NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN: What to Pick in 2021

Updated: 30 November 2021
Updated: 30 November 2021

Miklos Zoltan

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NordVPN and ProtonVPN are both some of the best VPNs in terms of privacy and security. They have a similar mission of making the internet better, free of surveillance, censorship, and threats.

They also boast a proven track record of fighting internet injustices and helping their users reclaim their online freedom.

In this review, we will make an in-depth comparison between NordVPN and ProtonVPN.

We will look at their overall features, pricing, servers, security and privacy, ease of use, compatibility, and customer support.

Continue reading to know how these VPN providers compare!

Related: NordVPN review
Related: ProtonVPN review

NordVPN vs. ProtonVPN

Feature Highlights

NordVPN IPVanish
Offshore Panama Jurisdiction (outside the 5/9/14 Eyes alliance). Switzerland Jurisdiction (outside the 5/9/14 Eyes alliance).
5100 plus servers in 60 countries. 1400 plus servers in 61 countries.
RAM-based servers. Full-disk encryption.
Special servers (Dedicated IP, P2P, Obfuscated, Double VPN, and Onion over VPN). Special servers (Secure Core servers, Tor Over VPN, P2P, and Streaming).
OpenVPN, NordLynx, and IKEv2/IPsec. OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, and WireGuard.
Proprietary. Open Source.
Browser extensions. N/A.
6 simultaneous connections. Up to 10 simultaneous connections.

Pricing

NordVPN offers different subscription plans for the same VPN service. ProtonVPN’s pricing model is a bit diverse. The VPN service you get depends on your subscription plan. Here are the subscription plans at the time of this review:

NordVPN:

  • The monthly plan goes for $11.95 per month.
  • The 1-year plan retails at $4.92 per month. This totals to $59.00 for the first year.
  • The 2-year plan costs $3.29 per month with an addition of 3 free months. You get billed $89.00 for the first 2 years.

ProtonVPN:

Tiers Subscription Plans
Monthly 1-Year 2-Years
Basic $5 $4.00 per month. Total to $48.00 yearly. $3.29 per month. Total to $79.00 every 2 years.
Plus $10 $8.00 per month. Total to $96.00 yearly. $6.63 per month. Total to $159.00 every 2 years.
Visionary $30 $24.00 per month. Total to $288.00 yearly. $19.96 per month. Total to $479.00 every 2 years.

NordVPN is more affordable than ProtonVPN. Both providers offer discounts on their long-term plans hence making them cheaper than the monthly plans. For NordVPN, you can add other products such as a password manager and cloud storage at an extra cost during checkout.

ProtonVPN tiers offer the VPN service according to the cost. They also fit your online tasks. The basic tier offers the least, while the Plus tier offers a fully-fledged VPN service.

The Plus tier is the recommendable best option. The Visionary tier offers all the Plus tier features, and you get a premium ProtonMail Visionary account.

You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee from both providers. With this guarantee, you can test the premium VPN features without incurring a cost.

Free VPN

ProtonVPN offers a free VPN that you can use to protect your online activities and privacy. This free VPN is highly regarded as the best since it has no advertisements, no speed or bandwidth limits, and doesn’t log your activities.

The free VPN gives you access to 23 servers in the Netherlands, USA, and Japan. It only allows a connection of up to 1 device.

ProtonVPN offers the free VPN with no catch as part of its mission; to provide security and privacy to those in need. Online privacy is a fundamental human right. Unlike other free VPNs, ProtonVPN’s free plan is funded by paying users.

Payment Methods

Both VPN providers accept payments made through various credit and debit cards, PayPal, and cryptocurrency. Paying using cryptocurrency increases your privacy since it leaves little to no trace of who you are.

NordVPN also accepts other payments methods such as ACH transfer, Amazon Pay, and Google Pay.

Currently, cryptocurrency payments for ProtonVPN are restricted to existing accounts. For new customers who want to subscribe using cryptocurrency, they should first contact customer support. Cryptocurrency subscriptions for ProtonVPN may take up to 36 hours to process.

Server Locations

NordVPN: 5185 servers in 60 countries.
ProtonVPN: 1427 servers in 61 countries.

