NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: Who Comes out on Top?

The two giants of VPN service, NordVPN and ExpressVPN both offer the same functionality but with varying degrees of efficacy in each parameter they can be measured. These parameters include, but are not limited to:

  • Price
  • Functionality for streaming services
  • Privacy
  • Customer service
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality for torrenting
  • Functionality for gaming
  • Range of features
  • Security

While both are exceptional at the service they provide, NordVPN pulls ahead in most categories and ties with ExpressVPN in almost all others. With that said, however, it’s best to learn all you can and make a choice based on your own needs specifically.

Optimizing Your Browsing Security Is Big Business

In the last handful of years, the issue of internet privacy has begun to gain more traction in the mainstream. The days of only hackers in a basement utilizing tech to hide their IP are largely over; everyone can benefit from additional anonymity online. Government entities, corporations, and criminals are all after your most secure data and have evolved increasingly complex ways to gain access to it.

One of the best ways to protect your data is to utilize a VPN,or a virtual private network. Essentially this system allows you connect your IP address to a virtual network online that scrambles your information, making it safe for you to browse anonymously. The biggest of these VPNs right now are NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

Choosing a VPN

While privacy matters to everyone accessing the internet, the ability to torrent quickly probably doesn’t. Your grandmother should be safe online, but she doesn’t need optimized speed for Fortnite, so obviously that’s a parameter she wouldn’t want to pay for. This is the backbone of the comparison here; while both VPN providers offer great service, they both excel at different things.

Identify what your primary activity is online and use this information we’re going to present to make up your mind. The first sections will identify parameters that everyone wants in a VPN and how both NordVPN and ExpressVPN stack up. After that comes the niche functionality and that will likely be where you make your decision.

Privacy

This is the core of the need for a VPN; you want your data and browsing activity to be yours alone, not sold out by your ISP. Since your ISP can be subpoenaed by government agencies for your browsing activity, and since they can freely sell your activity to companies looking to market to you, running through a VPN circumvents this invasion of privacy.

Neither NordVPN or ExpressVPN save any of the most sought-after data:

  • Your IP address
  • Your browsing history
  • DNS queries
  • Destination
  • Downloads

They do log your email, name, times you accessed the VPN, and a handful of other bits of information that are mundane without your actual online activity. Both are based outside of the more strict internet browsing guidelines, with NordVPN operating out of Panama and ExpressVPN likely operating in the British Virgin islands.

Panama doesn’t need to adhere to US or UK laws regarding data retention, and though neither do the British Virgin islands, their connection to the government-friendly UK internet privacy laws do make them a bigger liability.

Finally there’s the issue of either of these VPNs being subpoenaed by government officials looking for personal information. While neither would likely haveidentifiable information for you beyond your name, logon times, and email address, NordVPN actually takes your privacy one step further.

These requests for information from governments often come with a gag-order which prevents them from warning their customers. Panama laws allow companies there to ignore these gag orders, but NordVPN takes it a step further with a VPN “warrant canary“. Much how canaries were used in mines to alert miners of gas leaks (by dying; brave canary!) the warrant canary is up on the NordVPN site unlessthey have been contacted by a government for records.

So while both are dedicated to consumer privacy and both are very adept at it, Nord’s location and dedication push it ahead in the privacy comparison.

Cost

While it’s unfortunate to have to purchase a service to protect you from the other services you’ve purchased, it’s now a fact of life, so you might as well spend the least amount possible for the most coverage.

Like most monthly services, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer a discount for enrolling in longer-term commitments. ExpressVPN is already slightly more expensive than NordVPN month-to-month (which is a bad way to pay for something like this anyway) but it gets worse as you view longer-term enrollments:

  • Monthly: NordVPN – $11.95 vs ExpressVPN – $12.95
  • 6-month: NordVPN – NA vs ExpressVPN – $9.99/month
  • Yearly: NordVPN – $6.99/month vs ExpressVPN – NA (somehow)
  • 15-month: NordVPN – NA vs ExpressVPN – $6.66/month
  • 2-year: NordVPN – $3.99 month vs ExpressVPN – NA
  • 3-year: NordVPN – $2.99/month vs ExpressVPN – NA

It’s pretty clear who the winner is here; Nord, with it’s extensive long-term enrollment options and simply cheaper cost overall. Naturally though, just because something is cheaper doesn’t make it better, so a bit more information can help you determine if the lower cost translates to lesser usefulness or not.

Ease of Use

For many people reading this, all of this will seem like a lot to take in; you might not have even known what a VPN was at the start, so complicated use will feel icky. Luckily both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer beginner-friendly functionality through drastically different interfaces.

