NordVPN provides an excellent service, making it one of the gold standards in the industry – but surely there has to be a catch.
VPNs are weird to review. They’ve gotten so good over the last few years, and so vital to the daily browsing experience for so many, that writing a review about a VPN feels more like a formality than an actual recommendation.
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, that creates a tunnel to other servers to spoof where you’re currently based.
NordVPN, however, is probably our number one recommendation out of the bunch. The various competitors – even if they’re owned by the same company – all seem to be attempting to ape NordVPN’s layout and offerings, and with good reason.
Despite being one of the more difficult ones to use for certain activities – you’re limited when downloading torrents to particular servers – and we don’t think that it’ll be great for those that want more control over their VPNs. Trying to force NordVPN to play nicely with third-party controllers for virtual private networks can be a hefty task, as Nord is adamant that you use their own software.
This isn’t such a bad thing, as Nord has built an excellent user interface, one that is easy to use for beginners and gives just enough information for those that are a little bit more involved.
Using NordVPN is a good experience, but not perfect. On macOS, we’ve had it crash a few times, on Windows, it absolutely slows down boot times, but on iOS we’ve had no issues so far actually using the app. We have, however, had the bizarre issue of when we move from Wi-Fi to 5G or 4G, we’d essentially lose connection.
The phone and app both recognize that it’s still connected, but far too often we have to pause or disconnect entirely from the protection of the VPN to use the phone properly.
What’s weird is that this issue doesn’t always persist, but always when it’s most crucial and has caused massive interruptions when calling over WhatsApp or similar apps.
Watching what you shouldn’t
Mobile issues aside, the real meat and potatoes come with getting around the bizarre choices that corporations make regarding locking around your geographical area. Netflix and YouTube are incredibly easy to get around, but don’t expect to get an easy experience when wanting to watch the latest episodes of Crayon Shin-Chan with subtitles.
Wanting to watch locked things on Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms will also work just fine, as long as the country you’re connecting to isn’t also locked out. However, remember that you won’t be able to easily access things like Adult Swim to watch Rick & Morty, as that would require you to have access to a US cable subscription.
You should however be able to watch and subscribe to things like Hulu, HBO Max and even access BBC iPlayer through it, but you’ll need to reconnect via NordVPN to continue using them after doing so. You’ll also find, if you’re on a poor connection or a country with a bad server, that you’ll have to wrestle with the bad connection while streaming.
During our testing on a Three 5G Hub, which averages between 180Mbps to 200Mbps, we saw no noticeable difference in speeds. The further out we connected, the lower our speeds got, but it was never anything ridiculous. Even when connecting to places like South Korea or Japan, we rarely saw any issues with the speed.
NordVPN does feature a million and one other features, including Dark Web sweeping, which works by aggregating all the various leaks and hacks posted to Pastebin or other websites. While we managed to secure one account, we have no idea if we’re super secure, uninteresting enough to avoid the various password leaks or if it wasn’t scraping hard enough.
Meshnet, something to connect everything via the VPN, we got to work, but other than connecting a few laptops from our various reviews together to run a fake LAN party, we think the feature is great, but not entirely useful to people without a playgroup.
NordVPN is a boon to everyone who uses it, but it does come with some minor caveats. It’s the industry standard for a reason, offering excellent privacy options and features. You might notice a few issues with regards to speed the further you connect from yourself, and torrenting can be a hassle at times. However, the added layer of protection and various options to curtail the ever-prying eyes of your provider is too much of a benefit to really complain about things.