Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are growing in popularity. However, while people can generally agree on how useful (and increasingly necessary) these tools are, there’s a huge amount of debate about which provider is the best. Things are rarely this simple, though: for instance, what one provider lacks in speed, it might make up for in security.

That’s why we’ve extensively tested two leading VPN providers and listed everything they offer in an easy-to-read format. We’ve also explained exactly what each feature does, since we know how easy it is to get lost in the jargon when comparing VPNs. This should give you a better understanding of what you’re paying for, and the impact your chosen service will have on your day-to-day internet usage.

Highlights

NordVPN

  • Faster than any other service we’ve tested
  • Works with all kinds of region-locked streaming platforms
  • Known for its strong security offering
  • Has over 5,000 servers to choose from

PrivateVPN

  • High speeds, unlimited bandwidth
  • Excels at unblocking geo-restricted services from abroad
  • Good range of security and privacy features
  • Doesn’t keep any logs

Pricing and VPN Discounts

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Subscription periodsOne monthOne month
One yearThree months
Two yearsOne year
Special offerCut the cost of a two-year plan by 68%Get an extra year of coverage for free
with the annual plan
Highest price per month$11.95$10.95
Lowest price per month$3.71$1.98
One-year price$59$49.68
Money-back guarantee30 days30 days

NordVPN and PrivateVPN cost $11.95 and $10.95 USD per month, respectively. These are fairly middle of the road prices for a monthly rolling subscription. However, you’ll often find that in order to get the lowest possible price, you’re encouraged to sign up for a longer-term subscription. This is a tactic both services have clearly pursued, with huge discounts available on annual and two-year plans.

We’ll start with NordVPN. This provider offers three months extra free, plus a 68% discount on its two-year plan. This brings the cost down to just $89 (effectively $3.71 per month) instead of $286.80, but it does mean that the price will jump pretty steeply when this lower rate expires in two years. Of course, there’ll almost certainly be another promotion running when it comes time to renew, so don’t worry about this too much.

PrivateVPN somehow manages to provide an even lower price; it’s offering a whole extra year of coverage when you choose its annual plan. If you were on a month-to-month plan for the same two-year period, this would cost you $262.80. But with the promotion, you’ll pay just $49.68. This is an 81 percent discount and works out at just $2.07 per month. In two years, your monthly price will effectively double to $4.14, but this is still one of the lowest rates around.

Both providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Essentially, you can just sign up and pay like you normally would before trying either service out risk-free for a month. If it fails to meet your expectations, just cancel to claim a full refund. The whole cancellation process takes a few minutes and you don’t even have to provide a reason if you don’t want to.

Best Deal for NordVPN:Save 68% and get 3 months free with a two-year NordVPN plan.

Best Deal for PrivateVPN:Cut the cost by more than 80% by getting an extra year free with your annual PrivateVPN subscription.

Features

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Simultaneous connections66
Operating system appsWindows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TVWindows, Android, iOS, MacOS, Linux, Amazon Firestick/ Fire TV
Manual install devicesSelect routersSelect routers
Split tunnelingMobile apps and browser extensions onlyNo
Free extrasAutomatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and malware-scanning. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Stealth mode

Whichever of these services you choose, you’ll have access to a wide range of user-friendly apps. In fact, as well as catering to the most popular platforms, NordVPN and PrivateVPN both offer command-line installers for Linux systems and official apps for Amazon Fire TV devices. We have to give NordVPN a slight advantage here, though, since it offers Chrome and Firefox extensions that let you switch locations on the fly, directly in your browser.

PrivateVPN has a stealth mode designed to bypass deep packet inspection and regional blocking. NordVPN on the other hand, uses special obfuscated servers that allow you to bypass censorship in countries like China and the UAE. It also offers a built-in ad-blocker and malware-scanner, as well as a setting that connects automatically whenever you use a public wifi network. Neither service provides full split tunneling functionality (the ability to let certain apps or websites pass through the VPN without having their data encrypted or rerouted); NordVPN limits this feature to its mobile apps and browser extensions and PrivateVPN simply doesn’t offer it at all.

Both providers allow up to six simultaneous connections per account, which is about standard. It’s worth mentioning that you can bypass this limit by installing the service on a supported router. Doing so will automatically protect any device that connects to your network.

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Streaming service
NetflixMultiple libraries including US, UK, Australia, Canada, India, and Japan10+ libraries including US, UK, Japan, Canada, India, France, and Germany
HuluUS, JapanYes
Sky GoYesYes
Amazon Prime VideoMultiple libraries including US, UK, Canada and JapanUS, UK
BBC iPlayerYesYes
ABCYesNo
CBSNoYes
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Disney+YesYes
Channel 4YesYes

These services are both known for their strong unblocking ability. In fact, in our tests, they were each only unable to access one streaming platform (CBS for NordVPN and ABC for PrivateVPN).

