ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: 12 important features
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.
What will you find out when you read this article?
- 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
Before we start, let me ask you a question that will largely determine your choice. Are you going to use a VPN on your smartphone? If so, is privacy and security essential to you?
Remember the answer. We will be back to this issue in the next section.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are excellent VPN services. They have a strong technical base and millions of satisfied customers. It is rather difficult to choose only one of them. I’ve been dealing with VPN-related issues for many years but I failed to determine at once which one is better.
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:
|A category||Which VPN is better|
|IP Leak with ExpressVPN for Android||NordVPN|
|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||No sides!|
|ExpressVPN vs NordVPN for torrenting||NordVPN|
Do you remember I’ve asked you whether it is important for you to stay anonymous using your smartphone or tablet?
It is time to talk about the hidden difference between ExpressVPN and NordVPN, which actually has become the most decisive factor when choosing a VPN for myself.
This is not even a difference but a serious bug of the ExpressVPN application for Android. Because of it, a real IP address leaks when switching between WiFi and 3G connections as well as between different WiFi networks, even with a Kill Switch turned on. Let me remind you that the Kill Switch is a VPN feature that protects against IP leaks if a connection with a VPN server suddenly drops.
I discovered this problem a year ago. But at that point at time I thought that this could be due to an outdated Android version on my device. I had Android 5 installed.
But now, before writing this article, I decided to check the ExpressVPN performance on another device with the latest version of Android 9.
And what was my surprise when I discovered the same bug!
In order to make clear for you how it works, I created a sub-scale program that continuously checks an IP address and displays any changes with it on the browser screen.
Here are the results of the IP detection when I reconnected to various WiFi networks and mobile Internet when using ExpressVPN:
I will explain. Initially, I was connected to the VPN and my real IP was spoofed by the virtual address of the VPN server in Germany (220.127.116.11). The first reconnection was due to an unstable connection with the server and was not part of the experiment. My IP has not changed and remained the virtual one.
The second reconnection was caused by the fact that I deliberately turned off the WiFi signal. The smartphone connected to the mobile network automatically, the Kill Switch expired, as a result, the Internet connection was temporarily drop out.
But then everything went wrong. Although the connection was restored, my real IP address was identified. At the same time, the ExpressVPN window displayed that the VPN is connected:
Right after that, the smartphone identified another WiFi network and connected to it. My logger showed the IP change, but this IP address was not virtual, but the real one. However, it was not related to my mobile operator but my ISP.
And what does it say? It shows that the ExpressVPN application for Android has a problem related to the Kill Switch which allows the IP leak. That won't pass! Because it is the Kill Switch which must guarantee a reliable IP hiding.
Which VPN implementation areas will be less effective because of this bug?
- anonymous torrenting;
- circumvention of censorship;
- protection of transmitted and received data;
- anonymous use of messengers, IP telephony and other means of communication.
I do not recommend using ExpressVPN on mobile devices running on Android when you are moving or your WiFi signal is weak and you may be disconnected at any time.
The number of people using a VPN on their mobile devices is increasing year by year. That could be a necessity or overcautiousness but the fact is that no one wants a VPN has a strong impact on battery performance. Would it be better to use a secure connection but to be tied to the charger, or to be truly mobile but with an insecure connection?
This is an unpleasant and improper choice. But this decision has to be made if you use ExpressVPN. The mobile application for Android consumes so much energy that it completely drained the battery of my tablet overnight. Although it used to work for a week without recharging.
Even Android itself warns that the ExpressVPN application loads the battery too much and offers to turn it off while idle. But it will rob you of privacy! The fact is that many network applications are active in standby mode and therefore it may lead to revealing your real location. Moreover, the ExpressVPN application often does not restore an encrypted channel after leaving a standby mode (when the screen is turned on). You will have to do it manually each time.
iPhone and iPad applications are based on another principle. They use the system capabilities of iOS, therefore their impact on the device’s battery performance is negligible and approximately the same.
As for laptops, I did not test the battery life but the percentage of CPU load. In my case, NordVPN performs better.
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.
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.
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 “Free and Best VPNs for China”.
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.
Do you want to unlock Netflix or another video service content for your region? Both tested providers will equally help you, then. NordVPN and ExpressVPN are equally good at unlocking geo-restricted content.
Neither provider offers dedicated servers for streaming (like, for example, CyberGhost VPN does). However, I did not find any problems with choosing an operating server for the tested US, UK or JP regions.
I have met some Reddit users’ opinions that ExpressVPN provides faster servers for the US, while NordVPN has fewer connectivity problems.
Thus, I failed to single out a leader in this category.
Read more about VPN for Netflix in our review “Free and best VPNs for Netflix: how to find and where to download them?”.
In this nomination, NordVPN wins by a slender margin. There are two reasons for this:
1) NordVPN does not leak IP addresses on Android if the WiFi network suddenly drops out;
2) NordVPN provides a dedicated list of servers for torrenting, where P2P file sharing is guaranteed.
This does not mean that it will be difficult to download and share content through a peer-to-peer network with ExpressVPN. The vast majority of its servers support torrenting. The point is security. In many countries, torrenting is punished with heavy fines. A possible data leak increases the risk of using torrents and many other services such as KODI.
I recommend using ExpressVPN for torrents only on desktops.
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.
Perhaps the nomination of prices is where NordVPN swept in. $ 3.49 and $ 8.32 is a big difference, isn’t it? These are the minimum prices NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer to their users:
Even though we take the NordVPN annual subscription for $ 6.99, then this is less than what ExpressVPN offers.
So, I have given there 12 criteria for comparing the two VPN giants. According to the results of the comparison, with a total score of 9:4 (taking into account one draw) NordVPN won.
However, you should understand that this is not more than an average rating. The scope of a VPN can be different, and this is what you should start with when choosing a VPN service. For example, the choice of countries, browsers extensions and a trial version are better for ExpressVPN. As for NordVPN, it is better when it comes to traffic obfuscation, Android security and the choice of a specific server.
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.
- its functionality is much wider;
- there is no IP leak on Android;
- less battery load;
- handier applications;
- fewer connectivity issues;
- the price is more affordable (I use the longest subscriptions).
These characteristics are much more important for me than speed, the choice of countries, and the browsers extensions operation (I do not use them).
Moreover, I have many years of experience in testing and comparing various VPN applications and using VPNs without applications. My choice was based on it. And users’ reviews only bear out my opinion.
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.
In my opinion, today, NordVPN is ahead of ExpressVPN both in the technical base and in usability. It is more popular and it thrives.
If you have any thoughts on this review, leave your comments below.
I also recommend other expert articles on VPN issues: