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NordVPN Review: we tested this Panama-based VPN

NordVPN is easy to configure and to use. Affordable, it allows its users to access over 3 600 VPN servers around the world. While this VPN provider is also discrete, we asked ourselves whether we would recommend it to our readers based on its performance. Here is what we decided…

What we liked

  • Connection wizard
  • Free 3-day trial
  • Double VPN (which provides enhanced encryption)

What we didn’t like

  • Connection to VPN was dropped several times
  • Not clear who owns/operates NordVPN

Verdict

NordVPN is not an excellent VPN provider, nor is it bad… It isn’t very cheap or unreasonably expensive either. And, while we found its Double VPN feature to be interesting, we were not really convinced of its necessity. We also found that this VPN provider lacked transparency in terms of who owns and operates it. At any rate, we found other VPN providers, such as Private Internet Access, to be both faster and more inexpensive than NordVPN.

Read More: Best VPN

Recommended and not recommended… because of its cost and software

NordVPN costs $11.95 per month or $69 per year. Payment can be made via credit card, Bitcoin, Ethereum, PayPal or via a number of other online payment services. A two-year subscription costs around $79 or $3.29 per month and it is possible to try out NordVPN’s service for free for a period of 3 days. It is also worth mentioning that NordVPN’s 2-year subscription plan has a 30-day money back guarantee.

NordVPN offers a version of its client software for Windows and Mac computers as well as for iOS and Android devices. Chromebooks, Linux boxes, and routers can all be manually configured to use NordVPN’s services (tutorials to this effect can be found on NordVPN’s website). An open source “Open VPN” client is also available for compatible devices such as NAS devices and the Raspberry Pi.

NordVPN Review:

Recommended… because of its software’s many features

NordVPN’s software interface (for both desktop and mobile devices) is very enjoyable and has a whimsical cartoon-like feel to it. Instead of displaying a list of servers, NordVPN’s software displays a world map featuring icons that indicate the countries in which its servers are located.

Simply clicking on a country will connect you to the fastest available server. At the present time (April 2018), NordVPN has around 3 600 servers located in 61 different countries. What’s more, NordVPN’s software features a connection wizard that facilitates the configuration process. NordVPN also offers a number of online tutorials on its website.

NordVPN can be configured to automatically start with your system and does not impose any restrictions in terms of bandwidth or volume of transferred data.

NordVPN’s flagship feature is called “Double VPN”. Once connected to one of this VPN provider’s servers, all of your traffic will transit via a second VPN before accessing the internet. This basically means that your data will be encrypted twice.

It is hard to say whether this system is really more effective than going through a single VPN – especially since NordVPN uses a particularly robust AES-256 encryption algorithm. Moreover, this double encryption could have a negative impact on performance by slowing down data transfer rates.

In July 2017, NordVPN added a feature called “CyberSec” to its arsenal which blocks ads from websites known to install malware. This feature works by consulting a publicly available list of compromised websites compiled by internet users.

Since October 2017, NordVPN has offered an extension for Chrome which redirects all of the browser’s traffic towards an encrypted proxy. While this extension is not a fully fledged VPN, it is a quick and easy way to get around a country’s internet blocking systems. By using this extension, it is possible, for example, to connect to BBC’s website to stream Doctor Who online.

Recommended… because of its protection of personal data

If you pay for your subscription using Bitcoin, you will not have to provide your name when registering with NordVPN (you will only be required to provide an email address). NordVPN also claims not to record any user usage data.

NordVPN is also equipped with a Kill Switch feature that will automatically disconnect you from the internet if your connection to the VPN is dropped for any reason. During our testing of NordVPN in June 2017, we were required to configure this feature for each application that we used. However, NordVPN’s Kill Switch is now able to simultaneously disconnect all applications accessing the internet.

NordVPN is registered in Panama and owned by a holding company called Tefincom S.A. While this tactic provides NordVPN with a measure of protection against eventual legal proceedings, it prevented us from finding out who owns and operates the company. The only thing we were able to determine is that the company was founded by “four childhood friends” in 2012.

NordVPN Review:The employment offers on NordVPN’s website do not indicate where their offices are located and Tefincom’s publicly listed executives also belong to around 100 other shell companies based out of Panama. We have contacted NordVPN to request additional information from its representatives concerning the company’s ownership and operation.

NordVPN’s registration site is hidden behind a proxy server based in Luxembourg. Beyond its very American-sounding legal jargon, NordVPN’s Terms and Conditions statement does not reveal any information about its country of legal jurisdiction.

Recommended and not recommended… because of its performance

Our testing of this VPN provider revealed that its performance was relatively good without being exceptional. Among the nine VPN services we evaluated, it ranked somewhere in the middle in terms of performance.

As far as downloading was concerned, the data transfer rate of 34.7 Mbit/s we obtained when using NordVPN was 36% slower than without it (54.1 Mbit/s). The same can be said about uploads: which were 36% slower (16.8 Mbit/s) than without it. NordVPN’s latency was 26.9 milliseconds – 149% higher than without it. All of these values fall within the average arrived at during our testing of six different VPN services.

It took us 11 minutes and 15 seconds to download a 428 MB video file (250% slower than not going through the VPN). While this places NordVPN in fourth place among the services we tested, it lags far behind Private Internet Access which allowed us to download the same video file in only 4 minutes and 25 seconds.

We lost our connection to NordVPN twice over the course of one month of testing (which is still within the average for VPN service providers).

Recommended and not recommended… because of its ease of configuration and poor customer service

Installing NordVPN’s software on a PC can be done in under five minutes. NordVPN allows its users to have six simultaneous connections – which should be enough for protecting your smartphone, tablet, and portable computer while you are on the move. However, in order to use more than one device to connect to the same VPN server from the same location, you will be required to use different VPN protocols.

NordVPN’s customer service is accessible via live chat and email and this VPN provider promises to respond to emails within 48 hours. However, some clients have complained about having difficulty closing their account.

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