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NordVPN vs Private Internet Access

Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more. Read full bio

Our Verdict

It's a close race between NordVPN and Private Internet Access in our testing categories. NordVPN has a faster server network and is more secure, but PIA is better at torrenting and is more affordable. NordVPN is our preferred service overall, but both are excellent.

NordVPN vs PIA side-by-side

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are two leading VPNs that can be relied upon to protect your privacy online. But which is better?

In this guide, we compare NordVPN and PIA based on a series of hands-on tests. We’ll explain which VPN works best for streaming, torrenting, bypassing censorship, and more.

We’ve used manual and automated tests to compare their speeds, and have reviewed both VPN services on all platforms and devices.

Our detailed comparison of NordVPN and PIA will help you to choose the right VPN.

Quick Summary: NordVPN vs PIA

Here’s a summary of how NordVPN and PIA compare in ten VPN testing categories:

Category Winner
Speed & Reliability NordVPN

NordVPN is faster on most servers, especially on long-distance connections.

Streaming NordVPN

NordVPN unblocks more content platforms than PIA, plus it’s compatible with every streaming device.

Encryption & Security PIA

PIA includes more advanced security options, including customizable encryption and an excellent ad and malware blocker.

Logging & Privacy PIA

Private Internet Access has had its no-logs privacy policy verified several times by real-world cases.

Torrenting PIA

PIA allows you to torrent on all of its servers and it includes a port forwarding feature for increased speeds.

Ease of Use NordVPN

NordVPN’s apps are intuitive to set up and use, making it a great choice for first-time VPN users.

Server Locations PIA

Private Internet Access has a larger server network than any other VPN, so you’ll be able to get an IP address from lots of countries and specific cities.

Price & Value PIA

PIA costs $2.19 on a long-term plan and it comes with a genuine seven-day free trial on Android and iOS.

Bypassing Censorship PIA

PIA is better at bypassing Chinese and Russian censorship because it uses the reliable Shadowsocks proxy.

Customer Support NordVPN

NordVPN’s 24/7 live chat support responded quickly and was always able to resolve our queries.

We Recommend Choosing NordVPN if You Need:

  • A VPN for streaming. NordVPN unblocks 11 Netflix libraries, as well as HBO Max, DAZN, Prime Video, and more.
  • Fast internet speeds. Using its NordLynx protocol, we often experienced close to 0% speed loss with NordVPN.
  • An easy-to-use app. All of NordVPN’s VPN clients, including on desktop, mobile, and TV, are intuitive and simple to use for all experience levels.

Visit NordVPN or read our full NordVPN review.

We Recommend Choosing PIA if You Need:

  • A VPN for torrenting and P2P file sharing. PIA is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested for torrenting. Also, all of its servers are compatible with P2P traffic and it supports port forwarding.
  • The largest VPN server network. PIA has 17,193 servers, which is more than any other VPN on the market.
  • To use blocked apps in China. Using the Shadowsocks proxy, PIA can bypass the Great Firewall and access blocked apps like Instagram and YouTube.

To compare more VPN services side-by-side, see our VPN comparison tool.

NordVPN vs PIA: Speed

SUMMARY:

NordVPN and PIA are two of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. Both use WireGuard and have speeds fast enough for the most intensive web activities, including gaming, streaming, and torrenting. NordVPN narrowly beats Private Internet Access for speed due to its almost lossless connection speeds on local servers.

Winner: NordVPN

We test NordVPN and PIA’s speeds four times every day. Each test is conducted using our scientific and unbiased speed testing methodology.

We use the VPN’s automatic protocol and report the results exactly as we see them. Both the testing and results are automatically generated, so we can’t edit any of the data after the fact.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s speed performance.

NordVPN
PIA
Speed & Reliability Rating
9.5
9.3
Local Download Speed
93Mbps
98Mbps
UK-US Download Speed
79Mbps
84Mbps
Local Upload Speed
94Mbps
94Mbps
Ping
14ms
6ms
Time to Connect
2.2 seconds
3.1 seconds
Fastest VPN Protocol
WireGuard (NordLynx)
WireGuard

You can read a more in-depth comparison of the speed results of both VPN services in the next few sections.

NordVPN beats PIA on short-distance connections

To test local speed performance, we connected to both VPNs using the automatic server selection feature.

