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NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Rob Mardisalu

Rob Mardisalu

Which one is a better VPN provider – NordVPN or ExpressVPN? Let’s find out in our detailed comparison below…

NordVPN-vs-ExpressVPN

As of 2019, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are probably the two most well-known and reputable VPN services on the market.

However, choosing one for another isn’t that easy. At first glance, they look pretty much similar.

After testing the speed, Netflix availability, torrenting/P2P, customer support, usability, and vulnerabilities we found out that there are some differences.

There’s also a big difference in their subscription cost which indicates towards NordVPN as the more affordable option but let’s take a deeper look…

Below is the table of contents of our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN review:


1. Cost: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: NordVPN is 55% cheaper

NordVPN offers four different subscription plans (including a 7-day free trial) and ExpressVPN offers three different plans (without a free trial).

All of their plans are identical, meaning you get the same features, the only thing that changes is the subscription period – from one month to three years. If you opt-in for a longer period, you’ll be able to get it for a cheaper price. That’s pretty much it.

Let’s break down their pricing plans below:

NordVPN Pricing ExpressVPN Pricing
Monthly Plan: $11.95/mo Monthly Plan: $12.95/mo
1-Year Plan: $6.99/mo 6-Month Plan: $9.99/mo
2-Year Plan: $4.99/mo 15-Month Plan: $6.67/mo
3-Year Plan: $3.49/mo 3-Year Plan: None
Free Trial: 7 Days Free Trial: None

In a nutshell, If you opt-in with NordVPN for 3 years upfront, the monthly cost will be 55% cheaper than ExpressVPN longest plan (15 months).

If you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend money on a VPN, consider getting a NordVPN because it’s cheaper, currently priced at $3.49/mo + VAT.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN both allow you to pay for their service using popular credit cards, bitcoin and even alternative payment methods, such as AliPay, WebMoney and UnionPay. As of now, ExpressVPN offers its users to pay through PayPal, but NordVPN doesn’t.

Both of the VPNs offer 30 days money-back guarantee. However, we’ve received some user reviews that claim that NordVPN refunds can take a while to process, so be aware of this.

2. Speed Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: ExpressVPN is 10-15% faster than NordVPN

When choosing a VPN, speed is probably one of the most important factors.

Since NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN, it probably has more customers and users. More users mean more people are penetrating their servers which could result in slower speed test result.

Despite NordVPN having more servers (5200+) compared to ExpressVPN’s 3000+, their NordVPN seems to be slightly slower.

Don’t get me wrong. Nor NordVPN or ExpressVPN is slow – many of our tested VPNs are far more slower.

Keep in mind that our benchmark without VPN was ~98Mbps download ~53Mbps upload:

Speed without VPN
Download and upload benchmark without a VPN (using speedtest.net)

To find out which VPN has better performance, we conducted multiple tests using different servers in different regions, here are our test results:

NordVPN Results:

NordVPN performance in EU servers
NordVPN EU Server NordVPN US Server NordVPN Asia Server
Ping: 37ms Ping: 101ms Ping: 211ms
Download: 74Mbps Download: 56Mbps Download: 12Mbps
Upload: 48Mbps Upload: 29Mbps Upload: 5Mbps

ExpressVPN Results:

ExpressVPN EU server performance
ExpressVPN EU Server ExpressVPN US Server ExpressVPN Asia Server
Ping: 40ms Ping: 110ms Ping: 292ms
Download: 83Mbps Download: 60Mbps Download: 30Mbps
Upload: 51Mbps Upload: 30Mbps Upload: 12Mbps

For conclusion, according to our tests, ExpressVPN is faster in…

  • Europe by 12% than NordVPN
  • USA by 7% than NordVPN
  • Asia by 58% than NordVPN

Since we only tested a handful of servers, please take speed tests with a grain of salt as they vary on a lot of different things – your computer, your Internet connection, your router, your physical location, etc…

3. Netflix Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: ExpressVPN is more efficient unblocking Netflix

Our next test was to compare ExpressVPNs and NordVPNs ability unblock geo-restricted websites, especially Netflix and their US library.

Both worked extremely well in bypassing all sorts of geo-restrictions. In total, we tested 12 different servers for accessing Netflix using NordVPN and ExpressVPN.  Here are the results:

NordVPN ExpressVPN
US Server 1: Unblocked US Server 1: Unblocked
US Sever 2: Unblocked US Server 2: Unblocked
UK Server: Unblocked UK Server 1: Unblocked
NL Server: Unblocked UK Server 1: Unblocked
Canada Server: Unblocked NL Server: Unblocked
Sweden Server: Blocked Canada Server: Unblocked

This is a relatively good result form both sites as many VPNs failed to unblock Netflix at all (see full Netflix test results here).

What’s good, both of them offer extensive help through live chat to help you bypass Netflix restrictions which you can see in our next test.

