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NordVPN vs PIA – Which Offers Better Security in 2024?

NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are two of the most well-known and widely-used VPNs in the market. Deciding which one to use is daunting, even for seasoned VPN users.

Over the years, we’ve thoroughly examined the strengths and weaknesses of NordVPN and PIA. We've scrutinized their claims, pushed their performance to the limit, and analyzed every feature and tool they offer.

Today, we put them head-to-head to determine the superior VPN: NordVPN or PIA? 

While both excel in terms of security, privacy, and speed, they also have plenty of important differences, especially in pricing and server networks.

Let's delve into the details and explore how NordVPN and PIA stack up against each other.

NordVPN vs PIA – Which is best? 

NordVPN is one of the world's fastest, secure, and most advanced VPNs. 

Its global network of speed-optimized servers provides unrivaled access to content, fast, reliable connections worldwide, and airtight security. Its apps are easy to use despite being packed with industry-best tools, including malware protection, ad blockers, and much more. And its customer support can solve almost any issue in minutes. 

​​PIA might have a bigger server network and a lot of advanced customization – especially if you plan to torrent – but it's difficult to use, clunky, slow, and quickly falling behind lighter, more modern VPNs. 

If you value speed, performance, and security – stick with NordVPN. 

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Pricing

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Money-back guarantee length 30 days 30 days

NordVPN offers subscriptions of one month, one year, and two years, with the longest plan working out at $3.29 per month after discounts. 

PIA offers one-month, one-year, and three-year subscriptions. Signing up for the three-year plan works out at $2.19 per month (also after discounts). 

The VPNs cost the same if you sign up for one month. 

So, while NordVPN is the more expensive option, it's much better value. As you’ll see throughout this review, it offers a superior experience. You get access to more advanced tools that outperform PIA in every metric, including speed, security, privacy, and access to content.

Winner: NordVPN

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Which has better features? 

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Simultaneous connections 6 N/A
Total servers 6057 3386
Server locations 84 84
Split-tunneling
Obfuscation (stealth)

NordVPN and PIA offer very similar security features and tools. But NordVPN’s versions are much more advanced than anything PIA offers. 

Both VPNs offer 256-bit AES encryption (the same standard used by militaries, governments, and even spy agencies), DNS/IPv6 leak protection, and numerous VPN protocols.  

You also get automatic kill-switches (which cuts your internet if your VPN connection is disrupted) and a host of other crucial security features that will shield your location, data, identity, and browsing activity behind an impenetrable firewall. 

However, with NordVPN, you benefit from state-of-the-art extras like its patented NordLynx VPN protocol, which is more secure AND faster than anything PIA offers. Meanwhile, its Threat Protection feature constantly monitors the web for malicious ads and websites and blocks both as you browse. PIA has a similar feature –MACE – but it's much less effective. 

Finally, NordVPN users get dark web monitoring, so you’ll be alerted if any of your details, like the email you used to sign up for NordVPN, are being shared amongst hackers and cybercriminals. 

We’ve just scratched the surface. Further in the review, we’ll explain NordVPN’s many industry-best features that make it the superior choice for streaming, secure banking, speed, privacy, torrenting, and just about everything else.

Winner: NordVPN

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Are routers supported?

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Router support
DD-WRT
Tomato
pfSense
OpenWRT
AsusWRT

NordVPN supports a wide range of routers, including DD-WRT, Tomato, and AsusWRT. It provides detailed setup guides for configuring routers and supports router-based kill-switches feature to ensure a secure connection. You can also use dedicated secure IP addresses if that boosts compatibility with some servers. 

PIA supports various router firmware, including DD-WRT, Tomato, pfSense, and others. It also provides step-by-step instructions for many router models, but doesn’t feature a built-in kill-switch, or dedicated IP addresses. 

So, if you want to install a VPN on your home Wi-Fi router to protect all your devices at once, we recommend NordVPN.

Winner: NordVPN

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What websites do they access? 

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Netflix
iPlayer
Amazon Prime
Hulu
Disney+

NordVPN is one of the best streaming VPNs available. It works flawlessly with all the most popular sites, including Netflix (see below), Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, sports sites, and regional streamers around the world. 

Aside from uninterrupted access, you’ll also enjoy buffer-free HD streaming from most countries worldwide. If you’re connecting to a server far away, you might notice a slower connection, but it will still be fast enough to stream. You just may want to pause your shows for a minute or two at the start.

NordVPN will also work with other geo-restricted websites, apps, and services, including banking and money transfer apps. 

Generally speaking, PIA is good at accessing restricted content and websites – but not great. It can access most streaming sites, but sometimes you’ll need to try a few servers before it works. It can also be slow and difficult to use. 

So, as they cost almost the same, if you need a VPN for accessing websites, content, and apps, stick with NordVPN.

Winner: NordVPN

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Netflix libraries

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
USA
UK
Canada
Japan
France
Germany

NordVPN accessed every Netflix library tested, including the USA, UK, Canada, France, and Germany.

PIA can access Netflix libraries in the USA, UK, and Canada but has limited success with smaller regional libraries – which is surprising, as they’re usually easier. 

If you enjoy Netflix content from around the world, NordVPN is the clear winner. 

Winner: NordVPN

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How do they work in China?

The Chinese government’s censorship and internet restrictions are among the world's most effective, infamously dubbed The Great Firewall. Working in China is a massive achievement for any VPN – but most fail.

PIA claims to work in China, but also states doing so is "very difficult.” In reality, this means PIA is inconsistent and unreliable if you're physically located in China or trying to break through The Great Firewall from overseas. 

In contrast, NordVPN is one of the few VPNs that can still reliably out-fox the Chinese government. Its website is blocked in the country, so you’ll need to download it outside China or try an alternative URL provided by the company. 

But once installed, you should find servers working in China. You may have to try a few out, but NordVPN also has dedicated servers for users in locations with significant internet restrictions. So, while it might take some work, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for China.

Winner: NordVPN

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Torrenting capabilities

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Torrenting allowed?
Dedicated servers?
Port selection
Port-forwarding
Kill-switch

You can use NordVPN and PIA for torrenting, and you’ll have a good experience on either one.

They both support torrenting across their networks and offer P2P-dedicated servers. NordVPN has P2P servers in 46+ countries, and PIA in 45+.

Both VPNs follow strict "no-logs” policies, so there will be no record of your torrenting on their servers. They also have automatic kill-switches that block your internet if your connection to the VPN is disrupted for even a second. So, no chance of your torrenting being exposed to your internet service provider – or anyone else. 

You can use advanced tools like port forwarding and port selection to speed up your P2P activities. But ensure you understand how these tools work before using them, as they could compromise your security if set up incorrectly. Both VPNs are compatible with BitTorrent, uTorrent, qBittorrent, and other torrenting apps.

So, even though PIA was explicitly founded for torrenters, there’s very little difference between it and NordVPN in this regard. But, NordVPN is the better overall option, and as you’ll probably be using it for a lot more than torrenting, we suggest skipping PIA.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Setup & usability

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Android
iOS
Windows
macOS
Linux
Firefox
Chrome
Edge
Safari

NordVPN and PIA both offer simple, minimalist apps that are easy to use. However, NordVPN is more beginner-friendly, as PIA’s advanced customization options can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. They could definitely find a better way to present all the options. 

We really like NordVPN’s map view for quickly navigating between servers located around the world. You can also select some of its coolest features – including dedicated IP addresses, P2P-optimized servers, and Double VPN – straight from the home screen without it getting cluttered.

PIA’s home screen has more advanced settings that most users won’t need, at least not when you first open the app. 

NordVPN’s desktop app is also much easier to navigate, with many features available from your device taskbar. PIA is trickier – you must open the app to access most settings and features you’ll use daily. It automatically hides if you minimize the app, which gets annoying if you need to hop between servers or change settings frequently. 

Both VPNs have helpful setup and configuration guides, plus 24/7 live chat support if you have any urgent questions or issues. 

