Despite how popular Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become in recent times, many providers have failed to properly adapt to their new audiences. For instance, you’ll often find services that brag about their advanced features without actually explaining what they do, or even how they can help the user.
That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to all of the tools and functionality built into the NordVPN and Windscribe apps. This will let you know whether one provider offers something the other doesn’t. Of course, I’ll also be explaining exactly what each feature does as we go.
NordVPN vs Windscribe pricing
|Subscription periods||One month||One month|
|One year||One year|
|Special offer||Save 65% by choosing the two-year plan||Cut the monthly cost to just $4.08 with the 1-yr plan|
|Highest price per month||$11.99||$9|
|Lowest price per month||$3.99||$2|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||3 days|
Before we begin, I should mention that Windscribe offers a free plan. However, this limits you to 10GB of traffic per month, so to keep things fair, I’ll only be comparing paid plans.
If you’re only looking for short-term coverage, Windscribe is the cheaper option by far. Users can either choose the default package for $9 USD each month, or select individual servers that they’d like to access for $1 each (with a two-location minimum). NordVPN, on the other hand, charges a flat $11.95 for a one-month subscription.
This price gap narrows significantly over longer periods of time, though. For instance, by signing up for NordVPN’s two-year plan, you can save over 60% and effectively reduce the price to as little as $3.99 per month. Windscribe’s longest subscription lasts a year and costs $49, which is better than half price (assuming you wanted access to the full server network). However, NordVPN offers an extra year of coverage for just $10 more than its rival, so it has the advantage here.
NordVPN includes a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee. This allows you to sign up, use them without any limits for a month, and cancel for a full refund if you’re unimpressed. The whole process only takes a few minutes and you don’t have to justify your decision if you don’t want to. Windscribe, on the other hand, will only reimburse users if they request a refund within three days of signing up. This is the shortest guarantee period of any major provider we’ve seen, though Windscribe does encourage users to try the free service before choosing a paid plan.
BEST DEAL FOR NORDVPN:Save 65% with NordVPN’s two-year subscription.
BEST DEAL FOR WINDSCRIBE:Get one year of coverage for just $49
NordVPN vs Windscribe features
|Operating system apps||Windows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TV||MacOS, Linux, Windows, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TV|
|Manual install devices||Select routers||Select routers|
|Split tunneling||Windows, Android, and browser extensions||Windows, MacOS, Android|
|Free extras||Automatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and malware-scanning. Dark web monitor. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.||Proxy gateway, automatic wifi protection, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge|
These services both have strong multi-platform support. As such, you should be able to use them across all of your devices without too much trouble. Notably, they each offer a command line-based Linux installer and native Firestick apps, whereas many other providers fail to offer either of these. Both also include browser extensions but Windscribe deserves some credit for supporting a wider range of browsers including the oft-neglected Opera.
If you’re interested in advanced functionality, either of these services would be an excellent choice. They each have automatic wifi protection, which lets the app connect on its own whenever you use an unsecured network. Further, each lets you specify websites that are allowed to bypass the VPN (a feature known as split tunneling). NordVPN doesn’t support this feature on MacOS, Linux, or iOS, but does include it in its browser extensions. Meanwhile, Windscribe offers it on all platforms but iOS and Linux.
What’s particularly interesting is that these providers both offer something that the other doesn’t. NordVPN, for instance, provides a CyberSec option that blocks ads, trackers, and malware automatically. Windscribe, on the other hand, has a proxy gateway feature that we haven’t seen included in any other major service. Essentially, this creates a local address that’s only available to users on your network. If you have a device (such as a Smart TV or games console) that allows you to configure a network proxy, just enter this address to take advantage of your Windscribe connection, even if your device doesn’t normally let you use a VPN.
NordVPN allows you to secure up to six of your devices at any one time, which is in line with the industry average. Windscribe, however, is one of the few services on the market that allows any number of simultaneous connections.
|Netflix||Multiple libraries including US, UK, Australia, Canada, India, and Japan||Multiple libraries including US, UK, Japan, and Canada|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes (eight confirmed libraries)||No|
Windscribe puts in a decent showing as far as streaming is concerned. It even has specific servers designed for securely accessing Netflix, which eliminates a lot of the trial and error. That said, this VPN struggled with a couple of the services tested, most notably Prime Video.