NordVPN’s download speeds are faster than PIA on same-country connections. Our download speed dropped by just 1% with NordVPN but dropped by 6% when connected to a PIA server.

Both results are excellent, but NordVPN is marginally better. Our automated VPN speed test tool also shows similar results, which you can view yourself in the chart below:

Provider speed comparison chart

For upload speeds, NordVPN is also faster, but the difference is more marginal. We recorded identical upload speeds for both NordVPN and Private Internet Access in our manual speed tests.

Our automated tool often finds NordVPN’s upload speeds to be around 5% faster than PIA’s. You can see the results from the past eight weeks below.

Provider speed comparison chart

VPN speeds are tied on far-away servers

Fast international speeds are important for streaming geo-blocked streaming services. As you’ll often be connecting to a server on the other side of the world, a VPN needs to maintain fast download speeds across its server network.

We connected to NordVPN and Private Internet Access servers in four different continents and recorded our download speeds.

Here’s a summary of the results:

Server Location
NordVPN
PIA
US
79Mbps
84Mbps
Germany
88Mbps
93Mbps
Singapore
67Mbps
26Mbps
Australia
60Mbps
68Mbps

As you can see, NordVPN’s and PIA’s international download speeds are very similar.

Private Internet Access was faster in more locations, such as in the US and Australia. While this would usually mean PIA wins out in this category, it was over 62% slower than NordVPN on its Singapore server.

PIA is slightly faster for gaming

In our manual tests, both PIA and NordVPN enabled a local ping time that was fast enough for gaming. However, NordVPN slowed down our ping time a little more compared to PIA, which was faster.

Our tests were conducted on different days, so we’ve included our ping time without a VPN so you can easily see the difference the VPN made in each case.

NordVPN
PIA
Ping Time
Without VPN: 6ms
With VPN: 14ms
Without VPN: 5ms
With VPN: 6ms

We also tested the VPNs by setting them up on our router and playing a variety of console and PC games, including Fortnite, Minecraft, and CS:GO.

Although the latency difference wasn’t noticeable in most games, PIA was better when playing fast-paced competitive games, like CS:GO.

Despite their speed differences, both VPNs qualify for our list of top-rated VPNs for gaming.

NordVPN and PIA being used for online gaming

Online games were more responsive using PIA compared to NordVPN.

NordVPN vs PIA: Streaming

SUMMARY:

NordVPN is by far the better VPN for streaming. It has faster international speeds, and unblocks 11 Netflix libraries, whereas PIA only works with 2. It also has more compatible servers, so you won’t have to cycle between servers before finding one that works. NordVPN also has a better app for Firestick and, unlike PIA, includes a functional Smart DNS tool for other devices.

Winner: NordVPN

We tested both VPNs with popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, DAZN, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.

We also tested whether it had a Smart DNS feature and a usable Fire TV app. We took into consideration both VPN’s international download speeds, as these are crucial for unblocking content from far-away streaming libraries.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s streaming performance.

NordVPN
PIA
Streaming Rating
9.8
9
US Netflix
Yes
Yes
No. of Netflix Libraries
11
2
BBC iPlayer
Yes
Yes
HBO Max
Yes
Yes
UK-US Download Speed
79Mbps
84Mbps
Smart DNS
Yes
Unreliable

NordVPN unblocks 8 more libraries than PIA

While PIA can unblock Netflix in the US and Italy, NordVPN goes much further. NordVPN can stream 11 popular Netflix libraries.

Here’s how the VPNs compared in our Netflix testing:

Netflix Libraries
NordVPN
PIA
Australia
Yes
No
Brazil
Yes
No
France
Yes
No
Germany
Yes
No
Italy
Yes
Yes
Japan
Yes
No
Netherlands
Yes
No
South Korea
Yes
No
UK
Yes
No
US
Yes
Yes

PIA has dedicated servers for streaming in the US, UK, Italy, Japan, Finland, and Sweden. They are labeled “Streaming Optimized” in the PIA app. However, we’ve found them to be extremely unreliable. Only the US and Italy servers worked in our tests.

NordVPN doesn’t have dedicated servers for streaming. Its SmartPlay feature makes it easy to unblock Netflix using any US server. It can be much more frustrating using PIA: you might need to test several servers until you find one that works.

