EXPRESSVPN VS NORDVPN: 12 important features (2020)
We have compared the largest premium VPN services. Each of them can be called the best in some regard. We’ve found a lot of differences between ExpressVPN and NordVPN and they need to be considered before making the final decision.
- 12 differences between NordVPN and ExpressVPN, including those which have not been published anywhere
- The real users’ opinions
- Which of these services I have chosen for myself and why I am not going to change it
It is no secret that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are giants of the VPN industry. They’ve been in the market for many years and have gained millions of followers around the world. They have developed their technical base to an incredible scale, created some of the best VPN applications for various platforms and continue to grow steadily.
How do we choose the best one?
Hundreds of reviews of these VPN services have been written. They cover all features of these VPNs, and sorts of tests have been carried out there. You can also find a lot of comparative reviews, where ExpressVPN and NordVPN alternately win.
It creates confusion. People want to know which one is better, NordVPN or ExpressVPN. In order to solve this problem, I applied the VPN services comparison method which I have developed and have been using successfully since 2011. The method reveals some hidden drawbacks of these VPN giants, which have not been published anywhere yet.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are excellent VPN services. They have a strong technical base and millions of satisfied customers. I have been researching and fine-tuning VPNs for many years but even to someone with my experience it was not easy to determine the winner.
I will compare their most sought-after parameters and will tell you about all the differences between them, including those which are not easy to detect in normal use. They are of great importance for a user, although they have not yet been covered on the Internet. In order to find them out, I had to peek under the hood, move beyond the common testing and even create a special data logging program.
So, here are 12 differences between ExpressVPN and NordVPN. I will mark which one is the best in a specific category near each of the items:
|Category||Which VPN is better|
|IP Leak with ExpressVPN for Android||ExpressVPN|
|Applications for Mac||NordVPN|
|Option to select a server within a location||NordVPN|
|The choice of countries||ExpressVPN|
|Bypass VPN blocker||NordVPN|
|ExpressVPN vs NordVPN for streaming||ExpressVPN|
|ExpressVPN vs NordVPN for torrenting||ExpressVPN|
ExpressVPN won in 7 categories out of 12
1. Both providers have top-level security. However…
As of this day, both services are secure and highly efficient on every OS. The issue with data protection on Android that I discovered in ExpressVPN’s app last year has been fully eliminated since. In 2020, I checked its apps for vulnerability when reconnecting from one access point to another or to cellular internet twice and can confirm that ExpressVPN is 100% safe and protects your traffic in any conditions just like NordVPN.
But what are the differences, then?
I really like the way ExpressVPN’s kill switch works. To refresh your memory, this feature is needed to block the traffic if the connection to a VPN server is disrupted unexpectedly. It serves to prevent unprotected data from leaking.
My 6-month testing found no failures in the performance of the kill switch and discovered its important peculiarity: it fully blocks the internet and waits for the user’s input if it cannot automatically reconnect to a VPN location.
NordVPN doesn’t have such a feature. If it encounters a similar problem, it attempts to reconnect endlessly. The drawback of it is that the user has to turn the VPN off manually, leaving their active traffic unprotected while this maintenance takes place (the kill switch is also turned off in this case).
In general, both providers offer 100% protection of traffic, visited sites’ names, P2P/torrenting technology, DNS, and other aspects if the internet connection is stable.
Reliable protection under any circumstances with Kill Switch
2. Power consumption (ExpressVPN won)
The work duration tests on mobile devices with a VPN on and CPU load comparisons on laptops showed better results with ExpressVPN.
It wins by quite a large margin because ExpressVPN supports the IKEv2 protocol on Windows. This protocol requires fewer computations and, therefore, put a lighter load on the processor.
The only exceptions are the moments when the service automatically reconnects if the internet is unstable and blocks the entirety of traffic besides the VPN. In these cases, the providers’ results are the same.
I always recommend using not browsers plugins but full-fledged VPN applications. The fact is that when installing a browser extension, you are using not a VPN, but a proxy. The proxy works in a different way and the only traffic it protects is your browser traffic.
This is true for all VPN providers except ExpressVPN. It has a plugin that is able not only to protect your browser traffic but automatically activates the VPN application if it has been installed.
In fact, you can manage your VPN application via a browser.
I have not met this possibility with other VPNs. Nor does NordVPN have it.
Thus, the ExpressVPN browser plug-in can be a full-fledged VPN and protect all programs and applications on the device, while NordVPN has regular socks.
