AirVPN is a VPN run by and for online privacy advocates. The service offers above-average domestic connection speeds and good (but not great) customer support.
The provider’s reasonable price is a good value for their top-notch privacy protections, which are second to none.
NordVPN is one of the best options around for movie lovers, offering reliable streaming service access and above-average global server coverage. Privacy is a high priority here.
This provider allows BitTorrent activity on all of its servers around the globe and an above-average number of simultaneous VPN connections.
How to Choose a VPN
In this edition of my VPN faceoffs, I’ll be pitting AirVPN up against NordVPN.
I’ll be looking at the 10 most critical categories to pay attention to when deciding on a VPN service. I’ll explain why each category is critical, reveal how well both providers performed and then declare a “winner” for that particular feature.
After I’ve covered all 10 categories, I’ll tally the scores and announce an overall champ.
By the time you finish reading this article, you should have enough information to make an intelligent decision as to which of the two providers is the best for your needs.
It’s an online world. You game online, you watch movies and listen to music online, you work from home instead of fighting traffic every day. All of this makes a fast connection an important part of your internet arsenal.
In this section, we’ll be taking a look at the performance of the protected connections of both VPN providers. Pixel Privacy uses Speedtest.net to test the connection speeds. We conduct the VPN speed tests as follows:
- We use a North America-based Windows virtual server with a gigabit Ethernet connection to perform the tests.
- We have 3 users, located in different areas of the globe, connect to 3 VPN locations – the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong – at 3 times of the day over the course of 3 days.
- We use the Windows version of the provider’s app for testing, which is configured to connect via the OpenVPN protocol over UDP.
- Once we’ve run all of the speed tests, we calculate and average the results for each provider to obtain our final results.
Average Connection Speed
AirVPN provides average protected connection speeds that can handle any of your favorite online activities, including gaming, downloading large files and streaming both 1080p HD and 4K video.
Connection speed is NordVPN’s least dazzling category, providing only enough download speed to handle HD (but not 4K) streaming content. However, the provider’s speeds should still be sufficient for most online activities.
I will remind you that your download speeds will differ from what I’ve listed here, and will depend on the speeds you usually see from your Internet Service Provider.
Average Connection Speed Winner: AirVPN
Both of the providers in this head-to-head comparison are reasonably priced, falling somewhere in the middle when their pricing is compared to other VPNs that I’ve tried.
A month-to-month subscription to AirVPN will run you slightly less per month than a Netflix basic (SD) subscription. It drops down to the Disney+ subscription neighborhood if you go for the annual subscription option. 3-day, 3-month and 6-month options are also available.
On the other side of the street (information highway?), NordVPN’s 1-month plan is up there just short of a Netflix Standard (HD) subscription. Their annual subscription deal drops the price to exactly the same amount as a Disney+ sub. 2-year and 3-year options drop the price down to bargain town.
I don’t include the exact pricing for either provider in my head-to-head matchups. This is because VPN providers change their pricing and offer “special deals” on a regular basis. I advise you to visit the website of any provider that you’re interested in to view their current pricing.
Pricing Winner: AirVPN
It seems as if everything is connected to the internet. Your computer, your smartphone – even the little Wi-Fi surveillance camera sitting up there in the corner of your office. (Oh, you didn’t know it was there? No big deal, just be careful where you scratch from now on. And, um, you might want to get that looked at.)
When investigating the level of a VPN provider’s privacy protection, ask yourself the following:
- Is the provider located in a privacy-respecting country?
- Does the provider save logs of their customers’ online travels?
- Does the provider accept Bitcoin or another type of private payment?
AirVPN is based in Italy and follows the privacy rules laid out by the European Union. The provider does not keep any logs whatsoever of their customers’ activities while connected to AirVPN servers. The provider accepts multiple forms of cryptocurrency in return for their services.
NordVPN is based in Panama, where they respect online privacy. This means the provider is not required to save logs related to their users’ online movements. NordVPN also happily accepts private payments, such as Bitcoin.
Privacy Winner: It’s a Tie!
When you’re researching VPN providers, never get hung up on just one or two features. Instead, consider all of a provider’s service offerings before opting to subscribe.
This section of the article will provide an overview of how well our one-on-one participants perform in a set of service categories. I’ll provide a close look at their performance in each arena, then declare a victor for that particular feature.
