NordVPN review: the most well-known VPN for a reason

There’s a reason NordVPN has its name on the map - and not just because of its interface. NordVPN is a powerful and reliable service, with a near-perfect score

NordVPN review
(Image credit: NordVPN)
T3 Verdict

A household name, NordVPN continues to offer a consistently good and reliable service that is second only to ExpressVPN.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Unblocks Netflix, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, and Prime Video

  • +

    Fantastic speeds, particularly on NordLynx

  • +

    Strong list of great security features

  • +

    Redeems itself in privacy and security

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Map interface still proves fairly clunky

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NordVPN, for many, is the provider that brings to mind when we think, not only about VPN but the best VPN. Second only to ExpressVPN in our books, NordVPN makes top security its focus with a whole reel of features, as well as its impressive NordLynx WireGuard protocol. Get an idea of exactly what this provider can offer you with both our quick overview below, as well as a more in-depth look at our testing and NordVPN's results further down the page.

One minute NordVPN review 

From PewDiePie to Liverpool FC, NordVPN is one of - if not the - most well known VPN service on the market. Beyond its marketing campaigns with well known names (and teams), it also builds this reputation on being an excellent provider that has security at its forefront.

Providing intelligent AES-256-GCM encryption, it also hosts security and privacy features like Double VPN, which functions as an additional middleman between your device and the network its connected to. It also adds Threat Protection to its roster, which works to protect against malware, as well as blocking unsecure websites and any incoming ads.

Concerned about speed? With NordVPN's NordLynx protocol you can expect incredibly high speeds, ideal for any heavy duty tasks. You'll also find a dedicated kill switch, and split tunneling. Specialist P2P servers are available, ideal for torrenting, with well over over 5,400 servers around the globe in total.

Falling short on user interface (though this could be simply down to personal preference) its uber reliable when it comes to unblocking streaming services, including top dog, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus and the often difficult BBC iPlayer.

The stats:

  • Servers: 5,400+
  • Locations: 60 countries 
  • Devices: 6 simultaneous connections 
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, gaming consoles, Chromecast, Kindle Fire, Chromebook 
  • Protocols: NordLynx, OpenVPN TCP and UDP 
  • Top features: Obfuscated servers, split tunneling, double VPN, CyberSec 

NordVPN review: How much does it cost? Is there a NordVPN free trial?

Considering it’s not far behind ExpressVPN in expertise, NordVPN is far more affordable. Still not the cheapest in comparison to the likes of Surfshark, which offers customers a monthly rate of $2.49, NordVPN's monthly rate is still a dollar cheaper than ExpressVPN’s $12.95 a month. But Nord's value really shows if you commit to a whole 2-years upfront where the effective price comes down to just $3.29 a month (though watch out, as 2-year plans will renew on annual plans for a rate of $8.29 a month).

While it doesn’t offer any freebies like ExpressVPN with its Backblaze bundle, NordVPN does give you one more simultaneous connection than its main competitor. You can load up NordVPN on up to six devices (ExpressVPN only offers five), allowing you the freedom to have it on most (if not all) of your devices, or even share your NordVPN subscription with your household.

Though NordVPN doesn’t have an explicit free trial, you can benefit from its 30-day money back guarantee. This policy essentially offers you the safety net to give NordVPN a go for a month and get a complete refund if you decide within that period it’s not for you. 

Android users subscribing through Google Play Store can enjoy a 7-day free trial on their smartphone or tablet, though we always recommend purchasing directly through NordVPN to make the most of any current promotions - of which there is always at least one on, regularly offering free extensions on top of your plan.

Does NordVPN work on Netflix? What other streaming services can it unblock?

For avid streamers, this is where a VPN can truly matter, depending on how expertly and efficiently it can bypass geo-restrictions and allow you to rinse through your watchlist no matter where you are in the world across the top streaming platforms. 

NordVPN has no problems when it comes to Netflix, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video. In fact, NordVPN proves to be one of the strongest streaming VPN currently, with its ability to bypass Netflix's anti-VPN infrastructure and stream Netflix libraries in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

In the past BBC iPlayer has proved a problem for NordVPN, but lately NordVPN has functioned as an excellent BBC iPlayer VPN without trouble.

NordVPN streaming

(Image credit: NordVPN)

NordVPN review: What features can you expect and how do they boost privacy?

When it comes to privacy and security, NordVPN has a lot of ammo in its holster, offering a dedicated kill switch, and the option for split tunneling - allowing you to bypass your VPN connection on certain websites and apps. Its new Threat Protection package is able to detect malicious malware, as well as blocking ads and pop-ups, and websites it deems untrustworthy. It'll also scan any files you download and catch anything sinister. Currently, though, Threat Protection is only available on Windows and Mac NordVPN clients.

In terms of encryption, NordVPN uses AES-256-GCM, partnered with 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman, which regularly changes keys to ensure any attack will be limited to just one before the code changes again to avoid further attacks. 

