NordVPN vs ProtonVPN

NordVPN is well-known as the ‘best VPN’ and frequently tops VPN comparison lists, including a lot of ours at VPNSurfers. However, ProtonVPN is also an exceptional VPN with a legion of loyal subscribers due to the excellent features and security it provides to users.

If security and privacy are high on your list of desirable when it comes to VPNs, then NordVPN and ProtonVPN are two of the best options on the VPN market. We’ve taken a deep-dive into the VPN providers to compare them in all areas using our first-rate evaluation standards, from privacy policies to app usability to pricing plans.

So, is ProtonVPN the best, or will NordVPN continue to be the reigning VPN forever?

Table of content

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: Security and Privacy

NordVPN and ProtonVPN are two of the most, if not the most, privacy and security-conscious VPNs. Both VPNs go above and beyond in terms of offering super security and privacy features to customers.

Encryption

ProtonVPN and NordVPN both employ military-grade AES-256 bit encryption. AES-256 bit encryption offers the most security. This encryption level is employed by governments and is incredibly hard for hackers to decrypt and see your VPN traffic.

Tunneling protocols also affect your encryption level. ProtonVPN offers customers a choice of protocols, including OpenVPN over TCP or UDP and IKEv2. Both of these protocols are secure, and ProtonVPN doesn’t offer less secure protocols like PPTP.

ProtonVPN also employs Perfect Forward Secrecy to change encryption keys at every session and has WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS leak protection.

NordVPN also employs the best protocols; OpenVPN, NordLynx, and L2TP/IPSec. NordLynx is Nord’s proprietary protocol, based on the open-source WireGuard protocol. WireGuard is a new protocol that provides a high-speed connection but has some security issues. NordLynx is the improved version of WireGuard.

Like ProtonVPN, NordVPN also employs Perfect Forward Secrecy and has private DNS on all its servers to handle DNS requests. NordVPN also implements WebRTC and IPv6 leak protection to ensure your real IP address is never revealed.

Zero-logs

A no-logging policy is vital since it guarantees that your VPN provider is not observing, storing, or sharing your data. Both providers operate zero-logs policies.

ProtonVPN doesn’t log browsing data, real IP addresses, location, or anything else that could reveal your activity on the network and real identity. The only information that ProtonVPN logs about your VPN use is a timestamp of your most recent log-in, which is overwritten at your next session

NordVPN also operates a zero-logs policy but stores a small amount of data, including your disconnection times. However, this data is automatically removed from the servers after 15 minutes.

ProtonVPN and NordVPN have undergone independent audits. NordVPN has had its no-logging policy audited, while ProtonVPN has had its apps audited and releases annual transparency reports. Both providers aim to be fully transparent with all of their customers to reassure them that their data will always be safe.

Jurisdiction

Both VPN providers have their headquarters in privacy-friendly countries. NordVPN is based in Panama, which has no strict data retention laws. ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland, which is well known for its privacy protection laws.

However, while Switzerland is considered a privacy-friendly region, it does have links to the Five Eyes, an international surveillance alliance made up of many countries, including the USA and the UK. The Five eyes shares data, which could be an issue for Proton customers.

However, ProtonVPN operates a good zero-logs policy which ensures that if the provider were forced to share data, there wouldn’t be anything on its servers to hand over. It is also worth mentioning that ProtonVPN’s parent company is Proton Technologies AG which is well known for ProtonMail, its revolutionary, encrypted email program. For this reason, we trust that ProtonVPN will keep users’ data safe.

Kill switch and other features

NordVPN and ProtonVPN have a kill switch that users can activate in the app settings. The kill switch is essential since it guarantees that you never unknowingly surf the web without a VPN connection and cuts off your internet access if your server connection cuts out.

The providers also offer customers the option to route their VPN connection through more servers for extra layers of privacy. NordVPN has the Double VPN option, enabling users to tunnel their data through two servers, changing their IP address twice.

ProtonVPN has the Secure Core network, enabling subscribers to pass their traffic through servers in Switzerland and Iceland first. ProtonVPN offers this unique feature since many servers are unfortunately under surveillance, so routing your traffic via the Secure Core network first to further protect your real IP address.

Moreover, the Secure Core network is manned by the ProtonVPN team, and the physical servers are located in extremely secure locations.

The providers also offer their customers the option to anonymize themselves by routing their connection via the TOR network. NordVPN customers can choose the Onion over VPN option. Proton subscribers can connect to the Onion Network via the app by clicking the onion symbol next to their chosen server.

Finally, the providers each have an AdBlock feature to protect your device. ProtonVPN’s AdBlock is called NetShield, and NordVPN’s is called CyberSec. Both of these services block ads, trackers, and malware, and enabling this feature can actually speed up your connection whilst protecting your device.

The winner: Deciding the winner of this section is difficult since each VPN service provides great security and privacy features. The VPNs don’t outdo each other when it comes to encryption and offering secure protocols. We really like ProtonVPN’s Secure Core Network and are encouraged by NordVPN’s independent audit. For these reasons, it’s a tie when it comes to security.

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: Additional features

Great VPN software shouldn’t just provide advanced security and privacy features; it needs to also come with an abundance of extra features that you can employ to enhance your VPN experience.

NordVPN

NordVPN offers its customers 6 simultaneous connections enabling users to employ the VPN across several devices at once. NordVPN offers split tunneling, allowing users to route access to certain websites and apps through their regular network, bypassing the VPN tunnel.

Known as one of the best VPN companies for streaming fans, NordVPN can successfully unblock content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and more, thanks to its obfuscated servers. NordVPN provides users with unlimited bandwidth, which means that they can stream as much as they want and not have to worry about any bandwidth throttling from their ISP.

As well as being great for accessing streaming services, NordVPN offers P2P support on its network. Over 4000 of its servers support P2P networking, which is great since several VPN services don’t support torrenting on their networks.

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is one of the best VPN providers when it comes to extra features since it offers a lot to its subscribers. Firstly, it is worth mentioning that there are different subscription plans with ProtonVPN, which change the number of device connections you get. Simultaneous connections vary from 1 to 5, to 8, or 10, and we like that there are various options.

ProtonVPN isn’t known as the best VPN service for streaming, but it does manage to unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ content in other regions. However, during our research for this comparison piece, we were unable to access BBC iPlayer. Again, the VPN’s ability to unblock streaming sites successfully and offer HD quality with fast speeds depends on the plan you choose.

Like NordVPN, ProtonVPN supports torrenting on its network. You can easily connect to a P2P-optimized server via the app since these servers are clearly highlighted with a small arrow symbol.

There is also split tunneling available which you can customize in the app settings, excluding chosen websites and applications from using the VPN tunnel.

The winner: There is no clear winner when it comes to features since both providers can unblock Netflix and support torrenting on their networks. However, NordVPN has a slightly better reputation when it comes to streaming services; for this reason alone, NordVPN may be a better choice if you want to unblock foreign streaming services.

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: Servers

Why is the size of a VPN server network important? Firstly, the more servers, the more geo-restrictions you’ll be able to bypass. Secondly, more servers mean more choices for subscribers and lower server loads; this can increase server speeds and give you a more enjoyable experience.

Number of servers

NordVPN offers more than 5400 servers across 59 countries. This is large and far exceeds ProtonVPN’s number of servers which stands at 1254 across 54 countries.

In the VPN industry, anything over 1000 is considered a good network size, so both VPN companies perform well in this area.

Server locations

Most of NordVPN’s servers are based in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, while the continent of Africa only has one location in South Africa. Even though the provider offers hundreds of thousands of IP address options, it would be great to see NordVPN extend its network to include locations in more places.

ProtonVPN is in a similar position to NordVPN since it operates in almost the same number of countries. Like NordVPN, ProtonVPN only offers one African location in South Africa, and the majority of its servers are based in Europe and Asia.

The winner: In terms number of servers, NordVPN is the winner due to its larger server list. However, there is only a slight difference between the number of countries that the providers operate in, and each company has servers in similar locations.

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: Speed and performance

Great speeds are an essential aspect of a Virtual Private Network. We ran some speed tests to see how Nord and Proton performed when connected to some servers in certain locations.

NordVPN:

When we connected to a US-based NordVPN server, we had a breakneck download speed of 39Mbps. We then connected to a server in the UK and had a download speed of 37Mbps. Connecting to Australia lowered our speed ever so slightly to 34Mbps, and Japan produced a download speed of 35Mbps.

However, all of these speeds are fast, and our speed tests were impressive. We used the NordLynx protocol on several connections and noticed that our speeds were a lot faster with this protocol.

ProtonVPN:

With ProtonVPN, we used the OpenVPN protocol and were pleasantly surprised by the results of our speed tests. In the US, we had a speed of 37Mbps, which was fast. In the UK, our speed didn’t change much, dipping to 36Mbps.

We then tested the servers in Australia and Japan and noticed slightly slower speeds. The Australia server provided us with a download speed of 32Mbps, and Japan with a speed of 31Mbps.

All of the above speeds are good enough for streaming Netflix or other media content in HD quality. However, with ProtonVPN, it is worth paying for a subscription since speeds are drastically slower on the free version.

The winner: NordVPN is the winner since we experienced faster speeds on all of its servers. However, we were not disappointed with ProtonVPN’s speeds either.

NordVPN vs ProtonVPN: Pricing plans

While we all love a good deal, it’s sometimes worth paying a little extra to enjoy advanced features. Here’s a rundown of NordVPN and ProtonVPN’s pricing options.

NordVPN offers three different VPN subscriptions and occasionally has holiday deals:

ProtonVPN operates a slightly different pricing structure depending on the length of time and subscription you opt for:

For a detailed comparison of the various ProtonVPN plans, read our ProtonVPN review.

Free plans

A handful of providers offer free plans alongside their paid subscriptions. NordVPN is, unfortunately, not one of these VPNs. However, ProtonVPN offers a comprehensive and impressive free version.

The free ProtonVPN provides subscribers with the same encryption level and a strict no-logging policy but is limited in other areas. Firstly, users can only enjoy the free ProtonVPN on 1 device at any given time. Moreover, they are reduced to just three server locations in the USA, Japan, and the Netherlands.

However, the free version doesn’t come with any bandwidth restrictions and is a great way for individuals to get to grips with the software and test out the ProtonVPN product.

Payment methods

NordVPN and ProtonVPN accept traditional payment methods like credit cards and PayPal and other methods such as Bitcoin payments. Bitcoin is a great option for customers who want to keep their VPN use anonymous.

The winner: In terms of pricing, it is hard to beat a free VPN. However, Proton’s free version does come with limitations. NordVPN offers better value for money on the long-term plans in terms of paid plans, while Proton’s Basic and Plus are cheaper on a month-by-month basis. For long-term value for money, we recommend Nord.

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ProtonVPN vs NordVPN: Platform support

People use a wide array of devices nowadays, so providers must offer support for various operating systems.

NordVPN provides support for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and Android and iOS mobile devices. On top of this, you can use Nord on your Android TV, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV Stick. Alternatively, you can configure NordVPN to your router to subvert the 6 simultaneous connection cap and protect all IoT (Internet of Things) devices on your home network.

ProtonVPN doesn’t compare to Nord in terms of platform support. The provider has dedicated apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Like NordVPN, ProtonVPN enables its subscribers to configure the VPN software to their router, assuming it has compatible DD-WRT firmware.

The winner: NordVPN is the clear winner here since it can be used on many more devices without needing router configuration.

ProtonVPN vs NordVPN: App usability

A user-friendly VPN app is essential, especially for novices who may not be accustomed to Virtual Private Networks.

NordVPN has a super functional app that has a stylish blue design. The app opens up with a map displaying Nord’s servers. Subscribers can connect to a server via the map or use the quick connect button to remove the choice of finding the best server for them. Alternatively, they can scroll through the server list and choose a server this way, adding excellent servers to a favorites list.

Subscribers can adjust the settings, switching on the kill switch, changing protocols, or choosing to route their connection through the Double VPN. NordVPN offers one of the best VPNs when it comes to app and client usability.

ProtonVPN also offers a great desktop client and cell phone app. Proton’s app has a black, gray, and green design that looks high-tech and features a map with servers dotted on it. You can also connect to a server from the list of servers and either scroll through or use the search bar to find the best locations.

Once connected to a server, session traffic will be displayed in the client, showing the current download and upload speed. Users can customize the VPN session by activating security features like the kill switch or enabling split tunneling in the settings area.

The winner: Overall, the two VPN providers each provide great apps. However, we like ProtonVPN’s app since it is great for beginners and provides ease-of-use when customizing the settings.

ProtonVPN vs NordVPN: Customer support

The best VPNs offer first-rate customer support. Fortunately, NordVPN and ProtonVPN pay attention to their subscribers and offer excellent customer service.

With ProtonVPN, you can enjoy a comprehensive support section on the provider’s website, which is full of guides and FAQs about the VPN service and how to make the most out of it. Customers can also get in touch with the support team via an email ticket system, and response times are fast.

NordVPN goes one step further with its customer support offerings, giving customers the option of a live chat service on its website in which they can speak directly to a member of the support team. As well as this, there is a help section full of relevant information about the services and an email system through which subscribers can send queries.

The winner: NordVPN is the clear winner since it offers a 24/7 live chat on its website.

ProtonVPN vs NordVPN Comparison: Is ProtonVPN Better than NordVPN?

Although ProtonVPN has some incredible features, NordVPN is the better VPN. This is for several reasons; firstly, it is based in Panama and operates an audited, and has had its privacy policy audited. Moreover, it has a larger server network than ProtonVPN, offers faster speeds, and is cheaper on its long-term plans.

However, that isn’t to say that Proton doesn’t have a lot of great features. The free version of ProtonVPN is excellent and a great way for people to get used to the software. Moreover, ProtonVPN has excellent security features like DNS and IPv6 leak protection and a kill switch.

Author Madeleine Hodson

I’m Madeleine and I'm a writer that specializes in cybersecurity, tech products, and all things related to the internet. I have a keen interest in VPNs and believe that everyone deserves internet freedom and security. I wri...
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Last updated: July 28, 2021