Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are among the most well-known names in the VPN market, but which one suits your needs the best? Where are the services located, which one offers superior security protocols, and which is faster?
Given that a VPN service is designed to keep your most intimate personal data secure, choosing a VPN service is no small task.
You want to make sure you sign up with the right service for a variety of reasons, including price, efficiency, security, and privacy, among other reasons. Failing to do your homework could result in a selection that compromises your personal data, which isn’t tolerable in the modern age of digital crimes, wiretapping, and identity theft.
So, to help you make the most educated and informed decision, we’re going to be breaking down ExpressVPN and NordVPN piece by piece to see how well each component of their services stack up against each other. Let’s get started with a high-level overview of each service’s main features.
|Jurisdiction||British Virgin Islands||Panama|
|Global Connection Options||Servers in 90+ countries||Servers in 62+ countries|
|Protocols||PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)||OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec|
|Logs||No user activity logs||No user activity logs|
|Refund Period||30-day money back guarantee||30-day money back guarantee|
|Support||24/7 live chat||24/7|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers|
Pricing and Plans
First and foremost, I wanted to start the pricing comparison by saying that both of these providers have unusually high priced monthly services. Sure, just about every provider has a similar discounting structure built into their pricing models whereby a customer will save more money with longer-term subscriptions. As such, the monthly plan almost always offers the least value.
However, even among other competing quality services, NordVPN and ExpressVPN gravitate towards the expensive end of the spectrum with regards to their monthly plans. For that matter, I would also say that ExpressVPN has more expensive plans, even with the six-month and annual subscriptions than most other providers.
In contrast, NordVPN has one of the cheapest long-term subscriptions, which makes it seem as though their monthly plan is little more than a marketing ploy to force users into longer-term subscriptions.
Consider that the longest term subscription with ExpressVPN is a one-year term for $8.32 per month. Alternatively, NordVPN only costs $2.75 per month with a three-year subscription, a savings of $5.57 per month ($66.84 per year, or $200.52 over three years).
Clearly, NordVPN has superior affordability, especially if you’re looking for a long-term subscription plan. Additionally, if you only want a monthly plan, note that NordVPN is still a dollar cheaper per month. Let’s take a look at the cost of each provider’s plans.
The following outlines ExpressVPN’s pricing model:
- Monthly subscription – $12.95
- Six-month subscription – $9.99
- Annual subscription – $8.32
The following outlines NordVPN’s pricing model:
- Monthly subscription – $11.95
- Annual subscription – $5.75
- Three-year subscription – $2.75
It’s also worth mentioning that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can get a refund if you are displeased with the service. However, since both providers offer a money back guarantee, neither of them have a free trial or a free version of their service that can be used indefinitely.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN WebRTC tests.
Both providers performed admirably with regards to the speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 tests. There weren’t any DNS-leaks or IPv6-leaks. Also, there weren’t any WebRTC leaks, though that’s because I have disabled it in my browser for improved security. So far, all things are equal, but as you’ll shortly see, one provider pulled slightly ahead in the speed tests.
But before we dig into that data, note that the tests were performed from an Internet connection in the Central United States, which has a capacity of 5Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload rate. The fact that the tests were run from the Midwest helps explain the latency. Furthermore, I was absolutely shocked to see how fast both of these providers were. Let’s take a closer look.
NordVPN DNS and IPV6 leak tests.
ExpressVPN DNS and IPV6 leaks tests.
The following outlines ExpressVPN’s speeds:
- UK – Latency: 104ms Download: 5.02Mbps Upload: 1.00Mbps
- Switzerland – Latency: 120ms Download: 5.06Mbps Upload: 0.98Mbps
The following outlines NordVPN’s speeds:
- UK – Latency: 102ms Download: 5.07Mbps Upload: 0.95Mbps
- Switzerland – Latency: 121ms Download: 3.84Mbps Upload: 0.98Mbps
As you can see, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offered extremely fast connections to the UK. NordVPN had two milliseconds less latency, but that’s not really a significant difference. All in all, the tests to the UK were more or less even unless you want to split hairs. The Switzerland tests, however, were a different story altogether.
ExpressVPN pummeled NordVPN in the Switzerland test. They each had roughly the same latency and the exact same upload rate, but the download rates were significantly different. ExpressVPN offered 5.06Mbps of download bandwidth, but NordVPN only offered 3.84Mbps of download bandwidth on the Switzerland connection.
Still, both providers performed well, and even though NordVPN fell behind a little in the Switzerland test, it was still a fast enough connection to browse the web without any encumbrances. The latency rates of each provider were perfectly acceptable too, and are fast enough to support finicky traffic like real-time audio and voice data.
Features and Benefits
Both providers boast an impressive set of features, as well, but let’s start by examining ExpressVPN’s features. First off, note that ExpressVPN offers industry standard encryption that’s so powerful, it’s actually used by banks and military organizations around the world.
Users are provided with AES-256 encryption, which is so strong the key can’t be cracked with the world’s most powerful computers.
Furthermore, ExpressVPN offers a large variety of connection protocols, including PPTP, SSTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN. But as we’ll discuss shortly, PPTP isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not only does ExpressVPN offer flexible options regarding connection protocols, it also is available on every mainstream operating system under the sun.
It’s common to see many apps that were only written for Android, Windows, or Mac exclusively, but ExpressVPN casts a wide net by supporting Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, iOS, Android, and routers as well.
In fact, ExpressVPN comes with a handy router app that simplifies the process of connecting your router to a VPN. Technically, your router only counts as one device, so as long as your router’s VPN is up an running, every device connected to your local network will be able to send data to and from the tunnel.
This is one way to circumvent ExpressVPN’s rather lackluster feature of three simultaneous connection.
ExpressVPN also proudly claims on its website that users get unlimited bandwidth and data. Don’t misunderstand and think that “unlimited bandwidth” is equivalent with a blazing fast connection; understand that there are limitations on your connection, such as bottlenecks like Internet connection speeds through your ISP.
What ExpressVPN means is that there aren’t any bandwidth throttling policies implemented on any of their servers, nor are there any monthly data caps.
While this is, admittedly, a good feature, it has come to be expected since the vast majority of competing for quality services also off this feature.
Next up, we need to discuss a crucial consideration when comparing VPN providers: where the servers are hosted. ExpressVPN hosts over 2000 servers in 145+ cities around the world, located in over 90 different countries.
For some perspective, consider that the average provider typically hosts servers in about 50 different countries, so ExpressVPN providers more options than most other providers. In fact, I think the only provider I’ve seen offer more global locations is HMA VPN, which at the time hosted servers in close to 200 countries.
The client does come with some features which, sadly, aren’t industry standard yet, like split-tunneling which allows you route data through different network interfaces selectively. Additionally, there’s a kill-switch feature which halts traffic and downloads in the event of a tunnel disconnect to prevent your data from being sent in an unencrypted format.
And lastly, ExpressVPN has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, so you can control the VPN client directly from your web browser.
The following provides an outline of ExpressVPN’s main features:
- AES-256-bit encryption
- PPTP, SSTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN
- Available on Linux, Windows, Mac OSX, Android, iOS, and capable routers
- 2000+ servers located in 145+ cities in 90+ countries
- No bandwidth throttling or monthly data caps
- Kill-switch feature included
- Split-tunneling ability
- Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
- Three simultaneous connections
NordVPN, as a leading VPN service and staunch competitor, offers many of the same features as ExpressVPN. For instance, NordVPN also offers military-grade encryption and is supported on all the same platforms too. And although NordVPN does have a kill-switch feature, it lacks a split-tunneling feature.
NordVPN also hosts servers in fewer countries than ExpressVPN. Currently, NordVPN hosts 1800+ servers in 62+ countries around the world, which is still more global connection options than the average provider.
But one thing I really love about NordVPN’s service is that they offer double the simultaneous connections than ExpressVPN. One account can have up to six active connections at the same time, which is great for families or friends who want to pool resources to save money.
NordVPN’s real advantage over ExpressVPN, however, is its uncommon security features, which are rarely seen among competitors. The first of which is a Double VPN feature, which allows a user to chain to VPN server connections for an extra layer of obfuscation and security.
Additionally, there’s a Cybersec feature, which will automatically block spammy and suspicious sites, malware, ads, and other similar cyber-threats.
