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 Sep 3, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Sep 3, 2021
so-compare-vpn-nordvpn-vs-expressvpn

ExpressVPN

  • Based in British Virgin Islands, so not subject to international surveillance alliances’ jurisdiction
  • Over 2,000 servers in 160 locations
  • Split tunneling available
Editor's Rating
9.5
/10

NordVPN

  • Subscription plans start at $99 for a two-year commitment.
  • Each plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Students can receive a 15-percent discount for a two-year plan.
Editor's Rating
9.3
/10

ExpressVPN and NordVPN grace the top of our best VPNs lists regularly, so in this comparison, we’re putting them head to head. VPN services tend to be similar, encrypting our web traffic in a tunnel and replacing our IP addresses, so the differences will be critical. 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 much in common, but some key differences could affect your buying decision. Now, if you want to learn more about each VPN in greater detail, check out our full ExpressVPN review and our NordVPN review. Now, 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, rotated regularly 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 had a kill switch, otherwise known as a network lock feature. This means when we unplugged our internet router accidentally, all of our web browsers shut down, hiding our traffic. Most VPNs work this way, so it was no surprise that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN had kill switches

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

We had a lot of time on our hands, so in addition to watching other countries’ Netflix content, we torrented many movies and TV shows with both VPNs.

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

Both VPNs are based in countries that are not 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 essential VPN feature means that the companies wouldn’t be forced to hand our customer data to the government, which isn’t the case for companies headquartered in the U.S.

Split tunneling

When we were working from a coffee shop, we wanted to access our office’s private server at the same time we connected to the public Wi-Fi network. The solution? With both VPNs, we accessed these networks simultaneously. That’s the advantage of split tunneling.

Encryption

Finally, both VPNs encrypted our web traffic using AES-256 bit encryption, which is the current standard in the industry.

However, only NordVPN used the NordLynx protocol, built around the WireGuard protocol. Its benefits? WireGuard is fast, though being a newer technology, it may contain some bugs. If we had wanted even more encryption, we had the option of an Onion over VPN solution with NordVPN.

Differences

It’s clear that no matter which VPN we tested out, we were anonymous and safe online with both ExpressVPN and NordVPN, but there were some key differences:

Number of servers and locations

While ExpressVPN supports more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries, NordVPN offers 5,218 servers in 60 countries. We recommend checking out each VPN’s server locations to make your decision, as the closer you are to the server, the faster speeds you’ll get.

IP addresses

By default, ExpressVPN gave us different IP addresses every time we logged on, which would confuse any would-be hacker. With NordVPN, we got the same IP address every time, but since all users shared this address, we weren’t identifiable. 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. We opted out.

Multi-hop

While ExpressVPN encrypted our web traffic only once, NordVPN did it twice through two servers, a process called multi-hop or double VPN. In other words, if two heads are better than one, then two encrypted servers are also better than one.

Speed

When we tested ExpressVPN and NordVPN on our Macbook Pro and Windows Acer Aspire 5, we found that ExpressVPN performed better on our Mac computer, with lower download and upload speeds and the exact same amount of latency as in NordVPN.

Tests ExpressVPN NordVPN
MacBook Air Version 10.13.6 Results Results
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 37
Download speed with VPN (in Mbps) 23 18
Download difference avg- -25.44% -39% -52%
Upload speed without VPN (in Mbps) 26 26
Upload speed with VPN (in Mbps) 22 20
Upload difference -14% -22.86%
Acer Aspire 5 (Windows) Results Results
Ping without VPN (in ms) 14 11
Ping with VPN (in ms) 1900% 1900%
Ping difference 36% 72%
MacBook download speed without VPN (in Mbps) 63 67
Download speed with VPN (in Mbps) 3977% 3389%
Download difference -37% -50%
Upload speed without VPN (in Mbps) 40 42
Upload speed with VPN (in Mbps) 31 38
Upload difference -24% -11%
NordVPN Logging Policy
NordVPN Logging Policy

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

Logging policies

We’ve tested out dozens of VPNs, and they pretty much all say the same thing: they have “zero-logging” policies when it comes to tracking our web activity. That was the case for ExpressVPN and NordVPN. However, they do log some data, like our names, email addresses, payment information, and more. We read both VPNs’ 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 its privacy policy. Typically, it’s linked at the bottom of its website.

Data logged 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
The 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 had a stricter logging policy than NordVPN, collecting 14 data points instead of 20. So for the privacy-minded, ExpressVPN is the better bet.

Prices

NordVPN was cheaper than ExpressVPN, especially with a two-year subscription. If budget is a huge concern, go with NordVPN. Prices are lower than the industry average, which tends to be between $10 and $13 for a one-month plan.1

Contract Length NordVPN monthly price ExpressVPN monthly price
1 Month $11.95 $12.95
6 Months n/a $9.99
1 Year $4.08 $8.32
2 Years $3.67 n/a
Three Years $2.99 n/a

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.

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). Sure, it was only a difference of one device, but NordVPN won 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 iPhone. 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 worked with a ton of other devices, from routers to streaming services like Apple TV, as well. As you can see, ExpressVPN worked with more devices than NordVPN, but make sure whichever VPN you choose works with the devices you have or want to buy in the future.

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, the VPN will encrypt all your traffic without having to connect to each individual device.

ExpressVPN App
ExpressVPN App

Apps

To connect to public Wi-Fi networks safely on the go, we checked out ExpressVPN’s and NordVPN’s mobile apps for iOS and Android. Just like the weather, apps change over time due to customer complaints and subsequent software updates.
Both apps were easy to use in terms of functionality, allowing us to connect to private networks with the click of a button. In terms of other customer ratings, both apps had 4.6-star ratings in the Apple Store, but ExpressVPN’s Android rating was 4.5 stars, just a tad higher than NordVPN at 4.4 stars. This difference was so minimal, however, that we called it a tie.

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

Which Is Better, NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN?

Comparing ExpressVPN and NordVPN was easy, mainly because the two VPNs were so similar. Both were trustworthy when it came to hiding our web traffic, the point of a VPN in the first place.

But overall, we recommend ExpressVPN over NordVPN. Both VPNs top our list of the best VPNs in the industry, but ExpressVPN won out for its strict logging policy and support for many third-party devices. 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 60 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 NordVPN’s two-year subscription, we could’ve paid as little as $5.97 per month, compared to a minimum of $8.32 per month with ExpressVPN.
  • More servers:Sure, ExpressVPN has more server locations, but NordVPN won out for its sheer number of servers: 5,401, to be exact.
  • Static IP addresses: Some people may prefer NordVPN’s static IP addresses, which the VPN shares with other users by default. However, you can pay extra for a dedicated IP address with NordVPN.

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

Still curious about which VPN to choose? We’re here to help clear up any lingering questions about the differences between NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

  • Is ExpressVPN better than NordVPN?

    ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN, but only by a hair. ExpressVPN is available in more than twice as many countries as NordVPN and has dynamic IP addresses, less latency on Windows, and a better Android app.

  • 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 $4.08
    24 n/a $3.99
    36 n/a $3.67
  • Is ExpressVPN illegal?

    In the United States, ExpressVPN is legal. However, it is illegal in countries where VPNs are banned, 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, or 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 the government can’t force them to hand over customer data.

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/