NordVPN review: An encryption powerhouse with the biggest VPN bang for your buck
We recommend NordVPN for its continued efforts to improve security without falling behind on speed.
NordVPN’s Pros and Cons
Here’s a snapshot of our thoughts on NordVPN. We’ll get more into the weeds later, but here’s a quick overview.
- Minimal data logging: NordVPN only keeps track of the bare basics like email, payment information, and customer service interactions.
- Located in Panama: This means that NordVPN falls outside of surveillance alliances Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes1 and can never be forced to surrender our data to the government.
- Multiple devices: We were allowed to connect up to six devices with NordVPN.
- Strong encryption standards: NordVPN utilizes AES-256 bit encryption, the gold standard.
- No split tunneling: We couldn’t use NordVPN and a public Wi-Fi network at the same time.
- Static IP addresses: Our IP address always stayed the same each time we connected to NordVPN, though it was shared with others making it harder to trace us.
- Customer service: Even though we were satisfied with NordVPN’s options of a live chat, email support and an FAQ database, we wished they had a phone line to connect us to a representative in case we ran into problems.
We named NordVPN one of our top picks for the best VPN of 2021, but here, we’ll take you through each of NordVPNs features in detail, and let you know why we think it’s such a great option.
|VPN||Number of servers|
|Private Internet Access||3,200|
Servers Around the Globe
With more than 5,400 servers in 59 countries, we felt good that we would never have to look too far for a server to use. To us, that translates to not having to worry about slow Internet speeds. You see, the closer we are to a server, the quicker our Internet speeds are. So, whether we’re at home in Brooklyn or globetrotting with our pals, we knew we would always be covered.
Headquartered in Panama
Though NordVPN operates worldwide, its headquarters are in Panama. That’s a huge plus for us because Panama falls outside of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes jurisdiction. For all those non-VPN nerds out there, those are surveillance alliances among countries, meaning that depending on where a VPN is based, a government entity could potentially force a company to give up our data that’s gathered while using their VPN. In our books, that’s a huge red flag, so we love that NordVPN doesn’t have to worry about that kind of situation, meaning we didn’t have to worry, either.
NordVPN also featured a kill switch, a VPN mainstay we always keep an eye out for. This really came in handy when we were downloading a huge file during a storm, and our VPN connection went out for a moment. The kill switch automatically stopped our download and quit our apps, so that our activity wasn’t exposed, even for a split second.
NordVPN is one of our favorite VPNs to torrent on: we loved that whenever we wanted to be couch potatoes and watch one of our favorite shows, we didn’t have to keep waiting for our shows to buffer. There are no data limits, meaning that some VPNs will cap our monthly network bandwidth and only allow us to download a certain amount of data. With NordVPN, we could indulge in as much online content as we wanted to. Best of all, we were able to watch Netflix. With the wide collection of servers in other countries, we even watched other countries’ shows.
Heads Up: While we are currently able to watch Netflix using NordVPN, Netflix is always trying to update their technology so that their content can’t be torrented. Luckily, they haven’t caught up to NordVPN yet.
When we don’t use a VPN, our online traffic goes to our Internet Service Provider. They have access to all our activity, and can give our information over to advertisers, government agencies, and other kinds of third-parties. When we connect to the Internet using a VPN, our Internet Service Provider can no longer see our activity, but our VPN can. Therefore, it’s important that they don’t log more than they have to.
Luckily, NordVPN didn’t log our websites visited, files downloaded, software used, our IP address, the amount of time we spent on the VPN or the amount of data we used. NordVPN did log some data, like our email address, payment data, the timestamp of our last session status, and customer service information, but this is normal and necessary to maintain our account. They also keep tabs on how we used the NordVPN site to help them improve their customer experience. Bottom line? NordVPN’s logging policy has been audited twice by PricewaterhouseCoopers Switzerland, once in 2018 and most recently in July 2020. Both audits found the VPN to be completely secure when it comes to the customer data it keeps.
NordVPN does not offer split tunneling. When a VPN offers this feature, we’re allowed to use both the private network of the VPN as well as a public network. We could either use NordVPN and browse the Internet privately, or be unprotected on a public Wi-Fi network.
When our data is encrypted, it means that our data is changed so that it’s not recognizable to anyone besides authorized users.2 It’s a main reason why we use VPNs and NordVPN has impressive standards. The company used IKEv2 and IPSec, which ensured that our VPN connection was maintained in case our Internet connection was lost. This was especially helpful when we switched from Wi-Fi networks to mobile hotspots or used our own data. IPSec enhanced security further, either encrypting the data packet message or the entire data packet.
NordVPN also uses AES with 256-bit keys, the same encryption standard that governments and cybersecurity experts like us recommend worldwide.
NordVPN also employed a double VPN, meaning that our data went through multiple servers to be encrypted multiple times. This concept, known as VPN server chaining of multi-hop, enhanced our security so that not even our Internet Service Provider knew what we were up to. Most VPNs only use one server, so we felt good knowing that our data had twice the encryption protecting it before it reached its final destination.
Static IP Addresses
Of all the things we loved about NordVPN, static IP addresses were not one of them. We got the same IP address every time we used the VPN, which isn’t ideal. We did share this IP address with other users, which means that our specific activity was harder to track down, but in the best-case scenario we would have an IP address that changes each time we use the VPN, otherwise known as a dynamic IP address.