when the encrypted data gets another layer of encryption. You get it, right?
There is a problem with Double VPN. Since your data will pass through two servers, it will travel a longer distance. It will slow down your speed, and this is the tradeoff you need to accept.
In addition to that, encrypting the data on the fly also takes some time. This encryption process, too, slows down the speed. So, use Double VPN only when necessary.
Generally, when you are trying to conduct some financial transactions online, using Double VPN makes sense. Using it for daily browsing is pointless.
Perfect Forward Secrecy Feature
When encryption of data takes place, there are security keys involved. There are secret keys without which no one can decrypt the encrypted data.
NordVPN ensures that for every session, the security key or the secret key changes. It means that even if some hacker somehow manages to steal a security key, he or she cannot use it for the next session. This perfect forward secrecy feature enhances the security of data.
This feature of changing the security key for every session is known as perfect forward secrecy.
No IP/DNS Leak On Nord Servers
There are times when your computer will revert to default DNS servers even when you are using a VPN. A situation like that can happen if the VPN you are using doesn't have DNS leak protection in place.
If your DNS reverts to default DNS servers, your ISP can see what you are doing on the Internet. NordVPN ensures that there is no IP/DNS leak.
I tested NordVPN's 100+ servers in 35 different locations using IPLEAK.NET. Each test result returned the following:
- IPv6 not detected.
- No forward IP detected.
What do the results mean? Simple! NordVPN is a clean VPN. Once you start using Nord, no one can detect your IP address.
I repeated the tests with Browserleaks.com and IPX.ac. None of these services succeeded in telling me my true location. In both cases, I connected to the servers in India.
Just for fun, I even scanned the installer package of NordVPN using virtualtotal.com. VirtualTotal did not report any malicious codes like malware or viruses. The installer file came out clean.
Did I say that if you use the Auto-Connect option of Nord when your computer or device starts, NordVPN will keep you invisible even in the LAN or Local Area Network? It is a cool feature.
No Logs Policy of NordVPN
NordVPN works with a promise of no logs, and they adhere to it. However, there is one problem. NordVPN still uses hard drive storage on their servers.
I don't prefer such storage type when it comes to VPNs. Hard drive storage means that all your encrypted data remains stored on those hard drives.
Because of the no-logs policy, NordVPN periodically wipes off the data manually. It still leaves some concern because unless the data in manually erased, it will stay.
The problem of manual erasing does not exist with RAM storage. RAM or ‘Random Access Memory' is temporary storage that clears itself whenever a computer starts or reboots. RAM storage should be the usual or preferred storage method for all VPN providers.
NordVPN has reported that it is in the process of replacing hard drive storage with RAM storage. Once the process completes, it will be a great security feature.
Jurisdiction of NordVPN
Whenever you choose a VPN, always take a look at this. In case you do not know, let me tell you that there is an international alliance under which various countries have agreed to share information about the online activities of their citizens.
The USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc. are some of the countries in the world that are a part of this alliance.
Initially, five countries were in the alliance. Later, the member countries increased to nine, and then finally to 14 countries. So, if a VPN provider has business registration in any of the member countries, it is not trustworthy.
Such VPN providers can claim that they have strict no logs policy, but if the government asks for the data, they have to share the information with government or security agencies.
Interestingly, Panama is the country of origin of NordVPN. Panama is not a member of the original 5 Eyes or later, 9 Eyes, and then 14 Eyes alliance. The privacy laws of Panama do not require the company to share any information with the government or any international coalition.
Your privacy is guaranteed!
Speed of NordVPN – Fastest VPN Available! Rating: 10/10
People often say that NordVPN is the fastest VPN available in the world. It sounded like a hype. So, I decided to test it. I tested various servers of NordVPN and even compared the speed to 20 other VPN providers.
I had to accept the claim finally. Indeed, NordVPN is the fastest VPN available. However, do not think that using Nord will increase the speed compared to what you get without any VPN. That is not possible.
There are two reasons. First, when you use a VPN, your data is encrypted. Encryption takes time. Second, once the server completes the encryption, the information is then passed through a different secure server to reach the final destination. At the final destination, the server will decrypt the data. Encryption and decryption take time.
Because your data will travel a longer distance and encryption and decryption will take place, there will be a slowdown. You cannot do anything about it.
Apart from these reasons, other factors also determine the speed. They are:
- The location of the VPN server that you are trying to connect with is also a significant factor. For instance, if you are in Sri Lanka, and you are trying to connect to a VPN server in Canada, there will be a drop in speed. Your data will have to travel a very long distance. But, if you try to connect to a server in say, India, while your location is Sri Lanka, the data travels a shorter distance. You will not experience a sharp drop in speed.
