The internet is a phenomenal invention, something that has given us more and enabled more of us than we could have ever imagined. It has also dealt some arguably mortal wounds to privacy.
Fear not—some of the new things we’ve gotten from today’s technology aren’t only things that kill our privacy, but services that protect it.
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are some of the most popular options for maintaining online security and it’s not hard to see why. They don’t require you to do much work—just download some software and carry on with your life.
And one of the most popular VPNs? Yeah, it’s hard to not see the name NordVPN when you’re looking up what VPNs to use.
How do we know it’s reputable? Is there any piece of validating news, are there any neat articles to go on?
Go to the NordVPN homepage, and you’ll be immediately greeted by a list of outlets that have endorsed NordVPN: Wired, BuzzFeed, Forbes, the Guardian, BBC, and more. Additionally, they take special pride on a few pages in noting PCMag has named them an editors’ choice.
Sounds good right? But there are always caveats. Let’s look a little deeper into NordVPN.
As per my style, let’s go with the bad news first.
Luckily, I don’t have too much bad news for you now!
The main downsides, as I see them, are fairly minor and are more annoyances than major flaws.
I think there should be a free, or ‘lite’ version, as they have enough features to reserve for more comprehensive paid plans.
On that note, I also think there should be more features—I’ve seen similarly ranked VPNs with way more tools enabled, and many of the tools NordVPN has are standard for any good VPN.
Moreover, I’d like to see the service offered on more platforms.
Finally, while I’ve had no problems with it myself, I’ve seen a fair amount of negative reviews insofar as customer service is concerned, and I feel it’s worthy of noting.
So all in all, nothing too bad. Now let’s go to the bright side.
Alright, the good stuff!
Though I said there could be more features, I will admit that some of the features are pretty solid, even if most of them are basic. It’s still a fully featured package that doesn’t leave out anything important.
The customer support, aside from potentially bad representatives, has decent written resources.
Finally, it’s easy to set up and to use, and it’s pretty fast. Not the fastest VPN, but it still runs pretty smoothly, and it is indeed good for video streaming.
Some people feel it’s expensive, but I think that in exchange for the features, speed, and overall easy to use software, it’s not a very unreasonable price (even if I think there should be a lite version).
It’s always a relief when the pricing is simple—especially when it comes to VPNs, most of us aren’t looking for a complicated path to privacy. Thankfully, NordVPN keeps it very straightforward when it comes to its pricing.
Essentially, there are three tiers, and the main differences lie in the period for which you get the service.
To get the service for one month, you’ll pay $11.95. For six months of access, you will pay $42.00, the equivalent of $7.00 a month, and for a year, you’ll pay $5.75 a month, or $69.00 total.
And at the time of this writing, NordVPN is offering a special two year deal, at $3.29 a month.
Thankfully, all tiers have a 30 day money back guarantee (PureVPN, its competitor provides only 7 days guarantee) this is pretty nice as not all good VPNs offer these money back guarantees, and 30 days is a pretty long time (especially when you consider that one of the three options is about 30 days of access).
So, all in all, it’s pretty clear. In my opinion, the prices aren’t too bad. Personally, I feel there should be a free version that’s less fully featured—a “lite” version, if you will, but that’s just me and my bias favoring free things.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen more expensive VPNs of similar quality, and the current special two year deal is pretty cheap—you just have to commit for two years.
Of course, you can’t really figure out if the prices are worth it or not unless you know what you’re getting for them.
And this brings us to the features. You can view more details on the official page here.
Let’s go with some basic things first—you get up to 6 devices per account, which makes it handy for people who heavily use their phones or tablets, or who are trying to extend the coverage to their family members.
NordVPN uses 256 bit encryption, which is military grade—nothing too special here, and it should be expected of any top VPN, but nonetheless it’s reassuring to see. They also use and recommend OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols.
NordVPN also advertises itself as the best VPN for entertainment—specifically streaming and P2P activities.
Certainly having 1078 (much higher than around 750 which PureVPN has) worldwide servers available will let you access geo-restricted content.
They also don’t maintain any user logs (this should be standard for any VPN, but it’s still good to know) or put any restrictions on P2P sharing.
The Automated Kill Switch that NordVPN uses is common to many VPNs, but there’s some difference here—this lets you choose certain programs to be automatically shut down if you don’t want your entire device’s access to the internet cut off. After all, not everyone is a journalist or whistleblower.
For added security, there’s also a feature called Double VPN, which is exactly what it sounds like. It may not be necessary for most users’ day to day activities, but it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry, and it’s not like this is automatically employed—you can toggle it on or off.
Probably my favorite feature is integration with the Onion Router. Combining the VPN’s positives with the Onion network saves you from some of the downsides of using TOR—notably, your ISP will not know you are even accessing the internet via the Onion network.
