NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are both huge names in the VPN industry – and choosing between these providers can be challenging.
To help with this decision, I put both VPN services through extensive testing and analysis for this NordVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison report, which revealed a clear winner. NordVPN came out on top in six categories, PIA was the winner in three categories, and three categories were tied.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this Private Internet Access vs NordVPN comparison:
- Speed – Numerous servers tested in Europe and North America
- Reliability – Testing the VPN apps on different operating systems
- Features – Checking to see if all of the features work correctly
- Connections – How many connections come with a subscription?
- Security – Do any of the apps leak IP addresses or DNS requests?
- Logging Policies – What is the logging policy?
- Jurisdiction – Where is the VPN located and how does this affect data security?
- Torrenting – Which VPN is best for torrenting?
- Netflix & Streaming – Which VPN is best for Netflix and other streaming services?
- Price – Which VPN offers the lowest prices?
- Payments & Refunds – Payment options and refund policies
- Value – Which VPN offers the best value for your money?
Overall Winner: NordVPN
1. Speed test: NordVPN vs Private Internet Access
Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access had good speed test results in their respective reviews.
First we’ll look at NordVPN:
With nearby servers in my general location (Europe), NordVPN performed very well. All speed test results with European servers provided me between 90 Mbps and 105 Mbps download speed.
Here was a NordVPN server in the UK with 95 Mbps download speed:
NordVPN is a great VPN for the UK with consistently fast speeds for this region.
Here is another nearby NordVPN server test in Germany, again with excellent results at nearly 105 Mbps download speeds:
One drawback with NordVPN is that speed tests with servers in the United States and Canada were not as consistently fast. You can see this in my review of NordVPN, where US server speeds could range from about 4 Mbps to 70 Mbps.
Now let’s take a look at speeds with Private Internet Access and compare these to NordVPN:
PIA did not offer speeds as fast as NordVPN with nearby servers in Europe. You can see this in my review of Private Internet Access, and also below.
Here is a speed test with a nearby PIA server Sweden, providing about 74 Mbps:
With Private Internet Access, all of my speed tests in Europe were slower than NordVPN, with a speed range between 65 and 85 Mbps. While these are certainly decent speeds, they were a bit slower than NordVPN.
On a positive note, however, PIA was found to provide better speeds for servers in the US.
Here was a speed test with a PIA server in New York:
All speed tests with PIA servers in the US and Canada were between 55 and 67 Mbps. Again, these speeds are not amazing, but they were consistently good. NordVPN, on the other hand, had variable speeds with servers I tested in the US – sometimes great, sometimes mediocre.
Winner for speed: Tie
2. Reliability: NordVPN vs Private Internet Access
Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer pretty good reliability, but the winner in this category is PIA.
As we covered above, NordVPN does have some variability in their server network speeds. Some connections are very fast and stable, but some of the servers I tested in the US could be variable. In other words, the speeds were not as reliable as with PIA.
In contrast to NordVPN, Private Internet Access had very good reliability. Connections were quick to establish and the speeds were pretty consistent, although certainly not the fastest I’ve tested. In the end, Private Internet Access came out on top in the reliability category. (And if you want the best option for both speeds and reliability, check out my review of ExpressVPN.)
Reliability winner: Private Internet Access
3. Features: NordVPN vs PIA
While both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer various features, there was a clear winner in this category, and that was NordVPN.
First we’ll look at Private Internet Access. PIA offers a good lineup of basic features to include:
- Basic leak protection settings
- Different encryption settings
- An ad blocker called PIA MACE
Overall I would describe Private Internet Access as a good minimal VPN. It doesn’t do anything spectacular, especially in the features category, but it is consistent and reliable.
In contrast to PIA, NordVPN offers numerous privacy and security features for different types of users:
- Double-VPN servers (your traffic is encrypted twice over two different VPN servers)
- Tor-over-VPN servers (your traffic is encrypted via the VPN, then encrypted over the Tor network)
- Leak protection settings and a kill switch for both applications and traffic (via the firewall)
- CyberSec feature to block domains for ads, tracking, and malware
- Obfuscated servers to hide VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption (useful if you need a reliable VPN for China or anywhere else that VPNs are blocked)
- Full access to Netflix and other streaming services (when PIA was blocked; discussed more below)
Here’s a look at NordVPN’s fully-featured Windows app and the CyberSec feature:
The clear winner in the features category is NordVPN.
Features winner: NordVPN
4. Connections: NordVPN vs PIA
Does NordVPN or Private Internet Access give you the most connections with your subscription?
The answer is Private Internet Access. In March 2019, PIA decided to increase prices on all subscription plans while also increasing the number of connections. As explained on the PIA website:
This price increase will allow us the ability to provide you with new features without sacrificing security or privacy. Visible changes include the new look of our Desktop application as well as the increase of our device limit from 5 to 10.
In terms of connection policies, this is very good. IPVanish also offers 10 connections, which is above the industry average of five.
NordVPN offers six connections with every subscription, which they explain on their website:
With a single NordVPN account, you can connect up to 6 devices simultaneously without compromising your online security and privacy of one device for another.
The new winner for this category is Private Internet Access, with the new and increased the connection limit.
Connections winner: Private Internet Access
5. Security: NordVPN vs PIA
Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer secure applications that you can trust to encrypt your data. I did not find any IP address leaks or DNS leaks with either of these two providers. With that being said, the winner for this category is NordVPN because it offers a higher level of security.
As we covered above, NordVPN offers some great security features, to include double-VPN servers and Tor-over-VPN servers. Both of these provide you with a higher level of security with your data being double-encrypted. Additionally, NordVPN also offers two different types of kill switches:
- App-level kill switch (closes any app if the VPN connection drops)
- Internet kill switch (blocks all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops)
Private Internet Access also offers a good kill switch and leak protection features, but it does not offer any double-encryption options like NordVPN. Therefore the winner for the security category is NordVPN.
