Surfshark vs NordVPN in 2023: Two VPNs, One Partnership
If you can’t decide between Surfshark and NordVPN, fret not. In this Surfshark vs NordVPN matchup, we’re going to shed light on how the two providers perform on various fronts such as speed, security, privacy, streaming and more.
NordVPN and Surfshark are top-shelf virtual private network (VPN) providers that ranked high on our best VPN list. While they both pack a punch in terms of VPN features, they show subtle differences in performance, which we will dissect in our Surfshark vs NordVPN guide.
NordVPN has been around for nearly a decade and provides top-notch privacy. Its overall quality is great (second only to ExpressVPN), with an impressive feature set at an affordable price. The only blemish on the company’s record is a server breach in 2018, which you can read about in our full NordVPN review.c
- NordVPN surpasses Surfshark performances on speed, streaming, torrenting and quality of the available features.
- However, the two providers are an equal match on server location and customer support fronts.
- Surfshark lost the matchup, but it beat NordVPN in one of the most important categories: security and privacy. It’s also the more affordable and user-friendly VPN of the two providers.
- In February 2022, Surfshark and NordVPN agreed to merge forces but remain independent VPN services. Read our NordVPN and Surfshark merger article to learn more.
Surfshark entered the VPN scene a few years ago, but already the VPN is giving heavy-hitters such as NordVPN a run for their money. As you can read in our Surfshark review, it provides unlimited simultaneous connections, excellent security and decent speeds. That sets up for an interesting matchup, so read on.
Updated the comparison to include the latest VPN speed test results for both VPNs.
If you’re talking about the overall quality, then the answer is no. However, Surfshark proves its worth by matching or exceeding NordVPN’s ability on security, privacy, server locations, pricing, user-friendliness and customer support.
Yes. Although Surfshark emerged second best in our NordVPN vs Surfshark matchup, it’s still a quality VPN worth trying.
While its overall quality is top-notch, ExpressVPN beats it on various fronts such as speed, streaming and customer support. Read our ExpressVPN review for more details.
NordVPN outshone Surfshark in many of the categories, but that doesn’t make it the best VPN in the industry. ExpressVPN remains the best VPN on the market right now. Read our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup to compare the two.
|$2.49 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee||$3.49 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee|
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card||PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available||7 days on mobile|
|Worldwide server amount||3,200 +, 140 server locations in 95 countries||5,000 servers in 59 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS||Android, iOS|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge||Chrome, Firefox, Edge|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|Encryption types||256-AES, ChaCha20||256-AES, ChaCha20|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard||OpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynx|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Surfshark vs NordVPN: Compared & Tested
To help decide between the two reliable VPNs, we’ll pit Surfshark against NordVPN in a nine-round bout. Each round represents a key aspect of VPN performance, from speed to customer service.
The winner of each category will get a point, and if a tie occurs, both providers will get a point. We’ll tally the points at the end of the final round, and the provider with the most points will be our overall winner. Let the battle begin.
Average speedDownload Speed96 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency168 ms$2.49 / month(save 80%)(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency3 ms$3.49 / month(save 70%)(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash
- : 6
Both Surfshark and NordVPN made it onto our fastest VPN list, and their speeds are remarkably similar — perhaps there’s something to having the same parent company.
Surfshark vs NordVPN Speed Test Results
NordVPN and Surfshark are speed mavens (see our detailed VPN speed comparison). There’s not much separating the two when it comes to upload and download speeds when connected to the U.S. server.
Unfortunately, Surfshark’s latency has peaks and valleys while NordVPN stays consistently low. Read our speed vs latency guide to learn more.
When it comes to worldwide performance, again, not much separates the two in upload or download speeds. With global latency, Surfshark has slightly better results. However, if you toggle through the different server locations, you’ll see a pattern: NordVPN is much more consistent than Surfshark.
With all factors taken into account — especially the U.S. latency results — NordVPN has a slender edge over Surfshark. For that reason, we give it a point in this round.
Point for NordVPN
When it comes to the VPN features, reputable VPNs cover all the basics and top them off with bells and whistles. For both NordVPN and Surfshark, the providers come packed with unique tools in addition to their standard features.
Surfshark VPN vs NordVPN OS Support
Surfshark and NordVPN support all major operating systems: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux. In addition, you can install them on routers, gaming consoles and smart TVs, such as Samsung TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.
When it comes to browser support, NordVPN works with virtually all the best browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Vivaldi and Microsoft. It’s also one of the best VPNs for Safari. Surfshark has browser extensions only for Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Firefox.
Internet Kill Switch
Surfshark offers the kill switch in its most basic form. The kill switch cuts off your device from the internet when the VPN connection drops.
In addition to a normal kill switch, NordVPN has an app kill switch option. With this tool, you select the apps you want to automatically close when the VPN connection drops. The selected apps will disconnect from the internet, but the rest of your device will remain connected.
Split Tunneling Feature
Both NordVPN and Surfshark come with a split tunneling feature, which lets you choose which apps use the VPN connection and which ones access the internet connection directly.
Unfortunately, Surfshark’s split tunneling is not available for Mac, iOS and Linux users. However, Surfshark lets you select websites and IP addresses to bypass the VPN connection, an option that’s not available with NordVPN.
Advanced VPN Features
As far as advanced features go, both services have malware and ad blockers. On top of that, NordVPN has a dark web monitor tool, which scours dark web marketplaces to check if any of your personal information has leaked.
Both VPN services offer paid add-on features, though NordVPN has a bit more to offer in its arsenal. Surfshark offers Surfshark One, an antivirus add-on, which earned it a spot on our best VPNs with antivirus list.
NordVPN has NordLocker and NordPass. NordPass is a reliable password manager, while NordLocker is an encryption software. In addition, NordVPN offers dedicated IP addresses for $70 per year. Read our best dedicated IP address VPN to find other services that offer them.
Surfshark’s limited kill switch and the fact that NordVPN offers an app-level kill switch and more add-on options tips the scale toward NordVPN in this round, earning it a second point.
Point for NordVPN
A good VPN should offer important features at an affordable price. As we’ve already seen, NordVPN and Surfshark offer great features, so let’s see how much it costs to use each service.
Both monthly plans are expensive. Surfshark costs $12.95, which is on the higher end of the VPN pricing range. NordVPN costs a dollar less.
Beyond that, both providers offer discounts with extended plans, though Surfshark is more generous. The service has a six-month plan, which costs half the price of its monthly plan. The two-year plan is a lot cheaper, costing $2.49 per month, which is the cheapest price we’ve seen after Private Internet Access (read our PIA review and our Surfshark vs PIA guide to see how the two compare).
NordVPN isn’t as affordable as Surfshark on longer plans, but it’s still the best cheap VPN. The one-year plan costs $4.99 per month and the two-year plan costs $3.49 per month.
Free Trial and Money-Back Guarantee
If you’re really on a tight budget, you can try either service for free for seven days on mobile. Surfshark also has a seven-day free trial on macOS devices (sorry, Windows users). NordVPN doesn’t offer a free trial on any of its desktop apps.
You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee with each provider, just in case you need more time to make a decision. Getting a Surfshark refund or NordVPN refund should be a cinch.
Surfshark deserves the point in this category. It offers a free trial on macOS and more affordable plans than NordVPN. Read our CyberGhost vs Surfshark guide to see how or winner compare to another affordable VPN.
Point for Surfshark
4. Security & Privacy
A VPN’s primary purpose is to protect and maintain your online security and privacy, which is why this category is important. Various security features, VPN protocols and encryption all play a big role.
To settle the NordVPN vs Surfshark comparison on security, we’ll examine the available VPN protocols and encryption standards. We’ll also comb through the privacy policies to see if the fine print hides anything sneaky.
VPN Protocols and Encryption
Both NordVPN and Surfshark have moved away from OpenVPN as the default protocol. OpenVPN has long been the go-to protocol for VPN providers because it guarantees top-notch security.
Out of the box, Surfshark automatically chooses the fastest and most stable VPN protocol for you. However, you can manually set the VPN option to OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2 or WireGuard.
Surfshark uses AES-256 encryption with all its protocols. AES-256 encryption is virtually impossible to decipher without decryption keys unless you have a few billion years and an incredibly powerful supercomputer.
NordVPN, by contrast, uses the proprietary NordLynx as the default protocol. NordLynx is a different take on WireGuard that adds an extra security layer. NordLynx works in tandem with ChaCha encryption — an alternative to AES.
Beyond NordLynx, NordVPN supports OpenVPN on all devices, plus IKEv2 on Mac and iOS devices. Both IKEv2 and OpenVPN use AES-256 encryption.
Additional Security Features
Both NordVPN and Surfshark offer double VPN, which sends your internet traffic via two VPN servers, encrypting it twice. This adds a second layer of protection, making it more difficult for snoopers to decipher your traffic. Surfshark allows you to use the double VPN feature with all protocols, but NordVPN supports it only on OpenVPN.
Additionally, Surfshark has NoBorders mode, a feature built to help you enjoy unfettered internet access in restrictive countries by hiding the fact you’re using a VPN (also known as obfuscation). Though NordVPN doesn’t offer a similar feature, it has specialty servers built for the same purpose. We’ll discuss them in our server location section.
NordVPN vs Surfshark No-Logs Policy
Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t collect, store or share your traffic logs, personal information, IP addresses or information about the websites you visit. The only thing to note is that Surfshark servers do store your user ID and connection timestamps related to the particular VPN server for 15 minutes, before deleting them.
NordVPN has a no-logs policy too, and doesn’t collect, store or share user data. However, when you visit the company’s website, it collects your access logs, IP address, browser type and operating system — something Surfshark also does.
Surfshark has maintained a clean reputation and hasn’t been the subject of bad news lately. The story is different for NordVPN, though. NordVPN had a server breach of 2018, but thankfully the provider dealt with the issue swiftly to prevent further damage.
In addition, Surfshark now offers the Surfshark Incogni — a tool that automates the handling of data removal requests. However, this is a standalone tool (it’s not part of the Surfshark VPN suite). As a result, it doesn’t affect the outcome in this category.
Lastly, both providers are based in privacy-friendly countries. NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, whereas Surfshark is based in the Netherlands — two jurisdictions with arguably the most privacy-friendly laws and no mandatory data retention requirements.
That said, NordVPN has stated that it will respond to legal subpoenas from other countries, and might work with them to track suspicious users’ data.
Point for Surfshark
5. Streaming Performance
A VPN used for streaming should offer excellent speeds, unlimited bandwidth and unlimited data, plus the ability to get into popular streaming services. NordVPN ticks all these boxes so it’s no surprise that it came in second on our list of best VPNs for streaming. Let’s see how Surfshark compares.
Supported Streaming Services
In our tests, Surfshark got us into the Disney Plus streaming service on the first attempt. However, it took us multiple attempts to access BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max. Once you’re in, though, videos don’t take long to load and you enjoy streaming without interruption.
However, we couldn’t get into Netflix with Surfshark even after multiple attempts. It seems Netflix has blocked some of the Surfshark IP addresses, but that could change once the provider refreshes its pool of IP addresses. As it stands, it’s disappointing that Surfshark doesn’t support the most popular streaming service.
Streaming with NordVPN is smooth sailing. The VPN used to take several attempts to access streaming services. As of now, you don’t have to switch between servers to access your favorite streaming service.
NordVPN gets you into most streaming services on the first attempt, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Bundle. The NordLynx protocol is also incredibly fast and delivers buffering-free streams. As a result, NordVPN wins this category.
Point for NordVPN
NordVPN and Surfshark have comparable download speeds and solid security — the perfect combination for fast and secure torrent downloads. However, on paper, NordVPN boasts an advantage, thanks to its torrenting-optimized P2P servers.
We did a torrenting test to see whether NordVPN’s advantage translates to better torrenting performance. We used NordVPN’s P2P and Surfshark’s regular server to download a 1GB test file on the 3 Mbps internet. We used WireGuard and NordLynx protocols for this test.
Surfshark vs NordVPN Torrenting Speeds
|VPN service:||Top download speed||Download time|
|NordVPN||0.87 MB/s||53 minutes|
|Surfshark||0.69 MB/s||67 minutes|
NordVPN’s P2P servers started slowly but quickly gathered pace to reach a top speed of 0.87 MB per second. Though the download speeds fluctuated, NordVPN was able to download the test file in 53 minutes. Surfshark hit a top speed of 0.69 MB per second and finished the job in 67 minutes.
The P2P servers outclassed Surfshark’s regular servers, proving NordVPN is unrivaled for torrenting. For that reason, it claimed the point.
Point for NordVPN
7. Server Locations
When it comes to server location, we evaluate VPN providers’ geographical diversity and server count. Geographical diversity or server location distribution carries more weight, though.
NordVPN has built an excellent server infrastructure made up of over 5,200 physical VPN servers. Be sure to read out the physical vs virtual VPN server guide to learn more. The Surfshark VPN server count (more than 3,200 servers) isn’t as great as NordVPN, but it’s impressive considering the provider hasn’t been around for long.
Global VPN Server Coverage
Surfshark offers a better geographical diversity with IP addresses in 65 countries — NordVPN has servers in 60. Beyond that, Surfshark is the undisputed winner in terms of distribution with 112 server locations, whereas NordVPN has 82.
