Skip to main content

NordVPN review

The world's biggest VPN is still one of the best

NordVPN review
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

With the NordLynx protocol delivering excellent speeds, great content unblocking, and some smart privacy-focused features, NordVPN is an excellent service with real brand power. However, watch out for increased prices on renewal, and be aware that the mobile interface may not be to your taste.

Pros

  • +

    Independent privacy audit

  • +

    Unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+

  • +

    Interesting additional privacy features

  • +

    Live chat support is quick and helpful

Cons

  • -

    Prices rise on renewal

  • -

    Map-based interface awkward on mobile

As quite possibly the biggest (and loudest) name in the industry, NordVPN has a lot to live up to. Here, in our comprehensive NordVPN review, we're going to dig in to exactly what the Panama-based best VPN contender offers, all of its nitty-gritty features, and whether it's the right choice for you.

Below, we’ll briefly run down our review in a few paragraphs. Then you can take a deep dive into each specific area in our full NordVPN review below. Or, click on the relevant section on the navigation bar above to jump directly to a section.

NordVPN 1-minute review

NordVPN frequently changes its pricing, and at the time of writing the best price is $3.29 a month, over the course of 2 years. If you want the freedom of a rolling monthly plan, it'll set you back $11.99. You'll have a wide range of payment options, including PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, and other crypto payments.

With industry-standard AES-256 encryption alongside some excellent extra features such as Onion over VPN and Double VPN. Nord’s obfuscated servers also provide great performance in countries like China which restrict VPN use. You also get a kill switch in case your connection drops, and reliable DNS leak protection.

Recent independent audits have confirmed NordVPN’s no-logs status – a real draw for those interested in true security – and this goes a long way to redeeming the well-publicised 2018 server hack and the company’s arguably poor response to it.

Nord supports torrents on a wide range of servers, and the reliably swift connection speeds provided by the NordLynx protocol will certainly please P2P sharers, and those who like to use a gaming VPN. NordVPN can also unblock just about any streaming service you put in front of it, which is more than the vast majority of the competition.

The desktop apps are smart, powerful, and easy to use. However, the mobile apps can be a little awkward thanks to the map-based interface. It works well on larger screens, but handheld versions suffer. However, while device support is good, you’ll only be able to use your plan on six devices at a time.

Nord’s 24/7 support team is excellent, and the knowledgebase is packed with good articles – although finding the correct article can be tricky.

Overall, NordVPN is absolutely one of the best services on the market, and a great all-rounder that performs impressively in every area. Definitely worth having on your shortlist.

nordvpn review: ui

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

Latest updates

Our last review of NordVPN was only six months ago, but even in that time we've seen some exciting changes and updates.

First up, NordVPN has unveiled its Threat Protection feature. This allows users scan for malware, and block ads, trackers, and malicious sites. It's currently available on Windows and Mac, and while it's not fully implemented yet, it's certainly and interesting addition for the future.

For those using Microsoft Edge, Nord has recently launched its extension for the browser. 

Nord's increased its bug bounty to $50,000, which may be the carrot needed to entice hackers to find and remedy any critical security issues. 

Finally, probably the biggest news is that NordVPN has 'merged' with bargain rival Surfshark to create a single corporate entity. The two VPNs will be sharing resources and info, but are staying as individual products.

NordVPN on paper

Number of servers: 5,500+
Number of countries:
60
Platforms supported:
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox & PlayStation (SmartPlay Smart DNS), Chrome, Firefox
Simultaneous connections: 6
Split tunneling:
Only with browser extensions and Android
Kill switch:
Yes
Supported protocols:
OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, NordLynx (WireGuard), SSTP
Country of registration:
Panama
Support: 24/7 live chat, knowledgebase, email

NordVPN review: homepage

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

NordVPN price: how much is it, and is there an NordVPN free trial?

Price is a defining factor for almost any consumer, so we'll start off by running down exactly how much NordVPN costs.

