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NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: Which is better? [2024]

By Shubham Agarwal · May 9, 2024
Hero image with the logos of NordVPN and ExpressVPN

Our identities are always at risk on the internet, and a VPN (virtual private network) protects the most vulnerable link in our online defense. It secures our locations and devices' connections with servers so that no one—from malicious actors to our internet service provider—can eavesdrop. On a less terrifying note, VPNs also allow you to browse the web from another location and access geo-locked content on streaming platforms. 

But not all VPNs are equally as safe or reliable. Because VPNs host sensitive network traffic, they're often in hackers' crosshairs themselves, so you need one whose protections are frequently audited. You also need it to be fast. Needless to say, this doesn't come free.

There are a handful of premium VPN apps that check all the boxes. Among them, NordVPN and ExpressVPN have consistently delivered a top-tier experience. They offer state-of-the-art privacy, run a network of thousands of servers so you're never left stranded, and let you get online from over a hundred countries. I tested them from a couple of countries over the last few months—here's how they stack up.

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN at a glance

NordVPN and ExpressVPN share a decent number of features. This comparison table will give you a quick rundown on what exactly differentiates them, and you can read on to learn more about them, based on my experiences testing each app. 



Platforms supported

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Major desktop OSes, iOS, Android, smart TVs, browsers, gaming consoles, Meta Quest

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Major desktop OSes, iOS, Android, smart TVs, browsers, gaming consoles, Meta Quest 2

Browsing speed

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Minimal loss; usually 10% faster; 6,000+ servers

⭐⭐⭐ Noticeable loss on occasions; 3,000+ servers

Ease of use

⭐⭐⭐ Cluttered, feature-heavy app design

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ User-friendly apps with no learning curve


⭐⭐⭐⭐ 256-bit AES encryption; no-logs policy; 4 security audits since 2022

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 256-bit AES encryption; no-logs policy; 12+ security audits since 2022; and few extra security measures

Extra features

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Malware and tracker protection, encrypted Meshnet, dark web monitoring, split routing, cloud storage, connection pausing

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Password manager, malware and tracker protection, split routing


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 111

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 105


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Starts from $12.99/month (or $5.99/month if you pay for 2 years upfront)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ $12.99/month (or $8.32/month if you pay annually)

NordVPN is faster and more reliable

A VPN adds an extra step to your internet connection, which means it will affect its bandwidth and speed to an extent. But NordVPN had the least impact on my network across all the VPNs I've tested, including ExpressVPN. 

On Ookla's speed test, for example, NordVPN was regularly at least 10% faster than ExpressVPN. Whether I was streaming videos or scrolling on Instagram, the speed difference was noticeable. In some countries, like the UK, I experienced a more substantial 20% speed loss on ExpressVPN. At times, that introduced a delay of a few seconds to even lightweight tasks like rendering my Gmail inbox. 

NordVPN has twice as many servers as ExpressVPN (6,000+ vs. 3,000+). That means it's better equipped to link your device to the closest (and hence, the quickest) channel and always has a backup one ready in the event of an outage. 

Another aspect where NordVPN edges out ExpressVPN is the number of locations it supports. Though you may not notice the dozen or so additional countries NordVPN offers, I did find it handy to have access to a wider range of cities within each of them. In one instance, I wanted to surf the web from Los Angeles and San Francisco, both of which are available on NordVPN but not on ExpressVPN. 

NordVPN's location picker

ExpressVPN's security is a small step ahead

There would be little point in subscribing to a VPN provider if it couldn't protect your data. ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have a solid backbone that's rarely breached. They go toe-to-toe in most cybersecurity areas, including encrypting your traffic with the same, advanced 256-bit AES keys, blocking third-party trackers, and a no-logs policy that ensures your online activities are private. 

That said, ExpressVPN does have a handful of extra perks that add additional layers to your security. For starters, its infrastructure has been audited more times than NordVPN. Since 2022, it's undergone over a dozen independent security audits; NordVPN has done four. These inspections are conducted by third parties, which test and validate the VPN service's security claims, like their no-logs policy.

