In this post, I want to talk about my favorite VPN service.
NordVPN has been my go-to VPN service provider for quite some time. And believe it or not, it has helped me numerous times – even in blogging-related tasks.
Here are some of the things we’ll discuss in this NordVPN review:
- What is NordVPN
- How to use it
- How fast is it
- What else can it do
- How much it costs
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
What is NordVPN?
NordVPN is a popular VPN or “Virtual Private Network” service that can encrypt your connection and hide your true location. This can significantly improve your online privacy as well as help unlock geo-restricted content and services.
In the VPN community, NordVPN is considered as one of the best and most trusted companies on the market.
It offers the best value for money in terms of speed, stability, coverage, and features. However, there may be times when picking an alternative VPN service provider makes more sense.
We’ll get to that later.
For now, allow me to talk about NordVPN’s features and why I handpicked it for my day-to-day activities.
How do VPNs work?
VPNs or “Virtual Private Networks” create secure tunnels that allow users to connect to the internet safely and anonymously. Service providers utilize a network of servers distributed in multiple locations across the globe.
NordVPN, in particular, has over 5,300 servers in a grand total of 59 countries.
While there are VPN companies that operate more servers than NordVPN, remember that server count isn’t always indicative of performance.
Sure, having a lot of servers is useful if you want users worldwide to have a reliable and consistent service. But once you have enough servers to cover key locations, server quality becomes more important.
That’s why NordVPN only uses high-speed, dedicated servers.
They also offer multiple “Specialty Servers” that fit specific needs, like file-sharing, deep web browsing, and enhanced security.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t rely on a spec sheet when making a purchase decision.
Instead, you need to look at its usability, real-life performance, features, and pricing.
How to use NordVPN
Tip: You can get three free months on your NordVPN 2-year plan by clicking here.
To show you how easy it is to use NordVPN, let me walk you through the setup process.
Step 1: Installing the NordVPN app
After purchasing a NordVPN plan, the next step is to install it on your device.
Just go to the “Downloads” page and NordVPN should recommend the right version for you.
In my case, I had to download NordVPN for macOS.
That means I have to use the App Store to install it on my computer.
Apart from macOS, NordVPN also supports the following operating systems:
- Android (Mobile)
- iOS (Mobile)
- AndroidTV (Smart TV)
You can find the right installation package from the “Downloads” page.
Step 2: Choosing a connection
Upon installation, advanced users may configure their VPN settings. Beginners are advised to use NordVPN’s presets, which you can enable right off the bat.
These presets should now appear on the connections list: downloads, speed, and browsing.
All that’s left to do is sign into your account and you’re good to go.
To connect to a VPN server, click one of the presets, countries, or specialty servers. You can also click ‘Quick connect’ and have NordVPN pick an ideal connection for you.
If you clicked a country, NordVPN will automatically choose a server for you. If you want, you can also pick a specific server by clicking the ellipsis next to the listed country.
In big countries like the United States, NordVPN lets you pick a specific region.
Again, you can also click the ‘Quick connect’ if you don’t want to comb through the list of connections yourself. NordVPN should automatically assign one that will perform well for you.
Step 3: Switching connections on the fly
NordVPN allows you to quickly switch servers through the menu bar (system tray on Windows) icon.
Simply click to reveal all available connections and choose the server you want to use.
The entire process should only take a few seconds.
Step 4: Pausing or disconnecting your VPN connection
Lastly, you can pause or disconnect NordVPN from the menu bar icon.
You should see these options at the very top of the list.
Alternatively, you can disconnect from your VPN connection by quitting the NordVPN app.
NordVPN will show a notification reminding you that your active VPN connection will close.
Click ‘Yes’ to disconnect and close the NordVPN app.
Usability-wise, NordVPN’s interface is as simple as it gets.
All the features you need, including quick server switching and pausing, are only a few clicks away.
I think the interactive VPN map is a nice touch.
It makes it easier to look for VPN servers near your location. Still, a lot of users prefer the server list since the map can feel clunky and slow on some machines.
How fast is NordVPN?
Connection speed is a major concern among VPN users.
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about slow connections when using NordVPN.
To give you an idea, here’s a speed test of my connection with NordVPN disabled:
I know, I don’t have the fastest internet in the world.
But that’s beside the point.
Now, here’s my speed test results after connecting to NordVPN’s recommended server:
Take note that, in the second screenshot, SpeedTest.net detected that I’m connected to a foreign ISP.
That’s just NordVPN working its magic.
Also, notice that – other than the slightly higher ping and slower upload speed – the download speeds are roughly the same.
Even you won’t be able to tell that you’re using NordVPN when using services like Netflix, YouTube, or Spotify.
Remember, you don’t have to take my word for it.
You can sign up for a free trial or give their one-month plan a test drive. You should get the same experience regardless of where you live – thanks to NordVPN’s network of servers.
You can further configure NordVPN and customize your experience through the “Preferences” window.
Just click the ‘Preferences’ button from the NordVPN app interface to get started.
From there, you can configure NordVPN’s general settings, “Auto-connect” feature, presets, appearance, and other tools.
Here are some of the things you need to look at:
Using CyberSec and different VPN protocols
On the “General Settings” tab, you can set whether or not NordVPN should launch upon your system’s startup.
Take note that I’m currently using the macOS version of NordVPN.
With the Windows version, the preferences window will have slightly different tabs and features. But the core features you can use should be the same except for the “Split tunneling” feature.
You can also enable the “CyberSec” feature, which will proactively block access to shady sites.
Remember, a VPN won’t protect you against malware if you download anything infected. In addition, using a VPN will bypass any protection that your government put in place against known harmful sites.
That being said, I recommend enabling CyberSec if you want to explore sites you’re unfamiliar with.
On the general settings page, you can also select a specific VPN protocol and allow NordVPN to gather user data.
Currently, NordVPN supports the following VPN protocols:
- OpenVPN UDP
- OpenVPN TCP
You can refer to this page for information on picking a VPN protocol.
Personally, I just let NordVPN pick the recommended protocol for me. I suggest beginners do the same.
Enabling the auto-connect feature
When working on the go, you sometimes have no choice but to use an untrusted WiFi hotspot.
You can configure NordVPN to automatically patch you through a VPN when connecting to these networks.
Simply head to the “Auto-connect” tab and enable the toggle next to “When using untrusted network.”
By default, NordVPN will automatically connect you to a recommended country. You can keep this setting to ensure you’ll get a reliable connection whenever the auto-connect feature kicks in.
Just don’t forget to add your trusted networks to the list below.
You can do this by clicking ‘Trust’ next to the network you’re currently connected to.
Protecting your data from the dark web
Like any top-of-the-line security software, NordVPN features a “Dark Web Monitor” tool.
This is a turnkey solution that will protect your data against cybercriminals. All you have to do is click ‘Turn on’ and you’re protected.
The Dark Web Monitor works by passively scanning the dark web for information linked with your email address.
Once active, it will alert you on all detected data leaks that may have affected you. From there, you may react by updating your username or password and clear the alerts yourself.
I also like the fact that NordVPN also includes a description of the events that led to the data breach. This will help educate non-tech-savvy users on the importance of password hygiene and safe browsing practices.
Split tunneling (Windows only)
If you’re using Windows 10, you can take advantage of NordVPN’s split tunneling feature.
This allows you to enable or disable your VPN connection for specific apps only.
To use it, just head to the ‘Split tunneling’ tab and click the split tunneling toggle. You can then specify the apps that should use or bypass your VPN connection using the list below.
This is useful if you only need to use a VPN for specific activities, like using online banking or streaming.
You can also use it to prevent your VPN from causing issues with certain apps.
For example, your mail app may have sync issues whenever your service provider detects that you’re connecting from another country. This can be easily fixed by using split tunneling and disabling the VPN for Windows Mail.
Other settings pages you can access
An average VPN user only needs to care about the settings pages mentioned above.
