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Check just about every list of the best VPNs (including ours), and you’re likely to see NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or both names mentioned. These two packages have been providing top-tier VPN services for years at this point, so I wanted to take a closer look at what each one had to offer.

Choosing the right VPN is something to take your time over, because the best VPN for one person isn’t necessarily the best VPN for someone else—it depends on the features you need and how much you’re willing to spend.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: the basics

I’ve provided a quick overview of these two services below—note that the choices of Panama and the British Virgin Islands are meant to keep users outside various pieces of data-monitoring legislation and beyond the reach of certain organizations, in order to protect your web browsing from governments and law enforcement agencies.

I’ve written out the pricing based on figures being displayed at the time I was writing this guide, but both services regularly tweak their pricing, especially in terms of discounts and special offers—and you can save a lot if you pay for a year or two in advance. The NordVPN and ExpressVPN websites will feature the latest prices.



  • Operates from: British Virgin Islands

  • Pricing: from $12.95 a month

  • Server coverage: 105 countries

  • Maximum connections: 8

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: setup and software


NordVPN offers a simple interface …
Credit: Lifehacker

It’s reassuring to note that both NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer 30-day money back guarantees if you’re not completely happy with the service offered, and the apps provided by both these VPN providers are easy to set up: You’re covered on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and even some smart TVs—including the Apple TV and Fire TV devices.

When it comes to NordVPN’s desktop client, you’ll be up and running with just a few clicks, and I appreciate the quick connect option (and the quick pause option). It’s the sort of software you can leave running in the background, though there are plenty of more advanced options here—like split tunneling (for excluding some apps from the VPN)—if you dig a little deeper.

ExpressVPN VPN

… and the ExpressVPN interface is even simpler.
Credit: Lifehacker

ExpressVPN setup on a desktop computer is even quicker and easier, and you’re basically just presented with an on/off button for your VPN. As with NordVPN, you can find more advanced options (such as split tunneling) if you open up the full interface—the software isn’t quite as polished in terms of its visuals as NordVPN, but it does the job.

I found ExpressVPN slightly quicker at connecting and switching between servers, but there’s really not much in it. If you really value simplicity and speed, then ExpressVPN just about edges it, but NordVPN is no slouch either and offers a software experience that’s a little easier on the eye.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: performance and features


NordVPN offers a few more advanced features
Credit: Lifehacker

You can rely on both NordVPN and ExpressVPN for speedy access to the internet from dozens of countries: ExpressVPN offers more country locations, though NordVPN offers more connection options within each country. Both services apply a “no logs” policy, audited by an independent party, so they’re not keeping records of what you’re doing on the internet.

In my testing the two services hit the same sort of speeds: The variations weren’t huge, and depended on the country, but I didn’t notice much slowdown from my broadband speeds without a VPN. It’s worth noting that I couldn’t connect to Netflix from “abroad” on either NordVPN or ExpressVPN—these apps are in a constant cat-and-mouse game with the streaming platforms.

ExpressVPN VPN

Both VPNs can start up with your computer.
Credit: Lifehacker

Reliability is good across the board too, and I haven’t noticed any problems with dropped connections or sluggish speeds on either NordVPN or ExpressVPN. Performance in your part of the world may vary of course, and you might want to think about giving both of these options a try to test them out for yourself, before using the 30-day money back offer on the one you like the least.

I’ve mentioned split tunneling, and you’ll also find built-in ad blocking, a choice of VPN protocols, private DNS options and a kill switch (for cutting your connection if the VPN access breaks) on both NordVPN and ExpressVPN. On a more advanced level, NordVPN does offer some features that ExpressVPN doesn’t, like connections via the Onion network. You can also get a dedicated IP address from NordVPN, but that costs extra.

NordVPN vs ExpressVPN: verdict


The familiar NordVPN map view.
Credit: NordVPN

When you’re comparing two of the best, most well-established and well-reviewed VPNs in the business, clearly the margins are going to be small ones. Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are going to give you affordable, speedy, reliable, and secure internet access—and you can be confident that your browsing activity will be securely encrypted and won’t be logged.

After testing out both products, I’m very happy to recommend both. Head out on to the wilds of the web and you’ll find a host of speed tests out there—most finding NordVPN in the lead—but in the time I spent with the VPN clients, I found them more or less equal. Importantly, there wasn’t too much of an impact on speed compared with not using a VPN.

ExpressVPN VPN

You get desktop and mobile apps with both services.
Credit: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is slightly simpler to use, while NordVPN offers one or two more advanced features—so perhaps that’s one way to choose between them. With the dedicated IP and Onion/Tor network options, NordVPN certainly does more to cater for those who really want to dig deep into what an internet privacy package can offer.

In the end your choice might come down to pricing: Take a look at what ExpressVPN and NordVPN are offering for their monthly and annual pricing options, and what you get included. It’s a good idea to sign up for a month first, to see how you get on with NordVPN or ExpressVPN, before committing in the longer term.

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