Each is a top-tier VPN solution, but which service you’d place your money on is a tough call.
Ever had one of your email addresses hacked? It isn’t a great feeling. In fact, there’s nothing much worse. You feel naked, exposed.
Or what about your browsing history? Ever willingly hand that over to your internet service provider (ISP) so you could both, you know, get to know each other a little better? Two different scenarios, one bottom line: Your data isn’t secure unless you secure it.
The good news is that these days there are a bunch of low-cost, easy-to-use virtual private network (VPN) services designed to keep your email — and all the rest of your data — safe from prying eyes. The trick is finding one that’s right for your budget, level of tech know-how, and privacy needs.
Here’s the no-holds-barred lowdown on two of our top VPN service provider picks this year: industry heavyweights NordVPN and IPVanish.
Did You Know: According to the cybersecurity experts at Varonis, as many as 64% of Americans1 have never checked sites like haveibeenpwned.com to see if their personal data has been compromised by a breach. More than half admitted they wouldn’t know what to do even if it had.
What’s the Same About NordVPN and IPVanish?
Just so there’s no doubt in your mind: You won’t go wrong with either NordVPN or IPVanish. In fact, both services made our Top 10 VPN Services of 2021.
They’re both a snap to install. They both handle torrents, unblock Netflix, and give you access to thousands of safe, fast server connections around the world.
They’re both water-tight when it comes to leaks. We tried everything — IPLeak, DNS Leak Test, and DNS Leak — but our IP addresses were totally hidden every time.
Plus, NordVPN and IPVanish work smoothly on whatever client you’ll likely be using: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Fire TV. (NordVPN actually has a Linux client, so you can do your Linux thing in the attic.)
Obviously, you wouldn’t want a VPN service without a reliable kill switch and both of these services give you a flawless experience — although NordVPN scores slightly higher marks with its separate app kill switch for more vulnerable connections like torrents.
Both of these services also give you 30 days of unlimited testing. If you don’t like what you see, you get your money back, no questions asked.
Speaking of money …
When it comes to pricing, we’ll be honest. If this is your first time shopping for a VPN service and you end up on either the NordVPN or IPVanish pricing pages, at first glance, you might be scratching your head.
To sketch this in broad strokes, both NordVPN and IPVanish have attractive introductory plans on yearly or two-year subscriptions that you’ll want to take advantage of if you do sign up. (You’ll save a lot of money that way.)
NordVPN’s two-year plans start at a very attractive $3.71 per month. IPVanish pricing is even sweeter with a $2.62 per month intro offer for the first year (but the service just isn’t as good as Nord).
Are those the rates you’ll pay forever? No. Are there other factors to consider? You bet. Pricing tiers, bundles, storage services. All that good stuff — which we promise to go deep into … well … right about now.
FYI: VPN use has skyrocketed in the U.S. (66%) and around the world (165%) since early 2020. Nearly 25% of web denizens around the globe have used a VPN to either stream or download entertainment or to browse in private.
Where NordVPN and IPVanish Are Different
So, just to recap: You don’t want to see your email address on haveibeenpwned.com. You never agreed to go 50-50 on a personal data farm with your ISP. And you’re tired of watching Hungarian Netflix. (Or maybe you’re dying to watch Hungarian Netflix?)
I’m also guessing you don’t ever want to be wondering if the next torrent you download will either give your laptop the bubonic plague or land you on a government watch list. And that from time to time you’ve contemplated — contemplated only — using the Tor Browser.
For all those reasons, and many more, you’re considering taking the plunge and subscribing to a VPN service. But you’re still not sure which subscription is right for you. Here’s what you should be looking out for when comparing NordVPN with IPVanish.
Servers and Household Connections
If you look at the big picture, NordVPN boasts 5,421 servers in 81 locations across 59 countries, while IPVanish has only 1,500 in about 75. NordVPN will give you more freedom there, especially if you’re into using double VPNs to cover your tracks.
But — and for us this is a pretty big but — NordVPN only protects six devices simultaneously, while IPVanish gives you unlimited protection. Are six connections enough for you?
