VPN services are becoming increasingly widespread due to globalization and the fast spread of streaming services. Whether it is to connect to a vendor's page in China, to play a game from a very competitive server in South Korea or to catch content on French television when you're abroad, VPN can be a very versatile solution that lets you make the most out of the Internet while safekeeping your privacy.
Among many others, I chose to make a comparison NordVPN vs. IPVanish, two products that I consider market leaders in different aspects. I'll put the two tools against each other on five grounds, which I consider key in software for business clients. In the end, I'll give you my unbiased opinion so that you'll have everything you need to draw your own conclusion.
Introducing NordVPN and IPVanish
Both NordVPN and IPVanish have a solid history. Both Virtual Private Network services were initially released in 2012. According to Alexa Ranks, they are most popular in India, and the USA, NordVPN, in particular, seems to be more popular lately, but on Trustpilot is IPVanish, the one that benefits from higher scores and review counts.
Am I trying to create some bias? Not at all, I'm just showing how intense is the competition between these two companies who have fought and earned a large spot under the sun of a very competitive market.
Without further ado, the comparison of the two products offer.
NordVPN vs. IPVanish: Features Face to Face
Ease of Use
Both VPN have a pretty extensive guide on how to install them, and once installed, they are straight away ready to use. Both interfaces are easily and intuitively navigable. Like many other competitors, the classic look of the map filled with dots helps show where the servers are mostly concentrated and gives a very quick outlook on the companies' coverage of the cyberspace. Tools and options are limited to the essential as it is I have learned to expect from this kind of application and, in my opinion, the neater interface, the better.
Although some more experienced users might want more freedom over the way they can set up and modify their VPN functionalities, most of the users might get lost in the technicalities of setting up a private tunnel between your network and the Internet. For this reason, I think that is best having a setting page which displays all (and only) the essentials such as startup options, icon tray options, connection protocol, killswitch and notification.
Unless you want to make a corporate use of this product, these are the features you'll be interacting with daily, and if you feel like you need more, customer service and business version will cover all the special needs you might have as a company.
Both companies offer a dedicated offering for Business clients and large groups. This “Premium Treatment” comes with also dedicated support over the implementation of the VPN in your IT structure.
The only difference between these two offerings is that, while NordVPN offers this service in house,
IPVanish seems to provide it in partnership with another company. I won't go as far as to judge this as a downside because it would be unfair and inaccurate. Realistically, this is a detail that won't affect your experience, and I have no reason to suggest one product over the other based on their ease of use.
Value for Money
Considering the yearly plan, IPVanish costs 3.25$ a month, while NordVPN almost the double. A similar price tag with NordVPN is achievable only with a three-year plan. IPVanish offers no arrangement with a longer-term; in essence: the best price you can get out of both is similar, but you must consider that NordVPN requires a longer commitment. How to measure if the value offered by a VPN service, though?
What VPN services are set out to provide is Effectiveness, Privacy, and Reliability. My personal opinion is that every VPN customer, regardless of the specific use they make, should be able to access as many contents as possible from as many locations as possible (Effectiveness), while being able not to be tracked (Privacy) and without having to sacrifice internet speed (Reliability).
So, on the accessibility side: the problem with circumventing geo-blocking is that a technique that works today might not work the next day. Let me be devil's advocate for a second and say that Service Providers defend their right (or uphold an obligation) by finding new ways to implement geo-blocking.
On the other side of the fence, though, these two companies have made a massive effort to offer a service (almost) always effective. After thorough research, I concluded that these two companies are in a tie when it comes to circumventing geo-blocking; my opinion was even reinforced by the fact that both product's FAQ pages implement use-case specific tutorials very frequently updated that quickly show how to circumvent restrictions.
You must know, however, that NordVPN counts almost 5700 servers across the world, while IPVanish only offers 1300. On the other side, IPvanish spreads across more than 75, while NordVPN lets you access only 59.
Accessing different countries might be more or less valuable to you compared with having various access points to a single country, depending on the use you make of your VPN. For this reason, I call the tie for what concerns Effectiveness.
