Currently, NordVPN is at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry. Its zero data logs policy, which stems from a combination of their impeccable service and a wise choice of jurisdiction on behalf of the developers, Tefincom S.A., was recently confirmed by an independent audit.
In addition, it is frequently rated as one of the best services by numerous reviewers, from PC Magazine to CNET and TechAdvisor, while its long-term subscription can go as low as $3.49 a month.
One of the better runners-up to NordVPN is ProtonVPN. Albeit slightly more expensive, Proton also comes from a trusted source, namely the same company that developed ProtonMail. The team over at Proton Technologies AG, if you didn’t know, belongs directly to the particle physics laboratory at CERN. However, although they offer great overall security, their server range, server speeds, and global reach are quite inferior to NordVPN’s offer.
First things first – which is more private and secure?
In terms of security, the NordVPN vs ProtonVPN confrontation is situated on fairly equal terms. Both providers employ AES-256 encryption, which is the industry standard for military and diplomatic traffic. Excluding human error on the user’s side, there’s just no way that anybody can decipher your data while one of these VPNs is active.
Proton goes the extra mile to rise above the competition by also offering a 2048-bit RSA handshake and HMAC SHA-256 authentication. While this does show that Proton developers are cryptographic buffs, there seems to be no reason for a handshake and a symmetric signature.
If we consider the numerous DDoS attacks that took down ProtonMail over the past four years, their additional key management system and asymmetric encryption might actually be in place to protect your data from their own vulnerabilities. In fact, if we consider cryptographic best practices, SHA-256 authentication can be problematic with certain encryption libraries.
Moreover, there are several issues with an RSA handshake, including the progress already made in attacking this particular cryptographic primitive, backward compatibility issues, and more. Nord’s Double VPN option, which gives you access to double encryption, seems like a much more elegant, powerful, and foolproof solution.
As a company, Nord’s developers have never encountered security breaches. Aside from this upper-hand, their zero-log policy was confirmed by an independent examination performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is not the case with Proton.
On the other hand, no evidence could be found that either of the two expose clients to DNS leaks, while both give you the possibility to use the Tor network, and their parent companies are located in countries, Switzerland for Proton and Panama for NordVPN, that are not part of global surveillance efforts (such as the 5 or the 14 Eyes alliances) to boot.
Particularly for those traveling behind the Great Firewall of China, we do not recommend Proton, as they do not use anti DPI protocols, nor do they provide obfuscated servers as NordVPN does. As such, you expose yourself to greater risk when using ProtonVPN in China, which can be problematic given the ability of DPI (deep packet inspection) to block encrypted content.
Speed and performance
In this department, NordVPN has a clear upper-hand on Proton’s service. The Swiss’ 347 servers in 31 countries are put to shame by Nord’s ever-expanding list of 5,359 servers spanning over 60 countries worldwide.
You may think that a virtual private network won’t be much different if it’s bigger, but you’d be wrong. More servers give you more global access points, which increases the odds that there’s a server nearby your location at all times. This geographic proximity basically guarantees that you’ll get optimal Internet speeds regardless of where you are.
On average, NordVPN will give you two times the speed that ProtonVPN does, but some of the Swiss’ servers can be up to six times slower than those of NordVPN. While Proton’s performance is not bad by any means, it does little to improve the industry average.
In the connection speed department as well, there’s no contest between NordVPN vs ProtonVPN. NordVPN wins all the way and this will be noticeable in your Netflix streaming experience. Although they both give you unrestricted access to Netflix’ content across the world, NordVPN’s superior download speeds will make a difference, especially if you want to watch HD and Ultra HD content.
More importantly, many servers on ProtonVPN’s basic plan are already blacklisted, which means you’ll have a hard time accessing certain regional content, such as that available in the U.S. Their lack of servers also means subpar torrenting and P2P traffic. If you happen to be close to a server, you’ll get decent speeds with Proton, but otherwise, you’ll basically be counting the kilobytes.
NordVPN has none of these issues since their server base and SOCKS5 proxy make up for an amazing, as well as highly secure torrenting experience.
Service quality and customer support
It’s hard to match NordVPN’s responsive 24/7 live chat service. Although ProtonVPN is on its way to reaching this performance, their live chat is not available 24/7. Moreover, NordVPN’s applications are more intuitive and easier to handle than Proton’s software.
ProtonVPN’s Android software does not come with the same features that its other versions boast, which does show that there are some cross-platform compatibility issues that the Swiss team is still trying to sort out. Lastly, they both offer an abundant amount of self-help resources that help you deal with most of the complications encountered by the majority of users.
NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: conclusions
ProtonVPN’s subscription plans progressively give you access to better servers, which is not the case with NordVPN. When you sign up for NordVPN, you get the full benefits of their service, regardless of how long you intend to use them for. While both services become cheaper if you subscribe for longer periods of time, NordVPN’s offer is financially and qualitatively superior.
NordVPN is furthermore better equipped to protect those who travel in China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and any other region that might restrict and/or monitor Internet access. Performance-wise, you’ll also be happier with NordVPN, as their global network of servers outputs well above average connection speeds in the industry.
Read our NordVPN review
Read our ProtonVPN review