NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access (a.k.a PIA) – one of the most reliable VPN service at the cheapest price point vs. a strong customer base with proven no-logging policy in the court of law.
Who will prevail?
If you browse the Internet often, you’ve probably come across these two top-tier VPNs in the market. These VPN services are also prominently shown on the list of our top 10 VPNs.
Now, let’s run a comparison to answer the question that needs to be answered- which one is better?
NordVPN and PIA Comparison
You want it cheap but at the same time, you also want to protect your privacy.
Yes, reviews might provide details about a VPN but it’s not always an easy walk towards privacy protection and safe browsing activities.
Don’t worry, at the end of the day, both options are fantastic. But make no mistake, there is only one winner between this comparison.
Servers and Locations
When it comes to server count, both VPN services offer an amount that’s hard to keep up with – NordVPN with over 5000 servers and PIA with over 3500. Region-wise, both are also reliable, with NordVPN being available in 61 countries while PIA in 31 countries.
NordVPN’s server offering may be a big boost compared to PIA’s because of the presence of its virtual servers around the world in 61 countries. Although the latter’s region accessibility is not at par with the former, offering 31 countries is impressive nonetheless.
Server locations matter because maybe you want to access localized content which is available in your area. If you’re in an English-speaking country, then you’re lucky because both offer extraordinary services in the US, CA, UK, NZ, and other English-speaking countries.
But if you’re residing in a region which is not that populated, you’re going to have to place your bet on NordVPN since there’s a higher chance of your country being on the region list.
And if you’re in heavily-censored countries such as Russia, you can also count on NordVPN. PIA falls short in this particular category since it doesn’t offer any servers in Russia, primarily because of the new VPN laws recently implemented there.
In addition, let’s also not forget about TOR integration. Both premium services allow you to access .onion sites without prying eyes.
All in all, when it comes to servers and locations, NordVPN clearly outperforms PIA, as it offers more servers on more locations – even those heavily-censored ones.
VPN Speed and Performance
In case you haven’t read any of our detailed VPN reviews: we have an extensive method of testing all features including speeds. We test speeds from three different continents using a 100 Mbps connection.
Both offered fast “enough” speeds, but there is a clear winner here.
NordVPN showed around 10-25% speed reduction whereas PIA saw reductions between 25-30%.
NordVPN optimizes your browsing experience by connecting you to the fastest server available based on your location.
We believe their smart routing system gave an edge over PIA. The latter is commendable, but if speed is your deciding factor for switching to a VPN, then NordVPN wins in this category by a single-digit margin.
One of the reasons why the “premium” label exists for a VPN is most likely due to having Netflix access. Having the option to unlock region-locked content is sometimes the #1 priority for people.
After all, 57% of Netflix’ customers are from outside of the US. Region-locking affects over half of Netflix customers!
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for unblocking Netflix, advertising region-unblocks for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Japan.
As for PIA, it no longer unlocks Netflix. Private Internet Access made a policy stating that it does not support unlocking of geo-restricted content a while ago. We know this may sound a bit ironic since its primary selling point was its access to Netflix through its servers.
While the guarantee no longer exists, you can still find yourself having Netflix content available sometimes.
However, with Netflix aggressively blocking VPNs, PIA’s servers get blacklisted quite fast and are not reliable for Netflix. We can only hope that this feature will become available again in the near future. But for now, PIA isn’t the best choice if you’re into unlocking geo-restricted content.
Overall, it’s a bit disappointing because, with no competition available, NordVPN clearly wins on this one hands-down.
If you’ve been reading our reviews and guides, you know that we do not condone piracy or torrenting of copyrighted shows.
Fortunately, both support a secure p2p connection.
However, there were no mentions on the PIA website about any policies concerning torrent downloads, nor were there any indications that they promote it – as opposed to NordVPN which clearly lays flat all guidelines concerning torrenting on its lengthy Terms of Service.
A little trivia: PIA has built in its reputation of being torrent-friendly over the years, so people consider it as a good VPN for torrenting minus the policy.
On the torrenting front, PIA is the winner.
Pricing & Plans
In terms of pricing plans, there’s no debate that both offer a premium service at a cheaper pricing point than others. But the question is, how cheaper?
If you’ve read our review, you probably know that NordVPN is our no-brainer VPN because of its pricing point. But PIA’s plans, although a bit pricey, are also worth considering.
For longevity, the best plan for PIA is $3.49 per month on average for 2 years, while NordVPN is at $2.99 per month for 3 years. If you’re looking to use a cheaper VPN for an extra year, then you’re certainly going to go for NordVPN. Then again, it’s only 50 cents difference per month. What can you even buy with 50 cents?
If you do the math, NordVPN’s package is cheaper at the end of the day. You can’t deny that fact.
When it comes to monthly plans, PIA wins over NordVPN with flying colors, as it is priced at $9.99/month compared to NordVPN’s $11.95/month.
Above that, apart from these plans, both offer VPN for businesses with rich features.
Taking all these into consideration, if you want a longer subscription, go with NordVPN. For monthly, you can try PIA.
It’s a tie here.
If you’re dissatisfied with both VPNs (which is highly unlikely), then don’t worry.
Both provide refund policies as long as you sign up on their website and not a reseller.
The only drawback on this one is the duration of the money-back guarantee. PIA only offers it for 7 days as compared to NordVPN’s astounding 30 days (which is a long time). This means that you’re given much more leeway to test NordVPN as compared to PIA.
If you are not satisfied with either service, simply contact support for all your money back. We’ve tested the refund system of both companies and received our money back within the week.
Simply put, it’s a hassle-free and reliable process for both, but NordVPN has a longer money-back guarantee period.
As for payments, both equally offer excellent methods.
It’s hard to differentiate between the two because both offer something that’s not on the other.
Payment with cryptocurrencies is more than just a trend; it’s one way of keeping your identity and transactions secure.
NordVPN offers a wide range of payment methods with cryptocurrencies. But in addition to Bitcoin, it also payments made through ETH and XRP. PIA, on the other hand, supports ETH, LTC and ZEC aside from the usual Bitcoin payments.
What gives PIA an advantage in this category is its ability to pay anonymously with many major brand gift cards like Walmart, Best Buy or Starbucks which NordVPN is unable to do at this moment.
PIA should win some brownie points from those who are serious about their privacy.
In terms of device usage, PIA wins by offering more simultaneous device connections. PIA allows up to 10 simultaneous connections while NordVPN only offers 6.
But in cases where your Wi-Fi enabled device does not have a configuration for a VPN; good news – you can buy pre-flashed routers for both VPN providers.
These routers are pre-configured to have the VPNs already. The NordVPN website has some instructions on configuring your routers to connect to their network while PIA has less documentation around this. On top of that, PIA doesn’t advertise this option that well. Strange.
Sign Up Process
If you value your privacy, an anonymous sign-up process is one of the main considerations for subscribing to a VPN. Luckily, both companies offer a standard sign up procedure which consists of the usual email log-ins and choosing a subscription plan.
As a side note, PIA will randomly generate a username for you if you wish which can greatly speed up the process if you’re too lazy to think of names.
Once you complete your payment, just click install then you’re good to go.
It’s a walk in the park for both.
Both UI and UX are subjective. In other words, it’s difficult to be objective in this area.
Both VPNs are easy to use across several devices – there’s your connect button, usual servers list and other configuration settings. For the aesthetics, both UIs look good and clean so there’s no debate about that.
There’s no clear winner here in terms of interacting with the product. What separates the two VPNs are the underlying services, namely: privacy, Netflix, torrenting and bypassing region-locks.
NordVPN does have a quick connect button and the service attempts to route you to the best server right away. It even includes recommendations for Netflix, which can be a bit handy for those who want to stream.
As for user experience, it’s quite similar between the two but we like NordVPN more. Again, it’s just personal preference.
You can’t deny the fact that most well-renowned VPN services offer 24/7 live chat support – including NordVPN.
This is another category where PIA entirely loses out to NordVPN.
The lack of immediate customer support is one of the main disadvantages of PIA’s service.
Be that as it may, PIA compensates for its lack of on-demand support with an above-average FAQ, blog, and website in general.
But really, don’t we all want personalized customer support who can talk us through our issues?
In terms of product documentation, both are equally commendable.
It’s not as detailed but the visuals provided in both simply provide some legitimate and thorough background in VPN or other things for first-time users.
Both companies blog about privacy issues and security. There are even recommendations on both which you can try!
If you’re a privacy advocate, pay attention to this one.
Both companies have a zero-logging policy – there’s no question about that.
The thing is, you can never 100% trust a VPN service. Fair provision for your privacy and safety can be a consideration, but risk management is a different story altogether. Which VPN can expose you to fewer risks?
Zero-log policies mean that your activity is not recorded or logged. This means that even if you use your personal information to access data on a given website, there is a little to zero chance that your activity will be recorded or logged on the VPNs database.
It’s fair to accept NordVPN’s claim that an algorithm keeps username and timestamp of the last session which is wiped 15 minutes after the session is terminated, to maintain their 6 device connection policy.
But this is where PIA stands out.
In case you didn’t know, privacy and security may not bode well for PIA because of the fact that it is based in the US which, as we all know, has some of the strictest policies regarding privacy and data handling.
However, Private Internet Access has a strong policy when it comes to protecting customer information.
Given that all premium VPNs nowadays “prove” no-logging policies through third-party audits. PIA has proved its no-logs claim in court, twice.
Yes, you’re not mistaken. Twice. In court. It’s no wonder that PIA can boast about its anonymity with users because it has proven itself as one of the most secure VPNs in the market.
If you’re concerned about privacy, PIA is the better choice simply because NordVPN’s claims are untested in the court of law.
IP and DNS Leak Test
If you’re afraid of potential leaks on your IP and DNS, then you can rest assured with these two VPNs.
There are no leaks of any kind. We tested these two and they always came clean.
Although it’s worth noting that there have been reported cases where users have dealt with the WebRTC bug while using PIA.
We remind you to just disable WebRTC in your browser to prevent it.
Always take note that if your IP or DNS is exposed, you risk exposing yourself and your activity. For instance, when you torrent, your activity, and your identity become visible to the public. We suggest that you hide your activities with a premium VPN.
Encryption and Protocols
When it comes to encryption, one can have so many preferences so these entirely depend on you.
To start, NordVPN uses AES with 256-bit keys which is the standard “military-grade” encryption. It also offers IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN as protocol options.
On the same note, PIA’s fastest encryption is 128-bit in CBC mode. There is also the possibility of using AES 256-bit in CBC mode, but this will make things a bit slower. It also offers L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN and there’s also PPTP in case you want to go old school.
With that being said, both VPN services offer a great number of choices on the encryption front. It entirely depends on what your preference is.
Are you afraid of being detected whenever there’s an IP or DNS leak on your server? Well, worry no more because both VPNs offer a kill switch to shut out all trouble.
Leaks happen but if all protocols are set up properly and the kill switch is on, there’s nothing to worry about.
When it comes to conducting business, it’s actually hard to distinguish one from the other.
NordVPN was launched in 2012 under Tefinkom & Co., S.A. in Panama. It’s probably one of the best VPNs in the market today.
PIA, on the other hand, is slightly older. It was established in 2010 under London Trust Media Inc. and has provided reliable service ever since. Furthermore, it champions among users with its no logging-policy that’s been proven in court.
There are hardly any VPNs in the market which come close to PIA on this matter.
It’s common for these types of businesses to stay private, but with PIA’s commitment to transparency, you can also see on its website the people behind the company.
Most of the time these kinds of details stay hidden, so as to prevent the government (including the Five Eyes Alliance) from identifying key people and compromising user information.
PIA thrives on the fact that they’ve been tested in court while NordVPN thrives on their jurisdiction.
When it comes to jurisdiction, you have to make sure that the VPN you choose does not operate in a country which is a member of the Five, Nine or Fourteen Eyes Alliance. It’s a no-brainer.
Thankfully, NordVPN is based in Panama, so it’s definitely away from the jurisdiction of any “eye” you’re worried about.
Panama operates as an independent country and is often not compliant or cooperative with transparency laws. As such, the likelihood of your information being compromised or investigated is close to zero. It thrives away from prying eyes so what would be the reason for it to stray away?
But for PIA… It’s bad news.
We all know it’s based in the US, and that poses a problem for so many people. As you may know, the US has one of the strictest and most privacy-related laws around the world, so it’s no surprise that users of PIA may be a bit worried about their information being leaked or compromised in any way.
As we previously mentioned, PIA had to prove in court that they had no-logging policies. Twice.
This fact may be a breather because as the decision implies, they keep little to no information about their users. However, the fact that they’re in the US may force them to hand over what little information they have – which is not good at all.
Security and Policy Audits
It’s a great deal of comfort when you know that the VPN you’re using is open to being audited for transparency and possible flaws.
Being at the top of the VPN market is no easy feat, that’s why NordVPN always makes sure that it exhibits the greatest level of transparency possible to its customers.
It was revealed on February 21, 2019, that one of the Big 4 auditing firms in the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, performed an audit on the company. The results came out well as expected and the audit report was made available to NordVPN subscribers and free trial users.
PIA, on the other hand, does not find the need for an independent audit as of this time. Replying through a Reddit post, PIA President Jason Q. stated:
“While we consider independent audits to be valuable and important in some situations, we do not have any immediate plans to have any independent audits carried out by external parties.
We feel that an audit would not add value as it would speak only to a brief snapshot of time (i.e. the period during which such an audit was conducted) but could offer no guarantees or reassurance for our users with regard to any other period of time.”
Naturally, since they are also committed to transparency, they did publish a transparency report on their website which you can find here.
At this moment, we appreciate NordVPN’s efforts in inviting auditors to review their policies. PIA’s transparency page seems a bit lacking, to be honest.
NordVPN wins this face-off hands down as the more well-rounded VPN that offers those “premium” features you may be looking for.
NordVPN has more regions, Netflix access, faster speeds and they’ve even invited third-party auditors to review their policies.
Congratulations on making it this far! Now you can enjoy the full benefits of a premium VPN for just 50 cents more per month.
The Full Breakdown
Both services have:
- Fast speeds – 20-30% speed reduction, fast enough for 4k videos.
- Secure torrenting environment – Torrent all you want. Both support p2p connections.
- User-friendly interface – Both are pretty easy to use and configure; browsing will always be a breeze.
- Full security and anonymity – No IP and DNS leaks. Both feature high-grade encryption and options for safety customization (ex – kill switch).
- Anonymous payment methods – Cryptocurrency payments enabled.
- No log policies – Neither companies log, but only one has proved itself in court.
The main differentiators are listed on the sidebar.
Editors Note: NordVPN is the better choice versus PIA… unless you are a privacy advocate and can trust that the U.S. court is not working with PIA. PIA has proven its no log policy in court so if you’re an activist, or you’re simply into doing things outside the law then PIA is the better choice.