Norton Secure VPN Review (2019): Something To Hide?

Norton and Symantec are trusted names in security, so you’d expect their VPN to be top-of-the-line. However, there’s a curious lack of information on their website regarding their VPN. Does this VPN live up to its name? Let’s find out.

PROS

  • Above-average speeds
  • Excellent Netflix access
  • Good technical security
  • Up to 10 connections
  • 30 countries
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • No kill switch
  • Very basic
  • No torrenting
  • US location
  • Won’t disclose server numbers
  • Poor support

Speed & Expectations

To measure speed, we tested the 3 main speed indicators:

  1. Download speed: The rate at which data is transferred from the server to your device. This is measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  2. Upload speed: The rate at which data is transferred to the server from your device. This is also measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  3. Ping (or latency): Tested by “pinging” the server, it’s the amount of time it takes for it to receive and process your request. This is measured in milliseconds (ms) and a lower number is better.

First we ran a baseline test using a default 100mbps internet connection in Chicago, IL.

Then we tested various Norton VPN servers across the globe.

We ran each test 5 times to increase reliability.

Speed results

These are the results of our baseline test:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 83.6mbps
  • Upload: 12mbps
  • Ping: 10.8ms

Next we ran our tests on a Norton VPN United States server:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 55.2mbps (33.9% slower)
  • Upload: 31.3mbps (160.9% faster)
  • Ping: 31.8ms (194.4% longer)

(You would expect these to give the fastest results since we’re performing the tests in the US).

Next we tested Europe:

Europe’s averages were:

  • Download: 26.8mbps (67.9% slower)
  • Upload: 16.6mbps (38.3% faster)
  • Ping: 180.2ms (1568.5% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 31.8mbps (65.1% slower)
  • Upload: 6mbps (49.7% faster)
  • Ping: 257.2ms (1711.3% longer)

And South America:

South America’s averages were:

  • Download: 59.5mbps (28.8% slower)
  • Upload: 13mbps (8.5% faster)
  • Ping: 164.8ms (1425.9% longer)

There were no NortonVPN servers in Africa to test.

We also compared these results against the average of other VPN tests. How does Norton measure up?

First up, let’s take a look at download speeds:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
NortonVPN-34%-68%-72%-29%n/a
SurfEasy-43%-61%-65%-37%n/a
Celo VPN-75%-93%-93%n/an/a
proXPN-52%-73%-74%n/an/a
X-VPN-71%-75%-99%-62%n/a
SpyOFF-66%-57%-76%-65%-63%
VPN.ht-48%-78%-68%-67%-67%
vpn.ac-52%-51%-67%-47%n/a
Tiger VPN-48%-68%-68%-55%-72%
VPN Unlimited-27%-77%-79%-64%-61%
Cyberghost-35%-59%-71%-56%-68%
Torguard-37%-58%-81%-60%-67%
ProtonVPN-35%-50%-56%-77%-54%
PureVPN-26%-68%-94%-32%-89%
Trust.Zone-14%-99%-80%-66%-82%
AVG Secure VPN-56%-87%-69%-75%-68%
Hoxx VPN-12%-96%-93%n/a-68%
VPNSecure-68%-93%-98%-61%-77%
IPVanish-36%-54%-72%-76%n/a
NordVPN-40%-99%-69%-58%-75%
ExpressVPN-71%-58%-64%-95%-67%
Avast-45%-63%-72%-66%-77%
Windscribe-44%-57%-80%-98%-73%
Average-45%-71.4%-76.5%-62.3%-70.5%

Download speeds are well above average in South America, and above average elsewhere.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
NortonVPN161%38%59%9%n/a
SurfEasy-4%-17%-50%-2%n/a
Celo VPN-35%-30%-40%n/an/a
proXPN-7%-15%-52%n/an/a
X-VPN-33%-61%-98%-77%n/a
SpyOFF-9%-18%-88%-52%-50%
VPN.ht-10%-17%-25%-23%-63%
vpn.ac-6%-18%-44%-16%n/a
Tiger VPN-3%-14%-20%-17%-42%
VPN Unlimited-13%-39%-85%-19%-56%
Cyberghost-8%-16%-92%-37%-48%
Torguard-9%-20%-35%-22%-41%
ProtonVPN-2%-15%-20%-41%-29%
PureVPN13%2.5%-54%-11%-72%
Trust.Zone-13%-45%-67%-28%-84%
AVG Secure VPN-19%-58%-75%-80%-77%
Hoxx VPN-5%-90%-24%n/a-51%
VPNSecure-9%-19%-92%-26%-56%
IPVanish-5%-19%-84%-22%n/a
NordVPN-13%-46%-26%-16%-70%
ExpressVPN-9%-24%-34%-72%-42%
Avast-13%-42%-78%-70%-77%
Windscribe-6%-17%-52%-97%-53%
Average-2.5%-26.1%-51.1%-40%-56.9%

Upload speeds were incredible. They were much faster than the default connection in all regions. The US was a staggering 161% faster! We’ve never had this before. Norton takes the trophy for upload speeds.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
NortonVPN194%1569%2276%1426%n/a
SurfEasy-9%792%1711%1058%n/a
Celo VPN915%1161%1654%n/an/a
proXPN194%996%2194%n/an/a
X-VPN-28%397%837%560%n/a
SpyOFF213%944%4278%2533%2598%
VPN.ht273%785%1667%1282%2109%
vpn.ac60%388%968%487%n/a
Tiger VPN9%895%1786%1105%2309%
VPN Unlimited33%935%3946%1411%2535%
Cyberghost27%1085%2344%1352%2415%
Torguard7%1036%2023%1384%2502%
ProtonVPN17%810%1840%1185%2017%
PureVPN-23%708%489%1018%1823%
Trust.Zone104%1206%2438%1396%2750%
AVG Secure VPN1021%1111%2419%3560%3336%
Hoxx VPN566%1098%2470%n/a2794%
VPNSecure281%1051%2519%1530%2917%
IPVanish240%1038%4144%1424%n/a
NordVPN34%1278%2328%1560%2696%
ExpressVPN98%965%2122%1545%2461%
Avast33%1133%2465%1556%2815%
Windscribe310%1018%1904%2042%2782%
Average198.7%973.9%2209.7%1470.7%2553.7%

Latency speeds are just above average in the US and South America, but just below average in Asia and below average in Europe.

Speed (Summary)

Norton has above average speeds overall, with incredibly fast uploads that were much faster than the default connection, and also great downloads. Latency was average though.

Performance & Features

Next, let’s look at the main features NortonVPN includes.

Number of servers: Unknown

How many active servers are available to connect to across all countries, regardless of their physical location.

This is a first. Norton mysteriously wouldn’t give us a number, saying they ‘can’t comment’ because server numbers apparently change all the time.

This is incredibly non-transparent. For one, how are you supposed to make an informed purchasing decision?

Secondly, this means they have a low server count, or something dodgy they don’t want to reveal. Some reviews previously mentioned 60, which is pathetically low. Others mentioned 1,500, but mostly using virtual or third-party servers, which is not good news either.

Number of countries: 30

How many countries the total number of servers cover, regardless of how many are located in a single country.

In contrast to server numbers, 30 is a pretty decent number. However, if there are only 60 servers, this means it averages out at just 2 servers per country.

Number of connections allowed: 1-10

How many devices can be connected to a server (or number of servers) based on a single VPN account or subscription.

Norton offers different prices per number of connections. You can pick either 1, 5, or 10. The average in the industry is 5, their median price point.

Torrenting allowed: No

Whether you can download and share files on a peer-to-peer or P2P network as opposed to a single server.

Unfortunately, Norton has a VPN-wide ban on torrenting, so torrentors will have to look elsewhere. This is pretty uncommon, as most VPNs offer full or some access, such as ExpressVPN.

Kill switch available: No.

Whether the VPN software can disable your connection to the network in the event you disconnect from the VPN server. This prevents your IP address from being exposed.

Norton doesn’t offer any type of kill switch either.

