There are plenty of reasons why NordVPN is the VPN service by which others are measured.
NordVPN Review: Simple Security
It may have an odd name that has many people searching for “north vpn” (or even “noord vpn”), but NordVPN is the virtual private network (VPN) yardstick by which all others are measured. NordVPN effortlessly combines top-tier security, a no-log policy for enhanced privacy, and extended features with user-friendly apps.
When comparing VPNs, you’re ultimately starting with either NordVPN or its close competitor ExpressVPN, both of which make regular appearances on best VPN lists (including ours). While it’s not the cheapest service around and doesn’t have a real free trial, NordVPN does have a 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to try before you buy.
As is the trend with VPN services, NordVPN is most expensive with its US$11.99 monthly fee. NordVPN really wants you to buy the annual or biennial options, both of which offer better ongoing monthly value, but you need to pay the full cost upfront. It’s US$67.35 per year or US$80.73 for two years.
We do like that NordVPN accepts a range of payment options: from typical ones like major credit cards and PayPal to Google Pay, Apple Pay and even cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, there’s no true free version of NordVPN. Instead, you have to pay for either a month, year or two-year period upfront, then cancel within 30 days to get your money back if it’s not for you.
NordVPN is a VPN service that gives you access to 5,000+ servers, across 60 countries and in 83 locations. While the server count is great and thousands above some of Nord’s closest competitors, the country and location counts are comparatively low.
Similarly, while NordVPN's six simultaneous connections is one above the five-devices industry standard for VPNs, it’s really only enough to cover two people in the home if you’re protecting multiple devices. Where NordVPN truly shines, though, is as an invisible background protector.
NordVPN boasts military-grade Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit for data and impressive 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman (DH) key for channel encryption. This means you have an incredibly secure connection, which is made more attractive by a beta version of Threat Protection antimalware. For privacy peace of mind, NordVPN also has an industry-standard no-log policy, which has been independently audited.
NordVPN user experience
We’ve been using Nord for years, and it’s been updated across platforms. These days, it’s easier than ever to use NordVPN. We tested across Windows and Android versions of the app, with the latter offering true one-touch connection and disconnection. The Windows version can be configured to automatically connect once you start the app, which is great, but disconnecting still has an extra click.
Admittedly, the extra disconnection click lets you temporarily pause NordVPN for five minutes, 15 minutes, or an hour, but it’d be nice to have the option to forego this. Even for manual connections, hitting ‘Quick connect’ only takes a few seconds to protect you via the nearest server.
Alternatively, you can scroll through the list of international server locations or search for a specific one. Conveniently, NordVPN has a generous listing of recent servers, so it’s easy to manage favourites, plus there are easy-to-find specialty servers for Double VPN (two VPN servers instead of one), Onion Over VPN (advanced anonymity) and P2P (for file-sharing or other peer-to-peer programs). NordVPN even lets you manually select servers by country.
NordVPN Australian privacy
For use in Australia, NordVPN has 190+ servers in five cities: Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. Those around Alice Springs, Darwin, or other places in central and north-west Australia should expect higher latencies and slower speeds, but most Australians should enjoy a relatively speedy connection.
We say “relatively” because NordVPN has almost untouched latency, so websites should load as per normal, and minimal impact on upload speeds (for faster backups and file transfers). There was a 25% hit to download speeds in our tests. In fairness, you should only notice this speed impact if you’re downloading large files.
By default, none of the Australia servers has multi-hop (double VPN) protection, nor the option to connect to a dedicated IP (charged separately; Nord also sells a separate password manager). If you do want to use either of these features, you’ll have to be willing to take a big latency hit and connect via or to the US or UK. On the positive front, NordVPN has a simplified kill switch, which worked well in our tests, and it passed our IP address and DNS leak tests without any issues.
For greater security control, NordVPN also includes a straightforward split-tunnelling feature, which lets you choose the specific apps that use the VPNs and which ones you want to ignore it. We also appreciate the inclusion of Threat Protection antimalware for additional security, as well as the option to scan the dark web for leaks linked to your NordVPN account’s email address.
NordVPN vs other VPNs
The table below outlines the key differences between NordVPN and its VPN peers.
|US $11.99||US $67.35||5404||60||83||6||Zero||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|US $12.95||US $99.95||3000+||94||160||5||Zero||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|US $12.95||US $47.88||3200+||65||111||Unlimited||Zero||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||2048-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|AU $18.79||AU $85.02 (2 yrs)||7618||91||113||7||Zero||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||45-day money-back guarantee|
|US $9.99||US $71.88||1625||63||89||10||Zero||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
*ProtonVPN Plus plan used for comparison. Cheaper plans are available, but offer limited servers, connections, speed, and more.
NordVPN isn’t a perfect VPN, but it’s about as close as you can get, particularly for first-time VPN users. It has an expensive monthly cost, there are some user-interface quirks on Windows, and the impact on download speeds isn’t ideal.
But those gripes are minor in comparison to a user-friendly VPN that offers great protection with its default settings. This protection gets even better if you tinker with the advanced features of what amounts to a VPN with excellent privacy and security inclusions, which also works so seamlessly in the background you’ll forget it’s on.
How we evaluate VPNs
We compare VPNs on several factors, starting with the price and whether you’re paying in Australian currency. After this, we weigh up the numbers: servers, countries, locations, and simultaneous connections for a single account. The bigger the number, the better the ranking. Most VPNs don’t offer a truly free trial, but we like when they do, and we value a reasonable money-back guarantee.
In terms of all-important security and privacy, a no-log policy is considered essential, and we look favourably on VPN providers that are open to third-party security audits. From here, encryption is evaluated alongside meaningful inclusions, such as antimalware and antivirus features, as well as the inclusion of a kill switch and split tunnelling.
Testing is conducted with the VPN running in the background and evaluated through a variety of everyday tasks to rate it in terms of convenience. We also run tests for speed and latency, IP address and DNS leaks, as well as for a kill switch (where available).
Below are the answers to some of the most pressing NordVPN questions.
- Android TV
- Nintendo Switch
- Raspberry Pi
- Kindle Fire
- VPN routers