NordVPN review

Everything you need to know about NordVPN in one place

NordVPN review
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

NordVPN's NordLynx accelerated speeds, P2P optimized servers and Bitcoin support make for an appealing service. OpenVPN speeds aren't the best and renewal prices are more expensive than many, but overall, this is a quality VPN with plenty to offer all levels of user.

Pros

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    Privacy audit of no logging claims

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    Unblocks Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus

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    Effective kill switch

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    Speedy live chat support

Cons

  • -

    Basic browser extensions

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    Some client UI issues

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    Above average renewal prices

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So you want to know everything about NordVPN, including how good – and fast – a VPN provider it is, as well as all the latest news on the service? Well, you've come to the right place, because this article comprises an extensive review of NordVPN complete with a full range of performance tests, combined with a roundup of news pertaining to the service, plus an extensive FAQ that addresses the most commonly asked questions about this VPN.

But first, let's kick off with a quick TL:DR summary of the review for those who don't want the in-depth stuff, and just want to know whether NordVPN is worth buying, and how it compares to rival VPNs, in a nutshell.

NordVPN: 2-minute review

NordVPN's torrent support is a definite strong point, and there's as much to like on the privacy front too, with plenty of smart features to help keep you safe and anonymous online. 

Performance levels are good – this is one of the faster VPNs we've reviewed – and as for Netflix (or other streaming content) unblocking, it got us into just about everything we tried.

NordVPN's mobile apps are better than you'll find with most VPN providers. The Windows client is generally pretty good, and all the apps are quite user-friendly overall. Speaking of which, there are a lot of quality tutorials to help you get set up with the VPN, and great customer support, which is all good for the less tech-savvy folks out there, should they run into trouble somehow.

An expansive network of servers rounds all this off nicely, and NordVPN's commendable no-strings-attached 30-day money-back guarantee is worth a mention. If you aren't happy, you can get your money back in the first month with no hassles.

You can think of NordVPN as a high-quality jack-of-all-trades VPN. It does everything to a good standard, and while some rivals may offer better performance in specific departments, if you want everything doing well – and a consistent service above all – NordVPN won't steer you wrong.

Keen to find out more about NordVPN? Then read on to learn every detail you could ever want to know...

NordVPN: latest news and updates

It hasn't been that long since we last looked at NordVPN, but the company has been busily improving its service in several key ways.

The big news is the addition of Meshnet, a powerful new feature which allows you to link up to 60 remote devices (Windows, Mac, iOS or Android), anywhere in the world, into a single secure network.

NordVPN Meshnet

Meshnet lets you link up to 60 remote devices across a single secure network (Image credit: NordVPN)

You could use Meshnet to securely access your home PC from anywhere, for instance. Or to share files with others, securely collaborate on a work project, enjoy LAN gaming, and more.

The latest Windows app has a totally redesigned interface, with a brand new look and feel (much more about that later).

Smaller but welcome mobile tweaks include support for voice commands on Android (tell Google Assistant to open NordVPN and connect, and you’ll be online in seconds), and new built-in troubleshooting tools for iOS.

NordVPN: our full NordVPN review

Panama-registered NordVPN is a hugely popular VPN provider with more than 14 million customers around the globe. The company sells itself on features, and there are plenty to explore.

How many servers does NordVPN have?

The NordVPN network has 5,600+ servers in 85 locations across 59 countries.

What platforms does NordVPN have apps for?

You get Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux and Android TV apps, and NordVPN also offers tutorials to set up the service on many more device types.

How many devices can you use with NordVPN?

NordVPN boasts support for six simultaneous connections. That means you can set up NordVPN on as many devices as you like, but only six of them can be connected to the service at the same time. This is probably enough for most people, but other VPNs go further. Private Internet Access supports up to 10 simultaneous connections, Ivacy can handle 12, and IPVanish, Surfshark, Windscribe and others have no fixed connection limits at all.

What features do you get with NordVPN?

NordVPN offers all the technical features you'd expect, including OpenVPN support, and NordVPN's WireGuard-based NordLynx for strong encryption and high performance, a kill switch, and DNS leak protection to keep your identity safe.

Not-so-common extras include double data encryption and Onion support for extra security, along with ad, phishing and malware detection plus blocking via NordVPN's Threat Protection. P2P support is a major plus, and an audited no logging policy gives strong reassurance that your internet activities won't be visible to anyone else.

As we’ve discussed above, the new Meshnet allows you to create a secure encrypted network with up to 10 of your devices, and up to 50 others (as long as they’re also NordVPN users). This could allow you to share files, play network games, access other network devices, and more.

(Beware: Meshnet handles the process of connecting your devices, but after that, you’ll need to understand your device's networking tools to take advantage of that. Meshnet doesn't include an interface to help you share a Windows folder, for instance; you must use the operating system's own sharing and network features to make that happen.)

