NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which provider is best?

NordVPN vs Surfshark
(Image credit: Future)

There are a lot of VPNs on the market these days and a lot of information to sift through when it comes to comparing them. Frankly, it's overwhelming, but that's exactly what the Tom's Guide team is here for. We've taken two of the best VPNs around and compared all of their key features – so, who'll come out on top, NordVPN or Surfshark?

NordVPN is a massive name in the industry and a favorite of YouTubers. It's my go-to for streaming, and a downright speed demon. Surfshark is no slouch, either, and packs a ton of value into some of the most budget-friendly prices available. Keep reading, and I'll dig into both providers to figure out which one offers the best experience.

NordVPN vs Surfshark at a glance

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NordVPN vs Surfshark – specs on paper
Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNSurfshark
Number of servers:6,300+3,200+
Server countries:111100
Maximum simultaneous connections:10Unlimited
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:$3.09$2.29

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Plans, pricing and trials

Nobody wants to spend a fortune each month on a VPN, especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis, which is why I've compared NordVPN and Surfshark's plans first.

NordVPN's one-month plan costs $12.99. Cheaper than Surfshark, sure, but it's still a hefty investment for 30 days.

The NordVPN 12-month plan will set you back $4.59 a month and, just like Surfshark, you'll get an extra 3 months added to your plan for free.

If you pick the 24-month plan, it'll come in at $3.09 a month, with 3 months for free, which isn't a bad deal at all.

Surfshark's pricing plans follow the same pattern, and you can pick up a one-month Surfshark plan for $15.45 – which is pretty expensive.

However, commit to a longer subscription, and the prices fall dramatically. A 12-month subscription comes in at $2.79 a month and includes an extra 3 months of coverage for free.

Go for the 24-month plan, for a tiny $2.19 a month, and you'll also receive the bonus 3 months, bringing your coverage up to a total of 27 months.

Both providers are pretty wallet-friendly, but Surfshark offers the best value for money if you're looking for a long-term plan (with some juicy extras thrown in for free).

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Security and privacy

Probably the most important test, we'll now compare the two providers' privacy and security features.

NordVPN boasts excellent encryption, and has some very interesting features such an Double VPN and Onion over VPN. The latter uses the encrypted Tor network for ultimate privacy at the cost of lower speeds.

Surfshark also impresses, with its own MultiHop tech which functions much the same as Nord's Double VPN. You won't be able to route through the Tor network, but Surfshark does offer HackLock and BlindSearch, which help protect your online identity.

Both offer a selection of protocols to tailor your experience. NordVPN supports OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, NordLynx (Wireguard), and SSTP, while Surfshark supports OpenVPN UDP & TCP, L2TP, IKEv2, WireGuard, and Shadowsocks. Plenty of selection, then.

However, there's one thing that sets NordVPN apart, and that's its routine independent audits. That means that the VPN allows an impartial third party to access its servers and source code, with the aim of confirming privacy policies and finding vulnerabilities.

Surfshark is yet to undergo any such audit, and that's why we have to give this round to NordVPN.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Performance

Great connection speeds are crucial, as the greatest privacy in the world is no good if it slows your browsing to a crawl. We tested both NordVPN and Surfshark on 600MB lines in the UK and US so we could have a good overall picture of each provider's performance.

Surfshark impressed with average speeds of around 150MB, but NordVPN delivered unbelievable results, reliably reaching 350MB. That's seriously quick no matter how you look at it.

NordVPN's speeds ranged from 125MB to 300MB, and while it never dropped enough to truly affect usage, that fluctuation isn't ideal. Surfshark was more reliable, but didn't max out nearly as quick – we routinely saw speeds of up to 200MB.

In practice, both services are more than fast enough for the average user, and on typical connections both will perform identically. However, if you've got access to a high-speed connection, it might be worth considering what you prioritize more: absolute top speed or consistency.

NordVPN vs Surfshark

(Image credit: Surfshark)

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Streaming

Surfshark wears its streaming VPN abilities on its sleeve, guaranteeing access to 14 Netflix libraries. This bodes well, as claiming this as a selling point means it's obliged to keep the service up. 

NordVPN is no slouch, though, and in our testing it accessed every Netflix library we tried. However, other streaming services were a little more awkward. 

