NordVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA)

With so many VPN providers offering their own unique suite of features, it can be difficult to decide between all the different services. Today, we’ll be putting two major VPNs, NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) head to head in a series of performance tests. By doing so, we’ll be able to fairly and accurately weigh one’s strengths and weaknesses against the other, allowing us to decide which is the best choice overall for the average user.

Can’t choose between NordVPN or PIA?

If you can’t decide between these two services, we’d recommend giving NordVPN a try. NordVPN offers top-notch security features and a no-logs policy, plus its current discount means you can snag a long-term plan without breaking the bank. Leaning the other way? No problem: we also have a discount coupon for PIA.

Let’s jump right in with a brief overview of what we liked about each service:

Summary: NordVPN vs PIA

NordVPN

  • Works with most popular streaming services
  • Large network
  • 24/7 live chat
  • Extremely customizable security options

Private Internet Access

  • Fast yet inexpensive
  • Anonymous registration possible
  • No connection limit
  • Tried and tested no-logs policy

NordVPN vs PIA: price comparison

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
Subscription periodsOne month, one year, two yearsOne month, six months, one year, two years, three years
Special offer63% discount on the 2-year plan82% off two year plans and 2 months free
Highest price per month$12.99$11.99
Lowest monthly cost$3.09$2.19
One year price$59.88$39.95
Money back guarantee30 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

NordVPN is a little more expensive than its rival on monthly plans, and while it does narrow this gap over longer periods, it’s never quite able to catch up. PIA is almost half the price for a year of coverage, and its multi-year plans allows it to offer even lower prices.

Both NordVPN and PIA offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. This gives you the chance to try either service out for a full month with no risk. If you’re dissatisfied in any way, you can just cancel to receive a complete refund.

NORDVPN DEAL: Save 63% here and reduce your monthly cost to just $3.29 by choosing NordVPN’s two-year plan.

PRIVATE INTERNET ACCESS DEAL: Cut the cost by 80% with PIA’s two-year deal. This works out to just $2.19 per month.

NordVPN vs PIA features

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
Simultaneous Connections10Unlimited
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux
Manual install devicesSelect routersRouters
Free extrasAd-blocking, Dark Web Monitor, MeshNet, malware-scanning, automatic wifi protection, browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and FirefoxBrowser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, automatic ad/malware blocking
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Private Internet Access and NordVPN both offer similar multi-platform support. Each provides apps for a wide range of operating systems but PIA is one of the only services with a graphical interface on Linux. Each service also includes extensions for the most popular web browsers. However, it’s important to remember that VPN extensions only encrypt your browser traffic and don’t hide your IP address when using P2P networks or other web-facing applications.

Another feature these VPNs have in common is ad-blocking. NordVPN has a few additional tools, though, so let’s cover these. First up, there’s a dark web monitor that’ll let you know if your details are leaked online. There’s also a feature called MeshNet, which lets you securely connect your devices across different networks and countries.

Both of these services allow you to protect multiple devices simultaneously, although PIA has a real advantage as it doesn’t limit the number of devices you can connect, whereas NordVPN has a six-connection limit. It’s worth noting that you can install either service on your router and automatically protect any device which is connected to it; this is the best way to secure every device in your household, since a router only counts as a single connection.

Streaming & Netflix comparison

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks Sky Go
Unblocks Prime Video
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Unblocks ABC
Unblocks CBS
Unblocks NBC
Unblocks ITV
Unblocks Channel 4
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

NordVPN has long been the service to beat when it comes to streaming. In our most recent round of tests, it was able to access every platform we tested without too much trouble. While you may have to try a few servers to find one that works, we’ve often been able to stream with the first server we connected to — even on stubborn platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

PIA has really improved its streaming ability recently. In previous years, it struggled with some of the most popular services but this time around, it only failed to access two: Sky Go and ITVX. Unless you’re a Brit traveling abroad, this is unlikely to be a major issue.

See also: How to watch Netflix with PIA 

China

Private Internet Access does technically work from within China, although maintaining this service has proven very difficult for the company. In practice, this means that you may not be able to connect at times, and PIA should not be relied upon when in China.

NordVPN, on the other hand, has few problems bypassing China’s Great Firewall. The majority of users should be able to connect just as they would normally, but there are also dedicated servers for use in heavily-restricted locations. NordVPN’s website site is currently blocked in China, but you can contact customer support via email ir one of their alternative URLs to find a working registration site.

Setup and interface

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
Automatic setup wizardLinux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, Android, macOS, Linux, iOS
Main location selectionMap-based/List-basedList-based
Extra settings pages
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Both of these VPNs have clean, uncluttered mobile apps. NordVPN’s, in particular, looks great, with a map-based main screen and a small space for contextual options at the bottom. Users can protect themselves with a single click, and can even choose to quickly connect to one of the service’s dedicated IP, P2P-optimized, or Double VPN servers right on the home screen.

NordVPN windows screenshot jan 2024
Specialized servers are availble right there on the home screen

PIA has a minimalistic home screen with a quick connect button, region selection menu, and the user’s current public IP address. Its settings menu is fairly comprehensive, with all of the options you’d expect (protocol selection and automatic connection, for instance). That said, there are also a few more advanced features like DNS server selection and port forwarding.

PIA windows screenshot jan 2024
PIA boasts a sleek, simple interface that’s ideal for novices

Servers and performance

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
Server countries11191
Total number of servers6,000+Undisclosed
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

This is another area where PIA has improved lately. Previously, it only supported around 40 countries, but it’s since doubled that, leapfrogging its better-known rival. NordVPN still offers servers in 60 countries, which is the industry standard, though it certainly has a way to go in this regard.

NordVPN is signficantly faster, though. In our latest tests, it delivered an average speed of nearly 200 Mbps. PIA, on the other hand, average just under 120 Mbps. That’s still fast enough for any day-today task, but there’s no denying there’s a gap between the two providers here.

Check out the table below to see which countries NordVPN and PIA have servers in:

NordVPNPIA
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bangladesh
Belgium
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Canada
Chile
China
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czechia
Denmark
Ecuador
Egypt
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Greenland
Guatemala
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Italy
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Japan
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macau
Macedonia
Malaysia
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nigeria
Norway
Panama
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Uruguay
Venezuela
Vietnam

Security comparison

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, NordLynxWireGuard, OpenVPN, IPSec on iOS
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-4096
Kill Switch
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Both NordVPN and PIA allow you to use the OpenVPN protocols (UDP and TCP). These offer a good balance between speed and security. PIA also supports WireGuard, whereas NordVPN has its own version of this protocol named NordLynx.

Nordvpn general settings

Although both VPNs have a kill switch, NordVPN’s is better. You can also choose to only kill traffic from specific applications should your connection drop. PIA’s app also includes a kill switch, but you can’t customize it; it’s either on or off. It does offer an advanced kill switch option though this just makes it so that you can’t browse the internet at all unless the VPN is turned on.

PIA VPN protocol page

Privacy

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
HQ base of operationPanamaUnited States
Connection logs
Activity logs
User details for signupEmail addressemail address, payment details, state and zip code
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, RippleBitcoin, Ethereum, Bitpay, and Litecoin
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Almost every VPN claims to keep “no logs.” Although, the majority of the time, you’ll find that in the small print, or hidden behind intentionally vague statements, they do record some user information. This is where it’s important to differentiate between connection logs (for instance, the time you connected and the server you used) and activity logs (such as which sites you visited). So, just how private are the NordVPN and Private Internet Access services?

NordVPN is based in Panama, which isn’t subject to data retention laws. On the other hand, PIA is based in the United States, which is one of the 5 Eyes countries. This means that security agencies can apply legal pressure in order to access user information and share this with other members of the 5 Eyes: the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. However, in order to prevent this from being a problem, Private Internet Access has a strict no-logs policy.

PIA has actually had its no-logs claim tested in court twice. In both instances, the company was unable to provide any details of a specific users’ connection times, connection dates, or activities. The only information that the service stores is the email address you sign up with. As a result, if you choose to register with a throwaway email address and pay with one of the many supported cryptocurrencies, your activities cannot be traced back to you.

NordVPN has a similar policy and keeps no logs whatsoever. It does, however, store advertising IDs on mobile but these can (and should) be cleared regularly to prevent you from being identified. It has been audited multiple times, so there’s no need to take its privacy claims at face value. NordVPN allows users to pay with various different cryptocurrencies, but there are fewer accepted than with PIA. To be fair, PIA is an outlier here, and not many major VPNs accept more than a few different anonymous payment methods.

Customer service

No valueNordVPNPrivate Internet Access
WebsiteNordVPN.comPrivateInternetAccess.com
24/7 live chat
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time3 hours, 45 mins
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$3.39
Up to 72% off + a Saily eSIM data gift
$2.19
SAVE 82% on the 2 yr plan

Both providers offer 24/7 live chat, which is almost always the quickest way to get help with any issues. There’s also a ticket system and support email address for each provider, though NordVPN’s team are happy to answer any questions they receive, whereas PIA makes sure that you’re actually a customer before answering.

Both services include searchable knowledge bases, which allow users to quickly find answers to the most common problems. NordVPN’s is slightly better, as it includes video walkthroughs for specific tasks like troubleshooting your connection. However, the majority of NordVPN’s guides are illustrated with step-by-step screenshots instead of videos. PIA uses screenshots instead of videos in almost all of its tutorials, but there are several videos covering the more basic aspects of using the service.

The winner: NordVPN

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are both excellent, well-respected services. In particular, PIA manages to remain cost-effective while providing a true zero-logs service and high speeds. That said, NordVPN is the better choice for most people, and we’ll explain why below.

Firstly, it’s easier to stream with NordVPN. This service works with a wider range of high-profile streaming platforms and has servers in lots of in-demand locations. With high speeds and more than 5,000 servers worldwide, you’ll be able to stream live HD video from anywhere in the world without any problems.

NordVPN makes it easy to get assistance when you’re struggling. You can usually get help via live chat in just a few seconds, and there are step-by-step videos to help you with some of the more common hurdles you might face. PIA’s system, on the other hand, requires a couple of additional steps including registering for a free account and entering detailed information about your system, even for general questions about the service.

See also: ExpressVPN vs NordVPN