Plus, if you’re a fan of Tor and the Onion network, you’ll love the next security feature. NordVPN has a feature called Onion Over VPN, which essentially combines the encryption security of a VPN tunnel with an extra layer of protection via the anonymous services of Tor.
The following provides an outline of NordVPN’s main features:
- AES-256-bit encryption
- Available on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, Android, and iOS
- Over 1800 servers in 62+ countries
- Double VPN (a.k.a. VPN chaining)
- OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec
- Onion over VPN
- Browser proxy extensions for Chrome and Firefox
- No split tunneling feature
- Six simultaneous connections
After reviewing the features of each provider, it’s clear that NordVPN offers superior features. The only thing NordVPN really lacks, compared with ExpressVPN, is a slightly smaller network of servers (though all the most popular regions are covered), no split-tunneling feature, and no SSTP, PPTP, or L2TP/IPsec connections.
However, I’m not too worried about the fact there are fewer connection options, and I’ll tell you why. OpenVPN should be your primary go-to connection option owing to its superior security and ability to provide AES-256-bit encryption. L2TP/IPsec certainly isn’t bad, but OpenVPN is preferable, and PPTP should be avoided at all costs.
In fact, I’m a little disappointed ExpressVPN even offers it at all.
PPTP is now defunct and poses a massive security risk to the average user who doesn’t know any better. You see, the PPTP algorithm has been cracked for years now, and with cheap, readily accessible software, a hacker could intercept PPTP traffic and break the encryption to read the data.
Some providers, like ExpressVPN, still offer it because it has lower overhead than other protocols, and performs slightly better.
In all practicality, the only traffic I would send over PPTP would perhaps be streaming audio or video from a content source with geo-restrictions. But then again, OpenVPN performs flawlessly already in that scenario, so why would I forgo the security of OpenVPN for a nominal, and probably unrecognizable, improvement in overhead performance?
And while NordVPN may lack a few features, it certainly makes up for them with extra security enhancements ExpressVPN lacks, such as Onion Over VPN, Cybersec, and Double VPN.
NordVPN simply has better features focused on security, which is the whole point of a VPN tunnel, right? With that said let’s take a look at customer support.
ExpressVPN and NordVPN are actually pretty evenly matched when it comes to customer support. Both providers offer 24/7/365 customer support, and both offer live chat systems directly from their website.
If you don’t want to establish contact with the support department via live chat, either provider allows you to start a support ticket via an email sent from a web form on the website. However, I prefer live chat because it’s a lot quicker, easier, and convenient.
It may not even be necessary to contact either ExpressVPN or NordVPN’s support department in the first place, however, due to the quality and quantity of well-crafted troubleshooting and configuration guides.
The guides are so easy to follow that even a complete novice who knows nothing about VPN tunnels or the software could successfully troubleshoot a problem, provided that user is capable of following simple steps.
They both also have FAQ pages and billing/account support pages to help users answer basic questions about refunds and other similar issues. Really, unless you were having some incredibly strange and unique issue that’s highly improbable, I doubt opening a ticket is necessary with either provider on account of the quality of help articles in both providers’ knowledgebase.
Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have some help to lean on during troublesome times. Sometimes software errors are so infuriating that you’ll want to rip your hair out in frustration. In such a scenario, having qualified support can really save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration. So, all in all, I think ExpressVPN and NordVPN are tied when it comes to the support department.
So, which service is the best between NordVPN vs ExpressVPN? Personally, I have to say that I see a lot more value in NordVPN, and I’ll tell you why.
First of all, NordVPN is ridiculously cheaper than ExpressVPN, especially when you opt for a three-year subscription. Secondly, I was much more impressed with NordVPN’s features, especially the security features.
I do commend ExpressVPN for performing better in the speed tests, but I think NordVPN simply has more to offer. Not only does it have improved security features like Onion Over VPN and Double VPN, but it also allows twice as many (six) simultaneous connections as ExpressVPN, which lends itself better to families and friends.
I want to be clear that I think ExpressVPN is a great service, and that it’s favorably based in the British Virgin Islands. However, NordVPN seems to offer a lot more value.
If speed is your number one concern, then perhaps ExpressVPN is worth it to you. For all other cases, NordVPN is a better solution. I hope you agree on who is the winner between NordVPN vs ExpressVPN.