ProtonVPN vs NordVPN: Which is Better in 2023?
ProtonVPN and NordVPN are two top-notch VPN providers, both known for their dedication towards user privacy. While each one is excellent in its own right, there’s a clear winner in the ProtonVPN vs NordVPN race.
Based on our in-depth comparison, NordVPN is a better choice for 2023. Not only is it faster than ProtonVPN, but it can unblock more streaming services. And if you’re looking for a long-term subscription, NordVPN is a more affordable option. Plus ProtonVPN has 3x fewer servers overall, which puts it at a disadvantage.
Here’s a quick rundown of each VPN service before we go into more detail.
ProtonVPN vs NordVPN at a Glance
|Servers||5,400+ in 59 countries||1,800+ in 67 countries|
|Audited no-logs policy||Yes||Yes|
|Pricing||From $2.99/month||From $4.99/month|
Free plan (limited)
|Money-back guarantee||30 days, full refund||30 days, prorated|
|Customer support||24/7 live chat, email||Support ticket, email|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Edge||No|
Amazon Prime Video,
Amazon Prime Video,
|Split tunneling||Windows, |
|Other features||Kill switch|
Secure Core servers (double VPN)
Stealth protocol (obfuscation)
Which is Better for Streaming: NordVPN or ProtonVPN?
According to the Global Web Index, nearly 60% of all VPN users watch geo-blocked content on platforms like Netflix. Since they’re mainly used as tools for entertainment, let’s see which one’s the best VPN for streaming: ProtonVPN or NordVPN?
Right off the bat, we should mention that NordVPN works with a wider variety of streaming services than ProtonVPN. Their VPN service consistently tops our lists thanks to their unlimited bandwidth, amazing speeds, unblocking capabilities, and streaming-oriented features.
NordVPN’s SmartPlay is a great example. This built-in smart DNS feature lets you unblock region-exclusive content by hiding your location in DNS requests.
These requests contain location data linked to your ISP, and sites like Netflix can use this information to restrict what you can watch. Or worse, completely block you off from services like Hulu or BBC iPlayer. SmartPlay combines the IP-hiding capabilities of a VPN with smart DNS for the best streaming experience.
Now, ProtonVPN still works pretty well with popular sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and others. They offer dedicated streaming servers for Netflix in the United States, United Kingdom, India, Italy, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and France.
However, free ProtonVPN servers can’t unblock streaming platforms at all. This is understandable, but still worth mentioning in case people were hoping for a free VPN that works with Netflix.
On the other hand, ProtonVPN offers 10 simultaneous connections compared to NordVPN’s 6. This makes it a decent alternative for larger households, or if you have lots of gadgets laying around that need a VPN.
Otherwise, streaming enthusiasts should stick with NordVPN.
We do like that both VPNs offer manual setup guides for compatible routers. This helps you get around the device limits (as the router only counts as one). Plus you gain the benefits of a VPN on all your streaming devices, gaming consoles, and other gadgets without VPN capabilities.
ProtonVPN vs NordVPN Speed Tests: Which VPN Provider is Faster?
The TL;DR – NordVPN offers much better speeds overall, as well as an upgraded WireGuard protocol for improved performance.
According to Statista, the average global Internet speed (as of July 2022) is as follows:
- 30.78 Mbps for mobile Internet downloads
- 67.25 Mbps for fixed broadband downloads
To keep in tune with this average, we’ve tested ProtonVPN and NordVPN speeds on a 37.73 Mbps Wi-Fi connection in Romania. Our tests include servers in three primary locations: the US, the Netherlands, and Japan.
It’s important to note that such speed test results are influenced by many factors. These include the quality of your Internet connection, the speed test server location, the network path between you and said server, and more.
The results are useful for a general idea about speed loss while using either provider. We recommend testing out the providers by taking advantage of their 30-day money-back plans. That’s the only way to get a true feel for what they’re capable of.
In any case, here are the results of our NordVPN vs ProtonVPN speed tests:
|Download||37.17 Mbps||34.73 Mbps|
|Upload||10.70 Mbps||13.63 Mbps|
|Download||33.67 Mbps||31.22 Mbps|
|Upload||18.13 Mbps||4.18 Mbps|
|Download||32.59 Mbps||31.45 Mbps|
|Upload||16.52 Mbps||13.41 Mbps|
We were pleased to see that neither of the two VPN services slowed down our connection too much. Any slowdowns that occur are due to a couple of factors:
- Encryption – VPNs use complex algorithms to make your data impossible to read by outsiders. This process takes up device processing power.