NordVPN has a larger server network than ProtonVPN. The servers for both providers are spread across a wider geographical area. You can gain access to any content in the world from almost anywhere in the world. Both providers offer special servers such as double VPN, Tor over VPN, and P2P.

NordVPN kicks it up a little bit with stealth VPN, dedicated IP servers, while ProtonVPN includes streaming servers. Both providers offer unlimited bandwidth.

Speed

The server network for each provider is engineered and optimized to offer the fastest speeds. However, ProtonVPN has pretty faster speeds than NordVPN. The ProtonVPN network carries one of the largest VPN network capacities that exceed 1 terabit per second. What ProtonVPN lacks in numbers makes it up for speed.

Speeds from both providers are suitable for gaming, downloading content, and streaming online content in HD and even in 4K where applicable. However, for NordVPN, the speeds are not the same in all servers.

Faraway servers tend to have slower connections speeds. But that’s not a problem for ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN has a smaller network and a VPN accelerator.

VPN Accelerator

This nifty ProtonVPN feature allows you to experience significant speed improvements when you connect to a faraway server. The VPN accelerator overcomes CPU limitations and allows the VPN service to use powerful server multi-core processors. This avoids overloading, which leads to decreased performance.

Additionally, the accelerator reduces inefficiencies in VPN protocols. In a nutshell, the VPN accelerator increases speed and performance, allowing the VPN service to utilize the large network capacity better.

ProtonVPN claims the accelerator increases your VPN speeds by over 400%.

Unblocking Abilities

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN sport exceptional unblocking abilities. Both providers use techniques that bypass various geo-restrictions without being detected. NordVPN claims to unblock over 400 streaming services. ProtonVPN is only concerned about unblocking 30 plus popular streaming services.

With both providers, you can unblock and stream content from Netflix, Disney plus, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Prime Video, Hulu, ESPN, ITV, Peacock, Spotify, Sling, Hotstar, DAZN, and various sporting events.

Related: How to unblock Disney Plus with a VPN
Related: How to unblock Netflix
Related: How to unblock DAZN with a VPN
Related: How to Play Roobet in the US

To get a great streaming experience on ProtonVPN, subscribe to Plus or Visionary tiers. These tiers offer servers optimized for streaming.

Privacy

NordVPN jurisdiction: Panama.
ProtonVPN jurisdiction: Switzerland.

NordVPN and ProtonVPN are headquartered in favorable Jurisdiction for VPNs. NordVPN in Panama and ProtonVPN in Switzerland. These jurisdictions have no mandatory data retention laws, and thus NordVPN and ProtonVPN are under no obligation to collect compromising user data.

These jurisdictions are also outside the reach of the 5/9/14 eyes alliance and away from the EU and US jurisdictions. Additionally, Switzerland is also known for its Swiss political neutrality.

No-log Policy

Both VPN providers offer a no-log VPN service. They do not monitor, track, collect, or store data regarding your sessions, IP address, VPN activities and usage, or any other information that can compromise your privacy.

They also do not share data with other third parties. Their jurisdictions further reinforce their no-log VPN service.

According to their jurisdiction laws, these VPN providers are not required to comply with requests that order them to give out user data unless the relevant court supports the requests.

NordVPN’s no-log policy has been externally audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) AG, Zurich, Switzerland – this is one of the Big 4 auditing firms. PwC proved the no-logging claim and concluded that the no-log policy is accurate.

RAM-based servers vs. Full-disk Encryption

NordVPN uses RAM-based servers, while ProtonVPN uses full-disk encryption. RAM-based servers are superior since the data is wiped on every reboot. The software stack is also loaded on boot.

Hence, RAM-based servers have greater consistency with significantly reduced redundancies. RAM-based VPN servers have maximum privacy and security.

Full-disk encryption do not wipe data on reboot. ProtonVPN insists that the encryption used is unbreakable, and the servers contain virtually no personally identifiable data. Even if forced to decrypt the servers, no privacy-compromising information will be found.

Nonetheless, it is safer to have no data at all. With NordVPN, they can’t give out any user data because they have nothing to give. RAM-based servers and full-disk encryption also ensure that data is safe from man-in-the-middle attacks and other unauthorized entities.

