What you should know about these privacy-focused VPN services before you hit subscribe.
Switzerland has bank vaults, cuckoo clocks, and fondue. Panama has hats, a canal, and a “Despacito” connection. It would be a stretch to find much overlap between the two countries. Except for one little-known fact that makes both ideal homes for privacy-minded VPN services like (Switzerland-based) VyprVPN and (Panama-based) NordVPN: They’re both outside the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes international surveillance sharing agreement.1
It’s also a very good place to start if privacy is high on your VPN must-have list, as it is for much of our community. Because this means that if the U.S. government (or Britain, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada) asked either NordVPN or VyprVPN to hand over any user information, these companies would be in their rights to refuse.
What else do these top-of-the-line, ultra-secure VPN services get right? After personally testing both services for days on end, I compared NordVPN and VyprVPN down to the nitty-gritty of their server setup to find out. Let’s dive in.
NordVPN and VyprVPN: What’s the Same?
Being outside the reach of the Five Eyes isn’t the only thing that sets NordVPN and VyprVPN apart. Both have unbustable AES 256-bit encryption, including state-of-the-art VPN protocols, so your data is safe. Both have no-nonsense zero-logs policies (they don’t build user profiles based on app use or track users in any way), and both use independent, third-party system audits to stay one step ahead of hackers.
I can’t overstate the added value that these audits bring to a VPN service. They definitely aren’t the industry standard yet. But just imagine finding out that your favorite pizza restaurant, which is always talking about how clean their kitchen is, hasn’t had a health inspection since 2004. Privacy-wise, this is a big feather in both NordVPN and VyprVPN’s caps.
Did You Know: Protocols are the instructions our VPN tunnels use to stay secure. When protocols use AES 256-bit encryption, it literally means that, if hackers wanted to decrypt our data, they’d need to try 2^256 different combinations — or more combinations than there are atoms in the known universe.
While NordVPN definitely has a lot more going on under the hood, both services have stable, powerful apps that keep your connections running smoothly with reliable failsafe tools like kill switches and auto-reconnect features. (For a full discussion of everything NordVPN has to offer under the hood, by the way, head on over to my hands-on review of NordVPN.)
Day to day, both NordVPN and VyprVPN can also handle whatever jobs you throw at them, whether it’s streaming HD video or gaming, unblocking Netflix or Amazon Prime, sharing files, or browsing anywhere in the world.
Both VPN providers take an especially strong stance on the open internet, and back it up with robust privacy features that let you explore every nook and cranny of the web anonymously and securely.
NordVPN, for example, comes with native Tor access (more on this in a bit) and a privacy feature called Double Hop, for extra anonymity. In a nutshell, Double Hop whisks your data through an extra intermediate server on its way to its final destination. NordVPN also runs obfuscated servers that mask the fact that you’re even using a VPN — which is useful for unblocking streaming platforms like Netflix that are on the lookout for VPNs.
FYI: The Tor Project has been ongoing since 2002 and originally had nothing to do with the dark web. When it was first launched, Tor was a U.S. government-backed research project exploring online privacy and anonymity.
VypVPN, for its part, has developed a whole stealth protocol (Chameleon) for outsmarting countries with repressive censorship laws. They’ve also got VyprDNS, their own privately owned server network.
In theory, this means that because it doesn’t use any third-party servers, a secure VyprVPN connection can help you bypass geo-blocks better, dodge DNS filtering when you don’t want it (like when a network decides you can’t access certain websites like Twitter or YouTube), and squash “man-in-the-middle” attacks. For the full scoop on VyprDNS, visit my top-to-bottom VyprVPN review.
So whether you’re going deep undercover in Russia or just trying to watch season five of “Better Call Saul,” these two VPN services have you covered.
Did You Know: A man-in-the-middle attack is a general cybersecurity term that describes any situation where bad actors sneak bad software onto servers that our data unwittingly passes through.
NordVPN and VyprVPN: What’s Different?
Servers: Reach and Protection
There’s no guarantee that NordVPN’s 5,000-plus servers in 59 countries are going to give you better connections than VyprVPN’s 700 servers in 60 countries. There are a lot of other factors that could influence connectivity, like how loaded a server is, how many users each service has, the time of day you’re connecting, your base router speed, etc. So, I wouldn’t base my decision to subscribe to a VPN service on server numbers alone.
Here are a few hard points you might want to consider, however. VyprVPN owns all of its servers. (NordVPN is moving in that direction,2 but isn’t there yet.) This is really a great selling point for VyprVPN because it means they personally oversee the security on every server in their network.
Pro Tip: If a VPN provider doesn’t own its servers, that means it’s renting them from third parties. That could potentially put your data at risk, especially if those third parties don’t maintain a high level of security. So one thing you should always check out, besides speed and data allowances, is a VPN provider’s server situation.
