NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

Our Verdict

ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN. While both VPNs are excellent, ExpressVPN is more secure, is better for streaming and torrenting, and is more effective at bypassing censorship. On the other hand, NordVPN is cheaper and faster. ExpressVPN is our winner, but NordVPN is a very close second.

ExpressVPN vs BestVPN

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both excellent VPN services. They each provide industry-leading security, privacy, unrestricted internet access, and fast connection speeds.

But which is better, ExpressVPN or NordVPN?

In this guide, we’ll compare how ExpressVPN and NordVPN performed in nine key areas when we put tme through our rigorous testing process.

Before we dive in, here’s a quick overview of which VPN is better in each area. Use the links in the table to skip to a detailed comparison of that category.

Winner
Speed & Reliability NordVPN
Streaming & Torrenting ExpressVPN
Security & Encryption ExpressVPN
Bypassing Censorship ExpressVPN
Privacy & Logging Policy NordVPN
Server Network ExpressVPN
Apps & Ease Of Use ExpressVPN
Customer Support ExpressVPN
Price & Value for Money NordVPN

ExpressVPN and NordVPN overall comparison table

ExpressVPN is the winner, beating NordVPN in 6 out of 9 categories.

SUMMARY

ExpressVPN comes out on top in six categories, including security, streaming, and bypassing censorship. Whereas NordVPN beats ExpressVPN in just three areas: logging policy, price, and speed.

Just because ExpressVPN is our overall winner doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better VPN for you, though. NordVPN is still one of the best VPN services around. It’s significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN and puts up a huge fight in every category.

Jump to one of the sections using the links in the table. Or check out our complete ExpressVPN review or NordVPN review.

Test 1: Speed & Reliability

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Download speed 87Mbps 92Mbps
Upload speed 91Mbps 94Mbps
Latency/Ping 8ms 8ms
Average speed loss 8% 2%

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s speed results on a local (UK-to-UK) connection

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the fastest and most reliable VPNs on the market. They both provide great speeds for streaming, torrenting, and gaming.

In terms of download speeds, NordVPN is often faster than ExpressVPN on same-country connections. When testing a UK-to-UK NordVPN connection, we experienced an average speed loss of just 2%, compared to ExpressVPN’s 8%.

NordVPN has also narrowed the gap with ExpressVPN on long-distance connections. Our automated VPN speed test tool shows that NordVPN is now almost as fast on connections from the UK to the US.

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

SUMMARY

Both VPNs deliver excellent speeds, but NordVPN is marginally faster than ExpressVPN connecting to nearby servers.

Speed & Reliability Winner: NordVPN

Test 2: 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

NordVPN and ExpressVPN both work seamlessly with streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, and more.

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

Streaming Difficulties

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN do have some minor streaming shortcomings, however.

On one hand, ExpressVPN has recently been quite unreliable when it comes to unlocking BBC iPlayer. We’ve found it does work eventually, but you’ll probably need to try a few different before you gain access.

We’ve had the most success using ExpressVPN’s browser extensions, and connecting to the ‘London’ or ‘Wembley’ server.

On the other hand, NordVPN has issues unlocking streaming platforms when installed at router level. This is a little more problematic, as it can limit NordVPN’s usefulness with devices like Apple TV and Chromecast. This issue could be solved if NordVPN offered a Smart DNS feature, like ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer, but the omission means NordVPN is unable to stream geo-blocked content on Apple TV and games consoles.

Torrenting Support

As for torrenting and P2P, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both excellent services to keep your downloads safe and anonymous. The only difference between them is that ExpressVPN allows anonymous torrents on all servers while NordVPN only permits torrenting on specific ones.

We’ve put together a full guide on torrenting with ExpressVPN, if you want to learn more.

SUMMARY

Both VPN services are great for torrenting and for streaming region-restricted content on a range of platforms. However, ExpressVPN is ultimately the better option given that NordVPN struggles to unblock Netflix on Apple TV and does not permit P2P traffic on all of its servers.

Streaming & Torrenting Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 3: Security & Encryption Strength

ExpressVPN NordVPN
VPN protocols IKEv2/IPSec, L2TP, OpenVPN, PPTP, Lightway IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN, NordLynx
Encryption cipher 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

To protect their user’s security, VPN services need to be using the strongest and most up-to-date encryption software. Thankfully, NordVPN and ExpressVPN both excel in this department.

Both services use the industry’s safest VPN protocol, OpenVPN, along with the military-grade cipher AES-256. They also offer several other protocols to choose from, including IKEv2.

While NordVPN should be commended for being the first of the two to incorporate the highly-regarded WireGuard protocol, ExpressVPN is still the stronger option when it comes to protocols due to its wider array of choices and an excellent automatic protocol selection tool.

Both VPNs include a number of important security features such as perfect forward secrecy, split tunneling, leak protection, and first-party DNS.

They also both offer a VPN kill switch, each with its own unique drawback. For ExpressVPN, the kill switch doesn’t work on iOS. For NordVPN, it doesn’t work on Android or Amazon Fire TV Stick.

In terms of security differences between the two services, NordVPN has a great ‘Double VPN’ feature that allows users to route their traffic through two different VPN servers in order to provide an extra layer of encryption.

However, ExpressVPN is our pick for the most secure. We love its automatic protocol selection tool and proprietary ‘TrustedServer’ technology, which prevents user data from ever being written to the VPN server.

You also need to consider the effect of NordVPN’s security breach in 2018. NordVPN’s initiatives since the incident have been impressive, however the hack will have damaged some users’ trust in the company. You can more about these in our full NordVPN review.

SUMMARY

Both VPN services are extremely secure, using the very best VPN protocols, encryption ciphers, and advanced security features. ExpressVPN is marginally better because of its automatic protocol selection tool, its TrustedServer technology, and NordVPN’s recent security breach.

Security & Encryption Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 4: Bypassing Censorship

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Works in China Yes Sometimes
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

On the whole, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work well in countries with aggressive online censorship, including Turkey, Iran, and Russia.

They use their own in-built obfuscation technologies, which disguise your traffic among regular HTTPS traffic. This lets you successfully circumvent national firewalls.

The ultimate test when it comes to bypassing censorship is being able to beat China’s Great Firewall. Here, ExpressVPN outperforms NordVPN by some measure.

ExpressVPN works well in China, despite the strict web filters. You should be prepared for much slower speeds, though, as bypassing the Great Firewall comes at a cost.

NordVPN sometimes works in China, too, but it has been inconsistent and unreliable over the last three months. NordVPN’s obfuscation tools are not available through iOS, either, so iPhone users in particular will struggle to bypass censorship in China.

NOTE: Check out our China VPN tracker for regularly-updated research into how which VPNs are working in China.

SUMMARY

ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN when it comes to bypassing censorship. While NordVPN is generally good at beating online censors, ExpressVPN is a much more reliable VPN for use in China.

Bypassing Censorship Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 5: Logging Policy & Privacy Standards

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Connection logs Yes Yes
Activity logs No No
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands Panama
Externally audited July 2019 May 2020

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 May 2020 and ExpressVPN also by PwC in July 2019.

These audits set an encouraging standard for the industry, but their purpose is only to confirm that the VPN service is doing what it says it is in the logging policy. Audits do not assess the strength of a provider’s 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 covers the full picture. Both VPNs keep some data, but the nature and scope of that data is not the same.

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. This data is then wiped within 15 minutes of disconnecting.

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).

These are countries located outside of international intelligence-sharing alliances (e.g. Five Eyes), where companies are not compelled by law to store any sort of user information.

SUMMARY

NordVPN is slightly better for privacy due to the fact it stores less user information than ExpressVPN and automatically deletes all logs after 15 minutes. The two VPNs are based in equally privacy-friendly countries.

Privacy & Logging Policy Winner: NordVPN

Anotated map depicting the locations of NordVPN and ExpressVPN

Test 6: Server Network Size & Locations

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Total countries 94 59
Countries with city-level choice 15 5
Total servers 3,000+ 5,515

NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s worldwide server locations

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have an impressive number of VPN servers across a huge number of countries. It is ExpressVPN that offers servers in more countries, though. It also provides more specific city-level locations – triple the number that NordVPN offers.

NordVPN, on the other hand, has a much larger server network, with over 5,515 servers compared to ExpressVPN’s 3,000+. The difference in server count might seem large, but as a user you’re unlikely to notice any difference given that 3,000+ is still a very impressive amount.

As for specific server 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.

It’s very close but ExpressVPN wins the server battle. It covers more countries and it offers a greater range of dedicated city-level server locations in major countries like the US and the UK.

SUMMARY

NordVPN has a higher number of total servers, but ExpressVPN wins because it provides servers in more locations. ExpressVPN offers servers in almost double the number of countries and cities that NordVPN offers, allowing users much greater freedom of choice.

Server Network Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 7: Apps & Ease of Use

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

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s device compatibility

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

ExpressVPN and NordVPN also 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. This means that, unless you’re careful, the extension could become a privacy risk as it only protects traffic inside the browser. Any data you send outside of the browser will not be protected.

NordVPN has an easy, user-friendly interface, with an interactive map visualization of their servers. This is a nice gimmick, which doesn’t necessarily add much compared to ExpressVPN’s more minimalist approach but it 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 services 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 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

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

SUMMARY

Both VPNs provide apps that are easy-to-use and available on all major devices. NordVPN’s apps are not complicated, but the fact that ExpressVPN’s apps are identical across all platforms makes them much easier for users to navigate. ExpressVPN’s browser extension is also more private and secure than NordVPN’s.

Apps & Ease Of Use Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 8: Customer Support

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

ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s customer support options

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.

The VPNs are neck-and-neck in terms of the customer service materials they produce. For one topic, it might be the case that NordVPN has a more robust guide. But then, on another topic, ExpressVPN’s material will be better.

It should be noted that neither service has phone support, but this is pretty standard in the VPN industry.

Both contenders excel when it comes to customer service, but ExpressVPN just about claims victory because we consistently find its 24/7 live chat to be faster and more convenient.

SUMMARY

Two excellent customer service departments, with very little between them. ExpressVPN is victorious because agents are consistently quicker in their replies and the process is generally more convenient. However, we also have complete trust in the NordVPN customer support to solve any issues you may have.

Customer Support Winner: ExpressVPN

Test 9: Price & Value For Money

ExpressVPN NordVPN
One month $12.95 $11.95
Six months $9.99 N/A
12 months $6.67 (first year only) $4.92
Two years N/A $3.71

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

NordVPN’s cheapest monthly price is $3.71, compared to ExpressVPN’s cheapest price of $6.67 per month. This makes NordVPN a significantly cheaper option, and represents a big saving of 68%, relative to NordVPN’s monthly plan.

To qualify for this pricing, you’ll need to commit to a two-year plan and pay the full amount ($89.00) upfront. If you’re willing to do this, NordVPN is one of the best value VPN services you can buy.

However, if you’re not ready to sign up for a two-year VPN subscription, then there’s less of a price difference between ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

It’s worth pointing out that ExpressVPN currently has a deal on, which gives you three free extra months on top of its 12-month subscription. This works out as a discount of 49%.

Also, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, which gives you up to a month to claim a full refund. We’ve put together guides to explain how to claim this offer:

SUMMARY

NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN. A NordVPN subscription costs as little as $3.71 a month, but only if you’re willing to sign up for two years and pay the full $89.00 upfront.

Price & Value Winner: NordVPN

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio