NordVPN vs ProtonVPN

If you’re unfamiliar with VPNs, researching them can be a stressful experience. After all, there are so many to choose from. In this guide, we have compared two of the leading VPN providers on the market, NordVPN, and ProtonVPN.

We cover everything you need to know about both services, what they offer, and what they cost, and we do it all in plain English. So even if you’re a VPN beginner, you will be able to decide whether NordVPN or ProtonVPN is best for you.

Can’t choose between NordVPN or ProtonVPN?

If you’re looking for a quick answer, NordVPN came out on top and is our recommendation. Keep reading for the full comparison and to find out how we came to that conclusion.

To really tell which of these providers is better for the average user, we performed a thorough review of each VPN’s features, functionality, and apps. Here’s what we found:

Summary: NordVPN vs ProtonVPN

NordVPN

  • Has over 5,500 speedy servers
  • Exceptional unblocking abilities
  • Zero-logs VPN with an impressive range of security features
  • 24/7 live chat

ProtonVPN

  • Offers fast and reliable speeds
  • Has no problems unblocking stubborn streaming services abroad
  • Takes your security and privacy seriously
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: pricing comparison

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Subscription periodsOne month, one year, two yearsOne month, one year, two years
Highest price per month$12.99$8.99
One year price$59.88$71.88
Money back guarantee30 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

ProtonVPN’s pricing structure is a little complicated. There’s a limited free offering, the premium plan, and Proton Unlimited, which includes access to ProtonMail, ProtonCalendar, and ProtonDrive. To ensure the most level playing field, we’ll just be comparing ProtonVPN’s standard paid offering to NordVPN’s.

Both of these providers offer the same subscription lengths: one month, one year, and two years. However, NordVPN is a little more expensive for monthly subscribers, at $12.99 versus ProtonVPN’s $9.99. ProtonVPN users can take advantage of a discount by choosing a longer-term plan. For instance, simply signing up for a two-year subscription drops the price to just $4.99 per month.

Over time, NordVPN significantly undercuts ProtonVPN. Its one-year plan works out at just $4.99 per month. If you’re willing to commit to two years upfront, you can bring the monthly price down to just $3.48. That’s a 66 percent discount, and $1.50 per month less than ProtonVPN’s lowest price.

Each of these services offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means that you can sign up, try them for almost a month, and cancel to receive a full refund. In other words, there’s absolutely no risk.

BEST DEAL FOR NORDVPN:Save 66% with NordVPN’s two-year plan.

BEST DEAL FOR PROTONVPN:Save 50% with a two-year ProtonVPN subscription.

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN features

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Simultaneous Connections6Free: 1, VPN Plus: 10
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Chromebook
Manual install devicesSelect routersRouters
Free extrasAd-blocking, Dark Web Monitor, MeshNet, malware-scanning, automatic wifi protection, browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and FirefoxAutomatic Kill Switch, browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN cater to a wide range of users, with apps for all major operating systems including Linux. In fact, ProtonVPN is one of the only providers with a graphical interface for its Linux app. Additionally, it’s possible to follow manual setup instructions to install these VPNs on supported wireless routers. While this is trickier than just using an app, it allows you to bypass connection limits and protect every device on your network.

These services are both capable of blocking ads and scanning downloads for malware automatically. As of earlier this year, they both have extensions for Chrome and Firefox, which technically allows you to browse safely on any device that supports these browsers. However, these extensions only encrypt browser traffic, and won’t keep you safe when using other apps (for instance, a messaging service or P2P client).

Split tunneling is a feature that allows you to specify apps or websites that can bypass the VPN. For instance, you might want to use your regular connection to ensure that a specific apps always updates as quickly as possible.

Streaming comparison

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Unblocks Sky Go
Unblocks Prime Video
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Unblocks ABC
Unblocks CBS
Unblocks NBC
Unblocks ITV
Unblocks Channel 4
Unblocks Hulu
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

ProtonVPN actually performed remarkably well here. It was able to securely access particularly stubborn streaming services like BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video without any issues. Additionally, it did extremely well with Netflix (although you may have to try a few servers before you find one that works reliably).

