No longer reserved for the kid or the hacker, VPNs are becoming more common around the world.
This growing usage can be attributed not only to the growing awareness of the importance of online security, but also to the ever-expanding range of high-quality VPN providers. So, in this chapter, we were going to pit two of the biggest hitters against each other in a VPN battle for the ages: ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN.
You may have heard of ExpressVPN and for good reason – with great support and a huge number of servers, ExpressVPN is a premium service all the time. However, NordVPN is a hugely popular contender and practically a household name, offering everything you’d expect, plus some intriguing in-depth features.
The best VPN offers the full package—watertight security features, easy-to-use apps, and the ability to access geo-blocked websites like Netflix, among other things.
So how do ExpressVPN and NordVPN stack up against each other – and what’s worth spending your money on?
First impressions and specs
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Specs Comparison
Number of servers:
ExpressVPN: 3000+ / NordVPN: 5400+
ExpressVPN: 94 / NordVPN: 59
Maximum Concurrent Connections:
ExpressVPN: 5 / NordVPN: 6
Money Back Guaranteed:
ExpressVPN: 30 days / NordVPN: 30 days
Lowest monthly costs:
ExpressVPN: $6.67 / NordVPN: $3.71
From the moment you install them, it’s crystal clear why these are two of the biggest beasts in the VPN world. Both boast fantastic products.
Once installed, you’re both logged into their chosen large number of servers in just a few seconds. ExpressVPN with its huge, attractive on/off button, NordVPN with an illustrated world map and Quick Connect option.
As you’ll see from the specs comparison, you won’t want for server locations. From Albania to Vietnam, these two providers have put in the hard yards to provide their users with options around the world. The Nord may have the sheer wealth of figures, but the Express offers it with a variety of seats.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Plans, Prices and Trials
ExpressVPN opens with a one-month plan priced at $12.95, and that drops to $9.99 per month if you opt for a six-month plan. NordVPN only offers one plan lasting under a year, which is one month for $11.95 or an eye-watering $4.92/pm if you sign up for a year.
However, things start to get quite a bit cheaper if you sign up for longer. The cheapest ExpressVPN is the year-round plan, which currently offers three additional months for free, bringing the monthly cost down to just $6.67.
The star of the show, however, is NordVPN’s two-year plan, which is currently available for just $3.71 per month. It’s excellent value as long as you don’t mind indulging in it a little longer.
If you’re happy to commit to two years of NordVPN (which is paid in full upfront), then the service limits things in terms of pricing. And it often brings special deals to the table, like an extra few months or years on top of the usual subscription length.
But Express has now brought its own free-to-play game to the table. You’ll get one year of unlimited secure cloud storage from BackBlaze when you sign up for a year of ExpressVPN now. This is an excellent product and means a free subsystem that would normally set you back around $60.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Privacy
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both have impressive privacy records. Both offer Perfect Forward Secrecy, meaning that even if one session is compromised, your next session will be secured again by using a different key.
Both also claim to block DNS leaks, and our tests backed that up. However, ExpressVPN uses its own 256-bit DNS encrypted DNS on all of its servers. Keeping that kind of work under your own roof is a good sign.
NordVPN offers some great features like Onion over VPN and double VPN system, but unfortunately the 2018 server hack still leaves a bit of a bad taste.
It’s hard to separate the two here, as while NordVPN offers a few features that ExpressVPN doesn’t, they’re unlikely to be used by the majority of users – and ExpressVPN does have a squeaky clean experience.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Signup
The logging status of any VPN service is a major selling point, and both have been independently audited by PricewaterhouseCooper, which satisfied their claims of absolutely no logging.
ExpressVPN logs a very minimal amount – just the connection date and server selection. This information alone does not put the user at risk in any way and since no other data is stored.
In both cases, the registration rules are clear and easy to understand. It’s always a good sign when all relevant information is readily available and we applaud both services for their commitment to transparency.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Performance
Now onto something you may notice every day. VPN performance is critical – if your connection is reduced to crawling, there’s not much point in connecting at all.
