NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are both big players 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, with 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 the WireGuard VPN protocol and the official apps. WireGuard is usually much faster than OpenVPN, as we found in our WireGuard vs OpenVPN speed tests. My baseline (non-VPN) speed was about 500 Mbps.
First I tested out server locations in the United States where both VPNs had a presence.
Here was a NordVPN server in Seattle with 445 Mbps download speed:
This is an amazing speed test result from NordVPN. With our VPN tests, any download speed over 200 Mbps is really good. Getting over 400 Mbps puts NordVPN in the realm of the fastest VPN we have tested. Let’s see if PIA can match NordVPN’s impressive speeds.
Now turning our attention to PIA. Here was a PIA speed test in Seattle, which gave me about 41 Mbps download speeds.
Right off with the first location, we see that NordVPN has a big advantage and is over ten times faster than Private Internet Access.
Next up were servers in Los Angeles.
Here was the NordVPN server in Los Angeles with speeds of 304 Mbps:
Once, again, this is another great speed test result from NordVPN. Can PIA do better?
Here is the Private Internet Access server in Los Angeles with speeds of about 85 Mbps:
While this is faster than the previous location, we still see that NordVPN is significantly faster than PIA — by about 219 Mbps.
Next, I tested servers in New York.
Here was the NordVPN server in New York, at around 280 Mbps:
At well over 200 Mbps, these are still phenomenal speeds from NordVPN. How does PIA compare in the NY location?
Next up, the PIA server in New York was (again) slower than NordVPN, at about 23 Mbps:
For the New York location, we see that PIA is much slower than NordVPN, by about 257 Mbps.
So we see that with servers in the United States, NordVPN provides us with much faster download speeds than Private Internet Access.
Lastly, I check servers in the United Kingdom.
Here was the NordVPN server in the UK at 295 Mbps:
Despite the long distance (and the resulting higher ping) between me and the VPN server, NordVPN is still putting up very impressive speed test results, getting close to 300 Mbps.
Here was the PIA server in the UK, which was significantly slower with download speeds of 10 Mbps:
This is really slow, even slower than all of our tests with PIA servers in the United States. With the final server location in the UK, we see that NordVPN is about 285 Mbps faster than PIA.
Overall, we see that NordVPN is significantly faster than Private Internet Access in all server locations we tested. This is important for anyone needing a fast VPN for high-bandwidth activities, such as when using a VPN for torrenting.
Why is NordVPN so much faster than PIA?
Over the past year, we have seen NordVPN implement significant server upgrades, which gives it an edge over most competitors:
- Converted all servers to run in RAM-disk mode.
- Currently rolling out self-owned (colocated) servers for all locations.
- Rolling out high-bandwidth 10 Gbps servers, which are the fastest servers we’ve seen.
- Full WireGuard support in all apps (WireGuard is faster than other VPN protocols).
Given these changes, it’s not very surprising that NordVPN beats PIA by a large margin. NordVPN also beats out other leading VPNs, as we found in the ExpressVPN vs NordVPN speed tests.
If performance is important to you, then NordVPN would be the best choice.
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 options
- A basic ad blocker called PIA MACE
Overall, PIA doesn’t really stand out with features. It is a minimal VPN. Sure, the VPN ad blocking feature is nice, but we also see this with other VPNs. For example, we also find VPN ad blockers with NordVPN and Surfshark.
NordVPN features – In contrast to PIA, NordVPN offers numerous privacy and security features for all types of users. It is really a fully-featured VPN service:
- Double-VPN servers that encrypt your traffic twice over two separate locations.
- Tor-over-VPN servers that encrypt your traffic with the VPN server as well as 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, trackers, as well as known malware domains. (This is more robust than PIA’s MACE feature.)
- 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).
- Split tunneling that allows you to route certain applications or websites outside of the VPN tunnel.
Below is a look at NordVPN’s fully-featured Windows app and the CyberSec feature. You can also see that NordVPN offers two different types of kill switches for different use cases.
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 NordVPN review and speeds were still excellent, despite the higher latency.
NordVPN’s lineup of Tor-over-VPN servers, may also be useful, depending on your needs.
