Review

NordVPN Review – 2016


The NordVPN review found NordVPN's reputation and effectiveness undiminished in the face the recent Panama Leaks, as this Panamanian provider continues its strict logless policies and undoubtedly strong encryption. 
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Review of: NordVPN
VPN by :
NordVPN
Version:
ProVPN
Price:
5.75

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On May 24, 2016
Last modified:November 28, 2016

Summary:

Our latest NordVPN review found the same top tier service with hefty encryption and true logless policies, and welcome tweaks. Read on to find out more.

Pricing & Plans

NordVPN offers three pricing plans, with the only differentiation found in price. The slightly above average price of $11.95 get you a month’s subscription, and the cost drops down to $7 per month if you sign up for six months. If you like the service and want to commit for a year, you’ll pay the $5.75 half off the original Simple plan cost. Best of all, there’s a 30-day refund, so you can give NordVPN a spin before seriously committing.

NordVPN Pricing

Refunds are happily given to customers within the 30-day period after the initial payment goes through. However, you must give NordVPN’s tech support a fair chance to resolve any technical issues that might come up. We’ll explore that deeper in the ‘Support’ section further on.
NordVPN Referrals

There’s also a referral avenue in place if a friend joins the service, as is standard with many providers.

Conclusion

  • ProsPROS
  • Reliable network speeds
  • Hefty encryption
  • No logs
  • P2P OK
  • Multi-hop VPN tunneling available
  • ConsCONS
  • Medium speeds

Features

NordVPN Servers
This well-regarded Panamanian provider with no Mossack Fonseca links that we know of (yet) continues to serve up excellent value for money with an ample 6 simultaneous connection policy, and over 550 servers in 47 odd countries. This makes for pretty robust network coverage for most of the world, save for Africa, though South African servers are a welcome sight. P2P filesharing, meanwhile, is allowed on: Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Latvian, Dutch, Canadian, and Luxemburger servers. You may also opt for servers utilizing Tor over VPN, or dedicated streaming servers for higher speeds and unblocking needs.

NordVPN Emergency VPN

NordVPN also makes the admirable gesture to offer Emergency VPN service free of charge to those living under authoritarian rule who may be persecuted for word, deed, or thought, advocates, and journalists exposed to the same (potentially) life-threatening conditions.

NordVPN Emergency VPN Registration

Take a look at NordVPN’s trial offer for yourself after the jump. Alternatively, keep reading for thoughts on some impressive security measures that NordVPN has in place

Visit NordVPN »

Security & Privacy

The legal situation in Panama should need little introduction at the time of writing. Suffice it to say the nation didn’t become a tax haven because of lax privacy laws, but rather from a contrary legal climate shrouded in secrecy. Panama has no mandatory data retention laws to this effect, meaning that NordVPN keeps no logs. Therefore, you have little to worry about, provided you aren’t misbehaving so erratically that a sovereign intelligence agency starts sniffing around (and maybe even then). To that effect, Tor over VPN or multi-hop connections do provide a further layer of security.  On top of this obfsproxy is superb for bypassing deep packet inspections by your Internet service provider.

NordVPN Review

Security is handled using AES 256 bit for data encryption, RSA 2048 for handshaking and SHA-2 for data authentication. NordVPN’s security remains undoubtedly solid – servers are protected with a firewall, and different ports are used for SSH connections. Forthcoming updates will also include the altogether speedier IKEv2 VPN, though OpenVPN remains the superior option for security.

The website

NordVPN Homepage

NordVPN has an eye-catching website that’s also quite functional, with relevant links to Pricing, Features, and Servers well laid out.

The footer has links to weekly updated social media accounts, further resource links, and a handy translation option for thirteen languages.NordVPN Homepage Bottom

NordVPN’s blog is also worth a look with biweekly or so updates ranging from service updates to industry news, and VPN tips & tricks galore.

Support

NordVPN has done a swell job building a formidable FAQ section to go with clarity present elsewhere on the site. It also has detailed setup guides. It gives equal attention regardless of platform or device, to assuage any user concerns and fix any problems that arise.

NordVPN Tutorials

Support queries were answered after a few minutes wait time at the most, and agents were both courteous and well-trained, as were the email responses that followed from the chat below. It’s great to see 24/7 LiveChat support and emails back within hours.

NordVPN Support

The NordVPN support team informed me that further updates are also on the way for both iOS and Windows Apps.

