ExpressVPN and NordVPN are probably the two biggest names in the VPN industry with huge brand recognition. Even though both are great choices, only one came out on top in this head-to-head comparison.
In this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN guide, we’ll closely examine and test each VPN in twelve different categories. If you’ve been on the fence about which VPN to choose, this in-depth guide will answer all your questions.
Real user feedback: This guide now has over 100 comments, with numerous users sharing their experience and feedback below.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison report:
- VPN Apps
- Logging Policies
- Netflix & Streaming
- Payments & Refunds
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 tests (both are fast!)
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer excellent speeds. While ExpressVPN has traditionally been the leader in performance, NordVPN came out on top in the latest round of speed tests for 2020 – but only by a hair.
Controlling variables: All tests for this comparison were conducted using the OpenVPN protocol with AES-256 encryption on the same computer and operating system. 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 server in Germany: 144 Mbps
NordVPN server in Germany: 149 Mbps
Here we can see that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have comparably fast speeds, although NordVPN has a slight edge. Next up is Switzerland.
ExpressVPN Switzerland server: 146 Mbps
NordVPN Switzerland server: 150 Mbps
Once again, speeds were very similar.
I then ran tests for servers in Italy, with similar results.
ExpressVPN server in Italy: 145 Mbps
NordVPN server in Italy: 150 Mbps
Overall these are amazing speed tests for both VPNs! Each one was close to maxing out my baseline (non-VPN) speed.
You can see that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have low ping with nearby servers. This is an important factor to consider when selecting the best VPN for gaming, an area where both VPNs do well.
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): 140 Mbps
NordVPN server in the US (New York): 148 Mbps
Tests for other server locations in the US offered similar results, with speeds essentially the same. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are great options if you need a VPN for USA.
Lastly, I also tested servers in Canada.
ExpressVPN server in Toronto, Canada: 145 Mbps
NordVPN server in Toronto, Canada:
As you can see, the speeds with ExpressVPN and NordVPN are very close.
Note: I ran all speed tests with the OpenVPN protocol. However, NordVPN now supports the WireGuard protocol in their apps, which should give you even faster speeds. ExpressVPN is also launching a new, faster protocol called Lightway, but this is still in beta testing.
Conclusion: Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer excellent speeds. While this category is basically tied, NordVPN came out slightly ahead of ExpressVPN with the servers I tested, but not by a huge margin.
Winner for speed: NordVPN
Other comparisons: Both VPNs came out on top in speed comparisons with other VPN services. In the NordVPN vs PIA comparison, NordVPN was the winner. And the speeds continue to get better in recent tests with the WireGuard protocol.
In the ExpressVPN vs IPVanish comparison, ExpressVPN came out on top by a solid margin.
2. NordVPN vs ExpressVPN reliability
In terms of reliability, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are great options.
First we will take a look at NordVPN.
With the latest round of tests for the NordVPN review, I found everything to work very well. NordVPN offers excellent reliability in the following areas.
- Applications: The apps work great without any bugs or crashes.
- Servers: The servers were reliable and fast with no issues to report.
- Connections: Connections were stable and fast to connect.
In previous comparisons, I’ve found NordVPN to have mediocre reliability with the apps not always working properly. However, in the latest round of tests it did very well. (We’ll take a closer look at the NordVPN apps in the next section.)
Similar to NordVPN, ExpressVPN also does very well in terms of reliability. It has always been one of the most reliable VPNs I’ve tested in all areas.
- Applications: Very smooth and easy to use with no crashes, bugs, or issues.
- Servers: All servers were reliable and performed great.
- Connections: ExpressVPN has stable connections and is fast to establish a connection.
While ExpressVPN has traditionally been the winner in the reliability category, NordVPN is also performing well right now. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer great reliability.
Reliability Winner: Tie
3. VPN Apps: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN
For this category, we are mainly looking at the design and usability of the VPN apps (user experience).
First we’ll examine the ExpressVPN apps. As you can see below, the ExpressVPN client is very clean and minimal, as I pointed out in the ExpressVPN review.
The one-tap server switch is really quick and easy, but you can click the “Current Location” section to pull up a full server list. Settings can also easily be modified within the app.
ExpressVPN’s apps really stand out in that they are clean, minimal, and very easy to use. It doesn’t feel overcrowded or clunky. Server selection and preferences are opened through a pop-up window. This keeps the main desktop application simple, without taking up too much space.
In contrast to ExpressVPN, NordVPN apps are larger and a bit more clunky. Here’s the NordVPN Windows app for comparison.
In comparison to ExpressVPN, the NordVPN Windows client is larger and feels somewhat busy. And while NordVPN is a great VPN for Windows, the client does take up lots of space on your desktop.
