Norton Secure VPN review
There are many different household Nortons out there. Actor Edward Norton. Comedian Graham Norton. And then there’s Norton Antivirus. Except, these days, Norton Antivirus is all grown up and goes by other names like Norton 360, Norton Mobile Security, and Norton Secure VPN. While the latter of these is the focus of this review, Norton Secure VPN is also conveniently part of Norton 360, which is what I’ve been using for the last six months.
As a standalone VPN, though, Norton Secure isn’t as impressive as the likes of NordVPN or ExpressVPN, and it’s not going to get a sniff at our best VPN services list. But as an optional bolt-on that’s part of a security suite, it’s easier to justify the price.
Our top five VPNs
- Hotspot Shield
Norton Secure VPN prices and plans
Norton Secure VPN has strange pricing, ranging from ridiculously expensive by comparison for a single device to affordable for five devices, or as part of the Norton 360 security suite. While it is nice to see Australian pricing, it doesn’t really help ease the sting of how Norton does its pricing. At the time of updating this review, there was a $25 first-year discount for a one-device licence, $40 for three devices, and $50 for five devices, which helps soften the regular pricing you can see in the table below (bear in mind that all Norton Secure VPN plans are charged annually).
|Plan||Monthly price||Upfront price||Detail|
|One-device plan||AU$7.08||AU$84.99||View Plan|
|Three-device plan||AU$9.16||AU$109.99||View Plan|
|Five-device plan||AU$10.83||AU$129.99||View Plan|
|Norton 360 Deluxe||AU$12.50||AU$149.99||View Plan|
Data effective 13/05/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Opting to buy Norton 360 Deluxe – the security suite that comes with Norton Secure a password manager and a range of other device protection inclusions – also has an enticing one-year or two-year saving if you’re willing to pay in advance, but regular pricing is $149.99 a year and $12.50 annually. I’ve used Norton 360 Deluxe instead of the cheaper Norton 360 Standard because the pricier option at least covers three devices (compared to Standard’s one-device limit).
For standalone Norton Secure, I’ve used the five-device plan as the basis of comparisons because five devices is the minimum standard number for other popular VPNs. The monthly costs in the table above are reflective of an annual breakdown because you can’t actually pay for Norton Secure VPN month-to-month. Using its regular annual price as a gauge, Norton Secure VPN earns a wooden spoon for the worst pricing in comparison to the other 12 VPN providers reviewed on this site.
Even $85 a year for the single-device subscription isn’t great annual pricing compared to its peers, and they all offer protection for more than one device. In terms of pricing, Norton Secure VPN is best treated as something you’d use as part of the Norton 360 suite rather than a standalone purchase. There is a 14-day trial if you opt for Norton 360 and a 60-day money-back guarantee for the annual subscriptions if you want to test for longer, the latter of which is particularly generous as far as VPNs are concerned.
For comparison, see how Norton Secure VPN compares to our current top five VPN providers in the pricing table below.
|Norton Secure VPN||AU$10.83||Automatic ad blocker||View plan|
|PureVPN||US$10.95/mth||Loads of supported countries||View plan|
|NordVPN||US$11.95/mth||User-friendly, speedy connection||View plan|
|ExpressVPN||US$12.95/mth||Blocks ads of your choice on all devices||View plan|
|Hotspot Shield||US$12.99/mth||Incredibly fast performance||View plan|
|CyberGhost||AU$18.49/mth||Stacks of servers||View plan|
Data effective 13/05/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Norton Secure VPN connectivity and user experience
It has to be said that Norton Secure is incredibly user-friendly and speedy to connect. Activating Norton Secure automatically connects you to the nearest server, and it only takes about three seconds to connect. Disconnection is almost instantaneous. The only issue I had with it impacting real-time internet services was when switching from a US server to an Australian one, which meant my streaming music cut out for a few seconds.
Speaking of US servers, switching to one of those or one of the 31 supported countries is also just a few straightforward clicks away. Bringing up the VPN list tells you the region you’re currently connecting to and your current IP address. Locations are listed by country only, which means you’re reliant on Norton’s choices for what constitutes the best server.
This is a user-friendly feature that simplifies the process of connecting to servers. That said, other VPN competitors provide this simplicity but then also let you manually search for cities or connect to a more comprehensive list of servers. This not only gives you more options, it also lets you access better speeds or, potentially, more services (streaming or otherwise) from alternative servers.
Outside of one instance where the web widgets on a page stopped working and refused to come back, I had no issues with regular browsing or using my usual computer software while Norton Secure VPN was connected. This means it does its job as a background web companion, and the fact it automatically blocks ad trackers makes it even better in this role. You can disable this feature if you have site issues or leave it on to see how many trackers it’s blocked in a week-long or over a 30-day period.
Norton Secure VPN number of devices
Compared to other VPN services, Norton Secure VPN keeps things simple when it comes to its supported devices. That’s a nice way of saying it’s only available on popular platforms: Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.
While other VPN services restrict in terms of multiple simultaneous connections – meaning you can technically have them installed on stacks of devices as long as you’re not using them at the same time – Norton Secure locks it down to individual devices whose access has to be added then revoked if you want to use a device outside your licence count. Considering licences are sold to cover either one, three or five devices, this is a major pain if you hope to use Norton Secure on more devices than your limit supports.
