NordVPN vs. PIA (Private Internet Access)

Last updated: December 4, 2019
Muhammad Hamza Shahid

Muhammad Hamza Shahid

Read this comprehensive VPN comparison of NordVPN vs PIA to find out which service is better at catering to user needs in 2019!

Nordvpn vs PIA

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?

To learn which one emerges victorious in all aspects, read this in-depth NordVPN vs. PIA comparison. Here we will be analyzing both providers on 10 factors:

Highlights
NordVPNPIA
  1. 5,200+ Servers in 58 Countries
  2. AES-256-CBC Encryption
  3. 6 Simultaneous Connections
  4. Unblocks All Streaming Platforms
  5. Audited No Logs Policy
  1. 3300+ servers in 30 countries
  2. AES-256 bit Encryption
  3. 10 Simultaneous Connections
  4. Apps for All Platforms/Devices
  5. Verified No Logs Policy (Audited)

Pricing and Discounts

NordVPNPIA
Subscription Period1 Month1 Month
1 Year6 Months
2 Years1 Year
3 Years
Special offer70% Discount on a 3-Year Plan67% Off on a 1-Year Plan
Highest price per month$11.95$6.95
Lowest price per month$3.49$3.33
One-Year Price$83.88$39.5
Money Back Guarantee30-Days7-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.

Features

NordVPNPIA
Simultaneous Connections65
Operating System AppsWindows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TVWindows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Manual Install DevicesSet-Top Boxes, Routers, and LinuxSome Routers
Split TunnelingNot AvailableNo
Free ExtrasBrowser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, CyberSec, DoubleVPN, SmartPlaySOCKS5 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.

Unblocking Capabilities

NordVPNPIA
NetflixYesNo
HuluYesYes
Sky GoYesNo
Amazon PrimeYesNo
BBC iPlayerYesNo
ABSYesNo
CBSYesYes
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Channel 4YesYes

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.

China

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

NordVPNPIA
Automatic Setup WizardWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux,Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
Main Location SelectionMap-basedList-based
Extra Settings PagesYesYes
Mobile FriendlyYesYes

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

NordVPNPIA
Server Countries5830
Total Number of Servers5,200+3,300
Speed Loss5%25%

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!

Security

NordVPNPIA
VPN ProtocolsPPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, OpenVPNPPTP, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN
OpenVPN Data EncryptionAES-256AES-128, AES-256
OpenVPN Control Channel EncryptionRSA-2048RSA-4096
Cloaking TechnologyObfsproxyNone
App SecurityKill Switch, Wi-Fi, DNS/WebRTC/ IP Leak ProtectionKill Switch
DNS StatusPrivateDNSPrivateDNS

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.

Privacy

NordVPNPIA
HeadquartersPanamaUnited States
Connection LogsNoneNone
Activity LogsNoneNone
Sign Up InformationEmail AddressEmail Address
Anonymous Payment MethodsMonero, Dash, Gridcoin, Rpple, ZCaas, Ehterum, Litecoin, BitcoinMint, 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.

Configuration

NordVPNPIA
Address AllocationShared/StaticShared
Static IPs40+ LocationsNo
DDoS ProtectionYesNo
NAT FirewallYesYes

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:

NordVPN Dedicated IPs

Customer Service

NordVPNPIA
Video GuidesYesYes
Searchable Knowledge Base YesYes
Phone SupportNoNo
Email SupportYesYes
Average Email Response Time30 Minutes39 Minutes
Ticket SupportYesYes
Live Chat SupportYesYes

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:

NordVPN

QuestionInitial Response TimeNumber of EmailsQuestion Answered
What is your connection with “CloudVPN”?12 Minutes1Yes
Is it possible to configure NordVPN on Raspberry Pi?40 Minutes1Yes
How to fix the “Connection Timed Out” Error?38 Minutes1Yes
How activate NordVPN’s obfuscated servers?30 Minutes1Yes

Private Internet Access (PIA)

QuestionInitial Response TimeNumber of EmailsQuestion Answered
Why is PIA located in a Five Eyes Country?1 Hour1Yes
Does Private Internet Access keep logs?45 Minutes1Yes
Does private Internet access work with Netflix?50 Minutes1Yes
How do I get a refund from private Internet access?44 Minutes1Yes

Other Comparisons to Check Out

    1. ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish
    2. ExpressVPN vs. PureVPN
    3. PureVPN vs. IPVanish
    4. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN

The Winner: NordVPN

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!

2 Responses to NordVPN vs. PIA (Private Internet Access)

  1. Amy Adams

    Giving PIAVPN and PureVPN a go right now and gonna say PureVPN is pretty much good and I love their app also.

    • Bestvpn.co

      Hi there Amy, thanks for commenting here. We’re quite happy to learn that users are testing services themselves, so that they are completely sure about receiving top privacy. PureVPN has been through its ups and downs, but has considerably improved over the past year, increasing their server ratio, adding new advanced features. PIA, conversely, does manage to do well but for a service that has been in the marketplace for a long time – still falls short in some aspects. Nevertheless, after you complete your analysis. Do give us your opinion here. It’s always good to learn more about user experiences! 🙂

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