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NordVPN vs ExpressVPN in 2023: Two Titans of the VPN Industry Compared

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are the two best services in the VPN industry, but which one wins the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN showdown? Keep reading for all the details, including our speed test results and analysis.

Aleksandar Kochovski
By Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2023-01-19T03:32:09+00:00 Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two titans of the VPN industry. These juggernauts often duke it out for first place on our best VPN lists, trading blows in different departments, but which one is the better VPN service? This NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison has all the answers.

Key Takeaways:

  • ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both premium VPN services that offer the best of the best, featuring fast speeds, hiding your real IP address and unblocking streaming sites with ease.
  • ExpressVPN’s security is better than NordVPN’s, and it even beats it for torrenting.
  • NordVPN offers more features and slightly better speeds than ExpressVPN at a lower price, though those features can be finicky and not as intuitive to use.
  • ExpressVPN is the overall winner of our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.

We ran rigorous tests and research to find out which VPN is the best, including automated speed tests that we ran over a period of 30 days. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN put up a fight, but in the end, there can only be one winner. 

As you can see from our list of the best VPN services, ExpressVPN ultimately wins out, but it was a close battle. 

Additionally, some users might still prefer NordVPN, especially because it comes at a much lower price point. You can also refer to our ExpressVPN review and NordVPN review for further details of each VPN. 

  • 09/14/2021 Facts checked

    Cloudwards updated this comparison with a fresh evaluation of ExpressVPN vs NordVPN. We also added more information about Kape Technologies buying ExpressVPN in September 2021.

  • 07/25/2022 Facts checked

    Reevaluated the NordVPN-ExpressVPN dynamic and rewrote the comparison. Spit the “security and privacy” round into two rounds.

  • ExpressVPN is a better VPN than NordVPN overall, beating it for security, server locations, user-friendliness, streaming and torrenting.

  • NordVPN’s higher speeds might make it better for gaming than ExpressVPN, though the difference between them is negligible unless you’re connecting to a faraway server.

  • ExpressVPN has better apps than NordVPN, as they’re easier to use and clearly organized.

  • If you’re connecting to a server close to you, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a difference between NordVPN and ExpressVPN in terms of speed. However, long-distance connections are generally faster with NordVPN.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN Comparison & Tests

We tested ExpressVPN and NordVPN in 10 categories: speed, features, pricing, security, privacy, streaming, torrenting, server locations, user-friendliness and customer support. 

The winner in each round will receive one point, and in the case of a tie, each VPN service will get a point. Here is a quick overview of the winners for each round.

1. Speed✅ Wins
2. Features✅ Wins
3. Pricing✅ Wins
4. Security✅ Wins
5. Privacy☑️ Tie☑️ Tie
6. Streaming☑️ Tie☑️ Tie
7. Torrenting✅ Wins
8. Server Locations✅ Wins
9. User-Friendliness✅ Wins
10. Customer Support✅ Wins
Overall Points7 total points5 total points

Compared to the last ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup, there were two big surprises that shifted the round winners. 

First, NordVPN stole the title of “fastest VPN” from ExpressVPN, with faster download speeds internationally. Second, ExpressVPN snagged the “torrenting” round from NordVPN; although NordVPN claims better features focused on torrenting, ExpressVPN performed better overall in our tests. However, there were many other subtle shifts within the categories.

Even though ExpressVPN won the comparison overall, many of the rounds were incredibly close. Additionally, because no VPN is good at everything, we’ll also give recommendations at the end of this ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison on which of the two VPNs you should choose for different use cases.

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1. Speed

To speed test ExpressVPN vs NordVPN, we used data from our automated speed tests, which we run every day. We use a remote virtual desktop with an internet connection speed of 100 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads. 

Our testing is located in the United States, so U.S. tests represent connections closer to the user. We also run tests for every continent separately, showing the VPNs’ average performance across the world.

expressvpn speed test
VPN speeds are an important factor in deciding which VPN to choose.

The line graphs below show how the VPN services performed in our speed tests over time, and the bar charts represent a 30-day average. 