Finding a VPN for Mac is not such an easy task as finding a VPN for PC. Most VPN services do not make their macOS applications as functional as they do for other platforms. This is due to various reasons, but all these reasons can be negotiated if you try.
ExpressVPN and NordVPN have tried and made their macOS applications are in line with the most complete PC version by functionality.
But there are differences. For better usability, NordVPN has developed two applications:
- a fully functional application with support of all VPN protocols and functions, available on their website;
- a simplified application that uses the IKEv2 system protocol, available on the Apple App Store for Mac.
ExpressVPN is available only through a file installer which can be downloaded on their website. It is not on the App Store. This can be a problem for many inexperienced Mac users.
Easy protection including Mac
Quite often, there is a necessity to reuse the same VPN server. For example, when viewing Netflix, it’s convenient to connect to the same active server. This is also true when you visit sites that are logged in to the account (when changing an IP address, re-login and even two-factor authentication are often required).
ExpressVPN allows you to choose a location within the country but no more. There is no possibility to choose a specific server within the selected location:
Even though ExpressVPN claims to have more than 3000 servers, in fact, the user does not have the opportunity to check this and use the same IP address several times in a row.
NordVPN is much more convenient in choosing a specific server. You can choose a VPN server on the locations menu. Each server has its number. Therefore, if you choose not just a location but a specific server, next time you will be connected to it:
Besides, it is not necessary to choose a server. You can choose just a country or city.
I think this is a big NordVPN advantage. Moreover, the provider offers Dedicated IP servers:
Their addresses do not change over time. Meanwhile, the addresses of ordinary servers may be changed from time to time.
Thus, NordVPN is more functional than ExpressVPN in the meaning of choosing VPN servers.
NordVPN allows choosing VPN servers more efficiently
In the vast majority of cases, 50-60 countries to choose from are considered to be sufficient. However, in rare cases, you need a wider choice of VPN locations. And in this case, ExpressVPN offers better terms than NordVPN.
94 countries with ExpressVPN versus 60 countries with NordVPN.
All major countries (US, UK, NL, JP, DE, and many others) are available with both providers.
What countries does ExpressVPN offer that NordVPN does not?
- Brunei Darussalam
- Isle of Man
- Sri Lanka
However, there is one country that ExpressVPN does not have. Thus, the fact that it has a wider choice of countries does not mean that NordVPN cannot offer an exclusive.
The country that NordVPN offers but ExpressVPN does not offer is:
- The United Arab Emirates
Well, ExpressVPN can offer more countries but in practice, they are rarely used. NordVPN has all the major countries plus the UAE. I think now it will be easy for you to choose a VPN in terms of “the choice of countries”.
The popularity of the VPN service can be judged by the number of searches. In order to compare the popularity of ExpressVPN and NordVPN over the last 3 years, I’ve appealed to Google Trends:
Obviously, NordVPN is significantly ahead of ExpressVPN. Moreover, it is also ahead of all other VPN services.
What does that indicate?
In this case, the popularity is increasing due to the fact that the VPN topic is becoming more widespread as well as the number of positive NordVPN reviews on the Internet is increasing. For example, people often advise this VPN provider on Reddit.
Read about Reddit users’ opinions on paid and free VPN services in our detailed review “10 Best VPNs according to Reddit (2020)”.
In the next three sections, I want to touch on the technical capabilities of ExpressVPN and NordVPN. There are important differences between them as well as some similar characteristics. I'll start with the ability to bypass VPN protocols blocking.
Unfortunately, along with the proliferation, VPN countermeasures in countries with censorship has also intensified. Previously, they simply blocked known IP addresses of VPN servers. Such lists were incomplete that made it easy enough to bypass such a block.
But nowadays, they apply the technical methods of traffic analysis more and more often. Despite the fact that a VPN encrypts traffic, each VPN protocol has its own “footprints”. All traffic is filtered and such footprints are easily detected by special devices. Then the connection is blocked, and the VPN service is blacklisted. Such systems are used, for example, in China.
In order to combat smart blocking, you need to change the VPN protocol, making its footprints unfamiliar to the network filter. There are not many VPN services that can do this. Best VPN Zone has described most of them in detail in the review “8 Best VPNs for CHINA (Tested in February 2020): 5 Paid & 3 Free”.
