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NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: which VPN is best for you?


If you're wondering which service is better: NordVPN or Private Internet Access, you're probably not alone. Both VPNs have large server fleets, work with streaming platforms, and have their marketing departments working in full swing.

Still, they're very different providers, which can make your purchase decision much harder than it should be. So, in this comparison, I'm going to put NordVPN vs PIA side by side in terms of speed, features, security, and other categories.

NordVPN vs PIA

When putting NordVPN vs PIA against each other, it’s clear that NordVPN is the winner. While it’s slightly more expensive, NordVPN uses an upgraded version of WireGuard and has much better streaming capabilities. Also, while PIA has more servers and simultaneous connections, it doesn’t provide you with as many features as NordVPN.

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
⭐ Rating:
4.9
3.9
🥇 Overall rank:#1 out of #33#11 out of #33
🖥️ Servers:5500+ servers in 59 countries30000+ servers in 84 countries
📖 No logs policy:No logsNo logs
💵 Pricing:From $2.99/monthFrom $2.03/month
🔥 Coupons:NordVPN coupon 68% OFFPIA coupon 83% OFF
🔒 VPN protocols:OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard (NordLynx)Wireguard, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec
🍿 Streaming services:Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and moreNetflix, YouTube, Hulu
🖥️ Platforms:Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, FirefoxWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera
📥 Simultaneous connections:610
💁🏻 Support:Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chatKnowledge base, tickets, live chat

Netflix and streaming performance

PlatformNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Netflix✅ Yes✅ Yes
Amazon Prime Video✅ Yes❌ No
YouTube✅ Yes✅ Yes
Hulu✅ Yes✅ Yes
HBO Max✅ Yes❌ No
Disney+✅ Yes❌ No
BBC iPlayer✅ Yes❌ No
DAZN✅ Yes❌ No

It’s probably not surprising that one of the biggest VPN use cases is accessing streaming platforms. Some of them, like Netflix, have different content libraries for each country, while others may simply be unavailable where you live. In terms of this comparison, NordVPN is much better at unlocking streaming services than PIA.

For instance, when it comes to Netflix, NordVPN effortlessly accessed multiple libraries, including the US and the UK. Meanwhile, for PIA, it was rather a tough nut to crack. Although the US Netflix worked, it was quite slow, and the video quality wasn't great either.

Another service that PIA managed to unlock was Hulu. In fact, once we downloaded PIA, whatever US server we chose, we could easily access the platform. Plus, YouTube was more difficult but still possible to unlock with PIA.

But PIA’s lucky streak ended there. We couldn’t access BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, or Amazon Prime Video. In contrast, NordVPN had little to no problems when accessing any of the sites.

It’s also worth noting that DAZN is one of the streaming platforms that makes it tougher to bypass restrictions. But while it was out of reach for PIA, NordVPN was one of the few VPNs that successfully bypassed the blocks.

Wrapping up
NordVPN is unmatched compared to PIA when it comes to bypassing geo-restrictions on streaming services. That’s because it effortlessly unlocked virtually any streaming service we tested it with, including Netflix, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, and others, while PIA struggled.

Plans and pricing

Private Internet Access VPN is relatively cheaper than NordVPN. Of course, the longer you subscribe, the better the savings will be. So the final price difference isn’t that big.

PlanNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Monthly$11.99
$11.95
One year$4.49/month$3.33/month
Two years$2.99/monthN/A
Three yearsN/A$2.03/month
See NordVPN discountsSee PIA discounts

It’s visible that monthly plans of both providers are not cost-efficient. If you want a VPN for a month, it’s better to get a long-term plan. This way, you can make use of the 30-day money-back guarantee before the first month ends and get all of your money back.

The yearly subscriptions are much better in terms of pricing. The longest subscription of NordVPN is 2 year (for $2.99/month), while PIA’s – 3 years ($2.03/month). Whichever you choose, the end price is going to be the same.

Both providers accept credit cards, PayPal, AmazonPay, and lots of cryptocurrency options. However, NordVPN extends this list by Sofort, prepaid cards, Apple Pay, and Google Play. Still, it's not enough to steal a win from PIA, which is just a more affordable option.

Wrapping up
Across all of the plans, PIA is cheaper than NordVPN. It offers a 3-year subscription option, which in the end, costs the same as NordVPN for 2 years.

NordVPN vs. PIA: which is more secure?

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
EncryptionAES-256 or ChaCha20Poly1305AES-128 or AES-256
HashSHA-512SHA1 and SHA2
RAM serversYesYes
A member of the 5-Eyes Alliance?NoYes
No-logs policyAuditedAudited

Both NordVPN and PIA are secure VPN services that use one of the strongest AES encryptions. NordVPN uses AES-256-CBC cipher with SHA-512 hash function. PIA is more varied, it lets you switch between AES-128-CBC with SHA-1 (default setting), and AES-256-CBC with SHA-256 (strong setting).

You should steer clear of PIAs default setting. AES-128-CBC is still a strong cipher, which will hold up against the attacker, but SHA-1 isn't optimal. It is a hash function that dates back 26 years. Federal agencies have banned it from usage with classified documents since 2010. If you are using PIA, you should stick to a strong setting that uses AES-256-CBC with SHA-256.

Wrapping up
While both providers ensure high-class security, NordVPN is more proficient than PIA not only in terms of encryption but also location.

Infrastructure

Hardware components used for your connection can be just as important as the cryptographic functions performed by them. That's why the server network must be standing on a solid foundation.

Both NordVPN and PIA have taken the steps and converted all of their X and X servers (respectively) to work on RAM-only. Such servers have no physical hard drives, which is often the major flaw for a VPN service.

By design, the servers have to make logs. It's just how they're operating. When a VPN provider promises no logs, it really means that the log is still made, but it's somehow effectively purged. Even then, the problem is that hard drives are using magnetic platters, which could theoretically mean that the data could be recovered even after it was deleted.

Privacy

NordVPN is located in Panama, which is a privacy-friendly location. It's outside the scope of the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes alliance. This is good news because this means that they have no leverage against Panama. Seizing someone's data would always require a warrant issued by the Panamanian courts.

The government wouldn't have those obstacles if they wanted to knock on PIA's door. Since PIA’s in the United States, this puts the service provider in the epicenter of the Five Eyes. Plus, some domestic laws like the reauthorized Patriot Act are in full effect which are also threatening your privacy.

Logging

From the privacy policy standpoint, PIA works against all odds and states that they gather no activity logs. This has been proven on several occasions when PIA has been asked to provide data by authorities. Plus, the service’s no-logging policy has been recently audited by Deloitte auditing firm.

NordVPN's privacy policy is much more clear. They say they're not recording any of your data. So, when the government comes a-knocking, they'll have nothing to show. This is reassuring, as it aligns with their RAM-only hardware claims. Additionally, this stance has been proven through an independent audit performed by PwC.

Speed and performance: NordVPN vs PIA

VPN speeds will rely on your baseline Internet connection. So don't expect blazing-fast speeds with a VPN if your Internet is slow. You see, your data gets encrypted and has a detour through a VPN server before it reaches your device. And while little speed drops are normal with any VPN, it shouldn’t be visible.

Both NordVPN and PIA use the WireGuard tunneling protocol, which is currently considered one of the fastest out there. However, the Nord Security product is using a modified version of it called NordLynx.

So, we measured NordVPN vs PIA speeds in 6 locations around the world – the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, and Japan.

  • Baseline: 452Mbps download/ 461Mbps upload
NordVPN (NordLynx)Private Internet Access (WireGuard)
The US277 Mbps/ 178 Mbps248 Mbps/ 269 Mbps
The UK336 Mbps/ 340 Mbps310 Mbps/ 301 Mbps
Canada327 Mbps/ 270 Mbps333 Mbps/ 226 Mbps
Germany358 Mbps/ 350 Mbps354 Mbps/ 298 Mbps
France343 Mbps/ 322 Mbps299 Mbps/ 305 Mbps
Japan250 Mbps/ 212 Mbps217 Mbps/ 198 Mbps

In most cases, NordVPN’s NordLynx showed faster speeds than PIA’s WireGuard protocol. NordVPN’s proprietary protocol retained 70% of initial download and 65% of upload speeds. Meanwhile, PIA’s WireGuard protocol retained 65% and 59% of download and upload speeds respectively.

On the other hand, there were also a few instances where PIA was slightly faster, including download speeds in Canada and upload speeds in the US. But taking everything into consideration, NordVPN still performed better.

Wrapping up
Overall, NordVPN is faster than PIA in terms of both download and upload speeds as it retained 5% and 6% more of the initial speeds respectively.

Features overview

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Split tunneling✅ Yes✅ Yes
Smart DNS✅ Yes❌ No
RAM-only servers✅ Yes✅ Yes
Traffic obfuscation✅ Yes✅ Yes
Specialty servers✅ Yes❌ No
Web filters✅ Yes✅ Yes

Exclusive features is one of the ways VPN services can distinguish themselves. From the consumer's perspective, most providers will give you the ability to hide your identity. However, few will offer additional features, such as RAM-only servers, Smart DNS, or others.

