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NordVPN review: Black Friday deal makes this a better deal


nordvpn review

NordVPN review: Is this VPN service worth a download? Our in-depth review has all of the answers… (Image: NORDVPN • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

NordVPN offers a rock-solid connection to thousands of VPN server locations. It’s also one of the best all-in-one security solutions around 

What We Love

  • Affordable Subscription
  • Brilliant Apps For All Platforms
  • Good VPN Speeds
  • Checks For Password Leaks
  • Split-Tunnelling Included
  • Password Manager
  • Clever MeshNet Feature

What We Don’t

  • Fewer Server Locations Than Rivals

NordVPN is a stunning choice – packed with features, apps for all major platforms, and an affordable monthly cost.

But it’s those user-friendly apps that really make NordVPN an easy recommendation. Beautifully designed for each platform – including the likes of iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows, Fire TV – these are the perfect starting point for Virtual Private Network (VPN) newcomers.

While some VPNs look like the sort of thing you’d need a PhD in coding to get to grips with, there’s no such issue with NordVPN. The most popular VPN server locations from around the world are listed alongside a stunning map of NordVPN servers near your current location. You can also pick the best VPN server based on its connection speed – perfect for those looking to stream video with NordVPN, although even servers on the other side of the planet never impacted our download speed to a devastating extent.

The Quick Connect button is a one-tap solution to ensure you’re protected, while the Stats page allows you to deep-dive into your VPN habits. And of course, you won’t even need to use the NordVPN app most of the time – with subscribers able to set up automatic connections every time their iPhone, iPad, Android, or PC connects to the internet.

NordVPN packs a number of popular advanced features as part of its monthly subscription, including multi-hop connections, split-tunnelling, tracker and ad blocking, and an automatic kill switch. However, you’ll need to do a little digging into the menus of its apps to unearth all of this functionality. It’s a compromise designed to maintain the sleek simplicity of the main screen when loading its app, and given how mainstream VPNs have become in recent years, it’s one that we wholeheartedly agree with.

Privacy is one of the core appeals of a Virtual Private Network and NordVPN is a brand that you can trust. Not least because it’s based in Panama, which it picked as its headquarters due to the lack of mandatory data retention laws. As such, NordVPN isn’t required to keep any logs on customers.

The company also publishes a daily warranty canary – a legal document that confirms that it hasn’t received a secret warrant from law enforcement agencies. If the company ever does receive such a request, a speech injunction immediately comes into force, and the canary statement is legally required to be pulled. You can check that NordVPN still has its latest daily canary statement at any time, adding to the confidence of trusting the brand with your digital information.

With no data retained on its customers, you can be sure that your web history, including personal information entered into online forms, remains completely private. Sadly, the same cannot be said for your broadband provider when connected to the internet without a VPN activated.

NordVPN regularly offers some of the best VPN deals to cut subscription costs. It also supports a slew of payment options, including PayPal, AmazonPay, all major credit cards, cryptocurrency, Sofort and Google Pay, to name just a few.

NordVPN review

Thinking about subscribing to a Virtual Private Network? Good choice.

While VPNs used to be the sort of niche application that you’d only find on work-issue laptops or keen torrent users, that’s no longer the case.

The popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max, large-scale data breaches, and endless credit card fraud has lead to an increased awareness of online privacy. In turn, this has lead many to consider downloading a VPN for the first time. And that’s a very good thing.

Whether you’re looking to invest in your online privacy and security with a VPN for the first time, or you’re looking to switch from a pricey VPN subscription …is NordVPN the right choice for you? We’ve been using NordVPN on a handful of platforms for the last few months to thoroughly test this VPN service.

Our in-depth NordVPN review follows below…

How does NordVPN work?

For those who don’t know, VPNs work by creating an encrypted tunnel for all of your web traffic whenever you head online. Without a VPN, think of your online data like a message scrawled onto the back of a postcard. Sure, it’ll get to your chosen recipient, but as it wings its way through the system and passes between hundreds of hands on its way to be delivered, there’s a pretty good chance that someone else will be able to make note of your handwritten message too.

The encrypted tunnel used by VPNs is the metaphorical envelope for that postcard. In fact, it’s more like double-bagging the postcard with an envelope and a sturdy Jiffy bag.

How does NordVPN compare to its closest rival?

Our ExpressVPN review has all of the answers. Read our in-depth verdict to see how this beloved VPN service compares to NordVPN, so you can find the best VPN for your needs (and bank account!)

