Ask anyone: One of the biggest problems in today’s world besides global warming, terrorism, inflation, social unrest and slow internet, is the problem of CHOICE.
Because of widespread competition, the average consumer is flooded with an enormous number of options to dig through. Now, generally speaking, this isn’t a bad thing. We all need options.
But how do you decide the best possible option between 2 products that basically do the same thing under the surface without going through the ache of trying them all?
That’s what we’re here for. We tried and tested 2 of the most popular VPN services available to help you decide which one is worth your time/money, and which one not so much.
- Performance Test
- Ease of Use
- Features & Security
- Customer Support
- Security & Privacy
Let’s make something clear: Performance matters. No matter how great the UI, security and price is if the VPN can’t effectively fulfill its primary purpose, it’s better left unused.
By the purpose we mean, being able to change server locations effectively while also maintaining a good enough speed. It’s the most basic expectation of a VPN but there are only a few good ones that hit the mark.
Of course, it goes without saying that you have to have a very sound internet connection to unleash the full width of a VPN. But at times when you’re out at a local cafe or airport, speed becomes a determining factor.
So, let’s start off with NordVPN & test it out. We’ll be using Speedtest as a way to measure the download/upload speeds. Here’s our current home network speed to begin with…
…, not the fastest ever but it will get the job done. For this example, we’ll be using the NordVPN chrome extension. We switched on the VPN, set the location to Australia & ran the test again.
As you can see, 33.70 Mbps on downloads & 42.65 Mbps on uploads, which is a very agreeable output. A loss of 10 Mbps can’t really mean much in the long run but you’ll definitely feel a bit of a pinch when you might require the extra bandwidth.
We ran the test through a US server in Atlanta, Georgia. The results seem pretty similar here. We’re getting a 33.28 Mbps on downloads & 9.55 on uploads which isn’t too great on uploads as compared to Nords’ 42 Mbps.
Now mind you, this can of course vary but the general consensus seems to fall below 10 Mbps which raises some concerns. It is still usable but nothing too good.
Hence, NordVPN wins the speed test over ExpressVPN’s poor upload speeds. No need to rush so early, there’s still more to talk about. Let’s continue with…
Ease of Use
When it comes to VPNs, ease of use isn’t talked about much as it should be. The most typical expectation of a VPN is for it to just ‘work’. Now, note that working is very necessary too.
But an underwhelming UI or some glitch/bug could really curb your experience. Imagine trying to open Netflix and the standalone VPN application keeps crashing or the UI makes even switching between countries complicated.
With that in mind let’s see how both services pan out in terms of usage. Beginning with NordVPN, here’s what the windows installer looks like:
Not bad right? The installation was simple too. The installer first fetched for some additional files in the system, and after everything was ok, it proceeded with the installation. It was over quickly & the application launched itself right away.
The application is nothing short of impressive. The UI is super responsive & smooth. The side-panel has specialty servers and countries to select. The right side gives a geographical server location chart to track your network easily.
The operation and use is simple. You can either click on any of the pinpoint spots on the map or click on quick connect to get a random server. The ability to pick a spot manually is what makes Nord stand out.
The connection never dropped or glitched once and worked perfectly. Switching between different countries was easy but took a few seconds to find the best server.
Similarly, let’s check out what ExpressVPN has got to offer:
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the installer for both the applications is basically the same. ExpressVPN’s installer for simple too. It fetched all the required files in our system, installed a few that were missing and then proceeded with the installation.
The installation was done pretty quickly. The app takes you straight to the main screen after putting in your login details. The UI from the looks is very simple or probably not too exciting for some people’s tastes.
Whereas Nord offered a geolocation UI visual of the map & servers, ExpressVPN looks like a browser extension with its portrait-only mode. Nonetheless, the application works as expected. Clicking on the ‘Click to connect’ button established a connection with the USA server.
Clicking on the button right next to Smart Location displays all available server locations. ExpressVPN has over 160 server locations to choose worldwide to choose from easily. So, when it comes to the number of servers, ExpressVPN definitely has the upper hand.
