ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the best and most secure VPN providers out there. If you are one of those people searching for the differences between the two services in order to decide which is the best, then I’ll try my best to help you out in this article.
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Harris Andrea and I’m working as a network and IT security engineer in a big ISP (Internet Service Provider). I’ve been working in the Information Security space for more than 15 years, so I know a “few” things about online privacy and security. I have used many VPN providers over time (especially when travelling abroad) so I decided to compare two of the most popular ones for my friends visiting this blog.
Table of Contents
- Our Quick Recommendation
- Comparison Table of Key Features
- ExpressVPN – A Quick Overview
- NordVPN – A Quick Overview
- Key Features Discussion
- Privacy and Security
- VPN Servers Infrastructure
- Speed Comparison
- Operating Systems and Devices Supported
- Concurrent Devices/Connections
- Unblocking Netflix
- BitTorrent Support
- Dedicated IPs
- What is a VPN and How is it Used?
Our Quick Recommendation
This option is great for users that don’t mind paying a little bit extra for getting one of the fastest and most reliable VPN providers out there. Having servers in 94 countries with premium Tier-1 bandwidth connections, they offer the best service in terms of speed, streaming content (Netflix etc), fast Torrent downloads etc. Especially if you are travelling a lot and want to have restricted content unblocked wherever you are in the world, this VPN service is a must.
Have a look below about the top 5 ways to use this service:
For users that require extra security features and protection (like double encryption, VPN over TOR etc) and with better value for money (6 devices with 1 subscription), this service is a great option. Especially if you want to unblock USA based content (e.g USA Netflix and others), NordVPN has a great number of servers in the US alone to make this happen.
Here are some user testimonials for this product:
Comparison Table of Key Features
There are several VPN providers, but Expressvpn and Nordvpn are two of the best and most popular ones.
When comparing Expressvpn vs Nordvpn, you’ll see that there are some fundamental differences between the two but many similarities as well. Let’s get started with this comparison by briefly reviewing and explaining the main features and key facts of each service.
ExpressVPN – A Quick Overview
Let’s start with ExpressVPN. This provider has more than 2000 network nodes (servers) in a whopping number of 94 countries (148 cities) !!.
This makes their network run extremely fast, since the closer you are to the server, the less lag time you’ll experience. Wherever you are in the world, there is high probability that they have a VPN server close to you.
The company is based in the British Virgin Islands. This country doesn’t require them to keep any internet browsing logs, so they simply don’t. Your browsing and connection activity history through Expressvpn is not recorded at all.
Their VPN service can be used on Windows computers, Apple MAC, Apple iOS Phones, Android Phones, home Routers, Linux etc.
Have a look at several Frequently Asked Questions about this product and read the answers for getting a better idea about this service.
NordVPN – A Quick Overview
On the other hand, NordVPN is based in Panama, another jurisdiction with “no-logs” laws.
This is good for people who want an extremely private network. Due to the policies in Panama, Nordvpn doesn’t record any of its user’s logs. They simply don’t have to, so they don’t bother. Anything that you view online is for your eyes only.
You can even use TOR (the secure “Onion” network) over the encrypted VPN if you are paranoid about security.
In terms of number of VPN servers, they have over 4100 servers worldwide in 62 countries.
Operating Systems supported include Microsoft Windows, Apple MAC computers, Apple iOS phones and Android Phones.
Just like the other contestant in this article, we have also written a FAQ post for NordVPN as well.
Key Features Discussion
There are a number of key features to go over in order to compare Expressvpn vs Nordvpn fully. These include (among others) price, privacy and security, network infrastructure, speed, customer support, operating systems supported etc.
Looking at these two VPNs side by side by expanding on the key features of each company will really help you determine which one is best for your needs.
This is one category where Expressvpn and Nordvpn are almost tied, with NordVPN being a little bit cheaper.
Both services have three plan options as shown below.
Privacy and Security
Another category of features to compare Expressvpn vs Nordvpn are those focused on privacy and security. This is probably one of the most important features category since the main purpose of a VPN service is to enhance your privacy and security after-all.
There are various elements that compose the overall privacy and security of a VPN service such as encryption, VPN protocols, logging policy, DNS leak protection, kill switch etc. Let’s discuss all of these below:
ExpressVPN and NordVPN Encryption Used
Both VPN services are based on AES 256-bits encryption which is currently considered unbreakable. It will take millions of years of current computers to break AES-256. This means that your data communicating between your computer/smartphone and the VPN servers are encrypted with one of the strongest encryption standards available.