Security winner: NordVPN
6. Logging policies: NordVPN vs PIA
In terms of logging policies, both NordVPN and PIA are good options. NordVPN and Private Internet Access have had their logging policies verified with real-world tests.
Private Internet Access was proven to be a no logs VPN provider on two separate occasions:
- In 2016, PIA was subpoenaed to provide data logs for a criminal case, but they went on record claiming they do not have data logs and could only provide the IP addresses of their servers (but no customer data).
- A similar case happened in June 2018, when PIA’s “no logs” policies were again tested and verified with a criminal case in court.
Logging policy winner: Tie
7. Jurisdiction: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN
NordVPN has a better jurisdiction than PIA because it is based in Panama. Furthermore, it has a “no logs” policy and seems to do well with customer privacy with a variety of great features.
Private Internet Access is based in the United States. The United States is generally considered to be a bad privacy jurisdiction due to mass surveillance practices, data collection, and cooperation between other surveillance states. That being said, PIA does not carry out any logging – as they claim on their website – therefore the jurisdiction issue may be less concerning.
Jurisdiction winner: NordVPN
8. Torrenting: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN
Both PIA and NordVPN are good options for torrenting.
There is one small factor that makes a difference, however, and that is port forwarding, which is offered by PIA (but not NordVPN).
As Private Internet Access describes on their website, port forwarding may help users to optimize their torrenting speeds. To enable port forwarding within the PIA client, simply activate it from the settings, and then connect to one of the servers that supports port forwarding (not every PIA server works with this feature).
Here is the port forwarding feature on the PIA Mac OS client (also available in the Windows and Android clients):
For additional information about torrenting VPNs, see my discussion on the best VPN for torrenting.
Torrenting winner: Private Internet Access
9. Netflix and streaming: PIA vs NordVPN
In terms of streaming Netflix through your VPN, NordVPN is definitely a better option than Private Internet Access.
When I tried to stream Netflix through various Private Internet Access servers, I kept getting the infamous proxy error message. PIA was getting blocked by Netflix:
Although streaming Netflix through a VPN is often hit-or-miss with most VPNs, there are a few VPN services that consistently work with Netflix. This is because some VPNs invest resources into acquiring (and maintaining) IP addresses that work with Netflix.
NordVPN is a great choice if you want to stream Netflix.
Here I’m using NordVPN to stream an episode of House of Cords with a NordVPN server in New York:
Additionally, NordVPN also works well for many different Netflix regions around the world, as well as with other streaming services. NordVPN is the clear winner in the streaming category.
Of course, there are a handful of VPNs that unblock Netflix, but NordVPN is the winner in this category.
Netflix and streaming winner: NordVPN
10. Price: PIA vs NordVPN
Both NordVPN and PIA are cheap VPN services with low prices.
As we noted above, however, Private Internet Access recently increased prices, which they justified by offering 10 connections per subscription and improving their VPN apps. Here are the current prices of PIA:
Before the price increase, PIA was the cheaper option with the lowest monthly subscription cost.
NordVPN, however, now offers the lowest cost for a monthly subscription with their three-year discounted plan. The 75% NordVPN discount reduces the prices as follows:
The one drawback here is that you have to commit to a three-year subscription in order to lock in the cheap rate of $2.99 per month. The same holds true for PIA, which restricts the biggest discount to their two-year plan. (There are also other NordVPN discounts to consider with different prices and subscription lengths.)
Price winner: NordVPN
11. Payments and refunds: PIA vs NordVPN
With the payments and refunds category, there is a tie. Here’s why:
- PIA offers more payment options, but
- NordVPN offers the best refund window
In terms of payment options, Private Internet Access definitely comes out on top. PIA provides many different anonymous payment options, including a variety of cryptocurrencies as well as gift card payments, which can be purchased anonymously with cash.
Here are the Private Internet Access payment options:
With NordVPN, you do not have the option to pay with PayPal or some of the other cryptocurrencies (aside from Bitcoin).
However, in terms of refunds, NordVPN is the clear winner with the 30 day money-back guarantee. This is explained on the NordVPN website. The 30 day refund window applies to all NordVPN subscription plans, including the one-month plans.
With Private Internet Access, you only get a 7 day refund window with your subscription. For some people, this may not be enough time to really test out the service to see if it meets your needs.
Therefore NordVPN is the clear winner in the refund category, with PIA coming out on top with payment options.
Payments and refunds winner: Tie
12. Value: PIA vs NordVPN
Value is a very subjective determination that is hard to measure. Essentially, the question is: Which VPN service offers the best value for your money?
I would argue that NordVPN is the better value. First, it is cheaper than PIA and it also has more features:
- Advanced privacy and security features (Double-VPN servers and Tor-over-VPN servers)
- Much larger server network than PIA
- Two types of kill switches
- 24/7 live chat support (PIA only offers ticket support)
The support category is definitely noteworthy. PIA does not offer any live chat support and their email support has been pretty slow in previous reviews. With NordVPN, you get 24/7 live chat support directly through their website.
Another big factor that differentiates these two companies is jurisdiction. Being based in the United States (five eyes) is a major drawback for PIA. If US authorities were to force PIA to log or disclose customer data (such as the case with Lavabit), PIA would not be able to disclose this information to their customers due to gag orders. PIA also does not provide a warrant canary, which would alert PIA customers to potential breaches of data and/or government interference in the business.
At the end of the day, both Private Internet Access and NordVPN are good VPN providers, but NordVPN is the clear winner in this PIA vs NordVPN comparison.
Whichever VPN you decide to use, be sure to get the best deals with these discounts: