The No-Holds Barred Investigation
MOST SECURE VPN
Important to Know
Country of Incorporation: Panama
Founded date: 2012
Kill switch: Yes
Keep logs: No
Free trial: Yes
Simultaneous connected device: 6
VPN network: 5572 servers across 60 countries
Refund policy: 30 days guaranteed
NordVPN has grown tremendously over the past few years since it began in 2012. The company has improved upon what worked for them and removed what many thought were the service’s drawbacks back then. Today, NordVPN comes highly recommended owing to it being easy to use, with more than enough features to even make tech-savvy users happy. That said it hadn’t lost focus of its piracy and security roots but built on it.
During this NordVPN review on Windows PC, Linux, Android, Mac, etc. we discovered that they added a bunch of new highly secure servers raising the number to a staggering 5572+ in over 60 countries or location. Many of these servers have been optimized for speed and encryption across all devices. However, the question we get asked a lot by many people who have not used NordVPN or who were not happy with other similar services is, does it offer enough?
While most reviews make it appear as though NordVPN is the ultimate answer to your privacy and security, we know from experience that all services have drawbacks and we will highlight those in this NordVPN review. We also know that no service is perfect. However you’ll always want to choose a service that offers the protection you want, and obviously you don’t care about the drawbacks that don’t bother you. That’s precisely why we have put together this ultimate ‘no holds barred review.’ If you are on the fence, this review should help you get on either side, though make sure to read through to the end.
NordVPN Introduction Video
Why in the world would you want to use a VPN if they too like your ISP kept a library of logs? After all, you don’t want to end up being in a position where the authorities in Canada for instance subpoena NordVPN’s logs and present them as a case for a warrant to arrest you. The good news is that NordVPN does not keep any records.
On the website, NordVPN clearly states that no logs are maintained, stored or collected. However, like all good VPN services to keep their service live and well they have to monitor something which in their case is service performance, payment data, and email addresses.
What NordVPN monitors is for the most part just a regular bunch of stuff which all other VPN services are logging whether they tell you or not. Also, because NordVPN’s payment processor isn’t tied to the main company, there is no way of tracing any payment back directly to you. Though you still have the option of using Bitcoins which will further anonymize your activities online.
Now here is where there is an advantage for NordVPN for all devices and their ever-large selection of servers. Out of all the servers, there are around 25% in our experience that works perfectly for torrenting and bypassing the nasty geo-restriction to access Netflix to stream American content amongst other things.
For this NordVPN review, we tested it across almost every American server and found that the majority don’t work with Netflix, but those that do work perfectly. That’s because Netflix actively cracks down on IP addresses it suspects belongs to VPNs.
We had better luck, i.e. more servers offered excellent torrent downloading speeds. On average our speeds were excellent regardless of what file we were downloading so as long as they were enough seeders. That’s because they have special P2P Servers with an excellent rating! These are primarily designed to handle torrenting activities while keeping your IP address and other information private. You can find all the specialty P2P servers via the application.
One nifty little trick to avoid wasting time and effort, trying every server if you want to access Netflix is to contact customer support. The support guys there helped us find the right server, though we tried each one anyway just because we had to for this review.
One of the hallmarks of a high rating VPN service is the fact that the speed is consistent and fast. You never want to end up using a service where every minute your speed dips by 75% and then goes up by another 50%, so on and so forth. While VPNs by their very nature will throttle your internet speed, the really good ones like NordVPN don’t reduce your speed by a large margin.
After hours of testing the speed using various servers and services, we found that NordVPN in our experience offered some of the best speeds. We connected to the US, EU, Asian and a couple of servers in the UK.
We saw the most significant drop in speed when connecting to Asian servers. Being in Canada means that those are some of the furthest servers. However, our speed dipped by just under 25%. The fastest speeds were observed when connected to US servers which throttled our internet speed by only around 7%.
All things considered, these are amongst some of the fastest VPN speeds we’ve seen on Chrome or any other browser for that matter.
We know of many VPN services that promise excellent security but when tested had leaking IP or DNS. That’s why we just had to test NordVPN for leaks to make sure that they were making good on their promise of security.
We connected to a server in the US using Chrome and then used three different websites to check for leaks.
• Perfect-Privacy.com DNS & IP leak test
Our testing shows that there are no leaks which is excellent news and the use of OpenVPN further solidifies the needed protection. Anyone who wants to use an OpenVPN service and values their security should always check for DNS leaks.
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Rated 4.7 of 5 stars
One of the issues we uncovered during our investigation is the fact that NordVPN is directly linked to a company called CloudVPN Inc. Why is that important? Well even though NordVPN is based in Panama with a no-logging policy, CloudVPN Inc is based in the US. So, it in a way contradicts what is stated on the website.
In our opinion, it does not mean that they aren’t private. When asked NordVPN stated that CloudVPN Inc is only used to process payments apparently because the authorities are suspicious about payments sent to Panama.