ExpressVPN's Thread Manager

Plus, while both clear their server memory after each session to wipe any trace of your browsing data, ExpressVPN's proprietary TrustedServer tech takes it a step further. It reinstalls the server's entire software stack every time you disconnect and connect to ensure that even a slight misconfiguration doesn't end up storing your information permanently and potentially leaving it exposed. 

Finally, there are a few other security features worth mentioning on ExpressVPN. Its in-house protocol, a set of rules that define how your data is handled between your device and the server, is open source and allows anyone to examine it for faults. It also lets you opt for the IKEv2 protocol, which is fine-tuned for speed and mobile devices. And its subscription also gets you access to a built-in password manager. 

ExpressVPN Protocol preferences

ExpressVPN is beginner-friendly 

Signing up for a VPN provider in itself can feel overwhelming, and ExpressVPN's simple interface does a better job of easing you in. NordVPN, in comparison, has a feature-heavy design that can be complex to understand and learn for first-timers. 

When you launch ExpressVPN's apps, all you'll see is a giant switch. You can touch or click it to instantly connect to the nearest VPN server, or choose from the location list underneath it. The rest of ExpressVPN's tools—such as the password manager and protocol choices—are tucked away in another menu. 

ExpressVPN's connect button

NordVPN's apps have a steeper learning curve. It lists all the available countries on its main screen, and its desktop apps put the connect button in the top-right corner. While its map view is fun to interact with, it's not practical for selecting a server and takes up valuable screen space. NordVPN also has way more tabs that each house all sorts of different, technical tools, and can be confusing for someone who has downloaded it just for its VPN service. 

NordVPN's connection page

NordVPN has more advanced features

On top of VPN services, a NordVPN subscription buys you access to a bunch of complementary abilities for all-around privacy on the internet. For starters, NordVPN can scan the dark web for you and tell you if your credentials are compromised or on sale. 

NordVPN's Dark Web Monitor

Plus, you can pick and build a custom network of devices and encrypt them for sharing files or play games LAN party-style. Its Threat Protection tool, similarly, can guard you against malicious links and files online. 

NordVPN's Threat Protection tool

Throughout my time with NordVPN, there were a lot of unique features that I grew accustomed to and looked for on other VPN apps. For example, you can pause your VPN connection for a time instead of disconnecting altogether when you want to, say, quickly access a local website that refuses to load from other locations. 

If you're unsure about which country to pick, you can alternatively choose from a few presets based on whether you're looking to prioritize download speeds, browsing, or something else. And for an extra couple of dollars a month, you can also benefit from an impressive 1TB encrypted cloud storage. 

ExpressVPN does offer a password manager—which is great if you don't have one yet—but it doesn't have quite as many extra features beyond that.

NordVPN is a better value for your money

NordVPN's base plan and ExpressVPN's only plan each cost $12.99 a month. But for a dollar more, NordVPN offers its suite of additional privacy tools, like malware protection and dark web monitoring; and for another buck, you get 1TB of encrypted storage. 

Side by side, NordVPN's plans are better value for your money since they pack more for the same price. If you go with NordVPN, I'd recommend opting for the most expensive subscription because 1TB of cloud space typically costs several times more. And if you're comfortable paying for the whole year or two, you can get it for a fraction of the monthly fee (down to $5.99/month). 

Having said that, if you don't have a password manager already, ExpressVPN's included one makes it a very appealing option in terms of value for price.

ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Which is better?

There are clear upsides to picking ExpressVPN or NordVPN. While ExpressVPN is simpler to use and potentially a little more secure, NordVPN is faster and comes with a range of additional privacy services. I'd personally choose NordVPN because of its speed, but what you prioritize is up to you.

Related reading:

  • Why our VPN doesn't use passwords

  • How to force a public Wi-Fi network login page to open

  • 8 tools you need in your security stack as a freelancer

  • SurfShark vs. NordVPN: Which is best?

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