Norton VPN Review Pros Cons And Alternatives In 2023

Avast SecureLine, Kaspersky Secure Connection, and Avira PhantomVPN are just a few of the security companies that provide VPN services. Norton Secure VPN, formerly known as Norton WiFi Privacy, is the company's entry into this market.

The NortonLifeLock website made no real effort to tell us how the service compared to the specialized competition, which piqued our interest.

For example, how many nations does it support? Who are they? Can you pick particular cities? What is the number of servers? All seems to be kept a secret.

Apps are available for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Plans to protect 1, 5, or 10 devices are also available, and tracker blocking is included without cost.

After setting up the service, we later learned that the network includes 31 nations (there is no option to select a specific city) in Europe and North America, in addition to Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa.

The service makes use of the quick and secure IKEv2 protocol, but it doesn't offer instructions on how to manually set it up on other devices. Only the apps support it.

There is a strict, and we do mean seriously strict, no-P2P policy. Secure VPN immediately cuts off your connection if it discovers you are downloading a torrent, even if it is something that is blatantly legitimate, like the most recent Ubuntu ISO.

Secure VPN does have a few new features worth highlighting, despite the severe lack of information on the main website.

The most recent version of Windows includes a kill switch to safeguard your connection, for example, if the VPN disconnects. Now, it can connect itself when your computer turns on. Even better, a brand-new split tunneling feature lets you select which app traffic should go through the VPN and which should use your regular connection. It's unfortunate that Norton doesn't make more (or "any") effort to describe this on the main website because these combine to make the app significantly more capable than the previous version.

Review of Norton Secure VPN: Plans and Costs

Although Norton Secure VPN is a standalone product, it is also included in some Norton 360 security suite editions, and it is obvious from the pricing structure that NortonLifeLock wants you to purchase the Norton 360 security suite.

For example, Secure VPN's monthly plan(opens in new tab), which costs $7.99 to cover up to five devices ($9.99 for ten), is reasonably priced ($9.99 for ten devices), and its annual plan(opens in new tab), which costs an equivalent $3.33 per month, appears to be inexpensive. At least, until you discover that the price is only discounted by 50% during the first month and then skyrockets to $6.66 when your subscription is renewed.

To put that into perspective, Norton Secure VPN charges $40 for the first year and $80 for each year after that; by contrast, if you pay Ivacy(opens in new tab) $80, you instantly receive five years of protection.

But hold on—another there's option. When you purchase Norton Secure VPN along with Norton 360 Deluxe (opens in new tab), you'll also get parental controls, a password manager, 50GB of cloud storage, antivirus protection for up to 5 PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets, and more. However, the monthly cost of the annual plan remains at $3.33 for the first year and only slightly increases to $8.75 at renewal ($105 for the year).

Compare that to Bitdefender's comparable Total Security 2021(opens in new tab), for example. Bitdefender is very slightly less expensive ($3.33 per month for the first year, $7.50 on renewal), but it only offers a 200Mb per day per device VPN. The Norton bundle looks like a great deal until you realize that getting the full VPN requires upgrading to Bitdefender Premium Security, which costs a hefty $6.25 per month for the first year and $12.50 for renewal.

If you sign up on a mobile device, a free trial is available, and even if you decide to buy, you're covered by an incredibly generous sixty-day money-back guarantee. The exact rules vary depending on where and how you purchase the product, but that is the general idea. Here, reading the fine print very carefully is the best advice.

Logging and privacy

A no-log virtual private network that doesn't monitor or store your activity, according to the Secure VPN website, is what the service offers. Although there isn't any additional information on the front page, that's a good start.

The service "collects subscriber information for communication purposes, mobile device data, and aggregate bandwidth usage," but it "does not log information about where you go on the internet," according to a support article.

To learn more, the article directs us to its global privacy policy, but this is an even more general document that aims to cover the entire Norton line ('VPN' doesn't appear once).

According to the actual Norton Secure VPN privacy policy(opens in new tab), the service gathers or accesses information such as your IP address or location (anonymized); device name, type, OS version (for mobile devices), and ID serial number; a running total of bandwidth used; and some very basic diagnostic information to help with any issues (an error state code, for instance.)

There aren't any huge surprises in this. It appears that locations are gathered or accessed, but not linked to your account, to aid the Secure VPN app in selecting the closest server to you. Even though it's possible that the service gathers enough information to identify a specific device, your privacy won't be jeopardized if Norton doesn't link that device to a session and doesn't keep track of the domains you visit or the resources you access.

Even though all of that is good news, there is still more logging than some. And unlike some of the competition, Norton Secure VPN hasn't undergone a security audit, so you have to take its claims at face value. Having the company's systems publicly audited would help to reassure potential customers, even though we have no reason to doubt the company.

Setup

Normally, you are not required to give your full name and address when signing up for a service through PayPal, but this is not the case with Norton Secure VPN; regardless of whether you choose to pay with a card or PayPal, you must provide all of your information.

The website gave us the option to download an app for our current device or to send a download link to any other device after we paid (Windows, Mac, Android or iOS.)

If you purchased the VPN as part of Norton 360, installing the Windows client can be surprisingly difficult. From our Norton account page, we used the Secure VPN download link, but it insisted on installing the full 360 app. That's a problem because it lacks the extras and settings that the standalone version has (connect on start, kill switch, split tunneling.)

To get some advice, we started a chat session with support, but the representative didn't show much product knowledge, referring to Secure VPN as Wi-Fi Privacy, the previous name for the service that hasn't been used in more than a year. However, she quickly directed us to the knowledgeable VPN support staff, who then gave us the proper download link, and a short while later we were prepared to go.

Performance

By using a 1Gbps fiber broadband line to connect to the closest Norton Secure VPN server from a US location, we were able to gauge its performance. Then, we used benchmarking websites and services, such as TestMy.net, Netflix's Fast.com, SpeedTest.net (website and command-line app), and others to check download speeds.

We calculated the median speeds of Secure VPN after performing each test five times, twice in the morning and once in the evening. (Usually, we conduct each test once more using a different protocol, but since Norton only supports IKEv2, we stopped there.)

According to the results, Norton Secure VPN's best sessions averaged 190–200 Mbps. It competes well with some well-known VPNs (IPVanish(opens in new tab) only reached 40-190Mbps), is a significant improvement over the 10-85Mbps we observed previously, and is probably sufficient for many devices and scenarios.

However, most providers are much faster, particularly when WireGuard(opens in new tab) or other quick custom protocols are supported. For instance, TorGuard(opens in new tab) managed 410-480Mbps, while ExpressVPN's Lightway protocol achieved 490-630Mbps, while CyberGhost reached 350-450Mbps. Wow, that was quick.

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