Meshnet won't be for everyone, but it's a very powerful addition to the NordVPN feature list, and not something you'll find anywhere else. (Read the official Meshnet announcement (opens in new tab) for more details on what it can do.)

If you're intimidated by this feature overload, or just run into some unexpected problems, NordVPN's 24/7 support is on hand to point you in the right direction, via email or live chat.

NordVPN's prices are a little above average after a special deal in the first year, and if you're not quite convinced that this is the VPN for you, a 30-day money-back guarantee gives you a risk-free route to sampling the service for yourself.

Got any further questions about the basics of NordVPN? Then see our FAQ at the end of this article (jump straight down to it using the link in the bar above).

NordVPN Payment Methods

NordVPN allows for payment by credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin and more (Image credit: NordVPN)

NordVPN pricing

NordVPN's Standard plan comes in three flavors. Monthly billed accounts (opens in new tab) are $11.99, and the annual plan (opens in new tab) cuts that to $4.99 a month, while opting for the two-year plan (opens in new tab) drops the price further to $3.29.

NordVPN's Plus plan adds Nord’s password manager and data breach scanner (which raises an alert if your details are spotted on the dark web), for an only marginally more expensive $4.59 a month over two years.

NordVPN's Complete plan also adds 1TB of encrypted cloud storage, and is priced at $5.89 a month on the two-year plan.

(The company has new offers all the time, but a more in-depth and up-to-the-minute explanation can be found at our dedicated NordVPN price and deals article.)

Beware the small print, though. The one and two-year deals include an introductory discount, and both renew as a standard annual plan, which sees a major price hike to $8.29 a month. NordVPN doesn't exactly make this clear on the website, but you can find these and all the other renewal costs on its Pricing page (opens in new tab).

Is NordVPN good value for money?

On the face of it, yes, at least for the first term, but it's true that bargain hunters can find better deals than NordVPN elsewhere. Private Internet Access' annual plan costs just $3.33 a month, for instance, and Ivacy's five-year plan is a featherweight $1 a month. (That’s $59.98 for one year of protection with NordVPN, $60 for five years with Ivacy.)

Still, it's far from the most expensive VPN around, and we think NordVPN is fairly priced for what you get.

What methods can you use to pay for NordVPN?

There are plenty of payment options provided by NordVPN, with support for cards, PayPal, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (via CoinPayments), AmazonPay, Google Pay and more.

Does NordVPN have a free trial?

The company used to have a service-wide free trial, long ago, but unfortunately it was dropped due to abuse.

New Android and iOS users get seven days of app usage for free, though. And if you sign up, NordVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee gives you more than enough time to get a feel for how the service performs.

NordVPN Privacy

NordVPN does a lot to maintain your privacy online (Image credit: NordVPN)

Does NordVPN offer a good level of privacy?

The privacy value of all VPNs starts with the support for encryption technologies.  NordVPN scores well here for its strong AES-256-GCM encryption, and supports perfect forward secrecy to regularly change keys (this time using 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman), ensuring that even if an attacker manages to penetrate one session, they'll be locked out of the next one.

Once you're connected, NordVPN uses its own private DNS to keep your internet browsing away from third parties. Its apps also include protection from DNS leaks, to make sure your online activities are safe.

NordVPN also offers a Double VPN system (on Windows, Mac and Android) where your traffic goes to one VPN server, then is re-encrypted and sent to a second NordVPN server, before heading off to its destination. If you're looking for the maximum level of anonymity, this extra layer of protection makes it even more difficult for anyone to trace an internet action back to you.

If that's still not enough, NordVPN also supports Onion over VPN. This encrypts your traffic and routes it through a NordVPN server first, then directs it to the Tor network, where it passes through three randomly chosen Tor nodes before reaching its destination. This is just about as private as internet access gets, but there is a cost. Tor is slow at the best of times, and all this bouncing around multiple servers will cut your speeds significantly.

NordVPN Kill Switch

NordVPN actually has two kill switches to keep your real IP hidden should the VPN connection drop (Image credit: NordVPN)

How secure is NordVPN?

Impressively secure. NordVPN has something in its armory to further bolster your security, and that's a kill switch. A kill switch is in place to prevent any data leaks in case the VPN connection drops.

NordVPN stands out here for actually having two kill switches. A general internet kill switch blocks all net access when you're not connected to the VPN (this can easily be turned off if it's inconvenient), while an app kill switch closes your chosen applications if the connection goes down.

NordVPN says the service blocks DNS leaks, too, and our checks with DNS Leak Test, IPLeak and other sites confirmed this. Our DNS address was always the same as our IP address, with no DNS, WebRTC or other leaks detected. So overall, security and privacy are tight. (For more details on services that deliver top-notch security, check out our roundup of the most secure VPN providers, where NordVPN ranks highly).

Can NordVPN be hacked?