Open Source

ProtonVPN offers open-source apps, and their source code is available to be audited by security researchers and the community. This ensures a higher level of security and transparency since the code can be easily scrutinized and potential vulnerabilities fixed.

Also, security researchers can inspect how data is handled and encryption implemented. This can significantly reduce unforeseen security risks. Unlike open-source, proprietary code is based on security through obscurity.

On this basis, malicious people can discover vulnerabilities and exploit them secretly.

ProtonVPN has also undergone security-focused audits by SEC Consult, a leading security firm.

Security

Encryption and Protocols

Both VPN providers implement a robust security setup to safeguard your online connection and traffic. They use secure protocols and impeccable military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, 4096-bit RSA key exchange, HMAC, and SHA256/384 authentication with perfect forward secrecy. This is one of the highest strengths in encryption.

With this setup, you get a more secure VPN connection that prying eyes cannot compromise.

Secure VPN protocols offered by both providers include OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. ProtonVPN additionally offers the WireGuard protocol, and NordVPN also provides the NordLynx protocol (modified WireGuard).

WireGuard is known for delivering the fastest speeds possible with excellent security.

You can change the protocols to use or set the VPN to choose the best protocol automatically.

Leak Protection

Leaks can severely compromise your online privacy and security even though you are connected to a VPN. Leaks occur when your traffic doesn’t stay in the VPN tunnel as intended.

This usually happens when Your ISP services your DNS queries instead of your VPN provider. They can also occur when your VPN provider does not support IPv6 addresses. Thus, your ISP handles them instead.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to worry about leaks when using NordVPN or ProtonVPN. They offer leak protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. Ensure you enable the leak protection feature before connecting to a server.

Kill Switch

A VPN kill switch blocks your internet connection when the VPN connection drops or is temporarily unavailable. By doing this, the Kill Switch stops traffic from flowing to and from your device unsecured.

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN offer Kill Switches in their apps. NordVPN also offers an App Kill Switch in addition to the system-wide Kill Switch.

Double VPN/Secure Core

Both VPN providers offer double VPN servers for double protection. With double VPN servers, your VPN traffic is routed through two servers before reaching its destination.

Hence, your data and connection are encrypted twice, and two servers mask your actual IP address. This results in improved user privacy and data security.

ProtonVPN prides itself in its double VPN servers known as Secure Core. These servers are located in countries with strong privacy laws, such as Iceland, Switzerland, and Sweden.

The data centers that house these servers are either located underground or in former military bases. They are also owned and managed by ProtonVPN.

The data centers also have robust physical security. ProtonVPN takes these measures because the Secure Core servers are primarily used for very important and sensitive traffic.

Onion/Tor over VPN

Tor over VPN is a technique that allows you to enjoy the anonymity of the onion network securely through a VPN. Both NordVPN and Proton VPN offer nodes that you can use to access the Tor network without installing a Tor browser on your device.

With these servers, you access various onion sites and do other online activities securely and anonymously. You can also bypass entities that block Tor traffic, such as your ISP.

Malware and Ad Blocker

Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN have powerful blockers (CyberSec and NetShield, respectively) that give premium blockers a run for their money. These blockers stop annoying and intrusive ads, online trackers, malware, and even botnets.

They use a DNS filtering technique that ensures you are protected every time you surf the internet. Besides protection, these blockers also improve your browsing experience and save you some bandwidth that ads would have used.

Ease of Use and Compatibility

NordVPN: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Chromebook, Browser extension (Chrome and Firefox), gaming consoles, and Routers.
ProtonVPN: Windows, Macs, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Android TV, and Routers.

NordVPN and ProtonVPN are compatible with most computers, smartphones, routers, and streaming devices. Getting started is an easy task as you need to sign up, choose a subscription plan and install the VPN.

The native VPN apps offer a modern, streamlined interface shared across the platforms (computers, smartphones, and streaming devices). The interfaces are user-friendly, and navigation is also easy. Even novice users can use the VPN apps without any problems.

