In short, we believe ExpressVPN is the better option because it is faster and easier to use, but it does have one major drawback: it is quite expensive. NordVPN picks up the slack with its multi-year plans, which are extremely affordable. NordVPN also has a few more customization options.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN Features
Let’s begin with the benefits. In general, NordVPN has more features, whereas ExpressVPN’s experience is much less customizable. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, is a slightly more effective VPN. It’s a lot better than NordVPN at getting things done.
Netflix and Other Streaming Services
ExpressVPN has a better connection to Netflix and other streaming services than NordVPN. Despite the recent Netflix VPN crackdown, ExpressVPN continues to gain access to other countries’ Netflix libraries, despite the fact that using a VPN with Netflix has become much more difficult.
Since Netflix updated its detection system, NordVPN isn’t doing nearly as well. We received reports that some NordVPN servers in the United States are compatible with Netflix, but we were unable to replicate the results.
As a result, we’re going out on a limb and recommending ExpressVPN to anyone looking to use a VPN to stream TV shows and movies. At the same time, we’ll take a risk and remind readers that your mileage may vary, as the servers that work and those that don’t are constantly changing.
Speed and Server Count
The number of servers available to each service may have an impact on things like getting through to Netflix. In terms of sheer numbers, NordVPN comes out on top with over 5,000 servers in 60 countries, while ExpressVPN has over 3,000 in over 90 countries.
Despite the fact that 5,000 is a significant increase over 3,000, numbers alone do not tell the whole story. For one thing, the geographical coverage provided by ExpressVPN may be a better deal for some people, especially if they require an IP address from a specific country that NordVPN does not provide.
Furthermore, ExpressVPN’s servers appear to be more reliable than NordVPN’s. The connection time is shorter. You’ll also notice that the speeds are generally faster. We say “generally” because NordVPN is hit or miss: its fastest servers are faster than ExpressVPN’s, but you’ll get a slow server more often than not.
ExpressVPN doesn’t have nearly as much of a problem with this, and you always get roughly the same speeds regardless of geographic distance. Overall, we have had a much better experience with ExpressVPN.
Both services will suffice if you’re primarily interested in using a VPN to download torrents. ExpressVPN has the speed and security to keep you anonymous, whereas NordVPN has more features. NordVPN, for example, offers dedicated P2P servers that promise increased capacity and speed, though we haven’t noticed much of a difference in practice.
What’s unique about NordVPN is that it has a dedicated kill switch: in most cases, a kill switch will simply turn off your internet if your connection to the VPN server is lost. It’s a necessary safeguard. ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have one, but NordVPN also has a specialized version that blocks internet access for only certain apps.
This is particularly useful for torrenters, as you can configure your BitTorrent client to shut down when the VPN fails while leaving all other programs running. It’s a neat little feature that will come in handy for some users.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both have a slew of security features to offer. Both have high-grade encryption as the default (AES-256), as well as the aforementioned kill switch (though the words “military-grade encryption” appear to have vanished from their homepages).
When it comes to VPN protocol, or how the VPN “talks” to websites, each service uses its own custom-made protocol by default. ExpressVPN Lightway is a solid, fast protocol that we previously covered, and NordVPN offers Nordlynx, which is based on WireGuard, another top-of-the-line protocol. Both appear to be good choices, but if you prefer, you can always use OpenVPN.
Double VPNs, which send your connection through two VPN servers one after the other, are one of the more interesting features offered by NordVPN. While this may appear to be a cool feature, it appears to provide no real benefit, as all it does is slow down your VPN connection even more due to the additional miles it must travel. Furthermore, if one VPN server fails to secure your connection, a second one won’t help much.
NordVPN’s CyberSec, an adblocker, is a final interesting and less cosmetic feature. However, after playing around with it, we don’t notice much of a difference between it and other common adblockers, so it’s more of a fun bonus than a compelling reason to sign up for NordVPN.
While we prefer ExpressVPN’s features to those of NordVPN, they come at a cost. At just under $100 per year, ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs on the market. Even getting three months free when you sign up doesn’t take the sting out of it.
NordVPN is significantly less expensive for the first two years, though the cost of renewing after that period will be well over $300. Nonetheless, $89 for two years of service is less than half the price of $100 for a single year. If everything else is equal, you’d be better off signing up for NordVPN and revisiting the issue in two years.
NordVPN, in our experience, is always running some sort of promotion, so you can disregard the countdown timers and other promotional banners.
Regardless of which VPN you choose, both offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied, simply cancel your subscription within that time frame and you’ll receive a full refund. We’ve never had a problem with this refund and haven’t heard of anyone who has.
Both contenders score well when it comes to privacy. Both the ExpressVPN and NordVPN privacy policies state unequivocally that no logs are kept. However, as we discuss in depth in our no-log VPN coverage, there’s no good way to know for sure. In the end, we’re going to trust both services.
However, there has been no evidence that either ExpressVPN or NordVPN have been shady with customer information. Though there will always be rumors and speculation floating around the internet, the only blemish we can find is the 2019 NordVPN hack, in which a third party gained access to NordVPN’s servers.
Some of the details surrounding that event are strange, but the company acted about as well as you’d expect, so we can’t hold it against them. When it comes to privacy, both services get our seal of approval.
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Ease of Use
ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both simple to use, but their methods differ. ExpressVPN has one large button for turning on and off the VPN and a smaller button for selecting a server below it. There are some basic settings to fiddle with as well, but nothing special. The app is simple to use; you simply set it and forget it.
NordVPN also has a single on/off button, though it isn’t as prominent as some other VPNs, but otherwise has a very different interface. For starters, the main interface is an interactive map that shows you where you might connect to, which is useful if you need some geographical information.
However, it’s in the settings menu where NordVPN really shines. Whereas ExpressVPN only allows you to toggle a few options, NordVPN has a plethora of options. The kill switch, for example, is one example, but there are other great ways to fine-tune split tunneling, such as setting up the VPN only for specific apps. It’s quite useful.
Picking a specific server, on the other hand, is less enjoyable. While both services have an autopicker that works well, ExpressVPN makes it much easier to find a specific server. You’ll be given a large list to choose from, with various locations for most countries.
Not so with NordVPN, which allows you to choose a location and then scroll through a list of servers available in that location. However, because there are so many, you’ll often find yourself scrolling for a long time, hoping that the next one will be the one that gets you into Netflix.
You have this problem with ExpressVPN to some extent, but a server name like “New York #1” is easier to remember than “United States #814.” Though it may appear minor, NordVPN’s difficulty in finding the right server quickly becomes a major flaw.
To summarize, if you prefer to set it and forget it, ExpressVPN is likely the VPN for you. If you like to mess around with your settings, NordVPN is probably the way to go. However, we prefer ExpressVPN’s minimalist approach in general.
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The Final Word
In general, we prefer NordVPN. While we appreciate NordVPN’s flexibility, many of its features appear to be frills or even cosmetic.
Although ExpressVPN appears to offer less at first glance, we believe that its improved speeds and ability to access Netflix more consistently place it higher in our rankings.
Still, at less than $90 for two years, NordVPN is a good value, especially if streaming isn’t a high priority for you.