It’s easy to get overwhelmed when shopping for a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Despite being marketed as an easy way to improve your online privacy, providers love to emphasize how advanced they are. Unfortunately, these claims are difficult to verify unless you’re extremely familiar with the ins and outs of computer networking and cryptography. So what is an average person supposed to do, other than put blind faith in a company that has a financial interest in getting them to sign up?
Well, you could keep reading. We thoroughly researched NordVPN and Betternet before putting them head to head in a series of tests. This allowed us to create detailed comparison tables that break down every feature they have to offer in an easily-digestible format. Of course, this is only helpful if you know what each feature does, which is why we’ll be translating jargon and describing potential use cases as we go. Even if neither VPN stands out to you, this knowledge should help you better understand what to look for when considering other services.
Editor’s note: Betternet is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company. Regardless, what you’ll find below is an honest and impartial comparison based on the merits of each service.
Summary: NordVPN vs Betternet
Best Deal for NordVPN:Protect your privacy from $3.99 per month with NordVPN’s two-year deal.
Best Deal for Betternet:Choose Betternet’s annual plan to cut the cost by 38%.
NordVPN vs Betternet pricing
|Subscription periods||One month||One month|
|One year||One year|
|Special offer||Get 70% off with NordVPN’s two-year plan||Save 38% with an annual plan|
|Highest price per month||$11.99||$12.99|
|Lowest price per month||$3.99||$7.99|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||45 days|
While Betternet has a free tier, this comes with a few restrictions including a daily bandwidth cap. To keep our comparison as fair as possible, we’ve chosen to focus solely on Betternet’s fully-featured paid plans.
Betternet charges $12.99 (GBP £9.94) per month, so it’s on the pricier side for short-term subscribers. NordVPN is a little cheaper, at $11.99 (£9.17) monthly. That said, for the lowest price, you’ll have to sign up for a longer period up front. For instance, Betternet’s annual plan comes with a 38 percent discount, cutting the cost to $95.88 (£73.37) or $7.99 (£6.11) per month.
NordVPN’s annual plan is actually around half this price, at $59.88 (£45.80). That’s not bad at all, but you can drive the price even lower if you choose the two-year plan. This costs $95.76 (£73.26) and averages out at just $3.99 (£3.05) monthly. In other words, NordVPN’s two-year subscription costs less than one year of Betternet coverage.
Both of these services include a money-back guarantee. This is a highly valuable addition since it lets you try the software out risk-free. NordVPN’s lasts for 30 days, while Betternet goes even further, offering a lengthy 45-day guarantee. What’s more, Betternet has a seven-day free trial. You will have to enter your payment info first, but won’t be charged until the week is over.
|Operating system apps||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TV||Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android|
|Manual install devices||Routers||None|
|Split tunneling||Windows, Android, and browser extensions||Windows|
|Free extras||Smart DNS service, dark web monitor, automatic wi-fi protection. Combined ad-blocker and malware-scanner. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.||Chrome extension|
Both of these providers allow up to six simultaneous connections, which is about the average. However, NordVPN supports a far wider range of devices, and has its own command line-based installer for Linux, whereas Betternet only works with the four main platforms (MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android). Notably, NordVPN subscribers can follow manual setup instructions for routers, thereby protecting every device on their network, but this isn’t an option with Betternet.
Betternet has its own Chrome extension, which lets you browse safely without the main app installed. NordVPN has something similar, but also supports Firefox and Edge browsers. It’s worth noting that these extensions don’t secure traffic from your other apps; they won’t allow you to torrent safely, for instance. Both providers allow split tunneling too, which is when certain apps are allowed to pass through the VPN entirely. NordVPN offers this on a few more platforms than Betternet, giving it a slight advantage.
There’s no denying that NordVPN has a more advanced toolkit. It can protect you automatically whenever you use a public network, block ads and trackers automatically, and alert you whenever your details are found on the dark web. Not only that, it offers a Smart DNS service that lets you use US streaming platforms on devices without VPN support (like games consoles or some Smart TVs).
|Netflix||Multiple libraries including US, UK, Japan, Canada, and India||Major libraries including Netflix US and UK|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes (eight confirmed libraries)||No|
If you travel outside of your home country, you might notice that some of your usual services become inaccessible. Alternatively, they might change their content, preventing you from streaming your favorite shows. VPNs can be a helpful tool for regaining access to your regular content library, but larger streaming platforms are constantly improving their VPN-detection tools. As you might expect, this makes using platforms like Netflix rather difficult for frequent travelers.
NordVPN was able to securely access every service we tested it with, barring CBS. This is an exceptional achievement, especially when you consider it worked with several regional Netflix and Prime Video catalogs. Betternet, on the other hand, worked with a few popular services but struggled to access BBC iPlayer, ABC, and Prime.
The kind of content you can access in China is severely limited. For instance, you won’t be able to use Facebook, Hulu, or, really, any of the websites you might be used to. Despite this, the Great Firewall (as such restrictions are collectively known) is not infallible. There are still a few VPNs that can help you browse securely during your stay, even though most VPN sites are blocked outright.
At the time of writing, NordVPN has been experiencing difficulties in China. However, prior to this, it has worked reliably for years, with any outages usually only lasting a few days. Assuming things return to normal, you can browse safely without having to tweak any settings, though obfuscated servers are available in case you’d like even greater privacy. Betternet, however, does not work in China at all.
Setup and interface
|Automatic setup wizard||Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS||Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android|
|Main location selection||List-based/Map-based||List-based|
|Extra settings pages||Yes||Yes|
NordVPN’s apps are well designed, with enough tools to satisfy experienced users without being off-putting to novices. You can search for a specific location right on the home page, and there are even task-specific servers listed just underneath the search bar. The settings menu explains what each setting does and is neatly divided into tabs, making it easy to find whatever you’re looking for. New versions feature a Threat Protection page that walks users through the process of blocking trackers, ads, and malware automatically.
Betternet takes a “less is more” approach. Its mobile and desktop apps are almost identical (the only difference being fewer options to choose from on mobile), with the main screen featuring a large one-click connection button. The server list is only a tap away, although given how many locations there are to choose from, we’d have liked to see a search bar or some kind of categorization to make browsing them a little quicker.
Servers and performance
At first glance, this seems like quite a one-sided matchup. After all, Betternet has almost 50 percent more locations to choose from. However, there’s no detail on how expansive its network is—there could be a single server for each country as far as we know. NordVPN, meanwhile, provides a complete breakdown of where each of its 5,000+ servers is located.
That’s another distinction we have to make: Betternet relies heavily on virtual servers; ones that aren’t actually where they claim to be. There’s little difference from the user’s viewpoint but it can mean that you’re actually subject to different data-protection legislation than you thought. On the plus side, Betternet provides a full list of all of its virtual server locations so you can check for yourself.
So how fast are these services? We ran several speed tests and averaged the results to find out. Betternet delivered an average download speed of 52 Mbps which is nothing to sniff at, certainly enough for most day-to-day tasks. However, NordVPN was 7x faster, averaging almost 370 Mbps. If you’re sharing a connection or looking to minimize speed loss on an already slow connection, NordVPN is the stronger choice overall.
Here’s a breakdown of NordVPN and Betternet’s supported locations:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||✔||✔|
|Isle of Man||✔|
|United Arab Emirates||✔||✔|
There’s no denying that Betternet has a better selection of countries to choose from. After all, few other VPNs let you get an IP address from Pakistan, Russia, or the UAE. There’s a strong focus on South American countries too, which is great to see as these are often ignored by other providers (including NordVPN).
To its credit, NordVPN caters to a few more European countries than its rival. On the whole, though, it seems dedicated to providing large server clusters in high-traffic locations like the US, the UK, and Australia, rather than maximizing the number of supported countries.
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, NordLynx||Hydra, IKEv2|
|OpenVPN data encryption||AES-256||AES-256|
|OpenVPN control channel encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-2048|
|Cloaking technology||Obfuscated servers||Proprietary protocol|
|App security||Kill switch, automatic wi-fi protection, local traffic blocker, protection against ads, malware, and trackers||Enforced two factor sign in, automatic wi-fi protection, kill switch|
|DNS status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
NordVPN and Betternet both use 256-bit AES encryption, which is considered uncrackable for the time being. NordVPN’s RSA keys are longer, though, which means that they’re slightly more difficult to crack. Both providers operate their own DNS servers. As such, that no third party ever has access to requests that could reveal your activities.
These VPNs each include a kill switch (that stops sending data the moment your connection drops) and automatic wi-fi protection, which keeps you safe on unsecured networks. Betternet also requires users to verify their login attempts, which is a real step forward for privacy. NordVPN, meanwhile, can block ads, trackers, and malware automatically, and prevent other devices on the network from communicating with your device.
Each service supports one major protocol and its own proprietary one. For NordVPN, these are OpenVPN and NordLynx, its own take on WireGuard. NordVPN claims that separating from the official WireGuard program allows it to adapt to threats and improve the protocol more rapidly. Betternet supports IKEv2 connections and Pango’s Catapult Hydra protocol, which obfuscates your traffic to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN at all.
|HQ base||Panama||United States|
|Connection logs||No||Session length, bandwidth consumed, analytical data|
|Activity logs||None||Anonymized logs|
|User details for signup||Email address||Email address|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, gift cards||None|
Let’s start with the basics. Neither NordVPN nor Betternet is located in a country that requires providers to log user data. However, the United States is a member of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance. This means it could theoretically share the online activities of anyone in the country with over a dozen other countries. Realistically, most people probably aren’t important enough to even be on the radar, but this is still worth knowing.
NordVPN prides itself on its zero-logs policy. Its website clearly states that it doesn’t keep connection timestamps, activity logs, bandwidth usage data, or source IP addresses; in short, nothing that could lead back to you directly. It does collect some analytical data, including whether you’ve connected in the last month and mobile device identifiers. That said, these identifiers can be reset at any time and NordVPN even explains how in its knowledge base.
Betternet also refuses to log any data that could personally identify you. However, it collects quite a bit more information than its rival. For instance, it logs the total bandwidth used in each session and how long you were connected for. This is easy enough to sidestep if you remain connected for days at a time, but people who use the VPN for shorter sessions could find this data used to suggest what they got up to online in court, if it came to that. Betternet also records the websites visited, though these are aggregated, and it can’t say specifically which user accessed what.
|Dedicated IP address possible||Yes: choose an an address in Germany, the UK, France, the US, or the Netherlands||No|
Like most services on the market, NordVPN and Betternet use shared address allocation. This provides a secondary layer of privacy by ensuring that everyone on the same server shares a single IP address. As a result, it becomes effectively impossible to tell which user accessed which website. Of course, as neither of these VPNs logs a user’s activities, this is simply a redundant layer for added peace of mind.
NordVPN customers can pay an extra $79 (GBP £62.75) per year for a dedicated IP address. This is an address that only they can use, and that will always remain the same. You might find this useful if you regularly use services that are sensitive to foreign login attempts, or if you want an address that’s less likely to be blacklisted on major streaming platforms. However, because it’s only you using this address, you won’t get any of the benefits of the shared address system, and therefore become easier to track across the web. Betternet does not support dedicated addresses at the time of writing.
|Live chat||Yes (in-house)||No|
|Searchable knowledge base||Yes||Yes|
Straight off the bat, we can see that these VPNs have a lot in common. They each offer access to a free, searchable knowledge base that addresses common issues, both have a support email address, and neither can be contacted by phone. However, there’s one significant difference that gives NordVPN the edge over Betternet in this category.
First off, NordVPN has a 24/7 live chat service staffed by in-house experts. This makes getting help quick and easy, with most problems raised and resolved in a matter of minutes. For contrast, Betternet customers can expect to wait up to 24 hours for a reply, which isn’t an issue in most cases, but is slightly annoying. In fact, so many VPN providers offer live chat these days (even if it’s outsourced) that it’s somewhat unusual to find a paid service without it.
Betternet does everything reasonably well, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it would be vastly improved with a bit more polish. It could log less data, for instance, offer more control over your connection, or aim to deliver some form of live chat. To its credit, it has more supported locations than NordVPN. That said, the value of these is questionable given how frequently they’re detected by region-locked sites.
NordVPN, meanwhile, has some of the highest speeds we’ve seen and is able to securely access just about anything. It has an ever-expanding set of security tools, a proven no-logs policy, and around-the-clock support, plus it works in China. In other words, it’s suitable for just about any task, which is why it comes out on top today.