Performance and Features (Summary)

Norton did pretty terribly on this section. They won’t disclose their server numbers, there’s no torrenting allowed, and no kill switches in sight. However, they do have a pretty high 30 countries, and you can get up to 10 device connections, though you have to pay more.

Privacy & Security

How secure is the VPN really? With such a high security profile, you’d expect Norton to cover all bases.

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: AES 256-bit encryption with OpenVPN and IPSec protocols

NortonVPN uses military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, with the best protocol available, OpenVPN, as well as IPSec on iOS.

This is industry-standard, though a lot of VPNs offer more protocols for flexibility, such as IPVanish.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: None found.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: California, USA. The US isn’t a great place to have a VPN, seeing as it’s a founding member of the 14-eyes alliance. That means 13 other countries could see your data. The US also has a reputation for privacy-snooping with it’s NSA scandals, and can force companies to release any data they have on you without even telling you.

Logging policy: Some logs.

Norton’s privacy policy is very transparent and surprisingly easy to find for such a large company with so many products.

They clearly say they are a “No Log” network, and don’t store your originating IP address, or “information about applications, services, or websites which the user downloads, uses, or visits.”

Great.

However, they do say they may perform “real-time analysis of internet data traffic, including destination websites or IP addresses and originating IP addresses, though no log is maintained regarding this information.”

This isn’t that common but has been seen before, for example ExpressVPN does the same thing. As no data is collected, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about. To be honest, a lot of VPNs probably do the same thing but don’t tell you.

They collect subscriber info, and aggregate bandwidth usage and temporary usage data for debugging, which is fairly normal.

But they also collect mobile device data, which definitely isn’t normal. This includes the device name, which probably includes your real first name, e.g. ‘Sam’s iPhone’.

To me there’s no excuse for collecting the device name. That’s clear identifying data. And why only mobiles and not other devices?

Privacy and Security Summary

Norton uses the industry-standard AES-256 bit encryption with OpenVPN protocol, and has no leaks or viruses that we could find. However, they’re located in the US and their no logs policy, whilst mostly fine, collects mobile device data, including the device name, which is unnecessary.

Usability

This section looks at the following aspects:

  • Streaming/Geo-spoofing
  • Compatibility
  • Overall UI/UX

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

Netflix and other streaming content varies across countries, so a lot of people use VPNs to try and spoof their location. Norton doesn’t make any streaming claims on its site, so let’s see how they fare.

  • Netflix: Partially Detected. Netflix worked in the US, UK, Brazil and South Africa.
  • Hulu: Detected. Unfortunately, Hulu was blocked.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi worked fine with Norton.

Compatibility

Is Norton compatible with most devices?

We tested everything from Tor, iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TV’s, Amazon Firestick, Mac, Windows, to routers:

  • Tor browser: Supported. Tor works fine in conjunction with NortonVPN.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. Norton has a fully-functional iOS app.
  • Android: Supported. Same for Android.
  • Smart TVs: Not Supported. Unfortunately, NortonVPN currently has no Smart TV support.
  • Amazon Firestick: Not Supported. No Firestick support either, even indirectly.
  • Windows: Supported. Norton has a Windows app.
  • Mac: Supported. Norton has a Mac app.
  • Routers: Not Supported. Norton doesn’t currently offer any router support, so you can’t protect your devices at network-level.

Overall UX/UI

Norton has a fairly small interface that’s located in the System Tray, rather than the Taskbar like most apps.

It’s very minimalistic and pretty pleasing to the eye. The first tab shows your connection status, with your location, IP address, a small map, and a toggle switch to turn the VPN on and off.

When connecting this turns blue.

And green once connected.

The server list in the second tab is also very simple, showing only countries in alphabetical order. You can’t drill down any further than that, so you can’t even see cities. However, once you connect the map gives away the city on the first tab.

There are no sorting options, but this would be overkill with such a short list. Favorites would still be handy though.

There’s also an auto-select option, which selects what it deems to be the best server for you. A very nice touch is that the server list tab also shows your connection status, so you don’t have to flit between the two tabs.

However, on the flipside, the VPN always seems to auto-connect as soon as you launch, whatever settings you change. This is very intrusive and annoying.

Most of the time servers connected fine and very quickly. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a bug within the app where if you cancelled connecting to a server, the whole thing just froze up and you needed to force a reboot.

The third tab is devoted to its inbuilt ad-tracker. Personally I don’t think this deserves a whole tab to itself, particularly as you can’t configure it in any way. You can only turn it on and off.

It just seems to exist to boast about how much stuff it’s blocked, but you can’t even see much detail.

There’s just 2 settings available: launch at startup and autoconnect. As mentioned, turning off the autoconnect does nothing.

And that’s it. No protocol choice, kill switch, or anything else.

The mobile interface looks very similar.

Again the server list is located in the second tab and works exactly the same way.

The third tab is its Ad Tracker.

But there’s also a fourth tab which shows the wifi you’re connected to, with auto-alert and connection settings for unsecured wifi networks.

Installing the software is a bit more cumbersome than most.

First, they email you an activation code, which you need to use to download the software. Then, if you want to install it on another device, you have to email another code to yourself.

Usability (Summary)

Norton can access Netflix in 4 countries including the US and UK, but there’s no Hulu. The interface is attractive and easy to use aside from one bug, but it’s very, very basic. Compatibility is also basic, with the 4 main apps but literally nothing else, including no router support.

Pricing & Refunds

Norton’s prices depends on the number of device connections you want, and whether you’re going to pay monthly or annually.

1 device is $4.99 monthly, or $39.99 annually.

5 devices is $7.99 monthly, or $79.99 annually.

10 devices is $9.99 monthly, or $59.99 annually.

The 1 device is very cheap monthly, the 5 devices is about average, and the 10 devices is slightly expensive. So there’s something for everyone.

They have a 30-day money-back guarantee for monthly users, or 60 days for annual customers. This is extremely charitable, as 60 days is rather unheard of.

They only accept card or Paypal. But the lack of cryptocurrency isn’t really surprising for such a large, multi-product company.

One thing I didn’t like is that they seem to have different pricing structures in some countries, and are very strict about payments.

For example, in some countries outside the US such as the UK, Europe, and New Zealand, they only offer annual deals, with no monthly option.

Even if you visit the US website, it won’t let you pay with a card from these countries.

Kind of sucky and unfair, especially for a VPN service which is used globally by nature.

Pricing (Summary)

Norton Secure VPN has a monthly or annual option, plus you get to choose 1, 5 or 10 devices. Overall 1 device is cheap, 5 is average, and 10 is expensive. They offer a generous 30 day guarantee for monthly users, or 60 days for annual users. However, you can only pay via card or Paypal, no crypto.

Support

Amazingly Norton Secure VPN has 24/7 live chat, and a phone number. This is almost unheard of in the VPN world.

However, before you get too excited, they’re kind of pointless.

This is because it’s general support for all of Norton products. As a result, their level of knowledge about VPNs is almost non-existent.

They make you select your product ahead of the chat, but you don’t get specific VPN staff.

They can answer some very basic questions about basic features of the VPN (that should be clear on the website anyway), but that’s it.

When asked about Netflix, their advice was actually to disconnect the VPN.

The silver lining is they do escalate your queries to the correct technical department. However, responses from these are incredibly slow. Like, 7 days slow.

So basically, instead of 24/7 live chat and phone support, all you really get is snail-mail slow email support.

They also have Community Forums. Unfortunately the VPN doesn’t get its own category for this, and is lumped into ‘Other Products’. However, users VPN queries do seem to get responded to fairly quickly by a guy named Peter, who seems to do his best to help and then again escalate to the technical team if he can’t.

The knowledgebase is one of the worst I’ve seen, again covering all their products.

The VPN section pretty much consists of a very short and vague FAQ.

No manual setup guides, general information, or troubleshooting.

Support (Summary)

Norton Secure VPN has terrible support all-round. Technically has 24/7 live chat and phone support, but it covers all products, and most staff don’t know a thing about VPNs. They escalate your issues, but their response takes several days. The knowledgebase is pitiful, pretty much a short and unhelpful list of FAQs.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

What do other reviewers think of Norton’s VPN? Here’s a round-up.

In terms of servers, most like us didn’t have any numbers to report and criticized the lack of information. However, some said 30-60, whilst others said it was a decent 1,500. However, they also said they were mostly virtual servers.

Most said the country numbers were fair, but not high, and mostly centered on Europe and North America. They also criticized the lack of city choice.

Almost all reported higher speed scores than us, although some only focused on downloads. One said latency was average. They found high local and mid-distance speeds, but slow speeds across very long distances.

Some stated Norton used AES 256 encryption, whereas others reported it was a less secure 128 Blowfish. They liked the OpenVPN protocol, but not the lack of other protocols. Most found the logging policy slightly to very questionable. One said it was unclear and the descriptions left room for session logging.

In terms of streaming, most only tested US Netflix and generally found that this worked. One said that 3 out of 4 servers worked for Netflix, as well as Hulu, which wasn’t our experience. BBC iPlayer results were completely mixed.

Like us all were disappointed with the ban on torrenting and cited this as a major downside to the VPN when it has to compete with top-tier providers allowing full access.

Some thought the device compatibility was adequate, covering all the main devices. However, most thought it was basic compared to competitors, particularly the lack of browser plugins and router option. They also didn’t like that they didn’t provide any OpenVPN configuration files to allow manual setups on other platforms.

In terms of the interface, they universally found its system tray location annoying, due to the fact you can’t move the window and if you click away, it disappears. Most thought it was attractive and generally easy to use, and would suit users who wanted a set and forget approach. However, they didn’t like the lack of features.

Some like us found bugs and connections issues, with some servers not consistently working, and had to restart the app. One said connection times were very long, around 19 seconds. One said the main tab often doesn’t show the current location.

They liked that there was an ad-tracker blocking integrated, but said it was rather underpowered compared to most, and completely non-configurable.

All agreed the support was rather poor, particularly the knowledgebase, with a short set of FAQs. One said the support staff were terrible and didn’t understand anything, whilst some said they had some very basic knowledge and escalated the rest. They also were able to remotely access users computers for troubleshooting.

Opinions on price differed. One thought it was quite expensive, some said it was affordable, whilst one said it was an absolute bargain, particularly if just took the cheap first year price and didn’t need many devices.

They liked the number of options on offer in terms of devices and commitment length. None liked the lack of crypto, but all appreciated the unusual 60-day money-back guarantee.

Overall, almost all rated it good but not excellent, though a few rated it poor. They said it had good streaming access and would suit users after a simple VPN not for heavy use, but nothing more.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Reviewers disagreed on or didn’t know server numbers, and a lot said Norton uses virtual servers. They liked the speeds, streaming and easy to use interface, but didn’t like the logs policy, torrenting ban, and lack of features. Almost all rated it good but not excellent.

Our Verdict

Norton Secure VPN is a very basic VPN with hardly any features.

Technically it’s got the top security, with AES-256 encryption and the OpenVPN protocol, and no leaks. It’s also got above average speeds and amazing Netflix access in the US and UK, which was a surprise bonus for such a no-frills VPN.

However, it’s the opposite for torrenting with a complete ban, and it also only covers the 4 main apps. Not even routers.

It’s also got no kill switch, is located in the US, and logs your mobile device data, which isn’t ideal.

To top it off, they won’t even disclose their server numbers, and other reviewers report they mostly use virtual servers, both of which are extremely shady. So much for living up to it’s security rep.

As for support, forget it. Neither the knowledgebase or 24/7 live chat is even close to adequate.

The silver lining is that it’s very easy to use, aside from one (admittedly annoying) bug. For those who want a simple VPN that requires no tweaking, this is it.

But is it worth it price-wise? Norton offers a lot of options, and you can choose between 1, 5 or 10 connections. The 1 device deal is cheap, especially if you pay annually. 5 devices are average, which might be worth it for beginners, light users and streamers. However, the shady servers, logs policy and US location is off-putting.

Overall, we would rate it 2.8 out of 5.


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