Do you think you’re safe and anonymous just because you’re connected to a VPN service? Think again! It takes much more to achieve that gold standard where a VPN can guarantee peace of mind to its users. Today we will talk about NordVPN, a popular VPN service among the privacy advocates around the world and will see if they are really what they claim to be in this NordVPN review. Without further ado, let’s start.
NordVPN Pros & Cons
Let’s first get down to a short list of useful features they offer and where they lack if any.
They use AES 256 encryption, which is secure enough for any practical application you can think of. They call it “military-grade” to make it sound fancy, but it really doesn’t need any. AES 256 encryption is considered to be one of the most secured encryptions, and it’s now standard for any organization dealing with privacy and security, not only for “military.”
This is a feature which, if enabled in the security settings of the app, will block any harmful website notorious for spreading malware, etc. It also works as an adblocker. While this is a useful feature, it’s nothing revolutionary. It’s always advised to get a proper malware/adware blocker paired with an antivirus to be protected from the majority of cyber-attacks, especially if you’re running windows. That said, it’s a cool feature nonetheless for the time being.
I wouldn’t call it pro, but that’s just me. First, why would anybody need a “double” VPN if the single primary one is secure enough? A VPN, in its core sense, should provide an encrypted and untraceable connection to its users, hence “doubling” the already secured connection make only little sense. Moreover, doubling the VPN means, double encryption, double latency, and subsequently, you get a slower connection. However, people who use VPN are mostly paranoid about their safety and anonymity and if it helps to keep their blood pressure on check knowing they are behind a “double VPN”, there’s no harm indeed!
No logs policy
A proper and working kill switch should be standard for any service dare itself to call a VPN, still many so-called reputable VPN services don’t offer one. NordVPN deserves some thanks not to join the band of those VPN services. For those who don’t know, a kill switch is a mechanism which automatically and instantly blocks all network connections (if enabled) in your device in case of a connection failure, to prevent accidental IP leak.
DNS Leak Protection
This is another concern VPN users had for many years when they were connected to a VPN service, yet they were leaking their original DNS (assigned by their ISP) due to inadequate leak protection of the VPN service. It happened since most VPN services were using third-party DNS servers or not offering any DNS servers at all as part of their VPN protection. Thankfully NordVPN is among the few services who owned their DNS servers from the beginning and had sufficient leak protection system within their app. To check if you’re still protected while using any VPN, go to Google and search using the term “DNS leak check” and choose any site from the top results. If the site displays your ISP’s DNS, that means you’re not protected against this threat, and it’s high time to change your VPN.
Onion Over VPN
For those who want to surf through TOR browser, need to use a VPN service first to hide the fact from their ISP or government, cause in many countries using TOR directly equates to cyber-crime regardless your particular use case, or perhaps TOR is blocked in your country. NordVPN offers a handy solution here to combine TOR with VPN to hide your TOR usage from the prying eyes of adversaries.
Bitcoin payment option
NordVPN allows its users to pay through bitcoin if they want to hide their payment information from the payment processors to prevent tracing back via the payment route. However, you should know how to clean or mix your bitcoin before sending the same to NordVPN, as contrary to popular belief, Bitcoin is actually very much traceable through open blockchain ledger; hence using bitcoin doesn’t automatically make you any further anonymous. You should never send bitcoin from your wallet directly to NordVPN (or to anybody for that matter if you don’t want to be identified) and always use a bitcoin mixer or cleaner service in the middle.
Unlike a few reputable VPN services out there, NordVPN doesn’t limit or cap your streaming and torrenting usage, which is great. They feature unlimited P2P bandwidth for those who want to download to their heart’s content.
While most VPNs today fail to stream Netflix, NordVPN, on the other hand, brings fresh air in the game. They are among the handful of VPN services which can rightfully claim Netflix compatibility without any blocking issue, and we confirmed that in our test. However, it’s better you use PC or Mac to access Netflix, cause NordVPN seemingly doesn’t support Netflix on TV devices.
NordVPN Speed & Locations
NordVPN offers thousands of servers throughout the world covering most of the continents, like the USA, UK, Europe, Asia Pacific, middle east, and Scandinavian countries. Do not fall prey to claims of some so-called VPN services where they boast thousands of servers, but actually, those are “virtual locations” without actual physical server existence in the said locations. On the other hand, NordVPN uses physical servers in all of the locations they claim on their site. Unless you want a very specific location or a small exotic country, chances are they got you covered already. We have tested NordVPN servers extensively, and they did fairly well. That said, it’s obvious that you won’t get 100% speed of your ISP if you use a VPN, no matter if it’s NordVPN or any other VPN. It also depends on your choice of VPN server location. If you’re sitting in India and using a VPN server from Sweden, your connection latency will increase, resulting in much slower speed compared to if you were using a VPN server from a neighbouring Asian country, say Singapore. People often complain about the speed issue when they use a VPN service, ignoring this latency factor.
Is NordVPN Safe?
You bet! Though a VPN service can’t protect you from your own lack of security measures, NordVPN came out as a safe choice with their security and privacy features in our test. Read on more below.
NordVPN and their parent company Tefincom S.A have their headquarters in Panama, out of the jurisdiction of 5 eyes alliance. This fact alone makes them a safer choice compared to some other VPN services with headquarter or registered office in any of the five eyes countries.
VPN encryption and protocol
They encrypt your VPN traffic using AES 256 standard encryption and use secure VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. Here they tick all the boxes required to be considered as safe.
NordVPN has a warrant canary on their “about us” page which is a welcome step, considering some other VPN services conveniently avoid this security measure.
NordVPN offers pre-sales and post-sales support through multiple channels like live chat and email. Their live chat response is almost instantaneous. We have sent them emails requesting technical support which they replied in just a few hours. Overall, no complains here.
Kudos to them, NordVPN kept their prices on the lower side despite offering all the necessary features in addition to lots of bell and whistles. Having said that, their monthly subscription comes at $11.95 which is expensive; hence it’s advised to get the bi-yearly ($3.99/month), or 3 yearly subscription ($2.99/month) plans to save most.
Ease of Use
NordVPN offers apps for almost any kind of devices, like PC, Mac, Linux, and iOS, and even for routers. We have used their apps in all of our devices to test the ease of use and functionality. As per our tests, their PC app came up as the most versatile app where you can customize every setting as per your requirement, and it had the least issues in terms of uninterrupted connection. Though all of their apps are pretty easy to use and built layman-friendly way, the Android and iOS apps are most straightforward and come with all the default security settings already enabled by default.
Is NordVPN good enough for your purpose? Based on our detailed review, we can say they passed all of our tests with flying colours. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t face any single issue or didn’t have our doubts, but every time they responded promptly (by live chat and email both) and fixed some initial problems we experienced. It turned out we had problems due to internal settings of our devices, not due to their app or service – but the support team were prompt and friendly enough to suggest the solutions and helped us to get going.