4. Torrenting Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: NordVPN is around 8% faster than ExpressVPN (Recommended server was tested)

Many people use VPNs solely for torrenting. Just to stay safe, avoid any DMCA letters from your ISP and so on. For example, if you live in the US and you are caught torrenting files through P2P software like uTorrent, you’ll likely receive a letter in the mail from your ISP, on behalf of the copyright holder, indicating the infringement under the DMCA.

While we, at thebestvpn.com encourage you NOT to torrent or download pirated content, using VPNs will help you keep 100% anonymity and security.

However, many VPNs limit or block torrenting altogether, just to name a few – DotVPN, Kaspersky VPN and many others.

But what’s the case with ExpressVPN and NordVPN? Let’s take a look:

According to NordVPNs website, NordVPN claims themselves to be the best VPN for torrenting:

All of their servers allow torrenting/P2P and there are no limitations whatsoever:

NordVPN torrenting policy
NordVPN even offers hundreds of servers optimized for P2P

But what’s the case with ExpressVPN? Do they, too, allow torrenting on all of their servers? Seems so…

expressVPN allows torrenting

That’s good. But let’s take a look at their average speed when downloading a certain file from torrent. In our example, we tried to download the Mac installer using NordVPN and ExpressVPN smart (fastest) location:

Here’s NordVPN speed while downloading “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Complete Speeches and Sermons” torrent from ThePirateBay.org:

nordvpn speed while torrenting

Here’s ExpressVPN speed when downloading “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Complete Speeches and Sermons” torrent from ThePirateBay.org:

expressvpn speed while torrenting

We downloaded the same torrent, from the same site with both VPNs. Note that this torrent doesn’t have a lot of people seeding it, that’s why its download speed isn’t that great (the more p2p seeders, the faster your speed will be). The speed without a VPN was around the same as connected to one, therefore there’s no major loss in speed while using a VPN.

For conclusion, while both of the VPNs allow torrenting 100%, NordVPN seems to be slightly faster, around 80kb/s.

A lot of the torrents you download are going to be faster, since they’ve got a lot more people seeding them. Always test out a couple of servers to find out the best one for yourself. We used the recommended servers for this test, they’re both located in Estonia, the country we’re based in.

5. Support Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: Both customer support reps were equally good

To test out support responsiveness and response time, we simply asked them one simple question: “Which servers are best for streaming Netflix?”.

Since both of the VPN services offer live chat, we decided to ask our question through that.

Below is NordVPNs customer support answer via live chat:

NordVPN support results

Although it seemed like a copy-paste response, it was exactly what we were looking for. The total time to respond to our question was ~24 seconds. Not bad…

NordVPN support reply time

We asked the same question from ExpressVPN, too. Here is their support reply to our question:

support reply from ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN response was more personal, but their total response time was much slower than NordVPNs:

ExpressVPN support reply time

If you are into quicker response time, NordVPN beats ExpressVPN in customer support. However, if you’re into more tailored replies, ExpressVPN is probably better. Both of the questions were asked when we’re logged into their admin dashboard. We didn’t test their sales support.

Overall, you shouldn’t be worried about their customer support – both were much better than the average we’ve seen in our VPN reviews.

6. Features: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: Both offer a wide variety of industry-standard features and add-ons

Both providers offer similar features to their VPN apps. Here are the most important features that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer to their users:

  • Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Router and TOR compatibility
  • Built-in kill-switch
  • DNS leak protection (no leaks found)
  • Strict no logging policy
  • Torrenting & P2P allowed
  • OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec and PPTP protocols
  • 256-bit AES encryption
  • Browser extension available
  • Obfuscated servers (a feature that allows you to connect to a VPN from restricted countries and environments)

These are the so-called “basics” that every VPN app should have. However, there are a couple of “add-ons” that one has and the other doesn’t.

For example, NordVPN offers the following that ExpressVPN doesn’t have:

  • Double VPN Encryption – They are used to chain the connection through a couple of VPN servers, making it virtually impossible to track and identify the user (read more).
  • CyberSec Features – for blocking ads and malware (read more)
  • Up to 6 simultaneous connections (compared to 5 max connections on ExpressVPN)
  • 5200+ servers in 61 countries

Also, ExpressVPN offers the following that NordVPN doesn’t have:

  • Split-tunneling (read more)
  • You can pay using PayPal (NordVPN doesn’t offer PayPal payment method)
  • Servers in 94 countries (NordVPN has 61 countries)

As you can see, there’s not much difference in terms of what they offer. Either way, you’ll get a lot of bang for a buck.

7. Usability: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: Both are very simple and smooth, but NordVPN connects faster to a smart location

Again, both of the VPN apps are very simple and easy to use. Basically, one click to connect and forget it.

