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. Both services provide equally impressive speeds but ExpressVPN is more secure, offers better streaming and torrenting, and is superior for bypassing censorship. On the other hand, NordVPN is cheaper and boasts a safer logging policy. ExpressVPN is our winner, but NordVPN is a very close second.

ExpressVPN vs BestVPN

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both excellent VPN services. Our experts say they’re the best two VPNs on the market, with both offering industry-leading security, privacy, and speed performance.

But which is better, ExpressVPN or NordVPN?

We regularly test both services on features such as connection speed, encryption strength, streaming ability, and much more. In this guide, we’ll compare how ExpressVPN and NordVPN perform against each other in the nine most important categories.

You can skip to the Quick Summary section for a brief overview of which VPN is best in each category. Or just jump straight to a specific feature using the links below.

Quick Summary: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Winner
Speed Tie
Streaming & torrenting ExpressVPN
Security ExpressVPN
Bypassing censorship ExpressVPN
Logging policy & jurisdiction NordVPN
Server locations ExpressVPN
Apps & ease of use ExpressVPN
Customer support ExpressVPN
Price NordVPN

ExpressVPN and NordVPN overall comparison table

In short, ExpressVPN comes out on top in six categories, including security, streaming, and bypassing censorship. Whereas NordVPN beats ExpressVPN in just two areas: logging policy and price. When it comes to speed, the two VPNs perform equally well.

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

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 is 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 to read a more detailed comparison. Or check out our complete reviews of either ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Speed & Reliability

Summary: Both VPNs deliver excellent speeds. NordVPN is faster at connecting to nearby servers, while ExpressVPN is generally quicker on long-distance connections. There is no clear winner between them.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Download speed 85Mbps 92Mbps
Upload speed 91Mbps 94Mbps
Latency/Ping 8ms 8ms
Average speed loss 11% 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 local, same-country connections. When testing a UK-to-UK NordVPN connection, we experienced an average speed loss of just 2%, compared to an 11% average when using ExpressVPN.

However, ExpressVPN generally outperforms NordVPN on more long-distance connections. We recorded the following speeds connecting from the UK to VPN servers around the world:

ExpressVPN

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

NordVPN

  • Germany: 83Mbps (download) & 94Mbps (upload)
  • USA: 74Mbps (download) & 43Mbps (upload)
  • Singapore: 63Mbps (download) & 21Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 56Mbps (download) & 29Mbps (upload)

Speed & Reliability Winner: Tie

Streaming & Torrenting

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 torrenting on all of its servers.

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 offer reliable unrestricted access to streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, and more.

Neither VPN has dedicated streaming servers, unlike CyberGhost, but they really 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.

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

On one hand, ExpressVPN struggles to unlock BBC iPlayer from within the UK. This is an inconvenience, but UK users can overcome it by using ExpressVPN’s split-tunneling feature to stream BBC iPlayer outside of the VPN.

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.

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.

Streaming & Torrenting Winner: ExpressVPN

Encryption & Security

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

ExpressVPN NordVPN
VPN protocols IKEv2/IPSec, L2TP, OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN
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 leading VPN protocol, OpenVPN, along with the military-grade cipher AES-256. They also offer a number of 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 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. While we have been very impressed with NordVPN’s response to this event and trust in its security processes, a hack of this nature will undoubtedly damage some users’ confidence in the service.

Encryption & Security Winner: ExpressVPN

Bypassing Censorship

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.

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 to successfully circumvent the national firewalls in these countries.

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

ExpressVPN consistently and reliably beats Chinese web filters and is our top pick for a VPN to use in China. You should be prepared for much slower speeds, though, as bypassing the GFW comes at a cost.

NordVPN sometimes works in China, too, but it has been inconsistent and unreliable since China’s 2018 VPN crackdown. NordVPN’s obfuscation tools are not available through iOS, either, so iPhone users in particular will struggle in China.

Bypassing Censorship Winner: ExpressVPN

Logging Policy & Jurisdiction

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.

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 only serve to confirm that the VPN provider is doing what they say in their 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 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. 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.

Logging Policy & Jurisdiction Winner: NordVPN

Anotated map depicting the locations of NordVPN and ExpressVPN

Server Locations

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.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Total countries 94 59
Countries with city-level choice 10 5
Total servers 3,000+ 5,500+

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. It is ExpressVPN that offers servers in more countries, though. It also provides more specific city-level locations – double the number that NordVPN offers.

NordVPN, on the other hand, has a much larger server network, with over 5,500 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.

Server Locations Winner: ExpressVPN

Apps & Ease of Use

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.

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 both have router support, too.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN also 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. 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 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 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.

Apps & Ease Of Use Winner: ExpressVPN

Customer Support

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 have complete trust in the NordVPN customer support to solve any issues you may have.

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 the 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.

Customer Support Winner: ExpressVPN

Price

Summary: In theory, NordVPN is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN. A NordVPN subscription costs as little as $3.49 a month, but only if you’re willing to sign up for 3 years and pay the full $125.64 up front. If you’re not, then there’s very little difference in pricing between the two.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Single month $12.95 $11.95
Six months $9.99 N/A
12 months $6.67 (first year only) $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

NordVPN’s cheapest monthly price is $3.49, compared to ExpressVPN’s cheapest price of $6.67 per month. This makes NordVPN a significantly cheaper option and represents a huge saving of 70% relative to other NordVPN pricing options.

To qualify for this pricing, you’ll need to commit to a three-year plan and pay the entire amount ($125.64) up front. If this is something you’re willing to do, NordVPN is a great value service and we recommend it as our favorite ‘cheap’ VPN.

However, if you’re not ready to sign up to a three-year VPN subscription, then there’s really not a lot between ExpressVPN and NordVPN in terms of pricing.

ExpressVPN does currently have 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%.

Both services also offer a generous 30-day money-back guarantee — meaning that, whether you end up choosing NordVPN or ExpressVPN, you have up to a month to claim a full refund should you decide the VPN isn’t for you.

Price 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