ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which VPN is the Better Buy?

In the world of Virtual Private Networks, there are many famous names. None more famous perhaps, than NordVPN and ExpressVPN. These two behemoths have lorded it over the field for ages.

For those who demand only the best, this becomes a problem. Exactly which of these two should you choose if you want the ultimate VPN? Today’s showdown pits NordVPN against ExpressVPN to help you decide exactly that.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN at a Glance

Features Comparison

FeaturesExpressVPNNordVPN
Performance (Speed)ExcellentExcellent
Ease of UseYesYes
Encryption256-bit256-bit
Based inBritish Virgin IslandsPanama
ProtocolsPPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsecOpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec,
NordLynx (WireGuard)
Privacy and SecurityExcellentExcellent
Support DevicesWindows, Mac, Android, IOS, Linux, routerWindows, Mac, Android, IOS, Linux, router
Maximum Connected Device56
P2P (File Sharing)No RestrictionRestricted
Free Trial30 days30 days
Payment SupportCredit Crad, PayPal, CryptoCredit Crad, PayPal, Crypto
Price$6.67 - $12.95/mo$3.69 - $14.19/mo
Learn MoreExpressVPNNordVPN
Visit OnlineExpressVPN.comNordVPN.com

Speed Test Results Comparison

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are comparable in terms of speed. Be aware though that this is just a general guideline as to the quality of service.

Server LocationExpressVPNNordVPN
Speed (Seattle, US)411 / 217 Mbps429 / 216 Mbps
Speed (New York, US)361 / 180 Mbps384 / 172 Mbps
Speed (London, UK)406 / 127 Mbps403 / 159 Mbps
Speed (Germany)398/ 198 Mbps (Frankfurt)450 / 331 Mbps (Berlin)
Speed (Singapore)495 / 474 Mbps505 / 381 Mbps
Speed (Perth, Australia)458 / 388 Mbps448 / 299 Mbps
Speed (Tokyo, Japan)435 / 347 Mbps443 / 122 Mbps

ExpressVPN Feels More Smoother and More Stable

TL;DR: ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN in terms of:

  • User Friendliness
  • Unrestricted P2P activity
  • Uses Lightway protocol

User Friendliness

ExpressVPN (L) and NordVPN (R) interface side by side
Side-by-side interface comparison, on the left is ExpressVPN vs NordVPN on the right. Both of these top VPN service providers are user-centric and have interfaces that are easily navigable. Of the two, ExpressVPN offers a more traditional and compact design. NordVPN, on the other hand, has a great interactive map on their interface, which makes it a bit more fun to use.

NordVPN runs mostly on the bigger names though, while ExpressVPN has opened up a little more. For example, ExpressVPN comes pre-deployed on some router models available though niche online channels like Flashrouters.

ExpressVPN also can be used on gaming consoles like Nintendo Switch, Playstations, and Xboxes. This makes it come out slightly ahead in useability.

Unrestricted P2P Activity

I have to say that operationally, I’ve never noticed much speed difference when torrenting on NordVPN’s P2P optimized servers. Because of that, I would prefer ExpressVPN’s capability of P2P on all servers. It just makes life easier.

ExpressVPN P2P

Compared to NordVPN, ExpressVPN works better with torrenting or P2P activities.
Compared to NordVPN, ExpressVPN works better with torrenting or P2P activities (ExpressVPN review).

In the case of P2P (or file sharing), there is a distinct difference between NordVPN and ExpressVPN. The latter offers unrestricted P2P activities on their network, meaning you can run torrents off any of their servers.

NordVPN P2P

P2P activities on NordVPN is restricted to specific servers.
P2P activity on NordVPN is restricted to specific servers (NordVPN review).

NordVPN, on the other hand, has what it calls ‘specially optimized P2P servers’ and you can only run torrents off these. 

Unfortunately for NordVPN, P2P is a very resource-hungry activity, and it is more likely that they are trying to corral users onto a small cluster of servers to streamline their bandwidth usage or server expenses.

Uses LightWay Protocol

The Lightway protocol that ExpressVPN offers is just as fast and stable. Lightway is entirely new but uses the wolfSSL cryptography library for security. The overall design of the protocol makes it extremely agile, and suitable for any device or platform.

NordVPN is More Progressive

TL;DR: NordVPN is better than ExpressVPN in terms of:

  • Cheaper Monthly Cost
  • WireGuard adoption

Cheaper Monthly Cost

The holy grail of everyone these days when choosing a VPN – price. Yet how much do you value your security, really? This is also pretty subjective, since the real value of a few bucks might be very different between two people.

NordVPN services come in three plans – Standard, Plus, and Complete for the subscription period of 1-month, 12-month and 24-months. The longer you subscribe, the cheaper the monthly cost (order here)

At its most discounted rate, NordVPN comes as cheaply as $3.09/mo spread across a term of 24 months. ExpressVPN costs $6.67/mo for an annual subscription with our exclusive deal (buy 12 get 3 months free). Side by side, it appears that NordVPN is much cheaper.

ExpressVPN pricing
ExpressVPN comes in three flavors – 1-month, 6-month, and 12-month subscriptions. You'll get free 3 months when you subscribe annually using our promo link – which averages the price to $6.67/mo (order here).

