There are tons of VPNs on the market nowadays but we ranked NordVPN as the best VPN for Mac users due to its rock solid security, reliability and slick macOS desktop client that also works on M1 Macs.
Even better, NordVPN is currently running a Special Limited Deal of 68% off all new subscriptions plus 3 months free making it one of the cheapest deals on the market right now.
In this review, we take a closer look at what NordVPN can do and how it performs on a Mac.
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One of the main reasons people look for a VPN is to protect their privacy online.
NordVPN has a big advantage compared to other VPNs because it’s officially based in Panama.
Why is this important?
Panama does not participate in communication interceptions or information sharing agreements that most countries adhere too. This includes the 5, 9 and 14 Eyes data sharing agreement which exists between countries.
This gives NordVPN a distinct legal advantage when it comes to protecting customer privacy from anyone that may seek information regarding your surfing activity, apps used, content watched etc.
Like any reputable VPN, NordVPN also guarantees it has a No Logs policy. This means that it does not maintain any record of your surfing activity, app usage or identity.
NordVPN is also the first VPN service to be audited for it’s No Logs policy so you can be pretty sure that they mean it when they say your data is neither stored not shared with any third party.
The only data that NordVPN monitors is the performance of servers to help improve connections and the email address you used to sign-up with.
Be aware however that the payment provider used by NordVPN uses the US-based company CloudVPN which may retain a record of payment for NordVPN but nothing more.
One other nice touch to protect your identity and data online is NordVPNs CyberSec feature. CyberSec blocks ads, popups and suspicious sites that may be trying to steal your data through phishing or insert malware on your Mac.
There aren’t many VPNs that deal with this (it’s usually more of an anti-malware/ad-blocking/anti-virus software related topic) and it’s a nice bonus that seems to do its job well.
NordVPN is certainly right on the cutting edge when it comes to security.
While some VPNs are still using the L2TP/IPsec and PPTP security protocols, NordVPN has already gone one step further and switched to the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols (which uses “military grade” AES-256-GCM encryption).
L2TP/IPsec and PPTP are no longer secure as they used to be so NordVPN was one of the first to ditch it and switch to the securer protocols.
OpenVPN is very versatile and supports a wide range of strong encryption algorithms and ciphers. NordVPN uses OpenVPN with an ultra strong AES-256-CBC with a 2048-bit DH key.
IKEv2/IPsec is also extremely secure and NordVPN uses AES-256-GCM for encryption with SHA2-384 to ensure integrity, combined with PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy) using 3072-bit DH keys.
What makes NordVPN standout however is that it encrypts your data not just once but twice if you want it to.
By passing connections through two servers, NordVPN uses a “double lock” which means it’s virtually impossible to decrypt it.
The slight downside of this is that it does slow down the VPN connection slightly which can create problems when streaming video. However, the double lock is optional – you don’t have to activate it in which case streaming speeds are not affected.
On the subject of speed, download and upload speeds on NordVPN are generally excellent although like any VPN, server speeds will fluctuate depending on the number of users, server distance and other factors.
In fact, NordVPN is an award-winning VPN for speed from internet speed testing organization Ookla which gave NordVPN its seal of approval.
To enhance security, like any good VPN, NordVPN also uses a Kill Switch.
This means that if there’s any break in your VPN connection, it instantly kills the connection so that your data isn’t suddenly exposed. You can choose to activate or deactivate this as well as choose which apps it works with.
Generally the more servers a VPN service has, the more reliable it is because it can handle high volumes of traffic more easily or quickly switch between them if one fails for any reason.
NordVPN has an impressive 5000+ servers which is well above the average for VPNs.
The same goes for the number of countries a VPN provider has servers in. The more countries it covers, the more services it can unblock that are blocked in your region.
NordVPN has servers in 62 countries which again, is well above average and means it can unlock pretty much any geo-blocked site or service, anywhere in the world.
One thing we noticed is that some servers are certainly faster than others.
NordVPN shows the connection response time in milliseconds next to each server so our advice is go for the lowest one possible. If you find one is a bit slow, just switch to another until you find a faster one.
One thing we really liked on NordVPN compared to other VPNs is the SmartPlay feature. SmartPlay is designed for automatically unlocking streaming sites and automatically connects you to a server in the right country.
So for example, if you’re trying to access the BBC iPlayer outside of the UK, it will automatically connect you to a UK server.
However, like any VPN, this doesn’t always work perfectly but this is because streaming sites are constantly trying to block VPN IPs from streaming content.
If you find that streaming suddenly stops or won’t work, switching to another server usually works but sometimes it’s a case of trial and error until you find the right one.
NordVPN Mac App
NordVPN has a very easy to use slick Mac client which installs on your Mac’s desktop.
There are actually two versions of the NordVPN app for macOS users – an OpenVPN version available for download from the NordVPN website and an IKEv2 version available on the Mac App Store.
We strongly recommend using the OpenVPN version provided by NordVPN as OpenVPN is widely recognized as the most secure protocol available. It’s also updated faster by NordVPN whereas updates to the Mac App Store version have to be vetted by Apple first.
There are also NordVPN apps for Windows, iOS and Android devices.
In total you can connect up to six devices to NordVPN on one subscription and you can share your VPN connection with PlayStation, XBox, Kodi and others.
Note that when you setup NordVPN on your Mac, you may receive the warning “NordVPN IKE would like to add VPN Configurations. All network activity may be filtered or monitored when using VPN.”
You can safely click on “Allow” because it’s a generic warning that macOS throws up if you try to connect a VPN. Don’t worry as NordVPN itself does not filter or monitor any activity due to it’s No Logs policy (see Security section above).
When you log into NordVPN, there’s a simple user interface which shows your current IP address and a map of NordVPN locations.
It will warn you that your real IP is visible until you connect to the network.
You can connect to any of these locations simply by clicking on one of them.
Once connected to a server, you will see the message “Real IP Hidden” meaning that you are now surfing anonymously.
In the Settings, you can select a specific NordVPN server or location to always connect to on startup.
You can also specify which apps connect to which servers so for example, you can force iPlayer to always connect to a UK server but Safari to connect to a US server if you want.
You can also activate or deactivate the Kill Switch as well as customize which apps it works for.
Under the Help section, you can customize things like a favorite servers list, see a full list of servers world-wide and export a log of your connections to send to Support for troubleshooting.
Advanced Settings include the ability to Start on Boot, enable notifications and DNS settings.
Note that with the Mac App Store version of NordVPN, you can’t change the connection protocol whereas if you download direct from the NordVPN site, you can customize the OpenVPN protocol you connect with.
The VPN market is extremely competitive nowadays and NordVPN currently offers some of the biggest discounts in the industry.
At the moment NordVPN is offering a Limited Special Deal of 68% off new subscriptions.
Note that this is valid for 3 year plans only. This is extremely good value though considering how well NordVPN compares to other VPNs in terms of security, performance, number of servers/locations and customization features.
If you choose to subscribe for just one month at a time, it’s considerably more expensive.
NordVPN also has a 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not happy with it.