Today, there are an unlimited amount of VPN services for consumers to try. However, many of them have issues that aren’t favorable, and could even be disguised as malware. Because of this, it’s important for you to consider only the best services first before the rest. As for which are the best, they are equally numerous as well, but NordVPN and ExpressVPN are usually highlighted and praised above all the rest. It’s common to see them at the top of most ranked VPN comparisons, which is easy to see why. Both have major advantages that aren’t always easy to come by for a VPN. But how do they stack up against one another? The information below details a point-by-point comparison of NordVPN and Express. Use it to find out what you think offers the best service for your online connectivity.
What to Know Before You Purchase
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tool that’s used to send a private internet connection over a public network. Since the dot com boom during the 1990s, they have become a popular way for consumers to access servers that are blocked by their internet service provider (ISP) or from the local government. For example, if you wanted to access a news website that was restricted in your host country, you could simply log onto a VPN and choose a server that’s based in another nation. Since the latter has a different IP address than the former, all of the websites that would have been otherwise inaccessible in the host country can now be seen. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but high-end VPNs tend to have the fewest limitations and fastest connectivity speeds.
Some VPN servers are free, but one must exercise caution when using them. Free VPNs usually make money through advertising or logging their user base’s personal data, then sending it to third parties. Because of this, some of them have been described as borderline malware programs. Yes, there are free VPN services that don’t do this, but they aren’t always easy to come by. If you want a VPN that has minimal privacy intrusions and can connect you without logging your personal information in the process, you should try out paid servers, if possible. NordVPN and ExpressVPN have great reviews far and wide, and many experts in the field of internet security have recommended them both as go-to sources for privatizing user data or personal networks.
Introducing the Services
Headquartered in Panama, NordVPN was created in 2012. If was first platformed on the Android with a smartphone application, then gradually begin to create programs for a larger operating system such as Windows and Mac OS-X. They have been highly spoken of by major electronics media organizations. CNET and PC World gave them great remarks and are consistently recommended by users of the website.
ExpressVPN is a few years older than Nord. They began in 2009, becoming an almost household name among VPN companies since that time period. Often touted about the news, their servers have been suggested by privacy advocates the world over. Using private networks over strong encryption, the provider prides itself of giving customers the safety they need to stay connected to the net securely.
For the Privacy Minded
Background on Headquarters Locations
NordVPN: Panama is a small country that sits on the border with North and South America. The nation has become famous for its lack of data retention laws, something that allows NordVPN to have total control over the benefits that they have able to give to their customer base. Data retention laws can be anything from warrantless eavesdropping on local internet providers, organizations, or even forcible surrender of the personal information that consumers provide an organization.
ExpressVPN: Located in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is also in a setting where there’s little to worry about government oversight. Although the nation is an official territory of the United Kingdom, they have laws significantly different to what is applied in the UK itself. As a result, ExpressVPN has had the ability to remain a leader in terms of advocacy for such things as anti-censorship and opposition to data retention. They have been featured on the news for some controversial issues regarding individual use of their servers, but nothing that was the fault of the company on their own.
- NordVPN: Nord has AES-256-GCM encryption for desktop and laptop-based operating systems, and uses AES-256-CBC. These are ciphers that rely on keys in order to keep connections secure of the internet. AES has also been heavily relied upon by the US government Since that time, private networks (such as Nord) have begun to take advantage of its effectiveness at reducing attacks from hackers.
- ExpressVPN: Express used the AES-256-CBC style of encryption, along with Transport Layer Security (version 1.2) to ensure that traffic remains guarded. The means that anything which hypothetically attempts to penetrate their servers will be met with nothing but indecipherable data that cannot be decoded. They are based on OpenVPN, which is open source and highly regarded for their use of encryption keys.
Kill Switch Features
A Kill Switch is basically a monitor for your VPN connection. If it ever drops out, the program will automatically shut down your entire IP link. This is to prevent the unwanted return of your real IP address to the server you were connected to before the issue began. Both Express and NordVPN have the feature embedded into their software. Think of it as the final measure to safeguard your privacy, in case all else fails. In this regard, the kill switch is probably one of the most detrimental attributes one could have on a VPN. This is especially the case for journalists or other people that cannot have their location exposed.
- NordVPN: The Nord kill switch is located under the Settings tab after logging in. By pressing the General option, there are two additional choices: Internet Kill Switch, or App Kill Switch. The best setting for beginners is the entire system, so the first choice should be used. However, it’s a plus that individual apps can be shut off if necessary, so consider this if you’re worried about particular programs only (or are an advanced user).
- ExpressVPN: The kill switch for Express is called the Network Lock. It can be used for most Windows and Mac versions but doesn’t have the feature for Android or iOS. Unless you’re using your mobile for sending and storing sensitive data over the net, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Logging is something that is often advertised by high-end VPNs but sometimes misunderstood by consumers. That’s because all the VPNs will log some information. The important thing to consider is exactly what info is being logged, and why. For example, a VPN may not save active sign in times and sessions but could keep them on their servers for several minutes. Here’s a look at the logging details of Express and Nord:
- NordVPN: Nord recently came under fire for being potentially linked to a data mining firm known as Tesonet, which is another company headquartered in Lithuania. If it were true, this would be bad news as far as privacy is concerned. Still, the VPN remains committed to their no logging policy, which states that nothing is saved when sign in occurs. To set the matter straight, NordVPN set up an independent audit to test whether or not their claim could be trusted by its users. For now, everything looks good on their part.
- ExpressVPN: On their website, Express lays bare what isn’t being logged into their system, and what it. They stipulate that user IPs, metadata, traffic and DNS activity remains untouched. However, they do log the applications that you use on their system, along with the dates when the login session occurred. This doesn’t include the time when sign in happens. They will also long which VPN server you choose, and the number of megabytes being used over their system.
To summarize, both NordVPN and ExpressVPN services are trustworthy and have publicly announced their dedication to being honest about what data remains in the individual’s hands. They do collect a minimal amount of information, but most of this is used for the purpose of troubleshooting and improving their services.
- NordVPN: NordVPN doesn’t send any user data to third parties, as was previously mentioned, they have received their share of controversy from people speculating about the true location of their servers, but all seems clear. Lots of people trust Nord, and they haven’t had any major letdowns in regards to sending info to the different companies.
- ExpressVPN: Express is in a similar boat as Nord. No logs are submitted to anyone, including the government in which their based in. If they did send data to third parties, it would quickly make headlines, to which no such issue has ever taken place. You can use Express and be ensured about your personal sign-in attempt history remaining on your computer only.
Lots of people use VPN servers for streaming only. If you just want a service for this along, you’re in luck with Express and Nord. They’re the best for looking at movies and other digital entertainment online. Both are also great for streaming music, and they won’t lag or leave you frustrated from slowdowns.
- NordVPN: Servers: 5100; Countries: 60; Works with: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime; Optimized Servers for Streaming: Yes
- ExpressVPN: Servers: 160; Countries: 94; Works with: Netflix, Hulu, VipBox; Optimized Servers for Streaming: Yes
- NordVPN: NordVPN offers their own dedicated server for streaming, to which they have the ability to circumvent throttling that may occur from ISPs in the process. Have you ever tried a service provider that reduces the speed after having a large amount of bandwidth used? This is an example of throttling your connection. Nord’s servers stay on point and up to speed, no matter if you’re gaming or watching your favorite series that’s based in another country.
- ExpressVPN: Express is also a good contender for all things streaming. Netflix play is solid, and alternative streaming services remain good too. You can even stream your favorite sports over the VPN and never miss a play or return. The connections remain stable, and no throttling will be detected by TSPs.
Buffering is when a video lags because of slow playback, which can be caused by bandwidth. It’s likely to happen with slower connections but can even effect fast ones as well. This can make a movie unplayable, and rain a good film night. NordVPN and ExpressVPN have been tested to never buffer, so you can enjoy 2K and 4K videos from the comfort of your living room.
- NordVPN: Nord has more individual servers than Express, which translates to more options for streaming over secure servers. For instance, if you were to have problems with using Hulu, you could change out the server for another location until you found one that works. With over 5100 in place, Nord has a long list for you to choose from. If one doesn’t work, just switch to the next server and you should be good to go.
- ExpressVPN: Express offers more country locations than Nord does, but they have fewer servers. If you’re looking for a show in a country that’s not available on Nord, you can view it here. The chances of finding foreign shows are higher, but not something that’s popular with most users. They do have US and UK servers though, including the rest of the EU. And for most, that’s all of what’s needed, particularly if you’re based in a location where you couldn’t connect from a local ISP.
- NordVPN: No matter what computer hardware you’re using, it’s likely that Nord has the software for you to run their VPN servers. They’re available on both Windows and Mac operating systems. If you’re using just a smartphone, then simply go into your store’s content page and choose Nord the search results. It can be found of iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. Setting up on an iPhone is very simple. Just enable Nord to configure your VPN settings and that’s it.
