NordVPN review | Tom’s Guide
If you’ve heard of just one VPN provider, it will have been NordVPN. From YouTube sponsorships to TV advertising campaigns, it’s one of the biggest and loudest on the market – but is it one of the best VPNs of 2022?
In my unbiased, hands-on NordVPN review, I’m going to get into the nitty-gritty of the Panama-based privacy provider, and test out whether it deserves the worldwide reputation quality and security it has earned over its 10 years of service.
First up, I’ll run down my most important findings in a quick and easy 1-minute review. Then, keep scrolling to learn all there is to know about NordVPN, or use the navigation panel to skip to a particular section.
NordVPN on paper
|Number of servers||5,000+|
|Supported platforms||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox & PlayStation (SmartPlay Smart DNS), Chrome, Firefox|
|Split tunneling||Only with browser extensions and Android|
|Protocols supported||OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, NordLynx (WireGuard), SSTP|
|Country of registration||Panama|
|Support||24/7 live chat, knowledgebase, email, in-app ticket|
NordVPN 1-minute review
NordVPN frequently changes its pricing, and at the time of writing the best price is $2.99 a month, over the course of 2 years – expect to pay no more than $3.50 or so a month at the worst of times. A rolling monthly VPN plan will set you back $11.99. You’ll have a wide range of payment options, including PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, and other crypto payments. Check our NordVPN coupons page for the latest offers.
Nord offers industry-standard AES-256 encryption alongside some excellent extra features such as Onion over VPN and Double VPN. Obfuscated servers also provide great performance in countries like China which restrict VPN use. You also get a kill switch in case your connection drops, and reliable DNS leak protection – although split tunneling is only available on Android.
Recent independent audits have confirmed NordVPN’s no-logs status – a real draw for those interested in true security.
Nord supports torrents on a wide range of servers, and the reliably swift connection speeds provided by the NordLynx protocol will certainly please P2P sharers, and those who like to use a gaming VPN. NordVPN can also unblock just about any streaming service you put in front of it, which is more than the vast majority of the competition.
The desktop apps are smart, powerful, and easy to use – and the new ‘raise ticket’ screen is actually very useful indeed. I’ve found the map-based interface works fairly well on larger screens, but handheld versions suffer. However, while device support is good, you’ll only be able to use your plan on six devices at a time.
Nord’s new Meshnet feature is also very exciting. In short, it allows up to 60 devices that are connected to NordVPN to join a single secure network together. This could allow you to access your home PC from anywhere, share work files remotely, or even LAN game. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s one this year’s biggest VPN innovations across the whole industry.
Nord’s 24/7 support team is excellent, and the knowledgebase is packed with good articles – although finding the correct article can be tricky. However, the introduction of the in-app ticket system is a welcome improvement.
Overall, NordVPN is absolutely one of the best services on the market, and a great all-rounder that performs impressively in every area. Definitely worth having on your shortlist.
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- Meshnet rolled out, allowing up to 60 devices to connect to a single secure network for file sharing, gaming, and more.
- In-app ticket system introduced
- Edge browser extension
- Threat Protection
- Big news from earlier on this year was that NordVPN ‘merged’ with bargain rival Surfshark to create a single corporate entity. The two VPNs will be sharing resources and info, but are staying as individual products.
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NordVPN price and payment
|Plan length||Overall cost||Monthly cost|
Price is a determining factor for many people, so it seems like a sensible place to start.
1-month plans are the most expensive way to sign up to NordVPN, starting at $11.99. That drops to $4.49 a month if you commit for a year. At the time of writing, the 2-year plan is a very reasonable $2.99 a month – and while Nord offers different VPN deals throughout the year, the longest plan is always the cheapest.
So, if you want value for money, I’d definitely recommend going for the longest plan available. Many might baulk at that proposition, but NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which allows you to test out the service risk-free before committing.
