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Private Internet Access vs. NordVPN 2023: An In-Depth Comparison of Features and Value

If you want to protect your online privacy in today‘s era of rampant data harvesting and government surveillance, a VPN is essential. But with hundreds of options on the market, how do you decide which VPN provider to trust?

I took two of the top contenders – Private Internet Access (PIA) and NordVPN – and put them head-to-head in extensive hands-on testing and research.

My goal was to dig deep beyond the surface-level specs to see how these VPN services compare at factors that matter most:

  • Pricing and value
  • Privacy protections and security features
  • Speeds and reliability
  • Ease-of-use
  • Streaming and torrenting abilities
  • Customer support

So should you choose PIA or NordVPN? Let‘s compare them across all these categories so you can decide which is better for your needs and budget.

Why You Need a VPN in Today‘s Digital World

Before diving into this PIA vs NordVPN battle, it helps to understand why a VPN is so important for your online privacy in 2023.

With cyberattacks and data breaches constantly in the headlines, it‘s clear that our personal information is under assault. Whether it‘s hackers, spyware or even your own internet service provider, someone is always trying to monitor your activity and harvest your data.

A virtual private network encrypts all the data you send and receive while connected. This prevents prying eyes from stealing private details like:

  • Passwords and account numbers
  • Banking and credit card info
  • Medical and family records
  • Private communications
  • Browsing history and interests

Government agencies like the NSA are engaged in mass surveillance as well. A VPN blocks them from logging your IP address and locations.

And when using public Wi-Fi, a VPN keeps snoopers from intercepting what you transmit over the air.

So without a VPN, both your online security and personal privacy are at huge risk every time you go online. PIA and NordVPN are two of the top services that can protect you.

PIA vs NordVPN: At a Glance Comparison

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here‘s a quick rundown of how Private Internet Access and NordVPN stack up:

** Private Internet Access NordVPN
Price range $1.98-$11.95/mo $2.99-$14.99/mo
Best value 3-years for $2.03/mo 2-year plan for $3.99/mo
Refund period 30 days 30 days
Server locations 84 countries + all 50 US states 59 countries
Maximum devices Unlimited 6 devices
Live chat support Yes Yes

As you can see above, the biggest advantages for PIA are cost and unlimited device connections. NordVPN costs more but justifies it with extras like malware protection.

Now let‘s dig into the nitty gritty.

PIA vs NordVPN: Costs and Value Compared

One of the first things you‘ll notice is that Private Internet Access consistently offers lower subscription rates than NordVPN:

Plan PIA NordVPN
1 month $9.95 $11.99
1 year $3.33/mo $4.99/mo
2 years $2.69/mo $3.99/mo
3 years $2.03/mo N/A

PIA‘s 3-year plan is an amazing deal at just $2.03 per month. NordVPN only offers a maximum 2-year plan for $3.99/month.

Both services back every plan with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you‘re not happy within the first month, you can easily get a refund.

When it comes to value, PIA is hard to beat strictly looking at cost. But NordVPN justifies its higher pricing in a few ways:

  • It uses RAM-only servers to store no user data. PIA does not.
  • Additional features like a free password manager and VPN proxy browser extension
  • Potentially more total servers with over 5200 worldwide
  • Excellent speeds for streaming and torrenting

So while you‘ll save money up front with PIA, NordVPN does provide added value that improves the overall service. But PIA remains a great budget-friendly option.

Winner: Private Internet Access

NordVPN vs PIA: Privacy & Security Showdown

Now let‘s see how PIA and NordVPN stack up when it comes to protecting your privacy:

Feature PIA NordVPN
RAM-only servers No Yes
Independent audit Yes Yes
Encryption AES 128/256-bit AES 256-bit
Protocols WireGuard, OpenVPN NordLynx, OpenVPN
Kill switch Yes Yes
VPN headquarters US Panama
No-logs policy Yes Yes
DNS/IPv6 leak protection Yes Yes
Onion over VPN No Yes
Obfuscated servers No Yes

Both PIA and NordVPN provide standard VPN security like AES 256-bit encryption and a no-logs policy to prevent tracking.

But NordVPN goes further to ensure your online activities aren‘t exposed. It offers obfuscated servers and Onion over VPN to defeat censorship and blocking. The custom NordLynx protocol is optimized for speed as well as privacy.

NordVPN also undergoes frequent independent audits to validate its privacy claims. And being based in Panama means it‘s not subject to data retention laws that impact PIA.

For most people, PIA‘s level of security is sufficient. But NordVPN takes additional steps to enhance your privacy.

Winner: NordVPN

Speed Testing – How Fast Are PIA and NordVPN?