It depends on how many people you have in your household. Family of four? Laptops, desktops, smartwatches, and mobiles? You might run into trouble2 there.
From a usability standpoint, this is a draw in our book. You’d really have to decide what your priority is. Is it having more — and more varied — servers to choose from, or would you rather be able to protect more connections at the same time?
Ease of Use
If you like the inside of a cockpit — i.e., if you want more control when you select your servers and you like to visualize them on a map with a bunch of nifty displays showing protocols, connection times, and data transfer numbers — you’re going to simply love IPVanish.
And if you don’t, you can ditch the map and connect with a simple countries list that comes with its own nifty features. Like a search box you can use to filter not only countries, but load and response times, and the option to build a “favorites list” for quick, repeat connections. (NordVPN, for some reason, got rid of this very useful feature.)
But the coolest thing about the IPVanish dashboard is probably the map itself. Because they got it just right. When you start with a bird’s-eye view, you don’t get a logjam of geo pins. You’ll only see a handful. As you zoom in, more choices appear, along with the server count in that location.
The NordVPN map view, on the other hand, is a lot more stripped-down and minimal, but that geo pin traffic jam? As soon as you open up NordVPN, you’ll run into a snowfall of servers. When you zoom in, you’ll need to click on individual pins to make country names appear as tooltips.
Which means that Hungarian Netflix connection you wanted could easily end up in Albania, where they might not even have The Queen’s Gambit.
Another pet peeve I have with NordVPN: Whenever I quit the app, I lose the place (or places) I last visited and have to start from scratch.
Better dashboard user experience?
IPVanish is the winner here.
Did You Know: In 2020, the average US household had 10.37 connected devices,3 followed by the U.K. (9.5), Norway (8.82), and Sweden (8.51).
Apps and extensions
Want to read a setup guide to prepare Chrome to handle your VPN? Then launch your app, choose your server and connect? And then head back to your browser to go about your business?
Like many IPVanish users, I didn’t either.
Which is why NordVPN, with its Chrome and Firefox browser proxy extensions, cleans house here. You can connect from your browser super fast with just a few clicks.
I found the same attention to user experience in the NordVPN Android app, which explains why it’s been racking up all those 4-star reviews for years now.
Again, we’d recommend avoiding the map view here and going straight to the countries list to set your connection. After that, tweak your settings to get the most out of the app by blocking ads, malware, and phishing with NordVPN’s awesome native CyberSec4 feature.
Besides that, NordVPN also protects you when you’re on the go. For example, when you’re not at home and you’re using unknown Wi-Fi connections, you’ll automatically be covered.
We sort of dumped on IPVanish because it makes you configure your browsers the old-fashioned way. But its app, both Android and iOS, actually gives you a lot of control.
Forget the smooth map view and extra real-time data IPVanish gives you on your desktop client. (You actually might want to forget it because chances are it’s draining your battery.) If you know your way around VPNs, IPVanish lets you choose between OpenVPN TCP, L2TP, IPSec, and IKEv2 protocols. If this is just more VPN jargon to you, protocols are the instructions your app gives your VPN tunnel to encrypt your data and make it work optimally. Having more choices could potentially give you better connections.
Other IPVanish app features you’ll definitely appreciate? Split tunneling — almost a must these days — lets you whitelist apps you want to bypass your VPN. Think of your banking app, which might block VPN connections if it detects them, or your favorite streaming platform. Most streaming platforms are trained to pick out suspicious VPN connections. IPVanish’s split tunneling feature will come in very handy there.
Or, if you want your VPN on all the time for all your apps, IPVanish gives you another very convenient option called OpenVPN Scramble. Scrambling essentially masks your OpenVPN traffic so that it looks like normal internet traffic, with the upshot that Netflix won’t have a clue you’re using a VPN. For a full discussion of VPN scrambling and everything else IPVanish offers under the hood, don’t miss my nuts-and-bolts IPVanish review.
The only thing I found sort of troubling about the IPVanish Android app was that, instead of automatically protecting you from insecure networks, you get warning messages. You’ll just have to be vigilant there. If you’re the sort of person who ignores messages, this might cause you some grief down the line.
Is there a winner here?