Only NordVPN from both compared providers has this function:
ExpressVPN does not have any protection against VPN traffic detection. This makes it less attractive in cases where you need to bypass censorship or VPN blockings on corporate networks.
This category was the hardest to determine the winner in. The thing is, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are, based on my test results, the best services for unblocking Netflix. They both consistently support almost all the regions and errors are extremely rare.
At the same time, I found differences in terms of certain auxiliary important parameters:
- Generally, ExpressVPN has higher speeds for the US (the most popular region).
- NordVPN only uses OpenVPN on Windows. While it’s safe, it is not as fast as the IKEv2 protocol available on ExpressVPN.
In conclusion, ExpressVPN wins by a minimal margin.
The situation with torrenting is quite similar. Both providers allow it and have a similarly high level of hiding this activity from the ISP.
ExpressVPN, however, has faster servers and a more powerful kill switch than NordVPN. It is turned on by default and requires no extra setting from the user.
At first glance, both VPNs offer a 7-days trial period for Android devices. This is not advertised on their official sites, nevertheless, there it is and it works. But there is a significant difference!
NordVPN can be used for free with an annual subscription only. In other words, you cannot benefit from the trial version without a credit card. Yes, you can unsubscribe at any time but it requires additional actions.
ExpressVPN just asks for your email. After that, you can use the VPN on one device for 7 days. When you try to enter the same email on another device, a warning about the double use of the email and an offer to buy a subscription appears. However, there you can buy a subscription you need, and not just the annual one, as NordVPN offers.
Thus, ExpressVPN creates a favorable environment for its service trial.
Actually, NordVPN offers a trial version for iOS as well. ExpressVPN does not provide such an opportunity. However, NordVPN offers a free trial for iOS on the same terms of the annual subscription.
NordVPN wins in this category but with a caveat. Sure, it’s more affordable if you compare the lowest prices available. But not every user wants to pay for a 3-year subscription upfront.
The longest plan ExpressVPN has is a yearly one. If you compare the annual subscriptions of the providers and take our extra 20% discount into account, the price of ExpressVPN is more lucrative than NordVPN’s one ($6.67 per month as opposed to $6.99 per month).
So when you compare prices, keep in mind the duration for which you want to subscribe.
I should note that both providers have the same refund policy: within 30 days after the registration. There are also no significant differences in terms of payment methods.
I have studied 12 criteria to compare the two VPN giants. The result is the following: ExpressVPN wins 7 to 5.
However, you should understand that it is just an average rating. You can need a VPN for various purposes. In some ways, one may be better than the other and in different ways, vice versa. And in some ways, you may require a different VPN service altogether (if you need port forwarding, for example).
ExpressVPN is better thanks to its flawless protection and high speed as well as its incredible coverage in terms of countries. NordVPN is a superb fit for anyone who needs a fixed IP address and convenient location choice using a visualized world map.
Choosing a VPN, you can also take into account the users’ opinions, which I will tell you about in the next chapter.
Especially for this article, I’ve analyzed the opinions of the Reddit community members who are experienced with using both VPN providers. As I expected, opinions were divided.
ExpressVPN is mostly praised for speed, and NordVPN for price and usability:
There are a lot of feedbacks about the low price of NordVPN:
There are also reviews on NordVPN's technical superiority:
I have presented only a small part of the reviews I found. Users’ opinions depend on the scope of a VPN, the users’ location, their experience and the type of device used.
Therefore, it is impossible to determine a true leader by reviews. This is not surprising - two of the best VPN services are compared.
One thing is for sure - both services are popular among VPN users.
It is high time to talk about which VPN service I preferred for myself, and what influenced my choice as an expert.
This does not mean that the second service is worse. It means that under my circumstances and needs NordVPN is likely to be more suitable.
- Dedicated IP addresses.
- I don’t watch Netflix much.
- Double VPN.
- I like how locations are visualized.
As you can see, all these points simply reflect my personal preferences and are not concerned with safety or reliability.
Well, I have compared two awesome VPN services. At the same time, I have tried to fully cover their non-obvious details, analyze the technical part, delve into the reviews of the users who are experienced in both services, and took into account my personal many years’ experience.
I was so scrupulous about comparing ExpressVPN and NordVPN because I was choosing a VPN service for personal use.
Today, ExpressVPN is a faster and more technologically advanced provider. It has eliminated certain flaws in its Android app and is now a better choice for everyday use than NordVPN.
I also recommend other expert articles on VPN issues: