Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: which VPN is better?
If you’re looking for Surfshark vs ExpressVPN comparison articles, you’re already on the right track. Both services are awesome and you probably won’t be making a mistake choosing one over the other.
Yet that doesn't mean these VPN market leaders are the same. In fact, there are some important differences between these tools that will make you favor one over the other, depending on your circumstances.
So, in this article, let's compare the speed, price, features, streaming capabilities of Surfshark and ExpressVPN, and more. Read on to find out which service is better for what, and why!
Editor's disclosure: We are aware of and concerned about the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) recently released by the US Department of Justice. It names Express VPN’s CIO Daniel Gericke among the persons who received monetary penalties and agreed to “full cooperation with the relevant Department and FBI components” due to their past misuse of covert surveillance tools, targeting US citizens, as well as journalists and political parties.
At the moment, there are no direct connections established between the misuse of such tools and ExpressVPN. To stay informed on the issue, we suggest reading our full story about the agreement here.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN
|Country:||British Virgin Islands||British Virgin Islands|
|Locations:||65 countries||94 countries|
|Pricing:||from $2.49/month||from $8.32/month|
|Current deal:||Get Surfshark, now 81% OFF!||12 Months + 3 Months FREE!|
|VPN protocols:||WireGuard, OpenVPN (UDP/TCP), IKEv2, Shadowsocks||Lightway, OpenVPN (TCP/UDP), IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec|
|Logging:||No logs||No logs|
|Support:||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat|
|Platforms:||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
Speed comparison: which is faster, Surfshark or ExpressVPN?
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have the reputation of being a fast VPN. To check this claim, we tested both services by connecting to various servers on a couple of different tunneling protocols and performing a speed test.
The servers included the UK, the US, Switzerland, Japan, and Australia.
Naturally, we tested the fastest protocols first. While Surfshark’s speediest choice is the widely acclaimed WireGuard, the fastest option of ExpressVPN is Lightway, a proprietary protocol you won’t find anywhere else.
- Baseline: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
|Download average||263 Mbps||198.6 Mbps|
|Upload average||170 Mbps||165.6 Mbps|
Interestingly enough, Surfshark was speedier than ExpressVPN in terms of download speed. Not only that - its speeds were more consistent, which really helped it to win this competition.
The main problem with ExpressVPN was the speed drops. For example, its download speed was only 43 Mbps when connected to a Swiss server. In contrast, the UK server offered us 261 Mbps.
Of course, keep in mind that VPN speeds depend on a myriad of factors and your results will be at least a bit different.
Another speedy tunneling protocol is OpenVPN UDP. In this case, ExpressVPN was the superior service: its average speed was a bit higher than the one of Surfshark.
|Download average||123.8 Mbps||186 Mbps|
|Upload average||140.3 Mbps||160.4 Mbps|
Unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough to beat Surfshark, as Surfshark’s maximum speeds are significantly better than the best results of ExpressVPN. So, I declare our fishy friend the winner in this category.
Even though a VPN’s main function is to encrypt your traffic and fake your location, extra features can greatly benefit your everyday life. And Surfshark VPN is the leader here, offering a ton of features like CleanWeb and GPS Spoofing.
When you connect to a VPN, all your traffic becomes encrypted and redirected. However, what if you only need a VPN on your browser or a specific app? That’s where split tunneling comes into play.
This feature gives you more choice over which applications and websites use VPN traffic. Surfshark calls this feature Whitelister. You can either choose to have all your traffic encrypted, excluding a single app, or have only one app connected to the VPN. Whitelister is available on Windows and Android.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN didn’t give this feature any fancy name, as you can find it under the Split tunneling tab. Nevertheless, it works just as well. Split tunneling is available on ExpressVPN’s Windows, Mac, and Android applications.
SmartDNS is a feature that allows you to stream geo-blocked content on devices that don’t support VPN connections. With its help, you can finally watch your favorite Netflix shows on your PlayStation or a smart TV.
Whether you use Surfshark or ExpressVPN, you can activate this feature from your account dashboard. Just keep in mind that ExpressVPN calls it MediaStreamer.
This is a feature reserved solely for ExpressVPN users. That’s because this VPN offers a proprietary application for routers, which shortens the installation process. To install the VPN on your router, you’ll need to download ExpressVPN’s firmware and then upload it to your router.
Stealth servers, also known as obfuscated servers, is a feature that lets your VPN connection go undetected. In other words, your VPN traffic looks just like regular traffic. This is especially useful in oppressive countries like China, however, stealth servers will also help you avoid throttling and will let you unblock websites more easily.
ExpressVPN switches to obfuscated servers as soon as it senses the need to do so, which means you won’t have to do anything by yourself.
Surfshark calls this feature NoBorders. You can either select it manually or the service will kick in automatically when needed.
Out of the two VPNs, only Surfshark offers the double VPN feature called MultiHop. It redirects your traffic through two different VPN servers, which adds an extra layer of security.
To use MultiHop, simply open the corresponding tab and select the pair of servers you want to use.
