NordVPN Review 2018: Privacy, Security & Speed

NordVPN Review 2018
  • Price
  • Reliability
  • Speed
  • Policy
  • Support

Summary

NordVPN has continued to improve its service and it remains one of the best and most cost-effective providers on the market.

Pros

  •  Windows, Mac, Android & iOS clients.
  • 6 Simultaneous connections.
  •  Simple and affordable packages.
  •  Based offshore, so great privacy protections.
  •  A range of innovative security features.
  •  Almost 3,000 servers in 59 countries.

Cons

  •  Occasional speed issues, but even this has improved markedly since 2017.
4.5

NordVPN has been around for quite a while now and established a strong reputation and a loyal customer base on the back of its wide range of security features, extensive server network, and effective privacy protections.

In the past, users have experienced speed issues, but this situation has improved markedly over the past twelve months and while it has not been eradicated completely, is now a rare occurrence.

In this brand-new review of NordVPN, we will take a fresh and detailed look at their service to see just what it’s like in 2018, if there is any room for improvement, and how it compares to previous years.

Packages:

The range of packages on offer from NordVPN couldn’t be simpler. There are no subscription tiers here. Everyone gets the same level of service and the only difference you will find is, the longer you sign up for, the less you pay.

During 2017, NordVPN has introduced a new and significantly cheaper 2-year subscription package. For a service which was already one of the most cost-effective on the market, this is a bold step, but it does make them a hugely attractive option for those who cannot afford some of the more expensive providers.

The subscription periods available are as follows:

  • 1-Month @ US$11.95 p/m (~£8.66)
  • 1-Year @ US$5.75 p/m (~£4.16)
  • 2-Years @ US$3.29 p/m (~£2.38)
  • 3-Years @ US$2.75 p/m (~£2.00)

The one-year subscription plan is still competitively priced and compares favourably to most other premium providers. But the two-year subscription plan is almost 40% cheaper again and offers remarkable value for money.

It is for that reason that the new two-year subscription plan is our recommended subscription length.

In addition, they still have a 30-day money back guarantee, which means you have plenty of time to try their service out for yourself before committing to buy.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Service:

Protocols

NordVPN offers a choice of IKEv2, OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec VPN protocols.

All are available to all subscribers regardless of how long you sign up for, with OpenVPN being the default setting.

Logging

Privacy is a crucial factor in the success that NordVPN has enjoyed in recent years and this is built on their no user logs guarantee.

NordVPN is headquartered in Panama. This means it can benefit from their domestic legislation which has no requirements for any user data to be retained whatsoever. As a result, this is exactly what NordVPN does.

So, when NordVPN says it retains no user logs, you can be sure this means not only activity but also metadata on your use of their service either. So, should anyone come looking for that information, it simply doesn’t exist.

It is however worth remembering that these are the provider claims and we have no way of ascertaining how true they are. So far they have not been tested in any public incident.

Server Locations

NordVPN has been expanding and updating its server network in recent years and the results are impressive.

At the time of this review, they can now offer no fewer than 2782 servers in 59 different countries around the world. By the time you read this, that figure may have gone up again,

How does this compare to last year? Well, in terms of server locations, NordVPN has only seen a modest increase of 2 countries in 2017,

But this time last year, NordVPN could only offer 726 servers in total. In the last twelve months, that figure has almost quadrupled, which is a fantastic effort by the NordVPN team.

With more servers in more locations, NordVPN is not only offering one of the largest server networks around, but they are also helping to improve speeds across their service, an issue which has in the past dogged them a little.

Their coverage is pretty comprehensive too, with Africa and the Middle East the only regions which are lacking in server options. This is not unusual in the VPN market though, with many Middle Eastern countries restricting internet access and much African infrastructure not yet up to the necessary standards.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Concurrent Connections

NordVPN offers six simultaneous connections with every subscription. This is true regardless of how long you sign up for.

This is more than any other provider, with the high-water mark previously being set at five. But it is a reflection of the way we are connecting with the internet in the 21st century.

With everyone using more and more devices to go online, users are looking for VPNs with more simultaneous connections for their different devices as well as for other members of their family.

NordVPN have risen to meet this demand and the decision to do so is a great feature of their overall offering.

Other Notable Features

Last year, we wrote at some length about SmartPlay, an innovative tool that NordVPN claimed, with justification, could unlock any georestricted website or service, including ones such as the BBC iPlayer and Netflix, which actively try to block all VPN users.

This was an option you had to enable last year, but over the course of 2017, it has now been built into their service, so it is now automatically available with every connection.

This means that NordVPN is now able to unblock any geo-restricted service on every connection as standard. We have put this to the test and been impressed with the results. It is not 100%, but when we did encounter a server that couldn’t connect, invariably the next one down the list was able too.

Another new feature that has appeared on NordVPN in 2017 is CyberSec. CyberSec is a new security feature which helps to protect NordVPN users from annoying advertisements and malicious online threats. It also prevents your device from being used as part of a botnet, even if it is already infected with malware.

This new feature can be turned on and off in the settings section of the desktop apps and once enabled runs automatically in the background. It is a really nice extra feature that users who are particularly security-conscious will no doubt value.

As well as these changes, NordVPN also continues to offer its unique range of additional privacy features in addition to a standard VPN connection. These speciality servers include:

Anti-DDoS – specially designed to help protect against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Dedicated IP – Servers which NordVPN offers with a dedicated IP Address, meaning you are the only person using that IP Address.

Double VPN – which connects users through two VPN servers instead of just one, for enhanced protection.

Onion over VPN – connections via a VPN server and the TOR Network, also for enhanced security and privacy protection.

P2P – servers specifically tailored for P2P and Torrent users.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Mobile Apps:

NordVPN offers dedicated apps for Android and iOS devices. These apps are well designed and follow the same basic format as their desktop equivalents on Windows and Mac OS devices.

They offer a quick one-click connection option for when you need to get online quickly. But it is also no hardship to choose your desired location as the main focus of the apps is the popular map feature. You can also choose specific servers from their list feature and also save favourites.

NordVPN iOS app

The NordVPN mobile apps are lacking a few of the features of the desktop service. For example, you cannot access the Double VPN servers on their mobile apps. However, this is by necessity rather than choice.

There is also a limited range of settings option which means you can only do so much customisation on the mobile app. But again, the key features, including the all-important Kill Switch, remain.

We found both mobile apps to be very user-friendly and our experience was that the limitations there are with the service did not affect our use of the service and would not for most regular NordVPN users either.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Desktop Apps:

As we have mentioned above, NordVPN has desktop apps available for all Windows and Mac OS devices.

Like the mobile apps, NordVPN’s desktop apps are based around their server map and include a quick connect button that allows you to connect to the nearest server to your actual connection in a matter of moments.

NordVPN Desktop App 2018

As well as the map, the desktop apps consist of three simple menu options. In addition to Map, there is also Countries. This takes you to a list of countries and is where you can choose specific servers and also access the Speciality Servers outlined above. You can also access any saved Favourite servers under this tab.

The final menu option is Settings. As well as accessing general account details, this is where you can go to access the Kill Switch and Auto-Connect settings. It is also where you will find their new CyberSec service.

The desktop apps are simple and easy-to-navigate and contain nothing that would intimate or confuse even a novice VPN user.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Speeds:

NordVPN would be the first to admit that, over the years, speeds have not always been their strongest area. But it has to be said, over the past 12-months, there have been some impressive improvements.

The rapid expansion of their server network has seen demand on individual servers drop and as a result, average speeds have been on the rise.

But there is more. NordVPN have not just been adding regular servers but the latest high-speed servers. That means those users lucky enough to connect to a high-speed server will experience some of the fastest speeds available on any provider.

NordVPN is still in a transition phase on this and so finding a fast server is still a bit of potluck. Some older servers do remain and while their speeds have also improved with the decline in demand, sometimes you can still find a frustrating one.

These days though, this is the exception rather than the rule and in testing, we were really impressed with the speeds we found.

We tried a selection of servers across all continents with regular internet usage as well as most testing activities such as streaming high-quality video content and downloading P2P files. More than 90% of the time, speeds were impressively fast and there were only two occasions where we encountered what we can only assume was a duff server.

So, NordVPN haven’t quite knocked the ‘slow server’ reputation on the head yet, but they have made big strides and 2018 may be the year when they can finally make a justifiable claim to be one of the really fast and consistent VPN providers on the market.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

Encryption & Policies:

Encryption

NordVPN’s encryption remains unchanged from last year’s review as far as we are aware, but it is still nonetheless impressive.

They use the DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA encryption suite for their OpenVPN connections. This means they are employing the RSA-2048 key encryption and HMAC SHA1 authentication. This is more than sufficient and on a par with other premium VPN providers. They also employ a Diffie-Hellman key exchange which offers perfect forward secrecy.

The NordVPN MacOS desktop app appears to use IKv2 with Cisco’s NGE protocol as its default, which is a little unusual but still just about ok. And their mobile apps also have strong privacy, with the iOS app particularly impressive.

Policies

As we noted above, NordVPN is based offshore in Panama, which means they are able to retain absolutely zero user data.

This is precisely what they do, and they state clearly on their website that “NordVPN does not monitor, store or record logs for any VPN user. We do not store connection time stamps, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses.”

Panama is sufficiently far from the US and Great Britain to be out of reach of the NSA and GCHQ, and their local laws include absolutely no internet surveillance or restrictions.

So, if you are looking for a VPN with rock-solid privacy, you will find none better than NordVPN.

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Verdict:

Our review of NordVPN was pretty positive and saw it make it into our top 3 VPN Providers during the year. And it looks likely to stay there for the foreseeable future on the basis of this latest look at their service which has seen significant improvements in the past twelve months.

We are very impressed that they have quadrupled the number of servers available for users last year, which has helped with connection speeds and server choice for users. Their new 2-year price plan also makes them one of the best priced premium VPNs around, provided you are willing to sign up long term.

They have also built their SmartPlay feature into the service as standard and added a new and impressive suite of cyber security tools to the package, which also comes as standard.

NordVPN’s encryption remains as strong as their immediate rivals and they can justifiably lay claim to offering the best privacy protections available anywhere thanks to their location in Panama.

Six simultaneous connections is more than most other providers can offer and with well-designed and easy-to-use apps available for almost all devices, you should be able to connect just about any device you like to a NordVPN server.

The only real downside to NordVPN is the handful of slower servers that remain available and can frustrate users at times. But that aside, they have pushed themselves to new heights over the past twelve months and are now undoubtedly one of the very best VPN providers on the market today.

Save 30% off a 1-year NordVPN using the coupon “VPNCOMP17

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