NordVPN is “based and operates under Panama's jurisdiction.” As the NordVPN group itself states, “there are no mandatory data retention laws” in Panama, which allows them not to keep record of the customers' activity. The fact that this is allowed does not mean that it is necessarily implemented, but it surely offers a better outlook on privacy than other jurisdictions. Panama has also implemented its own personal data protection bill (in 2019). IPVanish, on the other side, is based in the US, which is not considered a privacy-friendly country, due to the fact there is not a dedicated bill that protects private data.
Also, the government can access information owned by companies following a more than three-decades-old law. Needless to say, if privacy and discretion that you need, NordVPN can definitely offer you more value.
On the matter of Reliability: you should know that different locations give different benchmarks both for IPVanish and NordVPN. With that said, IPVanish seems to offer a more consistent speed across its location. IPVanish also allows you to switch between more internet protocols than NordVPN, which grants you more consistent performances across different devices. Furthermore, IPVanish offers ten simultaneous connections, while NordVPN only offers up to 6. Thus, on the pure performance side, IPVanish has the upper-hand.
It is evident by now that both these products offer you a competitive and professional service for their price. Which of them should be favored is entirely up to the individual, in my opinion, at least for what concerns the price-value logic.
Both VPN have real-time customer support. A chatbot is the first line of help that you can encounter; following up, you will also be able to speak with a real agent who will do his/her best to solve your problem.
If you are more a DIY guy, both companies have extensive Q&A sections that contain tips, troubleshooting techniques, and other various info on the product. Furthermore, both companies host their own blog, which includes much more information on VPN and private browsing in general.
In some cases, it might reveal itself as a biased source of information, but a free source of information nonetheless.
Even if you decide not to trust 100% some sections in which their own products are advertised, you should make the most out of the fact that some technical topics are discussed in a straightforward and user-friendly way. Also, both companies promote their own products only in comparison to others, which undeniably gives you, at least, knowledge of other options you could explore to solve any problem you are facing.
Last but not list, both blogs include experience, problem-solving strategies, and tips from the communities, which can be your salvation in a tight spot or a particular case scenario.
It is tough to declare which customer support service is better. The Customer Services of both services are effortless and effective to use. I went as far as to consider the Customer Support page looks to determine which one would have been better for you, but I still had to conclude that there is no sense in suggesting one service over the other based on this element. Both deserve a 10 out of 10 for the extreme effort they put in ensuring reliable service, and that's my final word.
On both apps, user experience is spotless and neat. Both apps have no issue running, they are not victims of false positives with any significant antivirus device, and the experience is bugless. A few problems start kicking in when geo-blocked websites are surfed. Experience may vary depending on the time and the site, but it seems that (at least for some streaming services), NordVPN had the upper hand.
What really breaks down the experience, though, is the use of both VPN from China. I did not experience myself, but you can find on forums as much as on the service owners webpage the relevant information.
Long story short: IPVanish needs a workaround, including third-party software, to be used from China (needless to say there is no guarantee on the efficacy of it). NordVPN, on the other side, works just out-of-the-box, but that does not make it guaranteed either. China simply doesn't want VPN (especially foreign ones) to interfere with its own politics, so it only makes sense to expect that they will take steps to block VPN services in the future and there is no reason to assume that because NordVPN has worked until now, it will continue to do so.
At present, being what it is, however, NordVPN offers a more reliable user experience over IPVanish, and this fact should be considered as such.
Finally, the most competitive parameter. As far as multi-platform usability goes, both VPN are present on the most used platforms: Xbox, PS4, Firestick, Android, iPhone, and all other major consumer hardware.
