If you like watching live video streaming and downloading torrents, NordVPN is a great one-size-fits-all VPN that secures your connection with powerful tools and blazing speed. Unlike other premium VPNs, you don't have to pay that much to get high speeds and security.
NordVPN swears not to keep any logs, to encrypt exchanges in 2048 bits, to have their own DNS servers in order to prevent leakage, and to have a " kill switch" to stop some applications in case of accidental disconnection.
NordVPN Protection Settings
Some of their servers are also equipped with dual VPN.
Regarding the non-retention of logs, we just have to take their word for it. Even though their support rep was rather convincing, I cannot confirm nor deny this conclusively. Please consider that I cannot confirm with any VPN providers, as there is no standard test for this.
The same goes for the claim of 2048-bit encryption. To check this, I would have to intercept the data exchanged, particularly during the key exchange phase. It would require too many resources for the context of this article. The same for their double VPN capability, since they would have to give me access to the configuration of their servers.
However, thanks to our tool, which shows you if any information is leaking from your connection, I can confirm that my identity was properly hidden and that there were no DNS leaks during the test.
I also found that the "kill switch" was operational during testing.
I am convinced that NordVPN protects you very well, and this is the main feature that you look for in a VPN.
NordVPN protects you almost too well, because a 2048-bit encryption is much too sophisticated for the decryption capabilities that we have today.
In 2010, researchers cracked a 768-bit key, and it took deep pockets (an INRIA research institute French equivalent to 425 quad-core PC for one year). It is expected that 2096-bit encryption will not be cracked by brute force before 2030. There is an emerging technology, quantum computing, which should eventually have the ability to crack just about anything. It is, however, still in its infancy, and bears a complexity that goes far beyond the limits of my understanding. To be sure, this technology will not be available to everyone when it is first released, mostly due to its costly nature. To my knowledge, it is far from operational. The Chinese just announced their launch of a quantum communication satellite, which is a huge breakthrough. They also have goals for 2030.
The encryption efforts are dependent on the value of data that is being protected, and the NSA does not disclose its actual capabilities; I personally feel, however, adequately protected with 256-bit encryption since the efforts to crack my exchanges would be disproportionately large compared to the secrets I want to keep. And what about the practical use of a 2048-bit dual VPN, except for the purposes of a great marketing stunt? Personally, I do not see the usefulness, but maybe it has more use than I give it credit for.
You would likely think that if it can do more, it could do less. That would be true if there was no impact on speed. Unfortunately, this is not the case! The more sophisticated the encryption protocol is, the more the speed tends to deteriorate. As for the double-VPN, the velocity drops beyond what is acceptable.
Everything is relative, however; The US Navy has developed a very low frequency communication system that allows it to send instructions to their submarines without requiring them to come to the surface. It is exceedingly slow, taking several minutes to send a message about the size of a mobile phone text message, but it is justified by the security it affords. They must avoid the disclosure of their submarine’s locations any price.
I am not a spy, nor would I involve myself in crime or terrorism. I also do not live in a country that jails its citizens just for their ideas; I simply want to protect my privacy, and a 256-bit encryption (OpenVPN) seems adequate to me. Every individual should evaluate their encryption needs according to their own requirements.
The quality of protection is one of the hallmarks of NordVPN. It protects us far beyond our current needs.
Beware of bugs. They are not blockers, but they are present.
Here is the first of them. The contract with Nord gives us the right to connect up to six devices at once behind the VPN. Not having a large family, I doubt I will need the ability to connect this many devices at once.
In the top right of the app, you can see the number of connected devices. The problem is that I only had one computer connected at the time of this screen shot. The counter is inaccurate, and because of this, I might find myself abroad, denied connection because the number of devices has falsely reached its maximum.
The support tells me that it is just a visual bug, that they are fixing it, and that it has no negative effect on the number of devices that I can connect.
One last little bug: I managed to crash the application. Do not ask me how I did it. I was already disconnected, so it did not affect the safety. I was about to close the application when I saw the following message:
There are people who can crash their equipment just by looking at it. I had that reputation long ago. It looks like it might be coming back!
None of the bugs that I showed you are really causes for concern, as they do not affect the quality of service. This is more of an attempt for us to prove you that we are not just reciting the operator's brochure to give you our opinion, as some of our competitors seem to do.
Our promise is to do our best and most honest review, so you can know what to expect and not to expect with NordVPN.
Besides, we did not inform NordVPN of our intentions when we purchased our subscription, and I kept them in the dark until the tests were completed. This was obviously to prevent any possibility of biased treatment.
NordVPN for PC is suitably stable. During my tests, I was disconnected only twice while I was sleeping, and according to my settings, the service did not reconnect automatically.
The good news is that my protection remained active. What I did not want to show to my internet service provider had been properly hidden, as I had programmed it to do.
I did have some problems with the Android app, particularly with connecting, which was sometimes difficult. This, however, should not deter most people.
In light of my tests, I consider the service to be stable (at least on PC), and compliant with my security requirements.
