Why Use a VPN?
VPNs are an encrypted means of accessing content on the internet. If the internet is the “information superhighway”, it’s best to think of a virtual private network as a personal tunnel. Both will take you to wherever you need to go, but a VPN will ensure that you don’t have anyone else looking in at you while you’re heading down the road.
VPNs essentially allow users to access everything that the internet has to offer by hiding who they are, where they come from, and where they’re going. For internet users, this is important for two key reasons. First, there’s the security issue. Identity theft is quickly becoming the number one crime to worry about. If hackers can get a hold of your IP address, they can connect that information to your personal data and internet habits. This makes cybersecurity a big deal, especially for internet users. The security provided by a VPN is something internet users simply cannot pass up.
Of course, that tunnel through the internet has more benefits than just security. VPNs also help users circumnavigate sometimes annoying content blocking. Some websites are impossible to access with routing through a VPN. There are any number of reasons why that content might be blocked. In some parts of the world, internet censorship is not just commonplace, but purposefully restrictive on free speech. More locally, one might simply attend a college or university that blocks access to different websites or streaming services. VPNs provide access to blocked content by utilizing servers located in areas around the world where that content is not blocked.
For internet users, those two benefits are undoubtedly the most important. There are many websites that either waltz the gray area or are notably within the danger zone. Many ISPs have recently pulled back going after individuals for walking the fine line between copyright infringement and fair use. Nevertheless, many copyright holders have continued to press the issue, refusing to give up the fight so easily.
In order to help internet users and others find value from VPNs, we’ve examined a long list of the most popular VPNs available. Although most VPNs operate similarly, many have unique features as well as varying levels of functionality.
Install NordVPN on Different Devices
NordVPN is among the most popular VPN programs around. You’ll find that the installation process for NordVPN is easy on most popular devices. However, NordVPN cannot be installed directly onto some applications, such as the Kodi media center, as an addon. The best way to use NordVPN is to install the dedicated application for your device and run Kodi while the VPN is running in the background.
Nord provides a very long list of tutorials for a large number of operating systems. Most of these are simply how to get NordVPN working with a large number of different programs via OpenVPN. Given NordVPN uses OpenVPN, there is a possibility that you could make it work with the OpenVPN plugin available on Kodi, but we are unsure whether this is a viable option, as Nord provides no instructions on how to do so.
This VPN can be installed on the following operating systems:
- Raspberry Pi
NordVPN does have some version limitations for each operating system. Those limitations are as follows:
- To install NordVPN on Mac computers, you’ll need Mac OSX (versions not provided)
- To install NordVPN on Windows computers, you’ll need Windows XP or higher
NordVPN does not provide version information for Linux, iOS, or Android.
NordVPN allows you to download their program before you purchase. This will let you figure out whether it works on your device first before you purchase your subscription. NordVPN provides three, low-cost subscription options. We recommend reading our full review below before making your installation decision.
NordVPN Review Summary
After officially opened its doors in 2012, NordVPN is now one of the biggest names in the VPN industry. The company believes strongly in the idea of a free and open web, proudly linking to Tim Berner’s Magna Carta on the subject. We analyzed NordVPN’s service against 10 key areas of interest: pricing structure, VPN speed, payment options, compatibilities, logging, server locations, security/privacy (IPv6 leak protection, DNS leak protection) and the presence of a kill switch. We also took a look at the kind of support the VPN service has to offer, as well as the overall ease of the sign-up process.
Summarized Pros and Cons
|Hundreds of servers to choose from||3-day trial upon request|
|Servers located in 51 countries||Non-standard VPN servers often crowded|
|Advertised 99% server uptime||Less than 20 non-standard VPN servers|
|Customer service response in under 5 minutes||Many slow Standard VPN servers|
|Half a dozen security features, including 2048-bit SSL encryption||No IPv6 Leak protection|
|Supports 12 operating systems|
|As low as $5.75 a month|
|Connects to American Netflix|
Pricing and Payment Plans
NordVPN’s pricing plan is more easily defined through the following screenshot:
The pricing plan shows a wide range of prices based on whether you purchase the service for 1, 6 or 12 months. While the 1-year plan offers a clear advantage over monthly costs, the 6-month plan is still fairly inexpensive while also allowing you to escape without paying an excessive amount. Many internet users are typically hesitant when it comes to paying for content. However, if you do plan on using NordVPN for more than 3 months, it makes the most sense to go for a 6-month plan at least to start out with. At the 1-year price, paying for the service becomes more much worth the cost.
