pCloud vs MEGA: Battle of the Zero-Knowledge Providers

obrBy Eric Bradley — Last Updated: 03 Aug'17 2017-07-20T04:53:23+00:00

In the online storage market, the battle for consumers’ hearts and minds is a fierce one. Two of the best cloud storage services are pCloud and MEGA, and during this analysis we’ll be helping you make the right choice between them (check out our best storage comparison table for the highlights).

Both pCloud and MEGA are relative newcomers to the industry, having both been founded in 2013.

However, MEGA arrived on the scene with a bit of a history: it’s the successor to the infamous Megaupload, which had its servers seized by the FBI for facilitating online piracy. We can’t think of any cloud storage service with a more dramatic pedigree than that. pCloud, on the other hand, is a choir boy by comparison, scandal-free since its inception.


Starts from
$ 4.99 per month
Visit pCloudpCloud Review
  • Free 10GB storage
  • Affordable plans
  • Highly secure
  • Perfect file sync
  • No FTP access
  • Zero knowledge isn't free
Starts from
$ 5.94 per month
Visit MEGAMEGA Review
  • Free 50GB storage
  • Nice web interface
  • Zero-knowledge
  • Local files not wiped
  • Overwrite protection
  • No file versioning
  • Accounts expire
  • Very slow
  • Support is not very supportive
  • Controversial background
  • Privacy issues

The Battle Rounds

Aside from reputation, each of these services has pros and cons that you’ll want to be aware of before making a purchasing decision. During the ensuing head-to-head match, we’ll evaluate both contenders on pricing, speed, security and ease of use. For more detailed information, make sure to check out our pCloud review as well as our MEGA review.

There can only be one winner, so let’s see which service emerges triumphant.

1

Pricing

MEGA and pCloud both offer generous free storage plans, which is why we included them in our 2017 roundup for the top five cloud storage providers with large free storage plans. Looking just at free gigabytes, MEGA is the easy winner, with five times as much space as pCloud, 50GB as compared to 10GB.

While pCloud does give you an extra gigabyte for each referral you make — up to a max of ten — even capped out this is still 30GB shy of what’s being given away by MEGA. That’s without annoying your friends to sign up for the service.

Moving on to the paid subscriptions, which in neither case will break the bank, here’s a look at pCloud’s price plans:


PlanFreePremiumPremium Plus
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 4 99monthly
$ 47 88yearly
$ 125 009999999 months
$ 9 99monthly
$ 95 88yearly
$ 250 009999999 months
Storage 10 500 2000
Details

Here are MEGA’s:


PlanFreePro LitePro IPro IIPro III
Price Plan
Freeyearly
$ 5 94monthly
$ 59 53yearly
$ 11 90monthly
$ 118 96yearly
$ 23 80monthly
$ 238 04yearly
$ 35 71monthly
$ 299 90yearly
Storage 50 200 500 2000 4000
Details

1TB Bandwidth.

2TB Bandwidth.

4TB Bandwidth.

8TB Bandwidth.


This is where pCloud takes the lead, as free space is nice and all, but serious users will usually end up needing to pay no matter who they go with. pCloud simply offers more space for less money.

Though the 500GB plan is slightly more expensive with MEGA, it has a better bandwidth cap: in fact, MEGA plans always provide at least twice as much bandwidth as the space you’ve purchased, while pCloud always provides a 1:1 ratio (not unimportant for file sharers). When it comes to the 2TB plan, however, MEGA is much more expensive.

It would be nice if it was so easy to make a direct comparison, but pCloud muddies the water somewhat by making zero-knowledge encryption a paid add-on. MEGA, meanwhile, includes that feature in the subscription cost.

The added charge with pCloud means having the same level of protection on pCloud is slightly more expensive than MEGA if you’re comparing 500GB plans. However, pCloud is still cheaper when it comes to 2TB plans.

Round One Thoughts

If you’ve got no intention of ever paying for storage, MEGA has a really sweet deal on free storage that’s hard to pass up, even with some of the more negative aspects of the service taken into account (more about those later).

