If you’re in search of the best VPN on the market, you’ll likely find yourself at a crossroads between two rivaling greats. Vying for the #1 spot, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN bring their A-game to the VPN space with feature-rich plans and extensive server networks to support it all. As premium VPN services, these providers raise the bar on expectations and save users from the headache brought on by most free alternatives. Below, we break down the key differences between ExpressVPN and NordVPN such as speed, privacy, streaming capability, and server network size to give you confidence in your final decision.
- Safe, unrestricted torrenting/P2P
- Unlocks Netflix, BBC, iPlayer & more
- High-speed servers
- 3,000+ servers worldwide
- No kill switch on iOS
- More expensive than most VPNs
- Slick UI for easy use
- Vast array of security features
- Massive list of high-speed U.S. servers
- P2P optimized servers & unblocks Netflix
- Manual setup required to work in China
- No free version or trial
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Performance
When it comes to choosing the best VPN, connection speed is arguably the first – and most important – factor many users base their purchase decision on. Of course, it’s important to have a VPN service that offers basic privacy protection, however, it serves users very little purpose if it compromises internet performance. Generally, VPN technology slows down internet speeds to some degree, yet the best premium VPN providers minimize this effect on speeds. In our testing, we looked at speed consistency as the main indicator of VPN performance. In this category, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN impressed us. Nevertheless, NordVPN takes this one home.
On average, NordVPN measured download speeds of 98 Mbps, while ExpressVPN averaged download speeds of 74 Mbps. These rates came from U.S. and UK servers, although it’s important to note that the further away users are from a particular server, the slower the internet performance. By a marginally count, NordVPN tests faster in practice. Yet, the speed difference between these providers would likely only be felt if a user overloaded their network with multiple devices.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Privacy
Before naming a winner in this category, know that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN hold themselves and their users to the highest privacy standards. In fact, each provider goes above and beyond to conceal their parent companies, promote a zero-logs policy, and invite third-party auditors to assess their service. There are, however, a few discrepancies between the two providers that place NordVPN ahead of ExpressVPN.
Where a VPN (and its servers) are located tells you all you need to know about your own privacy and security. Depending on what country a VPN is headquartered in, a provider may be obligated by law to store and/or hand over customer data when subpoenaed by government officials. This is also known as VPN jurisdiction. After much research, we confirmed that NordVPN is located in Panama, and ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). While neither country requires companies to store or forfeit customer data, BVI, unfortunately, has strong ties to the UK, a country known for its strict regulatory laws. And, even though ExpressVPN affirms that only the BVI High Court has jurisdiction over records, there’s plausible uncertainty. For these reasons, NordVPN has a slight advantage.
Both premium providers swear by a “zero-logs” policy that prohibits the collection of any identifiable information other than what’s necessary for account management and subscription payments. The only tracking data either provider collects (i.e. connection time and choice of server location) are used strictly for network optimizations. NordVPN claims to wipe this particular data after the first 15 minutes of use.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both ensure complete customer anonymity under their privacy policies that state what little data is stored is itself encrypted and not available to government agencies. NordVPN deletes all limited data it stores after 2 years maximum, while ExpressVPN states that it does not link customers to its network data at all.
An independent audit is one unbiased way that providers can prove their logging and privacy claims. A third party company will research, analyze, and test a VPN’s service and its policies’ validity and report on their findings. ExpressVPN and NordVPN have both been audited by independent companies, namely PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Cure53.
In addition to server locations, a good indicator of strong privacy is a warrant canary. In certain countries (i.e. the U.S.), VPN providers, internet service providers, and other businesses can be served secret warrants with gag orders attached to them that 1) force companies to turn over customer records needed for an investigation and 2) prevent companies from notifying targets in question. A warrant canary is an explicit confirmation published by a provider that states it has never received a secret warrant. While we did not find one on the ExpressVPN site, NordVPN has a published warrant canary last updated December 28, 2020.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Logging
Both providers lead the VPN space with state-of-the-art encryption and logging policies that keep customer data secure and anonymous.
For instance, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN employ military-grade AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), also known as AES-256 encryption. In addition, they provide a variety of protocols including IKEv2 and OneVPN that dictate how a user connects to a VPN server and offers differing levels of protection and speeds. These measures, coupled with their zero-logs policy, make ExpressVPN and NordVPN superior when it comes to customer protection.
Logging practices are a significant factor users take into consideration when choosing a VPN service. If a customer’s data is compromised, tracked, or stored, it quite literally negates the entire purpose of a VPN, which is online anonymity and security. For NordVPN and ExpressVPN, their logging policies are clear and simple to understand: they do not store any identifiable information or web traffic other than what’s needed for site optimizations and payments. ExpressVPN even goes a step further with its all-RAM servers that physically cannot store data on them.
To back their no-logs claims, both providers have undergone successful third-party audits from industry-standard companies including PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Cure53. However, one Finland server under the NordVPN network was hacked in March 2018 and raised questions about its trustworthiness.
All in all, ExpressVPN has a slight advantage over NordVPN in the logging category.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Streaming
A growing function of VPN services is their ability to unblock geo-restricted streaming content and support peer-to-peer (P2P) torrenting. If this is important to you, keep reading.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN claim to unblock entertainment content and support P2P torrenting on certain servers. A key difference between these two premium providers is how explicit they are about the conditions attached to streaming activities. ExpressVPN states which specific websites it can unblock for users, the most popular being Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and Hulu. On the other hand, NordVPN cautions users against violating copyright restrictions with a VPN service.
While both premium providers do an excellent job of granting access to international content, we rank ExpressVPN above NordVPN in this category for its extensive list of unblocked sites and ease with which users can access them.
ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Which is better?
Without a doubt, ExpressVPN and NordVPN take the top two spots for “Best VPN Service.” However, after taking into account multiple factors such as price, privacy, and speed performance, NordVPN ultimately comes out ahead.
- Server Network: ExpressVPN
- Performance: NordVPN
- Price: NordVPN
- # of Devices: NordVPN
- Privacy: NordVPN
- Logging: ExpressVPN
- Streaming: ExpressVPN
A close runner-up, ExpressVPN does offer excellent security and streaming capabilities, as well as an impressive server network and premium features. Yet, from a holistic view, NordVPN packs a little more punch overall. With a comparable network size, faster speed performance, and equally strong logging and privacy policies, NordVPN offers the most value at a cheaper price.
Granted, no two VPN services are alike. Choosing a VPN comes down to user preferences and expectations. If you’re still on the fence, explore our in-depth reviews for ExpressVPN and NordVPN to help solidify your choice.