A VPN provider’s encryption is the special sauce that keeps your online antics, as well as your personal and business-related information, safe from prying eyes.
NordVPN offers high-level AES-256 protection through the OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols. The provider also offers kill switch protection, malicious website blocking, DNS leak protection and Onion Over VPN options.
AirVPN also uses AES-256 encryption to protect their customers’ connections. However, they only use OpenVPN with TCP/UDP – no other protocols. Kill switch and DNS leak protections are available.
Encryption Winner: NordVPN
If you’re a small business owner or a modern-day Mike Brady with a large family, you’re going to need VPN protection for more than one device. Always look for a VPN provider that allows for as many devices to be simultaneously connected under that same account as possible.
NordVPN allows up to 6 simultaneous connections.
AirVPN allows up to 5 simultaneous connections.
Simultaneous Connections Winner: NordVPN
At one time or another, I have subscribed to (and forgotten to cancel) most of the streaming services that I am aware of. I’ve enjoyed Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime and many others on my devices, both at home and away.
However, some of those services are available in only certain countries, while others offer different content, depending on which country you’re in. These limitations are imposed upon the services by the contracts they sign with movie and television producers. This is where a VPN comes in handy.
NordVPN unblocks a large number of streaming services around the world. Services it unblocks include: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Showtime, Hulu, Disney+ and others.
AirVPN says it offers access to Netflix in the United States and the United Kingdom. I randomly tested various AirVPN servers and found the Netflix support to be spotty at best. Other streaming providers, including Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, are not unblocked.
Streaming Support Winner: NordVPN
|# of U.S. Streaming Services VPN Unblocks||# of International Services VPN Unblocks||Link|
P2P/BitTorrent is a great way to share files. Numerous individuals and companies use the technology to legally share files on the internet. Heck, some game publishers even use P2P tech to share downloads to their games.
However, since P2P file sharing is a popular way to share copyrighted materials – such as movies and music – many ISPs block the activity altogether on their networks.
A VPN hides the fact that you’re participating in torrenting, preventing your ISP from blocking or throttling your internet connection.
NordVPN allows P2P traffic on servers in 42 countries.
AirVPN allows P2P activity on all of their servers in the 22 countries they serve.
BitTorrent Support Winner: NordVPN
Global Server Coverage
Users will find a VPN provider that offers comprehensive global server coverage to be a valuable asset when they’re looking to access video and audio streaming content that might normally be blocked to citizens in their country.
NordVPN has 5,600+ servers distributed among 60 countries around the globe.
AirVPN offers a running count of available servers and countries on their website, so the figures I have – 240+ servers located in 22 countries – are from looking at the status page on the AirVPN website. These numbers could fluctuate at any time.
Global Server Coverage Winner: NordVPN
I’d venture to say that most of my site visitors own and use more than one device. That’s what makes multi-platform support so important when you’re considering a VPN provider.
NordVPN provides apps for the iOS, Windows, Android, Android TV, Linux and macOS device platforms. The service can also be used with routers and NAS devices. Firefox and Chrome browser extensions are available.
AirVPN provides app support for the Linux, iOS, macOS, Android and Windows device platforms. In addition, they supply setup instructions to use the service with Chromebooks, pfSense firewalls, and DD-WRT, Tomato and AsusWRT routers. No browser extensions are available.
Multi-Platform Support Winner: NordVPN
Customer support is like a spare tire. It’s nice to know it’s there, but you never want to have the need to use it. However, when you need it, you do want it fully capable of helping you get back on the (information) superhighway.
AirVPN provides a contact form, a helpful FAQ section and a forum where AirVPN personnel and customers can discuss issues.
NordVPN customer support offers a live support chat option, email support and an easy-to-search support library.
Customer Support Winner: NordVPN
NordVPN vs. AirVPN wasn’t much of a battle, with NordVPN grabbing a lead in the middle rounds and never surrendering it.
NordVPN snagged top honors in the security, simultaneous connections, streaming, BitTorrent, global server coverage, multi-platform support and customer support categories.
Both providers supplied equally fine privacy protections.
AirVPN was top dog in the connection speed and pricing columns.
NordVPN has the globe covered well with their servers, provides reliable access to Netflix on all popular devices (all at the same time) and covers your online antics with excellent privacy and security protections, all of which make it the best choice this go-around.