ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN – Which is Better?
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are arguably the two best-known services in the VPN industry. Their quality and reputation are unquestionable, and there are many solid reasons why they rank very high on most VPN lists, including the ones we regularly make on our site. But, if you were to choose, how to decide which is better?
Needless to say, you won’t go wrong by signing with either of the two services. But, depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll be better off with one or the other. This is because both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have their strengths and weaknesses in certain areas.
To help you make this decision, we’ve extensively compared ExpressVPN and NordVPN across many key aspects. From critical privacy and security features to minute details that can make a difference. Read this ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison page to find out which of these two VPNs is a better pick for you.
Short on Time? Our Verdict: we think NordVPN is a better and more affordable choice.
NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN – A Quick Overview
If you’re looking for quick pointers on which VPN service is better for your needs, we’ve prepared just the thing. Here’s a streamlined overview of the categories in which each VPN is better:
|The British Virgin Islands
|Number of Servers
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Considering that privacy is the number one reason why most online users use VPNs, let’s start off this NordVPN and ExpressVPN comparison by evaluating what these two services have to offer on this front. Here’s a closer NordVPN-ExpressVPN privacy overview:
Many VPNs claim to have a strict no-logs policy, even though they record certain data on their users. This is why it’s crucial for the no-logs policy to be exactly that. The VPN shouldn’t have any identifiable data on you. In this regard, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN claim that they have a 100% no-logging policy.
As this is a very serious topic, it’s natural that you shouldn’t trust their words without any questions. Fortunately, both VPNs have passed independent audits that verify these claims. In fact, over the past five years, NordVPN has undergone three independent audits and passed every time. With this in mind, you can be certain that neither NordVPN nor ExpressVPN logs any of your data.
These two VPN providers are both based in privacy-friendly countries. NordVPN operates from Panama, while ExpressVPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Neither Panama nor the British Virgin Islands has mandatory data retention laws. In other words, NordVPN and ExpressVPN aren’t obliged to store any data and can stay true to their no-logging practices.
Additionally, neither of these two jurisdictions is a part of an international surveillance organization like the Five Eyes Alliance or any of its iterations. This means that no government can request them to provide data about their users’ activities or VPN traffic. These two locations are entirely safe from any influence from the US or any major European country.
Registration and Banking
Apart from keeping you private when using their service, VPNs should ensure that your activities can’t be traced back to you right from your registration. For this to be true, the service must provide anonymous payment options and have a simple and streamlined registration process.
Again, these two VPNs are both great in this regard. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer you the option of paying with crypto or a prepaid card. Moreover, you can sign up for a subscription with just an email. So, if you use a throwaway email address and pay with a payment method that doesn’t include any identifiable information, you can get a VPN subscription anonymously.
Privacy Features Comparison Winner: Tie
After privacy, security features can be a deal-breaker for a VPN. While there’s no arguing that both of these services are secure, the question is, how secure are they? More importantly, which VPN offers more capable security features? Here’s a detailed NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN security comparison:
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN provide you with the option of choosing between several industry-standard protocols and their in-house protocol solutions. For starters, you can use the OpenVPN protocol, the default option you can find at most VPNs. More precisely, these two VPNs support both OpenVPN UDP and OpenVPN TCP. ExpressVPN also supports the IKEv2 protocol, while NordVPN supports IKEv2/IPSec.
Now, to the more exciting part of this NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN protocol comparison. On one side, you’ll find NordVPN’s in-house NordLynx protocol. On the other, ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol.
Based on the impressive WireGuard protocol, NordLynx delivers blazing-fast connection speeds. NordVPN claims that it’s up to two times faster than other protocols. While the extent of this is debatable, it easily outperforms trusted protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 in terms of speed.
Looking at ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol, it’s a streamlined and secure protocol, especially suitable for mobile devices. As it’s tuned for performance, it delivers great speed and performance while draining less battery power. This makes it a more sustainable pick for those who rely on VPN use for the better part of every day.
The two services employ very robust encryption standards. What’s more, they offer practically identical encryption levels. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN utilize AES-256 with 4,096-bit RSA keys. It would take a super-computer billions of years to break this encryption with a brute-force attack.
A kill switch is one of the most valuable security features. It cuts off your Internet connection in case of any VPN connection drops. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer this tool that keeps your Internet traffic safe. In Express VPN apps, this feature is called the Network Lock.
ExpressVPN’s Network Lock feature is currently only available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers. It’s not available on Android or iOS. In comparison, NordVPN covers all major platforms and offers an integrated kill switch on its Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS apps.
Moreover, NordVPN offers a much more customizable VPN kill switch. More exactly, it has a standard system-wide setting. But, it also lets you set specific kill switch rules for each app. This enables great personalization if you want hands-on control over this feature and use apps for which it’s more important to maintain a constant Internet connection rather than to protect the data.
IPv6 and DNS Leak Protection
NordVPN and ExpressVPN do an excellent job of protecting your real IP and DNS. After testing the two services for DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks, we were pleased to find that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have passed these tests with flying colors.
Moreover, both VPN services possess smart DNS, a feature that is great for streaming platforms. Smart DNS replaces the DNS given to you by your Internet Service Provider, effectively tricking any site that you really are in a location that your VPN server shows.
Smart DNS is particularly useful when you’re using devices that don’t support VPN apps, such as consoles and most smart TVs. So, with these two services, you don’t have to worry about DNS requests timing out.
As two top-quality VPNs that pay great attention to user security, ExpressVPN and NordVPN also offer security solutions that keep your connection free of everyday disturbances like ads and trackers. These come in the form of two similarly sounding tools, NordVPN’s Threat Protection and ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager.
Both Threat Protection and Threat Manager are very capable of blocking third-party trackers that can slip under your browser’s detection. They also stop intrusive and potentially malicious ads from popping up on your screen.
That said, while the Threat Manager is undoubtedly a great solution, NordVPN’s tool is more comprehensive, as it acts both as an ad and malware blocker. It scans files for malware during download and can block malicious websites. Threat Protection is available on Windows and Mac, while the Lite version of this tool is also available on mobile devices.
Security Features Comparison Winner: NordVPN
Comparing VPN Servers
Before we go deeper into this aspect, here’s a table comparing ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN server stats:
|Total Server Number
|Number of Countries
Server locations are one of those attention-grabbing aspects that most VPN users pay attention to first. And, while the features of the VPN servers aren’t the most important part of a VPN service, it certainly ranks high up on the list. So, to better how NordVPN and ExpressVPN perform in this category, we’ll look at the two services through several parameters:
Featured VPN Server Locations
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN regularly update their VPN server lists, so it’s difficult to give you a precise number of how many servers each service offers. That said, to provide a ballpark number of NordVPN and ExpressVPN server networks, these two VPNs offer over 5,400 and 0ver 3,000 servers, respectively. While these certainly aren’t Private Internet Access numbers, they are more than enough for most users.
Interestingly, while there are more NordVPN server options, you can pick from more ExpressVPN server locations. More precisely, NordVPN offers its servers in 60 countries worldwide. On the other hand, ExpressVPN puts 94 global server locations at your disposal.
Another difference between these two services is that NordVPN only uses bare metal servers while ExpressVPN also includes virtual server locations. This is one of the reasons why it’s capable of offering more servers in certain locations. That said, ExpressVPN is very transparent about this and states that its virtual servers only make up less than 3% of its total server network.
Additionally, with NordVPN, you can opt for dedicated IP addresses in seven countries. In comparison, you can’t get a dedicated ExpressVPN IP address. This is because this VPN service offers only dynamic IP addresses that are rotated between users. So, if you want a dedicated IP address that you won’t share with anyone, this is an important aspect to keep in mind.
Ability to Access Restricted Regions
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are equally impressive in terms of their ability to work in regions with heavy censorship. Although neither service offers server locations in China, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN work in this country.
