NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are both huge names in the VPN industry – and choosing between these providers can be challenging.
To help you decide which is the best fit, I put both VPNs through extensive testing and analysis for this NordVPN vs PIA comparison report, and then posted all the screenshots below. This guide aims to be the most exhaustive report on NordVPN and PIA available.
WARNING: One of these VPNs (PIA) was bought out by a company with a long history of producing malware and infecting devices through packaged software bundles. This is a fact that most “review” sites completely ignore. In addition to PIA, the same parent company (Kape) also bought out CyberGhost and ZenMate a few years ago, putting all these VPNs under Kape’s control. (We’ll cover this more below.)
Here are the test categories we looked at for this PIA vs NordVPN comparison:
- Speed – Numerous servers tested in Europe and North America
- Features – Does NordVPN or PIA offer the best features?
- Connections – How many connections come with a subscription?
- Security – Do any of the VPN apps leak IP addresses or DNS requests?
- Logging Policies – What are the logging policies?
- Company and Jurisdiction – Where is the VPN located and how does this affect data security?
- 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?
So now let’s examine the results, starting with speed tests.
1. NordVPN vs Private Internet Access Speed Tests
In testing out NordVPN vs PIA with speeds, I found that NordVPN was consistently faster in all locations tested.
Note: All speed tests between NordVPN and PIA were conducted using OpenVPN with AES-256 encryption. My baseline (non-VPN) speed was about 160 Mbps.
With nearby servers in my general location (Europe), NordVPN performed very well and was much faster than Private Internet Access.
Here was a NordVPN server in the UK with 150 Mbps download speed:
Now turning our attention to PIA. Here was a PIA speed test in the UK, giving me about 65 Mbps:
NordVPN clearly has an edge over PIA with speeds on UK servers. And this is not an anomaly, since NordVPN is a great VPN for the UK with consistently fast speeds for this region.
I also tested some other regional servers in my area with both PIA and NordVPN.
Here was a nearby NordVPN server in Switzerland with speeds of 150 Mbps:
And then here’s a nearby Private Internet Access server in Austria (which is even closer to my location than Switzerland). The speeds were still slower, at about 85 Mbps:
Next, I decided tested some servers in the United States, even though these locations were further away.
Here was the NordVPN server in New York, at around 148 Mbps:
Once again, these are amazing speeds with NordVPN, especially considering the longer distance between me and the VPN server. NordVPN is still giving me close to my baseline speed in these tests.
Next up, the PIA server in New York was (again) slower than NordVPN, at about 63 Mbps:
Other speed tests with PIA servers in the US yielded similar results around 60 Mbps. You can see the results I posted in the PIA review.
Meanwhile, NordVPN continued to give me excellent speeds with all servers I tested in the US and Canada. All results were 140 Mbps or faster with NordVPN. Here was another NordVPN server in Dallas, Texas at 149 Mbps:
With these fast speeds in North America, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for USA.
There are many reasons to want fast speeds for high-bandwidth activities, such as when using a VPN for torrenting.
As you can see from these results, NordVPN is faster than Private Internet Access with all the server locations I tested. This was not too surprising, since NordVPN also came out on top in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison. If performance is your top priority, then NordVPN would be the better choice of the two.
WireGuard with NordVPN = fastest speeds
For this PIA vs Nord comparison, we did not even run speed tests with WireGuard. WireGuard is the new VPN protocol that is much faster than OpenVPN and also uses upgraded encryption. NordVPN is now one of the few VPNs that supports WireGuard directly in all of their VPN apps. They refer to their WireGuard setup as NordLynx, and it will give you even faster speeds than OpenVPN.
Conclusion on speeds: In previous NordVPN reviews, speeds were somewhat hit or miss. However, in the past year, NordVPN has significantly improved speeds throughout its server network. I rate it as the VPN with the fastest speeds. PIA previously had better speeds, but performance seems to have gotten worse over the past year.
Winner for speed: NordVPN (with all locations tested)
2. Features: NordVPN vs PIA
While both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer various features, there was a clear winner in this category.
PIA features – First we’ll look at Private Internet Access. PIA offers a good lineup of basic features that include:
- Leak protection settings
- Different encryption settings
- A basic 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.
NordVPN features – In contrast to PIA, NordVPN offers numerous privacy and security features for all types of users:
- Double-VPN servers (your traffic is encrypted twice over two different server locations)
- 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. (This is useful if you need a good VPN for China or anywhere else that VPNs are blocked.)