Norton Secure VPN speeds
The reality of using any VPN service is that it’s going to increase the latency (online responsiveness) and impact your download and upload speeds. For some services, this impact is impressive and low, while for others activating a VPN has a major impact on one or all of these factors.
|VPN server||Download speed||Upload speed||Latency|
|US VPN (auto)||50.21Mbps|
Out of the gate, Norton Secure VPN presents testing problems because I like to test a manually selected Australian server – ideally a Sydney server to gauge the fastest possible speeds relative to my location – an automatic US server, and then I manually connect to the closest US server I can find (typically in Los Angeles). The automated nature of how Norton Secure handles server connections means I have no control over the servers, so I can only select a country and hope for the best.
Initially, the 7% variance for download speeds, 6% for upload and 2ms jump for latency are all positive indicators of a speedy VPN. For context, these are perfectly acceptable slow-downs for using a VPN locally and connecting to Australian servers. Things get a whole lot slower when connecting to a US server, with a whopping 46% hit to downloads, an even bigger 56% sting to uploads, and the 212ms latency is noticeably higher than the sub-160ms speeds offered by other VPN competitors.
Norton Secure VPN streaming
Given the disappointing speed results from above, I wasn’t expecting a lot from Norton Secure VPN in terms of its streaming potentially. It does, after all, present as a bare-bolts VPN service. For those who don’t mind running the risk of violating the terms and conditions of streaming services, certain VPNs can be used to stream geoblocked content from abroad or to access Australian content when you’re not in Australia.
The table below breaks down how well Norton Secure works with popular US and Australian streaming services that typically do a good job of sniffing out VPNs and blocking a connection.
|Service||ExpressVPN compatible?||Buffering speed|
|Stan (including Stan Sport)||Yes||Fast|
Despite the 46% hit to download speeds when connecting to a US server, Norton Secure still provided snappy playback of content from the Netflix US library. HBO Max and Peacock also worked but weren’t as quick at buffering and streaming content. Despite being one of the US streaming services that works with most big-name VPNs I’ve thrown at it, Hulu blocked playback while using Norton Secure VPN.
Using an Australian server to connect to Kayo came up with a common VPN error that wouldn’t even let me browse content, which means Norton Secure shouldn’t be used by people hoping to access Kayo from around the world. That said, Stan had no issues playing content.
Normally, this is where I’d use a table with popular US streaming services that offer 4K to give you an idea of how many simultaneous streams you could watch with Norton Secure, relative to the aggregated average typical evening download speeds for all NBN fixed-line speed tiers. The problem is, one of those services is Hulu, which doesn’t work with Norton Secure, while the other two services – Netflix and HBO Max – both have 25Mbps speed recommendations, which would make for a very boring table.
For context, though, Norton Secure is too slow to stream Netflix and HBO Max in 4K until you hit an NBN 100 connection, which can then only reliably offer one stream, instead of the two or three offered by competing VPN services on the same connection.
Norton Secure VPN extras
Outside of the ad tracking (and blocking) feature mentioned above as well as split tunnelling for more advanced users, Norton Secure VPN doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of extras. It’s actually easier to see Norton Secure VPN as the extra when viewing it as part of the Norton 360 security suite. This makes the value a whole lot clearer, even if you do have to pay more to protect additional devices.
Still, if you do get Norton 360, you get access to antivirus, anti-malware, anti-spyware and ransomware protection. There’s also PC cloud backup, a firewall and a password manager, plus you can add Norton Secure to that list, too. First-year pricing is competitively priced and enticing for all versions of Norton 360, including the typically pricier Deluxe and Premium versions, but even these only allow for protection of three devices.
Norton Secure VPN vs other VPNs
Outside of user-friendliness and having a no-log policy, which is great for peace of mind on software designed to protect privacy, Norton Secure VPN falls short in key comparisons to our current top pick of VPNs. The most noticeable one is the device limit. Norton Secure gives you either one, three or five devices, depending on which service you pay for, but ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield offer the lowest count of our current top five.
Even then, it’s five simultaneous connections, which means you can install the software on more devices or configure these VPNs at a router level to protect all devices in your home. On the other end of the scale, CyberGhost allows for seven simultaneous connections, while PureVPN lets you have 10.
Norton Secure has, by far, the lowest country count at 31, with the next closest being NordVPN’s 59 and the best of our current top five being the 140+ on offer from PureVPN. At 3,000 servers, the server count is also the lowest, which pales in comparison to the 6,500+ from PureVPN and the 7,000+ from CyberGhost.
As for speed, all of the VPNs in our current top five have Norton Secure beat, most notably Hotspot Shield, which is the VPN you want if you care more about speed than anything else.
Should I buy Norton Secure VPN?
As a standalone VPN service, it’s difficult to make a strong case for buying Norton Secure VPN. As part of Norton 360, it’s an attractive bullet point to a robust security suite. Norton Secure has great speeds to local Australian servers, but my internet speed was almost halved when connecting to a US server.
Not having the option to manually select options also keeps Norton Secure relegated as something that’s meant mainly for new users who appreciate that level of hand-holding. Ultimately, there are plenty of other VPN services that do what Norton Secure does better, at a cheaper price point and with faster speeds as well as greater versatility.