One of NordVPN’s servers was hacked back in 2018 (a VPN server, not anything holding account information). The company didn’t admit that immediately, and received a lot of criticism when the hack was uncovered, but it has since taken a lot of steps to restore confidence.

NordVPN updated its entire server network to run in RAM only, without disks, ensuring that even if someone hacked a server in future, there would be no local files for them to inspect.

The company also invited security research group VerSprite to audit its apps, helping to identify and fix security issues. And a bug bounty program was introduced, giving an incentive for anyone to uncover and report security problems with the service.

NordVPN joined Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN in having its Android app certified (opens in new tab) by the ioXt Alliance. The certification covers checks on cryptography, network security, software update procedures and more, and NordVPN came out very well with maximum scores in every category.

Steps like these can't entirely make up for NordVPN's delayed response to the 2018 hack, but they're still hugely positive, and expose the company's services to a level of scrutiny rarely seen anywhere else.

NordVPN No Logs

NordVPN doesn't keep any logs on its users (Image credit: NordVPN)

What is NordVPN's logging policy?

NordVPN claims to have a strict 'no logs' policy. Most VPNs say much the same, but the company's privacy policy defines this more clearly than most, saying:

'Nord guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services, meaning that your internet activity... is not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or browsing data.'

That covers not only general logging of your internet activities, but also session logging details such as recording your incoming IP address when you connect to the service, and the IP you're allocated. (When other VPNs say, 'no logging', they often carry out some form of session logging, so it's good to see NordVPN rule it out).

Can NordVPN back up these claims?

A VPN can say anything on its own website, but unlike most of the VPN competition, you don't have to take NordVPN's claims on trust. In 2020 NordVPN hired Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) to run a second independent audit on its infrastructure and services, and to verify that its logging policy description is accurate.

This was an in-depth project, NordVPN explained: 'It involved interviews with our employees, server configuration inspections, technical log inspections, and inspections of other servers in our infrastructure. PwC Switzerland’s practitioners also verified that we were actually using the configurations that they had inspected.'

A July 2020 blog post reported PwC's conclusion that 'they saw no signs that we had in any way violated our no-logs promise.'

The report doesn't have much in the way of technical detail. There are lots of legal restrictions on the content, too, and for instance we can't even quote from it (sounds like an excuse, but it really isn't – ExpressVPN's no logging audit report is affected by a similar condition). NordVPN customers and trial users can take a look, though, and we have to applaud the company for taking this step. It means NordVPN has far more evidence to support its no logging claims than most other VPN providers.

nPerf performance benchmark

We used nPerf and other speed test services to measure the performance of NordVPN (Image credit: nPerf)

Performance testing: How fast is NordVPN?

While privacy features are normally the top priority for a VPN, performance is almost as important. Uncrackable encryption isn't nearly as appealing if it reduces your internet speeds to a crawl, which is why we put all VPNs we review through some intensive performance tests.

Our procedure involves connecting to our nearest server from UK and US locations with 1Gbps connections, then running repeated checks using several benchmarking sites and tools (SpeedTest's website and command line app, Netflix's performance test, nPerf, SpeedOf.me and more). We perform the tests using the best two protocols when possible, then repeat the full test run in morning and evening sessions.

NordVPN says its custom NordLynx protocol delivers great speeds, and we'd have to agree. 700-820Mbps is an excellent result, and puts NordVPN in sixth place out of 20 contenders in our most recent tests. (Surfshark, TorGuard and Norton all reached 950Mbps+ at the top of the rankings).

OpenVPN is slower, but still a useful protocol if you’re setting up NordVPN on a router, or NordLynx fails to connect for some reason. We ran it through our tests and NordVPN really delivered here, too, with OpenVPN connections peaking at an excellent 470Mbps. That beats the WireGuard speeds of some lesser VPNs.

Not everyone has the same 1Gbps connections as our test sites, of course, so we also ran tests from a second UK location using a 5G broadband router (with Three). With NordVPN off, this managed 260Mbps; with NordVPN on, it reached 125Mbps. That’s a little below average – most providers manage around 200Mbps – but it’s still a decent speed for a mobile connection, and more than fast enough for most web tasks.

Netflix menu showing popular shows

NordVPN successfully unblocked Netflix and passed all our streaming tests (Image credit: Netflix)

Can NordVPN unblock Netflix or other streaming sites?

The ability to access geoblocked websites is a key advantage of any VPN service. NordVPN doesn't explicitly claim to unblock any particular website or service, but statements asserting that it allows you to "keep access to your favorite websites and entertainment content, and forget about censorship" sound good to us.

We first put this to the test by trying to access US-only Netflix content from the UK. It worked perfectly, getting us in with all three of our test servers.

Interested in other libraries? So are we, and NordVPN was just as successful with Netflix in Australia, Canada, Japan and the UK.

Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus have been a challenge in some previous reviews, but not this time, and we managed to stream US-only content from three US servers.