If you’re in it for the long haul, though, be aware that NordVPN renews at a hefty $8.29 a month once your initial term is up – not quite the bargain you might expect, and more expensive than ExpressVPN, which is often regarded as the priciest option.
If you’re still happy with NordVPN after your term is up, I’d highly recommend cancelling your plan and signing up again, making the most of any offers available at the time.
However, NordVPN isn’t exactly a cheap VPN, and it’s thoroughly undercut by the likes of Surfshark ($2.49/m) and Private Internet Access ($2.19/m).
Payment options include credit card, prepaid card, PayPal, UnionPay, AmazonPay, GooglePay and iTunes. However, privacy fans will be pleased to know that Nord takes crypto payments (through CoinPayments), and accepts Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, Ethereum and a whole host more.
Nord has also recently complicated things – in a positive way – by offering a number of levels of its plans. If you want NordPass and a data breach scanner, you can sign up to the Plus plan, which ups the 2-year price to $3.99/mo. the Complete plan adds on a 1TB NordLocker plan, and ups the cost to $5.29/mo.
If you’re in need of those extras, there’s definitely value in these plans. However, for most the Standard plan is all you need.
Does NordVPN have a free trial?
If you want a VPN free trial, you can bag 7 days free on Android and iOS. However, if you really want to test out the service and see if it’s right for you, I’d recommend signing up to a paid plan and then using the 30-day money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work out. You won’t be out of pocket, and you’ll have a whole month to make up your mind.
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How private is NordVPN?
NordVPN prides itself as a serious bit of privacy kit, and it certainly delivers. Starting with the basics, Nord uses the industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption, combined with 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman keys. In layman’s terms, this is about as uncrackable as it gets.
Perfect Forward Secrecy is also implemented, meaning that new keys are used each time you login, and are changed every hour or so when connected. This means that in the very unlikely event any session is compromised, the longest the attacker will get is an hour.
However, it doesn’t stop there. You can choose to use Onion over VPN, which routes your connection over the encrypted Tor network (sacrificing speed for absolute privacy), and you can also use Double VPN, which routes your traffic through two separate servers. So, if you’re willing to take a hit on outright speed in return for absolute privacy, these are useful options to have on hand.
These advanced extra features are significant reasons why more experienced users might want to choose Nord over ExpressVPN, which I consider a marginally better choice for the majority of users.
In countries where VPN use is restricted, NordVPN’s obfuscated servers will prove useful – these cloak the fact that you’re using a VPN at all, and help to keep users online in restrictive countries that limit VPN use. In fact, I rate Nord as one of the best China VPN services because of this.
How secure is NordVPN?
NordVPN also provides excellent security for its users. All apps get a kill switch that automatically cuts your connection if your VPN drops (it’s reliable and a must-have for anyone that demands utmost security), and another that closes certain programs in the same scenario. Both of these are very useful for those looking for a torrenting VPN – but I’ll explore that a little more later.
The VPN effectively blocks DNS and WebRTC leaks – which I tested on DNS Leak Test, IPLeak, and others services with great results. All good stuff.
However, while this it’s now a long time ago, Nord’s 2018 server hack is still a blot on its copybook that industry professionals and Redditors with elephantine memories recall. Blamed on a ‘third-party data center,’ a single Finnish NordVPN server was compromised. There’s no data on who or what was affected, but it was made through a compromised account at the data center, which was subsequently terminated. You can read more about the NordVPN hack here.
In the aftermath, NordVPN kept quiet and didn’t announce the issue until about six months later – bad – but took steps like upgrading every server so they run on RAM only – good.
Despite all of this, though, when taking into consideration the recent independent audit and subsequent sweeping infrastructure upgrades – things that very few other providers have done – I’m more than comfortable recommending NordVPN to the security conscious. In fact, while what initiated the reforms certainly wasn’t positive, it seems to have spurred NordVPN on to deliver one of the most secure VPN services on the market.
What’s more, NordVPN has also recently had its Android VPN app certified by the ioXt Alliance, meaning low-level features have been thoroughly tested and proven secure.
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Does NordVPN keep logs?
In line with many of leading VPN providers, NordVPN states in no uncertain terms that it does not collect users’ activity logs:
‘Nord guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that your internet activity…is not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or browsing data.’ Nord also claims not to collect session logs, which many VPNs do and still claim to be ‘no-logging.’
Barnstorming stuff, then, but can you trust it?
Well, it comes back to that audit again. PricewaterhouseCooper thoroughly investigated NordVPN’s servers and compared them to the provider’s stated policies. While I’m not permitted to reproduce any of the findings here, the audit is available online for Nord users, and it found ‘no signs that [NordVPN] had in any way violated [its] no-logs promise (opens in new tab).’
How fast is NordVPN?
While security should always be a primary concern, just about every user will want excellent connection speeds, too. I tested NordVPN on our 1Gbps internet connection, and collated the results. I used a number of different speed testing websites and services, and repeated the tests in both morning and evening to get a good spread.
The vast majority of our readers will likely not have access to an uncontested gigabit connection, and in practice any VPN that comfortably performs above your maximum speed should be fine. However, our stated maximum speeds also indicate a quality server network with uncrowded servers, as well as agile applications that don’t add bloat.
When using OpenVPN in the UK, NordVPN delivered pretty good speeds of 470Mbps. However, when I switched to NordLynx – the protocol Nord now uses as its default – I saw speeds ramp up to around 820Mbps.
That’s really very good, and compared to the likes of ExpressVPN (560Mbps), Mullvad (770Mbps) and IPVanish (720Mbps), it’s considerably faster. However, Surfshark (950Mbps), TorGuard (950Mbps), Hide.me (880Mbps) and a couple of other rivals were marginally faster.
In reality, though, these benchmarks are variable, and depend on server load, time of day, and where you are in the world. I consider speeds of over 500Mbps to be positive rather than negative when ranking VPNs – but Nord’s a seriously fast VPN that’s ahead of much of the pack.
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How good is NordVPN for streaming?
|Netflix||Working (UK, US, CA, AU, JP)|
Streaming performance is becoming increasingly important, and it’s clear that NordVPN has put a lot of effort into delivering a good service to its users.
On-site, there are no sweeping statements the Nord’s absolutely unblocks any particular service, but in truth, I see that as a positive in terms of transparency – should service go down for any reason, it’s not writing a check that its servers can’t can’t cash.
Case in point: about a year ago, almost every popular Netflix VPN fell foul of the streaming giant’s updated blocking tech. However, in my last round of testing, Nord proved to be the best at unblocking Netflix. You’ll be able to tap into UK, US, CA, JP and AU libraries – and more, I’m sure.
It’s the same story when it comes to BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, as well as niche sites like 9Now, 10 Play and All4. A full clean sweep of as a streaming VPN for Nord, then.
How good is NordVPN for torrenting?
NordVPN boasts about being the ‘Best for P2P’ on its site. While I’d take that with a pinch of salt, it’s certainly encouraging that it overtly advertises the fact – although it’s no longer a main feature of the homepage.
You’ll get access to ‘hundreds’ of torrenting-friendly servers worldwide, and while that network isn’t going to be as widespread as a VPN that has every server P2P-enabled – like ExpressVPN – it should give a pretty good spread.
However, an issue with VPNs that aren’t fully P2P optimized is that when connected to a non-torrenting server, when you launch your torrenting client you may find it simply doesn’t work. Not to fear, though – NordVPN doesn’t suffer from this, and automatically reroutes you to a server that is suitable if it detects P2P traffic. In use, I’ve never noticed anything.
Overall, combined with Nord’s excellent no-logging policy, good speeds, features like Double VPN and Onion over VPN, plus good DNS protection, it’s a decent choice for torrenting. However, if your primary use for a VPN is for staying safe when torrenting, there are better torrenting VPN services on the market.
