NordVPN Review

Lightning-fast speeds, robust protection, and a comprehensive set of advanced security features

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SecureScore™: 9.3 / 10 This rating is derived from our editorial team's research, hands-on product testing, and customer surveys.
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Data & Identity Protection

You ever get the feeling that you’re being watched?

Well, there might be something to that notion. Right now, your internet service provider is definitely logging your online activity and selling your data to marketers. Same goes for any social media network you’re logged into. Think you’re just watching that new dance trend on TikTok? Think again. Heck, the government might even be watching you through your webcam.1

We’re not saying this to launch a full-blown paranoid delusion, but an ever-increasing number of people have become aware of these privacy violations recently, and are searching for a solution. That’s where VPNs come in, and that’s probably why you’re here. Let us help you draw the virtual curtain and take back some of your privacy.

FYI: NordVPN recently changed their pricing structure. Don’t worry, we’ve got all of the details you need right here in this review.

A VPN is short for virtual private network, and NordVPN offers one that many consider the best because it prioritizes data safety and privacy without compromising speed. After using the service for a few weeks, I’m giving you the full rundown so that you can determine if this is the VPN you or your family needs.

And now is a good time to be thinking about adding a VPN — specifically NordVPN — because they are running a special where you can save up to 69% off two years of service.

Read on to learn more about VPNs and what NordVPN has to offer.

Did You Know? VPNs came into popularity as ways for businesses to allow employees to securely access sensitive information while working remotely.

A Quick Look at NordVPN

How, exactly, a VPN works requires a pretty sophisticated knowledge of networking that most laypeople don’t have, but the Cliffs Notes version is this: A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that allows you to access the internet nearly anonymously. All of the data that travels through that tunnel is hidden, as is your IP address. While determined snoops with unlimited resources can probably still sniff you out, a solid commercial-grade VPN is enough to keep most people protected.

NordVPN is one of the biggest names in the cybersecurity space right now — and for good reasons. It owns one of the vastest fleets of VPN servers, it has some of the most advanced features around, and its security is top notch.

That being said, NordVPN is not without downsides. For starters, it has no specific optimizations. Although it works with Netflix and other streaming platforms, as well as with torrent services, there are no servers optimized for such purposes. You’ll need to configure your connection yourself if you want it optimized.

In this review, we’ll weigh NordVPN’s benefits and downsides as we talk about them in detail. But first, here’s a high-level overview of NordVPN’s pros and cons.

NordVPN Pros and Cons

  • Blazing Speeds
  • No DNS Leaks Detected
  • Elevated Security for Activists and Journalists
  • P2P File Sharing Optimization
  • VPN-to-Tor Functionality
  • Great Price

  • Slightly Confusing Setup
  • No Optimizations for Specific Streaming Platforms
  • Problems Connecting to Offshore Servers with Particular Protocols

When you look at a list like this, NordVPN seems almost unbeatable. Let’s start with the most important part, though, and discuss pricing and buying your subscription.

Purchasing NordVPN

Purchasing NordVPN is a relatively pain-free process — about as easy as purchasing anything online these days. I was also impressed with the 30-day money-back guarantee, which told me the company really stands behind their product. A month is plenty of time to figure out whether or not you like — or need — a service, so this tells me NordVPN thinks you’ll find theirs useful.

We get more in depth in our NordVPN cost and features guide, but here’s a quick breakdown of their three subscription packages for the Standard plan.

NordVPN Standard Subscription Breakdown

Duration Cost Savings
1 Month $12.99 per month None
1 Year $4.49 per month 45 percent
2 Years $2.99 per month 69 percent

That said, though, we’re really talking about nickels and dimes if that’s the concern. In my experience, NordVPN’s prices are more than reasonable for the level of service you get. What’s more, if you keep your eyes open, you will likely land on one of the sales that NordVPN runs throughout the year. For example, they are currently running a holiday special, giving away three months free when ordering a one-year or two-year plan.

And they also offer discounts for groups like students who can purchase a plan for $2.56 per month.

