NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which provider is best?

NordVPN vs Surfshark
(Image credit: Future)

Picking the best VPN can be a difficult process, and it can be hard for individuals to directly compare providers thanks to the sheer wealth of information available. That's why we’re pitting top providers head to head, focusing on the key features that should influence your decision – here, it’s NordVPN vs Surfshark.

Possibly the most famous VPN service on the market, NordVPN is known not only for its TV ads and sports sponsorships, but its seriously security-focused product which is trusted by millions worldwide.

Surfshark’s certainly the underdog, then, but with some excellent credentials on paper plus a hugely tempting price, it’s been shaking up the VPN game for some time and is proving itself a real hit with users. But how do they compare when stacked up together? Let’s get right into it.

NordVPN vs Surfshark at a glance

NordVPN – great encryption and reliable connections$3.71 a month

NordVPN – great encryption and reliable connections
If you're a sucker for a name-brand, NordVPN will probably be at the top of your list. With unbeatable encryption, useful apps for tons of devices and excellent streaming power, it's a force to be reckoned with – and it's pretty good value at $3.71 a month. Make sure you check our NordVPN coupons page for the latest offers and discounts. 

Surfshark – excellent value with very little compromisejust $2.49 a month

Surfshark – excellent value with very little compromise
If you're after a great-value VPN that still offers a powerful, premium experience, Surfshark could be the right choice for you. At just $2.49 a month, you can secure your data on any and all your devices thanks to its great apps and unlimited connections policy.

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NordVPN vs Surfshark – specs on paper
Header Cell - Column 0 NordVPNSurfshark
Number of servers:5,400+3,200+
Server countries:5965
Maximum simultaneous connections:6Unlimited
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:$3.71$2.49

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which is more affordable?

As a major factor in most people's decision, we'll look at pricing first

Surfshark's one-month plan is pretty pricey in the grand scheme, coming in at $12.95 – that rivals the upper echelons on VPN pricing, on a par with the excellent but expensive ExpressVPN.

However, commit to a longer plan and you'll start saving big. A six-month plan will set you back just $6.49 a month, and subscribing for a year will drop that to an unbeatable $2.49 a month.

Do be aware that the 12-month plan includes 12 free months, which is what makes the stated price so low – but even after renewal prices are below $5 a month.

NordVPN's one-month plan comes in at $11.95, a little cheaper than Surfshark. A six-month plan offers a small discount, coming in at $9 a month, but real savings are offered on the two-year plan, which is set at $3.71 a month

However, after your two-year plan is up, renewals are rebilled at an eye-watering $119 a year, no matter what the initial pricing was. That's a bit of a sly trick from Nord, and definitely loses it some points when it comes to value.

So, when it comes to pricing, if you go for the longer plan then Surfshark is the clear winner.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which is faster?

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: Which is more secure?

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: Which is better for 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: Which is better for 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: Which has better 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: Which has better 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: Final verdict

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.

better value than you might think

NordVPN is an excellent choice for pretty much anyone – and it's better value than you might think. With great apps and powerful encryption, it's perfect for those looking to torrent, stream, or just stay safe on the web.

At just $2.49 a month

For those on a budget, Surfshark is hard not to recommend. It's fully featured and simple to use, and it's fantastic for streaming overseas content. At just $2.49 a month, it's definitely worth checking out.

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.