ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

The most striking thing about the competition between Surfshark and ExpressVPN is that these two virtual private network solutions have something in common. Both VPN are known for their private, log-free services that offer competitive encryption and high speeds. More importantly, both are based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands.

While the British Virgin Islands is a territory of the United Kingdom, it is not explicitly covered by U.K. data retention laws and does not participate in information-sharing agreements. Of course, the UK’s territorial status raises the question of whether there are potential privacy risks if political pressure is applied. But for now, we’re feeling the winds of the island.

Last year ExpressVPN spent most of its time challenging NordVPN for the top spot on the VPN industry food chain, but now relative newcomer Surfshark is trying to eat ExpressVPN lunch. Here’s a look at how the two islands’ services differ in terms of speed, security, and cost.

About SurfShark

Surfshark is one of the best VPNs on the market. It offers the ultimate quality at the lowest cost. Surfshark has hundreds of users and over 1700 servers in more than 60 countries. Surfshark has really 3 and is also very secure for torrenting.

Surfshark is a space that offers a complete premium feature experience at an exceptionally low price. It’s hard to find a VPN with as many features and a low price as surfshark. Surfshark allows you to unblock Netflix, which is great. In addition to the many features that the brand offers, it also offers a fairly cheap two-year plan. It also offers very fast and helpful live chat support if you get stuck somewhere.

Surfshark does put a few hurdles in your way, though: the trial plans offered by the brand are only available for the mobile app and Mac. They don’t share the very detailed privacy policies that other VPNs can offer. The kill switch can also cause some issues.

About ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a well-known name in the VPN world. It offers a lot of benefits to its users. Being one of the top 10, ExpressVPN should be in the market and provide the necessary features that are important when you are in such a big competition. ExpressVPN has 160 locations in 94 countries and most of the servers are working well. ExpessVPN also provides amazing support from their website.

However, ExpressVPN rates are higher than average and don’t have as many features. Unlike some other brands, ExpressVPN requires a browser extension to use. The Android app offered by this brand is only available for OpenVPN.

Speed Test

Many people want a VPN that offers the best possible performance, and speed is especially important for those who use VPNs for streaming, torrenting, and other high-bandwidth activities.

Test variables – The ExpressVPN and Surfshark speed tests below were both performed on a 500Mbps connection using the official VPN app. Both VPNs have released new VPN protocols to allow for higher speeds and I used those for the test.

  • Lightway protocol with ExpressVPN – This protocol promises to be faster and lighter than OpenVPN while offering better mobile performance. Like OpenVPN, it uses AES encryption. Lightway is currently closed source and is only used by ExpressVPN.
  • WireGuard protocol with Surfshark – The WireGuard VPN protocol is taking the VPN world by storm because it is extremely fast and very secure with advanced Chacha20 encryption. It offers speed, reliability and security, and is also open source (and used by many other VPN services).

Test 1: Seattle, USA
Here’s ExpressVPN’s server in Seattle: 136 Mbps(On average).

This is not a very good speed test result for ExpressVPN. I would have expected it to be over 200 Mbps, especially considering the short distance between me and the VPN server (low ping).

Surfshark’s server in Seattle: 308 Mbps(on average).

Surfshark’s server in Seattle is 172 Mbps faster than ExpressVPN. That’s a huge difference. And with over 300 Mbps, you can enjoy the best speeds for all high-bandwidth activities.
Test 2: Los Angeles, USA

ExpressVPN server in Los Angeles: 209 Mbps(On average).

With speeds of over 200 Mbps, ExpressVPN performs better than in the previous ranking, but still can’t keep up with Surfshark.

Surfshark server in Los Angeles: Mbps: 346 Mbps(On average).

Here we can see that Surfshark is still around 137 Mbps faster than ExpressVPN.

Test 3: New York, USA
ExpressVPN server in New York
: 214 Mbps(On average).

That’s pretty much the same as the other ExpressVPN speed tests. Now for Surfshark.

Surfshark’s server in New York: 397 Mbps(On average).

At nearly 400 Mbps, Surfshark is one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. With servers located in New York, Surfshark is almost twice as fast as ExpressVPN.

Why is Surfshark so much faster than ExpressVPN?

From our test results, Surfshark is faster than ExpressVPN in all tested locations. One reason is that the WireGuard VPN protocol used by Surfshark is faster than the Lightway protocol used by ExpressVPN. Another reason is that Surfshark simply provides a faster server network that gives users more bandwidth.

Fastest VPN on test – The fastest VPN we’ve tested so far is NordVPN with the WireGuard protocol, but in addition to WireGuard, NordVPN also offers very fast speeds with the OpenVPN protocol, as well as all Double VPN server configurations. 

Price Comparison

Subscription ExpressVPN Surfshark

1 Month

$12.95
$12.95

6 Months

$9.99
$6.49

1 Year

$6.67
-

2 Years

-
$2.49

Surfshark’s most attractive feature is its unprecedentedly low price. It is the cheapest of our recommended premium providers (apart from occasional VPN bargains). The table below lists the various subscription options available (monthly prices are shown).

Customer Support

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer 24-hour customer support via email and live chat. Large, searchable databases are also available to handle the most common queries. If you prefer video tutorials, you can find them on Surfshark and ExpressVPN’s official YouTube channel.

Most of your questions will probably be answered within seconds via live chat. Still, we wanted to see how well the staff responds when you contact them through other means. So, if the helpdesk is temporarily unavailable or you can’t access the company website, we can see how quickly you can get an answer.

Both providers were extremely quick to respond to email inquiries. In fact, they had one of the fastest average response times we’ve ever experienced. Additionally, while some of their responses seemed pre-written, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN explained in detail how to configure their services for use with Amazon Firestick. Most importantly, they both encourage users to contact them again if they have further questions.

Mobile Apps

ExpressVPN app is quick and easy to launch, and once you’ve granted all the necessary permissions, you’ll see a familiar sight: a large on/off button and a selection of servers. Like the desktop client, the mobile app is clean and easy to understand, and Surfshark is no different – a nice, polished app that retains the simple interface of the desktop client.

Once you start poking around in the settings of the Surfshark app, you’ll find a variety of options, including some protocols as well as Surfshark own HackLock and BlindSearch features. The latter two features are still in beta, but are interesting additions to the VPN’s extra features.

ExpressVPN app is also fully functional and supports DNS and WebRTC leak detectors, as well as a variety of protocols and shared tunnels on Android. There’s a lot more to discover.

Both providers apps are good choices for mobile devices, and Surfshark unlimited connectivity means you can cover everything you need. ExpressVPN offers some additional features, though, so we recommend it if you want full control.

Security and Privacy

All of Surfshark’s apps use IKEv2/IPsec as the default protocol, but also offer the option to switch to OpenVPN. ExpressVPN also supports OpenVPN, which we recommend everyone use for all network locations. As far as privacy is concerned, both services run without logging. Furthermore, neither are based on the privacy-friendly shores of the BVI and have little to do with any significant information-sharing agreements.

Background, Jurisdiction and Reputation

ExpressVPN: This VPN has done its homework and chosen a country that does not have mandatory data retention laws. That’s why ExpressVPN is from the British Virgin Islands. It’s outside the 5/9/14 eye league, which is always good. The company’s servers have been seized in the past – which turned out to be a great marketing opportunity for ExpressVPN, as the authorities never found any user data. That’s because it’s a certified no-log VPN service.

Surfshark VPN: It does not collect any personal data and there are no reports that would question the reputation of this VPN. Although it is a relatively new VPN, Surfshark is definitely a good choice for those who care about privacy.

Special Features

Both providers offer a kill switch, which is one of the special features of VPNs, and Surfshark offers a multi-hop connection, similar to NordVPN’s feature where the IP address changes twice before reaching the destination server. Both support P2P, so you can obtain your favorite Linux distribution as a torrent (and possibly other digital sharing activities of dubious legality, which we strongly advise against).