In addition to the regular VPN servers, both providers come with specialty servers. Surfshark offers static IP servers in five countries, whereas NordVPN offers dedicated IP address servers in five countries.
Additionally, NordVPN has other specialty servers.
- Obfuscated servers make your VPN traffic look like regular internet traffic to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. Obfuscated servers come in handy when you want to access censored websites or services in countries that block VPNs.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) servers are specialized torrenting servers that deliver an excellent P2P sharing experience.
- Onion over VPN servers combine the VPN’s capability with the Tor network to deliver optimal online security. They make NordVPN the best VPN for Tor.
While NordVPN offers an impressive server count, Surfshark excels in geographical diversity, which is a major decider in this category. Were it not for NordVPN specialized servers and dedicated IP address, Surfshark would have claimed the crown. By and large, the NordVPN vs Surfshark ends in a stalemate: a point for each provider.
No clear winner, points for both
In this round, we look at how easy (or difficult) it is to use NordVPN and Surfshark.
Whether you’re a seasoned VPN user or a newbie, you’ll find that Surfshark is easy to use. You can scroll through the server list to find your ideal server, but the fastest way is to use the search function. You can “star” your favorite server for faster connection.
Out of the box, Surfshark works just fine, but you can still change the default settings under the “settings” tab. In the “connectivity” tab, there are toggle buttons to activate auto-connect, kill switch, CleanWeb and Bypasser to fit your purpose. It’s also easy to change the protocol and activate the NoBorders mode under the “advanced” button.
NordVPN isn’t quite as easy to use. You can click on the blue dots on the world map to connect to the preferred location or use the search function to quickly find your ideal location.
Additionally, NordVPN’s many advanced features are scattered across its settings menus, sometimes in unintuitive locations, like the protocol settings hidden under “auto-connect”. Some of the features require a specific protocol to be activated before you can toggle them, which can be frustrating if you’re unfamiliar with VPNs.
Thankfully, you don’t need to alter the default configuration options for it to work. You can click on the blue dots on the world map to connect to the preferred location or use the search function to quickly find your ideal location.
VPN Service Mobile Apps
NordVPN mobile apps are a trimmed-down version of their desktop applications, but they are still easy to use.
The Android app has commonplace features such as auto-connect and split tunneling — though you don’t get an option to disable VPN for certain apps. Beyond that, you get notable features such as the kill switch and dark web monitor, but others like CyberSec offer limited functions. The iOS app lacks a split tunneling feature.
Surfshark mobile apps are feature-rich and easy to use. The Android app offers all the features of the desktop app including an option to automatically connect, kill switch, Bypasser, multi-hop VPN and CleanWeb.
This round is clear-cut. Surfshark is easier to use than NordVPN whether you’re using it on a desktop or mobile device. Moreover, its Android and iOS apps are more powerful, and for these reasons, Surfshark wins.
Point for Surfshark
9. Customer Support
Customer support with both Surfshark and NordVPN is a great experience. The providers allow you to access the help page from within the desktop and mobile clients. The Surfshark app has links to VPN tutorial guides, just in case you hit a snag when using one of its popular features.
The knowledgebase for both is a library of helpful articles and guides grouped into various categories. There are also FAQ sections on most web pages to address all your concerns about the topic in question.
Live chat remains the fastest way to get help with both VPNs. NordVPN’s live chat has a chatbot that’s quick to suggest help articles based on the description of the problem you are facing. If the issue is complex, type “human agent” and the bot will link you up with an agent.
Email support is also available, but neither VPN provider offers phone support.
Both NordVPN and Surfshark offer exceptional customer services, and the only drawback is the lack of phone support. Since that quibble is true for both providers, we couldn’t find anything else to set them apart. For this reason, the round ends in a tie.
No clear winner, points for both
In the end, NordVPN amassed six points, compared to Surfshark’s tally of five. NordVPN claims the overall crown in our NordVPN vs Surfshark matchup, thanks to its better speeds, feature set and streaming and torrenting capabilities. NordVPN delivered an all-around performance, proving its worth in all aspects, and its victory is truly deserved.
Surfshark lost out to NordVPN but didn’t go down without a fight. The service matched NordVPN performance in server locations and customer support. It even outshone NordVPN on the security, privacy, pricing and user-friendliness to further cement its position as a reputable VPN provider.
Read our Surfshark vs ExpressVPN and NordVPN vs ExpressVPN, to see how the two providers stack up against the best VPN provider.
What do you think of our NordVPN vs Surfshark comparison? Have you used either of these services before? Do you think the score is a fair reflection of the VPN’s performance? We’d like to hear about it. As always, thanks for reading.