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On the VPN (Virtual Private Network) market, everyone knows about Surfshark and ExpressVPN. These two providers are trusted by VPN users worldwide due to their reliability, excellent security features, and consistency.
But which one of these VPN services is actually better? To find out, we have to compare Surfshark vs ExpressVPN and see what sets them apart from each other. So let’s start with a quick overview.
First off, both providers are based in the British Virgin Isles. Surfshark has over 3200 servers in 65 countries, while ExpressVPN has 3000+ servers spanning 94 countries.
Furthermore, Surfshark uses the fast WireGuard tunneling protocol, while ExpressVPN relies on its proprietary Lightway protocol. Additionally, both providers have kill switches, features against online censorship, and work reliably at unblocking content from around the world.
It will be a fierce battle, so stay tuned for a detailed breakdown of each category, starting with speed and servers.
|“Best for” nominee||Best overall, Best for Netflix, Best for P2P, Fastest VPN||Best overall, Fastest VPN, Best for UK|
|Price starts from||$2.49/month||$8.32/month|
|Review||Surfshark review||ExpressVPN review|
By default, Surfshark uses the WireGuard tunneling protocol, while ExpressVPN uses its proprietary Lightway protocol. Both are known for their speed and security, but which one is better?
Keep in mind that for now, the results from our speed are using the OpenVPN protocol for ExpressVPN, while Surfshark is using WireGuard.
Surfshark VPN vs ExpressVPN: 14-Day Speed Average
|Download Speed||704 Mbps||196 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||686 Mbps||425 Mbps|
|Download Speed||514 Mbps||135 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||415 Mbps||323 Mbps|
|Download Speed||521 Mbps||239 Mbps|
|Upload Speed||508 Mbps||508 Mbps|
|All physical servers||No||No|
|Owns all servers||No||No|
In terms of servers, both providers have good overall coverage. Surfshark has 3200+ servers in 65+ countries, while ExpressVPN has 3000+ servers in 94+ countries. Additionally, you can use either service to torrent securely on whatever server you please.
However, one of the most stand-out features of these two providers is RAM-only server technology. It ensures that no data is stored on hard drives. Instead, it’s stored on RAM, meaning that all data on the servers is wiped when they’re rebooted.
|Free trial||7-day for macOS, iOS, Android||No|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||30 days|
|Payment options||Credit card, PayPal, Sofort, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, Giropay, Webmoney||Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Paymentwall (AliPay, UnionPay, and more)|
ExpressVPN is known as one of the most expensive services on the VPN market. On the other hand, users hail Surfshark as an affordable alternative with loads of excellent features. Additionally, Surfshark has a free trial available, something that ExpressVPN lacks. Other than that, both VPNs use a standard pricing plan and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
It’s abundantly clear that Surfshark is the winner in this category.
Surfshark has three subscription plans to choose from:
- $12.95 for one month
- $6.49/month for six months
- $2.49/month for two years
The monthly price is quite steep. Meanwhile, the two-year plan is heavily discounted and a great deal overall. Plus, you can get a better price by looking for Surfshark coupon codes scattered across the web.
It’s important to note that a couple of Surfshark features, Surfshark Alert and Surfshark Search, are locked behind an additional $0.99/month cost. Despite that, this VPN is still significantly cheaper than its competitor.
Furthermore, there are plenty of payment options to choose from, including anonymous alternatives, such as cryptocurrencies.
With ExpressVPN, you can choose between three subscription options:
- $12.95 for one month
- $9.99/month for six months
- $8.32/month for one year
The monthly cost is the same as Surfshark’s, but the other plans are significantly pricier. At least it’s possible to find some ExpressVPN discounts online for a better price.
Thankfully, ExpressVPN offers a good range of payment options to choose from, including Bitcoin for anonymity.
|Protocols||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2||Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2|
|DNS and IP leaks||No leaks||No leaks|
|Security features||CleanWeb, MultiHop, Whitelister, Camouflage mode, NoBorders mode, Shadowsocks, Smart DNS, leak protection||TrustedServer, Stealth servers, Smart DNS, split tunneling, port forwarding, leak protection|
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are some of the most secure VPN choices available. They have great selections of modern tunneling protocols and a wide array of solid security features.
Now let’s take a closer look at the unique features that each VPN adds to the table.
Surfshark security features
First off, Surfshark offers three tunneling protocol options – WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2, which are all available on both desktop and mobile versions of the app. The best option is chosen automatically by default, but you can pick between them yourself.
Of course, the highlight of this provider is the excellent selection of security features:
- CleanWeb blocks ads and malware to secure you from phishing attacks and other online threats. It also has the added benefit of saving mobile data and improving browsing speed.
- Whitelister is essentially split tunneling. You can choose which apps should always be routed through the VPN tunnel. Alternatively, you can pick apps that should be excluded from the VPN. Additionally, this feature works with websites and IP addresses as well.
- Alert is a bonus feature that notifies you in real-time about potential leaks and data breaches of your personal information.
- Search is a private and unbiased search engine. It does not profile you, store any data, and delivers relevant results without any targeted ads.
- NoBorders mode allows you to circumvent internet censorship and VPN blocking technology. If toggled on, it turns on automatically to get around any restrictions.
- MultiHop enables you to pick servers with different entry and exit nodes.
- GPS Spoofing is an Android-exclusive feature that matches your GPS location to your VPN locations, which most VPNs don’t offer on mobile devices.
- Surfshark is also one of the few providers with RAM-only server technology, guaranteeing privacy on a technical level.
This quite an impressive arsenal. It’s also noteworthy because the Alert and Search features aren’t something you’d typically expect from a VPN.
ExpressVPN security features
On ExpressVPN, you can choose between four tunneling protocols – OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec (outdated), and the proprietary Lightway. Naturally, you can let the app pick one automatically or choose one yourself.
Now onto the security features that ExpressVPN offers:
- Stealth Servers ensure that your VPN connection remains secure and hidden from various means of online surveillance and censorship.
- With zero-knowledge DNS servers, ExpressVPN protects your DNS queries with an extra layer of security.
- Split tunneling allows you to select which apps should go through the VPN tunnel and which should not.
- Port forwarding allows you to open up your network ports to outside access more easily.
- TrustedServer is the name of ExpressVPN’s implementation of RAM-only servers.
While it’s a good set of security and privacy features, you’d expect a bit more at such a price range.
|Jurisdiction||British Virgin Islands||British Virgin Islands|
|Logging||No-logs policy||Independently-audited and court-proven no-logs policy|
Looking at the privacy practices of these two services, we can see that they are squeaky clean. First off, both are operating from the privacy-respecting British Virgin Islands and outside the reach of the Five Eyes alliance. Additionally, both accept anonymous payment options. However, ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin only, while Surfshark works with a wide range of different cryptocurrencies.
Furthermore, both providers have been audited extensively by third parties. To be precise, Surfshark had its server infrastructure and browser extension audited by Cure53. On the other hand, ExpressVPN’s server network was audited by PwC, while their extension was audited by Cure53. Also, let’s not forget that in 2017 Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server and found nothing about the VPNs users.
All in all, this is the kind of verification that most VPNs need.
|Major dedicated apps||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Other dedicated apps||Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV||Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV, Chromebook, Routers|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Edge, Firefox||Chrome, Edge, Firefox|
|Manual setup||Routers, Chromebook, pfSense, Raspberry Pi||Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Kindle Fire, Nook HD|
There are a few key differences to pay attention to when comparing Surfshark vs ExpressVPN regarding device compatibility. But first, let’s look at the common features.
Both providers have apps for the most-used platforms – Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Additionally, they support FireOS and have dedicated apps for Amazon Fire Stick. Furthermore, browser extensions are available for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. Unsurprisingly, router configuration is also available on a wide range of firmware, such as DD-WRT, OpenWRT, AsusWRT, and more.
Surfshark device compatibility
The main thing that sets Surfshark apart from ExpressVPN is that it allows an unlimited number of connected devices on a single subscription. Such a feature is an excellent addition at such an affordable price.
Plus, the VPN is available and easy to use on most devices, making it a terrific choice for either one person or for sharing with friends and family.
ExpressVPN device compatibility
Despite its outlandishly expensive pricing plan, ExpressVPN only allows five simultaneous connections on a single subscription. This is especially jarring when you consider that cheaper VPNs allow a more significant number of simultaneous connections on average.
