What’s NordVPN: service to be 100% private or hyped product?
The truth of the matter is, before trying NordVPN for the first time, I took a dim view of this provider (as well as many other VPNs). And the aim of this NordVPN review was to pry out the drawbacks of the service.
See the results of my scrupulous study and testing in the following sections:
- the unique (and not only) features of the provider;
- server network and the devices compatible with Nord;
- the entire story about the app setup and its user-friendliness;
- ways to try the service without paying for it;
- unbiased test results (IP leaks and speed on different servers);
- my conclusion regarding the app use.
Read it through and decide if it caters to your needs or not.
This Panama-based VPN provider has been in the market for 7 years already. The Nord company wasn’t involved in scandals, related to data leaks unlike PureVPN, for instance.
However, there were rumors about possible data mining scandals. The issue of Nord and Proton VPN was hotly debated by Reddit users.
But what’s the result?
It happened to be fake news.
This provider offers a set of unique functions which I’m going to describe a bit later.
As for now, I’ve prepared for you a brief overview of its prices:
1 month – $11.95 per month (well, rather expensive)
1 year – $6.99 per month (still pricey)
2 years – $3.99 per month (getting better)
3 years – $2.99 per month (that looks promising)
Students will definitely find this service attractive because NordVPN offers a discount for them – 15%. You can make use of it when you:
- verify your student status;
- choose a 3-year package.
Well, the prices are moderate enough. Of course, except for the 1-month plan. Besides, sometimes it’s possible to find NordVPN coupons on the site and get an extra discount.
As of the date of writing this NordVPN review, the provider didn’t offer coupons.
This information allows me to add NordVPN to the list of cheap VPN providers.
What’s their logging policy?
Many users are concerned about the facility to be really private when paying for a VPN service. Unfortunately, not all VPN providers are transparent in this issue.
It’s time to answer your most important question “Does NordVPN keep logs?”.
Here’s what I’ve found out:
The provider states it’s absolutely logs-free. In one respect, it comes out of Nord headquarter beneficial location – Panama. As it’s established by the local legislation, the companies based there are not required to store data on their clients.
Besides, the VPN provider itself is not interested in collecting information on its subscribers to make the service the most reliable.
This fact was proved by the independent third-party audit of NordVPN no-logs policy in October – November 2018.
If you are not a NordVPN client or a journalist, you won’t have access to the results of this report.
Whereas I’m one of the NordVPN subscribers, I get access to this document. Unfortunately, I cannot share any screenshots of this document. But with great confidence, I can speak to the fact that no-logs policy of NordVPN is verified.
What encryption methods are applied?
As soon as internet users connect to the Internet, their traffic passes through their Internet Service Providers. Thus, your ISP is informed about every single action you do online.
It can sell information about your search requests to advertisers or throttle your bandwidth when detecting you use BitTorrent technology for P2P file-sharing.
With the object to stop your ISP from tracking you, NordVPN introduces military-grade ciphering mechanism. It’s integrated into all clients offered by Nord.
The provider uses AES 256-bit encryption for all your traffic in a row.
Alternatively, you have an opportunity to make use of the brand-new encoding – NGE. This ciphering algorithm was integrated in view of the fact that cryptic breaches happen in increasing frequency. This method of data encryption serves to be one step ahead.
What protocols are used?
NordVPN offers 2 protocols to transfer your data securely. The choice of protocols depends on the activity you carry out online.
Thus, IPsec is one of the securest tunneling protocols these days. It’s faster than many other protocols (SSTP, PPTP and L2TP). However, it can be applied not for all platforms.
IPsec is used on the devices running on macOS and iOS by default.
In view of some weak sides of IPsec, Nord offers one more top-notch VPN protocol – OpenVPN.
It’s a robust and powerful solution for VPN users who are concerned about both privacy and fast speed.
OpenVPN is used on the devices running on Android, Windows and macOS by default (there’s a facility to choose between TCP and UDP whereas UDP is recommended).
Thus, having opened your Mac device, you can switch between both IPsec and OpenVPN.
What are other useful features?
Apart from strong ciphering and first-class tunneling protocols, NordVPN offers a set of functions that make the app advantageous for many internet consumers:
I’ve found this feature when opening General Settings of the client. This advanced technology serves to block malicious software, suspicious sites and ads. NordVPN CyberSec function also prevents the gadget you use from being involved in DDoS attacks. When NordVPN app establishes a connection with a remote DNS server, it detects whether the site you are going to visit a safe or not.