There are, however, a few other pages you can check out to maximize your NordVPN experience:
- Presets – NordVPN automatically installs three presets you can use for specific tasks. You can also create a custom preset with shortcuts to your favorite apps and websites.
- Kill Switch – The “Kill Switch” feature is always turned on to protect your data whenever a VPN connection unexpectedly fails. You may also enable the advanced Kill Switch option, which adds more protection but can affect the functionality of applications.
- Appearance – On the “Appearance” tab, you can choose where you can access the NordVPN app. This is only available for macOS users.
- Other apps – Lastly, you can check out other NordVPN services by going to the “Other Apps” tab. This includes NordPass, NordLocker, and NordLayer.
This takes us to the next section.
Other NordVPN services
Not a lot of VPN services have add-ons that can help you stay extra secure on the internet.
That’s another reason why you should consider picking up NordVPN.
With NordPass and NordLocker, you can take your online privacy to a whole new level.
NordPass is a secure password manager that automatically syncs your credentials across multiple devices.
It also comes with an “autofill” feature, which means you don’t have to manually type your password once it’s saved. This makes it easier to use strong passwords with symbols, uppercase letters, and numbers.
NordPass offers a free version with some limitations. If you want to get the paid version, you only need to spend a minimum of $1.49 per month.
NordLocker is an encrypted cloud storage solution.
As long as your NordVPN account is logged in, you can access your encrypted files from any device. And thanks to NordLocker’s “Zero-knowledge encryption,” not even they are allowed to see what’s inside your cloud storage.
Just like NordPass, NordLocker also has a free version. But if you want access to all features with 500 GB storage, the premium version costs $3.99 per month.
Finally, there’s NordLayer for companies that need the security and anonymity benefits that a VPN can provide.
NordLayer is clearly not for everyone. But if you run a big website with employees working remotely, it’s worth picking up – thanks to the affordable pricing.
NordLayer costs $7 per month per user with the “Basic” plan. If you want dedicated servers and priority support, you’ll need the “Advanced” plan, which costs $9 per user.
Now that we’ve covered all of NordVPN’s key features, it’s time to answer the question:
How much does it cost?
While I don’t consider NordVPN as a “budget” brand, it’s definitely accessible even to budget-conscious users.
Take a look at NordVPN’s affordable pricing plans:
- 1-month plan – $11.95 per month
- 1-year plan – $4.92 per month
- 2-year plan – $3.67 per month
NordVPN Frequently Asked Questions
Is NordVPN free?
NordVPN is a paid VPN service that currently doesn’t offer a free plan. However, they have a free trial program with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Is a VPN illegal?
No – using a VPN is completely legal as long as you don’t use it in illegal activities. It’s also legal to use VPNs to access online content and services that are meant for different countries.
Are VPNs a waste of money?
VPN services are affordable and provide a lot of value through add-on features. It’s not a waste of money as long as you can pay for it and regularly enjoy its benefits.
Should I use a VPN at home?
VPNs are not only useful in securing public WiFI hotspots. While at home, you can use a VPN to access restricted websites, services, and even special discounts.
Can you leave a VPN on all the time?
Yes – you can leave your device connected to a VPN at all times. Just be sure you’re using a VPN service like NordVPN that doesn’t enforce bandwidth limits on their subscribers.
What are the downsides of using a VPN?
Using VPN, especially a poorly configured one, can have a slight impact on your browsing speed. In some cases, services like Outlook won’t sync your account if it detects you’re using a different IP.
NordVPN is one of the few things that completely changed the way I use the internet.
I’m willing to bet that it’ll be incredibly useful for you, too.
Apart from their top-tier security features, NordVPN’s performance and usability are also among the best in the VPN market.
At the very least, I highly suggest you start a free trial. When it’s over or if you’re satisfied, come back and click here.
Remember, using this link will get you three months free if you subscribe to a 2-year plan!
For questions, suggestions, and feedback, use the comment box below. Let me know what you think about NordVPN or any of its top alternatives.