NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN

We compared two of the most popular VPNs on the market and put them through our rigorous testing.

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Jun 28, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Jun 28, 2021

ExpressVPN

  • Based in British Virgin Islands, so not subject to international surveillance alliances’ jurisdiction
  • Over 2,000 servers in 148 locations
  • Split tunneling available
Editor's Rating
9.5
/10

NordVPN

  • Torrenting available through uTorrent
  • Based in Panama, which has no mandatory data retention law
  • One of the most popular VPNs with over eight million users
Editor's Rating
9.3
/10

ExpressVPN and NordVPN regularly grace the top of our best VPNs lists, so in this comparison, we’re putting them head to head. With VPN services, they tend to be pretty similar, encrypting our web traffic in a tunnel and replacing our IP addresses, so the differences are going to be key. Fortunately, we’ve tested out ExpressVPN and NordVPN extensively so you don’t have to.

ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Similarities and Differences

ExpressVPN and NordVPN have a lot in common, but there are also some key differences that could impact your buying decision. Now, if you want to learn more about each VPN in greater detail, you should check out our full ExpressVPN review and our NordVPN review, but here’s a general comparison between the two.

Feature ExpressVPN NordVPN
Log Data No No
Kill Switch Yes Yes
Split Tunneling Yes Yes
Netflix Yes Yes
Torrenting Yes Yes
IP Addresses Anonymous, regularly rotated Static and shared with other NordVPN users (but dedicated IP addresses available for $70 a year)

Similarities

Let’s start with what these two had in common during our testing.

Kill switches

Each VPN has a kill switch, meaning when we accidentally unplugged our Internet router, all of our web browsers shut down, hiding our traffic. This is pretty standard for VPNs, so it was no surprise that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN had kill switches, otherwise known as network lock features.

ExpressVPN Kill Switch
ExpressVPN Kill Switch

Netflix

When we tested out ExpressVPN and NordVPN during the quarantine lockdown, we were thrilled to see that they both worked with Netflix.

Torrenting

Of course, we had a lot of time on our hands, so in addition to watching other countries’ Netflix we also torrented a ton of movies and TV shows with both VPNs, hiding our web activity.

Non-member to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes

Both VPNs are based in companies that are non-members of the international surveillance alliances Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, while NordVPN is based in Panama. This is an essential VPN feature that means that the companies can’t hand our customer data to the government, which isn’t the case for companies based in the U.S.

Split tunneling

When we were working from a coffee shop, we had to access our office’s private server at the same time as we were connecting to the public Wi-Fi network. The solution? With both VPNs, we could access these networks simultaneously.

Encryption

Finally, both VPNs encrypted our web traffic using AES-256 bit encryption, which is the current standard in the industry. However, only NordVPN uses the NordLynx protocol, built around the WireGuard protocol. Its benefits? WireGuard is fast, although being a newer technology, it may contain some bugs.

And, if you want even more encryption, you can use the Onion over VPN solution with NordVPN.

Differences

It’s clear that no matter which one we tested out, we were anonymous and safe online with both ExpressVPN and NordVPN, but there are some key differences that could sway you to one side or the other, depending on what you’re looking for.

The number of servers and locations

While ExpressVPN supports over 2,000 servers in 148 locations worldwide, NordVPN offers 5,401 servers in 59 different countries. To make your decision, we recommend checking out their server locations, as the closer you are to the server, the faster speeds you’ll see.

IP addresses

By default, ExpressVPN gave us a different IP address every time we logged on, which would surely confuse any would-be hacker. With NordVPN, we got the same IP address every time we logged on, but since all users shared these addresses, they were anonymized. However, we could’ve shelled out some extra cash for a dedicated IP address if we wanted, which we could’ve used on Gmail, eBay, or PayPal. Personally, we opted out.

Multi-hop

And the pendulum swings the other way; while ExpressVPN only encrypted our web traffic once, NordVPN did it twice through two servers, a process typically called multi-hop or double VPN. If two heads are better than one, then two encrypted servers are also better than one, although it doesn’t sound quite as catchy.

Speed

When we tested out ExpressVPN and NordVPN on our Macbook Pro and Windows Vivobook, we found that ExpressVPN actually performed better on our Mac computer, with lower download and upload speed decreases and the exact same amount of latency as in NordVPN.

