NordVPN and Hide My Ass (HMA) VPN are both popular services with many users around the world. But which one comes out on top in head-to-head testing?
We set out to answer this question in this NordVPN vs HMA VPN comparison guide.
NordVPN is definitely one of the top VPNs in the world, so HideMyAss had their work cut out for them. Let’s see how they compared against NordVPN in the following categories:
- Company background and jurisdiction
- Speed tests
- Streaming and Torrenting
- Security and Encryption
These are the same categories we used in the HideMyAss vs ExpressVPN comparison. Will the HideMyAss team get better results this time around? Let’s see.
1. Company background check: NordVPN vs HideMyAss
We tend to think that using a VPN prevents everyone from being able to see what we do online. We tend to forget that there is one entity that has the potential to see what we do online. That entity is our VPN service. Services such as supposedly no-logs VPN IPVanish, have been caught providing logs to authorities.
We have to be able to trust that our VPN service will protect us. Here are quick background checks on the companies running NordVPN and HMA.
NordVPN background and jurisdiction
NordVPN is based in the country of Panama. Panama is a good jurisdiction for a VPN. The country is not a member of the 14 Eyes intelligence alliance or any other major intelligence organization that we know of. While the country does have friendly relations with the United States, it is generally considered to be safe from US and European influence.
Nord Security Co., (a.k.a. NordSec or Nord), the company behind NordVPN, was established in 2012. As you can see, they have been around for a while, and have a good reputation, which has been further bolstered by security audits and no-logs audits.
HMA background and jurisdiction
HideMyAss (which is also known by the names HMA and Hide My Ass) was founded 15 years ago in England. Its story is complex. In 2015, AVG acquired HMA. In 2016, Avast (a company registered in the Czech Republic) acquired AVG.
This is where things get weird. Despite being owned by a company based in the Czech Republic, Hide My Ass operates in England under the company name Privax Limited, with offices at 110 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6JS, United Kingdom.
And despite all the above, the HMA End User License Agreement specifically states that any disputes will be arbitrated in the United States, even though as far as we can tell the company has no presence of any sort in the United States.
It should be noted that the UK is an awful jurisdiction for privacy – and VPNs for that matter. The UK government requires telecoms to keep detailed usage logs of all their customers. This data is stored in government databases for a full two years under the Investigatory Powers Act. We do not recommend any VPN services based in the UK because they will need to operate under these privacy-abusing laws.
Alert: HMA Logging Case
No background check of HMA is complete without discussing the case of HMA proving logs to authorities. In what became known as the LulzSec case, HMA provided logs to US authorities who were trying to catch someone who hacked Sony. With HideMyAss providing logs to the FBI, they were able to catch the HMA user. This is similar to the IPVanish and PureVPN logging cases.
Background check winner: NordVPN
2. NordVPN vs HideMyAss speeds
Whatever else a VPN may or may not do for you, it must move data across the internet rapidly. For these NordVPN vs HideMyAss speed tests, we used AES-256 encryption and the OpenVPN protocol. The baseline (non-VPN) internet connection speed was about 160 Mbps.
First we tested both services against ‘local’ VPN servers within the EU.
First up is testing with German servers.
HideMyAss server in Germany: 58 Mbps
These results are not at all promising. Getting only 59 Mbps from a 160 Mbps internet connection is a pretty significant loss in speed.
Next up was a NordVPN server in Germany.
NordVPN server in Germany: 149 Mbps
This is more like it! Using a NordVPN server in Germany resulted in a very low loss of performance. NordVPN clearly beats HMA VPN with speeds by a long margin on servers in Germany.
These results don’t look so good for the challenger, but maybe it is just a German thing. Let’s see how things turn out if we connect to servers in Switzerland.
HideMyAss server in Switzerland: 57 Mbps
This isn’t what we were hoping for. HMA is slightly slower with their Swiss VPN servers.
NordVPN server in Switzerland: 150 Mbps
Well now. NordVPN didn’t lose anything when connecting to their Swiss VPN servers. If anything, the connection is a tiny bit faster.
Let’s try one more, the UK. This has always been a popular location for people using VPNs in the UK to avoid censorship and privacy violations.
HideMyAss server in the UK: 51 Mbps
No luck here for HMA. The UK connection is even slower than the other two.
NordVPN server in the UK: 150 Mbps
NordVPN is almost three times as fast as HMA in this test.
Well if Europe isn’t looking so good, what about the new world? Let’s try New York.
You might expect that connecting to a far off VPN server in New York hurts the speed of either VPN. You would be half right.
HideMyAss server in New York: 34 Mbps
The speeds with HMA VPN are even worse than before, but at this point, it’s not surprising.