- ExpressVPN: Express is mostly similar to Nord with compatibility. Run it on all the major platform, including Linux’s Ubuntu. Windows and Mac will download and run the programs efficiently, and won’t take up too much space or memory in your hard drive. Of course, if you’re using a solid state drive (SSD), it works even faster. You can find it on Google’s Play Store and the iPhone’s App Store.
- NordVPN: Nord has browser extensions for Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. There’s nothing available for Opera. You can download them directly from the browser’s extensions pages themselves. Keep in mind that the service isn’t free, and most of the features that you would want are behind a paywall. If you have the program already, you won’t have to worry about the extensions at all.
- ExpressVPN: Express is also available on Google Chrome and Firefox. It’s easy to set up and log in. Linux-based browsers can also run Express, and the app can be downloaded from their web page, same as Nord. It’s almost identical to Nord as well but does sometimes suffer from a lack of consistent updates. You can hide your geolocation with the server, which could work wonders for those that cannot download the program to their computer. Streaming is possible this way as well, and generally doesn’t lag when connected to video streaming content.
Comparing Their Speeds
Average Test Speeds
When tested, Nord’s speed has an average of about 28 megabytes per second (Mbps), while Express clocks in at 21. This is only an average, so your connection could be significantly higher a slightly lower. Lower connections are usually the fault of slow ISPs through, so check with your provider to see if there’s faster internet if you’re planning on doing high bandwidth activities. P2P networks come to mind.
Speeds over Torrents/File Sharing
Speaking of P2P networks, both Express and Nord should work fine over most of the major players. As you may already know, many torrent clients are now blocked by individuals server, or even countrywide in some cases. You could choose from either one of the VPNs here, and they will work well and get you on your way to file sharing. And because they’re based far away from the “fourteen eyes,” it’s unlikely that this would change anytime soon.
Login is when you have installed the VPN software on your device, and attempt to connect to one of its servers. Many VPNs suffer from long login times, and some may even take up to five minutes just to get through to a connection. This isn’t a problem with Nord or Express, and most tests show their speeds match to about the same timeframe. They may take up to a minute, but will usually be up and running in less time.
Honestly speaking, there aren’t any wholly exclusive features of Nord and ExpressVPN services. What they have done is improved on the features that are sometimes available with other VPN services. Apps may have features that you won’t find on other VPNs, but they aren’t things that one would only find on just these two. However, Express and Nord have been found to have strong enough servers to penetrate through the toughest ISPs, even those in China. Nord’s smartphone app might not work too well with extension restrictions in place.
How Easy they are for Beginners
Once downloaded and installed, NordVPN and ExpressVPN will open a window that features basic control options. They’re both easy enough for someone to get the hang of without needing assistance. Just cheese your server country, pick a server, then activate. As was mentioned earlier, you may have to wait about a minute for the connection to go through. And once you’re on, you can surf away.
Advanced user options
Most of the advanced options for Nord and Express give have to do with changing how it connects. For example, you can configure your DNS settings, link your VPN to a router, or even change what type of encryption you would like to use. Both companies have on-site instructions that will guide you through any particular setup you would like to have on the computer.
- NordVPN: Nord’s payment options are based on a yearly or monthly basis. Their cheapest plan is $11.95 every month, with the most expensive (and longest) being $2.99 every month. This is a total of $107.55 over a three-year period. If you settled for the longest one, you would only pay every three years, which saves 75 percent of the costs that would incur with the cheaper plan. With one plan, you can connect up to six devices at the same time, so don’t worry about getting multiple accounts if you’re buying the service for your family.
- ExpressVPN: Pricing for Express is slightly more expensive than Nord, with the cheapest option being $12.95 per month. If you bought it for one year, you could save 34 percent by paying just $8.32 monthly. And the highest priced choice, the six-month plan at $59.95, is where the options stop. Compared to Nord, you would pay $359.70. That’s significantly higher, and might be a tad too big for some consumers. VPNs on average are usually much lower, and Express is one of the most expensive. Still, you get what you pay for, and their top-notch service and features show it.
The trials for Express and Nord and for thirty days each. They both begin as soon as you register your account once the application is installed. After thirty days, they will both automatically take payment for the cheapest option that’s available. You can opt out and get your money back, but it’s advised that you cancel ahead and then choose the month you have in mind.
- NordVPN: Nord accepts all major credit and debit cards, Amazon Pay, and even Alipay. You could also use cryptocurrency to finish a purchase. As for this, the primary option is Bitcoin. However, if you want to take your privacy a step further, there are several altcoins that could be used.
- ExpressVPN: Unlike Nord, Express accepts Paypal, which is great for people that don’t have credit cards or receive their work payments on the platform. Bitcoin is also there, but no alternatives as far as crypto goes. There are a few international payment options thrown in, but no Amazon Pay. Of course, you could always use a debit or credit card, which is the most common pick for consumers.
The Pros and Cons
Here are the advantages and setbacks with each VPN:
- Outstanding location – Panama is far away from any worry over data retention, being located in a great place for their servers.
- No logging – Nord has been consistently earning the trust of their users, having a good reputation and security features that are recommended by consumer electronics publications throughout the world.
- Doesn’t have caps on the amount of bandwidth can that be used – Nord does not limit their customer’s data once it reaches a limit. It’s unlimited, so you can use up your bandwidth as much as you would like.
- Can be used to prevent throttling by internet service providers – Many ISPs will reduce your internet speed if there are too many people on the network. But since your connection will remain hidden behind the different server’s IP address and encryption, you won’t have the potential issue come up. Just connect to the VPN, and use away.
- Performs well over torrents – Torrents will work with Nord like a charm. Just about all servers will work for file sharing, so there’s no need to connect and disconnect in a huge waste of time.
- The Kill Switch is outstanding – When they say it works, it really does. Your IP will never be exposed, and it’s a handy feature for anyone that has a provider or router signal that gets weak periodically.
- Longer payment time – The longer payment period for Nord is three years, so you can have your VPN and forget about it. And for that time alone, the price is pretty good, being less than $110 dollars.
- Great for peer-to-peer – If you’re a torrent connoisseur, be warned because you will spend a large amount of your time downloading all your favorite content with Nord. And access the clients themselves is easy. You can click on your magnet links, wait for the software to load up, and not have leaks take place in the process. You could even do more than one torrent at a time, never having your download time stall or reduce to a snail’s pace. If files sharing is your game, give the Nord brand a try.
- Doesn’t include PayPal as a payment option – This won’t be a problem for everyone, but it would be nice to Nord have the additional choice for users to buy with Paypal. There are many people that depend on the provider for receiving payments to the bank, making it a great choice for anyone that doesn’t like buying things with a credit card online.
- Generic refund – It’s not really a negative, but considering that Nord offers so much that other VPNs don’t have, there would be a longer trial period, or one that didn’t take payment automatically.
- Speeds that can be depended on – Express with never lag when you’re streaming a movie or game and has strong servers built to take large P2P files without slowing down. If your main concern is the time it will take for you to finish downloads, it outranks most other VPNs being sold today.
- Good location for servers – The British Virgin Islands is where ExpressVPN calls home, and the country has no widespread stipulations regarding the personal data that passes through their servers.
- Has been proven to stand by their word against privacy – ExpressVPN was recently in a position to fork over data from their servers to the government of Turkey. Fortunately, nothing exchanged hands, and the Turkish government did not come into possession of any of the information they wished to possess.
- A good choice for streaming content – Both Nord and Express are equally well for streaming. But Express has had consistently good servers since their creation. They’re not perfect, but will perform well and don’t develop lag or buffering during the stream.
- Isn’t entirely log free – Express isn’t going out of the way to save user’s information, and they don’t log enough data for them to determine anyone’s online profile. With that being said, downloading their applications and login dates overtime are retained by the company. They state that it’s for troubleshooting purposes and that nothing has ever been sent to third parties.
- Pricy – ExpressVPN is without a doubt one of the more expensive VPN brands that you’ll find. It may not be affordable or attractive to people looking for ways to save. You can pay a monthly rate, but this would be higher than acquiring the service for several months at a time.
- Not enough cryptocurrency choices during the payment – After Bitcoin, there’s no other crypto that you could use with Express. Bitcoin isn’t always preferred by those keen to privacy. Bitcoin uses Blockchain, so whatever you purchase will end up as a public record. Granted, it isn’t likely that anyone will need to search through it to know when you bought a VPN, but the potential for someone to see it is there.
So which server is the best? That’s hard to answer. They’re both outstanding and have more in common with each other than differences. A better question would be, what do you intend to do with your VPN?
If you want to absolute best in terms of security and privacy, NordVPN comes out on top, but not by much. ExpressVPN would be ideal for those that need multiple hookups to different devices or easy to figure out controls. Streaming is also great on ExpressVPN, so try it out first if you’re a Netflix or Hulu junkie.
Whichever service you end up with, you can’t go wrong with either.