NordVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA)

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are two of the most popular VPN providers on the market. NordVPN is an excellent VPN that is easy to use and a great option for streaming fans thanks to its strong geo-unblocking capabilities. PIA is one of the best VPN providers when it comes to torrenting support thanks to its eye-watering network of servers, unlimited P2P support, and port-forwarding feature.

The best VPN provider comes with a complete package of first-rate security features, user-friendly clients, and additional features. So, which VPN provider is right for you, NordVPN or Private Internet Access?

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NordVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) Overview

Both NordVPN and PIA offer excellent VPN products that come with a range of advanced security features. But which one is right for you?

NordVPN

NordVPN is based in Panama and offers an excellent VPN product that comes with torrenting support, impressive streaming unblocking capabilities, and fast connection speeds thanks to its proprietary NordLynx protocol. Its mobile apps are not the most user-friendly, but it is still a great choice for most users.

NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers on the market, and if you have done any research on VPNs, you have likely heard of it. But how good is it? And how does it compare to Private Internet Access (PIA)? The VPN is relatively good value for money with subscription prices starting at $3.71 if you are happy to commit to its longer-term 2-year plan. However, its 1-month option is on the higher end at $11.95.

Despite the savings that come with a longer-term subscription plan, we would typically recommend starting with a shorter plan or at least a free trial and then upgrade to a longer-term option if you are satisfied. Opting for a longer plan before testing a product may mean that you are stuck with a VPN that does not offer all of the features and services you require.

NordVPN offers a range of payment options to suit a variety of different customers including PayPal, credit card, and multiple anonymous methods including Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Users will be protected by military-standard AES-bit encryption as standard as well as a range of additional features including Onion over Tor and Double VPN technology that will encrypt your private internet data twice rather than just once. There is a reliable kill switch too, to protect your browsing activity even if the VPN fails for any reason. If your VPN drops, the kill switch will automatically cut your internet connection so that no unencrypted data or your actual IP address become exposed.

NordVPN also offers access to a range of obfuscated servers which serve to hide the fact that you are using a VPN. This feature is helpful for tasks including streaming as many streaming services utilize strong VPN-blocking technology and firewalls.

The VPN provider offers a strong no-logs policy that is evidenced by an independent security audit. This is reassuring as it means that NordVPN does not store, misuse, or sell private user data.

It is a great option if you are looking for a streaming VPN service thanks to its excellent server connection speeds, especially if you use the proprietary NordLynx protocol. It is successful at unblocking a range of streaming services including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu too. There is P2P support on almost all of the provider’s servers too, making it a decent option for torrenting fans.

NordVPN also boasts an excellent customer support team and a 24/7 live chat support option, in case you do run into any difficulties while using the VPN service. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee too, for additional peace of mind. This means that you can test the product risk-free before committing to a paid VPN subscription.

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN

Private Internet Access is a great option for torrenting fans thanks to its eye-watering server network and host of configurable settings. It also comes with excellent mobile and desktop apps. However, it is not the best VPN service when it comes to accessing geo-restricted streaming services, and its speeds are somewhat average.

Private Internet Access or PIA is one of the best VPN services on the market thanks to its impressive server coverage, wide platform support, and excellent encryption standards. The provider offers over 19,000 servers across 76, which is more than any other VPN provider on the market.

If you sign up for a month, PIA is not cheap, at $11.95 a month, however, this is average among its competitors. If you opt for a yearly subscription option, the price will fall to $3.33 a month. However, the most cost-effective option is its 3-year plan, which comes in at just $2.19 a month, making it one of the cheapest VPN services available.

PIA also boasts excellent security and privacy features. Users will gain access to WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols, which are two of the best available. There is also the option to choose your encryption level and activate data authentication and handshake methods. All of the provider’s apps are open-source too, which means that they have been heavily scrutinized by developers for issues and vulnerabilities.

There is a reliable kill switch too to protect your web traffic in case your VPN fails for any reason. However, we would like to see the provider complete an external security audit of its no-logs policy and software to provide evidence for its security claims.

Despite that the provider’s server coverage is impressive, speeds are somewhat average. In the US, test results revealed server speeds of around 70Mbps, which is somewhat lower than its competitors.

Private Internet Access is successful at accessing United States Netflix, however, libraries in other countries such as Japan are unavailable. It also fails to unblock BBC iPlayer, which is disappointing for fans of UK streaming content. Some, but not all of PIA’s servers enabled access to Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. Thus, if you are a streaming fan, PIA may not be the best choice. However, torrenting and P2P sharing are permitted on all servers and there is a useful port-forwarding feature that is specially designed for torrenters too.

NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Pricing

NordVPN is relatively affordable with subscription prices starting at just $3.71 on its 2-year subscription plan. However, if you are not ready to commit to a longer-term option, its monthly version will set you back $11.95 a month. Its 6-month plan comes in at $9 a month, however, it does require an upfront payment of $54 when you sign up.

Like NordVPN, PIA also comes with three subscription options: a monthly, yearly, and 3-year plan. The monthly plan costs the same as NordVPN, at $11.95 a month. If you opt for the yearly plan, the price falls to just $3.33 a month, while its 3-option comes in at just $2.69 a month. This means that PIA is the more affordable provider, as long as you are happy to commit to a three-year plan.

NordVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee too, meaning that you can test the app to make sure it is right for you before committing to a paid subscription plan. The company does offer a free trial, however, it is only available on Android and iOS, so we would recommending signing up for a paid subscription plan to avail of the money-back guarantee. There is no free trial with PIA either, but it does also come with a 30-day refund guarantee.

With NordVPN there is a range of payment options too including credit card, PayPal, prepaid card, UnionPay, AmazonPay, GooglePay, and iTunes. There is also support for anonymous payment options with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero, and Ethereum. Similarly, PIA supports an extensive list of payment options including credit cards, gift cards, cryptocurrencies, bank transfers, and more.

NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Privacy and Security

NordVPN operates on military standard AES-256 bit encryption as standard as well as 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman keys. The VPN provider also offers Perfect Forward Secrecy technology which serves to create new encryption keys at the start of every VPN session and periodically after that. There is also an Onion over VPN to link your internet connection through the encrypted Tor network for complete privacy and anonymity. There is a Double VPN option too, which sends your web traffic through two VPN servers rather than just one.

The VPN provider also offers a range of obfuscated servers which is helpful to hide the fact that you are using a virtual private network connection to gain access to a site or app that blocks the use of a VPN.

PIA is also a great option if you are concerned about your internet privacy and security. The VPN provider operates on OpenVPN and WireGuard, two of the newest and safest protocols available. OpenVPN utilizes AES-128 encryption, but you can manually increase it to AES-256 in the settings. Users can also activate handshake methods including RSA-2048 and RSA-4096, as well as data authentication.

For DNS leak protection, Private Internet Access operates on its own DNS server, but you can switch this to your own too. The provider also offers a reliable kill switch to ensure your actual IP address and location do not become exposed if your VPN fails for any reason. This feature is also available on PIA’s mobile apps, which is unusual.

All of PIA’s clients are open-source, which means that they have been heavily scrutinized by developers for leaks or bugs. This means you can rest assured that the software is completely secure.

The Private Internet Access Chrome extension offers a range of additional security features including an ad, third-party cookie, and malware blocker. The browser extension can be used to activate the VPN directly from your browser, however, it will only protect your browser activity.

PIA claims that it does not keep logs of private user data, however, its no-logs policy has not yet completed an independent security audit of its policies and software, which is disappointing.

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NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Streaming

Many users install VPNs for the purpose of accessing geo-restricted streaming content on sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. For example, if you are based in the United States, you may not be able to access some European or UK streaming content. A VPN serves to mask your real IP address and replace it with that of the VPN. This means that you can make it appear as if your internet activity is originating in an entirely alternate location, and gain access to streaming services that are not usually available in your region.

NordVPN is the clear winner when it comes to accessing streaming content. It is successful at unblocking a range of Netflix libraries, as well as YouTube, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video.

PIA can unblock some streaming content but it is nowhere near as successful as Nord. Private Internet Access could stream United States Netflix content, but it did fail to unblock the service in any other countries. Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video were available on some, although not all of the provider’s servers.

NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Torrenting

NordVPN provides access to a wide range of P2P-friendly servers. Not all of the company’s servers are optimized for torrenting, but there remains an excellent array of locations to choose from. When you launch your P2P-sharing client, or it detects torrenting traffic, Nord will usefully automatically reconnect you to a P2P server. This means that you do not need to worry about remembering you activate the VPN every time you want to torrent.