If you’re using a busy public Wi-Fi network, like those in coffee shops and airports, a VPN will shield your online activity and prevent bad actors from intercepting your data. Back at home, a VPN can stop your broadband provider from keeping tabs on your online activity. As you navigate the web, VPNs can also block advertisers from tracking your movements and interests to tailor advertisements with eery-like accuracy.

You can think of a VPN like a supercharged version of the Incognito Mode found in your Google Chrome web browser. It’s the reason the IT department at your company likely forces everyone to use a VPN to connect to company resources online. It’s also why these applications are essential for whistleblowers and journalists working undercover.

Unlike your broadband supplier or online behemoths like Google, Twitter, and Meta, which store oodles of your personal data on their servers, the best VPN providers will never keep any information on your usage. That means law enforcement won’t be able to compel your Virtual Private Network to reveal personal data based on your online habits. For those worried about privacy online, this is one of the reasons that you should always have a VPN connected before heading online.

But VPNs aren’t only about serious privacy concerns.

That encrypted tunnel used to shield your online data from prying eyes can be routed via any number of servers dotted around the world. This will alter your IP address and the location data that can be gleaned from it. In other words, as far as everyone online is concerned, you’re based in whatever server location you’ve chosen from the list within the NordVPN app. And with a choice of thousands of servers in 59 countries worldwide, that allows you a lot of flexibility.

Why would you want to change your location? The answer is simple: streaming.

Supercharged streaming with NordVPN

Streaming services, like Netflix, offer a different catalogue of shows, documentaries, and films in every country worldwide. Most of the time, this is due to dull licensing agreements with local broadcasters or rival streaming services.

As such, Netflix subscribers in some countries – like the United States – enjoy a much bigger library of syndicated shows to watch for the same monthly fee as other regions. VPNs level the playing field and allow UK subscribers to binge-watch shows unavailable in their country.

It’s not only about unlocking new shows in streaming services you’re already subscribed to either. VPNs allow access to services that are usually blocked in your country. For example, Hulu is unavailable in the UK and mainland Europe. While some of the biggest original shows and films – Only Murders In The Building and Prey, for example – launch on Disney+ in the UK, this isn’t always the case. Even those that do make it to these shores often arrive much later, like The Handmaid’s Tale, which finished its hotly-anticipated season five run on Hulu before Channel 4 confirmed it would even be showing the latest episodes in the UK! 

If you want access to the complete library of shows and movies, you’ll need to use a VPN.

If you want to unlock the full potential of your favourite streaming services, you’ll need to install a VPN

Likewise, HBO Max – which exclusively streams the latest Warners Bros blockbusters, like The Batman and Dune as well as boxsets and documentaries from HBO – isn’t available in the UK due to an ongoing agreement between HBO and Sky TV.

However, the streaming service is available in much of mainland Europe and North America and offers access to a dizzying number of titles as well as streaming in up to 4K Ultra HD picture quality for hit shows like Game of Thrones, Succession, The White Lotus, and House of the Dragon not always available to Sky and NOW (formerly NOW TV) customers in the UK.

NordVPN handles both privacy and streaming admirably. However, for our money, it’s not the best VPN for streaming, with rival ExpressVPN just pipping it to first place.

That’s because ExpressVPN has a dedicated team tasked with unblocking its servers for use with Netflix. The Californian streaming service recently kickstarted a crackdown on VPNs, with some lesser Virtual Private Networks now all but unable to work with Netflix. That’s not the case with ExpressVPN, thanks to its Herculean effort to keep everything running smoothly for its subscribers.

ExpressVPN also has a much smaller impact on download speeds compared with rivals – even when connected to a server location on the other side of the planet.

When it comes to streaming, NordVPN subscribers are likely to see slower connections than ExpressVPN.

In our tests, our raw broadband speed sat at roughly 149Mbps with a ping of 10ms. Connected to NordVPN server close to our current location – providing a much-needed privacy boost – there was only a nominal change. Our download speed dropped by 10Mbps down to 139Mbps with a ping of 10ms.

That’s only likely to be a noticeable change if you’re struggling with sluggish broadband speeds to begin with.

nordvpn review speed test uk server location

NordVPN does slow download speeds, but the impact is minor with nearby server locations (Image: NORDVPN • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Connected to a server on the other side of the planet to unlock the Netflix US streaming library, there was a more substantial change to our broadband speed. Our download speeds dropped by 64Mbps down to 84.9Mbps with a ping of 86ms.

Of course, that still leaves plenty of bandwidth to stream in the highest picture quality available (Netflix recommends a minimum of 15Mbps to watch in 4K Ultra HD) but it’s a pretty substantial dip compared with what’s available without a VPN. For the busiest households, it does leave you more exposed to sluggish broadband speeds as multiple people stream TV shows in different rooms, make video calls, back-up their devices, download software updates, and more.

nordvpn review speed test server usa

Your speeds will start to suffer when using NordVPN to connect to server locations further afield (Image: NORDVPN • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Remember – your bandwidth is like a motorway, with more activity taking up valuable bandwidth and slowing everything down. So, while you’ll only need 15Mbps to watch Netflix in 4K Ultra HD, that can soon triple to 45Mbps if you have children streaming in their bedrooms while you’re trying to watch a show downstairs, for example.

if you’re looking to be connected to a VPN server close to home to protect your privacy, sensitive data, and hide your online activity from online advertisers – NordVPN is perfectly suited to your needs. However, if you’re planning on being connected to a VPN server on the other side of the planet 24-hours a day, it might be worth looking elsewhere. While it’s undoubtedly pricier, in our ExpressVPN review, we were impressed by the minimal impact on download speeds when streaming from the USA, Australia, and other far-flung locations.

Split-tunnelling, and why you’d want to use it

That’s why split-tunnelling is such a brilliant feature. For those who don’t know, this clever functionality lets NordVPN subscribers pick and choose which apps and services connect via the VPN and which use the internet directly. For example, you might want Netflix to always connect via a server in the United States so you can finish a must-see boxset that’s only available to subscribers in that country, but you don’t want your broadband speed to take a hit when checking Google Maps, streaming from Spotify, or making a WhatsApp video call.

Split-tunnelling is included with all NordVPN subscription plans. It means some apps and services will benefit from the safety of the secure, encrypted tunnel of your VPN connection, while others enjoy faster speeds and access to local services. The latter is important too.

While you might want to mask personal information from most online services, it can be immensely useful in applications like Google Maps. The popular turn-by-turn navigation tool uses an IP address as well as other data markers to plot a route from your current location. It can even show the direction you’re facing to make walking and cycling directions easier.

nordvpn review 6 devices per login

NordVPN allows you to sign-in to six devices with a single subscription, one more than ExpressVPN (Image: NORDVPN)

It’s worth noting that split-tunnelling isn’t available on iOS or iPadOS, with Android users the only smartphone owners who can currently take advantage of this advanced feature. This is a restriction from Apple, although it would be great to see NordVPN find a way to ensure iPhone and iPad owners get their hands on split-tunnelling in the coming months and years.

Android TV does support the functionality, so you’ll be able to pick ‘n mix between the UK and US libraries of shows and films on a per-streamer basis.

Windows also enjoys split-tunnelling support from NordVPN.

It’s worth noting that NordVPN allows subscribers to connect with six different devices simultaneously. That’s one more than ExpressVPN, although some providers do allow an unlimited number of VPN connections with the same login. For most people, six simultaneous connections should be more than enough.

NordVPN apps

NordVPN has beautifully-designed software for almost every device that you could think of, including iOS and Android phones, tablets, games consoles like Xbox, PlayStation and Oculus, Raspberry Pi, Windows and macOS, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromebooks. There’s also an extension for the Google Chrome web browser, Firefox and Edge too.

Of course, that does still leave a few exceptions – like Roku, Apple TV – but NordVPN has a clever solution.

The Virtual Private Network provider offers software that can be installed directly onto your Wi-Fi router, so that every device that connects to your home Wi-Fi network will be automatically routed via the VPN and shielded by encryption, or (if you want) re-routed via a different country to appear as if you’re abroad. Handy!

It’s an elegant solution ….not to mention, a simple way to ensure that you never come a cropper of the six-device limit (since the Wi-Fi router only counts as a single device).

nordvpn review iphone app

NordVPN offers beautifully-designed, user-friendly applications for every platform (Image: NORDVPN)

Multi-hop connections and VPN kill switch

While the majority of our NordVPN review has focused on the user-friendly apps and the ability for VPN newcomers to quickly start streaming video from around the globe with a tap or two, it’s worth noting that NordVPN bundles some pretty advanced features with its subscription. If you’re accustomed to using VPNs, there’s a lot to like here too.

First up, NordVPN does include multi-hop connections with all of its subscription plans. Dubbed Double VPN by Nord (yes, we agree that it’s a ridiculous name), the feature sees your secure VPN connection bounced to a second server location and encrypted again before it reaches its intended destination.

Sometimes referred to as VPN server chaining, this ensures your online activity is hidden behind two servers instead of one – so even if someone managed to somehow reverse-engineer the source of your connection, it would only lead them to a VPN server in another country to your real location.

As you might imagine, pinging your data around the planet multiple times will have an impact on your broadband speeds, so it’s not something you’ll ever want to use when trying to stream video online or make video calls.

NordVPN itself only recommends enabling Double VPN if you’re a journalist or political activist who needs to access information online securely or report the news without the fear of being watched or harmed. Likewise, Double VPN is ideal for those who travel or live in a highly restricted country, known for heavy censorship, tracking, and surveillance.

Double VPN is available in NordVPN’s Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, and Windows apps.

During our time with NordVPN, we never had any issues with a single one of its thousands of servers worldwide

NordVPN also arrives with a VPN Kill Switch feature, which automatically disables your internet access on your device if the connection to the VPN server fails. This failsafe is designed to ensure that your data is never exposed by an unprotected connection. An unstable internet connection, server timeout, or overzealous firewall could all result in a connection problem between NordVPN and your chosen server location – leaving your personal data momentarily exposed.

Enabling Kill Switch before you type a password or other data that, if intercepted, could compromise your privacy is always a good move.

During our time with NordVPN, we never had any issues with the thousands of servers provided by the subscription service. As such, we’re pretty confident in stating that any issues that require the Kill Switch to kick in are likely to be due to unstable internet connections.

NordVPN makes it Kill Switch feature available across the complete suite of apps, so you’ll be able to take advantage no matter what phone, laptop, or tablet you’re using.

For those who want more from their VPN provider than just secure VPN connections, NordVPN is one of the best options on the market. The subscription service also bundles a number of amazingly useful security features, like the ability to automatically monitor the Dark Web for data breaches that contain your personal information.

Hackers will often sell bundles of passwords, email addresses and payment details stolen from companies’ servers on Dark Web forums. Popular website Have I Been Pwned, which was established by Australian web security consultant Troy Hunt, allows users to check whether their details have been exposed.

NordVPN subscribers won’t need to remember to keep checking on a regular basis, with the software keeping tabs in the background. Dubbed NordVPN Pass, the feature checks passwords, email addresses, and credit card details. If the security system finds that your personal information has been leaked, you will be immediately notified. Not only that, but NordVPN Pass will also dig into more detail to try to determine how the data breach occurred and provide tailored recommendations, so it doesn’t happen again.

To further bolster your online security, NordVPN Pass also includes a password manager – like LastPass or 1Password – that backs up and syncs your passwords across all of your devices so they can always be accessed. Your passwords are stored in an encrypted password vault, with the software entering your password into online forms, mobile apps, and web browsers so you never need to remember each individual login. As such, you can set a different (super-strong) password for every account.

nordvpn review password manager

NordVPN subscribers can bundle its clever NordPass password manager software too (Image: NORDVPN )

NordVPN provides a password generator to all users. This software jumbles letters, numbers and symbols to create a rock-solid password. While using the same email address-password combo for multiple websites, subscription services, and apps might be a little easier on your grey matter …it means that hackers can break into multiple accounts if your details are leaked. As such, a data breach at a social media service could suddenly see cyber-thieves able to break into your online banking account or inbox.

Finally, NordVPN offers malware protection with all subscription plans – providing warnings when you attempt to visit an unsafe website and scanning all downloaded files and attachments for malware. If they’re not safe to open, NordVPN can automatically delete the files to prevent damage to your device.

If you’re already subscribed to a standalone password manager and anti-virus software, opting for NordVPN might be a more affordable choice. For an extra fee, NordVPN can also double-up as a Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive replacement with 1 TB of encrypted cloud storage available to subscribers.

NordVPN – In Numbers

Platforms

Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire TV Stick, Wi-Fi routers, Web browsers

Total Number Of Servers Worldwide

5,200

Customer Support

24/7 Live chat

Trial Period

30-day money back guarantee

Maximum Number Of Devices Signed-In At The Same Time

6

Split-Tunnelling Included?

Yes

Password Manager Included?

Yes, at an extra cost

NordVPN subscription price and discounts

NordVPN pricing is a little more complicated than some of its rivals due to the sheer number of additional extras available to subscribers. NordVPN has three subscription tiers available:

  • NordVPN Standard
  • NordVPN Plus
  • NordVPN Complete

All three tiers offer access to NordVPN’s 5,653 server locations found in 59 countries worldwide. Subscribers will be able to download and login to all NordVPN apps too. Standard, Plus, and Complete subscribers will also benefit from behind-the-scenes malware protection to shield against dodgy websites and virus-laced downloads. Advert blocking is also included as standard.

