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IPVanish vs. NordVPN: Speed, security and price compared

IPVanish has a fun interface at low cost, but how does it stack up against NordVPN's security and speeds?

Before you shell out a couple hundred bucks and commit to a three-year subscription with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), read our side-by-side comparison on two of the most popular VPNs on the market. Compared to its peers, IPVanish has one of the best user interfaces, encouraging you to get under the hood and learn the mechanics powering the technology. Meanwhile, NordVPN has a reputation for unbeatable pricing and reliable speed. 

Here's the break-down on each one's strengths and weaknesses. 

Read more: The best VPN services for 2020

IPVanish

A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for beginners who are interested in learning what a VPN does under the hood. My only complaint is that IPVanish's desktop clients have been known to get in a loading loop. This occurs in both the Windows and Mac version of the app, and IPVanish's site advises a reinstall. Otherwise, this has become one of my favorite user experiences with a VPN client. 

IPVanish's multiplatform flexibility and 40,000-plus IP addresses are also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN. It's compatible with iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, routers, Amazon Fire devices, and any Android-based media device. 

Compared to high-profile VPN speed players like ExpressVPN, it's tempting to paint IPVanish's speeds as sluggish. But IPVanish regularly gives NordVPN a run for its money in the thrice-daily tests conducted by ProPrivacy, and was outpacing NordVPN in that race at the time of this writing. And IPVanish is reaching those speeds with just 1,300 servers in 60 locations, that's about a third of Nord's server count. 

While I appreciate that IPVanish comes with a standard kill switch feature, I always retain some caution when a VPN is headquartered in the US, and reserve my higher recommendations for those outside of international intelligence-sharing rings such as Five Eyes. I'm also not as confident in IPVanish's leak security as I am with other VPNs after reviewers at CNET's sister publication ZDNet detected a partial DNS leak during testing. I'm also still hoping to see an independent third-party audit of its operations. 

At $3.99 per month and $48 for a year, it's obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. To get that kind of cost out of NordVPN, you'd need to opt for the $3 per month, three-year plan (or $126 total per year). I'm a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee. That said, the company gets kudos for its recent increase from five to 10 simultaneous connections. 

Read more: IPVanish review: This speedy VPN has a great user interface

NordVPN

This heavy-hitter stays on our list of the best 2020 mobile VPNs for many reasons, including its status as the reigning champion of the bang-for-buck ratio. Hands-down, you aren't going to get a VPN anywhere else that can do more than NordVPN does, as cheap as NordVPN does it. Despite a security breach reported last year, you'll be hard pressed to find another VPN that can do what NordVPN does at all. 

Sure, NordVPN could offer a little more privacy if it boosted the number of servers it owns, but I'm talking about 5,000-plus servers in 62 countries, a strict zero-log policy and a jurisdiction in Panama. It's an encryption powerhouse that recently switched to RAM-disk mode, and has a feature that allows you to VPN into Tor. It's available for not only iOS and Android, but also Windows Phone and even BlackBerry. 

With all that security, NordVPN has no business being as fast as it is. In my speed tests, NordVPN performed admirably, cutting our internet speed by about 32% on average (compared to about 65% speed loss with IPVanish), where most VPNs can reduce speeds by half or more. I found NordVPN's speeds were reliably fast; There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where I expected the VPN to underperform, it proved itself up to the task. 

For all that, how much are you paying? The company's one-year subscription plan costs $7 per month ($84 billed at once). While that yearly price is lower than most other contenders, it's higher than IPVanish's single-year plan, and Nord's month-to-month price of $12 is at the high end of its spectrum. As of September 2019, the company's other pricing tiers have crept up a bit: It's now more than $3 a month for a three-year plan (or $126 total per year), up from $3 and $108 total. Nord's two-year plan is now $5 per month ($120 a year), up from $4 a month and $96 per year. And yes, NordVPN also has a full 30-day refund policy if you aren't happy with the service. 

While a three-year plan is a big commitment to make to any service provider in the privacy field, NordVPN has developed a reputation for offering fair refunds, and its three-year subscription price beats ExpressVPN's best offer of about $7 per month for an annual package with three months free.

Read more: NordVPN review: Still the best value for security and speed