- Data routing – your traffic passes through a VPN tunnel, to and from a VPN server. As such, your data covers a greater distance on the way to its destination.
You can mitigate some of this speed loss with features like split tunneling. This lets you choose what app traffic goes through the encrypted tunnel, and what is handled by your ISP.
Bonus points to NordVPN for including split tunneling on their Android TV app. In comparison, ProtonVPN only offers the feature on Windows and Android. Note that split tunneling is rarely supported on iOS or macOS (Big Sur and above), regardless of provider.
ProtonVPN has recently implemented the fast and secure WireGuard protocol in their main apps. NordVPN offers an improved version called NordLynx, which fixes some of the privacy concerns of WireGuard.
Another feature of interest for ProtonVPN users is their VPN Accelerator. As the name implies, VPN Accelerator dramatically improves your speeds, especially when using the slower OpenVPN protocol.
Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN Are Great for Torrenting
Is NordVPN good for torrenting? What about ProtonVPN?
Rather than rely on speedtest.net (which doesn’t tell us much), we simply put the two VPNs to the test. For starters, we downloaded a 6.15 GB torrent in around 50 minutes without using a VPN.
These were our results while torrenting with ProtonVPN and NordVPN. We used P2P servers from the Netherlands in both cases to level the playing field.
NordVPN: 6.15 GB download in 1 hour and 51 minutes
ProtonVPN: 6.15 GB download in 2 hours and 3 minutes
ProtonVPN is slightly slower, which confirms the results of the dedicated speed tests. A few extra minutes should be expected. Note that we made use of the VPN Accelerator feature as well.
Moreover, NordVPN has a larger network of P2P servers worldwide. More specifically, NordVPN boasts 4,000+ P2P servers vs ProtonVPN’s meager 140+. As such, you’re less likely to come across congested servers (i.e. with too many simultaneous users).
Privacy-wise, Switzerland (ProtonVPN) has mandatory data retention laws in place for large telcos and ISPs. Thankfully, VPNs are exempt from these data retention requirements. Still, it’s a more risky scenario than Panama (NordVPN), which has no mandatory data retention at all. Neither country is part of the 14 eyes info-sharing alliance.
ProtonVPN vs NordVPN for Torrenting: Helpful Features
On the plus side, ProtonVPN supports port forwarding. This allows you to open ports on your computer and allow more peers to connect, which can boost your torrenting speeds. Sadly, the option is missing in NordVPN’s apps due to security concerns.
Of course, port forwarding is only supported on their Plus and Unlimited plans. That’s because P2P downloads are not supported on ProtonVPN’s free servers, which is a shame.
Both VPNs come with an Internet kill switch and full IPv6, WebRTC and DNS leak protection. What’s more, they both have independently audited no-logs policies in place to protect your privacy.
They each have their own ad blocker in place. ProtonVPN’s NetShield and NordVPN’s Threat Protection block ads, trackers, and malicious domains. This makes them ideal on torrent trackers that may include sketchy malvertising.
NordVPN’s blocker also scans downloaded executable (.exe) files for malware on Windows and Mac. A nice extra touch for security, especially if you don’t stick to torrents from trusted uploaders.
ProtonVPN vs NordVPN: Which is More Affordable?
When you’re on a budget, you need to make every penny count. So which of the two VPN services comes with more affordable plans? Here’s a quick comparison.
Note: All prices are for standard plans without any of the extras (such as extra cloud storage, data breach scanning, password managers, etc.)
|VPN Service||Free plan||Monthly plan||One year plan||Two year plan|
All in all, you save the most money with NordVPN’s yearly and two-year plans. Otherwise, ProtonVPN is a cheaper alternative if you’re not willing to commit to a long-term subscription.
ProtonVPN comes with a free plan, although it’s fairly limited. You only get 3 locations, medium speeds, and no support for streaming or torrenting at all.
Both VPNs come with a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. That’s more than enough time to try them out and see which one works best.
Unfortunately, ProtonVPN’s money-back plan is prorated. What that means is you won’t get a full refund, and will instead be charged for how many days you used the service. If you cancel your subscription after a week of usage, you’ll only get back around 75% of what you paid.
Conversely, NordVPN offers no-questions-asked refunds regardless of usage time. Just be sure to cancel within the 30-day limit.
NordVPN Payment Methods
NordVPN offers way more payment alternatives than ProtonVPN. First, you get the usual debit and credit card options (MasterCard, VISA, Amex, Discover, JCB, UnionPay).
You can also purchase a subscription through Google Pay or iTunes. AmazonPay seems to be available only in certain regions (such as the US). For non-recurring, privacy-focused payments there’s also a crypto option. You have a choice between Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple.
NordVPN’s support page mentions PayPal and Sofort as options, but we have not seen them at checkout. A quick word with NordVPN’s support bot let us know that you may need to log into NordAccount for the options to pop up.
On a related note, NordVPN uses Paddle, an alternative payment processor that accepts payments through PayPal.
Finally, you can pay for NordVPN with cash at local retailers in several countries. Examples include BestBuy and Walmart in the US, Currys in the UK, and more.
ProtonVPN Payment Methods
ProtonVPN supports the default credit and debit card options, such as VISA, MasterCard, Amex, and UnionPay. The latter is useful for customers looking for a VPN for Russia, as most other payment processors have withdrawn due to the Kremlin’s actions.
They also accept prepaid cards, although you’ll have to try them out to see if they work. Proton themselves have said that “some work and some don’t”, so your guess is as good as ours.
You can subscribe using PayPal, and this time we were able to see the option at checkout without any extra steps. There’s also support for Bitcoin payments, which is always nice to see.
Alternatively, you can pay by bank transfer using their IBAN, using USD, EUR, or CHF. Finally, you can pay in cash by post (same currencies). Naturally, you won’t be able to get a refund this way.
ProtonVPN and NordVPN: Privacy Compared
Privacy-wise, NordVPN vs ProtonVPN is a close race. Both VPN providers have done their homework in every category you’d expect from a top-notch provider.
However, we believe NordVPN has a slight edge in a few key areas (such as jurisdiction). This makes them a more viable option for privacy buffs, but we’ll let you decide.
NordVPN is based in Panama, a region with no mandatory data retention requirements.
In comparison, ProtonVPN’s headquarters are in Switzerland, where data retention is mandatory for ISP’s and telecommunications companies. VPNs are seemingly exempt from logging user data in Switzerland.
However, the company has previously helped French authorities log the IP address of ProtonMail users. The service’s no IP-logging claims were also removed from its website following the incident.
Fortunately, neither country is part of the ’14 Eyes’ info-sharing alliance. Still, Panama is a less risky jurisdiction due to having no logging requirements.
NordVPN and ProtonVPN use industry-leading encryption ciphers like AES-256 and ChaCha20 to secure your data. These are the protocols supported by each provider:
- NordVPN supports OpenVPN, NordLynx (upgraded version of WireGuard), and IKEv2/IPSec (Mac and iOS)
- ProtonVPN includes WireGuard (with double-NAT system to fix privacy concerns), OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPSec (Mac and iOS)
Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN’s WireGuard integrations use a double-NAT system to get around the protocol’s innate privacy issues.
By default, WireGuard can’t assign dynamic IP addresses to users. That means VPN servers would need to store some personally identifiable data, which is detrimental to your privacy.
With double-NAT, all users get the same IP address (e.g. 10.2.0.2), while NAT assigns a unique IP to each VPN tunnel. That way no trace of your personal data is ever stored on NordVPN and ProtonVPN servers.
ProtonVPN includes a Smart Protocol option. This automatically reconnects you to a different protocol if someone tries to block the one you’re currently using.
For example, your workplace or university may attempt to curb VPN usage by blocking WireGuard. In that case, ProtonVPN would reconnect using a different protocol without any extra steps on your part.
Logging Policy and Audit
NordVPN and ProtonVPN are two quality no-logs VPNs, and both of them have third party audits to back up their claims:
- Here’s a link to the ProtonVPN audit by Securitum (March 2022).
- NordVPN’s most recent security audit (by VerSprite) can be found in the user dashboard under “Reports.” The provider has undergone a no-logs audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland as well.