1-month plans start are the most expensive way to sign up to NordVPN, at $11.99. That drops to $4.99 a month if you commit for a year. At the time of writing, the 2-year plan is a very reasonable $3.29 a month – and while Nord offers different VPN deals throughout the year, the longest plan is always the cheapest.

So, if you want value for money, we'd recommend going for the longest plan available. Many users might baulk at that proposition, but NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which allows you to test out the service risk-free before commiting.

If you're in it for the long haul, though, be aware that NordVPN renews at a hefty $8.29 a month once your initial term is up – not quite the bargain you might expect, and more expensive than ExpressVPN, which is often regarded as the priciest option. 

NordVPN isn't exactly a cheap VPN, and it's thoroughly undercut by the likes of Surfshark ($2.49/m) and Private Internet Access ($2.19/m).

Payment options include credit card, prepaid card, PayPal, UnionPay, AmazonPay, GooglePay and iTunes. However, privacy fans will be pleased to know that Nord takes crypto payments (through CoinPayments), and accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, Ethereum and a whole host more.

If you want a VPN free trial, you can bag 7 days free on Android and iOS. However, if you really want to test out the service and see if it’s right for you, we’d recommend signing up to a paid plan and then using the 30-day money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work out. You won’t be out of pocket, and you’ll have a whole month to make up your mind.

NordVPN review

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

How private is NordVPN?

NordVPN prides itself as a serious bit of privacy kit, and it certainly delivers. Starting with the basics, Nord uses the industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption, combined with 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman keys. 

Perfect Forward Secrecy is also implemented, meaning that new keys are used eahc time you login, and are changed every hour or so when connected. This means that in the very unlikely event any session is compromised, the longest the attacker will get is an hour.

However, it doesn’t stop there. You can choose to use Onion over VPN, which routes your connection over the encrypted Tor network (sacrificing speed for absolute privacy), and you can also use Double VPN, which routes your traffic through two separate servers. So, if you’re willing to take a hit on outright speed in return for absolute privacy, these are useful options to have on hand.

In countries where VPN use is restricted, NordVPN’s obfuscated servers will prove useful – these cloak the fact that you're using a VPN at all, and help to keep users online in restrictive countries that limit VPN use. In fact, we rate Nord as one of the best China VPN services because of this.

How secure is NordVPN?

NordVPN also provides excellent security for its users. All apps get a kill switch that automatically cuts your connection if your VPN drops (it's reliable and a must-have for anyone that demands utmost security), and another that closes certain programs in the same scenario. Both of these are very useful for those looking for a torrenting VPN – but we’ll explore that a little more later.

The VPN effectively blocks DNS and WebRTC leaks – which we tested on DNS Leak Test, IPLeak, and others services with great results. All sounds pretty good, right?

Well, it had to happen at some point – let’s discuss the 2018 server hack, and how Nord dealt with it.

While this is now a long time ago, it's still a blot on Nord's copybook that industry professionals and Redditors with elephantine memories recall. Blamed on a ‘third-party data center,’ a single Finnish NordVPN server was compromised. There’s no data on who or what was affected, but it was made through a compromised account at the data center, which was subsequently terminated. You can read more about the NordVPN hack here.

In the aftermath, NordVPN kept quiet and didn’t announce the issue until about six months later – bad – but took steps like upgrading every server so they run on RAM only – good.

Taking into consideration the recent independent audit and subsequent sweeping infrastructure upgrades – things that very few other providers have done – Tom’s Guide is comfortable recommending NordVPN to the security conscious. In fact, while what initiated the reforms certainly wasn’t positive, it seems to have spurred NordVPN on to deliver one of the most secure VPN services on the market.

What’s more, NordVPN has also recently had its Android VPN app certified by the ioXt Alliance, meaning low-level features have been thoroughly tested and proven secure.

NordVPN review: features and extras

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

Does NordVPN keep logs?

In line with many of leading VPN providers, NordVPN states in no uncertain terms that it does not collect users' activity logs: 

‘Nord guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that your internet activity...is not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or browsing data.’ Nord also claims not to collect session logs, which many VPNs do and still claim to be ‘no-logging.’

Barnstorming stuff, then, but can we trust it? 

Well, it comes back to that audit again. PricewaterhouseCooper thoroughly investigated NordVPN’s servers and compared them to the provider’s stated policies. While we can’t reproduce any of the findings here, the audit is available online for Nord trialers and users, and it found ‘no signs that [NordVPN] had in any way violated [its] no-logs promise (opens in new tab).’

How fast is NordVPN?

While security should always be a primary concern, just every user will want excellent connection speeds, too. We tested NordVPN on our 1Gbps UK and US internet connections, and collated the results. We used a number of different speed testing websites and services, and repeated the tests in both morning and evening to get a good spread.

The vast majority of our readers will likely not have access to an uncontested gigabit connection, and in practice any VPN that comfortably performs above your maximum speed should be fine. However, our stated maximum speeds also indicate a quality server network with uncrowded servers, as well as agile applications that don't add bloat.

When using OpenVPN in the UK, NordVPN delivered distinctly average speeds of 250Mbps. However, when we switched to NordLynx, we saw speeds amp up to between 730-760Mbps. While that's marginally slower than our last test, it's still incredibly quick.

In the US, OpenVPN results were much the same, and NordLynx speeds were identical at 730-760Mbps, and OpenVPN rose to a peak of 350Mbps.

So, NordVPN is an excellent choice if you want a fast VPN. However, as demonstrated by the likes of TorGuard and Mozilla VPN, competitors not usually known for outright speed are embracing WireGuard and seeing incredible boosts, so while Nord’s speeds are seriously impressive, it’s not the only provider that can deliver them.

NordVPN review: settings

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

How good is NordVPN for streaming?

Streaming performance is becoming increasingly important, and it's clear that NordVPN has put a lot of effort into delivering a good service to its users.

In our last review, NordVPN was having some issues performing as a Netflix VPN, but this time around it's evidently upped its game.

In every location we tried (US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan), NordVPN was able to unblock exclusive shows and movies. This is better than much of the competition, and only ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN and Surfshark can offer similar performance.

It's the same story when it comes to BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, too – a full clean sweep of unblocking power from NordVPN, then.

How good is NordVPN for torrenting?

NordVPN boasts about being the ‘Best for P2P’ on its site. While we’d take that with a pinch of salt, it’s certainly encouraging that it overtly advertises the fact – although it’s no longer a main feature of the homepage.

You’ll get access to ‘hundreds’ of torrenting-friendly servers worldwide, and while that network isn’t going to be as widespread as a VPN that has every server P2P-enabled, it should give a pretty good spread.

However, an issue with VPNs that aren’t fully P2P optimized is that when connected to a non-torrenting server, when you launch your torrenting client you may find it simply doesn’t work. NordVPN doesn't suffer from this, though, and automatically reroutes you to a server that is suitable if it detects P2P traffic.

Overall, combined with Nord’s excellent no-logging policy, good speeds, features like Double VPN and Onion over VPN, plus good DNS protection, it’s a decent choice for torrenting, but if you're primary use for a VPN is for staying safe when torrenting, there are better torrenting VPN services on the market.

How easy is it to install NordVPN?

Ease of use is a huge factor in making sure that people actually use their VPN on a regular basis, and that all starts with installing on any and all of your devices.

Thankfully, the process of installing NordVPN is pretty simple on just about any operating system. Users have a huge range of tutorials and guides available, and we’ve even put together our own walkthrough on how to download NordVPN. If you want to know the details of installing the apps, you might find that useful.

Beyond the plentiful guides for the mainstream operating systems, you’ll also have detailed instructions on how to set up more niche use cases, including things like setting it up as a SOCKS 5 proxy, plus info about setting it up to work with tons of different browsers, Raspberry Pi, routers, Windows Phone, and plenty more besides.

How good are NordVPN's desktop apps?

Once you're up and running, NordVPN's desktop apps on both Windows and Mac are attractive and clean. You’ll be faced with a large map-based interface, and you can select your server by clicking on a location on the map as well as scrolling through a list of countries.