So what exactly are you getting for your hard-earned money? Let’s run through that real quick. Obviously, we’ll dig deeper into these features in a bit, but for quick reference NordVPN includes:

  • Access to 5,500 Servers Across the Globe
  • 6 Simultaneous Device Connections
  • No-Log Protection
  • P2P Optimizations
  • Configuration for Tor Access
  • Server Obfuscation
  • Double VPN Functionality
  • Dedicated IP Access
  • Kill-Switch Feature

It’s also worth noting that NordVPN offers two additional plans: Plus and Complete. Each plan comes with monthly, yearly, or biannual payments schemes.

The Plus plan adds a cross-platform password manager powered by NordPass and a data breach scanner to the Standard plan’s VPN features. The monthly rate ranges from $3.99 to $13.99.

On the other hand, the Complete plan adds a 1 TB encrypted cloud storage to the features of the Plus plan. The price range is $4.99 to $14.99 monthly. I’ll unpack those features as well in a minute.

Once you select your subscription package, you will be directed to the payment page. We were impressed by the numerous ways you are able to pay. There are the usual standard credit card options, but there is also Google and Amazon Pay, plus ACH transfer, UnionPay, and a cryptocurrency option.

NordVPN Payment Page

NordVPN Payment Page

Now, these latter three options are for people who really take their privacy seriously and might feel a little wary of giving their personal and payment information to a service that’s supposed to keep them anonymous. While it might be overkill for some people, it’s great that NordVPN makes these options available.

A quick note on cryptocurrency — this is the most secure way to pay for your VPN, or anything on the internet, really. Because these payments are decentralized, there’s no way of tracing it back to you. If you’re really concerned with your privacy, you already knew that; but if you’re new to this, that’s why that option is there.2

Once your plan is selected, setup is a breeze. You give NordVPN your email address and your payment information, download your services, and you’re off to the races.

NordVPN: Day-to-Day Protection

Once you’ve got everything set up and logged in, you’re going to land on your NordVPN dashboard. For me, it looked like the screenshot below. I’m on a Mac, though. If you aren’t, your results may vary.

NordVPN Map

NordVPN Dashboard

Moving on, though, let’s talk about this UI’s functionality. The map — aside from being pretty cool — actually has utility. You can select which country you’d like to connect to by selecting individual pins, or you can go through the list on the left-hand side to select which country you’d like to route your traffic through. Pretty handy if you’re like me and you have no idea where Bosnia and Herzegovina is.

NordVPN Map - Bosnia and Herzegovina

NordVPN Map – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Spoiler alert — it’s here.

So this is all pretty and sleek, but here’s where I hit some roadblocks. Using the out-of-the-box settings, I was only able to connect to the three preset servers — downloads, speed, and browsing. Trying to connect anywhere else would result in an error saying the network authentication failed.

After some quick Googling, though, I found the culprit. NordVPN is supposed to automatically use the “recommended protocol” for the servers you’re trying to connect to, but for some reason that wasn’t working for me. NordVPN’s resources suggested instead connecting using an OpenVPN protocol. Once I switched to that — it was smooth sailing. It was a little frustrating, but it’s a forgivable transgression.

NordVPN Protocols

With NordVPN, you can choose between IKEv2, OpenVPN and the WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol

Here it would make sense to take a minute to discuss NordVPN’s connectivity and their supported protocols. I found that either of the OpenVPN protocols (UDP or TCP) were the most stable. IKEv2 was fast, but there were a few hiccups every now and then.

Pro Tip: A lot of people use VPNs for streaming and gaming, but did you know too much screen time can be detrimental? Especially for children. Read up on our screen time recommendations by age for more information.

Now NordLynx is interesting. This is a protocol built using the WireGuard architecture — an open-source protocol that is likely to eventually overtake OpenVPN in popularity. WireGuard is fast, modern, and prioritizes cryptography.3 That said, the protocol is still under development and has some issues with privacy. NordLynx is basically WireGuard with beefed-up security measures. In my tests I found NordLynx speeds were consistent, although there were occasional issues connecting to offshore servers.

