Norton Secure VPN Review

Verdict

Symantec’s home VPN offering is cheap, but it only works on the most common platforms, with few advanced options, no support for unusual operating systems or appliances such as routers, and lacks basic security features such as a kill switch. However, its European connection speeds are very fast and it’s useful for streaming. We’re not fans of its unexpectedly high renewal costs, though.

Pros

  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Excellent streaming performance
  • Excellent European speeds

Cons

  • No kill switch
  • Very poor US speeds
  • Lack of advanced features and broad device support
  • Becomes more expensive after first year

Key Specifications

  • One device, £19.99/year
  • Five devices, £29.99/year
  • 10 devices, £69.99/year
  • Supports OpenVPN
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
  • Renewal billed at £39.99, £59.99 and £79.99 for one, five, and 10 device subscriptions

What is Norton Secure VPN?

Previously named Norton WiFi Privacy, Symantec’s virtual private network (VPN) service is primarily marketed as a means of ensuring that your traffic isn’t snooped on when you go online via poorly secured public Wi-Fi networks. However, its features in this department are much the same as any other VPN service, and it actually provides a slightly less secure connection that many of its rivals due to its lack of a kill switch.

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Related: Best VPN

Norton Secure VPN – Features and usability

With endpoints in 29 countries, Norton Secure VPN shares its backend infrastructure with SurfEasy, a Canadian VPN provider, previously owned by Opera, but acquired by Symantec in 2017. This creates a slightly ambiguous situation when it comes to legal jurisdiction, but it’s best to assume that the service is answerable to both US and Canadian law.

Secure VPN is a no-logging service, which means that no connection information at all should be stored when you use it, although this has neither been demonstrated in court nor independently audited. It also has a built-in blocking feature for ad trackers for a bit of extra privacy, but the lack of a kill switch, to halt internet traffic if your VPN is disconnected unexpectedly, is a security flaw.

We were unable to reproduce results reported by some reviewers of a previous edition of the client, which indicated that the OpenVPN process may halt traffic if disconnected.

By default, the Norton Secure VPN client starts at boot time and automatically connects to a VPN endpoint with the best connection speed available to you.

The client is accessible as a docked pop-up from the notification area, so you can’t move it around the screen. Its main screen shows your connection status, endpoint IP address and apparent location. A Virtual Locations tab allows you to select an endpoint in any of the 29 countries on offer.

Norton Secure VPN uses the OpenVPN protocol for its connections, with clients available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. However, Symantec does not provide the information required to use the service on devices such as Linux PCs, NAS boxes or routers.

Note that there are very few advanced features here. Most conspicuously – and at risk to your privacy – there’s no kind of kill switch to automatically block internet traffic if the VPN gets disconnected while in use.

Related: Symantec Norton 360 Antivirus

Norton Secure VPN – Performance

Endpoints/VPN UK Netherlands United States
Norton Secure VPN HTTP 138.48Mbps 145.84Mbps 2.8Mbps
Norton Secure VPN FTP 152.39Mbps 162.33Mbps n/a

Norton Secure VPN’s performance in our tests was very good in Europe, with a major speed boost on last month, but terrible in the U.S. In the UK, we got HTTP download speeds of 138.48 Mbps (17.31MB/s) and even faster FTP transfers at a rather better 19MB/s.

Using Dutch endpoints, that HTTP speed went up to 145.84Mbps, with FTP downloads coming in at over 20MB/s (152.39Mbps). US speeds, however, were terrible: we got just 2.8Mbps over HTTP and were unable to connect to our test server via FTP.

That might put a crimp in your style when it comes to streaming, but if you can find an endpoint that’ll give you a reasonable US connection – something we’ve had no trouble with in the past – Norton Secure VPN will let you stream all your video faves from Netflix, and from Shudder in the US, as well as iPlayer UK and All 4 in the UK.

Related: What is a VPN?

Should I buy Norton Secure VPN?

One of the most compelling arguments for using Norton Secure VPN is its price. A one-year subscription – albeit for only one connection at a time – costs just £19.99 for the first year, and a five-connection account costs £29.99 per year. However, the price jumps steeply after the first year, to £39.99 for one device and £59.99 for five devices.

You’ll want to avoid setting an automatic renewal and – if you don’t get a renewal discount of any kind or find a cheap boxed copy – switch to another service after your first year.

Verdict

Symantec’s home VPN offering is cheap, but it only works on the most common platforms, with few advanced options, no support for unusual operating systems or appliances such as routers, and lacks basic security features such as a kill switch. However, its European connection speeds are very fast and it’s useful for streaming. We’re not fans of its unexpectedly high renewal costs, though.

For VPN users on a budget, Windscribe’s annual subscription costs more but it’s also a much better, more fully-featured service, and you can make a good start with its free tier. Meanwhile, Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN remain your best choices for privacy, while NordVPN is great for streaming and has had an independent audit to prove its privacy credentials.

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