The Process

Signing Up

Signing up is a breeze, and is achievable with major credit cards, PayPal, or Bitcoin. Then, just navigate to the downloads page and follow the thorough setup instructions replete with pictures, or those contained in the installer itself.

The NordVPN Windows VPN client

Calling the NordVPN App for Windows easy-to-use and stylish would be an undersell, it works that well. You can access servers by country or individual node, and simply tap on the connection button at the bottom to connect after choosing a server. It would be nice to see individual nodes labeled by location as well, however, so users have more of an idea for geolocation purposes.

NordVPN Windows Client

The settings tab has useful options such as auto-connect, killswitch, DNS leak protection and the UDP/TCP toggle dropdown for when VPN blockage is taking place versus for higher speeds.

NordVPN Windows Client Settings

Looking at servers from the Server tab shows handy uptime and capacity stats which may be useful if you’re looking for the best speeds. You’ll also find the dedicated Anti DDoS, Tor over VPN, and Smart TV streaming-optimized servers here for quick connection.

NordVPN Windows Client Servers

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

One drawback you might expect with heavy security measure in place is slower speeds, and you’d be right to an extent, though in testing both informal browsing and streaming, there was little to no obvious lag. Speeds averaged in the five Mbps range on the United Kingdom and Dutch servers while US servers fell closer to two Mbps, on account of geographical distance. While these speeds might be alarming at first glance, there are faster servers dedicated to streaming, and it may well be a non-issue for those driven to the market primarily by security needs.
NordVPN Download
NordVPN Upload
Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.

It was great to see no IP leaks or IPv6 leaks – save the WebRTC Bug (which we have a five minute DIY guide for) – seeing as how they essentially invalidate using VPN software in the first place, rendering it ineffective in many ways.

Head to ipleak.net and for DNS leaks, and the pesky WebRTC bug, while test-ipv6.com will test IPv6 leaks. If you’re still concerned, doileak.net is something of a mix of the other two websites. Run tests every so often to check that NordVPN is running as promised and that your unique device and network configurations aren’t left ‘unlocked,’ even by accident.

Other Platforms

NordVPN is available on the platforms you’d usually expect such as OS X, iOS, Linux, and Android. You may also use NordVPN with DD-WRT, Asus, Tomato routers, and the pfSense firewall.

NordVPN Platform

NordVPN Android Client

The bespoke Android App was similarly easy to setup and had the same appeal as its Windows counterpart. It’s no small matter, as some providers skimp on mobile security.

NordVPN Andoid

There’s also the same handy server bits previously discussed, such as VPN over Tor, so you can seamlessly transition between platforms at any time.

Other/ Free Services

NordVPN Other Services

You may opt to use some other services for unblocking or bypassing censorship if you live in or pass through countries such as China or Iran, without the explicit need for privacy. SmartDNS is more or less a VPN without manual server selection capabilities. You can read more on them here.

NordVPN Youtube Proxy

There’s even a fun dedicated proxy for YouTube streaming without Google siphoning up your data. The yellow caption – button to the right is the icing on the cake.

NordVPN Review Conclusion

I liked

  • Logless
  • Tough encryption
  • Smooth clients across platforms
  • Speedy support
  • Network reliability

I wasn’t so sure about

  • Medium speeds
  • WebRTC

I hated

  • Nothing

While the promise of low(ish) speeds may scare some folks off, it would be at the cost of mistakenly shunning a provider for which security trumps every other concern, but nevertheless features workable performance and consistency on every front. What’s more, the truly logless policy on hand, as well as several freebies make the service appealing beyond its price. Try out NordVPN’s Apps yourself by signing up below.

Visit NordVPN »


Dimitri M Expat in Europe - pathos for good conversation and Italia's Grande Juventus.

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14 responses to “NordVPN Review – 2016

  1. I’m a total newbie to this, so I need something clarified (sorry if it is a dumb-dumb question). So, I’ve read that if one is in the US, it is advisable to pick a service based outside the US to avoid Big Brother’s spying agency (you know the 3 letters). OK, say I pick NordVPN which is based in Panama. Now–at installation you need to pick a server. They are located all over the world. If I pick a US server, presuming the best performance that way, does that put me right back in the same boat of exposing myself to spying by that 3 letter US agency, or is that safe now because I’m using going through the VPN? Or–should I select a server outside the US? Sorry if that’s stupid question with an obvious answer, but I’m new to this and I don’t really know for sure what is obvious and what isn’t. THX in advance!

    1. Hi K.B,

      Assuming that you live in the US, picking a US server will (in general, although other factors apply) provide the best performance. If you are concerned about government spying, however, it is advisable both to use a non-US (or FVEY) based service, and also to use servers located outside these countries.

      1. Thanks so much for your prompt reply, Douglas! That’s what I thought, I just wanted to be sure. If I’m going to follow the recommendations I don’t want to do something stupid and invalidate my effort. Now, I don’t see FVEY at your link. Did you mean FYFY? (Love the glossary!)

        Another question: Are these services dependent on any certain router specs, or do they work through pretty much any relatively modern router/gateway? Thank you again!

        1. Hi K.B.,

          Ah. Yes, sorry. FVEY is an abbreviation of for Five Eyes. It’s my glossary that contains the typo (now fixed). VPN services usually work using a software client. Even moderate-spec smart phones are powerful enough these days to encrypt/decrypt OpenVPN connections with no meaningful slowdown. It _is_ possible to run a VPN client on your router. This has many advantages, but the router’s spec becomes a major factor. Only high-end routers have the processing grunt to handle VPN without badly slowing down your internet connection. Compare, for example, this and this recently reviewed routers.

  2. My favorite VPN. In past month speed has improved greatly, they are adding new servers on weekly basis, apps are great looking and very easy to use. Definitely a great choice!

  3. I enjoy the service. Definitely one of the best I’ve seen. Speed is fine, very easy to use as they have apps for all platforms. But best of all – still works with US Netflix!

  4. The slow speeds are a major concern. On occasion I have experienced speeds as slow as 10% of normal speed. This makes the service worthless in my opinion.

  5. I tried NordVPN and found that I could only use some “leased” servers to access HBO Go. I tried a few and found them too slow to watch a movie without interruptions of the movie stream. I unsubscribed.

    Leave your thoughts and impressions on NordVPN here.

    1. I really like NordVPN. The setup has been idiot-proofed – you can just download it and go (make sure you setup and check the kill-switch if torrenting) – and it works perfectly for my needs. The user-interface is clean and intuitive.

      The only issue I had was that the first P2P server I tried was painfully slow. I just skipped onto another and away I went. The kill-switch works really well and I haven’t had any problems with it at all, and I tested it thoroughly just to be on the safe side. I have also thoroughly checked for DNS, IPV4, IPV6 and WebRTC leaks and nothing is showing through (though nothing would with the latter two as they are disabled by default on my machine).

      They use GoogleDNS to resolve DNS requests, but even then Google does not actually know who you are as your request is coming from a VPN server with a shared IP. Google will also delete identifiable logs after 24-48 hours, but, as I say, even identifiable logs at Google will only direct anyone looking to NordVPN rather than the user.

      So far it has been very reliable too. Very occasionally it will have a little panic attack and reconnect and disconnect rapidly for a minute or so, but those seem to sort themselves out without any intervention, and they are rare enough that they can be ignored (easily a 9.5/10 for stability). Morevoer the kill-switch works so well in these situations that I am not concerned that my IP is being flashed around torrent trackers (not that I would ever download anything illegal, of course).

      I haven’t had much interaction with their customer service team yet so I do not have much to report on that unfortunately. However I did notice when digging around on their website that their live chat is very often unattended, even when you would expect them to be within working hours in Panama.

      1. Hi Alex,

        Yes, as long as a VPN provider fully proxies DNS requests, I don’t see a major problem with leveraging Google DNS (or similar).

        1. I just thought I would leave an update to say that my DNS no longer appears to be routed through Google DNS servers, and instead shares the same IP address as my VPN server. I don’t know why this change has occurred, but it is fine by me nonetheless.

          I have also now had more interaction with customer services. I have had both slow and quick responses from them, but the outcome of the the interaction was positive in that my problem was resolved (Spotify was not working over the VPN, which resolved when I disabled Smart-Play in the VPN settings).

          I also want to mention that the screenshots of NordVPN that you have in this article are dated. They have updated their app since this article was written, and it now has much nicer appearance.

          1. Hi Alex,

            Thanks for keeping us updated. I’m glad your issues have been resolved. Regarding the screenshots, unfortunately we can’t realistically keep up with every software update made by every VPN company. We do, however, re-review the more popular services fairly regularly, and the next time we do this for Windscribe we will review the updated client.

    2. Nord VPN started out great. But now their servers are down most of the time and the remaining ones are very slow. Used it for about four months but by the last month it was basically useless. Unless NordVPN gets their shit together i would reccomend that people stay far far away from their products.

      TL;DR: Nord VPN sucks.

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