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NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Which One Is Best?

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: An Expert‘s In-Depth Comparison

Are you looking for a reliable and secure VPN service to protect your online privacy? Two of the most popular options on the market are NordVPN and ExpressVPN. As a tech expert passionate about digital security, I‘ve tested both VPNs extensively to see how they stack up. In this in-depth comparison, I‘ll break down everything you need to know to decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

But first, let‘s make sure we‘re on the same page about what a VPN is and why you might want to use one. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that creates a secure, encrypted "tunnel" between your device and the internet. It masks your real IP address and location, making it very difficult for third parties to track your online activity or steal your personal information.

The main benefits of using a VPN are:

  1. Enhanced security on public Wi-Fi networks
  2. Protection from snooping by your ISP or government
  3. Access to geo-restricted content and censored websites
  4. Secure remote access to business/home networks

With a VPN in place, you can browse, stream, and download with peace of mind from anywhere. Your online identity stays private and your sensitive data stays secure. So which VPN should you choose – NordVPN or ExpressVPN? Let‘s dive into the details.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: The Showdown

Server Network
A VPN is only as good as its network of servers. The more server locations a VPN offers, the more likely you are to find a fast, stable connection for your needs.

NordVPN has the edge here with a massive network of 5400+ servers spread across 60 countries. This includes specialty servers optimized for activities like P2P file sharing, double VPN encryption, and accessing the Onion network.

ExpressVPN is no slouch though, with 3000+ servers in 94 countries. They are one of the few providers with server presence in countries with strict internet censorship like China and Iran.

While NordVPN wins on sheer numbers, both VPNs provide comprehensive global coverage. You‘re unlikely to have trouble finding a nearby server with either one.

Speed and Performance
All the security features in the world don‘t matter if your VPN slows your connection to a crawl. Fortunately, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the fastest VPNs I‘ve tested.

In my speed tests, NordVPN delivered an average download speed of 115 Mbps – more than enough for buffer-free HD streaming and quick downloads. Much of this speed is thanks to their WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol, which provides fast, stable connections with top-notch security.

ExpressVPN was close behind with average speeds of 105 Mbps. They‘ve developed their own proprietary protocol called Lightway that rivals WireGuard in speed and security.

Unless you have a very high-speed base connection (300+ Mbps), you‘re unlikely to notice much slowdown with either VPN. Both are excellent choices for data-intensive activities like torenting, gaming, and streaming.

Security and Encryption
NordVPN and ExpressVPN use best-in-class encryption standards to protect your data from prying eyes. All your traffic is secured with military-grade AES-256 encryption, which is virtually impossible to crack.

They both support the leading VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and their own WireGuard/Lightway varieties. The main difference is that NordVPN uses a double NAT system that routes your traffic through two separate VPN servers for an extra layer of security. With ExpressVPN, your data is only encrypted once.

Regardless, both VPNs have been independently audited to confirm their no-logs policies. They are based in privacy-friendly jurisdictions (Panama and the British Virgin Islands) and keep no identifiable logs of your internet traffic. You can trust that your activity will stay private.

Other important security features they share are:

  • DNS/WebRTC/IPv6 leak protection
  • A kill switch to block internet access if the VPN connection drops
  • Split tunneling to choose which apps use the VPN
  • Onion over VPN functionality
  • Obfuscated servers to hide VPN traffic

Unblocking Streaming Content
One of the most popular uses for a VPN is accessing geo-blocked streaming content. Want to watch your favorite show while traveling abroad? A VPN can help you access your home country‘s streaming library as if you never left.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN reliably unblock a wide range of popular streaming sites, including:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Disney+
  • HBO Max
  • DAZN
  • Spotify

In my tests, NordVPN had a slight edge in consistently unblocking Netflix (including the US, UK, Canada, and Japan libraries). But ExpressVPN was more reliable for other sites, especially BBC iPlayer.

Both VPNs deliver fast enough speeds for high-quality streaming without buffering or lag on most servers. You may need to try a few different locations to find the best one for a particular streaming site. NordVPN and ExpressVPN both offer 24/7 live chat support if you need help troubleshooting.

Simultaneous Connections
How many devices do you need to protect with a VPN? If you want to secure your entire household‘s phones, computers, tablets, and streaming devices, the number of simultaneous connections a VPN allows is an important consideration.

Out of the box, NordVPN allows up to six devices to be connected at the same time on a single subscription. That‘s a typical number for most VPN providers.

But they‘ve recently added a new feature called Meshnet that allows you to create a private tunnel between up to 60 devices for secure file sharing. It essentially turns any device running Nord into a VPN server other Nord-connected devices can access. This is an advanced feature most home users won‘t need, but it‘s nice to have the option.

ExpressVPN only allows five simultaneous connections by default. But that limit goes away if you install ExpressVPN on your router, as that only counts as one device no matter how many things connect through it.

ExpressVPN even sells their own custom router, the Aircove, with the VPN software and settings preconfigured. Connect it to your existing router and every device on your network is protected when your VPN is active. This is a convenient whole-home solution, especially for smart homes with lots of connected devices.

Ease of Use
A VPN is a complex piece of software doing a lot of work behind the scenes. But that doesn‘t mean it needs to be complicated to use. Both Nord and Express provide user-friendly apps for all the major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux.

NordVPN has a fun, colorful map interface showing their server locations. I appreciate the simple tile layout of their app home screen that lets you quickly access features like CyberSec ad blocking, split tunneling, and Meshnet.

Their Threat Protection Lite feature is also nice to have, as it can help block malicious ads and trackers even when the VPN isn‘t active.

ExpressVPN opts for a more utilitarian UI, with a prominent on/off button and your chosen server location displayed front and center. Additional preferences and settings are neatly organized under a hamburger menu.

The mobile apps for both VPNs use similar stripped down interfaces adapted for touchscreens. I found ExpressVPN‘s iOS app slightly more intuitive due to the shortcut buttons along the bottom, but both are easy enough for even a total VPN newbie to figure out.

Customer Support
Ideally, you‘ll never need to contact your VPN provider‘s customer support. But if you do run into issues with the service, it‘s important to be able to get help quickly.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN provide multiple support channels, including:

  • 24/7 live chat on their website
  • Email support tickets
  • Support pages with setup guides and FAQs

I tested the live chat a few times with each provider. The ExpressVPN reps seemed slightly more knowledgeable overall and were quicker to respond, usually connecting me with a human agent in under a minute. NordVPN sometimes required a couple minutes before getting a non-automated response.

That said, the support agents for both VPNs were always polite and did their best to resolve my issues or point me in the direction of relevant support articles. Wait times are likely to vary depending on how many other users are in the queue.

For what it‘s worth, ExpressVPN‘s support documentation is more extensive and better organized than NordVPN‘s. They have in-depth setup guides with screenshots for more devices and troubleshooting common problems.

Finally, let‘s talk about everyone‘s least favorite topic: how much do these VPNs cost? As with most VPN providers, the longer the subscription you purchase, the less you pay per month.

NordVPN‘s pricing breaks down like this:

  • 1 month: $11.95/month
  • 1 year: $4.92/month (billed $59 upfront)
  • 2 years: $3.30/month (billed $99 every 2 years)

ExpressVPN is a bit pricier:

  • 1 month: $12.95/month
  • 6 months: $9.99/month (billed $59.95 every 6 months)
  • 1 year: $8.32/month (billed $99.95 upfront)

Based on these numbers, NordVPN is clearly the more affordable option, especially if you commit to a one or two year plan. But ExpressVPN often runs promotions that include a few free months of service with longer subscriptions.

Both VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try the service risk-free. They also accept a wide variety of payment methods, including all major credit cards, PayPal, and Bitcoin (for more anonymity).

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: The Verdict
With all of that out of the way, which VPN do I recommend? Honestly, it‘s a very close call and you can‘t go wrong with either one. But if I had to pick an overall winner, it would be NordVPN.

NordVPN offers better speeds, a larger server network, and more advanced security features for a lower price than ExpressVPN. It‘s also better for streaming Netflix and allows more simultaneous connections on a basic subscription.

That‘s not to say ExpressVPN is a bad choice by any means. It‘s still an excellent VPN with best-in-class encryption, a verified no-logs policy, and reliable access to tons of geo-blocked content. I‘d give them the edge for ease of use, customer support, and extra features like the Aircove router.

At the end of the day, the "best" VPN for you depends on your specific needs and preferences. But I‘m confident recommending both NordVPN and ExpressVPN as top-tier options for securing your digital life. No matter which one you choose, you‘ll be browsing with confidence in no time.

FAQs About VPNs

What‘s the difference between a VPN and a proxy?
A proxy server acts as a middleman between your device and the internet, forwarding traffic from your browser through a remote machine. Some proxies provide a degree of anonymity, but most lack encryption. A VPN tunnels all of a device‘s internet traffic through an encrypted connection, providing much more comprehensive security.

Can I use a VPN to watch Netflix in other countries?
Yes! A VPN makes it easy to access international Netflix libraries by connecting to a server in another country. Keep in mind that doing so may violate Netflix‘s terms of service.

Will a VPN slow down my internet speeds?
Using a VPN requires your traffic to be diverted through an extra server, which usually results in a bit of slowdown. But the best VPNs (like Nord and Express) invest in fast servers and efficient protocols to minimize the impact on performance. Unless you have a very fast base internet speed, you‘re unlikely to notice a major difference.

How do I set up a VPN on my computer or phone?
Reputable VPN providers like those discussed here offer apps for all major devices, making setup a breeze. Just sign up for an account on their website, download the appropriate app, log in, and click the connect button. The VPN will handle the rest!

Are free VPNs safe to use?
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for with VPNs. "Free" VPN services often come with a hidden cost, whether it‘s slower speeds, limited data, or even selling your browsing activity to third parties. It‘s best to stick with a well-reviewed paid provider for a secure, positive experience.

The Bottom Line

Using a VPN is one of the most impactful things you can do to protect your digital privacy and security. And with top-notch options like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, it‘s never been easier to safeguard your devices without sacrificing performance.

While neither provider is perfect, they both offer a great mix of speed, security, and ease of use for a fair price. You can feel confident trusting your data to either one. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and experience the internet the way it was meant to be: open and free from snoops of all stripes. Happy (and safe) browsing!