NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN
We compared two of the most popular VPNs on the market and put them through our rigorous testing.
- Based in British Virgin Islands, so not subject to international surveillance alliances’ jurisdiction
- Over 2,000 servers in 148 locations
- Split tunneling available
- 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
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.
|IP Addresses||Anonymous, regularly rotated||Static and shared with other NordVPN users (but dedicated IP addresses available for $70 a year)|
Let’s start with what these two had in common during our testing.
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.
When we tested out ExpressVPN and NordVPN during the quarantine lockdown, we were thrilled to see that they both worked with Netflix.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||14||11|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||1900.00%||1900%|
|Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||62.88||67.38|
|Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||3977.00%||3389.00%|
|Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps)||40.61||42.19|
|Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps)||30.95||37.76|
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.
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:
|Data They Log||ExpressVPN||NordVPN|
|Operating System and Version||X||✓|
|Crash reports||✓* anonymized||✓|
|Usability diagnostics||✓* anonymized||X|
|VPN connection diagnostics||✓* anonymized||X|
|Application diagnostics||X||✓* anonymized|
|App and app versions||✓||✓|
|Days connected to VPN||✓||✓|
|Timestamps of session||X||✓* deleted after 15 minutes of session ending|
|VPN server used||✓||X|
|Internet Service Provider||✓||X|
|Total sum of data transferred in MB||✓||X|
|Correspondence with site or services||✓||✓* and will be able to see IP address|
|Email optimization data||✓||✓|
|Server performance in CPU, ram, and servers net usage||X||✓|
|Account activity including search, item rating, content viewed events, opened push notifications, etc.||X||✓* anonymized|
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.
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|
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.
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!
|Asus wireless routers||✓||✓|
|DD-WRT wireless routers||✓||✓|
|Sabai wireless routers||✓||✓|
|Tomato wireless routers||✓||✓|
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.
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.
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.
Norton. (2020). What is a VPN?
Statista. (2020). Size of the virtual private network (VPN) market worldwide from 2016 to 2022.