NordVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Which is Better?

The VPN industry is getting more competitive by the day. Many services are duking it out to become number one. Two well-known examples of which are NordVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA). Both have great reputations and a large user-base. Due to that, it can be quite challenging to choose between them.

I’ve created this comparative guide to help you select the better of the two services. Here, we’ll be taking a look at their speed, unique features, security capabilities, and more.

Overall Winner: NordVPN

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Comparison

Before going into the details, it’s best to first look at a list of all the features both VPNs have to offer. Underneath is a simple table that compares one with the other:

 

logo nordvpn

NordVPN

logo pia vpn

Private Internet Access

Logging Policy No Logging No Logging
Jurisdiction Panama United States (Five-Eyes Member
Encryption AES-256
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
AES-256
AES-128
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
Protocols OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/IKEv2
IPSec/L2TP
WireGuard
OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP

IPSec/L2TP
WireGuard

Ad and Malware Blockers Yes Yes
Kill Switch Yes Yes
Leak Tests No Leaks Found No Leaks Found
Speed Tests Fast Fast
Torrenting & P2P Yes (Optimized P2P Servers) Yes (On All Servers)
Streaming Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Firestick
Roku (Via Router)
Kodi
Apple TV (Via Router)
Android TV
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu

Firestick

Kodi

Gaming Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via DNS or Router)
PS4 (Via DNS or Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via DNS or Router)
Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via Router)
PS4 (Via Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via Router)
Compatibility Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected Routers
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux

Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Selected Routers

Simultaneous Connections 6 10
Servers 5161 3300+
China Yes Sometimes (1 Out of 3 Servers Worked)
Split Tunneling Yes (For Android and Browser Extensions) Yes
Additional Features Double VPN
Onion over VPN
PIA MACE
Prices

$11.95/Month
$4.92/Month (1-Year)
$3.71/Month (2-Years)

Special Offer: 68% off for a 2-year plan; 58% off for a 1-year plan

$9.95/Month
$3.33/Month (1-Year)
$2.69/Month (2-Years)

Special Offer: 73% off and 2 months free for a 2-year subscription

Our Rating 4.7 4.3
Website www.nordvpn.com www.privateinternetaccess.com

As you can see, there are lots of differences when it comes to what each VPN offers. We’ll now go into detail and discuss them by category. I’ll then assign a winner for each round.

Let the NordVPN vs Private Internet Access battle begin!

Overall Winner: NordVPN

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Privacy & Security

The first things we’ll take a look at are the privacy and security features of the two. We’re going to start with this category because it’s arguably the most important for a VPN. After all, a service with inadequate security capabilities is one that’s not worth having.

Encryption Comparison

PIA and NordVPN use an AES-256 cipher along with SHA-256 for authorization. They also share an RSA-4096 handshake.

The difference between the two is that PIA lets users manually adjust VPN protocols and encryption ciphers in the VPN client. On the other hand, NordVPN offers double-encryption options.

VPN Protocols

Each service offers support for mainstream protocols, including WireGuard. One thing that sets them apart is PIA’s lack of support for IKEv2 except for its iOS app. This puts the VPN at a slight disadvantage when compared to NordVPN.

Leak Protection

User reports concerning leak protection have been good for both VPNs. This is only right as PIA and NordVPN are expected to deliver nothing but the best. With that said, I decided to test out the abilities of each VPN using IPLeak.net.

Here’s a screenshot of a test without any VPN in use. My real IP address is clearly shown:

ip leak no vpn
IP Leak Test – No VPN

Now check out the results after I connected to the Hong Kong server of NordVPN:

ip leak nordvpn hong kong
IP Leak Test – NordVPN Hong Kong

Finally, here’s the results after moving over to the US server:

ip leak nordvpn us
IP Leak Test – NordVPN US

My results with NordVPN were great. The tests proved that others wouldn’t be able to gain access to my real IP address when I use the service.

The next thing I did was connect over to Private Internet Access’ server in Singapore. I chose that location because it’s the nearest primary server to my current location.

As anticipated, the service was also able to mask my legitimate IP address, as seen below:

ip leak pia singapore
IP Leak Test – PIA Singapore

Lastly, I linked up to PIA’s server in New York:

ip leak pia us
IP Leak Test – PIA US

PIA was successful, just like NordVPN, which made me glad. I’m now also confident with using it as it’s able to safeguard my privacy and keep me anonymous.

I’d have to say that both VPNs were equally as good as each other with preventing leaks. The two won’t leave you with any problems when it comes to security. Using them will assure you that trouble-makers won’t get your IP address.

