NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: which VPN is better?
It doesn’t surprise me if you’re torn between NordVPN and ProtonVPN. Both services come from reputable companies, are serious about your privacy, and offer quality apps for all popular operating systems.
However, it’s highly unlikely that they are equal in all aspects. Thus, I wrote this ProtonVPN vs NordVPN comparison to help you choose the right tool in terms of features, ease of use, price, and speed. Let’s find out which VPN service wins!
NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN
|🥇 Overall rank:||#1 out of #28||#7 out of #28|
|🖥️ Servers:||5100+ servers in 60 countries||1080+ servers in 54 countries|
|📖 No logs policy:||No logs||No logs|
|💵 Pricing:||from $3.71/month||from $4.99/month|
|🔥 Coupons:||NordVPN coupon 68% OFF||ProtonVPN coupon 50% OFF|
|🔒 VPN protocols:||OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard (NordLynx)||WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPsec.|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube|
|🖥️ Platforms:||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|📥 Simultaneous connections:||6||Up to 10|
|💁🏻 Support:||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat||Guides, FAQs, support tickets, subreddit|
Speed performance: NordVPN vs ProtonVPN
You shouldn’t expect your internet speed to stay the same when using a VPN. The whole process of rerouting your traffic takes a toll - however, some VPNs are really good at minimizing this problem while others may struggle a bit.
For this comparison, I chose the fastest protocols of each VPN service: OpenVPN UDP for ProtonVPN, and NordLynx for NordVPN.
- Baseline: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
|Download average||107.75 Mbps||235.5 Mbps|
|Upload average||17.6 Mbps||124.2 Mbps|
It’s quite clear that NordVPN is the leader here. Its proprietary NordLynx protocol (a custom modification of WireGuard) is miles ahead of anything offered by ProtonVPN.
For example, the ProtonVPN’s speed drops can go down from 76% to 99% when connected to the most remote servers. On the other hand, NordVPN is able to maintain pretty constant speeds no matter what location you’re connected to.
Netflix and streaming performance
If you need a VPN for streaming, both ProtonVPN and NordVPN will satisfy your needs - but NordVPN will do this a little bit better.
When testing ProtonVPN, I was able to unblock Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Youtube. However, DAZN was too reluctant to give up.
Don’t forget that only the Plus and Visionary plans let you use the servers that are optimized for unblocking streaming sites. Also, ProtonVPN doesn’t offer SmartDNS.
Meanwhile, NordVPN not only offers accessibility to streaming platforms to all of its users - it also unblocks more platforms and offers the SmartDNS feature that allows you to watch geo-restricted content on devices that don’t support VPN connections.
Overall, I just find NordVPN the better alternative to those who can’t live without streaming platforms.
It’s advisable to use a VPN when torrenting so that your ISP couldn’t monitor your activity (this is especially useful if your country forbids torrenting).
Now, which VPN from our two contestants should you choose? Let’s take a closer look.
So, all paid plans of ProtonVPN allow P2P file sharing. You just need to pick a server that supports torrenting.
NordVPN allows torrenting, too. Just like ProtonVPN, it has specialized servers for P2P connections. And in case you try torrenting while connected to a server that’s not P2P-friendly, the VPN will automatically connect you to the one that supports torrenting.
Even though extra features usually aren’t the main selling point of a VPN, it’s always nice to have more freedom to configure your VPN connections. And sometimes, a feature might not be related to VPN usage at all (like NordVPN’s CyberSec).
That being said, I find NordVPN to be the winner in this category. It not only has more features, but also doesn’t restrict any of them depending on the subscription you purchase.
Double VPN is a feature you’ll get with both NordVPN and ProtonVPN. It allows you to connect through two different VPN servers for an extra layer of anonymity. Keep in mind that your internet connection will be much slower.
ProtonVPN calls this feature Secure Core and makes it available only with its Plus and Visionary plans.
ProtonVPN’s split tunneling feature is really advanced. There are a lot of configuration options: it allows you to include and exclude apps and even IP addresses from the VPN tunnel. The feature is available on Windows and Android applications of ProtonVPN.
NordVPN’s version of split tunneling is also quite configurable: you can disable and enable VPN connection for the apps of your choice. However, you can’t configure it with IP addresses. Just like in the case of ProtonVPN, NordVPN includes this feature on its Windows and Android applications.
SmartPlay is a feature offered only by NordVPN. Also called SmartDNS, it increases your chances to unblock streaming platforms and bypass various geographical restrictions.
It also allows you to stream geo-blocked movies and shows on devices that don’t have a dedicated NordVPN app. SmartPlay even works on devices that don’t support VPN connections at all - for example, gaming consoles.
Most VPNs offer specialized servers for different activities. For example, ProtonVPN has Tor over VPN servers. It reroutes your connection through the Tor network before connecting to a VPN server. This can be especially useful when you’re connecting from a country with an oppressive regime.
Similarly, NordVPN has a feature called Onion over VPN, which is basically the same thing. The VPN also offers specialized P2P servers that will give you the best speeds when torrenting.