How easy is it to install NordVPN?
Ease of use is a huge factor in making sure that people actually use their VPN on a regular basis, and that all starts with installing on any and all of your devices.
Thankfully, the process of installing NordVPN is pretty simple on just about any operating system. Users have a huge range of tutorials and guides available, and I’ve even put together my own walkthrough on how to download NordVPN. If you want to know the details of installing the apps, you might find that useful.
Beyond the plentiful guides for the mainstream operating systems, you’ll also have detailed instructions on how to set up more niche use cases, including things like setting it up as a SOCKS 5 proxy, plus info about setting it up to work with tons of different browsers, Raspberry Pi, routers, Windows Phone, and plenty more besides.
How good is NordVPN’s Windows app?
Since our last review, Nord’s rolled out a big revamp of its Windows client. It retains the old familiar map interface, but you’ll no longer be able to resize the window.
To navigate the map, you can zoom with your scroll wheel, and pan around by clicking and dragging. The map dynamically zooms to your chosen location when you select it, with individual server locations grouping together as you zoom further out to unclutter the map.
Or, if you’re fed up of the map, simply explore the text list of servers, which is also searchable in-app. More advanced features are available here too, like the much-touted Meshnet that allows you connect up to 60 Nord users into one secure network.
Should you want for an easier life, though, simply click Quick Connect. It’ll connect you to a speedy server in your country, and unless you’re looking for particular geo-blocking benefits, it’s possible this is the only button you’ll be using.
In terms of the update, I’m not convinced it’s wholly remedied Nord’s problems. For example, why can’t I resize the window? It’s fairly large, and minimizing it to just show the server list would be a welcome addition.
Another annoyance crops up when trying to disconnect – every time you do so, you’ll be asked whether you want to disconnect, or simply pause your connection for a certain period of time. While this seems like it’s a good idea, in practice it’s quite irritating, and even one extra click makes a huge difference when it comes to UX.
It’s also disappointing to see that the favorites system seems to have been replaced by a ‘Recents’ list. While this will probably be fine for most, I can’t really see the logic in removing a useful standard feature just to replace it with a slightly less useful one. Why can’t we have both?
What is welcome, though, is the introduction of an in-app ticket system. This allows you explain a problem, add screenshots, and even send diagnostic info. In short, it’s the best in-app support system I’ve seen out of any VPN. A worthy addition to the software.
A System Tray icon is also present, which allows you to connect to your recent connections without opening the app at all.
Stability in use is excellent, and if I’m honest, that’s the main thing. Connections are swift, switching servers is quick and easy (something some leading VPNs struggle with), and you’ll even be treated to a system tray/menu bar icon which lets you connect to your favori… sorry, recent servers without opening the full app.
Switching protocols (OpenVPN UDP & TCP, and NordLynx), activating kill switches, and using other extra features is easy in the settings dialog, and overall the NordVPN desktop apps are very useful. I’m sure most people could forgive the slightly flawed interface, and otherwise it’s an attractive, stable and very functional package that’s well-suited to performing as a Windows 10 VPN.
How good is NordVPN’s Mac app?
At the time of this review, NordVPN’s Mac VPN app hasn’t had the same overhaul as the Windows client, and that means that users of both will currently have a somewhat disjointed experience. You’ll get Favorites on Mac, and be able to pick individual servers, and advanced features are found in different places.
If you’re only using a Mac, though, this is really of no import – you’ll just learn the way this app works and be done with it.
In terms of core features, the Mac client offers much the same functionality, with the addition of the IKEv2 protocol and Presets, but no option for split tunneling, which may be a shame for those looking to torrent.
The Presets function is intriguing, and will definitely prove useful for at least some users. In short, you can configure a server and protocol for quick access. That means if there’s a particular server and protocol combo that works well for torrenting, or you often access US Netflix from outside the country, you can set up your Preset and activate it without any faffing around.
