NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both two well-established titans of the industry. How do you choose between them? Here we put both through their paces and perform a detailed side-by-side comparison to see who comes out on top.
We cover all aspects including speed, features, security, Netflix, torrenting, device compatibility, support and pricing.
- Record server numbers
- 6 connections allowed
- 2 kill switches
- Specialist servers
- Some very cheap prices
- Slightly faster speeds
- 94 countries
- Record Netflix access
- Full access torrenting
- Easy-to-use app
For speed tests, we measured downloads, uploads and latency across 5 continents and compared them to a baseline. We performed each test 5 times and took averages for more reliability.
NordVPN had much faster local US downloads (we were testing from the US), but both had strong latency, and uploads were similarly average.
Here’s a NordVPN speed test:
And an ExpressVPN test:
In Europe, ExpressVPN had fairly fast download speeds, whilst NordVPN’s were atrocious. Both had above average uploads and pretty fast latency, though.
Here’s an NordVPN European result:
Compared to an ExpressVPN result:
In Asia, speeds were similar, with above average downloads and uploads, and average latencies.
ExpressVPN had slightly faster speeds overall.
Both were reliable, with fairly fast connection times and no connection issues.
NordVPN definitely takes the lead with this one, with a ton of rare features you don’t tend to find elsewhere.
Nord also takes the win for most specialist servers. It’s got Onion over VPN, Double VPN, and Obfuscated servers. Express doesn’t have any of this stuff.
It’s got 2 kill switches as opposed to Express’s 1, and they work on more devices.
It’s also got a Cybersec feature, which blocks ads and harmful sites.
Express is superior on a few counts, though.
It’s got a load more countries for one, an amazing 94. This is a third more than NordVPN’s (still high) 62.
Express also has more protocol choice, with 4 protocols over Nord’s 2. This lets users choose speed over security, if they wish.
And Express has one feature Nord doesn’t: split tunneling. This is a very handy feature to have if you want some of your apps to not go through the VPN tunnel.
But overall, NordVPN still wins on this one.
Privacy & Security
As one would expect of two VPN giants, both are very secure. They offer the best protocol, OpenVPN, alongside the best encryption, AES-256. Nord also offers IKev2/IPSec, whereas ExpressVPN offers more choice with L2TP/IPsec and PPTP.
Both have great privacy-friendly locations outside 14-eyes, ExpressVPN being in the Virgin islands and Nord in Panama.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t find any leaks or viruses for either in our testing.
Both have no-logs policies, which are very detailed. However, Nord is the slightly stricter of the two, since Express collects some things like dates, server locations, and total amount of data transferred per day.
It’s very honest about why it collects this stuff though.
Both have kill switches, but Express only has one which is available on desktops and Android. iOS users are out of luck. Nord, meanwhile, has 2 kill switches available on both desktops and mobiles. One is a general kill switch, and one is app-specific, allowing more control.
Nord also packs some extra punches with some security servers. It’s got Onion over VPN and Double VPN servers for extra protection layers, plus Obfuscation servers, which means you can even use it in high-censorship countries.
There were some unsubstantiated rumours Nord was owned by a data-mining company, but these were unsubstantiated and in response Nord performed a full independent audit in 2018. They also have a warrant canary.
Express, has done an audit, but only for its browser extension. They don’t have a warrant canary. However, there was an instance where one of its servers was seized by authorities, but the server didn’t hold any logs. This is great evidence that Express’s no-logs policy holds true.
Overall, both have top-notch security, but Nord has the edge with 2 kill switches on more devices, an independent audit and its extra security servers.
Netflix and Streaming
ExpressVPN definitely wins on this one, although Nord still has pretty amazing access.
Netflix worked in 5 countries: US, UK, Canada, Netherlands and Japan. Compared to most VPNs, this is incredible.
It also has a nifty ‘Smart Play’ feature, where if you connect to any other server that doesn’t work for Netflix, it will somehow automatically let you access US Netflix. Genius.
So basically whatever server you connect to, you can at least get US Netflix.
However, Express works in (take a deep breath): Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Bahamas, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Slovenia, Taiwan, UK and US. A whopping 28 countries.
I don’t know of any VPN that matches this.
Both have long-winded ways of accessing these servers, though. For Nord, they have a list of servers in their knowledgebase. For Express, you have to ask their support staff. It’s a shame they don’t just have streaming servers in their apps.
But hey, maybe this level of secrecy is how they keep so on top of Netflix.
Hulu, Kodi and YouTube also worked great for both VPNs.
It’s a close call with torrenting, as both VPNs offer it.
Express allows full-access torrenting on all servers in its 94 countries, whilst Nord restricts it to 45 out of 62 countries.
However, Nord still offers over 4,400 torrenting servers, which is more than all of ExpressVPN’s servers put together.
Also, Nord has special P2P servers for easy access. It also automatically reroutes your connection to a P2P server if you try and do torrenting on a non-P2P server. Pretty amazing.
But you can’t really beat full-access torrenting in 94 countries.
Express is also a touch torrent-friendlier on its website, with an in-depth article on how to use uTorrent in its knowledgebase.
Nord’s still pretty friendly, but it’s careful to avoid the term torrenting altogether and opt for the term P2P instead.
Both VPNs have incredible device compatibility, over and above what most VPNs support.
They both work with pretty much every device possible. As well as all the standard platforms, they have direct apps for things like Firesticks, Android TV, Kindle Fire, and Chromebooks.
Nord doesn’t have anything for gaming consoles, whereas Express offers Media streamer and has full setup guides to go with it. Media streamer isn’t a VPN, however.
They both offer router support, though only for the OpenVPN protocol, and have setup guides for many brands. They also both offer pre-configured routers you can buy, though of course they are very expensive.
Both VPNs work with Tor, but Nord offers special Onion over VPN servers that automatically connect to Tor without you having to do anything.
Express is slightly easier to access with all setup guides straight on the downloads page, which is nice.
With Nord, you have to dig through the knowledgebase.
There’s also connections to consider. There’s no point having great device compatibility if you can’t actually use it.
And Express offers a paltry 3 connections. That’s way below the industry average of 5. Nord, on the other hand, offers 6.
For this reason, I say Nord. Express VPN has slightly better device compatibility with the gaming, but 6 connections is way more useful than 3.
It’s another tie for this one, as the interfaces are both great in different ways.
ExpressVPN is easier to use, and simpler, with an attractive ultra-minimalistic interface.
The UX is smoother, for example servers are better named, showing the city they’re located in.
Servers are also grouped together, so you can’t select all their 2,000 servers. This is easier to navigate with a much shorter server list, but means less control.
Nord’s interface is still pleasing to the eye, but it’s bigger and more detailed. There’s both a map and list included.
Nord’s server list is a lot longer, as you can select all of it’s 5,000+ servers. This means more control but is more fiddly and overwhelming to use.
Server names are awful, involving a long string of numbers and no city name.
However, you can select your region, sort the servers, and see individual server loads on the right.
Once connected, Nord shows you the server IP address, whereas Express doesn’t give you any stats.
NordVPN also has several specialist servers, whilst Express has none.
In terms of settings, both have kill switches and start-up settings, but Nord generally offers more settings.
It has 2 kill switches, Obfuscation technology, custom DNS settings, and its ad-blocking Cybersec feature.
However, there’s 2 exceptions. Express has split tunneling, a very handy feature which Nord doesn’t have.
Express also offers more protocol choice, with 2 more protocols on offer – L2TP/IPsec and PTTP. These are much less secure, but offer higher speeds.
With Nord you can only choose between OpenVPN TCP or UDP.
In terms of the mobile apps, ExpressVPN was almost identical, offering a seamless transition.
The Nord app was slightly different.
Again using the server list was a bit fiddly, as you had to select country, then region, then server, each taking you to a new screen.
But on the plus side, extra auto-connect settings are available in the mobile version.
To sum up, ExpressVPN is easier to use and more minimalistic with less features. NordVPN is more fiddly to use, but with more choice, settings, stats and specialist servers.
Overall I call a tie. Express for ease of use, Nord for choice and features.
Both VPNs offer stellar support, with 24/7 live chat available.
Express had a slightly faster response time, responding in seconds, whilst Nord always answered within a couple of minutes.
Both were helpful and answered all queries quickly, though NordVPN sometimes started off with some copy and paste responses. They also had very good English, which helps.
With NordVPN, you can email the chat to yourself for later reference. ExpressVPN’s chat interface doesn’t offer this feature.
NordVPN also never kicks you off the live chat, so you can leave it open till your next query, whereas ExpressVPN boots you off automatically after a short time period of inactivity.
They also both have email support, and are active on social media. Nord has Facebook support, whereas Express tend to respond on social media but push you back to the official channels.
Both have decent knowledgebases, with thorough, clear set up guides and troubleshooting sections.
Nord is slightly more extensive has more general information articles, however it was a bit more disorganised, with some articles being unclear.
Express tends to have more general info on its main website.
Overall they’re pretty equal, so we’ll call it a tie.
NordVPN is definitely a lot cheaper than ExpressVPN.
Here are the NordVPN prices:
And here are the ExpressVPN prices:
1-month prices are similar, with NordVPN at $11.95 and ExpressVPN at $12.95.
However, after that the gap really starts to widen. Nord’s 1 year price is $6.99 as opposed to Express’s $8.32.
But then Nord goes further, offering 2 and 3 year deals that are insanely cheap at $3.99 and $2.99. This is an amazing deal for such a premium VPN.
Express doesn’t offer a deep enough discount on its yearly plan. It’s one of the most expensive VPNs around.
Both have a wide variety of payment options, including card, Paypal, and Alipay.
However, Nord offers 3 cryptocurrencies.
Whereas Express only offers Bitcoin.
Both also offer very generous 30-day money-back guarantees.
However, Nord offers the icing on the cake: a 7-day free trial.
So Nord is the clear winner in this section, with much cheaper prices past the 1-month mark, more crypto options, and a free trial.
The results are in. Here’s the winners for each section:
- Speed: Express
- Features: Nord
- Privacy: Nord
- Streaming: Express
- Torrenting: Express
- Device compatibility: Nord
- UX/UI: Tie
- Support: Tie
- Pricing: Nord
Aside from pricing they’re tied, both winning 3 sections each. But Nord comes with a cheaper price tag.
Nord has record server numbers, 6 connections and tons of features. It also has the edge with security, with 2 kill switches and obfuscation technology. It’s still got amazing streaming and torrenting, and is much cheaper if you commit to more than 1 month.
However, it’s got slightly slower speeds and is a bit more fiddly to use.
ExpressVPN, on the other hand, has 94 countries, slightly faster speeds and a dead easy-to-use app. It’s got record streaming and full access torrenting. It still has excellent security, and hefty 3k servers.
But it only has 3 connections, less advanced features, and comes at a premium price tag.
Overall it’s a close call, as both are outstanding VPNs. As such it’ll largely depends on your priorities.
Beginner users will like ExpressVPN’s simplicity, whilst advanced users will prefer Nord. Ultra streamers and torrentors may prefer Express. The hyper privacy-conscious might want to go for Nord.
If high device connections are important, it’s definitely Nord. And if price is crucial, then Nord represents amazing value.
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