Then there’s NordVPN’s Double VPN strategy for when you’re connected to a server, giving you an extra layer of security, running your traffic NordVPN before re-encrypting and changing to another server. This makes it harder to track your activity, great for if you’re handling a particularly sensitive task.

NordVPN is pretty explicit about its no-logging policy, too, stating on its website: “Nord guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN Services”, going on to list that this includes no storing of information like IP addresses, internet history, used bandwidth, and so on.

NordVPN security features

(Image credit: NordVPN)

We think it’s fair to say that, in the past, NordVPN hasn’t had the best reputation for privacy - many people will recall the 2018 hacking incident. While, yes, this was a cause for concern, NordVPN has certainly more than redeemed itself since then in the last four years.

Its first port-of-call was to update its entire server network to run in RAM, meaning there are no local files to speak of that anyone could hack and subsequently read. This, as well as audits carried out by VerSprite into its apps, shows NordVPN’s constant dedication to improve and secure its service, with it joining the likes of ExpressVPN and other VPN providers in receiving a certificate from the ioXt Alliance for its Android app. This checked its Android client’s cryptography, update procedure across software, and network security, securing top marks.

Some VPN servers limit torrenters to just a few servers, however NordVPN is not false its claims as the leading P2P VPN, with hundreds of servers available for this purpose. It also has a designated list within its client just for P2P servers, making it easier to narrow down what you want and find the most suitable location.

NordVPN review of speed and overall performance

When it comes to using a VPN, that expectation can be that you may see a dip in your download speed, especially when connecting to servers much further afield.

That’s why it’s important to us to put each provider to the test across a number of locations to get a better picture for its performance around the world. For NordVPN, we ran speed tests on both OpenVPN and its own NordLynx WireGuard server.  

NordVPN comes out on top as one of the fastest VPN. While its speeds saw a slight drop since our last round of testing, it still saw a range of 730-760Mbps on average, with both WireGuard and OpenVPN soaring above average.

This sees it not far behind the likes of Surfshark (720-790Mbps), and some of the big-hitters for performance, including at 900Mbps and IPVanish at 880-890Mbps.

Client set-up and available support from NordVPN

Installation is straight forward. All you have to do is click on VPN App link and it’ll detect the type of device you’re on and take you to where you can download it. This is accompanied by well over 50 tutorials to support you through manual set up across a number of devices, going into extensive detail with a number of tutorials for Windows versions alone.

NordVPN tries to add some excitement when it comes to its interface. Unfortunately, it falls short when it comes to actual usability with its notorious map design still not quite having the desired effect. 

While the design is better spaced out with its country markers, there is largely only one marker per country, therefore not differentiating from city to city where one country might have multiple servers dotted around. These markers also aren’t marked in less you right click over it, so you had better brush up on your geography skills.

Ultimately this costs points for pure convenience. It means clicking around a bit more to connect to the server you want, which may seem like a small gripe, but VPNs at their best are meant to be efficient and convenient. There is the option of connecting through Nord’s list format of countries, though this again means a lot more clicking around and scrolling to get to what you want. 

NordVPN devices

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Unfortunately this downfall does stem into its apps. While widely kitted out with all the most important features across the board, from its Windows client, to its smartphone clients, the map interface is a sore point in terms of ease-of-use. Admittedly it looks nice blown up on an iPad, or on a smart TV, but the navigation itself, time and time again, isn’t made any easier - though larger screens do lend themselves a touch better to this design.

Apple users can rejoice as, it’s fair to say, NordVPN’s map interface does work fractionally better on iOS devices, with a limitation on how far you can pinch to zoom out of the map. This means all markers always remain visible and - more importantly - legible. The NordVPN extension streamlines its interface, allowing you to connect within your browser.

It’s worth pointing out that it doesn’t offer a ‘smart location’ or ‘recent server’ option, unlike ExpressVPN, which is certainly an intuitive addition for users who regularly want to connect to the same servers. NordVPN also lacks a dedicated router or media streamer client, with the former in particular causing a huge gap where connecting multiple devices is concerned for users.

NordVPN review: Our final verdict

NordVPN isn’t far behind its main competitor, ExpressVPN. If not for some necessary fine-tuning to its user interface, and its less consistent abilities in unblocking of BBC iPlayer, the two services could very well be neck-and-neck. NordVPN’s WideGuard protocol, NordLynx offers exceptional performance and reliability in its speed tests across locations, with NordVPN hosting a long list of features to offer better customization in the security of your device - making it pretty clear why this is the most well known VPN on the market. 

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Alice Marshall
eCommerce Editor

Alice is eCommerce Editor at Future, with a focus on streaming services such as Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO Max, as well as VPN. Nowadays she looks after and writes guides and how to watch articles across TechRadar and CinemaBlend. Previously a Commercial Content Writer for Trusted Reviews, Alice has worked in the eCommerce space for over five years and over two years writing about consumer tech.