NordVPN Review 2017
Pro rating:9 / 10
Verdict:Excellent

NordVPN is an powerful VPN service for those who like options. Offers lots of servers, zero logs, works with Netflix, 6 connections, and live support.

For:
  • 6 simultaneous connections
  • Process-specific kill switch
  • Tons of servers optimized for specific purposes
  • No logs
  • Live chat support
Against
  • Cumbersome app
  • Lots of unreliable servers
  • Can’t specify server city/province
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Panama-based NordVPN has been in the VPN game for over 10 years, and it shows in how well it manages to combine so many powerful features into an intuitive and easy-to-use package. NordVPN doesn’t just let users choose a location when connecting to a VPN, it allows them to select a VPN based on how they use it, be it streaming TV, ultra-secure privacy, anti-DDoS, or anonymity.

NordVPN subscriptions start out at $8 per month if you pay one month at a time. Paying for 6 months at a time will lower the price to $7 a month, and a year-long subscription comes in at a very competitive $5.75 per month. During special discount periods, prices drop to as low as $4 per month, which is as rock-bottom as it gets for a quality VPN. Customers can pay with a credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and some third-party payment gateways. Update, January 12, 2017: NordVPN has extended its very popular year end deal which discounts the 2 year plan by a whopping 72% bringing the cost down to $3.29 per month.

A 3-day free trial is available, but it’s a bit hidden and you need to specifically ask for it, full details are available on NordVPN’s FAQ section. Otherwise, all subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee for accounts in good standing.

Features
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NordVPN is one of the most gracious providers we’ve seen when it comes to connecting more than one device at a time, with up to six simultaneous connections allowed. The only caveat is that each must either use different servers or be on different VPN protocols.

OpenVPN over UDP is the default protocol, but OpenVPN over TCP is also available in the app. L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and SSTP are not supported in the app but they can be set up manually.

Users can either choose a server by country or by the type of server. Standard VPN connections make up most of the more than 500 locations, 2,000 IP addresses, and 50 countries. Users can also choose servers optimized for anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, and dedicated IP. Anti-DDoS connections are ideal if you want a connection that rarely, if ever, drops. Video streaming servers are best for, you guessed it, streaming video. Double VPN means a standard VPN is routed through a second VPN, doubling the encryption. Tor over VPN routes your traffic first through a VPN and then through the Tor network, adding anonymity to privacy. Dedicated IPs are ideal for IP-sensitive applications and websites, which require you log in from the same IP address every time (e.g. mobile banking).

DNS leak protection and an internet kill switch are both included in the app. DNS leak protection prevents DNS requests from going to your ISP instead of NordVPN’s own DNS servers, improving privacy. A kill switch halts internet traffic in the event that the server connection drops, so nothing gets leaked onto your ISP’s network unencrypted.

Most VPNs that have kill switches disable the internet altogether when a connection drops. NordVPN’s solution is a bit more nuanced. You can add specific running processes to the kill list, so only certain programs will lose their connection. If you wanted to halt downloads on your torrent manager but not your browser when the connection drops, for instance, the NordVPN app makes that a possibility.

A recent addition to the NordVPN apps is CyberSec, which when enabled blocks ads, malware, and phishing threats. If you’re like me, you’ve already got most of that stuff set up on your browser and antivirus program, but another layer of security never hurts.

Does NordVPN work with Netflix?

Yes, and better than most at that. Hovering over a server in the app will reveal what streaming services are accessible, including but not limited to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ABC iView, and Hulu. You can also see which are best for P2P filesharing (read: torrenting). NordVPN accomplishes this through its trademarked SmartPlay feature, which is toggled on in the settings by default. A quick test by us proves NordVPN works as promised with Netflix. We’ve rounded up here a list of other VPNs for Netflix which have worked in our testing and here’s more details on NordVPN and Netflix.

Does NordVPN work in China?

Yes, NordVPN announced in late June 2017 that it can unblock websites and content that are censored in China. Most users in mainland China should be able to simply connect to a server the normal way to bypass the Great Firewall.

If that fails, however, Nord instructs users to go into its app’s Settings menu, select Advanced Settings, and toggle on Obfuscated servers. This has the effect of making encrypted internet traffic look unencrypted, which prevents China’s deep packet inspection system from identifying VPN connections. It might add a small amount of latency, but most users probably won’t notice a difference in speed overall.

The obfuscated servers feature is currently only available in the Windows and MacOS versions of the app, but Nord says it plans to implement it in the Android app in the near future.

Setup and interface
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After registering an account, setup is a simple standard download and install process. Each time the desktop app is opened, you’ll need a username and password to log in.