If there is, it would be NordVPN by a hair — with the caveat that NordVPN has really been on an app improvement kick lately, so everything from its UI to security will only get better.
For example, NordVPN apps now kick in no matter what platform you’re on, whenever they detect an insecure network. And they’ve taken the guesswork out of choosing servers by connecting to the fastest for you.
NordVPN has also just launched a dark mode on iOS and split tunneling has come to Android on TV mode. They’ve even got obfuscated servers, which do the same thing as IPVanish’s OpenVPN Scramble feature.
Even more exciting for the long run? NordVPN is clearly moving towards an integrated security, privacy, and storage package with NordPass and NordLocker. Unlike IPVanish’s storage platform SugarSync, which doesn’t run off the IPVanish app, NordSec (i.e., NordVPN, NordPass, and NordLocker) is now a one-stop shop.
Curious what it’s actually like to use NordVPN’s features on the day-to-day? Check out my complete NordVPN review.
Did You Know: Microsoft worked with USRobotics to develop the first VPN (virtual private network) in 1996. They called the technology Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).5 Though PPTP was eventually replaced by VPN, PPTP was a revolutionary advance that changed the internet forever.
Security and Logging
First off, both NordVPN and IPVanish take security and privacy very seriously. With both services, your data is safe with industry-standard AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
That said, which service seems to be taking their security to the next level, at least on paper?
We have to say NordVPN has got the edge here.
Yes, NordVPN got hacked in 2018, and it was a mess. Which is why they did everything humanly possible not to let it happen again.
NordVPN runs on RAM only now, not discs. Cybersecurity giant VerSprite is handling security audits for NordVPN apps. And they’ve got a bug bounty program where hackers that do infiltrate their systems are on the payroll, so to speak.
Double-data encryption and Onion support, all that ad-blocking and malware tech we mentioned above, and the Double VPN feature, in case you’re working or passing through a country that limits VPN use.
And because some of you have been waiting for this: NordVPN has done a lot to put its money where its mouth is. They actually hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to run a complete audit of their security and session logging claims. (They claim to keep no session data.)
According to PwC, everything was spotless under the hood. For IPVanish, like many top VPN services, you’ll just have to take them at their own word for the time being.
NordVPN wins here.
By a landslide.
It’s not easy to give a universal performance picture. Your connection might be faster than mine. Connecting to a server in the U.S. from the U.K. isn’t the same thing as connecting from Australia. Or North Korea.
But after testing with Ookla on a 500 Mbps line, I can tell you that if download speed is a concern for you — and you’re connecting from the U.S. — you’ll be happier with NordVPN.
Off the bat, IPVanish was lagging with OpenVPN, so we switched to IKEv2 to see if that would help. It did.
Within the U.S., we saw download speeds hovering between 200-220 Mbps for IPVanish. Even when they dropped to 160-170 Mbps, that’s probably enough for most of your needs. But compare that to NordLynx, NordVPN’s supercharged WireGuard-based protocol, which didn’t break a sweat at 320 Mbps!
When we tried reaching servers in Europe, things evened out, with IPVanish logging speeds of up to 200 Mbps with an average between 160-190 Mbps, while NordVPN ran consistently at around 150-160 Mbps.
Connecting to Australia was a washout with IPVanish. Or what else would you call under 5 Mbps? NordVPN would call it ten times slower than 40-50 Mbps, which is how well it performed on the same connection.
Winner (if you’re connecting from the U.S.): NordVPN.
Like speedy VPN connections with blazing fast protocols? You’ll probably want to check out how Hotspot Shield performed in my Hotspot Shield review.
You know just how valuable a chatbot is in practice. Not very. And you know how frustrating even the most helpful non-bot human tech conversation can get.
It’s enough to say that both NordVPN and IPVanish have top-notch customer support: chat and email. NordVPN even offers live chat around the clock.
In terms of their support libraries, both are ample and well-stocked with useful tutorials, troubleshooting tips, and knowledge bases for whatever platform you’re using. Head to head, I’d probably say that NordVPN’s library is a little slicker and better organized.
