NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access Comparison
In this comparison, we will compare the two VPN services in detail to provide you with the information that you need to select the right provider.
The analysis covers important areas, including price, application support and performance, but also privacy-specific areas such as server infrastructure, supported protocols, features, country of jurisdiction, and no-logging claims.
NordVPN and PIA Comparison table
NordVPN and Private Internet Access are both highly rated and popular services, and while they do share some similarities, like many VPN services do, there are also big differences on closer inspection.
|NordVPN||Private Internet Access|
|Servers||5259 in 60 countries||Unknown number of servers in 78 countries|
|Router/other devices||Router/other devices|
|P2P Servers||Automation Rules|
|Obfuscated Servers||Mace Content Blocker|
|Performance||Very Good||Very Good|
|Support||Email, chat support||Email, chat support|
|Privacy||No IP leaks||No IP leaks|
|No DNS leaks||No DNS leaks|
|Killswitch works||Killswitch works|
|Price||$11.95 per month||$9.95 per month|
|$4.92 for 1 year ($59 in total)||$3.33 per month for 1 year ($39.95 in total)|
|$3.30 per month for 27 months ($89 in total)||$2.19 for 3 years ($79.95 in total)|
|Devices||6 simultaneously||10 simultaneously|
NordVPN and Private Internet Access jurisdiction
NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, which is not a member of the 14-Eyes countries.
Private Internet Access is headquartered in the United States, which is bad news if privacy is a concern. Several laws in the United States may enforce cooperation with the government, even without informing customers about it.
PIA was acquired by KAPE in 2019, a company with a history of generating revenue from adware bundling.
Result: NordVPN wins
Server Infrastructure Comparison between NordVPN and Private Internet Access
NordVPN operates more than 5300 servers in 59 countries. Private Internet Access does not reveal the number of servers, only that it operates them in 78 different countries.
NordVPN announced plans in 2020 to upgrade all of its server infrastructure to a private server network that is fully owned, controlled and operated by the company. The company has not published an update on the progress of the upgrade of its fleet of servers.
We are preparing a plan to upgrade our entire infrastructure (currently featuring over 5200 servers) to RAM servers. These will allow us to create a centrally controlled network where nothing is stored locally. In fact, they won’t even have an operating system stored locally. Everything they need to run will be provided by NordVPN’s secure central infrastructure. If you seize one of these servers, you’re seizing an empty piece of hardware with no data or configuration files on it.
Private Internet Access announced in 2019 that it had plans to create a “transparent and verifiable infrastructure”. The company did not publish any updates on the plan on the company blog, and we could not find any information on third-party audits of its no-logging claim.
There have been at least two court cases in which PIA could not provide logs of user activities.
Result: NordVPN wins
VPN Apps support
The VPNs have clients for the three major operating systems Windows, Linux and Mac OS, as well as the mobile operating systems Android and iOS. Both may also be set up on devices that support VPNs but don’t allow the installation of software programs, e.g. routers.
Clients offer different features but functionality is good in the VPN applications from both providers.
NordVPN and Private Internet Access support the new WireGuard protocol as well as OpenVPN and other protocols.
Private Internet Access uses OpenVPN as the default protocol, but users may switch to WireGuard in the settings of the service’s applications. WireGuard offers many advantages, including faster connection speeds, and should be preferred.
NordVPN uses its own adaptation of the WireGuard protocol, called NordLynx. Some of the company’s specialized servers require the use of the OpenVPN protocol at the time of writing.
Both providers use state of the art encryption algorithms to protect connections and thus user data.
NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access logging
NordVPN states on its site that it does not log user activity:
We offer a zero-logs VPN service. It means that NordVPN does not store connection timestamps, session information, bandwidth usage, traffic data, IP addresses, or other data. Nothing to store – nothing to share with anyone.
The claim has been verified twice through independent audits, the last one in 2020.
Private Internet Access states on its website that it does not log user activity.
Your IP address and online activity remain private and we never log or store any of your info.
The company started to open source its clients in 2019, but has not had a third-party audit of its services; this is still planned . Private Internet Access could not provide user records in at least two court cases in which the company was involved in.
Result: NordVPN wins.
Streaming and P2P: Private Internet Access vs. NordVPN
Both VPN’s support P2P traffic and the unblocking of regionally restricted content. There are differences between the two offerings though.
NordVPN supports P2P servers which are optimized for the traffic and resulted in better upload and download speeds during tests.
During our tests, NordVPN could be used to watch the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ using the VPN.
The P2P performance of Private Internet Access was equally good in our tests, despite the lack of P2P optimized servers.
Streaming services were not unblocked equally well though. Results varied, likely depending on server IP addresses and whether these were blocked by the streaming providers. Ultimately, it was a hit and miss with PIA, and some services would not work at all while using the provider.
Result: NordVPN wins.
NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access features
NordVPN has the following features:
- CyberSec – protects against known malicious sites and advertising by blocking these outright when enabled.
- Killswitch – blocks Internet traffic if the VPN connection drops.
- Split Tunneling – Use some apps with a VPN connection and others without.
- P2P servers – special servers optimized for torrent traffic.
- Obfuscated servers – designed to access the VPN service in countries that make VPN use difficult, e.g. China.
- Double-VPN servers – option to chain the connection so that it is routed through two VPN servers instead of just one.
- Tor-over-VPN – option to access Tor .onion sites using the VPN.
Private Internet Access offers several features as well that users of the service may use.
- PIA Mace – a blocker component that is designed to block advertisement, malicious domains and trackers on the DNS-level.
- VPN Killswitch – turns off the access to the Internet outside of the VPN.
Split Tunneling – allow some apps and programs to bypass the VPN connection to connect to the Internet directly, or set up some apps to only connect to the Internet through the VPN.
- Automation – configure automatic connection and disconnection rules based on networks, e.g. to always connect to the VPN while at work or traveling, and to always disconnect when at home.
- OpenVPN configuration – customize the OpenVPN connection parameters, e.g. by making the connection more secure.
Result: Tie. Both providers offer several useful features. NordVPN wins when it comes to servers, as it is offering specialized servers, PIA has a few good options as well.
NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access performance
Both VPN providers offered a good performance during tests. Granted, our 100/40 test Internet connection is not particularly fast, but both services managed to max it out almost completely.
NordVPN connections to VPNs were faster, thanks to the default use of the NordLynx protocol, which is based on WireGuard.
Private Internet Access used OpenVPN by default, but users may switch to WireGuard as well to improve the connection speed as well.
NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access price comparison
Both VPN providers list three plans on their sites.
NordVPN customers may subscribe for 1 month, 12 months or 24 months, and pay $11.95, $4.92 or $3.30 for the subscription. Three extra months are added to the 2-year plan free of charge.
Private Internet Access customers may subscribe for 1 month, 1 year or 3 years. The 1-month plan is available for $9.95 per month, the 1-year plan for $3.33 per month or $39.95 per year, and the 3-years plan is available for $2.19 per month or $79 for the entire period.
NordVPN customers may connect up to six devices simultaneously, Private Internet Access customers up to 10 devices simultaneously.
NordVPN customers may pay by Credit Card, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, ACH Transfer and by using cryptocurrencies.
Private Internet Access customers may pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, or with gift cards.
Both companies have a 30-day refund policy in place.
Result: Private Internet Access is the winner.
Conclusion of NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access accounts are a bit cheaper than NordVPN accounts. The company offers good speeds, apps for all major operating systems, and a good level of features. Additionally, it allows customers to connect 10 devices simultaneously to the service, while NordVPN limits connections to 6.
NordVPN is the better choice when it comes to streaming support and server infrastructure. Both companies are not exactly forthcoming with information when it comes to their server infrastructures, but from what little information is available, it is NordVPN that is in control of its server network.
NordVPN has undergone two third-party audits, and it is based in Panama. PIA announced that it would let a third-party audit its services, but the audit has not happened until today.
Private Internet Access biggest drawback is that it is part of KAPE, previously known as Crossrid now, a company with a checkered past.
All in all, if privacy is important to you, you may want to try NordVPN as it is clearly better in that department.
Both companies need to improve, and be more transparent in regards to their server infrastructure. Private Internet Access on top of that needs to get the third-party audit of its service and no-logging feature done to give customers peace of mind.
Ghacks strives to be a trusted and unbiased website. In some specific cases, we may earn an affiliate commission or write a sponsored article, but an explicit disclaimer will always tell our readers when an advertiser or an affiliate partner is supporting one of our articles. If no disclaimer (as in this case), it means that we work with total editorial independence.Advertisement