Our experts thoroughly tested PIA and NordVPN to help you pick the right VPN service for you. We analyzed them across a number of essential categories like online security and privacy practices, streaming capabilities, speed, user-friendliness, and more.
Here’s how they fared against each other:
Ease of use: A tie
Customer service: NordVPN
After our extensive testing, we concluded that NordVPN is a better VPN service overall. It offers better security features, higher download speeds, and a tech-savvier support team. Get your NordVPN subscription today and enjoy bulletproof online security.
Want to learn more about our testing process and the reasoning behind the final results? You’ll find that and more in our full PIA vs NordVPN report below.
In a direct PIA vs NordVPN comparison, both VPN (virtual private network) providers prove that they keep you safe online and let you enjoy your favorite content without any geo-blocks. However, there are nuances that could make one of them a better tool to cater to your specific needs.
Our team of 20+ VPN experts tested both VPN services extensively to discover which performs better in a number of scenarios. As a result, we’ve created a comprehensive NordVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison guide. Nord remains our #1 pick thanks to its unparalleled security and excellent speeds, but PIA also has certain advantages, like a more affordable price.
Read our full guide below to find out which of these VPN giants is a better choice for you.
PIA vs NordVPN: Functionality, Features, and More
In the table below, we included a mix of features related to accessibility, online privacy and safety, pricing, and some coveted nice-to-haves, like torrenting support.
The best VPNs out there are the ones that provide airtight protection, so NordVPN is the winner in this category because of its NordLynx protocol, Threat Protection feature, and other security-enhancing characteristics.
However, both Private Internet Access and NordVPN have advanced security features that will safeguard you from invasive ISPs (internet service providers), spy agencies, hackers, and other malicious parties.
During our research for this NordVPN vs PIA comparison, we analyzed their security setups and tested every relevant feature. You can see the outline of these configurations in the table below.
WireGuard, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec
NordLynx, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Double VPN (Multi-Hop)
Chrome, Firefox, Edge
Chrome, Firefox, Opera
DNS leak protection
VPN protocols will largely determine the overall security, speed, and flexibility of your VPN. With that in mind, we ideally want to see reliable VPN tunnels like WireGuard and OpenVPN. Outdated options like PPTP, on the other hand, get penalized with negative points.
PIA supports the following VPN protocols:
OpenVPN (TCP/UDP): Ideal for most users thanks to its solid security and good speeds.
WireGuard: Faster than OpenVPN and just as secure, but it doesn’t support TCP connectivity.
L2TP/IPsec (iOS-only): Good speeds but easily blocked by firewalls.
On the other hand, NordVPN supports:
NordLynx: Proprietary tunnel based on WireGuard that fixed all of its problems.
OpenVPN (TCP/UDP): All major platforms are compatible with this protocol.
IKEv2: Fast and stable protocol with unparalleled reconnection capabilities.
If you’re just looking for a well-rounded protocol, you should go with OpenVPN. It’ll also help you bypass online censorship and access content that’s locked in your country. If you’re after sheer speed for lag-free streaming, gaming, and torrenting experience, we recommend using NordLynx.
If you travel a lot and you’re always on your phone, IKEv2 will let you switch between networks without dropping the connection. IKEv2 will provide a smooth browsing experience as long as you don’t have to deal with any firewalls or VPN filters.
Encryption and extra features
The encryption of PIA and NordVPN depends on the protocol you’re using. OpenVPN and IKEv2 utilize the AES-256 cipher, which is considered the best there is. It’s often called “military-grade encryption,” but it’s also implemented by banks, hospitals, and other institutions.
PIA also lets you use OpenVPN with AES-128. We used AES-128 during our testing of PIA and noticed that our speeds were a bit higher. However, this was due to this cipher being a bit weaker than AES-256. WireGuard relies on ChaCha20, which is quite secure but simpler and faster than AES-256.
NordVPN offers the so-called “obfuscated servers” that disguise your VPN traffic to look like regular browsing. This will help you deal with censorship in China and similar restrictive countries. It simply hides the fact that you’re using a VPN to access content you otherwise couldn’t. However, we had to switch to OpenVPN TCP in order to activate the stealth option.
PIA, on the other hand, achieves obfuscation by rerouting your VPN traffic through a proxy server, which adds an extra layer of encryption. You can view it as encryption to hide your original VPN encryption. In other words, it uses multi-hop to hide your VPN usage.
Obfuscation allowed us to deal with restrictive firewalls and online censorship. Some ISPs throttled our speed when they saw VPN traffic, and stealth helped us avoid that as well.
When testing PIA’s MACE feature, we noticed that it scanned the sites we visited and compared them to a list of websites used to serve ads, trackers, and malware like spyware, for example. It’s a neat feature but far from bulletproof since new malicious sites appear every day.
NordVPN’s SyberSec used to operate similarly until it was rebranded to Threat Protection. Now, it offers the same utility as PIA’s MACE. However, when we tested Nord’s Threat Protection, we saw that it also scanned the files we downloaded for malware. Note that this feature is available only on Windows and macOS and requires a VPN connection. Threat Protection Lite has wider compatibility but doesn’t offer this crucial option.
Nord’s Threat Protection is superior due to its ability to scan the files as you’re downloading them. It offers everything MACE does and builds on top of that.
Multi-hop is an option that routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one. With PIA, it can be a VPN server and an encrypted proxy server. This feature allows you to hide your VPN traffic (PIA uses it specifically for obfuscation) in censorship-heavy countries.
Multi-hop is also called “double VPN” since it encrypts your traffic twice. Double encryption is much safer, but we noticed serious speed drops, so we don’t recommend using it unless you absolutely have to.
DNS leak protection
PIA and NordVPN are both highly reputable services, so we didn’t expect to see any DNS or IP leaks during our testing. That’s exactly what happened. We tested almost the entire server networks of both providers and saw no dangerous data leaks.
The results above are from Austrian Private Internet Access servers and the US servers for NordVPN. Both providers did an excellent job at hiding our real IP address and our DNS requests.
Split tunneling allows you to save bandwidth and avoid speed drops by routing only some apps and sites through your VPN. To use PIA’s split tunneling, you have to install a special filter, which we did not find overly difficult, but it was an extra step. The good news is that it allowed us to include or exclude IP addresses as well.
NordVPN’s split tunneling was easier for us to use and offered the same functionality. The interface only mentioned apps, but we could also use it on websites if we marked our browser.
Split tunneling can be particularly beneficial when used with apps that might flag your constantly changing IP address. Online banking apps are a perfect example, making PIA and Nord excellent VPNs for online banking.
Which VPN should you choose for safety?
NordVPN is our winner when it comes to online security. Its NordLynx protocol is better than the vanilla WireGuard (it solves its privacy issues, among other things), and it also offers IKEv2, which is better than L2TP/IPSec.
Threat Protection is superior to MACE because it can scan the files you download. Nord’s obfuscation is more intuitive and streamlined, and its split tunneling is easier to use. Private Internet Access and NordVPN both provide excellent protection against data leaks.
For this NordVPN vs PIA comparison, we tested their speeds from our office in the Netherlands and discovered that NordVPN is faster than PIA, specifically when looking at its download speeds.
To come up with this conclusion, we first determined our speed without a VPN and compared it to the results we got on their server locations. Our benchmark download was 203 Mbps, and our upload was 248 Mbps. We used OpenVPN UDP with both clients.
Here are the final speed results of our tests:
Download speed local server (Mbps)
Upload speed local server (Mbps)
Ping local server (ms)
Download speed international server (Mbps)
Upload speed international server (Mbps)
Ping international server (ms)
As you can see, based on our NordVPN tests, this provider had better download speeds, while PIA offered better uploads on international servers. The ping values were almost identical. We prefer having a good download, so we’ll give the victory to NordVPN here. However, if you need better uploads for streaming your content on Twitch or use secure video conferencing platforms frequently, Private Internet Access might be the better option.
Fastest VPN: NordVPN
PIA vs NordVPN: Which VPN Handles Your Data Better?
NordVPN was the winner here mainly because of the extensive audits it has undergone and the incredible results it has produced over the years. In the table below, we give you a short summary of our research findings regarding Private Internet Access and NordVPN.
Anonymous signup possible
Passed security audit
Email address, billing info, approximate location, anonymized statistics (global number of users, server uptime, bandwidth capacity)
Email address, billing info, country details
PIA privacy details
PIA is located in the US, which is not a great VPN location. It’s a member of the Eyes Alliance known for court subpoenas and gag orders. Fortunately, PIA is a zero-log VPN that accepts cryptocurrency. In other words, you can stay completely anonymous while using it. It also features a RAM-only server network, which means it can’t record any data server-side.
Finally, PIA went through an independent audit by Deloitte in 2022 and passed with flying colors. It was also subpoenaed by the FBI in two court cases and had nothing to hand over.
NordVPN privacy details
NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, which is an excellent location for VPN services. It’s also one of the best no-log VPNs you can buy with crypto, which guarantees anonymity. It also uses diskless servers, so it cannot record any user data whatsoever.
Nord VPN underwent three logging audits and nine security and infrastructure examinations. This is beyond impressive and solidifies NordVPN at the top of privacy-minded VPN providers.
PIA and NordVPN are an even match when it comes to their no-logging policies. However, Nord has been under heavier scrutiny over the years and has proven its commitment to user privacy through more than 10 independent audits. Its location is also better for a VPN provider.
Although you shouldn’t judge a VPN by its price, saving some money is always a good idea, so from our findings below, you will be able to see that PIA is more affordable than NordVPN.
3 years + 3 months for free
2 years + 3 months for free
PIA is a more affordable VPN service. Having said that, we think that NordVPN provides a much better value for the price. Both services offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all orders. This means you cancel PIA or NordVPN and get a full refund within those 30 days.
Additionally, it is worth noting that PIA is also cheaper than other VPN services. Comparing Surfshark vs PIA as well, we discovered that Private Internet Access is also more affordable than one of our other top VPN providers, Surfshark.
Please note: The prices may vary based on any temporary deals and discounts. Ensure you have a look at the VPN providers’ official websites for the latest prices on their subscription packages.