You can organize the available servers by country or by server type, as mentioned above. In the latter, the app gives the current capacity and latency in milliseconds for each server. Find the one you want and click connect. The status of all servers can be refreshed at any time.

Once connected, the app will show how many simultaneous devices are using a VPN on your account, when the account expires, your designated IP address and location, and the server’s capacity.

The app looks great in Windows, and even novice users will find it unintimidating. But one downside we can’t show you in screenshots is how bulky and slow it is. After clicking a button on the app, it often takes several seconds to respond. I often find myself wondering if I actually clicked the mouse or not, because it just doesn’t show any signs of life. I wouldn’t say the laptop I tested NordVPN on is powerful, but it’s not an old junker, either. It seems all those bells and whistles are weighing the app down. On a couple occasions the app stopped responding altogether and had to be restarted.

This issue is compounded by the fact that you can’t connect to NordVPN through the system tray. The only option there is to open the app, website, and settings. NordVPN informed us that a new app is currently in beta, which will solve many of these issues.

In the settings menu, you can opt to start NordVPN when the computer starts, toggle DNS leak protection and Smart-Play, set your own DNS servers, and change the protocol. This is also where to add active process that should cut off from the internet by the kill switch.

nordvpn ios

NordVPN’s mobile app opens to a slick world map where you can click on a pin to select a country. You can also access the same server list as on the desktop app via the menu, where servers are organized country or by their function: TV streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, etc. Smart Play, NordVPN’s proxy detection bypass feature that’s used to access Netflix, can toggled separately. A handy search function is built in so you don’t have to scroll through the huge server list if you know exactly which server you’re looking for. We wish NordVPN had included the search bar in their desktop app as well.

Servers and performance

NordVPN boasts an impressive 500+ server locations spread out over 58 countries. In the United States alone, it operates hundreds of servers. Other popular countries like the UK and Germany have a few dozen each. While the selection is more than most people will ever need, users unfortunately cannot specify an exact province or city. This could be an obstacle to those attempting to access content that is blocked based on region. MLB.tv blackouts, for example, block users in specific regions of the United States according to content licensing restrictions split among local broadcasters.

NordVPN’s terms of service promise 99 percent uptime. Due to the sheer number of servers to choose from, we never had a problem finding one that worked, but occasionally we did see an inordinate amount of servers showing the “Server down” status. NordVPN tells us that this is a bug in the app, not with the servers, and the issue will be mended in the next version of the app, which is currently in beta.

Our connections didn’t drop very often, but several times the app would hang when initiating a connection, forcing us to cancel and try again. This even happened when NordVPN auto-selected a server for us.

Most servers seem solid once connected, minus a few bad eggs. We had no problems streaming 1080p HD video or playing Brawlhalla, an online Super Smash Bros-style fighting game. The video was loaded far past the buffer and we didn’t notice any lag or other issues while gaming.

To make the speed tests as empirical as possible, we downloaded the same 82.7MB file (compressed from 103MB) three times from three different servers at three different times per day for a total of nine tests. As a control group, we also did the same without a VPN. Below you can see the results alongside some previous tests from competing VPNs. I connected to two servers in the US and one in the UK. Because we could not know the exact location of the server before connecting to it, these servers were selected randomly. In the boxplot below, the thick black line represents the median download time, while the red diamond represents the mean. Lower is better.

vpn speed test nordvpn

Full disclosure: we did remove a couple tests that qualified as distinct outliers. This download test usually takes between one two minutes, but a couple of the NordVPN servers we tested took upwards of 10 minutes. Had we included those results, this chart would have looked very different. Between the extremely slow downloads, the indicating many servers were down, and others just not connecting, NordVPN seems to have a lot of duds.

That said, the US servers performed very well, while the UK servers tended to drag the average download time up, which is to be expected due to my location. Minus the outliers, NordVPN performed quite well, averaging somewhere between TotalVPN and ExpressVPN.

Keep in mind that this test is not a definitive indicator of which VPN is fastest. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness, so VPN speed tests should always be taken with a big grain of salt. My original location is in Bogota, Colombia, where I run these tests on a 10 Mbps connection. Those with faster connections may well notice a larger discrepancy in speeds.

Security
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With the desktop app and a standard VPN, all OpenVPN traffic is 256-bit AES encrypted and uses 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is toggled on by default. Tor over VPN routes traffic first through the VPN, and then through the Tor network, allowing users to access .onion websites and adding a strong layer of anonymity. Using Tor over VPN will slow down your connection quite a bit, and your Tor exit node will change regularly, as will your IP address.

The double VPN seems a bit redundant to me, but for those who are worried that the default 256-bit encryption and a shared IP address doesn’t offer beefy enough security, then more power to you. This “double hop” VPN, like VPN over Tor, will also make a dent in your download speed.