- The time during the day when you are using the VPN will also determine the speed of your connection.
- If you decide to connect to a VPN server that is recommended by the VPN provider, the chances are high that the speed will be drop. It happens because most of the people will use the recommended server, resulting in increased server load, thereby slowing down the connection speed.
- The speed will also depend on the speed of your Internet connection.
Speed Test Results
To test the NordVPN connection speed, I used a fiber broadband connection. I did not use any router. I connected to both the recommended servers and the manually selected servers. I also used the servers located both close to and far from my location. The test results are in the table below:
|Server Location||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Percentage Drop in Download Speed|
|Speed without VPN||84.0 Mbps||76.8 Mbps||0% (baseline figure)|
|Recommended Server in the US||72.4 Mbps||66.6 Mbps||~14%|
|Manually Selected Server in New York||79.0 Mbps||65.4 Mbps||~6%|
|Manually Selected Server in San Francisco||76.7 Mbps||68.2 Mbps||~8.7%|
|Server in the UK||66.8 Mbps||52.3 Mbps||~21%|
|Sever in Germany||69.0 Mbps||59.6 Mbps||~18%|
|Server in Australia||54.1 Mbps||24.8 Mbps||~36%|
|Server in India||36.7 Mbps||21.0 Mbps||~56%|
Something is unusual in the table above. Notice that the download speed I received when I connected to US servers that I manually selected is more than the server speed I received when I chose the recommended server.
Again, the further the server location, the slower the speed! It is valid for any server you select. The bigger the distance of the server from your site, the slower will be the speed. So, I always recommend that you connect to a server closest to you.
While it is easy and convenient to go ahead and select the recommended server, it is often worth spending time selecting a server manually. The chances are that the server that you manually select will have fewer users compared to the server recommended by NordVPN.
Fewer users mean less server load and hence, better connection speed.
The maximum drop I encountered was for a server in India and also for a server located in Thailand. What happened, happened because of the distance. I was connecting to a server on the other side of the world. That's a very long-distance connection. The longer distance the data needs to travel, the slower the speed you get.
I did not experience any problem while streaming content from services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc. Even when I selected a server in India, there was no buffering or decline in video quality.
It is exceptional!
NordVPN Speed versus Other VPNs
This segment is attractive. I did compare NordVPN speed against the speed offered by other VPN providers like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, PrivateVPN, SurfShark, IPVanish, and Vyper. It turns out that none of them manages to beat NordVPN.
For my comparison, I selected ten different servers all over the USA and Europe for each of the VPNs I wanted to compare. I went forward to find the average for Nord and each one of them separately. Finally, I calculated the mean of the average speed for all other VPNs except Nord (because I wanted to compare them to Nord).
Here are the results I found:
|Average of top 6 VPNs||Average of NordVPN|
|Time to connect to servers||11 seconds||8.5 seconds|
|Download speed drop||26 Mbps||22 Mbps|
|Upload speed drop||34 Mbps||19 Mbps|
Here is the list of specific conditions under which I tested:
- Base internet speed provided by my ISP: 85 Mbps.
- Connection type: Broadband (Fiber Optics).
- Router: No.
- Operating System: Windows 10 (on desktop).
- Time of the day: 11 AM onwards.
- VPN Protocol: UDP.
- Server selection: Manual (randomly) but all of them in the US.
You may try to replicate the results, but the chances are that you will fail to replicate. The reason is simple. It will depend on your location, your Internet speed, the distance of the server you choose from your site, the server you select, etc.
My tests revealed that NordVPN beats all well-known competitors in this segment. With the speeds I received from different servers of Nord, I could easily play games without any problem, and I could enjoy streaming services without any buffering or quality loss.
With SurfShark, for instance, I lost my entire game. The connection speed with SurfShark is not sufficient to play online games. NordVPN should be the one you select for this purpose.
ExpressVPN and CyberGhost didn't perform that great, and yes, I did experience some lag while playing games, and that was seriously disturbing!
If happen to be a fan of online gaming or network-based gaming, you must be aware of the fact that speed and precision are the two most important factors. If a VPN fails to give you the necessary speed, your accuracy will take a hit.
What to Do If You Get Slow Server Speed?
If you are experiencing a slow server speed while using NordVPN, there is nothing much you can do. However, you can always try out the following things:
- Choose a server location close to where you stay.
- Instead of selecting the recommended server, try to choose a server manually.
