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, and Prime Video

  • +

    Fantastic speeds, particularly on NordLynx

  • +

    Strong list of great security features

  • +

    Redeems itself in privacy and security

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Unblocking iPlayer not always straightforward

  • -

    Map interface still proves fairly clunky

A household name, NordVPN continues to offer a consistently good and reliable service that is second only to ExpressVPN. It's got excellent features, with its NordLynx protocol offering some exceptional speed results. So what else makes it so great, and how does it fall short of ExpressVPN? Read our 'at a glance' review below to find out why NordVPN is one of the best VPN services available, or keep scrolling from more detail.

One minute NordVPN review 

There’s a reason, when it comes to VPN, NordVPN is one of - if not the - most well known services on the market, not least because of its sponsorship of Liverpool FC in 2018. It’s a great tool, beaten only by ExpressVPN that just takes the lead over NordVPN.

Offering fantastic features for security, speed, and streaming, NordVPN is a great tool. You can easily bypass geo-restrictions and watch the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, and Prime Video without issue.

Loaded with intelligent AES-256-GCM encryption, you can also expect its privacy to be a huge importance in rebuilding its reputation as a secure and vigilant service. It even offers Double VPN, which functions as an additional middleman between your device and the network its connected to. Throw into the mix tools like CyberSec, which work to protect against malware, as well as blocking unsecure websites and any incoming ads, there is plenty here to be positive about.

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 and its reliability in unblocking the often difficult BBC iPlayer, NordVPN doesn’t quite clinch that top spot. That said, it's still an incredibly powerful tool that just about gets a tick across the board, sitting proudly in second place.

The stats:

  • Servers: 5,400+
  • Locations: 59 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/AU$3.19 as one of the best cheap VPNs, NordVPN's monthly rate is still a dollar cheaper than ExpressVPN’s $12.95/AU$16.64 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 $4.13/5.34 a month (though watch out, as 2-year plans will renew on annual plans for a rate of $9.92/AU$12.82 a month). 

  • 1-month: $11.95/£8.84/AU$15.44 a month
  • 1-year: $4.92/£3.46 a month (billed $59/£43.66/AU$76.24 every year)
  • 2-years: $4.13/£3.05/AU$5.34 a month (billed $99/£73.26/AU$128.16 every two years)

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 a connection or two in your household with any of NordVPN’s subscriptions.

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 or Amazon Prime Video. Trialling UK, US and Australian servers, we were able to get access to each of these services without issue.

It was BBC iPlayer that put up the most fight, though this is to be expected. Even with our favorite VPNs to recommend, it can be a case of trial and error - or the classic ‘switch it off and then on again’ - before BBC graces us by opening the gates to its library of excellent, British entertainment. 

Much like last time, iPlayer did put up a fight, though we were eventually able to watch content on the platform using NordVPN. While a pain, it does work, though loses marks for inconsistency. If you’re after the best iPlayer VPN while outside of the UK, then, there may be better choices out there for the best streaming VPN that offer a more reliable experience in bypassing geo-restrictions. 

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 CyberSec tool is able to detect malicious malware, as well as blocking ads and pop-ups, and websites it deems untrustworthy.

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 redeemed itself in the past three 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.

Based in UK, trialling UK servers

OpenVPN: 250-325Mbps

NordLynx: 480-820Mbps

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.  

In the UK we saw the best results, though this comes down to the base of our testing, with NordLynx in particular showcasing an excellent performance of 480-820Mbps on a UK server, with US still impressing with a figure of 250-480Mbps. After a fast VPN? This might just be the one for you.

Based in UK, trialling US servers

OpenVPN: 3.5-283Mbps

NordLynx: 240-480Mbps

Compare this to ExpressVPN, which sees itself slightly ahead of NordVPN in the fight for the top spot, NordLynx is just behind ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol at 490-630Mbps. Other top performers include StrongVPN at heights of 600Mbps and Speedify at 700Mbps.

In terms of that rogue 3.5Mbps reading on US OpenVPN, our estimation is that this was a glitch during our testing. We’ve never had an issue on NordVPN when streaming and so on, which would prove all but impossible at a speed of 3.5Mbps.

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 there are some improvements from last time with better spacing out of 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
Alice Marshall

Alice is the resident eCommerce Staff Writer at Future, with a focus on VPN and streaming services. She oversees all T3 VPN buying guides and deals, as well as how to watch content.