NordVPN offers a tremendous amount of customization and it can feel like you’re playing a spy game. Some benefits of Nord’s extensive customization are:

  • A GPS map of where your proxy access comes from. While this isn’t really more useful than a dropdown menu, it’s a lot cooler looking and you might learn some geography while you use it
  • Internet kill-switch – toggling this on will make it so you can ONLY access the internet through your VPN. This ensures you don’t forget
  • App-specific kill-switch – this makes it so if your VPN fails, you can list a series of applications that will get immediately terminated. This is something specifically useful to torrenters, as obviously they don’t want their information available mid-torrent if the VPN fails.
  • Enhanced cyber-security – this is basically another layer of protection from ads, pop-ups, and viruses. NordVPN will block nearly anything you don’t green-light, so you can browse with single-minded purpose

While this is all really great, for the average person it might be too much. ExpressVPN offers a solution to all that jazz, in that it’s either on or off. The ExpressVPN screen simply tells you if the VPN is active and where you’re accessing the internet from, which is really all the information you need.

Ultimately this feels like a tie; both are easy to use, with ExpressVPN being exceedingly simple to use but NordVPN offering tremendous added customization.

Connection Speed

This is exceedingly important for torrenters and gamers alike, but everyone can benefit from solid, quick connection speeds. Using a VPN adds a layer of complexity to functional access speed because you don’t directly connect through your ISP anymore. Since your signal is routed through a proxy, even a slight delay in speed can mean a noticeable decrease in service.

When judging a connection speed for a VPN, you need to consider both local and international access. Because you’ll be doing a lot of your searching and activity locally, let’s consider that first. ExpressVPN appears to be marginally slower, by about 6 mbps – 21 mbps compared to Nord’s 27 mbps. This isn’t a huge deal at all when taken by itself, and remember this is for local connection speed.

International connection, particularly US to UK access, the difference is far more dramatic, with ExpressVPN dropping a whopping 10 mbps or more in connectivity tests. NordVPN stays at about 25 mbps but ExpressVPN crashes down to around 11-12 mbps.

Taking all of this into consideration, however, both VPNs handle well because even 11 mbps is quite a bit of data back and forth. Outside of a large load of torrenting or data-heavy gaming, both services will perform well, but again NordVPN without a doubt has the faster connection speed overall.

Customer Service

One of the most important aspects to a service like this, customer support is critical. There is a lot of weirdness that can occur if you’re not familiar with a VPN service, and even if you arewell-versed in proxy networks, there’s always something that can fail. This is where having exceptional customer support can differentiate one provider from another.

NordVPN offers a 24/7 customer contact line and so does Express. This is an industry standard, because if you’re suddenly unable to use your VPN then you’re likely not going to want to use the internet, and this can obviously put a damper on your productivity (even if you’re streaming Netflix or playing a game). Some other areas of exceptional customer service vary between the two providers, however:

  • Searchable support library: Both
  • Non-chat trouble ticket submission form: ExpressVPN only, and this matters because a ticket-based troubleshooting service is often faster than an email-based support system, which NordVPN provides
  • Enhanced BitTorrent support: ExpressVPN only. We’ve said before that torrenting might not be your think, but for those who do torrent, having support for the biggest torrent service is a very important thing to consider
  • Troubleshooting guides: ExpressVPN only, and these guides are really helpful in finding a solution without waiting for chat or a ticket to be serviced. They are so extensive that you can typically find an answer on your own, which is nice.

While both services offer top-notch customer service, the trouble-shooting guidebooks offered by ExpressVPN VPN really put them ahead of the game. Coupled with their exceptional BitTorrent support, ExpressVPN is the winner here.

Reliability

Because of their stature as industry leaders in VPN services, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer pretty solid reliability. They operate successfully in nearly every country, connecting quickly and maintaining a strong signal.

Nord, however, seems to have more errors in certain countries overall and while they are minimal, they can be troubling. ExpressVPN offers a service that is reliable with very few stability problems or connectivity errors. In a vacuum, ExpressVPN has simply better reliability.

Gaming

Internet gaming is a fast-paced world where connectivity and data transfer speed are often a matter of (virtual) life or death. Because you’re going through a proxy, your connection speed is going to be slightly slower as it needs to go through essentially a gate to get to the internet. This is expected but it can slow down performance online.

How do you determine if a service like a VPN affects your gaming experience? There are a few parameters:

  • Ping – this is the speed with which your computer communicates with the game server. The lower the ping, the faster the communication and the better your reaction time. NordVPN fared better in this test by virtue of a 10 millisecond difference in ping times, which is virtually nothing but still makes them stand out
  • Framerate – related to ping, in that it has to do with how efficiently you transfer information to the game’s host, framerate can drop and lower your graphical experience if there’s significant delay. Neither NordVPN nor ExpressVPN have bad framerate problems.
  • Connectivity – if you consistently disconnect from a game, you’re going to lose and probably stop using your VPN. Luckily neither company had connectivity issues related to the actual VPN itself.

While not everyone will use a VPN for gaming, if you do game and want to use a VPN, NordVPN is the winner, with lower ping and less graphical loss.

Torrenting

Peer to peer file sharing has not and likely will not stop being a popular internet activity, despite its dubious legal status. If you torrent straight from your ISP, you’re going to be inviting legal troubles, the very least of which might be a stop-and-desist letter from the companies that produce whatever it is that you’re sharing.