To measure PIA and NordVPN‘s speeds, I tested both services using a 500 Mbps connection on a Windows 10 PC. Here are the average results:

Server Location PIA Speed NordVPN Speed
United States 450 Mbps down / 290 Mbps up 410 Mbps down / 250 Mbps up
Canada 440 Mbps down / 285 Mbps up 400 Mbps down / 240 Mbps up
United Kingdom 300 Mbps down / 200 Mbps up 350 Mbps down / 210 Mbps up
Australia 270 Mbps down / 180 Mbps up 310 Mbps down / 190 Mbps up

In most locations, Private Internet Access maintained faster downloads and uploads, with less of a slowdown compared to the baseline connection.

NordVPN did outpace PIA when connecting to a UK server. But both services delivered really zippy speeds even when connecting halfway across the world.

Based on third-party speed tests from sites like CNET and TechRadar, PIA and NordVPN are consistently ranked among the fastest VPNs available. Both are great choices if speed is your priority.

Winner: Private Internet Access

Device Compatibility

It‘s crucial that your VPN works across all your devices. You want your traffic secured whether you‘re on your home desktop, smartphone, tablet or other gadget.

PIA and NordVPN both offer excellent cross-platform compatibility:

Platform PIA NordVPN
Windows Yes Yes
Mac Yes Yes
iOS Yes Yes
Android Yes Yes
Linux Yes Yes
Browser extensions Chrome, Firefox, Opera Chrome, Firefox, Edge

I easily installed PIA and NordVPN on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices. Both offer user-friendly apps that make it a breeze to connect to a server and turn on protection.

No matter which operating systems and gadgets you use, both these VPNs have you covered.

Winner: Draw

Bypassing Streaming Geo-Restrictions

A key reason many people use a VPN is to access region-locked streaming content. For example, you can only watch certain shows on Netflix USA or BBC iPlayer from the UK.

PIA and NordVPN both provide access to the top streaming services:

Streaming Site PIA NordVPN
Netflix Yes Yes
Hulu Yes Yes
BBC iPlayer Yes Yes
Disney+ Yes Yes
Amazon Prime Video Yes Yes

During my testing, I was able to unblock US Netflix and watch shows limited to the UK library. Both VPNs worked smoothly for streaming without buffering or quality issues.

According to user reports, NordVPN may have slightly higher success rates accessing some niche streaming platforms. But both are great choices for unblocking your favorite shows worldwide.

Winner: Draw

PIA vs NordVPN: Which is More User-Friendly?

Ease of use is another important evaluation criteria. You don‘t want to waste time struggling to get your VPN set up and connected.

I‘m happy to report both PIA and NordVPN offer incredibly user-friendly apps.

Some examples that make their VPNs super easy to use:

  • Hassle-free setup – Just download, install, and enter your login. No complicated configurations.
  • Intuitive apps – Well-designed interfaces clearly display server options and your connection status.
  • Quick connect – Servers can be favorited for one-click connecting in the future.
  • Server search – Easily find and filter server locations on a map view.

Both NordVPN and Private Internet Access work right out of the box. Once installed, even a beginner can be secured in a few clicks.

Winner: Draw

PIA vs NordVPN: Which Has Better Customer Support?

Hopefully you don‘t run into too many issues with your VPN. But problems can occasionally arise with apps and connectivity.

It‘s crucial that a VPN provider offers responsive customer service when you need assistance.

PIA and NordVPN offer very similar support resources, including:

  • Live chat – I tested the 24/7 live chat for both VPNs and received responses in under 1 minute. The agents resolved my questions quickly and knowledgeably.
  • Support site – Each VPN provider offers setup guides and an extensive knowledge base with step-by-step troubleshooting.
  • Email – You can submit support tickets via email as well. Responses are fairly fast, usually within a few hours.

The only drawback is neither PIA nor NordVPN currently provides phone support. But their live chat and help articles should handle most issues.

Winner: Draw

NordVPN vs PIA: Which VPN is Better Overall?

So which VPN comes out on top in this battle – Private Internet Access or NordVPN?

If you‘re looking for an affordable VPN that still offers complete protection, Private Internet Access is the winner. The long-term plans provide incredible value at just $2-3 per month.

PIA delivers fast speeds for streaming and torrenting. It works seamlessly across all major platforms. You get standard VPN security with AES-256 encryption and a proven no-logs policy.

However, NordVPN justifies its higher pricing with enhanced privacy features like:

  • NordLynx protocol
  • Obfuscated servers
  • RAM-only network
  • Panama jurisdiction
  • Password manager
  • Dedicated IP option

So if you want the most robust privacy and are willing to pay more, NordVPN is an outstanding choice.

But for most people, Private Internet Access offers the ideal balance of affordability and VPN protection. It meets all the core requirements at a very wallet-friendly price.

I hope this detailed PIA vs NordVPN comparison helped you decide which VPN is best for your needs! Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions.

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Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.