The takeaway is simple here. NordVPN wins in UI & usability but ExpressVPN compensates in server showcase for what it lacks in UI.
Pricing, Features & Security
More often than not, pricing and features do go hand in hand. We all need the maximum benefits for our money’s worth. Most VPNs offer a longer subscription model for a very cheap price.
Before we get to features, let’s talk about the pricing, starting with NordVPN.
As said above, the pricing model has been kept minimal for a longer service duration, which is similarly opposite for the other plans that offer plans with short duration but more price.
For $3.49/month, NordVPN offers 3 years of consistent service, of which the total sum comes around at $125. Not that expensive to be honest but there’s only a 30-day money-back guarantee if you start to feel unsure.
The 2-year plan is $4.99, 1-year is at $6.99 and the monthly plan is $11.95. Hence, there’s a gradual increase in price if you want the ability to cancel anytime.
That’s all for NordVPN’s pricing. Let’s go over to ExpressVPN’s…
Right off the bat, ExpressVPN does not offer a plan exceeding 12 months of subscription, which is great news for people who don’t want to be bound by double or triple year deals.
But the downside is obviously the price. Whereas you pay $125 for 3 years with Nord, Express has a $99 annual fee, which in the long run is certainly expensive.
Anyways, the 12-month plan is $8.32/month, $9.99/month for 6 months, and 12.95/month with the benefit of a 30-day money-back guarantee available for all. Now, goes without saying that these are indeed a bit expensive but under less-risk.
Let’s talk about what Nord offers as features on its standalone application, beginning with the specialty servers:
- Dedicated IP does exactly what it says. Usually, when you use a VPN and access a foreign location, you aren’t the only one using that server IP. It’s shared by other users as well. Hence, Dedicated IP offers a special IP, unique to you.
- Double VPN routes your internet through 2 VPN servers at the same time to ensure a strong layer of security. The redirection of a network through 2 devices makes surveillance & data theft less of a chance.
- P2P establishes a computer-to-computer or server-to-server connection for easy file sharing tasks like torrenting.
Let’s go over the settings, general tab, to explore further features & options:
Features like CyberSec offer protection from malware, phishing sites, ads and much more, and Invisibility on LAN hides your IP from all the other users connected to the same network through broadband.
Also included is the feature ‘Kill Switch’ that breaks your VPN connection at the moment it drops or isn’t established properly. This is a very important feature as it guards your network against the government or third party speculators trying for data theft.
Let’s examine what’s over on the Auto-Connect tab:
The first 2 features basically establish an automatic connection either when the app starts or when an insecure wireless network gets detected.
The other 2 options let you auto-connect to a preferred country & preferred region of your choice at startup.
Let’s head over to the advanced features tab now:
The protocol option at the top lets you switch between 2 modes: TCP and UDP for times when you require such security. Although UDP is recommended, the TCP protocol is easy to switch over to as well.
Custom DNS provides options to configure your own DNS connection to connect to third-party servers, Obfuscated Servers option will let you connect from restricted zones, and Diagnostics tool will collect error & bug reports to resolve technical issues.
That’s all for NordVPN’s features, let’s talk about ExpressVPN now:
As said above, ExpressVPN has a staggering 160 server locations to choose from, with 94 countries for unlimited server switching. Not only that, you get gold-standard encryption, unlimited bandwidth and connectivity for up to 3 devices.
One of the main features of ExpressVPN is the Speedtest feature that lets you test the speed of a specific server to check which one would work the best for you under a given time. Hence, saving you time from constant server switching.
As you might see in the picture above, the left panel shows the server, speed index, latency and download speed for that country. You can run the speed tests anytime & save the results for future references.
Another great feature to point out is the split tunneling feature. Now what this feature basically does is that it lets you manually select the apps whose network will be filtered through the VPN & which ones won’t.
Now, this feature comes really handy in situations where you need to shift between apps constantly, and manage separate tasks with individual VPN requirements.
One look at the advanced tab shows IPv6 & DNS leak protection features which are nothing to brag about but still are essential.
ExpressVPN has its own kill switch in the form of ‘Network Lock’. Network Lock basically does the same thing but on the local network which is a very rare thing to find.
