Review: Nord VPN
While I don't always use VPN, though I probably should based on nothing more than my advocacy for privacy. One of the reasons many don't is that they either don't understand or know about VPN services or find them too hard to use.
In choosing a VPN provider I look for a few basic things and if they are not there I move on. The first thing to check when considering any VPN service is their terms of service. Some "popular" VPN services make it clear, assuming you read the fine print, that they keep log files of who is connecting and your real IP address. In my mind, this is not privacy because you are exposing your activities to an unknown third party who could do anything with this information.
VPN's are not intended for illegal activity, however! In some nations even saying the wrong think can land you in jail. In Turkey a journalist can land in hot water for insulting the prime minister. I guess mere words can be illegal, so when it comes to political dissent, a VPN is a valuable tool for this type of "illegal activity". Choose one that does not keep logs. NordVPN does not keep logs.
Ease of use in important. Look for a VPN that has a native GUI or app rather than having to configure and update a third party app. NordVPN is one of those providers who offer a native app for desktop as well as smartphones. NordVPN's Android app is very easy to use with one click service. Others rely on the OpenVPN app which, while technically quite suitable is more difficult to configure and test. I am not as impressed by the Nord desktop GUI as I am by others as it offers fewer options to select servers as they are not grouped by location. If you click US under country you are not given a losst of cities/states as some others provide, you are just connected, apparantly at random to a server.
Speed/Reliability. Many VPN providers including Nord, offer ping statistics and load. A ping is the time it takes for the server to respond a a request which represents the round trip time from your location to the server. Faster (low number) is better with 50ms or so very good but even 100ms is adequate. The Nord interface only shows pings for some servers but not all. I was not overly impressed by their pings but they are probably fast enough for almost all your needs. I prefer to be presented with a list of geographic locations from which to choose my server.
Number of servers. While this is a measure of the size of the network and the number of connections you can choose from, I don't necessarily consider this the highest priority. As long as there are "enough" and they are not heavily loaded, you should be good to go. Their locations can be important if you are in a geographical location where your ISP/Government is blocking certain internet access. By connecting via a neutral uncensored server, you can get around local censorship.
Some content is blocked by providers for citizens in their own country to assure profits for local media. A VPN offers a way to appear to connect from somewhere else in the world to view that content.
Tests: I typically test a VPN with a few sites designed for that purpose as well as a couple of those random chat sites. Why chat sites? They often monitor and ban users for violations of their terms of service which black lists their IP for a period. Some seem to block access to anyone suspected of using a VPN to connect. I find that compared to other VPN services, Nord appears to give itself away somehow because having tried a number of servers in their major server list, they all seem to be blocked. I was only able to connect by selecting a couple of servers in their Standard VPN list.
I look for DNS leaks. Nord seems to pass these without effort. That said I still suggest users change their network settings to use either Google or OpenDNS numbers, removing those provided by your ISP.
Very competitive pricing.
Reasonable number of servers
Easy to install and configure on all platforms tested.
No DNS leaks detected.
Appears to give itself away to some sites. (not sure how).
GUI offers no way to narrow down to specific server locations.
Ping times adequate but not Earth shaking.
Bottom line: Very affordable service that will suit most people's needs for privacy and security.