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.
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.
There’s also a referral avenue in place if a friend joins the service, as is standard with many providers.
- Reliable network speeds
- Hefty encryption
- No logs
- P2P OK
- Multi-hop VPN tunneling available
- Medium speeds
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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’s blog is also worth a look with biweekly or so updates ranging from service updates to industry news, and VPN tips & tricks galore.
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.
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.
The NordVPN support team informed me that further updates are also on the way for both iOS and Windows Apps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update January 2016: Reviewer Dmitri is no longer with BestVPN. Thanks to comments from reader Martin, we have run additional tests and have detected IPv6 leaks. WebRTC remain an issue, and which also detected our real IPv6 address.
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 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.
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
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.
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
- Tough encryption
- Smooth clients across platforms
- Speedy support
- Network reliability
I wasn’t so sure about
- Medium speeds
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.