Our good run continued in Australia, with NordVPN unblocking 9Now and 10 play. Would our final UK tests spoil the picture? Nope: it got us into BBC iPlayer, ITV and Channel 4, too, a perfect 100% unblocking score.

NordVPN P2P Servers

NordVPN boasts hundreds of P2P-friendly servers (Image credit: NordVPN)

Does NordVPN support torrents?

The short answer is yes, it does. They're not available on all locations, but NordVPN does provide hundreds of P2P-friendly servers in the US, UK, and many other locations around the globe. Wherever you are, there should be a suitable server nearby.

VPNs which only support P2P on some servers can be inconvenient to use, particularly if you connect to a non-P2P server, launch your torrent client and find it doesn't work. NordVPN's Windows app has a P2P server list, though, where you can choose the country you need in the usual way, no hassles at all.

To verify NordVPN's P2P support, we connected to three countries and tried downloading torrents. In each case we connected and downloaded files as expected, with no performance or other issues.

Is there anything else that makes NordVPN a good choice for torrenting?

Along with its direct P2P support, NordVPN has a number of other features which could make it a smart choice for those using torrents. There's its strict no logging policy (verified by audit), multiple layers of DNS and traffic leak protection, payment via Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and privacy extras including Double VPN and Onion over VPN.

Are any rival VPNs better than NordVPN for torrents?

NordVPN clearly offers a strong all-round package in terms of torrents, but ExpressVPN is also worth considering for torrenting. The core features of both services are similar, and while ExpressVPN doesn't have quite as many extras (no Double VPN, for instance), it supports P2P on all its servers and is arguably easier to use. So, you can make your choice based on which of those factors is more important to you, and there's further info to hand in our roundup of the best VPNs for torrents.

NordVPN Download Windows Screen

NordVPN has clients for Windows, as well as Mac, Android, iOS and more (Image credit: NordVPN)

How easy is it to set up NordVPN apps?

Sign up for a VPN and you'll doubtless want to install a client and try it right away. At NordVPN, all you have to do is tap the VPN Apps link, and the website automatically offers you the app download link for the device you're using, along with further links for its other supported platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and Android TV.

Installation is simple, and our Windows app was ready to go in seconds. We clicked the ‘Log In’ button, and a browser window appeared prompting us to log into our Nord account. We had the password manager Dashlane installed, so didn’t have to remember (or even know) our login details. Dashlane filled them in automatically, and a couple of clicks later, we were back at the app.

NordVPN’s apps may not work everywhere, but that’s okay. An extensive array of 50+ tutorials explain how to manually set up the service, and include coverage of a further 20 platforms and device types (including Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi, routers, NAS devices, and more besides).

There's far more detail here than you might expect. NordVPN has multiple Windows tutorials, for instance, covering installing the regular client, OpenVPN, or manual setup guidance for various protocol types on Windows 7, 8 and 10.

But the site isn't just about the basics. If you're looking to set up NordVPN as a SOCKS5 proxy, there are tutorials for Deluge, qBittorrent, uTorrent and more.

NordVPN Windows App

A map of available servers helps you choose a location to use (Image credit: NordVPN)

How good is NordVPN's Windows app?

The Windows app has seen a major revamp since our last review, giving it a very different look and feel.

The app opens with its many locations displayed on a world map, now available in both dark and light modes. The window can’t be resized anymore, but you’re able to zoom in and out (with the mouse wheel as well as zoom buttons) to get a better view.

The map updates automatically to suit your zoom level. Zoom right out and it shows a single icon for Europe with the number ‘39’ (NordVPN’s number of European locations). Click this, and the map automatically zooms to show a view of Europe, with icons for many countries. Click any country icon and the app connects you to the best server in that region.

If all that zooming and panning sounds like too much hassle, no problem. Hit the Quick Connect button in a panel top-left and the app automatically connects to your nearest location, with no further steps required.

NordVPN Windows Specialty Servers

You can choose servers for a particular task from the Speciality list (Image credit: NordVPN)

Alternatively, tapping a down arrow displays a conventional location list. You can use this to access countries and cities, or NordVPN’s ‘speciality servers’ to handle certain tasks: P2P, Double VPN, Tor, dedicated IPs and more. If you’re using the new Meshnet feature, then you can even connect to a specific device directly from the location list (your PC at home, while you’re away on a trip, for instance).

A built-in Search box allows you to ignore both the map and the lists. Just type CHI, say, and the app displays your matches: Chile, Chicago and Chisinau (Moldova), and you can connect in a click.

The app doesn’t include the direct list of individual servers (that’s all 5,600+) any longer. That’s fine for most people, but if you want to access specific servers (perhaps you’ve discovered that US server #8876 is the only one to unblock a particular site), you can still do that from the search box. Typing ‘United States #’ displays the full list, or you can enter a number like #8876 to show that specific server.