- If you are using the Double VPN specialty servers, change it to a standard VPN server with a single layer of encryption.
- Change the VPN protocol to UDP from TCP protocol. To achieve this, click on the cog icon on the top of the application. Under the Auto-Connect option, turn off the option that reads, “Choose a VPN protocol and server automatically.” Then, from the VPN protocol dropdown option, use the OpenVPN open. Generally, the default option is OpenVPN. In case you don't see OpenVPN (UDP) selected by default, choose that option.
Streaming with NordVPN | Rating: 9.8/10
More than gaming, I am a big fan of watching movies and TV series. I have my defensive arguments to prove my point, but I am not going to bother you with those.
Considering my love for such things, I will always prefer a VPN that allows me to enjoy streaming services without buffering and video quality loss.
The speed of NordVPN caught me flat on my foot. The high speed allowed me to watch various streaming services with no buffering or video quality loss.
However, I love to watch programs across geographic borders. Unfortunately, many services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO GO, or HBO NOW, etc. have geo-restrictions in place.
In simple words, if you are in, say, Japan and you want to watch Netflix USA, you cannot. Likewise, I am from the USA, but I often love watching Netflix for Australia or other countries. Without a VPN, I cannot.
NordVPN's Ability to Bypass Geo-Restrictions
With NordVPN, I could not only watch Netflix or Amazon Prime content available in other countries, but I could also enjoy the local channels of those countries.
What about Netflix USA? Can NordVPN bypass Netflix's geo-restrictions and access the US library?
It is a common question asked by people across the world. Since I am from the USA, I cannot answer that! I already have access to US content, and I don't need a VPN to watch anything on Netflix.
I still tried to access Netflix US using NordVPN. I could access the content without any problem. To ensure that this bypass works, I called up a friend in Australia and one in India. I gave them my license and asked them to access Netflix US. They did without any problem.
I went ahead and asked them to access Amazon Prime, HBO GO, Hulu, and other services. They could access all of them. They reported no drop in video quality, and neither did they face any buffering even from long-distance connections.
That was a pleasant surprise.
Here is the list of services that my friends and I managed to unblock using NordVPN:
|Service||Unblocked by NordVPN|
|France2 (Local channel of France)||Yes|
|SBS Australia (Local channel of Australia)||Yes|
There are specific servers of Nord, which will take you to Netflix US library even if you want to land on the Netflix page of some other country. But that's fine because the US page of Netflix contains 99% of all Netflix content.
NordVPN vs. The Great Firewall of China
China is one of those countries where people experience heavy Internet censorship. Chinese people or foreigners in China can't access something on the Internet that has been blocked by the Great Firewall of China.
I have never been to China, and I never knew that NordVPN has the solution to this problem. It suddenly clicked to me that one of my friends visited China in 2018, and she told me that she used Google, used Amazon Prime, Netflix, and more while she was there.
At that point, I did not pay attention, but it clicked while writing this review. The next moment I was on a call with my friend.
She explained that she used NordVPN to access content and service that the Great Firewall of China had blocked.
Upon further questioning, she revealed the following:
- She had NordVPN installed on her laptop before she left for China.
- When she was in China, she used the specialized obfuscated Nord servers to access the restricted content.
- Nord still failed to access certain content even with obfuscated servers.
Make sure that you have already installed Nord on your laptop or phone before you reach China. You cannot install the application (cannot even access the NordVPN website) from inside China. The only servers capable of bypassing the Great Firewall of China are the obfuscated servers.
I will discuss the functioning of the obfuscated serves later in this NordVPN review. For now, all I will say is that NordVPN is one of the very few VPN services capable of bypassing the Chinese firewall.
It can unblock 400+ different streaming services (though I tested only 10 of them), barring the famous DZAN. Because it cannot unblock DZAN, I rated it 9.8. If you are not a fan of DZAN, you can happily rate it 10.
NordVPN Features | Rating 9.8
NordVPN is one of the leading VPNs in the world. It is feature-rich, but there are certain things that I wish were present. So, what's there and what's not there? Let's find out.
Specialty Servers Offered by Nord
NordVPN has several specialized servers that perform specialized tasks. I appreciate this feature, and I guess you will understand it too. Here is a complete list of specialty servers that Nord has to offer:
Double VPN Servers
I told you about this earlier. You should use these servers wisely. Only when you need extreme security, using these servers makes sense. For instance, you can use these servers for online banking, online purchases, etc.
