NordVPN and IPVanish are two big names in the VPN industry, and you can’t help but run into both of them when shopping for the best VPN for your needs. To help you make the choice, we’re going to compare the two of them on all major points—and a few minor ones, too.
You probably know NordVPN from its pervasive marketing—for a while there, you couldn’t turn on your computer or TV without seeing an ad for it. IPVanish is known for having been pretty good in the past—until scandal caught up with it. Let’s see how they fare when pitted against each other.
NordVPN and IPVanish are visually striking services, so we’ll start with a discussion of their respective interfaces. Both do something out of the ordinary for VPNs, providing a fancy graphical interface rather than just a simple button you press to switch on and off—see our comparison of Surfshark and ExpressVPN for two examples.
NordVPN’s interface is an interactive map of the world, with a marker for every country it has a server in. Just click the marker and you’ll be connected to a server in that country. If you zoom in a little closer, you can even pick individual locations within a country, which is pretty neat.
Other than the map, though, NordVPN’s interface is actually very simple: It has a list of servers and a settings menu. The settings menu is easy to navigate. It lets you tweak all manner of options, and it clearly marks what each entry does. We really like it.
IPVanish also goes for a more visually impressive approach than other VPNs but doesn’t pull it off quite as well as NordVPN does. NordVPN’s gimmick is the map, while IPVanish instead opts for a live graph showing your speeds. (There’s a map, too, but it’s not interactive.)
Granted, it looks really cool, like something out of Neuromancer, but we’re not sure what it’s supposed to do. NordVPN’s map has a clear purpose, as another way to select servers, but this graph is just decoration, really. We doubt anybody needs a second-by-second record of their VPN’s performance. Also, when compared to our own speed tests run with Speedtest.net, it wasn’t too accurate, either.
Other than that, though, we like IPVanish’s user interface. It has even more toggles and doodads than NordVPN, but it manages to not be confusing. There’s good attention to detail here and if you like getting into the guts of your VPN, it even has a built-in diagnostic tool that can help you further optimize performance.
When it comes to user-friendliness, the choice between NordVPN and IPVanish comes down to taste. Both are pretty easy to use, and neither throws up any major hurdles. We’re still not sure about that graph, though.
Next, let’s go over what our contenders can do. We much prefer NordVPN because it delivers on its promises a lot better. On top of that, there are also some areas where IPVanish drops the ball—and drop the ball hard.
One example is security, where IPVanish and NordVPN would probably be rated more or less equally well if it weren’t for one vital omission. For some reason, IPVanish doesn’t have its kill switch engaged automatically. Users need to toggle it manually in the interface.
This is pretty bad: without the kill switch, when the VPN connection drops, the internet will keep on running, exposing your IP address to any sites you visit.
Sure, there’s an option in the settings menu that switches it to automatic, but we’re not sure why such an important security feature is set as off to default. It’s sloppy, especially considering not everybody knows how VPNs work and will not know the kill switch should always be on.
Other than that, though, both services are more or less comparable. Both default to a solid new VPN protocol, WireGuard, though NordVPN uses a proprietary version called NordLynx. We like WireGuard because it offers good security and decent speed, though both services allow you to change protocols in the settings screen. Speaking of speed, though, that’s another weakness of IPVanish’s.
As we explained when we compared ExpressVPN and NordVPN, speed is not NordVPN’s strong point. Sometimes you get amazing, fast-as-lightning speeds. At other times, it’s the digital equivalent of watching paint dry. Although NordVPN’s speed is generally more good than bad, when compared to many competitors, it could be better.
However, IPVanish is ridiculously slow in our testing. It makes NordVPN look fast. Even at short distances of 150 miles or so—a hop, skip, and a jump away in VPN terms—we saw slowdowns of nearly 75 percent, which is unacceptable. Further distances of about 1500 miles saw such dips in speed and ping that we didn’t even bother checking out trans-Atlantic connections.
This was quite shocking, especially considering IPVanish used to be known to be pretty fast and we were using WireGuard. We’re not sure what the problem is. If forced to guess, we’d imagine IPVanish is skimping on servers compared to NordVPN. Either way, if you want speed, IPVanish is where not to be.
We have a feeling some of IPVanish speed issues could be fixed by simply having more servers: it seems the 1,900 on offer in 75 locations may simply be overloaded. That said, NordVPN offers more than 5,000 in 60 countries and still occasionally has issues with speeds, so maybe it’s about quality more than quantity.
The server numbers and locations cover the globe fairly well, though they are, as usual, slanted toward Europe and North America. If you’re looking for particularly exotic locales, though, you may want to check out what’s available before signing up for either VPN service.
Lastly, there’s Netflix, where neither service takes a prize. Though we’ve received reports that either VPN can get through to the popular streaming service despite Netflix’s 2021 crackdown on VPNs, we weren’t able to replicate it. We tried several servers and each time, regardless of whether it was NordVPN or IPVanish, we got goose egg. As of November 2021, these aren’t the VPNs for Netflix.
Other streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video also locked us out, so if it’s Netflix you’re after, you may want to make sure your service of choice gets you in before committing.
Now that we know how they work and what they can do, let’s see what IPVanish andNordVPN will cost. At first glance, both seem to have pretty fair pricing schemes. Look again, though, and you’ll quickly see that both are tempting you with low initial pricing that will increase dramatically.
For example, at first glance, NordVPN is a reasonable $59 per year or $89 for two years.
However, the devil is in the details, and NordVPN is no different. Look at the small print and you’ll see that this is only for the first year or two years. When NordVPN renews—which it does automatically—you’ll be paying $143.40 per year, or $322.65 per two years. That’s right: The two-year plan is more than twice the price of the yearly one.
IPVanish is a little better than NordVPN here, but only if you keep in mind that “better” does not necessarily mean “good.” On the pricing page, IPVanish’s monthly and yearly plans (the two-year plan was discontinued some time ago, though it’s still mentioned in the documentation) are in separate tabs, making it hard to compare the two. Instead, a lot of room is given to the plan that includes IPVanish’s backup products.
We don’t like how IPVanish overwhelms you with information here. It’s confusing and could make it hard for people who aren’t exactly sure of what they’re doing to maybe click something they don’t want.
It’s not until you go to check out that you can compare the two VPN plans side by side—again, we’re not taking the backup plan into account as we have no idea if it’s any good or not.
Much like with NordVPN, the $48 per year is only for the first year, then you pay almost $90 per year. The trick to using either service seems to be that you need to know what you’re signing up for and make sure to note when you need to cancel so you can switch to a cheaper service. Consider setting a reminder in your calendar.
The one thing we do like about NordVPN and IPVanish’s pricing is that both offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, but note that IPVanish’s is only valid on the yearly plan. If you go month-to-month that money is gone the second you sign up. However, when we canceled the monthly plan, we were offered an extra two months for free, so that may be worth keeping in mind.
Going over these documents, there are no immediate red flags that jump out at us. However, we like how NordVPN presents its information a little better: while IPVanish is a little more thorough, the way the policy is formatted and worded is a little confusing. NordVPN is a little more to the point.
However, some light digging turns up a few stories about when both services could have done a little better. NordVPN’s closet skeleton is a little more harmless, though: in October 2019, the service admitted it had been hacked in March of that year, but it turned out that the attackers hadn’t been able to make off with anything. As hacks go, it wasn’t too serious, though there were some raised eyebrows concerning why NordVPN didn’t come forward with it earlier.
IPVanish doesn’t walk away from its scandal looking quite as clean. In 2016, the service provided logs of a user suspected of distributing child pornography to the U.S authorities. Even back then, the service touted itself as not keeping logs, so it was odd, to say the least, that IPVanish had anything to hand over.
That said, the company has been bought and sold twice since then—first to a company called StackPath in 2017 and to J2 Global in 2019—so it could be that now the company truly doesn’t keep logs. Still, though, it’s a blemish on the service’s name, no matter how you look at it.
We’re not huge fans of NordVPN: We feel it’s a little overhyped thanks to a massive marketing campaign and it’s really not all that it’s cracked up to be. However, when compared to IPVanish, NordVPN shines like polished gold and seems a lot better than it actually is.
Unfortunately, IPVanish just dropped one ball after another in our experience. Although there’s a lot to like here, often the details of a function will be poorly implemented or a feature will be used poorly. Add to that its lackluster speeds, and we doubt anybody will enjoy using this once-good VPN service.
Of course, these aren’t the only options. If neither sounds right for you, take a look at our overview of the best VPNs out there. If NordVPN or IPVanish has a great deal for now and you’re giving either a try, we recommend you at least look over your options in a year or two before your subscription price goes up.
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