A Recent section displays icons of the last five locations you’ve accessed, and again, you can reconnect with a click. The icons use country maps or server type graphics, which means they won’t always uniquely identify a location (connect to five US cities or five P2P-friendly locations, and the Recent section displays five American flags or five P2P icons, for instance). Hovering your mouse over each icon displays a tooltip with the country or city, so it’s not difficult to find what you need. Still, it’s less convenient than the previous text-based Recent list, or the Favorites lists you’ll often find with other apps.

Connection times are reasonable. The default NordLynx protocol typically got us connected in 2-3 seconds, and OpenVPN took around 8 seconds. ExpressVPN is a little faster at barely a second for Lightway, six seconds with OpenVPN, but you’re unlikely to notice much difference in real-world use.

The app keeps you informed of its connection status, and uses Windows desktop notifications to tell you when the VPN is turned on or off. It doesn’t display your VPN IP, but hovering your mouse cursor over the location flag displays the server name, IP address and ISP.

NordVPN Windows Pause Connection

You can pause your VPN connection for a short period of time (Image credit: NordVPN)

A Pause button allows you to effectively disconnect from the VPN for 5, 15 or 60 minutes. If you need to quickly use a website which doesn't work with the VPN, click 'Pause', choose your preferred interval, and the client then disconnects. If you finish your task early, you can hit Resume to restore your connection at any time. But the value here is that if you forget, the app will automatically reconnect for you, reducing the chance that you accidentally leave yourself unprotected for long periods of time.

If all this seems a little too complicated, you can launch a mini version of the app by right-clicking the NordVPN system tray icon. This includes your Recent Connections list (with text city names) and a Quick Connect button, and if that’s enough, you may never have to bother with the full app.

NordVPN is generally very reliable, but if you do run into difficulties, there’s an option to raise a ticket from within the app. Most VPNs that do this just ask you to type a message in a single box, but NordVPN goes much further. You can specify a topic, add screenshots or opt to send diagnostic information, and the page helps you describe the issue clearly. It’s very well put together, and the only in-app support system we’ve seen which delivers what you’d expect from a support site.

The new app isn’t perfect in every area. We miss the old app’s resizable window, and the ability to view the map full-screen or shrink the window to save space. The icon-only Recent Connections list isn’t ideal, either. ExpressVPN uses text for its Recent list, and although that takes more space and doesn’t look as pretty, you can see at a glance exactly which location every entry represents.

Overall, though, NordVPN’s latest app is a step forward. It’s easier to use and includes worthwhile new features, while still saving you a few clicks when compared to the previous version.

NordVPN Settings

NordVPN has a number of useful settings (Image credit: NordVPN)

What settings does the NordVPN Windows app offer?

The app has some handy settings to help ensure you’re protected when necessary. You can have it automatically connect when Windows or the app starts, for example, or whenever you access an untrusted network, which is useful if you sometimes forget to do that manually.

There’s an unusual extra in an option to allow remote access to your device (via remote desktop, say) when connected to the VPN. If you never use Windows remote desktop or aren’t sure what it is, this can be safely ignored. But if you regularly use remote desktop, it’s a real convenience, and not something we’ve seen directly supported by other VPNs.

NordVPN's kill switch (a system to avoid data leaks if the VPN connection drops) also offers more control than most. An internet kill switch blocks all access to the net unless you're connected to the VPN, while a separate app kill switch closes particular apps if the VPN drops (your torrent app, for instance).

We tried various ways of forcibly closing the VPN, but in all cases the client correctly blocked our internet traffic and warned us of the problem. The only small omission is that the client doesn't have an 'auto-reconnect' option, leaving users to restore their connections manually.

NordVPN Protocols

The app supports NordVPN's fast NordLynx protocol (Image credit: NordVPN)

What protocols does the NordVPN Windows app support?

Protocol support includes OpenVPN TCP and UDP, along with NordVPN's own NordLynx. The Windows app sets these automatically, and you won't even see the OpenVPN options until you turn this off (in Settings > Auto-Connect, where you disable 'Choose a VPN protocol and server automatically.') But once you've figured that out, you can switch protocols with a couple of clicks.

Expert-level features include the option to set your preferred DNS for VPN connections. Switching DNS could improve browsing performance, help block access to malicious websites, or impart other benefits. Even better, you can add multiple DNS servers and switch between them as and when required.

A bonus 'Obfuscated Servers' feature claims that it may help you connect even in countries and locations which block VPNs.

NordVPN's Threat Protection feature blocks malicious websites, ads and trackers, detects malware, and more. It’s a powerful add-on, but when enabled it means that NordVPN grabs a lot of RAM (800-900MB, compared to 200MB for ExpressVPN), noticeably slowing down our test system. Is it worth any performance cost? We ran a couple of quick tests to get an idea.

First off, with Threat Protection active, we tried accessing 150 common trackers. NordVPN blocked 72, a little below average (most providers block around 80-110). But this shows Threat Protection is doing useful work, and you’ll still have further protection from the privacy tools you’re using now (security suite, browser extensions and more).