However, while the Favorites feature is present, it’s awkward to use. You need to choose a singular server, not server location. In practice, that means you can’t favorite London, for example, as a whole – just a single server within that location. If it goes down or gets removed, so does that Favorites setting.
Overall, Nord’s Mac app is powerful and offers more than many other VPNs do for the Apple crowd, and small extras like ad and tracker blocking, and auto-connect on untrusted Wi-Fi definitely sweeten the deal.
So, while there are some elements I’d love to see updated (especially split tunneling and improvements to the Favorites system), overall it’s an excellent option for Mac users.
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How good are NordVPN’s mobile apps?
The Android app is the only NordVPN client to actually offer split tunneling, and it also has the power to set up a custom DNS server and protect you from malicious popups.
The iOS app, on the other hand, has none of that, but is still one of the more powerful iPhone VPN services thanks to Apple’s limitations. You’ll be treated to Siri support and dark mode, plus a good selection of protocols. That’s should be enough for most users day-to-day.
A useful addition I wish was available on desktop is the previously mentioned Dark Web Monitoring. If you choose so, you’ll be notified of any of your details cropping up in dark web leaks, which should give you a heads up to change your credentials.
So, overall, pretty good mobile VPN apps from NordVPN, and while they’re by no means perfect, they’re very usable and can certainly provide quick, easy protection on the move.
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How good is NordVPN’s browser extension?
NordVPN’s Edge, Firefox and Chrome VPN extension is a proxy extension, which means that while it can work without the desktop client installed, it doesn’t provide any encryption. Instead, it just provides the ability to very quickly change your location and, if you activate the settings, block WebRTC leaks, ads, and malware with CyberSec.
The main draw is the fact you don’t have to fire up the whole client, and within a couple of clicks you can appear to be wherever you want – plus, your connection won’t be affected by any possible slow-down from encryption. However, the browser extensions do have their limitations. You’ll only be able to select countries – not cities – and obviously only your browser traffic is affected.
Compared to the competition, NordVPN’s extensions are good, but when put side-by-side with other proxy offerings from rivals such as Windscribe, it’s simply not as powerful – and compared to ExpressVPN’s full-app interface extension, neither can compete (although they arguably perform different functions).
So, while Nord’s extension isn’t the very best, it does what it does well.
What customer support does NordVPN offer?
If anything goes wrong or you need some help, you’ve got a few options with Nord. Your first port of call should be the knowledgebase, which compiles tons of articles on loads of topics. While it’s rather confusingly laid out, once you find what you need the info is excellent.
However, many people will prefer to use the 24/7 live chat. The chatbox doubles as a chatbot, which can help you find certain information, but if you want to talk to a real person, that’s possible too. In our experience the operators have been friendly and helpful, and have resolved any issues within minutes of asking the question.
Finally, email support is also available, but expect to be waiting a little longer for a reply.
Should you buy NordVPN?
All things considered, NordVPN is one of the very finest VPN services on the market. It’s fast, has powerful apps with some seriously useful extra features, and unblocks just about any streaming app you can imagine – all for a very reasonable price on longer plans (opens in new tab).
If I were to split hairs, I’d like the apps to be slightly more user-friendly, and the browser extensions could be beefed up a little, but in fairness NordVPN just about does it all, and does it well. As such, I highly recommend NordVPN if you’re looking for a true all-rounder.
Sing up to NordVPN if:
- You want privacy and security from the biggest name in the industry
- You need connection speeds of over 800Mbps
- You want to stream global content on a range of sites
- You’re looking for a bundle with ad, tracker and malware blocking
- You need features like Double VPN and Onion over VPN
Avoid NordVPN if:
- You like simple and intuitive apps that are seamless across your devices
- You need more than 6 simultaneous connections
- You need split tunneling on all platforms
- You want a powerful browser extension