NordVPN accepts payment through major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and Paymentwall.
NordVPN works with all of the following operating systems:
- Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10
- Mac OS X
The number of operating systems should be helpful for internet users connecting to the application through various operating systems. Android users looking for anonymity are especially increasing in number.
NordVPN: Main Features
NordVPN boasts a rather hefty list of features. The 22 features on their feature list are primarily security-related. We will touch on those a little bit later. Among the most important features offers, Kodi users will find the most value in hundreds of servers to choose from, the many different types of servers, the server map, and the choice server locations.
As you can see from the image below, you can search for VPNs based on country or based on the type of server. Searching by country is just a fast way to get connected to a server immediately based on country. Selecting a specific server type allows you to more fine tune your server option. Nord has 6 type of servers: Anti DDoS, Ultra Fast TV, Double VPN, Tor over VPN, Dedicated IP and Standard VPN. Hovering over any server will also indicate which video streaming services are accessible through that server. This includes Netflix.
The vast majority of servers are Standard VPNs based in the U.S. International internet users blocked from U.S. content without a VPN will find value in the fact that over 300 of the Standard VPN servers are based in the U.S. Each server lists its current load level, bandwidth, and ping. In reviewing the long list of servers, we only found 2 downed servers. This should help those using different websites to find servers that will provide the best streaming experience. When connected to any server, the application will also indicate how many of your own devices are currently connected. For reference, here is the full list of non-security-related features:
Additionally, NordVPN is P2P friendly. Its servers do not block torrents. This is a helpful feature for internet users who use P2P services such as, Ace Stream or BitTorrent. This VPN service also includes an automatic kill switch, which can be adjusted for specific applications which may put the user at risk. Having a kill switch is extremely useful should your IP begin to leak for any reason. Those using different websites for P2P purposes or even normal streaming can set applications and browsers to turn off immediately should NordVPN fail for any reason.
We tested the upload and download speeds of the three server categories most users are likely to use: Standard VPN, Double VPN and Ultra Fast TV. Each VPN category is measured against a control speed test that used no VPN. We used Speedtest.net for speed and ping testing. For each test, Speedtest.net measured our speed by connecting us to a server based in Washington. These tests give only a glimpse of server quality. Results will vary based on a large number of factors, including a user’s geographic location and native ISP speeds.
Netflix suggests its HD video streaming only requires 5 Mbps download speed. This should come in handy for those looking to get around Netflix geo-blocking. Through testing, we discovered that NordVPN indeed works with Netflix, despite the recent crackdown on VPNs. Internet users who are looking to stream media content through different websites should also find the speed tests helpful.
Here were the results of our speed testing.
Note: NordVPN has 3 additional VPN server categories that we did not test: Anti DDoS, Tor over VPN and Dedicated IP.
|Server||Ping (ms)||D/L Speed (Mbps)||U/L Speed (Mbps)|
As expected in our testing, running a speed test without a VPN results in the fastest download and upload speeds, as well as the best bandwidth. Geographic proximity likewise had expected results when it came to impacts on speed and ping, although most results were still reasonable enough to stream HD video. At the worst, the speed dropped by over 90% (UK server). However, most servers boasted speeds that were still within reason. The Netherlands server showed surprisingly fast speed despite the geographic distance from our location in the U.S. American internet users would likely be wise to avoid the UK servers altogether.
Ultra Fast TV
|Server||Ping (ms)||D/L Speed (Mbps)||U/L Speed (Mbps)|
When we tested the Ultra Fast TV servers, we at first found we could only connect to the US server. After multiple attempts at trying to connect to the UK server, NordVPN continuously disconnected us from the server. We attempted to contact customer service about the issue. In comparison to our test with customer service, we received a response in around 4 minutes. Our service representative gave us a quick and easy fix that worked right away.