However, if you are using a VPN for merely browsing the web or simply to stream from Netflix or Amazon Prime or such similar streaming services, not using Double VPN servers is always wise. Double VPN servers will give slower speeds.
P2P Servers – Is NordVPN Good for Torrenting?
Torrenting has become risky. The massive government crackdown on torrenting websites in the not so distant past tells the story of the hate story between law and torrenting sites.
We are all aware of what happened to great websites like Extratorrents, The Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, etc. It is not that they no longer exist. They exist but mostly as proxy sites supported mainly by privacy warriors and copyleft supporters.
Still, when you try to download anything from a torrent site, you put yourself at risk. Your IP address is exposed. Your ISP can see what you are doing and what you are downloading. They can quickly report your activities to the government authorities and security agencies.
If that happens, you get into an awful lot of legal problems.
However, you can circumvent all these threats using the P2P or torrenting servers offered by NordVPN.
These servers use public IP addresses that different people use at the same time. So, finding out your actual IP will be impossible. On top of that, the servers will encrypt all your outgoing traffic and incoming traffic.
Your ISP will never know what you are doing online, and you can safely download torrent files without worrying about any legal problems.
NordVPN proudly advertises itself as a service that never throttles the connection to P2P servers and that there are no limits to the bandwidth. That's a big claim!
What if someone tries to download a file that is, say, 100GB or larger? Downloading such big files will put a lot of load on the server. So, I decided to download a few things to see whether the claims made by NordVPN are valid or not. Here is what I found:
- I downloaded eight files simultaneously with each file measuring 20+ GB.
- I received a download speed of up to 5 Mbps for each file except one file, a documentary from 2012. This file had a download speed of ~800 Kbps.
I really cannot blame the download speed of ~800 Kbps on the Nord servers. There is a very crucial factor that anyone should take into account. It is none other than the number of available peers. If that number is low, download speed does take a hit. The documentary that I downloaded had only 26 connected peers, whereas, for download speeds of ~5 Mbps, the number of connected peers was more than 400.
So, I can say with certainty that torrenting with NordVPN is an excellent option.
Dedicated IP Servers
Dedicated IP servers are one of the most remarkable features of NordVPN that I came across. Did you know that a dedicated IP can save you from a lot of troubles? Wondering how?
Allow me to explain.
- When you use a VPN, you primarily use shared IP. A shared IP is one that is used by many users at a time. Public IP leaves a probability that some users will start doing nasty things using that IP. Such activities will create a bad-neighbor effect. Many services will go ahead and block that shared or public IP. As a result, all users who were using the IP will suffer because of one bad neighbor. With a dedicated IP, you will never face this problem.
- When you carry out banking activities over the VPN, you may connect to different VPN servers. Your bank will see various IP addresses, and it will lead to some suspicion. The bank can go forward and block your bank account.
- There may be streaming services that entire block and ban specific IP addresses belonging to VPNs. If you use a dedicated IP, those streaming services or any other service will not block your IP. You can enjoy those services.
NordVPN has dedicated IP servers where you can use a dedicated IP that you have purchased. These servers are not blocked anywhere. The only problem is that you need to have a dedicated IP that you can buy from various places.
However, if you don't want to go into the hassle of finding a proper seller, you can ask NordVPN to provide one to you. You need to pay for it at a rate of 70 dollars a year.
Are there any problems with dedicated IP addresses? Yes, there is one problem! With a shared IP address, no one can find out. Many people use the same IP in case of a public IP. When you use a dedicated IP, you are the only person who is using it. What does that mean? Simple! Finding you won't be that difficult, after all.
No need to worry, though! Since you will be using NordVPN, the encrypted servers will protect your privacy.
Onion Over VPN Servers
I am pretty sure that you are already aware of the Onion Router or Tor. It came into existence to protect the privacy of people while they are online. All you need to do is to use the popular Tor browser.
The problem with Tor is that while it may hide your online activities, your entry node always remains exposed. It means that the entry node will always give away your real IP address. When people get hold of your actual IP address, they can find you without a problem.
There is yet another problem. Volunteers run the Onion Router, which means that you are always at risk. Such volunteer-run networks are still at risk of brute force attacks.
Here comes the specialized onion over VPN servers of Nord. When you use one of those servers along with Onion Router, Nord hides your entry node, and because Nord servers are always protected using 256-bit AES encryption, they are not vulnerable to brute force attacks.
Obfuscated Server of NordVPN
Earlier in this NordVPN review, I told about how NordVPN manages to bypass the Great Firewall of China using the obfuscated servers. What I did not say was what these servers do to make it possible to bypass Internet censorship.
