NordVPN is a VPN that we give a lot of attention to, and it’s earned it. If you look at our NordVPN review, you’ll see we love it for a number of reasons, including its very competitive pricing, its user-friendly design and the ease with which it gets into streaming services.
Windscribe, on the other hand, has spent much less time in the spotlight of the VPN world. We noticed, though, that Windscribe had been making its way onto many of our top lists, including some of our top streaming and top free VPN roundups. You can see more about all of this in our full Windscribe VPN review.
Seeing this discrepancy in attention, we thought that it was time to give Windscribe a chance at competing with an industry leader in this VPN comparison.
Setting Up a Fight: Windscribe vs. NordVPN
In order to give our comparison some structure, we’ve broken things down into nine rounds. In each of the nine rounds, we’ll focus on a single aspect of VPN performance. We’ll discuss how each VPN performs in that particular aspect, then pick a winner.
The winner of each round is assigned a point, and the VPN with more points at the end is declared the winner.
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Paymentwall
- : Unlimited
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
Starting with our Windscribe speed testing results, things are serviceable but not impressive. Switzerland saw great speeds, and the U.S. held its own as well. However, the UK and Hong Kong did not look nearly as good on paper.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Unprotected (St. Louis)||8||86.71||20.53|
|Best Location (Canada)||30||31.93||15.07|
That said, even the performance on the UK server when browsing the web or even watching videos seemed fine. Things defaulted to 1080p 60fps on YouTube and 720p on Twitch, and there was no obnoxious delay for things to start loading.
At first, NordVPN wasn’t the most impressive when it came to speed. It can be a bit slower than most other providers when making its connection, and this case was no different. NordVPN would regularly take three to four seconds longer than Windscribe to establish the tunneled connection, which would often take about five seconds to become stable.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|United Kingdom #201||153||34.78||6.06|
|Double VPN (U.S. to Canada #4)||79||20.48||8.64|
Once the connection was formed, however, things generally went much better with NordVPN during our speed testing. It got higher speeds in our testing on every server, with one notable exception. For some reason, even after multiple tests, the UK server was always returning a 0 Mbps upload speed.
This actually fits in with a trend we’ve noticed before with NordVPN, which is inconsistent speeds from one server to another. You can read more about this in our fastest VPNs roundup, where NordVPN got a dishonorable mention for this inconsistent performance.
Despite the strange results in our testing in the UK, our performance seemed unaffected. Both YouTube and Twitch defaulted to 1080p 60fps without any hesitation, even on the UK server. Additionally, NordVPN got higher speeds in every location we tested, meaning this round goes to NordVPN.
Both Windscribe and NordVPN have shown up in some of our best streaming lists, such as our best VPN for BBC iPlayer article. In the case of Netflix, you can reach almost all streaming services without any special effort (read our guide on how to watch Netflix with NordVPN).
Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix all work fine with NordVPN. The only snag that we’ve encountered when streaming with NordVPN is the inconsistency issue we mentioned earlier. Sometimes a server simply won’t work very well, but disconnecting and reconnecting to a new server can usually fix the issue.
Windscribe offers a variety of servers, some of which are available for free while others require a paid plan. When we tested Windscribe’s free servers, all of them were blocked by Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime.
Windscribe used to offer dedicated “Windflix” servers for streaming. However, it has done away with them by optimizing all of its servers for streaming. That’s why it made it onto our best VPN for Netflix list. Windscribe’s servers allowed us to reach otherwise blocked content, such as Netflix.
Overall, NordVPN saw better performance while streaming and was able to more reliably run at 1080p without any stuttering or issues. This, along with the fact that no special server is needed, means that we’re giving this round to NordVPN.
3. Security and Privacy
As we’ve talked about before, such as in our IPVanish vs. NordVPN article, NordVPN does not offer many choices when it comes to security, but instead chooses to lock users into options that are known to be secure.
NordVPN’s desktop client uses OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption by default and does not offer any other options. If you look at our VPN protocol breakdown and decryption of encryption article, you’ll see that this pairing is considered the gold standard for VPN security, for now.
Although Windscribe offers OpenVPN as an option, it’s not the default. Instead, IKEv2 is set as the protocol out of the box. We suggest that most users change this over when they first start using the VPN because switching it over to OpenVPN will offer better security without much, if any, loss in performance.
Both providers offer a no-logging policy that is clearly laid out and offers the same level of security to its users, so this round ends in a tie. Both VPNs support OpenVPN with AES-256 encryption, and both providers also have a history of transparency and a solid respect for user privacy.
Both of these VPNs are torrenting-friendly, so you won’t get in any trouble using either of them for torrenting. When it comes to performance, though, things are not so equal.
We tested Windscribe first with a 1.4GB download, and it maintained speeds of 9MB/s to 10MB/s, with speeds peaking as high as 18MBps a few times. These impressive speeds allowed it to complete the test download in three minutes and five seconds.
Despite what we saw in our speed testing earlier, NordVPN did not achieve quite the same speeds. NordVPN in P2P transfers quickly worked up to speeds between 5MB/s and 7MB/s and took about four and a half minutes to complete the same 1.4GB download.
Although both providers will get the job done in a reasonable amount of time, in our testing Windscribe was able to finish downloads much more quickly than NordVPN, meaning it wins the point for this round.
