NordVPN vs. Private Internet Access (PIA): Which VPN is better for you?

These two VPN providers are some of the most popular around right now, both with a lot of servers in a lot of countries, no logs kept, unlimited bandwidth, multiple anonymous payment options, and strong performance. There are, however, some significant differences when you start digging down into the services.

NordVPN vs. PIA at a glance

Let's take a brief look at how these two VPN services compare on paper.

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Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNPrivate Internet Access
Servers5,678 in 60 countries3,341 in 32 countries
JurisdictionPanamaUnited States
Devices6 simultaneous10 simultaneous
Bandwidth capUnlimitedUnlimited
LogsAlmost noneNone
Payment optionsCredit cardPaymentWallCryptocurrencyAliPayWeChatCashCredit cardPayPalCryptocurrencyGift cardsPaymentWallOKPay
Support24/7 live chatEmail

NordVPN vs PIA servers and locations

The Best VPN Services for 2017 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Any VPN provider worth the money paid for a subscription should have many servers spread out across many countries. In NordVPN's case, it has 5,678 VPN servers in 60 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Taiwan, Egypt, and Turkey, places where PIA lacks any support. With NordVPN, many of its servers are dedicated to P2P, are obfuscated for countries with restricted access, have a double VPN for double encryption, or work with Onion over VPN.

With PIA, you get access to 3,341 VPN and proxy servers spread out over 32 countries, and while you don't get as much variety as with Nord, all PIA servers can handle P2P sharing. However, you won't have access to a double VPN or Onion over VPN servers with PIA.

With both services, you're going to get unlimited bandwidth with no fear of overages or throttling, and you can switch between servers as much as you'd like to find one with optimal performance. Both services perform extremely well as long as you can find a nearby server, which for a lot of people might be easier with Nord.

As for security, NordVPN is using OpenVPN with a 256-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman for key exchanges, while the IKEv2/IPSec protocol uses 256-bit AES with a 3072-bit Diffie-Hellman key. There are a few levels of OpenVPN security to choose from with PIA which does affect performance, including a standard 128-bit AES encryption with 2048-bit RSA handshake and 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman key, or a maximum-security option with 256-bit AES encryption with 4096-bit RSA handshake and 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman key.

What does this all mean? In either case, you can rely on strong encryption to keep your data and privacy safe when you're connected to a VPN server, although PIA is missing a couple features that Nord has.

NordVPN vs. PIA jurisdiction and log keeping

NordVPN is based in Panama where it has no legal obligation to collect any personal data, though it does keep some information for billing and operational purposes like email address, payment info, session timestamp, customer service information, and a record of you visiting the NordVPN website. You can set up a dummy email and pay with cryptocurrency to avoid some of these records, though there will be some metadata collected.

Part of NordVPN's log policy

Part of NordVPN's log policy

PIA, which is based in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction, keeps absolutely no logs of any kind, nor any information. Despite the discrepancy in the jurisdiction, PIA and NordVPN both do their utmost to keep any information out of the hands of anyone attempting to get a look inside, and you should feel assured that your actual browsing data isn't being recorded. Remember, this doesn't mean you're free to use a VPN for illegal activity.

Furthermore, NordVPN states in its warrant canary section that it has never been secretly pressured by a governmental entity with warrants or gag orders. PIA does not use a warrant canary, claiming it's best to just not log anything than alert people that there's been a breach.

NordVPN vs. PIA features and devices

PIA Windows 10 app

PIA Windows 10 app

Although you're ultimately going to pay more for a similar subscription to NordVPN, it brings a ton of features to the table. Alongside the dedicated servers for P2P sharing, double VPN, obfuscation, and Onion over VPN, you get a dedicated ad and malware blocker, DNS leak protection, SmartPlay for smoother video streaming, and an automatic kill switch that keeps your real identity from being seen if your connection to the VPN server happens to drop.

The NordVPN app works with Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Android TV, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, and it can be used with a ton of routers. However, you can only use NordVPN on six simultaneous devices. If you run into any issues, customer support staff can be reached 24/7 with live chat.

PIA offers up an ad and malware blocker of its own, a killswitch, DNS leak protection, and even automatic port forwarding for P2P sharing, but it doesn't have the same specialized servers as Nord. Its app works with Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, and it can be configured in certain routers for broader coverage.

If you have a lot of devices, PIA offers 10 simultaneous connections, beating out six from NordVPN. If you run into trouble, you'll have to open an email support ticket; live chat is not available.

NordVPN vs. PIA pricing and payment options

PIA pricing plans

PIA pricing plans

VPN service prices often fluctuate with special deals and new terms, but as it stands now, PIA is going to ultimately cost less money, at least for a term of similar length. If you opt for a yearly plan with PIA, you'll pay $3.33 per month for a total of about $40 per year. You can also go with a monthly subscription at about $7 per month, or a six-month deal for about $6 per month or about $40 total.

NordVPN pricing plans

NordVPN pricing plans

NordVPN has the same monthly plan, but it costs about $12, which is $5 more than PIA. The one-year NordVPN plan costs about $7 per month or about $84 per year, essentially twice as much as the same length at PIA. However, NordVPN also offers two- and three-year subscription plans for further savings, though you will have to commit to three years if you want to pay about the same per month as PIA.

You're ultimately going to get a better deal with PIA, but if you'd rather only be billed once every two or three years, you'll have to instead go with NordVPN. As for trials to see if you actually want a VPN, PIA gives you seven days to test its service, while NordVPN gives you a full 30 days to get your money back if you don't like what it offers.

Go with NordVPN for more servers, lengthier subscriptions

NordVPN does cost more than PIA for similar subscription terms, but you can opt for a longer term that brings the monthly price down to about the same amount. With NordVPN, you get more servers (including specialized options) in more countries, and you can rest assured your data will remain safe thanks to strong encryption. As long as you don't want more than six devices in use simultaneously, it's no doubt the better option for more people.

PIA offers a more affordable service in fewer countries

PIA is a more affordable option than NordVPN, but it doesn't come with as many features or as many servers spread out across as many countries. It does have jurisdiction in the U.S. which might frighten some away, but rest assured you get strong encryption, fast speeds, and absolutely no logs kept. It's also a better choice if you want to connect more than six devices at once.

We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt brings to Windows Central more than eight years of experience writing about laptops, PCs, accessories, games, and beyond. If it runs Windows or in some way complements the hardware, there’s a good chance he knows about it, has written about it, or is already busy testing it.