That said, we were impressed with IPVanish’s server status link, which shows you in real time what kind of load each of its 1,500 servers is pulling. Knowing it isn’t just you when you’re seeing lower-than-average transfer speeds can save you from losing large chunks of your most valuable commodity: troubleshooting hours.
Everyone's a winner here.
You may not have known: Chatbot tech has been around since 1966! That’s when ELIZA spoke her first words6 at MIT. Don’t imagine it was anything too complicated. ELIZA just answered some rudimentary “decision tree” questions. But that still makes her the mother of all chatbots and the godmother of modern AI.
NordVPN vs. IPVanish: Subscriptions and Pricing
As we mentioned at the very beginning, pricing is variable for both services. If you’re considering IPVanish, you’ll probably be tempted by its SugarSync package — the basic VPN service with 500 GB of secure storage is just $2.92 per month for the first year.
After that, your combined package will run you $99 per year, or a little over $8 per month.
The pricing situation with NordVPN is a little more complicated. It’s mainly because you can bundle all your privacy, security, and storage together if you want.
But just so that we’re comparing apples to apples, a yearly NordVPN subscription with 500 GB of storage (NordLocker Premium) will run you about $180 per year. There are bundles, yes, but they only come with 10 gigs.
And we haven’t even touched on NordPass, NordVPN’s password vault, which also comes in a bundle and will set you back another $5 per month.
So there you have it.
For a yearly subscription, IPVanish is cheaper, but doesn’t come with a password vault. And don’t forget, you can’t log into your SugarSync account from your IPVanish dashboard, which could get pretty annoying.
If you are shopping for an affordable, feature-packed VPN service, you should also add Surfshark to your list. Surfshark’s yearly plan, which, like IPVanish, offers unlimited connections, makes a lot of sense at $2.49 per month. Or consider one of my personal favorites, VyprVPN. VyprVPN’s pricing is almost insane at $1.61 per month for three years. So are the security features you get.
So What’s the Best VPN Plan for Me, NordVPN or IPVanish?
This is a tough one. Tough because both NordVPN and IPVanish are really good choices for most of your VPN needs.
What a lot of you will undoubtedly be looking at is price, which makes sense. Once you commit to a VPN service, or any SaaS subscription for that matter, it’s a commitment you want to be comfortable having for a while.
There’s the setup across devices, and the time you put in learning how to use the dashboard and tweak the settings. Every VPN does things a little differently. When you find something you like and can use, you just don’t want to switch.
Price-wise, NordVPN is more expensive. Especially when you figure in safe storage and a password vault, which many of us end up doing.
But you should also take this into account: NordVPN is taking huge steps forward in unifying its services, improving performance and security, and keeping up with the latest UI trends, while IPVanish is, at this point, taking baby steps.
The bottom line?
If you’re looking for a top-tier VPN solution that can cover all your privacy, security, and storage needs — and is getting better every day — you may be better off joining the NordSec family. (Unless you’re a family of 10, in which case more than half of you will be surfing the open web because you only get six protected devices at once.)
If you want a reliable, feature-packed, slightly slower VPN without quite as much server reach (forget Hungarian Netflix for the moment) to keep your entire extended family secure, with a load of secure storage for practically nothing — then you’re good to go with IPVanish.
At $119 per year NordVPN is a little more expensive than IPVanish ($89 per year). If you’re looking for secure storage too, IPVanish’s pretty sweet SugarSync 500 GB storage deal will save you even more.
Short answer: If you’re connecting from the U.S., NordVPN’s NordLynx is considerably faster. For long-haul connections (U.S. to Australia), NordVPN cleans house.
Support is great for both. You won’t go wrong here, especially with NordVPN’s 24/7 human chat.
Storage isn’t part of either basic plan. IPVanish’s SugarSync is a steal when you sign up for their yearly plan. Just don’t expect the all-in-one ease of NordLocker Premium, which will set you back another $80 a year.
Pretty much anything you have: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Fire TV. NordVPN even runs on Linux. So platform compatibility shouldn’t be a consideration, unless you own a Commodore 64.
NordVPN does — pretty good ones for Firefox and Chrome. IPVanish is a garage job. You’ll have to prep your browsers yourself.