NordVPN claims it is the world’s most advanced VPN–and it’s the poster child of PCmag, winning “editor’s choice” alongside PIA (they advertise this all over their site). NordVPN’s double encryption and super fast servers seem appealing–but does it deserve so many accolades? Only a careful analysis of available features and a healthy amount of skepticism can decide the truth.
NordVPN has some very affordable prices if you sign up for an annual subscription at only $4 a month. The half-year plan is $5 a month, and the shorter commitment of one month is $8. This pricing is around the cheaper to mid-range pricing for a VPN. They don’t offer a free trial, but they have a 30-day money back guarantee, as well as safe payment options through Bitcoin. They don’t accept gift cards, however.
Now, to the juicy part. NordVPN’s software, at first glance, seems good. It’s got a pleasant blue, gray, and black color scheme that feels modern.
The initial interface for the application looks useful with servers immediately available for choosing. The settings are quite minimalist–which feels seems nice for a change. There are essential features like starting with Windows, DNS leak protection, auto connects features and an app kill list. The application also comes with an automatic kill switch for the network connection, which is cool.
I first tested out a United States server–and it worked fine if a little slow. Then I tried connecting to another server in Canada–but this is where my problems started. It said, “connecting” but the application would just go back to the server selection, and it wouldn’t connect–no matter how many times I tried. If I tried connecting to my previous server, that wouldn’t work either. Eventually, I got some error that suggested I restart my computer–that I did.
The process happened again–where it wouldn’t let me connect a second time. So I tried to close down the program. It was already exited out, and wasn’t in the taskbar, but the program still wouldn’t relaunch. It was still active in the task manager, however. Once I closed it down, I tried to reconnect but had similar issues. I restarted my computer again and finally managed to connect to a dedicated IP address server.
Overall, my impressions of the NordVPN app aren’t very good. It got to the point that I was scared to launch the application because of how much work it would take to close it or to get it to work.
The design is decent, but the performance of the application is awful. Speeds aren’t anything to brag about (perhaps due to the double encryption layer), but we will get into that later.
Read more: Top Rated VPN Software Provider of 2016
Mobile Software 4/10
NordVPN’s mobile application is very similar to CyberGhost VPN’s mobile app. Both applications feel less like mobile applications and more like installation packages that simply install needed VPN files so you can turn it on manually. There are no real settings in the app, any functionality, or any connect button. If you tap on a server nothing happens. You have to do it in your phone’s settings.
I don’t like this form of mobile application. It’s clunky, and it clogged up my settings by providing all of the servers in my VPN settings with no easy way to remove them.
Extra Services 5/10
NordVPN provides six simultaneous connections. This is quite a good offering, even if the applications used to connect are very poor. NordVPN offers a proxy inside their website, but the link to the extension doesn’t work, and I couldn’t even find it in the Chrome App store. Besides that, they offer DoubleVPN, which is their unique second encryption service. There’s not much information on the website, and it can’t be easily tested, but the feature seems promising.
NordVPN also offers an encrypted chat platform hosted on their site that seems semi-useful. I would have liked to see a whole application for this. Besides the extension that doesn’t work, the on-site proxy that does, and a niche encrypted chat platform, NordVPN doesn’t offer that much extra or unique.
NordVPN’s website is designed well, and has plenty of graphic and text to point users to why they should use NordVPN, but the site doesn’t have as much information as I would like about the various feature sets. If you want to read more about the features, it takes you to another page with just one or two more sentences which is disappointing.
Setting up your account on NordVPN is relatively simple and requires you to pay simply, get access to your account, and download the supported software. These tabs are supported through the clean main dashboard interface. I would like to see updated links for Windows 10 in the download area (still has just Windows 8).
The site has plenty of guides on installation methods for various protocols, as well as support for DD-WRT routers, Tomato, Windows Phone, and other platforms. I couldn’t find any forums or active communities on the site.
NordVPN claims it’s the world’s most advanced VPN, but it’s server list is very lacking and unorganized. When selecting a server on the application I didn’t have the option to pick specific servers in California or any state–it was all just defaulted to the United States #1, or #2, etc. Most server lists within applications have this information–and NordVPN does have servers all around the globe, but none of the servers I tested seemed that ideal or suited for my location.
My speeds (when I could connect) were on definite lower end. I had a severe amount of ping at 112 ms, a slow download rate of 24.86 Mbps compared to 170 Mbps, and a 4.11 Mbps upload rate compared to a standard of about 8 Mbps.
NordVPN has great–if not super friendly, customer support. Someone answered me within seconds. I asked them about their proxy extension that wasn’t on the app store, and they informed me that it was being updated right now. Well, that explains that.
The only bad thing about NordVPN is that their support staff is either lazy or blocked by bad policy. They don’t offer Bitcoin refunds while all other VPN providers I’ve encountered do.
NordVPN has a lot of problems. Unlike PCMag, I would not rate it one of Best10VPN’s best VPNs for many reasons. It simply doesn’t deserve it. The server organization in the application is clunky, and switching servers just doesn’t work. Closing the application down is a chore, and things don’t prove any better on the mobile front since that application is extremely basic and requires manual configuration.
NordVPN does have great encryption options available, a lot of simultaneous connections available, and privacy–perhaps one reason why the speeds for the service are lackluster–but none of these things matter if the service doesn’t work good through the application. We’ve also reviewed similarly secured (or better) VPNs like Torguard with great speeds. There’s nothing that NordVPN offers you can’t find done better elsewhere (besides encrypted chat).
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