NordVPN server in New York: 148 Mbps
These are excellent results from NordVPN.
While the HMA speeds were reduced by around 80% in the United States, NordVPN was scarcely affected. In the past year, NordVPN has invested in upgrading their server network to deliver even better performance. These efforts have paid off as it is now the fastest VPN we’ve tested.
Note: We ran all tests with the OpenVPN protocol for consistency. However, NordVPN now supports the WireGuard VPN protocol, which is even faster than OpenVPN and also incorporates upgraded security. In our OpenVPN vs WireGuard tests, WireGuard was on average 58% faster than OpenVPN.
Speed test winner: NordVPN
3. Prices and refunds: HMA vs NordVPN
What about prices and refunds? Let’s see how HMA VPN compares with NordVPN.
HMA price – As we noted in other reviews, HideMyAss has an unusual pricing structure. You can get a 7 day free trial, a one year (12 month) subscription, or a three year (36 month) subscription.
Note: HMA used to promote a monthly subscription. Now they don’t make it obvious but it does still exist. You can find out more about this in the HMA VPN review. Here are the current HMA price plans:
One bonus with HMA is that it is a free trial VPN, with zero up-front cost.
HMA refund policy – In addition to the 7 day free trial you can get with the basic HMA plan, Hide My Ass offers a nice 30 day money-back guarantee on all their plans. We can’t see anything to complain about with the HMA refund policy.
NordVPN price – Right now, the cheapest rates on the NordVPN website are $5.75 for the one-year plan. This is slightly more expensive than the one-year plan with HideMyAss. However, there’s a trick.
You can get big savings on NordVPN with this 68% discount coupon >>
Here are the discounted prices when you use the coupon link above:
Now let’s examine the refund policy.
NordVPN refund policy – NordVPN gives you a nice 30 day money-back guarantee. This is on par with HMA.
Price and Refund Winner: NordVPN wins this category with the best prices (refunds are the same).
4. Features: NordVPN vs HMA
Let’s see what the challenger brings to this feature set fight.
HMA does give you a set of user-friendly apps that use the OpenVPN protocol and AES 256-bit encryption. This is a strong combination and the kind of thing you want to see to securely handle your online activities. So far, so good.
HMA also had a good-sized VPN server network, with 1,100+ servers spread across over 290 locations in over 190 countries. This is great. However, it is important to realize that HMA uses a large number of virtual server locations. These are servers that are physically located in one place, but use an IP address that makes it look like they are located somewhere else.
For those times when you have problems, HMA does provide live chat support. Unfortunately the chat support is only available 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM UK time, seven days a week.
And it is great to see that HideMyAss has transitioned to being a no-logs VPN, a fact confirmed through a third-party audit. This makes your privacy much more secure in the case where Hide My Ass once again shares user logs to the authorities.
More technical features of HMA include:
- Smart kill switch and leak protection – These features prevent your data getting onto the internet in unencrypted form.
- Split-Tunneling – Control which apps or websites are protected by the VPN tunnel, and which are not.
- IP Shuffle – This feature changes your virtual IP address every few minutes to increase the difficulty for anyone trying to spy on you.
Now let’s see what features NordVPN brings to the contest.
NordVPN offers a huge range of advanced features. It has user-friendly apps that use OpenVPN with AES 256-bit encryption. And it offers more apps for more physical devices than HMA.
Particularly impressive are the NordVPN specialty servers that cover a wide range of use cases:
- A large set of P2P servers optimized for torrenting
- Obfuscated servers designed to defeat internet censorship in countries like China.
- Double-VPN servers pass your traffic through two VPNs, one after the other, for an extra layer security.
Then there’s CyberSec. NordVPN’s CyberSec feature blocks ads and trackers while also protecting your devices from malware and phishing domains. Just turn it on as shown below to greatly boost the defenses of your devices.
While HideMyAss offers some good features, it is simply overpowered by what NordVPN brings to the table.
Features winner: NordVPN
5. Streaming and Torrenting: HideMyAss vs NordVPN
Do you want a VPN for streaming videos or torrenting? Are either of these VPN services up to that challenge?
Streaming media is definitely a major use of VPNs. Hundreds of millions of people use a VPN to watch Netflix or to stream shows from other streaming media services. For example, using a VPN for BBC iPlayer. Many of the best VPNs work hard on this aspect of their service, giving users full access to streaming media sources around the world.
Hide My Ass – HideMyAss does have some ability to handle streaming media sources. In particular, you can use it to stream content from USA Netflix. But to do so, you need to connect to the correct server. Most of their servers can’t do it. Worse, in our last round of testing, we found that HMA couldn’t stream most of the other major services worldwide. Combine these facts with the slow download speeds demonstrated by HideMyAss in our recent testing, and we have a hard time recommending them for anyone who likes to stream media.
NordVPN – NordVPN does a great job of streaming Netflix. No matter where you are located in the world, all you need to do is ask Nord Support, “How to securely watch Netflix with NordVPN?” and their system will spit back a list of the NordVPN servers that are currently working with Netflix. Below I’m streaming US Netflix from a location in Europe with a NordVPN server in the US:
NordVPN works with many Netflix regions around the world, including Canada Netflix, UK Netflix, Australia Netflix, German Netflix, and more. Beyond that, NordVPN works with Amazon Prime, Hulu, Roku, BBC iPlayer, and more.
Much faster and more capable of connecting to more streaming media sources, NordVPN clearly is better than HMA for streaming.
Torrenting requires different characteristics than streaming, so maybe HideMyAss can gain ground here. For downloading torrents, the most important characteristics are speed and leak protection.
- NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs in the world, and their leak protection is excellent. We rated it the best VPN for torrenting in recent testing.
- HideMyAss can’t keep up on the speed front, and we don’t consider their leak protection to be as good as NordVPN’s.
We have to take NordVPN over HMA here too.
Streaming and Torrenting winner: NordVPN
6. NordVPN vs HMA: Security and Encryption:
When it comes to security, NordVPN passed all our tests with flying colors (hit this link to see our VPN test guide).
HMA had some issues. Their kill switch was a bit unreliable, and we ran into occasional IP address leaks.
NordVPN is the clear winner in this area.
NordVPN and HMA offer comparable levels of encryption:
- HMA: AES-256-GCM cipher, SHA-256 hash authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key.
- NordVPN: AES-256 cipher, SHA-256 hash authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key exchange.
NordVPN and HMA basically offer the same levels of encryption and both are secure.
NordVPN has undergone the following third-party audits:
- An audit of their no-logs policy, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland.
- A more recent in-depth assurance audit confirming their no-logs policy on regular servers as well as obfuscated, Double VPN, and P2P servers, again conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- An app and infrastructure security audit conducted by VerSprite.
HideMyAss completed an audit by Versprite to verify their no-logs claims.
Hide My Ass is to be commended for getting their no-logs policy audited. Few VPNs have done this. Unfortunately for HMA, NordVPN has gone above and beyond with their security auditing and has to get the nod for this.
VPN server security
NordVPN is following the example set by ExpressVPN and moving all their VPN servers to diskless operation. Once this process is complete, all the software for NordVPN servers will run in volatile RAM memory. Eliminating disk drives from servers eliminates the security risks that come up when a VPN server is physically seized. As soon as a diskless server loses power, all data on them is gone. Going diskless is the strongest level of server security currently available.
Like the vast majority of VPN services, Hide My Ass does not seem to run any of its servers in diskless mode and we have not seen any signs that they will be doing so any time soon.
Security winner: NordVPN
7. Privacy: HMA vs NordVPN
Which VPN service is better at protecting your privacy: HMA or NordVPN?
HMA – Two things about HideMyAss make us nervous about the privacy they provide their users.
- They have turned over user data to the FBI in the past. This is less troubling now that they have converted themselves to a no-logs VPN, but still, it really erodes trust.
- HMA operates under UK law, which means they must comply with all UK laws and regulations. The problem with being a UK company is that the UK is a member of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance, a group of countries conducting surveillance on the world and each other. The UK is not generally considered a good privacy option.
NordVPN – They are based in Panama. Panama is not a member of any international intelligence organzation that we know of is and is considered to be a good location for a VPN or other pro-privacy service.
Privacy winner: NordVPN
Conclusion: NordVPN wins
HMA has some positive points, and seems to be going in the right direction, but it is simply overwhelmed by NordVPN. NordVPN came out ahead in all categories tested:
- Company background and jurisdiction: NordVPN
- Speed tests: NordVPN
- Price: HMA
- Features: NordVPN
- Streaming and Torrenting: NordVPN
- Security and Encryption: NordVPN
- Privacy: NordVPN
There are many different use cases for VPNs, so we can’t say that HMA is a VPN that should be avoided by everybody. But just consider value and which service best fulfills the criteria important to you.
Note: If you want to test drive NordVPN, you can use this discount to get NordVPN for only $3.71 per month.
Without the coupon above, the cheapest price for NordVPN is $5.75 per month.
If you want to consider a few more quality options, check out our best VPN services guide.
Have you used either NordVPN or HMA VPN? If so, leave your experience below in the comments to help others.