NordVPN allows up to six simultaneous device connections. You can install it on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, games consoles, Amazon Fire TV, and even your Oculus Quest. It also has convenient browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. 

PIA allows up to 10 simultaneous device connections, but has apps for fewer devices. You can install it on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and some smart TVs.

While PIA is more generous with its device connections, we found NordVPN easier to install and navigate on every device we tested – especially for beginners.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Mobile features

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Kill-switch

NordVPN and PIA both have robust mobile apps that include most of the same features as their desktop versions. 

Split tunneling is only available on Android from both providers. But this is common across every top mobile VPN. Split tunneling rarely works on iPhones or iPads. 

Both include their ad blockers, kill-switches, top-tier encryption standards, leak protections, and much more on mobile.

And the mobile apps’ interfaces are similar to their desktop versions: NordVPN is simple and easy to navigate between servers and features; PIA is less user-friendly but works well. 

Oddly, PIA has two different mobile apps: the versions you download directly from its website and those available on Google’s Play Store and the Apple App Store. The app store version doesn’t include MACE, PIA’s built-in ad blocker, and malware scanner. It's a minor omission but an odd one. 

We’re giving this round to NordVPN, though, because it's always a much better experience, regardless of which device you’re using it on.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Performance & speed

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 85.9 Mbps 62.2 Mbps
Server locations 84 84
Total servers 6057 3386

PIA has over 20,000 servers located in 80+ countries across the globe. This is a truly massive server network, easily three to four times bigger than many of the best VPNs in the world. In contrast, NordVPN has 5,500+ servers in 60+ countries. 

However, despite its smaller server network, NordVPN performed much faster across our tests. There are a few reasons for this.

First, it's just a more modern VPN and has invested heavily in state-of-the-art tech missing from PIA. For example, NordVPN’s proprietary NordLynx VPN is more lightweight than anything PIA offers. 

Also, many of PIA’s servers are virtual, and it's unclear exactly where they’re hosted. This means it has fewer servers in many popular countries, such as France, the UK, and the US. 

Throughout our tests, PIA was much slower than NordVPN regardless of which servers we connected to around the world – those closest to us, and some much further away. They were also more stable and reliable, which is crucial if you’re using a VPN to stream or video chat (you don’t want your weekly work Zoom stalling every two minutes). 

Overall, if you’re looking for a fast, reliable VPN – especially in more remote locations – there’s no competition: NordVPN is much faster than PIA.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Security

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Obfuscation (stealth)
IPv6 leak protection
WebRTC leak protection
PPTP
L2TP/IPSec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
WireGuard
Shadowsocks
Bare-metal servers?
Self-hosted DNS

NordVPN and PIA are closely matched when it comes to overall security. But as usual, NordVPN just about comes out ahead due to its more advanced features. 

Both providers offer excellent encryption, leak protection, and VPN protocols. But NordVPNs are more modern, lightweight, and have less impact on your internet speed. 

They also offer obfuscation modes that can hide the fact you’re using a VPN. This is crucial for accessing streaming content or using your VPN in places like China and the UAE. However, considerable research (not just by our team) shows NordVPN’s obfuscation tools work much better in both use cases. 

NordVPN and PIA both offer OpenVPN, WireGuard, L2TP/IPSec, and IKEv2 VPN protocols. Each protocol provides a different balance between speed and security, and you can easily switch them in each VPN’s apps. If you’re new to VPNs or just a casual user, we suggest sticking to WireGuard – or NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol.

So, while it looks close, NordVPN wins out for its more modern, advanced tools and more user-friendly apps that ensure you actually have all these features working correctly.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Privacy

No Value NordVPN Private Internet Access
Jurisdiction Panama USA
Logs connections
Independently audited?
Anonymous payment options?

NordVPN is located in Panama, one of the most privacy-friendly places on Earth. On the other hand, PIA is located in the US, a founding member of the (previously top secret) Five Eyes global surveillance alliance, and one of the least privacy-friendly places on Earth. 

However, both VPNs follow strict "no-logs” policies – which means they never record or store any data that can be used to trace your online activities back to you. They can never willingly share your data or be coerced into doing so. NordVPN and PIA do keep minimal data on users, but only enough to ensure they can run their apps and maintain your account without any issues.

