NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN

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

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 5, 2020
By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 5, 2020

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
9.4
/10

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

ExpressVPN and NordVPN regularly grace the top of our best VPNs lists, so in this comparison, we’re putting them head to head. With VPNs, the services tend to be pretty similar, namely encrypting our web traffic in a tunnel and replacing our IP addresses, so the differences are going to be key in deciding which VPN is right for you. 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 in terms of their basic functionalities, but there are also some key differences that could influence 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.

FeatureExpressVPNNordVPN
Log DataXX
Kill Switch
Split TunnelingX
Netflix
Torrenting
IP AddressesAnonymous, regularly rotatedStatic and shared with other NordVPN users

Similarities

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

Kill switches

Both VPNs had kill switches, 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. Since we had watched all we wanted to on the U.S Netflix, we hopped over to Canada’s version to see what we were missing (The verdict? A lot. Guess we won’t be going outside for a while).

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 to the international surveillance alliances Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes. 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.

Encryption

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

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.

Number of servers and locations

While ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in 148 locations worldwide, NordVPN has 5,246 servers in 62 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.

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 ExpressVPN, we could access these networks simultaneously, unlike with NordVPN. Check one for ExpressVPN.

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. If two heads are better than one, than 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.

TestsExpressVPNNordVPN
Macbook Air- High Sierra Version 10.13.6
Ping without VPN (in ms)1414
Ping with VPN (in ms)2020
Ping Difference (avg-32%)43%43%
Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in mbps)37.0537.05
Download Speed with VPN (in mbps)22.717.65
Download difference avg- -25.44%-38.73%-52.36%
Upload Speed without VPN (in mbps)25.925.9
Upload Speed with VPN (in mbps)22.1919.97
Upload difference-14.32%-22.86%
VivoBook (Windows)
Ping without VPN (in ms)1411
Ping with VPN (in ms)1900.00%1900%
Ping Difference35.70%72%
Macbook Download Speed without VPN (in mbps)62.8867.38
Download Speed with VPN (in mbps)3977.00%3389.00%
Download difference-36.75%-49.70%
Upload Speed without VPN (in mbps)40.6142.19
Upload Speed with VPN (in mbps)30.9537.76
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 LogExpressVPNNordVPN
Name
UsernameX
Email address
Payment information
Web trafficXX
DNS queriesXX
Device modelX
Device identifiersX
Browser TypeX
Operating System and VersionX
IP addressesX
Crash reports✓* anonymized
Usability diagnostics✓* anonymizedX
VPN connection diagnostics✓* anonymizedX
Application diagnosticsX✓* anonymized
App and app versions
Days connected to VPN
Timestamps of sessionX✓* deleted after 15 minutes of session ending
VPN server usedX
Country
Internet Service ProviderX
Total sum of data transferred in MBX
Correspondence with site or services✓* and will be able to see IP address
Email optimization data
Cookies
Server performance in cpu, ram, and servers net usageX
Account activity including search, item rating, content viewed events, opened push notifications, etc.X✓* 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 three-year subscription and pay as low as $2.99 or $3.99 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 To learn more about their subscription and payment options, check out our individual pages on ExpressVPN costs and NordVPN costs.

Contract LengthNordVPN Monthly PriceExpressVPN Monthly Price
One Month$11.95$12.95
Six Monthsn/a$9.99
One Year$6.99$8.32
Two Years$3.99n/a
Three Years$2.99n/a

Simultaneous connections per subscription

While we could use five devices at the same time connecting to ExpressVPN, NordVPN allowed for six devices, 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 ConfigurationsExpressVPNNordVPN
Android
Apple TVX
Asus wireless routers
BlackberryX
ChromebookX
DD-WRT wireless routers
iOS
LinuxX
MacOS
NAS
PlayStation 3X
PlayStation 4X
ProxyX
Sabai wireless routers
Tomato wireless routers
Windows
Xbox OneX

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 automatically be encrypted without having to connect each individual device.

NordVPN Customer Support
NordVPN Customer Support

Customer support

When we needed help with ExpressVPN and NordVPN, we were pleased to see that both companies have email and live chat support 24/7, which makes sense since their servers are all over the world. Both companies had decent and quick customer support over live chat, but we wish they had phone support, as well. However, this is a rarity in the world of VPNs, which tend to be more millennial than boomer-friendly.

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 NordVPN has a 4.2 on the Google Play store, .2 higher than the ExpressVPN app. So while Nord’s Android app has better customer ratings, we’ll call it a tie from our perspective.

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

Which Is Better, ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN?

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 split tunneling. 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 62 with NordVPN.
  • Split tunneling: If you’re looking to access a private network and a public network at the same time, ExpressVPN is your best bet.
  • 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 three-year subscription, we could’ve paid as little as $2.99 a month for NordVPN, compared to a minimum of $8.32 with ExpressVPN, almost three times as much.
  • More servers: Sure, ExpressVPN has more server locations, but NordVPN wins for their sheer number of servers: 5,246, to be exact.
  • Static IP addresses: Some people may prefer NordVPN’s static IP addresses, which are shared with other users by default (although you can pay extra for a dedicated address).

If neither VPN sounds ideal, there’s always our list of 2020’s best VPNs, the best VPNs for iPhones, or the best VPNs for Androids. 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.

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/