Now, interestingly, NordVPN added a new functionality to NordLynx called Meshnet. Instead of connecting you to a VPN server somewhere, Meshnet creates a Local Area Network (LAN) over encrypted tunnels and basically, if you and your friends or coworkers connect to that network, you become a part of the LAN wherever you may be located physically.

Meshnet can be helpful in remote work settings and collaborations, but if you’re a gamer who started gaming in the late 1990s, it also makes LAN parties possible over enormous distances, while enjoying the protections of a VPN.

So with all that in mind, let’s talk directly about NordVPN’s performance. Specifically — their speeds.

FYI: In September, NordVPN released a groundbreaking new feature called Meshnet courtesy of its WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol. Essentially, Meshnet allows you to connect computers from anywhere in the world to the same Local Area Network (LAN).

This opens up lots of possibilities, including gaming over LAN parties and faster file sharing, for NordVPN users. Local Area Networks created through Meshnet enjoy the same protections as NordVPN’s VPN tunnels, such as encryption and IP address anonymity.

NordVPN Performance Test

When you’re running a VPN, it’s fairly common for your connection speeds to suffer. Just how much those speeds suffer, however, is a product of how well-equipped your VPN service is. When I put NordVPN to the test, I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Download Speeds Without VPN

Download Speeds Without VPN

With the VPN disconnected, my download speed was around 160 megs per second, and my upload speed was right at 125. Then when I turned on NordVPN using the speed optimization tool, my download took a bit of a hit, but my upload speeds were blazing.

Download Speeds With NordVPN

Download Speeds With NordVPN

Now there are all sorts of configurations and iterations you can mess around with, and everyone’s experience is going to be different based on location and connectivity. But in my experience, NordVPN in no way, shape, or form ever slowed me down. If anything it improved my speeds.

So that’s great news, but it’s only one side of the coin. Lightning-fast speeds mean nothing if those connections aren’t secure. So let’s do a little privacy checkup.

NordVPN Privacy Test

So to understand this privacy test, you first need to understand how the internet is built. I promise it’s not going to get super techy, so bear with me.

The internet as we know it today is based on the Domain Name System, or DNS for short. When you type into your address bar, your computer sends a request to the DNS server and asks for the unique IP address of our site. Once that’s provided, your computer establishes a connection.4

Now, when you’re running a VPN, all of your traffic is supposed to be routed through the VPN tunnel — including DNS requests. Sometimes security flaws occur and requests travel to the default DNS servers belonging to your internet service provider. This kind of defeats the purpose of using a VPN, so you want to avoid DNS leaks.

Got it? Excellent.

There are several tools out there to test if you’re “leaky.” I used one that runs multiple queries to detect if any problems were occurring while I was using NordVPN.

DNS Leak Test for VPN

DNS Leak Test for VPN

That’s what you want to see — that each test is only connecting to one server. That means your DNS request is traveling only through the VPN tunnel, and through the tunnel only. For reference, here’s what the test looks like when I’m not using a VPN.

DNS Leak Test without VPN

DNS Leak Test without VPN

I always recommend running some tests whenever you use a VPN to make sure there are no leaks — don’t just take the company’s word for it. After performing this test, I was pretty confident I was secure when using NordVPN.

So that about does it for the day-to-day functionality of NordVPN. Despite some initial hiccups and protocol reconciliation, this VPN is easy to use, lightning fast, and extremely secure. That right there is the trifecta you’re looking for with VPNs. But what fun would it be if we didn’t talk about some of the more advanced features NordVPN brings to the table?

Ah – but before we unpack those features, check out my full video review of NordVPN to find out exactly what to expect with this popular service.

NordVPN and Advanced Functionality

VPN into TOR

NordVPN is one of the few VPNs I’ve come across configured for easy access to the Onion network right out of the box. If you don’t know what that means, I’ve got you covered. Be forewarned, though, this time we are going to get a little techy.

