Surfshark and NordVPN are both popular VPN services with a lot in common — but there was only one winner in this NordVPN vs Surfshark comparison report.
To see whether NordVPN or Surfshark came out on top, we conducted numerous speed tests with both services, and then closely examined all aspects of each VPN. Our test results and analysis revealed a clear winner, especially in the area of performance.
So before we get into the detailed test results, here’s an overview of what we will cover in this Surfshark vs NordVPN guide:
- VPN apps
- Privacy and logging policies
- Streaming and torrenting
Now let’s examine the test results. First, we’ll look at performance to see if NordVPN or Surfshark is faster.
1. NordVPN vs Surfshark speeds
In the area of speeds and reliability, there was a clear winner between NordVPN and Surfshark VPN.
NordVPN is currently the fastest VPN tested here at Restore Privacy, hitting speeds of up to 445. The main reason that NordVPN is so fast is that they support the WireGuard VPN protocol, which is significantly faster than OpenVPN, which is used by Surfshark. We’ll examine the VPN protocols more in the security section below. For now, let’s focus on speed test comparisons in different locations.
All tests for this Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison were conducted on a 500 Mbps connection in the United States.
The first server location I tested was Seattle, which is relatively close to my physical location, and should offer the best results.
Here was the NordVPN server in Seattle: 445 Mbps.
These are amazing speeds, some of the fastest I’ve tested with NordVPN — or any VPN for that matter.
Next up was the Surfshark VPN server in Seattle: 131 Mbps.
This speed test result from Surfshark is significantly slower than NordVPN with the same location, although 131 Mbps is still pretty fast in comparison to other VPNs.
Next, I tested servers in Los Angeles, CA. Here was the NordVPN server speed in Los Angeles: 304 Mbps.
In comparison, here was the Surfshark speed with a server in Los Angeles: 81 Mbps.
Once again, we see that Surfshark speeds are significantly slower than NordVPN. We are seeing a trend here.
Lastly, I tested both NordVPN and Surfshark servers in Europe – and the results were the same. Here was the NordVPN server in the UK (United Kingdom): 295 Mbps.
These speed test results with NordVPN are really impressive, especially when you consider the long distance between me and the UK VPN server. With this level of performance, NordVPN is one of the best UK VPN services for speed.
Now we’ll look at Surfshark. Here was the Surfshark VPN speed with a server in the UK:
We can clearly see in our test results that NordVPN was faster than Surfshark with every server location tested. Indeed, this is one drawback I noted in the Surfshark VPN review: inconsistent speeds.
Is Surfshark a slow VPN? I would say no, it is not slow, but it also not on the level of other top-rated VPN services, such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
Performance is a big consideration if you need a VPN for high-bandwidth activities. Both Surfshark and NordVPN offer plenty of speed if you need a VPN for gaming, streaming, or just general browsing. But for those who want the fastest speeds, we’d recommend going with NordVPN.
Winner for speeds: NordVPN
Other speed comparisons: NordVPN consistently performs well in comparison to other top-rated VPNs. It also came out on top in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison tests.
2. VPN apps: NordVPN vs Surfshark
Both NordVPN and Surfshark have user-friendly and reliable VPN apps.
The NordVPN apps are well-designed, secure, and easy to use. In comparison to Surfshark, the NordVPN desktop apps (Windows and Mac OS) is a bit larger and takes up more space. This is because there is a large map to select server locations. Here you can see the Windows VPN app from NordVPN:
You can select from the specialty servers on the left, or click a country from the map. The NordVPN client will automatically select the best server within the country. You can also select specific servers or servers in specific cities. NordVPN apps include built-in leak protection with a kill switch.
Surfshark apps have a different design than NordVPN and do not incorporate a map for server selection. Therefore they take up less space on desktop computers. Here is the Surfshark Windows app:
Like NordVPN, Surfshark apps also incorporate built-in leak protection with a kill switch to block unencrypted data from leaking out of the VPN. Server selection is also easy with Surfshark. Simply tap the “Locations” tab on the left, which opens up a list of servers.
Overall, both apps are great and it all boils down to user preference on design. As we will examine below, NordVPN and Surfshark both have similar features.
Winner for VPN apps: Tie (both are great, just slightly different designs)
3. NordVPN vs Surfshark features
Now we will examine the features offered by NordVPN and Surfshark.
NordVPN packs in a lot of features – above and beyond most other VPN services. The specialty servers are great for different use cases:
- Double-VPN servers, where traffic is encrypted over two different hops.
- P2P servers that are designated for torrenting with great speeds and security. (NordVPN is currently the best VPN for torrenting with the fastest speeds.)
- Obfuscated servers that hide (obfuscate) VPN to get around VPN blocks or any restrictions.
- Tor-over-VPN servers that encrypt regular VPN traffic a second time through the Tor (Onion) network.
I tested out these specialty servers in the NordVPN review and found them to perform very well. With NordVPN’s double-VPN servers, I was still able to get over 200 Mbps, which is very impressive considering the double encryption.
Another great feature with NordVPN is CyberSec. This is a specialized filter that is more than just a VPN ad blocker. CyberSec will block ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains.
One of the biggest new features with NordVPN is the WireGuard VPN protocol. NordVPN’s implementation of WireGuard is called NordLynx, and you can easily enable it within the settings area:
With WireGuard delivering on speeds and security, this is a great feature that Surfshark does not (yet) offer.
Surfshark has many similar features to NordVPN.
- Double VPN servers to encrypt traffic over two hops.
- Obfuscation to conceal VPN traffic and get around blocks.
- CleanWeb is a feature similar to NordVPN’s CyberSec. It blocks ads, trackers, and malware domains.
Surfshark also has a few extra privacy features, but they are paid add-ons:
- HackLock – This gives you real-time alerts if your private information has been compromised in a data breach leak.
- BlindSearch – This is a private search engine.
It would be great to see Surfshark support the WireGuard VPN protocol, but this is not an option at this time.
Winner for VPN features: NordVPN
4. Security: NordVPN vs Surfshark
In terms of security, both NordVPN and Surfshark are solid choices.
NordVPN secures traffic with an AES-256 cipher and HMAC SHA256 hash authentication with the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. The WireGuard (NordLynx) protocol uses updated encryption algorithms, which you can read more about in our WireGuard VPN article.
With NordVPN, all apps incorporate a kill switch to secure traffic and prevent any data leaks. The CyberSec feature is an additional layer of security to prevent malicious domains and ads from loading on your device.
For network security, NordVPN runs all servers in RAM-disk mode, which makes it impossible to store logs on any server and provides a higher level of data security for NordVPN users. They have also completed a server assessment to ensure all data centers meet their strict security criteria.
Lastly, NordVPN has also undergone third-party security audits that were conducted by Versprite. These audits included all aspects of NordVPN’s infrastructure as well as penetration testing to identify and correct any vulnerabilities.
In many ways, Surfshark is similar to NordVPN in the area of security. Surfshark secures VPN traffic with an AES-256 cipher for the OpenVPN and IKEv2 VPN protocols. If you are using a VPN for Mac OS, you can select between OpenVPN and IKEv2, which are both considered secure and fast. As noted above, Surfshark does not support the WireGuard VPN protocol and the security it offers. But it does utilize a kill switch in all apps to prevent data leaks.
In July 2020, Surfshark announced that it had converted all servers in its network to run in RAM-disk mode, just like with NordVPN. This is a good development and growing trend in the VPN industry, as we also see with ExpressVPN.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark has also undergone an independent security audit. Unlike NordVPN, however, the audit was limited to only their browser extensions. Cure53, a Germany cybersecurity firm, conducted the Surfshark audit.
Winner for security: Tie
5. Privacy and logging policies: NordVPN vs Surfshark
In terms of privacy and logs, both NordVPN and Surfshark are no logs VPN services – but there’s one key difference between these two VPNs.
NordVPN privacy and logs
NordVPN is a no-logs VPN service that does not keep any usage or connection logs. This is clearly explained on their website:
One area where NordVPN differs from Surfshark, however, is that NordVPN has had its logging policies audited and verified. To verify the no-logs claims, NordVPN has undergone two separate audits by PWC AG in Zurich, Switzerland. The first audit was completed in 2019, and the second audit was completed in 2020. The auditors had full access to verify privacy and logging policies.
Why should you care about a no-logs audit?
Surfshark VPN privacy and logs
Like NordVPN, Surfshark is also a no-logs VPN service, as explained on its website:
In the screenshot above, you can see Surfshark is referring to an independent security audit. It’s important to note, however, that this is not a no-logs audit, but was limited only to browser extensions. Unlike NordVPN, Surfshark has not (yet) completed an independent audit to confirm their no-logs policy.
Therefore the winner of this category goes to NordVPN, which has had its no-logs and privacy policies audited twice.
Winner for privacy and logs: NordVPN
6. Jurisdiction: Surfshark VPN vs NordVPN
On the topic of privacy, another important consideration is jurisdiction: where the VPN is legally based. Jurisdiction is important because it determines the laws (and governments) that the VPN must comply with. Generally speaking, we recommend avoiding services that are based in bad privacy jurisdictions, such as the Five Eyes countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This is a very strong privacy location, outside of the US and EU jurisdictions. The BVI also is not part of any surveillance alliances and is politically and legally independent of the UK, with strong privacy laws in place.
NordVPN is based in Panama. Like the BVI with Surfshark, Panama is also a great location for a privacy-focused service because it is outside of the EU and US jurisdictions. As we have seen over time, the US, EU, Canada, and some other Western countries do not have favorable privacy laws. In some cases, governments can force VPNs to log user data and turn this over to authorities. We’ve already mentioned PureVPN and IPVanish doing this, but another example is HideMyAss VPN, which is based in the UK.
In short, both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN are located in great jurisdictions. This helps to ensure your data remains secure when you use these VPNs.
Winner for jurisdiction: Tie
7. Connections: Surfshark vs NordVPN
When we talk about connections with VPNs, we are referring to the number of simultaneous connections you can have under one subscription. Most VPNs impose some kind of limit on connections, where the average is about six.
