ExpressVPN and NordVPN are probably the two largest names in the VPN industry – but which one comest out on top?
In this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison guide, we’ll closely examine and test each service in twelve different categories. Based on the latest test results, here is a brief overview of my findings:
After running dozens of back-to-back speed tests with servers all over the world, there was a clear winner in terms of performance. ExpressVPN outperformed NordVPN with every location tested (often by a wide margin) and also had better reliability with connections. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a good lineup of features, no logs, and are based in safe, privacy-friendly jurisdictions. While NordVPN is cheaper, ExpressVPN still came out on top in seven categories and was the overall winner. ExpressVPN outperformed NordVPN in speed, reliability, security features (leak protection settings), streaming, and also torrenting performance.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison:
- Speed – Numerous servers tested in Europe and North America
- Reliability – Testing the VPN apps on Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS
- Features – Checking to see if all of the features work correctly
- Connections – How many connections come with a subscription?
- Security – Do any of the apps leak IP addresses or DNS requests?
- Logging Policies – What is the logging policy?
- Jurisdiction – Where is the VPN located and how does this affect data security?
- Torrenting – Which VPN is best for torrenting?
- Netflix & Streaming – Which VPN is best for Netflix and other streaming services?
- Price – Which VPN offers the lowest prices?
- Payments & Refunds – Payment options and refund policies
- Value – Which VPN offers the best value for your money?
Now let’s get into the in-depth test results for this comparison guide. First up are the speed tests.
1. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN speed
There is one clear winner in the performance category, and that is ExpressVPN.
To keep this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison guide as up to date as possible, I regularly run new speed tests with servers throughout the network. The latest test results were rather surprising, with ExpressVPN coming out on top (by a wide margin) in every speed test location.
Controlling variables: All tests for this comparison were conducted using the OpenVPN protocol with 256-bit AES encryption on the same computer and operating system (Mac OS). My baseline speed for testing was about 160 Mbps, with my physical location being in Germany. Additionally, I did not use any overloaded servers, but let the VPN app automatically select the best server for a given country/region.
For the first round, I ran speed tests for both ExpressVPN and NordVPN with nearby servers in Europe (closest to my physical location). Here are the results:
ExpressVPN Germany server: 147 Mbps
NordVPN Germany server: 74 Mbps
Both servers were in Frankfurt, but ExpressVPN was significantly faster than NordVPN. Next up was Switzerland.
ExpressVPN Switzerland server: 150 Mbps
NordVPN Switzerland server: 17 Mbps
Again, there was a very large speed difference with Switzerland servers, with ExpressVPN coming out on top by a huge margin.
I then ran tests for server in the UK, with similar results.
ExpressVPN UK server: 147 Mbps
NordVPN server in the UK: 81 Mbps
Although this was the fastest NordVPN server I tested in Europe, the speeds were still considerably lower than ExpressVPN.
Long-distance speed tests
I also ran a number of long-distance speed tests with servers in the United States and Canada. The results were similar.
ExpressVPN server in the US (New York): 141 Mbps
NordVPN server in US (New York): 53 Mbps
Tests for other server locations in the US offered similar results, with ExpressVPN outperforming NordVPN by a wide margin.
Lastly, I also tested servers in Canada.
ExpressVPN server in Montreal, Canada: 141 Mbps
NordVPN server in Montreal, Canada:
Once again, regardless of what server I tested, ExpressVPN offered the best speeds by a big margin.
These test results also line up with my previous experiences in testing out both VPNs over the years. ExpressVPN has always been one of the fastest VPNs on the market, as a premium, higher-priced service. NordVPN caters more to those who are looking for a cheap (low cost) VPN, where speed may not be a deciding factor. Nonetheless, NordVPN speeds still aren’t bad – they just aren’t on the level of ExpressVPN.
User feedback on performance: Most of the feedback I’ve received from other users supports the test results above. That is to say, ExpressVPN generally outperforms NordVPN.
Winner for speed: ExpressVPN
2. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN reliability
There is another clear winner when it comes to reliability, and that is again ExpressVPN.
First we will take a look at NordVPN.
On some occasions when testing out NordVPN I have experienced connection problems and errors. While this was not a regular problem, it did happen with some servers and regions.
Here is an example of this with an Ireland server when using the NordVPN Mac OS app. Notice the error message that I kept getting: “An error has occurred. Please try again.”
NordVPN has greatly improved its VPN apps over the past year, although there are occasional bugs.