NordVPN Chrome Extension Netflix Test

NordVPN works with Netflix more reliably than PIA.

Both NordVPN and PIA will unblock some of the most desirable Netflix libraries. Neither NordVPN nor PIA is the best VPN for Netflix streaming, though. Windscribe unblocks 32 libraries, and ExpressVPN is our top recommendation.

NordVPN & PIA work well with other streaming services

Streaming Service
NordVPN
PIA
Disney+
Yes
Yes
BBC iPlayer
Yes
Yes
Amazon Prime Video
Yes
Yes
HBO Max
Yes
Yes
Hulu
Yes
Yes

Both NordVPN and PIA are great at unblocking other streaming services, in addition to Netflix. PIA has fixed its UK streaming server so that it now unblocks BBC iPlayer.

NordVPN still has the edge on PIA, though, as it has better platform support. PIA’s Smart DNS feature has never worked in our testing, so we couldn’t use it to stream on our Smart TV or Apple TV.

On the other hand, we used NordVPN’s Smart DNS tool to stream Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max. It doesn’t work with Netflix or BBC iPlayer, though.

In the video below, watch us using NordVPN to access US Netflix, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer.

NordVPN vs PIA: Encryption & Security

SUMMARY:

NordVPN and PIA both offer the most secure VPN protocols and encryption ciphers, including WireGuard and AES-256. We didn’t record any IP or DNS leaks with either VPN, and both services include a functioning kill switch. Though their security offerings are similar, only NordVPN offers obfuscated servers and double VPN.

Winner: NordVPN

Our encryption and security tests found that NordVPN and PIA are both safe to use, offering the most secure VPN protocols and encryption ciphers. NordVPN marginally wins in this category, though, as it has some additional security features that set it apart from PIA.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s encryption and security performance:

NordVPN
PIA
Encryption & Security Rating
9.6
9.3
VPN Protocols
WireGuard & OpenVPN
WireGuard & OpenVPN
No. of P2P Servers
AES-256 & ChaCha20
AES-256 & ChaCha20
Kill Switch
Yes
Yes
Leak Protection
Yes
Yes
RAM-based Servers
Yes
Yes
Open-Source Apps
No
Yes
Colocated Servers
Yes
No

PIA allows you to customize the encryption cipher

NordVPN and PIA allow you to use WireGuard or OpenVPN on all devices – two of the fastest and most secure VPN protocols. We recommend using WireGuard (or ‘NordLynx’) for unblocking content, and OpenVPN when maximum security is the priority.

For OpenVPN connections, both services use AES-256 encryption. For WireGuard, both VPNs encrypt traffic using ChaCha20. AES-256 and ChaCha20 have no known vulnerabilities.

If you have enabled it in the app’s settings, NordVPN will choose the best protocol for you based on your network and location. We’d prefer it if PIA had this feature, too, as you can’t always be sure you’re getting the best performance.

If you connect using OpenVPN, PIA gives you granular control over the encryption that the VPN uses. You can choose whether to use AES-128 or AES-256 for encryption, as well as RSA-2048 or SHA-384 for the handshake operation.

The Private Internet Access app, showing how you can customize your VPN encryption settings.

Unlike NordVPN, PIA allows you to manually choose the level of encryption used.

This is an excellent feature for advanced users to tailor the encryption exactly to their requirements. However, NordVPN’s overall simplicity is better for most casual VPN users.

Both VPNs include IP & DNS leak protection

NordVPN and PIA passed all of our tests for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

As you can see in the screenshot below, both NordVPN and PIA hid our real network details in the UK:

NordVPN and PIA leak test results

NordVPN and PIA prevented our IP or DNS from leaking.

Both VPNs operate their own DNS servers too, so your ISP doesn’t see your web requests.

NordVPN & PIA have a working kill switch on all platforms

To stop your IP address from leaking if the VPN connection fails, there are kill switches in both NordVPN and PIA. They’re available in the Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android apps. NordVPN also has Linux VPN software with a kill switch.

To test whether the kill switches were functioning correctly, we deliberately disconnected our VPN connection while running an IP checker tool. Both PIA and NordVPN protected our IP address every time.

NordVPN and PIA kill switch test results

NordVPN and PIA passed our kill switch tests.

Whereas the kill switch is an option you can turn off and on in PIA’s iOS app, on NordVPN it’s automatically enabled and invisible.