Here is where you get to know the nifty details.
The obfuscated servers disguise the encrypted traffic from VPN servers as Internet traffic without any form of encryption.
When such traffic hits a firewall like that of the Great Firewall of China, the firewall fails to identify the traffic's point of origin (which is a VPN server). Such firewalls block any traffic from VPN servers.
While using the obfuscated servers of NordVPN, I figured out something interesting. These servers can work only when you are using the OpenVPN protocol.
What does that mean? If you are using NordVPN on any iOS device that uses the IKEv2 protocol, you will need to download the OpenVPN client separately and then create a manual connection. Nord provides OpenVPN for Android users, and so, they don't need to download a separate OpenVPN client.
The Kill Switch
NordVPN is great. It has military-grade encryption, and it offers a Double VPN option. It has perfect forward secrecy, and it doesn't store any logs.
What if the connection to the VPN server suddenly drops? It can happen. Even VPNs are a type of technology, and there can be faults.
A sudden drop in the VPN connection creates a scary scenario. Your online activities become exposed, and all your traffic becomes insecure. Hackers can get hold of your information. ISPs and governments can see what you are doing.
What should you do in a scenario like that?
NordVPN gives you a shield with what is popularly known as the Kill Switch. It is a feature that allows you to configure NordVPN in a way that if the connection to the VPN server drops for any reason, the VPN application will terminate the Internet connection to your device immediately.
What happens when the Internet connection drops? There cannot be any outgoing traffic from your device, and neither will there be any incoming traffic to your device. You will go offline.
Like it or not, going offline is the safest option.
However, if you don't want complete termination of the Internet, you can configure the Kill Switch to terminate the Internet connection for selective applications on your device.
The Kill Switch is a great feature that preserves your privacy. I will always recommend you to end the Internet connection rather than selective termination altogether. The problem with selective termination is that your computer remains exposed to hackers, malware, and other threats.
Issues with the Kill Switch
I found an interesting thing about the Kill Switch of NordVPN. If you are using macOS and you apply the OpenVPN protocol, the Kill Switch you get will allow you to kill Internet connection to only the specified applications. You cannot kill the Internet connection to the whole device.
However, if you decide to use the IKEv2 client, you will get access to both Internet Kill Switch and application-level Kill Switch. So, I will suggest that when you are using macOS, make sure that you are using the IKEv2 client.
NordVPN's Split Tunneling
Does NordVPN offer split tunneling? The answer is both Yes and No. Split tunneling is present for mobile applications, but it is absent on their desktop version.
It is a feature that allows you to encrypt your outgoing and incoming traffic selectively. For instance, if you may be using ten applications. You want to encrypt traffic from only five apps, and for the remaining five, you are least concerned about who is looking into that traffic or who is getting hold of it.
The mobile applications of NordVPN will allow you to either route the entire traffic through NordVPN servers (which is the default setting), or select particular apps. NordVPN will route the traffic of those select apps through their servers while other apps will remain unprotected.
In the case of desktop, the default and the only setting is to route all traffic through Nord servers. There is no way you can select specific apps for which you want both incoming and outgoing traffic to be encrypted.
The closest thing you can get to split tunneling on your desktop is the browser extension. Yes, Nord has browser extensions, and it encrypts all the traffic from your web browser. Everything else is not encrypted.
Mobile Applications of NordVPN
Mobile applications aren't anything unique to NordVPN. Almost every popular VPN provider out there in the market has mobile apps. Nord has them too. It offers mobile apps for both Android and iOS apps.
Both apps are easy to install. Once you install the app on your iOS or Android device, you need to log in and activate the ad-blocker. That's all!
Now, you can either use the ‘Quick Connect' tool or choose a server you want. If you use the ‘Quick Connect' feature, the app will automatically select the best server for you.
Simple Browser Extensions
NordVPN provides browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox. These extensions secure all the traffic through your browser. The most exciting part is that the browser extensions work both on desktop PCs and mobile devices.
Benefits of NordVPN Browser Extensions
- The browser extensions offer access to all 5700+ servers across 60+ locations.
- They have the Block WebRTC feature that provides an extra layer of leak protection. In case you are not aware, almost every web browser in this world is infamous for WebRTC leaks.
- The extensions add Transport Layer Security (TLS v1.2). Because of this protection, you can visit the non-https websites without the fear of your data falling into the wrong hands.
NordVPN has a router app that allows you to install the application directly on a router that supports VPN applications.
What does that mean?
