NordVPN and ExpressVPN are arguably the two biggest competitors in the VPN market. For a reason, choosing one for the other might not be as straightforward as it may seem.
NordVPN is best known for its high connection speeds. Although the VPN prioritizes functionality over ease-of-use, and it’s attractive for users on a budget. The provider also scores well in privacy protection, making it ideal for P2P file-sharing.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN boasts excellent security features as well as a user-friendly interface. Also, the VPN provider offers comprehensive global server coverage and round-the-clock customer support. Perhaps this explains why the service is worth the hefty price tag.
How to Choose a VPN
Before buying any VPN, remember there are several factors you to consider. And these factors act as a standard metric with which you gauge a suitable VPN service.
For starters, most users will gravitate towards the VPN with the fastest connection speeds. While this is an excellent metric to weigh your options, there are other several crucial factors to keep in mind.
As such, this review aims at comparing NordVPN and ExpressVPN in relation to these factors. Besides, in each of the factor’s category, we’ll declare the best performing VPN between the two.
And at the end of the review, you’ll be able to make an informed purchasing decision. Without further ado, here are the factors to consider:
A VPN’s connection speed is paramount whether you are using the service to stream overseas Netflix or casually browsing the internet. Plus, it’s no secret, the location and number of a VPN’s servers determine the connection speeds.
For this review, we ran speed tests on a 160 Mbps wired connection using the 256-bit OpenVPN UDP protocol. We tested each VPN in 2 different locations; the United States and the United Kingdom at three different times of the day for two days.
Local connection speeds (U.S.)
NordVPN’s connection speeds in the U.S.A stood at 53.59 Mbps, followed closely by ExpressVPN with a rate of 47.48 Mbps.
Compared to ExpressVPN, NordVPN has a lot more U.S-based servers, which explains the difference in their connection speeds. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t have any problem streaming HD media content or web surfing with either.
Local Connection Speed Winner: NordVPN
International Connection Speeds (U.S to the U.K)
In one of my speed tests, I noticed a significant reduction in speed due to latency. With NordVPN, however, the decline was almost negligible as its speed came in at an average of 51.63 Mbps.
ExpressVPN performed significantly slower with a download speed of 38.03 Mbps. Despite the considerable difference in their speed, both VPNs can handle most online activities effortlessly.
International Connection Speed Winner: NordVPN
Both VPNs offer monthly payment plans, which surprisingly get cheaper when you commit for longer. Also, both feature a 30-day money-back guarantee, so that you can try out their services.
NordVPN’s month-to-month subscription costs $11.95. But it gets cheaper when billed annually, at a fee of $83.88, which translates to $6.99 per month.
ExpressVPN monthly payment plan costs $12.95. However, the price drops to $8.32 per month when you opt for the annual subscription. What’s even better is that the service gives you more value for your yearly subscription through their 15 months special deal.
For the budget-conscious users, NordVPN takes the crown for the most affordable VPN. Through its 3-year payment plan, billed at $3.49, the VPN becomes about 50% cheaper than ExpressVPN’s most extended one-off deal ($6.67/month for 15 months).
Besides, the NordVPN offers a 7-day free trial so you can test the service before committing to payment.
Pricing Winner: NordVPN
In the wake of increased cybersecurity threats, internet users are wary of sharing their personal information. Probably, this is one of the main reasons most users rely on VPNs to improve their online security.
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN incorporate advanced security features to protect users’ online activities.
NordVPN, in particular, has a no-logs policy, meaning that the service doesn’t record the sites you visit. Moreover, the VPN is based in Panama, where sharing users’ logs is prohibited by law. To further improve users’ anonymity, the provider accepts Bitcoin payment.
Similarly, ExpressVPN also feautures a no-logs policy and accepts Bitcoin as payment. Also, the VPN is located in a safe jurisdiction—British Virgin Island, and they honor a no-logs policy.
Privacy Winner: Tie. You are equally safe using either.
ExpressVPN isn’t as feature-rich as NordVPN. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that ExpressVPN’s functionality is compromised.
The VPN comes with advanced features such as a kill switch/Network lock. This feature locks your data safely immediately the VPN connection drops.
Other handy features include split tunnelling, which lets you route some data through the VPN while the rest accesses the internet directly. Owing to its simple but essential features, ExpressVPN is more user-friendly than its counterpart.
NordVPN takes the bar higher with exclusive features such as Onion Over VPN. With this feature, you are guaranteed an extra layer of security at no additional costs.
Unlike, ExpressVPN’s kill switch, NordVPN’s version of the feature is available on both iOS and Android. Other unique features offered by NordVPN include; double VPN encryption and cyber-sec for blocking malware.
Before declaring the winner in this section, let’s first look into some of the essential features offered by both VPN. In so doing, we’ll focus on the functionality rather than additional features, which may not be as helpful to a user.
NordVPN’s connection is encrypted with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 bit key. It also encompasses multiple VPN protocols such as RSA-encrypted OpenVPN, IKEv2, and PPTP.
ExpressVPN also uses the AES-256 bit key encryption to provide cast-iron security. As for the protocols, ExpressVPN uses 4096-bit key on its RSA-encrypted OpenVPN. For the same protocol, NordVPN uses a 2048-bit key, making it a bit more vulnerable to security threats. Extended key encryption is essential, considering that some states can crack OpenVPN with a 1024-bit.
