NordVPN and Proton VPN are both large, well-respected names in the VPN and privacy communities. While NordVPN has been around longer and is one of the most popular VPNs in the industry, Proton VPN is also making a name for itself. So who comes out on top in this Proton VPN vs NordVPN comparison?
Based on the latest test results, NordVPN wins in 2023. In comparison to Proton VPN, NordVPN is much faster, offers more security features, more servers, and better support for streaming. Finally, NordVPN is also significantly cheaper than Proton VPN (see the coupon in the table below).
This table highlights the main facts about each VPN:
|Logs||No logs (audited)||No logs|
|Support||Knowledge Base; 24/7 chat||Knowledge Base; email (no chat)|
|Apps for||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Price||$2.99 (with coupon)||$4.99|
|Coupon||68% Off Coupon >||N/A|
NordVPN remains one of the most popular VPNs in the world, boasting a large server network, premium speeds, and lots of privacy features. It routinely outperforms other VPNs with performance, features, and streaming capability.
Proto nVPN comes from Switzerland with a focus on privacy and security, but with a smaller set of features, a higher price, and less access to popular streaming sites. Additionally, there was a data scandal involving Proton Mail, the sister company of Proton VPN, logging user IP addresses for government authorities.
So which one comes out on top in this NordVPN vs Proton VPN comparison? While we like and recommend both of these services, there was a clear winner in almost every category. Here are the areas we’ll examine:
- Company background and jurisdiction
- Speed tests
- Streaming and torrenting
- Security and Encryption
- Prices and Refunds
We’ll take a deep dive into each of these categories, while also posting the test results below. And by naming a winner in each category, we hope to give you a fast way to identify the VPN that’s worth your attention.
Background and jurisdiction: Proton VPN vs NordVPN
It is always useful to know something about the background of any company you do business with. This is particularly important when you are dealing with private or otherwise sensitive information.
While a VPN can prevent others from spying on your online activities, you need to be able to trust the VPN not to spy on you. And some have done exactly that, in the form of sharing your information with third parties. For example, PureVPN shared information about a user with the FBI, despite claiming to be a no-logs VPN. The same thing happened with IPVanish a few years ago.
Given that, let’s see what we can learn about the companies behind these two VPNs.
NordVPN background and jurisdiction
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
NordVPN is one of the best-known companies in the VPN industry. It is part of NordSec, a brand that includes NordVPN and two new products: the secure password manager NordPass, and the encryption / cloud storage tool NordLocker. This company has an excellent background and track record, and has also passed third-party audits.
NordVPN is strategically based in Panama, a strong privacy jurisdiction that is not part of any surveillance alliances. It also does not have any mandatory data retention or logging laws. These characteristics make Panama an excellent jurisdiction for privacy-focused services like NordVPN.
Our NordVPN review has more information on the company background.
Proton VPN background and jurisdiction
Proton VPN comes to us from the team behind Proton Mail. The parent company of Proton VPN (and ProtonMail) is Proton Technologies, a well-respected company is based in Switzerland. Similar to Panama with NordVPN, Switzerland is also a good privacy jurisdiction and is not party to any international surveillance alliances.
Even before Proton VPN was officially launched in 2017, ProtonMail had built up a strong following in the privacy community. It is one of the leading secure email services. Today, you can combine both ProtonMail and Proton VPN under one subscription – but it’s quite expensive, as we’ll cover below.
Proton Mail was the subject of a logging controversy. It was found to be logging users for a criminal investigation, as requested by law enforcement officers in France. We covered the situation in detail here:
Proton Mail Gives Up Logs on User, Then Scrubs Website of No IP Logging Claims
In the Proton VPN review, we noted how Proton has a history of targeted logging against specific users, based on Swiss court orders. This information was released in previous transparency reports and it has also been called out by others.
Both NordVPN and Proton VPN are backed by reputable companies based in privacy-friendly jurisdictions. But we do consider Panama to be a slightly better jurisdiction for privacy than Switzerland. Additionally, Proton VPN has a history of targeted logging of its users, which we do not see with NordVPN.
