Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
Norton Secure VPN vs Private Internet Access VPN
February 4, 2021
When it comes to security software, there is good reason to go with a brand you already know and trust. Sometimes, though, a new option arises that is too compelling to ignore. But you don’t have to leave your comfort zone to learn which option is best for you, because our team ventures into the unknown for you.
Norton is a tried and true name in digital security, known primarily for its long track record with antivirus software. Private Internet Access (PIA) has a less famous brand name, but they do have a significant following in the internet security community. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to choose between Norton VPN vs. Private Internet Access for your VPN needs.
Norton VPN has 2,800 servers in 30 countries. PIA has over 15,000 servers in more than 70 countries. The more servers, the better: A larger number of servers gives users more space to spread out, which helps avoid the traffic bottlenecks that can slow down your connection. Plus, having more servers makes it tougher for streaming providers to completely block the VPN from accessing their streaming content.
When it comes to streaming services, neither Norton VPN nor PIA aces the test, but PIA does perform better. Norton VPN works with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but not Disney+, and it doesn’t unlock region-locked content with any of these streaming services. PIA works with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, and is often able to unlock region-locked content for all but Disney+.
Good security always starts with a good VPN protocol. Norton uses OpenVPN — an excellent option — on all systems except iOS, where it uses the inferior IPSec protocol. PIA uses WireGuard and OpenVPN — both excellent VPN protocols — on all systems.
If your VPN service is interrupted for any reason, you want to avoid any data leaking through until the VPN is restored. This is where a kill switch comes in. Norton only has a kill switch on Android, whereas PIA has it on all devices. PIA also offers DNS leak protection, which secures one additional way that your data can leak outside of the VPN.
Both Norton and PIA are US-based companies, a country this is part of the Five-Eyes Alliance. Any company in a Five-Eyes country can be forced to hand over user data on request, regardless of its own internal privacy rules. The good news is that both Norton and PIA have a no-logging policy, which helps to limit what information they have available to hand over. However, Norton’s policy does include some potentially concerning language about allowing the logging of “Temporary Usage Data to assist with debugging a problem with the service” — a somewhat vague clause that we discussed in our Norton VPN review.
Neither Norton nor PIA has submitted to a third-party privacy audit. Such audits are not the norm in the industry yet, but they do go a long way toward validating the efficacy of a no-logging policy.
Both Norton VPN and PIA offer good speeds on U.S. servers. In our tests, PIA had a slight edge, but both were able to stream content with virtually no lag. For international servers, both services had locations where no reliably fast server could be found. If you need to connect to a specific country, this could be a problem. Otherwise, you can likely find a location with high-speed servers on either Norton or PIA.
Norton has plans for up to 1, 5, or 10 simultaneous devices. They also have a plan that covers unlimited devices. PIA’s plans all cover up to 10 simultaneous devices.
If you are looking to protect your computer or mobile device, both Norton and PIA have you covered. They each have apps for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. Additionally, PIA has lightweight browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. However, if you need to cover other devices, you may have a harder time with either of these services. Neither has dedicated apps for your smart TV, streaming devices, video game systems, or routers.
Split tunneling is a great feature if you would like to use a VPN for some apps while using your standard internet connection for others. If, for example, you need to connect to a country that has slow VPN servers, you can still stream your favorite Netflix movie outside of the VPN with split tunneling. Norton has this feature only on Windows, whereas PIA has it on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
If you are interested in P2P and fire sharing, the contrast is stark: PIA allows it on all of their servers, and Norton doesn’t allow it at all. If this is a crucial part of your decision, PIA has a definite edge.
Both PIA and Norton include tools for blocking ad tracking, but PIA’s tool also serves as an ad blocker and a malware blocker. PIA also includes some identity protection features from Identity Guard. Because Norton VPN is typically bought as part of a larger Norton bundle, those and additional features are often included in other programs within their bundles.
Both services are very easy to use. If you are used to using other Norton programs, Norton may gain a slight edge here. Even beginners will have no problem figuring out either VPN, though, as turning them on usually just amounts to pressing a single button or toggling a single switch.
We have seen some technical issues with Norton on macOS, so that may affect the ease of use for Mac users.
Since both Norton and Private Internet Access offer pretty strong VPN products, your choice between them will come down to how you plan to use your VPN. So which one is a better fit for your style?
Norton has an advantage for users that are already immersed in the Norton ecosystem: Norton VPN is included in several of Norton’s security packages and is available at a discounted add-on rate for other packages. Even if you aren’t in the Norton ecosystem, some users may find Norton to be the cheaper option — especially if you can get away with their single-device or five-device plans. Norton is also the better choice if you’re looking to connect more than ten devices since only Norton has a plan with unlimited devices.
Anyone who wants to use P2P of file-sharing services will need to go with PIA over Norton. PIA also has an edge for most media streaming thanks to its larger server count, ability to unblock some international streaming content, and usability with Disney+. Advanced VPN users will find PIA to be far more configurable. Mac and iOS users may want to use PIA due to Norton’s Mac bugs and inferior VPN protocol on iOS.
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