The main reason that the NordVPN clients are so large is that they incorporate a global map for server selection. This uses up more space, but allows server selection from the map. Meanwhile, it’s also rather redundant since you can select servers with the individual countries on the left side of the app as well.
With ExpressVPN, servers selection is minimized when not in use. This keeps the app small and clean.
Winner for VPN apps: ExpressVPN
4. Features: NordVPN compared to ExpressVPN
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer some good features for different types of 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. ProtonVPN also offers this feature, but it’s still not very common.
Note: NordVPN now supports split tunneling as well, but only with the Android VPN app.
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)
- 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 TrustedServer feature).
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)
- Obfuscated servers (for places where VPN traffic is blocked, such as in China)
I found the double-VPN servers to perform well in my testing. I was able to get over 100 Mbps, even with traffic being encrypted across two different servers in Europe. The P2P servers also worked great with fast speeds and no connection issues.
Aside from the specialty servers, NordVPN also offers a useful security feature called CyberSec. The CyberSec feature blocks ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains from infecting your device. It is easily enabled directly in the VPN app, as you can see below:
Overall both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer some unique features.
Features winner: Tie (both are great!)
5. Security and encryption: ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
In the security category, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN do very well. However, there is only one winner in this area.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN utilize strong encryption standards.
- ExpressVPN: Data is encrypted with an AES-256 cipher, SHA-512 hash authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key exchange.
- NordVPN: Data is encrypted with an AES-256 cipher, SHA-256 hash authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key exchange.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN basically offer the same levels of encryption and both are secure. The slight difference in hash authentication is rather trivial as both offer a high level of security that is considered unbreakable by today’s standards.
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN support all of the main VPN protocols.
- ExpressVPN: OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IPSec/IKEv2, IPSec/L2TP, and Lightway protocol (currently in BETA)
- NordVPN: OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IPSec/IKEv2, IPSec/L2TP, and WireGuard
The main difference here is that NordVPN currently supports the WireGuard VPN protocol. This is a new protocol with upgraded security and faster speeds, although it does come with some privacy drawbacks. NordVPN currently supports WireGuard on all operating systems through the “NordLynx” feature.
In terms of server security, ExpressVPN comes out on top.
ExpressVPN currently runs all servers in its network in RAM-disk mode. As noted above, this is the TrustedServer feature. This offers a higher level of security and also ensures no servers can physically store any data.
NordVPN is following ExpressVPN’s example and has announced plans to roll out RAM-disk servers throughout their network. However, this is an ongoing effort and is not yet complete.
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN do very well in terms of leak protection. With the NordVPN and ExpressVPN desktop clients, they both offer:
- IP address leak protection (for both IPv4 and IPv6)
- DNS leak protection
- Kill switch to block traffic if the VPN connection drops
I thoroughly tested all leak protection features in each of the respective reviews using these VPN test procedures. The results were great: (no leaks) for either VPN service.
In terms of security, ExpressVPN comes out on top, mainly because of server security. But again, this was a close call.
Security winner: ExpressVPN
6. Logs and Privacy: ExpressVPN compared to NordVPN
When it comes to privacy and logs, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are great options. Both of these VPNs are verified no logs VPNs. We’ll examine both.
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. The audit was completed by PWC AG in Zurich, Switzerland.
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, Turkish police then seized ExpressVPN servers, but they were unable to obtain any data as ExpessVPN did not have any logs to hand over.
Like NordVPN, ExpressVPN has also undergone a third-party no logs audit. This audit was also performed by PWC and verified the no-logs policy and privacy protection measures are in place.
Logs winner: Tie
7. ExpressVPN and NordVPN jurisdictions
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are based in good privacy jurisdictions.
NordVPN in Panama – Panama is not a member of the 14 Eyes countries 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, despite the historical ties to Britain. Some of the newer VPNs, such as Surfshark, are incorporating in the BVI for this reason.
Both Panama and the British Virgin Islands have strong privacy protections in place, making them popular locations for banking and other businesses that demand high levels of privacy.
Jurisdiction winner: Tie
8. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN torrenting tests
Once again, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are great options for torrenting.
They both come out on top. When looking for the best VPN for torrenting , there are two things to consider:
- Speeds: NordVPN and ExpressVPN provide excellent speeds, as we showed above. This is important when torrenting large files and ensures the fastest VPN speeds.
- Leak protection: ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer excellent leak protection. Each incorporates a kill switch into the VPN apps to protect your traffic. This will keep your IP address and location secure when torrenting files. If the VPN connection drops, you will still be protected if you have the kill switch activated.
If you need a great VPN for torrenting, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are good options.
