NordVPN and Surfshark are both leading VPN services with many similarities — but our tests revealed a clear winner with performance, features, and streaming capability.
Surfshark VPN and NordVPN are both popular VPN services with millions of users around the world. Each VPN offers excellent apps and a large server network, but there are also some key differences we discovered in this comparison. To see whether NordVPN or Surfshark VPN came out on top, we conducted numerous speed tests with both services, and then closely examined all aspects of each VPN.
Based on the latest test results, NordVPN was the overall winner. NordVPN offers faster speeds, more security features, and better streaming capability — but Surfshark VPN is also not very far behind.
This table highlights the key facts of each VPN as well as the latest discounts:
|Logs||No logs (audited)||No logs|
|Torrenting||All servers||All servers|
|Support||Knowledge Base; 24/7 chat||Knowledge Base; 24/7 chat|
|Apps for||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Price||$3.19 (with coupon)||$2.30|
|Coupon||68% Off Coupon >||82% Off >|
Here’s an overview of what we will cover in this Surfshark VPN vs NordVPN guide:
- VPN apps
- Privacy and logging policies
Now let’s begin this comparison report by examining the VPN apps of Surfshark VPN and NordVPN.
VPN apps: NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN
Both NordVPN and Surfshark have user-friendly and reliable apps. They both provide apps for major operating systems like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, as well as browser extensions. And both offer top-rated apps for Firestick and Fire TV devices.
The NordVPN apps are well-designed, secure, and easy to use. In comparison to Surfshark VPN, the NordVPN desktop apps (Windows and macOS) are a bit larger but offer easy access to all the features. Below is the Windows VPN app from NordVPN.
To choose a server location in NordVPN, click the down arrow in the box on the top left. You can select specialty server locations or pick a country from the map. NordVPN will choose the best server within the country for you. You can also select specific servers or cities. The NordVPN client has a built-in kill switch for leak protection.
NordVPN stands out for the way it lets users easily choose features and servers within the app, without opening a separate window. It helped NordVPN win in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
Surfshark apps have a different design than NordVPN and do not incorporate a map for server selection, but instead have a large server list, which takes up space on the left.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark apps 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.
One type of desktop VPN app where Surfshark VPN has a definite advantage is Linux. NordVPN still uses a command-line interface to control its Linux app. But Surfshark created a graphical Linux app that looks like their Windows and macOS apps.
Note: Surfshark made our list of the best VPNs for Linux.
NordVPN and Surfshark VPN mobile apps look and work much like their desktop counterparts. However, the Surfshark Android app has an interesting trick for anyone who wants to keep their location private.
When you activate it, the GPS Override feature of the Android app causes your phone to report the GPS location of the VPN server you are connected to, rather than your actual GPS location. This prevents snoops from tracking your physical location.
Support for other devices
NordVPN and Surfshark VPN offer support for non-VPN devices through SmartDNS. SmartDNS doesn’t provide full protection like a VPN, but it allows access to streaming services that may be otherwise inaccessible. NordVPN’s SmartDNS is called SmartPlay, while Surfshark’s SmartDNS is simply called SmartDNS.
Winner for VPN apps: Tie (both are great, just slightly different designs)
NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN speed tests
Both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN support the WireGuard VPN protocol. Because WireGuard is (generally) much faster than OpenVPN and other legacy protocols, we would expect both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN to offer excellent speeds.
We ran all of the NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN speed tests on a 500 Mbps connection from our lab in the United States. All tests were run with the WireGuard protocol using the official VPN client. So now let’s get to the results.
Test #1: Los Angeles, USA
First up was a NordVPN server in Los Angeles: 304 Mbps.
At over 300 Mbps, these are great speeds with NordVPN.
Here was the Surfshark VPN server in Los Angeles: 346 Mbps.
Surfshark VPN has a bit of an edge over NordVPN for this location, but both are quite fast at over 300 Mbps.
Test #2: Seattle, USA
Here was the NordVPN server in Seattle: 445 Mbps.
This is the fastest VPN speed test result we have clocked so far. Hats off to NordVPN!
And here was the Surfshark server in Seattle: 308 Mbps.
With the Seattle location, NordVPN has a big edge.
We ran a few other tests for each respective VPN review, and the results were pretty similar. Both of these VPNs are fast when you use the WireGuard VPN protocol.
Note: Not all VPNs with the WireGuard protocol are fast. For example, both NordVPN and Private Internet Access support WireGuard. However, in the NordVPN vs PIA comparison, Nord blew the competition out of the water.
Surfshark VPN slower with OpenVPN
Surfshark VPN has a problem with OpenVPN. In our tests, Surfshark had trouble getting above 100 Mbps. For example, here was the Surfshark OpenVPN server in Los Angeles, getting about 81 Mbps download speeds.
Most of our Surfshark OpenVPN speed test results were in the 70 to 90 Mbps range. This is not very good.
In contrast, NordVPN OpenVPN speeds were typically from 200 to 270 Mbps. Even NordVPN’s double-hop servers could get over 200 Mbps with OpenVPN, as you can see below:
NordVPN delivers excellent speeds with OpenVPN protocol as well as with WireGuard.
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.
While Surfshark VPN didn’t quite beat NordVPN in this category, it still routinely outperforms other VPNs. You can see this in the Surfshark vs ExpressVPN comparison.
Now we will examine the features offered by NordVPN and Surfshark VPN.
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.
- Threat Protection feature to block ads, trackers, and malware
I tested out these specialty servers in the NordVPN review and found them to perform very well.
Another great feature of NordVPN is called Threat Protection. This is a specialized filter that is more than just a VPN ad blocker. Threat Protection will block ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains. It will also scan downloaded documents and delete malicious ones. Interestingly, Threat Protection can protect all traffic even if it doesn´t pass through a VPN.
Threat Protection is available for Windows and macOS. Threat Protection Lite, which requires a VPN connection and doesn´t have all the features of its big brother, is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and browser extensions.
One of the biggest features of NordVPN is the WireGuard VPN protocol. NordVPN’s implementation of WireGuard is called NordLynx, and you can easily enable it within the settings area:
Another great feature you will find only with NordVPN is a dedicated IP option. This allows you to utilize a dedicated IP address that no other user has access to. There are both pros and cons to this, as we discuss in our guide on the best VPN for a static IP.
Surfshark VPN features
Surfshark VPN has many similar features to NordVPN.
- MultiHop (Double VPN) servers to encrypt traffic over two hops. They are now testing dynamic MultiHop, which lets you control which servers are included in the MultiHop connection.
- Camouflage Mode (obfuscation) to conceal VPN traffic and get around blocks.
- CleanWeb is a feature similar to NordVPN’s old CyberSec feature. It blocks ads, trackers, and malware domains.
- Bypasser (split tunneling) which lets you decide which traffic passes through a VPN server and which goes directly to the internet.
- Rotating IP is a new privacy feature that automatically changes your IP address every 5 to 10 minutes while keeping your VPN location the same. This makes it difficult for websites or snoops to track your activities. Atlas VPN also offers this feature and you can compare it with Surfshark in our Atlas VPN vs Surfshark comparison.
Full WireGuard support with Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN has also successfully implemented the WireGuard VPN protocol, which we covered above in the speed tests section. Aside from fast download speeds, WireGuard also gives you faster connections, and better performance on mobile devices when switching network interfaces.
Surfshark also has a few extra privacy features, but they are paid add-ons:
- Surfshark Alert – This gives you real-time alerts if your private information has been compromised in a data breach leak.
- Surfshark Antivirus – Lightweight protection against viruses.
- Surfshark Search – This is a private search engine.
Winner for VPN features: NordVPN
Security and encryption
In terms of security, both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN 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 with the ChaCha20 cipher.
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.
NordVPN is also rolling out colocated (self-owned) servers for all locations. This is a big development that is already partially complete. This eliminates the need to rent servers from third parties and puts all hardware under NordVPN’s control. (Surfshark does not use colocated servers.)
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.
Surfshark VPN security
Surfshark VPN is similar to NordVPN in the area of security. Surfshark secures your connection with an AES-256 cipher for OpenVPN and IKEv2, and ChaCha20 for WireGuard. Windows users can select from OpenVPN and WireGuard. If you are using a VPN for macOS, you can select between OpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard.
In July 2020, Surfshark VPN announced that it had converted all servers in its network to run in RAM-disk mode, just like with NordVPN. This was a good development and more VPNs have been doing the same over time, as we noted in our ExpressVPN review.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark has also undergone multiple independent security audits. Cure53, a German cybersecurity firm, has audited their browser extensions as well as their server infrastructure.
With Surfshark rolling out colocated servers and successfully completing two independent security audits, we’ve had to reevaluate this category. It is now a tie.
Winner for security: Tie (virtually identical security and encryption results)
Privacy and logging policies: NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN
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:
NordVPN has had its logging policies audited twice by PWC AG in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2019 and 2020. The auditors had full access to verify privacy and logging policies. Additionally, a third successful audit of NordVPN’s no-logs claims was conducted by Deloitte in late 2022.
Why should you care about a no-logs audit?
Well, we’ve seen a few “no logs” VPN services that have turned out to be logging their users. Two examples of this are PureVPN and also IPVanish. We also noted in the HideMyAss review that this VPN handed over logs to US authorities over a hacking claim.
Surfshark VPN privacy and logs
Surfshark VPN is also a no-logs VPN service, as explained on its website.
Unlike NordVPN, however, Surfshark VPN has not yet completed an independent audit to confirm its no-logs policy. However, Surfshark has passed security audits conducted by Cure53.
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
When choosing a VPN for privacy, it’s crucial to consider the jurisdiction (where it’s legally based). The jurisdiction determines the laws the VPN has to adhere to. It’s advisable to avoid VPN services based in countries with poor privacy laws, such as the Five Eyes countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Surfshark VPN jurisdiction: The Netherlands
Surfshark’s original parent company, Surfshark Ltd., is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). However, in October 2021, they created a new company named Surfshark B.V., which is based in The Netherlands. Anyone who subscribed prior to October 1, 2021, has a contract with Surfshark Ltd. Anyone who subscribed to the service after that date has a contract with Surfshark B.V.
Surfshark moved its jurisdiction to The Netherlands, which is privacy-friendly and has no data retention laws. Although we expected the company’s Terms of Service to now be governed by Dutch laws, they are actually governed by the laws of the British Virgin Islands, regardless of which Surfshark company you have a contract with.
NordVPN jurisdiction: Panama
NordVPN is based in Panama. Panama is a great location for a privacy-focused service because it is outside the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes countries. Those governments can make VPNs keep user data and give it to authorities. ProtonVPN in Switzerland faced this issue before, as we mentioned in our ProtonVPN vs NordVPN comparison. Personally, I think NordVPN’s location in Panama is better than Surfshark’s location in The Netherlands.
Winner for jurisdiction: NordVPN
VPN connection limits: Surfshark VPN 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 VPN is a standout in this category. It offers an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. From the company’s 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 on par with most other VPNs, including ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.
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 VPN 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 VPN
Price: Surfshark VPN vs NordVPN
Price is another consideration for most people when selecting a VPN. In terms of price, both Surfshark and NordVPN are on our list of the best cheap VPNs, with prices under $4 per month.
NordVPN prices – Right now NordVPN is running a discount with the two-year plans to drop the price down to $3.19 per month. Here are the prices with the NordVPN coupon:
Note: You can bundle different services with your NordVPN subscription. You can add on NordPass (password manager) and also NordLocker (cloud storage and encryption tool).
Now we’ll look at Surfshark’s prices.
Surfshark VPN comes in a bit cheaper than NordVPN at only $2.30 per month with the two-year plan. Here are the current prices:
As with all VPNs, NordVPN and Surfshark VPN monthly plans are rather expensive. However, Surfshark VPN is cheaper than NordVPN on their longer subscription plans. Give this category to the sharks.
Winner for price: Surfshark VPN
Netflix and streaming comparison
Surfshark VPN and NordVPN are among the select few VPNs that work with Netflix. For the respective VPN reviews, we tested both Surfshark VPN 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. They will work well if you want to change Netflix regions to access content from anywhere.
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 VPN and NordVPN work for these streaming services and were able to unblock content in our tests.
In short, both of these VPNs 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.)
Winner for streaming: Tie
Torrenting – Is Surfshark VPN or NordVPN better?
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.
After protecting your IP address, the main consideration for torrenting is speed. While both these VPNs are extremely fast with WireGuard, NordVPN is faster when using the OpenVPN protocol. Because speeds are crucial for torrenting large files with a VPN, NordVPN gets the nod here. It is the best VPN for torrenting with extremely fast speeds and strong security.
Winner for torrenting: NordVPN
Customer support: Nord vs Surfshark
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 VPN 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 VPN or NordVPN’s website, and then click on the chat icon in the bottom-right corner.
You won’t go wrong with either NordVPN or Surfshark VPN. I’ve had many interactions with the support staff of both VPNs and the results have been positive.
Additionally, both NordVPN and Surfshark offer multilingual support options.
Winner for support: Tie
We are near the end of this VPN comparison report. So far, NordVPN has a lead and has outperformed Surfshark VPN in most categories. NordVPN is pricier than Surfshark VPN, but it offers more features and better performance. However, Surfshark VPN has some unique features like Rotating IP and unlimited simultaneous connections that may make it ideal for your particular situation. Either way, both of these VPNs are great values.
Winner for value: Tie
Conclusion NordVPN wins in 2023
Our testing shows that both Surfshark VPN and NordVPN are among the best VPN services that we recommend in many different categories. However, in this NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN comparison, NordVPN came out on top as the better general-purpose VPN.
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 – NordVPN
- Connections – Surfshark VPN
- Price – Surfshark VPN
- Streaming – Tie
- Torrenting – NordVPN
- Support – Tie
- Value – Tie
As you can see above, NordVPN came out on top in five categories, Surfshark was the winner in two categories, and five categories were tied.
To me, the biggest reasons to go with NordVPN are the following:
- Faster speeds – NordVPN offers faster speeds with the OpenVPN protocol. Both VPNs are fast with the WireGuard protocol.
- No-logs audits – NordVPN has passed two separate no-logs audits. This gives you the assurance they are serious about privacy.
And the 68% off coupon is a great deal here:
Both do well with streaming, security, apps, and support. And both are busy upgrading their networks to colocated 10Gbps servers for even better security and performance.
While we consider NordVPN a better VPN overall, there are definitely situations where Surfshark VPN may be the right option for you.
- Are you a Linux user? Surfshark VPN’s dedicated Linux app is a lot easier to use than the command line interface from NordVPN.
- Are you looking for advanced security features like GPS spoofing, IP rotation/randomization, and dynamic multi-hop servers? NordVPN has nothing to match them.
Still on the fence? Try both risk-free, then cancel one for a full refund
Did I mention that both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN 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.
We also have a dedicated guide showing the best VPN coupons, if you want to see other deals and discounts.
That wraps up this Surfshark VPN vs NordVPN comparison. Stay safe and secure online, and feel free to drop a comment below about either of these two VPNs!
This NordVPN vs Surfshark VPN comparison report was last updated on September 12, 2023.