NordVPN has some interesting features that Surfshark doesn’t offer. NordVPN also offers Onion Over VPN, which allows you to use Onion Anonymizer with NordVPN. NordVPN also allows you to purchase dedicated IP addresses, which can help you with anonymous servers or gaming connections. NordVPN also offers business plans.

Both providers offer malware and adware filtering, though Surfshark’s AdBlock VPN features seem to be a bit more comprehensive: Surfshark also offers a so-called Masquerade mode, which the company says prevents your local ISP from learning that you’re surfing the web with a VPN. NordVPN does have a blog post about whitelisting, but it seems that whitelisting is not really a customer feature. In contrast, Surfshark uses split tunneling feature as whitelisting.

Streaming Capabilities

This is one of the main reasons why most people use a VPN in the first place – mainly because some companies (like Netflix) charge different subscription fees based on your location.

By 2016, almost all VPNs will solve this problem. All you had to do was connect to the VPN server in the right location, and you could access subscription fees and the media library in that region.

But then copyright holders started complaining about it and streaming services responded by introducing anti-VPN measures. Most VPN services now only work sporadically – or not at all.

ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN are two exceptions.

  • ExpressVPN doesn’t have a separate list of streaming-optimized servers – you have to keep testing servers at your chosen location until you find one that works. Still, most servers work reliably.
  • Surfshark VPN, on the other hand, has a NoBorders mode that makes streaming much easier. Again, there are no optimized streaming servers. But thanks to NoBorders mode (which is a built-in feature, not an optional mode), users should have no problem bypassing geolocation blocks.

China

The Great Firewall of China is a system of censorship measures put in place by the Chinese government. Only the best VPNs can successfully bypass it. So, the ability to do so is an important measure of a service’s quality.

According to user reports, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are able to crawl through the Great Firewall. Both do this consistently, which gives them a clear advantage in the Chinese market. Surfshark even has its own testers in the country to ensure amazing performance.

ExpressVPN has been banned by the Chinese government. But don’t worry, you can still download their VPN app in China. It has set up a special web domain specifically for Chinese users.

The winner of this round of ExpressVPN vs Surfshark contest is neither of them. No matter what, you can rely on both of them because they guarantee you the freedom of the Internet.

Connecting at the Same Time

Many people prefer to share their VPN with the rest of the family, so that everyone can connect to the server and protect their devices without having to worry about paying for individual subscriptions or setting up individual networks for each family member. Some VPN providers make this task easier by offering multiple simultaneous connections.

With ExpressVPN, you can connect to five devices at the same time. With this VPN’s protection, you can keep your computer safe while your spouse uses your phone and your three kids use their own devices. That’s a pretty good number of simultaneous connections, but not as strong as what SurfShark offers.

With SurfShark, you can get unlimited simultaneous connections. This is almost unheard of in the VPN world, as most providers always impose some sort of limit (usually from 3 to 7 devices at a time), but SurfShark stands out from the crowd in this regard, so if you like the idea of being able to connect to as many devices as possible, this is the option to go for.

Geo Unblocking

Geo Unblocking ExpressVPN Surfshark

Netflix

US, Canada, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Japan
US, Canada, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Japan

Hulu

US and Japan
US and Japan

BBC iPlayer

Yes
Yes

HBO

USA
USA

Prime Video

Yes
Yes

NBC

Yes
Yes

Many people want a VPN so they can access streaming sites from other countries. Regardless of where you live, you can easily watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and many other websites. Fortunately, with ExpressVPN or Surfshark VPN, you can watch all these services and more.

Best of all, they both have P2P-friendly file sharing capabilities. This means that you can transfer content relatively quickly and with minimal latency. Neither has any obvious advantages, so both can be a good choice for all streamers.

Adblocker

Ad blockers disable ads and prevent them from appearing on most websites you visit. If you want an ad-free browsing experience, you need an ad blocker.

Most vpns already have a built-in ad blocker feature that allows you to block ads and tracking pixels on most websites.

ExpressVPN, while a very expensive vpn, has absolutely no ad blocker features in any of its apps. It also lacks a malware blocker to protect your device when you visit malware-infected websites.

SurfShark has a security feature called CleanWeb that lets you block ads.

