Private Internet Access vs. NordVPN
- Torrenting available through uTorrent
- Based in Panama, which has no mandatory data retention law
- One of the most popular VPNs with over eight million users
Private Internet Access VPN
- Doesn’t keep websites accessed or IP addresses
- Kill switch protects web traffic even if VPN fails
- Torrenting allowed
NordVPN and Private Internet Access, otherwise known as PIA, are two of our favorite VPNs, so matching them up against one another was a real doozy. But, it’s our absolute duty to get in the weeds, pay attention to details, and give our readers all the information they need to make a very important decision. Below, we’ll go through each company in detail, their similarities and differences, and we’ll wrap things up by recommending a VPN based on what matters to you most. Let the games begin!
Private Internet Access and NordVPN: Similarities and Differences
We’re about to get real down and dirty with both of these VPNs, so here’s a chart that we put together for you for a quick snapshot of what we’ll be looking at today.
|Private Internet Access||NordVPN|
|Under Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes surveillance jurisdiction||✔||X|
|IP Addresses||Dynamic, randomized||Shared, but can get a dedicated IP address for an additional fee|
|Maximum Number of Devices Connected Simultaneously||10||6|
|Maximum Number of Devices Allowed Per Subscription||Unlimited||6|
First, let’s take a look at what the two VPNs have in common.
- Torrenting: We were living our truths being able to share our favorite 90’s playlists among our friends and colleagues by directly sending files across the office.
- Kill switches: Regardless of what VPN we were on, we were protected by kill switches. A kill switch is always a good thing to have in our back pockets because it essentially kicks in on the off chance that our VPN connection fails. This would be especially bad if we were on a public WiFi network.1 In that case, the kill switch would close out of all our activities so that our personal business is never exposed, not even for a split second.
- Split tunneling: Neither VPN has the ability to do split tunneling, so no matter which VPN we were on, we weren’t able to use both public and private Internet connections at the same time.
- Customer service: Both services offered 24/7 live chats that were speedy in answering our questions about the companies’ logging policies. They both also had a thorough database of past user questions that we could easily search to find information and solutions.
And now, onto the more interesting part. Below, we’ve laid out the key differences among these two formidable VPN foes.
- IP addresses: When using Private Internet Access, our IP addresses were dynamic and randomized, meaning that we were assigned a new IP address each time we logged on to the VPN. However, when using NordVPN, we shared our assigned IP address with other users, which made it hard for hackers or anyone else who might be trying to spy on us to track us down. We also could get a dedicated IP from NordVPN, but it would have cost us an additional $70 per year.
- Number of servers and countries operated In: Private Internet Access has 12,335 servers across 74 countries, while NordVPN has 5,246 servers spanning 62 countries. While Private Internet Access has an edge here, NordVPN’s expansive global presence is nothing to sneeze at.
Pro Tip: If we log in to a VPN server that’s located in a different country, we experience the Internet as if we were physically there. It comes in handy when we’ve run out of American shows to binge and need to switch over to their U.K. versions.
- Number of devices connected: While NordVPN allowed us to connect six of our devices at the same time, Private Internet Access capped us at 10. Additionally, Private Internet Access allows unlimited devices to be connected under just one subscription, so if we reached our ten device cap, we could have just swapped devices in and out. NordVPN limited us to six devices, even if they weren’t connected at the same time. Now that we’re spending more time at home, it’s important to make sure we have everyone in our household’s devices protected.2
Budgeting Tip: You’ll only need to purchase one VPN subscription. Once you’ve made a decision, you can log in with your phone, laptop and tablet at once.
- Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes Membership: These are surveillance alliances that countries can participate in. If a country is involved, it’s possible that the government can force the VPN company to surrender user data, and that’s a big no-no for us. NordVPN is based in Panama, so we’re in the clear there, but Private Internet Access is based in the U.S., meaning that they fall under these agreements.
- Speed: While VPNs impact speed, we never want that impact to be too significant, so we test each service out to see exactly what the tradeoffs are. On our Macbook Air, though Private Internet Access performed slightly better on ping, NordVPN did much better with download and upload speeds. You can see the full speed tests in our NordVPN review and our Private Internet Access review.
|Tests||Private Internet Access||NordVPN|
|Macbook Air- High Sierra Version 10.13.6|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||14||42|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||14||46|
|Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||54.86||37.05|
|Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||12.93||41.37|
|Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||33.86||25.9|
|Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||18.12||27.21|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||12||5|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||16||160|
|Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||72.48||23.49|
|Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||61.67||21.7|
|Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||41.37||24|
|Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||39.13||7.91|
On our Windows Vivobook, Private Internet Access had the edge, especially in ping and upload speed. So, if you’re a Windows user, you might want to go with Private Internet Access, and Mac users would be better off with NordVPN, from a speed perspective at least.
When it comes to the bottom line, Private Internet Access is the more affordable option. And, just in case we wanted to take Private Internet Access for a test drive, they offered us a two-month free trial, giving it a sure competitive edge over NordVPN. We’ve got additional details on payment methods on our Private Internet Access cost page.
|Contract Length||Private Internet Access Monthly Price||NordVPN Monthly Price|
NordVPN did offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, we would need to incur a charge on our cards and then request a refund to get our money back. We’d prefer to try the service without giving them payment information, but were assured that if we wanted a refund, there would be no questions asked.
Additionally, NordVPN offered a 15 percent student discount when opting for their three-year plan. All we’d have to do is prove our student status through Student Beans, Youth Discount, or Descuento Estudiante, and we’d unlock even more cost-savings. While unfortunately, our glory days are behind us, we love helping out those broke college students in whatever small way we can.
The Bottom Line
After going through all the details, it was certainly a tough call, however, we believe that ultimately, NordVPN has the edge over Private Internet Access. Both companies offer secure access to the Internet, where our browsing activity would be encrypted and protected; however, there are a couple of considerations that made NordVPN a more attractive option, like their exclusion from Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes surveillance jurisdiction. Additionally, if you’re a Mac person, there are significant speed advantages compared to Private Internet Access.
Private Internet Access had a leg up due to their randomized IP addresses, wider global reach, and the ability to connect more devices simultaneously. If you’re more cost-minded, they’re also the cheaper option, but not by much.
We recommend Private Internet Access if you prioritize…
- Randomized IP addresses: We got a new IP address each time we logged on to the VPN service, making it even harder to track us down.
- Connecting more than six devices: PIA let us connect an unlimited number of devices, though we could only connect up to 10 at the exact same time.
- Affordability: Private Internet Access is cheaper than NordVPN at all subscription levels. Plus, they offer a two-month free trial.
- Speed on Windows: NordVPN’s upload speeds were seriously slow on our Windows Vivobook, whereas Private Internet Access only caused slight slowdowns.
We recommend NordVPN if you’re looking for…
- Peace of mind: NordVPNs location in Romania means it’s not subject to surrendering any logged data, even if the government demands it.
- Extra secure encryption: NordVPN offers multi-hop encryption, while Private Internet Access does not.
- A VPN for your Mac that won’t slow you down: NordVPN performed better than Private Internet Access on our speed tests that we performed on our Macbook Air, so if you’re a die-hard Mac person, you may want to give NordVPN another look.
If neither of these VPNs speaks to you, have no fear. We’ve got a ton of other resources to help you get closer to making your decision, and would recommend you start by checking out the overall best VPNs. If you’re looking for something a bit more specific, we also put together our recommendations for the best VPNs for the Fire TV Stick and the best VPNs for Windows. Finding a VPN is a big task, so be patient, and we’re confident that you’ll find the perfect fit for what you’re looking for.
The Guardian. (2019). Warning: free hotel wifi is a hacker’s dream.
Axios. (2020). Remote work shift calls for fast footwork.