Surfshark is a bit of a standout in this category. It offers an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. From the Surfshark website:
There are only a few other VPNs that offer an unlimited number of connections, another option being Perfect Privacy. Do you need an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, or would a fewer number of connections be enough?
NordVPN is more in line with the VPN industry average in the category of connections. They offer users six simultaneous connections per subscription. This is about average.
Note: There is one trick that you can use with any VPN to get an unlimited number of connections, and that is to use a VPN on a router. A VPN on your router will only count as one connection, but it protects every single device that connects to the router, without having to download VPN software for the devices.
Winner for connections: Surfshark
8. Price: Surfshark vs NordVPN
Price is another consideration for most people when selecting a VPN. In terms of price, both Surfshark and NordVPN could be classified as “cheap VPNs” with prices under $4 per month with select plans.
NordVPN prices – Right now NordVPN is running a discount with the three-year plans to drop the price down to $3.49 per month. This will likely be discontinued later in the year. Here are the prices with NordVPN:
Now we’ll look at Surfshark’s prices.
Surfshark comes in a bit cheaper than NordVPN at only $1.99 per month with the two-year plan. Here are the current prices:
NordVPN and Surfshark have the same prices for the monthly subscription plan at $11.95. However, Surfshark is cheaper than NordVPN with the two-year and one-year subscription plans. Therefore it comes out on top in the price category.
Winner for price: Surfshark
9. Streaming and torrenting: Surfshark vs NordVPN
Even though Netflix works hard to block VPN services, there are still some good VPNs that work with Netflix. Both Surfshark and NordVPN are among the select few that still work well. Here’s a screenshot of me streaming Netflix with NordVPN:
For the respective VPN reviews, we tested both Surfshark and NordVPN with US Netflix. They both worked well and were able to unblock US Netflix without any streaming or playback issues. Another advantage of both services is that they unblock numerous Netflix libraries around the world, such as Netflix Canada, UK, Germany, and Australia.
But what about other streaming services?
We have also tested these VPNs with BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime – and the results were good. Once again, both Surfshark and NordVPN work for these streaming services and were able to unblock content in our tests.
In short, both NordVPN and Surfshark are great VPNs for streaming and they will most likely give you access to any streaming media you are looking to watch. (And if you are getting blocked, just open a chat window and their support staff will help you out.)
Torrenting – Which one is best?
Many people use VPNs for torrenting. This allows you to cover your digital tracks and hide your IP address. Because torrenting can be a grey area when it comes to copyright issues, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
One of the biggest considerations when selecting the best VPN for torrenting is speed. As we demonstrated above, NordVPN seriously outperforms Surfshark with faster speeds in all the locations we tested. Because speeds are crucial for torrenting large files with a VPN, NordVPN also comes out on top here as well. It is the best VPN for torrenting with extremely fast speeds and strong security.
Winner for streaming and torrenting: NordVPN (with the streaming sub-category being tied)
10. Support: Surfshark vs NordVPN
The last category on our list to examine is support. Fortunately, this one is also easy – and it’s again a tie.
Both NordVPN and Surfshark offer 24/7 live chat support to help get you through any problem or issue. To connect with their support staff, simply go to Surfshark or NordVPN’s website, and then click on the chat icon in the bottom-right corner. For example, here I’m connected to a NordVPN support agent:
In the support category, you won’t go wrong with either NordVPN or Surfshark. I’ve had many interactions with the support staff of both VPNs and the results have been positive.
Winner for support: Tie
Conclusion: NordVPN wins
Both Surfshark and NordVPN are great VPN services that we recommend in many different VPN guides. However, in this NordVPN vs Surfshark comparison, NordVPN came out on top.
Here is a brief overview of the findings with the winner for each category:
- Speeds – NordVPN
- VPN apps – Tie
- Features – NordVPN
- Security – Tie
- Privacy and logging policies – NordVPN
- Jurisdiction – Tie
- Connections – Surfshark
- Price – Surfshark
- Streaming and torrenting – NordVPN
- Support – Tie
As you can see above, NordVPN came out on top in four categories, Surfshark was the winner in two categories, and four categories were tied.
To me, the biggest reasons to go with NordVPN are the following:
- Faster speeds – NordVPN is significantly faster than Surfshark in all the server locations I tested, by a wide margin.
- WireGuard support – WireGuard gives you faster download speeds, but also faster connection times. Connecting to WireGuard is nearly instantaneous, whereas OpenVPN can take 10 seconds or more to establish a connection.
- No-logs audits – NordVPN has passed two separate no-logs audits. This gives you the assurance they are serious about privacy.
Both do well with streaming, security, VPN apps, and support.
Still on the fence? Try both risk-free, then cancel one for a full refund
Did I mention that both NordVPN and Surfshark offer a 30 day money-back guarantee with all plans?
This allows you to test both VPNs risk-free for 30 days. Therefore you can purchase a subscription to both VPNs, and then simply cancel the one you don’t want. In a sense, they both work as free trial VPNs within the 30-day refund window.
Whichever VPN you decide to go with, be sure to get the best deal with the discounts below:
That wraps up this Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison. Good luck!