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ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which provider is best?

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark
(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve been doing your research on the best VPN service on the market, you might have been wondering who would come out on top in ExpressVPN vs Surfshark. While both are well-known and respected providers, they cater for very different users – so in a head to head, which one wins?

Much like a true boxing match, before diving into the battle proper we’ll quickly run down the specs on paper. Then you can place your bets before we pit the two against each other in all the areas that matter. Ding ding!

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark at a glance

ExpressVPN – our #1 rated VPN service
In terms of sheer power and functionality ExpressVPN wins out every time, and if you're after the best service available it's the only choice. You'll be able to customize your experience further and access more servers – plus you can now claim three months free.View Deal

Surfshark – cheap enough to forgive any shortcomings
While it's not quite as powerful as Express, even after a price hike Surfshark is still the best-value VPN on the market. for just $2.49 a month you'll get a top-tier VPN service which can rival the very best, and for those looking to save money it's an excellent option.View Deal

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark – specs on paper
Number of servers:3,000+1,700+
Server countries:9463
Maximum simultaneous connections:5Unlimited
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:$6.67$2.49

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is more affordable?

Let’s face it, price is a big factor for most people – so we’ll open up with some numbers.

ExpressVPN kicks off at $12.95 for a single month, and drops to $9.99 a month on a six-month plan – pretty average prices, and nothing to shout about. If you sign up for a 12-month plan and take advantage of the exclusive Tom’s Guide offer which will bag you three months free, you’ll be paying a pretty reasonable $6.67 a month.

If you go for a rolling monthly plan with Surfshark, you’ll be paying the same as ExpressVPN, $12.95. Commit for six months and you’ll start saving, though, as the price drops to just $6.49. The real bargains start when you commit for a year – taking the free 12 months that comes with that plan into account, the monthly price is dropped to just $2.49 a month.

Although Surfshark used to be even cheaper, it’s still a serious bargain, and as our top-rated cheap VPN there’s no way it can’t win this round.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is faster?

Beyond price, connection speed is one of the biggest factors when choosing a VPN.

We test all our VPNs on our 75MB UK connection and our superfast 600MB US connection to get a good idea of what peak performance we can expect from each service.

On our UK line, Express delivered speeds topping out at 70MB, which is excellent. Surfshark topped out at 68MB, which is still very good. Any typical user not studying the numbers would be hard-pushed to tell the difference in-use.

On the superfast US connection, though, ExpressVPN edged ahead. With reliable connections of 200-250MB, it performed admirably. Surfshark, while definitely no slouch, averaged speeds of 150-160MB. While still incredibly usable, it’s not quite as impressive as Express’s lightning-fast speeds.

ExpressVPN vs surfshark

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is more secure?

Although Surfshark is a cheap service, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is without some serious privacy and security tools. It runs a private DNS on every one of its servers – meaning your traffic never has to go through a third party’s hands, plus a wide choice of protocols, a kill switch and MultiHop.

ExpressVPN, however, features all of these (except Multihop, which is just about the only feature not included) alongside fully audited servers and privacy & no-logging policies.

Unfortunately, a full independent audit is something Surfshark is yet to undertake – while its browser extensions have been audited by Cure53, this doesn’t give us any information about client source code, servers, or privacy policies. So, on that basis, we’re going to have pronounce Express as the more secure VPN.

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ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is better for Netflix?

Both services impress here, and feature on our Netflix VPN, iPlayer VPN and streaming VPN guides. ExpressVPN got us watching from every regional Netflix library that we attempted to access, and can also unblock YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Peacock and plenty more besides.

Surfshark delivers in much the same way, giving us access to a huge range of Netflix libraries and pretty much every other streaming service.

While lots of VPNs can access streaming sites, some are a little cagey about this aspect of the service. However, both Express and Surfshark both explicitly state on their websites that they can be used for Netflix and more, which indicated a commitment to maintaining this for users.

If we were to pick between the two, Express’s better worldwide connection speeds make for a more reliable streaming experience, but both service are excellent for unblocking streaming sites.

ExpressVPN vs surfshark

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is better for torrenting?

One of the most popular reasons to get is VPN is for protection when torrenting, and again, both services provide great solutions.

Both providers have a kill switch (excellent if you’re planning on downloading large files and don’t want to risk a dropped connection), split tunneling to separate traffic, and good connection speeds.

However, what sets them apart is the fact that every single one of ExpressVPN’s 3,000+ servers is optimized for P2P, meaning that whichever server you choose (perhaps there’s an option that consistently gives you the best speeds) will be able to be used for torrenting.

While Surfshark is a serviceable torrenting VPN and can certainly get the job done, it’s not quite as tailor-made for sharing P2P as Express. It starts off with fewer servers – around 1,700 – and not every one of them is P2P compatible. While the app can automatically detect torrenting traffic and will switch you to a suitable server, this does mean you’ll have a smaller selection of servers, which might result in slower speeds.

While both do work very well, ExpressVPN is simply better suited to sharing P2P.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which has better apps?

One of the most important features of a VPN, the apps’ interfaces and ease of use can make a huge difference to the end user, and seeing as both VPNs feature on our Fire Stick VPN and Android VPN guides, both impress.

Surfshark’s desktop client and mobile apps are the epitome of simplicity, with very few options on the opening screen except for your selected server and an on/off button. That’s really useful for experts and newbies alike, as it makes getting up and running a breeze. However, Express is no different, with a simple, attractive design over every platform.

Neither skimps on features behind the scenes too much, either – and all of them are easily accessible with just a tap or two. ExpressVPN does, however, boast a few more options to play around with. For many that’s probably not a huge bonus, but for advanced users Express’s apps will prove more useful when it comes to customization.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

(Image credit: Future)

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which has better support?

ExpressVPN has long delivered the gold standard of VPN support, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon. With a huge knowledgebase of articles plus almost instantaneous 24/7 live-chat support, there’s really nothing we can fault.

Surfshark also provides a great support service, but its help articles are a little thin on the ground compared to Express. In the vast majority of cases you’ll be able to find what you need, but Express’s depth and breadth of content really stands out.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Final verdict

However, when looking at Surfshark, you’ve got to consider the price – at just $2.49 a month it comes close to Express in most areas. And, while many people quite understandably want the best of the best (we don’t blame you), all that’s often needed is a cheap service that fulfils the basic tasks you need it to. Surfshark does that and more with aplomb, and is certainly worth your time.

When it comes to the final verdict, if money is no object then it’s quite clear that ExpressVPN is the superior service. With almost twice as many servers, more powerful apps, a fully audited no-logging policy and better speeds, there’s a reason why it’s been out #1 rated VPN for a long time – plus, Tom’s Guide readers can now claim three free months to make their money go even further.View Deal

However, when looking at Surfshark, you’ve got to consider the price – at just $2.49 a month it comes close to Express in most areas. And, while many people quite understandably want the best of the best (we don’t blame you), all that’s often needed is a cheap service that fulfils the basic tasks you need it to. Surfshark does that and more with aplomb, and is certainly worth your time.View Deal