NordVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access) in 2020

Last updated: October 20, 2020
NordVPN vs Private Internet Access

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Which one is better, NordVPN, or Private Internet Access? Both tools are extremely popular, both have lots of servers and good reviews. When it comes to quality, though, NordVPN vs Private Internet Access has one clear winner. Read my PIA and NordVPN comparison to find out which one it is and why!

I will be evaluating security, privacy, speed, price, and other key criteria to answer which service is worth your money. Don’t have time to read the whole comparison? No problem, check out this side-by-side overview of NordVPN and Private Internet Access to see in which areas one has the edge over another.

NordVPNPIA
Our rating9.68.9
“Best for” winnerBest overall, Best for Netflix, Best for P2P, Best for China
“Best for” nomineeBest overall, Best for Netflix
Price starts from$3.71/month$2.69/month
ReviewRead NordVPN reviewRead PIA review
Websitenordvpn.comprivateinternetaccess.com

As you can see, the only section where PIA wins over NordVPN is the price, although the difference is small. NordVPN sits at the top in every key category, though Private Internet Access is no slouch either – it often gets a mention on our lists. If you want a short answer NordVPN is the more comprehensive VPN service.

Security of NordVPN and PIA

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
EncryptionMilitary-gradeMilitary-grade
ProtocolsNordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Security featuresDouble VPN, Tor over VPN, CyberSec, SOCKS5 proxy, Obfuscated serversTor over VPN, PIA MACE, Split tunneling, Shadowsocks, SOCKS5 proxy, HNS

Is PIA safe? Well, it offers weaker AES-128 encryption by default on Windows, macOS, and Android, while NordVPN doesn’t even have such an option – it’s either AES-256 or nothing. All in all, both options are good, and we like the choice offered by PIA.

NordVPN vs PIA - tunneling protocols

NordVPN and PIA support the latest tunneling protocols on major platforms. However, there are a couple of differences. One is that PIA supports IKEv2 on iOS only and NordVPN offers it on macOS as well. And finally, Private Internet Access offers WireGuard in preview mode while NordVPN has it fully implemented as a proprietary protocol under the NordLynx name.

One thing I didn’t like was that PIA’s website has outdated info about the tunneling protocols. There’s nothing about WireGuard and you’ll see that L2TP/IPSec and even PPTP are mentioned as options.

Moving on to other security features, both services offer browser security tools. PIA’s MACE blocks domains used for ads, trackers, and malware, though it’s replaced by the Safari Content Blocker on iOS. NordVPN has CyberSec, which does the same plus protects your device from participating in DDoS attacks.

PIA VPN settings - proxy

PIA and NordVPN provide a free SOCKS5 proxy but the former also adds Shadowsocks and split tunneling – NordVPN has it on Android only. Both services use their own DNS servers. What separates NordVPN from Private Internet Access is Double VPN (multi-hop) and Obfuscated servers that help in case the government blocks VPN traffic. Additionally, NordVPN also integrates the Tor network with its Onion over VPN feature for maximum security.

PIA has one unique feature called Handshake Naming System, or HNS in short. It decentralizes the domain name system and helps against DNS-level blocking. While sounding cool, this feature will be useful to but a few users: if you can’t access Facebook, HNS won’t help either.

To sum up, NordVPN wins this round over PIA thanks to obfuscated servers, a fully implemented WireGuard protocol, and stronger extra features.

Privacy features of NordVPN vs Private Internet Access

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
JurisdictionPanamaUnited States
LoggingIndependently-audited no-logs policyCourt-proven no-logs policy
Anonymous payment
CryptocurrenciesCryptocurrencies, gift cards

The privacy round of the PIA vs NordVPN fight is close, but the latter manages to win because of its jurisdiction. Panama is a privacy-friendly country with no data retention laws. In contrast, the US is one of the worst places when it comes to privacy. Plus, it’s the key member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

Both VPNs have strict no-logs policies, but Private Internet Access holds a slight edge because its policy has been proven numerous times in court. Even an independent audit can’t beat that.

I also made tests to see if any of these services have DNS or IP leaks. All results were negative. As you can see in the screenshots below, I connected to NordVPN’s French server (185.128.25.222) and PIA’s Mexican server (196.52.10.18) and got the same IPs.

nordvpn no ip leakPIA dns check

Kill switch is another vital feature of every VPN because it shuts down your connection in case of a service failure. This way your real IP address is not exposed. Both providers have reliable kill switches, but NordVPN allows you to switch between the app and connection level.

Finally, I checked if anonymous payment options are accepted. You can buy NordVPN with ten different cryptocurrencies via CoinPayments.

NordVPN payment options - cryptocurrencies

Private Internet Access also has multiple crypto-options and accepts various gift cards as well.

PIA payment options
All in all, I can say that PIA would be a winner of this round if not for its jurisdiction. It also has more anonymous payment options and a truly proven no-logs policy. While it lacks NordVPN’s app-level kill switch, this is more of a convenience and not a privacy feature.

NordVPN vs PIA speed and performance

Even though both providers now offer the WireGuard protocol, NordVPN is still two times faster. Why PIA is so slow? This probably has to do with the fact that PIA has only started a preview of this next-gen protocol, while NordVPN has been implementing its proprietary version called NordLynx since 2019.

Then comes the server fleet factor. Private Internet Access has most of its servers in Europe and North America, so it makes sense that its speeds in other continents suffer. What’s more, NordVPN simply has many more servers in more countries, which also helps reduce the latency.

As you can see from the table below, even in locations where PIA has the most servers, this VPN is much slower. Nevertheless, it’s still considered as one of the fastest services in the industry. I expect these numbers to rise when Private Internet Access finishes implementing WireGuard.

NordVPN vs Private Internet Access: 14-Day Speed Average

More live data from our VPN Speed Test tool
NordVPN Private Internet Access
USA server
Download Speed 561 Mbps 104 Mbps
Upload Speed 598 Mbps 298 Mbps
UK server
Download Speed 695 Mbps 72 Mbps
Upload Speed 710 Mbps 184 Mbps
Germany server
Download Speed 524 Mbps 103 Mbps
Upload Speed 581 Mbps 219 Mbps

PIA and NordVPN apps: ease of use and support

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
Major apps
AllAll
Other apps
Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV
Browser extensions
Chrome, FirefoxChrome, Firefox, Opera
Manual setup
Routers, firewalls, NASRouters
Simultaneous devices
610
Customer support
24/7 live chat, email, FAQ, tutorialsLive chat, support ticket, knowledgebase, forum

For the fourth time in the row, NordVPN comes down as a winner against PIA. To put it simply, NordVPN works on more devices, has better customer support, and is easier to use. Let’s break it down step-by-step.

Both providers have apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. However, NordVPN can be downloaded for Android TV and Amazon Fire devices. In the meantime, Private Internet Access has only an unofficial manual setup guide for Amazon Fire Stick.

Speaking of configuring your VPN manually, NordVPN provides instructions for firewalls, NAS, and routers, while PIA covers only the latter. In the whole app department, Private Internet Access wins the browser extensions and simultaneous devices categories.

NordVPN server map

Turning to the ease of use, none of the two can be blamed for being clunky or confusing. That being said, I still liked the NordVPN apps better because they give both the map and the server list. What’s more, NordVPN did a fine job of trimming down the Settings without sacrificing security or privacy.

PIA connection preferences

In the meantime, PIA apps have plenty of options and some users will definitely like that. However, picking between four encryption types is probably not what most users want. Besides, I really didn’t like the fact that PIA’s desktop apps are now glued to the system tray area by default.

Moving on to the number of simultaneous devices per account, we see PIA emerge as a winner with ten against NordVPN’s six. Both numbers should be more than enough for an average user unless you’re planning to share your account with family or friends.

Last but not least in this section comes customer support. Here NordVPN shines again with its excellent 24/7 live chat and extensive knowledge base. In contrast, Private Internet Access has started its live chat not that long ago and who knows when will it become 24/7.

Torrenting and P2P with NordVPN and PIA

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
Allowed on
Selected serversAll servers
Free SOCKS5 proxy
YesYes
Split tunneling
NoYes

Neither is a bad shout for torrent users, but NordVPN wins out again because it’s the best VPN for torrenting. It’s a faster service that even offers servers optimized specifically for P2P. And it’s more secure, as you may have seen in the dedicated section above.

Is Private Internet Access good for torrenting? To compare, both services offer a free SOCKS5 proxy, which is useful when you start torrenting before turning on the VPN. However, only Private Internet Access has a split tunneling feature that allows you to choose which applications will use VPN. This helps if you want to torrent safely but also stream a show at the best possible video quality.

PIA settings - split tunneling

What’s more, PIA also offers port forwarding, which comes handy if you want to seed torrents. Just have in mind that not all servers support it and it needs OpenVPN protocol to work.

Netflix and other streaming platforms

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
Netflix US
YesYes
Other Netflix libraries
YesNetherlands
Other platforms
YesNo

Which is better for streaming – NordVPN or PIA? Not much to talk about here – NordVPN is the best VPN for Netflix. It unblocks multiple Netflix libraries, including those in the US, Canada, and the UK. What’s more, NordVPN is great for other streaming platforms, such as HBO, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, to name but a few.

netflix us with nordvpn

And while this VPN doesn’t have an app for Kodi, both work great together, providing content and security at the same time. Lastly, NordVPN has apps for Android TV and Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick, which will prove beneficial when you turn from your laptop to the big screen.

Private Internet Access is also great for Netflix. This VPN unblocks the US library and also that of the Netherlands. Both contain enough movies and TV shows to keep you entertain for the upcoming future. Sadly, PIA won’t give you BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or any other content platform.

pia netflix punisher

Kodi fans will be happy to hear that these services pair just fine on all major platforms. You can also install PIA’s SOCKS5 proxy directly onto the Kodi app. Unfortunately, Private Internet Access officially doesn’t support any smart TVs or other streaming devices – your best hope is manually setting it up for Amazon Fire Stick.

China and other restricted countries

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
Works in China
YesYes/No
Stealth VPN
YesShadowsocks
Tor over VPN
YesYes

This round of PIA vs NordVPN battle is easily won by the latter, which is the best VPN for China. In contrast, Private Internet Access is not even mentioned among the top services that bypass the Great Firewall, though you may still be able to use it. However, if you want a reliable service that works constantly, simply get NordVPN for China.

Those who still want more arguments should look at Stealth VPN – a core feature that hides your VPN traffic so that the government cannot recognize ant block it. NordVPN has Obfuscated servers for that matter, while PIA offers a Shadowscoks proxy that works only on the browser level. Furthermore, both providers support Tor over VPN, but NordVPN is much faster and thus better-suited for this sluggish connection method.

So, is PIA any good for China? Not exactly, because most of its servers are in the West. For example, it unblocks Netflix in the Netherlands and the US only. Therefore, even if you manage to circumvent the Great Firewall, your connection might be too slow for streaming and other activities.

PIA vs NordVPN pricing comparison

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
One month
$11.95/month$9.95/month
Six months
N/A$5.99/month
One year
$4.92/month$3.33/month
Two years
$3.71/monthN/A
Money-back guarantee
30 days30 days

NordVPN delivers a knockout punch to PIA in this final round – the only criteria where the latter VPN made a stand was a money-back guarantee. Although Private Internet Access is clearly a cheaper option, the value you get from buying NordVPN far outweighs those few bucks you’ll be saving.

The only scenario where you may want to get Private Internet Access as a more viable option is if you live in Europe or North America, have a fast internet connection, watch only Netflix US, run a tight budget, and use more than six devices constantly. If this doesn’t sound like you, then PIA is also not for you.

NordVPN vs PIA – which is better?

Winner: NordVPN

NordVPNPIA
Security
WinsLoses
Privacy
WinsLoses
Speed
WinsLoses
Apps
WinsLoses
Torrenting
WinsLoses
Streaming
WinsLoses
China
WinsLoses
Prices
WinsLoses
Total wins
8 out of 80 out of 8

NordVPN is certainly more expensive than PIA, but the gap in quality is enormous. This VPN is better in all categories, winning each of eight rounds. NordVPN is much faster, offers more streaming options, and supports more devices.

Furthermore, it has a great 24/7 live chat support that’s knowledgeable and responsive, while Private Internet Access’ live chat will be unavailable outside the US working hours. NordVPN is also your top choice in China or any country with restricted internet access.

While I wanted this NordVPN vs PIA comparison to be as detailed as possible, I had to leave out certain features of each provider. Therefore, if you still have some questions unanswered, I recommend reading the NordVPN review. And if you’re still leaning towards its opponent, head straight to Private Internet Access review to get the full picture.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Great performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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19 comments
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  1. T29

    Price wise, NordVPN will win right now because of their 3 year plan. Either way, NordVPN is one of the best in the world while PIA, well, they aren’t so good. Used them in the past and it wasn’t anything to write home about.


  2. Donna

    In my eyes, PIA shouldn’t even be placed on the same level with Nord. I mean, the differences are huge and if you get the 3 year Nordvpn deal you’ll cut down the cost considerably so price is not an issue either.


  3. Mariano

    How would the speed of Nord VPN compare to a free VPN like windscribe? Glad this article went over the Nord VPN’s torrenting capabilities. wasn’t aware that the US is one of the worst locations for a VPN! I stream Kodi regularly on my laptop, but the free options don’t cover enough data. Nord VPN sounds like the ideal VPN to move forward with. Thank!


    1. Kevin Marlowe Author

      Hi Mariano,

      Windscribe has a limited free version as well as a paid version – so it’s not exactly a free VPN. Windscribe speeds are generally similar to NordVPN speeds, but the same can’t be said for most other free versions or free VPNs.


  4. Christine Boss

    The principal reason for a VPN is to bypass geographical restrictions, overcoming locks enforced upon select websites, accessing different Netflix libraries, bypassing blocked YouTube videos etc. All this is what Nord VPN gives you effortlessly. The part I love most is the smooth browsing and streaming on my Xbox One and the huge discount you get when you subscribe for a greater number of years.
    Nord is just fantastic! Just WOW and cannot be compared to Private Internet Access in whatever form. Its large set of extra features, like double VPN, P2P-dedicated servers, a DNS leak resolver, and a dedicated single IP address are not supported by PIA to some extent. I have been using it for over a year now and see no reason to cancel my subscription or request for a refund. Yes, they won this comparison/debate


  5. Emilia Hartman

    When you compare VPN like Nord and Private Internet Access, be sure that Nord will win in all aspect but as a user, it’s not usually the same. I decided to try PIA for some time after reading some great reddit reviews. I have been using it for four months now. Speed is very good on my home Wi-Fi. I tried connecting to some public Wi-Fi networks and some speeds were better than others although still very great. I see no extra battery usage while the app runs in the background. PIA customer support is always helpful, polite and will try to fix your issue for as long as it takes. Most of all, they have patience. Great app, great service


  6. Jolly Joker

    NordVPN vs PIA is a very interesting topic like most comparisons are because you tend to learn a lot of new things you haven’t even thought about previously. What I don’t like about Nord is that you need to get a 3 year service to real pay less. Otherwise you won’t get much of a benefit when it comes to money. Their service is top notch, that’s for sure, but sometimes you don’t want to get tied up on a 3-year plan, do you? I mean, I did a speed test and you can see they have great speeds no matter where you’re using it from, but it’s a 3-year plan nonetheless. Both are easy to install and easy to use and the Linux app for PIA is a great touch – it’s likely that many of their users are using Linux. Nord looks like the better VPN out there with a huge number of servers, better security, bigger speeds, etc.


    1. Kevin Marlowe Author

      Hi Jolly Joker,

      It’s a fair point – Private Internet Access does have a lower price in the short term. With that said, test after test has shown the superiority of NordVPN in many areas. Yet it’s not even that – it’s about the business trajectory. Based on data, I’d be inclined to believe that Private Internet Access will be worse off than NordVPN, which in turn translates to the speed, server list, and other things.

      In the end, neither is a bad shout.


    2. JaydenDe

      A 3-year plan is a bummer but then again you save so much money in the process. And Nord is definitely worth the 3-year commitment because they are among the best if not the best. I’ve tested them for 2 months – even if you have to pay more, it’s always a good idea to test a VPN for a few months and see how they go – and saw how good they are and knowing this the decision to go for a longer period was easy. Their server numbers are great, never experienced slow internet speeds, sites that used to block me (because of my country) now work fine, etc. It’s all worth every penny to stay private and not worry about who knows what companies knowing your every move online.


  7. Jega12

    I heard that port forwarding is no longer available with NordVPN. Is this true? The test carried out by numerous parties revealed that the port forwarding from Nord is one of the most reliable ones. The reviews too say the same but I am unsure if it is still available.


    1. Kevin Marlowe Author

      Yes, it’s true – NordVPN doesn’t offer port forwarding. Still, the speeds, server variety (including torrenting optimized servers), and security features make NordVPN the better offer for P2P. With that said, if you are using closed torrenting trackers where maintaining a download/upload ratio is a must, PIA may fit you better.


  8. Lorrenzo56

    NordVPN is the best, not just for its price point but also how widespread the server is, and it had been proven to work well for Netflix based on the test conducted by many other VPN enthusiasts.


  9. Nessha_Ram

    I think there is no basis to compare these two VPN providers because clearly, these two have their own competitive advantages. NordVPN is better for anyone who has the budget and looking for long-term usage.


  10. Erdinç Breugem

    When it comes to VPN, there’s NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and everyone else. As far as I’m concerned, you have several alternatives, but most don’t even come close. There are a few that are comparable in certain situations (for example one might do Netflix well but not work in China). For me, I’ll always take NordVPN or ExpressVPN.


  11. Jonah Hayden

    Though winner by a very thin margin, NordVPN will win this battle.

    Both VPNs are very similar, but it’s NordVPN’s world class 24/7 live support and additional cybersecurity features that makes it the clear winner. It also offers far more server locations and allows users connect up to 6 simultaneous connections per subscription. Furthermore, NordVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee which is far more than what PIA offers.


  12. Yo-Yo Man

    I totally agree with Eldon! NordVPN is clearly better. It’s totally worth the cost. I wouldn’t recommend PIA at all if you care about online security. But that’s just my opinion.


    1. Kevin Marlowe Author

      While we would also agree that NordVPN is better, PIA is not bad in terms of security either. Depends on the level you require, of course.


  13. Eldon

    Everyone has their own opinion about VPN services. From my point of view, the best VPN provider is NordVPN, because they are based in Panama and have no logs policy. It is significant if you care about online privacy. That’s why I decided to use NordVPN. 🙂


    1. Grigori

      NordVPN is certainly one of the best providers, but I personally use ExpressVPN since I live in Belarus and that VPN works much better here. The government keeps a very close eye on online activity.

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