With Surfshark, you can easily spoof your GPS location on Android so that it would match your selected country. In this way, you’ll trick the apps that are able to detect where you are. You can use this to your advantage with such location-based applications like Tinder.
Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature functions as an adblocker. It blocks malicious ads, pop-ups, online trackers, and dangerous websites. Keep in mind that you have to activate it yourself - it’s not turned on by default. However, keep in mind that an adblocker is not antivirus software, so you’ll still need to get one to stay completely safe online.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: which is more secure?
Security is the cornerstone of any VPN. As VPN applications handle your data, the wrong service might do more harm than good.
Luckily for us, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN implement good security measures and boast a stellar reputation. In this regard, I can’t choose one over the other, so I declare a draw.
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have completely ditched hard drive servers, making all of their infrastructures run on volatile memory (RAM). This means that there’s no hard drive to store your data on. What’s more, these servers get completely wiped out with every single reboot.
This is a guarantee that none of the user data will be hacked or otherwise obtained by a third party.
Surfshark mainly uses AES-256, a virtually impenetrable type of encryption also used by the military and banks. It’s also possible to switch to the Chacha20/Poly1305 cipher on Android devices.
ExpressVPN offers the same ciphers. By default, it uses AES-256. However, you can switch the encryption to Chacha20/Poly1305 when using the Lightway tunneling protocol.
Both VPNs offer an excellent tunneling protocol selection. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
So, these are the protocols supported by Surfshark VPN:
- WireGuard - currently, this one is considered the fastest tunneling protocol. It’s also extremely secure. Available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS applications.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) - this industry staple offers two variations. The TCP version is more stable, while the UDP version is faster. Available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS apps of Surfshark.
- Shadowsocks - this protocol can help you bypass the internet restrictions of China and other oppressive countries. Available on Windows and Android applications.
- IKEv2 - fast and stable, this protocol is the perfect choice for smartphone users. Available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS apps.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN uses the following protocols:
- Lightway - a fast and secure tunneling protocol developed by ExpressVPN. Available on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android applications.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) - available on all ExpressVPN apps.
- IKEv2 - available on Windows, macOS, and iOS applications.
- L2TP/IPsec - not an optimal tunneling protocol in comparison to the others. Use it only when other options don’t work. Available on Windows and macOS.
Surfshark only keeps the information you used to create an account, which consists of your email address and encrypted password. It will also keep your billing information, however, you are free to subscribe by using cryptocurrency for an extra layer of anonymity.
Likewise, ExpressVPN doesn’t collect any personal information on its users like activity logs and connection logs. Similarly to Surfshark, it only collects the bare minimum of data like your email address and payment information.
Coincidentally, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are based in British Virgin Islands, a perfect place for VPN companies. This territory doesn’t belong to any of the intelligence-sharing alliances and doesn’t have any data retention laws concerning telecommunication companies.
Security and privacy audits
Third-party audits are a great way to determine whether a service truly delivers its promises.
Surfshark VPN has been audited by Cure53 (twice), which extensively researched its server infrastructure among other things. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has undergone an independent audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Netflix and streaming performance
Are you looking for the best VPN for streaming? Well, in that case, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN will float your boat pretty well.
Both services are able to unblock an impressive list of streaming services, from Youtube to a few different Netflix libraries.
In other words, the VPNs will let you watch basically anything you desire. However, sports fans might be a bit disappointed by Surfshark, as it wasn’t able to unblock DAZN.
It’s important to add that the ability to bypass geographical restrictions is not the only criteria when it comes to evaluating a VPN’s streaming performance.
You see, there’s a feature called SmartDNS, which is really useful when you want to watch blocked content on devices that don’t support VPN connections. This includes smart TVs and gaming consoles.
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer this feature (just keep in mind that ExpressVPN calls it MediaStreamer). We tested both services and discovered that they work perfectly - just like expected.
No matter if you use torrents daily or once a month, you’ll need a VPN for that. Fortunately, both VPNs will take care of your needs, as they support P2P connections.
Just keep in mind that ExpressVPN lets you torrent on all of their servers, while Surfshark has dedicated servers for torrenting. Both VPNs offer good speeds and have the split tunneling feature available. As a result, this round is a draw.
Plans and pricing
It’s pretty clear that Surfshark is the better choice for those who don’t have lots of money to spare.
Its cheapest plan will cost you $2.49 a month - more than three times cheaper than the $8.32 of ExpressVPN. Just don’t forget that this price comes with a two-year commitment.
|Check pricing||Check pricing|
Even when considering short-term solutions, Surfshark beats ExpressVPN by a mile: its 6-month plan will cost you $6.49 a month in contrast to ExpressVPN’s monthly payment of $9.99.
On the other hand, subscribing to a monthly plan will cost you the same.
In any case, both VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so even if you’re not really satisfied with the service, you can get your money back with no questions asked.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s something Surfshark has that ExpressVPN doesn’t, and it’s a 7-day free trial for Android and iOS devices.
In terms of payment methods, both VPN providers offer quite a wide selection.