We think that is a good explanation but should be something that’s stated on the website. Also, what needs to be stated if US law has any influence on NordVPN through CloudVPN? Since these terms aren’t clear, we tend to think it is a con.
We expect that any company who wants to build a solid reputation would process refunds within hours if not a couple of days. Unfortunately, NordVPN does not seem too bothered about its reputation as it takes around 30 days for them to process refunds and its not stated in the terms.
While the company taking 30 days to process a refund isn’t exactly a deal breaker, it isn’t exactly something most people like us are going to appreciate. Many services we’ve reviewed in the past process refunds within just 7 days. That said most people in our opinion wouldn’t feel the need to get a refund.
Perhaps the of the best features in our opinion is NordVPN’s array of privacy and security tools. You have the optional ad-blocker, a kill switch which will disable your internet when you aren’t connected to the VPN, and also your computer is invisible to all the others on the local network.
It is also possible to choose between various protocols like TCP and UDP. More advanced users will appreciate the fact that a custom DNS can be used alongside an obfuscated server and kill switch, which is perfect for people in countries or locations were VPNs are blocked.
NordVPN has arguably the most extensive set of features in the industry with most of the privacy and security oriented ones like the kill switch. However, before turning on and off any features, we strongly advise that you refer to NordVPN’s customer support just so that you don’t accidentally tweak things in a way which slows down your internet or causes it to stop working. That said if you aren’t an advanced user there is no need to tweak any of the settings as the software comes ready to work out of the box.
One of the things we missed early when using NordVPN was the split tunneling feature which allows you to send specific types of traffic through the VPN while all other traffic uses regular internet. Most VPNs we’ve reviewed have this feature, but NordVPN does not. Fortunately, though App Kill does that but in a slightly different way.
App Kill is not commonly found with most VPN services despite the traffic being encrypted. How it works is that NordVPN will cut the connection to apps which you choose when the VPN fails, while the internet runs as normal. Take for instance you want to backup all your data to the cloud while sending files to an office college securely or browsing the web securely or perhaps even streaming Netflix. If the VPN fails, for some reason the connection to your colleague will be cut. The upside to this is that none of your chat or files end up going through unencrypted. So, you can be sure of security.
When this feature is enabled, NordVPN will automatically block malicious or suspicious websites which reduces if not eliminates cyber threats which can breach your privacy and infect your device. Plus, it also works as a great ads blocker which means you are saved from having those ungodly advertisements sucking your internet bandwidth.
Cybersec also works to prevent your website from becoming a willing participant in a botnet attack. A botnet attack or DDoS is a denial of service attack which is launched via infected computers. So, if your computer is infected with malware, it could be used as one of the many computers for a DDoS attack. The feature prevents this from happening by detecting unusual communication between various compromised assets and cuts it off which prevents your device from joining the zombie army.
The Cybersec feature was introduced by NordVPN a while back and has since then become increasingly effective. We find this feature to be amongst the best and perhaps only second to their VPN service. During our testing, the blocking worked flawlessly for most websites as it pulls URLs from a database of blacklisted websites. Though with new malicious websites popping up almost every day, you are still bound to run into malicious websites which the feature does not block.
In our experience, unless you are out there seeking these malicious websites, the chances of running into them are reduced. But even if you do, Cybersec has you covered 90% percent of the time. So, if you’re just into streaming Netflix and just general browsing Cybersec has you more than covered.
Sure! CyberSec and app kill are very useful in our opinion but so are NordVPN’s growing list of specialty servers. NordVPN currently includes a list of four types of servers, i.e., Dedicated IP, Double VPN, Onion over VPN and P2P. Most people are already familiar with P2P or peer-to-peer servers which are ideally suited for torrenting. The same goes for ones that offer a dedicated IP. Though we think that the Onion and Double VPN servers are very interesting.
Double VPN servers are going to be of particular interest for people living in Canada because it uses what’s called a “double-hop.” The so-called ‘double-hop’ was introduced very early on by Windscribe and works by connecting you to two different servers. Your traffic bounces off one and goes through the next. If anything it doubles your security level. Apart from Canada, it is a hit feature for people in China where VPNs are all but banned!
Onion over VPN is a slightly different take on the above. It works by connecting you to a Tor network but via a VPN connection. Tor has a couple of downsides which includes exposing your real IP address to the nodes you’re connecting through. But when you are using a VPN to connect to the Onion network, your real IP is unknown and you’re truly anonymous.
Additionally, you can also use obfuscated servers to be anonymous. Now without going into much detail, these servers effectively help you bypass stringent censorship, usually state-sponsored. When each packet of data is scrambled as it is sent, the chances of anybody else in Canada or even China for that matter finding out you’re using a VPN is next to zero!
NordVPN is without a doubt slightly more expensive than many other VPNs on the plant. However, it is still very well priced. But how much will a subscription set us back? The good news is that there is are no hidden costs as the pricing is laid out in a simple manner.