CyberSec is a NordVPN feature that will help you stay safe online. Simply enable it in the General tab, and the VPN will make sure to block unsafe websites (that may contain malware), as well as all the annoying ads displayed on various pages.
Keep in mind, however, that a VPN isn’t an antivirus application, and you still need a separate anti-malware tool to keep your device completely safe.
NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: which is more secure?
Security-wise, both VPN providers are excellent. The military-grade AES-256 encryption, secure tunneling protocols, no-logs policy, and independent audits put these VPNs among the best ones on the market in terms of safety.
It’s worth noting that ProtonVPN is an open-source service, while NordVPN’s servers run only on RAM.
Encryption and tunneling protocols
Just like the vast majority of VPNs available today, both NordVPN and ProtonVPN use AES-256 encryption for encrypting your data. This type of encryption is virtually impossible to break, which means that using either of the services is completely safe.
However, some differences show up when we compare the tunneling protocols. You see, NordVPN simply has a slightly wider selection of those. You can choose from NordLynx, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, and IKEv2/IPsec.
Meanwhile, ProtonVPN offers OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, and IKEv2/IPsec. The addition of WireGuard would be quite appreciated, but there are currently no plans to include it.
When it comes to logging, NordVPN is a perfect example of a no-logs policy done right. The VPN doesn’t log anything personal, including connection timestamps, bandwidth usage, session info, IP addresses, etc.
The only pieces of information it stores are crash error reports and app diagnostics data. However, you can simply opt out from this.
Other than that, the VPN is based in Panama, which is a privacy-friendly country with no data retention laws. Additionally, NordVPN uses RAM-only servers that get completely wiped out after every single reboot. Finally, the no-logs policy of NordVPN has been independently audited twice, which proves its credibility.
ProtonVPN is also really trustworthy. For one, it is open-source. You can see the code on GitHub for their Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux applications. What’s more, ProtonVPN is independently audited by SEC Consult.
When it comes to the no-logs policy, everything seems pretty great. However, unlike NordVPN, ProtonVPN keeps the timestamp of your last login. Otherwise, it doesn’t log anything personal, including your IP address, browsing history, session lengths, or location-based info.
Lastly, ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which is truly privacy-friendly.
Every reliable VPN should have a well-functioning kill switch. Otherwise, your real IP address might get exposed in case your VPN suddenly crashes.
Luckily, ProtonVPN has a good kill switch. During our tests, the feature successfully cut off the internet connection. However, it was a bit difficult to get the internet back up and running on the Windows application.
Interestingly enough, NordVPN has two kill switches: an Internet kill switch and an App kill switch. In terms of the latter, you can make a list of all the apps you want to block when your VPN connection is compromised.
Plans & pricing
Let’s take a look at which VPN service is cheaper. The following table depicts the prices of ProtonVPN Plus, as this type of subscription is the most similar one to NordVPN in terms of functionality.
|Plan duration||NordVPN||ProtonVPN Plus|
|Check pricing||Check pricing|
While the one-month subscription of ProtonVPN is slightly less expensive than the one of its competitor, NordVPN’s long-term plan is actually twice as cheap. And, let’s be frank, long-term subscription is the one you’ll truly need if you’re serious about using a VPN.
On the other hand, ProtonVPN is the one that offers a completely free version, which is something NordVPN lacks. However, no matter how much I appreciate freemium VPNs, I still deem NordVPN the winner in this category, as its pricing is not only more adequate, but also less confusing.
- If these prices seem a bit high, check out our article for NordVPN coupon codes to find some additional discounts.
Pricing of ProtonVPN
The pricing system of ProtonVPN definitely deserves its own section. This VPN service has four different types of subscription, and each of them offers different features. On top of that, the prices change depending on the length of the plan.
Check out the table below for a closer look at what ProtonVPN has to offer:
|ProtonVPN Free||1 connection, servers in 3 countries, medium speed||$0.00|
|ProtonVPN Basic||2 simultaneous connections, servers in 54 countries, high speed, P2P support||From $3.29|
|ProtonVPN Plus||5 simultaneous connections, servers in 54 countries, fastest speeds (up to 10 Gbps), P2P support, Secure Core VPN, TOR over VPN, streaming support||From $4.99|
|ProtonVPN Visionary||10 simultaneous connections, all the features in Plus, and a ProtonMail Visionary account||From $19.96|
Frankly, I’m not really a fan of the pricing tiers of ProtonVPN, as I don’t think a VPN should deliberately limit its features. In any case, most users will buy the Plus plan, as it allows unblocking streaming platforms and offers the best speeds.
As you can see, the Visionary plan also includes a ProtonMail Visionary subscription. ProtonMail is a secure email service, and this particular plan comes with 20 GB of storage, custom domains, and priority customer support. However, even if you do need secure email, you don’t necessarily need the most advanced plan available.
In any case, don’t forget that you have a 30-day money-back guarantee to try out the product. You can either pay with your credit card or use PayPal (an option not offered by NordVPN).
Pricing of NordVPN
Opposite to ProtonVPN, NordVPN doesn’t have a complicated pricing system. It all comes down to a simple rule: the longer the subscription, the less you pay per month.
Thus, the cheapest way to use NordVPN is to get the 2-year plan for $3.29. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay the full price at once ($79).
