A Bear's Face on Mars Blake Lively's New Role Recognizing a Stroke Data Privacy Day Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe Peacock Discount Dead Space Remake Mental Health Exercises
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you
Accept
Why You Can Trust CNET
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement | How we test VPNs

NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN: How the two privacy titans stack up in 2022

The world's two biggest virtual private networks both offer competitive privacy protection, and excellent speeds. But here's how they compare side by side.

NordVPN

Like

  • Reliable, competitive speeds
  • RAM-disk servers
  • Feature-rich software

Don't Like

  • Visual server map could use additional functions
  • Discounts steeper for longer contracts
  • Only six simultaneous connections allowed
See at NordVPN

ExpressVPN

Like

  • Globally competitive speeds
  • Solid security suite
  • Company is based in privacy-friendly jurisdiction

Don't Like

  • Higher-than-average price
  • Limited number of simultaneous connections
  • No Safari ExpressVPN browser extension for WebRTC security
See at ExpressVPN

If you're getting ready to sign up for a monthly or yearly VPN subscription, you'll probably consider three key factors: security, speed and price. NordVPN and ExpressVPN are CNET's leading VPN competitors, in no small part thanks to their outstanding performance when we stress-tested their security and privacy promises.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN are based in countries with especially stringent privacy laws generally considered outside the reach of the US and its intelligence allies. Both are excellent for media torrenting and accessing your Netflix library when you're traveling out of the country. Both come with a kill switch security feature, which prevents data exposure in case your service cuts out. And both offer 24/7 live-chat and email customer service support. 

Since these two competitors are at the top of their field in the VPN industry this year, the best way to do a VPN comparison and pick the right one for you is to slice up their speed and price. Here's how the two privacy titans stack up in 2021.

NordVPN

This heavy-hitter stays on our list of best 2021 mobile VPNs for many reasons, including its status as the reigning champion of value. Hands-down, you aren't going to get a VPN service provider anywhere else that can do more than NordVPN does, as cheap as NordVPN does it. Despite a security breach reported in 2019, you'll be hard pressed to find another VPN company that can do what NordVPN does at all. 

Sure, NordVPN could offer a little more privacy if it boosted the number of servers it owns, but we're talking about 5,400-plus servers in 59 countries, a zero-log policy and a jurisdiction in Panama. It's an encryption powerhouse that recently switched to RAM-disk mode, and has a feature that allows you to VPN into Tor. It's available for not only iOS and Android, but also Windows Phone and even BlackBerry. 

In our most recent speed tests, NordVPN's performance was on par with many of its competitors, reducing our connection speed by 53% on average (which is slower than the 32% loss measured in a previous speed test). We found NordVPN's speeds were reliably fast. There were never any sudden dips or service interruptions, and where we expected the VPN to underperform, it proved itself up to the task. But despite having more servers, NordVPN just couldn't catch up to ExpressVPN when it came to speed. 

For all that, how much are you paying? The company's two-year subscription plan currently costs $3.67 a month ($99 billed at once). While that yearly price is lower than some other contenders, the month-to-month price of $12 is at the high end of the spectrum. The company also offers a one-year plan for $4.92 a month. And yes, NordVPN also has a full 30-day refund policy if a VPN user isn't happy with the service. 

While a two-year plan is a big commitment to make to any service provider in the privacy field, NordVPN has developed a reputation for offering fair refunds, and its two-year VPN subscription price beats ExpressVPN's best offer of about $7 a month for an annual package with three months free.

Read more: NordVPN review: Still the best value for security and speed

Read our NordVPN review.

 

NordVPN
  • Among the fastest VPNs
  • Tons of features
  • Diskless RAM-only server infrastructure
  • Solid encryption
68% off with 24-mo plan (+3 free months)
ExpressVPN

Despite battling major upheavals through the end of 2021, ExpressVPN clenched our Editor's Choice Award for best VPN in 2022. One of the two largest providers globally, the VPN titan has been in business since 2009 and once again aggressively raised the industry bar for service transparency this year. 

In the past year, ExpressVPN increased its independent third-party audit count, published details about its TrustedServer deployment process, joined the i2Coalition to call for improved VPN industry ethics, and released an open source Lightway encryption protocol.

After a set-back in 2020, ExpressVPN is again currently in first place as the fastest VPN we've tested. While most VPNs will cause you to lose half or more of your normal internet speeds, ExpressVPN caused us to lose just 2% of speeds in our 2022 speed tests. It also unblocks Netflix and other streaming services more reliably than most other VPNs, and seamlessly surpasses geo-blocking for access to international gaming servers and torrenting sites. 

All of our top-rated VPN's have wide compatibility across platforms and operating systems, but ExpressVPN's collection of setup guides, detailed FAQs and troubleshooting articles give it a clear advantage for users. So does its 24/7 customer support, and its no-questions-asked, 30-day money back guarantee.  

While you can get a better month-to-dollar bargain with ExpressVPN's two-year subscription, we don't recommend anyone purchase any two-year VPN subscriptions at this time due to overall market volatility. ExpressVPN's best plan offers five simultaneous connections for $100 a year (which includes three extra months, for a limited-time deal totaling 15 months of service). You can also opt for a $13 per-month plan, or pay $60 for six months. Read our ExpressVPN review.

Read our ExpressVPN review.

 

ExpressVPN
  • Current fastest VPN we've tested
  • Unblocks Netflix, great for gaming and P2P
  • Solid security and transparency, zero leaks
  • Excellent customer support, easy refunds
49% off with 12-mo plan (+3 free months)

More VPN advice

Originally published earlier and updated periodically.