Company background and jurisdiction winner: NordVPN
NordVPN vs Proton VPN Features
Now we will examine how Proton VPN and NordVPN compare with each other in the features category.
Proton VPN features
Proton VPN’s network currently consists of 1,800 servers in 54 countries. This isn’t a particularly large network, but it may be sufficient for your needs.
Unfortunately, Proton VPN restricts servers to only premium subscriptions. In other words, you will need to pay for a “Plus” or “Visionary” subscription in order to have access to all servers. (The free VPN and Basic users are locked out.) This is different from NordVPN, which gives all users 100% access to all servers.
The company claims that its network provides high-speed connections for premium users. But in our tests with a “Plus” account, we simply could not find a fast server, unlike our speed tests with NordVPN.
The Proton VPN apps have useful privacy and security features such as a kill switch, auto-reconnection to the network, DNS leak protection, and split tunneling (on some of their apps). And all Proton VPN apps are open source. They provide apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and various routers, including the Vilfo VPN router.
Here you can see some of the privacy features of the Proton VPN Windows VPN app:
The “Secure Core” servers are double-VPN servers. But what makes them different is that the first server in each connection is located in a high-security data center. For example, the Switzerland Secure Core servers are located in a former Swiss Army fallout shelter.
Recently the Proton team added a Stealth VPN protocol. This is an obfuscation feature that disguises VPN traffic to hide it from internet censors and also get around VPN blocks. This may be useful if you need a VPN for UAE, where VPNs are often blocked.
Proton VPN also has a “VPN Accelerator” feature for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices. This may improve the slow speed situation as it utilizes the WireGuard VPN protocol.
NordVPN has all the basic features that we covered with Proton VPN, including built-in leak protection and kill switches on all their VPN apps. But NordVPN also offers many advanced privacy features. They have apps for everything Proton VPN does, and more. They also support options such as Android TV, gaming consoles, and Raspberry Pi.
NordVPN features WireGuard support in the form of a custom VPN protocol called NordLynx. A privacy-first implementation of Wireguard, NordLynx improves WireGuard privacy using a Double NAT system to secure user IP addresses. See our WireGuard VPN guide for details. You can activate NordLynx in the Settings:
NordVPN has servers in 59 countries worldwide and their network contains over 5,200 servers. This server number amounts to almost three times the size of Proton VPN’s network, although Proton VPN covers more countries. And unlike Proton VPN, the entire NordVPN server network is available to all users (no restrictions).
Another difference between NordVPN and Proton VPN is that NordVPN offers more specialty servers for various use cases:
- P2P servers optimized for torrenting. These fast servers are ideal for torrenting large files.
- Obfuscated servers that conceal VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption, like Proton VPN’s Stealth protocol. A great tool if you need a VPN for China or the UAE, where VPNs are blocked. Proton VPN admits here they are blocked in China.
- Double-VPN servers to encrypt traffic over two different locations. Similar to Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers.
- Tor-over-VPN servers that add an additional layer of encryption via the Tor network.
- Meshnet is a new feature that allows you to create a VPN connection across a private network of trusted NordVPN devices.
Here’s the NordVPN Windows client we tested. On the left side of the app, you can see the specialty servers, with an active connection to a double-VPN (Netherlands > Switzerland) server configuration.
One last NordVPN feature to consider is Threat Protection, which blocks ads, trackers, malware, phishing domains, and even scans documents you download for malware. This turns NordVPN into a powerful VPN ad blocker for all your devices. Threat Protection can protect everything on your device, even those not connected to the VPN.
While Proton VPN offers some useful features, NordVPN’s WireGuard support, large server network, and specialty servers give it the edge.
Features winner: NordVPN
NordVPN vs Proton VPN speed tests
Given all the work a VPN must do to protect your data, it is only logical that they would slow your connection down somewhat. But how much any particular VPN slows you down can vary enormously.
We ran all of these NordVPN vs Proton VPN speed tests with a 500 Mbps connection in our US lab. We tested servers in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as double-VPN servers from each service.
Test #1: Seattle, USA
Here was a Proton VPN server in Seattle, which gave me about 92 Mbps.
Right away, we see that Proto nVPN does not have fast speeds with the Seattle location. Now let’s see if NordVPN is faster than Proton VPN with this location.
Here was the NordVPN server in Seattle at 445 Mbps.
This is the fastest VPN speed test result we’ve gotten here on Restore Privacy. For the Seattle server location, NordVPN was 4.8 times faster than Proton VPN, or 353 Mbps. This is a massive difference.
Test #2: New York, USA
Here was the Proton VPN server in New York at about 101 Mbps.
While this is slightly faster than the Proton VPN server in Seattle, it is still not very fast.
Here was the NordVPN server in New York, giving us great speeds of 280 Mbps.
It’s clear that NordVPN offers significantly faster speeds than NordVPN with the US servers we tested. So now let’s see if overseas servers were any different.
Test #3: United Kingdom
Here was the Proton VPN server in the UK at only 20 Mbps.
This is the slowest Proton VPN server we tested. We would not expect speeds this slow with a premium (high-priced) VPN service.
Here was the NordVPN server in the UK at about 295 Mbps.
For the UK region, NordVPN was more than 14 times faster than Proton VPN, nearly hitting 300 Mbps. This is really impressive, especially when you consider the high latency and long distance between my location and the VPN server. NordVPN clearly delivers on speeds and is the best VPN for UK server speeds.
Double-VPN speed tests with NordVPN and Proton VPN
NordVPN and Proton VPN both offer double-VPN servers. You can select the double-VPN servers directly in the NordVPN app. With Proton VPN, they refer to their double-VPN servers as “Secure Core” – and they are only accessible if you have one of the more-expensive VPN subscriptions.
Here we tested a double-VPN server with Proton VPN using the Switzerland > Canada configuration: 27 Mbps.
Proton VPN double-VPN “Secure Core” servers are also slow, even considering the double encryption and higher latency.
Here’s a NordVPN double-VPN server with the US > Canada configuration: 214 Mbps.
The Double-VPN servers from NordVPN are significantly faster than the Secure Core (double VPN) servers from Proton VPN. This is true for other services offering double-VPN servers as well, as seen in our Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison.
Why is NordVPN so much faster than Proton VPN?
Many factors affect speed, so we can’t say for sure. But we have seen reports that Proto VPN servers are getting overloaded with users, which would reduce speed.
NordVPN may also have a faster implementation of WireGuard than Proton VPN. In our WireGuard vs OpenVPN speed tests, WireGuard outperformed OpenVPN with every server location. Proton VPN now supports the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, as well as WireGuard under the “VPN Accelerator” feature.
Proton VPN struggles in the performance area, while NordVPN keeps getting better. NordVPN is also faster than other leading VPNs, as we can see in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison.
Speed test winner: NordVPN
Proton VPN vs NordVPN streaming and torrenting
Both of these services support streaming media as well as P2P (torrenting) – but one offers a lot more streaming options than the other. Can you guess who?
Streaming with Proton VPN and NordVPN
Using VPNs to stream media is a massive, growing trend. But major streaming services like Netflix use geo-blocking technology to fence out anyone trying to connect from the ‘wrong’ physical location. While many VPNs can unblock websites, only a few have the advanced capabilities needed to defeat streaming service geo-blocking.
NordVPN has the fastest network we’ve tested with a huge selection of streaming-compatible servers around the world. We currently rank NordVPN as the best VPNs for Netflix because it offers fast and consistent access to 15+ Netflix regional libraries. Here we are streaming Netflix with a NordVPN server in the US:
Proton VPN is a decent VPN for streaming, but it can’t measure up to NordVPN. Here are the streaming drawbacks we found with ProtonVPN:
- Fewer streaming services supported – Proton VPN works with fewer Netflix libraries and streaming services. For example, Proton VPN only supports about four different Netflix libraries, while NordVPN officially supports more than ten.
- Restricted servers – Only Proton VPN’s Plus and Unlimited plans support streaming. Free plan users are blocked by Proton VPN.
- Limited support for streaming devices – Proton VPN supports few streaming devices. There is no dedicated app for Firestick and setting up the VPN to work with Smart TVs and other streaming devices is tricky.
NordVPN wins the streaming challenge.
Torrenting with NordVPN and Proton VPN
What about torrenting? Can Proton VPN compete?
NordVPN – NordVPN has a lot of advantages that make it the best VPN for torrenting:
- Premium speeds (fastest VPN we have tested)
- Dedicated P2P torrenting servers
- Large server network
- Secure VPN apps with no data leaks
ProtonVPN – ProtonVPN is a good VPN for torrenting. However, we found these drawbacks:
- Slower speeds, as noted above.
- The Free plan blocks torrenting traffic (you’ll need to upgrade your account)
- Proton VPN also blocks some servers from torrent traffic and will automatically disable your connection if they detect torrent transfers. (We’ve seen lots of complaints about this from Proton VPN users.)
Considering everything, Proton VPN does not seem to be an ideal choice for torrenting.
Note: Proton VPN now supports port forwarding. While this feature makes Proton VPN a better VPN for torrenting, we still find NordVPN to be the better choice here. We saw similar results in our Private Internet Access (PIA) vs NordVPN comparison, where even with port forwarding, Private Internet Access was slower than NordVPN.
NordVPN wins the torrenting challenge too.
Streaming and Torrenting winner: NordVPN (winner for both sub-categories)
Encryption and Security: Proton VPN vs NordVPN
Encryption and security are important factors to consider when selecting a VPN.
VPN Encryption & Protocols
ProtonVPN vs NordVPN have comparable levels of encryption and protocols:
- Proton VPN: The Proton VPN Windows client and Linux script use the OpenVPN protocol. Their other apps use the IKEv2 protocol. For their encryption, they use AES-256-CBC and HMAC SHA-512 authentication. Proton VPN also supports WireGuard.
- NordVPN: NordVPN clients use the OpenVPN and NordLynx protocols, while also supporting IKEv2 on some operating systems. For their encryption, they use AES-256-GCM with a 4096-bit DH key or ChaCha20 ciphers.
Now that Proton VPN has added WireGuard support, we consider these two VPNs to be equally secure.
NordVPN has undergone the following third-party audits:
- A no-logs audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland. (NordVPN is one of a handful of verified no-logs VPN services.)
- A second PricewaterhouseCoopers no-logs audit covering regular, obfuscated, Double VPN and P2P servers. (This was completed in 2020.)
- An app and infrastructure audit, along with ongoing penetration testing conducted by VerSprite.
Proton VPN has undergone a security audit conducted by SEC Consult. Unlike NordVPN, Proton VPN has not had any outside audits to verify its no-logs claims.
NordVPN wins. We see no reason to believe that there is anything wrong with Proton VPN’s security. And Proton VPN would win this category against most VPNs. But NordVPN simply has more audits to back them up.
VPN server security
These two companies take different tacks to provide security for their servers.
NordVPN has converted all their servers to diskless (RAM) operation. With all servers running in RAM-disk mode, it is impossible to store any data on a server. This protects NordVPN users even if a server is seized by a third-party – no data will be available. We see this trend with both ExpressVPN and NordVPN, as well as a few other services moving to RAM-disk servers.
Another advantage of the NordVPN server network is that they are rolling out their own dedicated hardware. By deploying colocated servers, rather than renting servers from third parties, NordVPN will have total control over hardware. We’ve not seen Proton VPN announce similar plans.
