NordVPN vs Private Internet Access

We take a look at how two of the biggest names in the VPN business stack up against each other. Today, we're pitting NordVPN vs PrivateInternetAccess to find out which provider is better when it comes to the many factors that make for a quality VPN provider.

NordVPN is an all-around great provider that offers tons of features and excellent usability, while PIA (or PrivateInternetAccess) is an OG favorite that excels in providing top-notch security and high levels of customizability. Both are superb options, but you'll need to read on to see how each provider fares against the other in each category and which VPN juggernaut comes out on top overall between the two.

 

Quick Answer

If you don't have time to go through the entire guide, or don't particularly care for suspense, then don't worry, we've got you covered and we'll just give you the quick answer here – the winner is: PrivateInternetAccess.

Continue scrolling for a more detailed view of how each provider compares to the other when it comes to each individual category listed below.

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Pricing

The price of the service is obviously one of the most important factors to consider for users in making their purchase decision. You certainly don't want to be overpaying for your VPN, or for any other product/service for that matter. You want to know that you are getting proper value for the money you are paying for your subscription. Most VPN services are priced competitively and offer greater savings for subscribers who sign up for longer-term subscription plans.

Both Nord and PIA offer competitive price points, with Nord starting at $11.95 for a single month, going all the way down to $3.71/month on a 2-year subscription. PIA on the other hand, starts at $11 for a single month, and dropping to $2.84/month on a 2-year subscription (plus you get two months free if you subscribe through ProPrivacy).

However, it's not just the price of the service that matters, it's also the payment options available for subscribers that are important. For instance, a VPN service can not only offer greater convenience for users by offering a variety of payment options, but it can also help protect the privacy of subscribers who wish to pay anonymously or with cryptocurrency.

Let's take a look at how Nord and PIA stack up in terms of payment methods:

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency
PayPal

PRICING WINNER: PIA

Try  PrivateInternetAccess yourself!!

Features

Certain features that a VPN offers can be an important selling point that might make one provider stand apart from another considerably. The number of simultaneous connections allowed is one such feature. In years past, VPN providers may have only allowed users to connect one device at a time, or maybe up to three if they were one of the more generous providers at the time. Recently, however, more and more VPN providers are realizing that users have many devices and VPN accounts are being shared within families, so VPN consumers are demanding increased numbers of simultaneous connections to ensure all of their devices can be protected at all times. Nowadays, VPN providers are typically offering users up to 5, 7, 10, or sometimes even an unlimited number of simultaneous connections with a single account.

Of course, you're probably going to want an extensive list of options when it comes to the selection of servers offered by your VPN provider.

Most of the premier VPN providers on the market today offer worldwide server networks that span the entire globe and are often touting the total number of servers they offer, as well as the total number of server locations offered. For the end-user, more server locations mean more options for unblocking regional content and a greater opportunity to access faster speeds by connecting to a server close by. And numerous servers generally mean faster speeds since servers are less likely to be congested and overburdened by heavy use.

Some VPN providers also offer helpful features like split tunneling, which will allow users to allocate which apps or websites run through the VPN connection and which do not. This can be advantageous since users can opt to send sensitive traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel while allowing other traffic that may not be sensitive or may be geographically contingent to run at full speed on their regular internet connection. Split tunneling can be useful in many instances and is a feature that a VPN provider can offer to set itself apart from the competition.

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Simultaneous connections 6 10
Total servers 5492 20000
Server Locations 59 countries 74 countries
Split Tunneling

FEATURES WINNER: PIA

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!!

Routers Supported

Router support is something that most VPN providers aim to offer. And the more router options, the better, since more users will be able to take advantage of the benefits that using a VPN router connection provides. Connecting your VPN through a compatible router will allow you to protect all of your devices at once, since any device connected through the VPN-connected router will run through the VPN tunnel established through the router connection. This means not only that you will be able to protect all of your devices at once, but it also means that you can connect devices like gaming consoles, smart TVs, and streaming devices that may not necessarily have native VPN support.

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Router Support
DD-WRT
Tomato
pfSense
OpenWRT
AsusWRT

ROUTERS SUPPORTED WINNER: NordVPN

Try NordVPN yourself!!

Unblocking

One of the most popular uses for a VPN is to pretend to be in a different country to unblock streaming websites, and many of the top VPN providers offer access to various streaming services from around the world. For VPN users into streaming, it's obviously advantageous to select a provider that allows them to unblock many streaming services, or at least the specific streaming service of their choice. A VPN that gives users the ability to unblock a multitude of geo-restricted streaming services is, therefore, well suited to appeal to VPN users who enjoy streaming content.

In addition, since Netflix is arguably the most popular streaming service on the planet at the moment, and considering how Netflix goes to great lengths to block VPN users, it's always a positive whenever a VPN can unblock Netflix content. And it's even more impressive when the VPN can unblock multiple countries' Netflix libraries. Doing so can be very useful since Netflix libraries vary a great deal from country to country, and having access to multiple countries' libraries can help maximize a user's Netflix experience by unblocking as much of the service's content as possible. 

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Netflix
iPlayer
Amazon Prime
Hulu
Disney+
USA
UK
Canada
Japan
France
Germany

UNBLOCKING WINNER: NordVPN

Try NordVPN yourself!!

Torrenting

Another popular use case for a VPN is to torrent safely without fear of getting into trouble with your ISP or the authorities. Many VPN providers allow their users to engage in P2P torrenting on their networks, but not all do. So anyone looking to download torrents through their VPN should confirm that the VPN provider supports torrenting in the first place.

What's more, some VPN providers offer additional perks for torrenters such as port forwarding functionality and VPN servers optimized for P2P torrenting activity. Obviously, having servers optimized for torrenting is a big plus for users, as it can mean optimized speeds and security for torrenters. VPNs that offer port forwarding are also great for torrenters, since the feature can help significantly improve users' torrent download speeds.

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Port selection
Port forwarding
Torrenting Allowed?
Dedicated Servers?

TORRENTING WINNER: Tie

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!

Try NordVPN yourself!

Setup & Usability

The usability of a VPN app will be heavily based on the number of platforms it is compatible with, as well as the settings offered and how user-friendly the app interface is. With so much competition in the market today, VPN providers can go a long way in setting themselves apart from the others by making the setup and usability of their applications across platforms as smooth and as intuitive as possible.

While Nord offers a unique and handy interface, its customization options are decent at best, and it can be comparatively more lengthy to install. PIA on the other hand has a less intuitive interface that's more geared towards advanced users – with excellent customization and a faster installation time.

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Android
iOS
Windows
macOS
Linux

SETUP & USABILITY WINNER: PIA

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!

Mobile features

Sometimes VPN mobile apps may not be as fully-featured as their desktop counterparts and may not include important features like a kill-switch. Many of the top VPN providers on the market will have the resources and means to develop their mobile applications in a way that preserves the functionality of their desktops apps as closely as possible.

Both VPNs offer fantastic mobile apps, however, NordVPN has no kill-switch, which will certainly raise concerns for the privacy-conscious users looking to protect themselves from accidental leaks. PIA, on the other hand, has all of the key privacy features you could want on its mobile apps.

MOBILE FEATURES WINNER: PIA

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!

Performance & Speed

One of the most important aspects that people look for in a VPN service is the speed and performance of its servers. Because of this, VPN providers put a great deal of effort into offering the fastest server speeds they possibly can, and like to boast about how fast their servers are. Even so, speeds can vary greatly from provider to provider. In this section, we take a look at how NordVPN and PIA stack up against each other in terms of speeds, both using our scientific, server-based speed testing system as well as testing the speeds manually from a residential network connection.

It's an unavoidable fact that a VPN will naturally slow down a user's connection speed since the traffic running through the VPN tunnel needs to be encrypted and all that data is being routed through a remote server. Fast VPN server speeds are important because the faster the speeds offered, the less degradation in speed performance a user will experience when connected to a VPN server. Fast speeds are essential for all kinds of online tasks, such as streaming video, torrenting, gaming, and videoconferencing. A VPN provider can set itself apart from others by offering fast speeds, since it is often a major deciding factor among many VPN users. 

In real-world tests (on a 220Mbps residential connection), we found that Nord averaged a 79.34Mbs download speed, while PIA averaged 58.27 Mbps. Both of the speeds are nothing to scoff at. They're great for streaming in HD, and even online gaming, but ultimately, NordVPN has a clear victory in this regard.

PERFORMANCE & SPEED WINNER: NordVPN

Try NordVPN yourself!

Security

The security features that a VPN offers are also obviously major contributing factors to the overall quality of a VPN. The VPN protocols offered will have a significant impact on and be a good barometer of how secure the service is on the whole. To date, the most secure VPN protocol available (and our recommended protocol) is OpenVPN, which the majority of top-class providers offer. There are, however, additional VPN protocols like IKEv2 and WireGuard that are gaining in popularity due to their combination of speed and security. Additionally, the way OpenVPN encryption is implemented in both the data channel and control channel also plays an important role in determining how secure a VPN really is and how it encrypts users' data as well as how it encrypts users' connections to a VPN server itself.

Also, offering physical, bare-metal servers helps to enhance the overall security and performance of the VPN connection. Obfuscation helps to hide VPN traffic by disguising it as regular HTTPS traffic, allowing users to bypass restrictive firewalls. Of course, VPN providers who self-host their own DNS servers can provide better security for their users because doing so can help ensure users' DNS requests are secure. Additionally, offering leak protection ensures that users' online activity is never exposed to their ISPs or anyone looking to snoop on what they get up to online.  

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Obfuscation (stealth)
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection
PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
AES-256
RSA-2048
RSA-4096
WireGuard
Shadowsocks
Bare Metal Servers?
Self-hosted DNS

SECURITY WINNER: PIA

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!

Privacy

Hand in hand with security comes privacy, and needless to say, it is incredibly important for VPNs to provide both. A VPN provider can enhance overall user privacy in a number of different ways. For instance, the jurisdiction from which a VPN operates can have a heavy impact on the level of privacy the VPN can guarantee its users. VPNs based in the US or UK, or any other country with a proclivity toward intrusive surveillance practices and mandatory data retention laws can indeed be less desirable from an overall privacy standpoint than a VPN provider that is based in a country (like Romania, Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, for example) that doesn't engage in such government overreach.

That said, a strict no-logging policy can work to counteract invasive government practices, because if a VPN doesn't log and store user data then it wouldn't have anything to hand over to authorities, anyway. The problem is that users have to take a VPN's word that it doesn't log user activity and that it truly does provide the security and privacy it purports to. To ease users' concerns and to offer increased transparency, more and more VPN providers these days are agreeing to third-party audits of their operations. And doing so can help provide an important element of legitimacy to a VPN's claims and help set it apart from others as a transparent and proven trustworthy provider.

In addition to that, VPN providers can help enhance user security by offering anonymous payment options and by allowing users to sign up for a subscription without needing to enter any personal information.  

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Jurisdiction Panama USA
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data
Independently audited?
User details required for sign up?
Anonymous payment options?

PRIVACY WINNER: NordVPN

Try NordVPN yourself!

Customer service

The level of customer service that a VPN provides can also have a tremendous impact on the overall quality of its offering. Many VPN providers now offer 24-hour live chat support for customers to help them quickly whenever needed, day or night. Offering support around the clock is something that really can help establish a VPN provider as a top player in the industry. But it's not only about providing 24/7 support via live chat that can elevate a VPN provider's customer service competencies.

Offering VPN free trials and money-back guarantees can go a long way in helping users feel comfortable in trying a service free of risk before committing to it fully. Many VPN providers nowadays offer users a way to test the service before committing, be it via a free trial or a money-back guarantee, and some providers can set themselves apart by offering both options in some capacity or by offering longer trial or money-back periods. 

NordVPN Private Internet Access
Free trial Yes - 7 Days No
Money-back Guarantee
24-hour support
Live chat
Money-back guarantee length 30 days 30 days

CUSTOMER SERVICE WINNER: Tie

Try NordVPN yourself!

Try PrivateInternetAccess yourself!

Overall Winner – PIA

In the end, PrivateInternetAccess squeaked out a win against a formidable foe in NordVPN, securing wins in 5 different categories, compared to NordVPN's 4. The two providers ended up with a tie in the Customer Service and Torrenting categories, but otherwise essentially went blow-for-blow in the other categories and showing how very evenly matched the two providers really are.

Ultimately, choosing between the two will depend on what your specific priorities are when using a VPN and what you will be using the VPN for in general. If you're looking for a VPN that is pocket-friendly, yet incredibly secure and offers lots of features and server locations, then you may want to give PIA a shot. On the other hand, if you're into unblocking tons of streaming content with super-fast servers and some of the most comprehensive router compatibility in the business, then NordVPN could be the way to go.

Whichever way you choose, you're getting a superb service that can really get the job done for basically any use case, whether you're a casual internet user simply in search of online privacy, a hardcore gamer, an avid torrenter, a streaming junkie, or if you reside in a country with authoritarian internet censorship that you need to circumvent. Both NordVPN and PIA offer world-class VPN solutions that have you covered no matter what you need them for. It's no wonder both providers are considered leaders in the industry and that they match up so closely against one another.

Try PrivateInternetAccess for yourself!!

Written by: Attila Tomaschek

Attila is a Hungarian-American currently living in Budapest. Being in the VPN game for over 5 years, along with his acute understanding of the digital privacy space enables him to share his expertise with ProPrivacy readers. Attila has been featured as a privacy expert in press outlets such as Security Week, Silicon Angle, Fox News, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Examiner, Techopedia, Disruptor Daily, DZone, and more. He has also contributed bylines for several online publications like SC Magazine UK, Legal Reader, ITProPortal, BetaNews, and Verdict.

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