Wrapping up
While both providers ensure that all of the essentials are there, NordVPN goes an extra mile over PIA and provides you with more advanced features. This includes threat protection, specialty servers, and Smart DNS for streaming.

Split tunneling

Both services have the split tunneling feature available, and they're implemented quite similarly. You can use the VPN with only certain apps or add exclusions to make them connect directly while you're using system-wide VPN. So, you have the freedom to customize the connection however you like.

split tunneling nordvpn

However, during our tests, we found out that in PIA's case, the Bypass VPN option didn't always work as it should. Meanwhile, the same feature worked with no issues on NordVPN for websites and apps.

split tunneling pia

On mobile, PIA's split tunneling is a simplified version of the desktop feature. For instance, it allows you to use split tunneling for specific apps but not for websites. NordVPN follows the same pattern allowing you to exclude certain apps.

Web filters

Your connection can be made safer by using various DNS filters that block websites associated with malware or advertising. That way, you're getting a safer web experience while you're browsing.

NordVPN and PIA both have such features available, yet they’re not the same. For instance, NordVPN’s feature is called Threat protection. It identifies malicious files and blocks annoying ads, trackers, and websites, securing you from all corners.

nordvpn cybersec feature

Meanwhile, PIA’s version is called MACE. It’s focused on blocking ads, trackers, and stopping pop-ups and banners.

pia mace feature

Of course, we had to test these features to see how they perform in the real world. Once we encountered a blacklisted page, the Threat Protection feature of NordVPN displayed a warning to turn back as it’s not a secure website.

MACE had about a similar success rate. Still, plenty of ads got through, as many of them are delivered through HTTPS or WebSocket. So, it's a much better tool against malware pages than ads.

Dedicated IP

If you'd like to have the same VPN IP each time you connect, both VPNs offer this service. It costs extra on top of your subscription, but this may sometimes be the only solution to avoid circulated IP addresses. This means fewer captcha requests and better chances at unblocking some web services.

nordvpn dedicated IP

With NordVPN, you'll be able to use the same IP on two devices at the same time. Available locations include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, and France. PIA's selection is a bit smaller, but you can still choose from the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, and Canada.

It's worth noting that in the case of NordVPN, you don't really need to get a dedicated IP in some cases where a static IP is needed. That's because you'll always get the same IP address if you connect to the same server every time. A dedicated IP is only necessary if you need to ensure that you are the only one who has access to that IP.

Others

Unlike NordVPN, PIA supports port forwarding, which can be useful when streamlining torrent performance. However, it's a bit frustrating to use since you get assigned a forwarded port randomly. You need to configure your network to forward that port as well, each time you switch servers. It works on all their servers except the US ones. You can learn more in our Private Internet Access VPN review.

In response, NordVPN can offer a Smart DNS feature that can unblock streaming services without having to install a VPN on them. This works even on devices that don’t support VPNs, such as some smart TVs or gaming consoles.

NordVPN also has many types of specialized servers for different situations:

Double VPN – passes your traffic through two VPN servers to make your connection even safer.

Onion over VPN – sends traffic through VPN and Tor network completely erasing your real IP traces.

P2P servers – best for torrenting, but they’re good for any type of P2P traffic.

But that’s not all – NordVPN also offers the Dark Web monitoring feature. It does exactly what the name says – checks the dark web for your leaked information. You can read more about this provider in our NordVPN review.

Server locations

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Servers5500+30000+
Countries (total)5984
Virtual locationsYesYes
Specialty serversYesNo

It’s clear that Private Internet Access has plenty more servers than NordVPN (30000+ and 5500+ respectively) that are also distributed across more locations.

Plus, both providers have put effort into making their infrastructure much safer. All of their servers are RAM-only, meaning your data gets destroyed after each reboot. This way, no one can gain access to your information.

It’s also worth noting that NordVPN has various types of specialty servers – from Tor over VPN that increases security to P2P servers for torrenting.

Wrapping up
To sum up, both providers are loaded with servers, yet Private Internet Access just has better coverage. Meanwhile, NordVPN has specialty servers which PIA doesn’t. So, the fair conclusion would be declaring a tie.

Torrenting

NordVPN and PIA are both P2P-compatible. So you'll be able to download torrent files with either provider.