NordVPN, on the other hand, has now joined the diskless RAM server club. This news is relatively hot off the press and a potential game-changer, if you’re considering NordVPN. Why? Because servers that use RAM memory wipe themselves clean once a day. This means there’s no physical data left behind.
Just picture a bank vault filled with mountains of cash where, whenever someone shuts the door, the cash magically disappears. Imagine how disappointed the bank robber who broke into that vault would be. The only other VPN service I know of that goes to these lengths to protect user data is ExpressVPN. (Check out my ExpressVPN review for a full discussion on how that works.)
The winner: NordVPN, because I expect in the next year or two their entire fleet of servers will be private and diskless.
FYI: Some VPN providers, like VyprVPN, use virtual (phantom) servers to provide access to countries where running actual, physical servers is impossible. Virtual servers aren’t necessarily less secure than physical ones, as long as VPN providers also own the physical servers they’re using to run the virtual servers. VyprVPN happens to own all its servers.
For smooth day-to-day use, both NordVPN and VyprVPN have you covered. But sometimes you want to go a little further.
The engineers at NordVPN and VyprVPN understand this and give you extra customizability with split tunneling and malware blocking, along with kill switches that work. A kill switch, incidentally, is there to shut down your internet connection if your VPN fails, and to alert you to the fact.
But NordVPN goes a few steps further than VyprVPN.
Onion Over VPN
NordVPN comes with out-of-the-box access to the Onion network, aka Tor.3 I won’t go too deep into how this works, other than to say that when your data passes through Tor, the Onion network spits it out at your final destination after taking two extra heavily encrypted detours. This virtually guarantees your anonymity.
NordVPN gives your access to the Onion network via one of their own specialized servers, so you don’t even have to download the Tor browser. You may not have any reason to surf the dark web, but NordVPN is the only VPN provider I’ve come across with built-in Tor support. VyprVPN, despite its open web rhetoric, doesn’t touch Tor.
Did You Know: The Onion network gets its name from the three nodes user data has to pass through before it ends up at its final destination. In security terms, each of those nodes provides an extra layer of anonymity. Hence the name.
Speaking of specialized servers, it feels like this terminology should be embedded in our VPN vocabularies, but it isn’t yet. That’s because not many VPN providers I’ve come across actually have servers set up for particular jobs. Which is a shame because that’s why we use VPNs, right? NordVPN totally gets this. Want to stream? Game? Download a torrent? Browse Tor? Mask your VPN? No problem. NordVPN will find the best server for you.
VyprVPN has native malware protection that keeps bad stuff off your devices. But NordVPN’s Cybersec goes a little further. Cybersec protects your devices from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which means there’s no secret enlistment into any botnet armies. CyberSec also shuts down annoying pop-ups and autoplay video ads that slow down load times. Granted, this is nowhere near as thorough as the DNS filtering VPN services like Windscribe and KeepSolid offer, but it should improve your browsing experience substantially.
Pro Tip: With DNS filtering, you tell your VPN what kinds of malware-harboring content you don’t want to see when you browse (like gambling, porn, or social networks, to name three), and your VPN blocks it. If you’re curious, I spent a lot of time exploring DNS filtering in my hands-on Windscribe review.
The winner: NordVPN all the way!
Honestly, this was going to be a close call because both NordVPN and VyprVPN use WireGuard technology. If this is the first time you’re hearing about WireGuard, it’s an ultra-fast and secure protocol that’s basically the cutting-edge of VPN encryption technology.
Seriously, if you are new to VPNs, check out our VPN Guide. You’ll go from newbie to expert faster than a rubber-burning WireGuard connection.
Two caveats before I lay out the numbers, please note: There are both upload and download speeds (not just download). Real-life examples? You need decent upload speeds for gaming, file transfers, and video conferencing (something a lot of us are doing these days).
Two, numbers are relative. 150 Mbps is great on a 160 Mbps line, but pretty bad on a 500 Mbps line. FYI, my line for both these tests was in the 160-170 Mbps neighborhood. The servers I connected to were in the United States.
So what kind of speeds are we talking about with NordVPN and VyprVPN?
WireGuard is blazing-fast, yes, but sometimes it can be temperamental. When I tested NordVPN’s recommended server running NordLynx, NordVPN’s proprietary WireGuard-based protocol, my speeds tanked. When I switched to OpenVPN, I was back in the game. The exact opposite happened when I ran VyprVPN with OpenVPN.
What kind of conclusion can we draw from this? With the right server, expect NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol to solidly outperform VyprVPN, especially on the upload.
The winner: NordVPN.