5. Server Locations
Windscribe has what most would consider a respectable server network that offers about 110 locations in 60 countries. The spread is solid, too, with servers present in areas of the Middle East and Asia that VPNs don’t usually service too well, such as Turkey and Vietnam.
NordVPN beats this out with a network of 5,191 servers spread throughout 62 countries. This means NordVPN offers a few more locations than Windscribe, overall. However, both of these options pale in comparison to our go-to example for a large network, HideMyAss.
If you read our HideMyAss review, you’ll see that it has servers in nearly 200 countries. That said, some of HideMyAss’ servers are virtual servers, meaning they’re not actually physically in the location you are connecting to.
NordVPN and Windscribe both have entirely physical servers, so you know you’re always connecting to a real server in the actual location you’re using.
6. Simultaneous Connections
Most VPN providers limit the number of devices that an account can have on their network at any one time. This is generally to limit account abuse and prevent the network from being overwhelmed by an excessive number of connections.
NordVPN abides by this convention by limiting users to six devices. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill number of connections for a single account to allow.
If you’re looking for a VPN that will allow you to protect a huge number of devices, then Windscribe might be a great option to look into because it lets users have an unlimited number of connections on each account. This makes Windscribe a clear winner for this round.
Windscribe is very hard to beat when it comes to pricing, and it even took the top spot on our free VPN services roundup. The free plan gives users 2GB of bandwidth per month, but this can be increased to 10GB by verifying your email address. This is one of the most generous free plans out there. Read our Windscribe vs. TunnelBear piece to see how they compare.
- : Per “Pro” server location
- : 10 GB
- : Unlimited
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited
The Windscribe Pro VPN plan comes as either a monthly or annual subscription. The monthly and annual options are a few dollars less than NordVPN’s plans. That said, NordVPN also offers two- and three-year pricing that most VPNs don’t have.
NordVPN’s two-year plan is still just a bit more than Windscribe’s annual option, when broken down into a monthly cost, but NordVPN’s three-year option is more cost-effective than all of Windscribe’s plans.
Both providers accept bitcoin as well as more conventional payment methods. The major payment difference between the two is that NordVPN gives users a 30-day refund period and makes it easy for users to figure out how to cancel NordVPN and get a refund.
In contrast, Windscribe encourages users to make use of the free data to see whether they like the service and only gives users three days to get a refund.
NordVPN offers the best pricing, but only if you’re willing to put forward the large sum upfront for the three-year plan. Windscribe is more affordable in the short term and even offers a free plan, but it has a much harsher refund policy. Your needs will determine which of these combinations of pricing and policy is best.
However, between Windscribe’s unlimited connections that we talked about in the previous section, its generous free plan and the more affordable short-term plans, we feel that Windscribe actually takes a narrow victory in this round.
Windscribe’s user interface is very barebones. It fits into a small grey window that has a dropdown menu to choose your server, plus a power button to connect and disconnect the VPN. There is an on/off switch below this for the firewall feature, as well as a line of text that shows your current IP address.
The icon with three horizontal bars in the top right of the Windscribe desktop client opens the settings, which are fairly well laid out, but the individual options are not given any background or explanation.
NordVPN’s client starkly contrasts this compact and grey interface with a bright, blue and white map. This map takes up about two-thirds of the screen and has blue location bubbles over countries with servers that you can connect to.
Aside from NordVPN’s overall looks and map, there are a few quality-of-life elements that are present with NordVPN but absent with Windscribe. For us, the most noticeable of these was that Windscribe does not have a search bar on its server list. This means you have to scroll through the list to find the location you want.
On top of this, NordVPN’s settings are laid out a bit better, making things easier to find. NordVPN’s settings also offer brief explanations of what each option actually does, making the software feel much more user-friendly overall and winning NordVPN the point for this round.
NordVPN focuses its effort on the most demanded features. There is a nice NordVPN browser extension that makes it even easier to protect yourself online, as well as a NordVPN ad blocker.
The NordVPN adblock feature, called CyberSec in the options, not only blocks ads but can also help block malware, phishing and other threats. Both Windscribe and NordVPN have a firewall, which is a feature we expect all VPNs to have because it is vital to the security of the VPN.
In contrast to NordVPN providing features that most would see as general people-pleasers, Windscribe seems to focus on features for those who are “power users” and want to control minute aspects of their device’s performance.
First, there’s “secure.link,” which lets Windscribe users scan websites for URL trackers before heading to them. This helps give users an idea of a site’s security without having to visit it. Windscribe also offers a content blocker called R.O.B.E.R.T., which allows you to block specific content based on Windscribe’s established lists.
Although these are both great features to have, we feel that more people will get real use out of NordVPN’s extra features. CyberSec is a top-notch ad blocker and also helps to block out phishing attempts and malware, which is something almost everyone can use.
10. Final Thoughts
NordVPN has come out on top in this matchup after winning six rounds, and with one coming in as a tie. However, its superior speed shockingly wasn’t able to help it in the torrenting round, and the pricing round was a bit of a split decision depending on your needs.
That said, NordVPN was dominant in most rounds, including things like speed and streaming user-friendliness. NordVPN has proven that it has earned its place as one of the most popular and widely talked about VPNs on the market.
We’d love to hear about how your experiences with NordVPN and Windscribe measure up to ours in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.