NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access Comparison & Test Results 2019

NordVPN is a torrent-friendly VPN provider that offers top-notch customer support and optimal privacy protections that users will find well worth considering.

NordVPN logo

NordVPN’s simple-to-use VPN service is reasonably priced and provides a good value.

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Private Internet Access (PIA) is a bargain-basement-priced service that offers excellent connection speeds and tip-top privacy protections.

PIA logo

The provider’s fast connection speeds make it a great choice for streaming fans, although its limited global server coverage and somewhat limited BitTorrent support might turn some users off.

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How to Choose a VPN

When searching for a VPN that meets your unique online needs, there are a good number of considerations to keep in mind.

In this article, I’ll list the most important features for any full-service VPN to offer and let you know how well the head-to-head participants, NordVPN and Private Internet Access, perform in each category.

I’ll rank both providers in each category, naming one of them the “winner” for that service category. At the end of the article I’ll tally up the points for both providers, and the score will determine an overall victor.

By then, you should have enough information on hand to decide whether either VPN is a good fit for your needs.

Connection Speed

It’s an always-connected world, so it doesn’t matter where you are or what online activity you’re engaged in: a fast connection is always better than a slow one.

In this section, I’ll discuss the protected speeds of both providers and share their performance numbers with you.

Pixel Privacy uses Speedtest.net to test the connection speeds. A team of 3 of us conduct the VPN tests as follows:

  1. We use a gigabit Ethernet connection based in North America.
  2. We connect to 3 different VPN locations – the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong – at 3 different times of day for 3 days.
  3. We test using the Windows version of the provider’s app, configuring it to connect via the OpenVPN protocol over UDP.
  4. Once we’ve run all of the speed tests, we average the results for each provider to obtain our speed ranking figure.

Average Connection Speed

While Private Internet Access is arguably best known for being a bargain-basement-priced VPN provider, PIA’s download speeds are surprisingly fast.

The provider’s offerings may be a bit limited in some of the categories we’ll be examining, but speed is a category in which it excels.

Connection speed is NordVPN’s least dazzling category, providing only enough download speed to handle HD (but not 4K) streaming content. However, the provider’s speeds should still be sufficient for most online activities.

Keep in mind that your download speeds will differ from my test results, depending on the usual speeds that your Internet Service Provider delivers.

Average Connection Speed Winner: Private Internet Access

Provider

Avg. D/L Speed Link

Private Internet Access

84.18 Mbps Visit Site

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NordVPN

17.90 Mbps Visit Site

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Pricing

While both IPVanish and Private Internet Access are reasonably priced, only one of these providers is a bargain-basement price leader when it comes to 1-year commitments.

Private Internet Access is one of the lowest-priced VPN providers that I have ever reviewed. The provider’s month-to-month pricing scheme will cost you about the same as a large cup of coffee at a fancy cafe, while their annual subscription rate drops that fee down to the price of a large cup of java from a neighborhood diner.

Meanwhile, NordVPN also offers budget pricing, but their monthly price only drops to PIA territory if you opt for a 2-year or 3-year commitment. Otherwise, the annual plan is in froufrou coffee territory, while the month-to-month tariff comes out near what you’d pay for a fancy large coffee and a breakfast sandwiche.

We don’t list exact pricing in our articles, as many VPN providers are almost always adjusting their pricing and offering “special one-time only” deals. So, visit the website of any provider that you’re interested in to view their current pricing.

Pricing Winner: Private Internet Access

Provider Money-Back Guarantee Period Link
Private Internet Access 7 Days Visit Site

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NordVPN 30 Days Visit Site

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Privacy

Online privacy is arguably the most important feature any potential VPN user should consider. Keeping your privacy protected while using the internet is an increasingly difficult task.

To aid in that struggle, always look for a VPN provider that’s located in a privacy-friendly country, that doesn’t keep any type of activity logs and that accepts privacy-enhancing payment options, like Bitcoin or merchant gift cards.

NordVPN is blessed with a privacy-friendly base of operations in Panama, a country that doesn’t require VPN providers to keep logs connected to their customers’ online activities. As such, NordVPN follows a total “no logs” policy. They also accept Bitcoin in return for their services.

While Private Internet Access is located in the increasingly privacy-unfriendly confines of the United States, the company doesn’t keep any logs related to their users’ online travels. PIA accepts both Bitcoin and merchant gift cards, so your payment information is kept well undercover.

Privacy Winner: NordVPN

Provider

Privacy Rating Link

NordVPN

5.0 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

4.5 Visit Site

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Features

No category in particular should be thought of as a deal-breaker when it comes to deciding which VPN provider is the one to fit your needs.

Instead, you should always take all of a provider’s offerings into consideration before pushing the “order” button.

This section will offer a look at the various features that our head-to-head contestants offer. I’ll provide a quick look at each company’s offerings in each category and then conclude which service offers the best performance in that particular area.

Security

NordVPN offers AES-256 protection through the OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols, providing excellent connection protection to its users. The provider also offers kill switch protection, malicious-website blocking, DNS leak protection and Onion Over VPN.

Private Internet Access also uses AES-256 with OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec to protect its connections, providing equivalent protection to its customers. In addition, the service offers DNS and IPv6 leak protection, kill switch protection and the ability to block ads, trackers and malware.

For more details about these and other VPN security protections, check out my VPN Security Features article.

Encryption Winner: Tied

Provider

Security Score Star Rating Link

NordVPN

5.0 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

5.0 Visit Site

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Simultaneous Connections

Any VPN provider worth its money will provide the ability for its customers to have multiple devices connected to its service at the same time. The availability of simultaneous connections allows families and small businesses to get more bang for their buck.