Just the AES-256 is enough for a regular user in terms of encryption. However, there are people and use-cases that need extra level of encryption and this is offered only by NordVPN, with reduction in speed however.
Specifically, NordVPN offers two options for extra encryption layers:
- Double VPN: Your traffic gets encrypted once between you and the first VPN server. Then, the traffic data is sent to a second VPN server on another location which is encrypted again. This offers extra layer of safety for people living in countries with high level of Internet censorship and surveillance. However, Double VPN reduces speed because traffic goes through multiple hops and extra encryption.
- Onion (TOR) over VPN: The Onion (TOR) network is a free network providing privacy by utilizing volunteer-operated servers with high encryption and privacy. NordVPN supports Onion over VPN which means that your Internet traffic goes through a VPN server first and then is routed to an Onion server for extra layer of security. Again, this type of double security reduces speed a lot.
VPN Protocols Supported
The VPN Protocol is the way your device communicates with the VPN server. The more VPN protocols available means better compatibility with applications on the user side.
Here are the VPN protocols supported by the two providers:
Although most users will not bother much about such technical details, more advanced users will appreciate the slightly better and more widely used protocols supported by NordVPN. For example, IPSEc/IKEv2 is one of the most secure VPN protocols providing military-grade security.
As we’ve said before, both providers are based in jurisdictions that do not require the companies to keep any logs of their service.
Although both companies do not keep any activity logs or connection logs (such as IP addresses, Browsing history, DNS queries, destinations visited etc), ExpressVPN collects some minimal information (mainly for troubleshooting technical issues) which however can not be used to match a person to any specific VPN activity.
Let’s see in details what information is collected by the two VPN companies:
Although someone might be thinking that the clear winner here in terms of logging privacy is NordVPN, in my humble opinion I prefer the logging policy of ExpressVPN because with these logs they can provide better technical support if needed, find and troubleshoot technical errors and identify connection problems.
The data collected by ExpressVPN can’t be used to identify and match an individual with any Internet activity, but this data is useful to make their service more reliable and have better performance. So I would select ExpressVPN as the winner in the logging policy which the company implemented.
This mechanism is directly related to privacy and security. The Kill Switch automatically stops all traffic from your device if the VPN connection is lost. This is because when VPN connection goes down, your real public IP address will be revealed to the Internet, therefore exposing your privacy.
The two VPN providers offer the kill switch feature but with a different implementation. ExpressVPN blocks all Internet traffic (Network Lock) but NordVPN terminates the applications that are using the VPN. In summary, both providers support this feature effectively.
DNS Leak Protection
The DNS Server is usually run by your ISP and is responsible to resolve domain names to IP addresses. The DNS of your ISP logs all Internet activity of users, therefore its a big privacy concern for many customers of VPN services.
For maximum privacy, quality VPN providers implement their own secure and private DNS servers which are used by their customers. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN operate their own DNS servers, so DNS Leak Protection is ensured.
VPN Servers Infrastructure
The number of locations of the VPN Servers and their internet connectivity plays an important role in the worldwide coverage of each provider and also in the reliability and speed performance of each service.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have created an impressive VPN server infrastructure with world-wide coverage.
Although NordVPN has more VPN servers than ExpressVPN (4000+ compared to 2000+ servers), the latter has presence in much more countries in the world than NordVPN (94 compared to 62).
The internet connectivity of each server also is very important to sustain high speed connectivity for customers. In this area, ExpressVPN shines since they buy premium bandwidth for their servers which are also speed-optimized to offer one of the fastest performance in the industry.
Having also servers located in much more countries compared to NordVPN, ExpressVPN is ideal for people travelling a lot and for people that use their VPN service for multimedia purposes such as video streaming. ExpressVPN performs consistently faster than competitors.
Having all the above in mind, ExpressVPN is a winner in terms of VPN Server Infrastructure.
This section is interrelated with the previous paragraph about VPN Servers Infrastructure. The actual servers’ hardware and software, their locations in the world and their internet connectivity with high-bandwidth connections are crucial factors in elevating the overall speed of a VPN provider.
Although both contestants in this comparison article offer excellent connectivity speeds when a user is connected to their VPN service, ExpressVPN is considered one of the fastest VPN networks with consistent speeds and reliability.
Although I could use my own speed tests and present them here, I decided to take a different approach and provide you with several independent speed tests performed by other trusted reviewers online.
