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NordVPN Vs. ExpressVPN: Who Tops Who?

Marc DahanNordVPN Vs. ExpressVPN: Who Tops Who?

We’ve reviewed quite a few VPN service providers by now. But it can still be difficult to see how they compare to each other. 

In this post, we put NordVPN and ExpressVPN to the test to see which one of the two is the better choice.

OK, let’s get started with our NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN Face Off.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN - Side By Side

[vpn vpn_1="NordVPN" vpn_2="ExpressVPN"]

Can't choose between NordVPN or ExpressVPN?

You could be forgiven for not being able to choose between, Panama-based, NordVPN and ExpressVPN, based in the British Virgin Islands. 

They both offer industry-standard encryption. They both provide native applications for all major operating systems. They both adhere to a strict no-logging policy and both supply a VPN Kill Switch in their apps. 

And while ExpressVPN doesn’t support as many features as NordVPN, they operate their network using diskless servers - which is a huge boon to the security of their infrastructure. 

So it’s going to be a close one, which will probably come down to preference, based on what’s important to you.


1. Speed

Speed is always going to be an important consideration for VPN users. You want more privacy, sure, but you also want to keep the speedy connection you’re paying for. 

Let’s look at our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN speed tests and see how they rank. 

NordVPN

Tested on a 60Mbps (Download) and 30Mbps (Upload) network

Server: U.S.A., New York

Average Download Speed: 65.77Mbps

Average Upload Speed: 22.89Mbps

NordVPN NY SpeedTests

ExpressVPN

Tested on a 60Mbps (Download) and 30Mbps (Upload) network

Server: U.S.A., New York

Average Download Speed: 60.76Mbps

Average Upload Speed: 26.91Mbps

ExpressVPN Speed Tests

So the results are very similar. Both services get me pretty close to my ISP‘s full bandwidth. 

NordVPN has a small advantage on download

While ExpressVPN has a small advantage on upload.

Winner: Tie

It seems to me that these differences are so small that they can both come down to network volatility. These two providers perform equally well (i.e. quite good indeed) on speed. I say this one is a tie.


2. User-Friendliness

Most, if not all VPN providers include native client apps with their service. 

This is very convenient, particularly for newer users who may not know how to configure a VPN client. And a misconfiguration in your VPN software can break all the “protection” you think you’re getting.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN provide official client apps to their users.

NordVPN App
NordVPN's native macOS client app.
ExpressVPN App
ExpressVPN's native macOS client app.

They also both provide, Chrome and Firefox browser extensions

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN allow up to 6 simultaneous connections

And they both provide unlimited bandwidth

NordVPN offers a higher number of servers than ExpressVPN. But Express VPN offers a larger number of countries.

And we had no need to contact customer support for either provider.

This is going to be a tough one… So what’s the outcome of NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN on user-friendliness?

Winner: ExpressVPN

Both providers have done a good job here. And nobody is blowing anybody out of the water here. 

Personally, I prefer the layout of ExpressVPN’s app. I find it clearer and easier to navigate. It’s just a personal preference. But, hey, it’s my review, right? 

The point goes to ExpressVPN.


3. Streaming

Streaming is quickly becoming an important feature to support, for VPN providers, as streaming services continue to gain traction.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both streaming-friendly. And both of them can bypass Netflix’s VPN ban. I tested them both and was happily streaming Netflix over both services. 

NordVPN provide a support document on what to do if you’re having trouble accessing Netflix. And I did need to follow the instructions provided there to get it to work. 

Whereas with ExpressVPN, it just worked.

So who wins?

Winner: NordVPN

You may find this strange, but I’m giving the point to NordVPN here. Why? 

Well, because of the way Netflix blocks VPN services (namely by blacklisting VPN server IPs), I probably just got lucky with ExpressVPN. 

No VPN server will work with Netflix all of the time. It will eventually be blacklisted. 

NordVPN gets the point for providing useful backup instructions. They work.


4. Security and Encryption

Encryption is a VPN’s reason for being. Supporting strong ciphers is critical for any serious VPN provider.

AES-256 is the industry-standard and is supported by both NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

However, this applies to IKEv2 and OpenVPN

NordVPN offer the WireGuard protocol, as well, which uses more modern ciphers. Whereas ExpressVPN also supports weak and obsolete protocols like L2TP/IPSec and PPTP.

The problem I see with supporting weak and obsolete protocols is that new users may not realize they’re using compromised protocols. 

Better to limit the use to secure protocols only.

Winner: NordVPN

The winner would have to be NordVPN again. 

WireGuard support (with its modern ciphers) and the lack of support for weak and obsolete protocols put NordVPN on top.


5. Logs and Privacy

NordVPN and ExpressVPN commit to strongly worded privacy and no-logging policies

Let’s take a look at how they communicate this.

Here’s an excerpt of NordVPN’s privacy policy:

“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data. From the moment a NordVPN.com user turns on the NordVPN.com software, their Internet data becomes encrypted. Any online traffic coming from user’s device is no longer visible to ISP, third-party snoopers or cyber criminals. Further, NordVPN have a strict no logs policy when it comes to seeing user activity online: NordVPN is based in Panama, which does not require data storage.” 

And here’s one from ExpressVPN’s privacy policy:

"ExpressVPN is committed to protecting your privacy. We want you to understand what information we collect, what we don’t collect, and how we collect, use, and store information. We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.” 

The privacy policies of both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are very clear

Both go into sufficient detail

Both seem to understand what they are talking about.

However, in 2018, one of NordVPN’s servers was hacked by a third-party who had access to the data center hosting Nord’s server.

This can happen to any provider who rents its infrastructure. And ExpressVPN also rent their infrastructure. 

But because of luck or better security practices (or perhaps a little of both), ExpressVPN hasn’t been hacked – perhaps because of their diskless servers (more on that later).

Winner: ExpressVPN

So we’re going to give the point to ExpressVPN here. 

Both provider’s policies are up to par. But if a third party gains access to your infrastructure, your privacy policy doesn’t mean much. 

I don’t want to overstate the NordVPN hack, however. I still consider NordVPN to be a secure and trustworthy VPN provider.


6. Pricing

Turning to pricing and payment now, here are the different packages, prices and accepted payment methods offered by each provider:

NordVPN

Visit NordVPN (save 70%)
NordVPN Prices
NordVPN's subscription plans.

Subscriptions

  • 11.95 USD for one month of service
  • 83.88 USD for one year of service (works out to 6.99 USD per month)
  • 119.76 USD for two years of service (works out to 4.99 USD per month)
  • 125.64 USD for three years of service (works out to 3.49 USD per month)

Payment Methods

  • Credit Card
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Amazon Pay
  • Alipay
  • UnionPay
  • CryptoCurrencies

ExpressVPN

Visit ExpressVPN (save 35%)
ExpressVPN Plans
ExpressVPN's subscription plans.

Subscriptions

  • 12.95 USD for one month of service
  • 59.95 USD for six months of service (works out to 9.99 USD per month)
  • 99.95 USD for one year of service (works out to 8.32 USD per month)

Payment Methods

  • Credit Card
  • PayPal
  • Bitcoin
  • Interac
  • UnionPay
  • Alipay
  • WebMoney
  • Giropay
  • iDEAL
  • Klarna
  • And more (which aren’t listed)

And both providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Winner:  NordVPN

So, NordVPN is less expensive than ExpressVPN, on any term. 

They also provide more useful payment options, in my opinion. Apple Pay and Google Pay are probably more practical than Giropay or WebMoney (I personally have never heard of them…). 

NordVPN also supports more cryptocurrencies than ExpressVPN. And cryptocurrencies can be a good way to make anonymous digital payments (if you know how). 

NordVPN takes it here.