Secondly, we worked through a list of brand new malicious websites, and found NordVPN blocked 64 out of 1877. Although that’s clearly a poor result, keep in mind that these were the very latest links, perhaps only a day or two old: we don’t expect a free VPN feature to match Bitdefender for URL blocking.

Put it all together, and although NordVPN's Windows client has some issues, it's generally well-presented, easy to use, and a comfortable place to view and control your VPN status. (Incidentally, you might also want to check out our pick of the best Windows 10 VPNs).

NordVPN Mac App

The Mac app hasn't been treated to the same overhaul given to the Windows client (Image credit: NordVPN)

How good is NordVPN's Mac app?

NordVPN’s Mac offering hasn’t yet had the same interface revamp as the Windows edition, and that makes for a lot of inconsistencies. The Mac map works very differently, the location list is permanently visible in a sidebar, some server types are displayed in different places (Double VPN and P2P lists come after the other locations, instead of at the top). Furthermore, the Mac has a Favorites system where Windows doesn’t, and you can still access individual servers (‘USA server #50645’) directly from the location list.

Still, although this might be confusing if you’re using both the Windows and Mac builds, it really doesn’t matter if you’re strictly Mac-only. The core of the app works well, you’re connected reasonably quickly, speeds are good and it generally serves Mac users very well.

There are some plus points, too. A Mac-only Presets feature works as a supercharged Favorites system, allowing you to combine a location and VPN settings to get the results you need.

For instance, you could create a P2P preset which connects to a specific server, with settings optimized for downloads, and which automatically launches your P2P app whenever it starts. Or you could have a browsing preset, optimized for security, which enables ad and tracker-blocking and connects to your nearest location. It's a very flexible system which we've not seen anywhere else, and we hope it arrives on Windows soon.

Other parts of the app don't work as well. For instance, although there's a Favorites option, it only works with specific servers. You can't mark Atlanta as a favorite, for instance – you must choose something like 'United States #5064', then hope you remember the city name.

The app Settings pane is fractionally more limited than Windows (with no split tunneling), but still gives you more than you'll see in many Mac apps: a kill switch; NordLynx, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocol support; auto-connect when you access untrusted Wi-Fi; and an on/off switch for NordVPN's ad, tracker and malicious site blocking.

There's a little room for improvement here, but overall, this is a likeable app, mostly easy to use and with more features than most of the Mac competition.

NordVPN Android app

NordVPN's Android app is a good effort on the whole, sporting plenty of features (Image credit: NordVPN)

How good is NordVPN's Android app?

The NordVPN Android app is one of the most popular around, with more than 50 million downloads, and an excellent 4.5 rating on the US Google Play store.

The app initially displays its available location on a world map (that’s the latest map style as used by the Windows app, fortunately, not the older Mac version). This works like most other maps: drag to pan around, pinch to zoom in, tap a location marker to connect. But that can still be a lot of work to get to the location you need, and overall, the map isn't the quickest or most practical way to find or choose a server on a device with a small screen.

NordVPN Android App

The mobile app has a similar interface to the Windows client (Image credit: NordVPN)

Fortunately, NordVPN's Android app also supports a conventional countries list. Swiping up gets you an alphabetical list of countries, and you can scroll down to the US (or anywhere else), tap it, and immediately get connected to the best server in that country.

If you need more control over your location choice, tapping a More button displays all the cities in that country.

As with Windows, the new app doesn’t allow you to view the individual servers in an individual location, although you can still find them by entering their name (‘#8192’) in the Search box.

The Settings box starts with a time-saving auto-connect feature. In a tap or two you could use this to, for instance, automatically connect on all Wi-Fi hotspots apart from your home and other trusted locations, ensuring you only turn on the VPN when you know you need it.

The app doesn't have its own kill switch, but simple instructions explain how you can set one up on your device (System Settings > NordVPN settings, then enable 'Always on VPN' and 'Block connections without VPN').

NordVPN Android Procols

The Android app gives you NordLynx protocol support, too (Image credit: NordVPN)

Protocol options include NordVPN's speedy NordLynx, along with OpenVPN TCP and UDP.

The app supports Threat Protection Lite, which is essentially DNS blocking for ads, trackers and malicious websites, but no download scanning.

The features keep coming with the ability to set a custom DNS server, split tunneling to disable the VPN for specific apps, and even tapjacking protection (you get an alert if a malicious app overlays a window on your screen to trick you into performing an action).

There's even a bonus extra in Dark Web Monitoring, where NordVPN alerts you if your email address appears in an online data breach.

The app isn't perfect, then, and we're not sure the map element of the interface adds a lot. But otherwise, it's a likeable and feature-packed piece of software which effortlessly outperforms most of the competition.

NordVPN iOS App

NordVPN's iOS app shares the same design and layout as its Android counterpart (Image credit: NordVPN)

How good is NordVPN's iOS app?

NordVPN’s iOS app looks great, especially on tablets. The map can display full-screen, with the location list reduced to a small box, or it’s expandable to a left-hand sidebar for easier country-hunting.

There are more inconsistencies than with other platforms. The iOS app has Favorites; the Android app doesn’t. Both mobile apps use the old-style map, rather than the new Windows version. It’ll only take a moment to figure them out, but life would be easier if all apps had a similar interface and feature set.

NordVPN iOS App Settings

This is the Settings panel of NordVPN's iOS app (Image credit: NordVPN)

Settings for the iOS app include the same auto-connect feature we saw on Android, though. You can tell the app to automatically connect to the VPN on untrusted networks, only on Wi-Fi, or keep the VPN active all the time.

If that's not quite convenient enough, you're able to add NordVPN connections to Siri from within the app. As NordVPN points out, connecting is then as easy as 'asking Siri nicely.'

NordVPN Dark Web Monitor

Just like the Android app, you get Dark Web Monitoring with the iOS software (Image credit: NordVPN)

The Protocols menu gives you a wider choice than the Windows and Android apps, with options including NordVPN's WireGuard-based NordLynx, as well as OpenVPN UDP or TCP, and IKEv2.

As with Android, the app supports Dark Web Monitoring, where you'll get alerts if your credentials are exposed online.

Overall, NordVPN's iOS app is a significant plus for the service. If you're tired of other VPNs, where iOS users get the absolute bare minimum of features and functionality, give it a try – you might be pleasantly surprised. (And also check out these other great choices when it comes to the best iPhone VPNs).

NordVPN Browser Extensions

NordVPN makes it easy to connect right from your favorite browser with its extensions (Image credit: NordVPN)

Does NordVPN have browser extensions, and do these work well?

NordVPN does have browser extensions, and if all you're looking to do is protect your browser, these can be pretty useful.

If you're not connected and realize you need to unblock a website, for instance, you normally have to stop, find and launch the NordVPN app, locate and browse the countries list, click your preferred option, wait to see when you're connected, and finally switch back to your browser.

NordVPN’s Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge proxy extensions allow you to choose a VPN location, then connect and disconnect directly from the browser window.

The extension interface drops the map in favor of a single panel with only four recommended locations, a Quick Connect button to hook you up to the fastest, and a Search option to find a specific country only (there's no option to choose a city, region or specific server).

Settings include options to block WebRTC leaks in Chrome, reducing privacy risks, or to enable Threat Protection Lite's ad, malware and phishing protection. A bonus Split Tunneling feature allows you to disable the VPN for selected websites (those sites will see your real IP address and location, not the IP of the VPN server).

You're not going to be overwhelmed with the feature set, then, but the extension is quick and easy to use. You're able to connect in a couple of clicks, and because this is just a proxy, protecting browser traffic only, connection times are near instant.

We checked out NordVPN's Chrome, Edge and Firefox add-ons. Sometimes VPN capabilities can vary between browser extensions, but they’re almost identical, and once you've mastered one, you'll have no problem using any of the others.

How do NordVPN's extensions compare to rivals?

Overall, this isn't as capable a setup as you'll see with some of the competition. ExpressVPN's browser extensions control and work with the full ExpressVPN client, so once you enable them within your browser, they protect your entire system. (ExpressVPN tops the rankings in our pick of the best browser extensions). The NordVPN extensions are simple proxies, and protect your browser alone.

Still, the proxy approach is perfect for simple website unblocking, connections are much faster, and using NordVPN within a browser could be useful in a few situations (if some of your apps don't work with a VPN, for instance, or the VPN hampers your system performance). There are bonus privacy tools, too, including WebRTC blocking (which might prevent some IP leaks) and ad, tracker and malware-blocking via Threat Protection Lite.

In short, we're happy that NordVPN offers browser extensions at all – most VPN providers don't – and overall, this is a plus point for the service.

NordVPN Support

NordVPN's knowledgebase has many helpful articles (Image credit: NordVPN)

What customer support can you expect from NordVPN?

NordVPN's first line of customer support is its support website (opens in new tab). Articles are sorted into multiple categories, and a search box allows you to find content by keyword.

The site isn't organized quite as well as we'd like. Head off to ExpressVPN's support site, for instance, and you're presented with the options 'Get instructions', 'Troubleshoot now' and 'Contact support'; very clear pointers on where you need to go next. At NordVPN, you get the sections 'FAQ', 'General Info', 'Billing' and 'Connectivity', and it sometimes takes a little more work to find the details you are after.

Once you get to the tutorials and guides, though, there's a lot to like here, with plenty of detailed but easy-to-follow setup and troubleshooting advice.

