NordVPN review: Is this the best VPN provider?
NordVPN is considered as one of the best VPN providers on the web. But does the service also prove itself worthy of such a title in everyday use? How fast is NordVPN, and how good are its apps on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS? I dived deep to discover all these for NextPit in this review!
- Many servers in 60 countries
- Hardly any loss of speed thanks to NordLynx
- High-security standards
- Comfort features and special servers
- Very user friendly
- Subscriptions available via a one-time payment
- No free trial period
- Android app caused problems in the review
Price and subscription plans
This review was created as part of a cooperation with NordVPN. However, this had no effect on our editorial opinion and its content.
As with most VPN providers, you have to get a paid subscription to use NordVPN. Doing so will grant you get access to all of its servers and functions of the service. It is only the duration that changes, alongside the different pricing structures. The longer your NordVPN subscription is, the lower the monthly cost.
What I liked:
- Flexible subscription terms that range from one month to two years.
- Regular discount promotions with deep discounts.
What I disliked:
- No free trial period. You can only sign up and cancel the subscription later on.
- The annual plan is available only with a one-time payment option.
In the past, we reported about NordVPN mostly due to its discount promotions. Thereby, you can save on the different plans at the VPN provider by up to 70 percent and lower the cost significantly. For this review, for instance, you can secure a discount of 77 percent on the 2-year subscription for NordVPN's birthday.
Alternatively, you can subscribe to the VPN provider on a yearly or monthly basis. The pricing structure can be seen in the following table.
NordVPN subscription fees at a glance
|Duration||1 month||1 year||2 years|
|Total||Depends on the duration||$59.88||$95.76|
Prices may vary due to promotions
There are a couple of disadvantages that I have to mention in connection with NordVPN: The subscriptions are available only via a one-time payment for each case. Although there are numerous payment options using credit cards, AmazonPay, Google Pay, and even crypto currencies, for longer subscriptions you have to pay the full price upfront.
Furthermore, there is no free trial period. Instead, you always have to subscribe, pay for it, and cancel it if you don't like it. This is rather inconvenient, but of course, such a system protects the provider from being exploited by users who want to take it for a ride.
Locations and servers
A VPN provider naturally stands and falls with the availability of servers across different locations. In this respect, NordVPN belongs to the VPN elite with 5,200 servers in 60 countries. In addition to standard servers, there are also connection points for special use cases for double security, onion networks, and more.
What I liked:
- High number of servers.
- Available for many countries.
- Interesting special servers.
What I disliked:
In pretty much any use case for VPN services, a high selection of countries is beneficial. NordVPN allows you to connect to over 60 different countries when streaming, bypassing country restrictions, so that you can surf securely. While you can find the full list at NordVPN itself, I would like to introduce you to a few special features offered by NordVPN.
For example, there are 1921 servers in the US alone, 482 servers in the UK, and 30 servers in India. So for most English content needs, there are enough connection points to ensure a stable connection even with high traffic. This becomes especially important when you are travelling and want to access your local streaming libraries, for example. Alternatively, the speeds are usually higher for connections within the same country.
For connections via other EU countries or non-European countries, you can connect via servers in Australia, Japan, Germany and other countries that are popular with VPN services. In addition, NordVPN offers a special feature that allows you to dial in from specific cities.
Furthermore, NordVPN offers special servers that are interesting for certain scenarios. For additional security, you can connect via Double VPN servers, so that the connection is routed through two servers. Alternatively, there are special servers where the connection is routed through the Onion (TOR) network.
Other special use cases are dedicated P2P servers and individual IPs that encrypt your traffic even without VPN.
Speeds in 5 countries
For streaming purposes, downloading files, or simply surfing, high speed is important for encrypted connections. NordVPN offers special servers that feature high speeds in its apps, but as a speed test shows, that is not absolutely true. We performed the following benchmarks on three platforms on a Thursday evening at 6 pm from Berlin, Germany.
Download and upload speeds NordVPN (Down / Up - Mbit/s)
|Country||NordVPN MacOS||NordVPN Apple iOS||NordVPN Android|
|Without||106.02 / 37.9||113 / 40.8||105.75 / 37.65|
|Germany (Frankfurt)||101.37 / 36.01||101 / 36.2||98.7 / 35.5|
|USA (New York)||102.49 / 35.90||101 / 35.6||100 / 34.9|
|Australia||91.76 / 34.63||99.1 / 28.4||102.12 / 36.,54|
|Japan||104.23 / 35.89||103 / 35.4||102 / 27.2|
|France||97.88 / 19.41||99.8 / 35.2||101 / 35.85|
We performed the measurements for each case over a WLAN network via a Vodafone DSL connection at 100 Mbit/s with the "Ookla" speed test, using the native apps for each platform.
Speeds in countries like Australia or Japan are particularly impressive. As you can see, the speed does not decrease much in any connection compared to the measurement without a connected VPN. NordVPN makes this possible by using the NordLynx protocol. This is a WireGuard-based VPN protocol that the provider develops itself. You can learn more about the development and certification of NordLynx in the linked article on the NordVPN website.
For this review, we can state that we could run all use cases that would be possible without a VPN in any country with a VPN connection. If you are interested in connecting to more countries, we recommend you to check the latest speed test results from NordVPN.
