NordVPN vs Proton VPN: which provider is best?

NordVPN and Proton VPN logos side by side on a dark background
(Image credit: Future)

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are essential security tools that hide your location from snoopers and protect your data against cybercriminals. Additionally, the best VPN services can also give you access to geo-restricted content from around the world.

NordVPN and Proton VPN are two of the biggest names in the industry, both offering slick apps, robust security, and class-leading speeds. They're both excellent choices (4½ stars each in our independent reviews), but depending on what you're looking for, one may be better than the other.

Keep reading this detailed NordVPN vs Proton VPN comparison, as I'll take a deep dive into how these two services stack up against each other across core performance metrics, including security, connection speeds, streaming, and apps.

NordVPN vs Proton VPN at a glance

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Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNProton VPN
Number of servers:6,000+6,200+
Server countries:140 locations in 110+ countries100+ locations in 96 countries
Maximum simultaneous connections:1010
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:From $3.09 (varies)From $3.99 (varies, free plan available)

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Specs

Proton VPN has done a commendable job cranking up its server count and global reach, which now sits at a hefty 6,200+ servers in 96 countries. Where once it was really far off from the likes of NordVPN, it's now taken the lead.

That said, NordVPN arguably has the better fleet, thanks to a very similar 6,000+ servers in a vast 140 locations in 110+ countries. In truth, though, you will always be able to find a speedy server with either of the two VPNs, no matter your own location.

Next, both of these services are tied when it comes to simultaneous connections. They allow you to connect up to 10 devices at a time on a single account, and you can always log out from one to connect another if you've reached the maximum permissible limit.

Compatibility-wise, too, there's hardly anything to separate NordVPN and Proton VPN. They both offer dedicated and powerful apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and loads more. However, Proton VPN is the better option if you're looking for a Linux VPN – it comes with GUI (graphical user interface) for Linux devices, unlike NordVPN that only offers CLI (command-line interface).

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Plans, pricing and trials

NordVPN generally offers better value for money than Proton VPN, which is arguably one of the more expensive options, alongside premium rival ExpressVPN. Let's look at how much these two VPNs cost, with respect to different lengths of plan:

Two-year pricing: you can get started with Nord's starter-level plan for around $3.50 per month, whereas Proton VPN will cost you $4.49 a month on a similar 2-year plan.

Be aware that NordVPN often changes its prices, and can range from any between $3.09 per month to $3.70 per month. Major sales events are the best time grab the best VPN deals. Proton doesn't often change its pricing, although Tom's Guide readers can claim a discount, dropping the price to $3.59 per month.

Annual subscription costs: a "Proton VPN Plus" 1-year plan costs $4.99 a month, which is more or less the same as its 2-year cost ($4.49 a month). This is great news for users who have decided to opt for Proton VPN and are looking for a yearly commitment only. However, NordVPN's 1-year pricing is still slightly cheaper at $4.59 a month.

Furthermore, NordVPN betters its cost-value proposition by offering 3 months of extra protection for free (on both its yearly and two-yearly plans). However, such an offering is nowhere to be found with Proton VPN.

Monthly costs: this is one area where Proton VPN is a more frugal choice. If you're after a monthly VPN, Proton VPN ($9.99/month) will offer a better bang for your buck than NordVPN ($12.99/month).

NordVPN offers three plans: Basic, Plus, and Ultimate. The Basic plan comes with the core VPN service and online traffic filtering through Nord's DNS servers. The Plus plan gets you built-in malware protection, ad-blocking, and advanced browsing protection, as well as Nord's password manager and a data breach scanner. Lastly, the Ultimate plan goes all out on digital security by offering 1TB of encrypted cloud storage and cyber insurance.

On the other hand, the Proton Unlimited plan, which bundles Proton VPN, Proton Mail, Proton Calendar, Proton Drive, and Proton Pass, is priced at $7.99 per month (2-year commitment), $9.99 a month (annually), and $12.99 monthly.

While NordVPN is a better option than Proton VPN as a paid-for VPN service, Proton VPN has one of the best free VPN plans on the market. Although you get access to just 3 server locations, it's a fast and reliable service, ideal for users who only need a VPN occasionally.

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Security and privacy

NordVPN keeps your data safe from snoopers and cybercriminals with a strict no-logging policy (verified twice), industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption, a reliable kill switch, and a slew of security features, including Double VPN and Onion over VPN, which add an extra layer of security.

Furthermore, you can upgrade your NordVPN plan to enjoy an all-in-one security package, with built-in malware protection and ad-blocking, a password manager, a data breach scanner, secure cloud storage, and even cyber insurance.

Proton VPN, too, is one of the most secure VPNs available right now. It's headquartered in Switzerland, a country that's known for its strong privacy laws, is outside the EU and U.S. jurisdiction, and isn't a member of the “14 Eyes” surveillance network, meaning it can't be coerced into spying on any users.

Proton VPN on a Macbook Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Proton VPN's security suite includes a solid kill switch, ad-blocking, split tunneling, and DNS and IPv6 leak protection, as well as audited and open-source apps. Then there's its proprietary Secure Core technology, which routes your internet traffic through an ultra-secure server in either Sweden, Switzerland, or Iceland before finally connecting you to your destination.

Proton VPN also offers Tor over VPN, which integrates your connection with the anonymous Tor network, giving you extra privacy and access to Onion sites. This is similar to Nord's Onion over VPN. You can also get Proton's all-in-one bundle, which includes a super-secure email service, drive, and password manager, albeit at a higher cost than NordVPN.

Overall, while it wouldn't be incorrect to call it a tie out here, NordVPN admittedly holds a slight edge thanks to extra security benefits at better rates.

NordVPN on a Mac and iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Performance

To check VPN speeds, we connect to the fastest server from two locations (a US residential location and a UK data center), both with 1Gbps lines. Next, we use various speed testing websites and services, and conduct multiple rounds of testing.

Both NordVPN and Proton VPN delivered peak speeds of over 950 Mbps, confirming their place as some of the fastest VPNs in the industry right now. It's well worth noting that this was when using the WireGuard protocol with Proton VPN (and WireGuard-based NordLynx with NordVPN).

However, there was a noticeable difference when we tested the providers' speeds on OpenVPN. Where Proton VPN continued its great performance with peaks reaching 400 Mbps, NordVPN fell slightly short of our expectations with speeds of 110 Mbps. 

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Streaming

It's tough to look past NordVPN when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content. As the best Netflix VPN, Nord unblocks just about every Netflix location worldwide, and it's much the same for other streaming sites as well, including Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, 9Now, and 10 play. 

Proton VPN's unblocking capabilities are nothing to sniff at, either, as it reliably unblocked Netflix (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan), BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ in our latest tests.

Someone holding a remote pointed at a TV with the Netflix logo on it

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

However, the service faltered a little in our regional tests. In Australia, it unblocked 9Now, but couldn't access 10 Play. In the UK, it unblocked Channel 4, but only unblocked ITVX in two out of three tests.

Overall, though, Proton VPN is an excellent streaming VPN, albeit Nord is admittedly the undisputed champion. Also, in the case of Proton VPN, make sure you have at least a Proton VPN Plus account, because Proton's free plan doesn't get any unblocking capabilities.

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Torrenting

NordVPN isn't the first name that comes to mind if you're looking for a torrenting VPN – Private Internet Access, with every single server P2P-optimized and port forwarding leads the charts – but with hundreds of torrent-friendly servers worldwide, lightning-fast speeds, and excellent security (Double VPN, Onion over VPN, DNS protection, etc.) to keep your torrenting activities private, we've found NordVPN to be extremely handy for torrenting.

Nord's headline torrenting feature is that it can automatically reroute you to a torrent-friendly server if it detects P2P traffic. So, even if you connect to a non-torrenting server, which can be the case since NordVPN isn't fully P2P-optimized, the service would automatically direct you to an appropriate server for torrenting.

While Proton VPN offers a decent selection of specialist torrent servers, they're admittedly fewer than NordVPN. But upon first-hand testing, we faced no server congestion or speed slowdowns. Plus, Proton offers a slew of security reassurances, including a no-logging policy and Secure Core servers that add an extra layer of security so that your torrenting activities remain private.

All in all, though, NordVPN takes this one.

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Mobile apps

NordVPN's mobile VPN apps offer quick and easy protection when you're out and about. Both its Android VPN and iPhone VPN versions offer a good selection of protocols, auto-connect, and dark web monitoring. Additionally, the Android client also comes with split tunneling. 

A minor inconvenience with Nord apps is the map-based design. It feels a little cramped on the smaller screens of smartphones, unlike Proton's map, which is fairly thumb-friendly across all platforms.

NordVPN ios app

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Proton's Android app is very similar to its Windows VPN version, offering both portrait and landscape modes, a list of servers in alphabetical order (sorted by city name rather than state), and a Favorites-like Profiles system. 

Its iOS app is much the same. It comes with colorful maps and simple widgets to connect and disconnect, but sorts servers by state name rather than city, which can be slightly confusing. 

Overall, Proton's mobile apps are intuitive and relatively straightforward to use, and powerful at the same time: all essential features, such as kill switch, Secure Core, and Netshield ad-blocking, as well as split tunneling on Android, are available. 

Proton VPN on a Mac and iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Support

NordVPN has better customer support than Proton VPN. It offers 24/7 live chat support, email support if you want to explain a query in great detail, and a comprehensive knowledgebase with a lot of helpful and easy-to-understand articles. It also has a chatbot to help you navigate the knowledgebase and find what you're looking for.

On the other hand, while Proton VPN has live chat, it isn't 24/7. Plus, the articles in its knowledgebase, however detailed, aren't always helpful, as they are very technical and therefore difficult for non-experts to wrap their heads around. But we liked the option to convert our live chat session to a ticket in case we needed to follow up later.

NordVPN vs Proton VPN: Which is better?

If you're in the market for a high-quality, big-name, and reliable VPN that also offers excellent value, go for NordVPN. It's the best VPN service in our testing, and beats Proton VPN when it comes to unblocking capabilities, extra privacy and security features, being better for torrenting, and offering excellent customer support.

However, Proton VPN is every bit as secure and fast as Nord, has slightly better mobile apps, and unblocks 'almost' everything you throw at it. It even offers a completely free plan for occasional users. 

The best part is that both NordVPN and Proton VPN come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you ample time to try out the service risk-free before committing. 

How we test VPNs

Testing VPN is a complex process, and takes up a significant portion of the VPN team's time here at Tom's Guide. We've got a full explainer on how we test VPNs, but here's a quick overview if you're in a rush.

We always get hands-on with the VPNs we review, and never take marketing claims at face value. We test on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux, and dig into the settings and code to find any faults that could put you at risk.

We also test connection speeds a minimum of 120 times per provider, and test the streaming performance with dozens of sites including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Peacock, 10 Play, and many more.

We make sure the support system is useful too, and then we take into account any additional features outside the core VPN product that might be of interest.


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Krishi Chowdhary

Krishi is a VPN writer covering buying guides, how-to's, and other cybersecurity content here at Tom's Guide. His expertise lies in reviewing products and software, from VPNs, online browsers, and antivirus solutions to smartphones and laptops. As a tech fanatic, Krishi also loves writing about the latest happenings in the world of cybersecurity, AI, and software.