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NordVPN vs ProtonVPN

Last updated: April 8, 2021

Starts at $4.92/mo
Starts at $/mo

Privacy and security are hard to find on the modern web. A reliable VPN is one of the best tools you can have when fighting for your right to safely browse the web, share files, and stream movies.

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN are quality VPNs. They’ve both taken steps to prove themselves trustworthy, often going above and beyond other top-tier VPNs. So how do you decide between them? With our many hours of hands-on experience with each, we are here to help you understand the differences and find your best VPN. This is the ultimate NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN showdown.

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: Servers and Streaming

NordVPN has a respectable 5,000+ servers in 59 countries. ProtonVPN, on the other hand, has just over 1000 servers spread across a comparable 54 countries. When it comes to your VPN, it’s always better to have more server options. Think of VPN servers like grocery checkout lines. When there are too few lines and too many customers, the entire process can slow to a crawl. Wouldn’t you rather go to a store with 5 times as many checkout lines? For cord cutters, there is the added benefit that — since streaming providers often try to block VPNs one server at a time — providers with more servers are harder to block.

NordVPN works with Netflix and the other streaming providers that we tested. It was even able to unlock much of Netflix’s international content. ProtonVPN worked with Netflix, except for some minor login issues, and it was able to unlock international content from Netflix and Disney+. It also worked with Amazon Prime Video, but only on U.S. servers.

NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: Security

NordVPN allows the use of three highly-secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. ProtonVPN uses OpenVPN and IKEv2, but some of their apps only include one of the two. The extra options on NordVPN are definitely a plus.

ProtonVPN’s app puts almost everything right on the main interface. (Screenshot from the Windows app.)

NordVPN is headquartered in Panama where there are limited data oversight laws. ProtonVPN is in Switzerland, and the Swiss data privacy laws are very favorable to users, guaranteeing that users will always be informed of requests for their user data. These are both great options, but ProtonVPN goes above and beyond by posting all government requests for their data right on their website.

Both of these VPNs have strict no-logging policies to protect user data. In 2020, NordVPN hired a third-party to audit their privacy standards. This is a huge step toward transparency that most VPN providers, including ProtonVPN, have not yet taken. ProtonVPN did, however, open-source all of their apps and publicly release a commissioned third-party audit of the codebase. Transparency is important, and these companies are both industry leaders in that domain.

Your VPN is only as secure as it is reliable. If it fails even for a fraction of a second, unprotected data can leak out across the connection. The best VPNs prevent those leaks using a “kill switch” feature that blocks all traffic unless the VPN is running properly. NordVPN has a kill switch as well as DNS leak protection on all of their apps. ProtonVPN has both of these features on most, but not all, of their apps. NordVPN gets the nod here for completeness.

NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: Speed

NordVPN experienced some slowdown during the speed tests we performed for our NordVPN review, but it was minimal. ProtonVPN has no noticeable slowdown on U.S. servers, but there were often slowdown issues on international servers. ProtonVPN’s load indicators helped us find the fastest servers in each country, but — as we noted in our ProtonVPN review — even those were often not operating at top speed. Both VPNs were faster than average, but we have to give this category to NordVPN for their consistently fast speeds.


NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: Features, Ease of Use, and More

With NordVPN, you can run up to six devices simultaneously. Depending on which plan you choose, ProtonVPN’s limit is either two, five, or ten. They are also one of the few VPN providers to offer a free tier that has no data restrictions, very reasonable server options, and good speed. This flexibility gives ProtonVPN a slight edge, but both VPNs are above average in this category.

Both VPNs have apps for PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Android TV. NordVPN’s router app also lets you cover other streaming devices, smart TVs, or video game systems, although you won’t have the flexibility of device-level apps. ProtonVPN can only be installed on select routers, so with them, your protection will likely be limited to devices that have ProtonVPN apps. This category goes to NordVPN, although we wish both companies would broaden their device coverage.

ProtonVPN offers split tunneling in their Android and Windows apps, allowing you to run some apps through your standard internet connection while other apps receive the protection of the VPN. NordVPN doesn’t offer true split tunneling, although their browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox offer a limited version of the capability.

NordVPN’s obfuscated servers operate similarly to a stealth VPN, allowing you to use your VPN even if your country or ISP blocks most VPNs. These servers are not as simple to use as a regular stealth VPN, but if you frequently need to bypass VPN blocks, NordVPN’s obfuscated servers are better than nothing — which is what ProtonVPN has in this area.

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN allow P2P on select, clearly-marked servers. You shouldn’t have any trouble with filesharing or torrenting through either of these services.

NordVPN and ProtonVPN are both highly usable VPNs with very approachable interfaces. The difference will largely come down to preference. NordVPN has a more streamlined look, but ProtonVPN’s interface gives you more options and information on the main screen, without adding too much clutter. In particular, their load indicators are just an amazing advantage when you need to find a server that isn’t crowded.

NordVPN’s pricing is fair and affordable, and it stacks up well against other high-quality VPNs. But you can’t beat the ProtonVPN prices: ProtonVPN has one of the most attractive free tiers of any VPN service.

NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: Which Is Right For You?

NordVPN and ProtonVPN are both fantastic VPN providers, but they target slightly different users. Instead of figuring out which one is better for some generic user, let’s see if we can figure out which fits your unique needs.

ProtonVPN settings
Some of the settings you'll find in the Windows app

If you need speed and reliability, NordVPN will likely win you over — their servers are faster and they have more of them. Having a kill switch on all of their apps as well as extra VPN protocols is important for the security-conscious. If you need to cover devices for which neither provider has an app, NordVPN’s router apps are likely your best and only option.

ProtonVPN’s flexibility makes it a great option if your needs are filled by their Free or Basic (two-device) tiers or if you have more devices than the six allowed in a single NordVPN plan. If you are a Windows or Android user, the split tunneling feature is great to have for when apps don’t want to cooperate with your VPN. Their open-sourced apps also make them a uniquely transparent VPN, which is always a plus.

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