Private Internet Access allows up to 10 simultaneous connections per account. This makes it an excellent choice for users with large families, small businesses, or two bowling teams that need to keep their members’ internet connections protected.

NordVPN allows up to 6 concurrent connections, which is still reasonable, though not as impressive as PIA’s count.

Simultaneous Connections Winner: Private Internet Access

Provider

Simultaneous Connections Allowed Link

Private Internet Access

10 Visit Site

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NordVPN

6 Visit Site

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Streaming Support

If you’re like me, you probably subscribe to what is known as “too damn many streaming services.”

If you do, you’ve probably found that Netflix, Amazon Prime and others don’t offer the same content in all countries. And you may have noticed that other services, like BBC iPlayer and Hulu, are only available in one or two countries.

These limitations exist because of the content agreements that streaming services sign with television and movie producers. The agreements limit which countries certain content can be made available in. That’s where a VPN comes in handy.

NordVPN unblocks a large number of streaming services, both in the United States and internationally. Services it unblocks include: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and others.

Unfortunately, Private Internet Access doesn’t reliably unblock any streaming services, nor does it claim to. The provider’s servers did at random times provide access to Netflix, but it was not reliable. It also struck out on the other U.S. streaming providers, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu. International services like BBC iPlayer were also unavailable.

Streaming Support Winner: NordVPN

Provider

# of U.S. Streaming Services VPN Unblocks # of International Services VPN Unblocks Link

NordVPN

5+ 5+ Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

0 0 Visit Site

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BitTorrent Support

BitTorrent/P2P file sharing is either the best thing since sliced bread (say proponents) or a way for online users to completely destroy the movie and music industries (say the movie and music industries).

Either way, a VPN provides an excellent method of protecting your online activities from the prying eyes of your Internet Service Provider, the government or those fine folks over at the movie studio.

uTorrent download page

NordVPN happily allows P2P activity, but it’s restricted to select servers. The good news is that that P2P server count is 4,700+ servers in 46 countries around the world.

Private Internet Access allows torrenting on all of its servers. A PIA customer support agent once told me, “we don’t know and don’t care what you do with our service. That includes P2P file sharing. Share away.”

Both companies refuse to keep logs of their customers’ online antics, so there won’t be any record of your downloading activities if movie studio lawyers come a-knockin’ at their door, subpoena in hand.

BitTorrenting Support Winner: NordVPN

Provider

# of Countries Where VPN Allows BitTorrents Link

NordVPN

46 countries Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

32 (all of them) Visit Site

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Global Server Coverage

Global server coverage is always worth a closer look when researching a VPN provider.

While many users will simply use their VPN to protect their internet connection and personal information, it’s also a great way to access geographically-blocked content, such as video and music streaming services, or international gaming servers.

NordVPN offers 5,700+ servers stationed in 60 countries. This server coverage, while not tops in the industry, does offer an excellent chance of accessing geo-blocked content in most places in the free world.

At first blush, Private Internet Access offers an impressive server count: 3,390+. However, those servers are crowded into just 32 countries. PIA does have server farms installed in major countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, France and others, but you might find your access to blocked content is more limited than it would be with NordVPN.

Global Server Coverage Winner: NordVPN

Provider

Server Count Countries Link

NordVPN

5,700+ 60 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

3,390+ 32 Visit Site

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Multi-Platform Support

Considering how many internet-connected devices we own nowadays, comprehensive multi-platform support is a must when making a VPN subscription decision.

NordVPN app support includes Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, Android and Android TV. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available. They also support a good number of wireless routers.

Private Internet Access offers native app support for the Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux device platforms. In addition, Chrome, Firefox and Opera browser extensions are available to protect your web browsing sessions. Setup instructions for DD-WRT and Tomato-enabled routers offer protection for all of your connected devices.

For those who want to take the easiest route to protecting all of their connected devices, both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer ready-to-go routers through FlashRouters.com.

Multi-Platform Support Winner: NordVPN

Provider

Platforms Supported Browser Extensions? Link

NordVPN

6 Yes (Chrome, Firefox) Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

5 Yes (Chrome, Firefox, Opera) Visit Site

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Customer Support

While the apps and services that both VPN providers offer are easy to understand and use, there will likely come a day when you’ll have a support-related question for the provider. When that day comes, you’ll want to know that you’ll receive a quick and knowledgeable reply to your support queries.

NordVPN provides live support chat, an email-based trouble ticket submission system and an easy-to-use support library. All of the provider’s support options allowed me to quickly resolve any issues I experienced while using this provider’s service.

Private Internet Access also provides an online trouble ticket support form and a knowledge-filled support library. Private Internet Access lacks a live support text chat option, so you may have to wait awhile for replies from support. However, the provider’s support agent replied within hours to trouble tickets I submitted.

Customer Support Winner: NordVPN

Provider

Customer Support Rating Link

NordVPN

4.5 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

4.0 Visit Site

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And The Winner Is

While it’s true that both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer above-average ways to protect your internet connection and its accompanying personal information from probes by outsiders, only one provider can be considered the best in this one-on-one competition.

NordVPN logo

NordVPN is the clear winner in this head-to-head competition, supplying excellent privacy protections, great multi-platform support, wide-ranging streaming support, comprehensive global server coverage, top-notch customer support options and excellent BitTorrent support.

Both providers performed equally as well in the security arena.

Private Internet Access scored well with its low prices, excellent connection speeds and impressive simultaneous connections allowance. However, its lack of wider global server coverage and lack of live chat in customer support contributed to its also-ran status.

No matter which VPN provider that you find is best for your needs, I highly recommend immediately buying a subscription to begin protecting your online activities from prying eyes. A VPN is a must in today’s dangerous online world.

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