• The Monthly Plan costs $11.95 a month or $143.4 per year
• The 1-Year Plan Cost $6.99 a month or $83.88 per year
• The 2-Year Plan Costs $4.99 a month or $119.76 every 2 years
• The 3-Year Plan Costs $3.49 a month or $125.64 every 3 years
Now the speed of your internet connection matters. You don’t want to be stuck at the waiting screen as Netflix attempts to load. That’s why the faster your NordVPN speed is, the better. As a resident of Canada, the speeds we experienced were excellent on the whole. Though we can safely say that it will be around the same for everyone.
To understand what causes speed throttling it is essential to know that your internet’s traffic is routed through a VPN server. The further that sever is from you the longer it takes for that information to be relayed back and forth (which is technically referred to as latency). For instance, a resident of Canada connecting to a server in the US will experience a lower latency. However, the NordVPN speed of the VPN server also plays a significant role in how fast things work.
To measure just how much NordVPN speed was throttling our internet we connected to servers in the US, Europe, and Asia. We then ran speed tests 3x times and averaged out the speeds we got, compared that to our original internet speed and calculated a percentage value to make things simple.
We found that when connected to US servers our internet speed took a 7% hit. When connected to servers in Asia it dipped to around 25% on average. When connected to servers in Europe, i.e. Finland, the UK, France, and Germany we saw around a 20% loss in internet speeds. The fastest Asian servers were in Japan and Singapore for us. Though your mileage may vary.
As of January 2019, there are now well over 5572 VPN servers with many of them being high-speed, highly secure servers. While we would assume that all servers available to us would work, the fact is that all services have a specific failure rate and NordVPN is no exception.
To test the failure rate, we meticulously connected to each one of these servers and noted which ones didn’t connect or gave us an error. It is a mundane and highly unrewarding task, but someone has to do it!
Our report shows that there is a 2% failure rate. Yes! That’s just 2% percent of the servers gave us some error or refused to connect. That’s excellent! Compared to the competition. It is also important to note that it isn’t always the servers’ fault, sometimes it can be our internet connection and software conflicts which prevent servers from connecting.
One of the key advantages of using the best VPN like NordVPN is the fact that you can access otherwise geo-restricted websites like Netflix. However, while unblocking US and UK version of YouTube, BBC iPlayer and even Hulu are relatively easy, Netflix can be a challenge for most VPN services.
We were able to unblock YouTube with ease, while BBC iPlayer was relatively more difficult since they make an effort to block some suspicious IP addresses. However, NordVPN was able to get us past those restrictions. Once we got to Netflix, this was a little more challenging something we expected. That said after a couple of attempts connecting to a few different servers we were able to start streaming via Netflix.
So, Yes! If Netflix streaming is your thing back here in Canada or any other country in the world, then NordVPN should be your tool of choice to unblock it with relative ease.
NordVPN’s claim of having a strict ‘no logging’ policy is pretty standard across the industry. We know of nearly a dozen services which make the same claim. So, what interests us is how does NordVPN describe this?
According to its website, NordVPN has no logs of online activity by its users. So, they don’t track the time or the length of a session. They also don’t have records of the IP addresses of uses so; all things equal they shouldn’t know for instance that you are accessing the service from Canada and were streaming the American version of Netflix.
While there have been some recent rumors of NordVPN being owned by a data mining company, and them using technology similar to Hola to resell users’ bandwidth it is by and large unsubstantiated. When asked NordVPN stated that they were hiring the largest professional service business to independently audit their business. At the end of the day, that the firm’s findings will work to substantiate NordVPN’s claims of maintaining zero logs!
NordVPN support is solid, and despite being in Canada, we had no issue with getting in touch with the right guys to answer our questions. However, before you do anything else, NordVPN support has an extensive knowledge base, which requires you type in your question into the search bar to get the answer.
We were able to find answers to most questions via the search bar. The answers were well explained for the most part.
Now if the search bar isn’t working for you or your answer isn’t in their knowledge base you can always contact a NordVPN support person via Live Chat. Just click the “Contact Us” link in the footer. We have run into a mediocre live chat with other so-called best VPN services in the past, and NordVPN isn’t one of them. The person on the other end of the chat session answered all our questions.
We also tried email support. Sent the same questions via email and got a response within a few hours.
Overall the support is second to none and amongst the best if not the best if you ask us!
Even though the generous NordVPN policy isn’t necessarily a scam or another bait and grab scheme like some of its competition, it does take 30 days for the company to process a refund. Sure, that isn’t going to be a deal breaker for most people, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Yes, we would recommend it hands down. Regardless of if you are living in Canada or any other country for that matter, NordVPN is safe, secure, and highly reliable with great speeds. It is also available for Windows, Android, Linux, iOS, Mac and a load of other devices.
We found its performance to be consistent throughout our entire time reviewing it. That said the slightly higher price and their slow refund process are the only two things weighing down the service in our opinion. But despite these cons, we’d recommend this best VPN to anyone and everyone!
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