Private Internet Access vs. NordVPN: Which of the Two is Best?

Abeerah Hashim Last updated: May 1, 2023 Read time: 17 minutes Disclosure

NordVPN and PIA are among the best and most popular VPNs out there. But one is better than the other, hands down. Find out which one it is.

Comparing NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access (PIA) elaborates on the strengths and weaknesses of both brands. Knowing these details can be helpful for users in making a choice. Generally, NordVPN gets an edge over PIA with its privacy-friendly jurisdiction (Panama), server obfuscation feature, and excellent cross-platform compatibility. Nonetheless, PIA overcomes its lacking by offering competitive pricing plans – a major attraction for the users. But is the affordable price the only strength of PIA? What makes NordVPN charge more for its services? This detailed PIA vs. NordVPN comparison answers all these questions in detail.

Would you like to know, once and for all, if NordVPN is a better VPN service than PrivateInternetAccess (PIA)? We hear you! The thing with these two VPNs is that whenever you read an article or review about “the best five or ten VPNs for this and that,” both providers get mentioned very often.

We know because we’ve done that very often on this website. They are both popular VPNs, get good reviews, have many solid features, and have good reputations. But is there any meaningful difference between these two VPNs, so you can tell one is definitely better? Keep reading because you’re about to find out.

Our staff earned their salt by taking a serious look at both vendors in terms of speed and performance, performance with Netflix and video streaming platforms, torrenting, several additional features, security, infrastructure, privacy policy, interface availability and usability, and customer support.

The general panorama

The table below quickly shows which provider wins on a particular forefront.

Side by side Which VPN wins
Customer support A tie
Ease of use A tie
Features NordVPN
Price PrivateInernetAccess
Protection NordVPN
Speed NordVPN
Streaming NordVPN
Torrenting A tie

NordVPN is the biggest name in VPN-land, one would think, for a start. But let’s see how both services compare at a glance.

PIA’s server network is unbeatable in size. It has more than 30,000 servers in 84 countries. So this round would surely go to PIA, right? Well, not necessarily. NordVPN’s network isn’t exactly small, with more than 5,400 servers in 59 countries. However, that is more than enough.

For example, ExpressVPN is generally considered better than our two contestants of today, and its network is smaller even than NordVPN’s. So, yes, the network is much more extensive with PIA, but functionality is what matters in the end.

Both VPNs stick to a strict no-logs policy. However, PIA’s policy was tested by fire when the local authorities (it’s based in the US) tried to force the VPN to surrender the user logs they had. PIA complied with the request by giving them everything it had–nothing at all.

NordVPN hasn’t walked on fire on this issue as far as we know, but that doesn’t it couldn’t. NordVPN is based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction in which the governmental interference typical of the US is impossible. However, NordVPN’s commitment to its zero-log policy has been tested through external audits (PricewaterhouseCoopers AG), and it’s passed with flying colors.

Pricing leans towards PIA. If you choose the best possible deal, you can have a PIA account for 2.03 USD monthly, while 3.99 USD is the best you could do with NordVPN. So PIA’s costs only 62% off NordVPN’s fee. However, let’s not jump to conclusions yet. If NordVPN’s service is better than PIA, that price could still give you better value for money.

Both VPNs use the same tunneling protocols: IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and WireGuard. Except that NordVPN’s WireGuard implementation is called NordLynx. This is a meaningful difference beyond mere tags. NordVPN’s version of WireGuard is known to correct a few issues with the original code that make it harder to respect user privacy.

The video streaming unblocking department is vital, as it’s now the most popular use case for VPNs. Again, NordVPN takes the cake here. If a video streaming platform can be unlocked with a VPN, NordVPN can do it; it’s as simple as that. On the other hand, PIA can manage Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, but not that much more.

Software support is basically the same for both vendors. Both support a Linux client, which is rare enough. And they obviously also provide apps or clients for all the big boys: Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows.

NordVPN allows for six concurrent connections, and PIA does ten.

Last but not least we consider the customer service department. PIA offers assistance through a knowledge base, a ticket system, and a live chat. NordVPN has all that, plus FAQs and email-based help.

So that’s the big picture, and you probably saw a pattern on every issue: at first glance, it always seems that PIA can either match or overcome NordVPN. But then, as you look closer and consider everything more carefully, it becomes clear that NordVPN is far ahead. But let’s not jump to conclusions yet; it’s time to get our hands dirty.

Bandwidth, speed, and performance

Before we start with the speed tests we did, we need to be clear about something: Internet speeds are a very complicated thing. They depend on all kinds of stuff, from your ISPs, your local weather, your hardware resources, and many other factors. Hence while you can trust that our figures are accurate, you need to remember that they are accurate for us. Your experience should be in the same ballpark, but it can never match ours exactly because you’re in a different country using different computers through another ISP, etc.