The last time we checked, NordVPN was able to unblock all of the services we tested it with, apart from CBS. It has since overcome this hurdle, though, and now passed our streaming test with flying colors.

Which of these VPNs work in China?

The Chinese government uses a collection of web-filtering tools known as the Great Firewall to restrict access to what its citizens can read online. Normally, you’d be able to bypass these restrictions with a VPN, but unfortunately, most major providers are blocked outright.

This includes ProtonVPN. Up until fairly recently, this service did actually work on the mainland. However, it seems to have been detected by recent upgrades to the Great Firewall. Normally, you’d expect to see a service find a workaround in a few days but given that ProtonVPN’s post addressing the situation hasn’t been updated since 2019, it’s safe to say that this VPN can no longer be relied upon when traveling in China.

NordVPN has traditionally worked very well in China and our tests indicate that it remains available from the mainland. However, the company has admitted that it’s had some problems lately due to recent updates to the Great Firewall. If you’re having trouble getting connected, we’d suggest configuring your VPN manually or using one of the obfuscated servers.

Setup and interface

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Automatic setup wizardLinux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android
Main location selectionMap-based/List-basedList and map-based
Extra settings pages
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

NordVPN and ProtonVPN’s apps actually look quite similar, with a server list on the left and a world map on the right. However, there are some differences in what’s available on the main screen. NordVPN lets you quickly access its speciality servers (for example, obfuscated and P2P-optimized) without having to access any other pages, whereas ProtonVPN gives users the option to switch profiles, enable the kill switch, or turn on port forwarding.

ProtonVPN has an almost-futuristic design with a huge map taking up the bulk of its home screen. There’s also a searchable list of servers on the left-hand side, plus buttons that activate the kill switch and NetShield (ad-blocking and malware-scanning). We like that ProtonVPN allows you to create customized profiles. These give you the option to, for instance, connect to a random server every time the app starts up.

NordVPN’s mobile app is almost indistinguishable from its desktop one. Really, the only difference is that you now scroll down on the main page to access the server list. All of this provider’s security features are present, and there’s even tapjacking protection built-in. This lets you know if a shady app is trying to trick you into tapping something other than what is shown on screen.

NordVPN settings

On mobile devices, ProtonVPN splits its main page into three tabs. There’s one for the server list, one for the map, and one for your saved profiles. The settings menu is hidden away in another menu but does offer a ton of functionality including ad-blocking, alternative routing for ProtonVPN services, and a VPN accelerator tool that claims to boost your speeds.

Servers and performance

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Server countries6069
Total number of servers5,700+3000+
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

While these providers both cover a similar number of countries, NordVPN has a clear advantage in terms of sheer network size. In fact, it offers access to about twice as many servers as ProtonVPN. This could improve the chances of users being able to find a low-load server, although this depends on several factors including the number of total users and even the time of day. Further, even if some of NordVPN’s servers are blacklisted by a geo-restricted service, there are still plenty of others to choose from.

ProtonVPN has made drastic improvements since the last time we tested it, and is now one of the fastest VPNs on the market. It averaged around 320 Mbps across multiple locations, which is more than five times faster than its previous result. NordVPN delivered impressive speeds too, at around 200 Mbps. This is more than enough for streaming, and means either service is ideal for data-intensive tasks like torrenting.

Take a look below for a breakdown of each VPN’s speed tests results:

No valueNordVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)268 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)174 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)147 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
No valueProtonVPN
Websiteprotonvpn.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)396 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)274 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)290 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

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

NordVPNProtonVPN
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
Israel
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Malaysia
Mexico
Moldova
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Peru
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

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN offer access to servers in locations that their rival doesn’t. NordVPN, for instance, focuses on smaller regions with plenty of content to unblock, like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Meanwhile, ProtonVPN has a slightly stronger presence in Eastern Europe and South America, with servers in Colombia, Peru, Lithuania, and Russia.

Security

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, NordLynxOpenVPN, Smart Protocol (Windows only), WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-4096
Kill Switch
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

Both of these providers support OpenVPN, the most commonly-used VPN protocol. NordVPN also has its own protocol named NordLynx. This is based on Wireguard, a faster, more lightweight protocol that’s widely expected to become the next big thing in VPN security. ProtonVPN also allows IKEv2 connections (which offer higher speeds than OpenVPN) on mobile.

NordVPN and ProtonVPN both keep you safe using effectively uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption and 4096-bit RSA keys. Further, neither uses public DNS servers, which means they have full control over your data at all stages of transferral. Both services have a kill switch, which is designed to stop sending traffic the moment your connection to the VPN drops. However, while NordVPN offers this feature in every version of its app, ProtonVPN only includes it in desktop versions. That said, it’s possible to replicate this feature using Android’s built-in settings.

These VPNs have their own ways of getting around censorship. NordVPN, for instance, has specially configured obfuscated servers that allow you to bypass even the most stringent online restrictions. ProtonVPN, meanwhile, ensures you’ll always be able to reach its website, servers, and ProtonMail service by sending requests to these locations via a different route. This allows you to access these in places where they’re usually blocked (except China, as we mentioned above).

Privacy

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
HQ base of operationPanamaGeneva, Switzerland
Connection logs
Activity logsNone
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, RippleBitcoin
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

Regardless of which service you choose, you’re guaranteed a high level of privacy. That’s because neither service logs any info that could be used to identify you, or in fact, any record of your online activities. ProtonVPN does log the date and time of your last connection, but this is only to help it detect someone attempting to guess your password multiple times. NordVPN records advertising IDs on mobile, which could be used to pinpoint you over time but this can be prevented by simply clearing these periodically in your phone’s settings menu.

VPN users often have to accept their provider’s privacy claims at face value. The problem with this is that we’ve seen cases where companies have lied about the logs they keep, only backpedalling when the truth comes out in court. Fortunately, NordVPN and ProtonVPN have each had their server architecture and apps audited by professionals. In each case, the auditors concluded that these providers were following best practises and accurately portraying their logging policies to consumers.

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN accept Bitcoin payments, making it fairly simple to sign up without providing any personally identifiable data. Better still, NordVPN also supports Ethereum and Ripple, giving you more ways to pay.

Customer service

No valueNordVPNProtonVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.comprotonvpn.com
24/7 live chatPaid plans only
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time3 hours, 45 mins1-2 days
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
$4.99
SAVE 60% on a 30-month plan

Both of these services offer an expansive knowledge base you can search for help with any problems you might have. Each also has a 24/7 help desk where you can get in touch over live chat.

We decided to test each service’s responsiveness by sending them three questions via email. After all, live chat isn’t foolproof and may not be accessible from wherever you are in the world. Below, you’ll find the full results of our tests, including what questions we asked and how long it took each provider to reply:

NordVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
What information does this VPN log?1 hour, 35 minutes2Yes
Is there a specific server I should use for Netflix?7 hours, 48 minutes1Yes
Can I install this VPN on a Raspberry Pi?6 hours, 6 minutes1Yes
ProtonVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
What information does this VPN log?2 days, 1 hour1Yes
Is there a specific server I should use for Netflix?1 day, 3 hours1Yes
Can I install this VPN on a Raspberry Pi?4 hours, 25 minutes1Yes

Given that email is ProtonVPN users’ main way of getting in touch, you’d expect staff to reply a little faster. For contrast, we’re used to seeing providers (even ones that offer live chat) respond to email enquiries in minutes or hours, not days. NordVPN is a great example of this: it has around-the-clock support and still got back to us in about five hours, on average.

The winner: NordVPN

NordVPN Dec 2023

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ProtonVPN has plenty to offer, with a strong set of security features and impressive unblocking ability. However, there are a few areas where it could use improvement, plus it’s not quite as versatile as its rival, which is why NordVPN comes out on top.

Let’s start with the obvious: NordVPN has a lot more servers to choose from. It’s also significantly better when it comes to streaming. This alone adds a huge level of versatility to the service. Add in the fact that it works in China and the choice is obvious.  Simply put, whatever your needs or experience level, NordVPN is a strong everyday VPN that won’t let you down.

NordVPN Coupon
SAVE up to 69% + 3 months FREE
Get Deal >
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Comparing NordVPN and ProtonVPN: Our methodology

There are all kinds of reasons you might want a VPN, which can make finding one “best” service particularly difficult. With this in mind, we created a robust testing methodology that focused on the things most users are interested in. As well as trying each service out for ourselves, we closely examined what they had to offer in each of the following areas:

  • Network scale: Generally, the more servers a VPN has, the lower the chance of network congestion. Of course, the available locations matter too since this impacts the type of content you can access. We created a complete list of every country where NordVPN and ProtonVPN have servers and highlighted any notable differences.
  • Performance: Our team regularly tests leading VPNs to monitor how their speeds have improved (or declined) over time. NordVPN and ProtonVPN are two of the fastest providers around, so there’s nothing to worry about on that front.
  • Streaming ability: Streaming platforms are getting very good at detecting VPN users, but we don’t want you to be constantly disconnecting just to watch TV. That’s why we test providers against popular services like Netflix, YouTube TV, and HBO Max to see which are the best at flying under the radar.
  • Security: We require every VPN we recommend to offer uncrackable encryption, leak protection, and some form of kill switch at a bare minimum. However, we strongly prefer those that go even further with anti-tracking tools, stealth modes, or innovative new tools that their rivals don’t have.
  • Privacy: Your privacy is our top priority. As such, we’ll never recommend providers that log personally identifiable information. Further, we look out for other relevant data like anonymous payment options, audit histories, and whether two-factor login is possible.
  • Usability: Everybody deserves to browse the web securely. VPN providers that go the extra mile to include newcomers tend to do very well in our book, whether it’s by offering 24/7 live chat, removing clutter from menus, or simply providing quick-connection options.
  • Value for money: Price is an important part of anyone’s decision-making process. We’ve seen hundreds of providers at this point and can quickly spot a service that’s charging more than is fair. We also keep an eye out for money-back guarantees, free trials, and any discounts that might be available.

Still have questions? Why not check out our VPN testing methodology post for a more detailed look at how we put providers through their paces?

NordVPN or ProtonVPN: FAQs

Is ProtonVPN faster than NordVPN?

It can be hard to accurately compare two VPNs’ speeds due to the inherent volatility of the internet and the many factors that can impact performance.

That said, during our testing, we found that on average, ProtonVPN was actually faster than NordVPN, delivering speeds of over 300 Mbps compared to its rival’s 200 Mbps.

Can I just use a free VPN?

Free VPNs can be an attractive option but we’d advise against using them. To begin with, there’s a ton of malware out there simply pretending to be free VPNs. What’s more, we’ve seen “legitimate” free providers lie to customers about the kind of logs they keep. Even if you find a wholly innocent free VPN, you’ll usually find that your speed and bandwidth are limited until you pay up.

On the plus side, there are plenty of well-respected VPN providers out there. While these might cost money, you can usually drop the price significantly by choosing a longer subscription term. What’s more, most reputable services offer a money-back guarantee meaning there’s no risk at all.

 

Which is better for torrenting: NordVPN or ProtonVPN?

Both of these providers have dedicated P2P servers and allow unlimited torrenting. so this really depends on whether you want raw download speed or access to as many peers as possible.

Both of these providers have dedicated P2P servers and allow unlimited torrenting. NordVPN is the quicker of the two services, but it doesn’t currently support port forwarding unless you have the VPN installed directly on your router.

ProtonVPN, on the other hand, includes this feature in its desktop apps and even provides instructions on how to configure your torrent client to take advantage.