Torrenting winner: Tie
9. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN with Netflix and streaming
As someone who enjoys streaming American Netflix overseas, I’ve tested many services to find the best VPNs that work with Netflix. Fortunately, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work well for accessing Netflix.
ExpressVPN offers 24/7 access to Netflix with very fast streaming speeds (zero buffering). Here I’m streaming Netflix through an ExpressVPN server in Washington, DC:
I have not had any major issues streaming Netflix with ExpressVPN. With that being said, I do find that NordVPN gets blocked more frequently than ExpressVPN. To address this issue, I simply ask NordVPN support which servers to use.
NordVPN Netflix – NordVPN also does well with Netflix. If you have any issues, simply open a chat box and NordVPN support will tell you exactly what servers are working with Netflix.
Netflix regions: Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN support numerous Netflix regions around the world. For example, you can connect to Canada Netflix, UK Netflix, Australia Netflix, German Netflix, etc. by simply choosing servers in these countries.
Other streaming services: Additionally, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work with other streaming services. You can use these VPNs to stream Amazon Prime, Hulu, Roku, BBC iPlayer, and more. If you ever have an issue with blocks, simply connect to the chat support for assistance. They will tell you exactly what servers to use. ExpressVPN seems to offer the largest selection and support for streaming.
Netflix and streaming winner: ExpressVPN
10. ExpressVPN vs NordVPN price comparison
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
6-Month Plan: $9.00/mo
2-Year Plan: $3.71/mo
Monthly Plan: $12.95/mo
6-Month Plan: $9.99/mo
15-Month Plan: $6.67/mo
As you can see, NordVPN offers the cheapest price with the two-year discounted rate at $3.71 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. NordVPN is currently the best cheap VPN, offering a high-quality service at under $4 per month.
ExpressVPN does not offer any free trial, nor do they offer two-year plans. The discounted 15-month rate does offer some good savings (below the standard price of $8.32/month without the coupon). Regarding temporary sales, ExpressVPN remains consistent on their pricing, as explained in my ExpressVPN coupons guide.
Price winner: NordVPN
11. Payments options and refunds: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN
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 a popular payment option.
While NordVPN no longer supports PayPal (in the US), all other major payment options are available, including cryptocurrencies. Additionally, NordVPN accepts more cryptocurrencies than ExpressVPN, which only takes Bitcoin.
Note: NordVPN occasionally offers discounts and special packages, such as around the holidays. This is explained on my NordVPN coupon page, tracking the latest deals.
Refunds – Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a 30 day money-back guarantee.
This category is clearly a tie. ExpressVPN accepts PayPal, NordVPN accepts more cryptocurrencies, and both offer a 30 day money-back guarantee.
Payment options and refunds winner: Tie
12. Is ExpressVPN or NordVPN the best value?
Last, but not least, is the question of value.
Which VPN offers the best value for your money?
This is a tough call, since both VPNs did well in all categories of testing.
While NordVPN offers cheaper prices on a monthly basis, you have to commit to a two-year subscription. This is a good value, but with a longer commitment.
ExpressVPN is more expensive on a monthly basis, but it includes three months free with annual subscriptions when you use this three months free coupon.
When you examine the one-year subscription rates, ExpressVPN actually comes out cheaper than NordVPN:
- NordVPN: $6.99/month for one year
- ExpressVPN: $6.67/month for one year (plus three months free)
On an annual basis, the prices are very similar. ExpressVPN and NordVPN were strong performers in all categories. In most cases it was very close, such as with the speeds and security. With the one-year prices being so close, the value is a tie.
Value winner: Tie (both are a great value)
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins, but both are good choices
To summarize our findings in this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison, here are the winners for each category:
- Speeds – NordVPN
- Reliability – Tie
- VPN Apps – ExpressVPN
- Features – Tie
- Security – ExpressVPN
- Logs and Privacy – Tie
- Jurisdiction – Tie
- Netflix & Streaming – ExpressVPN
- Torrenting – Tie
- Price – NordVPN
- Payments & Refunds – Tie
- Value – Tie
Overall winner: ExpressVPN
The winner of this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison was a close call! Many categories were tied and others were very close. This is why both NordVPN and ExpressVPN hold the top two positions as the best VPNs for 2020.
At the end of the day, either of these two VPNs may be the best service for you. It all depends on your needs and uses for the VPN. Whichever service you decide to go for, be sure to get the best price via the discounts below:
This discount link drops the price of ExpressVPN to only $6.67 per month.
This discount link drops the price of NordVPN to only $3.71 per month.
If you are really still on the fence, keep in mind that ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer a 30 day money-back guarantee. 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.
Last updated with new information on September 1, 2020.