Arguably the two highest-rated and most prominent brands in the VPN industry, it can be tricky picking between the two. There's a whole lot of conflicting advice out there, so here we're pitting them head to head in every area that counts to cut through the marketing bluster and decide which one is worth spending your cash on.
First we’ll run down the defining specs and features on paper, and then we’ll explore what each service is like to actually use in a number of important areas. Finally, we'll crown one the winner.
So, without further ado, let's get into it.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN at a glance
ExpressVPN – our #1 VPN service
Overall, we rate ExpressVPN as the very best service on the market. It's powerful, simple to use, and now comes with three months free plus a year of Backblaze could storage. In most cases we'd recommend it over NordVPN thanks to its superior usability, device support and excellent streaming power.
NordVPN – a very close runner-up
Although ExpressVPN gets our vote, there are still a few compelling reasons to choose NordVPN. Firstly, features like Onion over VPN and Double VPN are useful for those who'll use them, and it's also slightly more affordable, too.
|Number of servers:||3,000+||5,500+|
|Maximum simultaneous connections:||5||6|
|Money back guarantee:||30 days||30 days|
|Lowest monthly cost:||$6.67||$3.29|
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is more affordable?
Before we start looking at the nitty-gritty features, we'll address the price of both services – an aspect that will affect just about every user's choice.
Like almost all services, paying monthly for ExpressVPN will cost you the most, setting you back $12.95 a month, while six months will cost you $9.99 a month. Express’s longest plan is the 12-month option, and this comes in at reasonable $6.67/mo, which includes the exclusive Tom’s Guide offer of three months free.
Paying monthly for NordVPN will cost you $11.95/mo, a dollar less than Express. Plump for the six-month plan and you’ll see that knocked down to $9.00/mo, which is again a little cheaper. However, your best option is to go for the two-year plan, which currently comes in at an excellent $3.29/mo. Nord also offers a variety of knock-down VPN deals throughout the year that Express doesn't, so catch it at the right time and you might get even more time for your money.
We could argue that ExpressVPN provides a more well-rounded service and that it offers better true value, but if you’re looking for a cheap VPN, NordVPN takes this round.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is faster?
Connection speed is an essential part of any VPN service worth its salt, and we think many users will base their purchase on this section alone.
In our testing, both Express and Nord impressed. When using the Lightway protocol on a 1Gbps line, Express delivered speeds of up to 630Mbps.
When using the NordLynx protocol on the same line, NordVPN delivered scorching speeds of up to 760Mbps, which is significantly faster – if not necessarily attainable on a regular domestic connection.
When using the OpenVPN protocol, however, ExpressVPN delivered an excellent 385Mbps while NordVPN topped out at 350Mbps.
So, it's clear that at the top end on an uncontested gigabit line NordVPN can reach higher maximum speeds, so if that's your only priority it might be a better choice. However, while most users will be using either Lightway or NordLynx day to day, certain devices like routers are better suited to OpenVPN, so depending on your individual use case, that could swing this round ExpressVPN's way.
In the real world, on a domestic connection that tops out at around 100Mbps, neither VPN has a discernible impact. And, since both offer very stable and reliable connections, you likely won't notice the VPN's presence, whichever one you pick.
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ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is more secure?
Both providers are at the top their game when it comes to keeping your data secure.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN use industry-standard AES-256 encryption, backed up by Perfect Forward Secrecy which changes keys frequently to avoid compromising your security.
ExpressVPN owns all its own DNS servers, which is excellent in terms of keeping everything under one roof and sidelining third parties. You'll also get a functional kill switch, split tunneling and tons more additional options, but the standout feature is Express's all-RAM servers. These mean no data can ever be stored on them, backing up the no-logging policy.
However, NordVPN delivers some unusual features such as Double VPN and Onion over VPN that ExpressVPN doesn't offer, and for those who need them, they could sway the vote.
If we’re honest, these two VPNs are arguably the two most secure VPN services available today, so the decision will most likely come down to what you’re after from your VPN – will you actually use features like Onion over VPN, or would you prefer the peace of mind Express’s unblemished history provides?
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is better for Netflix?
Both Express and Nord feature on our Netflix VPN guide, as well as our `BBC iPlayer VPN guide and overall streaming VPN guide – so either is an excellent choice for watching geo-blocked streaming content.
However, if you visit those other guides, you’ll also see that ExpressVPN tops every one of them, and that’s down to a combination of a number of factors.
If you weren't aware, in mid-2021 Netflix changed the way it blocks VPNs, and subsequently many providers lost access to some, or even all of the libraries they could access. ExpressVPN and NordVPN both felt the hit, but in our testing we've noticed that ExpressVPN has rallied quicker and more effectively.
At the time of writing, Express is able to reliably unblock US, UK, Canadian and Australian Netflix libraries, with only Japan failing in our own tests.
NordVPN, however, was only able to unblock UK Netflix.
It's worth noting that these results can very frequently change, and we've increased the amount of testing we do to accurately reflect the efficacy of any given VPN.
Thankfully, both providers offer 30-day money-back guarantees, so if streaming is a big deal for you, you can test one (or both) to see which is better for accessing the content you love.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is better for torrenting?
Similarly, both services are among the very best torrenting VPN services, owing to their great speeds and excellent P2P support.
However, it’s ExpressVPN that takes it again, thanks to full P2P support – that means you’ll be able to torrent on every single server. With Nord – while it’s automated and painless in practice – not every server is torrenting-optimized, and sometimes server swaps are necessary.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which has better apps?
Both Express and Nord have a cohesive suite of apps for a wide range of devices, ranging from their Fire Stick VPN to Android VPN and iPhone VPN, and even apps for smart TVs and games consoles, too. Both providers have distinct interfaces which don’t have too much of a learning curve, and they are stable and effective.
However, one issue we have with NordVPN’s apps is that while the map-based interface works well on desktop, on smaller screens like smartphones it’s an awkward way of selecting a server. We’d much rather be displayed a standard server list immediately rather than hunting for Macedonia on a tiny map.
Plus, while it's a somewhat niche use-case, on Fire Stick NordVPN's app looks nothing like it does on other devices, while ExpressVPN is very familiar.
While these are small issues (both providers have apps that are top quality in the grand scheme), Express’s are more intuitive and work more seamlessly on a wider range of devices.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which has better support?
There’s a bit of a trend developing here, isn’t there? Both providers deliver excellent support, but Express’s is just that bit better.
In terms of live chat, both are swift to respond, and email responses are reliable and comprehensive. However, when it comes to the support website – usually your first port of call – Nord’s is somewhat confusing compared to Express’s very simple yet effective approach,
Once you find what you need, Nord’s articles are excellent, but getting there takes a bit of effort.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Final verdict
Going into this it might have seemed like a difficult decision – picking between two of the best-known VPNs on the market. However, having broken it down over the most important categories, the result is clear: ExpressVPN outdoes NordVPN at almost every turn.
With great speeds, an intuitive interface and seriously powerful privacy features, ExpressVPN is the best service on the market today. Plus, Tom’s guide readers can claim three months free, which works out at 15 months for the price of 12, and you’ll also be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can make sure you like the VPN before you commit.
However, NordVPN is no slouch, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wants to give it a go. It also has great security, useful apps, excellent speeds and a quality support network. You’ll also be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee for peace of mind.