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NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Simon Migliano

Simon Migliano 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 and more.

Our Verdict

ExpressVPN is the better choice, beating NordVPN in 70% of our testing categories. ExpressVPN has servers in 35 more countries than NordVPN, and its international speeds are 8Mbps faster on average. That said, NordVPN costs half the price of ExpressVPN, and it includes more security features. ExpressVPN is our winner, but NordVPN is a close second.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN's apps side-by-side

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are our most highly-rated VPN services. Each VPN provides best-in-class security, privacy, unrestricted internet access, and fast connection speeds.

It’s a close call to pick the better VPN, and many of our readers ask us: which is better in 2022, NordVPN or ExpressVPN?

In this guide, we compare ExpressVPN and NordVPN in ten key test areas, based on our extensive VPN testing process.

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Quick Summary: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Here’s a summary of how NordVPN and ExpressVPN compare in our 10 VPN testing categories:

Category Winner
Speed & Reliability NordVPN

NordVPN is 7% quicker than ExpressVPN on nearby servers.

Streaming ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN works with more content platforms than NordVPN and is compatible with a wider range of streaming devices.

Encryption & Security NordVPN

NordVPN’s apps include more advanced security features, including an ad blocker. Plus, it won’t leak your IP address when changing servers.

Logging & Privacy ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is slightly more privacy-focused than NordVPN as it refuses to cooperate with any court-ordered user logging.

Torrenting ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN supports P2P file-sharing on every server, whereas NordVPN only does on a subset of its server network.

Ease of Use ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN’s apps are deliberately simple, making them easy to set up and use, even for beginners.

Server Locations ExpressVPN

With ExpressVPN, you can get an IP address from 35 more countries than NordVPN.

Price & Value NordVPN

NordVPN costs $3.29 on its two-year subscription plan, making it less than half the price of ExpressVPN.

Bypassing Censorship ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is far more reliable at bypassing Chinese and Russian VPN blocks due to its always-on obfuscation technology.

Customer Support ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN’s online tutorials and videos are more useful and easier to follow than NordVPN’s.

We Recommend Choosing NordVPN if You Need:

  • Fast connection speeds. Using the NordLynx (WireGuard) protocol, we recorded just a 2% speed loss when connecting to a nearby NordVPN server.
  • A more affordable VPN service. If you pay upfront for a long-term plan, you can get NordVPN for as little as $3.29 a month.
  • All-in-one cybersecurity software. NordVPN includes a full suite of advanced features, including a malware blocker and secure remote device access. For an additional cost, you can even store passwords and files in encrypted cloud storage.

Visit NordVPN or read our full NordVPN review.

We Recommend Choosing ExpressVPN if You Need:

  • Access to geo-blocked streaming services. ExpressVPN works with 10 Netflix libraries, including the US, as well as HBO Max, DAZN Canada, BBC iPlayer, and lots more.
  • Fast and private torrenting downloads. ExpressVPN is one of only a few VPNs that supports P2P file-sharing on every server. No matter where you are, you’ll be able to connect to a fast server for torrenting.
  • Easy-to-use apps. ExpressVPN is the most user-friendly VPN we’ve tested and requires no learning curve. It takes one click to connect to a VPN server, making it accessible for all users.

To compare more VPN services side-by-side, see our VPN comparison tool.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Speed

SUMMARY:

NordVPN is the faster VPN on nearby servers, but ExpressVPN is faster on far-away servers. The best option for you will come down to your use case. If you will use a VPN for torrenting or encrypting general web activity, NordVPN will be quicker. If you’ll be streaming geo-blocked content, then ExpressVPN’s speeds will be better.

Winner: NordVPN

Here’s a quick summary of how we calculated NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s speed performance:

  • Speed categories tested: Download, upload, ping, reliability
  • Frequency of speed tests: 28 per VPN service per week
  • Number of VPN servers tested: 11 locations in 4 continents per VPN service
  • Tested protocol: Default (NordLynx & Lightway)
  • Platforms used: Windows, iOS, Xbox

The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s speed performance.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Speed & Reliability Rating
9.5
9.2
Local Download Speed
98Mbps
92Mbps
UK-US Download Speed
78.76Mbps
82.67Mbps
Local Upload Speed
95Mbps
92Mbps
Ping
8ms
8ms
Time to Connect
2.2 seconds
1.1 seconds
Fastest VPN Protocol
WireGuard (NordLynx)
Lightway

NordVPN is faster than ExpressVPN on nearby servers

To test NordVPN and ExpressVPN local speeds, we used the app’s automatic server selection feature. In NordVPN, this is called ‘Quick Connect’. In ExpressVPN, it’s named ‘Smart Location’.

We found that NordVPN’s speeds are noticeably faster on local connections. When using it, our download speeds dropped by just 2% to 98Mbps. By contrast, ExpressVPN caused our speeds to slow to 92Mbps, an 8% drop.

Both VPNs will be more than fast enough for almost every web activity. However, if you want the fastest raw download speed, NordVPN will perform better on nearby servers.

Our automated VPN speed test tool found similar results, which you can see in the graph below:

Provider speed comparison chart

Upload speeds are important for nearby connections. You’re more likely to be connecting locally when using the VPN for activities like torrenting and secure video conferencing.