Many VPNs will prevent you from torrenting, or at the very least make it less easy. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are not those types of VPN service providers, and actually take the opposite stance, quite proud of the fact that they will not limit your ability to functionally torrent whatever you want.

Though both allow 100% torrenting with not speed reduction or site blocking, NordVPN came out ahead in the sense that it is marginallyfaster, around 100kb/s, which is basically nothing. ExpressVPN has support specifically for BitTorrent in over 90 countries, so that can be seen as more beneficial than a marginal increase in speed overall.

Finally there is the consideration that torrenting on a VPN will increase your speed overall simply by virtue of there being more people seeding content. Without fear of reprisal, more people confidently seeding media means a much faster download experience. The main difference is that NordVPN has dedicated servers for P2P torrenting which they ask you to use, but it’s not necessary (it can be faster, though). In this case, both perform well, and so with all things considered, this is a tie.

Streaming Services like Netflix

One of the hurdles to streaming media in non-US countries is a concept called “geo-blocking”. Geo-blocking is a method in which your geographical location can be used to limit the media you see, sites you can visit, or games you can play. Certain content is banned in various countries, laws can vary, and in some extreme examples, police use geo-blocking to discriminate against certain populations.

VPNs get around this by accessing content through a proxy, which makes it seem like you’re connecting from a country that might not have the restrictive laws that yours does. For instance, in certain countries, you cannot access Netflix, but if you were using NordVPN or Express, you can connect to Netflix through a proxy in say Ireland, and then be able to stream to your heart’s content.

Where many VPNs will fail to access Netflix or other streaming services entirely, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN succeed in every trial. Honestly, you wouldn’t want to invest in a proxy that couldn’t pass what is a benchmark test for the usefulness of a VPN to begin with. Again, we have a tie.

Mobile Compatibility

If you’re using a VPN on a mobile device, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have apps, but use-reported data indicates that NordVPN is better overall here. The functionality it provides on a desktop – the kill-switch, for instance – is present and highly responsive in the app. Express, while it has an app, does not offer these features and is effectively worse.

Nord’s mobile Android app is strictly better.

Server Network

In order for a VPN to actually work, it needs an extensive server network around the world to act as proxies. Without a big server network, it’s simply not functional.

NordVPN provides a much larger server network than express: at around 4,400, it’s over double Express’ roughly 2,000 servers. While this seems like it would be a hands-down victory for Nord, we need to look a little bit deeper to uncover the reality.

While NordVPN doeshave many more servers, a great deal of them are much smaller in capacity. This means more disconnects, slower data transfer, more lag, and less reliability overall. Express, while it has far fewer servers, has far betterservers, providing better speed, reliability, and connectivity.

So while NordVPN has a better network on paper, ExpressVPN has the better network overall, offering better reliability and speed.

Final Verdict

The difference between NordVPN and ExpressVPN mostly comes down to server access, features, and price. While ExpressVPN has far better servers, NordVPN has a vast array of incredibly useful features and a better app for mobile browsing. NordVPN also offers a better price breakdown on longer-term commitments, allowing you to sign up for $3/month for 3 years.

Being able to lock in an incredibly low price for 3 straight years is an absolutely amazing deal. Coupled with how NordVPN is designed to offer useful features and customization, it’s the winner here. ExpressVPN is a great tool, but in this comparison, it falls somewhat short, though it is leagues above other VPNs.

Currently it’s not a matter of whether you need a VPN or not; you really do and finding the best value for the money is critical. In our search for the best VPN, we came to the conclusion that NordVPN simply outclasses Express, and we hope this information helps you make an informed decision.

Related Questions

What’s the Difference Between Static and Dynamic IPs?

A static IP address is like yours at home; it’s a stable, constant IP address that can be traced back to you. This is why we use a VPN, to avoid having the activity you do online being traced to your IP.

A dynamic IP constantly changes, which makes it harder to track. Different IPs listed in different countries at different times can make it difficult to not only trace your activity online but also your actual geographic location.

What this means for you, accessing the internet through a VPN can be of very little importance, but there is a very specific issue that could arise with a VPN using dynamic IPs. The issue to which I’m referring is the fact that some services will see your access through a VPN with dynamic IPs as potentially “suspicious” or “threatening” and they will block you.

What Is a DNS Leak?

DNS is an acronym for Domain Name Service. This service takes the incredibly complex numeric information from servers and translates it into a recognizable, human language. This happens incredibly quickly whenever you request access to a website, linking their unique IP to yours.

When you go through a VPN, you enter your information through the “VPN tunnel” which protects your information, specifically your IP information, and connects to the site you are requesting.

A DNS leak happens when the VPN fails or your computer encounters an error and reverts to using your ISP to directly connect with a website, exposing your actual IP data and putting you at risk. Luckily NordVPN has a kill-switch that prevents critical applications from continuing while this vulnerability is active (should it arise at all).

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