They offer ready-made apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Here’s how ExpressVPN and NordVPN app looks on a Mac computer:

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
ExpressVPN is on the left and NordVPN is on the right side (both are Mac apps).

Both apps are very minimalistic, with the ability to browse through different servers in different regions as well as tweak the settings, such as protocols, kill-switch (on/off), DNS settings and so on.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN settings

As we couldn’t compare the usability much – very similar apps, we decided to test which one connects faster to the smart location (closest and fastest server to you).

  • NordVPN connected in 3.62 seconds
  • ExpressVPN connected in 5.92 seconds

Not a big difference, but NordVPN was faster.

8. Privacy & Jurisdiction: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: NordVPN is more anonymous

First off, ExpressVPN and NordVPN both respect your privacy at the highest level.

In fact, they both are very secretive and not transparent at all about their parent company or who they belong to. After some digging, it’s fair to say that NordVPN belongs to Tefincom S.A which is a Panama company. ExpressVPN claims to be Express VPN International Ltd which is a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

However, there’ve been rumours on Reddit that most of the NordVPN staff works in Lithuania and ExpressVPN staff is based in Hong Kong.

Whichever the case is, let’s take a deeper look at their logging policies and privacy policies:

NordVPN ExpressVPN
Your IP Address: No Your IP Address: No
Browsing History: No Browsing History: No
DNS Queries: No DNS Queries: No
Traffic destination: No Traffic destination: No
Files downloaded: No Files Downloaded: No

Regarding the warrant canaries:

  • NordVPN’s warrant canarylast updated June 2017
  • ExpressVPN’s warrant canary – not available

First, let’s take a look at what kind of data is being stored by ExpressVPN:

  • Apps and app versions that are activated
  • Dates when connected to the VPN services
  • Choice of VPN server location
  • Bandwidth used per day
  • Your Name
  • Your Email address
  • Your Payment information

While they store some data about you, it still remains fully private since they don’t log your activity which means they cannot connect any of your browsing to your account. That’s solely for keeping their VPN services high quality and smoothly process your payments.

Now, let’s take a look at what kind of data is being stored by NordVPN:

  • Server load information
  • Your email address
  • Your payment information
  • Your username
  • Your connection time (being wiped within 15 minutes after connecting)

Their privacy policy page doesn’t say more about which data is being stored, but this limited data is being stored for no longer than 2 years after the last use of NordVPN services.

Despite both of them being “no logs” VPNs, they don’t allow any unlawful, illicit, criminal or fraudulent activities.

Regarding their VPN jurisdictions, NordVPN seems to have chosen a better location – Panama, which does not require any data storage. While ExpressVPN being officially based in the British Virgin Islands, it too doesn’t have a mandatory data retention law. However, BVI has strong ties to the UK which is known for strict regulatory. VPN companies based in the UK may be subject to the same data retention laws applicable to internet service providers. The UK has also reportedly blocked some VPNs.

9. Leak Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are safe and do not have any IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks

Many poor quality VPNs, especially free ones, are known to leak your IP (see our 2018 leak test).

However, that’s not the case with NordVPN or ExpressVPN. According to our test, none of them leaked any of your IP’s or DNS. In addition to that, they both have built-in killswitch which disconnects you automatically to avoid any leaks.

Furthermore, there are  Google Chrome extensions that are generally know to leak your IP. For example, a test we did in 2018 indicated that more than 10 VPNs (such as Hoxx VPN, Hola, DotVPN and Betternet) leaked your data through WebRTC.

To test leaks, we simply connected to NordVPN and ExpressVPN servers using Mac app and chrome extensions and run some quick tests using the the following sites:

  • https://ipleak.net
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/check-ip/
  • https://ipx.ac/run/
  • https://browserleaks.com/webrtc/
  • https://www.perfect-privacy.com/dns-leaktest/
  • https://dnsleak.com/

As a result, we couldn’t find any leaks. See images below:

no leaks found in NordVPN
no leaks found in NordVPN US server
no leaks expressvpn

10. Gaming Test: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Conclusion: NordVPN had less packet loss

So for the gamers out here who are looking for a more private but still fast gaming experience? We compared NordVPN and ExpressVPN with a game of League of Legends. We tracked the speeds with Haste, which if used together with a VPN can actually lower your ping from the original one. Anyways, let’s see how they fare. Let’s start with NordVPN:

nordvpn gaming ping test

For a 20 minute game, the average ping was 31.8ms. The jitter was only 1.2ms, which means that the highest ping we had was 33ms throughout the game. Packet loss basically means that 0.2% of the frames weren’t delivered, but that’s virtually nothing. You will not notice it.

We used the “smart location” for the test, which you should always use, if you’re not trying to play in another region of the world, which you could do with a VPN, but your ping will definitely be higher than this.

