VPN Tips

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the most popular VPNs, and consistently rated as our top two VPNs. With so little between the two, what is the difference? And which VPN is better?

ExpressVPN vs BestVPN

We’ve tested both ExpressVPN and NordVPN extensively for years – so we know both pretty well.

Just want to know which VPN is best? ExpressVPN has achieved a score in our testing that is 0.1 points higher than NordVPN.

While this is enough to give it our number one ranking, that doesn’t mean that ExpressVPN is definitively better than NordVPN for every user.

Each VPN has its own perks and unique qualities. Want to know which is the best choice for you? We’ve explored the differences below.

Speed & Reliability

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Download 85Mbps 91Mbps
Upload 91Mbps 86Mbps
Latency 8ms 5ms
Average % drop 11% 5%

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s downloads, uploads and ping on a local (UK to UK) connection

As far as speeds are concerned, ExpressVPN takes an early lead. We’ve found NordVPN can get better local speeds, but connecting to servers further away shows ExpressVPN really out-performing NordVPN.

Connecting from the UK (where we’re based), for instance, gave us the following speeds:
ExpressVPN

  • Germany: 79Mbps (download) & 66Mbps (upload)
  • USA: 77Mbps (download) & 40Mbps (upload)
  • Singapore: 73Mbps (download) & 22Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 59Mbps (download) & 1Mbps (upload)

NordVPN

  • Germany: 78Mbps (download) & 77Mbps (upload)
  • USA: 47Mbps (download) & 66Mbps (upload)
  • Singapore: 12Mbps (download) & 6Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 22Mbps (download) & 3Mbps (upload)

Its reliably fast connections around the globe set ExpressVPN apart from all of the competition, not just NordVPN.

Server Locations

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Total countries 94 60
Countries with city-level choice 10 5
Total servers 3,000+ 5,600+

NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s world-wide server locations

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have an impressive number of VPN servers across a huge number of countries. ExpressVPN offers servers in more countries, though, as well as having more specific city-level choices available – double the number on offer from NordVPN.

NordVPN, on the other hand, has a much larger server network, with over 5,600 servers to ExpressVPN’s 3,000-plus.

The difference in server numbers might seem large, but with this many you are unlikely to notice it. As for specific locations, the impact will depend entirely on your needs. If you require access to specific locations we recommend looking at the server lists for ExpressVPN and NordVPN before subscribing to either.

Until recently NordVPN also offered a second server location in the UK, Manchester, but it has removed it citing performance issues. In its place NordVPN added additional London servers.

Streaming & Torrenting

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Netflix Yes Yes
BBC iPlayer Yes Yes
Amazon Prime Video Yes Yes
Hulu Yes Yes
Streaming servers No No
Torrenting & P2P Yes Yes
HBO Yes Yes

NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s access to streaming sites

Does ExpressVPN or NordVPN let you watch Netflix? They both do.

For streaming on most devices, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are way ahead of the pack with reliable access to streaming sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, and more.

Neither has dedicated streaming servers, but they really don’t need them as most of their US and UK servers work perfectly. If you ever have trouble finding the right server, customer service is on hand to help.

Both have their own minor faults in this area, though: ExpressVPN struggles to access iPlayer from within the UK, while NordVPN has generally very poor streaming access if installed at the router level.

While ExpressVPN not accessing iPlayer from the UK can be inconvenient, all UK users need to do is switch off the VPN, or split tunnel iPlayer outside of the VPN, and they will have full access to iPlayer.

Not being able to stream with NordVPN installed at router level, however, is potentially much more of an inconvenience, and really limits your ability to use it with devices like Apple TV.

It’s a very specific application, but a deal-breaker if this is how you intend to use your VPN.

Bypassing Censorship

Provider ExpressVPN NordVPN
Works in China Yes Yes (but less often)
Works in Russia Yes Yes
Works in Iran Yes Yes
Works in Turkey Yes Yes
Obfuscation tools Yes Yes

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s ability to bypass censorship

Both these VPNs work well in countries with aggressive censorship, like Turkey or Iran, with their own in-built obfuscation tools to circumvent national firewalls.

When it comes to the toughest challenge in VPN censorship, China’s Great Firewall, ExpressVPN comes out on top. Thanks to significant effort it remains the best VPN for avoiding detection by Chinese censors.

NordVPN works in China, too, but with less consistency since China’s VPN crackdown. We know some users have had trouble connecting to NordVPN in China. Its obfuscation tools are not available through iOS, either, so iPhone users may struggle to stay protected.

Encryption & Security

ExpressVPN NordVPN
VPN protocols IKEv2/IPSec, L2TP, OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN
Encryption AES-256 AES-256
Kill switch Yes Yes
Leak protection DNS, IPv6, WebRTC DNS, IPv6, WebRTC
First-party DNS Yes Yes
IPv6 Blocked Blocked

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s encryption and security features

ExpressVPN comes out on top, with its great automatic protocol selection tool. As long as you have the feature enabled, the VPN will pick the best secure protocol.

NordVPN has improved recently, and offers easy toggle switches on its apps to change between encryption protocols, but ExpressVPN still offers more choice.

Other than that, it’s a close call between the two VPN providers as they both have great advanced features.

For example ExpressVPN provides a split tunneling option, which allows you to decide which apps connect to the VPN, and which ones don’t.

On the other hand, NordVPN allows you to route your web traffic through two different VPN servers to provide an extra layer of encryption (which it calls Double VPN).

They both block IPv6 connections, protecting you from potential IP or DNS leaks. NordVPN has stated it will introduce support for IPv6 in the future, but we expect ExpressVPN to do the same when the protocol is eventually hits the mainstream.

Logging Policy & Jurisdiction

Anotated map depicting the locations of NordVPN and ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Connection logs Yes Yes
Activity logs No No
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands Panama
Externally audited July 2019 November 2018

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s logging policies and jurisdictions

Both VPNs have been subject to external audits to confirm their logging policies, NordVPN by PwC in November 2018 and ExpressVPN also by PwC in July 2019.

These audits set an encouraging standard for the industry, but only confirm that the VPN providers do what they say in their logging policy, not the strength of those logging policies.

NordVPN’s logging policy includes the following:

A screenshot of NordVPN's logging policy

And ExpressVPN claims the following:

A screenshot of ExpressVPN's logging policy

Neither of these statements cover the full picture; both VPNs keep some data, but the nature and scope of that data is not the same.

In order to limit the number of connections from an individual user, NordVPN stores the username and timestamp of each connection for the duration of the session, but this data is wiped within 15 minutes of disconnect.

ExpressVPN stores slightly more information – dates of connection, choice of server location and total amount of data – and it is not currently clear how long this data is kept. Because of this, we classify NordVPN as a no-logs provider but view ExpressVPN as falling slightly short of that prestigious title.

None of the information collected is personally identifiable, however, and both VPN providers are located in privacy friendly jurisdictions (the British Virgin Islands for ExpressVPN and Panama for NordVPN), which don’t require them to store any sort of user information.

Compatibility & Ease of Use

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Desktop apps Windows, Mac, Linux Windows, Mac, Linux
Mobile apps iOS, Android iOS, Android
Other apps Android TV, Amazon Firestick Android TV, Amazon Firestick
Router support Yes Yes
Pre-configured routers Yes Yes
Browser extensions Chrome, Firefox, Safari Chrome, Firefox

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s device compatibility

NordVPN and ExpressVPN both lead the market in wide-spread device compatibility. They both have apps for all major operating systems. They both have router support, too.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have browser extensions, but they take very different approaches.

ExpressVPN’s extension is really a controller, and you will need the desktop app for it to work – so it isn’t as lightweight as you might think. We love that you can control the VPN from within your browser window, but it’s not a conventional extension.

The alternative offered by NordVPN works as a standalone, but is actually a proxy, not a VPN and it won’t offer you total protection.

NordVPN has an easy, user-friendly interface, with an interactive map visualisation of their servers. This is a nice gimmick, which doesn’t necessarily add much to ExpressVPN’s more bare-bones approach but certainly doesn’t subtract anything either.

A screenshot of NordVPN's user interface

NordVPN PC app

When it comes to advanced options, the two VPN providers take different approaches. ExpressVPN puts its settings in a separate options window, whereas NordVPN uses a tab and toggle design.

A screenshot of the ExpressVPN app for PC

ExpressVPN PC app and options menu

ExpressVPN’s apps all feature a big on/off switch and little else in their main window. The basic interface is also pretty much identical across devices, whereas NordVPN varies more noticeably.

This means, for instance, that the NordVPN tabs feel fiddly on our test iPhone, but not our Android phone.

The Android and iPhone NordVPN apps side by side

NordVPN Android (left) and iOS (right) apps side by side

Regardless, the apps of both VPN providers are highly intuitive across all devices – even if they do take different approaches.

Customer Support

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Live chat 24/7 24/7
Email support Yes Yes
Phone support No No
Online knowledge base Yes Yes
Setup guides Yes Yes
Video material Yes Yes

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s customer support options

This leads us to customer support, which both providers also excel at.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have comprehensive online guides, which is part of why they are so easy to use on a wide range of devices. They have email and 24/7 live chat, too, which are very helpful from both providers.

These providers both go neck and neck in terms of customer service materials available, with the occasional case of one having more robust online material for a particular topic. Neither of them have phone support, which is pretty much standard in the industry.

All this said, ExpressVPN just claims a victory here because its 24/7 live chat is consistently faster and more convenient – if only just.

Price & Value

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Single month $12.95 $11.95
Six months $9.99 N/A
12 months $6.67 $6.99
Two years N/A $4.99
Three years N/A $3.49

NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s monthly cost over different length pricing plans

Unless you’re willing to sign up to a three-year VPN subscription, there’s not a lot between ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s pricing.

They’re the two biggest VPNs on the planet, and have a price which matches that. On shorter subscriptions ExpressVPN and NordVPN aren’t the cheapest VPNs out there but also certainly aren’t the most expensive.

ExpressVPN does currently have a deal on which gives you three months for free on a 12-month subscription, which is great value.

Longer subscriptions are where NordVPN really differentiates itself. For those happy making a three-year commitment, NordVPN is the clear winner: its three-year plan offers massive savings – 70% off. The low monthly price of just $3.49 makes it the best value VPN available, and our number one cheap VPN, too.

This isn’t a small commitment, though, and you’ll have to pay $125.64 upfront for the three-year package.

Roundup & Verdict

It’s close, but ExpressVPN claims victory as the better VPN in 2019.

NordVPN performs better in its logging policy and price, but ExpressVPN has come out first for speed, bypassing censorship, encryption, customer support and streaming.

That said, if you find yourself put off by the price-tag: get NordVPN on a longer plan for the best value VPN on the market.

If you’re still making your mind up, you can find a full rundown of each VPN in our full ExpressVPN and NordVPN reviews.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio