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.
|“Best for” winner||Best overall, Best for Netflix, Best for P2P, Best for China, Fastest VPN|
|“Best for” nominee||Best overall, Best for Netflix, Fastest VPN|
|Price starts from||$3.49/month||$2.85/month|
|Review||Read NordVPN review||Read PIA review|
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
|Protocols||NordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2|
|Security features||Double VPN, Tor over VPN, CyberSec, SOCKS5 proxy, Obfuscated servers||Tor 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 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One thing I didn’t like was that PIA’s website has outdated info about the tunneling protocols.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 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
|Logging||Independently-audited no-logs policy||Court-proven no-logs policy|
|Anonymous payment||Cryptocurrencies||Cryptocurrencies, 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 (22.214.171.124) and PIA’s Mexican server (126.96.36.199) and got the same IPs.
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.
Private Internet Access also has multiple crypto-options and accepts various gift cards as well.
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
|Average speed||132 Mbps||65 Mbps|
|Germany server||252 Mbps (17% drop-off)||140 Mbps (54% drop-off)|
|US server||213 Mbps (29% drop-off)||125 Mbps (59% drop-off)|
|Germany server||87 Mbps (72% drop-off)||85 Mbps (73% drop-off)|
|US server||88 Mbps (71% drop-off)||84 Mbps (73% drop-off)|
|Germany server||46 ms||47 ms|
|US server||136 ms||108 ms|
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 proocols, 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.
To illustrate the discrepancy, I ran some NordVPN vs PIA speed tests from Europe to see who will be the winner of this sprint. Before turning on a VPN, I got 302 Mbps download and 307 Mbs upload. Then I connected to each VPN’s servers in Germany and the US.
As you can see, 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.
PIA and NordVPN apps: ease of use and support
|Other apps||Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome, Firefox, Opera|
|Manual setup||Routers, firewalls, NAS||Routers|
|Customer support||24/7 live chat, email, FAQ, tutorials||Live 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.
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.
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
|Allowed on||Selected servers||All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||Yes||Yes|
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.
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
|Other Netflix libraries||Yes||Netherlands|
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.
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.
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
|Works in China||Yes||Yes/No|
|Tor over VPN||Yes||Yes|
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
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||30 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?
|Total wins||8 out of 8||0 out of 8|
|Get NordVPN now||Get PIA now|
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.