You’ll need to plump for NordVPN Plus or NordVPN Complete to benefit from NordVPN’s automatic Dark Web and data breach monitoring. These subscription plans are also the only ones with access to the NordPass password manager, which is a separate app that can be downloaded on iOS, Android, iPadOS, Windows, macOS, and popular web browsers.

Finally, NordVPN Compete offers 1TB of encrypted cloud storage to backup files, photos, videos, and other personal data.

The best VPN deals from NordVPN are reserved for those willing to subscribe for longer periods of time. All three NordVPN subscription plans are available as rolling one-month contracts which can be cancelled at any time. As you’d expect, NordVPN rarely discounts these plans. However, those willing to agree to a one- or two-year plan upfront can unlock huge discounts.

NordVPN discounts its subscription plans by over 60% as well as bundling up to 3 months of free VPN access to sweeten the deal.

If you’re new to VPNs, subscribing to a service for two-years straight out of the gate might seem nuts. However, there’s nothing to worry about as NordVPN offers a no-quibbles 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 customer support, so you’ll be able to chat with a customer service representative no matter what timezone you’re in. At any point during the first few weeks with NordVPN if you run into any trouble, incompatibilities, or simply don’t think the service is worth the cash… you can request a full refund.

In fact, it might be easier to think of the money-back guarantee as a free trial rather than a traditional refund policy.

NordVPN accepts a dizzying array of payment methods, including the biggest credit and debit card providers, like Mastercard, VISA, American Express, JCB, and Discover. Direct Debit, cryptocurrencies, Sofort, and Amazon Pay are also options. Best of all, Google Pay and Apple Pay are supposed, so you can checkout with a single tap – keeping your credit card details hidden behind an encrypted token generated by these clever payment systems from Google and Apple.

Unfortunately, there’s no support for Klarna – unlike close rival ExpressVPN. This is handy as it allows subscribers to break up the payment into smaller instalments. As such, ExpressVPN users can take advantage of the huge discounts available with a one-year subscription but still pay in smaller monthly instalments – the best of both worlds.

Final verdict

NordVPN is astonishingly good. For VPN newcomers, NordVPN’s gorgeous apps offer an unintimidating way to get to grips with a Virtual Private Network, while experts will be able to unlock the true power of brilliant features like Double VPN, VPN Kill Switch, and MeshNet.

Connections with NordVPN are rock-solid, with no dropouts or timeouts during the months that we’ve relied on this stellar VPN to keep our personal information shielded away from prying eyes, hackers, and advertisers. Sure, NordVPN has a more substantial impact on download speeds than ExpressVPN, which we’d still recommend as the best VPN for streaming. But in normal usage, NordVPN still offers a good internet speed – even when connected to a server location on the other side of the planet.

NordVPN’s clever split-tunnelling functionality ensures that you’ll only take a hit on download speed when you really cannot afford not to use a secure VPN connection. Unfortunately, this isn’t available on all NordVPN apps, although this is a restriction that all Virtual Private Network providers have to abide by on iPhone and iPad.

Of course, NordVPN is much more than just a VPN provider. The built-in tracker and advert blocking work seamlessly behind-the-scenes, so you’ll never have to worry about your online habits being stored and categorised by advertisers desperate to learn your tastes.

VPN connections with NordVPN are solid, with no timeouts or dropouts. But NordVPN is much more than just an incredibly reliable VPN service…

Likewise, the malware and virus protection will shield you from dodgy email attachments and nefarious websites out to steal your banking details. If you already have a subscription to anti-virus software, this isn’t a dealbreaker …but those who are unprotected and looking to subscribe to a VPN might be tempted to pick NordVPN over its rivals due to the sheer extra functionality bundled with this service.

You’ll need to pay a little extra each month for the cross-platform password vault, secure password generator, Dark Web and data breach monitoring, and 1TB of encrypted cloud storage …but with the NordVPN discounts and deals available to those willing to sign-up for one or two-year plans, this might be one of the best complete security solutions available.

Whether you’re looking for a layer of encryption to keep your web browsing habits, personal data and payment information safe from prying eyes, want to enhance the number of boxsets and movies available from streamers like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and Prime Video, or want to ensure you never fall fowl of a computer virus or password breach …you won’t regret signing up for NordVPN.



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Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown is the Deputy Technology Editor at the Daily Express and covers the latest consumer technology news – from smartphones, to smart fridges, and everything in-between. He also writes in-depth product reviews on a number of delightfully geeky products, including phones, tablets, smart home, TVs, home audio, and more. He started out as a News Reporter at Express Newspapers in the heady days of 2014 when Amazon Alexa-powered microwaves were nothing but a pipe dream.

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