7. Torrenting

Torrenting works with both providers. I tested both. Neither provider blocks nor throttles P2P traffic.

Bittorent Client with NordVPN
Torrenting over NordVPN's network.

ExpressVPN doesn’t make a big deal about P2P on their website. But they are torrent-friendly. Just connect and torrent.

NordVPN, on the other hand, does talk about it more. And NordVPN offers dedicated P2P servers, which they clearly label in their apps.

These servers are presumably using some type of obfuscation technique or are situated in countries where file-sharing is less likely to be criminalized.

But again, you can torrent without issue with both VPN providers. 

Winner: ExpressVPN

You might be surprised, but I’m going to give the point to ExpressVPN here. 

While NordVPN has thoughtfully implemented dedicated P2P servers, at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather not have to think about switching servers before starting a download?


8. Other Features

There are also other differences between these two providers:

  • NordVPN provide Tor over VPN servers.
  • NordVPN offers an ad & tracker blocker.
  • NordVPN publishes a warrant canary.
  • ExpressVPN supports split tunneling.
  • ExpressVPN operate diskless servers.

Outstanding Features

NordVPN

  • Onion Over VPN: NordVPN’s support for Onion Over VPN is a very good security feature, that can be particularly beneficial to dissidents and journalists. Onion over VPN servers routes all of your device’s traffic over the Tor network, after the VPN. This gives a significant 2nd layer of protection to your connection. Do note that Tor can dramatically slow down your connection.
  • WireGuard Support: NordVPN’s support for the WireGuard protocol makes them standout as well. While WireGuard is still considered experimental, its recent inclusion in the Linux kernel means it’s soon ready for prime time. WireGuard is extremely fast, has a small code base, and it only supports modern encryption ciphers.

ExpressVPN

  • Split Tunnelling: Split tunneling is a feature that enables policy-based routing. Policy-based routing enables you to route certain traffic through the VPN while routing other traffic outside the VPN. This is useful to enable local LAN access while connected to the VPN network. Or to access certain services that block VPNs while torrenting over VPN. It’s very flexible and can be configured to fit your situation.
  • Diskless Infrastructure: ExpressVPN rent their infrastructure just like NordVPN does. However, they run all of their infrastructure from volatile memory (RAM), booted from read-only disks. This is huge security-wise. It’s a hardened configuration that can be rebooted in the event a vulnerability is introduced. And, once rebooted, the server is back to factory spec. No more vulnerability. We hope more VPN providers go down this road moving forward

Winner: ExpressVPN

I'm going to give it to ExpressVPN here, specifically because of their diskless infrastructure. I love that. 

Again, this is not a blowout. NordVPN's offering is extremely good, supporting WireGuard and offering more features than Express. 

But I have to choose. And diskless servers put ExpressVPN over the edge.


Conclusion: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

So who’s the winner? 

We had eight categories:

The winner in each category gets one point

In the event of a tieboth providers get a point.

So the breakdown is as follows:

  • Speed – (Tie)
  • User-friendliness – (ExpressVPN)
  • Streaming – (NordVPN)
  • Security & Encryption – (NordVPN)
  • Logs and Privacy –  (ExpressVPN)
  • Pricing – (NordVPN)
  • Torrenting – (ExpressVPN)
  • Features – (ExpressVPN)

So that’s 5 points for ExpressVPN and 4 points for NordVPN

I knew it would be close because I knew these were both high-quality VPN services. In my mind, these results make sense.

For more information on these VPN providers, check out our NordVPN review and our ExpressVPN review.

ExpressVPN

Go With ExpressVPN if:

  • You want the high level of security provided by diskless servers.
  • You want to use split tunneling.
  • You want to unblock Netflix.
Get ExpressVPN and save 35%

NordVPN

Go With NordVPN if:

  • You want to use Tor over VPN.
  • You want an ad & tracker blocker.
  • You want to unblock Netflix.
Get NordVPN (70% off)

Thanks for reading! 

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