The Google Chrome extension of ExpressVPN comes with ‘HTTPS Everywhere’, a feature that automatically implements the HTTPS protocol. Hence, making your connection to that site secure & stable.
That’s all for the features of both the VPNs. It’s a tad bit hard to actually determine which one has the high ground on this as both the services offer quality features.
Customer support is probably the last thing on most people’s minds when it comes to VPN services. In fact, most people tend to skim through this section under the assumption that if it works, it works. If not, then whatever.
But customer support can be as important of an element as performance when it comes to troubleshooting issues. Not only limited to that, but Customer Support is also necessary when it comes to researching a service thoroughly.
Given that most VPN services are easy-to-use & don’t require a lot of guidance as they are very self-explanatory. But if you’re a beginner and getting into the world of VPNs, some support/help could be necessary.
Let’s begin with NordVPN’s live chat client on its official website. You can click on the question mark button on the right bottom corner of the site & initiate a conversation.
Okay, so you can’t initiate a conversation instantaneously. You can first go through a small FAQ section embedded right into the client to combat any temporary issues first. There’s also an email option for their email support where you can submit bug reports & such for more technical assistance.
Clicking on the chat button opens up the proper client that we need. You can input your email & the topic that you need help with. The message box will let you input your question. Hence, that’s what we did.
We asked a question about the maintenance of their servers, whether they managed it all themselves or had third party companies manage it for them. The reply was quick & to the point.
As you can see in the picture, Sam is our chat representative that answered our query. We did ask a few more questions and got the same spontaneity as above. Hence, its safe to assume that Nord’s chat client WORKS.
ExpressVPN has a similar chat client to Nord’s. You can go to the official website and go to their support page and click on the ‘Live Chat’ button to get in touch with a chat representative.
So we asked the same question as before with Nord. As you can see above, the chat representative replied immediately BUT not as fast as NordVPN’s.
The representative was responsive & helpful, although a bit slow. Nothing to pry on but as opposed to Nord, its still mediocre.
Live chat and email aren’t the only determining factors when it comes to customer support. Both the services also provide knowledge bases for anyone to look up queries and articles to help understand their issue.
Nord’s support page is very what you see is what you get. It’s just 4 sections that you can go looking for information or help. We headed over to the FAQ section to browse through their knowledge base.
Apart from having its own blog, NordVPN has an FAQ section that contains answers for most basic to advanced queries and tutorial links for guidance. Queries are divided into 5 prominent sections: General, Billing & sales questions, Set up questions, Connection issues & Technical information.
As you can see in the picture above, Nord sure did put in the time to create a graphical representation of how a double VPN works, which is great for people trying to understand it in a simple way. That’s all for Nord, let’s head over to ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN’s support page is a bit different than Nord’s. We’d like to go as far and say it’s even better than Nord’s. Other than the 3 main sections to go looking into, there’s also Express’ own youtube channel with relevant tutorials.
The FAQ section is nothing short of impressive. First, there are short and simple answers but then there are follow-up links to a more detailed page with more visuals & a youtube video.
As you can see, ExpressVPN goes the extra mile to provide you the knowledge you require. Hence, it’s safe to say ExpressVPN might just have the upper hand when it comes to Customer Support.
So which one to go for? NordVPN or ExpressVPN? That is the question. We went through everything worth mentioning about both the services and laid out the gritty details for you to judge.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that both the companies are at the top of their game. They’ve put years & years into building their reputation and user base. It’ll be a very hard task to recommend either.
Express has enormous servers, Nord has a stellar UI & usability, Express’ FAQ is very well-made while Nord has the upper hand in security benefits. They both seem to pretty much equal each other out.
HOWEVER, if we were to really go out our way and recommend one, it definitely has to be NordVPN due to its sheer dominance in speed. Security is offered by pretty much every VPN out there, but Nord simply knocks out Express in terms of performance.
That’s it. NordVPN is the winner. But don’t just take our word for it, do try out Nord yourself & find out what makes it worthy of our recommendation.
Did you find this article helpful? Have anything we missed or thoughts you might like to share? Please comment down below & let us know.