- Good subscription deal
- Operates out of 14-Eyes alliances
- Fast speeds with 5200+ servers in 59 locations;
- Strong encryption
- Security features
- Good customer support
- Independently audited
- Multi-platform compatible
- 6 simultaneous connections;
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Not a friendly User Interface
- Larger discounted rate only long term commitment plan
NordVPN is one of the largest VPN service providers and most preferred besides its rival, ExpressVPN. This Panama based VPN service provider often recommended as one of the best VPN’s out there by the influencers and reviewers out there. Currently, only ExpressVPN and NordVPN tops the chart of providing privacy to the users. These two giants often compete each other in terms of price, speed, security and features to attract their subscribers.
I did a surface research at NordVPN’s website to figure out the features I am expecting to get via subscribing to one of their plan. Elaborating further, NordVPN features a military-grade encryption along with security features such as CyberSec to provide you with a maximum security by blocking malicious sites and Double VPN that doubles your VPN tunnel (your traffic hides behind two servers) to provide you with an extra privacy.
Next, NordVPN offers other standard security features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection and onion over VPN. NordVPN was one of a few VPN provider that actually undergo third-party audit to come out clean by practicing no-logging policy. The audit was done by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Now, Price Waterhouse is one of the Big Four accounting firm in the world, marking their audit on NordVPN, trusted. The audit report can be download from subscribers dashboard.
Thanks to its massive amount of servers, as per current day, 5400 located in 59 countries, NordVPN is currently one of the top three VPN service provider that has largest amount of server selection although it falls behind its competitor. NordVPN also offers their own recommended server selection for streaming, torrenting and providing a lightning speed of internet speed. NordVPN also features SmartPlay, a combination in between VPN’s best feature and Smart DNS technology.
Back in the month of October 2019, NordVPN confirmed that one of their servers in Finland has been affected thanks to its poorly maintained by the third-party data center that didn’t inform NordVPN in March 2018. However, they’ve released an article in response towards the breach and comes out clean by mentioning that no user credentials falls to a wrong hand and there are no signs of the cyber-criminals attempt to monitor the traffic of the users.
TrustPilot ‘Poor’ Rating
When we want to subscribe to a service, we often look for a real-time review done by users who used or currently using a service before you opt to use the service. According to the reviews available in TrustPilot, NordVPN receives poor remarks from most of their users. While doing a research regarding how trustworthy of TrustPilot, I came across with this article by Danny Richman, and find out that, TrustPilot values their short-term profits than being responsible towards their welfare of their users who uses their platform to read the reviews before making a move to subscribe to a service.
Pricing and Plans
The biggest advantages of NordVPN are their relatively cheap pricing scheme. Well, some users claims the pricing to be too cheap to be true, is it really worth to subscribe to their three-year plan? To find it out, I subscribe to their one-month plan first to give a try. Now, discussing about their pricing plans available, the three-year plan comes with highest discounted price makes as one of the plans preferred by most users out there.
|Plans||1 Month||1 Year||2 Years||3 Years|
|Ads On (FREE)||Not available||NordPass|
Consequently, NordVPN is one of a few VPN providers that offers 30-days refund policy. This means, if the service isn’t good as it promises, you can actually request a refund from them, only within 30-days of purchase. To further avoid dissatisfaction, I would strongly recommend you to subscribe to their one-month plan to give a try.
So, how can I subscribe to the service? What are supported payment gateway? Well, NordVPN supports credit-card payments, Amazon Pay, Union Pay and Alipay as standard. Now, things get slightly complicated here, where is PayPal? I mean, ExpressVPN uses PayPal gateway, but why NordVPN isn’t? To answer your question, NordVPN actually did answer the questions here and based on my understanding, they want to have more control over the purchase experience by managing all customer data by themselves that enhances security when purchasing their service. NordVPN also offers a dedicated IP per account. If you wish a dedicated account for you, then it is possible thanks to their professional tutorial guide available here.
Now, regarding some claims in Trustpilot that mentioning NordVPN automatically charges the subscription renewal even though their plans has ended, NordVPN has clearly stated that, “Any payment made apart from CoinPayments, prepaid and gift cards will create an ongoing subscription and will be automatically renewed even after the account expires” – Source. However, you still can cancel the subscription by cancelling the automatic recurring payment which you can find the tutorial on how to do so, here.
NordVPN is multi-platform compatible. In other words, for each operating system, there is a dedicated NordVPN app. One good thing about NordVPN is, you can embed the ovpn file in your wireless router for six clients at a time.
Before I proceed to install the desktop app on my PC that running Windows 10 Pro with standard built-in protection Microsoft Defender, I have to take an extra precaution to actually scan the files through the VirusTotal website to ensure there are no hidden malware in the package. The outcome was, the app comes out, clean.
Unlike CyberGhost that has the best GUI according to me, NordVPN on the other hand focus on mapping the features by retaining a minimalist GUI that gets the job done. The only bad thing of this GUI is, it lacks a few features such as dark-mode and extra details while selecting the servers such as distance and load time to pick the right servers within the country.
I’ve installed the NordVPN’s singapore.ovpn file into my ASUS AC68U router that running on Asus-Merlin (I always opt for a router that supports Asus-Merlin due to excellent customization ability and the tutorial available, here), and the setting was done, hassle free.
Let’s further divide the features offered by NordVPN both over a desktop app and smartphone app.
The user interface of NordVPN is rather appealing as a simple to use, straightforward GUI. The server selection and type of VPN scenarios, i.e. p2p were given as well. The servers can be selected via the fastest server available in that particular country via sorting out the region and server based on your current need.
Next, looking up the security features, NordVPN offers features such as CyberSec, Kill Switch, Application Kill Switch and many more. Don’t worry as the DNS leak protection were enabled by default.
The offered protocols are OpenVPN by default. You can either chose in between TCP or UDP configuration (UDP more recommended). According to NordVPN, they recommended the protocol for its maximum security-conscious. For iOS and Mac OS users, you can select IKEv2/IPSec protocol for a better speedy browsing experience and it was adopted as default protocol in the NordVPN apps that targets Apple users.
By default, NordVPN uses their own DNS server address and they’re allowing you to use a custom DNS preferred by other DNS provider to allow maximum customization from your side.
Another good thing about NordVPN is, the desktop app often receives update once or twice in a month. This is one of a good move since fixing bugs is crucial for the current online world. “It would be good if they introduced a dark theme mode for this app, just my two-cents“.
Being a multi-platform compatible service, it is available for both iOS and android operating system. You can begin using the application just by entering your email and password used to register with NordVPN account.
The supported VPN protocol for mobile platforms is IKEv2, OpenVPN (UDP) and OpenVPN (TCP). The application does offer, a decent feature that should be present in a service that provides privacy when browsing.
Bandwidth Analysis, Privacy and Security Testing
Using a high-speed fibre service provided by my ISP in Malaysia, I would expect a good amount of speed while being connected to NordVPN. According to some review websites, NordVPN often regarded as the fastest bandwidth achievable via their servers. So, I give the myth about NordVPN, a try. I’ve benchmarked a few selected servers and the bandwidth throughput (maximum achievable speed) over a LAN connection to get the best result out of it. Adding further information, I’ve used the OpenVPN protocol with UDP configuration for the best analysis.
Each server has been tested thrice before the best result picked out of them. Below are the best result produced based on the bandwidth throughput:
Based on the bandwidth analysis above, I can say, I’ve the best speed when accessing to a UK server compared to the nearest country server to my country, Malaysia. Overall, I feel NordVPN is one of the VPN providers out there, that provides not only excellent privacy-based feature, also a good bandwidth to be fully utilized by their users.
Completing the bandwidth throughput test, next we move into privacy browsing test and how good are the encryption standard used by this service provider.
Kicking start of the test, I begin with a simple DNS leak test from this site. For the power users who’re using Firefox as default, you may have to disable DoH feature in order to stay secure while connected to NordVPN. If you’re using DoH feature, you will get a similar result like in the above.
If you disabled the DoH feature in Firefox, you will get be able to see your server’s IP. Based on the test, I can conclude that no DNS leak was encountered thanks to its built-in DNS Leak Protection in the client device (also applicable to router-based ovpn setup) as long as you disabled the DoH on Firefox, you’re good to go.
Next, I’ve tested the service by using this site to test if my ISP’s IP is visible while using the service or vice versa. Surprisingly, again, no leak was detected.
