Picking a VPN can be a difficult task, even for the experienced user – there are so many options available. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff and make sure you get the service that’s best for your needs?
With more and more providers becoming well-known outside the tech community, we thought we’d pit two big names against each other to see which is best at what – all in the name of helping you make the important decision of what the best VPN for you is. So here we are: NordVPN vs IPVanish.
NordVPN is one of the best-known VPNs in the world, with television adverts, over 12 million users and, most importantly, an excellent product. Promising speedy connections and great privacy credentials, NordVPN should always be on your list of VPNs to consider.
US-based IPVanish claims to be the only ‘top tier’ VPN – meaning the company owns all the servers it uses. Alongside that, the VPN provides great functionality with some very useful extra features, but can it match up to the behemoth that is NordVPN?
Either is a great choice, but we’re here to compare them head to head to find out which is the best VPN for you.
First impressions and specs
Number of servers:
NordVPN: 5,200+ / IPVanish: 1,500+
NordVPN: 80+ / IPVanish: 75+
Maximum simultaneous connections:
NordVPN: 6 / IPVanish: Unlimited
Money back guarantee:
NordVPN: 30 days / IPVanish: 30 days
Lowest monthly cost:
NordVPN: $3.49 / IPVanish: $5.20
Upon installation, both IPVanish and NordVPN impress with pleasing interfaces and a great selection of additional features.
IPVanish’s black and green client – complete with a real-time graph of connection speeds – is unashamedly techy, and that somehow feels quite reassuring. However, NordVPN’s paler palette and map comes across as more modern and probably less intimidating for those less acquainted with the world of VPNs.
Although NordVPN has four times as many servers as IPVanish, you’ll have a similar choice of locations, and the fact that IPVanish runs every server itself means it’s not relying on anyone else – or its security systems. We also appreciate IPVanish's unlimited simultaneous connections (compared to Nord's six), so you can safeguard all your devices.
Both are entirely plug and play, leaving you free to simply select your server and get protected in seconds, and finding a decent connection isn’t hard on either.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Plans, pricing and trials
Opening at $11.95 for its one-month plan, NordVPN doesn’t start off cheap. However, signing up for longer will get you a better deal. Its six-month plan comes in at $9 a month.
However, NordVPN offers the best monthly value with an excellent two-year plan at only $3.71 a month.
IPVanish’s one-month plan is a flat $10.00, with prices dropping to $8.99 a month on a three-month plan and $6.49 a month for a year – but TechRadar readers are offered an exclusive offer, knocking those prices down to $9.59, $7.20 and $5.20 a month respectively.
To sweeten its deal, IPVanish also includes a free 250GB SugarSync plan with all subscriptions. If you’re looking for a cheap way to access SugarSync’s secure cloud storage, IPVanish is a great option.
Both offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, but goodies aside, if you've got the cash upfront then NordVPN’s three-year plan is hard to beat. Interestingly, both come in under our #1 favorite provider ExpressVPN.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Privacy
IPVanish prides itself on offering excellent privacy features, and we’d have to agree. You’ll have the choice of a number of protocols, including the rock-solid IKEv2, and also the option to customise OpenVPN.
Another great feature is ‘Scramble’, which hides the fact you’re using a VPN at all – useful for those in countries like China that restrict internet and VPN usage.
NordVPN offers fantastic privacy features too, including a good selection of protocols and ‘Onion over VPN’, which reroutes your traffic through the Onion network for maximum security.
Both provide a useful kill switch in case your VPN connection drops, and in terms of privacy it’s hard to choose between the two. While each has unique features, both are a safe bet for staying private online.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Logging
Both NordVPN and IPVanish claim to be truly zero-logging. That’s great, but VPN providers can pretty much say what they want on their homepages.
Digging a little into IPVanish’s small print seems to back this up, and it states not to collect any of its users’ data.
However, although NordVPN makes the same claims, the headline is that an independent audit has proved them, too. While detail is thin on the ground, the simple fact that Nord’s zero-log status has been confirmed puts it ahead in this round.
While IPVanish’s claims may well be true, we’d love to see it bite the bullet and undertake an audit to prove it.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Performance
Beyond privacy, the performance of a VPN - i.e. its pure connection speed - is probably the most important feature for most consumers.
In our tests, both services connected in seconds, with NordVPN suffering a minimal 6–8% drop in connection speed compared to when the VPN was switched off.
