We think a good VPN provider should be constantly busy updating, maintaining and polishing its service. That's not the impression we got from nVPN's website, though: the Facebook page hadn't been updated since 2012 and the latest front-page news story dated back to 2011.
Poor marketing doesn't necessarily mean there are any issues with the core product, of course, so we checked the support pages – and found they weren't much better. The ‘OpenVPN errors’ section refers to Win 7/Vista at the very latest, and the ‘How to setup on iPhone/iPad’ page has a 2013 line saying it's an "old approach", "not recommended" and pointing you to other instructions on the site.
The core product seems reasonable at first. 60+ servers in around 40 countries, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec(IKEv1/IKEv2), Squid & Socks5 proxy, port forwarding, no bandwidth limits or service throttling.
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But wait. You have to select a server location when you sign up, and can only switch for free once, in the member's area on the website. Unlimited switching – usually offered for free elsewhere – costs you $10 (£8, AU$13) a month at nVPN.
So far, so not-very-impressive, but at least the baseline prices are low. If you can live without unlimited switching, nVPN costs $6 (£4.85, AU$7.90) for a one-off month, $3.08 (£2.50, AU$4) per month if you sign up for a year.
Researching this uncovered a 2013 exchange on nVPN's (no longer existing) forum where a thread about logging gets a complaint about DNS leaks which generates an astonishing, angry ‘sort it out yourself’ response. This was a long time ago, and maybe there are entirely different people involved in the VPN now with a totally new attitude, but as the website largely dates from that time it might explain why there's little privacy-related help.
We scanned the rest of nVPN's small print, and identified only three other minor issues, all shared by many other services. Your account is strictly for a single user; make ‘unreasonable’ use of the service and your account may be closed; and refunds are only given up to 3 days after purchase, if the service is down or you can't connect at all.
Signing up for nVPN requires some care, because as we mentioned, the regular plan doesn't support unlimited server switching. You're able to choose one location during setup, and you get one other change for free, but to move again you must purchase an ‘unlimited switch’ subscription for $10 (£8, AU$13) per month.
Next, we received an email containing our VPN username, password, and a link to nVPN's OpenVPN configuration files. The company doesn't have the step-by-step OpenVPN installation tutorials you'll see elsewhere, but if you've used the program before you'll have no problems at all.
We spotted an odd issue on the nVPN website. For some reason the ‘client area’ uses a Captcha-type system before it allows you to log in, and this wasn't fully visible in Chrome. We saw a Submit button but no Captcha options to select anything, so were unable to log in, or see the reason why. Switching to Edge, IE or Firefox addressed the problem, but as Chrome is the most popular browser in the world we'd really expect that to work, too.
Once we actually got down to testing*, there was some good news: the VPN’s performance was impressive. We weren't able to test all locations, but key links such as UK to New York had below-average latency and download speeds approaching 40Mbps – very fast indeed for our connection.
You may see different results depending on your location and the server you choose, but from our experience it looks like nVPN offers very capable performance considering the relatively low price.
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*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.