Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
NordVPN vs ExpressVPN
April 8, 2021
We get it — shopping for a VPN service is not easy. There are boatloads of options, and some of them can seem very similar. How do you make a choice if all of the choices look the same? It’s a question you’ll no doubt wrestle with, especially if you’re comparing services. Take NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN, for example.
Today we’re going to take a closer look at these two VPN providers and figure out who ultimately wins the NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN battle. By the end of this journey, you should have a better sense of which VPN service is the best.
NordVPN is a very large and well-known VPN service, and for good reason: It doesn’t slouch when it comes to servers. NordVPN boasts 5,518 servers in 59 countries. With such a long list, you’d be hard-pressed to find a server that doesn’t suit your needs.
ExpressVPN, meanwhile, takes a different approach to server coverage — one that you may or may not find useful. You won’t get the same server count, as ExpressVPN only claims to have a bit more than 3,000. What this particular VPN provider does do well, though, is show up in more places. You’ll find ExpressVPN servers in 94 countries, as opposed to NordVPN’s 59. So there are fewer to connect to overall, but you’re more likely to find one in a very specific country.
And as far as streaming video is concerned, you can pretty much consider this competition a draw. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are useful for accessing the U.S. versions of Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube while abroad. Both also typically work in the reverse scenario, allowing you to watch Netflix’s foreign catalogs from the U.S. Both seem to change server IP addresses enough to elude the blocks set by these particular services. Neither VPN will hit you with any kind of data cap. Basically, you can stream videos to your heart’s content with either one of these VPNs. Only Disney+ seems to catch and block these VPNs, though we have had some success using Disney+ with NordVPN.
If you’re interested in using a VPN service, it seems safe to assume you care about security. You’re probably wondering, “Does NordVPN have any red flags I should be aware of?” or, “Does ExpressVPN take security seriously?” Fortunately, you don’t have too much to worry about in this department. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are giants in the industry, and a lot of that has to do with their approaches to security and privacy.
To start, NordVPN is based in Panama. That means it doesn’t have to tussle with agencies that may want to see your data, as Panama has no agreements for data retention with other countries. On top of that, NordVPN has a fairly robust no-logs policy. You can feel confident there is no file somewhere of which sites you’ve visited or which files you’ve downloaded.
The story is largely the same for ExpressVPN. This service is based in the British Virgin Islands, which it claims has “strong privacy legislation and no data retention requirements.” Based on our research, these claims are accurate. ExpressVPN, like NordVPN, has a pretty substantial no-logs policy. Your online activities are kept completely private while you’re connected to the VPN.
Finally, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN make use of the industry’s most popular protocols. You can use either OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, or SSTP with both, ensuring the data you’re transmitting and receiving is both encrypted and secure. You may want to keep an eye on ExpressVPN in the future, though: this particular service is developing its own protocol called “Lightway” that it claims “provides the best in speed, security, and reliability.” Unfortunately, Lightway is in beta at the moment, and can only be used on Android and with certain routers.
When we mentioned earlier that it can be tough to differentiate between VPN providers sometimes, speed was one category we had in mind. Quite a few services can stand toe to toe with others in terms of speed, ensuring your internet experience doesn’t change all that much when connecting to a VPN. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN fall into this category.
Long story short, you’re going to get comparable speeds whether you choose NordVPN or ExpressVPN. Both services do their part to keep your downloads and uploads humming along at the bandwidth you’re used to. Neither has speed caps of any nature. Of course, some of your speed variations will depend on where you are and which server you’re connecting to. You may find that connecting to a country one hop over might give you a boost versus, say, connecting to a U.K. server while you’re in Australia. ExpressVPN has a built-in speed test, which NordVPN does not, but both performed well in our independent speed testing. For the most part, the speed differences between NordVPN and ExpressVPN are negligible.
A VPN service can really win you over by saying and offering a lot of the right things. How useful are those things, though, if the VPN itself is difficult to use? If you have trouble getting set up, how can you be sure you’re really protected? It goes without saying all of that is important, which is probably why both NordVPN and ExpressVPN put time and effort into making it all fairly simple.
It’s tough to pick a winner here in terms of which service has the better app. Regardless of platform — and both support many — you’ll find streamlined apps that put the important stuff front and center. The feature sets are fairly comparable: Both put various protocols at your fingertips, both use “kill switch” features to lock up your connection if the VPN goes down, and both allow you to use your account on multiple devices at once. It should be noted, though, that NordVPN allows you six simultaneous devices while ExpressVPN only gives you five.
Because the two are so on par with one another in terms of features and ease of use (along with everything else we mentioned prior), the price could be what ultimately pushes you in one direction or another. In that department, NordVPN has the lower price tag — $11.95 — on a per-month basis as well as with longer subscriptions. ExpressVPN’s pricing sets the monthly rate at $12.95 and doesn’t offer quite as steep a discount if you go with a longer plan.
So what’s the verdict then? In this battle between two juggernauts in the VPN space, which comes out on top? As you’ve likely surmised from everything you’ve read above, this is a tight race. These services offer similar features and make the same guarantees about your privacy and security. To make your decision, you’ll have to think about specific differences between these services — and two differences really stand out.
If servers are hugely important to you, you might want to look at where your needs lie. Do you need as many servers as possible, or do you need a better shot at finding a server in a specific place? If it’s the former, you might lean in the direction of NordVPN. If it’s the latter, ExpressVPN might be more your speed.
And then there’s the price. If you want a solid VPN for the least amount of money, you’ll want to look closely at NordVPN. But that’s not to say you should discount ExpressVPN entirely. If that provider’s server game is what you’re after — and if you need to connect in a country that NordVPN doesn’t cover — you may be totally fine with paying extra for that.
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