FYI: Ever wonder how fast the fastest VPN in the world is. Head on over to my complete HotSpot Shield review to find out.
NordVPN vs. VyprVPN: Value for Money
Remember the phrase apples to apples? Well, with NordVPN and VyprVPN, forget it. If VyprVPN is an apple, NordVPN is an out-of-season dragon fruit. To make this concrete, VyprVPN’s 3-year plan is a rock-bottom $1.67 per month. For two years of premium coverage, NordVPN costs $4.13 per month. And keep in mind, your monthly fee with NordVPN will shoot up to $9.82 upon renewal.
For sure, you can find cheaper VPNs than NordVPN. If you’re just getting your feet wet, CyberGhost’s pricing options start at $2.25 per month. TunnelBear is another privacy-first VPN with simple apps (and really cute bears) I really liked using. TunnelBear costs top out at $3.33 per month, with no strings attached.
You can search all you want, but you probably won’t find anything as cheap as VyprVPN.
What does that mean for your pocket? I’m a huge fan of VyprVPN’s no-frills approach, but in NordVPN’s defense, you do get so much more for that higher monthly fee. Advanced malware protection, specialized servers, native access to TOR, a password manager for a buck more a month — to name just a few extras.
And NordVPN is always improving its user experience, so you can be sure that if you’re not happy with something, like the crowded map view I’ve been complaining about for months, NordVPN will fix it. (They actually did fix it a few weeks ago.)
The winner: NordVPN.
Pro Tip: From one VPN user to another, if you’re still writing your passwords on the back of napkins you stuff into your wallet, or you belong to the “123456 School” of password management like 42 percent of Americans,4 it’s time to consider a password manager. It will simplify your life and reduce the chances of password theft to just about nil.
NordVPN vs. VyprVPN: Quality of Support
Can you have too much online support? VyprVPN seems to believe no, you can never have too much. So, besides quick 24/7 live chat support (Moras, you’re the best!), VyprVPN not only sent me emails asking me to rate my support experiences, when I didn’t follow-up on their follow-ups, they followed up again.
In terms of online documentation, VyprVPN has an ample library of resources (on a separate microsite) that’s fairly easy to navigate, including a very handy server status page where you can check to see if there’s any turbulence on the network.
The only thing I can say about the quality of VypVPN’s documentation (blogs, FAQ, troubleshooting guides) is that it’s definitely less customer-facing than what you’ll find at NordVPN — less a guide than a guided tour through the halls of a VPN security museum given by a retired VPN operative.
NordVPN is a different story. They’ve pretty much written the playbook on quality, user-friendly VPN resources. You’ll see this approach in action everywhere, even across their website, if you’re just researching features. 24/7 live chat support is rocket-fast. I’ve never even had to send an email, but expect quick response times there, too.
The winner: VyprVPN.
Which Is the Right VPN for Me, NordVPN or VyprVPN?
NordVPN is quickly heading towards a 100 percent privately owned, diskless server network. This is a huge leap towards immaculate security that only the best of the best VPNs can aspire to. Plus, that benchmark security comes with a bunch of extra privacy features you won’t find elsewhere.
NordVPN is also gradually positioning itself as one wing of a security ecosystem (NordSec) that offers dedicated IPs, secure cloud storage, and a password manager. And they’re doing a much better job of it than other competitors I’ve tested.
But NordVPN also costs two and a half times more than VyprVPN, and that’s just in the first two years. Upon renewal, you’re looking at almost $10 per month for NordVPN, compared to VyprVPN’s $1.67. That may give some of you second thoughts.
All I can say is, if all you’re shopping for is a privacy-focused VPN that’s great day to day, you can’t go wrong with VyprVPN at $1.67 per month. But while VyprVPN maintains and runs its own servers, which is a big security advantage, it doesn’t look like it’s going to convert to RAM anytime soon. So if you’re looking for best-in-class security, even VyprVPN’s very tempting price tag can’t protect your data from a potential breach.
For that reason, and many others, I’d give NordVPN the clear edge here.
Our tests show that even when running OpenVPN (and not its super-charged proprietary protocol, NordLynx), NordVPN is still faster than VyprVPN running at its fastest.
NordVPN is significantly more expensive. NordVPN is $4.13 per month for the first two years. VyprVPN is $1.67 per month for three years.
NordVPN has over 5,500 servers in 59 countries. It doesn’t own them all, but has converted to a purely diskless model. VyprVPN owns and operates all of its 700 servers in 60 countries.
Both have great apps designed for easy use. VyprVPN’s apps (pretty much the same for mobile and desktop) are really stripped down.
NordVPN has Cybersec, which blocks both invasive ads and malware. VyprVPN comes with a malware-blocking feature.