In our review of IPVanish we noticed some variability of UK connection speeds – and a cursory test for this article has repeated that. While on some occasions our connection was relatively unaffected, on others it was slowed considerably. Oddly, European servers often provided better connections than those in the UK.
While this could be explained by the sheer number of people currently working from home in the UK, it’s important to note that NordVPN hasn’t experienced any slowdowns.
However, IPVanish hasn’t seen such problems in the USA, with our 600Mb test connection returning an average speed of around 220Mb and a lowest speed of 153Mb. NordVPN is more variable in the States, with speeds from 125–300Mb.
For those in the UK and other further climes, Nord’s the clear winner, but IPVanish – on its home turf – provides better connections in the USA.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Streaming
Many VPN users won’t really care about privacy – all they want to do is watch Netflix from other countries. So how do NordVPN and IPVanish stack up in this area?
NordVPN easily unblocked US-only YouTube content and succeeded in giving us access to all the Netflix servers we tried. However, iPlayer proved tricky and we had to resort to using the browser extension in tandem with the Windows client to get that working - that's why it only just squeezes into our chart for the best BBC iPlayer VPNs.
IPVanish doesn’t advertise itself as having the power to unblock digital streaming media, but in our tests it effectively bypassed geo-blocks for YouTube and Netflix. Just like Nord, the biggest stumbling block was iPlayer, but unfortunately it proved to be insurmountable for IPVanish – we couldn’t access iPlayer at all.
If you’re only interested in a VPN for Netflix, both Nord and IPVanish will do the job perfectly. However, if you want to be able to access everything, NordVPN is the way to go.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Torrents
Again, IPVanish doesn’t market itself on its P2P abilities, but every one of its self-owned servers supports torrenting.
NordVPN does support torrenting, but not on every one of its servers. With some VPNs this can often prove to be a headache, especially if only a few slow servers allow P2P.
That’s not the case with NordVPN, though, as you’ll have hundreds of servers fit for torrenting to choose from. While you can choose to connect to a suitable server initially, Nord will also re-route your traffic automatically if it detects P2P activity.
Both NordVPN and IPVanish provide comprehensive security features to protect you when torrenting, and although Nord makes up for its shortcomings, IPVanish edges it out due to having full P2P compatibility.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Mobile apps
IPVanish’s apps share the black and green scheme of the desktop client, and retain the pretty connection speed graph. NordVPN’s apps also look familiar, with the pastel map peppered with servers.
While Nord’s map works nicely on desktop, limited mobile real estate means that here it’s more a hinderance than help. While you can access a regular server list with a swipe upwards, we’d like to see that straight away.
Beyond aesthetics, NordVPN’s apps are fully functional, especially the iOS offering. You’ll be able to configure to your heart’s content, and have pretty much the same features as the desktop client – that means protocol switching, double VPN, a kill switch, Onion over VPN and plenty more to boot.
IPVanish’s apps are no slouches, though, and have a suite of features not often seen in mobile VPNs. On Android you get a kill switch, three different ports, a choice of protocols and split tunnelling. On iOS you’ll have a useful favourites list that's missing on Android – but you'll lose the kill switch.
On the whole, Nord’s apps are more polished. If IPVanish integrated the features of both its iOS and Android apps into one we’d have a real mobile contender, but currently each is missing a couple of things we’d really like to see.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Support
Support is essential for any VPN user. For example, on macOS, Nord’s kill switch is always on in the App Store version, while it’s a user option in the DMG available direct from the site. We opened a live chat to clear this up, and it was sorted out in minutes.
IPVanish also provides stellar live chat support, and although you might not think you’ll need it, you’ll be glad when you do.
What puts NordVPN ahead, however, is the layout and writing of the articles and troubleshooting guides on-site. While IPVanish’s articles get the job done, the guides can be somewhat longwinded compared to Nord’s concise efforts.
NordVPN vs IPVanish: Final verdict
With two strong contenders, it’s always hard to pick a favourite. But, on balance, NordVPN comes across as the most polished and easy-to-use service of the two. And that affordable multi-year plan is a real tempter.
A big factor in this decision is IPVanish’s less-than-perfect UK connections and streaming capabilities – while Nord and IPVanish are pretty even in terms of privacy, being able to stream with ease is a huge selling point.
However, for those in the US, IPVanish is one of the best VPNs available. Also, if you’re looking for a cheap way to get SugarSync’s encrypted cloud storage, signing up with IPVanish is actually cheaper than a SugarSync subscription alone – and you can save even more with our exclusive TechRadar deal.