Each VPN has its own small advantage over the other. For instance, NordVPN was able to unblock a few more regional Netflix libraries than its rival, a characteristic that’s highly in-demand. PrivateVPN, on the other hand, lets you know exactly which servers unblock a given streaming service, saving you from having to rely on trial and error (or contact support).

As ever, it’s worth mentioning that streaming services are constantly upgrading their VPN-detection measures. This means that while the results above provide an accurate snapshot of NordVPN’s and PrivateVPN’s unblocking abilities at the time of writing, it’s likely that these will change in the future.

China

It’s no secret that the Chinese government censors huge sections of the internet using a collection of web-filtering tools known as the Great Firewall. This stops travelers from being able to communicate with people back home and severely limits your sources of unbiased information. To make matters worse, most VPNs simply won’t work in China.

NordVPN and PrivateVPN stand out from the crowd though. Both of these VPNs work perfectly in mainland China, although you’ll have to enable a setting in each of the apps first. Additionally, NordVPN users on iOS will have to configure their connection manually instead of relying on the app. Here’s how to unblock the internet in China with both of these services:

  • NordVPN: Click the gear icon on the main screen, then Advanced > Obfuscated servers. Return to the homepage and connect to one of the obfuscated servers.
  • PrivateVPN: Enter the Stealth VPN tab and enable the Stealth VPN option. Now, simply connect as normal.

Setup and interface

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Automatic setup wizardWindows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOSWindows, Android, MacOS, iOS
Main location selectionList-based and map-basedList-based
Extra settings pagesYesYes
Mobile-friendlyYesYes

Both of these providers offer uncluttered, easy-to-use apps for desktop computers. NordVPN, for instance, simply features a map, a server list, and a quick-connection button on its main screen, with settings relegated to their own neatly-organized page. We particularly liked that you could select one of the specialty servers (obfuscated, P2P, or Onion over VPN) directly on the homescreen.

PrivateVPN uses a tabbed approach instead, showing just a few options per page to keep things as simple as possible. Its server list is broken down into categories, with streaming-optimized, favorited, and dedicated IP servers (more on these later) listed separately. If you find this layout a little much, you can switch to a simpler view, which essentially hides everything apart from the quick-connect button and server selection option.

There aren’t many differences in NordVPN’s mobile app, except that the server list is below the connect button, instead of to the left. All of the security settings remain intact, and there’s even one that isn’t present in the desktop apps: tapjacking protection. This lets you know when an app is trying to trick you into clicking on something different than what is shown onscreen.

PrivateVPN’s mobile app is essentially just the simple view from the desktop apps. The tabbed interface is gone, and all of the settings are shown on a single page. There are very few differences other than that the kill switch is missing (although its effect can be replicated using tools built into the operating system).

Servers and performance

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Server countries5960
Total number of servers5,400+150+

There’s a clear disparity between these services’ networks. Although they cover a similar number of countries, NordVPN has more than 30 times as many servers as its rival. In theory, this could mean that NordVPN is more reliable since its users’ impact is spread across a larger network. In our experience, though, PrivateVPN works just fine during peak times, despite having fewer servers to help share the load.

Let’s make one thing clear: NordVPN and PrivateVPN are among the fastest providers on the market. In fact, NordVPN topped our list of the fastest VPNs, with an average speed of 115 Mbps. PrivateVPN put in a respectable showing too, earning third place with an average 71 Mbps download speed. This is more than fast enough for 4K streaming and torrenting, so you shouldn’t have any issues, regardless of what your plans are for these VPNs.

Here’s a list of every country where NordVPN and PrivateVPN have servers:

 NordVPNPrivateVPN
Albania
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Malaysia
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Panama
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Vietnam

These VPNs are fairly evenly matched in terms of network coverage. All of the most in-demand locations are accounted for, although NordVPN has servers in a couple more European countries than PrivateVPN does.

In contrast, PrivateVPN offers servers in some less commonly-seen locations like Panama and Russia. NordVPN previously had Russian servers but pulled out of the country following the implementation of legislation that would have required VPN providers to give the government access to their servers located in Russia. However, PrivateVPN’s support team claims that as it doesn’t keep any logs at all, its Russian servers are still safe to use and can’t be used to identify users.

Security

NordVPNPrivateVPN
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, NordLynxOpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP
OpenVPN data encryptionAES-256AES-256 (128-bit option available)
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-2048
Cloaking technologyObfuscated serversStealth mode
App securityKill switch (all platforms)Kill switch (desktop)
DNS statusPrivate DNSPrivate DNS

As you might expect, both services allow you to connect using the OpenVPN protocol. However, NordVPN also has its own proprietary protocol, NordLynx. This is based on Wireguard, which is significantly faster and more efficient than OpenVPN, and widely considered the next big thing for VPN security.

