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NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Which VPN is best for you?

The best VPN is a tough one to figure out. With so many different options out there, it can feel like a battle to know how to trawl through the VPN deals out there and find the right service for you. However, it really doesn’t have to be. That’s because we’re on hand to help you figure out which is the best between two of the biggest names in the VPN world — NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

With multiple different reasons to sign up for a VPN, it’s worth evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular services. Whether you’re looking for the best VPN for streaming, looking for a Netflix VPN or you’re simply keen to check out a VPN free trial, we’ve got your back.

Read on while we guide you through everything you need to know about the differences between NordVPN and ExpressVPN. That includes seeing if either works well as a Chrome VPN or Apple TV VPN as well as answering the big questions of the day like is NordVPN safe? We also look at just how well both VPNs work in terms of speed and features, and whether they’re services that make your life easier or not. Both services provide great features depending on your needs so, by the end, you’ll know exactly which is the right VPN for you no matter what your intentions are or how you plan on using the service.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Devices

The best VPN for Mac is NordVPN.
NordVPN on Mac. NordVPN

If you want to use a VPN in your household, it’s likely that you want to use it for more than just one device such as your laptop, computer, or phone. To expand your VPN-using horizons to all your devices, you have options. The main option — regardless of whether you sign up for NordVPN or ExpressVPN — is to set up the VPN service on your router. Both VPN providers offer comprehensive tools and information on how to set up a VPN via your router so that any device that connects to the internet via your home network instantly connects to your VPN, thereby gaining maximum protection. It takes a little bit of technical knowledge but for the most part, the guides from the two services simplify the process a lot. However, setting up your router in this way might not be entirely convenient as you’ve committed to using the VPN across all devices without much flexibility of opting in or out of the service.

If you would prefer to use a VPN on a case-by-case basis and stick to using it with specific devices rather than your entire network, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN still offer extensive options covering almost every device you could think of, including some dedicated apps for major platforms. In either case, the worst-case scenario has you needing to follow some instructions to tweak network settings but both sites do a good job of explaining the process.

NordVPN is very comprehensive with its options. It has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It also has extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, as well as a dedicated app for using NordVPN for Android TV which is ideal for many different TV brands. There are also dedicated apps for Amazon Firestick, Raspberry Pi, and Chromebooks. The only devices that don’t have dedicated apps are games consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation, and the Nintendo Switch, along with the Kindle Fire. Instead, NordVPN offers comprehensive instructions on how to set up the service for each device so you won’t feel confused about your options here. Each device typically only takes a few minutes to set up with the instructions clear to follow.

ExpressVPN is similarly varied with its options for VPN apps and supported devices. It has dedicated apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and Chromebooks. Alongside that are dedicated instructions for using a VPN with the Kindle Fire range of tablets, VPN extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Instructions for games consoles are a little trickier to look for on the ExpressVPN website but the process is very similar as for any device meaning both services are nearly as straightforward to use. Effectively, you’re only ever a few minutes away from setting up either VPN service on your chosen device although setting up the VPN via your router is the much easier option for both providing you want your entire network to connect via a VPN at all times.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Features

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer many features for anyone looking for a new VPN. Whichever one you choose, the basic elements of a VPN are catered for here. These include some fairly typical features you’d see on almost all VPNs such as knowing you can browse anonymously as well as change your virtual location at ease, all without worrying about being tracked in any way. They both also offer features that are unique to their respective service. Crucially, both VPNs offer plenty of options when it comes to server availability. NordVPN allows users to choose from over 5,200 servers across 60 countries while ExpressVPN has 160 server locations in 94 countries. For most users, the number won’t matter with the quality of servers the most important consideration but if you have a specific country in mind, it’s worth checking that it’s on the list before committing. Both sites are clear at telling you exactly which countries are covered under their server lists so it’s easy to see what works for you.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN also offer a strict no-log policy so you’re guaranteed that neither service will track your activity nor monitor what you’re doing. They are also both located in areas where there are no worries about jurisdiction issues with NordVPN based in Panama and ExpressVPN based in the British Virgin Islands. To further reinforce that, both VPN services offer network kill switches too along with DNS and IPv6 leak protection. Such features mean that if your connection with the VPN drops for some reason, your entire connection drops so that nothing leaks out and you won’t be spotted by any potentially nefarious sources. NordVPN has the edge when it comes to how many devices can connect at once, allowing up to six devices to connect compared to ExpressVPN’s five. For most users though, five or six devices should be plenty. Only power users may need the advantage of an extra device.

ExpressVPN on MacBook Pro. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Another feature that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer is split tunneling support. This means that you can effectively split your connection. Via the feature, you can use your VPN to connect to one site while still browsing local content through a different connection, giving you the best of both worlds. It’s particularly useful if you want to use a VPN for streaming content from a popular streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video while still browsing a local website at the same time, or if you want to use a VPN for P2P file-sharing purposes and don’t want to be permanently connected to the P2P server.

Both services also offer extensive best-in-class encryption protection with military-grade level protection and support for protocols including OpenVPN and IKEv2. Things differ slightly with other protocols thanks to NordVPN supporting its own NordLynx protocol and ExpressVPN offering L2TP/IPsec and PPTP. However, NordVPN has an advantage thanks to some additional features. This includes DoubleVPN protection whereby you can change your IP twice to give yourself an extra layer of security. In addition, it’s possible to combine NordVPN with Onion over VPN providing the advantages of The Onion Router with a VPN tunnel. NordVPN also has CyberSec safety features for avoiding malware-hosting websites as well as annoying ads so it can generally improve your browsing experience. These features may not be essential for everyone but it does give NordVPN a small advantage when it comes to what can be achieved through the service. In conjunction with anti-virus or security software, many consumers will feel a lot safer knowing their browsing is more secure and likely to avoid any malware issues too.

Finally, there’s the matter of apps. Your mileage will vary depending on the device on which you use a VPN, but ExpressVPN is generally a bit simpler to use than NordVPN’s on all devices. Both will get you where you need to go but ExpressVPN’s is a touch easier for less experienced users as well as a little quicker to find servers.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Speed

The speed and performance of both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are pretty reliable. They both offer many different options for servers to connect to, which helps significantly here. Of course, ExpressVPN covers more countries while NordVPN provides far more servers but how much that affects you depends on if you need to browse via a specific country. In terms of performance, that generally leads to much faster speeds for NordVPN with the general consensus being that speeds for browsing or downloading are superior here. That’s further enhanced by its use of the WireGuard protocol — a free and open-source protocol that NordVPN has rebranded to NordLynx. ExpressVPN has its own twist on the matter — Lightway — but, typically, NordVPN has the better speeds although ExpressVPN is not worryingly slow by any means.

If you use an ISP that limits your bandwidth, whichever VPN you choose will boost your speeds noticeably. There’s also the advantage of the apps that make it easy for you to browse and pick a server that works for your needs. Both services also offer torrenting and P2P support which will be helpful to many VPN customers. However, NordVPN restricts P2P support to selected servers while ExpressVPN allows it across all its servers. Despite that, the servers that NordVPN provides P2P on are all optimized for the purpose so it’s generally faster to use than if you picked a random server, even if the options are fewer for this particular service.

For other browsing needs such as streaming videos via Netflix, NordVPN is generally the faster of the two providers. It’s only slightly faster but it makes a difference and cuts down on any buffering issues. It’s generally more reliable too with the service often staying up more consistently.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Price

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer various different pricing plans. It’s possible to subscribe to either service on a month-by-month basis, as well as commit to a full year with hefty discounts available for lengthy commitments. In the case of ExpressVPN, it’s also possible to subscribe for six months while NordVPN offers the option of a two-year plan for those planning ahead. Straight away, it’s clear that NordVPN is the easiest option to pick if you want to commit to something for an extended period of time and not have to think about it.

With both VPN services offering extensive discounts at different times of the year, there are still standard pricing plans at times although we recommend looking out for the best deals. At its full price, if you opt for NordVPN, your options are to pay $12 per month on a rolling basis, pay $144 for a one-year plan, or $323 for a two-year plan. Those are the full prices with big discounts often running throughout the year meaning it’s currently possible to buy a year’s worth of NordVPN for the equivalent of less than $5 per month working out at $59 per year, or a two-year plan for $89 which works out at $3.30 per month. The latter is easily the best value option out there but it’s only worth considering if you need a VPN for a long period of time so it may not apply to all users.

Alternatively, ExpressVPN is available for $13 per month on a rolling basis, or $10 per month for six months billed $60 every six months. There’s also the better value 12-month subscription which costs $156 every twelve months and is currently discounted to $100. While the 12 monthly subscription is the best option for value, the six-month plan is an unusual option for any VPN, so it could be convenient if you simply need a VPN for a medium length of time.

While both services are fairly similarly priced, there are some key differences. Notably, if you are keen to commit to a two-year plan, NordVPN is the best value option for any long-term commitments. There’s also a seven-day free trial for Android users of NordVPN with users able to use it on any device once claimed. There’s no free trial for ExpressVPN although it does promise a no-hassle, 100% money-back guarantee for the first 30 days of service. Whichever service you choose, it’s possible to pay via credit card, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal. Some options such as cryptocurrencies are a great way of ensuring the most security and anonymity when signing up for a service.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Verdict

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer a great VPN service. Whichever one you sign up for, you’ll be pleased with what they provide as they are very closely matched. Both provide a highly secure service, strong privacy features, and decent speeds. There are some key differences though with the ones that matter most to you alternating depending on why you need a VPN.

Generally, NordVPN wins on speed. Its performance is faster when streaming content or using P2P services. With more servers to choose from and some dedicated to P2P, it’s a far better option for P2P users even if you do need to commit to the dedicated servers rather than simply use any available option. There are also additional security concerns to consider with NordVPN beating ExpressVPN by a narrow margin. DoubleVPN support is a particularly nice advantage if you want to make sure you’re extra covered while browsing or downloading online.

However, ExpressVPN is a better bet if you want a simple-to-use app that works with minimal hassle or any need to think. There’s no need to pick out dedicated servers for P2P for instance and the app is a little more user-friendly. However, there are fewer servers to choose from albeit more countries, so it all depends on where you plan on browsing.

There are subtle but important differences for price too, with NordVPN representing a far better deal if you commit to a two-year plan but both services being a reliable option if you wish to subscribe for less time. Notably, ExpressVPN has a rare six-month option which is a big help if you simply need to be covered for a few months rather than a full year or more. In both cases, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the best VPN deals to find the best price for your needs as different sales mean better offers.

Whichever VPN you choose, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN should serve you well. We favor NordVPN for its extra speed boost but we can’t help but appreciate how convenient the ExpressVPN app is for getting connected quickly, even if there are fewer options out there. Still, for saving money, committing to a two-year plan with NordVPN is a big help if you want to stay secure for longer without breaking the bank.

Editors' Recommendations

Jennifer Allen
Jennifer Allen is a technology writer with over 10 years of experience. She primarily writes about the best deals coverage…
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