For those who have no need for zero-knowledge encryption, pCloud’s basic prices are lower on paid storage. While the cost is slightly higher with pCloud for a 500GB plan with encryption included, the difference is so small that the additional features of pCloud make it the better value.

More convincingly, pCloud’s 2TB plans are less than half the cost of MEGA’s similar offer. Except in the case of free accounts, pCloud is the logical winner of round one.

Note: In a strange twist, starting from mid-July 2017, MEGA has reduced their 500GB offer down to 200GB, while keeping the bandwidth cap at the same level. This effectively moves pCloud even further ahead on value.


Winner (Pricing): pCloud
pCloud
MEGA
2

Speed

If you plan your uploads to take place while you’re sleeping or if the files you transfer are not too big, upload speed may not be a critical factor for you in selecting a cloud storage provider.

Download speed, on the other hand, is almost always important. If you’re downloading, it likely means that you need the file you’ve requested for some reason and waiting too long can be frustrating.

During testing, pCloud was 24.35 percent faster than MEGA when uploading a 1GB collection of different file types, which by itself would be reason enough to recommend the service. More convincingly, pCloud’s download times were an impressive 29.41 percent faster than those of MEGA.

@ 1Mb/s (125KB/s)w/ DTAC, ThailandAvg. UploadAvg. Download
pCloud1:581:48
MEGA2:362:33

However, as is often the case, it’s not quite as simple as saying, “A is faster than B.” To some degree, the relative speeds of these two services depend on exactly what you’re transferring.

MEGA has a smart feature that performs multiple synchronous uploads of small files, then reverts to single transfer mode on large files. pCloud can do this, too, but in our testing we felt it performed less efficiently in selecting files. This means for business users who mostly store small document files and rarely need to access them, MEGA may actually provide better performance.

Many users, however, use cloud storage to safeguard photos, videos, music, eBooks and other large file types. For them, pCloud’s better performance when moving large files is going to be important. In any case, MEGA has a tendency to lag and freeze up at times, which makes it difficult to recommend with confidence.

Round Two Thoughts

pCloud romped across the finish line well ahead of MEGA in our speed tests. Except in the case of users wanting to upload large packets of small files, pCloud is a clear victor over MEGA.

The fact that MEGA sometimes has difficulty recovering from a file transfer glitch, resulting in noticeable lag, is a further reason to recommend pCloud for those users with a need for speed.


Winner (Speed): pCloud
pCloud
MEGA
3

Security & Privacy

Both providers take pride of place on our list of best zero-knowledge cloud storage services, yet there is a major difference between them. It’s going to sound ironic, but if you really care about security, pCloud is the better choice, despite it asking for extra money for private encryption.

We can’t be entirely sure — in the absence of an independent security audit — that zero-knowledge encryption as offered by MEGA works as advertised. That’s actually the case with any service claiming to have such encryption in place, but MEGA provides an additional reason to be suspicious.

This is because the service claims to have both zero-knowledge encryption and file de-duplication capabilities in place. Both statements can’t reasonably be true.

When a file is encrypted with a unique key, it should have a completely different hash signature than previously uploaded copies of the same file. Therefore, unless MEGA has the key to decrypt files, it doesn’t make sense that it can detect duplicates.

Now, in theory, there’s more reason to believe MEGA is telling the truth about its zero-knowledge encryption, while not telling the truth about de-duplication. There’s the chance that MEGA has found a way to compare encrypted files without decrypting them, but there is no commonly known way to do this.

The truth of any such claim will only be resolved by an independent audit of MEGA’s encryption algorithms, which seems unlikely to occur anytime soon.

Another concern is that there are many points in MEGA’s terms and conditions and privacy policy that raise some red flags about the reliability of MEGA. For example, the service will use cookies to track your visits to third-party websites and sell that data on to advertisers, as well as alert the authorities if you keep someone else’s copyrighted material in your account.

Since many of these worrying clauses should be made redundant by the presence of zero-knowledge encryption, it’s confusing that they exist. These may be indications that there is no perfect zero-knowledge encryption, or that there’s some kind of backdoor decryption possible.

While we don’t think that is the case with MEGA, there is no way to know for sure. There’s also an “access your files within 90 days or lose them” clause that’s not good, either.

Fail to respond to emails from MEGA when you’re contacted with a direct question, and you might lose your files as well. These and a few other points really don’t let us feel completely safe and secure with MEGA, and while there are a few concerns with pCloud, they’re nowhere near as disconcerting.

Round Three Thoughts

pCloud wins by default in this round because there are too many unanswered questions about how MEGA does what it does and many indicators of potential unreliability in its terms, which is highly undesirable in these days of NSA surveillance and ISP spying.

The best approach is to not trust anyone’s claims about the encryption they provide and apply your own encryption. You won’t have direct access to open and preview those files through your cloud storage web interface, but if it’s content that you really need to keep confidential like health insurance records, letters from your attorney or mom’s key lime pie recipe, taking security into your own hands is the best bet.


Winner (Security & Privacy): pCloud
pCloud
MEGA
4

Ease of Use

Deciding on a winner for round four is much more difficult than in the previous rounds because it depends on what an individual user regards as easy, which is a subjective valuation.

Users who prefer the simplicity of a browser-based interface may find MEGA to be less of a hassle because they don’t have to install software on their local machine, create a local drive for file sync or any of the other additional requirements that come with pCloud.

MEGA does have a command line interface, but that’s not something most users will want to dive into. With most competitors, including pCloud, providing a GUI-based desktop client, it’s amazing that MEGA hasn’t produced its own.

On the other hand, MEGA’s web interface isn’t as intuitive pCloud’s web interface, although both could do with some improvement. Also, pCloud has more functionality built into its web interface.

Both services provide an image viewer, but the pCloud version is quicker and seems to give a better quality result. pCloud also includes the ability to play multimedia files, which MEGA is still lacking at the moment.

pCloud also has a much better file sharing system. While both services use simple links for file sharing, there are really important differences in how the links work. File sharing links created with MEGA can only be accessed by other MEGA users, and they can only be used for viewing and downloading files.

pCloud file sharing links can be accessed by anyone you choose. The really big thing with pCloud’s links is they can also be used for file uploads. In other words, you can use them to receive files as well as send them. The sharing links can be protected by passwords and expiry dates. The ability to set expiry dates on shared folders with MEGA is only available to PRO users.

The pCloud desktop client is quite good and most users shouldn’t find it at all difficult to use. Provided that users understand the difference between sync and backup, major problems are unlikely to occur.

MEGA’s service works more like a traditional backup service, since the MEGA system is a pure up- and download exchange rather than full sync, except that due to the previously mentioned issues about reliability, it can’t really be considered as the sole backup solution for important documents.

Round Four Thoughts

Neither service really scores a clear lead here, but pCloud gets an edge for providing more features and also having them work better. On top of that, the ability to share files with a wider audience and receive files directly into your pCloud storage from other people makes pCloud just generally more useable.


Winner (Ease of Use): pCloud
pCloud
MEGA
5

The Verdict

It’s not often the case with Cloudwards.net online storage comparisons that one service manages to win every category, but pCloud has unquestionably done so in the competition against MEGA.

That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t recommend MEGA. If you just want free storage, MEGA is definitely offering you a good deal with 50GB free and no strings attached.

For paid accounts, pCloud offers better value than MEGA even when the price is somewhat higher, as with 500GB accounts with zero-knowledge encryption added. It’s 2TB plan is a comparative steal.

The exception is when 2TB isn’t enough. In this case, MEGA might be the better bet, with both 4TB and 8TB plans. pCloud does have an option that lets you select how much storage you need, but pricing can get expensive, fast. For most users, however, 2TB should be more than enough room to work with.

With faster transfer speeds, better reliability and more features, pCloud gets the win in this match.

Winner: pCloud

Thank you for reading our head-to-head comparison of pCloud vs MEGA. Don’t forget to leave your own thoughts on these two services in the comments below.

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