It merely means that once you install Nord on a router, you extend the VPN protection to all the devices connected to the router. This feature is of particular importance when you try to access the Internet using a device that can connect to the Internet only over the Wi-Fi.
There are many such devices. For instance, Smart TVs usually require an active Wi-Fi connection. Various gaming consoles also connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi.
The router app of Nord works more like an umbrella shield. The only problem is that of getting your hands on a router that supports VPN. You can buy one, but they are often quite expensive.
All Servers of Nord are Physical
I liked this thing about Nord. They do not have a single virtual server, and every server they have listed is a physical server.
Many VPN providers use virtual servers. When you try to connect to a server located in a specific country, you will be connecting to a virtual server and not a real physical server.
The only reason why VPN providers often resort to this method is that quite often, the country where the virtual server is present has no reliable physical server. The physical servers available may produce disturbingly low speeds, and they may not have proper security.
Virtual servers ensure that the security is maintained, and users do not experience slow speeds.
Nord, on the other hand, has physical servers only. They don't have any virtual servers. So, you end up connecting to a real server in whichever country you select from the list they provide.
Get CyberSec Suite for Free
When you buy a NordVPN subscription, you get the CyberSec suite without paying anything extra. CyberSec is a security suite that protects you against malware, intrusive ads, phishing attempts, and more.
You and I both know how annoying these intrusive ads can get. They pop up anywhere, anytime without warning. They track our browsing patterns and our online activities. Our browsing pattern is then used by advertisers to push more ads!
CyberSec prevents that from happening.
Blocking intrusive ads is one of the many features of CyberSec. The suite also prevents malware attacks. If, unfortunately, your computer already has malware, CyberSec will cut off the connection of the harmful program to its control server and prevent any DDOS attack that can take place.
CyberSec also blocks phishing scams. It has a long list of websites that are involved in phishing activities. Whenever you try to access a website or a service, CyberSec will run the website against its blacklist, and it will immediately block the site if it finds anything suspicious.
Six Simultaneous Connections for One License
NordVPN allows you to connect six devices against a single license. I, however, managed to create a condition where I could connect as many devices as I want.
All I had to do was to install NordVPN on a VPN-enabled router that I borrowed from my friend. I borrowed a router because I did not want to invest without knowing the facts.
Once I installed it on the router, I could get a VPN connection for all the devices connected to that router. Here is where things get interesting. I had one instance of NordVPN on my desktop and one on the router. So, I used two out of six simultaneous connections allowed against one license.
When I installed it on the router, I had protection for my four smartphones, one smart TV, one gaming console, and two laptops.
Thus, in total, I had nine connected devices and still had four connections left that I could extend to as many devices I wanted just by installing them on VPN-enabled routers!
You can do this too!
User Interface of NordVPN and User Experience | Rating: 9.8
NordVPN requires only 25 MB of space of your computer's hard disk. The installation is straightforward. There is nothing complicated about it.
Once you download the application after buying a subscription, you need to double-click on it. The installation process will begin automatically and walk you through the entire process.
During installation, you will get the option where you can set the application to run during startup. I will suggest that you turn on this option. Doing so will ensure that all your traffic is encrypted right from the beginning.
The great thing about Nord is that the application will give notification about available updates. Yes, it has automatic updates available.
Experience with the Interface
Both the desktop and the mobile versions are super simple. Once you install the application, you will get a list of available servers in different regions.
Select a region and then use the Quick Connect feature to connect to a recommended server or select a server manually and then hit the connect button.
Voila! You will connect to a VPN server within a few seconds.
In case you want, you can always use the interactive map to select the region and a server, but that, I found, was too messy! I had to zoom in continuously for sometime before I could see the exact location of a server.
I don't know why it is there in the first place. Nord can quickly get rid of it, but again, that is my opinion. You may like it. For me, it is a visual catch with no practical utility, especially on mobile devices.
Unfortunately, there are some inconsistencies between the Android app and the iOS app. I will discuss that later in this NordVPN review.
It is because of these inconsistencies that I rated this segment 9.8. The map is a very trivial issue to even consider for rating.
For Linux, I Had to Use Commandline
NordVPN supports Linux desktops. I do have a laptop running the insanely popular Ubuntu desktop. I installed Nord on it and found that the only way to use Nord on Linux is to use the command line.
I am familiar with the command-line interface, and hence, it was easy for me. If you are comfortable, you should find it easy too! If you are new to Linux, using NordVPN can be quite tricky.
The good news is that there are many online tutorials that you can use to master Nord on Linux.