Not much to elaborate here. Both services do an excellent job of sticking to their no-logs claims.
Both providers come with full leak protection, and we’ve confirmed their claims with several online tests:
- All DNS queries are encrypted and handled by NordVPN and ProtonVPN DNS servers.
- IPv6 leaks are handled by simply blocking all IPv6 traffic.
- We’ve also tested both VPNs using 3 separate WebRTC leak tests. As expected, there have been no leaks in either case.
Both NordVPN and ProtonVPN include a kill switch in their VPN apps on all major platforms. This feature prevents any traffic from bypassing the VPN, thus protecting you in case of unexpected disconnects.
We like that NordVPN offers a useful App Kill Switch, letting you choose which apps to quit when you’re not using the VPN. Sadly, ProtonVPN doesn’t include granular kill switch control.
Each provider includes the option to disable Internet access if you’re not connected to the VPN. In ProtonVPN’s case, this is called a Permanent Kill Switch and persists even when you restart or shut down the system.
Note that iOS kill switches can’t shut down DNS queries to Apple servers while using a VPN.
Perfect Forward Secrecy
Perfect forward secrecy (PFS) ensures that a hacker can’t use a single decryption key to gain access to all your data. For example, say a cyber criminal records your encrypted data stream over the course of a year.
Without PFS, if someone manages to find the right key, all your data for the entire year will be exposed. Instead, PFS secures smaller chunks of data, using a unique key for every VPN session.
In other words, even if a hacker somehow gets his hands on a session key, it can’t be used to decrypt any other browsing sessions.
ProtonVPN automatically enables PFS on all its protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard). On the other hand, NordVPN only includes PFS on IKEv2/IPSec connections, which is not ideal.
Obfuscation masks your VPN connection, letting you go under the radar or evade VPN blocks in restrictive countries. Bypass the Great Firewall of China, or hide your VPN traffic from your school or workplace.
With NordVPN, all you need to do is connect to one of their obfuscated servers. You can find them under “Specialty servers.” Note that these servers are only available with OpenVPN connections.
Meanwhile, ProtonVPN has the Stealth protocol on Android, macOS, and iOS. Much like OpenVPN obfuscation, Stealth uses TLS tunneling over TCP to make it harder to detect and block by filters.
And great news, the feature is available for both free and paid users. In fact, it’s one of the only free VPNs that lets you hide your VPN traffic.
Among NordVPN’s other specialty servers you’ll find the double VPN option. By using double VPN servers, your data is encrypted twice, and routed through two chained servers for extra anonymity.
As a result, your connection will be much slower. Of course, if your main focus is online anonymity, speed is probably low on your priority list.
ProtonVPN includes this option as well, although they call it Secure Core. More details below.
ProtonVPN: Secure Core Servers
Note: Secure Core servers aren’t available on the free plan.
These are similar to double VPN servers. Your data is routed through a Secure Core server before connecting to the country of your choice. The difference? Proton has taken great steps to secure their physical location against government seizures.
According to Proton’s website, Secure Core servers are located in underground data centers in Switzerland and Sweden. Meanwhile, their Icelandic Secure Core units are housed on a former military base.
Secure Core servers are fully owned by ProtonVPN, thus ensuring that no third parties can tamper with them. This is similar to NordVPN’s colocated servers, which we discuss below.
NordVPN: Colocated Servers
Since September 2020, NordVPN has taken steps to house and manage their own servers. Their plan is for the entire 5,400+ server network to be fully owned by the company. No more dealing with third party data centers, which is good news for your data security.
Each VPN provider has several interesting features that will make your life easier on the Internet.
As mentioned initially, split tunneling lets you choose what app traffic can move outside the VPN tunnel.
For example, you can exclude VoIP apps like Skype or Discord and have them use local network resources instead. Or, you can exclude FPS games (and similar fast-paced titles) to reduce ping or improve connectivity. Let your ISP do the heavy lifting while you secure your browsing, online transactions, and more.
You may also use the feature to access content from abroad in one browser, while still being able to visit local websites in a different one. Alternatively, you can use devices on your local network (printers, IoT devices, etc.) without sacrificing security for other activities.
