When you put two well-known VPN brands in a head-to-head battle, you expect a competitive showing out of both. That just wasn't the case with Norton Secure VPN and NordVPN. Despite worldwide brand recognition and a lengthy company history, NortonLifeLock just hasn't put its best foot forward with Norton Secure VPN. It's got a long way to go before it can best a heavyweight VPN like NordVPN. The two are still worth comparing, however, due to their dominance in the VPN market.
Here's how these two VPNs stack up when it comes to security features, speed and price.
Editors' note, Feb. 9, 2022: The VPN industry has undergone significant change in the past few months, with all three of our top VPN choices announcing major changes in corporate ownership. In December, ExpressVPN announced that it had officially joined Kape Technologies, a company that already owns several other VPNs and has raised privacy concerns in the past. In February, NordVPN and Surfshark announced the two companies were merging, though they'll continue to operate autonomously. We're in the process of reevaluating all of our top picks in light of these changes. We will update our reviews and, if necessary, our rankings to account for this new competitive landscape.
There are few more familiar names in information security than Norton and LifeLock. But with limited VPN server options and a few dealbreaker security issues, it's clear that the Norton Secure VPN from NortonLifeLock still has some work to do before it can meet the high standards set by its sibling security products.
In terms of speed, Norton's are on par with other midtier VPNs: During my testing, it achieved only about 43% of the average 187 megabit-per-second speed achieved on a 1 gigabit-per-second-capable fiber connection during testing, while still maintaining an average of around 81Mbps globally. But unlike many other VPNs, Norton doesn't allow you to choose the city you connect to -- only the country. Norton's Hong Kong servers dragged down overall speed scores, averaging just 6Mbps. So if you're looking for a VPN to use while traveling in China, you may want to consider a different option.
Norton offers what it calls bank-grade encryption -- standard AES-256 -- but offers no kill switch, which would prevent network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. I'd generally consider a lack of kill switch a deal breaker. The Norton VPN also didn't mask my IPv6 address, and I experienced DNS leaks during testing -- major security red flags from a product that's supposed to mask your browsing activity.
This also led to difficulties accessing Netflix. So if you're looking for a VPN service that will allow you to access your normal media subscriptions while traveling, we recommend seeking a different VPN provider for now. We likewise recommend looking elsewhere if you want a VPN that allows torrenting, can be used on a wide variety of devices, or can be paid for in Bitcoin.
Norton Secure VPN is only available on the four main platforms -- Windows, Android, Mac and iOS. Depending on your subscription, you can opt for one, five or 10 simultaneous connections. The least expensive plan is the $5 monthly plan, which allows only one device at a time. The most expensive is the 10-device annual plan for $60. That's more than you should be paying for something that doesn't disguise your location, doesn't support Netflix and drags on speed.
On the plus side, the VPN application comes with a built-in ad-tracking blocker.
This heavy-hitter stays on our list of the best mobile VPNs for many reasons, including its status as the reigning champion of the value-for-money ratio. Hands-down, you aren't going to get a VPN anywhere else that can do more than NordVPN does, as cheap as NordVPN does it. Despite a security breach reported last year, you'll be hard-pressed to find another VPN that can do what NordVPN does at all.
Sure, NordVPN could offer a little more privacy if it boosted the number of servers it owns, but I'm talking about 5,000-plus servers in 60 countries, a strict zero-log policy and a jurisdiction in Panama. It's an encryption powerhouse that recently switched to RAM-disk mode, and has a feature that allows you to VPN into Tor. It's available for not only iOS and Android, but also Windows Phone and even BlackBerry.
In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN's performance was on par with many of its competitors, reducing our speeds by 53% on average (which is slower than the 32% loss measured in previous speed tests). We found NordVPN's speeds were reliably fast. There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where we expected the VPN to underperform, it proved itself up to the task.
For all that, how much are you paying? The company's two-year VPN subscription plan currently costs $3.67 a month ($99 billed at once). That price is lower than most contenders, but creeps up for the one-year plan ($4.92 a month or $59 total) and the monthly plan ($11.95 a month). And yes, the VPN company also has a full 30-day refund policy if you aren't happy with the service.
While a two-year plan is a big commitment to make to any service provider in the privacy field, NordVPN has developed a reputation for offering fair refunds, and it's currently running a buy-one-get-one deal.