NordVPN had no issues with any of the services above, except for CBS. It’s worth mentioning that CBS has particularly strong geo-blocking tools and causes problems for a lot of VPNs, so this isn’t a huge surprise. What’s interesting is that you can access over half a dozen Amazon Prime Video libraries (assuming you have an account for the region in question) – most VPNs only provide access to the US catalog.
Which of these VPNs work in China?
Both of these services work in China. Windscribe users have to switch over to the stealth or Wstunnel protocols, whereas NordVPN subscribers should be able to connect as normal. Note that NordVPN also has obfuscated servers in case the Great Firewall finds a way to detect the regular ones.
It’s a good idea to install your chosen service ahead of time since both provider’s websites are blocked in China. NordVPN has a second site that’s still accessible from the mainland; just ask customer support for the URL before you leave. This service also offers platform-specific connection guides specifically tailored to users in places with strict online restrictions.
Setup and interface
|Automatic setup wizard||Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS||Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS|
|Main location selection||List-based/Map-based||List-based|
|Extra settings pages||Yes||Yes|
NordVPN’s desktop app is about as easy to use as they come. It allows you to select a server either on a map or in the list, and there’s a large quick-connection button right on the main page. New versions of the app also include a Network Security tab that explains what each security feature does, and gives you the option to turn each on individually. The settings menu is well-organized and broken up into several different categories.
Windscribe’s user interface is unique, but a little confusing. The main screen has a pop-out server list, along with a Firewall toggle and quick-connect button, but the settings menus could use a little work: there are two full screens of options, which makes it a bit of a nuisance to find one specific feature. On the plus side, there is a built-in speed tester and a button that’ll take you right to the website’s help section.
Both services look and feel familiar on mobile devices. NordVPN has a couple of new options, including tapjacking protection, which stops apps from tricking you into clicking on something unexpected, and a metered connection mode, which minimizes data usage. Notably, you still have access to the VPN’s specialty servers, which is fantastic.
I actually preferred Windscribe’s mobile interface. It’s forced to conform to a narrow screen, so the strange UI shape and pop-out sections are completely gone. The settings menu is much easier to navigate too, and most of the features from the desktop app are still available (although the proxy gateway feature has been removed).
Servers and performance
We don’t know exactly how many servers Windscribe has, but it covers a few more locations than NordVPN. Additionally, it claims that it doesn’t use virtual servers (except, presumably, for the Fake Antarctica location). NordVPN has previously said the same, claiming that routing user data through a location other than the one chosen is “unethical”.
Windscribe’s speeds are decent, averaging out at 55 Mbps in our latest testing. This is suitable for most day-to-day tasks including 4K streaming, provided your base connection is quick enough. Unfortunately, it’s going up against one of the fastest providers on the market.
In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN delivered average speeds of over 360 Mbps on a gigabit connection. With speeds like these, you really shouldn’t encounter any performance issues, even with multiple people sharing a connection.
Here’s every server location that NordVPN and Windscribe offer:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||✔||✔|
|United Arab Emirates||✔||✔|
It might be the underdog, but Windscribe actually has better server coverage in Asia and South America. It even boasts clusters in the Philippines, Cambodia, Peru, and Panama. This service is one of the few providers that offers servers in Kenya too, which is huge given that users in Africa normally have to rely on South African servers, which may be quite far away.
NordVPN offers a couple of locations that Windscribe doesn’t, as well, namely Slovenia and Costa Rica. One of the things I like about this provider is that it offers a breakdown of exactly how many servers are in each location, and which cities they’re in. This means that we can see which regions NordVPN prioritizes and ensures that users near an international border are always able to choose the closest servers.
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, NordLynx||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, Stealth, Wstunnel|
|OpenVPN data encryption||AES-256||AES-256|
|OpenVPN control channel encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-4096|
|Cloaking technology||Obfuscated servers||Stealth protocol|
|App security||Kill switch (all platforms)||Firewall feature (available on Windows and MacOS)|
|DNS status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
At first glance, these services have similar security toolkits, with effectively-uncrackable encryption and its own DNS servers. However, there are a few key differences. First off, there’s protocol choice: NordVPN supports the classic OpenVPN, plus it offers its own NordLynx protocol, which is based on WireGuard. Windscribe offers more ways to connect, which may be useful for accessing networks that identify and block OpenVPN or WireGuard traffic.
The exact way each service cloaks your data is different too. NordVPN has specially-configured servers designed for maximum privacy. Meanwhile, Windscribe asks users to change to the Stealth protocol, allowing them to use any server.
NordVPN uses a kill switch to stop sending data if your VPN connection drops suddenly. This does theoretically leave a very small window of opportunity for packets to leak out (though NordVPN is configured to prevent this) , which Windscribe’s Firewall seeks to resolve by fully preventing any connectivity unless the VPN is connected. While this is admirable, the feature is, unfortunately, only available on desktop platforms. This leaves mobile users without a security tool that is pretty much standard in all major VPNs.
|Connection logs||No||Timestamp of last activity, total monthly data usage|
|User details for signup||Email address||None (Email address optional)|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, gift cards||Over a dozen cryptocurrencies|
NordVPN operates out of Panama, which doesn’t have any mandatory data-retention laws. Accordingly, the service is free to follow a true no-logs policy. It stores your username and a timestamp of when your session started. This data is deleted at most 15 minutes after you disconnect. This VPN does collect mobile device identifiers for analytics purposes, but you can clear these manually (and I recommend doing so regularly).
Windscribe logs the amount of bandwidth you’ve used this month so that it can enforce free tier data limits. It also keeps the timestamp of your last session to filter out abandoned accounts. Neither of these things can identify you personally. It is, however, based in Canada, one of the 14 Eyes security alliance members. This means that any other partner can request details of your activities and share them among the rest of the participating countries.
Both providers allow you to sign up anonymously. Technically, you don’t even have to provide an email address to get a free Windscribe account. However, if you don’t, you’ll only have 2GB of data per month and won’t be able to change your password. Windscribe’s anonymous payment options rely on the user being familiar with cryptocurrency. This is fine, but NordVPN sells gift cards at big-box stores that you can buy with plain old cash.
|Dedicated IP address possible||Yes, in Germany, the UK, the US, France, or the Netherlands||No, but static IPs available from $2 per month in the UK, the US, France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Switzerland|
These services both use shared address allocation. This means that everyone on the same server shares one IP address. This provides an extra layer of privacy, since it means it’s extremely difficult to tell which user did what.
NordVPN allows you to add a dedicated IP address to your plan for an extra $79 (GBP £58) per year. This gives you exclusive use of this IP address, which makes it less likely that it’ll be blacklisted by geo-blocked services (though it gives up the privacy benefits of a shared address).
Windscribe doesn’t offer dedicated addresses. It does have static IP servers that you can access for $2 (GBP £1.50) per month. These will always have the same IP address, but you’ll be sharing them with other users. Realistically, there are few instances where this would be advantageous.
|Live chat||Yes (in-house)||No|
|Searchable knowledge base||Yes||Yes|
There’s no question here: it’s easier to get help if you’re a NordVPN customer. Subscribers can send off an email, submit a ticket, or jump right into a chat with in-house support staff. We’ve tried the live chat service at various times of day and always received a response in a few minutes. Meanwhile, Windscribe has a ticket system and a chatbot named G.A.R.R.Y. However, this just directs you to support articles based on the keywords you enter in chat.
On the plus side, both VPNs offer extensive knowledge bases. There are articles on everything from torrenting safely to setting up port forwarding, and NordVPN even posts multilingual guides on its YouTube channel. Windscribe also has a couple of video guides on YouTube, but the vast majority of its videos are (bizarrely) short comedy sketches.
Windscribe is a solid general purpose VPN, with features and performance not normally seen in services with a free plan. I was particularly impressed with its server distribution – very few providers have as strong a presence in Asia. However, there are a few key reasons why NordVPN is the better option for most users.
First and foremost, NordVPN makes it significantly easier to contact customer support. The importance of this can’t be overstated, since VPNs can be confusing to new users and are often too complex to troubleshoot on your own. Additionally, NordVPN is significantly faster than Windscribe and works with a greater number of streaming platforms. Finally, NordVPN’s money-back guarantee is 10x the length of Windscribe’s, and its long-term plans work out cheaper as well. In other words, it’s about as welcoming and versatile as a VPN can be.