Choosing a VPN service can be tricky. Even when you have narrowed it down to just a handful of providers, picking between them can be confusing. At ProPrivacy, we have devised a solution to this problem. In this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN article, we pitch two market-leading providers against each other so that you can see how they compare in all the most important areas.
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have an outstanding reputation, and picking either service will result in a fantastic VPN experience. However, even these world-class services do differ slightly, and, depending on your personal needs you may prefer one over the other. Read on to find out which service wins in this in-depth, head-to-head battle.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN - Which is best?
After comparing every important attribute of these market-leading VPNs, our expert VPN reviewers have concluded that ExpressVPN is the best service for most people's needs.
Both of these market-leading VPNs have robust encryption, fast servers, and reliable apps for all platforms. And, they both come with a well-rounded set of useful privacy features – as well as plenty of server locations.
However, due to winning in a few important categories, we have concluded that ExpressVPN is the best service for most people's needs.
When it comes to pricing, choosing a winner between two VPNs is usually pretty easy. Of course, it is true that you do get what you pay for in life, and many cheap VPNs are lacking in essential features that ultimately renders them dissatisfactory.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both market-leading services, which means that they both have the premium VPN features you would expect (and need). As a result, we can conclusively state that whichever VPN is cheaper is the best in this category.
For consumers wanting a single-month contract, both services are extremely similar. However, at $11.95 NordVPN is a dollar cheaper. Where NordVPN really edges a lead, however, is with its one and two-year subscription plans.
And if you subscribe for two years, you can get NordVPN for just $3.71 per month. This kind of price point is not available with ExpressVPN. As a result, we must conclude that NordVPN is the cheaper VPN service.
As you can see above, however, in all other aspects of the game these VPN providers are practically identical. Both accept credit and debit card payments, including American Express. And, both accept PayPal for convenience. In addition, both accept Bitcoin payments – for those who prefer to pay anonymously. This makes both VPNs a superb choice, particularly if you do commit for a longer period of time.
Which has better features
There is no doubt that both of these world-class providers are feature-rich. Few consumer-facing VPNs have such a wide and varied selection of features – that are available across all their apps.
As you can see, NordVPN is slightly more generous when it comes to simultaneous connections. It permits subscribers to install and use the VPN on up to six devices, rather than five. Admittedly, this isn't much between them though.
Where server locations are concerned, ExpressVPN takes the biscuit with over 3000 servers in 94 countries around the world. Having servers in 140 cities around the world, greatly increases the functionality of this VPN. This is ultimately why we pick ExpressVPN as our winner in the Features category.
With that said, it is worth noting that NordVPN does have one unusual feature that Express does not have; double-hop encryption. This is a feature that is superfluous to most consumer's needs, however, it may be desirable to a minority of users. So, full marks to NordVPN for providing it.
Finally, it is worth noting that neither VPN provides port forwarding. So, while you can Torrent with either of these VPNs; you will need to look elsewhere if you require port forwarding in your Torrent client.
Being able to install a VPN directly onto a router can vastly improve your VPN's functionality. It makes it much easier to use the VPN for games consoles, smart TVs, IoT devices, and any other internet-connected device in your home. It also improves both security and privacy for your family by:
- Ensuring that all the data leaving your home is encrypted.
- Concealing your IP address from all the online services your household uses.
As you can see in the comparison chart above, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN provide setup guides for a wide range of popular routers. DD-WRT and Tomato firmware are both covered, and, both services provide guides for a wide range of routers including, AsusWRT, pfSense, OpenWRT – and a number of other brands.
In addition, both VPNs can be purchased pre-flashed on a variety of routers at FlashRouters, which makes it exceptionally easy to get them setup and providing protection in any home or office.
Winner: It's a draw
What services do they Unblock?
In addition to requiring a wide choice of international server locations (important for bypassing geo-restrictions and accessing locally censored content) – a VPN can be judged by the number of popular streaming services it unblocks.
As you can see, both of these VPNs provide access to a wide range of popular streaming services.
What Netflix libraries
Nord and Express are both services that come highly recommended by consumers who like to unblock Netflix US (which is still the most popular Netflix catalog). However, there are plenty of reasons to unblock other international Netflix catalogs too.
With ExpressVPN, users are able to unblock 24 Netflix catalogs in total. With NordVPN, users can access 13. While both are impressive, this does give Express the slight lead. Check out our page on how to unblock regional Netflix catalouges for more information about this.
Many internet users want a VPN to gain the privacy and security they need for torrenting. The good news is that torrenting is permitted with both ExpressVPN and NordVPN. As a result, you can get a subscription with either – and you will be able to download content without being tracked by your ISP, the government, or copyright holders.
Unfortunately, however, neither service has a port forwarding feature. So if this is something you require for your particular torrent client, you may want to shop elsewhere.
Winner: It's a draw
Setup & Usability
As with most premium VPNs nowadays, both these providers have custom apps that are available for all popular platforms. They also provide useful setup guides for getting the VPN working manually on various different kinds of devices – including Amazon Fire, Android TVs, and Chromebook.
Both providers have guides for setting up the VPN using Command-Line Interface on various Linux distributions, and, they both provide access to .ovpn files on their website – so that you can connect using a third-party OpenVPN client if you prefer. This makes using the VPN on just about any device or platform possible.
In addition, important features such as the kill-switch and obfuscation can easily be located in app settings, which to our mind makes both services equal.
