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Published: Aug 18, 2023 13 min read

If you're wondering whether you need a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you may not know the answer of where to turn. You'll find many options to choose from. Three of the most popular providers are NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark. Each is a high-quality service, but by examining their differences, you can determine which choice is best for you. Read on to see how Surfshark VPN vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN compare.

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What is NordVPN?

Founded in 2012, NordVPN is a VPN service specializing in protecting your personal data. It is a founding member of the VPN Trust Initiative, which aims to educate the public about cybersecurity and staying safe online. NordVPN is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, browsers and other devices such as Amazon Firestick.

What is ExpressVPN?

ExpressVPN was launched in 2009 and claims to be the #1 trusted leader in VPNs. ExpressVPN uses top-level encryption to protect millions of users from over 180 countries. Its VPN service works on multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers and browsers.

What is Surfshark VPN?

Founded in 2018, Surfshark VPN offers multiple products to secure your personal information, maintain privacy and stop tracking bots. Surfshark is available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows and Linux. Surfshark also has extensions for web browsers and works on devices such as Apple TV and PlayStation.

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NordVPN vs ExpressVPN vs Surfshark VPN: How they stack up

NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN all have their strengths and weaknesses. Here is how they stack up in terms of security and privacy features, pricing, speed, simultaneous connections, server locations, streaming and torrenting.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for security and privacy features

Securing your personal data and maintaining your privacy are usually the top reasons to pay for a VPN service. In terms of security, Surfshark VPN, NordVPN and ExpressVPN all have similar setups with top-of-the-line protection. They use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 for encryption, the same level of encryption the U.S. government uses to safeguard classified data. AES-256 is a symmetric encryption algorithm that can protect your data from nearly any attack.

All three VPNs also have an automatic killswitch. Killswitches protect your data if your VPN service drops. Instead of allowing a hacker to access your data when your VPN goes down suddenly, it blocks all internet access until you restore the VPN connection.

To protect your data, these VPNs use a no-logs policy. A no-logs policy means your browsing history, used bandwidth and network traffic aren't recorded, nor can anyone view them, including your VPN provider. No-logs ensure your privacy while using the internet.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for pricing

Surfshark offers the lowest prices of the three with its 12- or 24-month Surfshark Starter subscription. The monthly Starter plan costs $12.95. Subscribing to the annual package will cost $47.88 for the year, or $3.99 per month. The two-year plan is the cheapest, costing $2.49 monthly and billed once at $56.76. The company also throws in a free month with this plan.

Surfshark's One and One+ plans are more expensive but include additional features, such as antivirus and malware protection, a private search engine and real-time email breach alerts.

Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 7-day free trial for Android, iOS and macOS, so you can try it out before subscribing.

ExpressVPN doesn't have standard and premium pricing tiers. The same features and level of service are available to everyone, with the only things affecting the price being the subscription length and payment terms. Paying for ExpressVPN one month at a time is $12.95 per month. A six-month subscription costs $9.99 per month, while the yearly plan is $6.67 monthly, billed as one up-front payment. ExpressVPN doesn't offer a free trial, but they have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

NordVPN's cheapest plan is its Standard plan. The cost of renewing the Standard plan each month is $12.99. The one-year plan from NordVPN costs $59.88 in total, which amounts to $4.99 per month. NordVPN also offers a two-year plan for $83.76, or $3.49 per month. Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee instead of a free trial, so you must subscribe to try out their service.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for speed

Security.org conducted speed tests to determine the most popular VPNs' average download and upload speeds. Surfshark, NordVPN and ExpressVPN all placed among the top 10 VPNs in terms of speed.

Surfshark ranked tenth with an average download speed of 87.25 Mbps and an average upload speed of 47.32 Mbps. ExpressVPN was eighth, with a slightly faster download speed of 87.48 Mbps but a much quicker average upload speed of 71.65 Mbps. NordVPN took third place with an average download speed of 89.11 Mbps and an average upload speed of 90.72 Mbps, making it the fastest in both categories out of these three providers.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for simultaneous connections

Because Surfshark VPN doesn't enforce bandwidth limitations, it allows unlimited simultaneous connections. If you purchase one Surfshark account, you or your family members can use it to access the internet on as many devices as you want.

ExpressVPN doesn't have unlimited simultaneous connections. A six- or 12-month subscription plan allows you to connect up to eight devices, while a monthly subscription limits you to only five simultaneous connections.