If you consider how much you’re paying upfront, NordVPN only costs a little bit more. For NordVPN you have to pay for two years at a go – totaling $83.43 during checkout; against 15 months on ExpressVPN for $80.04.

For regular monthly rates, NordVPN and ExpressVPN differ very slightly, with the former costing $11.99/mo against ExpressVPN’s $12.95/mo.

WireGuard Adoption

One important thing I want to mention here instead of under the communications protocols segment is NordVPN’s new introduction of the NordLynx protocol. Their adaptation of the still-experimental WireGuard protocol has come into play and is a game-changer.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Other Comparison Highlights

1. Performance

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are impressive in terms of speed.

Honestly, performance isn’t one of the topmost criteria to judge a VPN on. However, it is important to many users. There really isn’t much point in using a VPN if the speed is so poor that you are crippled on the Internet.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Speed Test

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are neck and neck mostly in terms of speed of their service. Naturally, this will vary depending on many factors such as which server you choose, how many people are congesting the server, and more.

Under normal circumstances however, speeds on both these behemoths are relatively fast and stable. I’ve used them for just over a year now and really have not had major issues in this regard.

Server LocationExpressVPNNordVPN
Speed (Seattle, US)411 / 217 Mbps429 / 216 Mbps
Speed (New York, US)361 / 180 Mbps384 / 172 Mbps
Speed (London, UK)406 / 127 Mbps403 / 159 Mbps
Speed (Germany)398/ 198 Mbps (Frankfurt)450 / 331 Mbps (Berlin)
Speed (Singapore)495 / 474 Mbps505 / 381 Mbps
Speed (Perth, Australia)458 / 388 Mbps448 / 299 Mbps
Speed (Tokyo, Japan)435 / 347 Mbps443 / 122 Mbps

Both of these tests were run on the Lightway and NordLynx protocols respectively in order to provide the fastest performance possible.

2. Security and Safety Online

ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer users access to mainstream protocols and use the highest rate of encryption.

VPNs secure their users’ data through two key features. First, the applications you install allow you an easy way of using specific, secure communications protocols. Secondly, they offer data encryption so that whatever is being sent, can’t be used even if intercepted.

Communication Protocols

expressvpn communication protocol
The key thing here is that both of these providers make the OpenVPN protocol widely available to users. OpenVPN is currently the de facto standard in secure communications for VPNs. It’s relatively fast, secure, and very stable

Although both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer users access to good-quality mainstream protocols, this narrows down a little depending on what way you’re using these services. For example, NordVPN’s Windows App only offers a choice of either OpenVPN or NordLynx.

ExpressVPN, on the other hand, offers more to their Windows app users, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP. However, more isn’t always better and much also depends on what platform you’re using since options differ even on the same service.

Encryption

Encryption is the scrambling of data so that even if it’s intercepted, is of no use unless the thief has a key. As with other forms of encoding, the difficulty in cracking it lies in the rate of encryption. The higher the encryption rate, the more complex it is to crack.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN both use the highest rate of encryption available today, 256-bit. This means it is highly unlikely that anyone will be able to steal and use your data while you’re using either of their services.

3. Anonymity and Privacy on the Internet

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are based in countries that protect the privacy of customers.

ExpressVPN is from the British Virgin Islands, while NordVPN is registered in Panama.

The location a service provider is based in can be important, especially when it comes to VPNs. There have been cases in the past of VPN service providers being compelled by authorities to hand over user logs.

They can do this since those companies are located in the countries that are demanding the information. One country famous for doing so is the United States and they have exercised their rights over VPN services in the past, leading to user convictions.

4. Media Streaming Geo-Blocked Content

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN work fine on streaming.

Netflix is one of my key go-to streaming services, but I also do tests with YouTube and the BBC’s iPlayer as well. So far, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have managed to allow me to stream just fine on these services.

I do notice a slight bit more of a lag when trying to load Netflix on ExpressVPN sometimes, but they both do work, honestly. Be aware though that I only test for Netflix US region content, and they may not work with all Netflix regions.

Verdict: ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

Perhaps most of you can see by this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN review, I’m pretty neutral about the two of these service providers. While it’s true that each has some small quirks that put them ahead in specific areas, where it counts, I’d call it fairly even.

If forced to make a choice I would say that putting cost aside, I would go for ExpressVPN. The service does feel more smooth and more stable, plus I note that it has a very clean reputation even after many years in the business.

For the adventurous among us, NordVPN would be a good option not just in cost, but because of how progressive the company is. They aren’t afraid to try out new things and have the technical capability of making things simply better.

More About ExpressVPN

With servers in 94 countries worldwide, ExpressVPN offers one of the most extensive VPN networks available today. The company's roots stretch back to 2009, and it today stands near the top in experience and reputation.

Learn more in our ExpressVPN review.

More About NordVPN

NordVPN is a veteran in the consumer VPN space. The company headquarters is located in Panama City, from where it oversees its global server network. Launched in 2012, NordVPN has since pioneered many key initiatives in the digital security space.

Learn more in our NordVPN review.

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Photo of author

Article by Timothy Shim