Note: For Mac OS users, I would recommend ExpressVPN, which is currently the top recommendation in the VPN for Mac OS guide.
ExpressVPN does very well in terms of reliability – better than NordVPN.
I have always found ExpressVPN’s server network and applications to work well in my testing: no connection errors, bugs, or failures. In short, everything just works. Here’s the layout of the new ExpressVPN Windows app:
Extensive testing with ExpressVPN’s Windows, Mac OS, and Android apps did not identify any problems:
- Connections were stable and fast
- All features worked correctly
- The apps did not crash or freeze up
- The Network Lock (kill switch) successfully blocked all non-VPN traffic to prevent any data leaks
ExpressVPN remains one of the top performers in terms of speed and reliability.
Reliability Winner: ExpressVPN
3. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN features
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer some decent features that will be useful for many users.
One unique feature with ExpressVPN is that it offers a split-tunneling option. This lets you route certain apps through the encrypted VPN, while routing other apps over your regular (unencrypted) internet connection. Very few VPNs offer this feature.
Here are some of ExpressVPN’s other features:
- Secure, self-hosted DNS (protects you against DNS leaks and third-party DNS snooping)
- Obfuscation features (gets around network restrictions and VPN blocking)
- Support for Smart TVs and gaming systems (through the MediaStreamer smart DNS feature)
- Browser extensions that have passed a third-party audit and also come with HTTPS Everywhere (available for Firefox and Chrome)
- Since April 2019, ExpressVPN runs all servers in RAM-disk mode, rather than on hard drives. This makes it impossible to physically store any logs or data on the servers and also improves security (see the new TrustedServer feature here).
Regarding obfuscation, ExpressVPN also has a lineup of obfuscated servers. These are useful if you are using a VPN for China or in other restricted networks (for more details, see the best VPN for China report).
Just like with ExpressVPN, NordVPN also offers some great features.
First up are the specialty servers that are suited for different use cases::
- Double-VPN servers, where traffic is encrypted over two different hops
- P2P servers (designated for torrenting)
- Obfuscates servers (for places where VPN traffic is blocked, such as in China)
- Onion-over-VPN servers, where traffic exits the VPN server onto the Tor network
I found the double-VPN servers to perform reasonably well, but the Onion-over-VPN servers were unusably slow. Below I was testing the “Netherlands Onion” server, but could not get speeds over 1 Mbps.
The speed issues with the Onion-over-VPN servers are not surprising, simply because the Tor network is slow and adding a VPN server to that will only slow things down more.
Aside from the specialty servers, NordVPN also offers an ad-blocking feature called CyberSec. This offers a basic level of protection against advertising, tracking, and malware domains.
Overall both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer some unique features.
Features winner: Tie (both are good)
4. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN connection limits
In comparing the number of connections you can have with your account, the winner is NordVPN, but only by one device connection.
NordVPN claims to be the “best VPN for multiple devices.” As explained on the NordVPN website, the connection policy is as follows:
With a single NordVPN account, you can connect up to 6 devices simultaneously without compromising your online security and privacy of one device for another.
ExpressVPN’s connection policy is as follows:
With a single subscription, you can connect five devices to ExpressVPN at the same time, regardless of platform (including virtual machines). In short, you can install ExpressVPN on any number of devices, but only five devices can be connected at any one time.
Note: One trick to getting more connections is to use a VPN router. This provides all the benefits of the VPN to every device that connects to it, but only counts as one connection.
Connections winner: NordVPN
5. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN security
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are good options when it comes to securing your data and I did not find any leaks with either of these VPNs.
I ran NordVPN and ExpressVPN through lots of basic tests to check the VPN for IPv4 and IPv6 leaks, as well as DNS leaks. They all passed without any problems to report.
However, there is one key difference between the two in terms of security and privacy: the VPN kill switch. A good VPN kill switch should block all traffic if the VPN connection drops, thereby securing your data and ensuring your IP address and DNS requests are not exposed.
Currently NordVPN offers an app-level kill switch and an internet kill switch with the OpenVPN Windows app and the IKEv2 Mac OS app. The app-level kill switch closes specific apps if the VPN connection drops. The “internet” kill switch blocks all traffic if the VPN connection drops (best option).
The problem, however, is that NordVPN’s OpenVPN app for Mac OS only has an “App Kill Switch”. This means that your traffic is not getting blocked via the firewall if the connection drops, which could expose your IP address to third parties.
