Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
NordVPN vs Private Internet Access VPN
April 8, 2021
We review a lot of VPNs on this site, but only a precious few end up among our best VPN picks. Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access have tasted that rarified air, and it’s not hard to see why. Both services aced our review process, and each clearly belongs in the upper echelon of VPN services. But you don’t need two VPN services — you only need one. Which one will it be? In this NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access showdown, we’ll help you make the call.
One of the simplest ways to compare two VPN services is to compare the number of servers they have. The greater the number of servers — and the greater the number of locations those servers are in — the better. That’s because having more servers to spread users across can increase speeds, and having more locations and servers makes it easier to access great streaming content and circumvent government filters.
Both of these VPN servers have impressive server counts. NordVPN has more than 5,000 servers spread across 59 different countries. Private Internet Access claims a stunning 20,000+ servers in 99 different countries, but that figure also includes proxy servers (proxy services shift locations but don’t offer the same encryption and protection as VPNs). Other counts have pegged PIA’s server count at closer to 3,000. (In practice, you’ll most often look at shorter lists of available locations rather than long lists of individual servers.)
One reason to use lots of different servers is to shift your location to unlock Netflix and other streaming services. In our NordVPN review, we verified that NordVPN works like a dream with Netflix and, in most cases, with other major streaming services. Private Internet Access is also a strong streaming option, and it typically worked well with Netflix in our trials.
Security is the name of the game with VPNs. Both of these services are exceptionally secure.
NordVPN and Private Internet Access both offer a range of different VPN protocols. Both use default settings to encourage users to opt for a strong, secure option like OpenVPN. And both allow power-users to tweak settings to optimize their VPN — though we’d recommend sticking with base settings unless you really know what you’re doing.
NordVPN has a slight advantage over PIA in its location. While both services have a strict no-logging policy, NordVPN has the added perk of being located in Panama, far from the prying eyes of major digital security alliances. Even if NordVPN were to have logs — which, again, they’ve promised not to keep — those logs would be unlikely to fall into the hands of the government.
Whether you use NordVPN or Private Internet Access, you’d going to find that your internet stays quite speedy. We lost only a handful of Mbps in our testing with each service. Assuming you’re starting with a reasonably fast connection, neither of these VPNs should hold you back as you stream or browse the web. Both will have only a minimal effect on your P2P file sharing experience.
We did note in our PIA review that our speeds were a bit inconsistent from server to server. However, it’s worth remembering that Private Internet Access has a lot of servers. It’s not hard to find a speedy one, especially since Private Internet Access gives you the option of automatically connecting to the fastest server.
Our reviews gave a lot of praise to both of these services’ user interfaces and user experiences. Both of these VPNs offer a streamlined and simple interface that works well on both desktop and mobile screens. Each offers advanced settings but makes a point to surface the quick-and-easy options that users want to see at a glance. It’s easy to connect, disconnect, switch servers, select locations, and more.
While both VPN services offer some great advanced settings and options, Private Internet Access is a little more tweak-able in certain areas. Advanced users who want to mess with lots of settings may prefer PIA (though casual users will like it, too — PIA does a good job of tucking advanced features into menus and leaving a simple, straightforward interface for users).
PIA lets users connect on up to 10 devices simultaneously, which is more than the six permitted by NordVPN.
Finally, there’s the price. The Private Internet Access pricing scheme is a little easier on the eyes than the NordVPN pricing. Though both services offer exceptional value, PIA is a more affordable option.
There’s almost no daylight between these two services, and you certainly can’t go wrong with either of them. With that said, we have a little guidance for you.
NordVPN is a nearly perfect all-around VPN, and we’re quick to recommend it to general users. It’s also a slightly more reliable partner for streaming (though PIA also works nearly perfectly with Netflix).
Private Internet Access is also an elite option. It measures up well against NordVPN on virtually all platforms, and arguably has an edge for VPN users on Mac OS.
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