Winner: It's a draw
The only noticeable difference between NordVPN and ExpressVPN when it comes to their custom mobile apps (for Android and iOS) is that ExpressVPN does not have a kill-switch on iOS (which NordVPN does enabled by default – and can't actually be switched off).
This is not a massive difference, but it does give NordVPN the slight advantage.
Performance & Speed
At ProPrivacy, we test VPN connection speeds three times a day using a scientific server-based speed test system. Our tests compare VPNs like-for-like using the OpenVPN UDP protocol. So, which VPN is better suited to torrenting, streaming in HD, and making video conferencing calls?
According to our results from the last three months, ExpressVPN has slightly better burst (max) download speeds. However, the results were very close, and both providers fared extremely well.
When testing the UK, USA, and South African servers for download averages, we found that NordVPN was faster overall. As you can see in the image above, NordVPN has download averages of 64.5 Mbps – whereas ExpressVPN averaged 48.5 Mbps.
Looking closely at the image reveals that for the entirety of September, both VPNs performed extremely similarly. And it seems fair to point out that Nord's averages are slightly skewed by the unusual highs it experienced during August. Despite this, NordVPN does win out in terms of average download speeds.
It is also worth mentioning at this stage that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have now introduced their own super-fast encryption protocols (NordLynx and Lightway). These are customized versions of open source WireGuard. These adaptations of the WireGuard protocol have been devised to permit for secure and private connections, while also making use of the faster speeds available.
However, while NordVPN has recently received praise from the trusted third party auditing firm AVTest due to the results of its speed tests – it is worth noting that those tests did not compare protocols like for like. Instead AVTest compared whichever protocol came preset by default in the VPN client – which for ExpressVPN was OpenVPN and for NordVPN is NordLynx. Thus, these results are like comparing chalk to cheese.
Winner: It's a draw
Technical security can make or break a VPN service. What features are available to users, and how they are implemented is one of the most important factors in deciding whether a VPN is suitable for data privacy purposes. So, how do these services compare?
|IPv6 leak protection
|WebRTC leak protection
As you can see from the table above, both Nord and Express provide a choice of secure encryption protocols. OpenVPN, which is widely considered the industry standard for data privacy and security, is available on all platforms with both providers – and that encryption is implemented securely across the board.
A kill-switch and obfuscation (VPN cloaking) is available with both of these prominent VPN providers, which makes both providers suitable for people living in oppressive regimes where a VPN is necessary to escape censorship.
In addition, both VPNs process DNS requests using their own servers and implement DNS and WebRTC leak protection which we tested thoroughly – and found to be working. (ExpressVPN does require that users install a browser extension to block WebRTC if they have an IPv6 connection – but we find no reason to criticize this solution.)
We are also happy to see that neither service provides the outdated PPTP protocol, which in our opinion has no place in a modern VPN client due to the fact that it can be penetrated.
Winner: It is a draw
|British Virgin Islands
|User details required for sign up?
|Anonymous payment options?
Where in the world a VPN provider is based, has an effect on the kinds of governmental actions it can be subjected to. That is why it is vital to understand a VPN's jurisdictional obligations, and the privacy policies it has in place to deal with those requirements.
To assure privacy to their users, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have strong no-logs VPN policies. These policies guarantee that even if they are approached by the authorities they will never have any invasive usage logs (or potentially invasive connection logs) to hand over. It also means that neither VPN has data it could potentially use for marketing purposes or to create a revenue stream. This is what we like to see.
In addition, both Express and Nord are based in non-invasive jurisdictions that are free of mandatory data retention directives. NordVPN is based in Panama, and ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands – both which are excellent locations for a VPN to be based.
Finally, both services are members of the VPN Trust Initiative – an industry-led consortium whose aim is to provide a transparent set of guidelines and principles for the development and implementation of secure VPN services. It is great to see both services working alongside one another to better the VPN industry for consumers.
Winner: It's a draw
|Yes - 7 Days
|Money-back guarantee length
Customer service is an important part of any service. This is particularly true for people new to VPNs, who may require help setting the service up using the various apps and features.
The good news is that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are industry leaders in this area. Both have superb websites that are full of resources such as guides, FAQs, and videos. They also provide 24/7 live chat support on their website.
Our only real complaint is that NordVPN insists that internet users must disable their adblock in order for the live chat box to appear. This can make it seem like the resource doesn't exist, which is frustrating for those who always use an adblock and anti-tracking extension.
This minor quibble aside, it seems fair to say that both services are extremely similar. Answers to questions can be gained quickly with either provider. And, if a question is highly technical, both providers have the ability to escalate that request to a technically-able member of staff. (Though sometimes this will require having to wait for an answer via email, with both services).
In terms of allowing consumers to try their services, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have a money-back guarantee. Both provide a refund that is available for 30 days, and both provide that refund even to customers who purchase the one-month contract. Check out our ExpressVPN refund page for more details about how you can get your money back after the trial period.
This sets both services apart from many other providers – who often have various stipulations that make getting a refund either hard or impossible.
In this article we pitched two of the world's most popular VPNs against each other to find out which is the best. While there is no doubt that it was an extremely close race, it is our opinion that ExpressVPN comes out just on top.
With that said, NordVPN is a superb service that you may want to subscribe to if you are running short on cash. However, if you can afford the very best – ExpressVPN is the right choice for you.
Outright Winner: ExpressVPN
If you are considering other VPNs, then check out our other vs pages to see how Nord and Express fair against different providers.