NordVPN vs PIA – We Review, Test & Compare The Services

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are two front-runners in the VPN industry that both get a lot of attention, but are they worth their salt?

And do they both offer the same level of security? NordVPN vs PIA which is truly better?

The last thing you want to do is misplace your trust and hand over sensitive Internet traffic and personal data to an untrustworthy company.

Instead, you want to make sure that you’re getting the highest level of security for the lowest price possible.

To help you better protect your data and get the most value for your hard-earned money, we’re going to take an objective look at Private Internet Access (PIA) vs NordVPN.

To begin, let’s look at the big picture with regards to each provider’s main features.

FeaturePIA VPNNordVPN
Monthly Price$6.95$11.95
JurisdictionUnited StatesPanama
Encryption MethodsAES-256AES-256
Global Connection OptionsServers in 28 countriesServers in 62+ countries
Protocols PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec
LogsNo user activity logsNo user activity logs
Refund Period 7-day money back guarantee30-day money back guarantee
Support24/7 support24/7 support
Supported Platforms Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers

NordVPN and PIA Pricing and Plans

First off, I wanted to say that both PIA VPN and NordVPN have pricing models towards the cheaper end of the spectrum when compared with the majority of other quality VPN service providers.

They are both extremely competitive with regards to price, especially when considering their longest-term subscriptions.

For example, the two-year subscription plan for Private Internet Access VPN only costs a meager $2.91 per month, while NordVPN’s three-year subscription only costs $2.75 per month.

Just imagine, those prices are cheaper than food at most restaurants!

 PIA VPN price:

  • Monthly subscription – $6.95
  • Annual subscription – $3.33
  • Two-year Subscription – $2.91

 NordVPN price:

  • Monthly subscription – $11.95
  • Annual subscription – $5.75
  • Three-year subscription – $2.75

I have to say, I was impressed with how competitive each provider’s pricing is since these rates are cheaper than the vast majority of other services.

NordVPN vs PIA Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)

WebRTC test for PIA VPN and NordVPN:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The speed tests were initiated from an Internet connection in the central United States (the Midwest), and both connections used OpenVPN.

All factors in the test (Internet connection, encryption method, protocol, etc.) were kept equal for an accurate assessment.

Furthermore, there was no other traffic on the Internet connection for the duration of the speed tests, meaning there were no other downloads, uploads, or other varieties of Internet traffic so that the VPN tunnel was able to utilize 100% of the bandwidth.

The tests were initiated from the Midwest in the United States on a typical Internet connection with 5Mbps download bandwidth and 1Mbps upload bandwidth. Let’s take a look at the results.

NordVPN Results:

  • UK – Latency: 107ms Download: 4.90Mbps Upload: 0.95Mbps
  • Singapore – Latency: 231ms Download: 4.93Mbps Upload: 0.84Mbps

PIA VPN Results:

  • UK – Latency: 105ms Download: 4.40Mbps Upload: 0.95Mbps
  • Singapore – Latency: 210ms Download: 4.75Mbps Upload: 0.91Mbps

In the UK test, NordVPN won by only a little. It actually had 2ms more latency than Private Internet Access VPN, but the download bandwidth was 0.5Mbps faster.

I’m not sure the average user would be able to sense half a megabit’s worth of download bandwidth, and I couldn’t notice a difference when loading web pages.

However, if you use cloud storage or frequently download large files, you might notice the difference.

Results varied with Singapore test. NordVPN, once again, had more latency, though this time it had 21ms more latency, which surprised me.

Typically it's not unusual to see a variance of 1-3ms between tests, so I was surprised it was so much higher.

The Private Internet Access VPN test was negligible slower with regards to download bandwidth, yet PIA VPN had slightly higher upload bandwidth than NordVPN.

Altogether, I was pleased with the speed of each connection and thought that the latency, download, and upload rates were, at the very least, acceptable in both cases.

I wouldn’t say these are the fastest services I’ve ever used, but they’re certainly not sluggish either.

I also think these speeds are acceptable for the vast majority of users, too, since the connections have so little latency they can facilitate smooth, lossless voice calls.

Private Internet Access and Nord VPN Features and Benefits

NordVPN DNS and IPV6 test:

 

 

 

 

PIA VPN DNS and IPV6 test:

 

 

 

 

PIA VPN, as one of the leading VPN services, offers industry-standard AES-256-bit encryption and OpenVPN connections, as well as L2TP/IPsec and PPTP as well.