NordVPN chatbot

NordVPN's chatbot is a sterling addition to the provider's help options (Image credit: NordVPN)

If you can't locate what you need, an excellent chatbot offers instant and surprisingly intelligent help. NordVPN has a web page where you can download individual OpenVPN configuration files, for instance, but not the full set. We typed 'where can I download all the ovpn files' into the chatbot, clicked a suggested 'OpenVPN configuration files' link, and the bot gave us a link to 'all zipped OVPN configuration files.' That's help as it should be.

If it turns out the bot can't help you, NordVPN also offers 24/7 live chat support with real human beings, and in our experience this works very well. We posed a simple question and received a friendly opening response from a support agent within a couple of minutes.

Email support is available, too. Replies take a little longer – hours, rather than minutes, in our experience – but that's comparable with many other VPNs, and NordVPN responses were generally accurate and detailed enough to solve our problem.

NordVPN review: Final verdict

NordVPN is an appealing VPN provider with great performance, loads of features, and a reassuring no logging audit. It's not the cheapest VPN around, and we've a few small issues with the app interfaces. But the company has added a bunch of welcome improvements recently, and overall, it's a polished and professional service which will deliver good results for most users.

  • Also check out the best VPN (opens in new tab) services

NordVPN FAQ

Here are some answers to other questions you may have about NordVPN, or indeed VPNs in general.

What is a VPN and how does it work?

A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a secure way to connect to the internet. A VPN gives you software that you can install on your devices, providing a ‘tunnel’ to send your data down in encrypted form, therefore making that data traffic more secure, and giving you a higher level of privacy online. See here for more details on how a VPN works – and remember that it delivers more than just security and anonymity, but can also let you access geoblocked content via servers in different countries, and more besides.


Can you try NordVPN for free?

Sort of – there's no free trial as such, as we mention in the review above, but there is a no-strings-attached money-back guarantee. If you sign up to a NordVPN subscription plan, and don’t like the service, you can cancel at any point within the first 30-days and you’ll get your money back. 

Can NordVPN be hacked?

Theoretically, any online service can be hacked – even a security-focused one like a VPN (given enough persistence from the attacker, resources, and the fact that potential vulnerabilities can seemingly spring from nowhere).

Of course, NordVPN actually was hacked as we mentioned in the review above, although the VPN has since shored up its defenses considerably as we also discussed.

How good is NordVPN for online gaming?

A VPN isn't really designed for gamers, mainly because the likelihood is that it'll decrease performance, snaffling a little of your bandwidth – as we saw in our NordVPN performance tests – and potentially adding a bit of latency (although how much latency can vary widely, depending on where the VPN server and game server are respectively located).

If you're serious about games, and particularly if you're playing the likes of shooters where twitch reactions are required, the added latency will be a real sticking point. That said, for other games, and more casual players, if the proverbial internet winds are blowing in the right direction, and server locations are favorable, you may not notice much difference at all.

A VPN still won't particularly help you when gaming, although it could potentially better protect you from the (admittedly fairly unlikely) prospect of being hit by DDoS attacks, and you might be able to access gaming content in regions that are otherwise unavailable to you.

Does NordVPN slow down your internet connection?

Using any VPN, including NordVPN, may slow down your internet connection a little, as there is inevitably some overhead to encrypting your data and sending it through a VPN tunnel. Sometimes, the difference is pretty negligible though. As we found in our latest performance tests, NordVPN resulted in a drop of performance of between 6-8%, which is acceptable and around average for a VPN provider. The likelihood is you won't even notice this with most everyday tasks you're carrying out online.

Will NordVPN drain my laptop or phone battery?

NordVPN is an application which is being run by your hardware, so by definition it will use some system resources, and in turn, those resources will have an impact on the battery life of a portable device. While there have been some anecdotal reports in the past about NordVPN being a bit of a battery hog, those were from some time back, and it should be no more intensive than any other VPN app.

Does NordVPN work in China?

NordVPN claims its service can indeed function in China. You may simply be able to use one of the NordVPN apps to connect to any server when in China, or for potentially better results, use the firm's Obfuscated Servers feature. For more details on that, check out this blog post (opens in new tab) (and you might want to have a quick watch of the above video).

What is NordLocker?

It's NordVPN's app which allows you to create a secure locker on your device to store sensitive files which are protected by encryption. This is sold separately to the VPN service, and you might want to read our review of NordLocker.

What is NordPass?

Like NordLocker, this is another separate app, except as the name suggests, NordPass is a password manager (and online form filler). Again, you can see how good it is by perusing our NordPass review.

How does NordVPN itself work; can you provide further details?

We do exactly that in our sneak peek inside a NordVPN server, which reveals in-depth info regarding security, logging, and much more.

If something goes wrong, how do I contact NordVPN customer support?

All you need to do is consult our full guide which covers all the different ways you can get support from NordVPN.

Does TechRadar have any help resources for NordVPN users?

We do indeed: we have guides for installing NordVPN on Windows, and for installing the Android app.

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.