With the ‘Automatic’ option enabled, ExpressVPN will choose the best VPN protocol based on your network settings. In most cases, this will be an OpenVPN UDP protocol. The protocol offers better speeds and security than PPTP and L2TP protocols.
Encryption Winner: ExpressVPN
A good VPN should support a wide range of simultaneous connections without compromising the security of one device. Of the two VPNs, NordVPN allows a higher number of simultaneous connections than its counterpart.
NordVPN allows you to connect up to 6 devices simultaneously. While this is undoubtedly a good number, it could be better since there are other VPNs in the market supporting up to 10 devices.
ExpressVPN follows closely with its ability to support up to 5 devices simultaneously for one account subscription. In an attempt to improve the number of simultaneous connections, both apps offer an app router. This provides all the benefits of a VPN to every device, but only counts as one connection.
Simultaneous Connection Winner: NordVPN
ExpressVPN takes the lead in P2P file sharing. To start with, the VPN has more P2P enabled servers than NordVPN. Consequently, due to its higher number of P2P servers, the VPN offers excellent speeds for downloading large torrent files.
For P2P file-sharing enthusiasts, it gets even better since ExpressVPN offers advanced leak protection. This is crucial since media companies are always monitoring torrent swarms looking for copyright violators.
NordVPN is also a good choice, but its torrent speeds aren’t as impressive as those of its counterpart. For macOS users, the VPN isn’t the most secure for torrenting due to the lack of a system-wide kill switch.
Torrent Support Winner: ExpressVPN
Global Server Coverage
The total number of its servers determines a VPN’s global server coverage. NordVPN has the highest number of servers; totals over 5,500 servers.
However, the same can’t be said about its coverage – only in 59 countries. For this reason, there are some countries where the connection is weak.
What’s more, NordVPN uses only physical servers. So, you can know where your data travels to since no virtual locations are offered.
Even though ExpressVPN has fewer servers – about 3000 servers – they are well distributed. For this, the VPN extends its presence to 160 server locations across 94 countries.
Also, about 3% of its servers are virtual locations. As a result, there are few areas in which the connection speed is weak. For transparency, ExpressVPN labels all its virtual servers. In turn, it’s easy to avoid the virtual servers if you would instead stick to physical ones.
Note that most users prefer more servers in fewer countries than fewer servers in more countries. Besides, connection speeds are directly proportional to the number of servers. This is why NordVPN emerges as the winner in comprehensive global coverage. Plus, the VPN has no virtual servers giving peace of mind to privacy-conscious users.
Global Server Coverage Winner: NordVPN
Multi-Platform Support Winner
Chances are, you sometimes browse the internet using multiple devices. No matter the device you use, you want to keep your connection safe all the time. For this reason, your favorite VPN should be compatible with different operating systems of various devices.
ExpressVPN is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Kindle Fire, Blackberry, and Amazon TV platforms. The VPN also features browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers.
Keep in mind that the browser add-on is simply an extension of the VPN’s app. As such, it’s recommended to use the app for extra conveniences, like the ability to switch server location.
NordVPN supports almost all operating systems as ExpressVPN, except it doesn’t rank so well in supporting Blackberry. As a result, ExpressVPN wins this category only by a small margin.
Multi-Platform Support Winner: ExpressVPN
Considering the above features in general, ExpressVPN wins in 3 out of 5 categories. NordVPN, on the other hand, leads in two categories; simultaneous connection, and broader server coverage.
The toughest competition is in multi-platform support, where ExpressVPN supports one more platform placing it slightly ahead of NordVPN. Nonetheless, NordVPN deserves a huge thumbs up for allowing more devices to connect in one account simultaneously.
Ideally, the customer support desk should be readily available and courteous. The support team should also exhibit knowledge of their service. As to be expected, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer all of these things.
Both VPNs offer a 24/7 customer support service that’s friendly and responsive. For effectiveness, the VPNs offer trouble-ticket submission form, ensuring all raised issues are solved.
Moreover, both VPNs offer informative support pages and troubleshooting articles, aimed at resolving typical problems.
As a test, we asked both VPNs a simple question, “Which is the best VPN?” NordVPN responded in a slightly shorter time than ExpressVPN. But, ExpressVPN’s customer support response was as precise and personal. NordVPN responded with a pretty long article making it seem more like a copy-pasted response.
Customer Support Winner: Tie
The battle between the two VPN providers is fierce, considering the small winning margin in each category. So, users won’t notice much difference when using one instead of the other.
From an overall perspective, however, NordVPN accumulated more points than ExpressVPN. NordVPN topped in 6 categories while ExpressVPN reigned in 4 categories. They tied in privacy and customer support categories giving the users a preference choice.
Generally, NordVPN is an economical option for users who prioritize connection speeds. On the downside, its numerous features inhibit the VPN’s user-friendliness.
ExpressVPN is also a viable option, especially for those concerned with encryption standards. This is not to say that NordVPN is less safe, but ExpressVPN has a stronger cipher encryption protocol.
For Netflix users, the ExpressVPN’s multi-platform support makes it an ideal tool for streaming overseas Netflix using different devices.
Both VPNs exhibit high-security standards, which is primarily the reason why most folks use a VPN. More so, compared to other VPNs in the market, NordVPN and ExpressVPN have imposing connection speeds. So, whichever you choose between the two, you can be sure your connection is secure.