Onion routing is a technique for anonymous communication over a network. Encrypted data is transmitted through network nodes which peel away layers to uncover destinations — hence the name.

People who use this networking technique to access the internet do so through the Tor browser (short for The Onion Router), an open-source software allowing anonymous access to the internet by never communicating directly with websites’ servers. Think of it this way: Instead of going directly from your computer to the destination server, your traffic splits in two directions, goes to two other servers, reconvenes at another, and then goes on to the destination. The result is near complete anonymity.

Did You Know? The Onion Network was originally developed by the U.S. Navy with anonymity in mind. Using Tor will give you access to the regular internet, but it’s also how most folks access the deep and dark web.5

It’s beyond the scope of this article to talk about why you may or may not want to use Tor, but if you do decide to use it, you should know that without a VPN you’re still not necessarily safe. Simply put, Tor provides anonymity, but a VPN provides security. NordVPN understands that, and they’ve built their VPN in such a way that Tor users can also be protected.

Dedicated IP

NordVPN also provides subscribers with access to a dedicated IP address. When you’re connected in this way, your IP address won’t be shared with anyone else. If you’ve used VPNs for any amount of time, you know that websites often misidentify you and ask you to jump through some hoops to prove you’re an actual person and not a bot. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to click on all the pictures of something.

reCAPTCHA test

reCAPTCHA test

When you’re using a dedicated IP address, though, this hassle is greatly reduced. Online shopping becomes a lot easier, and it also makes using telecom technologies a lot more stable, so your weekly Zoom call won’t cut out — maybe I should have put that in the cons category…

Double VPN

This is exactly what it sounds like. This is an advanced security feature that routes traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, effectively encrypting your data two times. This is probably unnecessary for the average guy that just wants to watch Canadian Netflix, but it’s absolutely necessary for people who need to be really serious about their security — I’m talking about political activists and journalists under restrictive regimes.


NordVPN also offers servers optimized for P2P file sharing. This is a bit of a legal gray area, but just know that if you’re on BitTorrent, you’ll be rerouted through VPN servers in Canada or the Netherlands to stay safe from authorities in jurisdictions that frown on this particular flavor of file sharing.

Obfuscated Servers

Some countries with extremely restrictive internet regulations actually have the capacity to scan for VPN traffic and terminate connections that are using them. With NordVPN’s obfuscation, though, you can bypass VPN blocks by either scrambling the data to hide identifying metadata or adding additional layers of encryption. Again, this isn’t super necessary for everyday browsing, but if your safety or freedom depends on your internet security, this is great functionality to have in your back pocket.

Kill Switch

Like most higher-end VPNs, NordVPN also offers kill-switch functionality. This means that if your VPN connection is interrupted for whatever reason, your internet connection will also terminate. Now that might sound like it’s just an additional hassle to deal with, but a kill switch is actually a really useful security device. By terminating your internet connection immediately, NordVPN will ensure that your actual IP address is never exposed, securing your privacy. This is great for torrenters specifically, but also anyone interested in ensuring they’re completely covered at all times.

FYI: NordVPN’s kill-switch functionality is only active while using certain VPN protocols. If a kill switch is something you really need, check NordVPN’s resources to make absolutely sure you’re covered.

NordVPN’s Newest Features

NordVPN’s Meshnet allows you to access remote devices over encrypted private tunnels. Using it, instead of connecting directly to a NordVPN server, you can connect directly to other devices anywhere in the world.
In addition, NordVPN now offers threat protection against malware, trackers and ads.

So that’s a pretty extensive list of advanced features, but we’re not done with NordVPN yet. Remember those two add-ons I mentioned when I was purchasing my subscription? Let’s talk about those real quick.

Additional NordVPN Features


If you use Google Drive or iCloud (and who doesn’t?), then you’re aware of cloud backup services. NordLocker takes things up a notch by adding security features such as end-to-end encryption. That means that while your files are in transit to the cloud, they’re encrypted so no one else can intercept them. Plus, with Nord’s zero-knowledge architecture, the company never finds out what you’re storing.



What we like about buying NordLocker with a VPN subscription is the price. By tacking on just a couple of dollars to the Standard plan, you can upgrade to the Complete plan, and that gives you 1TB of cloud storage. Of course, not everybody has a need for secure cloud backup, but if you do, NordLocker is a pretty good value.


This add-on, in my opinion, is a little more valuable. Even if you’re taking every security precaution available, you’re still vulnerable if you’re using weak or repeated passwords. NordPass takes memorizing random strings of letters and numbers out of the equation by storing all of your passwords securely in one place.



NordPass also offers password-specific tools including a password generator, a password health gauge that will tell you if you’re using any passwords that put you at risk, as well as a scanner to check if your data has shown up in any known data breaches. I think this is well worth the extra $1 per month of the Plus Plan.

One last thing to talk about before we wrap up here. We’ve seen that NordVPN is definitely a solid choice when you’re at home, but how does it function when you’re out and about?

NordVPN On Mobile

In a word — great. The mobile version of NordVPN’s UI is just as sleek and just as functional, and their protections are just as strong on the mobile app.

NordVPN on Mobile

NordVPN on Mobile

The quick-connect function made things really simple, and you have access to some more advanced settings if you needed to configure the VPN for any specific purpose — including the ability to switch between different protocols. This isn’t functionality I’ve found with many VPN mobile apps, so it’s pretty neat to see it with NordVPN.

VPN Protocols on Mobile

VPN Protocols on Mobile

NordVPN clearly took a lot of time optimizing their mobile experience. This app does not feel like an afterthought at all. Dare I say it might be the best VPN for mobile I’ve encountered so far.

So … that’s certainly a lot to consider!

We’ve unpacked every aspect of NordVPN with the intention of getting to know its functionality, utility, and overall value. But what’s the final word here? Is NordVPN worth the hype?

NordVPN — The Verdict

I’m going to say yes, it lives up to the hype, but with some caveats. At 30,000 feet, NordVPN is a fantastic service. It’s secure, it’s fast, it’s affordable, its mobile app is tremendous.

At 10,000 feet, we can’t forget to talk about their exhaustive list of advanced features. NordVPN’s Tor optimization is so unique, and their heightened security with obfuscated servers and double-VPN functionality easily elevate them from consumer- to professional-grade. If you’re a casual browser or an activist in a hostile country, you’ll be protected.

Reseting NordVPN in terminal

Resetting NordVPN in terminal

That said, at 1,000 feet there was some frustration during the setup, and there were some inconsistencies when switching between protocols — so much so that I had to do some serious digging into the troubleshooting section of their site and even went so far as having to reset everything in our terminal to restore it to its quote-unquote factory settings.

Now is this going to be your experience? I can’t say for sure. But friction points and hiccups aside, NordVPN is still head and shoulders above many of the VPNs I’ve tested and reviewed so far. I’m confident in recommending it to any of our readers.


Citations only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Curran, D. (2018, April 6). Are your phone camera and microphone spying on you? The Guardian.

  2. Reiff, N. (2020, July 13). What Are the Advantages of Paying With Bitcoin? Investopedia.

  3. Constantin, L. (2020, April 2). What is WireGuard? Secure, simple VPN now part of Linux. CSO.

  4. Shaw, K. and Fruhlinger, J. (2020, August 26). What is DNS and How Does it Work? NetworkWorld.

  5. Klosowski, T. and Murphy, D. (2020, December 7). What Is Tor and Why Should I Use It? LifeHacker

  6. Klein, A. (2017, July 11). Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte. BackBlaze.

Written By
Max Sheridan
Identity Theft Protection Expert

Max Sheridan brings over two decades of writing experience to our team. He has spent 1,000-plus hours researching VPNs, identity theft protection, and various topics in cyber technology. Previously, Max was an investigative journalist, and he is also a published novelist. He earned a B.A. in Classics from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in Classics from the University of Illinois. He currently lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.