Plus, it’s pretty easy to use—you just need to connect to the “Onion over VPN” server, or just connect to a normal server and then use TOR—NordVPN will take care of it either way.
What else? DNS leak protection is thrown in, so that’s useful, if standard, as is a dedicated server option (for an extra fee, of course).
To be honest, there aren’t a ton of features, and a lot of the features they have—which they give special names to—are really just basic features or even natural byproducts of using a standard VPN.
I’d say that while NordVPN is not as feature-packed as some other similar services, it’s still comprehensive enough, and what they lack in quantity is broadly made up for in quality.
Now let’s suppose you’re interested in NordVPN and you’re trying to set it up, or maybe you have it, but you’ve run into some unexpected difficulties. Or maybe you just want more information before you commit.
Customer support is important, something no one ever wants to use but also something none of us can do without.
Well, as far as online resources go, NordVPN does just fine. There is no phone support, but that’s kind of a common trait for VPN services.
Rest assured though, you’ll have plenty of online options. There’s a live chat function, and emails supposedly get responses within 48 hours. There’s also a contact form for less pressing matters, but even that should yield you a response within 48 hours.
Additionally there is a Help Center page on the website through which you can access lot of different articles covering a range of topics—from FAQs on features and billing to frequent set up issues.
In fact, there are specialized pages dedicated to streaming articles, connection issues, billing issues, and so on.
I think it’s pretty solid that they have an eclectic mix of articles—some are for very niche subjects, whereas others are very general and basic.
Now, I have heard that some representatives can be difficult to deal with on live chat. I have not experienced this personally, but it seems to have come up a few times too many so I’m mentioning it here.
Overall, I think that the customer support is nothing extravagant, but it’s everything you’ll really need and does the job just fine unless you get unlucky with a bad customer service rep.
Ease of Use:
One of the things that NordVPN advertises first about itself is, in fact, its ease of use.
In their own words, “we believe that NordVPN can be as intuitive and easy to use as preparing your morning coffee. Therefore, we have spent years developing, testing and improving our software in order to design the safest, fastest, most reliable, and easy-to-use VPN service on the market.”
So, it sounds like maybe NordVPN has a special focus on the mass appeal of making easy to use software, and to their credit, some things are pretty neat.
The ability to link multiple accounts is handy and painless—if you have an account, you’ll have no problem setting it up on your other devices or operating systems.
Choosing a server from a different country only requires you clicking a country on a global map, and other options that let you toggle between settings are similarly spelled out.
Some features are enabled by default, like DNS leak protection and Smart Play, so you don’t need to worry about setting them up.
Is it any easier to use than any other VPN? Well in my opinion, not really. It may be marginally simpler and more intuitive, but not to the point that I would strongly list it as stand out.
It’s not that this is hard to use, it’s just that most popular VPNs have recognizes the value of an easy to use service, and accordingly many are streamlined to be “idiot proof.”
It’s definitely a pleasure to use NordVPN, as it had a very “light” feeling. That is to say, it was very nonintrusive and left my browsing experience alone.
It’s generally a foregone conclusion, at least for the more experienced privacy-minded individuals, that one of the sacrifices made for online security is speed. Use TOR, and there goes a lot of your speed, not to mention downloading capabilities.
VPNs? Well, they’re usually considered better, but still not as fast your “normal” browsing experience. But NordVPN, similarly to other top VPNs, advertises itself as being “lightning fast.”
Well, I wouldn’t say lightning fast, but I’ll give NordVPN some credit for speed—it did seem that I was able to access content more quickly relative to some other VPNs I’ve used.
The neat thing is that NordVPN supports some servers that are optimized for different things, including some that are geared towards streaming, so I suppose it makes sense—you can connect to servers that are tailored for specific purposes, allowing you speeds you may not normally have.
I think PureVPN might have ran faster for me, but to me it’s not such a huge deal. NordVPN runs just fine and stays out of your way, and as I understand it, there are very few complaints with performance when it comes to NordVPN.
Okay, now I’m going to put all of this stuff together.
Pricing? Decent in my opinion, though for some of you it may be a bit pricey, and there should probably be a free version.
Features? A mixed bag. The existing features are mostly basic, with some good ones thrown in, and though I wish there were more to make the price more worth it, it’s still a fully featured package. It’d be nice if it was offered on more platforms (e.g., browser extensions) too.
Customer support is fine as far as I’m concerned.
Finally, it’s easy to use and it performs well, with pretty fast speeds even if they’re not the fastest.
For some the price may not be worth it, but I think it’s a justified cost—if you’re not buying on a monthly basis, you’re still getting a very strong service that packages solid security without sacrificing much speed.
NordVPN isn’t perfect, but it’s not hard at all to see why it’s routinely ranked as one of the top VPNs.