Our tests discovered that the U.S. Ultra Fast TV server was actually slower than the Standard VPN server. It was still fast, but not fast enough to make it worth using. The UK server was four times faster than the Standard VPN server, but at 4.43 Mbps, it was hardly worth using. Although the servers are advertised as Ultra Fast, internet users likely would not find as much value here.
|Server||Ping (ms)||D/L Speed (Mbps)||U/L Speed (Mbps)|
The Double VPN servers produced some expected results. For starters, the US-Canada server (NordVPN combined these together in this category) was faster than expected, particularly when coming through multiple VPN servers. The speed drop was 87.45% compared to the control speed. Both servers dropped similarly over their Standard VPN counterparts. However, enough speed was maintained for HD streaming from the US-Canada server and normal SD streaming through the Netherlands server. Those internet users hoping to use P2P services or torrent through the different applications may find these two servers particularly useful.
Security and Privacy Features
NordVPN has several security and privacy features:
- SSL-based 2048-bit encryption,
- Firewall pass-through
- Encrypted chat
- OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IPSec protocols
- OpenVPN on SSL ports
These features are designed to protect anonymity and provide extra security against hacking attempts. For internet users, one of the most important of these is the use of SSL-based 2048-bit encryption. This is among the best SSL encryption standards around, without compromising too much on CPU usage. NordVPN also uses a firewall pass-through, giving added security through its servers. The encrypted chat, which is loaded up through the website, allows users to chat through a secure connection. The remaining security features, OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IPSec protocols, all serve to help create a secure tunnel and to prevent snooping on your connection and data.
On the negative end, NordVPN does not include IPv6 leak protection. Although IPv6 adoption is not yet 100%, you can to see if you are using IPv6 here, and whether or not it is leaking. Most internet users are utilizing IPv4, so an IPv6 leak protection is not overly necessary.
NordVPN advertises three support methods: chat, email and Facebook. They also identify their support as available 24/7. To verify this, we tried contacting their built-in chat support:
For a simple test, we opened up the chat and watched the clock to see how long it took to get a live person. It took less than a minute for someone to get back to us. Given how fast we were able to get a support member through the website chat, we felt there was no need to try the email or Facebook method. As explained earlier, when we ran into a problem connecting to one of the servers, the response time was a bit slower, but still reasonably fast. Additionally, the suggested fix worked.
The sign-up process for NordVPN takes only a few minutes. Unfortunately, Nord does not provide a free trial or a free sign-up. Users must pay first before creating an account. This means you must pay for the service before knowing what you’re getting. However, NordVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you find that you do not like the service.
From our testing, we’ve determined that NordVPN has an exceptional service, especially for regular internet users. The vast number of servers and server types alone makes this an extremely useful service for streaming. That only 2 servers out of hundreds were down at our time of testing is extremely impressive. Nord’s large list of features represents years of development. There are servers located in 51 countries, making this service extremely useful for international users as well. This service works well for anyone outside of the U.S. trying to access American Netflix. Those using P2P services or applications will find the anonymity they’re looking for as well.
NordVPN’s price appears fair to us for what you are getting as well. While the one month price of 8 dollars can feel expensive, if you like the service, you can bring that down by a significant amount by signing up for the 6-month or 1-year plan.
The service’s fast customer service is equally impressive. Because we also ran into some minor usage issues while testing, we can also vouch for the expertise of their customer service representatives, as least as far as solving simple, common issues. The service generally receives positive reviews on this end. We believe that the positive reception around NordVPN is well deserved.
The biggest downside to NordVPN is the lack of choices when it comes to the non-standard VPN servers. Internet users hoping to find extremely fast, or the most secure servers will only have a few servers to choose from. While there are well over 300 servers for the Standard VPN section, there are only 3 choices for Anti DDoS, 2 for Ultra Fast TV, 4 for Double VPN, 2 for Tor over VPN and only 5 for Dedicated IP servers. Most of those limited numbers are heavily loaded. This is especially true (unsurprisingly) for the Ultra Fast TV servers and the Anti DDoS servers.
The lack of IPv6 leak protection is also disappointing, but understandable. As IPv6 is still relatively new and not overwhelmingly adopted in most places, IPv6 leaks are simply not too common an issue. However, the lack of support for IPv6 leaks is something NordVPN hopefully intends to address in the future. On a separate note, the fact that NordVPN requires you to pay before you try is also a disappointment. At the least, NordVPN could allow customers to have a free trial, even if it’s a 1-day trial to test out the services.
Overall, NordVPN is heavy on positives and light on negatives. This relatively low-cost VPN service delivers the goods in a valuable way. Internet users should find the security features and the server options highly desirable. It’s a good service for those who want a VPN that works the first time, and pretty much every time, without the fear of false advertising.