Surfshark vs ExpressVPN 2023: which one wins?
Are you looking for the best VPN service in 2023? While there are lots of different VPN services in the market, two of the biggest names are Surfshark and ExpressVPN. Both of these VPNs have been rated as one of the top 10 services for 2023, and they each offer a wide range of features. In this article, we'll compare Surfshark vs ExpressVPN to help you decide which is the best option for your needs.
While some of the key areas we'll look at include pricing, speed, and security, expect us to cover some other usability features also so you can best decide which VPN is right for you. So strap on and follow along as we compare these two VPN services.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – comparison of the key aspects
|🥇 Overall rank:||#2 out of #32||#7 out of #32|
|🖥️ Servers:||3200+ servers in 100 countries||3000+ servers in 91 countries|
|📖 No logs policy:||Unaudited||Court-proven, independently-audited|
|💵 Pricing:||From $2.30/month||from $8.32/month|
|🔥 Coupons:||Surfshark VPN coupon 83% OFF + 3 months FREE||ExpressVPN coupon 35% OFF|
|🔒 VPN protocols:||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2||Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more|
|🖥️ Platforms:||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, routers|
|📥 Simultaneous connections:||Unlimited||5|
|💁🏻 Support:||24/7 live chat||24/7 live chat|
When it comes to the overall product specification comparison and comparing ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark, you’ll find that they share many common features like logging policies and platform support while also featuring competitive pricing plans and performance speeds across many different regions in the world.
With respect to ease of use, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both straightforward to get up and running. Their respective desktop versions feature clean and simple user interfaces that make them a breeze to navigate. They also offer mobile app versions that give you quick access to all the same features as their full-featured desktop counterparts.
Both services have uncomplicated installation processes that can usually be completed in less than 10 minutes on most platforms. Additionally, they offer detailed help guides and 24/7 support teams that can help if you encounter any issues while setting up your VPN connection.
In terms of looks, Surfshark is slightly more modern with its sleek design and well-organized menu options. ExpressVPN's user interface isn't as intuitive or polished, but it still manages to provide plenty of helpful information without overwhelming the user.
Setting up on routers is easier with ExpressVPN as they provide a dedicated router applet, but Surfshark has improved support for Linux and is one of the few VPNs with a Linux GUI, so they each have a small win there. It's difficult to declare an outright winner when comparing Surfshark vs ExpressVPN regarding interface simplicity and design. Both services have intuitive layouts that make them very accessible for users of all skill levels. In terms of interface, we’d probably have to declare this contest a draw.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN speed
When it comes to speed, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both contenders for the best in the industry. Both services provide fast connections with unlimited bandwidth, so users can easily enjoy streaming video or downloading large files.
To compare Surfshark and ExpressVPN speeds, we assessed their quickest tunneling protocols – WireGuard and Lightway, respectively. The results in our table show average download and upload speed data from different locations around the world. Keep in mind that distance plays a factor here as if you're further from a particular (location) server, your speeds will be correspondingly slower.
|Upload (Mbps)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)||Download (Mbps)|
Surfshark's WireGuard and ExpressVPN's Lightway are not the same, but we compared these two as they are the best each provider has to offer. Examining the data in this table makes it apparent that when it comes to speed, Surfshark is one of today’s fastest VPN providers on the market. Every server location tested had faster speeds when using Surfshark compared with ExpressVPN.
In addition to download speeds, another area of concern for many (especially gamers) is ping responsiveness. We looked at three regions for this comparison, and once again, Surfshark came out slightly ahead.
|US||~ 103 ms||~ 104 ms|
|UK||~ 36 ms||~ 44 ms|
|Asia||~ 271 ms||~ 307 ms|
In terms of performance overall, we declare Surfshark as the winner in this comparison as it provided faster speeds than ExpressVPN in every region tested.
Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a wide variety of features that make them competitive contenders for the best in the industry.
A VPN kill switch lets you disconnect quickly if your VPN connection unexpectedly drops. Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer kill switches that automatically terminate your internet connection when the VPN fails, ensuring all of your data is kept secure. Kill switches come in two different flavors – network or system-level kill switches and application-level kill switches.
- System-level – A system-level kill switch reacts when a problem is detected between your connection and the VPN server. When any hiccup is noticed with the link to your VPN server, these switch on and restrict all traffic from leaving your device. A system-level VPN kill switch blocks all outbound traffic and is an excellent way of safeguarding against any inadvertent exposure of your IP address on the web.
- Application level – With application-level kill switches, you are able to determine which apps will be shut down when the VPN kill switch is enabled. While this gives you more control, it does raise your chances of exposure since some applications can continue to communicate with the internet even without protection.
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a system-level kill switch which provides the greatest protection. For Surfshark, the kill switch is available on all platforms except Linux.
ExpressVPN's kill switch also works on all devices and also integrates with its split tunneling service.
Split tunneling lets you choose which apps or websites will go through the encrypted VPN and which ones won’t, saving bandwidth and allowing you to access geo-restricted content while maintaining a normal browsing experience with other sites.
Surfshark calls this feature – Bypasser – and it is available on Windows and Android Surfshark-protected devices. ExpressVPN offers split tunneling on Mac, Windows, and Android, and you can also utilize split tunneling on your router, which gives even more flexibility.
Multi-Hop (Double VPN)
Multi-hop or double VPN routes your traffic through multiple servers for maximum privacy and security. You can use this feature on all Surfshark-protected devices, and it's easy to configure directly from the location menu. Simply select MultiHop to see all of the enabled servers you can access worldwide.
Malware, also known as malicious software, is a hazardous program or file that can breach your computer's security. Cybercriminals rely on this form of malware to access and exploit your device data without permission. Malicious software can be injected into your device, targeting private and confidential information such as passwords or banking credentials. This data is then sent back to the cybercriminal who initiated the attack. The best protection against malware is a good anti-virus solution.
A VPN, while not explicitly designed to protect against malware, can still serve as an additional security layer against malware attacks. VPNs protect users from malicious software by encrypting data sent and received over the internet, making it difficult for hackers to access the user’s information. Surfshark and ExpressVPN both offer a built-in ad blocker that prevents ads from loading, which can also help protect against malware-infected websites. Both services also provide DNS leak protection via kill switches, so your IP address is never exposed, even if you lose connection with the VPN server.
After carefully evaluating the features of Surfshark and ExpressVPN, we see the latter as the winner. While it doesn’t offer multi-hop (Double VPN), it has better malware protection, kill switch, and split tunneling.
In terms of platform support, both providers offer apps/clients on Windows, macOS, and Linux. In addition, support for Android and iOS, along with Android TV, Fire TV devices, and routers, is also available through both providers. Added to the support for different operating systems, ExpressVPN takes things even further with a router applet which helps to provide whole home coverage quickly and easily.
Both services offer similar levels of platform support, making it difficult to declare an outright winner between them. The difference, once again, is in the interface within each platform.
Surfshark has a clean and modern interface for its desktop apps and definitely beats ExpressVPN on Windows, Mac, and Linux. However, both offer a kill switch which is extremely useful in providing additional protection. From a mobile point of view, Surfshark shines again in comparison to ExpressVPN.
The winner is ExpressVPN for the router applet it offers that isn’t available on Surfshark. Having a simple way to control your whole home and all of the devices is a definite winning move.
Compatibility with online services
When it comes to compatibility with online services, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a range of options that allow users to connect securely to the internet using their VPN connection. Both VPNs offer support for streaming platforms like Netflix and torrenting capabilities allowing users to download files securely.
From a streaming point of view, both VPNs work with popular streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
However, in addition to simple geographical redirection, both services also offer SmartDNS features to further improve connectivity to third-party services. ExpressVPN calls this service MediaStreamer, but regardless of the name, it helps mask not only location but also fight geo-restrictions.
In comparing the two, Surfshark does cover more countries, which increases the number of Netflix libraries users have available, and as its servers are faster, the overall video quality (UHD 4K stream) is also likely to be better.
From a torrenting point of view, both providers support P2P, and you can use any of the popular clients like uTorrent, qBittorrent, or BitTorrent.
The difference lies mainly in the number of servers available – with Surfshark providing 3200+ dedicated P2P servers where users can enjoy faster speeds while downloading or streaming content compared to the 3000 servers provided by ExpressVPN.
Online gaming and gambling
When it comes to online gaming and betting, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer support for some of the most popular games on the market. Both services provide access to services such as Valorant, Fortnite, League of Legends, and many more.
In addition, both providers also offer secure access to betting sites like FanDuel allowing users to enjoy all their favorite online activities without worrying about privacy or security concerns. The differentiator, once again, is probably the number of servers that Surfshark makes available worldwide vs. anything else. Added to that, with speed being a key factor in many online games, the noticeable difference between Surfsharks WireGuard in comparison to ExpressVPNs Lightway simply cannot be discounted.
The main differentiator here is the speed and number of Surfsharks servers. These two factors put Surfshark in front.
Server Location Comparison
When comparing the server locations of Surfshark and ExpressVPN, both providers offer a large selection of servers in different countries worldwide. However, Surfshark has a slight lead in the number of servers and a better distribution of servers around the world also, as shown below.
|Total # of Servers||3200 & growing||3000 & growing|
|Server locations (countries)||100||91|
|Server distribution – Americas||18||14|
|Server distribution – Europe||46||47|
|Server distribution – Asia Pacific||26||26|
|Server distribution – Middle East||9||5|
With speeds being very much dependant on proximity to a server, having a greater distribution of countries covered can be a key differentiator in accessing content. The winner here is Surfshark.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – which offers better protection
A VPN without good security is fairly useless as that is its key selling proposition, so it's fortunate that when it comes to security, both services provide strong encryption protocols. In terms of encryption, both providers use an AES with 256-bit keys, which is the recommended standard for privacy and security. Both providers offer IKDEv2 and OpenVPN support. However, in addition to these standards, Surfshark also uses WireGuard, while ExpressVPN supports L2TP/IPsec and Lightway.
When considering privacy, you want to make sure your VPN provider has a “no-logging” policy in place, and once again, both providers knock it out of the park here, also. ExpressVPN has had some concerns raised about the leadership of the company that could skew opinions. Surfshark and ExpressVPN have both been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) for their no-logging policy & this audit found that all privacy protection was in place.
Both providers offer DNS leak protection and have passed all independent tests with flying colors. In addition, both providers offer a kill switch feature, ensuring that your data is never exposed if the VPN connection drops for any reason.
But with all of these similarities, there is one area of differentiation between the two that should be understood. . Surfshark is based in the Netherlands. This country is a member of the 9-Eyes Alliance. These countries share surveillance information with each which does make it riskier.
While there is not much to differentiate between the two in regard to overall protection. I’d give the win to ExpressVPN based on its location in comparison to Surfshark.
VPN Plans and Pricing
When it comes to pricing, there are some key differences between the two providers.
In both cases, the providers have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test the service and decide which one best suits your needs. In addition to the guarantee, they both also offer a 7-day free trial that can be easily accessed from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.
Payment for both is available through credit cards and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with PayPal. Surfshark also lets you pay through Google or Amazon Pay.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN comparison video
Want to dive even deeper and learn more about Surfshark vs ExpressVPN? This video tutorial is all you need to find a better fit for your personal needs.
Split TunnelingWhen it comes to customer support, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a variety of methods for getting help.
ExpressVPN also offers 24/7 live chat support as well as email support, a comprehensive knowledge base with guides and tutorials, and multiple social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. They also have an active Reddit community where users can ask questions.
Given the similarities in terms of customer service offered by both providers, it is hard to declare a clear winner between them in this category. In terms of customer support, I’d have to mark this one as a Tie.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – Reddit users' recommendations
When it comes to deciding which VPN provider Reddit users recommend, the consensus seems to be that both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide great services with plenty of features and are worth considering. One user (barduke) provided a detailed comparison of the two and pointed to Surfshark's price and support for unlimited devices as a key differentiator between the two services. Also mentioned was the overall speed, with Surfshark again coming out ahead in direct comparison.
However, another Reddit user (esorb65) had ExpressVPN coming out ahead in the competition. In their case, they indicated a special price promotion that was only available at the time of initial signup. Overall most Reddit users seem to prefer Surfshark however, when directly comparing the two providers.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – final verdict
When it comes to deciding which VPN provider is best, the choice should ultimately depend on your individual needs and preferences. However, we've compared Surfshark and ExpressVPN in a number of categories so far already, so let's see how they compare to each other so you can make an informed decision.
|Ease of use||Equal|
Overall, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide great services with plenty of features for any user. However, in our head-to-head comparison, Surfshark was the overall winner.
Does Surfshark own their servers?
No. Surfshark has its own infrastructure and server farms in different locations worldwide but VPN service providers typically do not own their servers, choosing to instead lease server space from data centers around the world.
Is there a better VPN than ExpressVPN?
Yes. Depending on your needs, there are several better providers out there. For example, Surfshark beats ExpressVPN in terms of coverage, the total number of servers, speed, and price.
Does Surfshark have India server?
Surfshark removed its physical servers from the country due to recent 2022 changes in Indian data regulation laws. However, users still have access to Surfshark’s virtual Indian servers located in Singapore, the UK, and the Netherlands. In this case, the speed might be a little bit slower based on location but should still work fine.
Which is the fastest Surfshark server?
The fastest server will depend on your location and the type of activities you want to carry out online. If you're looking for high speeds for streaming or downloading large files, then it's best to choose a server located close to your current location.