PIA doesn't separate its fleet into specialized and non-P2P, so there's no difference to which server you connect. Meanwhile, NordVPN works a bit differently. It has separate specialized servers for torrenting. Technically, you can use any server for this online activity, but if P2P traffic is detected, you'll be automatically reconnected to a P2P server.

pia socks5 proxy

Besides, both providers include free SOCKS5 Proxies, so although it's a less secure option, it helps a great deal when you need better speeds. It's configurable on torrent clients and routes your downloads via an intermediary server. However, it doesn't encrypt your connection, unlike the VPN app.

Wrapping up
So, both NordVPN and PIA are great options for torrenting. While NordVPN has specialized servers for torrenting, all of PIA’s servers work as well. Plus, both services include a free SOCKS5 proxy.

Platforms, interface, and ease of use

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Supported OSWindows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOSWindows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
Other software and devicesKodi, Android TVs, Fire devicesAndroid TVs, Fire devices
Browser extensionsChrome, FirefoxChrome, Firefox, Opera
Simultaneous connections610
Usability levelEasy to useEasy to use

Whichever device you rely on for your daily tasks, NordVPN and PIA will probably have apps for any of them. Both providers support various operating systems (OS), browser extensions, and other software.

Plus, with NordVPN and PIA, you get 6 and 10 simultaneous connections respectively. This means you can connect all of your devices to one account.

In terms of apps, both providers ensure a smooth and effortless experience even for people who have never before used a VPN.

Wrapping up
Both NordVPN and PIA deliver user-friendly and modern apps, great compatibility, and plenty of simultaneous connections. So it’s only fair to declare this round a draw.

Desktop apps

NordVPN desktop app UI includes a clickable map with a country sidebar. The only displayed information is the newly assigned IP address. When using the app, the overall experience was great. Everything is organized, so even if you’ve never had a VPN before, you’re going to get a hang of it fast.

You can even choose a particular server. For instance, you can type a country in NordVPN’s search bar and then add a hashtag to find specific servers.

NordVPN map screen

Moving on, one thing to like about PIA is that their desktop apps for Windows and macOS are pretty informative. It displays the information about your connection, protocols, encryption, port, and authentication cipher used. Although you're not getting as pretty a UI, it gives you more data than other VPN services tend to share.

PIA settings screen

To sum up, both providers have their pros and cons when it comes to the interface but nothing major that would be worth rejecting both of them.

Mobile apps

UI-wise, there won't be a huge difference between Android and iOS apps. This applies to NordVPN and PIA. Both clients are also taking inspiration from their desktop counterparts.

NordVPN mobile clients feature a map and a country list, so functionality is identical to desktop clients. Your settings are put into a separate tab, so it's easy to jump between tabs, change them, and go back to what you were doing.

On mobile, PIA's apps are trying to combine minimalism with abundant connection information. Unlike desktop, the apps have less space, which leads to some odd design choices that make it difficult to figure some features out.

pia android UI

Both service providers have added a possibility to switch apps from dark to light mode. So, they will nicely fit along with your other apps if you're using a system-wide setting.

Customer support

NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
24/7 live chat

Email

Phone line
Guides or articles

FAQs

It's a battle between two premium VPN services, so your expectations for customer service should be high. NordVPN and PIA cover the basics with guides and FAQs in their customer support portals. There, you'll find the necessary information when setting up apps or troubleshooting the most common issues.

PIA even has a community forum, which works like a supercharged FAQ section. So, you can either ask your question there or look if it was already answered by someone else. However, it lacks email support, which NordVPN provides.

Live chat of both NordVPN and PIA is available 24/7. However, the experience was much more pleasant with NordVPN. The agents were polite and quickly resolved minor issues that arise when using the app.

I asked PIA's customer support how to fix the WireGuard connection, as it wasn't working for me at the time being. The agent suggested a solution to reinstall the app in Safe Mode with Networking, which caused issues with my network card and didn't resolve the issue.

Wrapping up
Overall, both providers ensure solid customer service. Yet, NordVPN offers email support as well and seems to have better-trained agents than Private Internet Access VPN.

Video review

Which is better: NordVPN or Private Internet Access?

CategoryNordVPNPIA
Speed
Features
Protection
Streaming
Torrenting
Price
Ease of use
Customer support

While both VPN services are secure, NordVPN is simply better than Private Internet Access in various spheres, including speeds, features, protection, and streaming.

NordVPN offers much better speeds (especially with NordLynx), unblocks more streaming platforms (BBC iPlayer and DAZN), and uses specialized servers. Not to mention that it’s based in a more privacy-friendly location (Panama vs the United States).

Meanwhile, PIA has a bigger server fleet (30000+ against 5500+) and includes features like port forwarding.

Yet, even PIA's overall lower price can't beat NordVPN's more transparent privacy policy and better customer support indicated with faster response times to top it off.


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