Simple digital security from a well-trusted source
What’s the last website you visited before looking at this page? Do you even remember? Well, your internet service provider certainly does.
Not only do they remember, but they’re selling that browsing history and a slew of other data points to marketers who are building extremely detailed profiles of you to better pitch you on their products. All without your consent.1
This isn’t to scare you — it’s simply to give you a more clear understanding of how the internet actually works. If you’re online, you can never assume what you’re doing is private.
That is unless, of course, you’re utilizing a virtual private network like NortonVPN. I recently tested NortonVPN to learn all about its features and to see how it compares to some of the big players in the VPN space like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Let’s see how it measured up!
Did You Know: VPNs have been around for decades, but only recently are they garnering attention from everyday consumers. They work by creating an encrypted tunnel for your digital traffic — no one but you is allowed in from entry to exit. Privacy hawks have used them for years, and now that regular folks are understanding how exposed they are online, they’ve gone mainstream.2
Norton has been one of the biggest names in this industry for over three decades, so it’s no wonder they include a VPN in their suite of services. They already offer robust antivirus software and incredibly detailed identity theft protection services, so Norton is a no-brainer, right?
Well — just because it’s a well-known name doesn’t always mean it’s a top-shelf service. Everyone’s heard of Taco Bell, but is that where you want to go when you’re craving great Mexican food?
Now am I saying Norton is the fast-food equivalent of the VPN world? No, but I spent a considerable amount of time putting the service through its paces and while there are certainly things to like, I think what I found might ultimately surprise you. Before we get into all that though, let’s take a quick look at their pros and cons so you can get your bearings.
So that should give you a little bit of context before we start unpacking everything — which we’ll start to do right now.
The first thing you’re going to notice is NortonVPN’s affordable price. This is one of the most inexpensive VPNs out there — second so far to Surfshark. In my Surfshark review, I found they cost about $2.50 per month. That’s a great price, but to get those savings you have to sign up for two years.
In Norton’s case, though, you can sign up for a really affordable VPN right out of the gate. The only limiting factor, though, is how many devices you want protected. This chart should explain things.
|Number of Devices||Monthly Cost||Annual Cost|
Now you might think it makes the most sense to try things out for a month or two to see if you like using NortonVPN. Usually that’s a pretty good plan, but you should consider that any annual membership comes with a 60-day, money-back guarantee. That means that if you’re willing to drop a little bit more cash up front, you can try things for two months and get that cash back should you be disappointed.
Once you select your plan, you can move on to the payment screen. Pretty simple stuff, here. One thing to point out is that there are only two ways to pay — with a traditional credit card or with PayPal.
This might not be a big deal to most folks, but a lot of people who are in the market to buy a VPN want the option for a little more anonymity. That’s why many VPNs accept payment in the form of cryptocurrency. Is this a huge red flag? No, not really — but it’s certainly worth pointing out.
Once the service is purchased, you’re prompted to download the software. This is a really hassle-free process, and Norton walks you through each step, which is always appreciated.
FYI: If you’re on a Mac, once the software installation is complete, you’ll probably have to go find the actual program in your Applications folder.
Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is start the VPN up, and you’re off to the races.
So right out of the box, NortonVPN connected automatically. For all intents and purposes, you could minimize the window and never think about it again. In fact, that’s what I did for a few days just to see if I noticed anything wonky in the day-to-day use of the service. I’m happy to report that I didn’t, but unhappy to report that’s about all there is to report on.
When I say Norton offers a bare-bones VPN, I mean it. This is one of the most stripped-down services I’ve encountered.
The NortonVPN dashboard itself is really simple. On the main window, you’re going to see if and where you’re connected, and what IP address you’re showing. As you can see, as far as the rest of the internet is concerned, I’m in Canada, eh?
On the next page, you’re going to see your options for selecting a virtual location. There aren’t a ton to choose from here, and none of these servers are optimized for activities like streaming or torrenting. I will say, though, I’ve never really had a problem connecting to any of them. Some of the more complicated services I’ve used in the past will have you messing with protocols and settings to get everything working. Norton just works right out of the gate.
FYI: If you’re interested in streaming foreign media or P2P file sharing, check out our review of Hide My Ass VPN. They’ve got you covered.
And finally, you have your Ad Tracking stats. NortonVPN includes a built-in ad blocker that works surprisingly well. I still noticed a couple of ads here and there while doing my day-to-day browsing, but they were noticeably fewer. Also worth noting — I never got the “hey, we noticed you’re using an ad blocker, please turn it off” message you sometimes receive when just running an ad-blocking browser extension. Kudos to NortonVPN, here.
So that’s about all there is to say for your day-to-day use. There’s no fiddling with protocol or kill switch to turn off or on; honestly, there’s not even a hood to pop to check under. Seriously, the “settings” tab only gives you the option to toggle the service on or off on startup and to automatically connect when you access the internet.
Yeah. “Limited” is one way to describe NortonVPN. Now, is that a bad thing? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide, but before we get there, let’s make sure we’re considering all the information. How fast and how secure is NortonVPN?