In this section, I would like to discuss three items:
- How to choose the server with the fastest speed.
- How to avoid being rejected by websites that ban some IPs.
- How to prevent sites from refusing to stream broadcasts due to geographic blocking, despite choosing a server in what should be a suitable country.
How to choose the server with the fastest speed
With NordVPN, to determine the best server to connect to, you must choose one that is compatible with the activities you are performing, connect to it, determine its speed, and if necessary, repeat the process with another server until you are satisfied.
I consider this process to be very inefficient, as there is no function for automatically measuring the server’s performances based on the type of server you are looking for. Some operators offer this service, but not most. However, considering the discrepancy speeds of NordVPN’s servers, it is be called for.
Speaking of which, the application also lacks a dropdown list allowing users to choose a protocol, which is especially important if 256-bit encryption is preferred.
How to avoid being rejected by websites that ban some IPs
This is not, strictly speaking, a NordVPN bug, but there are IPs, already given to others, resulting in rejection by some servers. This is due to the fact that users had connected to the same IP, and the website had blocked them in the past.
Here is, for instance, what happens when you try to access a site named cpasbien with an IP that they have blocked.
The workaround for this is to use a different server, whose IP is not forbidden. NordVPN has some servers that give you a dedicated IP. It would actually be better for all servers to have this feature by default, or alternatively, to have the possibility for each server to choose an IP in a scrolling list.
How to prevent sites from refusing to stream broadcasts due to geographic blocking, despite choosing a server in what should be a suitable country
When I travel, I sometimes want to watch TV programs in my native language, but for copyright reasons, broadcasting is not allowed outside of the country in which it is normal broadcast.
If you connect normally (without a VPN), the streaming is rejected. This is called geo-blocking, and a VPN is the right tool to get around this.
In theory, it should be sufficient to connect to a server in the country where you are allowed to watch the program (with a suitably fast connection) with NordVPN, thereby fooling the target site into believing that you are in the same country, even though you are, in fact, relaxing under a coconut tree with a mojito in your right hand, holding a straw between the toes of your left foot.
If you succeed doing that, please send us the pictures!
Unfortunately, this theory does not always work in the real world because the assigned IP might be recognized by the content provider as a VPN IP. This problem arises with virtually all VPN operators and not just with NordVPN. Users are, for example, running into issues with Netflix when using certain VPN servers.
Geographical blocking despite the selection of a server in the appropriate country
To fix this issue, you need to choose another server in the same geographical area, which in turn assigns you a different IP, one that is accepted by the sites broadcasting the programs that you want to watch.
In France, NordVPN has 130 servers, so there should be at least one that is accepted by the TV sites you want to watch. Belgium, however, has only 48 servers.
Therefore, we recommend, as long as your money-back guarantee is valid, that you ensure that the sites displaying your favorite programs are accessible from NordVPN’s servers. Otherwise you might end up traveling, without being able to watch the latest episode of Dallas that you love so much!
Having the ability to choose multiple IPs in every server would be a pretty nice feature.
To summarize, I think that NORDVPN has still some work to do in giving their users all the desired features. They do, however, provide as good an experience as any other VPN out there in this regard.
For most of our speed tests, we use the site Speedtest by Ookla. This is an extremely serious site, but unfortunately, we cannot ignore the temptation that VPN vendors may have to increase the priority of speed when they detect a flow for measuring it. This is not to say that the VPN operators cheat, but I posit that they might be tempted to do so.
I tested from my baseline of about 20Mbps download and a ping of 15ms, not particularly slow nor particularly fast either. These performance specs are stable and guaranteed by my Internet service provider. I also tested not only the regular VPNs, but also some of the “niche” ones, like Ultra Fast TV, Onion over VPN and DoubleVPN. Here are the results.
My connection without VPN.
US Server #1 UK- automatic
Romania- Auto Russia- Auto
Ultra fast TV Dedicated IP- Germany #70
Double- UK - Netherlands Double- Russia - Netherlands
P2P- Sweden #12 P2P- US #305
As you can see, the results vary considerably, and I suspect that if I were to do these tests on a different day, or simply at different times of the day, I would get different results. No matter how fast or reliable the connection is with a VPN provider, this kind of fluctuation is somewhat inevitable. I also suspect that this difference in performance is due to NordVPN servers not being dedicated, and their bandwidth not being contractually guaranteed (this type of contract is more expensive).
I was particularly impressed with my connection speed during my first “Double VPN” test, as I was expecting the speed to be slower. As you may know, as a general rule, the more encryption you have, the slower the speed. I was even able to stream Netflix, almost, with waiting for buffering with the Double VPN connection.
Another point worth mentioning is that the connection that Nord automatically chooses for you for a particular country is not always the best or fastest. It appears that it is sometimes worth testing a few connections (of which there are many, to say the least), instead of taking the easy way and just letting the program decide for you. This is a bit of a disappointment, but certainly not a deal breaker.
Overall, the connections they offer are very fast and certainly can handle whatever you can throw at them. I especially appreciate the selection of “special purpose servers” they provide.