Server Security

NordVPN has a tarnished record when it comes to server security. It suffered from a breach back in 2018 when a single server in Finland got hacked. While no critical information got stolen, people’s trust in the VPN was diminished.

To make sure that its servers never get compromised again, NordVPN has upgraded their security. It started a bug bounty program and used a more robust encryption (WireGuard).

PIA has experienced zero controversies when it comes to security. That is despite it being under the US, and therefore Five Eyes jurisdiction, which forces it to follow strict copyright and cybersecurity laws. Although it doesn’t keep logs, the VPN has been pressured on two occasions to give up information. On both times, nothing happened.

In Conclusion

It’s been hard to decide which VPN is better with providing security. Nevertheless, one has still got to triumph in this Private Internet Access vs NordVPN battle. As such, my winner is PIA, as it’s able to match up with NordVPN in every aspect. In addition to that, the service has never encountered a security breach. Thus, its record and reputation remain flawless. It’s just being true to its name.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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Speed Test

All VPNs slow down your internet connection to a degree. Some just hasten it more than others do. Reports have claimed that PIA isn’t the fastest service out there. NordVPN has received nothing but praise, and it’s even considered to be the fastest VPN on the market.

I wanted to see for myself what the two services were capable of, so I tested them out. PIA was the first VPN that I took a look at. That said, check out my base connection speed first:

speed test no vpn
Speed Test – No VPN

Now here are my results after connecting to PIA’s Singapore server:

speed test pia singapore
Speed Test – PIA Singapore

PIA seemed not to affect my connection that much. The results even show that I picked up speed. I attribute the improvement to the VPN getting me off throttling.

Following my initial test, I linked up to PIA’s New York server. This is what I got:

speed test pia us
Speed Test – PIA US

My results from using the New York server surprised me. Despite the distance from my current location, the results were great. It’s for that reason that I must say Private Internet Access impressed me.

Up next was NordVPN. Given its reputation and PIA’s excellent performance, my expectations were high. To start things off, I connected the service to its Hong Kong server.

Here are my results:

speed test nordvpn hong kong
Speed Test – NordVPN Hong Kong

My initial experience with NordVPN’s connection speeds was good. Like what others say, it didn’t severely slow down my connection.

To see if the service could remain consistent, I switched my connection over to its UK server:

speed test nordvpn uk
Speed Test – NordVPN UK

You can see that NordVPN has a slight edge over PIA when it comes to speed. The difference is minor but still significant. My winner for this category is clear – NordVPN. However, it wouldn’t be right not to mention that PIA put up a good fight.

Winner: NordVPN

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Torrenting & P2P

I download movies and games via torrent daily. Because of that, it’s essential that I’ve got the right VPN for the job. Without it, random people would quickly gain access to my IP address and potentially do me harm.

NordVPN and Private Internet Access have both got a strict no-logs policy. Besides that, they also utilize P2P servers.

Though it’s important to note that only PIA has got a network that fully supports P2P, NordVPN makes up for this shortcoming by automatically connecting you to a P2P-supportive server once it detects torrenting activity.

While both services seem great for torrenting on paper, I wanted to experience them firsthand to see what’s better. To begin, I ran a test using IPLeak.net without any VPN running:

torrenting no vpn
Torrenting Leak Test – No VPN

The website immediately detected my unmasked IP address.

My next move was to run the test once more while connected to PIA’s Singapore server:

torrenting pia singapore
Torrenting Leak Test – PIA Singapore

After that, I connected to the New York server of PIA:

torrenting pia us
Torrenting Leak Test – PIA US

The results of my test are clear. Private Internet Access is indeed safe for torrenting. It won’t give up your IP address, nor will it keep any logs of your online activities. To see if NordVPN would compare, I repeated the same process.

I connected to the VPN’s Hong Kong server for my initial test:

torrenting nordvpn hong kong
Torrenting Leak Test – NordVPN Hong Kong

Lastly but not least, I connected to NordVPN’s UK server:

torrenting nordvpn uk
Torrenting Leak Test – NordVPN UK

It looks like PIA isn’t the only VPN that’s passed my tests today. NordVPN also succeeded in hiding my IP address. Hence, determining which is the best service for torrenting in this round was not easy.

My vote goes to NordVPN in this category for one reason. It’s got a list of torrenting-friendly locations available. Consequently, users are going to find it easier to select a good server manually. Don’t get me wrong, though; PIA is also great for torrenting.

Winner: NordVPN

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Streaming

Private Internet Access has got a reputation for being a hit or miss service when it comes to streaming. Meanwhile, NordVPN has received nothing but praise for its ability to bypass geoblocks. But, to accurately judge both VPNs, it’s a must to perform some tests.

The platform I decided to use was Amazon Prime. I chose that because it has a large user-base, and I have an account.

I kicked things off by connecting to PIA’s New York server:

amazon prime pia us
Amazon Prime – PIA

To my surprise, the VPN was able to access the title (The Avengers) easily. It was also able to load in full resolution with zero buffering. If anything, this means that PIA does have some streaming capabilities.

After my test with Private Internet Access, I went ahead and watched the title again using NordVPN. The server that I used was the US server. Below is my screenshot:

amazon prime nordvpn us
Amazon Prime – NordVPN

As expected, NordVPN was able to play the movie effortlessly. Just like PIA, there was no buffering whatsoever. The VPN also let me watch in full resolution making my viewing experience so much better.

Netflix

For many people, there’s only one streaming service that matters – Netflix. It’s the world’s top one platform. Coincidentally, it is also the one with the hardest geoblocks to bypass. Only a few services can consistently stream it.

While connected to PIA’s London server, I decided to watch Kingsman:

netflix pia uk
Netflix UK – PIA

Unfortunately, my efforts to access the title were in vain. Private Internet Access failed to bypass Netflix UK’s geoblocks.

To give the VPN one more shot, I switched to the New York server and watched Spotlight:

netflix pia us
Netflix US – PIA

My prediction was proven wrong as PIA was able to access the title. I honestly thought that it wouldn’t be able to. My being able to watch the movie was a pleasant surprise.

Even if I knew that NordVPN has an excellent track record with accessing Netflix, I decided to test it nonetheless. Here’s a screenshot of it accessing Kingsman while using its UK server:

netflix nordvpn uk
Netflix UK – NordVPN

Just to confirm that the VPN was as good as people claim it to be, I connected to the US server and accessed Spotlight once more:

netflix nordvpn us
Netflix US – NordVPN

Everything went accordingly while I was streaming with NordVPN connected. There was almost no load time, and the resolution of both titles was at its best. What people say about the service is true. It’s indeed an excellent VPN for streaming.

The better VPN between the two is apparent. NordVPN is victorious in this round of Private Internet Access vs NordVPN. PIA performed decently, but between my experience and user reports, I can’t recommend it to others for streaming.

Winner: NordVPN

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Gaming

Apart from being able to stream wonderfully, a good VPN must handle gaming. In this round, my experience with both NordVPN and PIA has been decent. However, I must say NordVPN feels more optimized for gaming.

One thing to remember is that the two VPNs can be used with game consoles. Though they don’t have native apps for PS4 and Xbox One, they’re compatible with routers. Just install them and connect your console then play.

Using both services, I played Call of Duty Mobile, which is my favorite game. While connected to PIA’s Singapore server, I experienced lagging issues. The same could not be said for NordVPN as I was connected to its Hong Kong server. Because of the zero-lag, all my matches came out with me as the MVP.

My decision in this category is clear. NordVPN is the faster VPN of the two. That speed advantage that it has equates to better gaming performance.

Winner: NordVPN

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Compatibility

You can’t use a VPN if it’s not compatible with your device. Moreover, it’s also a must for a service to be able to run on many kinds of gadgets. After all, both NordVPN and PIA allow for multiple simultaneous connections on one account.

To get a better understanding of what each service is compatible with, refer to the table below:

  NordVPN Private Internet Access
Windows Yes Yes
macOS Yes Yes
Linux Yes Yes
Chromebook Yes No
Android Yes Yes
iOS Yes Yes
Chrome Yes Yes
Firefox Yes Yes
Tor Yes Yes
Opera No Yes
Selected Routers Yes Yes

NordVPN has the advantage between the two. It’s compatible with more operating systems and has extensions for more browsers. The only actual advantage that PIA has over it is that it has got a browser extension for Opera. Except for that, NordVPN dominates the compatibility category in every way.

Winner: NordVPN

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Simultaneous Connections

Private Internet Access users can simultaneously connect to 10 accounts at the same time. In comparison, NordVPN can only link up to 6. As such, the winner of this round of PIA vs NordVPN has to be PIA by a long shot.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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Servers

The number of servers that NordVPN and PIA have is way different. A VPN with more servers is a better one as it excels at keeping users anonymous.

With more than 5100 in 59 countries, NordVPN wins this category. Private Internet Access’ network is an impressive system, nonetheless. It operates 3300+ servers in 32 countries across the globe. By no means should that number be belittled in any way.

Winner: NordVPN

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China

It’s been increasingly harder for VPNs to bypass the Great Firewall of China. Hence, the ability of a service to do so is an excellent way to measure its quality. Fortunately, both NordVPN and PIA can climb the wall. However, it is unfortunate to say that NordVPN does a better job than PIA, which lacks consistency.

NordVPN has even got an exclusive domain to cater to its Chinese customers. Private Internet Access has got no such thing. Because of that, determining a winner for this category is easy.

Winner: NordVPN

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Interface & Usability

The interfaces of NordVPN and PIA apps are remarkably different from one another. PIA keeps it simple with a large connect button and a drop-down list of servers. On the other hand, the apps of NordVPN all feature a map with markers to show where there are server locations. Users also have the option to pick their server with a drop-down list.

I think PIA’s apps are way too simple. There’s little freedom when it comes to tinkering with advanced settings. Additionally, the Windows app’s location in the sidebar, along with its hiding itself upon minimization, doesn’t sit well with me.

NordVPN’s apps allow a greater degree of setting personalization. It takes users to a separate window to adjust the advanced settings. This frees up space on the main app, making it look more straightforward and inviting.

My choice when it comes to interface and usability is clear. NordVPN once again takes the win because of its good-looking interface that’s easy to use. Apart from that, it also lets you tweak more settings.

Winner: NordVPN

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Additional Features

Even if it’s cheaper, PIA does not skimp on features. It allows for 10 simultaneous users and has a built-in ad-blocker called PIA MACE. To add to that, it also supports P2P on all of its servers.

NordVPN offers a hefty amount of features for its price. Although the VPN only allows for 6 simultaneous connections, it has many redeeming features. For example, the VPN offers advanced security measures like Onion over VPN and DoubleVPN.

The winner in this round of NordVPN vs PIA is NordVPN. It provides users with many things that PIA does not. If anything, the only handicap that it’s got is its limited simultaneous device connection options.

Winner: NordVPN

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Customer Support

Excellent customer service is necessary for any VPN to exist. Both NordVPN and PIA are known to be great in this regard. However, only NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat support. It’s also the only one between the two to have comprehensive video tutorials for users. PIA has writeups with screenshots.

My personal experience with both VPNs has been alright. The two services managed to reply to my emails in less than an hour. Each of their answers was concise and very understandable.

To get a better insight into what each service offers in terms of customer support, refer to the table:

  NordVPN Private Internet Access
Live Chat Support Yes Yes
Email Support Yes Yes
Phone Support No No
Ticket Support Yes Yes
Video Tutorials Yes No
Average Response Time 30 Minutes 39 Minutes
Online Knowledge Base Yes Yes

Due to PIA’s lack of video guides, 24/7 chat support, and video tutorials, my winner for this category is NordVPN. It’s got a slight edge, which means so much for customers like us.

Winner: NordVPN

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Prices

Pricing is the first thing that many people look at when choosing what VPN to use. PIA has got a reputation for being affordable, whereas NordVPN doesn’t. Nevertheless, it’s essential to look at the details. Below is a table to help you determine what VPN is a better deal:

  NordVPN Private Internet Access
Subscription Lengths 1 Month ($11.95/Month) 1 Month ($9.95/Month)
  1 Year ($4.92/Month) 1 Year ($3.33/Month)
  2 Years ($3.71/Month) 2 Years ($2.69/Month)
     
Highest Price Per Month $11.95 $9.95
Lowest Price Per Month $3.71 $2.69
One Year Price $59.00 $39.95
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days 30 Days
Special Offer 68% off for a 2-year plan;
58% off for a 1-year plan
73% discount for a 2-year plan + 2 months free

My winner for this category is PIA. It’s way more affordable, which is excellent for thrifty customers. The difference in the prices of the two services is just way too big to overlook.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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Verdict

Is NordVPN better than PIA?

Yes. NordVPN is indeed better than PIA. It’s faster, has more features, got better streaming capabilities, and boasts superior customer support. The only advantage that PIA has is pricing, which is noticeably cheaper than NordVPN’s.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Private Internet Access is a fantastic service. It provides the utmost levels of privacy and security to users. That is despite it being under the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes Alliance. If anything, it proves that a great VPN can be based in the United States.

I’d have to say that NordVPN is the better service to have for people with media consumption in mind. Additionally, it’s also great if you’re planning a trip to China. PIA is suitable for those who need a simple yet reliable VPN. It does everything that a VPN is supposed to do when it comes to safeguarding your online activities.

Overall Winner: NordVPN

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About the author 

Kris Soliongco

Kris has two passions in life: writing and tech. He’s been building computers since he was eight years old and is very knowledgeable about online security. The first time he was exposed to VPNs was in 2016. Since then, he’s used a plethora of services and has gained much experience.

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