NordVPN’s upload speeds are also faster than ExpressVPN’s. In our tests, we recorded an upload speed reduction of 5% with NordVPN, compared to 8% with ExpressVPN.

It’s also been faster than ExpressVPN over the entire previous eight weeks, as the graph below shows.

Provider speed comparison chart

ExpressVPN is faster for long-distance connections

To stream geo-blocked video content in HD and 4K, a VPN needs to have fast download speeds on international connections.

We recorded ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s download speeds while connected to servers in four different continents from our test location in the UK. Here’s a table showing our results:

Server Location
NordVPN
ExpressVPN
US
78.76Mbps
82.67Mbps
Germany
88.02Mbps
92.19Mbps
Singapore
66.51Mbps
76.60Mbps
Australia
59.29Mbps
72.74Mbps

As you can see, ExpressVPN is faster than NordVPN on every international server. Though the difference is not that stark, our content still loaded quicker and we didn’t experience any buffering.

Identical ping speed for gaming

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the best gaming VPNs we’ve tested. Both services increased our ping time to just 8ms, which was unnoticeable in use.

We played a variety of fast-paced PC games, including CS:GO and PUBG. In every case, the added latency wasn’t noticeable. We didn’t experience any input lag and all games loaded quickly.

Xbox and PS5 don’t support VPN apps, so we had to install the VPNs on our router to use them there. ExpressVPN was much easier to configure, as it’s one of the only VPNs to have a router app.

This meant we could use an online interface to easily change between server locations, like Egypt, to get easier gaming lobbies. With NordVPN, we had to manually download and configure OpenVPN files, which was more difficult and time-consuming.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN being used for online gaming

Online games were lag-free when using both VPN services.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Streaming

SUMMARY:

ExpressVPN is slightly better than NordVPN for streaming geo-blocked video content. Both services are excellent and work with all popular content platforms, including Netflix, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. But ExpressVPN has faster speeds on long-distance connections and its Smart DNS feature works with US Netflix.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we tested to calculate NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s streaming performance:

  • 30+ Netflix libraries to see how often each VPN could access them.
  • Compatibility with HBO Max, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, DAZN, and more.
  • Long-distance speed performance for streaming in HD on far-away streaming services.
  • Streaming device apps and Smart DNS to stream geo-blocked content on every device.
  • The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s streaming performance.

    NordVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Streaming Rating
    9.8
    9.9
    US Netflix
    Yes
    Yes
    No. of Netflix Libraries
    11
    10
    BBC iPlayer
    Yes
    Yes
    HBO Max
    Yes
    Yes
    UK-US Download Speed
    78.76Mbps
    82.67Mbps
    Smart DNS
    Unreliable
    Yes

    NordVPN is more reliable for international Netflix

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN work with US Netflix and both VPNs unblock a similar amount of other Netflix libraries. In total, ExpressVPN streams 10 regions. NordVPN can access 11.

    Our research found that NordVPN is also more reliable than ExpressVPN for some Netflix regions. With ExpressVPN, we occasionally had to change servers many times before finding one that works. Sometimes, the VPN had stopped working with the region altogether.

    With NordVPN, we were always able to access the most popular Netflix libraries. Including the UK, Japan, Australia, and Italy.

    See our Netflix tests in the table below. You can compare how well both VPNs performed, including which Netflix libraries they unblock and how often they can access them.

    Netflix Library
    NordVPN
    Reliability
    ExpressVPN
    Reliability
    Australia
    Yes
    91%
    Yes

    45%
    Brazil
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    91%
    Canada
    No
    0%
    Yes
    82%
    France
    Yes
    91%
    Yes

    91%
    Germany
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    91%
    Italy
    Yes
    82%
    Yes
    18%
    Japan
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    18%
    Netherlands
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    82%
    South Korea
    Yes
    91%
    No
    0%
    Switzerland
    Yes
    82%
    No
    0%
    UK
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    91%
    US
    Yes
    91%
    Yes
    100%

    In all, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are excellent VPN options for streaming geo-blocked Netflix content. We prefer ExpressVPN as it works on more of our devices.

    Both VPNs access US streaming sites from anywhere

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN are top choices for streaming. Using them, we could access all popular American streaming services on every server, including HBO Max, DAZN, and Prime Video.

    Here’s a table showing how well the VPNs performed at unlocking US streaming services:

    Streaming Service
    NordVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Disney+
    Yes
    Yes
    Amazon Prime Video
    Yes
    Yes
    HBO Max
    Yes
    Yes
    Hulu
    Yes
    Yes
    MLB.tv
    Yes
    Yes
    Paramount+
    Yes
    No
    Peacock
    Yes
    No

    No matter which VPN you choose, you’ll be able to stream popular US streaming sites and apps from anywhere.

    In the video below, you can see us testing ExpressVPN in real-time with popular sites, like Netflix and Hulu.

NordVPN is a better choice for BBC iPlayer

NordVPN is a better choice for UK streaming services, like BBC iPlayer. NordVPN could stream BBC content on every UK server, but we sometimes had to use ExpressVPN’s browser extension or Smart DNS tool to access it.

Like NordVPN, ExpressVPN worked with other UK content platforms, including All 4 and ITV Hub.

Both VPNs also have a huge server network in the UK, which meant we could always connect to a fast, uncongested server.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Encryption & Security

SUMMARY:

Our research found that NordVPN is marginally more secure than ExpressVPN. NordVPN uses reputable encryption ciphers and protocols, like WireGuard and ChaCha20, while ExpressVPN uses proprietary alternatives. ExpressVPN also leaks your true IP address when changing servers on macOS, and it doesn’t come with an ad blocker.

Winner: NordVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we tested to calculate how NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s encryption and security performance:

  • Protocols and encryption ciphers to check the security of the VPN tunnel.
  • Kill switch effectiveness to see if the VPN leaks your true IP address when changing servers or during a network reconnection.
  • First-party DNS and DNS leak protection to ensure the VPN isn’t leaking DNS requests to your ISP.
  • Extra security features, like double hop and ad blocking software.

The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s encryption and security features.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Encryption & Security Rating
9.7
9.6
VPN Protocols
WireGuard & OpenVPN
Lightway & OpenVPN
Encryption Cipher
AES-256 & ChaCha20
AES-256 & wolfSSL
Kill Switch
Yes
Yes
Leak Protection
Yes
Yes
First-Party DNS
Yes
Yes
Open-Source Apps
No
Browser Extension Only
Colocated Servers
Yes
No

NordVPN uses tested protocols and encryption ciphers

For security, the main difference between NordVPN and ExpressVPN is the choice of VPN protocols and encryption ciphers.

NordVPN uses WireGuard (NordLynx) and ChaCha20. WireGuard is an open-source VPN protocol that’s used by many other VPN services. We consider it best-in-class due to its balance between strong security and fast speeds.

ExpressVPN instead uses its proprietary Lightway protocol with wolfSSL for encryption. Lightway has performed extremely well in our speed and security tests, but it’s simply not as trustworthy as a widely-used protocol like WireGuard.

Both VPNs also include Perfect Forward Secrecy, a 4096-bit RSA key, and SHA-512 HMAC authentication.

To test how well both VPNs encrypt network traffic, we analyzed our data packets using Wireshark. As you can see in the screenshots below, both VPNs successfully encrypted our web data. Our traffic was shown as random strings of text and not plain text.

Testing NordVPN and ExpressVPN's encryption strength using Wireshark

NordVPN and ExpressVPN successfully encrypted our internet traffic.

Alternatively, both VPNs allow you to manually select other protocols, like OpenVPN and IKEv2. For the best performance, we recommend sticking with the automatic protocol selection.

ExpressVPN’s kill switch can leak your IP address when changing servers

A kill switch stops your IP address from leaking outside of the VPN tunnel if your connection drops. NordVPN and ExpressVPN include a kill switch on their Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android apps.

To verify that the VPN’s kill switches work as advertised, we tested them using our bespoke kill switch testing tool. This monitors IP address leaks after an unexpected internet disconnection.

We found that ExpressVPN’s macOS client will leak your true IP address when changing server locations. The app does warn you about this, but it’s still disappointing. By contrast, NordVPN’s kill switch successfully prevented our IP address from leaking on every platform.

Testing NordVPN and ExpressVPN's kill switch feature

ExpressVPN leaked our IP address when switching to a different server.

Here are our full kill switch test results:

Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
NordVPN
No leak
No leak
No leak
No leak
ExpressVPN
No leak
Leak when changing servers
No leak
No leak

NordVPN’s kill switch is also more customizable than ExpressVPN’s. As well as the system-wide option, its app kill switch allows you to set kill switch rules for specific apps. This is useful if you need certain apps to always maintain network access, such as for cloud syncing and file-sharing.

Both VPNs include IPv6 & DNS leak protection

NordVPN and ExpressVPN passed our IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak tests on all of their apps.

As the screenshot below shows, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN concealed our true DNS and IP location in the UK.

Testing NordVPN and ExpressVPN's DNS leak protection

Neither VPN leaked our DNS address.

Both VPN services operated their own network of encrypted DNS servers. In simple terms, this means that your ISP can’t see the websites you visit while connected to the VPN.

NordVPN blocks most ads and trackers

NordVPN includes a free ad and tracker blocker in all of its VPN apps. Named Threat Protection, this feature blocks ads on websites like Google, Twitch, and YouTube. ExpressVPN doesn’t come with any ad blocking functionality.

Our VPN ad-blocking tests found that Threat Protection is one of the best VPN ad blockers, blocking 60% of ads. ExpressVPN didn’t block any.

ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager feature, available only on iOS and Mac, claims to block trackers. However, this feature was close to useless in our tests. ExpressVPN blocked only 3% of trackers, whereas NordVPN’s Threat Protection blocked 66%.

You can see how well NordVPN’s ad and tracker blocker performed in the graph below:

NordVPN's ad blocker performance represented in a graph

NordVPN blocks the majority of ads and analytic trackers.

NordVPN includes many more advanced features

ExpressVPN comes with a limited amount of bonus features. Both it and NordVPN have split tunneling and RAM servers, but NordVPN also includes a lot more.

Most significantly, it has an excellent double VPN feature and its dedicated IP address functionality was excellent at avoiding CAPTCHAs on search engines.

Here’s a table comparing the advanced features included by NordVPN and ExpressVPN:

Additional Feature
NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Colocated Servers
Yes
No
Custom DNS
Yes
No
Dedicated IP Address
Yes
No
Double VPN
Yes
No
Onion over VPN
Yes
No
Remote Device Access
Yes
No
SOCKS5 Proxy
Yes
No

As you can see, NordVPN comes with many more advanced security features than ExpressVPN.

We were particularly impressed with its remote device access feature. Called Meshnet, this allows you to securely route your traffic through any of your other devices. For instance, you can set up your PC to act as a VPN server when you’re away from home.

That said, all of these features come at a cost. NordVPN’s customization options make the app feel cluttered and less accessible for beginners compared to ExpressVPN. You can read more about this in the ease of use section in this comparison guide.

But if you’re an advanced user that wants even more configurable options, though, PIA is a good alternative to NordVPN.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Logging & Privacy

SUMMARY:

ExpressVPN is slightly more private than NordVPN. Mainly due to its BVI jurisdiction and its refusal to abide by any court order. Neither VPN logs any activity data, though, and both privacy policies have been audited by an independent third party.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we tested to determine how privacy-focused NordVPN and ExpressVPN are:

  • Logging policy to work out how much data either VPN retains about users and user activity.
  • Jurisdiction to see if the VPN has to adhere to any laws surrounding data retention and data sharing.
  • Third-party audits to confirm the VPN is only logging the data it states in its privacy policy.
  • The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s privacy and logging policy performance.

    NordVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Privacy & Logging Rating
    9.5
    9.6
    Logging Policy
    No Logs
    Anonymous Server Data
    Jurisdiction
    Panama
    British Virgin Islands (BVI)
    Independently Verified
    Yes
    Yes
    Warrant Canary
    Yes
    No

    ExpressVPN logs more data than NordVPN

    NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both very private VPN services. Neither service collects any information that could identify you from your online activity.

    However, ExpressVPN retains slightly more information than NordVPN. It logs the date of connection, server location, and the total amount of data transmitted during the network session.

    Here’s a table showing what information NordVPN and ExpressVPN log:

    NordVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Bandwidth
    No
    Yes
    Connection Timestamps
    Yes
    Yes
    Device Information
    No
    No
    DNS Queries
    No
    No
    Email Address
    Yes
    Yes
    IP Address
    No
    No
    Server Choice
    No
    Yes
    URLs Accessed
    No
    No

    As you can see, ExpressVPN retains slightly more connection data than NordVPN. We currently classify NordVPN as a no-logs VPN and ExpressVPN as collecting anonymous server usage data.

    Still, neither service collects personally-identifiable activity data. Both VPNs have been subject to external audits to confirm this. NordVPN most recently in 2021 and ExpressVPN in 2022.

    In short, NordVPN and ExpressVPN can be trusted with your most sensitive web traffic.

    Both VPNs are based in a private jurisdiction

    Both VPN companies are located in privacy-friendly jurisdictions: the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for ExpressVPN and Panama for NordVPN.

    Panama and the British Virgin Islands are located outside of international intelligence-sharing alliances, like the Five Eyes, where companies are not compelled by law to store any sort of user information.

    Anotated map of NordVPN and ExpressVPN jurisdictions

    NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both based in privacy havens.

    However, NordVPN recently admitted that, if ordered by a court of law, it could start keeping activity logs of specific users under criminal investigation. This would trigger a change in the VPN’s warrant canary, so we’re confident NordVPN users would know about this long before any logging took place.

    But it’s still worth considering if you’re a privacy-focused user. ExpressVPN has not said either way what action it’d take in the same situation.

    Both VPNs have improved after previous controversy

    NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the most trusted and reputable VPNs available. After receiving criticism in the past, both services have worked hard to rebuild their reputation.

    For NordVPN, one of its servers was hacked in 2018 due to poor configuration by a third-party server provider. Though there’s no evidence that any traffic was monitored, NordVPN was slow to disclose the issue to its users.

    Since then, the VPN has introduced a range of security features to prevent a similar breach in the future. The VPN now includes RAM-based servers, colocated servers owned by NordVPN, and regular third party security tests.

    ExpressVPN received criticism after being acquired by Kape Technologies in 2021. Kape previously made money through ad platforms. However, it shut these down in 2016, long before purchasing ExpressVPN.

    Kape now runs four top VPN services, including Private Internet Access and CyberGhost. All run independently of one another and ExpressVPN’s privacy features have remained intact ever since the acquisition.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Torrenting

SUMMARY:

ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN for safe torrenting. ExpressVPN supports P2P traffic on all its servers – that’s twice as many countries as NordVPN. Its router app also supports port forwarding, but this hasn’t been working of late.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we measured to calculate NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s torrenting performance:

  • Bitrate when downloading a torrent file to calculate the average time to download.
  • The total number of P2P optimized servers for nearby and fast connections.
  • Logging policy to verify neither VPN can forward DMCA requests to users.
  • Functional kill switch to prevent your IP address from leaking if your connection drops while torrenting.
  • Compatibility with popular torrenting clients, including qBittorrent and uTorrent.

The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s torrenting performance.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Torrenting Rating
8.9
9.5
Average Download Bitrate
9.5Mib/s
9.4MiB/s
No. of P2P Servers
4,250
3,000
Logging Policy
No Logs
Anonymous Server Data
Kill Switch
Yes
Yes
Port Forwarding
No
Router app only

ExpressVPN supports P2P file-sharing on every server

With ExpressVPN, you can download torrent files using all 3,000 servers in 94 countries.

Unlike NordVPN, every one of these servers is optimized for P2P. This means you’ll be able to get a fast connection for torrenting regardless of your location.

NordVPN blocks torrenting traffic on servers in 14 countries, including popular regions like South Korea, Ukraine, and Thailand.

In all, this means ExpressVPN allows P2P traffic in more than twice the amount of countries as NordVPN, 94 compared to 45. If you’re located in one of these unsupported regions, we strongly recommend you opt for ExpressVPN.

Using NordVPN and ExpressVPN to hide torrenting activity from our ISP.

All of ExpressVPN’s servers allow P2P traffic.

To secure P2P connections, both VPNs use either AES-256 or ChaCha20 encryption and come with a robust kill switch. This ensures your real IP address won’t leak outside of the VPN tunnel, even if your connection drops.

Fast bitrate despite no port forwarding

Disappointingly, neither VPN includes port forwarding in its desktop or mobile apps. ExpressVPN does have a port forwarding feature in its router app, but this wasn’t working in our most recent tests.

Port forwarding is an advanced P2P feature that allows you to bypass your router’s NAT firewall. In most cases, this will increase the speed of your connection.

That said, NordVPN and ExpressVPN downloaded torrent files faster than almost every other VPN. Using our 10MiB/s connection, NordVPN recorded an average bitrate of 9.5Mib/s and ExpressVPN was 9.4MiB/s.

Still, if you want to port forward and seed torrent files faster, PIA is a better choice than ExpressVPN.

Here’s how quickly we were able to download a 20GB torrent file compared to when we had no VPN connected:

Download Bitrate
Time To Download 20GB Torrent File
No VPN
10MiB/s
32 minutes
NordVPN
9.5Mib/s
33 minutes
ExpressVPN
9.4MiB/s
34 minutes

As you can see, NordVPN and ExpressVPN add virtually no time to torrenting, even when downloading large torrent files.

You can also view us speed testing NordVPN and ExpressVPN in real-time in the video below. Both VPNs finish downloading the file at almost exactly the same time.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Apps & Ease of Use

SUMMARY:

ExpressVPN’s apps are simpler to use and work identically across all platforms. ExpressVPN’s browser extensions are also more private and secure than NordVPN’s. Unless you want extra customization at the cost of usability, then ExpressVPN is the clear winner in this category.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we looked for to calculate NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s ease of use rating:

  • Simple and fast connection button for beginners who want to quickly secure their network traffic.
  • Automatic settings options for novice users who don’t want a customized VPN experience.
  • Apps for all platforms to ensure you can use the VPN across your devices.
  • The table below compares NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s ease of use and device compatibility:

    NordVPN
    ExpressVPN
    Ease of Use Rating
    9.5
    9.8
    Clicks Required to Connect
    1
    1
    Consitent App Design
    No
    Yes
    Simultaneous Connections
    6
    10
    Desktop Apps
    Windows, macOS, Linux
    Windows, macOS, Linux
    Mobile Apps
    Android, iOS
    Android, iOS
    Browser Extensions
    Chrome, Firefox, Edge
    Chrome, Firefox, Edge
    Streaming Devices
    Android TV, Fire TV
    Android TV, Fire TV
    Smart DNS
    Yes
    Yes
    Router App
    No
    Yes

    ExpressVPN’s apps are easier to use

    ExpressVPN is more user-friendly than NordVPN on every platform and device. You can connect to an ExpressVPN server by pressing the large connect button.

    NordVPN is less intuitive. The connect button is small and hidden in the top right corner. The interface is also cluttered with advanced options, which you may or may not want to see.

    All of ExpressVPN’s apps look almost identical across operating systems, too, so it’ll feel familiar even when switching between its mobile and TV app.

    Here’s a video of us connecting to both NordVPN and ExpressVPN side-by-side:

NordVPN has a slight advantage if you want to use your VPN on multiple devices, though. You can have six active connections running with NordVPN and five with ExpressVPN.

Windows & Mac Apps

ExpressVPN’s Windows and macOS apps are a lot easier to use than NordVPN’s. ExpressVPN’s apps are minimalist, consisting of a large connection button and a simple list of server locations.

All of its settings and options are located where you’d expect them. You can set up the VPN exactly as you want it within a minute, even if you’ve never used a VPN before.

NordVPN’s desktop apps instead use an interactive map visualization of servers. We think this adds complexity without adding much functionality.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN's desktop apps side-by-side.

NordVPN’s desktop apps are less intuitive to use.

Neither VPN provides split tunneling on Mac, due to a technical limitation introduced in macOS Big Sur.

Confusingly, NordVPN has two separate apps available for macOS. The App Store version includes Double VPN and obfuscated servers but doesn’t have a working kill switch. The one available on the NordVPN website has a kill switch but doesn’t have the other features.

Android & iOS

We prefer ExpressVPN’s mobile apps to NordVPN’s. ExpressVPN’s iOS and Android apps look almost identical to the desktop versions. NordVPN looks and functions differently.

ExpressVPN keeps the same large connection button and simple user interface. On a smaller mobile screen, NordVPN has to bury many of its options in tabs and settings screens. We found it hard to find certain options, like changing DNS servers or connecting to a dedicated IP address.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN's mobile apps side-by-side.

ExpressVPN’s apps look similar across devices, NordVPN’s don’t.

That said, we don’t particularly like the design of ExpressVPN’s Android app. It shows you stats on the home screen about the length of your VPN session and the IP address of your VPN server. We don’t think these are useful. You can hide them, but they are enabled by default.

NordVPN also allows you to use its app in dark mode, whereas ExpressVPN doesn’t. We found ExpressVPN to be too bright to use at night when switching between apps.

Both VPN services include a kill switch and a choice of VPN protocols on iOS and Android. However, neither offers split tunneling.

NordVPN’s Threat Protection blocked ads on Safari and Chrome, too. ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager tracker blocker isn’t available on Android, but it didn’t work well in our iOS tests anyway.

Fire TV & Android TV Apps

ExpressVPN is a better choice for Firestick and Android TV devices. It works with more content libraries than NordVPN and it includes a kill switch.

We found that NordVPN’s TV apps only work with eight Netflix libraries, compared to 11 on its other apps. ExpressVPN’s Fire TV and Android TV apps stream slightly more than NordVPN, with a total of 10 Netflix regions.

The main screen of ExpressVPN's Google TV app

ExpressVPN’s TV apps work well for streaming.

ExpressVPN’s TV apps also include a kill switch. This was reassuring when using the VPN to hide Kodi activity from our ISP. With NordVPN, your IP address will leak if your internet connection is lost.

The one downside is ExpressVPN’s TV app design. The app hasn’t been optimized for larger TV screens, so it’s sometimes difficult to know which button is selected. That said, because it looks like all of its other apps, it’s easier to switch between them.

MediaStreamer works with more streaming apps

Both VPNs include a Smart DNS feature with every subscription. Smart DNS connects you to a DNS proxy server in a different country. It can be set up on devices that don’t allow VPN apps, like Smart TVs and game consoles.

However, we found ExpressVPN’s Smart DNS tool (named MediaStreamer), is much better than NordVPN’s.

MediaStreamer works with over 100 streaming services and changes proxy servers depending on the service you open. For instance, it redirects you to a UK DNS server for BBC iPlayer and a US one for US Netflix.

By contrast, NordVPN’s Smart DNS only works with American streaming services. Plus, it only streams two content platforms. You can see how both services compare in the table below.

Streaming Service
NordVPN Smart DNS
MediaStreamer
US Netflix
No
Yes
Disney+
Yes
Yes
BBC iPlayer
No
Yes
Prime Video
Yes
Yes
HBO Max
No
Yes
Hulu
No
Yes

If you plan on using a VPN to watch geo-blocked content on a Smart TV, games console, or Apple TV, then ExpressVPN is the better choice.

Browser Extensions

ExpressVPN’s browser extensions are far more fully-featured and secure than NordVPN’s. ExpressVPN’s extension is a controller for the desktop app, which needs to be running for the extension to work.

This means that even traffic outside your browser, like messaging and cloud syncing, is also included in the VPN tunnel. With NordVPN, only the traffic inside your browser is routed to a VPN server.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN's browser extensions side-by-side.

ExpressVPN’s browser extension looks identical to the main app, but it also can be used in dark mode.

ExpressVPN’s extensions also include browser-specific privacy and security features. By default, the add-on will block WebRTC, prevent HTML5 geolocation leaks, and force unsafe websites to use HTTPS.

Of the above features, NordVPN’s browser extensions only block WebRTC.

Router App

ExpressVPN is a much better VPN to use on a router. Unlike NordVPN, it has a native app for many Asus, Linksys, and Netgear routers. It is simple to install, set up, and use.

It has a GUI for changing servers, selecting VPN protocols, and connecting specific devices to different server locations. You simply use it in the same way you’d use any other ExpressVPN app.

Using ExpressVPN's router app interface to change servers and settings

ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs to have an app for routers.

With NordVPN, there’s no app to use. Instead, the installation process is complicated and you’ll have to download a new file every time you want to change server location.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Server Locations

SUMMARY:

NordVPN has a total of 5,613 servers compared to ExpressVPN’s 3,000. However, ExpressVPN wins in this category because it provides servers in far more locations. With ExpressVPN, you can get an IP address from 35 more countries than NordVPN.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we measured to calculate NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s server network performance:

  • Total server count as a larger overall network eases congestion and boosts speeds.
  • The number of countries available, as this increases the chance of a nearby server and of getting an IP address from the region you want.
  • City-level options for more granular geo-spoofing.
  • The percentage of virtual server locations and how transparent the VPN is about their true location.