A NordVPN subscription lets you connect up to six devices to its service. However, each device that uses the same server must use a different VPN protocol, such as OpenVPN TCP and NordLynx. This may be more technical and complicated for novice VPN users than the other two options.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for server locations

Server locations are an essential part of a VPN service. Changing or hiding your location can enhance your privacy and protection. It can also allow you to unlock geo-blocked content from other countries. For example, you can change your location to Buenos Aires to view movies on Netflix only available in Argentina. Changing your location can also help you get around internet restrictions if you live in a country where the government regulates the internet.

Surfshark has the most available locations of the three VPNs, with over 3,200 servers in 100 countries. ExpressVPN has slightly fewer servers, with over 3,000 in 94 countries. NordVPN has more servers than both — over 5,000 — but only in around 50 countries.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for streaming

All three VPN services work well with streaming devices, and you can watch movies, shows or sports in 4K without buffering. With any of the three, you'll be able to enjoy anonymous viewing on just about any streaming service.

Each VPN service offers different advantages. For example, Surfshark's unlimited connections will be useful if you or your family and friends want to stream on multiple devices simultaneously. NordVPN's fast download speeds will be advantageous if speed and no buffering are important to you. Finally, ExpressVPN will be attractive to some as it allows five to eight simultaneous connections and has a competitive download speed.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN for torrenting

When considering which VPN will be best for torrenting (peer-to-peer file sharing), the most essential features are privacy, security and speed. Torrenting should be anonymous, so having a no-logs policy and top-level data encryption are paramount. Surfshark, NordVPN and ExpressVPN all offer these security features. Regarding speed, NordVPN has the edge as it's capable of faster upload and download speeds than the other two VPN services.

Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Which one is the overall better option?

Determining which VPN is the best option for you is easiest if you look at each side-by-side.

Is NordVPN better than ExpressVPN?

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are excellent VPN services. Both provide top-level security and privacy for subscribers. NordVPN is slightly faster on average, which can help with streaming speeds, but ExpressVPN isn't too far behind.

ExpressVPN's advantage is that it has servers in almost twice as many countries as NordVPN. If you are interested in streaming movies, shows and content from around the world, ExpressVPN is the better choice.

In terms of pricing, choosing a two-year plan from NordVPN will save you quite a bit of money, although it is a long-term commitment. If you pay for ExpressVPN's annual plan two years in a row, you'll spend roughly $160, while NordVPN's two-year plan will cost you $83.76.

Is ExpressVPN better than Surfshark VPN?

ExpressVPN and Surfshark are similar in a lot of ways. They have a similar number of servers in a similar number of countries. In terms of average download speeds, they are also very comparable, but ExpressVPN has a significant edge if you need to upload files while using your VPN.

If you subscribe to ExpressVPN's six-month or annual plan, you can use eight simultaneous connections, which may be enough. If you need more, then Surfshark VPN's unlimited simultaneous connections are a big draw.

ExpressVPN is more expensive than Surfshark VPN, but you should consider the length of subscription you want. Surfshark offers a two-year plan for a very low rate, while ExpressVPN's longest subscription is one year. However, if you want to try a VPN for a few months without paying each month, ExpressVPN offers a six-month plan that’s cheaper than paying monthly. If you want to save on costs, you'll be better off with Surfshark.

Is Surfshark VPN better than NordVPN?

When deciding between Surfshark VPN and NordVPN, there are a few main features to consider. NordVPN is considerably faster than Surfshark VPN, especially regarding upload speed. If you're subscribing to a VPN service to upload and download torrents, NordVPN would be a better choice.

On the other hand, don't discount Surfshark's unlimited bandwidth. Depending on how many devices and people you plan to share your VPN account with, Surfshark might be the better choice. NordVPN allows up to six devices to connect simultaneously, but they all need different VPN protocols.

Finally, both VPN services offer plans that can stretch up to two years, but Surfshark's plans are cheaper than NordVPN's.

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How to choose a VPN service

When choosing a VPN service, you'll want to consider why you need a VPN and which services can deliver the best package for your needs. If you need a VPN because you live in a country that blocks internet access to certain websites, you may require a different VPN than someone who wants top-level security and speed.

Some VPN features that you may want include the following:

  • Security and privacy
  • Pricing
  • Speed
  • Simultaneous connections
  • Server locations
  • Streaming
  • Torrenting

Summary of Surfshark vs NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

Choosing between Surfshark, NordVPN and ExpressVPN can be challenging as they are all excellent services. Surfshark doesn't have a bandwidth limitation, allowing unlimited connections. NordVPN is the fastest for average downloads and uploads out of the three choices. Finally, ExpressVPN has competitive upload and download speeds and server locations. We included Surfshark, NordVPN and ExpressVPN as top picks for the best VPN services. Take a look at our other choices for the best VPN services and see how they compare.

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