NordVPN vs. PIA (Private Internet Access)
NordVPN and PIA are both popular names in the marketplace of VPNs used by thousands around the world. Which service is better in terms of security, privacy, streaming, torrenting?
Pricing and Discounts
|Subscription Period||1 Month||1 Month|
|1 Year||6 Months|
|2 Years||1 Year|
|Special offer||70% Discount on a 3-Year Plan||67% Off on a 1-Year Plan|
|Highest price per month||$11.95||$6.95|
|Lowest price per month||$3.49||$3.33|
|Money Back Guarantee||30-Days||7-Days|
The pricing is the main selling point of providers in the VPN industry. Users often go for services that tend to be the cheapest VPN. However, even with some expensive plans, you can take advantage of amazing deals.
For instance, the monthly pricing for NordVPN starts at $11.95. If you want to leverage cheap pricing though, you can opt for their bi-annual plan. It gives users a 24% discount, totaling only $54.
Therefore, the longer the duration of the subscription, the cheaper the pricing with NordVPN. Say you go for the yearly plan. You will only have to pay $6.99/mo., which means you receive a discount of 41%.
For users who want to leverage the best value, you can go for the 2-year plan. This reduces the monthly costs to $4.99, indicating a discount of 58%. This means, you only pay $119.76 for 24-months.
PIA definitely manages to be cheaper than NordVPN. It offers some of the best rates in the marketplace. This makes it a top choice for budget-conscious buyers.
The monthly pricing for Private Internet Access (PIA) starts at $6.95. If you want a better deal, you can go for their yearly plan. It reduces the pricing to 3.33 per month, which means you receive a massive discount of 52%.
As a result, users will only have to pay $39.96. For the best value, users can opt for the 2-year plan. It reduces the monthly pricing to $2.91, giving users a massive 58% discount.
This means, you only have to pay $69.84 for two years. For refunds, PIA only offers a 7-day money-back guarantee. However, if you go for NordVPN, you can leverage a 30-day refund guarantee.
|Operating System Apps||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV||Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Manual Install Devices||Set-Top Boxes, Routers, and Linux||Some Routers|
|Split Tunneling||Not Available||No|
|Free Extras||Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, CyberSec, DoubleVPN, SmartPlay||SOCKS5 Proxy and ad/tracker blocker|
When it comes to selecting a VPN service, you need to have advanced features available. NordVPN has always stood at the forefront of privacy innovations.
It offers a unique set of tools, which I have listed for your convenience below. All these features position the VPN higher than others in the marketplace, as you receive maximum security/privacy at all times.
However, PIA does not seem to back off either. The provider, despite being incredibly cheap, stands its ground against NordVPN. It offers most of the same features/technologies available with NordVPN.
Sadly, it fails at offering advanced features like DoubleVPN and Onion over VPN, which are enjoyed by NordVPN customers for leveraging maximum security online.
In terms of unblocking, NordVPN definitely tends to be more proactive and reliable. All of its servers utilize strong encryption and security technologies for unblocking VoDs.
The provider manages to unblock all versions of Netflix, while providing access to some of the most hit streaming platforms like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and more.
PIA, on the other hand, does not offer much in the way of unblocking. It is a hit and miss scenario most of the times. What is most alarming is the lack of Netflix unblocking.
As such, If I were to talk on the basis of streaming, NordVPN is the best choice. PIA still needs to improve their unblocking capabilities to justify its price and customers buying it.
To get a better idea on the VPN apps of NordVPN and PIA, I decided to conduct an unblocking test. This process involved connecting to different VPN servers.
Then, visiting various blocked websites to see if the VPN successfully bypasses geo-restrictions. NordVPN worked amazingly, especially when connected to their Obfuscated Servers. I was easily able to bypass “The Great Firewall”.
At the same time, I also received no issues when unblocking the US Netflix and its complete library. For PIA, the results were quite disappointing to say the least.
PIA offers no such technology or encryption that allows it to unblock websites in China. Unlike NordVPN that offers a dedicated Chinese mirror website, PIA offers no incentive to the Chinese audience.
Users in China can download NordVPN users from here: http://nord-for-zh.com/
Setup and Interface
|Automatic Setup Wizard||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux,||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Main Location Selection||Map-based||List-based|
|Extra Settings Pages||Yes||Yes|
NordVPN boasts a simple yet interactive UI that allows users to explore multiple features/add-ons, whether that be on their desktop or smaller screen counterparts.
The desktop versions come with a map-based design and a “specialty” listing that allows users to access Dedicated IPs, Double VPN, Onion over VPN and other technologies.
Meanwhile the mobile apps utilize the same design but get rid of the map, introducing a list-based design that divides servers by “country” and even “region (on iOS apps).
PIA’s apps still need work and improvement in the overall UI. Their desktop versions sit in the task-bar with most features accessible directly by right-clicking the icon.
However, since the app hides itself the second you minimize, it becomes a major annoyance for those trying to follow a setup or configuration guide.
It’s mobile apps are nicely designed though and tend to be clutter-free. All options are listed neatly and connecting takes barely a few seconds, which is quite remarkable.
Servers and Performance
Since VPNs are crucial tools for unblocking/streaming/torrenting, it is vital that you receive good speeds. The last thing you need is suffering from a turtle internet.
In light of this, I decided to conduct a performance assessment of both providers. This involved testing max download bandwidths of NordVPN and PIA for different servers in varied countries. I then noted the average speeds received.
