NordVPN has introduced some excellent additional features this year which has made a very good VPN even better.
- Fully audited no-log policy.
- Excellent apps for all devices.
- Amazon Fire TV support.
- Unblocks most TV services.
- Super fast speeds.
- Selection of speciality servers.
- Prices include VAT for EU customers.
- Security blip in 2019.
NordVPN has firmly set itself amongst the leaders in the VPN industry and over the last few years, you’ll have seen them everywhere from TV adverts to sponsoring huge sports teams and plenty of Youtubers.
But is NordVPN any good?
They’ve been one of our favourites over the past few years but we’ve been checking them out for 2020 to see if they still deserve the reputation they’ve become known for.
NordVPN has been consistently offered the fastest download speeds in recent years and last year we commended them on their continued improvements in this area.
Throughout the past few weeks, we’ve been speed testing their service while using it for a variety of purposes. Everything from general web browsing and video streaming on sites like YouTube to gaming and streaming in Ultra HD on our Fire TV Stick via Netflix.
This was all done via a Wi-Fi connection and we found no issues when carrying out any of these kinds of tasks. For your everyday usage you should suffer no problems.
You’re probably wondering how that translates into actual speeds. So for this, we’ve done some tests for you.
We took a UK residential internet connection and downloaded an uncompressed test file. The speed achieved without using a VPN was: 63.28 Mbps.
Choosing a random selection of servers, we achieved the following speeds:
- UK – 58.63 Mbps
- France – 58.24 Mbps
- Netherlands – 58.36 Mbps
- Switzerland – 60.56 Mbps
- Sweden – 60.30 Mbps
- New York, US – 60.44 Mbps
- Australia – 57.17 Mbps
As the results show, even at a distance, decent speeds can be achieved. This would be more than fast enough to stream high-quality video content from across the globe without issues.
NordVPN claims to store no logs of what you do while connected to their service and up until late last year like most VPN services there was no proof if this was true or not.
In 2018 NordVPN took steps to have their service audited to prove their no-logging claims. Late in 2018, NordVPN published the results of this audit to their current customer base.
While it hasn’t been shared publicly, it is available to all current and future customers and ourselves and other security industry experts have cast their eyes over it.
The consensus is that although the audit doesn’t go into great detail you should, in theory, be able to trust NordVPN’s ‘no-log’ claims.
However, in 2019 NordVPN suffered a security breach on one of their servers and while it is claimed no customer data was accessed, it has impacted some users’ trust of the service.
After the incident they have recommitted themselves to improving security but you may want to consider this when deciding to sign up or not.
One of the reasons behind NordVPN’s success over the past few years is their ability to expand and do so quickly.
At current count, NordVPN servers span some 59 countries with an eye-watering 5,516 individual servers giving you plenty of options to disguise your IP Address.
This is, however, a reduction of some 300 servers over last year and three countries dropped too, even though they added three countries the previous year.
NordVPN covers most locations across the world and apart from Africa, which does have minimal coverage in the South, there aren’t many gaps across their network.
There is even a host of ‘Speciality Servers’ which include options like ‘Double-Hop’ that allow you to send your connection through two different locations. Although these options are limited to specific areas.
Protocols & Encryption
NordVPN currently supports both the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols.
Over the past few years they have been experimenting with the WireGuard protocol which at the time of writing isn’t publicly available for all customers but once stable and tested should be released shortly.
If you’re after accessing protocols such as PPTP, L2TP and SSTP then you’re out of luck as these are no longer supported on the service. While the latter two aren’t recommended for security purposes, you may miss them if you need them for a specific purpose.
Across the majority of platforms, NordVPN makes use of OpenVPN using AES 256-bit encryption.
Authentication is handled with a 2048-bit RSA key. While this isn’t at the top of the scale it is industry standard and an acceptable level.
Some apps make use of or allow the use of the IKEv2/IPsec protocol. As this is known to be unbreakable at this point it means your connection is secure.
NordVPN allows you to use one service on up to six devices at the same time.
This is a decent amount of devices and while it’s not the highest number available in the industry it is at the more top end of the scale in terms of the competition.
There are no limits on how many devices you can install the vast array of apps on, only how many you can use at the same time. It’s unlikely the average user will ever be utilising six devices concurrently, so you’re future-proofed.
NordVPN’s parent company is based in Panama, which for all intents and purposes makes them an ‘off-shore’ VPN provider.
NordVPN supports apps for all Android and Apple iOS devices which were redesigned a couple of years ago.
They still feature the easy to navigate interface that the original app sported but the use of space has been improved allowing for quicker connection. The layout is now more intuitive allowing you to get connected to the servers you want with ease.
The upper portion of the app allows you to select a server on a map view while the bottom section allows for connection to your favourite servers, speciality servers or by expanding an individual country list which can be searched for quick usage.
It’s neat that individual servers are also able to be connected to and added to favourites for later use.
Behind the scenes, NordVPN’s ‘CyberSec’ feature can be enabled allowing protection from malware and other nasties on your mobile device plus some additional options such as using Obfuscated Servers or using TCP rather than UDP for OpenVPN.
Sadly there’s no VPN protocol selection but that follows suit with the entire service. The usual range of automatic connection options are also available.
The mobile apps are some of the best we’ve seen from a VPN provider and will allow you to use them with ease even if you’re a beginner.
Just like the mobile apps, the desktop apps available for Windows and Mac OS have also had some tweaks to their design over the past few years.
Replacing the simple map design a side panel has been added to allow quick selection of individual countries, servers and speciality servers. These include P2P specific servers, Onion over VPN servers, Double VPN and Dedicated IP servers.
This is a nice addition to the app and makes selecting a server whatever way you prefer much easier and without the need to search through multiple screens. Connection is now a quick and effortless affair.
In the Settings area, you’ll find extensive features.
NordVPN’s CyberSec that is present across all of their apps is available plus a kill switch. There’s also a smart individual app kill switch if you only wanted certain apps blocking should the connection drop.
Advanced features allow you to switch between the TCP and UDP protocol, specific dedicated DNS servers, use Obsfucated Servers and run a diagnostics tool.
In our leak tests, we found no issues when these features were enabled.
Again, the usual selection of automatic connection on boot options are available too.
Just like the mobile app, the desktop app is one of the better ones we’ve seen. It has been well designed for several years but the little interface tweaks that have been made in recent years have made the user experience that little bit more pleasant.
On top of the mobile and desktop apps, NordVPN also offers apps for Linux, browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, Android TV and an Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick app.
Their Amazon app is nicely laid out and simple to use across the big screen.
It also has the added benefit that you can unblock many of the Amazon apps such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and others really expanding the use of your Fire TV / Stick / Cube regardless of where you are in the world.
Another standout feature of the service is how well they work to unblock TV content and streaming services from across the world.
US Netflix is unblocked across the entire range of servers.
This allows you to connect to a local server and still gain access to the US catalogue of movies and TV shows which is a neat feature in itself.
While some other Netflix regions are available, this ‘catch-all’ means many aren’t.
NordVPN worked well with BBC iPlayer and in our tests was accessible across a range of different devices.
Services like ITV Hub, My5 and a handful of others work well with the service and compatibility is greater than many other VPN providers.
NordVPN follows the standard VPN offering with a choice of just one type of package which includes access to all their features.
This is offered on a subscription basis which ranges anywhere from per month right up to a lengthy 3-years.
It’s worth considering these longer subscription periods because you’ll make the most significant savings.
The current prices for these packages at the time of writing are as follows:
- 1-month: $11.95 /mo (~£9.68)
- 1-year: $6.99 /mo (~ £5.66)
- 2-year: $4.99 /mo (~ £4.04)
- 3-year: $3.49 /mo (~ £2.82)
As you can see, it’s cheaper to subscribe for longer periods. The prices have risen slightly on the 2 and 3-year packages since last year but only marginally.
Our recommendation for the best combination of price and risk aversion is to take the 2-year package. It doesn’t lock you in for an overly long time but gives you a higher discount over paying monthly.
It’s worth noting if you’re in an EU country you will need to pay VAT on top but you could be sneaky and choose ‘United States’ which has a 0% VAT rate – just don’t tell anyone I told you, shhh.
Payment is accepted via Credit or Debit card, a wide range of crypto-currencies using CoinPayments such as Bitcoin, Ether and Ripple.
They also accept other types of payment, including AliPay, UnionPay and AmazonPay.
A couple of payments have been dropped since last year and sadly Paypal is still not available.
There is no free trial available but that’s not uncommon but they do offer a 30-day money back guarantee should you change your mind.
NordVPN has been without question one of the leading VPN services in recent years and with the additions they’ve made it’s no wonder so many users rave about their service.
The service has loads to offer in terms of servers, connection points, apps and speed making them one of our favourite providers of the year.
The audited no-log policy plus their recent recommitment to the security of their service is reassuring. However, after a security incident in mid-2019 some users may choose to look elsewhere.
We like the improvements to their apps this year making them easier to use and more intuitive for the features you need quick access to. Their Amazon Fire TV app is a massive bonus to the service allowing you to unblock content and protect your privacy on a big screen.
The prices did increase again slightly this year but not enough to be noticeable and if you’re in an EU country, you’ll now have to factor VAT on top of the price.
However, taxes are a fact of life and not a choice by NordVPN and even with this modest increase, they’re still competitive.
Encryption is sound on the NordVPN service and we appreciate them dabbling with WireGuard. Equally unblocking media content from Netflix to BBC iPlayer and many others works better than most services.
Overall NordVPN is one of our top choices of VPN for 2020 and if you’re thinking of signing up, you really can’t go wrong.
Don’t forget they’ve got a huge 30-day money back guarantee too to give you plenty of time to test their service so if you’re not happy contact customer service and get a refund.
Try them risk-free today!
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