Here are some speed test results:
From 5 different independent reviewers available on the Internet who performed 6 different speed tests, ExpressVPN won in 4 tests and NordVPN won in 2 tests.
Please have in mind that speed tests depend on many factors like your actual Internet connection bandwidth, the country and the time of day you are performing the test, which VPN servers you are connected to etc.
However, I have read tens of reviews, user comments in forums, Reddit posts etc and the majority of the feedback I’ve received shows ExpressVPN as better in speed tests and also having more consistent performance compared to NordVPN.
Operating Systems and Devices Supported
In our “always connected” life, we use tens of different operating systems, home devices that are connected to the internet, gaming consoles, smart TVs etc. Its important therefore that the VPN provider you choose supports as many OS and devices possible.
You need to know here that a savvy technical user can make both VPN services to work with almost any device that can be connected to the Internet, by configuring the device accordingly.
However, its important that the VPN company offers also native apps so that regular users can just install the app and are ready to go.
Let’s see what is supported by the two services in terms of native apps:
This feature has to do with how many devices concurrently you are allowed to have connected to the VPN provider at the same time. This important feature has direct impact on the overall value-for-money you get from each service.
The more concurrent devices/connections you are allowed to have the more people in your family or company can use the service with just one subscription. Let’s see the numbers below:
This gives NordVPN an advantage as the double number of connections allowed on the same subscription can accommodate easily 2-3 people.
If you install either ExpressVPN or NordVPN on your home router, then your whole internet connection will be using the VPN service therefore any device inside the home network will be protected.
Watching specific streaming TV services from countries that block them is one of the most popular uses of VPNs.
Netflix as we know is probably the most popular TV streaming service in the world. To unblock Netflix in case its restricted in your area, using a VPN is the best way to achieve this.
Usually streaming providers block access to their content by looking at the IP address of the device you are trying to connect. If you go through a VPN server however which is located in USA (for example) then Netflix sees an IP address coming from the USA instead of your real IP address. Therefore content is unblocked.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have taken serious steps in unblocking Netflix as this is one of the most sought-after features for users. Although customers’ feedback from around the world indicate ExpressVPN as one of the best providers in unblocking and streaming Netflix (remember that ExpressVPN is one of the fastest services), you will not have problems with NordVPN and Netflix in most cases.
Moreover, these two providers work well with several other streaming platforms such as Hulu, Spotify, HBO Go, BBC’s iPlayer and more.
Both companies allow the use of file sharing and downloading using torrent networks.
NordVPN allows Peer-to-Peer torrenting only on specific servers in their network (in 37 countries).
ExpressVPN on the other hand allows the use of BitTorrent sharing on ALL of its servers.
One of the the main purposes of using a VPN privacy service is to hide your true public IP address provided by your ISP and replace it with the IP address of the VPN server. This means that your online activity can’t be traced back to you.
The default option of both companies is to offer shared IPs for all of their users. This means that when you connect to a specific VPN server, the same IP address of this server is shared among hundreds of customers.
NordVPN however offers the option to buy a Dedicated IP for extra charge. This means that you can have your own static IP just for you to use. This is too much for regular users but tech savvy professionals might find this very useful.
Split Tunnel is a feature that allows the user to select which apps will use the VPN network and which apps will not use it. Most VPN providers do not have this feature and force the user to always use the VPN when connected to it.
However, there are cases whereby the user wants to access the Local Area Network (LAN) while connected to the VPN. This is useful if you are connected to your corporate network and want to access also files and local resources on the LAN while your browsing traffic goes through the VPN.
Between the two contestants here, only ExpressVPN has this feature. This means that you can select for example all apps to use the VPN except Firefox browser. So if you want to browse an internal web server in your work environment you can access it via Firefox and all of the other traffic will go through the VPN tunnel.
What is a VPN and How is it Used?
But what is a VPN and how is it used you might ask. VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. The best way to explain this technology is to begin with the differences between private and public networks and give an example of an insecure way of connecting to the Internet.
If you use the Internet while at Starbucks for example (or any other coffee shop, hotel etc) then you’re on their public WiFi network which in turn takes you out to the public Internet. This connection scenario shows one of the many insecure ways to use the Internet.
Since usually there’s no password required to use the WiFi in a coffee shop (and if there is, it’s the same for all of the users) that connection isn’t entirely secure. Anyone can get ahold of your personal information while you’re on it.
A VPN would solve that problem. It creates a secure and encrypted private network over a public one. These secured networks have a number of uses, but most important of them all is the privacy that they offer while using the Internet.