Plus, this also doesn’t synergize well with the fact that ExpressVPN supports an exceptionally diverse range of devices, such as:
- NAS (Network Attached Storage)
- Gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox
Furthermore, ExpressVPN has a dedicated app for routers, allowing you to protect your entire home network much more conveniently. This feature is a great perk if your priority is securing just your home, but a larger number of remote connections grants much more versatility. Nowadays, a VPN is used to secure yourself while on the go, not just at home.
|Other Netflix libraries||Yes||Yes|
|Smart DNS||Yes||Yes (MediaStreamer)|
There’s no denying that both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are excellent VPNs for streaming. They can unblock various Netflix libraries easily, and other streaming services, such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or Amazon Prime, are no problem as well.
Furthermore, both have Smart DNS features, allowing you to take advantage of these VPNs on devices that don’t typically support VPN applications. This way, you can unblock multiple streaming services without encrypting your traffic and sacrificing your speed.
Torrenting and P2P
|Allowed on||All servers||All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||No||No|
|Split tunneling||Yes (Whitelister)||Yes|
Unsurprisingly, the two services are top-tier VPNs for torrenting. Both allow unrestricted torrenting on all of their servers. However, they also lack SOCKS5 proxies to secure your P2P activities directly on your torrent client. Thankfully, split tunneling is available on both to select which apps should go through the VPN tunnel.
The one thing that allows ExpressVPN to inch forward is port forwarding support. Although not an essential feature for everyone, it provides extra versatility for those that want to take their torrenting game to the next level.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN video comparison
|Works in China||Yes||Yes|
|Stealth VPN||Yes (NoBorders)||Yes (Stealth Servers)|
|Tor over VPN||No||No|
If you need a VPN for China, either VPN is a reliable tool for dealing with the Great Firewall. With Surfshark, there’s the NoBorders feature. Plus, there’s also a Shadowsocks proxy as a backup alternative, giving Surfshark a slight advantage in this regard. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN users can utilize the Stealth Servers feature.
Unfortunately, neither service has an integration with the Tor network. But that’s hardly an issue when the VPNs are strong enough by themselves.
People use VPN software in a wide variety of situations. That means that VPN providers need excellent and knowledgeable customer service.
Luckily, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have all the necessary means of helping their customers in dire situations. They have 24/7 live chat support, email communication, and extensive guides on their web pages. In addition, our interactions with their customer support agents have been pleasant, and our inquiries were answered efficiently.
Best VPN by category
Below is the list of all nine categories that we used to evaluate Surfshark and ExpressVPN. While you’ll mostly see wins and losses, there are some cases when both services ended up in a tie.
|Speed and servers||Wins✔️||Loses❌|
|Total wins||5 out of 9||1 out of 9|
The last line says is it all. Surfshark has won in 5 out of 9 categories and ExpressVPN managed only one win. However, three ties make the situation look less dramatic.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – which is better?
Surfshark and ExpressVPN are on equal terms in many areas, but a few crucial differences make Surfshark the better product.
Both VPNs are packing some serious tech under the hood, as connection speeds were blazing fast, and both utilize RAM-only servers, yet Surfshark offers slightly faster speeds.
Furthermore, this is especially impressive since Surfshark is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN and provides more security features. Plus, it even allows unlimited simultaneous connections, while ExpressVPN offers a measly five.
Both VPNs take privacy very seriously and have been audited multiple times by well-known cybersecurity companies. They’re also great for other use cases as well, such as streaming and torrenting.
Overall, Surfshark offers the best price-to-effectiveness ratio. You may want to opt for ExpressVPN if you want an easier time installing a VPN on a router. But most of the time, you won’t go wrong by picking Surfshark.
Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?
Yes, Surfshark is better than Express. It’s cheaper, has more security features, and allows an unlimited number of connections.
Is Surfshark VPN any good?
Surfshark is an excellent VPN choice. It has fast tunneling protocols, exceptional security features and works reliably at unblocking geographical restrictions.
Is Surfshark better than NordVPN?
No. Surfshark is slightly behind NordVPN. It has less server coverage and isn’t as fast.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.