CleanWeb also has a malware blocker that protects your device from phishing sites that are known to be infected with malware.

Payment Options

As for cryptocurrencies, Ethereum and Ripple are accepted at the time of writing this comparison.

Surfshark offers several credit card payment options, including Master Card, Visa, PayPal, and Discover. It also supports 3 cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple.

Refund Policy

Finally, both providers also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are very similar in terms of payments, pricing and refunds. However, Surfshark has a slight advantage due to its cheaper price.

Browser Extensions

ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers. These extensions allow you to control the VPN app from your browser, change your location, or access encrypted versions of the websites you visit (if available).

Surfshark has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. It blocks trackers and malware, hides your IP address and establishes secure connections.

Servers

When reviewing a VPN service, it’s not just about the price and available features. You should also consider the total number of servers, the number of supported countries, and dedicated streaming/torrent servers (if available).

ExpressVPN offers a huge list of 3,000 servers in 94 countries worldwide, and almost all of them allow torrenting. Streaming is still tricky and can be tried a few times on different servers.

On the other hand, Surfshark’s offerings tend to be much lower. They only have 1040 servers in 61+ countries worldwide, but the performance is still quite good.

Setup and Availability

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are services that have solid custom apps available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Additionally, both have instructions for manually setting up a VPN on Linux. So if you’re a Linux user who’s used to using the CLI, you’ll have no problem setting up your VPN manually.

In addition to the apps and guides for the major platforms, both services have a FireTV app. And they also have guides for setting up VPNs on various gaming consoles, smart TV, and Chromebooks. In our opinion, this makes the two services very similar in terms of usability.

Signing up for both services is very simple. Both apps are quick to download and install, so you won’t be let down. Both VPNs offer a wealth of features and settings, including a kill switch that prevents leaks outside the VPN tunnel if the VPN connection goes down.

Relationships and Compatibility

Now that we’ve covered the basic requirements of a VPN, let’s take a look at their flexibility – in terms of devices and platforms. Because even though there are more important factors to consider, this is important if you plan to use a VPN on multiple devices or between multiple people.

Both VPNs are available as browser extensions, but ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer DNS feature is superior because it works on almost any platform, including VPN-enabled devices like game consoles and smart TVs. As for devices, ExpressVPN can juggle up to five connections simultaneously.

Surfshark does a bit better in this regard, as it allows you to connect to an unlimited number of devices – it’s the only VPN that offers such a valuable luxury at a ridiculous price. In terms of multiplatform, it doesn’t have ubiquitous compatibility, but it works on most major platforms, including Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux.

Which one is right for you?

Now you have a better understanding of ExpressVPN and Surfshark, as well as a comparison of the two VPN services. The big question now is which one is better for you.

If the number of servers is important to you and you need to use multiple servers in different locations around the world, ExpressVPN might be the right provider for you. You are more likely to find a server in the specific country you need, and you can have multiple servers available in that location. ExpressVPN is also a very comprehensive service in our test, and its excellent performance proves that.

But Surfshark was no slouch in our test and offers a low price that’s hard to beat. It can’t match ExpressVPN for the number of servers, but it offers a lot of features and great mobile apps for a low price.

Bottom Line

If you’re choosing a VPN provider, you can’t go wrong with either ExpressVPN or Surfshark. Both companies offer their customers a lot of great features and reliable services. It’s no coincidence that they both sit at the top of our Best VPN Providers this year, and the differences between them are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

The biggest difference between the two will be the price, and that’s where SurfShark comes out quite a bit ahead. If you’re still not sure if a VPN has a place in your everyday life or if it makes sense to use one, Surfshark might be worth a look from a financial perspective alone. However, to balance this out, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day guarantee. So if you don’t like it after signing up, you can still easily get your money back.

SAFE VPN

9.5/10

4.5/5
FAST VPN

9.6/10

4.5/5
USER FRIENDLY

9.5/10

4.5/5
SAFE VPN

9.5/10

4.5/5
FAST VPN

9.6/10

4.5/5
USER FRIENDLY

9.5/10

4.5/5