Proton VPN’s Secure Core servers may be more secure than typical double-VPN servers due to their physically secure locations, but they are not available to users of the free plan.
Encryption & security winner: NordVPN is the overall winner in this category.
Privacy comparison: Proton vs Nord
What about protecting your privacy? Both services have solid no-logs policies, but there is a key distinction.
According to Proton’s own transparency reports, they have complied with court orders that have forced them to target users for IP logging. This could be a major drawback of operating in Switzerland, which is also home to data retention laws. (See our article on the Proton Mail logging situation.)
With NordVPN, I have not been able to find any instances of targeted logging like we see with Proton VPN. Additionally, Panama is more of a privacy-friendly jurisdiction than Switzerland because it does not have mandatory data retention laws.
Privacy winner: NordVPN
Prices and refunds
Okay, now that you have a sense of what each VPN is like, let’s see how much they cost and how hard it would be to get a refund if you change your mind.
Proton VPN pricing has become much less complicated than in the past. Here is their current offering:
While Proton VPN is not the cheapest VPN we’ve seen, their prices are reasonable. And don’t forget that they have a Free plan you can use to check out the service for an extended period.
Proton VPN offers a 30-day refund window, which is pretty standard in the VPN industry. We are not aware of Proton VPN offering any VPN coupons at this time.
NordVPN pricing gives you full access to the VPN with every pricing plan. But they now have three plans too: Standard, Plus, and Complete.
As you can see in the 2-year offers below, the Plus and Complete plans offer additional, non-VPN features that you may well want to invest in for additional security and privacy. Whichever way you go, you will get the best current prices if you use the NordVPN discount coupon here >>
Just like with Proton VPN, all NordVPN plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Price and Refund Winner: Assuming you want a VPN for long-term use, NordVPN offers better pricing. And both companies give you a solid 30-day money-back guarantee, making NordVPN the winner of this category.
Value – Is NordVPN or Proton VPN better?
Value can be a subjective in that it depends on what you plan to do with your VPN. If the most important thing for you is price, and you don’t mind the slow speeds, limited features, and restricted server network, then the Free Proton VPN plan may be the best fit.
While we don’t know exactly what you plan to do with your VPN, based on your own needs, we can compare Proton VPN vs NordVPN on three key characteristics that every user expects from their VPN: security, privacy, and speed.
So how does Proton VPN compare to NordVPN?
- NordVPN is much faster than Proton VPN.
- Both are secure.
- Both protect your privacy, but NordVPN offers more privacy features, diskless servers, and has two audits to verify its no-logs claims.
Value winner: Based on these criteria, NordVPN wins the value category as well.
Conclusion: NordVPN wins in 2023
Our team at Restore Privacy has always liked Proton VPN, with its strong values and privacy-focused VPN service. It’s even been featured on our best VPN list, along with the other top recommendations. However, in direct comparison to NordVPN, it’s clear that Proton VPN isn’t ready to challenge for the top spot.
Tallying up the results of our eight NordVPN vs Proton VPN test categories, we can see that NordVPN won all eight of them.
- Company background and jurisdiction: NordVPN
- Features: NordVPN
- Speed tests: NordVPN
- Streaming and Torrenting: NordVPN
- Security and Encryption: NordVPN
- Privacy: NordVPN
- Price and Refund: NordVPN
- Value: NordVPN
For most users, we would recommend NordVPN over Proton VPN. It simply offers the best value for your money.
Additionally, the lackluster performance with Proton VPN really prevents us from recommending this VPN. It has a good reputation in the privacy community (Russian citizens have been known to use it to get news about the war in Ukraine), it simply can’t compete against other leading VPN services, as we also observed in the ExpressVPN vs Proton VPN comparison.
We’re happy to recommend NordVPN, a service that continues to get better. And if you want to give it a try, use the discount coupon below for the best savings.
Want to give Proton VPN a shot?
Go for it! Here is a link to their website:
This Proton VPN vs NordVPN comparison report was last updated on January 7, 2023.