Be aware that PPTP should be avoided at all costs since it offers the weakest type of encryption and can be easily broken – so it doesn’t really provide any significant security at all.

Additionally, note that PIA VPN is available on all the major operating system platforms, though the GUI, which is very bare and simplistic, isn’t available on Linux systems.

Instead, Linux users can set up connections via the command line or via network interfaces within the operating system. I was a little underwhelmed, however, to see that PIA VPN only hosts servers in 28 countries.

For me personally, this would be sufficient because of Private Internet Access VPN hosts servers in all the most popular areas.

That said, I think that PIA VPN doesn’t have as much global appeal since it doesn’t host servers in areas off the beaten path of Internet hosting, like a small or obscure country not famous for hosting providers.

For comparison, note that the average provider typically has 40-50 countries in which it hosts servers.

I was, however, pleased to see that Private Internet Access VPN permits up to five simultaneous connections per account, though NordVPN offers six simultaneous connections.

Nevertheless, the software, even in its simplicity, offers great security features including a kill-switch, DNS-leak protection, and IPv6-leak protection.

I’m not sure why, but these features can be turned off in the client. I would prefer them to remain active all the time for improved security and privacy, but I suppose I’m just being picky.

The client does not, however, have any split-tunneling features, though it does permit P2P traffic through its servers. P2P allowance combined with the VPN kill-switch feature make it well adept for BitTorrent downloads.

I was a little disappointed to see what Private Internet Access VPN listed as some of its “features.” Some of these “features” are industry standard qualities that shouldn’t be admired since they aren’t special.

These “features” include encrypted Wi-Fi, no traffic logs, unlimited bandwidth, and multiple VPN gateways.

The problem with these features is that encrypted Wi-Fi, no traffic logs, and multiple VPN gateways are simply inherent qualities of a VPN tunnel, and no one would want to use a VPN service that logs traffic, so no traffic logs is a bit of a given.

Lastly, PIA VPN helps tighten down security by blocking ads, ads tracking, and some forms of malware, though it is no substitute for a full-featured antivirus software suite.

The following outlines the core features and benefits for PIA VPN:

  • AES-256-bit encryption
  • Available on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS
  • 3,000+ servers in 45 cities hosted in 28 countries
  • Up to five simultaneous connections per account
  • Kill-switch included in the client
  • No split tunneling feature
  • P2P support
  • Encrypted Wi-Fi, multiple VPN gateways, unlimited bandwidth, and no traffic logs
  • SOCKS5 web proxy
  • Blocks ads, trackers, and malware
  • DNS-leak protection

NordVPN has many of the same features as PIA VPN, though it does have some great security enhancements that PIA VPN lacks.

First off, note that it does have IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN connections, and provides military-grade encryption via AES-256.

Like Private Internet Access VPN, it also lacks a split-tunneling feature, though it does have all the other basic features like availability on all the major operating systems, P2P support, a kill-switch, and DNS-leak protection.

But now let’s discuss how it’s different from Private Internet Access VPN. In addition to providing browser plugins, NordVPN differs from Private Internet Access VPN by offering better security features.

For example, it has an Onion Over VPN feature, which allows a user to take advantage of the encryption benefits of a VPN tunnel while simultaneously gaining the anonymity benefits of Tor on a single connection.

NordVPN also blocks ads, trackers, and malware through a proprietary Cybersec feature too, which has the added benefit of protection against botnets and DDoS attacks.

It even has a Double VPN feature, which links two VPN tunnels together for an extra layer of security.

In all honesty, having a single VPN connection is enough to shield your location and mask your true IP address, but the idea of having two VPNs back-to-back gives people the peace of mind that they’re more secure.

Lastly, note that NordVPN also has a larger network of servers, and hosts 1800+ servers in over 62 countries.

The following provides an outline of NordVPN’s main features:

  • AES-256-bit encryption
  • Available on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS
  • Over 1800 servers in 62+ countries
  • Up to six simultaneous connections per account
  • Kill-switch included in the client
  • No split tunneling feature
  • P2P support
  • Double VPN (a.k.a. VPN chaining)
  • OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec
  • CyberSec
  • Onion over VPN
  • Browser proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox
  • DNS-leak protection

Altogether, NordVPN simply has more features and better security.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like PIA VPN’s features, but if you want more functionality and more value for your hard-earned money, I would recommend opting for NordVPN.

NordVPN vs PIA Privacy and Security

Unfortunately, we need to take moment to discuss the relative privacy and security of each provider, which is a shame, because I do like PIA VPN.

First off, be aware that both providers refrain from logging user activity because doing so would defeat the purpose of a VPN tunnel and sew seeds of distrust among users.

Both providers do, however, log some anonymous data, such as aggregate bandwidth statistics in order to monitor and manage server load capacity.

Also, NordVPN is based in Panama, which has lax data retention laws and is a favorable place to host a digital privacy service like a VPN tunnel. The bad news, unfortunately, is that Private Internet Access VPN is based in the United States.

The US is a notorious place in which to base a digital security service due to the infamous revelations made by Edward Snowden concerning the wiretapping and domestic violations made by the NSA.

The choice to use a service in a country with known past data scandals can only ever be a personal choice.

If you’re simply using a VPN tunnel for the sole sake of streaming, accessing websites that have been geo-restricted, or some other innocuous data that doesn’t carry any risk, then you may not personally care where your VPN service is based.

If the thought of your personal data (pictures, selfies, videos, etc.) winding up in some governmental database doesn’t make your skin crawl, you may not be worried if another wiretapping scandal is set in motion.

For me, personally, I think that the risk, however large or small, is simply too great to be able to even turn on my computer without the protection of an off-shore VPN service.

As such, I can’t in good faith recommend PIA VPN as a service with equal privacy and protection as NordVPN.

For that matter, I would recommend not only refraining from using a service based in the United States, but also any service in countries participating in the FiveEyes intelligence sharing initiative (USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK).

Customer Support

With regards to customer support, I actually found both NordVPN and PIA VPN to be more or less equal. The truth is each service has a competitive advantage over the other regarding features of customer support.

First off, be aware that both services provide 24/7/365 support, yet the means with which a customer has at their disposal to contact a support representative is more constrained with PIA VPN.

Private Internet Access VPN only offers a web form for submitting queries and tickets to the support department, which I find to be a little archaic and antiquated.

NordVPN certainly has an advantage, because, in addition to a web form that generates an email, it also has a live chat system that connects you directly with a support representative.

I always favor services with live chat because I can’t stand waiting around eons for an email back, and find it incredibly inconvenient to jump through the Kafkaesque hoops of email support, and playing “tag” with the support department.

I find email-based support to exacerbate the negative feelings of frustration, which typically accompany software troubleshooting for the average user, especially when all I need is an answer to a simple question which can be far more easily remedied with live chat.

To that end, I do have to commend both PIA VPN and NordVPN on creating high-quality guides and documentation to aid the troubleshooting process. They both have great FAQ pages and well thought out knowledgebase resources.

But PIA VPN simply has a better knowledge base.

While it’s true that both providers have high-quality images that have been highlighted in detail configuration and troubleshooting procedures, PIA VPN outshines NordVPN’s guides in one key way: video tutorials.

People generally (myself included) prefer video content over a guide they have to read.

Because PIA VPN has an advantage regarding their how-to videos, and because NordVPN has an advantage due to its live chat feature, I’ll call it a draw in the support department.

Final Thoughts On NordVPN vs PIA

PIA VPN is a great quality service that offers AES-256 encryption and five simultaneous connections and priced more affordability than the average service. There’s only one problem: it’s based in the United States!

I simply can’t tolerate the security risks of a service based in the US, especially without a warrant canary policy in place.

However, even if Private Internet Access VPN was based elsewhere or had a warrant canary policy, I would still award the victory to NordVPN for a couple reasons. First off, it simply has superior features as compared with Private Internet Access VPN’s features.

More specifically, I loved the Onion Over VPN and Double VPN features, and PIA VPN has no suitable comparable features. Also, NordVPN is pretty darn cheap and is even cheaper than PIA VPN with the longer term subscriptions.

To be blunter, it costs less, has more features, and is based in a favorable location where data retention laws are lax.

To me, it just seems like common sense to opt for NordVPN. I hope we answered all of your questions in this article about NordVPN vs PIA.