This article has been just updated: December 13, 2019
It’s never easy to decide between two competing VPN providers, especially when they’re both are considered to be excellent. Today, we’ll be comparing Private Internet Access (PIA) and NordVPN to see what their strengths and weaknesses are, helping you decide which of them is the best choice for you.
Private Internet Access
Launched in 2010, Private Internet Access, commonly referred to simply as PIA, is a personal virtual private network (VPN) service that’s based in the United States. It offers an attractively priced VPN service with solid performance, but it has been criticized for choosing the United States as its home country.
NordVPN is a large VPN service that has received a lot of prestigious industry awards since its launch in 2012. Unlike PIA, NordVPN is based in Panama, which is a huge advantage because Panama isn’t a member of the Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) or Fourteen Eyes (Five Eyes + Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain) alliances.
When it comes to VPN services, nothing is more important than security. Here, NordVPN immediately has a huge advantage because the service is based in Panama, a neutral country that doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws.
The United States, where PIA is based, is a poor jurisdiction when it comes to privacy because of its mass surveillance practices, which were revealed in a series of global surveillance disclosures by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.
Does it really matter that the government of the United States could contact PIA at any moment and ask the company to hand over the activity logs of its customers? That depends largely on why you want to use a VPN in the first place.
Many people use a VPN service just to get a fake IP address to circumvent geo-restrictions and other forms of content blocking. In that case, it doesn’t matter at all that PIA is based in the united states. Still, it’s better when you can trust your VPN provider 100 percent, which is why NordVPN is a clear winner in this category.
NordVPN is a feature-packed VPN service that offers a lot more beyond basic traffic encryption. Thanks to Double VPN, NordVPN users can encrypt their traffic twice, hiding their online traffic behind an unbreakable shield that even the most sophisticated cyber attackers won’t be able to get past.
If that’s not enough for you, you can utilize the Tor network, which is a volunteer network for enabling anonymous communication over the internet, to make it absolutely impossible to discover your real IP address. The only downside is that your speeds will go down considerably.
There’s also an effective built in ad-blocker called CyberSec, which automatically blocks dangerous websites so that no malware can infect your device. The main advantage of CyberSec compared with various ad-blocking web browser extensions is the fact that CyberSec won’t slow down your computer or mobile device.
PIA has an ad-blocking feature as well, called PIA MACE. According to PIA’s knowledge base, MACE is a system developed to help protect its customer’s privacy and security by returning IP addresses of unwanted domain names as an address that’s not routable on the public internet. In other words, MACE can block both ads as well as malicious websites.
Apart from basic IP address leak protection, PIA doesn’t have too many extra features, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that this is a low-cost VPN service we’re talking about.
Private Internet Access has over 3,300 servers in 33 countries, which allow it to offer decent, if somewhat variable, speeds.
NordVPN has even greater global coverage, maintaining a small army of over 5,200 servers in 62 countries. As you might expect, NordVPN is faster than PIA, but the difference isn’t huge.
If you’re an online gamer or someone who depends on a fast internet connection, you should go with NordVPN just so you can be as close to your VPN server as possible. However, if you want a VPN mostly for browsing the web in private, PIA is a great choice as well.
NordVPN is widely regarded as the best affordable VPN service out there. We’ve already mentioned some of its numerous features, but we have yet to mention that it costs just $2.99 a month. That’s right, just $2.99 a month for a VPN service with over 5,200 servers, support for the Tor network, and many other perks that are almost impossible to come by in this price range.
Yes, almost is the right word because there’s also PIA, which starts at only $2.91 a month when you pay for two years of service upfront. If you’d rather pay monthly, the price jumps up to $6.95, but that’s still nothing compared with the monthly price of NordVPN, which is $11.95.
Winner: Private Internet Access
In the past, NordVPN was often criticized for providing poor customer support, but the service has really stepped up its game in recent years, and it now offers multiple customer support channels as well as an excellent knowledge base where you can learn everything about all things VPN-related.
Besides email support, NordVPN also offers live chat, which comes in handy when you don’t have time to wait for your email to get answered. Overall, NordVPN’s customer support staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and generally a pleasure to deal with.
Being a budget-friendly VPN service, PIA had to cut down its operational costs somewhere, and the choice fell on customer support, which is handled entirely via a ticket system. The good news is that PIA makes up for the lack of email and chat support with its comprehensive knowledge base and detailed tutorials.
In this detailed comparison, we’ve highlighted the main advantages and disadvantages of Private Internet Access and NordVPN. If you’ve been paying attention so far, you won’t be surprised to learn that NordVPN has emerged as a clear winner, beating Private Internet Access in every single category except for the price, where the two VPN services are neck and neck.