Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN

By
&
Aliza Vigderman
Gabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Apr 22, 2021
By Aliza Vigderman & Gabe Turner on Apr 22, 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

Surfshark

  • No-logs VPN company based in the Virgin Islands
  • Allows unlimited connections, double VPN and split tunneling
  • Choice of OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2P2, Shadowsocks & more
Editor's Rating
9.2
/10

If ExpressVPN is the big man on campus coming into his senior year, Surfshark is the team’s rookie, a freshman that just might have what it takes to make quarterback. Or does it? In this review, we’re comparing Surfshark to ExpressVPN to see which VPN protected our web traffic better, and with faster speeds to boot. Our tests are done, so let’s get cracking.

Where ExpressVPN Wins

ExpressVPN App
ExpressVPN App

It’s no doubt that ExpressVPN impresses us consistently; it’s regularly on our list of the best VPNs. When we compared it to Surfshark, here’s where ExpressVPN came out on top.

  • More servers: While Surfshark has over 1,700 servers, a really large amount, ExpressVPN knocks that out of the water with over 2,000 servers, making it one of the most well-connected VPNs on the market.
  • More reach worldwide: ExpressVPN’s servers are in more locations than Surfshark’s, 148 countries compared to 63.
  • IP addresses: While we got a new IP address every time we connected to ExpressVPN, Surfshark gave us the same one every time, which is about as effective as putting on the exact same mask of Trump while robbing banks; eventually, people are going to catch on.
  • Device and browser extension compatibility: ExpressVPN worked with a lot of devices and browsers that Surfshark did not, like routers, Kindles, Blackberries, and more.

Hint: ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs we’ve tested that works with Kindles. If you want to hide your reading from your Internet Service Provider, download it onto your e-reader. Aside from ExpressVPN, NordVPN also works with Kindle Fire; read our NordVPN review to learn more.

Device/ Browser ExpressVPN Surfshark
Android
Android TV
Apple TV X
Blackberry X
Chrome
Chromebook X
Fire TV Stick X
Firefox
iOS
Kindle X
Linux
macOS
PlayStation 3 and 4 X
Routers X
Safari X
Windows
Xbox One X
Total number of compatible devices and browser extensions 16 9
  • Speed: Our readers use different types of devices, so to accommodate that, we tested out ExpressVPN and Surfshark on Mac and Windows computers. But as it turned out, ExpressVPN was much faster on both, particularly Windows; Surfshark and Windows were about as compatible as oil and water, actually. If you want to do a speed test on your own, keep in mind that the global average download speed is around 34 Mbps, the upload speed is around 11 Mbps, and latency is around 41 ms.1 Of course, you should do a speed test without either VPN connected as a control, while keeping in mind average Internet speeds around the world.
ExpressVPN Surfshark
Total speed difference on Mac 4% 42%
Total speed difference on Windows 96.24% 2815%

Where Surfshark Wins

Surfshark Support
Surfshark Support

That’s not to say that Surfshark didn’t have its advantages of ExpressVPN, as well. What are they, exactly? We thought you’d never ask.

  • Multi-hop: Imagine changing a line of text into code, and then changing that code into another code. It would be pretty hard to figure out the original text, wouldn’t it? That’s the thought process behind multi-hop, which means that our web activity and IP addresses were encrypted through multiple servers. While Surfshark had multi-hop, ExpressVPN did not, a feather in Surfshark’s proverbial cap.
  • Price: Surfshark is also a better option for those on a budget, especially if you sign up for two years (learn more on our Surfshark pricing page). ExpressVPN isn’t too expensive, but it’s certainly not the cheapest option on the market by a long shot, so it’s good to keep an eye out for their deals.
ExpressVPN Surfshark
Monthly Cost with One Month Plan $12.95 $11.95
Monthly Cost with Six Month Plan $9.99 n/a
Monthly Cost with Annual Plan $8.32*includes 3 free months $5.99
Monthly Cost with Two Year Plan n/a $1.99
  • Simultaneous connections: We connected as many devices as we wanted to Surfshark, which makes its low price seem even better. With ExpressVPN, on the other hand, we were capped at five devices at a time, which, while that was usually enough for us, won’t be enough for everyone.
  • Privacy policy: Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are really solid when it comes to their data logging policies, not keeping any information about our web activity, IP addresses, usage sessions, bandwidth, etc. However, Surfshark was particularly strict, only keeping our password, encrypted, anonymous app diagnostics, our email addresses and our payment information. ExpressVPN kept a few more things like the version of the app we used, when we connected in terms of days, and other information about our usage that we didn’t appreciate, necessarily. That being said, both VPNs are trustworthy when it comes to their logging or lack thereof.
Surfshark No log Policy
Surfshark No log Policy
Type of Data ExpressVPN Surfshark
Activity logs X X
Anonymous app diagnostics
App version used X
Browser type X X
Country X
Days you connected successfully X
Device type X X
Password X ✓*encrypted
Email address
Internet Service Provider X
IP address X X
Name X
Operating system version X X
Payment information
Session duration X X
Sum of data transferred in MB X
Timestamps X X
Twitter X X
Username X X
What location you connected to X
Whether app was used this month X X
Total number of types of data collected 10 4

Where There’s A Tie

There were some areas where choosing a winner wasn’t so clear-cut. Here’s what you can expect from both VPNs.

  • Privacy jurisdiction: Since both VPN companies are based in the British Virgin Islands, you really can’t go wrong, as this country isn’t a Five Eyes, Nine Eyes or 14 Eyes Member.

FYI: If a country isn’t a member of the Five Eyes alliance, it means that companies based in that country will never be forced to give the government customer data.

  • Kill switch: Each VPN’s kill switch closed our web browsers if they got disconnected, keeping our activity safe and sound from any prying eyes, be it that of hackers or our Internet Service Provider.
ExpressVPN Kill Switch
ExpressVPN Kill Switch
  • Torrenting: We torrented to our hearts’ content with either VPN, although ExpressVPN had us download uTorrent2 beforehand.
  • Split tunneling: When we wanted to connect to public and private networks at the same time, lowering bandwidth and raising our browsing speeds, we simply used split tunneling with both VPNs.
  • Netflix access: When it came to the COVID-19 pandemic, we found ourselves streaming more than ever before, so much so that we basically ran out of content on the U.S Netflix server. But have no fear, VPNs are here! To get more content, we connected to Surfshark or ExpressVPN on servers from other countries, watching TVs and movies from around the world (with subtitles, of course).
  • Encryption: The entire point of VPNs is to encrypt our IP addresses and web traffic, but not all encryption is created equal. Rather, the current industry standard is something called AES-256, or the Advanced Encryption Standard, 256-bit. When it came to using the highest encryption methods available, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark checked the box.
  • Devices per subscription: Although we couldn’t use more than five devices at the same time with ExpressVPN, both subscriptions allowed us to connect unlimited numbers of devices overall.
  • 30-day money-back guarantee: Of course, we tested out ExpressVPN and Surfshark for much longer than a month, but if we wanted to cancel within the first 30 days, we could’ve gotten full refunds from either company.

Who Won Overall?

There’s no doubt that ExpressVPN and Surfshark are two quality services, but if we had to pick one, we’d go with ExpressVPN. Our main reasons? ExpressVPN has more servers in more places, dynamic IP addresses, much faster speeds, and compatibility with more devices and browsers. However, if you want to save money, SurfShark will do you good.

ExpressVPN would be good for…
  • Frequent travelers: Available in 148 countries, ExpressVPN is best for someone that’s always on the move.
  • Anyone who wants dynamic IP addresses: Unlike Surfshark, ExpressVPN replaced our IP addresses with new ones every time we connected.
  • Speedy Gonzales: You can expect faster speeds from ExpressVPN compared to Surfshark on both macOS and Windows devices.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN wouldn’t be good for…
  • Someone that doesn’t want logs of their days connected, browser types, and more information: Although ExpressVPN won’t log web activity or your private IP address, they do log some information about usage which not everyone will appreciate.
  • A person that wants multi-hop: ExpressVPN only encrypted our activity one time through one server, which may not be sufficient for those that are very concerned about privacy.
  • Anyone that wants to connect more than five devices at a time: We were happy with connecting five devices to ExpressVPN at the same time, but we understand that for device heads, a phrase we made up, this may not be sufficient.
Surfshark would be good for…
  • Someone very concerned with privacy: Surfshark’s logging policy is about as strict as can be, while ExpressVPN logs a tad more information than absolutely necessary.
    A person that wants static IP addresses: Some people may prefer getting the same IP address every time; we just don’t happen to be one of those people. Hey, whatever floats your boat!
    Anyone that wants multi-hop: More servers mean more encryption, which means that your web activity is more hidden than ever before.
However, the following people should steer clear of Surfshark…
  • Someone who wants dynamic IP addresses: Surfshark only offers static IP addresses, unfortunately.
  • Anyone that wants faster speeds: While speed is highly dependent on a number of factors, we didn’t see fast speeds from Surfshark.
  • Someone who needs a VPN for Apple TV, PlayStation, Xbox or Kindle: If you want to encrypt your web traffic on any of these types of devices, ExpressVPN makes more sense than Surfshark.

To learn more about either VPN, read our ExpressVPN review or our Surfshark review. Or, for more comparisons, read our reviews of Surfshark vs. NordVPN, CyberGhost vs. ExpressVPN, TunnelBear vs. ExpressVPN and PureVPN vs. ExpressVPN. Overwhelmed? Start off with the best VPNs of 2021 instead. We test out each VPN extensively, doing the work so you don’t have to.

Citations
  1. SpeedTest. (2020). Speed Test.
    speedtest.net/global-index

  2. uTorrent. (2020). Download.
    utorrent.com/downloads/complete