Other than OpenVPN, PrivateVPN only supports PPTP and L2TP connections. These are far older protocols, and PPTP is no longer considered safe to use due to a long list of vulnerabilities. We strongly recommend that PrivateVPN users stick with OpenVPN and would like to see some sort of Wireguard adoption in the future, although to be fair, only a handful of services offer this at the moment.

From a security perspective, NordVPN and PrivateVPN aren’t too different. They both use 256-bit AES encryption, although PrivateVPN gives you the option to use 128-bit encryption instead, which should provide a small speed boost. NordVPN’s RSA keys are longer, in theory making them more difficult to crack. That said, 2048-bit keys are considered good enough, so the benefits of longer keys are debatable. Both services provide a customizable kill switch that lets you choose which apps stop sending data when your connection drops. However, this feature isn’t available in PrivateVPN’s mobile apps.

Privacy

NordVPNPrivateVPN
HQ basePanamaSweden
Connection logsNoNone
Activity logsNoneNone
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, RippleBitcoin

Each of these providers is based in a privacy-friendly country. NordVPN, for instance, operates out of Panama, which doesn’t require VPNs to log any identifiable data. PrivateVPN, on the other hand, is based in Sweden, a country that has enshrined its citizens’ right to privacy in its constitution. Accordingly, neither service keeps logs of any kind.

NordVPN and PrivateVPN both allow you to sign up and pay anonymously with Bitcoin. However, NordVPN also accepts two other popular cryptocurrencies: Ripple and Ethereum.

Configuration

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Address allocationSharedShared
Dedicated IP address possibleYes, in Germany, the UK, the US, France, or the NetherlandsNo, but static IP servers are available
NAT firewallNoNo

Both services use a shared IP address allocation system. This means that everyone connected to a particular server will share the same IP address, making it much more difficult to tell who accessed what.

NordVPN allows you to pay an additional $70 per year for a dedicated IP address that only you can use. Since there’s far less traffic associated with this, this IP address is much less likely to be blacklisted or flagged for potentially fraudulent activity than if you were to use a standard VPN server. Users can choose between an address in five countries, depending on the services they’d like to access.

PrivateVPN doesn’t offer this feature, but it does offer what it calls dedicated IP servers. This name isn’t strictly accurate, though, since the term implies that you’re the only person with access. In contrast, while these servers will always have the same IP address, multiple users can connect to them, so they don’t provide a truly dedicated IP address.

Customer service

NordVPNPrivateVPN
Live chatYes (in-house)Yes (LiveAgent)
Ticket supportYesYes
Email supportYesYes
Average email response time8 hours, 55 minutes10 minutes
Phone supportNoNo
Searchable knowledge baseYesYes
Video guidesYesYes

These VPNs both offer a fantastic level of support, with live chat help desks, searchable knowledge bases that answer all of the most common questions, and video guides available on their respective YouTube channels. NordVPN’s support staff are available 24/7, while PrivateVPN’s live chat goes offline for a few hours each day.

With this in mind, we wanted to see how responsive each service was to email queries. This way, we could judge how easy it would be to get help if you were somewhere where live chat wasn’t available (China, for instance). To test this out, we sent NordVPN and PrivateVPN three questions each and recorded key data about their replies:

NordVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Is this VPN fast enough to watch 4K videos?10 hours, 50 minutes1Yes
Am I allowed to share my account details with family?13 hours, 42 minutes1Yes
Does this service work in the UAE?2 hours, 14 minutes1Yes
PrivateVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Is this VPN fast enough to watch 4K videos?14 minutes1Yes
Am I allowed to share my account details with family?2 minutes1Yes
Does this service work in the UAE?15 minutes1Yes

Despite being the underdog, PrivateVPN’s customer service team knocked it out of the park, with an average email response time of just 10 minutes. NordVPN, on the other hand, took longer, averaging just under nine hours per reply. It should be noted that NordVPN runs its own support team, though, which means that in theory, it can provide more detailed responses to technical questions.

The winner: NordVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

There’s no doubt that these services are both strong contenders. PrivateVPN boasts some of the fastest speeds around, unblocks a huge range of streaming platforms, and comes packed with security features. However, the winner this time is NordVPN, and here’s why.

NordVPN is, on average, twice as fast as PrivateVPN. It’s also slightly stronger on security, showing commitment to the Wireguard protocol and offering a kill switch in all versions of its app. Its network is far larger too, with over 5,400 servers to choose from. Whether you want to browse freely in China, live stream UHD video, or just enhance your digital privacy, you can’t go wrong with NordVPN.

Best Deal for NordVPN:Save 68% and get 3 months free with a two-year NordVPN plan.

Best Deal for PrivateVPN:Cut the cost by more than 80% by getting an extra year free with your annual PrivateVPN subscription.