NordVPN boasts a true zero-logs policy. Many VPN providers out their claim they don’t store logs, but what they really mean is they don’t keep logs of what users are looking at. Meanwhile, they do keep session logs of when users log in, how much bandwidth they use, and their IP addresses. NordVPN keeps neither usage logs nor session logs. Panama, where NordVPN is incorporated, has no data retention laws that apply to VPN providers.

The only information NordVPN keeps about users is their email, username, and payment information.

Customer service

NordVPN offers both round-the-clock live chat support and a ticket submission system. We were connected to a representative on live chat support within two minutes. The rep seemed knowledgeable about the product and not like an outsourced firm that copies and pastes answers.

The website includes a decent array of search-able help and tutorial articles in the support section. Both the website and app are ad-free, and we didn’t receive any unsolicited emails during the test period.

Verdict

NordVPN is an powerful VPN service for those who like options. Customers get a huge range of servers to choose from, along with servers optimized for specific purposes. Security and privacy are top-notch, and NordVPN boasts a true zero-logs policy. Download speeds are very fast, but finding a reliable server can be a process of trial and error. The app looks great and includes a ton of useful features, but it’s extremely clunky and tends to lock up. Live support is fast and knowledgeable.

19 thoughts on “NordVPN Review 2017

  • You seem to test VPNs for different services (like video streaming), but you do no mention VoIP (Skype, Whatsup, Viber, etc).
    It would be interesting to compare & recommend different VPNs for the specific use of VoIP in countries that attempt to block it (e.g. Arab Gulf countries)…

  • I would like to know whether it is really possible to hide my real iP location against snooping government or any skilled hackers using this vpn?

  • have extensively tested the multitude of vpn’s over 3 years, i have come across Nord VPN, which, although it looks rather odd, is actually rather satisfying.

    it does what it says, and well!. i’ve checked doileak.com, torguard torrent checks, i’ve done the doileak torrent tests, and at least 5 others anonymous check websites…. all show that i am properly hidden.

    i like this. a lot. and i will be using it…. oh, and speed is not an issue, its next to no drop.

  • I cannot recommend these guys.I signup today downloaded there installer and out of the box its not working on a brand new WIN10 machine. If you send them an email they will tell you that a support ticket has been opened – and man do I like to hear that. After hunting down one of the kits on the live chat I got really “great” help. first he pointed me to the installation instructions – well…it kind of insulting.Than he asked me to download a driver from some web site……I don’t think I should be asked to download a driver from somewhere install it using admin credential. Lets hope I will get my money back.

  • Interested in multiple connections at the same time – and down to ipvanish and NordIPN – concern is having two Amazon fire devices as well as PC’s and dont quite understand the limitations of either service for simultaneous connections – when my sons are here they want to do there thing as do I – will either of these work with all three of us on different devices? (xbox – fire tv – PC etc)

  • Worst customer service ever. Subscribed and cancelled the same day, 1 hour apart. We are now 10 days later, still no confirmation of cancellation and no refund. They say it might take another few weeks! It takes them forever to respond to my emails and they say it is because of my bank that it takes so long… bullsh*t! But it took them only one day to charge my mastercard! These people don’t deserve your money, take your business elsewhere!

  • among the two, iPVanish and NordVPN — which is better for me to watch live streamings and watch my amazon prime, netflix, and other net access (PH network doesnt allow these sites) another thing, how true is that VPN slows down your internet –thank you for whatever response i might get 🙂 good day

    • NordVPN is better for unblocking streaming websites. VPNs usually slow down your connection by about 10 percent but it depends on network traffic and the location of the server.

  • nord vpn claims to be the best but the truth is it actually doesnt hide your ip like everyone thinks…. if you simply type whats my ip into google while running the crappy coded software and run a torrenting program at the same time which is why half the world wants a vpn, you will find it will reveal your genuine ip and put you at risk!!! should you try to contact them about this issue they will ignore you and another thing about the poorly coded crap is it slows your pc completely!!! I SUGGEST ANYONE THINKING OF BUYING THIS CRAP TO LOOK ELSEWHERE!!!

  • Hola Paul! Cual es tu empresa de internet? Yo vivo en Colombia y quiero encontrar el internet de mayor velocidad pero nose cual.

  • Hi Paul
    can you tell me how can the VPN be used by multiple users,and how the price different if the account is using by 5 people at the same time?

    • The price doesn’t change based on how many people are using it. Every account gets up to 6 simultaneous connections.

  • NordVPN is very enticing but it doesn’t have any Asian servers and more importantly servers inside mainland China. I need at least one server location and Nord doesn’t show of list any so its not an option at this point. I would be signing on if it had at least 3 servers inside mainland China and a few in Singapore or somewhere in Southeast Asia.

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