Today we'll be reviewing NordVPN. The most acclaimed VPN solution for those concerned about privacy, anonymity and bypassing absurd bans on certain websites and services.
While it has received the vouch of many large publications, such as pcmag.com, it also has a few caveats that you should be aware of.
Without any further ado, let's have a look at the ins and outs of NordVPN, the zero-logs, Panama based tool.
- 58 Countries to choose from
- 1,000 Servers and IP addresses
- Kill Switch
- 6 devices per license
- Zero logs kept
- Most US servers are maxed out
- Extremely slow when using double VPN or Tor
One of the key features of any VPN is where it's based. NordVPN is based in Panama which is a great start. All customers will be able to enjoy the following features as listed on their site:
- Up to 6 devices connected at one time (per account)
- 58 Different countries to choose from
- 5 different VPN protocols to choose from: IKEv2, OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec
- P2P: yes
- Dedicated IP available on request
- Smart DNS service
- Web proxy and web proxy extension for Chrome (free)
- Socks5 proxies
- VPN access for China via obfsproxy
- Can manually configure DNS servers
- Double VPN
- Tor over VPN
Even though you can use six devices at once, you can't have more than one device connected to the same server and protocol, so you must for instance have one device on server 1 and another on server 2, or one connected via TCP and another via UDP.
OpenVPN protocol is our recommendation but you can go with IKEv2 as well.
If you're using VPN for torrenting, the Socks5 proxy is a perfect choice for double protection.
Smart DNS (SmartPlay)
So if you're trying to access or stream content that's blocked at a specific geographical location, you can resolve your DNS at another location to bypass that block.
Using SmartPlay you'll be able to access over 150 of the most popular streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Food Network, Discovery, Cartoon Network, Vevo, Zatoo…virtually any streaming platform you can think of
SmartPlay requires no additional configuration, which is great news. It simply detects if a given streaming service requires this type of connection and they it applies the bypass if it's needed.
The only downside is that it won't work with devices such as a SmartTV because they can't run VPN clients.
This is an extremely powerful feature in terms of privacy, but obviously by the nature of it, a terrible configuration for speed.
What this does is allow you to connect to one VPN server, then to another one, adding an extra layer of security.
Having your data encrypted twice offers a great deal of security and anonymity. Which is the main reason for using a VPN for the majority of us.
At the time of writing, NordVPN is one of the only two providers who offer this sort of combined connection, with the other one being IVPN
Another interesting feature in terms of security and anonimity is using the Tor over VPN.
This essentially allows you to connect to the Tor (Onion) network while using the VPN.
While this sounds like a tinfoil-hat guy's dream, the results speed are sometimes simply too low to be even worth using it (Ok, Tor is very slow per se)
There's a few issues worth mentioning with other features of NordVPN
IPv6 leaks and WebRTC leaks: IPv6 leaks were a constant issue with NordVPN although the company declared that had been fixed early this year. WebRTC leaks were also discovered when testing NordVPN with the Firefox browser.
Kill Switch: This extremely useful feature is meant to “freeze” traffic whenever the VPN connection drops (so you're not navigating “unprotected”)
However, the way the Kill Switch works on NordVPN is rather sub-par. You set a list of applications you want the Kill Switch to cover and it will kill them if the VPN connection goes off. Yes, literally.
Say goodbye to that email, that draft on your site, or any other thing you're working on (if you've set that app to be affected by Kill Switch). So my advice would be to use the KS feature exclusively on “sensitive” applications (like perhaps working with PBNs on a specific browser) but not your regular work stuff.
While using a VPN adds some extra lag by the very nature of adding physical distance between your connection and “your connection”, we don't want to experience serious speed losses either.
With hundreds of servers all over the globe, and multiple servers in the most popular countries such as the US and the UK, NordVPN definitely offers enough possibilities regardless of what you're trying to do (or avoid).
However, not all servers work as good as we'd like to and more often than not, servers in the US are at full capacity, which brings speeds to a ridiculous low. Sometimes, we'll see a high number of servers down even if NordVPN states in their TOS a 99% uptime promise.
Not just saying that they have that much, but that they promise it.
During my tests, connections were stable but more often than not the app had a hard time connecting to the server (alas, taking up to two minutes.) This was less frequent when NordVPN auto-selected the server.
Once connected, streaming video at 1080 on YouTube or playing online was possible with little lag (under 100ms, depending on the server) which may sound atrocious to hardcore gamers but experienced VPN users all know it's pretty decent for a VPN connection.
Here are some speed tests:
1. My connection without VPN
2. US Server
3. Indian server
4. UK Server
So results are just ok. Curious how the US server had the worst performance from all tests.
Overall I'd give a 4/5 in speed and performance to NordVPN
One can easily access the knowledge base by clicking on ‘help' at the top right of the navigation menu:
Or by clicking on the support icon on the bottom right of NordVPN's website:
The knowledge base and FAQ section is very large and solves all common issues or doubts you could possibly have about the tool.
Live chat works decently and is knowledgeable, but sometimes there's the odd operator who doesn't really have a good answer for anything that's not on the knowledge base, which is what makes me give a 4.5/5 instead of a 5 on this section.
Overall really good, but just a step before perfection.
NordVPN offers three different payment options, with monthly being the most expensive choice and quite over what it's actually worth, unless you need a VPN to live (let's say you're in China).
However, the yearly plan is suitable for most at just $69 for a full 12 months (that's the one I have) and NordVPN always runs promos so you'll be able to get it even cheaper.
I've been using NordVPN for over a year now, travelled all over the world and skipped as many stupid internet restrictions as you may think there are.
Overall, I think it is a powerful tool, that offers great value for money with top of the industry standards in terms of encryption and privacy.
Netflix, torrenting, using a different IP for each PBN site you log in to… you name it. Is all possible for me because of NordVPN.