ProtonVPN vs. NordVPN

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 5, 2020
By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 5, 2020

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
Editor's Rating
9.4
/10

ProtonVPN

  • Company headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, which means it isn’t compelled to cooperate with international surveillance alliances.
  • Strict logging policy and annual transparency reports keeps data untraceable and secure.
  • Free version available in addition to competitively priced subscription options.
Editor's Rating
8.5
/10

It’s time for another tough match-up. This time, we’ll be reviewing ProtonVPN and NordVPN. Both have impeccable security features and great customer service but aren’t subject to those pesky international surveillance alliances we’re always harping on about. But when push comes to shove, which VPN is better? Or, does it depend on who’s asking? We’ll go through all our most important criteria, and then wrap it up for you at the end with a final decision. Let’s begin now!

ProtonVPN vs. NordVPN: Similarities and Differences

We’ll start with a high-level snapshot of the contenders before diving deep into their features, costs, and limitations.

ProtonVPNNordVPN
IP AddressesDynamicShared, but can get a dedicated IP address for an additional fee
Number of Servers1,0605,264
Split TunnellingX
Torrenting
Access to NetflixYes, but must sign up for Plus plan to access international librariesYes
AES-256 Encryption
Number of Devices Allowed Connected Simultaneously1-10, depending on subscription selected6
Kill Switch
Headquarter LocationSwitzerlandRomania
Under Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes surveillance jurisdictionXX

Differences

Let’s get to the interesting part first. Here are the main differences between these two VPNs, and why it matters.

  • IP addresses: NordVPN makes use of shared but static IP addresses. They had an upside because since we shared our IP address with other users, it was more challenging for hackers to track us down. It is possible to get a dedicated IP address with NordVPN, but it would have cost us an extra $70 annually. However, ProtonVPN offers dynamic IP addresses, meaning that our address was switched each time we logged in to the VPN service. We don’t love shared IP addresses since it’s possible that we could get mixed up with another user doing something bad, so we give ProtonVPN the endorsement on IP addresses.
  • Number of servers: NordVPN has about five times the number of servers (5,264) as ProtonVPN (1,060), which is a significant advantage in terms of connectivity.

Pro Tip: The closer we are to a server, the faster Internet service we will have, so we always favor a company that has lots of servers spread out all over the place.

  • Split tunneling: When we do split tunneling, we connect to public and private networks at the same time. Using public WiFi can free up some bandwidth on our private connection if we’re doing something that’s pretty low-stakes, like checking the weather. Then, we can save our encrypted channel for things like plotting world domination. Kidding. Unfortunately, NordVPN didn’t have the functionality to let us do split tunneling and ProtonVPN did.
NordVPN CyberSec
NordVPN CyberSec
  • Countries operated in: NordVPN operates in 62 countries, whereas ProtonVPN is only present in 50. When we use a server located in a country that’s different than the one we’re in, we gain access to an entirely different Internet experience, opening up a ton of different perspectives to see the world through!
  • Netflix access: Though accessed Netflix through both NordVPN and ProtonVPN, we were unable to see other countries’ shows unless we subscribed to the more expensive Plus plan version for NordVPN. Watching shows from the U.K. (hello, Love Island) is one of our favorite reasons for using a VPN, and we didn’t like that we had to pay extra for this feature.

Watch Out: Netflix is always trying to update their service1 to block VPNs, so while both VPNs worked when we tested them, we can’t guarantee that this will always ring true.

  • How many devices can be connected: We could connect up to six devices simultaneously with NordVPN, which is respectable. ProtonVPN’s free version only allowed us to connect one device, which would simply not cut it. The basic offering enabled two connections, while the Plus option unlocked the option to connect five different devices. If we wanted to go for the gold, we could subscribe to the Visionary offering, which allows 10 VPN connections, but it was also the costliest.
  • Pricing structure: While NordVPN offers different subscription options for varying contract lengths, ProtonVPN has different tiers with different features for each option. We’ll go into detail about that in a moment.
  • Customer service: Both companies have a compilation of past user questions available in a searchable database, so if we ran into an issue we would be able to troubleshoot and ideally, find a solution. However, we had a question about ProtonVPN’s subscription tiers that we couldn’t find the answer to, and had to submit an online ticket to get tailored help. On the other hand, NordVPN has a 24/7 live chat option, which is very necessary. Our questions about Netflix were answered quickly, and the representative we worked with was super friendly.
NordVPN Support
NordVPN Support
  • Subscription Options: Now, here’s where things get tricky. NordVPN has four options, ranging from one month to three years. The only thing that changes is the length of the contract; we got the same features regardless of which pricing option we went with.

However, ProtonVPN’s features vary depending on what subscription we decided on. Regardless of what option we chose, we were automatically signed up for a year of the service. We outlined the cost options of ProtonVPN below. We also get even more into the details of what’s included in ProtonVPN’s various offerings in our ProtonVPN cost page.

NordVPNNordVPNNordVPNNordVPNProtonVPNProtonVPNProtonVPNProtonVPN
OptionsOne monthOne yearTwo yearsThree YearsFreeBasicPlusVisionary
Contract lengthOne monthOne yearTwo yearsThree Yearsn/aOne yearOne yearOne year
Cost per month$11.95$6.99$3.99$2.99$0$4$8$24
Number of simultaneous connections666612510
Number of countries626262623505050
SpeedHighHighHighHighMediumHighHighHigh
Access to international Netflix contentXX
Ability to torrentX

Both services offer 30-day money-back guarantees. So, while our card would be charged right off the bat, we would be able to get our money back if we reached out to cancel the service within 30 days of subscribing, with no questions asked. Of course, ProtonVPN does offer a free version, but the features are so minimal that it wouldn’t really be a fair representation of the service.

We give NordVPN the win on cost. Their year option is more affordable, and we like that they gave us the flexibility to sign on for different amounts of time. The Visionary offering is astronomically more expensive for an insignificant increase in features. Lastly, it’s hard to keep track of what features we get in what package.

ProtonVPN App on iPhone
ProtonVPN App on iPhone

Similarities

And now, we can end on a unifying note. Here are the things ProtonVPN and NordVPN have in common, so no matter which option you go with, you’ll be covered.

  • Encryption standards: Both services make good use of AES-256 encryption, the highest standard, and the most commonly used method.
  • Outside of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes jurisdictions: With NordVPN’s headquarters in Romania, and ProtonVPN in Switzerland, both companies are located outside of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes jurisdictions. This means that they can never be forced to fork over our data to anyone, even to the government. We’re paranoid that we’re always being surveilled, especially by the GPS on our phones,2 so it’s important that both services cover their bases here.
  • Ability to torrent: We shared our favorite memes via peer-to-peer file sharing, or torrenting, with our pals across the room with both services.
ProtonVPN Kill Switch
ProtonVPN Kill Switch
  • Kill switch: Lastly, both services came with a kill switch. A kill switch is a network lock feature that is an excellent fail-safe for the unlikely event that a VPN connection fails. If our VPN failed, the kill switch would close out all our web traffic, so we don’t risk exposure even if only for a short period of time.

In Conclusion

Now that we can finally come up for air, we’re ready to declare a winner. After careful consideration, if we had to choose between these two great options, we would go with NordVPN. Their reach is far more expansive, beating out ProtonVPN on the number of servers, as well as countries operated in. Plus, we watched Netflix in other countries without signing on for the more expensive option and enjoyed the flexibility in contract length.

All said, there are a few caveats to consider that might make you choose ProtonVPN, namely split tunneling. This was ProtonVPN’s clear advantage since NordVPN doesn’t offer that feature. Additionally, ProtonVPN did have some ultra-cheap options, including a free version. While the limitations caused the product to fall short of our VPN needs, if you’re lower maintenance than we are (and we know we’re VPN divas), it could be a great option.

Here’s a cheat sheet to find the VPN that’s not just the best by our standards, but is the perfect match for your specific needs.

We recommend ProtonVPN if you…
  • Are okay with a bare-bones VPN: While ProtonVPN has an affordable option, you’ll only be able to connect two devices. However, if you’re just looking to protect your phone or work computer, it could be a good and affordable solution.
  • Care about your IP address: We liked that ProtonVPN offered us dynamic IP addresses that rotated each time we used the service.
  • Plan to use split tunneling: We liked that we were able to use both public and private Internet at the same time, something that NordVPN doesn’t offer.
But it might be better to opt for NordVPN if you want…
  • Further reaching global scope: NordVPN has over 5,000 servers set up across 60 countries, which is much more expansive than ProtonVPN’s 1,060.
  • Access to international Netflix at a lower cost: You’ll be able to view international content on Netflix regardless of which contract length you opt for.
  • More accessible customer service: NordVPN, in addition to its online database, offered a 24/7 live chat to take advantage of if we needed a question answered in a pinch.

All said it’s entirely possible that neither of these VPNs is right for you. If that’s the case, we’ve got plenty of resources for you to leaf through in your tireless quest to protect your Internet security. A great place to start out is our review of the best VPNs. Additionally, if you were tempted by ProtonVPN’s affordable options, but the service didn’t make the cut, we’ve got more cost-effective options in our best cheap VPNs article. Happy hunting!

Citations
  1. The Guardian. (2015). Billions well spent: the future of Netflix and its secret users.
    theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2015/feb/05/netflix-content-investment-vpn

  2. Vice. (2020). Private Intel Firm Buys Location Data to Track People to their ‘Doorstep'.
    vice.com/en_us/article/qj454d/private-intelligence-location-data-xmode-hyas