Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark
February 4, 2021
Shopping for a VPN service can feel like shopping for a car. There are a lot of them out there, and — for the most part — they all do the same thing. You really have to get under the hood to see how one VPN provider differs from another. Today, we’re setting two up for battle: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark.
What makes ExpressVPN different from Surfshark, and vice versa? In what categories do each of these particular VPN services do best? We’re going to put them side by side to see who comes out on top. By the time we finish this ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark showdown, you should have a pretty good sense of which will work better for your particular needs.
Two things smart shoppers focus on when looking for a VPN service are server count and streaming ability. Before we pay for a VPN subscription, we’ll want to know how many servers the VPN provider has and how well it works with streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.
ExpressVPN and Surfshark each fall a bit short in server count, though ExpressVPN does better. While ExpressVPN can’t claim quite as many servers as some other competitors, it lists a respectable 3,000+ servers in 94 countries. The country coverage is pretty good with ExpressVPN, and 3,000 seems to be enough for the service to keep speeds high (more on that later).
Surfshark comes in below ExpressVPN in its server count and the countries it has servers in. Surfshark only has 1,700+ servers in 63 countries. In this department, it seems obvious that ExpressVPN takes the win.
As far as streaming is concerned, however, things are mostly a wash. ExpressVPN and Surfshark both claim to work with various streaming video services — a claim that we were able to verify in our ExpressVPN review and our Surfshark review. Both services are strong options for streamers.
You can’t talk about VPNs without talking about security. After all, the main reason many use VPN services is so they can encrypt their traffic and protect the information they’re transmitting and receiving. There are a few things you want to look at when checking out how a VPN provider treats security. In these particular areas, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark get the job done.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, a location that does not have any major data retention laws and does not participate in any data sharing with other countries. On top of that, ExpressVPN has a no-logs policy, so they wouldn’t have any records to hand over, anyway. Surfshark, too, is located in the British Virgin Islands. It also has a no-logs policy. Are you getting deja vu? Clearly, the services are neck-and-neck in this department.
ExpressVPN supports a number of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and SSTP. Those are strong options. Surfshark also supports multiple protocols: Users can choose between OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and Shadowsocks. Both services impress us in this department.
It’s tough to see any daylight between these two VPNs in this very important category. Luckily, both are very strong on security and privacy. You can’t go wrong here!
Speed is important if you plan to use a VPN for file downloads, video streaming, or other bandwidth-intensive activities. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark do their part to ensure you don’t run into any issues with speed.
We conducted speed tests with both ExpressVPN and Surfshark to see how well they worked with basic browsing, streaming content from Netflix, downloading some games from Xbox Game Pass, and other levels of internet activity.
The results were excellent on both sides: ExpressVPN and Surfshark were practically unnoticeable, encrypting traffic via remote servers while still delivering the internet at expected speeds. ExpressVPN and Surfshark both avoid speed caps and bandwidth limits, so you can stream and download as much as you’d like.
Doing the expected things is nice for a VPN service. But what about all the bells and whistles that some services add? What about the user experience for the apps a VPN service provides? And what about the cost? This is where you can start to draw more of a line between ExpressVPN and Surfshark.
Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have pretty decent app experiences. The apps for both providers are fairly easy to use, letting you go from unprotected to secure pretty quickly. Surfshark is known for its high-quality mobile apps, though ExpressVPN also offers strong options for users on the go.
As far as features go, though, Surfshark really stands out. ExpressVPN opts for a more simple feature set, letting you change protocols, use a “kill switch” to cut off the internet if the VPN disconnects, and use the service on multiple devices. Surfshark, on the other hand, does all that but also includes a built-in malware detector as well as an ad blocker. And, like ExpressVPN, Surfshark lets you connect with a number of different devices at once.
In terms of price, Surfshark also scores some points over ExpressVPN. It seems ExpressVPN positions itself as a more premium service, charging $12.95 per month while not really offering life-changing discounts if you sign up for longer subscription periods. Surfshark can be downright cheap if you pay up front. For one month of Surfshark, you’ll pay the same $12.95. Pay for two years, though, and your effective monthly rate drops down to $2.21. That is a deep, deep discount.
So there you have it. You now have a deeper look at both ExpressVPN and Surfshark, as well as how the two VPN services compare to one another. The big question now is, which one is going to be better for you?
If server count is extremely important to you, and if you need more servers in more places around the world, ExpressVPN may be the provider for you. You’re more likely to find a server in that very specific country you need, and there may be more servers in that location for you to choose from. ExpressVPN is also an exception all-around service, as evidenced by its superb performance in our review.
But Surfshark was no slouch in our review process, either, and it offers low prices that are tough to beat. It can’t quite stand with ExpressVPN in server count, but it does offer loads of features and excellent mobile apps for a very low price.
It’s hard to go wrong with two services like this. ExpressVPN leads in some key categories, but mobile users and budget-conscious consumers will want to take a long look at Surfshark.
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