However, while it’s good looking, in practice it’s not incredibly intuitive. The previous issue of overlapping server location pins on the maps has been remedied, though, and an intelligent zooming feature bunches regions together as one instead of displaying all available locations.

So, for example, central and southern Europe has a huge number of available servers. Rather than a whole bunch of pins, you’ll now be faced with a single pin. Click that, and you’ll zoom in, and the app will then display each country individually without the map being cluttered. It’s a useful workaround to retain the map interface, but we still think it’s a case of style over substance.

Nord’s saving grace here is the fact that you can open up a regular server list, just like any other VPN. While we understand that the map is a somewhat defining feature of the NordVPN brand, we think it could be implemented a little more effectively. 

Another annoyance crops up when trying to disconnect – every time you do so, you'll be asked whether you want to disconnect, or simply pause your connection for a certain period of time. While this seems like it's a good idea, in practice it's quite irritating, and even one extra click makes a huge difference when it comes to UX.

In terms of the client’s power, you’ll have quick access to just about every feature Nord provides in just a couple of clicks, and a search feature lets you find the exact server you’re looking for.

However, it’s disappointing to see that the favorites system seems to have been replaced by a ‘Recents’ list. While this will probably be fine for most, we can’t really see the logic in removing a useful standard feature just to replace it with a slightly less useful one. Why can’t we have both?

The new Presets function is intriguing, and will definitely prove useful for at least some users. In short, you can configure a server and protocol for quick access. That means if there’s a particular server and protocol combo that works well for torrenting, or you often access US Netflix from outside the country, you can set up your preset and activate it without any faffing around.

A System Tray icon is also present, which allows you to connect to your recent connections without opening the app at all.

Stability in use is excellent, and if we’re honest, that’s the main thing. Connections are swift, switching servers is quick and easy (something some leading VPNs struggle with), and you’ll even be treated to a system tray/menu bar icon which lets you connect to your favori… sorry, recent servers without opening the full app.

Switching protocols, activating kill switches, and using other extra features is easy in the settings dialog, and overall the NordVPN desktop apps are very useful. We’re pretty sure most people could forgive the map interface, and otherwise it’s an attractive, stable and very functional package that's well suited to performing as either a Mac VPN or Windows 10 VPN.

NordVPN review: android and ios apps

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

How good are NordVPN's mobile apps?

Again, NordVPN’s mobile apps on iOS and Android are both dominated by a map-based interface, and here it proves rather awkward indeed. On a handheld screen there’s very little room to scroll around, and we’d be tempted to forget about it entirely and just use the server list – but on iOS it’s marginally more usable than on Android.

Installing and setting up is much like any other app on either OS. After signing up on the NordVPN site, you’ll be directed to the app store. Download, accept some permissions, and then get going. In use, connecting and disconnecting is simple and doesn’t take more than about five seconds on average, and the all-important settings are easy to access.

Auto-connect is available on both, and allows Nord to connect itself on unknown networks and stay off when you’re using ones you’ve whitelisted – very useful if you want automatic protection. Plus, with CyberSec, you’ll get ad blocking plus malware and phishing protection.

Differences between the two are fairly minimal. The Android app lacks a true kill switch, but you can create a serviceable simulacrum by doing the following: System Settings > NordVPN settings > Enable 'Always on VPN' and 'Block connections without VPN'. However, the iOS app has a kill switch in-built, but it’s not user-selectable – it’s always on.

The Android app is the only NordVPN client to actually offer split tunneling, and it also has the power to set up a custom DNS server and protect you from malicious popups.

The iOS app, on the other hand, has none of that, but is still one of the more powerful iPhone VPN services thanks to Apple’s limitations. You’ll be treated to Siri support and dark mode, plus a good selection of protocols. That’s should be enough for most users day-to-day.

A useful addition we wish was available on desktop is the previously mentioned Dark Web Monitoring. If you choose so, you’ll be notified of any of your details cropping up in dark web leaks, which should give you a heads up to change your credentials.