The two VPNs are very much capable of going past the Great Firewall of China consistently. That said, ExpressVPN does face problems in this more often than NordVPN, but not to a very significant degree.
This is thanks to obfuscated servers, a feature that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN come with. This handy feature helps prevent your traffic from getting blocked in countries with high restrictions. What’s more, ExpressVPN is arguably the better choice in this regard, as all of its servers are obfuscated servers.
At the same time, while NordVPN doesn’t have obfuscation on all of its servers, it allows you greater control over this feature. In the provider’s server location list, you can easily see which servers are obfuscated and connect to those options
RAM-based servers have become a go-to feature that plays a very important role for many VPN users. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN hold their ground in this regard, as you can count on RAM-only servers with both of these VPN providers.
ExpressVPN was one of the first VPN providers to fully switch to RAM-only servers in 2019. The same year, NordVPN started preparing its infrastructure for the switch and transitioned to this system soon after as well. So, no matter which of the two services you pick, you can rest assured that no data is stored locally and information is deleted on every server reboot.
VPN Server Network Winner: Tie
VPN Connection Speeds
Connection speeds are undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects to discuss when comparing VPNs. In this context, we’ve found that NordVPN has consistently delivered better connection speeds than ExpressVPN.
One of the main reasons why this is the case is the previously-mentioned NordLynx in-house protocol that you get if you opt for the Panama-based service. When testing NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s speeds connected to their proprietary protocols, the former noticeably outperformed the latter.
This isn’t to disparage ExpressVPN’s speeds, as this service still provides very solid connection speeds. However, NordVPN is simply the fastest VPN in the industry right now. Moreover, NordVPN also outperformed ExpressVPN on basic industry-standard protocols.
To better understand just how these two services fare in terms of connection speeds, let’s put this into numbers. For the tests, we used a dedicated network that averages a 32 Mbps download speed and a 20 Mbps upload speed. Here’s a table illustrating NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s connection speeds:
As you can see from the table above, NordVPN scored better in every comparison category. So much so, that its performance on long-distance servers matches ExpressVPN’s performance on nearby server locations. And, keep in mind that we tested this on a network suitable for one to two users. On a more capable network, the speed discrepancies are only more substantial.
VPN Connection Speeds Winner: NordVPN
This is another NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN category in which it’s very challenging to make a difference between these two providers. Both can work on all major streaming sites and offer above-average performance at that.
We’ve tested these two VPNs on several Netflix local servers, the BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN aced the tests and delivered smooth and stable streaming performances.
ExpressVPN had a period during which it struggled with accessing the BBC iPlayer. Fortunately, it’s free of these problems now and works excellently on this UK-based service as well as all other streaming services.
Additionally, NorVPN is a bit more reliable at unblocking Netflix libraries across the globe. This isn’t enough to give it a clear edge in this category but is important to keep in mind if you’re primarily looking for a Netflix VPN.
Streaming Services Winner: Tie
Comparing Torrenting Abilities
As these two VPNs are among the fastest in the industry, it’s no surprise that they both perform excellently when it comes to torrenting. However, NordVPN has a slight edge when talking about torrenting speed tests.
When comparing torrenting, it’s also essential to consider overall privacy and leak protection capabilities. Once more, both services perform terrifically in this respect. They are based in privacy-friendly locations, protect against leaks, and include a kill switch to keep you safe in cases of connection drops.
Disappointingly, Neither NordVPN nor ExpressVPN support port forwarding on any of their apps. Port forwarding can make your connection more efficient and improve download and upload speeds. So, the lack of this feature makes these two VPNs less favorable for torrenting than some other, even lesser-known, services.
P2P Optimized Servers
Specialty servers optimized for P2P activities are a crucial aspect to consider if you want uncompromised performance when torrenting. From this perspective, ExpressVPN is the better choice.
When you use the NordVPN app, you can click on the “P2P” option to automatically connect to the nearest P2P-optimized server. And, on NordVPN’s site, you can see the extensive list of all server locations that offer P2P-optimized servers.
Although this is terrific from a user experience standpoint, ExpressVPN outperforms NordVPN, as all of its servers are P2P optimized. So, no matter your location or which nearby server you connect to, you can rely on a fast connection and stable torrenting performance.
This fact perhaps makes ExpressVPN the better choice in this regard, but NordVPN’s slightly better torrenting speeds bring this comparison back to a tie.
Torrenting and P2P Winner: Tie
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are among the best VPN services for gaming. Referring to the previously-mentioned speeds and low ping that these two VPNs can deliver, you can enjoy a smooth gaming experience with either of the two.
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer robust server security and are capable of protecting you against DDoS attacks by masking your real IP address. Neither caps your Internet usage or how many times you can switch servers, and our speed tests have determined that they are both very stable.
Gaming Winner: Tie
Supported VPN Apps and Simultaneous Connections
VPN Connections and overall app support is often an undervalued aspect for most VPN users. However, this shouldn’t be the case, as you ideally want a VPN that doesn’t limit your experience, no matter which platform you want to use and how many devices you want to connect. So, how do ExpressVPN and NordVPN fare in this regard? Check out the concise table below for more information:
|Supported VPN Apps
|Chrome, Firefox, Edge
|Chrome, Firefox, Edge
|Chromebook, Kindle Fire
As you can see from the table above, the two services are pretty neck and neck in nearly all aspects. They both support desktop and mobile apps for all major operating systems. They also work on many smart systems, consoles, and other devices.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN allow you to set up their services on a router. That said, NordVPN doesn’t actually offer a VPN router app. On the other hand, there is an ExpressVPN app for your router. Moreover, with ExpressVPN, you can get the Aircove Wi-Fi 6 router, which comes with the ExpressVPN router app preinstalled.
Speaking of app installation, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are fairly easy to set up on all operating systems. What’s more, their apps are well-designed and a breeze to navigate. From that perspective, both NordVPN and Express VPN apps deliver a great user experience to users of all skill sets.
So, while NordVPN does allow you to connect one more device than ExpressVPN, this difference isn’t so significant that it delivers a vastly distinct user experience. Considering this, we’d say that the outcome of this particular ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison is a tie.
Device Support Winner: Tie
Subscription Prices Head to Head
Of course, apart from all of the features we’ve compared above, it’s also essential to consider the financial aspects of using either of these VPNs. And, comparing these two industry-leading VPNs in this regard is interesting, as they offer different subscription plan options.
To be more precise, NordVPN features a much more comprehensive subscription plan system than ExpressVPN. Namely, ExpressVPN lets you pick between three plans. You can either subscribe for a month, six months, and a year.
On the other hand, NordVPN offers a monthly plan, a one-year plan, and a two-year plan. Moreover, with each of its plans, you can also choose between Standard, Plus, and Complete price plans. The more expensive plans include features such as a Data Breach Scanner and 1 TB of encrypted cloud storage.
With that in mind, to get the best feel of how these two services stack up, we can compare NordVPN’s basic one-month and one-year plans with ExpressVPN’s plans of the same length. In this regard, NordVPN edges out ExpressVPN in both aspects.
NordVPN’s monthly subscription plan stands at $11.99, while ExpressVPN bills $12.95 per month. The difference is much more significant on the one-year plan. With ExpressVPN, you’ll pay $99.95 for the whole year. This averages at around $8.32 per month.
In comparison, a one-year subscription with NordVPN costs $59.88, which comes out to just $4.99 per month. So, if your choice is influenced by your budget, NordVPN is a much better pick, especially in the long run.
Both services offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of their subscription options. So, no matter which plan you get, you can practically try out both VPNs for free for your first month. Both VPNs are very prompt and professional in their refund policies.
Pricing and Affordability Winner: NordVPN
Customer Support Service
Another NordVPN-ExpressVPN comparison that is shoulder-to-shoulder is the one that pertains to the two VPNs’ customer support service. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN pride themselves on offering top-quality customer support.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer around-the-clock customer support every day of the year. You can contact customer support through email and live chat. Focusing on the latter, NordVPN and ExpressVPN customer service agents are prompt, and you can get helpful assistance within minutes.
That said, ExpressVPN customer support is slightly better when it comes to live chat support, as you can get through a live chat agent right away. With NordVPN, you’ll first have to answer several questions to the NordVPN chatbot, which can be annoying, as it’s not very helpful most of the time.
Next, the two services also offer tons of additional content in the form of setup guides, troubleshooting tips, and helpful articles. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have done an excellent job at translating their help centers and FAQ sections into over a dozen different languages.
Customer Service Winner: Tie
Comparing NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN does the latter a disservice, as NordVPN completely outclasses ExpressVPN in this regard. While ExpressVPN offers a few advanced features and tools, this doesn’t come close to what you can get with NordVPN.
The most useful advanced feature you’ll find in ExpressVPN’s apps is split tunneling. This tool lets you choose which traffic you want to route the VPN tunnel. Split tunneling is available on Windows, Mac, Android, and routers. NordVPN also offers split tunneling on several apps. NordVPN’s split tunneling tool is available on Windows, Android, and Android TV apps.
Now, this is where the scale shifts heavily in NordVPN’s favor. NordVPN has a Double VPN feature. The Double VPN is an advanced security tool that enables you to route your connection through two NordVPN server locations instead of just one.
NordVPN’s Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS apps also include a Dark Web Monitor. This tool continuously scans dark web forums for credentials tied to your NordVPN email. If it detects anything, it automatically alerts you so that you can take the appropriate security steps and avoid any further issues.
The Panama-based VPN also offers a NordLynx-powered Meshnet feature. With NordVPN’s Meshnet, you can access your devices over encrypted private tunnels, no matter where they are physically located.
Lastly, NordVPN offers a superb Onion Over VPN feature. It enables you to combine the privacy of the Tor network with a VPN to completely lock up your activities from any prying eyes. This feature is particularly useful if you live in a country with a restrictive stance towards online privacy or work with sensitive information.
Extra Feature Comparison Winner: NordVPN
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN – Our Verdict
After meticulously comparing NordVPN and ExpressVPN across all of the key categories, we’ve found that NordVPN is a better VPN than ExpressVPN. While the two services tie in a number of comparisons, NordVPN outperforms ExpressVPN in several categories. On the other hand, we didn’t find that ExpressVPN particularly excels over NordVPN in any aspect overall.
NordVPN performed better in our speed tests for general use, streaming, and torrenting. It also includes some advanced features you can’t find in ExpressVPN apps. Moreover, it offers better security. Lastly, the pricing difference is undeniable, especially when comparing the two service’s long-term plans.
With all of that in mind, we recommend signing up with NordVPN if you’re looking for the best all-around VPN performance currently available. If you want to learn more about these two services, we recommend reading our dedicated VPN reviews on them.
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NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN FAQs
Does ExpressVPN or NordVPN offer better value?
If you’re going purely for a VPN that delivers better value for your money, NordVPN is a better pick than ExpressVPN. NordVPN offers more servers, has proven better in our speed tests, and includes some more sophisticated features. It also provides more specialty servers for advanced users.
NordVPN or ExpressVPN, which one is more popular?
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are very popular among online users. NordVPN has around 700,000 reviews on Google Play, while ExpressVPN has just over 300,000. However, ExpressVPN is more popular on the Apple App Store, with just under 250,000 ratings. Meanwhile, NordVPN has just 5,000 reviews on this platform.
Is NordVPN better for the dark web than ExpressVPN?
We recommend using NordVPN over ExpressVPN if you want a VPN for the dark web. While ExpressVPN isn’t bad in this regard, it can’t compare to NordVPN. This is because NordVPN offers specialty servers that provide Onion over VPN performance. They provide an extra layer of protection when browsing the dark web.
Should I use NordVPN or ExpressVPN for China?
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN consistently perform well in China. However, as NordVPN offers better connection speeds and includes advanced features, we recommend using this VPN in China.
Cybersecurity and VPN researcher