The cheapest VPN: PIA
PIA vs NordVPN: Which App Is Easier to Work With?
Both PIA and NordVPN are winners in this category. A good VPN needs to be as user-friendly as possible to accommodate complete beginners, and both VPN providers do a great job at that.
A simple installation process paired with intuitive client design and good customer support is what makes a user-friendly VPN service. Here’s how PIA and NordVPN fared against each other in this category.
PIA’s user-friendly features
While conducting our PIA review, we discovered that this VPN provider offers the following features that contribute to its user-friendliness:
Modular clients: PIA’s clients are composed of several information blocks that can be moved up and down. This allows us to customize our PIA app and make it our own.
Simple installation process: Private Internet Access apps were very easy to install, so even beginners will have no problem getting them off the ground.
Accessible customer support: PIA’s customer support team was easy to reach, so you can always turn to them with your problems. However, some agents were much more knowledgeable than others.
If the expanded version of PIA’s client is too cluttered for you, you can always go for the minimalistic option. We gave PIA extra points for this app adaptability.
Here’s what NordVPN has to offer when it comes to usability:
Beginner-friendly clients: NordVPN apps are not modular, but they’re certainly intuitive and easy to use. They can cater to both beginners and power users alike.
Simple installation process: Nord required the same installation steps as PIA. However, we could only log into the client through our browser. This was not difficult, but it was an extra step in the installation process.
Excellent customer support: NordVPN’s support team was excellent. The agents were tech-savvy and always willing to help.
Which VPN is best for streaming?
A lot of VPN users are primarily interested in accessing geo-blocked streaming services and bypassing online censorship, and PIA and NordVPN accomplish both.
If you’re paying for a subscription, you’ll most likely want access to the best catalogs (Netflix US, for example). With these two providers, you’ll enjoy your favorite shows and movies without any lag or proxy errors.
Here are the final results regarding which popular streaming platforms PIA and NordVPN can unblock:
Amazon Prime Video
As you can see, PIA and NordVPN are evenly matched here. Nord’s higher download speeds might ensure a slightly smoother streaming experience on slower connections, though.
After our testing, we’d say that this category is a tie. We didn’t feel that either of the two VPNs was more difficult to use. So, even if you’re a complete beginner, you can’t go wrong with PIA and NordVPN.
Most user-friendly VPN provider: A tie
Customer Service: How Well Are Users Supported?
Good customer support is offered by both VPN providers, but NordVPN does this a bit better. Even when top VPNs experience problems like any other software, it’s important to be able to solve those quickly. You want a VPN provider with an informative site, a good knowledge base, and an accessible, high-quality support team.
Here are the support structures offered by PIA and NordVPN:
Customer service offered via
Both providers offer rich knowledge bases on their respective websites, but NordVPN’s customer support team is simply better. Their agents were able to answer all of our questions without prolonged back-and-forth.
PIA’s agents, on the other hand, vary in tech savviness – some are very knowledgeable, while others struggle with even the most basic VPN concepts.
With that in mind, we have to give the win to NordVPN.
VPN with the best customer service: NordVPN
Final Verdict: Is PIA or NordVPN Better?
After extensive testing, we believe that NordVPN offers a better service overall. PIA is an excellent VPN provider, but Nord will meet the needs of more users. You can view the results of the PIA vs NordVPN battle in the table below.
Why this VPN is the best choice
NordLynx protocol is superior to WireGuard. Nord can scan the files you download for malware, and it has undergone nine security audits.
NordVPN has better download speeds than PIA.
Nord’s location is friendlier to VPNs, and it passed three no-log audits with flying colors.
PIA has lower price tags, but we’d argue that NordVPN offers better value for the price.
Ease of use
Both VPN services are intuitive and easy to use.
Nord’s customer support team is more tech-savvy.
Based on our extensive testing, NordVPN is a clear winner in all essential categories. It offers airtight security, excellent speeds, solid privacy practices, and great value for money. It has also been through 12 independent audits, which is beyond impressive. PIA might be a better choice for some niche uses, but NordVPN is the better service overall.
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Looking for some quick answers about our PIA vs NordVPN comparison? Click on one of the FAQs below to expand the answer.
Which is better: PIA or NordVPN?
NordVPN is a superior service, in our experience. It offers better security, higher download speeds, and more nuanced malware protection. You can see how these two providers fared against each other in our full PIA vs NordVPN comparison.
Is PIA cheaper or NordVPN?
PIA has lower prices but we feel that NordVPN offers better value for money. If you’re on a budget, you can take a look at our list of the cheapest VPNs out there.
Is NordVPN faster than PIA?
NordVPN has better download speeds while PIA offers higher upload speeds. Which is the better option depends on what you need at any given time. We always prefer faster downloads, so NordVPN is the better tool for us. If you’re looking for sheer speed, though, you should check our list of the fastest VPNs on the market.
Djordje is a cybersecurity copywriter with an extensive background in law and marketing. His main interests include legal frameworks for censorship on all levels and the place of VPNs and other cybersecurity software on that spectrum.