NordVPN and ExpressVPN are both top-flight VPN services with strong reputations for speed, video streaming and security. Neither is a budget service, but which should you choose for your VPN needs?
NordVPN and ExpressVPN regularly appear in our best VPNs guide. Let’s see how they compare when they go head-to-head.
Pricing and availability
NordVPN costs £8.79 per month, £43.08 for the first year’s subscription with renewals at £73.08 per year, or £69.36 for two years’ subscription, with subsequent renewals at the annual rate.
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- £2.49 per month
ExpressVPN cost £10.24 per month, £47.40 for a 6 month subscription, or £78.96 per year.
ExpressVPN – Save 49%
Save 35% with ExpressVPN, now from just £5.43 per month for 12 months + 3 months free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Save 49%
- £5.43 per month
NordVPN is clearly the cheaper of the two.
|VPN Provider||UK||Netherlands||United States||Average|
|ExpressVPN||328.80 Mbps||226.40 Mbps||263.20 Mbps||272.80 Mbps|
|NordVPN||507.20 Mbps||427.20 Mbps||428.80 Mbps||454.40 Mbps|
|Reference Group Average HTTP||310.77 Mbps||306.83 Mbps||194.52 Mbps||270.71 Mbps|
|Reference HTTP without VPN||489.60 Mbps||532.80 Mbps||490.40 Mbps||504.27 Mbps|
Tested on an ultra-high-speed fibre connection at a London data centre, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are blisteringly quick, posting speeds of well over 200Mbit/s (25MB/s), easily fast enough for 4K video or game streaming. They mostly exceed the group average, with the exception of ExpressVPN’s Netherlands test result.
However, it’s obvious that NordVPN was the faster of the two in our latest tests, and it usually is in our historic results.
Bear in mind that our test speeds represent an upper threshold of performance – while a VPN can sometimes improve connection speeds to distant countries, you can’t exceed the speed of your connection to your ISP.
Security and transparency
We reset the clock on a firm’s security reputation when it undergoes major changes in ownership or management. That’s recently been the case with both NordVPN, which merged with fellow Tesonet tech incubator alum Surfshark, and ExpressVPN, which was bough by Kape Technologies, which has been acquiring a number of big names in the consumer VPN market in recent years.
Both companies are keeping their independent operations, branding and VPN infrastructure for now. They retain their strong no-logging policies, which means that they promise to retain no records of a user’s identity or activities when connected to their service.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s servers run on RAMdisks – this means that they never write to the hard drives and are in effect completely reinstalled to memory every time they’re rebooted. Should a server be seized, it’s fully wiped as soon as it’s turned off, as a result.
Transparency is important and that’s why you want to know if your VPN provider has been forced to hand over data to law enforcement or otherwise been compromised. Warrant canaries – documents which change or disappear if a company is forced to hand over data to law enforcement – are most popularly used in the US, where gagging orders are frequently used to prevent companies from openly saying they’ve been subject to a compromising data seizure.
Transparency documents, also popular elsewhere, may provide more detail about the number or nature of the cases involved. You can see NordVPN’s warrant canary statement by scrolling to the bottom of its Security Efforts page. ExpressVPN does not maintain a transparency document or warrant canary at this time.
It’s important to bear in mind that, with the exception of what we learn from third-party audits, legal cases, and reports of government seizures, we have only the word of the VPN provider that it’s doing as it claims. A number of VPN services have been caught lying about their logging policies.
ExpressVPN’s latest audit of its privacy and server security was carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in April 2022. A March 2022 audit, had security firm F-Secure examine its Windows client’s security.
ExpressVPN and NordVPN have longstanding reputations among their users and go to efforts to prove their security credentials. This isn’t a cast-iron guarantee, but the chances of your online activities remaining private are a lot better than if you opt for a VPN service at random.
A NordVPN endpoint server at a third-party data centre was compromised in 2018. The company initially handled this poorly, and didn’t inform users of the attack. However, it has made good on its subsequent pledge to both roll out enhanced security measures and improve its public communications.
ExpressVPN is officially headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, but its parent company is based on the UK. NordVPN has recently relocated from Panama to the Netherlands. Privacy-friendly jurisdictions such as BVI and Panama are reguarded as important by those seeking to avoid scrutiny by intelligence services, but it remains unclear how much practical difference this makes if a VPN provider keeps no logs in the first place. Whether the provider is allowed to continue keeping no logs is the issue to watch.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both have not only basic features that we’d expect of any VPN provider, such as a kill switch to disconnect your network connection if you drop off the VPN, but also more sophistication options such as split tunneling to route some traffic via your ISP if needed, obfuscation to help disguise the fact that you’re using a VPN and the aforementioned RAMdisk servers.
ExpressVPN has endpoints in 94 countries, NordVPN in 59, so ExpressVPN is of potentially greater use to virtual globe-trotters.
ExpresVPN allows you to connect up to five devices to its service at once, and provides clients for Windows, macOS, the Linux command line, Android, iOS, as well as the Kindle Fire and FireTV, and Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers. It also provides manual connection instructions for other devices. It supports the OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and its own Lightway VPN protocols.
NordVPN allows up to six simultaneous connections, with dedicated clients for Windows, macOS, the Linux command line, Android and iOS, as well as manual connection instructions, plus Chrome and Firefox extensions. It supports the OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec, SSTP and WireGuard protocols.
NordVPN is cheaper, faster and better at video than ExpressVPN. They’re both excellent, but for most users, NordVPN is the way to go.
ExpressVPN is still worth a look, however, particularly if you need a wide range of endpoint locations to come out at.