When I raised this issue with support, NordVPN informed me they are working to add a network-level (firewall) kill switch to their Mac OS OpenVPN client, but it remains under development.
ExpressVPN offers a fully-functional kill switch on all their major apps: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and even routers. The kill switch is also easy to set up on mobile devices. Here is the Network Lock kill switch feature with the ExpressVPN app for Windows:
ExpressVPN’s Network Lock is a robust and effective kill switch. It even protects users from DNS leaks when switching network interfaces, such as going from ethernet (cable) to WiFi while the VPN is up and running.
While both ExpressVPN and NordVPN did not show any active leaks, the deciding factor is the kill switch, and ExpressVPN comes out on top.
Security winner: ExpressVPN
6. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN logging policies
When it comes to logs, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both good options, as they are both verified no logs VPN providers.
NordVPN logging policy
NordVPN is a no logs VPN provider, as explained on its website:
We do not store connection timestamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic data, IP addresses, or other data. Nothing to store – nothing to share with anyone.
Verification: NordVPN’s logging claims were verified when they voluntarily subjected their servers, VPN infrastructure, and staff to a third-party audit to verify their logging policies. I viewed the audit report and also discussed the case in the no logs VPN guide. The only other VPN that has gone through a no-logs audit is VyprVPN.
ExpressVPN logging policy
ExpressVPN also has a clear no logs policy:
ExpressVPN stores no activity logs and no connection logs from our users. Here’s what that means:
No activity logs. ExpressVPN does not see or record which websites you visit. We never log the destination or contents of your traffic, and we run our own private, zero-knowledge DNS on every VPN server for added privacy and anonymity.
No connection logs. ExpressVPN never logs connection timestamps, session duration, your source IP address, or the ExpressVPN IP address that your computer assumes when connected to the VPN.
Verification: ExpressVPN’s no logs policies were also tested and verified when authorities in Turkey first attempted to coerce ExpressVPN to hand over data. When that didn’t work, authorities in Turkey seized ExpressVPN servers, but they were not able to obtain any data as ExpessVPN did not have any logs to hand over.
ExpressVPN apps do have an option to share crash data, which provides ExpressVPN with information about app and network stability, but this can be easily disabled under settings.
Of course, both VPN services enforce connection limits. This requires some kind of temporary authentication mechanism, but does not necessarily require data logs.
Logs winner: Tie
7. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN jurisdiction
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are based in good privacy jurisdictions.
NordVPN in Panama – Panama is not a member of the 5/9/14 Eyes surveillance groups and it is generally considered to be a good offshore jurisdiction, safe from US and European influence.
ExpressVPN in British Virgin Islands – The British Virgin Islands are also considered a good jurisdiction. The BVI is not a member of 5/9/14 Eyes surveillance groups and it is a free and independent country, with its own legal and judicial system.
Both Panama and the British Virgin Islands have strong privacy protections in place, making them popular locations for banking and other businesses that demand privacy.
Jurisdiction winner: Tie
8. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN torrenting
While both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are decent choices for torrenting, the winner for this category is ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN is currently the best VPN for torrenting for two main reasons:
- It offers excellent speeds throughout the server network (consistently fast). This is very important for large torrent files.
- ExpressVPN has very secure apps with advanced leak protection (Network Lock). This is crucial, since media companies are actively monitoring torrent swarms and collecting IP address traffic to prosecute copyright violations. It only takes one leaked packet to expose your IP address, torrent activity, and location.
NordVPN is also a good choice for torrenting, but the issues with the kill switch are a drawback. Finally, speed variability is also a factor to consider in this category.
Torrenting winner: ExpressVPN
9. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Netflix
As an expat who enjoys streaming American Netflix from overseas, I’ve tested many services to find the best VPNs that work with Netflix. Fortunately, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN do not have problems accessing Netflix.
ExpressVPN works very well with Netflix with 24/7 access and very fast streaming speeds. Here I’m testing out Netflix via an ExpressVPN server in Washington, DC:
I have not had any issues streaming Netflix with ExpressVPN. Sometimes if a server gets blocked, I’ll simply connect to a different server in the US and get through, or ask support which server to use. Either way, there’s still 24/7 Netflix access.
NordVPN Netflix – NordVPN also does well with Netflix, but not quite on par with ExpressVPN. NordVPN seems to get blocked more frequently with Netflix, but like with ExpressVPN there are usually servers available that are still getting through.