They both use RAM-only, diskless servers automatically wiped on a set schedule, and self-hosted DNS servers (instead of relying on third parties like Google Cloud). Basically, all this means your data, location, identity, and online activities are perfectly safe with NordVPN and PIA. 

Also, PIA has won numerous court cases against the FBI and other organizations demanding access to its user data. NordVPN and PIA undergo regular independent audits to confirm the legitimacy and thoroughness of their privacy policies and ensure they follow them. And they accept anonymous cryptocurrency payments. 

So, NordVPN wins this round for its location in Panama. But if you’re concerned about privacy, PIA is a solid choice too.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Customer service

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

NordVPN and PIA both offer 24/7 live chat support with knowledgeable human agents. This is the fastest way to get help – both VPNs’ agents answered our questions in seconds. 

You can also use email and support tickets, but these channels take much longer to reply. NordVPN’s walkthroughs and troubleshooting guides are much more comprehensive than PIA. You can watch videos in some tutorials or follow step-by-step screenshots with written instructions. PIA only offers screenshots, with no video walkthroughs. 

Alternatively, you can post a question in both VPNs' lively communities and forums. 

Both VPNs offer a money-back guarantee of 30 days to test out their apps risk-free. 

While PIA has invested heavily in improving its customer support recently, NordVPN just nudges ahead thanks to its video tutorials.

Winner: NordVPN

Get NordVPN

Methodology: how we compare VPNs

We apply a comprehensive set of strict criteria and metrics when conducting tests and reviews for every VPN. Of the countless VPNs we've assessed over the years, only a select few earn our recommendation, including ExpressVPN and PrivateVPN.

To give you a glimpse into our evaluation process, here are some of the key criteria we consider in every VPN test:

  • Global server networks: The best VPNs boast massive networks of speed-optimized, secure servers spanning every continent. This ensures fast, reliable connections anywhere.
  • Fast connections: A top-tier VPN will have minimal impact on your internet speed, so you shouldn’t notice a difference when you turn it on. 
  • Excellent security: A VPN must offer (at a minimum) 256-bit AES encryption, DNS/IPv6 leak protections, automatic kill-switches, and other state-of-the-art tools.
  • Privacy tools: Additional features like stealth modes, built-in ad blockers, and IP address rotators will boost your anonymity and privacy.
  • Access to content: We only recommend VPNs that can access popular streaming sites, banking apps, and other often restricted content and services.
  • Good value: VPNs don’t have to cost a lot. Look for affordable subscriptions and generous money-back guarantees to ensure you get the best value for your investment.
  • User-friendly experience: The top VPNs offer easy-to-use apps across various devices, ensuring effortless setup even for less tech-savvy users.
  • Customer support: Our top VPNs provide 24/7 live support with human agents, extensive knowledge bases, and community forums to assist users promptly and effectively.
  • Transparent privacy policies: Opt for VPNs with strict "no-logs" policies and RAM-only servers located in privacy-friendly jurisdictions, such as Panama.

If you want to conduct your own tests, follow our VPN review process. Or skip all the hassle and download ExpressVPN.

Conclusion

NordVPN and PIA are undoubtedly amongst the very best VPNs in the world. But NordVPN ranks #1 in performance, speed, security, ease of use, and much more. 

If you want a P2P-focused VPN with lots of customization, and you’ve used plenty of VPNs in the past, PIA is a good option. 

But for everyone else, stick with NordVPN. It’s the world's fastest, most secure VPN, with 3,000+ secure, speed-optimized servers located in over 60 countries. It’s packed with industry-best security, works with everyone streamer, delivers lightning-fast connections, and it's a breeze to use on any app. 

Still not convinced? Check out some of our other head-to-head VPN comparisons. 

Written by: Conor Walsh

Conor is a tech writer with professional paranoia. He's passionate about privacy, and when not writing about it, can be found trying to get far away from his phone and any other technology, enjoying some live music, outdoorsy stuff, or a good (physical) book.

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