The matchup between NordVPN and ExpressVPN is right up there with other heavyweight classics like Jordan vs. Bird, Tupac vs. Biggie or Balboa vs. Creed. Both virtual private networks are fast, secure, feature-rich and based outside US jurisdiction. Express and Nord deliver superb streaming service unblocking for accessing international Netflix libraries or enjoying your US catalog while traveling abroad, so whether you’re privacy-focused, an entertainment enthusiast or somewhere in between, these VPN companies have you covered.

NordVPN is cheaper at the onset for an annual or two-year subscription, although eventually, both companies charge you the same price per year. We recommend ExpressVPN for most folks because of its fast internet speeds, generous simultaneous device allowance, excellent streaming support and unmatched transparency. It’s our Editors’ Choice as the best VPN overall. NordVPN is the fastest VPN in our testing while delivering a few extra security features, making it better for people who need a VPN for bandwidth-heavy activity. Luckily, neither VPN is bad. Let’s dive in for a head-to-head matchup of NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN so you can pick the right virtual private network for your needs and budget.

ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN compared

Major features compared

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Cost $13 a month, $60 bi-annually, $100 a year $13 a month, $60 annually (then $99 a year) or $96 for two years (then $99 annually)
Avg. speed % loss (2024 tests) 25% 11%
Server network 3,000-plus servers across 105 countries 6,000-plus servers across 67 countries
Encryption AES 256-bit encryption AES 256-bit encryption
VPN protocols OpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway OpenVPN, WireGuard (NordLynx)
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands Panama
Compatible platforms Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS/iPadOS, Fire TV, Apple TV, Browsers, Routers Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS/iPadOS, Fire TV, Apple TV, Browsers, Routers
Simultaneous connections 8 6

Price $13 a month, $60 for six months or $100 for a yearLatest tests DNS leaks detected, 25% speed loss in 2024 testsNetwork 3,000 plus servers in 105 countriesJurisdiction British Virgin Islands

ExpressVPN is our CNET Editors’ Choice award winner because of its speed, privacy and price. You’ll enjoy nearly unrivaled privacy features including strong encryption, a kill switch and annual security audits. Entertainment buffs will appreciate its solid streaming service unblocking for watching Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and other platforms. Its apps are user-friendly, and Express offers a treasure trove of help guides along with 24/7 live chat. You can even purchase its Aircove router, which comes preloaded with a VPN. I’d have preferred a graphical user interface (GUI) Linux app, which is more beginner-friendly, but admittedly (and I say this as a Linux buff), that’s a niche market. Apple TV also has an app for unblocking foreign content libraries on your favorite streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Although ExpressVPN has around half as many servers as NordVPN, you’ve got locations in nearly twice as many countries with Express as Nord. Thus, Express gives you more global destinations despite Nord’s greater number of total servers. Eight simultaneous connections work well enough for most folks, as a power user, I’d like that restriction removed. Nevertheless, that’s two more than NordVPN offers. If you’re willing to consider other options, Surfshark, IPVanish and Private Internet Access (PIA) give you unlimited simultaneous connections. While ExpressVPN is one of the pricier VPNs, you get what you pay for. In this case, it’s a top-notch service that works for everyone, from privacy-centric users to streaming fanatics and gamers commanding fast internet speeds.

Read our ExpressVPN review.

49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)

Price 67% off + 3- month VPN coupon with every 2-year plan boughtLatest tests No leaks detected, 11% speed loss in 2024 testsNetwork 6,000-plus servers in over 60 countriesJurisdiction Panama

NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs on the market, with minimal speed loss on most platforms. In our tests, we clocked just an average 11.1% dip in internet speeds, making Nord the fastest VPN we’ve tested. With its excellent connectivity, Nord is a great choice for gamers and multimedia buffs who need blazing-fast internet. It works on virtually any device you can think of, including Apple TV, but its Linux app is command-line-only. I’d prefer a graphical user interface Linux app, but admittedly that’s a niche request. 

Streaming geographically-protected content with NordVPN works great. Its security chops are top-notch with a few extra features than Express. Notably, Nord sports a Double VPN and Onion Over VPN. Its Double VPN encrypts your network traffic twice to make it even tougher to gain access to sensitive data like your IP address. Onion Over VPN leverages Tor (The Onion Router) for an extra level of encryption without needing to download the Tor browser, although it will also slow your speeds even more than the Double VPN option. While I appreciate Double VPN and Onion Over VPN, both options are admittedly overkill for the average person who just wants to stream foreign Netflix or prevent the prying eyes of ISPs. But if you’ve got serious privacy concerns, they’re handy inclusions. 

The feature-packed Nord also touts Meshnet, which lets you create a personal VPN server for purposes like secure file sharing and remote LAN parties. Plus, you can purchase a dedicated IP address for circumventing blocklists and avoiding CAPTCHAs when traveling. These are nice amenities for power users, but the average person benefits more from ExpressVPN’s inclusions, like its Keys password manager, which is bundled into your subscription. By comparison, Nord delivers exceptional advanced options like a Double VPN, OnionVPN, Meshnet and a dedicated IP address, which many folks won’t dabble with. Notably, NordVPN’s NordPass password manager is a great choice that’s available standalone or as part of its Plus and Ultimate tiers.

While Nord has a blanket of 6,000 servers worldwide, its individual country count is smaller than Express (60-plus vs. 105). However, NordVPN announced a March 2024 upgrade to its server fleet, which will add 50 new virtual locations, bringing its total global country count in line with rivals like ExpressVPN and Surfshark. Upfront pricing is cheaper than ExpressVPN for NordVPN’s one- and two-year plans. But after Nord’s sweet introductory pricing runs out on its one- and two-year plans, it costs you the same ($100 a year) as Express. NordVPN limits you to six simultaneous connections — two fewer than Express provides. Although you can install Nord on as many devices as you like, only six instances can run at once. Considering that it offers servers in more countries, additional simultaneous connections, more intuitive apps and unrivaled transparency, ExpressVPN is a better choice for most people. Nevertheless, NordVPN is a fantastic solution for speed demons like gamers or streamers and serious cybersecurity enthusiasts.

Read our NordVPN review.

Speed winner: NordVPN is the fastest VPN we tested

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the fastest VPNs available. All virtual private networks somewhat slow down your internet connection, but these two companies keep it to a minimum. In our 2024 tests, NordVPN resulted in a 11.1% average speed loss. While ExpressVPN was slower, with an average 24.8% dip in speeds, it was still plenty fast for bandwidth-heavy tasks like 4K video streaming, gaming and working from home. ExpressVPN isn’t slow by any means — Nord is simply faster, but the difference likely isn’t unnoticeable in daily use. Whichever VPN provider you pick, you’ll enjoy reliable connectivity.

Cost winner: NordVPN is cheaper for a year or two, but then pricing is the same

ExpressVPN charges a premium for their service: You’ll pay $13 monthly, $60 biannually (every six months), or $100 per year. NordVPN somewhat undercuts Express, but only with promotional prices. Nord charges $13 per month, the same as Express. Its yearly plan costs $60 for the initial 12 months before jumping to $100. A two-year bundle sets you back $96 for 24 months of service, then hopping to $100 annually. We don’t suggest signing up for more than a year-long plan because of the VPN space’s volatility. That high-quality VPN you sign up for might be slower, acquired by a shady company, suffer a data breach or be out of business after a year. 

Eventually, ExpressVPN and NordVPN charge you the same prices for their annual subscriptions, although Nord is significantly cheaper upfront. If you take advantage of seasonal deals, you can keep the cost low even after your sweet introductory price savings. Factoring in various benefits that Express offers — namely a more generous simultaneous connection allowance and a larger list of countries to connect to — further muddies the price difference since you get a bit more value for your money than with Nord. Although NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN, it’s not by much and you’ll get a feature-rich VPN either way.

Privacy and security winner: NordVPN has more features, but Express has unmatched transparency

ExpressVPN and NordVPN each offer unparalleled security features. Each company boasts a strict no-logging policy that, while challenging to verify, adds peace of mind. You’ll enjoy robust AES 256-bit encryption and jurisdiction in a country that’s not part of the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes intelligence-sharing communities (Panama for Nord and the British Virgin Islands with Express). Both VPN services use RAM-only servers for increased data privacy; your data gets wiped out after each server reboot, but ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer technology takes it a step further by reinstalling the entire software stack with every reboot. You’ll appreciate robust safety options with either choice, including a kill switch (which cuts your internet connection if your VPN stops suddenly), obfuscation (to hide your VPN usage) and split tunneling (for using a VPN for some applications but not others).

In 2022, ExpressVPN underwent 12 independent security audits to support its claims and improve transparency. NordVPN also substantiated its service with third-party audits. In our testing, we didn’t experience any DNS leaks from NordVPN, but detected leaks in a certain edge case with ExpressVPN on its Windows app when split tunneling was enabled. ExpressVPN immediately issued an emergency update to its Windows app that disabled split tunneling entirely, and was fully transparent about the issue after we reported it to company representatives. Nord packs more features than Express, like Double VPN and Onion Over VPN. Onion Over VPN enhances anonymity online using the Tor network, while Double VPN encrypts your internet traffic twice. Express is more transparent with additional independent security audits, while Nord throws in a few niche features such as Onion Over VPN and Double VPN, so either way, you’re getting plenty of reassurance. Nord’s move from a warrant canary to transparency reports is a great step in the right direction for bolstering its already strong transparency.

Entertainment winner: ExpressVPN is better for streaming and gaming, by a hair

Although VPNs are widely used for privacy and security, they’re also popular for entertainment, like unblocking geographically protected content. For instance, you can use a VPN to access international Netflix libraries which lets you watch Star Trek: The Next Generation — normally only available on Paramount Plus in the US, or stream Prey on Disney Plus (a Hulu exclusive in the States). Conversely, you can enjoy region-restricted content from your home country while traveling. A VPN for gaming could improve your gaming experience by lowering ping and protecting against DDoS attacks — but it could also slow down your internet, so make sure you really need one for online play before you buy.

I tested both ExpressVPN and NordVPN for streaming and gaming. Both services successfully unblocked Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and a handful of other sites while remaining fast enough for even 4K ultra HD video playback. Generally, I found the ExpressVPN app slightly easier to navigate on Android TV and Fire TV, although NordVPN’s apps are uncomplicated. Nord lacks a kill switch on its Fire TV and Android TV platforms, which is usually a deal breaker for us, although this feature may be unnecessary for streaming. While Nord’s server network is much more extensive, Express has a larger global footprint thanks to its larger country list (despite a smaller number of total servers). I give Express an edge thanks to its more feature-rich streaming device apps and additional country server choices.

Bottom line

The good news is that you can’t make a poor decision if you’re choosing between ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Express scored an 8.8 in CNET’s assessment and is our Editors’ Choice for the best overall VPN. Nord scored an 8.6 and is one of the fastest, most secure and reliable options on the market. I recommend ExpressVPN for most people with its more generous simultaneous device allowance, terrific security features, blisteringly fast internet speeds and excellent geo-unblocking. ExpressVPN is the VPN I pay for out of pocket for personal use. Nevertheless, Nord is the fastest VPN on the market and flaunts a few additional privacy benefits, but you won’t notice the difference unless you’re a power user.

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