ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Which is Better? | #linux | #linuxsecurity | #education | #technology | #infosec


This is an in-depth unbiased review of ExpressVPN and NordVPN — two of the most popular virtual private network (VPN) services available today.

Many online users are unaware of the risks that come when they connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, cafés, libraries and shopping centers. That’s because most of these networks are not secure and other hackers are likely to hijack your online session once you visit an unencrypted website. The last thing you want is to compromise your security by having someone track your online activity, limit the amount of data you can use, sell your bandwidth, send you annoying pop-up ads, and even use your credit card details for unauthorized purchases.

To keep your private information and browsing activity from being exposed, you need to use a VPN service. Virtual private network or VPN allows online users to secure their connection to the internet via a tunnel between two or multiple devices. In this way, you prevent malicious cyber-attacks from hackers who are looking to steal your personal information and transmit malware (including spyware, viruses and worms) or execute Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) or Denial-of-Service (DOS) attacks. 

But with so many VPN providers these days, it’s just not enough to assume that they provide the same level of protection against online threats and breaches. In fact, buying the wrong VPN service is just the same as not having VPN at all.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the most popular VPN service providers each with millions of subscribers. If you’re looking into paying for any of these services, how do you identify which is worth signing up for? Here’s our objective review of both services to get you all the information you need when making a decision which to purchase.

How We Compared ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN

Before we dissect all the features, advantages and disadvantages of these VPN providers, here are the aspects of each service that we looked into to provide a comprehensive assessment.

  1. Features – Does the VPN provider cover all of the bases needed to secure a user’s connection? Does it follow industry standards?
  2. Compatibility – Does it work with different operating systems (OS) and devices? 
  3. Download Speeds – Will it not compromise speed when connected?
  4. Geo-blocking – Can it route your traffic through another server in a different country to bypass geo-blocked websites?
  5. Devices per Account – How many devices can simultaneously use the service?
  6. Pricing – How much is the cost of service? Does it offer a money-back guarantee? What about discounts and additional free months? Overall, is it worth the price?
  7. Payment Methods – Does it offer alternative payment channels to cater to more types of subscribers? Does it offer a convenient payment process?

What is ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a consistent favorite among the Best VPN lists by product reviewers. This British Virgin Islands-based VPN provider began its operations in 2009. With its jurisdiction prohibiting any form of data retention, it has complete assurance to its clients that the company does not keep records of users’ activities or connection logs.

Many analysts and product reviewers agree that ExpressVPN is unparalleled when it comes to its strong privacy and security measures, a global presence of servers, and excellent split tunneling capability. 

What is NordVPN

NordVPN, which is based in Panama, also assures it puts privacy and security concerns on top of its priorities since the Central American country is not affiliated with any surveillance groups. NordVPN even passed several independent privacy audits to guarantee it has no log status.

The service claims to have 14 million worldwide users and is popular among online gamers and peer-to-peer (P2P) participants because of its fast connection speeds. Streaming service subscribers also praise the VPN’s ability to access geo-restricted services such as Netflix and Disney+. 

Comparing ExpressVPN and NordVPN

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what each of these VPN services have to offer to its customers.

  • Features
  • Applications
  • Download Speeds
  • Geo-blocking
  • Security and Data Protection
  • Devices per Account
  • Pricing
  • Payment Methods
  • Customer Support

Features

In this section, we’ll look into the features of each service and inspect if each of them lives up to the hype.

Servers

What’s great about ExpressVPN is it lets users browse from 160 locations with more than 3,000 servers in 94 countries. They can select any virtual server location, gain a proxy IP address that is registered in their chosen country, and the traffic will be routed to another country with faster connection. 

For example, if they choose to connect to the Netherlands, their network traffic will be routed through another server such as Montenegro, while the IP address will appear to come from the Netherlands. ExpressVPN also emphasizes that all server locations are located within the country it is specified.

On the other hand, NordVPN has more than 5,490 servers in 60 countries. It also has options for optimization of its VPN servers such as Regular, P2P (for faster file sharing), Obfuscated (to prevent geo-blocking), Double VPN (routing through more than one VPN server for  greater security) and Dedicated IPs where a user purchases a static IP address so he can select a permanent virtual location from the Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, France or Germany. 

Kill Switch

Both VPN services offer a kill switch. ExpressVPN calls its version “Network Lock,” which automatically stops traffic from going in and out of your device when you lose connection. It is available on Windows, Mac, Linux and router apps.

NordVPN’s kill switch is available in two versions. The first is for Windows and the other is for Android, iOS, Linux and macOS. It prompts the user that it will lock the network should the VPN connection suddenly drop.

