NordVPN vs Private Internet Access

NordVPN and Private Internet Access (also known as “PIA”) are major players in the VPN market. They have many loyal users and — for the most part — excellent reputations.

There’s a huge variation in quality between VPN providers, but at the very top of the market (where both these brands sit) the differences become technical and complicated.

Struggling to pick a VPN provider? Read our side-by-side comparison of Private Internet Access and NordVPN to help you choose.

Pricing

 

NordVPN

Private Internet Access

1-month plan

$11.95 per month

$9.95 per month

6-month plan

N/A

$35.95 (equivalent to $5.99 per month)

1-year plan

$83.88 (equivalent to $6.99 per month)

$39.95 (equivalent to $3.33 per month)

2-year plan

$119.76 (equivalent to $4.99 per month)

N/A

3-year plan

$125.64 (equivalent to $3.49 per month)

N/A

Refund period

30 days

7 days

Private Internet Access is cheaper than NordVPN across the board. This is true on its monthly plan and it becomes very apparent when we look at each brand’s longer-term plans.

VPN companies typically try to draw customers into long-term commitments by offering big discounts on their longer plans. That’s why NordVPN offers a three-year plan, which brings its monthly-equivalent price down a lot.

Unlike NordVPN, Private Internet Access doesn’t offer a three-year plan or even a two-year plan. However — Pure Internet Access’s one-year subscription works out cheaper than NordVPN’s three-year subscription on a month-by-month basis. That’s seriously good value.

Remember that although these better-value subscriptions are pretty long-term, both companies offer a money-back guarantee period. NordVPN’s is 30 days long, but Private Internet Access only offers a 7-day refund period. 

Private Internet Access


Private Internet Access is one of the best-value VPNs around, and it’s the clear winner compared to NordVPN on price.

Features

 

Private Internet Access

NordVPN

Connections

5

6

VPN apps — operating systems

Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire.

Browser extensions

Chrome, Firefox, Opera

Chrome, Firefox.

Split tunneling

No

No

Bonuses

Anti-malware and ad-blocker software

CyberSec (anti-malware and ad-blocker software)

Private Internet Access allows up to ten simultaneous VPN connections, compared to NordVPN’s six. This is extremely generous — in fact, it’s probably more than most people need.

Both VPN providers provide desktop apps for PC and Mac, and mobile apps for Android and IOS. NordVPN also provides apps for Linux and Amazon Fire. Private Internet Access users must manually install the app on these operating systems.

Private Internet Access and NordVPN both provide extensions/add-ons for Chrome and Firefox, and Private Internet Access also offers an extension for Opera browser.

Neither brand offers “split tunneling,” a feature that enables you to route some web traffic through your VPN while using your regular internet connection for other activity. Both Private Internet Access and NordVPN also throw in some bonus anti-malware and ad-blocker software.

Private Internet Access


Private Internet Access wins this round because it provides so many simultaneous connections. It also has an Opera extension — the latest version of Opera does include a built-in “VPN,” but it’s not as private as PIA’s.

Security

NordVPN

Private Internet Access

Protocols

OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP

OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, L2TP/IPSec, PTPP.

Data/control-channel encryption

AES-256-CBC, RSA-2048 

AES-256-CBC, RSA-4096

Killswitch

Yes

Yes

VPNs usually let users connect to several different protocols. Unusually, Private Internet Access only provides easy access to the OpenVPN protocol. This is the most secure and best all-round VPN protocol, but some might prefer faster options such as PTPP. You can connect to other protocols via Private Internet Access, but NordVPN makes it much easier.

Private Internet Access and NordVPN both use military-grade 256-bit encryption to protect user activity data. For the “control channel” Private Internet Access uses RSA-4096, which is considerably stronger than NordVPN’s RSA-2048 (which is already very secure).

Both VPN providers offer a “killswitch,” which automatically cuts off your internet connection whenever your VPN disconnects. This stops your device from automatically switching to your normal connection, which would reveal your IP address and online activity.

NordVPN is very proud of its “double VPN” technique — it encrypts user data twice via a method known as “server chaining.” This sounds great, and, in theory, it’s twice as secure as regular encryption. However, 256-bit encryption is already effectively uncrackable.

Both Private Internet Access and NordVPN have previously experienced security issues. Private Internet Access’s security incident occurred in 2015 and targeted people using “port forwarding”. NordVPN’s was more recent, having occurred in 2018. In both cases, some users’ IP addresses were temporarily visible. Both companies responded quickly. 

Private Internet Access


Although neither VPN service has a perfect security record, NordVPN’s security breach was much more recent. The company has taken steps to resolve its issues, but it might be a little while before it can fully win back consumer trust. Therefore, Pure Internet Access wins this round.

Speed & servers

 

NordVPN

Private Internet Access

Number of servers

Over 5200

Over 3200

Countries

58

29

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are both very fast VPN providers. It’s not really possible to say which one is faster overall — this will depend on where you’re located, and where the internet resource you’re trying to access is hosted. Either VPN should be suitable for high-bandwidth activities, including torrenting.

The key difference between these providers is the number of servers that they each have. NordVPN has over 5200 VPN server locations — around 2000 more than Private Internet Access. This means that, on average, you’re more likely to get a fast and reliable download speed from NordVPN.

However — note that Private Internet Access has servers in fewer countries. This is because it concentrates its servers on northern-hemisphere regions such as North America and the EU. Therefore, if you live in one of these regions, you may get an equally good or better service from Private Internet Access.

NordVPN


Due to its greater number of servers, this round goes to NordVPN. However, you may want to check which provider has the greater number nearby before you decide which one gets your cash.

Privacy

NordVPN

Private Internet Access

Logs policy

No logs

No logs

User info required

Email address

Email address

Anonymous payment options

Cryptocurrencies, gift cards

Cryptocurrencies, gift cards

Home jurisdiction

Panama

United States

Before you start routing all your internet traffic through a VPN provider, you have to know that you can trust it. Unfortunately, some VPN providers are more trustworthy than others

Both Private Internet Access and NordVPN state that they do not store data about their users’ activity or connection history. 

We have reason to trust Private Internet Access’s logging policy. On two occasions, the FBI has requested that Private Internet Access hand over data about its users in relation to federal trials. On both occasions, Private Internet Access couldn’t help — they did have any data to hand over.

We can also trust NordVPN’s “no logs” policy as it has been audited by Swiss auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This is good evidence that NordVPN does not store its users’ data.

Both providers support anonymous sign-ups, which further reduces the chance that your identity could be revealed. They do require an email address at sign-up, but they accept both anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Tie


Both VPN providers have taken positive steps to protect and defend their users’ privacy.

Content unblocking

NordVPN

Private Internet Access

Netflix

Yes

Yes

BBC

Yes

No

Amazon Prime Video

Yes

No

Hulu

Yes

Yes

You may wish to use your VPN to access websites and streaming services that are unavailable in your home country. Even among the best VPN providers, some are better at this than others, because Netflix and other online services work hard to block VPN users from accessing geo-restricted content. 

NordVPN is much better at unblocking content than Private Internet Access. Private Internet Access can provide fairly reliable access to Netflix across several different regions, but it can’t reliably unblock trickier platforms such as BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime.

NordVPN


When it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content, NordVPN wins hand down.

Our pick

Private Internet Access


Overall, Private Internet Access beats NordVPN in our head-to-head. 


While NordVPN certainly has advantages over NordVPN — such as better content unblocking capabilities and a larger number of servers — Private Internet Access delivers a highly secure and private service at a seriously good price.


But don’t forget that both VPN providers offer a money-back guarantee period. It might be worth trying both to determine which one is better for your needs.

Alex Grant
 

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