NordVPN gives you more control than PIA because it offers an app-specific kill switch, as well as an internet kill switch that blocks everything if the VPN connection goes down. We recommend you use the internet kill switch because it’s safer.

PIA has a unique kill switch feature that blocks your internet connection until the VPN app launches.

PIA MACE blocks more ads than Threat Protection

NordVPN and Private Internet Access include an adblocker with the VPN subscription. These block adverts and trackers on popular websites, like YouTube, Google, and Facebook.

Our investigation into VPN ad blockers found that PIA’s ad blocker, named PIA MACE, is the best on the market. It blocked 80% of the ads we tested it with, as well as 100% of analytics trackers.

NordVPN’s ad blocker, called Threat Protection, was a close second. Still, it blocked 20% fewer ads than PIA MACE, as well as 36% fewer analytics trackers.

You can see how the two ad blockers compare head-to-head in the charts below:

NordVPN and PIA's ad blocker test results

PIA MACE blocks more ads and trackers than NordVPN Threat Protection.

NordVPN includes more advanced security features

Both NordVPN and PIA offer additional security features, including VPN split tunneling, diskless VPN servers, and SOCKS5 support for faster torrenting.

We’ve found NordVPN to be more fully-featured than Private Internet Access on the whole, though.

Here are some advanced security features that NordVPN has that are missing from PIA:

  • Obfuscated servers to circumvent censorship
  • Double VPN for enhanced privacy
  • Colocated servers for greater server privacy and security
  • Onion over VPN for easy connections to the TOR network

On the other hand, the only major security feature that PIA has that NordVPN doesn’t is open-sourced apps. This means that anyone can view the code running Private Internet Access, decreasing the risk of any glaring security vulnerabilities.

While we wish NordVPN had done the same, the sheer number of advanced security features it includes means it beats PIA here.

NordVPN vs PIA: Logging & Privacy

SUMMARY:

Despite having a worse jurisdiction than NordVPN, Private Internet Access is the safer choice for privacy. It hasn’t experienced any compromised servers, and its no-logs privacy policy has been verified in multiple US court cases.

Winner: PIA

Without a private logging policy and a good jurisdiction, you can’t be sure your VPN isn’t collecting more of your data than it needs to.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s logging policy and jurisdiction performance.

NordVPN
PIA
Privacy & Logging Rating
9.5
9.9
Logging Policy
No Logs
No Logs
Jurisdiction
Panama
United States (US)
Independently Verified
Yes
Yes
Warrant Canary
Yes
Yes

Neither VPN retains any activity data

NordVPN and PIA have two of the most impressive privacy policies we’ve seen. They don’t collect any logs that could be used to identify you from your activity.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has audited NordVPN twice to confirm it does not log your traffic or store any VPN connection logs. PWC also confirmed no IP addresses or browsing activity is kept by NordVPN.

Though it hasn’t commissioned an audit to verify its no-logs policy, PIA has been subpoenaed in the US to provide data on users twice. But, as the official court documents in the first case show, PIA had no data to share.

Excerpt from a court case document that verified the claims of PIA's logging policy

Private Internet Access’ no-logs privacy policy has been verified several times.

On the other hand, NordVPN has conceded that, if ordered by a court, it could start collecting data on a user under criminal investigation. We don’t expect this to be an issue given the VPN provider’s warrant canary is intact, but it’s still worth taking into consideration.

We prefer real-world tests like the ones PIA has passed to third-party audits. There’s no guarantee that a VPN doesn’t change its behavior while an audit is ongoing, only to revert back once it’s finished.

NordVPN is based in a private jurisdiction

NordVPN is based in the privacy-friendly jurisdiction of Panama, which isn’t part of any international intelligence-sharing alliances. Any company incorporated there doesn’t have to collect any user information.

In contrast, PIA is headquartered in the US. The US is part of the Five Eyes countries, making it one of the worst places to base a VPN service. This is why PIA’s no-logs privacy policy is so important. As it doesn’t collect any user data, it has no logs to provide.

Following several real-world tests of its logging policy, we’re confident that PIA’s base in the US isn’t a concern. That said, we’d prefer it matched NordVPN by moving to a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, like Panama.

Both VPNs can be trusted with your data

NordVPN and PIA are two of the most reputable VPNs on the market. They’ve both worked to improve their privacy offerings after coming under some scrutiny in the past.

NordVPN suffered a server hack in 2018. No users were compromised, but it was slow to disclose the vulnerability. Since the incident, NordVPN has drastically improved its security systems to rebuild trust. It introduced a bug bounty programme, regular penetration tests, as well as co-located servers.

PIA hasn’t had any such security vulnerabilities, but its ownership has come into question. It’s owned by Kape Technologies, which made money through adware under previous ownership.

However, Kape has since moved on and become a privacy-first company. It’s also the owner of popular VPN services ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. All of the VPNs it owns, including PIA, still operate with the same strong privacy protections they’ve always had.

NordVPN vs PIA: Torrenting

SUMMARY:

Private Internet Access beats NordVPN in almost every category for torrenting. Though both VPNs can download torrent files just as fast, PIA has a larger network of P2P-friendly servers and it includes more advanced torrenting features, like port forwarding.

Winner: NordVPN

We’ve tested Private Internet Access and NordVPN using our in-house testing methodology. This involves checking the VPN’s bitrate when downloading a torrent file, evaluating its logging policy, checking the amount of P2P servers in the app, and testing its advanced security features.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s torrenting performance.

NordVPN
PIA
Torrenting Rating
8.9
9.6
Average Download Bitrate
9.5MiB/s
9.6MiB/s
No. of P2P Servers
4,250
17,193
Logging Policy
No Logs
No Logs
Kill Switch
Yes
Yes
Port Forwarding
No
Yes

PIA allows you to torrent in every server location

Private Internet Access supports torrenting traffic on all 17,193 servers in 84 countries. No matter where you are, you’ll always be able to connect to a fast nearby server.

NordVPN requires you to use its P2P-optimized servers. That cuts out about 15% of its server network. NordVPN doesn’t support torrenting in these 14 countries:

  • Argentina
  • Costa Rica
  • Cyprus
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Vietnam

This means NordVPN allows torrenting on servers in 38 fewer countries than PIA. Using PIA, you’re more likely to have a server close to you, which should mean faster downloads.

Testing how quickly PIA downloads a torrent file

PIA allows you to use all of its servers for torrenting.

PIA offers port forwarding, but NordVPN doesn’t

PIA is one of the only top VPNs to support port forwarding. In theory, port forwarding should improve the speed of your torrent downloads as it allows you to connect to more peers at a time.

However, we recorded identical torrent download speeds with PIA when its port forwarding feature was turned on and off. It still improved our performance when seeding torrents, though.

That said, both PIA and NordVPN are extremely fast VPNs for torrenting. On our 10MiB/s connection, PIA’s average bitrate was 9.6MiB/s and NordVPN was 9.5MiB/s.

No matter how large the torrent file, PIA and NordVPN will download it almost as fast as your regular internet connection.

You can view our torrenting speed tests in the video below. It takes Private Internet Access and NordVPN almost exactly the same time to complete the download.

Both VPNs include a kill switch on all platforms, too. Your real IP address won’t be exposed if your connection drops out.

NordVPN vs PIA: Apps & Ease of Use

SUMMARY:

Both VPNs have user-friendly apps for all major platforms, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. NordVPN is simpler to use, though, owing to PIA’s customizing options and advanced feature set. NordVPN is also compatible with more devices, thanks to its Smart DNS feature.

Winner: NordVPN

To get the most from your subscription, you should be able to use your VPN across all devices and platforms. It also helps if it’s easy to set up and use.

The table below shows the devices and platforms that NordVPN and PIA are compatible with:

NordVPN
PIA
Privacy & Logging Rating
9.5
8.3
Simultaneous Connections
6
10
Desktop Apps
Windows, macOS, Linux
Windows, macOS, Linux
Mobile Apps
Android, iOS
Android, iOS
Streaming Devices
Android TV, Fire TV
Android TV, Fire TV
Smart DNS
Yes
Doesn’t work
Router App
No
No

NordVPN is easier to use than Private Internet Access

NordVPN’s apps are simpler to use and are generally more intuitive than PIA’s. As the VPN automatically selects the best settings and server location for you, you can start using it within seconds.

Here’s a video of us connecting to both NordVPN and PIA side-by-side:

As PIA’s interface is configured for more advanced users, there are more settings and elements on the screen at once. This makes it slightly more difficult to navigate. This might not be a drawback, though, depending on your experience level.

Windows & Mac Apps

Both NordVPN and PIA have excellent apps for Windows. PIA and NordVPN both offer OpenVPN and WireGuard. NordVPN offers a great experience, though, which makes it one of the best VPNs for Windows.

NordVPN's Mac app side-by-side with PIA's

PIA’s desktop apps allow for more customization.

NordVPN offers two versions of its app for the Mac. We recommend the version available in the App Store, although it doesn’t include the Double VPN and obfuscated server features. The version available from NordVPN’s website does include these features but doesn’t have a system-wide kill switch.

PIA’s Mac app is fully-featured and enables a fast connection, but it can be frustratingly slow to start up.

Android & iOS

NordVPN has slightly better mobile apps than PIA. Its Android app is easy to set up, it’s user-friendly, and works for streaming and torrenting. There’s no built-in kill switch, but you can enable one in the Android settings.

Side-by-side image of NordVPN and PIA's apps on iOS

NordVPN’s mobile apps are simpler to use.

PIA’s Android app has a simple interface and a strong feature set, including a kill switch, split tunneling, and an option to set the device to vibrate when you connect to the VPN. Ad blockers are not allowed by Google, so PIA also provides an APK version of the app you can download from the PIA website that includes its MACE ad blocker.

On the iPhone, both NordVPN and PIA offer the OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. PIA adds WireGuard and IPsec. Unlike PIA, NordVPN offers obfuscated servers on iOS, but not all of the servers work. You might need to use manual configuration.

Fire TV & Android TV Apps

If you want to unblock movies on your Fire TV Stick or Android TV, NordVPN is a better choice than PIA. We found that PIA could only unblock US Netflix on 25% of its US servers. The PIA desktop and mobile apps work with almost every server.

NordVPN’s apps for Amazon Fire TV Stick and Android TV unblock slightly fewer Netflix libraries than the desktop and mobile apps, 8 instead of 11. This is far more reliable performance than we experienced with PIA.

The main screen of NordVPN's Google TV app

NordVPN’s TV apps work well for streaming and Kodi.

Using NordVPN’s TV apps, you can watch Netflix in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, and France, so you can enjoy several of the most popular libraries.

They also allow you to use P2P-optimized servers, making it easier to torrent movies using add-ons from within Kodi. It’s just one example of how fully-featured NordVPN’s Android and Fire TV apps are: they also include split tunneling, a choice of protocols, and a kill switch.

PIA’s Smart DNS tool doesn’t work for streaming

You can’t install a VPN on some streaming devices, including Smart TV and Apple TV. The easiest way to access geo-blocked content on these is to use Smart DNS.

This feature allows you to connect to a proxy server and spoof your location. However, Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your connection like a full VPN service.

Both Private Internet Access and NordVPN include Smart DNS with every VPN subscription. However, PIA’s Smart DNS didn’t work with any streaming service we tested.

Using PIA, we weren’t able to stream Netflix, Hulu, or BBC iPlayer on our Apple TV.

On the other hand, NordVPN’s Smart DNS tool worked with US Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video. In the video below, watch us using this feature to stream geo-blocked content on our Apple TV.

If you plan on using PIA or NordVPN to unblock content on a Smart TV, Apple TV, or games console, NordVPN is the much better choice.

Browser Extensions

While NordVPN and PIA both offer Firefox and Chrome apps, only PIA supports Opera. PIA’s Opera extension is one of the best we’ve seen.

NordVPN has a much better Chrome browser extension than PIA. It includes a built-in ad blocker, a ‘Bypass List’ which acts like split tunneling for your browser, and the full server list.

Side-by-side image comparing NordVPN and PIA's Google Chrome extensions

NordVPN’s browser extensions include many extra features.

Both apps have a WebRTC leak blocker to protect your IP address from leaking and successfully unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer. We rank NordVPN as the second-best Chrome extension (after ExpressVPN).

NordVPN also has a better Firefox app than PIA. Like the NordVPN Chrome extension, the Firefox extension includes the Threat Protection feature for ad blocking and effectively unblocks geo-restricted video content.

NordVPN vs PIA: Server Locations

SUMMARY:

Private Internet Access wins comfortably when it comes to server count. The VPN has more servers than any other VPN, and it hosts servers in 24 more countries than NordVPN. The only downside is that many of them are virtual server locations, but we don’t see a major problem with this.

Winner: PIA

A larger server network is better. There’ll be less congestion on each individual server, and It also means you’re more likely to connect to a server that’s close to you.

Here’s a quick summary of how NordVPN and PIA’s server network compares:

NordVPN
PIA
Server Locations Rating
9.6
9.9
Countries
60
84
Countries with City-Level Choice
6
6
Servers
5,372
17,193

PIA has a much larger server network than NordVPN

Though NordVPN’s server network is big enough for most users, it compares poorly to PIA. NordVPN has 5,372 servers in 60 countries. On average, NordVPN has 100 fewer servers per country than PIA.

NordVPN and PIA give you a similar level of control over the servers you use. Private Internet Access has 18 individual server locations in the US and NordVPN has 16.

Both VPNs also have excellent city-level server choices in other countries, including Australia, Canada, and Germany. NordVPN also provides them in India, while PIA does not.

The main benefit of this is that you can connect to a server closer to you. It also allows you to access localized content, like sports blackouts in the US.

Side-by-side comparing PIA's server list to NordVPN's


PIA’s server list displays more information but is more difficult to navigate than NordVPN.

Here’s the number of countries covered in each continent:

Continent
NordVPN
PIA
Asia
13
20
Africa
1
5
Europe
37
45
North America
4
7
Oceania
2
2
South America
3
5

Both offer strong coverage across Europe and North America, but NordVPN’s coverage in Africa is particularly disappointing. There’s a single server location to connect to in South Africa. By contrast, PIA has servers in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, as well as South Africa.

NordVPN vs PIA: Price & Value

SUMMARY:

NordVPN and PIA both offer excellent value on long-term subscriptions. PIA is 33% cheaper, though, making it the clear winner in this category. It also has a true free trial option on iOS, whereas NordVPN doesn’t.

Winner: PIA

Here’s a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s price and payment options:

NordVPN
PIA
Privacy & Logging Rating
8
9
Monthly Subscription
$11.99 / month
$11.95 / month
2 Years Subscription
$3.29 / month
$2.19 / month
Credit Card
Yes
Yes
Cryptocurrency
Yes
Yes
Money-Back Guarantee
30 Days
30 Days
Free Trial
7 days (Android only)
7 days (iOS & Android only)

As you can see, PIA is cheaper than NordVPN when you commit to a two-year subscription.

The monthly cost for PIA is $11.95. It’s slightly higher at $11.99 for NordVPN. The price drops to $2.19 per month for PIA if you prepay for two years. NordVPN is nearly as cheap as PIA at $3.29 per month when prepaid for the same period.

Both NordVPN and PIA accept a wide range of payment options, including credit and debit cards. For private payment, both VPNs accept Bitcoin. You can also buy a gift card for PIA or a license key for NordVPN. For PIA, you can also use major brand gift cards.

Private Internet Access and NordVPN offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans, allowing you to test the service out before committing to a subscription. Both VPNs make it easy to get your refund, so we recommend taking advantage of this.

NordVPN only offers a genuine seven-day free trial on Android, while PIA also offers it on iOS.

NordVPN vs PIA: Bypassing Censorship

SUMMARY:

Though both are good options, Private Internet Access is the better choice for bypassing censorship in countries like China and Russia. PIA works more often than NordVPN and its anti-censorship tools are available on every platform.

Winner: PIA

To test whether the VPNs work in China, we use a remote-access Windows PC that’s physically located in Shanghai. Both VPNs are tested every week, with each result logged. We use this data to calculate its reliability.

The table below gives a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s bypassing censorship performance.

NordVPN
PIA
Privacy & Logging Rating
8.8
9.2
Reliability in China
52%
71%
Supported Platforms
Android
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Credit Card
Obfuscated servers
Shadowsocks proxy

PIA is better for use in China and Russia

NordVPN and PIA both work in China. We’ve been able to use both VPNs to bypass the Great Firewall of China and access blocked apps, like Instagram and YouTube.

Both VPNs also work in other highly-censored regions, such as Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

Private Internet Access is the better VPN for bypassing censorship. It works more reliably and is compatible with more platforms and devices.

NordVPN’s regular app doesn’t work in China. You have to download a customized version that’s intended only for bypassing censorship. However, it can only be installed on Windows and Android.

For Mac and iOS, you will have to manually install a server profile onto your device. This is a more difficult installation process and requires handing over a lot of trust to NordVPN.

Obfuscation technology

Private Internet Access can bypass web censorship thanks to the Shadowsocks proxy. Shadowsocks is an open-source proxy that’s been designed specifically for bypassing Chinese censorship.

PIA first sends traffic through a regular encrypted VPN server, before relaying it to the proxy server. Make sure to manually connect to the Japan Shadowsocks server to get the best performance from China.

On the other hand, NordVPN’s servers use built-in obfuscation technology. This attempts to disguise VPN internet traffic as regular HTTPS web traffic. Unlike Shadowsocks, it’s compatible with every NordVPN server, as long as you connect with OpenVPN.

Configuring the Shadowsocks proxy in the PIA desktop app

PIA’s Shadowsocks proxy is simple to set up.

While NordVPN’s implementation is simpler and has better speed performance, the bottom line is that PIA works more often.

NordVPN vs PIA: Customer Support

SUMMARY:

NordVPN and PIA offer good customer service options. They’re evenly matched when it comes to contact options and the clarity of the guides, but NordVPN comes out on top due to its time to respond. NordVPN assists much faster than PIA.

Winner: NordVPN

Although NordVPN and PIA are simple to set up and use, you might still need assistance sometimes.

Here’s a quick summary of NordVPN and PIA’s customer support:

NordVPN
PIA
24/7 Live Chat
Yes
Yes
Automated Chatbot
Yes
No
Email Support
Yes
Yes
Phone Support
No
No
Online Resources
Yes
Yes
Forum
No
Yes
Average Time to Respond
32 seconds
297 seconds

As you can see, NordVPN and PIA have similar customer support options. Both have email support, as well as 24/7 live chat support.

The biggest difference between the two is that NordVPN has an automated chatbot. NordVPN’s chatbot is the best we’ve tested. It gives quick and precise answers and makes it easy to contact a human if required. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the following section.

As is usually the case with VPNs, there is no telephone support. You can email your question, though.

PIA is slow to respond, but NordVPN’s chatbot responds instantly

We tested both VPNs support teams by asking them a series of questions. We measured the accuracy of the response, as well as how long it took to get the answer.

Here’s how NordVPN performed:

Question
Response Time
Question Answered
What type of encryption does NordVPN use?
Instant
Yes
What Netflix libraries does NordVPN unblock?
Instant
Yes
What’s the fastest NordVPN protocol?
95 seconds
Yes

Here’s how Private Internet Access performed:

Question
Response Time
Question Answered
What type of encryption does PIA use?
365 seconds
Yes
What Netflix libraries does PIA unblock?
340 seconds
Yes
What’s the fastest PIA protocol?
185 seconds
Yes

As you can see, NordVPN’s customer support team gave us answers to our questions much faster than PIA’s.

Its chatbot can answer a lot more questions than we typically see from other VPNs. We also appreciate how it gave us the answer in the chat window, rather than sending us a link to a help page.

NordVPN customer service

NordVPN’s automated chatbot is fast and helpful.

We only needed to speak to a person on NordVPN’s support team once. When we did, they responded in under two minutes.

On the other hand, PIA’s support team is frustratingly slow. There’s often a queue for its live chat team, which regularly takes a few minutes. Even when we did get through, we had to wait at least three minutes for an answer to our question.

PIA’s support agents were also more likely to send us to a support article, rather than answering our query directly.

Overall Winner: NordVPN

NordVPN

NordVPN and Private Internet Access are both excellent VPNs. Both are available for a cheap price and include best-in-class security protections.

That said, NordVPN beats Private Internet Access in the most important categories.

NordVPN is much better for streaming, with more servers that work with streaming services, and a Smart DNS feature for devices like Smart TV and Apple TV. Its speeds are also faster and its apps are more accessible for first-time VPN users.

On the other hand, Private Internet Access is a better choice if you need access to the largest server network, or if you want to hide your torrenting activity from your ISP. It also works more often than NordVPN in China, if you need to connect from within the country.

If you still can’t choose between them, NordVPN and PIA offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can try them out for yourself before committing to a premium subscription.

Additional research by Luke Williams

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more. Read full bio