Tests ExpressVPN NordVPN
MacBook Air- High Sierra Version 10.13.6
Ping without VPN (in ms) 14 14
Ping with VPN (in ms) 20 20
Ping Difference (avg-32%) 43% 43%
Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 37.05 37.05
Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 22.7 17.65
Download difference avg- -25.44% -38.73% -52.36%
Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 25.9 25.9
Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 22.19 19.97
Upload difference -14.32% -22.86%
VivoBook (Windows)
Ping without VPN (in ms) 14 11
Ping with VPN (in ms) 1900.00% 1900%
Ping Difference 35.70% 72%
Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 62.88 67.38
Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 3977.00% 3389.00%
Download difference -36.75% -49.70%
Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 40.61 42.19
Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 30.95 37.76
Upload difference -23.79% -10.50%
NordVPN Logging Policy
NordVPN Logging Policy

ExpressVPN also performed better than NordVPN on our Windows Vivobook, except when it came to upload difference. Overall, ExpressVPN was faster for us than NordVPN was, but take these numbers with a grain of salt, as Internet speed relies on many factors like server locations, device type, operating system and more.

Logging policies

We’ve tested out literally dozens of VPNs, and each company says pretty much the same thing: that they have a “zero-logging” policy when it comes to tracking our web activity, and that’s the case for ExpressVPN and NordVPN. However, they do log some data, like our names, email addresses, payment information, and more. We read both VPN’s privacy policies from beginning to end, and here’s the main gist of the data they log and don’t log:

ExpressVPN Privacy Policy
ExpressVPN Privacy Policy

FYI: If you ever want to find out what data a company collects from its users and shares with third parties, check out their privacy policy, typically linked to at the bottom of their website.

Data They Log ExpressVPN NordVPN
Name Yes Yes
Username No Yes
Email address Yes Yes
Payment information Yes Yes
Web traffic No No
DNS queries No No
Device model No Yes
Device identifiers No Yes
Browser Type No Yes
Operating System and Version No Yes
IP addresses No Yes
Crash reports Yes* anonymized Yes
Usability diagnostics Yes* anonymized No
VPN connection diagnostics Yes* anonymized No
Application diagnostics No Yes* anonymized
App and app versions Yes Yes
Days connected to VPN Yes Yes
Timestamps of session No Yes* deleted after 15 minutes of session ending
VPN server used Yes No
Country Yes Yes
Internet Service Provider Yes No
Total sum of data transferred in MB Yes No
Correspondence with site or services Yes Yes* and will be able to see IP address
Email optimization data Yes Yes
Cookies Yes Yes
Server performance in CPU, ram, and servers net usage No Yes
Account activity including search, item rating, content viewed events, opened push notifications, etc. No Yes* anonymized
ExpressVPN WebRTC Leak Test
ExpressVPN WebRTC Leak Test

Notice anything interesting? In a nutshell, ExpressVPN has a stricter logging policy than NordVPN, collecting 14 data points as opposed to 20. So for the privacy-minded, ExpressVPN is your better bet.

Prices

But as far as prices go, NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN, especially if you buy a two or two-year subscription and pay as low as $7.17 or $5.97 a month. ExpressVPN only has one, six, or 12-month options ranging from $8.32 to $12.95 a month, so if budget is a huge concern, go with NordVPN. They’re must cheaper than the industry average, which tends to be from about $10 to $13 a month.1

Read about NordVPN deals and ExpressVPN deals to see if you can get any months free when you use your debit card, credit card, PayPal, or other payment methods. To learn more about their subscription and payment options, check out our individual pages on ExpressVPN costs and NordVPN costs. With each VPN, you can either pay for a one-month plan, a six-month plan, a one-year plan, or a two-year plan.

Contract Length NordVPN Monthly Price ExpressVPN Monthly Price
One Month $11.95 $12.95
Six Months n/a $9.99
One Year $7.17 $8.32
Two Years $5.97 n/a
Three Years $2.99 n/a

Simultaneous connections per subscription

While we could use five devices at the same time connecting to ExpressVPN, NordVPN allowed for six devices (that’s up to three on the same server but with different protocols), up to three on the same server (but with different protocols). Sure, it’s only a difference of one device, but NordVPN takes this category by a hair.

Devices per subscription

Although we couldn’t use them all at once, ExpressVPN let us connect as many devices to their servers as we wanted, which came in handy when we upgraded to the latest iPhones. NordVPN, on the other hand, only allowed for six devices in total, which was fine for us but may not work for a larger group sharing a subscription.

Manual configurations

While we tested out these VPNs on macOS and Windows computers, they also work with a ton of other devices, from routers to streaming services like Apple TV. As you can see, ExpressVPN works with more devices than NordVPN, but make sure whichever one you choose works with the devices you have or want to buy in the future; dream big!

Manual Configurations ExpressVPN NordVPN
Android Yes Yes
Apple TV Yes No
Asus wireless routers Yes Yes
Blackberry Yes No
Chromebook Yes No
DD-WRT wireless routers Yes Yes
iOS Yes Yes
Linux Yes No
macOS Yes Yes
NAS Yes Yes
PlayStation 3 Yes No
PlayStation 4 Yes No
Proxy No Yes
Sabai wireless routers Yes Yes
Tomato wireless routers Yes Yes
Windows Yes Yes
Xbox One Yes No

Tip: If you’re at home, the easiest way to encrypt your web traffic on all devices is to connect your router to a VPN. Since the router deals with your Internet Service Provider directly, all of your web activity will be encrypted automatically without having to connect to each individual device.

ExpressVPN App
ExpressVPN App

Apps

Finally, to connect to public Wi-Fi networks on the go, we checked out ExpressVPN’s and NordVPN’s mobile apps for iOS and Android. ExpressVPN’s app was also available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Blackberry, routers, and even Kindles, while the NordVPN stuck to Windows, macOS, and Android TV in addition to regular old iPhones and Androids.

Just like the weather, apps change over time due to customer complaints and subsequent software updates. In terms of functionality, both apps were easy to use, allowing us to connect to a private network with the click of a button. However, in terms of other customer ratings, both apps have 4.6-star ratings on the Apple store but ExpressVPN’s Android rating was .1 higher than NordVPN at 4.4 stars. This difference is so minimal, however, that we’ll call it a tie.

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

Which Is Better, NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN?

It’s hard to compare ExpressVPN and NordVPN because they’re so similar. Both are trustworthy when it comes to hiding your web traffic, the point of a VPN in the first place. So in terms of which one is better, it really depends on what you’re looking for.

Overall, NordVPN is a more budget-friendly option with more servers, but ExpressVPN took the case for its strict logging policy and slightly superior Android app. Let’s break it down even further.

We recommend ExpressVPN if you’re looking for…
  • More server locations: ExpressVPN’s servers span 148 countries, compared to only 59 with NordVPN.
  • Better Android App: If you need a VPN for Android, we recommend ExpressVPN over NordVPN, but just by a hair.
  • Dynamic IP addresses: We got a new IP address every time we connected to ExpressVPN, making us that much harder to trace online.
But choose NordVPN if you want…
  • Lower prices: With their two-year subscription, we could’ve paid as little as $5.97 a month for NordVPN, compared to a minimum of $8.32 with ExpressVPN.
  • More servers: Sure, ExpressVPN has more server locations, but NordVPN wins for their sheer number of servers: 5,401, to be exact.
  • Static IP addresses: Some people may prefer NordVPN’s static IP addresses, which are shared with other users by default. However, you can pay extra for a dedicated address.

If you have a gaming console, note that NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for gaming. But if neither VPN sounds ideal, there’s always our list of the best VPNs, the best VPNs for iPhones, or the best VPNs for Netflix. With so many data breaches from large tech companies like Ring, it’s no surprise that by 2022, the world will spend $35.73 billion2 on VPNs, so get yours today to hide your web traffic and encrypt your activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Comparing two of the top VPNS isn’t easy, but we’re here to help.

  • Is ExpressVPN better than NordVPN?

    ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN, but only by a hair. It’s available in more than twice as many countries as NordVPN and has dynamic IP addresses, less latency on Windows and unlimited devices per subscription.

  • Which is cheaper, NordVPN or ExpressVPN?

    NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN no matter the contract length.

    Contract length in months ExpressVPN monthly cost NordVPN monthly cost
    1 $12.95 $11.95
    6 $9.99 n/a
    12 $8.32 $6.99
    24 n/a $3.99
    36 n/a $2.99
  • Is ExpressVPN illegal?

    In the United States, ExpressVPN is not illegal. However, it is illegal in countries where VPNs are illegal in general, like China.

  • Can the police track a VPN?

    If a VPN company logs a user’s IP address and is headquartered in a Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes member country then yes, police can track a VPN. However, most VPNs don’t log users’ IP addresses and are headquartered in non-member countries, so they can’t be legally forced to hand over customer data to the police.

Citations
  1. Norton. (2020). What is a VPN?
    us.norton.com/internetsecurity-privacy-what-is-a-vpn.html

  2. Statista. (2020). Size of the virtual private network (VPN) market worldwide from 2016 to 2022.
    statista.com/statistics/542817/worldwide-virtual-private-network-market/