NordLynx is a protocol by NordVPN built adaptively around WireGuard. The latter has been touted by many initial testers to be the next generation in communications protocol. However, since WireGuard is still in development, is NordLynx really as awesome as it seems?
I’ve been testing the NordLynx protocol for some time now and to be honest, my feelings are a little bit mixed. You know that feeling you get when something works as stated, but it just feels that tiny bit ‘off’?
That was my initial impression.
For a little more background on this, let’s first take a look at some of the nuts and bolts.
NordLynx is Built on WireGuard
Communications protocols are the means that devices connect to each other to send data. WireGuard is a new communications protocol designed to work at the interface layer. This means that it is highly portable and can be used in everything from handheld devices to supercomputers.
Looking at current established communications protocols, the most stable and secure is OpenVPN. However, despite that, it still suffers from some drawbacks. These can include everything from high overhead to proxy problems.
The designer of WireGuard essentially was looking for what most of us do – Something simpler, faster, and more robust. That isn’t easy and at this point of time, WireGuard still remains under heavy development.
The key thing here of note is that despite its developmental status, WireGuard has shown some very impressive performance numbers to date. Because of that, NordVPN decided to implement its own capsule over WireGuard and deploy it in advance.
How Does NordLynx Perform?
For better understanding and review purposes, we have run a number of speed tests on NordLynx. All of the tests below were performed three times per country to get a better idea of stable performance. I was looking out for possible instability as well as performance numbers on each.
Download and Upload speeds recorded were the fastest result for each set of tests.
As you can see, speeds were up considerably when using the NordLynx protocol as compared to OpenVPN. On average I managed to see an estimated 2-3 times improvement in performance.
It’s important to note that only speeds were improved and not latency. Latency depends more heavily upon distance from the server rather than the protocol involved.
So far I’ve been testing NordLynx essentially since it was introduced in NordVPN’s Windows app. At the beginning, I did note that it seemed a bit unstable in performance. For example, I had some teething issues with Netflix where it kept detecting me as using a proxy.
However, those issues resolved themselves fairly quickly and everything runs as smoothly as silk right now. Admittedly, it is very satisfying to finally have a VPN that performs at these speeds and I’ve yet to see better.
For those less than impressed by my limited number of test results, NordVPN has run more – literally hundreds of them. You can view all of this data on their site to get a more comprehensive view of NordLynx performance.
In my tests, I have left out results of other VPN service providers since NordLynx is unique to NordVPN and it wouldn’t really be a fair comparison. However, some other service providers do have trials of WireGuard ongoing at this point of time.
Improving WireGuard for VPN Use
VPN Issues With WireGuard
WireGuard’s original performance figures were pretty impressive. However what many VPN service providers discovered early on was that this protocol had a serious drawback. At least in terms of VPN service.
According to Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN:
… it requires storing at least some user data on the server, compromising their privacy. That’s why we implemented the double NAT system and came up with the new NordLynx technology.
Part of the issue was that WireGuard was unable to assign a dynamic IP address to users who connected to a server. Working on a pre-set system of keys, each user connecting to a server would be assigned to only one IP address, which defeats a major part of VPN services.
Note: Earlier when I mentioned other VPN service providers running trials with WireGuard, it is mostly ‘as is’ to the best of my knowledge. NordVPN is the only provider I know who has implemented a modification of WireGuard.
What NordVPN needed was a way to dynamically assign IP addresses which could be created and destroyed on the fly.
How NordLynx Resolved This
The lack of capability to dynamically assign IP addresses posed a risk to customer privacy. Without that, using a VPN service would be meaningless since eventually, permanent IPs would become recognized.
NordVPN created what they called a double Network Address Translation (NAT) system. This system essentially worked with the fixed IPs WireGuard needed and paired them to a dynamic IP creation element.
According to NordVPN documentation, what the double NAT system does is create two local network interfaces for every single user. One interface gets the same local IP address on the server. The other is paired with the dynamic NAT that assigns random IP addresses.
Although this explanation is vastly oversimplified, it does mean that NordLynx users would benefit from the speed of WireGuard while still able to remain anonymous. All dynamically created information would be destroyed upon the closing of the VPN tunnel.
NordLynx Use and Availability
Since WireGuard was originally available only for Linux users, most VPN providers who used it followed suit. Today, it is more widely available and NordLynx is also accessible to many more NordVPN users.
As of April 2020, NordLynx is available to users of NordVPN’s app on Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
Important: If you haven’t already, you must update your NordVPN app before NordLynx becomes available to you. If you’re running an older version of the app you may not see this option in your menus.
Using NordLynx on Windows
In the Windows app, click on the ‘Settings’ icon.
Under ‘Auto-connect’ select ‘NordLynx’ as your VPN protocol.
Using NordLynx on MacOS
For Linux, enter the ‘Settings’ menu on the upper left corner.
Under ‘General’ select ‘NordLynx’ as your VPN Protocol.
The Usage Experience: How NordLynx REALLY Feels
To be honest, despite the increased speeds, I’ve not really noticed much difference in the average user experience. Yes, file downloads from a variety of sources have been noticeably faster, but how many of us regularly download massive bulk?
Still there are a few key takeaway points in addition that I’d like to bring up. Do note though that this is personal experience and I’ve not done additional testing to verify these claims.
Faster server connections
Normally I notice that connecting to a VPN server can be slow at times. This really varies broadly. However, using NordLynx, connection times seem a lot faster and smoother.
Less prone to failure
At times I have had servers fail to connect. Admittedly this was very rare, especially on NordVPN, but it has happened. So far while using NordLynx my connection rate to servers has been 100%.
Not noticeably faster browsing
Although speed is technically increased, I’ve not observed much distinction in web browsing all that much. However, I suspect that at these speeds, it is the performance of the sites involved that is actually hampering the experience.
Final Thoughts: Is NordVPN Worth it Just for NordLynx?
The TL;DR of this is simply yes.
NordVPN has always been one of my favorites for so many reasons. In my eyes, it is one of the top for speed alone – and that was without the current benefit of NordLynx. If you include that now, my estimation of their value goes through the roof.
Of especial note is that you can compare this performance with their price tag and come up to a very impressive conclusion. Despite their performance, Nord offers one of the most competitive rates in the industry.
Finally, there’s something which I personally feel is their most impressive quality, the impetus for innovation. Among VPN service providers, NordVPN seems to be the one single provider which is determined to move forward.
Take NordLynx as a case in point. Where others dithered, they simply looked at the problem, resolved it, and continued to move forward. It is this innovation that is hard to find in a market that’s built on reliance on ‘tried and true’ solutions.
Disclosure: We use affiliate links in this article. WHSR receive referral fees (at no addition cost to our users) from NordVPN. Please support our work.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.