When I opened up the NordVPN support chat box, there was a quick link for Netflix issues, which advised people what specific servers they should use to get around blocks:
The other issue that may also affect Netflix streaming is speed. Since NordVPN speeds can be somewhat variable, this may result in buffering or playback issues, especially when streaming in HD quality.
In terms of streaming Netflix, or streaming other services, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, or BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN is tough to beat. It continues to work with all these services, even when other VPNs are getting blocked.
Netflix and streaming winner: ExpressVPN
10. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN price
In terms of price, NordVPN is the winner with the cheapest rates.
Here is a brief breakdown of the pricing with both ExpressVPN and NordVPN:
Monthly Plan: $11.95/mo
1-Year Plan: $6.99/mo
2-Year Plan: $4.99/mo
3-Year Plan: $3.49/mo
Monthly Plan: $12.95/mo
6-Month Plan: $9.99/mo
15-Month Plan: $6.67/mo
3-Year Plan: None
As you can see, NordVPN offers the cheapest price with the three-year discounted rate at $3.49 per month. There is, however, more risk involved in signing up with a VPN for three years, but that is the tradeoff for the lower price.
ExpressVPN does not offer any free trial, nor do they offer three-year plans. The discounted 15-month rate does offer some good savings (below the standard price of $8.32/mo without the coupon). Regarding temporary sales, ExpressVPN remains consistent on their pricing, as explained in my ExpressVPN coupon and discounts guide.
Price winner: NordVPN
11. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN payments options and refunds
Now we’ll examine payment options and refunds for both ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
ExpressVPN – ExpressVPN supports a wide range of payment options, including all major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, as well as other payment processors.
You only need to enter a valid email address and your payment details with ExpressVPN.
NordVPN – NordVPN also supports many payment options, but there is one big difference: no PayPal. For unknown reasons, PayPal has not been an option with NordVPN since January 2019. This is indeed a drawback, since PayPal is very favorable to the buyer if there is any kind of transaction dispute.
While NordVPN no longer supports PayPal payments, all other major payment options are available, including cryptocurrencies.
Refunds – Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a 30 day money-back guarantee. But there is a slight difference as you can see with the wording below:
- ExpressVPN: “Not satisfied? Get your money back, no questions asked.”
- NordVPN: “We seek your full satisfaction with our services. However, we would like to troubleshoot an issue you experience first.“
Therefore if you are requesting a refund through NordVPN, there might be a bit of a hassle since they’ll request you to troubleshoot your problems before issuing a refund.
Payment options and refunds winner: This one was close, but the tiebreaker goes to ExpressVPN since it still supports PayPal payments
12. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN value
Last, but not least, is the question of value.
Which VPN offers the best value for your money?
And while price is important, it certainly is not the only consideration when weighed against all other factors. After all, there’s nothing more frustrating than a VPN that doesn’t work right or is too slow, even if it was cheap.
While NordVPN is definitely affordable and offers some good features, the performance issues (variable speeds) are somewhat of a drawback.
With ExpressVPN, the monthly price is more expensive, but everything works well and the performance is excellent. Additionally, the applications offer a higher level of leak protection, solid encryption, and stable connections.
Therefore, considering everything, I would say ExpressVPN still offers a better value, even though it is more expensive than NordVPN. But NordVPN is close behind and tough to beat for a budget VPN service.
Value winner: ExpressVPN
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins
To summarize our findings in this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison, here are the winners for each category:
- Speed – ExpressVPN
- Reliability – ExpressVPN
- Features – Tie
- Connections – NordVPN
- Security – ExpressVPN
- Logging Policies – Tie
- Jurisdiction – Tie
- Torrenting – ExpressVPN
- Netflix & Streaming – ExpressVPN
- Price – NordVPN
- Payments & Refunds – ExpressVPN
- Value – ExpressVPN
Overall winner: ExpressVPN
While the winner of the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison is ExpressVPN, NordVPN is still a strong contender and a good VPN service.
At the end of the day, either of these two options may be the best VPN for you. It all depends on your needs and uses for the VPN service. Whichever service you decide to go for, be sure to get the best price via the discounts below:
If you are really still on the fence, keep in mind that ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer 30 day money-back guarantees. Therefore you could purchase both VPNs, test each service for a few weeks, and then cancel the one you don’t want for a full refund.
And if you want to check out additional options, see the top-rated VPN services, which reflects the latest test results.
Last updated on September 12, 2019