- Full access to Netflix and other streaming services (PIA was blocked, as discussed below)
Here’s a look at NordVPN’s fully-featured Windows app and the CyberSec feature:
Additionally, the double VPN feature offered by NordVPN is great for those looking for an additional layer of protection. This will route your traffic across two encrypted servers. I tested the double-VPN feature out for the review and speeds were still excellent, despite the higher latency.
NordVPN’s also offers the Tor-over-VPN servers, which route traffic first through a VPN server, then onto the Tor network.
Unlike with NordVPN, PIA does not offer any double-VPN or Tor-over-VPN servers. These added privacy and security features definitely have some advantages, as I explained in my guide on multi-hop VPN services.
The clear winner in the features category is NordVPN.
Features winner: NordVPN
3. Connections: NordVPN vs Private Internet Access
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 to ten. 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 pretty good, although I don’t know why you would need so many connections. And if you really have a lot of devices to use with the VPN, Surfshark offers an unlimited number of connections. Another option is to use a VPN router that gives protection to every device that connects to it.
NordVPN offers six connections with every subscription, which they explain on their website here:
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.
PIA is the winner for this category since it offers four more connections than NordVPN.
Connections winner: Private Internet Access
4. Security: NordVPN vs PIA
Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer secure applications with strong encryption. I did not find any IP address leaks or DNS leaks with either of these two providers.
PIA encryption: For encryption, PIA uses an AES-256 cipher with SHA256 for authorization and an RSA-4096 handshake. PIA also allows users to adjust VPN protocols and encryption ciphers within the VPN client (Windows and Mac OS).
NordVPN encryption: Similar to PIA, NordVPN also uses an AES-256 cipher with SHA256 authorization and an RSA-4096 handshake. Both PIA and NordVPN offer solid encryption standards.
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.
PIA has not undergone any third-party security audits, based on my research. Independent security audits are a good way to build trust. One of the first VPNs to do this was TunnelBear.
NordVPN has partnered with Versprite, a third-party cybersecurity firm to:
- Conduct a full audit of all VPN apps and infrastructure
- Assess third-party vendor security where NordVPN servers are located
- Carry out ongoing penetration testing and security checks
Many of these measures were in response to a security incident that affected a single server in Finland where someone obtained an expired TLS key. Many “tech news” outlets jumped on the story blowing it out of proportion, all while failing to understand that no data could ever be obtained from an expired TLS key (but that’s the nature of clickbait “tech journalism” these days).
NordVPN runs all servers in RAM-disk mode. This is more secure as it ensures no user data can ever be stored on physical hard drives. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN run servers in RAM-disk mode, as well as Surfshark and Perfect Privacy.
Unlike NordVPN, PIA does not run servers in RAM-disk mode.
The winner for the security category is clear. NordVPN offers more security features, has passed a third-party security audit, and gets points for a more secure server network with all servers running on RAM memory.
Security winner: NordVPN
5. NordVPN vs PIA with logging policies
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.
Because both NordVPN and PIA are proven no logs VPN services. This category is a tie.
Logging policy winner: Tie
6. Company and Jurisdiction: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN
Company background and jurisdiction are important considerations when choosing which VPN to trust with your data and security.
NordVPN Company and Jurisdiction
The company behind NordVPN is Tefincom SA, based in Panama. NordVPN explains on its website that it is a global tech business with employees all over the world, but it maintains the parent company in Panama to protect user privacy.
Panama is an excellent privacy jurisdiction because:
- It is not part of any surveillance alliances.
- Has no mandatory data retention policies, such as those in Europe that affect UK VPN services.
- Is renowned for corporate privacy laws with many protections in place.
PIA Company and Jurisdiction
PIA started out as a reputable VPN company based in the US, but it has now been sold off. In 2019, news broke that Kape acquired PIA. Kape is an Israeli company that has a long history of producing malware. Kape also purchased CyberGhost a few years earlier, as well as ZenMate VPN.
Kape was previously known as Crossrider, but changed its name to Kape, and now plans another name change. Do you want to entrust a company that made malware with your security? It’s your call, but I won’t recommend these VPNs any more. Now let’s examine jurisdiction.
PIA is based in the United States, which is a big red flag. As we have covered before, the US is a very bad privacy jurisdiction with many laws in place that undermine data security. The US is part of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance.
Jurisdiction is a key consideration that affects the safety of your data. As we’ve seen before, the US government can force VPNs and email services operating there to collect user data. This has happened before with Riseup and also Lavabit – and probably other examples that we’ll never learn about.
If you are concerned about the jurisdiction your VPN service falls under, NordVPN would be the better choice in this case.
Company and Jurisdiction winner: NordVPN
7. NordVPN vs PIA Netflix and streaming
In terms of streaming Netflix with a VPN, NordVPN is definitely a better option than Private Internet Access.
When I tried to stream Netflix through various PIA servers in the US, I kept getting the proxy error message. PIA was getting blocked by Netflix:
In addition to Netflix, I also tested Amazon Prime – and it was also blocked. PIA is not a good VPN for Amazon Prime at this time, but there are other options to consider.
Many streaming services can be hit-or-miss with most VPNs, as we see above with PIA. However, there are a few VPN services that consistently work with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and more. These VPNs typically invest resources into acquiring (and maintaining) IP addresses that work with Netflix.
NordVPN is a great choice if you want to stream Netflix and it worked well in our tests without any problems. Below you can see I’m streaming Netflix through a NordVPN server in New York without any problems.
Here are the Netflix regions supported by NordVPN: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Australia, India, and Italy. Additionally, NordVPN works well for other streaming services, including Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer and remains one of the best VPNs for streaming.
Netflix and streaming winner: NordVPN
8. PIA vs NordVPN price comparison
Both NordVPN and PIA are cheap VPN services with low prices.
While PIA has traditionally been the same price as NordVPN, their new prices are below.
In comparison to NordVPN, the monthly price of PIA is a bit cheaper at $2.85 per month.
Below you can see the current prices with NordVPN coming in at $3.71 per month with the two-year plan. This makes NordVPN a bit more expensive than PIA, but with access to more features and services.
The one drawback here is that you have to commit to a two-year subscription in order to lock in the cheap rate of $3.71 per month. The same holds true for PIA, which restricts the biggest discount to their longer-duration plans (yearly). (You may find other NordVPN discounts to consider with different prices and subscription lengths.)
Price winner: PIA
9. Payments and refunds: PIA vs NordVPN
Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access support a wide variety of payment options:
- Credit cards
- Amazon Pay
While PIA supports PayPal, NordVPN supports ACH transfers and UnionPay options, which PIA does not have.
Refunds: Nord vs PIA
NordVPN and PIA both have a 30-day refund window.
This category is a tie for both payments and refunds.
Payments and refunds winner: Tie
10. Does PIA or NordVPN offer the best value?
Value is a subjective determination that’s hard to measure. Essentially, the question is: Which VPN offers the best value for your money?
I would argue that NordVPN is a better value. While NordVPN is a bit more expensive than PIA, it offers significantly more features:
- Advanced privacy and security features (Double-VPN servers and Tor-over-VPN servers)
- Much larger server network than PIA
- Full support for Netflix and many other streaming services
- Two types of kill switches
- Good VPN apps for all major devices and operating systems
- 24/7 live chat support (PIA only offers email support)
The support category is definitely noteworthy. PIA does not offer any live chat support and their email support has been very 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 and hand over 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.
Value winner: NordVPN
Conclusion: NordVPN wins
Finding a good VPN service can be challenging, and NordVPN and PIA both appeal to different types of users. And if you want to consider other options, you can see our comparison between NordVPN and ExpressVPN (top two providers).
With that being said, NordVPN was the clear winner in this PIA vs Nord VPN comparison. NordVPN was the winner in six categories, PIA won two, and two categories were tied. Here’s a breakdown of the results:
- Speed – NordVPN
- Features – NordVPN
- Connections – PIA
- Security – NordVPN
- Logging Policies – Tie
- Jurisdiction – NordVPN
- Netflix & Streaming – NordVPN
- Price – PIA
- Payments & Refunds – Tie
- Value – NordVPN
With PIA selling out to a company that makes malware, I am very hesitant to recommend their service. The background of Kape/Crossrider is quite concerning. Nonetheless, if you still want to roll the dice and try out PIA, you’ll have 7 days to request a refund.
Whichever VPN you decide to use, be sure to get the best deals with these discounts:
Note: Without the discount above, the regular prices for NordVPN are $5.75 per month. The discount link above drops the price to $3.71 per month.
Have you used PIA or NordVPN? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below to help other users.