This versatility makes it so you can immediately take advantage of the multiple login feature, as you can play on your console while someone else is watching a movie in streaming. Someone else again is working on their PC at the same moment (any family life reference is unintentional). Additional features that both VPN offer are:
- Internet killswitch: one of my favorites. A safety net for your privacy. It ensures that either the connection goes through the private tunnel or it doesn't go through at all. Very useful especially when combined with the next feature
- Auto startup: in the age of Bloatware, when something turns on with your computer, you generally ask yourself, “is it really worth to slow down my boot time for it?”. Well, if you want to force your connection through a private network as soon as the Internet is on, then the Auto startup will save you the trouble of having to disable the wireless before turning off the computer and re-enable it once the computer is on again with the VPN running. I won't pretend that it is essential to enable the VPN as soon as your PC is on, but if it's 360 degree privacy you look for, you will make use of this feature
- Unlimited bandwidth: Both VPN allow you to use unlimited bandwidth regardless of the use you are making of the VPN. Whether it is for gaming, streaming, torrenting or whatever you want to make out of it, bandwidth is not capped
- Leak Protection: leak protection ensures that on the VPN side, no information is leaked to the final destination you are trying to reach. One more wall between your privacy and the Internet.
So they both offer the same feature? Not exactly.
In the next section, the features that, in my opinion, make these two software apps stand out against each other.
Stand out features of both VPNs
Additional features that are only offered by NordVPN are:
- Obfuscated Server: an additional feature that allows you to bypass most of the geo-blocking problems. Basically, the IP address of the Server is hidden so that the third party website cannot immediately spot the IP of the server you are connecting through so that they won't know you are using a VPN to connect to their site.
- Double VPN: using a VPN that goes through another VPN so that you are even harder to trace back from destination to source. You might have heard of the TOR Project, a browser that makes your connection hop around the globe before it reaches a target. This is basically the same concept but on a smaller scale as TOR does this with several servers, while NordVPN uses it on a couple of its own.
- Encrypted mail and Bitcoin support: if you are a privacy enthusiast, then you will want to make use of the possibility of Bitcoin payments and encrypted mail. NordVPN can also keep correspondence with its customers through encrypted mail (more info at this link)
IPVanish on the other side has
- Split Tunneling, a feature that allows you to enjoy streaming services that block VPN connections from your country. How do you stay private even if you connect from your same country? You'll find more on this on the dedicated page, for now, you only need to know that this feature is made to ensure your privacy while letting you enjoy streaming content without having to disable or take further actions in your VPN application.
To conclude, it's clear that NordVPN as more unique features to offer than IPVanish, so from a price/features point of view, it should have the upper hand, right?
Not exactly. Let me recap all of it and declare the best service in the next section.
I really hate to declare ties, but the comparison I made seems to lead towards this way. For this reason, I wanted to go the extra mile and do some additional research to be sure I wasn't missing anything. It turned out that IPVanish has made giant steps in the last years to catch up in terms of server size, bandwidth, and geo-blocking circumvention. An effort that seems to have paid out. The two VPNs are indeed now comparable in terms of performance and versatility.
NordVPN targets an enthusiast market, offering many privacy-oriented features and making its best effort to ensure a service that can get around any geo-blocking and that offers top speed.
On the other side, IPVanish offers a service that is more basic, but also more consistent, being able to connect from many locations and enjoying as much as allowed by the third party the service they provide.
NordVPN deserves praise for the additional features, but are those features tipping the scale? Not in my opinion because they are relatively useful in the most profound sense. If the content is geo-blocked, then it might not be in your best interest that you, or someone using your license, tries to access it. Privacy is a serious matter, but the right of a rights-owner to choose its audience should be taken seriously as well.
On the other side, IPVanish offers more location, more pricing plans, and the ability to enjoy content with privacy and respecting the rights owner.
One final consideration must be made about a much-discussed topic: the ability to connect from China. I haven't been able to test this feature. Still, it seems consolidated that IPVanish is not able to provide an efficient service from within China (although there is a workaround to make it possible no success is guaranteed).
At the same time, NordVPN has managed to keep its service running, for now. This might be worth considering depending on where your business/activity is based, but be aware that these realities tend to change. If you are connecting from China, you might want to use a service that is actually allowed by the country you are using it in.
- My conclusion is that if you are a private user and you are looking for top privacy and freedom of action, NordVPN is best suited for you. In essence, you'll make full use of the thousands of servers across the globe. Your data will be safely handled by a Panama-based company that will stand the “proof-of-china.”
- ● If you are a business owner, go for IPVanish: with more flexible pricing for more servers and more connection protocols, dedicated customer support coming from their partner and rights-owner oriented experience, you won't need anything else to make your business as private as sustainable.