Last but not least, Web Real-Time Communication test or Web-RTC test. I’ve used Firefox as my default preferred browser to conduct the test. Based on my analysis, my heavily customized Firefox is not leaking any information.
Despite of its controversial claims, NordVPN did win in terms of providing excellent privacy to their users by not providing port-forwarding support. This move is extremely welcomed due to privacy concern and port-forwarding especially with VPN being used, is not a good move for the users. For more information regarding this move by NordVPN, refer here for extra details of why port-forwarding is not recommended while using a VPN.
Now back to the business, I’ve picked the standard Ubuntu torrent file since, it is always made to be available for the public and its server located in United States, so I am expecting to get a good result when the US server was picked. The servers selected are the same servers used to test the bandwidth throughput above.
I test the torrenting bandwidth without using the NordVPN at first to find out the speed that I should be expecting when I download the same file with different country servers.
Based on the test above, I clearly achieve roughly around 55MiB/s (est. 450Mbps) at the peak, which later reduced to 26MiB/s (est. 200Mbps).
Canada, being the first server country I picked for this test. Below are the result of downloading the ISO image.
Based on the test above, I can get rough in between 34MiB/s to 37MiB/s and the graph peaked up until 47MiB/s. The outcome of this test is, above average.
Next, I picked Hong Kong as my next destination server selection to download the ISO image. Below are the result of the process.
The time taken to download the file is second highest after using a server located in India. The graph shows I can get in between 10MiB/s to 14MiB/s and it is the lowest download throughput after India.
India, being one of the chosen server country here used for this test. The connected server was the fastest server available in the country by NordVPN.
The time taken to download the file is the longest here. Hovers around 9MiB/s, the graph only peaked up to 18MiB/s for about 30 seconds before falling again.
The next selected server was located in Netherlands.
By using this server, I’ve experienced the fastest time taken for the ISO image to be downloaded. Thanks to 42MiB/s constant download speed, it was one of the recommended server by me to be used for the purpose of p2p.
Singapore is one of my most preferred country to be used all the time by me. Below are the result based on the graph plotted.
Well, I am not impressed with the speed as, I expect a better speed compared to other servers chosen by me personally, but I did not expect it to fall behind the Netherlands country.
United Kingdom servers are my least preferred servers after United States due to being one of the five-eye members. Still, I would like to give a download throughput test by picking this server.
Based on the graph plotted above, I clearly able to achieve the speed in between 28MiB/s and 30MiB/s speed. The speed did peak at 58MiB/s for about 15 seconds before falling drastically to 30MiB/s.
Last but not least, the United States is one of the famous country tracks cyber-criminal thanks to NSA. However, since I am abiding the law, I pick the server to give a try.
The speed achievable is pretty decent, topping Hong Kong and India server. The speed hovers in between 20MiB/s to 22MiB/s.
Based on the torrenting throughput test, I personally found out that, Netherlands is one of the best country to be picked if you want to participate in p2p activity.
After Sales Support
NordVPN comes with a standard on-web support. This means, you can directly contact them through live chat feature and email for a more complicated problem that may require testing troubleshoot from users side that involves image-based or document based credentials.
Conversely, you can further reach out to them at Reddit under their own thread. Using this platform allows you to know the problem you may expect by using their services (although this is unlikely to happen), at least you can save some time from wasting time reaching their email support by conducting your troubleshooting by yourself.
Wrapping the review up, NordVPN isn’t from a shady company or providing a crappy service as claimed by other users. Based on my usage and testing, I personally feel the service is good, with a few good security features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection, selection of VPN protocols for versatility and TCP/UDP configuration to maximize the usage of a protocol. This is possible thanks to its simple yet decent desktop app user interface which is easily accessible even for a novice user.
NordVPN also gives a special discount-rate for students. You can accomplish this by verifying your student status at Student Beans. My advice is, always experience a product/service by yourself before directly jumping into a conclusion. Because any VPN service will eventually have its ups and down. For a better self-satisfaction or to compare any of the problems you encounter while using this service, you can always refer here. Being one of the VPN provider that independently audited, NordVPN is one VPN service recommended by me for those who are seeking a secure, speed and a reliable VPN.
For other VPN reviews, kindy refer here.