One of the first things I always like to test when reviewing a VPN is its speed. Now it’s understandable that you’re going to see some slowdowns when connecting through a VPN, but most modern services these days operate sophisticated server networks that minimize these speed reductions. In some cases, even, you can get around your internet service provider’s throttling and actually increase your speeds. I saw that when I unpacked NordVPN, for instance. So how did Norton stack up?
We’ll … not the best. For context, here’s my connection when I’m not using a VPN.
That’s a little slow for me, but still pretty reasonable. These are point-in-time tests, after all. However, when I switched on the NortonVPN:
Yikes. Upload speeds were pretty consistent, but my download speeds dropped to the double digits. Now this isn’t going to be super noticeable in day-to-day internet-ing, but if you were, say, live streaming an event or something, you might notice some latency.
Will this be your experience? Tough to say. Everyone’s connectivity is different and can fluctuate pretty significantly throughout the day. I will say, though, that through the review period, I performed this same test a few more times and always had similar results.
So that’s the word on Norton’s speeds. Significantly slower on paper, but in practice never really noticeable. How about their security though? Speed means nothing if the VPN isn’t functioning properly.
One of the easiest ways to independently test if your VPN is working properly is by performing what’s called a Domain Name System (DNS) leak audit. But to understand what that is, you kind of need to understand how the internet works. I promise this isn’t going to get too techy, so bear with me for a second.
We all know that the internet is made up of individual web pages, but each one of those pages is assigned a unique address consisting of a string of numbers that are associated with the website’s name. So when you type “SafeHome.org” into your address bar, your computer requests a DNS server to look up the corresponding numerical address. Once that’s found and sent back to your computer, you can connect.3 Think of the DNS network as the internet’s Yellow Pages. You look up “Dave’s Plumbing,” and you get the phone number.
When you’re using a VPN, that DNS request, along with your traffic, should all go through the VPN tunnel. However, if there’s some sort of technical problem or your VPN never worked properly in the first place, that request will go through your ISP, potentially exposing your real IP address.
Got all that? Excellent. The good news is there were no leaks detected when I was using NortonVPN — it’s a secure service.
So security is tight, but Norton’s speeds left a little to be desired. Is there anything left to discuss before we give you the final word?
This is the section where I’d normally tell you about any bonus features or advanced functionality the service offers, but unfortunately, there’s just nothing here. NortonVPN offers very little by way of bells or whistles — what you see is all you get. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for folks who value simplicity and user-friendliness.
FYI: If you’re looking for a feature-packed VPN, check out our review of IPVanish. They’ve got some pretty interesting add-ons.
That said — there is one interesting thing about this service that’s worth mentioning. It’s specifically designed to integrate into the entire Norton family of cybersecurity products. If you spring for the whole suite of services, you’ll be getting antivirus software, identity theft protection, and the VPN to boot. It’s a little beyond the scope of this article to get into all of that, but if you want a better understanding of those offerings check out our in-depth look at Norton’s identity theft protections.
So that about wraps us up. Norton offers pretty robust digital security, but little else. With that in mind, what’s the final call?
As a stand-alone VPN, Norton isn’t my favorite. Although its protections are solid and its price is reasonable, it’s just lacking in too many ways. Simply put — there are plenty of other VPN services on the market at similar price points that offer far more.
Will NortonVPN get the job done? Sure. But would you get more bang for your buck elsewhere? I think so. Their limited scope is their Achilles’ heel.
That said, if you choose to couple this service with Norton’s full suite of services, it becomes far more appealing. This VPN, when linked with the antivirus software and identity theft protections Norton is known for, becomes a contender.
If you don’t want to go this route, though, I recommend heading over to our Best VPN list to see a handful of options that will not only get the job done, but do it in style.
To connect one device, NortonVPN costs $4.99 per month. For five, it costs $7.99, and for ten, it costs $9.99.
Yes. In our testing, NortonVPN showed no security flaws.
NortonVPN consistently slowed our connection speeds, but not in a significant way. You likely won’t notice any slowdown while using the service.
Yes, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu will work with NortonVPN; however, their servers are not optimized for streaming.
Certain P2P file-sharing networks will work with NortonVPN, but the service is not designed for this activity. Also, keep in mind, there is no kill switch with Norton, so if your VPN service is interrupted while downloading, your identifying data might become exposed.
Storm, M. (2019, November 21). What is Ad Tracking? [+3 Reasons to Use Ad Tracking]. Web FX.
VPN Mentor. (2021, February 4). VPN Use and Data Privacy Stats for 2021.
Cloudflare. (2021). What Is DNS? | How DNS Works.
Derek Prall is a VPN and cybersecurity expert with more than seven years of experience in the industry. He has spent thousands of hours researching identity theft protection, VPNs, and other ways to keep safe online. To date, Derek has written nearly 100 comprehensive resources for SafeHome.org. As a professional journalist, he has contributed to reputable publications such as TD Magazine, New Jersey Herald, and many others. Learn more about Derek here