NordVPN vs Private Internet Access
Comparison & Test Results 2018
NordVPN is a torrent-friendly VPN provider that offers top-notch customer support and privacy protections that users will find well worth considering.
NordVPN’s simple-to-use VPN service is reasonably priced and provides a good value.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN provider that could be especially attractive to users looking for a value-priced provider with speedy connections.
PIA’s global server coverage and BitTorrent support comes up short against its head-to-head competitor.
How to Choose a VPN
When searching for a VPN that meets your unique online needs, there will be a good number of considerations to keep in mind. In this article, I’ll list the most important features for any full-service VPN 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 point. 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.
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.
The VPN provider connection speed tests are conducted as follows:
Local Connection Speeds (U.S.)
Private Internet Access is arguably best known for its low prices. However, users who try out PIA may find themselves pleasantly surprised by their fast connections. The provider’s U.S. connection speeds come in at 94.2% of my ISP-only speeds. I didn’t expect that kind of speed from a bargain-basement-priced VPN provider.
NordVPN’s U.S. connection speeds were only slightly slower than PIA’s, measuring in at 90.9% of my unprotected ISP speeds.
International Connection Speeds (U.S. to U.K.)
Private Internet Access continued to offer excellent data speeds when connected to the service through a United Kingdom-based server. PIA’s U.K. numbers were very close to their U.S. numbers, measuring at 93.9% of my ISP-only speeds.
NordVPN, while still providing bearable connection speeds through the U.K., slowed quite a bit more than Private Internet Access did. NordVPN measured in at 75.6% of my unprotected ISP speeds when connected through the U.K.
While it would be great not to have to worry about price when considering a VPN service, the fact is, many of us do have to watch expenses. Both of the providers in this VPN faceoff are reasonably priced and provide excellent value to users who opt for either provider.
Private Internet Access will take only a $6.95 nibble out of your budget when you opt for the monthly subscription option, and just $3.33 per month ($39.95 per year) when you opt for an annual subscription. This provider is one of the lowest-priced providers I’ve ever tried and offers an excellent way for budget-minded users to protect their internet connection.
Both of NordVPN’s pricing options come in quite a bit higher than PIA’s, both for month-to-month and annual plans. This provider charges $11.95 for their month-to-month service option, dropping to $5.75 per month ($60.00 per year) when you sign up for an annual deal.
Money-Back Guarantee Period
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 is located in a privacy-friendly country, doesn’t keep any type of usage logs and 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 if you so desire.
No category, in particular, is 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 offered by our head-to-head contestants. 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.
NordVPN offers AES-256 protection through the OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols, providing excellent connection protection to its users.
Private Internet Access also uses AES-256 with OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec to protect its customers, providing equivalent protection to its customers.
Encryption Winner: Tied
AES-256 encryption, using OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP and SSTP
AES-256 encryption, using OpenVPN, L2TP+PSK and PPTP
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 means families and small businesses can get more bang for their buck.
NordVPN allows up to 6 concurrent connections, but there is a small catch. Each connection to a single server must use a different connection protocol. This means that multiple users will need to make sure they are each using a different encryption protocol when connecting to NordVPN. This might prove to be a bit of a pain when users are out and about.
Private Internet Access allows up to 5 simultaneous connections and has no limits on protocol usage when users are connecting to the same server.
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.
NordVPN happily allows P2P activity, but it’s restricted to servers located in 37 countries. Private Internet Access also believes you should be able to file share to your heart’s content, but only on servers located in Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany, Romania and Israel.
Both companies refuse to keep logs of their customers’ online antics, so there won’t be any record of your downloading activities if the movie studio comes a-knockin’ at their door, subpoena in hand.
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, a VPN is a great way to access geographically-blocked content, such as video and music streaming services, or international gaming servers.
NordVPN offers 2,129 servers stationed in 61 countries. This server coverage, while not tops in the industry, does offer a decent chance of accessing geo-blocked content in most places in the free world.
At first blush, Private Internet Access offers an impressive server count: 3,272+. However, those servers are crowded into just 25 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.
Computers, smartphones, tablets, set-top streaming boxes, gaming consoles - even that new refrigerator you may have in your kitchen - are all connected to the internet. That makes comprehensive multi-platform support a must when making a VPN subscription decision.
NordVPN app support includes various flavors of Windows (Windows XP through Windows 10), macOS, iOS and Android. They also offer manual setup instructions for Linux, Chrome OS, Windows Phone and Raspberry Pi devices, along with a good number of wireless routers.
Private Internet Access covers the popular desktop and mobile platforms, providing native apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux devices. They also provide a browser extension for the Chrome platform, as well as support for DD-WRT and Tomato-flashed routers.
Folks who want to hit the ground running with router support can buy ready-to-go, plug-and-play routers for both VPN services via the FlashRouters.com website.
Features Overall Star Ratings
While the apps and services offered by VPN providers 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 offers only a trouble ticket submission form and a do-it-yourself support library. No live support chat option is currently available from the provider. That said, support agents replied quickly to my inquiries, and the support library was easy to use, enabling me to find answers quickly.
And The Winner Is...
While it’s true that both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer serviceable ways to protect your internet connection and its accompanying personal information from probes by outsiders, only one provider can be considered the best in a one-on-one competition.
NordVPN is the clear winner in this head-to-head competition, supplying great multi-platform support, good global server coverage, excellent support options and excellent BitTorrent support.
Private Internet Access scored well with its low prices, excellent server speeds and competitive privacy protections. However, its lack of better global server coverage and room for improvement when it comes to customer support contributed to its also-ran status.