Just like ProtonVPN, NordVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Unlike ProtonVPN, NordVPN allows you to pay with cryptocurrencies aside from the usual payment methods like credit cards.
China and countries with restricted internet access
If you want to access banned websites from countries with a high level of internet censorship, your best bet is NordVPN. That’s because it offers obfuscated servers that make VPN traffic appear as regular traffic.
To use them, you have to pick the OpenVPN TCP tunneling protocol and switch on the Obfuscated Servers toggle in the Advanced section of Settings.
ProtonVPN also tries to combat internet censorship with its Alternative Routing feature. However, as of today, it doesn’t work for users in China.
The number of countries offered by ProtonVPN and NordVPN doesn’t differ that much: the former offers 55 countries, while the latter lets you choose from 59 countries in total.
However, the difference between the VPN networks is a bit more apparent when you consider the number of servers - NordVPN has four times more servers than ProtonVPN.
|Middle East & Africa||4||4|
Now, there’s something you should know about ProtonVPN: the servers you can use depend on the plan you buy. Let’s take a closer look:
- Secure Core servers (88 servers in 55 countries) - these are fully owned and operated by ProtonVPN. Available only to Plus and Visionary plan users.
- Plus servers (1,200+ servers in 55 countries) - servers that support streaming and torrenting, as well as Tor over VPN servers
- Basic servers (390+ servers in 40+ countries) - suitable for torrenting
- Free servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the US (23 servers) - medium speed, no extra features like streaming or torrenting
All in all, I declare NordVPN the winner in this category because all of their servers are available to all the subscribers (even though I appreciate that ProtonVPN lets you use certain servers for free).
Platforms, interface and ease of use
|Supported OS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Other software and devices||Kodi, Android TVs, Fire devices||Android TV, Fire devices|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, Opera|
|Simultaneous connections||6||Up to 10|
In terms of compatibility, both ProtonVPN and NordVPN have done their homework properly. No matter what kind of device you use, you’ll be able to download a quality app.
It’s worth noting that ProtonVPN supports more browsers. It also offers more simultaneous connections (10), however, only the subscribers of the Visionary plan can make use of those. The cheaper plans allow for either two or five VPN connections.
The desktop apps of ProtonVPN are quite good - especially the Windows version. It includes the majority of the extra features aside from looking slick and modern. The main window displays a map, as well as tons of information on your connection.
For example, you can see the connection time, the bandwidth you used in the past 60 seconds, and the duration of the connection. You can also see the server load. However, it only shows the load of the server you’re currently connected to.
Meanwhile, the macOS application lacks some of the features like Alternative Routing and split tunneling. The Linux version of ProtonVPN offers a very simple UI and a terminal.
When it comes to the desktop apps of NordVPN, they are a little bit more unified in terms of features. Both Windows and macOS applications display a map so that it would be easier to choose a country you need. However, the Mac version still lacks the split tunneling feature.
Also, the Linux version of NordVPN doesn’t even have a user interface - you’ll have to use the command line terminal.
No matter whether you have an Android or iOS smartphone, you’ll be able to download ProtonVPN and NordVPN. The question is - which VPN offers better mobile applications?
So, ProtonVPN’s mobile apps are almost identical, which is a surprisingly good thing. Usually, when it comes to VPNs, the iOS app is the worse version of the Android one, but not in this case.
Meanwhile, the Android version of NordVPN is the superior one, as the iOS application lacks certain features like auto-connect and split tunneling. All in all, iOS users might like ProtonVPN better, while Android owners will be content with either VPN.
No matter how good a VPN is, you might still run into a problem or two. In these cases, helpful customer support (and a convenient way to reach it) is a must.
ProtonVPN users have two main options. You can either create a support ticket (and get a reply directly to your email) or simply look for the answer in the knowledge center. If you’re a Redditor, you can also visit ProtonVPN’s subreddit at r/ProtonVPN. Unfortunately, there is no live chat option for an instant reply.
It’s even easier to get help when using NordVPN. While the service offers ticket support and a knowledge base just like ProtonVPN, it went the extra mile by launching a 24/7 live chat that allows you receive a reply in minutes.
NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN – which one wins?
|Ease of use||✔️||✔️|
While ProtonVPN has been a tough competitor, NordVPN is the ultimate winner here. It excels in areas like speed, features, price, and server coverage. Also, it has a higher chance of working in oppressive countries like China.
However, no matter which VPN you choose, you’ll have an excellent tool that will help you stay anonymous online.
Which is better: ProtonVPN or NordVPN?
NordVPN beats ProtonVPN in many aspects. For example, NordVPN is better in terms of features, price, and speed. However, the tools are equally good when it comes to security and compatibility.
Is ProtonVPN better than ExpressVPN?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you really care about speeds, then ExpressVPN is the better choice. However, if you only need a VPN for torrenting, then ProtonVPN is the cheaper option.
Can I trust ProtonVPN?
Yes, ProtonVPN is trustworthy. It is an open-source VPN with a third-party audit and a no-logs policy. Also, it uses AES-256 encryption and offers secure tunneling protocols.