Once again, both vendors performed beautifully. In part, that’s thanks to each now making their own protocols available to their users: Express’s Lightway and NordVPN’s version of WireGuard, which it calls NordLynx.
The latter had the upper hand in our testing, especially when it came to connections to US servers, as we recorded fast download speeds of 350Mbps.
But even using the more traditional OpenVPN connection, the speeds are still impressive. On our US test line, ExpressVPN averaged 140Mbps, while NordVPN peaked at 160. On our UK test line, ExpressVPN had the edge with peaks of 220Mbps compared to Nord’s 75.
When connecting to more distant servers, both services performed well, but also had very slow connections. However, ExpressVPN has proven to be a bit more reliable and just keeps going.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Streaming
A major reason many might consider getting a VPN is to access geo-blocked streaming services. If this is you, this is a crucial comparison in your choice.
ExpressVPN explicitly states which websites it can unblock for you—a bold move, as these services constantly struggle to limit VPN access. However, ExpressVPN backs up these claims by unblocking every single one of our tested servers Netflix, YouTube and the notoriously difficult BBC iPlayer (most of the time).
NordVPN doesn’t explicitly claim to unblock specific sites on its main home pages, although it suggests it will give you access to “entertainment content.” That being said, it successfully unblocked every Netflix location we tried, and YouTube as well.
However, IPlayer proved to be a stumbling block for the Nord and we had to resort to using the browser extension in tandem with the desktop client to unblock the BBC streaming service.
While both (eventually) managed to unblock everything we tried, ExpressVPN makes the process easier. No wonder we consider it the best Netflix VPN available.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Torrents
If you regularly engage in unsecured torrenting activity, you’re exposing your IP address to everyone you share files with – and a VPN is the perfect safety solution.
Fortunately, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer excellent P2P functionality.
ExpressVPN supports P2P sharing on all its servers, no bandwidth caps, and no data cap. It’s a seamless experience that also includes an effective kill switch that kicks in when your internet connection drops.
NordVPN doesn’t support P2P on every single server, although it can detect if you’re torrenting and will switch you to a server that does without you having to do anything. You can also choose a P2P-friendly server from the start, and there’s a kill switch there too.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Mobile Apps
Staying safe when connected to public Wi-Fi can be a big concern, especially for those who like to work in coffee shops or use public transportation frequently. That’s why excellent mobile apps are an essential feature of any worthwhile VPN.
NordVPN’s mobile apps are powerful – as you’d expect from such a full-featured VPN – and the iOS support of their proprietary NordLynx protocol is a real standout feature.
ExpressVPN’s apps are also well presented, with a choice of protocols available and a very clean layout. Generally speaking, it’s practically as easy to run Express on your mobile phone or tablet as it is on your desktop.
And the latter is where NordVPN’s apps falter – after opening the app, we’re faced with a strange map-based location selection. Although there is a list of servers available if you search for it, the initial layout is awkward. Not a disaster by any means, but a design tweak that we definitely think would be worth it.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Support
Even experts can struggle with VPNs – there’s a lot that can go wrong – so having an effective support service can mean the difference between solving a problem in minutes and never using an app again.
The list of ExpressVPN troubleshooting guides is long and easy to navigate. There is very little jargon and it will prove useful to even the greenest VPN user.
Although NordVPN’s list of help articles is long, it’s not that easy to work with. Once you find what you’re looking for, the information is well presented and useful.
Both services support email support and live chat, and both work very well — though if we had to choose, ExpressVPN’s live chat was probably more comprehensive. Available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, there’s always someone available to lend a hand if you’re struggling.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is better?
It was a hard fought battle and scalps were taken on both sides. However, by the time the dust settles, it’s easy to see why ExpressVPN is nailing Nord in our guide to the best VPN services.
A worthy contender, NordVPN is a powerful service that offers a lot that the others don’t, but for us ExpressVPN is on balance the stronger choice. You can sign up for ExpressVPN by heading over to its website here.
With great apps, strong privacy, excellent unblocking capabilities, and an unerring commitment to making everything as easy to use as possible, ExpressVPN is a complete, polished package — and definitely worth the small extra cost if you can afford it.
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