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, some VPNs offer an unlimited number of connections, as you can see in our Surfshark review.
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 with the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. 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 with OpenVPN and IKEv2. Like PIA, NordVPN also supports the WireGuard VPN protocol with the updated ChaCha20 cipher.
Both PIA and NordVPN offer good 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.
PIA has not undergone any third-party security audits, based on my research. Independent security audits are a great way to build trust and verify the VPN service itself from an outside team of auditors. 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
NordVPN has also conducted two separate no-logs audits, which verified that it remains true to its privacy and data security policies. In contrast to NordVPN, PIA has not done any of these audits.
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 Surfshark also run servers in RAM-disk mode.
Unlike NordVPN, PIA does not run servers in RAM-disk mode.
NordVPN is currently upgrading its entire network with:
- Self-owned (colocated) servers, which will replace all rental servers.
- High speed hardware capable of 10 Gbps (I have not seen any other VPN service offer this).
PIA does not offer any of these server security features. Additionally, I have found that PIA uses many virtual server locations where the true (physical) location does not match up with the announced location from the IP address. NordVPN does not have any virtual server locations and instead uses real servers in all advertised locations.
The winner of the security category is clear. NordVPN offers more security features, has passed third-party security audits, 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
Both NordVPN and PIA are proven no logs VPN services. Each VPN has had its 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.
This is similar to our ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison, where both VPNs did well in the logs/privacy category. And since both NordVPN and PIA are verified to not keep data logs, 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 better 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 and infecting devices with bundled software. Kape also purchased CyberGhost a few years earlier, as well as ZenMate VPN.
Kape was previously known as Crossrider, back when it was widely known for malware, but later changed its name. Do you want to trust a company that made malware with your security? It’s your call, but I will not recommend any of these VPNs that are owned by Kape, given the concerning background with malware. 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. There was also the case of US-based IPVanish being forced to log users for the FBI, even while claiming to be a “zero logs” VPN. This is discussed more in our NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison, as well as the IPVanish review.
NordVPN clearly comes out on top in both jurisdiction and also the company background check.
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. So first let’s examine Private Internet Access.
For many years now, PIA has struggled to unblock Netflix servers. In fact, you can see this below where the PIA app is on the right, and the Netflix error message is in the background (Netflix not working with PIA):
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 VPNs that work with Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and more. These VPNs typically invest resources into acquiring (and maintaining) IP addresses that work with Netflix. And if that wasn’t enough, PIA was also blocked by BBC iPlayer (the UK streaming service) in my tests:
Now let’s see how NordVPN does.
NordVPN with Netflix and streaming
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 some of the Netflix regions supported by NordVPN: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Japan, Australia, India, Korea, and Italy. Additionally, NordVPN works well for many other streaming services. You can use this VPN with Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more.
We also have screenshots of NordVPN working well with BBC iPlayer in our roundup guide on the best VPNs for BBC iPlayer (one of only two VPNs that consistently work well).
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 $3.30 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 $3.30 per month. The same holds true for PIA, which restricts the biggest discount to their longer-duration plans (yearly). (You may find other NordVPN coupons 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 is great, especially when some VPNs have many obstacles in place for getting a refund, as we saw in our Avast SecureLine VPN review.
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 and IPVanish), 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 that meets your needs can be challenging. And while both NordVPN and PIA may appeal to different users, there was a clear winner based on all test categories.
NordVPN was the big winner in this PIA vs Nord VPN comparison, coming out on top by a large margin. NordVPN was the winner in six categories, PIA won two, and two categories were tied. Here’s a breakdown of the results:
- Speeds – 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 can no longer recommend this VPN. The background of Kape/Crossrider is quite concerning, and the VPN continues to operate in the United States, which undermines data security. You can learn more about this VPN in our PIA review here.
If you want to try out NordVPN, keep in mind you have a 30 day money-back guarantee. This means that you can cancel any time in the first 30 days for a full refund, without any hassle. And be sure to get the best price with the coupon below, which is currently active:
Have you used PIA or NordVPN? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below to help other users.
Last updated on June 2, 2021 with new test results.