NordVPN split tunneling is available on Windows (7 to 11), Android, and even Android TV. It’s rare to see a VPN provider that includes split tunneling on smart TVs, so bonus points to the provider.
On the other hand, ProtonVPN only supports the feature on its Windows and Android apps.
Neither VPN supports split tunneling on Linux, macOS or iOS.
Ad-blocking and Anti-Phishing
Every major VPN service nowadays includes some type of blocker. Since hackers are more crafty nowadays, VPN providers need to adapt to the growing number of threats that may affect their users.
First off, the NordVPN app comes with Threat Protection, while ProtonVPN features NetShield. As we’ve described in the torrenting section, they both block intrusive ads and trackers, phishing or malware domains, and similar threats.
NordVPN goes the extra mile and offers anti-malware scanning for .exe files on Windows and Mac.
Dedicated IP Addresses
Tired of CAPTCHAs and online banks blacklisting you for using a VPN? Well, for an extra fee, NordVPN lets you obtain a dedicated IP address to avoid all the hassle.
As their name implies, dedicated IP addresses aren’t shared by any other user. That way you don’t have to deal with various online annoyances because of someone else’s behavior.
For business owners: you may assign static IPs to your workplace devices. Secure your devices with a good VPN, and make it easier to filter unauthorized IP addresses from your network.
Keep in mind that you’ll be much easier to identify online, since dedicated IP addresses are tied to your email address. You’re still kept secure by the VPN, but we only recommend using static IP addresses for non-privacy related reasons.
Sadly, ProtonVPN does not provide dedicated IP servers at this time. Nor have we seen any plans to include them in the future.
Tor over VPN
Tor over VPN (or Onion-over-VPN) lets you access the Tor network without the need for a separate Tor browser.
How does it work? Well, after establishing the initial VPN connection, your traffic passes through several random Tor nodes before it reaches its destination. Extra encryption is added in the process as well.
NordVPN and ProtonVPN offer these specialty servers for those that require that extra bit of anonymity. Remember that your speeds will drop significantly while using the feature.
ProtonVPN offers more Tor locations. More specifically, they have Tor servers in Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Hong Kong, Germany, and the US). You can find them in the ProtonVPN app by looking up “TOR”.
NordVPN only has Tor locations in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
VPN Browser Extensions
A VPN add-on is a more lightweight version of a full-on VPN app. It limits encryption and unblocking capabilities to your browser(s). This leads to improved speeds overall, although we recommend using a dedicated app for full protection.
Currently, only NordVPN has dedicated extensions for the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers. ProtonVPN’s roadmap includes VPN browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox in the near future.
NordVPN is the clear winner here, as they offer expert 24/7 live chat support. NordVPN users may contact them through email too. Their reps respond pretty fast either way.
Sadly, you can only reach ProtonVPN through a support form on their website, or through email for other inquiries.
Which VPN Service Should I Choose?
Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of our findings:
- NordVPN is faster in general and works with more streaming services.
- ProtonVPN offers 10 simultaneous connections, whereas NordVPN has only 6.
- NordVPN has a larger server network than ProtonVPN (5,400+ vs 1,800+).
- ProtonVPN’s main advantage over NordVPN is the inclusion of a (limited) free plan.
- NordVPN has browser extension options for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
- ProtonVPN does NOT offer a full refund within the 30-days money-back plan. Instead, you’re charged for how many days you used the service.
- NordVPN offers much better value on long-term subscriptions, whereas ProtonVPN is slightly cheaper on a monthly plan.
- NordVPN has more anonymous payment options available (3 cryptocurrencies, cash payments at multiple retail sites in 6 countries). Meanwhile, ProtonVPN only allows Bitcoin payments, or sending cash through post.
- Both VPNs are completely secure, but NordVPN includes anti-malware scanning, is located in a better jurisdiction, and has 24/7 live chat.
The Bottom Line – NordVPN Wins Over Proton VPN
In the end, NordVPN is the better of the two VPN providers. While ProtonVPN remains a solid choice, NordVPN has had a head start in the VPN industry, which gives them the edge in this race. On top of offering better quality, their long-term subscriptions are also more affordable.
With 5,400+ high-tech servers spread across nearly 60 countries, faster speeds, amazing unblocking capabilities, and feature-rich apps for most platforms – NordVPN is the clear winner.