Both VPN providers offer a list and map-based interface for selecting servers, easy access to settings, and a quick-connect button. You can change various settings and also customize the VPN service according to your preference. You won’t have to tweak most settings as the VPN apps are good to go out of the box.

Both VPN providers tie in he categories of best VPN for Mac and best VPN for Android.

Split Tunneling

NordVPN and ProtonVPN offer allow you to choose the apps that will use the VPN tunnel. Thus, your device will have two connections, the VPN connection and the regular unsecure connection over the internet.

Split tunneling is essential as it allows you to access your local network (and devices such as printers) while unblocking online content, making a remote connection, and using services and apps that do not allow VPN traffic.

Dedicated IP address

NordVPN uses shared IP addresses as well as dedicated IP addresses. ProtonVPN only uses shared IP addresses. By default, shared IP addresses are the best since they offer privacy. Since multiple users share them, it is hard to pinpoint an individual based on their online activities.

Nonetheless, dedicated IP addresses are also helpful. You can use them for remote connections, access sensitive services such as online banking, access institution networks, avoid blacklists associated with shared IP addresses, and bypass CAPTCHAS.

Torrenting

You can securely and privately torrent content using either NordVPN or ProtonVPN. Both providers offer special servers optimized for P2P traffic. The servers provide incredible speeds and performance and help you bypass ISP throttling usually associated with torrenting.

In the best VPN for torrenting category both perform the same.

Obfuscation and Censorship

You can use NordVPN or ProtonVPN to bypass various restrictions and VPN blocks to gain access to various online content. NordVPN uses obfuscated servers that conceal your VPN traffic via the obfsproxy technique.

Obfuscation makes it possible for NordVPN to bypass multiple blocks, including the dreaded deep-packet inspection.

This makes NordVPN the best choice for bypassing censorship, including the Great Firewall of China.

Although ProtonVPN also bypasses censorship. Currently, it is unable to bypass the Great Firewall of China. However, ProtonVPN has promised to bypass the Chinese government blocks in the future – it is working on countermeasures.

Customer Support

NordVPN has extensive customer support comprising a 24/7 live chat, an email ticket system, and a comprehensive knowledge base. The 24/7 live chat is quick and offers responsive and friendly customer service.

The wait time is minimal, and the support staff provides satisfactory solutions to your queries.

ProtonVPN only offers a website knowledgebase and an email ticket system. The website knowledgebase of both VPN providers hosts a search section, FAQs, setup guides, troubleshooting tutorials, billing solutions, and general info about their VPN service.

The search section helps you find solutions quickly, especially when you don’t know their category. To use the search bar, you need to enter a keyword related to what you want to find.

You can solve most problems by using solutions from the knowledge base without necessarily contacting the support staff.

If your problem cannot be solved by the knowledgebase or the live chat (NordVPN), you can use the email system. Usually, responses take a while, but NordVPN has a faster response time than ProtonVPN.

Wrap Up

NordVPN shares many similarities with ProtonVPN regarding internet privacy, online security, and online freedom. Both providers offer a no-log VPN service, use impeccable encryptions, and they have top-notch unblocking abilities.

Their servers deliver the fastest speeds with unlimited bandwidth.

You can use both providers for almost any online tasks such as torrenting, gaming, and other data-intensive tasks requiring privacy. You also get access to special features such as double VPN and Tor over VPN.

Nonetheless, NordVPN is a much better option than ProtonVPN. You get more features such as dedicated IP address, obfuscation, RAM-based servers, browser extensions, a 24/7 live chat, and a more extensive server network.

Written by: Justin Oyaro

Connect with the author:

Tech and Cybersecurity Expert Justin is a cybersecurity expert with over 5 years of experience that stretches across various technological realms. He is a valued expert in cybersecurity, Cord-cutting, Cryptocurrency, Smartphones, How-tos and other related fields. Justin has written authoritative content for multiple Cybersecurity websites and blogs on matters regarding privacy and security. He also does pen test on tech products such as smartphone applications and websites. When he is not writing, Justin spends most of his time on the latest tech trends and Android Studio. Justin is also a degree holder in Information Systems Technology and Master of Computer Applications (M.C.A.), University of Adelaide.

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