NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Which One Is Better? (January, 2020)
NordVPN and PIA are two of the most popular VPNs today.
However, despite both VPNs being excellent, there can only be one winner.
I conducted several tests, and I’ve outlined the results in this NordVPN vs. PIA comparison post.
While NordVPN does come out on top, each provider has its strengths and weaknesses.
Quick Overview: NordVPN vs. PIA
|Criteria||Private Internet Access||NordVPN|
|Rating||4.6 of 5||4.8 of 5 |
|Price||View Best Price||View Best Price|
|Logging Policy||No Logging Policy||No Logging Policy|
|Servers & Countries||3270+ Servers in 29 Countries||5500+ Servers in 59 Countries|
|Torrenting / P2P||Yes||Yes|
|Encryption||AES 256-bit||AES 256-bit|
|Customer Support||Restricted Live Chat||24/7 Live Chat|
|Simultaneous Connections||10 Devices||6 Devices|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Routers||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Routers|
|Refund Policy||7 Days||30 Days|
|Visit:||Go with PIA||Go with NordVPN|
|Provider||Avg. Ping||Avg. Download Speed||Avg. Upload Speed|
|NordVPN||113 ms||71.70 Mbps||36.34 Mbps|
|PIA||134 ms||65.46 Mbps||27.55 Mbps|
Speed is critical when choosing a VPN. Your VPN may be secure, but if it’s slow, it can prove frustrating to use.
Luckily, neither NordVPN nor PIA is slow. After putting the two VPN services under multiple speed tests, I can say I was impressed by what I saw.
NordVPN averaged 82 Mbps in nearby servers (Europe).
When connected to US servers, the average speed dropped to 73 Mbps, a reduction of 27% on my baseline speed. The service also performed well in the Asia Pacific, most notably in Australia, where connections averaged a decent 58 Mbps.
As I’ve already mentioned, PIA was no slouch, either.
The service averaged 77 Mbps in Europe, 69 Mbps in the US, and 48 Mbps in Australia.
Here is a snapshot of the results.
Note: When conducting the tests, my benchmark speeds (standard internet connection) were 98.27 Mbps download and 52.04 Mbps upload.
PIA Speed Results
|Connected to UK server||54 ms||77.83 Mbps (-20.80%)||38.91 Mbps (-25.23%)|
|Connected to US server||127 ms||69.74 Mbps (-29.03%)||29.58 Mbps (-43.15%)|
|Connected to Australia server||221 ms||48.82 Mbps (-50.32%)||14.16 Mbps (-72.79%)|
NordVPN Speed Results
|Connected to UK server||47 ms||82.58 Mbps (-15.69%)||43.91 Mbps (-15.62%)|
|Connected to US server||109 ms||73.62 Mbps (-25.08%)||35.68 Mbps (-31.43%)|
|Connected to Australia server||184 ms||58.91 Mbps (-39.36%)||29.43 Mbps (-43.44%)|
Cost & Payment Methods
If you are hard-pressed for money, then it’s an easy choice between PIA and NordVPN. But then again, the cheapest option may not always be the most valuable.
Let’s start with Private Internet Access.
PIA Pricing Plans
Even with their recent price hike, PIA remains one of the most affordable top-tier VPNs in the market. The provider offers three pricing plans, all having the same features but different billing cycles.
NordVPN Pricing Plans
NordVPN, on the other hand, offers four pricing plans, ranging from a month-to-month subscription to a three-year plan.
Both NordVPN and PIA support numerous payment options.
However, I have to give this one to PIA as they offer PayPal and a wider range of credit cards.
How You Can Pay for PIA?
Private Internet Access accepts:
How You Can Pay for NordVPN?
NordVPN main payment options are:
Quite notably, NordVPN does not accept payments via PayPal.
Free Trials & Money-Back Policy
NordVPN and PIA do not offer a completely free trial, but both provide money-back guarantees allowing you to test their services free of charge.
If you are not happy with either service, you can easily request and get a full refund.
This is where the similarities end.
PIA’s money-back policy is very limited. The provider has a short 7-day refund window, which pales in comparison to the 30-day money-back guarantee offered by NordVPN.
Do They Offer Discounts Often?
Both NordVPN and PIA offer promotional pricing and discounts regularly with the best deals being available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
While most of the deals can only be applied on new accounts, if you’re in luck, you can also get discounted renewal costs.
Privacy & Jurisdiction
The company keeps neither activity nor connection logs.
However, they do collect some basic information for operational purposes.
The data collected is limited to:
Similarly, Private Internet Access does not record your VPN activities. But like NordVPN and virtually every other VPN, they do store the following:
Although their zero activity logging policy is a step in the right direction, the company has its headquarters in the US. A member of the 5 Eyes, the US has some of the most invasive data laws.
Popularity (Google Trends)
While popularity doesn’t reflect quality, it can be a good indicator of a VPN’s brand image and reputation.
To get an idea about the popularity of NordVPN and PIA, I compared their number of online searches using Google Trends.
As you can see in the screenshot below, NordVPN is significantly more popular than Private Internet Access.
Security – Protocols & Encryption
Security is one of the most important considerations you should make when choosing a VPN. After all, if a VPN can’t protect your data, why get it in the first place?
Both PIA and NordVPN are secure and can keep you safe when online.
But to what degree?
NordVPN, on the other hand, offers only two protocols to choose from:
For its browser extensions, NordVPN uses TLS v1.2 protocol which strikes an excellent balance between security and speed.
As you can see, both VPNs support OpenVPN in their Windows and mobile apps. Basically, this is all what most users care about today.
