Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) have a lot in common, to which most of their features are positive. They’re fast, reliable, and have large customer bases that depend on their networks for all things associated with browsing the web. Each is highly recommended by security experts, and their respect for user privacy has been consistent throughout their time in the business.
But how do they compare to one another? What are the pros and setbacks?
For answers to these questions and much more, read the following guide to see which of them are best. Every stone will be unturned here, and both VPNs will receive a detailed analysis of all of their attributes.
About Each Company
Nord is the youngest of the two VPNs, but only by two years. The company is headquartered in the state of Panama, between North and South America. It’s an ideal location for a VPN provider due to the lack of draconian or intrusive laws in the country. Looking around on the web, and chances are that you’ll see Nord ranked high on most VPN review listings. Streaming and torrenting are all possible, and their customer service is quick to respond to issues, in most cases.
Private Internet Access
PIA has servers in about 33 countries and is located in Denver, Colorado (USA). It operates under the umbrella of London Trust Media. Beginning in 2010, PIA started out small but has grown to be featured in most popular operating systems, and receives lots of praise from tech news media sources. Having their server located in the United States allows their connectivity speeds to be very high, and sharing files or streaming can be done with no worry of lagging.
Payment Options and Pricing
NordVPN – Nord has four primary plans, with the cheapest being only $2.99 per month. The catch is that this can only be purchased over a three-year timespan, so you can only get the savings if you purchase it for that period. The one month plan is $11.95 a month, making it quite expensive when compared to other VPNs in the same league, including PIA. All of the standard payment choices can be used, but they also accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s a good way to keep yourself private during the check-in process, which is where VPN companies come closest to knowing the personal info of their customers.
PIA – As described previously, PIA has prices that are a little bit friendlier. The cheapest plan is $3.11 for two years, but getting the monthly option is $9.95 only. Payment choices included credit/debit care, PayPal, and Bitcoin. You could also use gift cards to buy a plan if you wanted, or even Amazon Payments.
Average Upload and Download Speeds
NordVPN – On their best servers, Nord has an average download speed of about 87 megabytes per second (Mbps), and 66 Mbps for uploads. US servers a slightly lower but acceptable, 53 for downloads and 40 during uploading. Like nearly all VPNs, the average speed will be noticeably lower than what’s possible without a VPN. But for those with connections to ISPs that aren’t very fast, the difference in downloading time shouldn’t be easy to discern.
PIA – PIA’s primary servers will download at about 73 megabytes per second. Similar to Nord, servers in the United States are less in speed, and clock in at a rate of 34 Mbps. Uploads aren’t much lower than the download speed (for the main server) and test near 70 Mbps. Overall, both PIA and Nord remain very close in mean upload and download speed tests, so you shouldn’t see a huge difference when comparing the two during your time online. However, be sure that you have a good ISP connection or your speed will significantly drop if it’s a lot less than the numbers shown for both platforms.
What About Encryption?
NordVPN – The latest trends in privacy software are to market encryption capabilities, and VPN platforms often do the same when they’re available. As such, you’ll hear language such as “military grade encryption” when they explain the features on their websites. NordVPN does this too, offering 256-AES end-to-end encryption, which was initially created and used by the US government. The only feasible way that your encrypted connection can be compromised is an adversary gaining access to your encryption key. This is difficult to do without having physical access to your computer itself. Regardless, it’s a nice feature to see on Nord and keeps hackers and ISPs ignorant to your browsing activities.
PIA – PIA has two types of encryption, AES-256 and 128. The difference is mostly based on the number of bits placed into each key. The time that it would take for a hacker to brute force just one of the keys to your password on AES-128 would be two to the power of 128. That’s two multiplied by itself 128 times. From this, you can see that AES-256 would take more time. Yet the truth of the matter is that both have ciphers that perform equally well, and an attack to retrieve a password would take an incomprehensible amount of time (so long as the password were strong). And since PIA and Nord both are the same encryption-wise, they’re equally well recommended to anyone that prioritizes the attribute.
Number of Devices Allowed
NordVPN – With Nord, you can connect between one and an unlimited number of devices. Technically, the limit is six, but there’s an easy way to increase this. If you have a router, just connect the VPN to the device itself, which requires the space of one device. Once that’s done, you’ll have an unlimited number of devices that can connect to the VPN. Keep in mind that the only works with routers, so six will be the limit if you don’t have one.
PIA – PIA allows more devices to be connected than Nord does, and has a limit of 10. And same as PIA, you can hook up an unlimited amount of devices with a home or office router. The major advantage here is the ordinary amount; ten devices total give room for additional routers to connect with the VPN. If you have a large home or multiple routers in either a living or work space, then PIA could be a better fit for you and other family members/acquaintances.
