Choosing a VPN isn’t always as easy as it should be. Often, the focus is on letting you know how advanced a service is, rather than explaining what all of the jargon and specifications actually mean. As such, deciding which VPN to use often requires you to do a lot of your own research into complex networking terms, which is obviously not ideal.
Don’t worry, there is an easier way. We have thoroughly examined NordVPN and Private Tunnel and listed all of their key specifications and features side-by-side so you can see exactly how they compare. What’s more, we’ll be explaining what impact these will have on your everyday browsing as we go. This ensures that you’ll know exactly what you’re paying for.
Pricing and discounts
|Subscription periods||One month||One month|
|One year||One year|
|Special offer||Cut the cost of a two-year plan by 68%||No offer running|
|Highest price per month||$11.95||$68 (for 100 simultaneous connections)|
|Lowest price per month||$3.71||$6|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||Seven days or 60 days for annual subscriptions|
Straight off the bat, there’s a significant price difference between these two services. A monthly rolling subscription costs $11.95 USD for NordVPN, or just $6 for Private Tunnel. However, Private Tunnel’s pricing structure is different to that of most major providers. Its monthly price is based on the number of devices you’d like to connect. The base $6 price only lets you have three simultaneous connections, which is half of what NordVPN allows.
There are discounts available for users willing to sign up for longer, too. In fact, choosing NordVPN’s two-year plan cuts the price to $89 instead of $286.80 — that’s almost 70% off and works out at just $3.71 per month. Meanwhile, Private Tunnel users can save 50% by signing up for the annual plan ($36 instead of $72). There are steeper discounts for those with higher connection limits, up to 83% off for 100-connection plans. However, given that this costs $408 per year ($34 per month), it’s still not exactly cost-effective. In fact, with some inexpensive services like Surfshark removing connection limits altogether, this business model seems a little outdated.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means that you can sign up, use the service without any restrictions, and cancel for a full refund if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Conversely, Private Tunnel doesn’t have a guarantee; instead, it offers a seven-day free trial. You will have to enter your payment information first, but on the plus side, unlike many VPNs with free trials, Private Tunnel doesn’t restrict you to certain servers or limit your bandwidth.Best Deal for NordVPN:Save 68% on the two-year plan.
Best Deal for Private Tunnel: There are currently no available deals or discounts for Private Tunnel.
|Simultaneous connections||6||Between 3 and 100 by default, higher limits negotiable|
|Operating system apps||Windows, Linux, MacOS,|
Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TV
|Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick|
|Manual install devices||Select routers||Linux systems, supported routers|
|Split tunneling||Mobile apps and browser extensions only||No|
|Free extras||Automatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and |
malware-scanning. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Both of these VPNs have solid multi-platform support, although NordVPN offers a Linux app, while Private Tunnel does not. Additionally, as we mentioned above, NordVPN allows twice as many connections as Private Tunnel’s basic plan. While users can technically have as many connections as they like with Private Tunnel, the price increases exponentially. To get around these connection limits, you can manually install either service on your home router.
NordVPN offers several additional features that give it the edge over its rival. First, it can be configured to connect automatically whenever you’re on a public wifi network. What’s more, it has a simple, one-click option that blocks ads, stops tracking, and scans your downloads for malware. Finally, this service has Firefox and Chrome extensions that let you quickly protect traffic from your browser (though not your other apps). On the plus side, these do allow you to choose specific websites that can bypass the proxy, which is helpful if you’re trying to access a mixture of local and international services.
|Netflix||Multiple libraries including US, UK, |
Australia, Canada, India, and Japan
|Amazon Prime Video||Multiple libraries including US, |
UK, Canada and Japan
There’s a clear mismatch in terms of unblocking ability here. NordVPN performed extremely well, and allowed us to access just about every service we tested, barring CBS. It even worked with multiple Netflix libraries, something that few VPNs can claim to do reliably. Private Tunnel, on the other hand, struggled with most of our tests, and could only access a couple of relatively easy-to-unblock streaming platforms.
It’s important to bear in mind that this service was developed by OpenVPN, though. In other words, it was designed, first and foremost, to be a privacy tool. By comparison, NordVPN prides itself on its ability to beat region-locking, featuring its abilities heavily on its website. It’s understandable, then, that it has put more of an effort into finding ways to access the most in-demand services.