Gaming Experience with NordVPN | Rating: 10
I am not a big fan of online gaming, but I was in for a pleasant surprise when I tried playing Valorant. This high-octane game requires precision and speed. You cannot afford to have a slow connection speed.
A slow connection can cost you the entire game because, in Valorant, you need to make decisions in a fraction of a second. If your Internet connection suffers from packet losses and jitters, it is ‘Game Over!'
When I started playing Valorant over NordVPN, I was mentally prepared to lose the game. That did not happen.
I did face some losses that you can see in the table below:
|Loss in Ping Time||+3.6 ms|
Those of you who have experience with online gaming will know what this table means. If you are not a gamer and you are wondering what it means, let me explain.
Ping: If this increases, the lag increases. So, if your VPN connection is increasing the ping time significantly, you cannot play a game properly. In my case, a +3.6% increase did not show any noticeable impact.
The ping time without a VPN in my case was 24 ms. Adding NordVPN in between increased the ping time to 27.6 ms.
If the ping time is below 55 ms, it is called a “low ping,” and you are good to go when it comes to online gaming. If the ping time is 100 ms or more, it is called “high ping.” If you have high ping, you should not play games online.
Packet Loss: Data transport over the Internet takes place in the form of packets. If there is a packet loss while data transfer takes place, your overall gaming experience will take a hit. So, lower this loss value, the better it is. My experience says that the loss should not exceed 1%.
Jitter: In simple words, “jitter” means lousy sound quality. I experienced zero fluctuations while using NordVPN. The audio quality was just as good as it was without a VPN.
So, my verdict here is straightforward. If you want to use a VPN for online gaming, use NordVPN. It will never disappoint you. It is by far the fastest VPN I have tested so far.
Customer Support of NordVPN | Rating: 10
It is a known fact that customer support is one of the foundation pillars of any business. If this segment is terrible, the whole business empire becomes shaky.
This logic holds for NordVPN. My experience with NordVPN's customer service was very satisfactory.
They have three formats of customer support. They are:
- General info.
They have three modes of offering customer service:
- Chat support.
- Email support.
They do not have any phone support in place.
The chat support is for simple problems. If you are facing severe technical issues, the chat support system may not be sufficient. In such a situation, you will need to contact their email support. There are nerds in that email support department, and they can resolve all your problems.
The knowledge base that they have is capable of solving most of the issues that you may face. They have 500+ articles and tutorials that can give quick solutions to your problems. For instance, if you want to know how to set up the VPN on your router or if you want to know how to work with a dedicated IP, they have detailed information available. You can read and get started.
The chat support is very responsive, and you can access their chat support 24×7. The email support team takes up to 3 hours to respond to your queries.
I found nothing to complain about NordVPN's support system. They are doing their job perfectly fine.
Pricing | Rating: 9.8
Everyone loves to save money, and I am no different than the herd. My only complaint is that NordVPN could have lowered the price a little further to match the offering of CyberGhost.
The lowest that CyberGhost offers is $2.75 a month if you choose a subscription plan for two years or three years. NordVPN offers $3.49 a month for subscription plans of the same duration. It is because of this price that I have rated NordVPN slightly low on this parameter.
Anyway, that's my opinion. The company does have a lot of expenses, including server maintenance, support teams, technical folks, and more. They are the best judges when it comes to deciding what pricing structure they need to keep the business running and profitable.
NordVPN has four pricing structures, as opposed to three options usually offered by other VPNs. The pricing structure is in the table below:
|Length of subscription||Price Offered||Actual Price|
|Three years||$3.49 a month [annual billing]. You pay $125.64 once every three years.||$430.20. You pay once every three years.|
|Two years||$3.49 a month [annual billing]. You pay $83.76 once every two years.||$286.80. You pay once every two years.|
|One year||$6.99 a month [annual billing]. You pay $83.88 once every year.||$143.40. You pay once every year.|
|One month||$11.95 per month.||$11.95 per month.|
The Bad Sides of NordVPN
It will be unfair to say that NordVPN has achieved some sort of perfection. No one can do that! There will be problems, and there are problems with NordVPN as well. What are those problems?
Here is what I found.
When it comes to the pricing policy, NordVPN has a few hidden clauses that they fail to state clearly. The problems that exist are:
- They will not give any refund if you buy a subscription from iTunes or App Store. If you want a refund, you will have to contact iTunes or App Store because Apple dictates the refund policies.
- They will not give any refund if you buy a subscription using any gift card or any prepaid card. Why? Because in such cases, NordVPN does not process the payment. Resellers like Amazon, StackSocial, etc. are the ones that handle the fees for such cards.
NordVPN is not at fault here because they genuinely cannot do anything about these conditions. Still, I do believe that transparency from their end can help customers make informed decisions.
NordVPN has resorted to the age-old method of marketing. They create a sense of urgency by flashing a ‘limited period offer' on their website. The rebate they offer for their long term subscriptions is nothing new.
I came across this several months in a row. The question that came to naturally is, ‘how long is their limited period?'
People do fall for this gimmick. It is a time-tested method. Somehow, I don't like it. If you want to offer low prices, just provide that! Why come up with the tag of ‘limited period?'
They Don't Have Free Trial
The absence of a free trial did not really go down well for me. The company is selling software, and I believe that everyone is entitled to get a chance to try it out first without paying a dime before committing financially.
Even with a rebate, the long term plans are quite expensive. Paying upfront without knowing what I am signing up for is kind of a deal-breaker.
I still decided to take a risk and purchased it for a month. I was pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of the VPN. Again, I am against this approach.
No Split Tunneling for Desktop
Most people don't need this feature. Most likely, you will not need it either. Its absence is not a big deal for most of the users. But some advanced users require this. Competitors like ExpressVPN offer this on both their desktop version and mobile versions.
Yes, there are browser extensions, but they don't give a complete solution. Users may want to encrypt traffic from selective applications from their desktop. The browser extensions can encrypt only the traffic to and from the browsers.
They Have a Lot of Inconsistencies
NordVPN has a couple of inconsistencies. They have variance in the security protocols offered for Android and iOS apps. They have differences in the specialty servers they provide. What discrepancies do you ask? Here is what you need to know:
Security Protocols in Mobile Apps
Both Android and iOS apps of NordVPN are easy to use. But, the iOS app has both OpenVPN and IKEv2 security protocols available. The Android app has only OpenVPN protocol.
I don't see why this should happen. Both should have both the available protocols to give a more unified and consistent experience.
Discrepancies in Specialty Servers
If you are using the iOS app, you can get only two types of specialty servers – Onion Over VPN and P2P.
If you are using the Android app, you can get the following specialty servers:
- Double VPN
- Dedicated IP
So, iOS users cannot get access to content in countries where Internet censorship exists because they will not have access to obfuscated servers. They cannot even use extra encryption through Double VPN servers. Using a dedicated IP is simply out of the question for them.
Android users, on the other hand, will be at risk if they use the Tor browser through their mobile phones or their Android-powered tablets.
These discrepancies are too stark to go unnoticed, and it is needless to say that this can hit the cross-platform experience for those who use both the platforms.
They Could Have Given More Simultaneous Connections
SurfShark gives unlimited simultaneous connections against one license. CyberGhost gives seven simultaneous connections against one license.
NordVPN gives only six! Though you can expand it to as many devices as you want using VPN-enabled routers, there will be investments that you need to make. You need to buy such a router, thereby increasing your total cost.
It Cannot Unblock DZAN
People who love sports will love DZAN. It is a streaming service for sporting. Unfortunately, the service is available in Canada, Austria, Japan, Germany, and Switzerland.
I have visited Canada several times, and every time I was there, I enjoyed the service.
I tried unblocking it using NordVPN, but I failed miserably. It turns out that DZAN has a sensitive VPN detection system in place. I tried multiple Nord servers from various regions. None of them worked!
It is shocking that Nord comfortably beats the Great Firewall of China, but when it comes to DZAN, it is merely useless!
No RAM Storage
I told this earlier, but I will repeat it. RAM storage is far safer and safeguards privacy way better than hard drive storage. Nord is still to implement RAM storage. Yes, they are working on it, and until they achieve it, this will always remain a problem in my eyes.
Should you buy a subscription to NordVPN?
NordVPN indeed has its drawbacks, but none of them are so severe that you cannot spend your money on it. If you love speed and if you want to play games online using a VPN shield in between, Nord is a great choice.
Despite all its drawbacks, the NordVPN is feature-rich. It is potent and offers military-grade encryption. It doesn't hail from any country that is a member of the information-sharing alliances.
Albeit split tunneling is absent that you can get in ExpressVPN, but the truth is that you will most likely never need split tunneling.
NordVPN could have been a bit cheaper, but still, it is one of the most potent VPNs out there in the market with a perfect balance of premium features, security measures, fantastic customer support. As far as the price is concerned, it is still cheaper than many competitors.
I believe NordVPN offers excellent value for your money. You will not regret the decision to buy a Nord subscription.