If you are looking for a VPN or want to switch from your current provider, you should consider NordVPN. I’ll skip the scare mongering and overhyped sales pitch and will get right to the point:
NordVPN offers great service at a really good price.
Allow me to explain! All VPNs do essentially the same thing, establish an encrypted tunnel to a VPN server and thereby hiding your real IP address from the rest of the Internet.
If you had written about and tested VPNs for as long as I have, you’d know that all VPNs cost about the same, have roughly the same features, and even a quick look at their terms and conditions doesn’t allow you differentiate between providers. So why wouldn’t you just toss a coin or let a monkey throw darts at a board to help you decide?
For one, not all of use have a trained monkey handy to get this done quickly and, more importantly, not all services will work equally well for you, but you wouldn’t know that looking at their websites.
What’s Really Important?
Lets start with the most important point, speed, which is also the trickiest to test, because speed depends on many different factors that are neither under your control nor can they be controlled by the VPN provider. We have tried to come up with clever ways to compare VPN speeds, eliminating as many variables as possible, but in the end, all that matters is how fast the service is performing when you use it, meaning from your device, your location, at whatever time, connecting to whatever server you happened to connect to. If that speed sucks you won’t use the VPN and nobody wants to go back to dial-up Internet or watch a spinning beach ball instead of the movie they were looking forward to.
Another aspect for you to consider is where a VPN provider is legally located. There are many legitimate reason to keep your Internet activities hidden from prying eyes. For example, you might be living in a country with an authoritarian government and you want to connect with the free world without your government knowing about it. As you can imagine, a VPN provider that is located within your country might be a really bad choice…
What about the applications you plan on using? Believe it or not, some VPN providers outright prohibit P2P networking (NordVPN even encourages it!), so if that is what you want to use the VPN for you need to make sure that’s OK with the provider you are considering or risk having your account suspended. I could go on…
To summarize, before getting into the detailed review, NordVPN offers great speed, is located in Panama (hence safe for most of us), keeps no logs, encourages file sharing and online gaming, and has a bunch of clever features not every VPN provider offers. Best of all, you can get all of this at a very competitive price!
Now the details… I signed up with NordVPN, read the terms and conditions, installed the service on various devices, tested connection speeds from several locations around the globe, watched movies on Netflix, asked friends to do the same (maybe I shouldn’t have said that…) and here is what I think, starting with the boring first:
Terms of Service
NordVPN’s ToS are pretty standard, don’t use NordVPN for anything illegal (spelled out under prohibited activities), they won’t be liable if anything goes wrong, and they don’t guarantee 100% server uptime. Not really that surprising…
NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logging policy, meaning neither the IP you are connecting from, the time of the connection, or the amount of data transferred will be logged, period! They will store the user’s email address, username and payment information for obvious reason.
NordVPN has a 30 day refund policy and will grant you a refund after troubleshooting your issues first, but payments using gift cards and pre-paid cards are excluded.
Last but not least, NordVPN reserves the right to terminate your account without refund for violation of their Terms of Service. You can, of course, cancel your account at any time, and yes, you agree to their terms by using their service.
NordVPN has applications for most operating systems, the various flavors of Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, ChromeOS Linux, RaspberryPi, D-WRT, Tomato and the list goes on…. Chances are you’ll find a tutorial on how to setup NordVPN on your device on their website!
NordVPN can be set up using the platform specific applications or manually. They support, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, and IKEv2/IPsec.
NordVPN’s pricing is simple you can pay as much as USD 11.95 per month for their monthly plan, but you get a significant price break if signing up for a year at USD 5.75/moth, or even 2 years at USD 3.29/month. All plans come with the exact same features and allow you to simultaneously connect up to 6 devices.
After you sign up, NordVPN will send you a series of emails. While I consider most emails spam, these emails help you getting started with NordVPN in no time. Check them out once you have signed up!
Most VPN services offer shared IP addresses and so does NordVPN. However, you can upgrade your account to have your own IP address with NordVPN with servers located in Buffalo (NY), Los Angeles (CA), Dallas (TX), Frankfurt (Germany), London (UK), and Amsterdam (Netherlands).
The advantages of having your own IP address are less hassles accessing sites like Gmail, eBay, or PayPal, access to IP restricted networks, and possibly faster connection speed.
Keep in mind that if privacy is your main reason for using a VPN ordering your own IP address will make you less anonymous than if you are sharing IP addresses with hundreds of users! Just saying…
Obfuscated (hidden) servers are for those users who live in countries with heavy Internet restrictions.
Onion Over VPN Servers
NordVPN has the option to connect to the Onion Network through some of their VPN servers especially setup for this purpose. Using this option will hide the fact that you are connecting to the Tor Network from your ISP and it hides your real IP address from the Tor network, which can be important especially in censorship-heavy countries.
In contrast to other VPN service providers, NordVPN encourages you to use their VPN when sharing data P2P. Using a VPN for P2P traffic protects your IP from being visible on P2P networks and thereby protects your privacy and you from potential hacking attacks.
DNS Leak Protection
If you care about the privacy of your web activities you want to make sure your DNS queries don’t give away which URLs you are visiting. The Domain Name System (DNS) translates the more memorable letters of a URL into actual IP address via a DNS server lookup. NordVPN routes all DNS inquiries to its own DNS servers through its VPN network, thereby making sure your DNS queries don’t suddenly leak the URLs you are accessing.
Automatic Kill Switch
In case your VPN connection drops this technology will ‘kill’ all active Internet connection thereby making sure your IP address isn’t accidentally exposed. This is particularly important for P2P activities or when you are connected to public Wifi where you’ll never know who is watching.
Browser Proxy Extensions
NordVPN has extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Android devices, for everything else there is an app or instruction on how to set it up.
NordVPN offers a feature they call ‘Cybersec.’ I think of Cybersec as one of those features you didn’t think you needed until after you used it. According to NordVPN’s website, Cybersec blocks dangerous websites, helps your devices avoid botnet control, and filters out annoying ads. For all of you thinking like me though, the question arises what constitutes a ‘dangerous website’ or an ‘annoying ad’, as that is obviously open to interpretation…
Double VPN is exactly what the name suggests, 2 VPN servers chained together to increase privacy. While this is a great feature, it can slow down your Internet connection because of the extra time required to encrypt and decrypt your traffic not just once, but twice. However, it is a small price to pay when you depend on absolute privacy, like some bloggers, journalists and whistleblowers, for example, do.
A normal VPN connection initiates on your device, reaches the VPN server through an encrypted tunnel, and is then send out to the Internet like regular, hence non-encrypted traffic. For this to work the VPN server needs to know your real IP address and therefore makes you vulnerable to identification. Double VPN instead sends the traffic from the first VPN server to a second one, via another encrypted tunnel before your traffic reaches the Internet decrypted. The second VPN server never needs to know your real IP address, thereby hiding your real IP address more effectively.
Server and Speed
I didn’t feel like working this afternoon, so I dabbled around and connected to various NordVPN servers and, when connected, went to speedtest.net to see what kind of speeds I would get. First of all, it is surprisingly easy and fast to change from one country to another. On my Mac I can do it right from a drop-down menu in the menu bar.
As expected, connection speeds varied and yes, there are many factors contributing to the speed you end up with. To make matters worse I did all of this while being connected via Wifi.
I am in the US at the moment connecting to American and Canadian servers resulted in fast connection, pings around 20ms, with upload and download speeds of 25/15 and similar; plenty of speed to do what most of us want to do… The further you virtually travel, the slower the ping and speed, which makes sense. Pings and speeds in Europe and Scandinavia are pretty good, but once you pick more exotic places (seen from the point of view of a North American user) pings and speeds can drop significantly.
Overall, NordVPN faired really well! I hope I have given you enough information to make an educated decision about signing up with NordVPN, their speed is great, it works with Netflix, they have plenty of server locations, are located in Panama and have a lot of features you didn’t even know existed. Price-wise they are in line with other providers and longer terms provide significant savings. If you are still unsure about a one year or two year commitment, buy just one month of service and give NordVPN a spin before signing up for a longer term and saving yourself some money.
We’d appreciate it if you would use this affiliate link to check out NordVPN, it helps us keep the lights on! Let us know in the comments what you think about this review and NordVPN’s services. Oh, and questions are always appreciated!
Image Credit: Arild
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