When testing BBC iPlayer (often even more difficult to unblock than Netflix), NordVPN came unstuck. An article on-site advised us to use the browser extension, and that did get us in, but we'd rather just use the app. It was the same story for Amazon Prime, too.

Surfshark, however, aced iPlayer and Prime first-time round, and it's for that reason that we're giving it this round.

NordVPN vs Surfshark

(Image credit: NordVPN)

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Torrenting

Using a torrenting VPN is a must if you're sharing P2P, so which of these two is better-suited to protecting your torrents?

Both services support P2P traffic on some servers, and both can also detect if you're torrenting and switch you to a suitable server if you're not already connected. Both also have a built-in kill switch and the ability to split tunnel, which is really useful.

However, NordVPN's wider range of servers (at the time of writing it's got 5,400+ compared to Surfshark's 3,200+) means that you may be more likely to find a fast server that supports P2P in the location you want. 

In practice, we haven't noticed a huge amount of difference, but if having plenty of servers is high on your list, then NordVPN takes this one.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Apps

Seeing as the apps are how you'll be controlling your VPN, it's important that they're simple, powerful, and can do everything you need.

On desktop, NordVPN's layout is clean, effective, and immediately recognizable. While not really that helpful, the map interface can be useful for quickly selecting a country without scrolling through a list. It can get a bit cramped in central Europe, though – and on mobile you're best off ignoring the map entirely as it isn't much good on smaller screens.

In terms of features, it's super simple to change settings on both desktop and mobile, and everything is totally plug-and-play.

Surfshark's apps are simpler still, forgoing any zany interface for a simple server list. While you'll still be able to change settings easily, if we had to pick a fault it'd be that Surfshark's apps are too simple. 

However, this is really down to personal taste, and both VPNs provides excellent, stable, usable apps for tons of devices. 

NordVPN vs Surfshark

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Support

It's bit of a labyrinthine journey to get to NordVPN's knowledgebase of guides and articles, but once you've found your way there the content is great. If you were to sign up, we'd recommend bookmarking the hub to avoid any frustration further down the road.

Surfshark's bank of guides is very similar, with excellent articles that should cover most issues. 

However, for most users, live chat will be your first and only port of call, and thankfully both providers have operators available 24/7 who are knowledgeable and seem to be able to sort the majority of problems.

While they can seem like they're following a script (let's face it, they are), staff from both providers aren't afraid of straying away from that to offers helpful advice – and there's no clear winner here.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which is better?

Both NordVPN and Surfshark provides stellar services that are easily among the very best on offer today. 

If you're looking for absolute privacy, NordVPN's independent audit practice is a real selling point, and may well sway your decision. Plus, starting at just $3.71 a month, it's not bad value, either.

If you're looking to spend as little as possible, though, Surfshark is simply the best bargain VPN on the market. You'll get a huge amount of in-depth features for just $2.49 a month, and it's well worth testing out.

If, however, you're looking for the very best service on the market, we'd have to steer you towards ExpressVPN. With over 3,000 servers worldwide, unrivalled streaming power and intuitive apps, it brings together everything you need from a VPN in a way that no other provider can.

How we test VPN services—our review methodology

There’s no replacement for hands-on experience when it comes to reviewing VPNs. That’s why we take an end-to-end approach, breaking down every aspect of a VPN we can think of. This process starts at the provider’s website, where we go over the marketing claims, the privacy policy, the support materials, and any intrusive tracking cookies we notice. 

This gives us a sense of how sincere a provider is about protecting your data before we get into the VPN itself - after all, it’s a red flag if a VPN that claims to protect your data is selling off all of your data to third parties before you even download the app. 

Then, of course, we sign up and download the app (anonymously, naturally). Each platform gets its fair shake - we test all the platforms a provider offers to make sure they work as advertised. We pay particular attention to feature parity across apps, as often mobile apps don’t quite match up to their desktop counterparts.

Once we’ve got our hands on the app, it’s time for a stress test: We test out each protocol and run speed tests, check for data leaks, and run through a gamut of streaming services to see which ones get blocked.

Finally, we take all of the information we’ve gathered about the VPN and make a final judgment on it: Is it worth the money? Is it secure? Does it stand out in any particular way in a sea of similar products? There’s plenty of VPNs out there, but there’s only a few that qualify for our recommendation.


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.