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Norton Secure VPN vs. ExpressVPN: Security, speed and price compared

ExpressVPN speeds past another familiar brand to take first place.

ExpressVPN is used to outpacing most of its competitors. Muscling its way ahead of the virtual private network pack, the company has gone head-to-head with several industry leaders in our reviews and has once again found itself besting a well-known brand in Norton Secure VPN.

Here's how one of the tech world's legacy brands stacked up against ExpressVPN on speed, security and price in our reviews. 

Read more: How we evaluate and review VPNs

Norton

There are few more familiar names in information security than Norton and LifeLock. But with limited server options and a few deal breaker security issues, it's clear that the Norton Secure VPN from NortonLifeLock still has some work to do before it can meet the high standards set by its sibling security products. 

In terms of speed, Norton's are on par with other midtier VPNs: During my testing, it achieved only about 43% of the average 187-megabits-per-second speed achieved on a 1-gigabit-per-second-capable fiber connection during testing, while still maintaining an average of around 81Mbps globally. But unlike many other VPNs, Norton doesn't allow you to choose the city you connect to -- only the country. Norton's Hong Kong servers dragged down overall speed scores, averaging just 6Mbps. So if you're looking for a VPN to use while traveling in China, you may want to consider a different option.

Norton offers what it calls bank-grade encryption -- standard AES-256 -- but offers no kill switch, which would prevent network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. I'd generally consider a lack of kill switch a deal breaker. Norton also didn't mask my IPv6 address, and I experienced DNS leaks during testing -- major security red flags from a product that is supposed to mask your browsing activity. 

This also led to difficulties accessing Netflix. So if you're looking for a VPN that will allow you to access your normal media subscriptions while traveling, we recommend seeking a different VPN for now. We likewise recommend looking elsewhere if you want a VPN that allows torrenting, can be used on a wide variety of devices, or can be paid for in Bitcoin.

Norton Secure VPN is only available on the four main platforms -- Windows, Android, Mac and iOS. Depending on your subscription, you can opt for one, five or 10 simultaneous connections. The least expensive plan is the $5 monthly plan, which allows only one device at a time. The most expensive is the 10-device annual plan for $60. That's more than you should be paying for something that doesn't disguise your location, doesn't support Netflix, and drags on speed. 

On the plus side, the application comes with a built-in ad-tracking blocker. Read our Norton Secure VPN review.

ExpressVPN

No matter how fast the service, a secure VPN will always slow your connection speeds. Combine that with the sluggish speeds of most public Wi-Fi (when you need your VPN the most) and speed moves to the forefront as a crucial feature for many VPN shoppers.

Enter ExpressVPN. Offering more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries (compared to Norton Secure VPN's 1,500 servers in 29 countries), this British Virgin Islands-based service has more servers than IPVanish, it's in a greater number of countries and it's lightning fast. Up-and-coming VPNs may be closing in on Express, but I've yet to test a VPN that beats it when it comes to speed; during testing I saw internet speed loss of less than 2%.

ExpressVPN muscled its way ahead of the VPN pack last year and has been hard to beat ever since, offering outstanding speeds and a reputation for reliability and security. Its easy-to-navigate interface makes it an apt choice for newcomers just learning about VPNs, and its multiplatform compatibility expands its value to a wide base of consumers. These factors more than justify ExpressVPN's slightly higher-than-average prices, starting at $6.67 a month (with three months free). It does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can pay with credit card, PayPal or Bitcoin.

ExpressVPN only offers five simultaneous connections compared to Norton Secure VPN's 10 (if you opt for Norton's most expensive package), but it snagged a 4.5 out of 5 in our list of the best mobile VPN services for 2020, thanks in part to its hyperflexible platform compatibility. You can use it on Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation and Xbox. If it's something you surf on, ExpressVPN is probably going to work with it. 

The best part? ExpressVPN's fast speeds don't require the kinds of privacy sacrifices you often see with other stress-tested, high-speed VPNs. While the British Virgin Islands is a UK territory, it isn't explicitly subject to UK data retention laws nor does it participate in intelligence-sharing agreements. Sure, its status as a UK territory gives me pause when considering the potential privacy exposure if political pressure is ever applied. But right now, I'm feeling the island breeze. Read our ExpressVPN review.

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