If I talk about NordVPN, all servers were highly speedy. Of course, those located far away displayed mediocre performance. The average though peaked at 43Mbps, indicating a speed loss of 5%.
For Private Internet Access (PIA), the results were no match for NordVPN. The average speeds peaked at 38Mbps, indicated a speed loss of 25%. There is a great need for improvement in connection speeds for PIA!
|VPN Protocols||PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, OpenVPN||PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN|
|OpenVPN Data Encryption||AES-256||AES-128, AES-256|
|OpenVPN Control Channel Encryption||RSA-2048||RSA-4096|
|App Security||Kill Switch, Wi-Fi, DNS/WebRTC/ IP Leak Protection||Kill Switch|
One of the best things about NordVPN has to be its strong privacy and security. The provider is simply undetectable to websites, thanks to its large pool of shared IPs.
Add this to NordVPNs support for all protocols, including IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, and OpenVPN. You can feel assured to receive maximum anonymity. For the data channel, NordVPN uses 256-CBC ciphers with HMAC SHA256 hash authentication.
For its control channel, NordVPN uses the same hash authentication and ciphers above, with the addition of an RSA-2048. A strong DHE-4096 key exchange is used for setting up Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).
If you are using the iOS app, NordVPN changes its encryption. All connections use the IKEv2 protocol with AES-256-GCM ciphers with HMAC SHA2-384 data authentication.
Despite being a US-based provider, Private Internet Access (PIA) maintains an incredibly strong network of servers. They utilize strong encryption ciphers on L2TP/IPSec and OpenVPN Protocols.
For the data channel, PIA uses the infamous military grade; AES-256-bit ciphers with SHA256 for data authentication and RSA-4096 for handshake. PFE is available via DHE+RSA exchange.
For the control channel, PIA uses the same ciphers and hash authentication, with the inclusion of SHA384 for authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFE) is available via ECDHE+ECDSA.
In short, you receive great privacy with both providers. NordVPN, however, goes the extra mile by offering the CyberSec Protocol and features like Dedicated IPs and Onion over VPN.
|Sign Up Information||Email Address||Email Address|
|Anonymous Payment Methods||Monero, Dash, Gridcoin, Rpple, ZCaas, Ehterum, Litecoin, Bitcoin||Mint, BitPay, 32 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin|
If we compare the two, NordVPN tends to be safer option because of its jurisdiction. The provider is away from Five, Nine, Fourteen Eyes Alliances with its headquarters in the safe Panama.
Private Internet Acess (PIA), on the other hand, has its HQ in the US. The country is the founding member of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances and boasts the most invasive laws.
It mandates Mass Surveillance and Data retention from whether that be internet service providers, telecom providers, or Virtual Private Network providers.
As such, if you want to remain safe and secure from the prying eyes of the government, intelligence agencies, and copyright infringement hunters, PIA is not a reliable option.
|Static IPs||40+ Locations||No|
For configurations, NordVPN gains an upperhand over the US-based PIA. Where PIA adopts a shared infrastructure and address allocation, Nord supports both: dynamic and static.
This helps the Panama-based provider offer more incentive to its users, particularly expats/travelers wanting remote access to office files and protection while accessing banking information.
Dedicated IPs are available as an add-on by NordVPN, meaning you will have to pay extra for them, with features like DDoS protection costing you more. Below is an overview on the pricing and locations where you can get a dedicated IP:
|Searchable Knowledge Base||Yes||Yes|
|Average Email Response Time||30 Minutes||39 Minutes|
|Live Chat Support||Yes||Yes|
In terms of support, NordVPN does a far better job in assisting customers, in comparison to PIA. The provider offers 6 different mediums for getting help, where PIA only gives you access to 4.
Add this to the incredibly fast 24/7 live chat support, and NordVPN gives the best bang for your buck. Conversely, PIA despite being in the industry for quite a few years, does not offer live chat as a support option. This is quite disappointing, to say the least.
The US-based provider only offers email and ticket support, and even in that, they give late responses. Their average response time is somewhere between 7 to 8 hours, which is quite a lot especially considering users require instant assistance to queries.
In terms of the knowledge base, PIA uses screenshots for elaborating in their tutorials, whereas NordVPN offers comprehensive video walkthroughs for specific tasks like fixing connectivity issues.
I even conducted a test on the response times from each provider on email support. The process included sending both providers four questions via email. See the statics for each VPN below:
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|What is your connection with “CloudVPN”?||12 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Is it possible to configure NordVPN on Raspberry Pi?||40 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How to fix the “Connection Timed Out” Error?||38 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How activate NordVPN’s obfuscated servers?||30 Minutes||1||Yes|
Private Internet Access (PIA)
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Why is PIA located in a Five Eyes Country?||1 Hour||1||Yes|
|Does Private Internet Access keep logs?||45 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does private Internet access work with Netflix?||50 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How do I get a refund from private Internet access?||44 Minutes||1||Yes|
Other Comparisons to Check Out
There is no doubt that both NordVPN and PIA are great names in the marketplace. However, when it comes to determining a winner among the two, things become quite clear. I believe that NordVPN overpowers PIA in a myriad of aspects.
Its location is also incredibly strategic, whereas PIA has its base of operations in the US (an unsafe location). From a privacy standpoint, I would advise using NordVPN!