Nord also boasts an excellent, audited no-logging policy, Double VPN technology, Onion over VPN option, and excellent DNS leak protection. Despite that it is not the absolute best VPN for P2P sharing, it is still a good choice.

Private Internet Access is arguably a better VPN option when it comes to torrenting. There are no torrenting restrictions and P2P sharing is supported across the provider’s extensive range of VPN servers. This means that you can freely use any of the company’s servers for torrenting. There is even support for port forwarding, which can be helpful if you need to access the internet from behind a NAT firewall in order to increase torrenting speeds.

NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: Customer service

NordVPN and Private Internet Access both offer impressive customer service, in case you run into difficulties while setting up or using your new VPN. When it comes to customer support, NordVPN offers a few options. There is a range of setup and support articles available on the company’s site which are comprehensive and well-written. Nord also offers a 24/7 live chat support option which is operated by a team of friendly and helpful agents. There is email support too, however, you will likely be waiting longer for a reply.

Private Internet Access offers a support center with a range of setup and troubleshooting guides. They are not as detailed as those offered by NordVPN but there is an extensive array of articles. If you require further assistance, there is the option to raise a support ticket or use the live chat. Typically, users will be waiting a few hours for a reply to a support ticket, while the live-chat is somewhat quicker.

NordVPN vs PIA: Server network

When it comes to choosing a VPN provider, it is important to consider the size and range of its server network. Having a large and well-located network means that you will have sufficient choice when it comes to choosing a server in a particular location for streaming, gaming, or torrenting. NordVPN and PIA both boast impressive server networks in a wide range of locations.

NordVPN provides access to European servers in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Ireland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Finland, Serbia, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Portugal, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Greece, Estonia, Iceland, Albania, Cyprus, Croatia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and North Macedonia.

Across the rest of the world, NordVPN offers servers in 15 United States cities, 3 Canadian cities, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, 5 Australian cities, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, South Africa, 2 Indian cities, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Israel.

Private Internet Access offers an eye-watering network of over 22,000 servers in 95 locations across 77 countries. There are PIA servers in the United States (14 locations), Canada (4 locations), United Kingdom (4 locations), Australia (3 locations), Germany (2 locations), Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Romania, Japan, Singapore, Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, Austria, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Israel, Hong Kong, Portugal, Poland, India, Taiwan, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Albania, Brazil, Lithuania, Greece, Latvia, Andorra, Panama, Greenland, Nigeria, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, North Macedonia, Philippines, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Estonia, Egypt, Algeria, Venezuela, Bahamas, Hungary, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Argentina, Montenegro, Mongolia, Macao, Malta, Bangladesh, Moldova, Armenia, China, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Monaco, Qatar, and Georgia.

NordVPN vs PIA: Desktop apps

Once you have downloaded and installed NordVPN’s desktop apps, they are well-designed and simple to use. There is a large server location map that allows you to select your desired server with a single click. There is a typical server location list too. However, we are disappointed to see that the VPN company replaced its Favorites list with a Recents list, which is slightly less helpful. Alternating between VPN protocols and enabling the kill-switch is quick and simple in the Settings section.

Installing the Private Internet Access VPN clients is easy. The download page for each app offers a changelog that reveals that changes and updates that have previously been made. There are OpenVPN configuration files available too, in case you want to use your own app.

Once you have installed the app and entered your login details, there is a large Connect button that will automatically connect you to the best available server in terms of speed and proximity. You can also easily select a VPN location from the list of cities and countries, which also shows ping and latency statistics to help you choose the best one.

In the Settings, there is a large array of configurable features. You can select between OpenVPN over WireGuard or UDP over TCP. You can also create a custom port, select an encryption level between AES-128 or AES-256, and activate SHA1 or SHA256 authentication, or handshaking RSA-2048 or RSA-4096. There is a Small Packets future too that enhances reliability on poor Wi-Fi connections.

There is a reliable kill switch on the desktop client too which will cut your internet connection if your VPN fails or disconnects for any reason. This ensures that no unencrypted information or your actual IP addresses ever become exposed.

NordVPN vs PIA: Mobile apps

NordVPN’s mobile iOS and Android apps feature a large map-based interface. However, the server map is somewhat difficult to navigate due to the small screen size. Installing and setting up the client is similar to any other app on Android or iOS.

Once you have signed up for a NordVPN subscription plan, the website will redirect you to the relevant app store. Download the app, accept the terms and conditions, and enter your login details. Activating and deactivating the VPN is simple thanks to the easy-to-use Connect button. The important settings options are easy to access too.

NordVPN also allows users to activate Auto-Connect which means that the VPN will automatically turn on if it detects a connection to an unsecured or unknown Wi-Fi network, or any other those that you have added to your WhiteList. There is CyberSec technology too which will block ads, malware, and phishing attempts.

There are a few minor differences between the NordVPN Android and iOS apps. The Android app does not offer a standard kill switch but you can set up something similar by enabling “Always-on VPN” and “Block Connections without VPN.” The iOS app has this feature built-in but you cannot turn it off.

The Android app is also the only NordVPN client to feature split tunneling, this means that you can choose the apps that run through your VPN, as well as those that will bypass it. This is handy if you want to use the VPN connection for certain tasks such as online banking, but you want your normal browsing activity to run outside of the encrypted VPN connection.

The iOS does not offer split tunneling, due to Apple’s limitations. However, it is one of the most powerful VPN apps for iOS. There is support for Siri, a dark mode, and a decent range of VPN protocols, which is sufficient for a typical mobile user.

PIA also offers apps for iPhone and Android. A subscription to Private Internet Access enables support for up to 10 simultaneous connections, which is much more than NordVPN offers. The Android client is simple but well-designed with a large Connect button, your actual IP address, and your chosen server location displayed on the screen. Selecting a region offers a list of other available locations with expected latency indicators, to help you choose the best available server.

The PIA iOS app is similar to the Android option. There is a Network Management section that enables users to select certain networks as automatically safe or unsafe. There is support for Siri too, which means you can connect and disconnect the VPN with your voice.

Pia’s mobile clients offer a range of user-configurable features. Users can choose between IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard protocols. You can also choose between 4 different OpenVPN encryption methods, 2 authentication methods, and 6 handshaking processes. There is also the option to set up a DNS server or custom port and choose between OpenVPN TCP and UDP connections.

The iOS and Android apps also feature integrated kill-switches that work in the same way as the desktop version. If your VPN connection drops for any reason, your internet connection will be automatically cut so that no unencrypted data is lost.

NordVPN vs PIA: Router VPN

Installing a VPN on your internet router will enable you to configure your VPN on your whole Wi-Fi network at once. This means that any internet traffic that runs through your router is protected by the VPN’s encryption to ensure all of your connected devices are secure and protected.

Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access offer a router VPN option. A VPN creates a secure encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet. It gathers all of your internet activity and requests and reroutes them through the tunnel and a VPN server so that they cannot be intercepted or deciphered. Once you have set up a VPN connection on your Wi-Fi router, all of your devices will be set up to have their internet traffic run through the encrypted VPN tunnel. Your computer, laptop, mobile phones, and even gaming consoles.

A router VPN will ensure all of your devices are always connected to the VPN. You will never have to worry about forgetting to connect as you will always be part of the encrypted tunnel as long as your router is on. This means that all of your online activities will be safe, anonymous, and protected, even while you’re sleeping.

Setting up a VPN on your router can be helpful if you need to protect a lot of devices on a single subscription plan, or you own devices that do not support a VPN. It will be necessary to purchase a VPN-compatible router if you do not already own one. Compatible VPN routers include ASUS-WRT, ASUS Merlin, DD-WRT, Gl.iNET, Mikrotik, NetDUMA, OPNsense, OpenWRT, Padavan, Portal, Sabai, Tomato, pfSense, DrayTek, and EdgeRouter. To set up NordVPN on your router, it will be necessary to check your router’s manual for OpenVPN setup instructions.

PIA provides an easy-to-use FlashRouter app that allows you to set the VPN on your router in a few easy steps. By downloading the FlashRouter app on your Wi-Fi router, you will protect every device that is connected to your Wi-Fi network in a single setup. This means that you do not have to set up the VPN on each of your devices individually and it allows you to enjoy the VPN protection on devices that do not typically support a VPN such as Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.

The FlashRouter enables you to select your preferred VPN server, region, and encryption strength. There is a total network killswitch too that will block your internet connection even if the VPN fails for any reason. A killswitch for your router will ensure all of your devices are protected, all of the time.

Author Cliff Durward

Hey guys, I'm Cliff! I live in Cleveland, Ohio with my wife and my kids. I love cybersecurity and I've been writing about it for a decade!
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PrivacySharks » NordVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA)
Last updated: April 14, 2021