What we thought of one of the most popular VPNs
What We Like
- Minimal data logging: NordVPN only keeps track of the basics like email, payment information, and customer service interactions.
- Located in Panama: This means that NordVPN falls outside of the surveillance alliances Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes. As a result, the government can never force NordVPN to surrender our data.
- Shared IP addresses: To keep our online traffic private, NordVPN assigns a certain number of IP addresses to each server location. Other NordVPN users connecting to the same server as ours shared these IP addresses, allowing for more anonymity.
What We Don't Like
- Customer service: Even though we were happy about NordVPN’s options of a live chat, email support, and an FAQ database, we wished the company had phone support.
- Torrenting: NordVPN allows torrenting, but not every server supports it. We had to spend a few extra minutes searching around NordVPN’s network to find the right server for torrenting.
Bottom LineOne of the better-known VPNs, NordVPN's Panama headquarters makes it a top choice for the privacy-concerned, as Panama isn't a member of any international surveillance alliances. We had fun watching other countries' Netflix from a server in the United States with impressive speeds.
A VPN is one of the most important tools you can have in your cybersecurity toolbox. VPNs keep your identity hidden and your browser history secure. In this review, we take a close look at one of the industry leaders in VPNs, NordVPN.
NordVPN has a lot going for it. The company hails from Panama, for instance, which is outside of any surveillance jurisdictions. We also know that in the past, it’s had a reputation for reliability. Let’s check out whether NordVPN is still as good as its reputation suggests and examine how it stacks up against other top VPN services.
NordVPN Quick Highlights
|IP addresses||Static, shared or dedicated|
|Average decrease in speed||33%|
|Monthly price range||$3.71 – $11.95|
We named NordVPN one of our best VPNs, but here, we’ll take you through each of NordVPNs features in detail, and let you know why we think it’s such a great option.
Servers Around the Globe
With more than 5,200 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN reassured us that we wouldn’t have to look too far for a server to use. To us, that translates to not having to worry about slow internet speeds. You see, the closer we are to a server, the quicker our internet speeds are. So, whether we’re home in Brooklyn or globetrotting with our pals, we knew that we could count on NordVPN.
|VPN||Number of servers|
|Private Internet Access||3,200|
Headquartered in Panama
Though NordVPN operates worldwide, its headquarters are in Panama. That’s a big plus for us because Panama falls outside of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes jurisdiction.1
For all the VPN newbies out there, those are surveillance alliances among countries. Depending on a VPN company headquarters location, government entities could force a company to give up data it gathered about its customers. In our book, that’s a huge red flag, so we love that NordVPN doesn’t have to worry about that kind of situation, meaning we didn’t have to worry, either.
NordVPN also featured a kill switch, a VPN mainstay we always keep an eye out for. The kill switch really came in handy when we were downloading a huge file during a storm, and our VPN connection went out for a moment.
The kill switch stopped our download and quit our mobile apps automatically. If it hadn’t done that, our internet provider would have seen our online activities. We feel safe knowing that if our VPN connection drops, our internet connection drops, as well, to protect our privacy.
NordVPN is one of our favorite VPNs to torrent on; we loved that whenever we wanted to be couch potatoes and watch one of our favorite shows, we didn’t have to keep waiting for them to buffer. With NordVPN, we indulged in as much online content as we wanted to. Best of all, we got to watch Netflix. With NordVPN’s vast collection of servers in other countries, we even got to change our region on Netflix and watch shows from other Netflix libraries.
Heads Up: While we watched Netflix using NordVPN, Netflix is always trying to update its technology to prevent VPN users from bypassing geo-restrictions. So far, Netflix hasn’t blocked NordVPN’s IP addresses, but it could do so in the future.
When we don’t use a VPN, our online traffic goes to our internet service provider. The provider has access to all our activities and can give our information over to advertisers, government agencies, and other third parties. When we set up a VPN, our internet service provider can no longer see our activity, but our VPN can. Therefore, it’s important that the VPN doesn’t log more data than it has to.
Luckily, NordVPN didn’t log the websites we visited, the files we downloaded, the software we used, our IP addresses, the amount of time we spent on the VPN, or the amount of data we used.
However, NordVPN logged some data, like the email addresses we used to sign up, payment data, the timestamps of our last sessions statuses, and customer service information, but this is normal and necessary to maintain our account. The company also kept tabs on how we used the NordVPN app to further improve the user experience.
Moreover, PricewaterhouseCoopers Switzerland has audited NordVPN’s logging policy twice, once in 2018 and again in July 2020. Most recently, in June 2021, VerSprite, a third-party consulting firm, completed an independent audit of NordVPN’s application security and found no critical vulnerabilities.2 Bottom line? All audits found the VPN to be completely secure when it comes to customer data.
Our NordVPN privacy report has more details on how the company handles user data.
Encryption locks away data about our online activities so that no one, besides authorized users, can see what we’re doing online. It’s a key feature that has led us to use VPNs, and NordVPN has impressive standards.
It uses AES with 256-bit keys, the same encryption standard that governments and cybersecurity experts like us recommend. We also saw the same encryption standard when we reviewed Surfshark, another high-rated VPN, which means it’s what the leading VPNs use. Though we felt secure using both Surfshark and NordVPN, we did notice that SurfShark offered fewer servers than NordVPN, making connection times a bit slower depending on our location. Read our comparison of Surfshark and NordVPN if you wish to learn more.
To establish secure connections to its servers, NordVPN used two internet protocols: IPSec and IKEv2. While IKEv2 helped re-establish our VPN connection if we lost our Wi-Fi, IPSec established encrypted connections among our many devices. These internet protocols were helpful when we switched from Wi-Fi networks to mobile hotspots or used our own data.
By default, NordVPN encrypted all of our web traffic automatically and routed it through a secure VPN server. This is known as a full-tunnel mode. But did you know that NordVPN also offers split tunneling?
Enabling split-tunnel mode, which was easy to find on our Windows laptops and Macbooks under NordVPN’s Settings tab, allowed us to route traffic to both the VPN server and a public Wi-Fi network at the same time. The idea behind split tunneling is to give us more control over our web surfing, but keep in mind that full-tunnel encryption is always the more secure option.
NordVPN also employed a double VPN, meaning that our data went through multiple servers to gain multiple layers of encryption. This concept, known as VPN server chaining or multi-hop, enhanced our security so that absolutely no one knew what we were up to.
Even if, let’s say, a hacker managed to get through one layer of encryption, a second encryption layer would stand as extra protection. Most VPNs only use one server, so we felt good knowing that our data had twice the encryption protecting it before it reached its final destination.
VPNs will sometimes slow down our internet speed, as the traffic has to go through an encryption server on top of a public network’s server. Regardless, we still wanted to see fast internet speeds while we were connected, so we made sure to test NordVPN ourselves. We used a MacBook Pro and an Acer Aspire 5 running Windows 10.
Lots of factors determine speed, like distance to the server, the device’s make and model, and the operating system, so keep in mind that there are a lot of things at play aside from the VPN itself.
In our results below, NordVPN worked much faster on our Acer Aspire 5 than on our MacBook Pro.
On our MacBook Pro, our download speed was about 25 percent slower while using NordVPN, while speed only decreased by eight percent on our Acer Aspire.
Our upload speeds were slower on our Mac than on our Windows, but download speeds on the Mac still excelled. For instance, when we needed to download a few files to share with our team, our Mac handled the task in just a couple of minutes.
|Testing computer||MacBook Pro||Acer Aspire 5|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||42||5|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||46||160|
|MacBook download speed without VPN (in Mbps)||54.86||23.49|
|Download speed with VPN (in Mbps)||41.37||21.7|
|Download speed difference||-24%||-8%|
|Upload speed without VPN (in mbps)||33.86||24|
|Upload speed with VPN (in mbps)||27.21||7.91|
|Upload speed difference||-20%||-67%|
Although NordVPN worked better on our Windows, it still held its own when we used our Mac, making it a versatile option no matter the device.
We should also note that NordVPN uses the NordLynx protocol, an adaptation of the Wireguard VPN protocol. Wireguard averaged 59 percent faster than OpenVPN in download speed tests.4 The NordLynx switchover hadn’t happened yet at the time of our NordVPN tests, but it’s safe to say that NordVPN’s download speeds have improved in recent years thanks to the NordLynx protocol.
DNS Leak Tests
DNS stands for Domain Name Server, and it’s the common name that goes with an IP address, such as Google.com. We put all the VPNs we review through a test to make sure that they are hiding our DNS when we connect to them. Fortunately, the company passed our evaluation, meaning that there were no DNS leaks when we connected to NordVPN.
WebRTC Leak Tests
We liked WebRTC because it allowed all the things we had going, like Netflix, video chats, and files we had to download, to use less bandwidth. However, WebRTC comes at a cost: the devices know each other’s private IP addresses, a big no-no for us. We conducted a WebRTC test to make sure that our IP addresses didn’t leak when we were using NordVPN. Luckily, NordVPN passed with flying colors on both Windows and Mac, showing different IP addresses than the real ones on our computers.
However, WebRTC comes at a cost: the devices know each other’s private IP addresses, a big no-no for us. We conducted a WebRTC test to make sure that our IP addresses didn’t leak when we were using NordVPN. Luckily, NordVPN passed with flying colors on both computer systems, showing different IP addresses than the real ones on our computers.
|Headquarters||Panama (Outside of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes)|
|Logs IP addresses?||No|
|Logs browser activity?||No|
|Torrenting||Yes, through uTorrent or BitTorrent|
|Total number of devices||6|
|Price||$11.95 per month or $3.67 a month with the 2-year subscription|
We know that the bottom line matters when choosing a VPN, so we gathered all the relevant information for you to compare VPNs. For NordVPN, we found the pricing structure to be pretty straightforward; we got all the same perks with all the options, but pricing varied depending on the lengths of the contracts.
NordVPN offers three options ranging from one month to two years. The low-commitment, month-to-month option is $11.95. If we signed on for two years and spent $99 upfront, that would come to only $4.13 per month.
That’s pretty affordable, and currently, NordVPN is adding three months free with the purchase of a two-year plan. $99 for 27 months of VPN use comes down to only $3.67 per month. Considering the breadth of features that NordVPN provided, we wouldn’t mind being locked into a longer-term contract.
|1 month||1 year||2 years||Deal: 2 years plus 3 months free|
|Total Amount Billed||$11.95||$59.00||$99.00||$99|
We also reviewed ExpressVPN’s pricing, NordVPN’s highly-rated competitor, and at $12.95 per month with a month-to-month plan, there’s only a small difference in cost. Read more about NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for more information.
Backup Plan: While NordVPN doesn’t offer a free trial period, it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If we had any issues with the service, NordVPN would have given us our money back, as long as we were within that window, no questions asked.
Before you buy, make sure to check out NordVPN’s deals to see how you can unlock savings.
24/7 Customer Support
NordVPN offered several options for its customer service, like 24/7 live chat, email support, and an in-depth database of submitted user questions to leaf through. When we wanted to dig into the details on what data the VPN logged, for example, we navigated to NordVPN’s support page. While NordVPN doesn’t provide a phone number in case we wanted to talk to a human, we still had access to plenty of resources on NordVPN’s support page.
In our video review, we take you through what it’s really like using NordVPN. You’ll get a better sense of exactly how this service works to help choose a VPN for you. And we’ll take you along on our process of testing NordVPN for speed and leaks.
NordVPN is a versatile VPN option with a global reach and first-class digital security software. We loved that it’s headquarter is in Panama because that meant we didn’t have to stress about the possibility of the government seeing our data. We were also glad that we could torrent so easily. Lastly, NordVPN passed all of our speed and security tests with top marks, making us confident that it could protect our privacy while we used the internet however we pleased.
Since NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs, here are the most common questions we get about it.
Is NordVPN a good VPN?
NordVPN is a good VPN. Its headquarters is in Panama, which isn’t part of any international surveillance alliances. It won’t track anything about the user’s web activity or IP addresses, encrypting both with AES-256.
NordVPN allows for Netflix and torrenting use, and it has fast speeds on our Mac computer. However, we saw a lot of lag with our Windows Acer Aspire, so NordVPN may be a better option for Mac users over PC users.
Is NordVPN legal in Australia?
NordVPN is legal in Australia; Australia doesn’t ban the use of VPNs. However, torrenting copyrighted content is still illegal, even while using NordVPN. Australia’s Telecommunications Amendment Act, which regulates data retention, requires internet service providers to collect users’ metadata and store it for two years, so many Australians have turned to VPN usage to maintain their data privacy.
Is NordVPN owned by China?
China does not own NordVPN. Rather, NordVPN has a parent company, Tefincom S.A., that is based in Panama. It also has offices in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Can ISPs and governments track you while you're using NordVPN?
ISPs and governments cannot track you while using NordVPN. As the company is in Panama, governments can never force NordVPN, legally, to hand over customer data. Plus, the company doesn’t log your real IP address or web activity. So while your internet service provider will be able to see the IP address that NordVPN gave you, thousands of NordVPN users share this address, making you anonymous online.
Business Leader. (2019). Five Eyes Alliance: Everything You Need To Know.
GlobeNewswire. (2021). NordVPN completes advanced application security audit.
Washington Post. (2015). Everything you need to know about encryption: Hint, you’re already using it.
CSO Online. (2020). What is WireGuard? Secure, simple VPN now part of Linux.