NordVPN is one of the best services around for media streaming enthusiasts. It’s fast and flexible, but we have some reservations about its handling and late 2019 disclosure of a security breach affecting one of its endpoint servers in 2018, which means that we can’t unreservedly recommend it for those whose priority is privacy and security.
- Large number of servers
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Wide range of endpoint countries
- Clear, audited no-logging policy
- Provides international access to Netflix, All 4 and iPlayer
- Relatively expensive
- Late disclosure of 2018 server breach
- Review Price: £64.58
- Connect up to six devices
- Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux
- Supports OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, SSTP, L2TP, PPTP, WireGuard
- £9.20 per month, £64.58 per year, £92.21 per two years, £94.74 per three years
- Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients
NordVPN is as well known for its bombastic PR claims as it is for good throughput. The company got into hot water in late 2019 when details were made public of a security breach which affected one of its endpoint servers in 2018, during which some credentials were obtained by a hacker.
While security breaches are a normal hazard of doing business as an internet service provider, NordVPN’s late disclosure of the breach and brash initial handling of the public discovery of the event count against it, although the company has since embarked upon a laudable series of measures to improve security and has committed to better communications practices. To this end, it’s also established a bug bounty programme to help identify vulnerabilities in its systems.
We’d also like to see the company improve its communication with users when security breaches occur and tone down its hyperbolic marketing claims about VPN security in general.
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 had an independent audit carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers and this is available for all subscribers to read.
Related: Best VPN 2020
NordVPN – Features and usability
The company provides clients and connection instructions for a massive range of devices and platforms, ranging from desktop computing platforms and smartphones to routers, servers and one of the best proxying browser plugins we’ve ever used, which comes in particularly handy for international media streaming. Its clients include plenty of features, too, including innovations such as its implementation of the Wireguard protocol for Linux users, which can produce massively increased download speeds
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 autoconnection, CyberSec ad and malware protection, invisibility to your local network 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
As a comparison, average HTTP download speeds for the entire January 2020 VPN group test, measured from a test system in the UK with a high-speed fibre connection, were 81.41Mbps from UK endpoints, 89.42Mbps for the Netherlands and 43.02Mbps from the US.
NordVPN produced the fastest HTTP transfer speeds in my first test of 2020, not only beating the average but also trouncing every other VPN provider that I speed tested. This is something I’ve come to expect from the service.
The company’s recently introduced NordLynx protocol for Linux, although very much a niche feature, produced download speeds of up to 780Mbps (97.5MB/s) – far faster than a non-VPN connection to the same server, making NordVPN and its command-line application perhaps the best choice for Linux users right now, although the technology is still relatively new.
Once again, I got great consistency from its video streaming performance: I had no trouble watching region-locked content on Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, All 4 and Shudder. I was also able to reliably watch the US version of Disney+ from a UK account using both NordVPN’s desktop client and its browser plugins.
Related: What is a VPN?
Should you buy NordVPN?
We’re still fans of NordVPN despite its late disclosure of a recent security breach. That’s something to weigh up against Nord’s logging and security if you need privacy and aren’t in a position to set up your own VPN servers.
However, if – like many VPN users – you’re really after a bit of extra security against ISP or local network snooping and the ability to watch streaming media from anywhere in the world, NordVPN remains an excellent choice.
At the time of testing it has 5265 active servers in 58 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 as its no-logging policy became illegal under Russian legislation.
While NordVPN’s longest subscriptions work out very cheaply, its other tiers are more costly than many of its rivals. You’ll pay a hefty £9.20 per month and subscriptions offer increasingly better value the longer you sign up for, at £64.58 per year, £92.21 for two years and £94.74 every three years.
No free trial is available, but there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, and those in search of extra anonymity can pay in bitcoin.
If you’re a streaming media enthusiast, NordVPN provides reliable region-shifting, a client with plenty of features and blisteringly fast download speeds. It’s also introducing some particularly interesting features for Linux users, if you’re comfortable using its command line application.
Its privacy credentials have been dented by its recent server breach and slow public response, which is reflected in its current Trusted Reviews score. We hope to see further transparency from the company in line with its recent commitments, and it’s already made moves in the direction.
Privacy-conscious VPN users should instead choose a service that’s been shown in court to keep no logs, such as ExpressVPN, for those who want reliable region-shifting for video streaming, or Private Internet Access, if you’re after very competitive pricing.
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