The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s server network performance.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Server Locations Rating
9.6
9.8
Countries
59
94
Countries with City-Level Choice
6
14
Servers
5,613
3,000
Virtual Server Locations
No
Yes

ExpressVPN has servers in more countries than NordVPN

ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, while NordVPN’s server network only consists of 59 countries. ExpressVPN allows you to connect to 60% more countries than NordVPN.

ExpressVPN is the only VPN of the two that lets you get an IP address from many popular regions, like India and Egypt.

Here’s the number of countries covered by NordVPN and ExpressVPN in each continent:

Continent
NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Asia
13
28
Africa
1
1
Europe
37
47
North America
4
5
Oceania
2
2
South America
3
11

As you can see, ExpressVPN has servers in a lot more countries than NordVPN, especially in South America and Asia.

As well, ExpressVPN provides more specific city-level locations — triple the amount of NordVPN. This is particularly useful for appearing to be from a specific US city to avoid sports blackouts.

NordVPN, on the other hand, has a much larger number of servers, with over 5,613 compared to ExpressVPN’s 3,000.

Typically, the benefit of a larger server network is to minimize server congestion and improve performance. However, we didn’t notice any difference in our testing given that 3,000 servers have more than enough bandwidth.

ExpressVPN uses virtual server locations

ExpressVPN offers servers in more regions as it utilizes virtual server locations, whereas NordVPN does not. This is where a server gives an IP address of one country, even though it is physically located elsewhere.

We prefer ExpressVPN’s approach. It gives users more flexibility and increases the range of geo-blocked websites you can access using the VPN. Unlike some other VPNs, ExpressVPN doesn’t label virtual server locations any differently in its app.

ExpressVPN's server list

ExpressVPN has servers in more countries than many other VPNs.

EXPERT ADVICE: See if you’re unknowingly connecting to a far-away virtual server location by checking where ExpressVPN’s servers are physically located.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Price & Value

SUMMARY:

NordVPN is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN on most pricing plans. For the first two years, NordVPN is less than half the price of ExpressVPN. However, NordVPN’s prices increase significantly after the initial subscription period. To pay monthly, both VPNs cost similar — $12.95 for ExpressVPN and $11.99 for NordVPN. ExpressVPN does offer a free trial on iOS and Android, too, whereas NordVPN only has one on Android.

Winner: NordVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we looked for to calculate NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s price and value rating:

  • Price offered on monthly plans for users who can’t afford to pay upfront.
  • The discounts available on long-term plans.
  • Free trial and money-back periods to test if the VPN is right for you before committing to a paid subscription.
  • Cryptocurrency and cash payments for added privacy.
  • Features included for the price to work out if the software offers good value for money.

Here’s a quick summary of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s price and payment options:

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Price & Value Rating
8.5
7.5
Monthly Subscription
$11.99 / month
$12.95 / month
2 Years Subscription
$3.29 / month
$6.67 / month
Credit Card
Yes
Yes
Cryptocurrency
Yes
Yes
Money-Back Guarantee
30 Days
30 Days
Free Trial
7 days (Android)
7 days (iOS & Android)

NordVPN’s cheapest monthly price is $3.29, compared to ExpressVPN’s cheapest price of $3.29 per month. NordVPN is initially significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN on a multi-year plan.

However, NordVPN’s prices increase significantly once your initial subscription period expires. For instance, its 12-month price increases from $4.99/month to $8.29/month after the first year.

This makes it almost the same price as ExpressVPN, whose 12-month plan costs $8.33 after the first year.

If you’re not ready to sign up for a multi-year VPN subscription, then there’s not much of a price difference between ExpressVPN and NordVPN from the outset. ExpressVPN costs just an extra 94¢ a month.

ExpressVPN has a free trial on iOS & Android

Both VPNs offer a genuine seven-day free trial when signing up on Android. ExpressVPN also offers this on iOS, whereas NordVPN does not.

Although the VPN free trial can only be initiated from a mobile device, we found that you can sign into other devices, like Windows and Fire TV, afterward.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, which can be initiated on any device. It’s a no-questions-asked policy, which essentially becomes a VPN free trial.

You can make the most of the refund policy to effectively use ExpressVPN for free and try NordVPN without paying.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Bypassing Censorship

SUMMARY:

ExpressVPN is a much better choice for bypassing web censorship in countries like China and Russia. We found that ExpressVPN works in China on every platform, whereas NordVPN’s Windows app is blocked.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we tested to calculate NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s bypassing censorship performance:

  • If the VPN can access blocked websites and apps, like Instagram and YouTube. We do this using our remote-access PC in Shanghai.
  • How often the VPN can bypass the Great Firewall of China. We then assign the VPN a percentage reliability score.
  • Device compatibility to check if the VPN includes anti-censorship tools on every platform.
  • Servers in bordering regions to test if the VPN can provide strong speed performance for users in censored countries.

The table below shows a comparison of how well NordVPN and ExpressVPN work for bypassing censorship.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Bypassing Censorship Rating
7.2
9.0
Reliability in China (past 3 months)
0%
70%
Supported Platforms
Mac, iOS, Android
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Obfuscation Methon
Dedicated obfuscated servers
Always-on obfuscated servers

NordVPN doesn’t work in China, ExpressVPN does

NordVPN used to be a reliable option in China, but its performance has gotten much worse recently. Its Windows app hasn’t worked in China for over three months, although we have had more success with its Android app.

The VPN’s Mac and iOS apps also work, but these require installing a server profile. This requires granting NordVPN root access to your device, which we recommend avoiding unless necessary.

By contrast, ExpressVPN works in China on all of its regular apps, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can use the VPN similarly to using it anywhere else in the world. There’s no special app version to download and it works automatically to bypass web censors.

In our tests, ExpressVPN has been able to access blocked websites in China 70% of the time over the past three months. We particularly liked how the VPN service maintains an updated list of compatible servers on its website, just in case your connection stops working.

ExpressVPN’s success rate in China is partly because its anti-censorship tools are automatically enabled. The VPN’s obfuscation technology is built-in to all 3,000 of its servers.

As you can see in the video below, ExpressVPN is one of the only VPNs that work in China without the need for manual configuration.

Using ExpressVPN to bypass China's VPN ban.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Customer Support

SUMMARY:

Both VPN services excel at customer service, but ExpressVPN claims victory as we consistently find its online guides and videos to be better than NordVPN’s. However, NordVPN’s automated chatbot is excellent for providing quick answers to basic questions.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Here’s a quick summary of what we measured to calculate NordVPN’s and ExpressVPN’s customer support performance:

  • Contact options to see how convenient it is to speak to a support agent, we prefer 24/7 live chat and email.
  • Time taken to receive an acceptable answer to a question to measure how soon you can expect a resolution to your problem.
  • The quality of online guides and tutorials to ensure even advanced features and installation can be done by beginners.

The table below shows a comparison of NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s customer support options.

NordVPN
ExpressVPN
Customer Support Rating
9.7
9.8
24/7 Live Chat
Yes
Yes
Initial Contact
Chatbot
Human
Email Support
Yes
Yes
Phone Support
No
No
Online Resources
Yes
Yes
Video Tutorials
Yes
Yes
Setup Guides
Yes
Yes
Forum
No
No
Average Time to Respond
38 seconds
126 seconds

As you can see, ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have email and 24/7 live chat support. Both services also offer comprehensive online guides, particularly for VPN installation on less popular devices.

ExpressVPN’s customer service materials are better than NordVPN’s. The instructions are easier to follow and they almost always include videos.

Neither service has phone support, but this is very common in the VPN industry.

NordVPN’s chatbot is much quicker than ExpressVPN’s support agents

To measure the punctuality and knowledge of both VPN’s customer support departments, we asked them a range of questions. We recorded how long it took to get the correct answer.

Here’s how NordVPN performed:

Question
Response Time
Human Support Required
Question Answered Correctly
What type of encryption does NordLynx use?
10 seconds
No
Yes
Does NordVPN’s Smart DNS work with US Netflix?
5 seconds
No
Yes
What NordVPN server do you recommend for China?
20 seconds
No
Yes
Does NordVPN use virtual server locations?
1 minute 55 seconds
Yes
Yes

Here’s how ExpressVPN performed:

Question
Response Time
Question Answered Correctly
What type of encryption does Lightway use?
3 minutes 5 seconds
Yes
Does MediaStreamer work with US Netflix?
1 minute 20 seconds
Yes
What ExpressVPN server do you recommend for China?
1 minute 15 seconds
Yes
Does ExpressVPN use virtual server locations?
2 minutes 45 seconds
Yes

As the table shows, we were able to get an answer from NordVPN’s customer support much quicker than with ExpressVPN.

This is mainly because NordVPN uses an automated chatbot. We don’t typically like these, but NordVPN’s is an exception. It’s much more knowledgeable than the ones from other VPN services.

We particularly like how it provided the answer in the conversation window. Other chatbots often just send a link to a support page.

ExpressVPN exclusively uses human live chat agents. Although we usually prefer this, ExpressVPN’s support department takes too long to respond. They also clearly follow a conversation script, which adds even more waiting time.

Comparing the performance of NordVPN and ExpressVPN's live chat customer support.

NordVPN’s chatbot provides an answer almost immediately.

For more advanced questions that the chatbot can’t answer, you’ll get put through to a human NordVPN support agent. Even then, they responded almost a minute faster than ExpressVPN.

Overall Winner: ExpressVPN

The new ExpressVPN logo

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the best VPNs you can get. Both work with geo-blocked content libraries and encrypt traffic using state-of-the-art security features.

However, ExpressVPN performed better than NordVPN in almost all of our testing categories. ExpressVPN streamed US Netflix more often than NordVPN, it supports torrenting on all of its servers, and it’s a more trustworthy option for handling sensitive web data.

We found ExpressVPN’s software to be more user-friendly for novices and advanced VPN users. It was also far more effective at bypassing web censorship than NordVPN.

We only recommend choosing NordVPN if you want the fastest local download speeds, or if you want to save money while getting similar, though not the same, levels of performance from your VPN.

If you’re still not sure which is the best VPN for you, we suggest taking advantage of both VPNs’ 30-day money-back guarantee. That way, you can try out the software yourself and only keep the one you prefer.

Additional research by Luke Williams