For the download and upload speeds, a higher value is better, but for latency (or ping), a lower value is better. You can tinker with the graphs and charts to switch the geographic region shown, and even add other VPN companies to the comparison.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN Speed Test Results (US)

Download Speed (Higher is better)
Upload Speed (Higher is better)
Latency (Lower is better)
Source: Cloudwards VPN Speed Test. We test daily. Data from 02/26/23 to 03/28/23
Data for region:

In our U.S. testing, NordVPN had a higher download average than ExpressVPN, but by the smallest of margins. Upload speeds and latency for both providers were neck and neck, with no discernible difference.

Overall, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN performed admirably in our close-range tests, with only a marginal advantage for NordVPN for download speeds.

Download Speed (Higher is better)
Upload Speed (Higher is better)
Latency (Lower is better)
Source: Cloudwards VPN Speed Test. We test daily. Data from 02/26/23 to 03/28/23
Data for region:

NordVPN managed to widen the gap in our worldwide, long-distance speed tests. Although both NordVPN and ExpressVPN had the same 20% decrease in upload speed and almost the same latency, NordVPN was much faster than ExpressVPN for downloads. This is why NordVPN gets the first point in this round.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN Speed Comparison (US)

Download Speed (Higher is better)
Upload Speed (Higher is better)
Latency (Lower is better)
Source: Cloudwards VPN Speed Test. We test daily. Data averaged from 02/26/23 to 03/28/23
Data for region:

NordVPN and ExpressVPN Speed Comparison (Worldwide)

Download Speed (Higher is better)
Upload Speed (Higher is better)
Latency (Lower is better)
Source: Cloudwards VPN Speed Test. We test daily. Data averaged from 02/26/23 to 03/28/23
Data for region:
Round: Speed
Point for NordVPN
Visit NordVPN1
Visit ExpressVPN0

2. Features

ExpressVPN and NordVPN take a very different approach to features, and that’s tied to the general concept behind each VPN provider. ExpressVPN is a minimalist and sleek VPN that “just works,” to quote ExpressVPN itself. Many of its features are built into all its servers, such as obfuscation and P2P support. 

On the other hand, NordVPN gives you a ton of tools and specialty servers at your disposal, even if that means ease of use suffers a bit.

You could compare ExpressVPN to an iPhone and NordVPN to an Android phone. Both provide approximately the same functionality, but one packages it in a way that gives you little control, but a high level of polish; the other is a jack-of-all-trades that you can modify to your liking. 

expressvpn homepage
ExpressVPN bills itself as “the VPN that just works,” and we agree with that statement.

Basic VPN Features: Kill Switch & Split Tunneling

Both VPNs have split tunneling, which lets you choose which apps go through the VPN tunnel and which stay unprotected. 

Both VPNs also have a kill switch, but they take different approaches. ExpressVPN uses a traditional kill switch design, cutting off your internet whenever the VPN connection drops (it’s guaranteed to drop sometimes, no matter which VPN you use).

On the other hand, NordVPN has an app kill switch in addition to the internet kill switch. The app kill switch lets you choose apps to shut down when the VPN connection breaks off. One little niggle is that you need to turn the kill switch off before you disconnect from the VPN and shut it down; otherwise, your internet will stay disconnected.

expressvpn split tunneling
ExpressVPN and NordVPN let you disable or enable the VPN for apps you select.

Obfuscated Servers

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN feature obfuscation, which hides the fact that you’re using a VPN (useful in situations where VPNs are banned). However, ExpressVPN offers it on all of its servers, and it’s always on, as long as you’re on the default protocol. 

On the other hand, NordVPN offers obfuscation only on its specialized obfuscated servers, and you have to manually set your protocol to OpenVPN over TCP before you can even see them in the app. Needless to say, ExpressVPN’s approach to obfuscation is implemented much better than NordVPN’s.

nordvpn obfuscated servers
NordVPN’s obfuscation requires you to be using the right VPN protocol in order to use it.

NordVPN Advanced Features

However, NordVPN has a few advanced features up its sleeve that ExpressVPN can’t match. The first of these is the dark web monitor, which takes your email address and checks if it’s been leaked on the dark web. You can also get a dedicated IP address, though that will cost you an extra $70 per year.

The latest feature from NordVPN is Meshnet. It lets you connect your devices to each other in a local area network (LAN) for remote access and file sharing, and can even let you route your traffic through another device instead of a VPN server. 

This feature is pretty exciting and unique and opens up a whole world of possibilities for VPNs. However, it requires a fair bit of technical know-how to get it up and running, so it really isn’t for the casual user.

NordVPN also lets you set a custom DNS service, in case you want to manually choose how to manage your DNS requests. Plus, it offers tapjacking protection on mobile, which gives you a warning if a malicious app adds a screen overlay to your device that records your taps to expose sensitive information.

nordvpn meshnet feature
Meshnet allows you to link other devices into a LAN, or even route your traffic through them instead of a VPN server.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Advanced Features

NordVPN has recently upgraded its deprecated CyberSec tool into a new feature called “threat protection,” which blocks ads, trackers and malware. It can also block malicious websites at the DNS level, so you can’t even open them by accident. 

ExpressVPN has its own malware blocker called “threat manager,” though it doesn’t block ads like NordVPN’s tool. However, neither of the two services are fully fledged antiviruses, so don’t count on them as your only antivirus program. Currently, the feature is only available on Mac, Linux and iOS.

Additionally, ExpressVPN has recently rolled out its new built-in password manager called ExpressVPN Keys. We reviewed ExpressVPN Keys, and it was a competent password manager, though it certainly won’t be winning any awards. The good news is that Keys will be an integral part of ExpressVPN, and it will be included for free.

ExpressVPN Keys Autofill
ExpressVPN Keys plans to release a password manager, which will come for free with the ExpressVPN app.

Nord (the company, not the VPN) also has a password manager called NordPass, but it’s a separate, paid service and not part of the VPN.

One feature that ExpressVPN has over NordVPN is its built-in speed test. Though we’re always wary of taking a VPN’s word when it comes to speed, the test still shows how different servers might perform when you’re connected to them. The speed test is no longer available on Windows, though.

NordVPN Specialty VPN Servers

Besides its regular servers, NordVPN also has specialty servers. These include double VPN servers (aka multi-hop servers) that route your traffic through two servers instead of one, making sure your data stays private in case one of them gets compromised or seized. 

These servers will slow your connection down more than usual, but they offer more security for people who need extra protection, for example if you live in or travel to area with high censorship or surveillance.

NordVPN specialty servers
NordVPN offers a selection of servers specialized for certain tasks.

You also get Onion over VPN servers, which send your traffic through the Tor network after it passes through Nord’s VPN server. 

This feature should add a layer of anonymity between you and the internet, but we don’t recommend using it because of the dangers of malicious Tor nodes (as we explain in our Tor VPN article). Onion VPN traffic is also much slower than regular traffic.

Lastly, NordVPN offers peer-to-peer (P2P) servers, which are better for both torrenting and regular downloads than its standard servers, though they didn’t perform that well in our testing (more on that in the “torrenting” section). Of all of these server options, the torrenting ones are the most useful for normal users, as NordVPN’s regular servers aren’t very stable for torrenting.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Features Comparison

Overall, it’s a very tight race, and it’s a tough one to call. On the one hand, you have NordVPN, which offers a few advanced features, but makes them difficult to use. Even its basic features can be a bit clumsy. Plus, the vast majority of users will find its extra features redundant.

On the other hand, ExpressVPN feels like a premium package, and even though it lacks NordVPN’s specialty servers, it does the basics simply and elegantly. However, in a round solely dedicated to features, we have to give the point to NordVPN for the sheer quantity of features and the flexibility it offers.

$3.49 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee$6.66 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
Payment methodsPayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, CashPayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections 6 5
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available7 days on mobile7 days (mobile only)
Refund period
Worldwide server amount5,000 servers in 59 countries3,000+ servers in 94 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, LinuxWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, EdgeChrome, Firefox, Edge
Can be installed on routers
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Encryption types256-AES, ChaCha20256-AES, ChaCha20
VPN protocols availableOpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynxOpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Live Chat24/724/7
Email support24/724/7
Phone support
User forum
Round: Features
Point for NordVPN
Visit NordVPN2
Visit ExpressVPN0

3. Pricing

There’s very little to discuss here — NordVPN is just flat-out cheaper than ExpressVPN. In fact, we named it the best cheap VPN. Despite this, ExpressVPN provides a lot of value for the money, considering the premium experience you’re getting. Let’s look at the full price breakdown for each provider.

First, we need to mention that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN let you subscribe for a month or longer, with longer subscriptions yielding a bigger discount. 

Both VPNs also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which entitles you to a full refund within the first month, no questions asked. Read our guides on how to get an ExpressVPN refund or NordVPN refund. Plus, they each have a seven-day free trial on mobile, though its availability might vary by region.

Additionally, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN limit how many devices you can have connected at the same time. ExpressVPN allows for five simultaneous connections, while NordVPN offers six simultaneous connections.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN Cost Comparison

Let’s start the comparison with ExpressVPN — the more expensive of the pair. Its monthly plan costs $12.95, which isn’t unusual for a monthly VPN plan. Subscribing for six months can get that cost down to $9.99 per month, but you’ll get the biggest discount from the yearly plan. 

expressvpn pricing page
ExpressVPN is a premium VPN that comes at a premium cost.

Subscribing for a year up front only costs $6.67 per month, which is still relatively expensive, but it’s easier to swallow than the monthly cost. Besides, we feel that the premium package that ExpressVPN offers warrants the higher price tag.

On the other hand, NordVPN is markedly cheaper. Its monthly plan is $11.99 per month, and its one-year plan is $4.99 per month, already cheaper than ExpressVPN. However, NordVPN also has a two-year plan, which costs $3.29 per month — half the cost of ExpressVPN’s cheapest plan.

NordVPN is also available as part of a bundle, together with NordPass and NordLocker (an encrypted cloud storage service). You can get the whole package including 1TB of encrypted cloud storage for $5.29 per month on the two-year plan. 

NordVPN pricing security package
NordVPN is very affordable on the two-year plan, and it gives you the option to buy it bundled with two other Nord apps.

There’s not much left to discuss here. The NordVPN offer is simply cheaper and makes it the clear winner. NordVPN takes a third point in a row in this matchup.

Round: Pricing
Point for NordVPN
Visit NordVPN3
Visit ExpressVPN0

4. Security

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are the two of the most secure VPN options on the market. They both adequately protect against IP address leaks, and both VPNs offer DNS leak protection, though they no longer show it in their interfaces (we should note that we appreciate removing the toggle for such an integral security feature, which should always stay on).

VPN Protocols & Encryption

ExpressVPN offers a choice of either OpenVPN or ExpressVPN Lightway on most devices (and Lightway and IKEv2 on iOS). The protocol choice is set to “automatic” by default, which mostly uses Lightway, but dynamically switches to other protocols for better performance.

expressvpn lightway protocol
The ExpressVPN Lightway protocol is a modern, open-source protocol developed from the ground up by ExpressVPN.

OpenVPN has been the go-to VPN protocol for most VPNs for years; it’s open source and secure, while providing decent speeds. 

The ExpressVPN Lightway protocol was custom built by ExpressVPN, and it’s also open source. It aims to provide similar security to the OpenVPN protocol, and to offer better speeds. ExpressVPN supports AES-256 encryption on all of its VPN protocols. 

NordVPN lets you choose between OpenVPN and NordLynx on Windows, and adds IKEv2 on iPhone. NordLynx is NordVPN’s own implementation of the WireGuard protocol — a lightweight and secure protocol that should be faster than OpenVPN. 

However, even though the WireGuard VPN protocol itself is open source, NordLynx is not, which means that we can’t inspect the code for vulnerabilities or suspicious business. In terms of encryption, NordVPN uses the familiar AES-256 cipher with OpenVPN, and ChaCha20 with NordLynx.

nordlynx vpn protocol
NordLynx is the name of NordVPN’s custom implementation of the WireGuard protocol.

The NordVPN Server Breach

Before we go into the details, we need to first assure you that NordVPN is a secure service and has our full endorsement. That said, we’ll disclose a few things about the VPN that you might find concerning. We understand that sentiment, but the situation is nuanced.

In 2019, NordVPN revealed that one of its servers in Finland had suffered a data breach the previous year. The cause of the breach was improper security on the part of NordVPN’s partner, which leased the VPN servers. This resulted in a hacker taking a server configuration file and a TLS encryption key.

The hacker was able to take control of one VPN server, but thankfully, the key expired before they were able to use it. We stress that this was a severe breach, even though no apparent harm came of it.

NordVPN has since tightened its server security and audited its entire server network for similar vulnerabilities. It also cut ties with the server provider that allowed the breach to happen. 

We’re pleased by NordVPN’s response and transparency about the situation, but it’s still a mark against its score, which leaves the win in this round to ExpressVPN.

Round: Security
Point for ExpressVPN
Visit NordVPN3
Visit ExpressVPN1

6. Privacy

Although both services abide by a strict no-logs policy, NordVPN has a few concerning lines in its privacy policy. Additionally, both VPNs are owned by larger technology groups, but ExpressVPN’s parent company, Kape Technologies, has more of a dodgy history. 

ExpressVPN Privacy Policies

ExpressVPN’s privacy policy is as clean as they come. ExpressVPN logs very little information (only the data it needs for communication and billing), and collects no logs of your VPN use, the websites you visit or anything else you do while connected. 

ExpressVPN also employs RAM-only servers, called TrustedServer, which means that everything gets wiped from them on reboot, so ExpressVPN couldn’t store your data even if it wanted to. 

Additionally, ExpressVPN uses perfect forward secrecy. Basically, ExpressVPN gives you a new encryption key every 15 minutes, making sure that even if someone gets their hands on a private encryption key from the company, it will be rendered obsolete before they can make use of it.

expressvpn privacy policy
ExpressVPN has a squeaky-clean privacy policy.

NordVPN Privacy Policies

NordVPN also has a no-logs policy. It does log connection timestamps, but the information is deleted after 15 minutes when you log out.

Additionally, using its Smart DNS feature will result in your IP address being logged, though that’s no surprise. All DNS services work that way, including ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer DNS.

One thing to note is NordVPN’s threat protection feature. To determine whether a URL is malicious, it monitors the websites you visit and compares them to a list of bad sites. NordVPN claims these logs aren’t stored, and even so, your account can’t be tied to any activity on the VPN, thanks to Nord’s use of device IDs.

Still, not only does this run counter to the purpose of a VPN, the feature could be implemented in other ways. For example, Private Internet Access blocks malicious websites at the DNS level, preventing you from opening them at all. NordVPN’s old CyberSec feature used to do that too; it’s now called “threat protection lite,” so we suggest you use that instead of the full version.

nordvpn privacy policy
NordVPN has a few concerning clauses in its privacy policy.

Jurisdiction & Ownership

ExpressVPN is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. According to ExpressVPN, this is because the BVI has no data retention laws (unlike India, for example). Similarly, NordVPN is based in Panama, supposedly for the same reasons. However, detractors sometimes say that these companies (and others like them) merely enjoy the lower taxes.

NordVPN is owned by Nord Security, which is a subsidiary of a company called Cyberspace. Nord Security also owns the VPN Surfshark, and Cyberspace owns Atlas VPN directly. All three VPNs operate independently of one another. 

ExpressVPN is owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns VPNs CyberGhost, Private Internet Access and ZenMate, as well as the VPN review site vpnMentor. Like the Cyberspace VPNs, all Kape VPNs operate independently of each other. 

However, Kape Technologies and some of its leadership have had a bit of a checkered past, and its activity in the security field has raised eyebrows — though nothing has come to light yet of any Kape-based malicious activity or intent.

All things considered, NordVPN’s privacy policies aren’t quite as clear-cut as ExpressVPN’s, but ExpressVPN’s parent company has more of a sketchy past that has even Edward Snowden on edge. This means ExpressVPN and NordVPN tie this round.

Round: Privacy
No clear winner, points for both
Visit NordVPN4
Visit ExpressVPN2

6. Streaming

We’ll keep this section short and simple: Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are more than capable of unblocking any streaming service. 

They easily bypass geo-restrictions from the most popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max and BBC iPlayer. You can even access local streaming platforms with ease.

ExpressVPN bbc iplayer
Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are very capable at unblocking streaming sites.

What’s more, since both VPNs are incredibly fast and have a negligible impact on your internet speed, you can stream in full HD, or as high a resolution as your internet service provider allows. It’s no surprise that both of them topped our list of the best VPNs for streaming.

Is NordVPN or ExpressVPN Better for Netflix?

There’s really no difference between the two when it comes to unblocking Netflix. Whether you just want to stream TV episodes in peace with VPN protection or access a Netflix library in a foreign country, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN have you covered. We won’t waste your time any further; this round ends in a tie.

Round: Streaming
No clear winner, points for both
Visit NordVPN5
Visit ExpressVPN3

7. Torrenting

For this round, we ran a series of torrenting speed tests to judge each VPN’s performance. Surprisingly, despite its slightly slower speed in our general testing, ExpressVPN performed better than NordVPN in our torrenting tests, making it the new best VPN for torrenting.

We first downloaded our 2GB test file over an unprotected connection to get a baseline. Without VPN protection, the file downloaded in 8 minutes, 3 seconds, with download speeds peaking at 4.5 MiB/s. Then we downloaded that same file, twice for each VPN, plus twice more using NordVPN’s torrenting servers, and averaged out the results of the two tests.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN Torrenting Performance

VPN:Download timePeak speed
(Unprotected)8:034.5 MiB/s
ExpressVPN8:364.3 MiB/s
NordVPN (regular servers)9:124.4 MiB/s
NordVPN (P2P servers)9:094.4 MiB/s

Using ExpressVPN, the file downloaded in 8 minutes, 36 seconds, at a peak download speed of 4.3 MiB/s. NordVPN’s regular servers hit a higher peak speed at 4.4 MiB/s, but the download speed fluctuated quite a bit, resulting in an overall slower download time of 9 minutes, 12 seconds. 

Torrenting on NordVPN’s regular servers completely stalled our internet connection on our first attempt, which cut our first try short. Coupled with the general instability we saw over the course of our testing, this leads us to believe that the regular servers aren’t quite optimized for torrenting.

As you can see from the table, NordVPN’s torrenting servers only provided a slight improvement over the regular ones. The peak speed remained the same as before, at 4.4 MiB/s, but we saw the same instability as well.

ExpressVPN’s steadier connection while torrenting wins it the point in this round. Not even NordVPN’s torrenting servers managed to beat it, despite hitting higher peak speeds, and the internet service interruptions were the nail in the coffin for it in the torrenting matchup.

Round: Torrenting
Point for ExpressVPN
Visit NordVPN5
Visit ExpressVPN4

8. Server Locations

ExpressVPN has one of the widest server networks we’ve seen, so it’s no surprise that it leads in this round as well. There’s more to the whole picture than which service has more servers or more server locations, though. The full breakdown of ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s server networks follows.

NordVPN Server Locations

Let’s start with NordVPN. It only covers 59 countries, with locations in 81 cities. However, it has over 5,500 servers in those cities, and you can pick a specific server to connect to, which is a real rarity. 

North America421
South America33
Middle East22

NordVPN thoughtfully adds a load indicator as well, letting you know which servers are at capacity and which will provide faster speeds (lower load percentages mean faster speeds).

It’s also important to note that all of NordVPN’s servers are physical servers, while ExpressVPN also uses some virtual servers. That’s not inherently a positive thing, though the situations where a virtual server is faster than a physical one are rare, as you can see in our comparison of virtual and physical servers.

nordvpn server network
NordVPN’s server network leaves a few spots on the world map blank.

NordVPN covers North America and Europe well, though that’s nothing out of the ordinary. There are nine Asian server locations, though they are all concentrated in the east, and no Central or South Asian countries are covered. 

South America and the Middle East, which are typically underserved, get three and two locations, respectively, while the entire continent of Africa has only one location.

ExpressVPN Server Locations

ExpressVPN doesn’t make its server count available, though as you can see in our VPN features article, a raw server count doesn’t really say anything about a VPN’s server network. 

It covers a whopping 94 countries, letting you connect to 148 different locations. Of these, 48 are virtual locations and 100 are physical. Only Surfshark covers more countries, though it has fewer locations overall.

North America631
South America1011
Middle East22

As per usual, Europe gets the best treatment, though Asia surprisingly takes the second spot for coverage, with oft-overlooked Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan covered. Of course, North America follows closely behind. 

The Middle East only gets two locations, and while Africa only gets four locations, they’re well distributed throughout the continent. Plus, nearly every country in South America has a server location.

expressvpn server network
ExpressVPN has excellent worldwide coverage, even in countries like Kazakhstan, which are rarely covered by VPNs.

ExpressVPN has better geographical coverage than NordVPN, and although we appreciate NordVPN’s addition of server load data, it still falls well short of ExpressVPN’s staggering server network. It’s a no-brainer: The victory in this round goes to ExpressVPN.

Round: Server Locations
Point for ExpressVPN
Visit NordVPN5
Visit ExpressVPN5

9. User-Friendliness

Although NordVPN really does try to do something different with the innovative world map interface, it fails to make its advanced features easy to use. On the other hand, ExpressVPN’s minimalist approach to VPN app design lays everything out in an easy-to-use manner, leading it to victory in this round.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both available on the Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems on desktop, Android and iOS on mobile, as well as a variety of routers. 

We’ll be focusing on the Windows version on desktop and the Android version on mobile, though the same things should apply no matter which operating system you’re running. We’ll be sure to point out any particular differences.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN Desktop VPN Apps

The ExpressVPN app on desktop has an exceedingly simple and intuitive interface. It presents you with a large connection button, and a server selection button underneath that shows your current selection. The list groups servers by geographic location for easier access, and the “settings” menu is uncomplicated and logically organized.

ExpressVPN desktop app server list
The ExpressVPN app has a minimalist interface that comes with almost no learning curve.

On the other hand, NordVPN’s app features a beautifully designed world map, with a server selection to the left of it. You’ll see tabs for recent servers, specialty servers and the devices in your Meshnet network, as well as an alphabetical list of all the server locations. You might see a different selection of specialty servers, depending on the VPN protocol you’re using.

nordvpn home screen
NordVPN’s app looks modern and is visually appealing, but it’s not the easiest to use.

So far, so good, but the rest of the app is a bit of a jumble. NordVPN singles out the Threat Protection and Meshnet features on the leftmost side of the main screen, yet other advanced features, like the dark web monitor, are found in the “settings” menu. The menu itself isn’t organized logically, either, with protocol selection in the “auto-connect” tab. 

Additionally, the obfuscated servers are only available when OpenVPN (TCP) is selected as the protocol, and the feature is grayed out until you change protocols. The dedicated IP servers are also only available when using OpenVPN. The app doesn’t tell you this anywhere — it just removes them from the list entirely.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN Mobile Apps

The mobile apps of ExpressVPN and NordVPN are very similar to their desktop counterparts. The only differences are that ExpressVPN also offers the IKEv2 protocol on iOS and NordVPN has an extra tapjacking protection feature. 

ExpressVPN’s app is as simple to use as the desktop one, while NordVPN’s map interface is a bit harder to use on mobile. For this reason, ExpressVPN is also our best mobile VPN.

ExpressVPN mobile app
The ExpressVPN mobile app is as elegantly designed as the desktop one.

ExpressVPN is the clear winner here. Although NordVPN offers many interesting features, it can be frustrating to use. Even minor things — like finding the dedicated IP address you just bought — can lead to a talk with customer support.

The world map doesn’t work quite as well on mobile.
Round: User-Friendliness
Point for ExpressVPN
Visit NordVPN5
Visit ExpressVPN6

10. Customer Support

ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a similar level of customer support, though ExpressVPN has a slight edge. 

They both offer email support and a knowledgebase with well-explained topics. Neither offers phone support, though that’s to be expected for a VPN service. However, the fastest way to contact customer support is via live chat, and ExpressVPN does that just a hair better.

The reason is NordVPN’s chatbot. When you open the chat, you see a knowledgebase search instead. When you click on the “chat” button, you get a reply from the chatbot, which can only search the knowledgebase, just like the previous screen. You have to tell the chatbot to put you through to a live agent, which might not be immediately apparent to everyone. 

nordvpn chat bot
NordVPN’s chatbot can leave some users confused.

Although the bot is good at redirecting you to appropriate knowledgebase entries, it’s safe to assume that if a customer wanted that, they’d just use the search function in the knowledgebase itself. 

Plus, the “chat” button doesn’t always work on repeat visits — we had to clear our cookies a few times because we kept getting stuck. We have to dock NordVPN for that, so ExpressVPN takes this round.

Round: Customer Support
Point for ExpressVPN
Visit NordVPN5
Visit ExpressVPN7

The Verdict: ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

NordVPN took an early lead, beating ExpressVPN for speed, features and pricing — and tying it for privacy and streaming performance. However, ExpressVPN came back to win many later rounds, including security, torrenting, server locations, ease of use and customer support. 

ExpressVPN won overall, but if you’re on a budget and don’t mind if the VPN requires a bit more tinkering, NordVPN is still an excellent option.

Who do you think is the winner? Is ExpressVPN a better option for you than NordVPN? Would you be able to forgive NordVPN’s security and privacy lapses for its price and abundance of features? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, thank you for reading.

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