Split Tunneling

ExpressVPN allows two types of split tunneling: 

  • Traditional split tunneling – protects all connected devices and apps but not those excluded by the user
  • Inverse split tunneling – protects selected devices and apps and those that are not part of the list are not.

ExpressVPN also offers split tunneling for routers through Device Groups that allows Wi-Fi connected devices to be grouped together and then have each cluster connected to a different VPN server location.

Take note that the split tunneling feature is not available for macOS 11 and above.

For NordVPN, two types of split tunneling are available: 

  • App-based split tunneling – only selected apps are protected; available on Windows 8.1 and later
  • Inverse split tunneling – protects only selected programs specified by the user; available on Windows 8.1 and later, Android and Android TV

Best-in-class Encryption

Both VPN services use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit yes or more commonly referred to as AES-256. This is the standard for encryption used by the United States government and other security companies when protecting classified, private information.

Private DNS

Both operations provide private Domain Name System (DNS) to its customers. This eliminates the risk of public DNS servers being recorded by internet service providers, advertisers and content delivery networks each time a user makes a query.

ExpressVPN handles DNS requests automatically using the same tunneling protocols and encryption so response times are faster. The company also emphasizes that it does not share DNS requests to any third party.

On the other hand, NordVPN offers top-of-the-line private DNS that ensures protection against DNS hijacking and unauthorized filtering with faster resolution.

No Activity or Connection Logs

All VPN vendors promise a no-logs policy, otherwise, they won’t gain their customers’ trust. In the case of ExpressVPN, it explicitly states that it does not record IP addresses, browsing histories, traffic destinations, metadata, time of VPN connection and DNS queries. However, in order to troubleshoot some technical issues on its apps as well as resolve network problems, users’ activated apps and their versions, selected VPN server location, dates connected to the service, and total data transferred. Other than these, it does not intend to broaden its scope of data gathering.

Likewise, NordVPN does not record, log, store or pass time stamps, bandwidth used, traffic data, IP addresses, session logs, and browsing-related activities except for some customer information such as the username for the purpose of improving its services. The accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has verified such claims.

Tools

ExpressVPN boasts of a number of tools for free regardless if you are a subscriber or not. These include:

  • What is my IP? – allows users to verify their current assigned IP address, location, and ISP
  • DNS Leak Test – checks if the DNS servers are being logged on every website that is visited
  • WebRTC Leak Test – identifies any instances of leaking private information and exposed IP addresses
  • Password Generator – provides securely generated passwords that take thousands of years to crack

NordVPN, on the other hand, offers the following tools:

  • NordPass – a paid password manager to create a unique password and lets the system remember it should you log in to another browser or on another device.
  • NordLocker Cloud – a paid cloud-based file repository with high-level encryption
  • NordLayer – a paid business multi-layered security service for corporate accounts

Speed Test Tool

Both VPN services offer their own versions of speed test tools embedded directly into the app. Users can identify how fast their connection is before and during the connection with VPN.

Browser Extensions

Both VPN services have available browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge.

Protocols

Both VPN services developed their own protocols.

ExpressVPN uses protocols such as Lightway – UDP, Lightway – TCP, OpenVPN – UDP, OpenVPN – TC, L2TP/IPSec (for Windows apps) and IKEv2 (for Mac, Windows, iOS and router apps). 

Lightway – UDP, in particular, was developed in-house and is ideal for those who want to optimize speed but the TCP version connects better on selected networks although it’s a bit slower. When set to automatic, ExpressVPN selects the protocol that is most appropriate for the user’s network.

NordVPN uses NordLynx, IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN UDP/TCP. Its default protocol, NordLynx, is based on WireGuard to provide best-in-class cryptography and high speed performance. Interestingly, WireGuard is also used by Mozilla VPN and TorGuard.

As of this writing, ExpressVPN does not support WireGuard, citing that it does not want to assign a static single IP address on a public or virtual network to any of its users. However, both Lightway and NordLynx possess reliable encryption architecture , fewer lines of code compared to OpenVPN, and more stable connection.

Compatibility

ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer applications that are compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS operating systems. You can also use them on all connected devices such as Chromebook, Fire TV Tablet (or Kindle Fire) and routers.

For a list of specific computers (laptops and desktops), mobile devices including smartphones and tablets, wireless routers and streaming media consoles supported by ExpressVPN, click here. For NordVPN, click here.

Download Speeds

We tested both VPN services and found out that in terms of speed and reliability, ExpressVPN offers better results.

ExpressVPN and NordVPN speed test results:

  ExpressVPN ExpressVPN NordVPN NordVPN
Protocol Lightway – TCP Lightway – TCP NordLynx NordLynx
Device used Windows 10 PC Mac Windows 10 PC Mac
Ethernet 620 Mbps 612 Mbps 610 Mbps 598 Mbps
Wireless 110 Mbps 104 Mbps 103 Mbps 105 Mbps

Geo-blocking

ExpressVPN now has expanded its access to many streaming sites, which include Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, and Sling TV. For a list of supported sites, click here.

Many fans of streaming sites use NordVPN because it allows them to tap into servers that have access to streaming libraries, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and DAZN.

Security and Data Protection

ExpressVPN features TrustedServer technology that prohibits its servers from recording any information on the hard drive as every data is cleared upon rebooting because it runs on RAM.

NordVPN, on the other hand, boasts of its security tools such has multi-factor authentication for each account, next-generation encryption, IP masking, Threat Protection feature for browser protection whether online or offline, and Onion Over VPN feature for a user’s online traffic to undergo extra layers of encryption at every connection point.

Devices per Account

ExpressVPN allows up to five devices to use each single subscription at the same time. NordVPN allows users to secure up to six devices simultaneously, regardless of the operating system used.

Pricing

ExpressVPN offers the following pricing plans*:

Plan 1 year 6 months 1 month
Monthly Payment $6.67 $9.99 $12.95
Discount 49% none none
Remarks Includes 3 free months
then billed every 12 months
billed every 6 months billed every month

There’s no free trial available for ExpressVPN, but you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee plus a 1-year unlimited cloud backup (for the 12-month package that comes with three months of free service). No other VPN comes close with such a premium VPN, which is why we voted it as our Best VPN Service for 2022.

NordVPN offers the following pricing packages*:

Plan 2 years 1 year 1 month
Monthly Payment $3.99 $4.99 $11.99
Discount 51% 39% none
Remarks $95.76 for the first two years then $99.48 per year $59.98 for the first two years then $99.48 per year billed every month

All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. NordVPN also offers a 15% discount for students in any country through the Student Beans program and for other students, apprentices and anyone 18 to 26 years old regardless of the country of origin through the Youth Discount promo.

*Pricing packages as of April 2022.

Payment Methods

Express VPN accepts major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and Diners Club International), PayPal, Bitcoin and other payment channels such as UnionPay, iDEAL, QIWI Wallet, SOFORT, giro pay, PIX, SEPA, Mint Payments, Mercado Pago and EPS Überweisung, among others.

NordVPN, on the other hand, accepts major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and JCB), Google Play, and selected cryptocurrencies. 

Customer Support

ExpressVPN offers a variety of ways that subscribers can access customer support. This includes video tutorials, knowledge base articles on troubleshooting, and step-by-step guides. There’s also a 24/7 live chat available to entertain your questions.

On the other hand, NordVPN offers its Support Center that has FAQ VPN setup tutorials and articles, General Info section, billing management, and Connectivity section. A chatbot is also available.

Final Verdict

Below is a summary of the findings in this VPN service comparison:

Criteria ExpressVPN NordVPN
Features    
     Servers >3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries >5,490 servers in 60 countries
     Kill Switch Available Available
     Split Tunneling Available Available
     Best-in-class Encryption AES-256 AES-256
     Private DNS Available Available
     No Logs Yes Yes
     Tools What is my IP? (free)
DNS Leak Test (free)
WebRTC Leak Test (free)
Password Generator (free)
NordPass (paid)
NordLocker Cloud (paid)
NordLayer (paid)
     Speed Test Tool Available Available
     Browser Extensions Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Microsoft Edge
Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Microsoft Edge
     Protocols Lightway – UDP
Lightway – TCP
OpenVPN – UDP
OpenVPN – TC
L2TP/IPSec (for Windows apps)
IKEv2 (for Mac, Windows, iOS and router apps)
NordLynx
IKEv2/IPSec
OpenVPN UDP/TCP
Compatibility Windows
macOS
Linux
Android
iOS
Many devices
Windows
macOS
Linux
Android
iOS
Many devices
Download Speeds Faster Fast
Geo-blocking Yes Yes
Security and Data Protection Strong Strong
Devices per Account 5 6
Pricing $6.67 / month (1-year plan)*
*includes 3 free months
$4.99 / month (1-year plan)
Payment Methods Credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, etc. Credit cards, Google Pay, crypto
Customer Support Excellent Excellent

Based on the criteria above, there’s no doubt that ExpressVPN rules over NordVPN when it comes to performance, features, security and support. It also offers support for popular devices despite its smaller 5-device limit for simultaneous connection using a single account.

NordVPN offers a more affordable monthly rate.

Based on our testing, ExpressVPN leads in terms of speed.

Both VPN services have superb customer service tools.

ExpressVPN has a more comprehensive security protocol.

ExpressVPN possesses high-level security measures plus it has user-friendly features. You can check out ExpressVPN by clicking this link.

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