You’re likely already aware that China restricts the type of content its citizens can access, and that the Great Firewall blocks many VPNs outright. Private Tunnel is one of these, unfortunately. That said, NordVPN still works perfectly in China once you’ve turned on the obfuscated servers option.
Here’s how to use NordVPN in China:
- Click the gear icon on the main page.
- Under the Auto-connect tab, make sure you’re using one of the OpenVPN protocols.
- Move down to the Advanced tab and turn on Obfuscated servers (OpenVPN).
- Return to the main screen and choose an obfuscated server from the list on the left.
You may not be able to access your VPN’s website or support services upon arrival, which is why we strongly recommend installing your VPN before departing for China. It’s also a good idea to store manual setup instructions somewhere safe, perhaps in the cloud or an encrypted file, just in case.
See also: Best VPNs for China
Setup and interface
|Automatic setup wizard||Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS||Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS|
|Main location selection||List-based and map-based||List-based|
|Extra settings pages||Yes||Yes|
Regardless of whether you choose NordVPN or Private Tunnel, you’ll have access to neat, easy-to-use apps. NordVPN’s desktop app allows you to quickly connect to the best available server, and includes its specialty servers in the quick-access list on the main page, which is great. The settings are well-organized too, so despite how many there are, they never become overwhelming.
Things are laid out very similarly on mobile. In fact, the only significant difference is that the server list is no longer on the left-hand side. Instead, it’s been moved below the quick-connect button, to better work with smaller screens. All of the security features remain intact too, plus there’s tapjacking protection, which lets you know if an app is trying to trick you into selecting something other than what is shown on screen.
While it’s common for VPNs to maintain similar functionality and aesthetics across platforms, Private Tunnel goes further, with completely identical desktop and mobile apps. They showcase a large connection button on the main screen, with server selection and a performance monitor just a click away. We’d have liked a few more options, since the apps feel a little barebones, but otherwise, everything works and is exactly where you’d expect it to be.
Servers and performance
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Private Tunnel’s network is extremely small in terms of the number of countries it covers. While 12 countries would be a decent offering for a free service, it’s far lower than what we expect from paid providers. When asked about server numbers, staff were evasive, stating that “The server count changes dynamically depending on user load and access patterns, so we are not able to give a specific count.”
Conversely, NordVPN freely admits that it has around 5,400 servers in 59 countries. That’s almost six times as many countries as Private Tunnel offers. The reason we’re interested in the number of servers each VPN has is because a higher number can help improve reliability, although plenty of other factors (such as time of the day) can impact this too.
NordVPN recently introduced its own NordLynx protocol, which is based on Wireguard and is significantly faster than OpenVPN. Private Tunnel is no slouch, either, and is easily fast enough for HD live streaming, but users may struggle to watch 4K content. Additionally, one of Wireguard’s improvements over OpenVPN was faster speeds when connected to distant servers, so there will always be an inherent difference between the two VPNs in this regard.
Here’s a full list of locations where NordVPN and Private Tunnel have servers:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||✔|
|United Arab Emirates||✔|
To its credit, Private Tunnel seems to have prioritized highly in-demand locations like the US, the UK, and Canada. This, in theory, allows it to provide most users with a reasonably nearby server, thereby satisfying the largest possible audience with the smallest possible network.
NordVPN, on the other hand, takes a different approach, expanding its network across huge swathes of Europe and Asia. It does have larger server clusters in popular locations, but even smaller countries like Macedonia have more than one to choose from. As such, it should be easy to find a high-speed, low-load server, regardless of what day or time it is.
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, NordLynx||OpenVPN|
|OpenVPN data encryption||AES-256||AES-256|
|OpenVPN control channel encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-2048|
|Cloaking technology||Obfuscated servers||OVPN proxy|
|App security||Kill switch (all platforms)||Option to continuously try and reconnect|
|DNS status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
Both of these VPNs allow you to connect via the OpenVPN protocol. However, this is the only protocol Private Tunnel supports (which may not be that surprising, given that it was created by the team behind OpenVPN). NordVPN, on the other hand, lets you connect using its proprietary NordLynx protocol. This is based on Wireguard, a fast, highly-secure protocol that is quickly becoming the gold standard for VPNs.
Each service uses 256-bit encryption as well as lengthy RSA keys to make sure your data is kept hidden at all times. NordVPN includes a kill switch too; this blocks your internet access if your connection to the VPN drops suddenly, preventing you from browsing unprotected. Surprisingly, despite this being a fairly standard feature in consumer VPNs, Private Tunnel does not have one. Instead, it simply has a feature that lets you keep trying to reconnect if your connection times out.
NordVPN has special obfuscated servers that can conceal the fact that you’re using a VPN. These are based on the open-source obfsproxy technology and even work in places like China, although at the moment, they only work on OpenVPN connections. Private Tunnel has an OpenVPN proxy instead, which reroutes your data through a second server, similar to NordVPN’s multi-hop servers.
|Connection logs||No||IP address, bandwidth used, connection timestamps|
|User details for signup||Email address||Email address|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple||None|
NordVPN and Private Tunnel have different approaches to privacy. On one hand, there’s NordVPN, which is based in a country with no mandatory data-retention laws. Accordingly, it doesn’t log any data and allows you to pay anonymously in three popular cryptocurrencies.
|Dedicated IP address possible||Yes, in Germany, the UK, |
the US, France, or the Netherlands
Like most VPNs on the market, NordVPN and Private Tunnel use shared allocation systems. This just means that every user who connects to a specific server shares the same IP address. As a result, everyone’s traffic is jumbled together, making it difficult, if not impossible, to tell which user visited a particular site.
NordVPN also allows its users to get their own dedicated IP address for an extra $70 per year. These are easier to track across the internet, but the flip side is that they’re much less likely to be blacklisted by geo-blocked platforms, since only one person is using it instead of thousands.
|Live chat||Yes (in-house)||Yes (outsourced)|
|Average email response time||3 hours, 15 minutes||6 hours, 27 minutes|
|Searchable knowledge base||Yes||Yes|
Both NordVPN and Private Tunnel make it easy to get help with problems. They each have 24/7 support over email and live chat, as well as a searchable knowledge base. Further, NordVPN has a multilingual YouTube channel full of answers to the most common questions you might have. Although Private Tunnel also has a YouTube account, it just uses it for hosting ads.
Most of the time, when you have a problem, live chat is the best way to get help. That said, there may be times when this service is unavailable. For this reason, we decided to send each provider three questions over email and gauge their responsiveness. Here are the results:
|Question||Initial response time||Number of emails||Question answered|
|Does this service support Wireguard connections?||13 minutes||1||Yes|
|Does this VPN use virtual servers?||5 hours, 53 minutes||1||Yes|
|Do you store my real IP address?||3 hours, 39 minutes||1||Yes|
|Question||Initial response time||Number of emails||Question answered|
|How many servers do you have in total?||12 hours, 8 minutes||1||No|
|Does this VPN use virtual servers?||10 hours, 54 minutes||1||Yes|
|Do you store my real IP address?||8 hours, 19 minutes||2||Yes|
Straight off the bat, we can see that NordVPN’s average response time is significantly lower than Private Tunnel’s. This service provided clear and concise information, often with links to existing knowledge base articles. Users are also invited to get in touch again with any further issues.
Unfortunately, Private Tunnel’s support often left us wanting more. Its live chat provided vague answers and seemed reluctant to provide information that wasn’t already available in the help center. On one occasion, we were left without a response for more than 20 minutes before being asked to send the same question to the support email address instead. Even when we received an answer, it tended to be very brief, usually just a line or two.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
If you’re just looking for an inexpensive, no-frills VPN that can hide your true location, Private Tunnel might be a decent choice. However, for anything more, NordVPN is the better option.
NordVPN is faster and offers access to a significantly higher number of server locations. This means it’s better for data-heavy tasks like torrenting. Further, it unblocks far more geo-restricted services, so it’s better for streaming and bypassing censorship. Last, but by no means least, this VPN offers a stronger set of security and privacy features. Simply, NordVPN beats Private Tunnel in just about every area of operation and will suit you well, whatever your needs.