NordVPN is one of the best services around for media-streaming enthusiasts. It’s fast, flexible, and security-audited – but it isn't cheap.
- Large number of servers
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Wide range of endpoint countries
- Clear, audited no-logging policy
- Great for streaming
- Relatively expensive
- Review Price: £8.84 per month
- Connect up to six devices
- Supports OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, SSTP, L2TP, PPTP, WireGuard
- Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
NordVPN was once as well known for its bombastic PR claims as it is for good throughput, but following its botch announcement of a 2018 security breach, the company has followed through on promises to tone down its hyperbole and improve overall security.
NordVPN is owned by Tefincom, legally headquartered in Panama. The country has no data retention legislation in force, and NordVPN itself has a no-logging policy. To back this up, NordVPN has regular independent audits carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which are made available for all subscribers to read.
Pricing and subscriptions
While NordVPN’s longest subscriptions work out very cheaply, its other tiers are more costly than many rivals. You’ll pay a hefty £8.84 per month, but subscriptions offer increasingly good value the longer you sign up for. Prices over one- and two-year subs have been cut to £43.66 per year and £65.86 every two years.
No free trial is available, but there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, and those in search of extra anonymity can pay using a selection of cryptocurrencies.
Features and usability
NordVPN provides clients and connection instructions for a massive range of devices and platforms. These range from desktop computing platforms and smartphones to routers, servers and one of the best proxying browser plugins I’ve ever used – which comes in particularly handy for international media streaming.
On Windows, the NordVPN client’s main display shows a map of endpoint locations, alongside a searchable list of available servers, categorised by features and geographic location. It also provides shortcuts to endpoints with specific extra security features, including double VPN, DDoS protection, onion routing via the Tor network, or support for peer-to-peer torrenting.
In its advanced settings, NordVPN offers a wide range of features, including auto-connection, CyberSec ad and malware protection, invisibility to your local network, split tunnelling to exclude certain applications from the VPN, and both internet and app-specific kill switches to block traffic if your VPN connection goes down. You can also set a custom DNS provider and attempt to avoid VPN blocking in places where it’s restricted by using some of NordVPN’s obfuscated servers.
NordVPN – Performance
|Reference Group Average HTTP||179.7Mbps||160.13Mbps||91.805Mbps|
|Reference HTTP without VPN||604.8Mbps||544.8Mbps||700.8Mbps|
All of my testing was carried out on a virtual desktop physically located at a data centre in London with a high-speed internet connection. This testing setup produces results under optimal connection conditions. VPN clients are tested on their default settings.
NordVPN’s UK speeds were just below this month’s spectacularly fast average, but it seems churlish to complain about speeds of 174Mbps, especially given the excellent performance of its US and Netherlands endpoints. Its averaged speeds put it second overall, just after Surfshark.
Like Surfshark, NordVPN also uses the fast WireGuard protocol – in the form of its customised NordLynx protocol – by default for desktop clients. NordVPN’s video streaming is as good as ever. You don’t need to use any kind of specialist endpoints, which is convenient.
Should you buy NordVPN?
NordVPN has put its money where its mouth is when it comes to doing better after its mishandled 2018 security breach, opening a bug bounty programme, continuing to commission independent audits, and introducing new security measures.
It maintains a policy of not retaining any directly identifiable user data, and indicates that it hasn’t received any warrants from government organisations. It doesn’t have the rock-solid credibility of ExpressVPN, which has suffered and survived server seizures without loss of customer privacy, but NordVPN provides credible security against ISP or local network snooping, and the ability to watch streaming media from anywhere in the world.
At the time of testing it has around 5,500 active servers in 59 countries, from the UK, the US and most of the EU to less commonly used locations in Egypt, Vietnam, Taiwan and New Zealand. It shut down its Russian endpoint servers since its no-logging policy became illegal under Russian legislation.
If you’re a streaming media enthusiast, NordVPN provides reliable region-shifting, a client with plenty of features, and blisteringly fast download speeds. It also has a good track record of introducing some particularly interesting features for Linux users, if you’re comfortable using its command line application.
NordVPN has a solid claim on being one of the best VPN services around, although close rival Surfshark is both cheaper and was a little faster this time around. ExpressVPN is more expensive, but should still be the first port of call for the most privacy-conscious.