How did Express fare?

expressvpn haste test
ExpressVPN latency and ping

ExpressVPN averaged a ping of 41ms, they had a jitter of 2.0ms and a packet loss of only 0.6%. We are based in Estonia and their smart location was further from us compared to Nord, which had an Estonian server as the smart location.

We tested both with the smart locations and both did really well, alas NordVPN was slightly better, probably mainly because of the smart server location, but nonetheless, they won the test.

Both have extremely good usability and their apps look sleek, so whichever you decide for your gaming needs, they will deliver.

Conclusion: ExpressVPN vs NordVPN?

NordVPN came up on top through our tests, but we don’t consider ExpressVPN a loser in any way.

In a nutshell, ExpressVPN is faster and works better unblocking geo-blocked content such as Netflix and the Great China Firewall.

Nord on the other hand is a VPN service that does what it needs and does it at a much cheaper price range.

In the end of the day, both have their plusses and both have their minuses. We hope that we made the choice for you easier with our tests of both services.

15 thoughts on “NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

  1. I think your gaming benchmark is flawed
    The difference in ping is caused by the change in location, for a consistent result you should compare with countries that both VPNs have servers in (and while we are at it can we get tests with multiple popular locations?)
    That edge NordVPN got over ExpressVPN is an outlier

    1. Hey Morad,

      We’re in the midst of working on an article for gamers. I agree, but we can only do that much when it comes to tests. It takes hours upon hours, we’re here to provide an idea which service works the best while we tested them out. From there you can go on and do your own tests. If you’re interested in the data we gathered while we gamed, let me know and I’ll send it to you. It’s not ready to post just yet.

      1. I think as long as the test are thorough and in depth, as to not over looking anything that might be a problem, then the end users will be satisfied with the outcome. My personal experience lately has been quite surprising as to how many problems can be found in just a small section of code. Seems like i find more and more everyday in the software im working in, at least 7 seperate pro lems located just in the last month. So all said, if maticulous time is taken to develope and debug a system, it sure to be problem free in the end.

        1. I agree with you. In the end of the day, everyone will have a different experience when you consider all the factors that come to play when you use a certain service. Server location, your location, server load, your connection.

  2. I have a r7900p nighthawk as router #1 and a wrt3200acm with dd-wrt as router #2 (lan to wan). Moving to Okinawa, Japan. Will NordVPN be that much slower than ExpressVPN for Japan? Watching DirecTVnow, Netfilx, Amazon which I have subscriptions is my goal for a VPN.
    Thank you

    1. I assume you want to watch US Netflix/Amazon etc? Here’s a recent project I’ve been working on: https://thebestvpn.com/speedtest/ – If you choose AS to NA, you can see that both Nord and Express are in the same ballpark when it comes to speed. Note that the server we’re testing in AS is in Hong Kong not Okinawa, Japan but I think it gives you some sort of an idea how the speed will be.

  3. If I live in US and want to get ITV shows (UK) which would you say is best one to do that Express or NORD?

    1. Both should work just fine, but when it comes to streaming, speed matters. My recent project is: https://thebestvpn.com/speedtest/ – go choose US to EU and you can see that Express is the fastest in that sense. Do bear in mind that your suggested servers will almost always be faster than the ones in my test, since I use specific servers and those may not be the fastest ones.

  4. Rob, this is one of the few review sites that I’ve always trusted, and I could care less about how much you make in affiliate marketing…you have monetize this place somehow. While I’ve never had an issue with anything said here, please take a look at the NordVPN review I just submitted a few minutes ago regarding its speed. I think I professionally and tactfully stated my case that in no way is NordVPN as fast (in the real world) as you claim. I do like NordVPN more than any other, but I’m just not willing to sacrifice (up to) 85% of my speed for the sake of it’s other features.

    Perhaps my conclusions aren’t quite as thorough as yours, but I’m betting what I’ve stated in my review is very close to the true accuracy of NordVPN’s speed loss. After reading my submitted review, if you don’t agree or don’t want to post it, then obviously you can hit the DELETE button. But it’s factual, so I hope you’ll publish it.

  5. Which one is better to use in China? Going to China and want to use my phone and access my sites but I don’t want to get hacked or my information stolen.

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Marco,

      I’m going to publish a comprehensive guide about VPNs for China. We flew out and tested them. ExpressVPN is better than Nord for China.

    1. Hey Jake,

      Tests were done at different times and on different servers. It varies a lot. By our experience, ExpressVPN had faster servers when we did the speed tests but NordVPN torrent test was quicker.

      Best,
      Rob

    2. Hey Jake,

      Sorry for the late reply. It depends on the location of their server, location of where the torrent is stored, the load at that time at that specific server. There are many different aspects why this might happen. Might just be unlucky timing for one, and better for other. If we’d try again now, Express might be faster with torrents and Nord faster overall. Hope this helps a bit.

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