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ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which VPN is the Better Buy?
Updated: Dec 23, 2020 / Article by: Timothy Shim
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.
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.
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.
As an example of this, the following is a set of speed test results I’ve run on them. Both were run while connecting to a US server. While NordVPN has the edge in upstream speed here, this isn’t always the case.
ExpressVPN speed test
NordVPN speed test
Both of these tests were run on the OpenVPN protocol in order to provide as much stability as possible, and a more even playing ground.
A little more on NordLynx
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.
I’ve tested speeds on NordLynx and it simply is stunning. To give you a sample, I’m including a speed test run using the NordLynx protocol below.
Take this with a pinch of salt though, as I mentioned, WireGuard is still highly experimental. Because of that, I’m not factoring NordLynx speed into the result for this round of tests.
Verdict: Nord or ExpressVPN?
It’s a draw! Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both impressive in terms of speed. Be aware though that this is just as a general guideline as to the quality of service.
2. Security and Safety Online
VPNs help increase the security of your connection with two main methods. The first is via the offering of secure communications protocols. The second is by encrypting all data transmitted from your devices.
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.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer users access to good quality mainstream protocols. However, 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.
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.
Verdict: Who is the Winner?
It’s a draw!
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.
Verdict: Who is the Winner?
It’s a draw, again!
3. Anonymity and Privacy on the Internet
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.
To avoid these unfortunate incidents, it is best to select a VPN service provider based in a country that protects the privacy of customers. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are based in countries like this.
Both P2P and media streaming are important items close to my heart. With the amount of both that I do, many of my employers often wonder where I find the time to write. With great satisfaction, I often tell them it’s part of the research I do for my work.
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 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.
Verdict: Who is the Better VPN?
ExpressVPN wins. 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.
5. Media Streaming Geo-Blocked Content
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: Do We Have a Winner?
Nope, it's a draw again.
6. User Friendliness
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.
Both of these providers also open access to users on multiple platforms, making them very versatile. Aside from Microsoft Windows, they have dedicated apps for both mainstream users and some niche platforms as well.
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.
Verdict: Which VPN is the Winner?
It’s ExpressVPN by a short nose.
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.
Still, cheap is good when you’re considering two strong players like this in the field. For monthly rates, NordVPN and ExpressVPN differ very slightly, with the former costing $11.95/mo against ExpressVPN’s $12.95/mo.
Still, this doesn't tell us much since these services are often more subscribed to for longer terms. This is where massive discounts start to kick in.
At its most discounted rate, NordVPN comes as cheaply as $3.49/mo spread across a term of three years. 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.
However, if you take into account how much you’re paying upfront, NordVPN actually costs more since you have to pay for three years at a go – totalling $125.64 against 15 months on ExpressVPN for $99.95.
Verdict: Which is the Better VPN?
NordVPN if you prefer more savings, ExpressVPN for a lower buy-in price.
Verdict & Final Thoughts
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 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.
We use affiliate links in this article. WHSR receive referral fees from companies mentioned in this article. Our opinions are based on real experience and actual server data.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.