NordVPN introduces a great facility to stream any content without restrictions. As a bonus, you enjoy secure streaming notwithstanding the type of network (public WiFi or LAN) you use and the place where you are located. You won’t have to deal with manual settings. Just choose a SmartPlay server and stream!
Automatic Kill Switch
You’ll be protected in the highest degree due to the NordVPN Kill Switch function. It can be enabled or disabled at any time. This system controls your internet connection, and as soon as it drops, Kill Switch blocks access to the Internet making your 100% protected against the prying eyes. Thus, your traffic will be ciphered any time you surf the Internet.
NordVPN dedicated IP
In a bid to make your payments secured, you can think about VPNs. However, you can face a problem. The bank can block your account in view of you access it by means of different IPs. To prevent such troubles, NordVPN offers a good solution – a dedicated static IP address. This address is used by one user only (by request for an extra fee). iOS users cannot benefit from this feature because dedicated IPs are available for OpenVPN applications only.
As you know, there are countries which block VPNs rather successfully. The examples of such countries are Iran, Russia, China, Turkey and others. Obfuscated servers run by NordVPN help to go round network firewalls in these countries and therefore people get access to the unrestricted web from all over the world.
This technology allows making your traffic even more protected. It passes through 2 servers, and therefore it undergoes double encryption. At the same time, a 40% speed drop takes place in this case.
Tor over VPN
If you look for more privacy, this solution is for you. Passing through a VPN server and the Tor network, your traffic reaches the world wide web being 100% secured (due to the double ciphering).
NordVPN makes torrenting safe and secure due to its dedicated servers for P2P file-sharing. But keep in mind that not all servers support P2P traffic. If you’d like to make use of it, you can look through the list of servers recommended for torrenting by the provider.
I have checked all the features NordVPN provider offers. The ones I like most of all are automatic Kill Switch, CyberSec and a dedicated IP. I have also asked a friend from the UAE to check how good obfuscated servers cope with the task. The results have surpassed expectations. The restricted sites in the UAE were accessible!
Double VPN and Tor over VPN cause the speed drop which I don’t like at all.
The next information that is going to be highlighted is the server diversity of the VPN provider and the list of platforms it works with.
The thing is that not all VPNs can be installed on all gadgets, and not all operating systems sometimes happen to be compatible with this or that VPN.
For instance, Browsec cannot be used on the gadgets running on macOS when Linux isn’t on the list of supported devices by Hotspot Shield VPN.
What platforms are supported?
NordVPN is not only compatible with numerous platforms, but it also has handy apps for different operating systems:
- Windows (XP or later);
- iOS (iPhones and iPads);
- Android TV;
Firefox, Safari, Opera, IE and Chrome browsers can be used in combination with Nord proxy extension to make web surfing less restricted.
NordVPN can also be used on a set of routers and other Internet-based devices (ASUS WRT, Raspberry Pi, IPFire, etc.).
Having set up the VPN software on your home router, you can protect an unlimited number of devices connected to your home WiFi.
In general, Nord VPN app can be installed on 6 devices at a time!
How many servers does NordVPN provide?
The number of NordVPN servers is changing all the time. As for the beginning of June 2019, it comes to 5094.
I’m not sure this number will be static for a long time because several weeks ago I’ve seen information about 5200 servers on Nord official site.
When the number of VPN servers grows, it’s a norm. But what does it mean when the backward process is observed?
Does it necessarily mean things go wrong?
I have put a question to customer support. According to the answer I got, it can be concerned with the fact that the admins are fixing some servers at the moment. And soon, their number will be 5200+ again.
Well, let’s wait for it!
At the same time, the number of countries where Nord has placed its servers remains constant – 60. They are located in Europe, Asia Pacific, South and North America, Africa, India and the Middle East.
Such diverse VPN network allows finding an optimal server (by speed) notwithstanding the place you inhabit.
The process of NordVPN app setup is not time-consuming or painstaking. I had to spend no more than 5 minutes on it.
Here’re the steps I’ve undertaken before testing the facilities of the service:
- visit the nordvpn.com and sign up;
- choose a package (I always choose a 1-month package to test the service);
- select the method of payment (Alipay, Amazon Pay, credit cards, cryptocurrencies and other alternative variants);
- download NordVPN on the site and launch the file installer on my PC;
- enter my credentials (the ones I used when signing up).
As soon as I’ve managed to run the client, I got access to the app settings.
I find it rather handy that there are short descriptions of each function I could enable or disable. A non-tech user will like it as well.
It’s also easy to find the VPN servers to download torrents anonymously, for example. NordVPN servers are subdivided into special categories:
- Double VPN;
- Onion Over VPN.
Besides, I also find the “Quick connect” feature very convenient. The service offers the fastest server on the basis of user location.
If the security features are not at the top of mind, and you want to experience the fastest possible speed, then I recommend making use of it.
Unlike some VPN providers (for instance, Private Internet Access), NordVPN offers a free trial period. However, it’s available for Android and iOS users only. In such a case, you’ll have to enter your credit card details. Otherwise, you won’t make use of a trial period.
Restrictions for trial?
I’ve tried it on my iPhone and was surprised that the same functions are at my disposal (except for the dedicated IP because it’s paid).
As for the speed, no difference either.
Do you want to try the app on Windows or Linux risk-free?
The desktop version of the app can be tested due to the NordVPN refund period. It lasts for 1 month (30 days, namely).
Here’s what you are to take into account:
- iTunes and App Store purchases aren’t subject to NordVPN (but refund is still possible);
- cryptocurrency is refunded in US dollars as at the date of refund submission;
- if a user’s account is terminated in view of violation of NordVPN Terms of Service, the refund is impossible.
But unfortunately (or not) Nord doesn’t offer a free VPN app (as a plan).
You can keep talking about outstanding functions of NordVPN app as much as you like. But it’s nothing without test results.
The first thing that bothers me is a possible IP leak.
The second thing I’m concerned when studying a VPN app is the speed drop.
The third thing is, of course, the facility to unblock Netflix US content.
IP leak test for NordVPN: different servers are tried
Lucky I am!
No leaks were detected. Actually, I’ve tested 49 servers in 37 countries. The services, I used to check IP, detected the IP addresses that belong to Nord.
I also want to point out that I tried different servers (P2P, double VPN, obfuscated and standard). There’s no difference in security!
NordVPN speed test: 3% speed drops
To make the results of my tests the most transparent, I’ll present you the speed of my internet connection when NordVPN app is not connected.
Here it is:
The “Quick connect” button helped me to connect to the fastest server – in Denmark. The download speed was 77.14 Mbps. Great result!
The rest servers were also fast enough for streaming and torrenting.
However, some NordVPN servers are relatively slow. Thus, the servers in the USA performed 14.27 Mbps – 27.06 Mbps download speed.
CyberGhost speed test results were good as well.
Important! Significant speed drops are observed when choosing Onion Over VPN servers.
Test for Netflix: US library is unblocked
When studying the site of NordVPN, I’ve found out about the function of SmartPlay. According to the claims of the provider, it’s enabled by default, making all streaming content unblocked.
I’ve checked if NordVPN copes with Netflix blockers. How surprised I was when found out that all the locations I tried managed to open the Netflix library of a country I was connected to.
Besides, I’ve checked if Nord app can be used to get access to the Netflix content available for the residents of the USA only. Not all servers I tried coped with the task successfully.
Thus,11 out of 15 tested servers showed good results.
All-around review of the service and numerous tests of NordVPN apps give me every ground to assert that this Panama-based provider is one of the best VPNs to be safe online.
With a clear conscience, I recommend using this service for a set of reasons:
- really diverse and growing server network (5000+ servers in 60 countries);
- servers of different categories for all your needs (P2P, streaming, perfect security, fast);
- 24/7 NordVPN customer service (informative answers);
- fast-speed servers (3% speed drop only);
- outstanding features (Kill Switch, Obfuscation, dedicated IPs, SmartPlay, CyberSec, etc.);
- free trial period (7 days for iOS and Android);
- long-term refund period (30 days for all platforms and plans);
- no leaks;
- no-logs policy (proved by a third-party audit company).
But I always stay on alert. Since that after my 1-month subscription expires, I’m planning to subscribe to NordVPN 3-year plan. I’ll keep on testing its servers and functions.
When something suspicious is detected, I’ll update this VPN review!