When subscribing to Surfshark, you can pay with a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and a couple of different cryptocurrencies.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN also lets you pay with a variety of credit cards and PayPal. You can also pay with Bitcoin and a few other payment methods like WebMoney and UnionPay.
China and countries with restricted internet access
When you travel to a country with heavy censorship and internet restrictions (like China), a good VPN becomes invaluable.
Fortunately, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN implement their own measures to bypass internet censorship.
Surfshark offers Shadowsocks, an open-source protocol that functions more like a proxy. It is available on Windows and Android applications. However, you can also set it up with other devices manually. The service also uses obfuscated servers whose algorithms hide the fact that you are using a VPN at all.
Just like Surfshark, ExpressVPN uses stealth servers to help you bypass the Great Firewall of China and other online barriers. This technology will kick in automatically as soon as the VPN notices that it’s needed.
Unfortunately, ExpressVPN doesn’t offer the Shadowsocks protocol, which makes Surfshark the winner in this category.
While Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a similar number of servers, ExpressVPN boasts a wider selection of countries. That’s especially apparent in terms of Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
|Middle East and Africa||4||5|
I like the fact that both services use solely RAM-only servers, which means that all your information is repeatedly deleted.
Platforms, interface, and ease of use
|Supported OS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Other software and devices||Android TV, Fire devices, routers||Android TV, Fire devices, routers|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome, Firefox|
There’s not much to complain about the variety of applications provided by Surfshark and ExpressVPN. The selection is almost identical with a couple exceptions: while ExpressVPN has a dedicated router app, Surfshark offers unlimited connections.
When it comes to the quality of the apps, I prefer Surfshark thanks to its modern design. Also, the advantage of infinite simultaneous connections can’t be ignored that easily.
If you like slick and modern applications, you won’t be too impressed by the Windows and macOS apps of ExpressVPN. However, if you manage to look past the appearances, you’ll actually find something worth exploring.
The best thing is that both apps have the same features, which is quite rare, as most VPNs usually mishandle their macOS applications. Here, we have split tunneling, a kill switch, stealth servers, and all the other features mentioned before.
There’s also an app for Linux. Even though it’s not underdeveloped feature-wise, it doesn’t have a user interface and you have to navigate it through the command line. However, that’s a very common thing when it comes to VPN apps for Linux.
Now, the design of Surfshark apps is a bit more appealing to the modern eye. The applications are also pretty easy to navigate and use.
Unlike ExpressVPN, Surfshark didn’t give as much love to its Mac application, though. It’s a bit more simple than its Windows counterpart, lacking a couple of features like Whitelister or Shadowsocks.
Also, keep in mind that there are actually two apps for macOS, one available in the app store and the other - on the official site of Surfshark. The one you download from the app store is slightly better because it has more features and tunneling protocols.
Meanwhile, the Linux app, although feature-rich, doesn’t have a user interface. Which means you have to be a bit tech-savvy to use it.
Even though you wouldn’t call them eye candy, the mobile apps of ExpressVPN are decent in terms of functionality. However, keep in mind that the iOS version is inferior to the Android application, as it lacks a few features like a kill switch and split tunneling.
Similarly, Surfshark’s Android app is superior to its iOS counterpart. It has GPS spoofing, Shadowsocks, and Whitelister. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that the Apple version is completely useless - it still offers features like a kill switch and CleanWeb, to name a few.
Friendly and competent customer support is a sign of a good service, be it a VPN or an antivirus solution. And it’s nice to see that both providers put a lot of effort into it.
When using Surfshark, you’ll get help either by writing to the 24/7 live chat or sending an email ticket. As an alternative, you can also read through the knowledge base that has lots of questions answered.
The situation is similar with ExpressVPN. It offers a huge knowledge base, 24/7 live chat, and email support.
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN – who wins?
|Ease of use||✔️||❌|
It’s not every day I get the pleasure to compare two amazing VPN services. On the other hand, picking the best provider becomes really difficult in such situations.
Nevertheless, I managed to choose the ultimate winner - Surfshark VPN. It excelled in quite a few categories like speed, features, price, and ease of use. However, ExpressVPN had its own small victories in the categories of torrenting and servers.
Ultimately, your choice boils down to what you need from a VPN. In any case, don’t forget that both services offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, which you shouldn’t be afraid to use.
Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?
Yes. Surfshark is slightly better than ExpressVPN in some areas. For example, it offers a lower price, has more special features, and is a bit faster.
Is Surfshark VPN any good?
Yes, Surfshark is a really good VPN service. It lets you watch geo-blocked content, offers lots of useful features, and provides you with unlimited simultaneous connections. It’s also been independently audited, which proves its reliability.
Is Surfshark better than NordVPN?
It depends. Even though Surfshark offers more simultaneous connections and a lower price, NordVPN is better at unblocking streaming services and is more suitable for torrenting, as it offers the SOCKS5 proxy.
More VPN guides from CyberNews:
Surfshark vs. NordVPN comparison: find out which of the two is the best VPN service in the market
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison: two leading VPN services, but only one winner
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison: the battle of premium VPN service providers