File Sharing and Torrenting
NordVPN – Nord is a clear leader when it comes to torrenting over VPNs. Not only will their server get you safely to torrent websites and applications, but you there are further privatization options as well. The best is Socks5 Proxy, a proxy server built within Nord that keeps the connection private but doesn’t reduce speed by the VPNs average standards. This will help you download and upload large files quickly, almost to the point where you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between torrenting directly through your ISP. Of course, you’ll want to avoid doing this at all costs.
PIA – Coming in at a tie with Nord, PIA also has the Socks5 protocol for anyone that wishes to torrent safely. You don’t need the protocol in order to access torrent though, and simply using their standalone servers should suffice. But if you wanted, an additional way to torrent would be to use a PIA’s proxy on top of the VPN itself, which would allow your torrent application to have its own VPN that’s different from the one you would be using to browse the internet. It’s a small feature that most people probably wouldn’t need. Nevertheless, it’s still good to see any possible extras.
Dedicated IP Services
NordVPN – Nord has four countries listed for its dedicated IP servers. They include the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. With a dedicated IP, you will receive your very own ISP separately from the one you connect to the internet with. It’s a good thing to have around when you need to sign on to accounts that would otherwise not work efficiently with a VPN’s shared servers. Dedicated IPs must usually be purchased completely separate from the normal VPN, and it’s likely that you won’t need one unless you need a personal IP that’s hosted from a contrasting locale to where you are now.
PIA – Private Internet Access does not have dedicated IP servers. But if you’re not specifically looking for one, don’t take this as a reason not to choose them over Nord. Public VPN servers keep everyone anonymous by the fact that they are public amongst the people that are subscribed. If fewer people are on a server, then the odds of users appearing unique increases. And the more a user stands about among a crowd, the higher the chances of their anonymity being blown. Dedicated IPs aren’t recommended to the privacy-minded for this reason.
NordVPN – Nord keeps a detailed page showing all of the information they keep from their customers, and what they don’t. In all honesty, it isn’t very much. They stay true to their no logging policy, which means that your identity will remain completely anonymous with the company. As for the data that is taken from them, most of it is necessary in order for the company to retain relations with their customers, at least from an indirect route. Your email address, analytics from surfing their web page, and the last session opened through their servers are a few of the things that are retained. The latter is only known for about 15 minutes before being deleted automatically, which is needed in order for Nord to monitor the device count.
PIA – Private Internet Access is one VPN company that doesn’t log at all, something that’s really important considering that they’re based in the US state of Colorado. If for some reason PIA was authorized to hand over data that are relevant to their customers, there’s nothing very useful that could be given to them. No third party applications or organizations have any relations with PIA either, so you’re completely safe to use their servers without your identity or IP address being exposed. If you wanted to take your anonymity a step further, simply purchase a subscription from them (as with Nord) by using cryptocurrencies. That way, your identity would be nearly untraceable.
Compatible Operating Systems
NordVPN – All major operating systems are supported by NordVPN. This includes Windows, Mac OS-X, and numerous Linux distributions. Smartphones are no different, and iOS, Android, and AndroidTV have compatibility with the VPN. Nord can also be downloaded on Amazon’s Fire OS since the mobile software is based on Android. Additionally, Google’s Chrome OS is built off of Linux, so installing Nord through the alternative system should work without any issues.
PIA – If you’re getting PIA for a desktop, then you’ll be able to run the software on either Mac, Windows, or Linux. The Mac version is 63 bit only but Windows can install on 32 or 64-bit systems. PIA is featured on Android and iOS app stores, and Opera, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox browsers are supported. If you are interested in the browser extension, remember that you won’t be able to download the application, and your VPN would be limited to the selected browser only.
Troubleshooting and Customer Support
NordVPN – You can contact or find a quick solution to any problems with NordVPN through email, the FAQ in their Help Center, or contact directly through Live Chat. the Live Chat feature is obviously the fastest way to hear back from someone that works with Nord, but for more technical issues, you may have to get in touch through email or the Help Center. Use the latter first, as your problem could be a common issue that can be solved without communicating with a customer service rep.
PIA – PIA handles interactions with customers through the use of support tickets, so once you send them a message, you’ll have to wait until an available representative sees your message and assists you. The time it will take for them to get back at you varies according to how many customers are int the process of being helped before you number is seen. But for most, you could have a reply back on the next business day. Sometimes, they may have an answer for you on the same day. Visit their FAQ before contacting, as the page (can only be accessed through an account) shows detailed questions that should be beneficial to most customer problems.
NordVPN and PIA’s Pros and Cons
To summarize all of the pros and cons of Nord and PIA, read the following bulleted list to see how they compare side-by-side.
- Lots of cryptocurrency payment choices – If you’re a fan of Bitcoin or have some of the cryptocurrency stashed in a digital wallet, then you could use the money to pay for NordVPN. Other digital currencies supported include Ethereum and Litecoin, among others.
- Straightforward process during account setup – Setting up your VPN has never been easier. With Nord, you won’t need to flip through any instructional guide to get connected to your first server. Once the application is downloaded, just run it, allow installation to complete, and you’ll be ready to go. It’s friendly enough for beginners to use but has enough advanced controls for you to play with later when you’re more familiar with the VPN.
- Located in a friendly region away from any “14 eyes” jurisdictions – Panama is relatively safe for VPNs, and the country has no major laws that would compromise the security feature of Nord. It’s not a 14 eyes nation and has no major alliance with any country that belongs to the list of nations that are known to spy on web users covertly.
- Truthful in their “no logging” claim – NordVPN lays bare all of their policies in regards to logging, and their customer feedbacks gives no hint to think that any of their proven claims wouldn’t be true. They are one of the safest brands that you’ll come across for VPNs, and the privacy advocates around the world have given a lot of positive reviews about the company.
- Has 24-hour customer support options – As shown in the previous section, NordVPN is easy to contact on most occasions. That’s due to their 24/7 live support feature. Just go to the website, log into your account, and send a message in the Live Chat option that comes up in the Help/Assistance subsection. It won’t take long for a customer representative to get back with you, and your problem should be solved soon after.
- US servers are slower than some European servers – When looking at most speeds tests with NordVPN, you’ll notice how the US servers are often ranked slightly slower in average speed than what’s available in Europe. It’s not by much, but could potentially pose an issue when handling bandwidth-heavy activities such as file sharing or video streaming. Be sure that you’re using the VPN on decent ISP with good speed, and the issue will likely never occur.
- The free 7-day trial that was available has recently been canceled – Recently, Nord has been reported to have canceled their seven-day free trial due to users abusing the system. It’s never a good thing when a few scammers spoil things for the rest of the many honest people, but having no free trial means that you won’t be able to test how good NordVPN’s servers work for yourself. And since there’s no free period, some consumers could be turned off by the company altogether.
- No customer support by phone is given – While their customer support of mostly well taken, some people do prefer to speak with representatives instead of chatting with them via a web browser. For those people, there is no option.
- No PayPal payment opiton – At one time, NordVPN did offer PayPal as a payment option, but has discontinued payments with them indefinitely. Paypal has had issues with scammers making fraudulent accounts in the past, or using the service to receive their money back after paying for a particular item or subscription has been made. Such occurrences were likely the reason behind Nord’s decision to cut them from their payments options. Unfortunately, many legitimate customers prefer to use Paypal over credit and debit cards but have no choice in the matter since it’s nonexistent with Nord.
- Fast installation access the board – You should have PIA’a application running within just a few minutes of downloading, and that goes for just about all platforms in which the VPN is available; smartphones included.
- A good choice for a VPN located in the United States – If you’re going to pick a VPN that’s located within one of the “14 eyes” nations, PIA would be one of the best choices. That’s because they keep their customer base anonymous regardless of any sort of unknown or unwanted data gathering attempts. Your true identity can never be handed over to anyone because it won’t ever be known by the company.
- Great for Beginners – PIA is a good choice for beginners that want a cheap but reliable and stable VPN. You don’t have to worry about going through any advanced features to get everything started quickly. And once you’re connected, servers are easy to navigate
- One account can connect up to 10 devices at the same time – If you have a large family or work in an office setting where multiple devices will need to be connected to the internet through a VPN, PIA is highly suggested. You can connect up to ten, and that’s not included the unlimited number you can put online once a router is hooked up to one of its servers.
- Located within a “14 eyes” nation – Even though PIA doesn’t log or keep their user’s information, their servers remain in the jurisdiction of the United States. The USA is one of the leading nations as far as data mining and the collection of web information goes. Both defense and private intelligence agencies have large amounts of resources to gather all sorts of information online, to which many of their capabilities aren’t well known to the public or wholly classified.
- Some of its servers may not work with video streaming websites – If you’re planning on using PIA strictly for streaming movies, you may run into problems. Servers may lag when there are lots of people on, and 2 to 4K streaming may frustrate you due to buffering. You could be tempted to just use your regular ISP address to stream because of this, so keep this in mind if your connection isn’t high speed.
Summary/Which One is the Best?
Still aren’t sure about which VPN to acquire?
If not, then it’s safe to say that you’ll be happy with either Nord or Private Internet Access. They both perform well in speeds tests, have adequate features and protocols, and zero logging issues. Security is a priority for both, and your connections will remain encrypted with ciphers that are nearly impossible to break. Still, if you want better privacy, try or NordVPN first. They are located in a location (Panama) with a government that doesn’t have a history of covertly collecting it’s citizen’s personal information. But for file sharing and general purpose browsing, Private Internet Access would be a great buy.
The company is also great for big families or anyone that anticipates using their servers over one or more routers. You can hook one up and get well over ten devices on a single account. The same also applies for Nord, so each will potentially save you big bucks over not having to rely upon an additional VPN platform for numerous pieces of hardware. You’re in good hands with any platform that you choose, and each VPN has put in lots of effort to protect their customer’s privacy at all costs. In short, either one will satisfy you, so pick and get ready to make your online activity personal.