OpenVPN is not only secure but also highly configurable.
It allows you to secure data on both the control channel and data channel, ensuring full confidentiality and integrity.
Why is that important?
Well, while the data channel secures your traffic, the control channel encryption secures the connection between your device and your VPN provider’s servers.
This eliminates vulnerabilities and guards against man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
In regards to data encryption, both NordVPN and PIA use AES-256-CBC, which is the gold standard in the VPN industry. But NordVPN does not stop there.
The provider also offers Double VPN, a security solution that encrypts your data not once, but twice.
Beyond the VPN protocols and encryption, NordVPN offers some pretty exciting security features, including Onion over VPN, an internet kill switch, and CyberSec, an ad and malware blocking tool.
If you’re a Linux user, then you should definitely checkout NordLynx.
It is a new privacy solution designed around the ultra-fast WireGuard protocol.
However, while fast, WireGuard is not good for privacy.
It lacks dynamic IPs and requires active logging of your connection timestamps.
That’s where NordLynx comes in.
This exciting NordVPN tool combines WireGuard with a dynamic NAT (Network Address Translation) system allowing you to enjoy the protocol’s speed benefits without compromising your online anonymity.
When you go online, you could either be using your phone, tablet, computer, or even your smart TV. If you are not protecting every device, then you could still be susceptible to the same risks that made you get a VPN.
Luckily, most providers allow you to connect several devices simultaneously.
With a single subscription, you can cover all your devices as well as protect the devices of friends and family.
However, VPNs do not support the same number of simultaneous connections.
NordVPN allows you to connect up to 6 simultaneous connections with every subscription. As impressive that number is, it’s PIA that takes the win in this category. Private Internet Access supports an incredible 10 simultaneous connections, which is double the industry standard.
Streaming – Netflix, iPlayer, & Amazon Prime
Streaming can break or make a VPN. Yes, security and speed are all important, but if you are interested in unblocking Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, and like, this should be the first category you look at.
So, is PIA the better option for streaming? Or does NordVPN take the honors?
When it comes to streaming services, Netflix is the toughest cookie to crack.
The popular service is notorious for actively blocking VPN IPs.
As such, only a few VPNs can access the service.
I tested PIA numerous times using different US servers, and every single time I got the following error message:
The VPN also failed to unblock BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
If you want to access US Netflix from outside the country, NordVPN is a great choice. The VPN works well with Netflix, and I was able to connect and stream US exclusive movies without any issues.
NordVPN also works with all the other major streaming services, including Hulu, iPlayer, and Amazon Prime.
Both NordVPN and PIA are good options for torrenting.
They offer fast connections and do not restrict any traffic, and that includes P2P file sharing.
NordVPN offers better security and comes with P2P specialized servers.
PIA features port-forwarding, which is a decent answer to NordVPN’s specialty servers. Port forwarding is a handy feature that moves traffic more efficiently and quickly, enabling you to optimize your torrenting speeds.
Countries & Servers
|5500+ in 59 countries||3270+ servers in 29 countries|
Whether you are looking to optimize your speeds, access local servers, or unblock geo-blocked content, it helps to have a wider network of servers to choose from.
Both the number of servers and server locations are important.
A high number of servers give better odds of finding fast, less crowded servers.
A vast selection of server locations, on the other hand, allows you to access IPs and content in as many countries.
NordVPN provides access to 5500 plus servers in 59 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India, and the Asia Pacific.
The service offers both Smart DNS servers and dedicated IPs, which makes it great for streaming.
Private Internet Access has a much smaller server network compared to NordVPN. They offer 3270 servers in 29 countries and support neither Smart DNS nor Dedicated IPs.
Which Provider Is Better for Australia?
Compared to PIA, NordVPN has a slightly higher number of servers and server locations in Australia. The provider offers 200+ servers and 5 locations, while PIA has 142 servers in 3 locations.
If you want to change your IP to Australia, either presents a good option.
However, if you live in Australia, NordVPN is slightly better, thanks to its wider server distribution.
The provider has servers in:
Which Provider Is Better for China?
China is one of the most censored countries in the world.
Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, and Wikipedia are all blocked.
The government also blocks almost all VPNs allowing only a few pre-approved providers.
PIA is one of the VPNs that are blocked in China. If you reside in or are travelling to the country, I would recommend getting NordVPN.
The provider’s Obfuscated Servers disguise your VPN traffic allowing you to bypass China’s Great Firewall.
Multi-Platform Compatibility & Support
Both NordVPN and PIA can be installed in a wide range of platforms.
Private Internet Access offers apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Additionally, the VPN is compatible with routers.
Likewise, NordVPN has native clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.
But unlike PIA, they also provide apps for Android TV and Amazon Firestick.
Reliability & Customer Support
Both offer a wide range of support options, including live chat support.
However, while NordVPN’s live chat support is available to everyone, PIA restricts theirs to account holders.
Other than that, everything else is pretty much similar.
You can contact support via email, and both providers have a searchable Knowledge Base (Help Center) where you can find setup tutorials, FAQs, and other useful information.
Apart from the above support options, Private Internet Access also has a very active community forum, which I found to be quite helpful.
|Average Email Response Time||2 Hours||1 Hour|
Compare To Other Providers
And the Overall Winner Is...
While PIA has significantly upped its game, it doesn’t quite match its competitor.
NordVPN performs better in all the core categories, including speed, security, global server coverage, and streaming.
However, that doesn’t mean PIA is a terrible VPN.
I found their speeds to be decent, and connections were leak-free.
The VPN is also competitively priced and a good option if you are looking for a short term subscription.