Security and encryption
Having already discussed the NordLynx protocol briefly, we will now look at the security of NordVPN. Alternatively, the IKEv2 / IPsec and OpenVPN protocols are also available. NordVPN always encrypts connections via secure 256-bit keys according to the AES standard.
What I liked:
- High-security standards.
- Flexible protocol selection.
- Convenient features like kill switch.
- No-log policy.
What I disliked:
When it comes to the security of a VPN provider, you have to pay attention to two things: The security of the connections themselves and the privacy that the VPN provider itself guarantees you. In our VPN best list, Rubens explains to you in detail what Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes are all about. NordVPN is based in Panama and thus escapes the jurisdiction of many countries. So, if a government demands the disclosure of usage data, you are still anonymous and safe with NordVPN.
Furthermore, NordVPN follows a strict no-log policy. This means that the servers of NordVPN do not save which clients have connected at which time. This way you leave no traces behind when you connect via NordVPN.
Besides bypassing country restrictions, a major advantage of VPN connections is that they are encrypted. Your smartphone, notebook, or Wi-Fi router encrypts the transmitted data using a security key which in this case is 256-bit long. That is a sequence of 256 zeros and ones. According to Wikipedia, this results in 2^256 possibilities that an attacker would have to go through to decrypt the data.
To put it plainly: 115,792,089,237,316,195,423,570,985,008,687,907,853,269,984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936! NordVPN states that decrypting it would take more time than humanity has available. Scary!
Only the other side can encrypt the data for sure. Due to the tunnel connections, not even internet providers can know which data you are transferring.
The encryption according to AES-256-Bit is done by NordVPN over three protocols, one of which we have already mentioned to you - the specially developed NordLynx. Alternatively, you can choose between IKEv2 / IPsec and OpenVPN. Both protocols are very secure but differ mainly in their compatibility with the respective hardware and operating systems.
While it's best to use the proprietary apps for VPN configuration on macOS, iOS, and Android, you can also instruct your WLAN router to encrypt every connection with OpenVPN, for example.
Another thing that is only possible in the apps: There is a kill switch that automatically disconnects all connections if the VPN connection fails. This prevents the other party from reading your IP address or your location if your device ever drops the tunnel connection. This is a really practical feature for more security.
Apps and platforms
With each VPN subscription at NordVPN, you can connect up to six devices simultaneously. Thus, the provider is also suitable for families that use different platforms. In addition to convenient connection options, the apps also offer comfort features such as split tunneling or a dark web monitor that checks your data for leaks on the dark web.
What I liked:
- High platform diversity.
- Practical comfort features.
- Very user-friendly.
What I disliked:
- Android app does not always connect reliably.
The challenge of a VPN provider in 2022 is no longer to establish secure and stable connections. Far more than that, it is still difficult to convince people of the benefits of a VPN. And the best way to do that is to make it as convenient as possible to use. NordVPN offers numerous, free apps for this purpose. The platform support looks like this:
- Android (download here)
- Apple iOS (download here)
- Linux (download here)
- Windows (download here)
- macOS (download here)
- Android TV (download here)
- Common browsers (Chrome, Firefox)
- Home router via OpenVPN protocol (instructions here)
For this review, we tried out the native apps for Android, Apple iOS, and macOS. In each case, the installation was completed in no time and you only need to enter your password for the configuration. This is because VPN providers set themselves up in the operating system via the app. The configuration worked on every tested device within a few seconds.
Following that, to try it out for the first time, you will head to the country list and select a country you want to connect to. Alternatively, there is also a Quick Connect feature that will automatically connect you to a VPN with sufficient security and high speed. While the connection on the iPhone and a MacBook worked 100% reliably, we had to restart the connection on a Google Pixel 6 more often. This is not a big problem, but it should not go unmentioned here.
You will find practical features within the apps, the most important of which is split tunneling. Only certain data is transmitted via the VPN, while the "normal" traffic runs unencrypted. For example, you can perform a download in the browser that is connected to NordVPN and play a multiplayer game via Steam without losing speed.
In addition, there are other security features such as a dark web check, which scans the non-public Internet for data leaks that contain your personal data. In addition, there are functions for online threat protection, which protect your system from viruses and malware.
If you get stuck despite the high user-friendliness, you can fall back on its 24/7 customer support, which works via email or live chat.
Let's summarize everything on the table in a fair and transparent manner:
NordVPN works with the highest security standards, offers speeds that are barely slower than a regular connection without VPN, and packs all these into user-friendly apps. In addition, there are convenient features like split tunneling or an auto-kill switch, and in case of problems, support is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
It is therefore not surprising that NordVPN tops many VPN "Best Of" lists on the web and is also at the top of NextPit's. As a point of criticism, we can technically only note down the connection issues with the Android app at the end of this review.
However, you have to remember that NordVPN's subscriptions are only payable in the form of a one-time payment. Thus, the entry threshold into the VPN world can be rather high for many users. After all, very few people are willing to pay higher double-digit sums at one go for security mechanisms that work completely in the background.
NordVPN could provide more flexibility here and also introduce a free subscription. However, since the latter would possibly lead to burner accounts and free usage, it is understandable that NordVPN offers a 30-day return policy instead.
There is no doubt about the fact that Nord VPN is one of the best providers in the market. But, there are others as well that can be opted for such as Ivacy VPN, Express VPN etc.