So, overall, pretty good mobile VPN apps from NordVPN, and while they’re by no means perfect, they’re very usable and can certainly provide quick, easy protection on the move.

NordVPN review: browser extensions

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

How good is NordVPN's browser extension?

NordVPN’s Edge, Firefox and Chrome VPN extension is a proxy extension, which means that while it can work without the desktop client installed, it doesn’t provide any encryption. Instead, it just provides the ability to very quickly change your location and, if you activate the settings, block WebRTC leaks, ads, and malware with CyberSec.

The main draw is the fact you don’t have to fire up the whole client, and within a couple of clicks you can appear to be wherever you want – plus, you connection won't be affected by any possible slow-down from encryption. However, the browser extensions do have their limitations. You’ll only be able to select countries – not cities – and obviously only your browser traffic is affected.

Compared to the competition, NordVPN’s extensions are good. While ExpressVPN’s extension is probably the best around, it’s essentially another interface for the full app – Nord’s is standalone software that’s not as powerful, but performs a different task, and does it well.

What customer support does NordVPN offer?

If anything goes wrong or you need some help, you’ve got a few options with Nord. Your first port of call should be the knowledgebase, which compiles tons of articles on loads of topics. While it’s rather confusingly laid out, once you find what you need the info is excellent.

However, many people will prefer to use the 24/7 live chat. The chatbox doubles as a chatbot, which can help you find certain information, but if you want to talk to a real person, that’s possible too. In our experience the operators have been friendly and helpful, and have resolved any issues within minutes of asking the question.

Finally, email support is also available, but expect to be waiting a little longer for a reply.

NordVPN review: Final verdict

With excellent connection speeds, stellar streaming VPN performance, top-tier privacy and security features alongside useful apps, there's not a lot we can fault with NordVPN, and it's undoubtedly one of the best services on the market (opens in new tab).

If we were to split hairs, we'd like the apps to be slightly more user-friendly, and the browser extensions could be beefed up a little, but in fairness NordVPN just about does it all, and does it well. As such, we highly recommend NordVPN if you're looking for a true all-rounder.

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.

  • tuanton
    After horrendous support from Express vpn and having tried some others who all appear to have problems at present time with access to BBCiPlayer and ITV HUB in UK, I am considering Nord but understand that they also have periodic problems with the sites I mentioned. Incidentally, Express was down yesterday after sending out an update which apparently had a bug. I spent 1 hr 50 minutes with 4 support staff (mostly useless) and in the end managed to fix the problem myself. So any good feedback about NORD ?
    Reply
  • MJ_1970
    Very disappointing. I have a very bad customer service and sales representative experience when my account suspended bc of PayPal payment issue with Nord VPN vendor. I paid for a 2 years vpn through PayPal on 2020. Last April I got message from PayPal flagged one payment charge from Paddle.com which I did not know what is it. then PayPal returned money to my account after that my Nord vpn subscription stopped . I called Paypal and reversed money into Paddle account and contacted with Nord VPN customer service. After 3 times try in 2 days finally I could reach to the sales guy who asked me for many documents that fortunately I made them all ready before start calling them finally he acknowledge the issue but could not help and solve the issue. He promised to send me 2 days temporary vpn access code which never sent and promised he will follow up and will come back to me which never happened. I was in a business trip, lost my VPN and secure connection access with my accounts but Nord could not reinstate my account. Very unprofessional and unreliable service and company. I'm not suggesting this company to anyone.
    Reply
  • el lobo
    1) This company doesn't allow you to delete your payment information.

    2) I clearly checked-marked NO AUTOMATIC RENEWAL. They stole over 100USD from my account by overwriting my choice.

    3) As of today they still have my payment info. I will have, in 11 months, to check again my NO AUTOMATIC RENEWAL.

    4) But they will still have my payment info.

    They give me no other choice but to cancel my CC!!
    Reply
  • allandemem
    I tried a few vpns and my best feedback is for Nordvpn. Their customer support was very kind and helpful when I had issues. Also, it is extremely easy to use, and the price is worthy. I use it not only for security but for streaming too. So it met all my expectations
    Reply