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Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: A Close Match | Productively

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Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: A Close Match

Surfshark and ExpressVPN are household names in the VPN industry. They are two of the best, most reputable virtual private network providers available on the market right now. While ExpressVPN may have a bit more of a brand recognition than Surfshark, they are both known and loved by users and professionals alike.

Whether you need a VPN for work, entertainment, or simply because you want to protect your own privacy in a world where corporations and governments are increasingly eager to gain access to your private information and exploit it for profit or control. This is part of the reason why VPNs have become such a hot topic in recent years. If you’re not using one already, you’re likely considering purchasing a plan with one of the best-known providers, which is why you’ve arrived at this article.

In this comparison review, I put Surfshark and ExpressVPN to the test, trying out all of their features in order to arrive at a definite conclusion as to which service is a better option for privacy-conscious individuals like yourself. By the time you’re done reading, you will be able to make an informed choice between the pair, depending on your individual preferences and needs for specific features.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: Overview

Product

Surfshark

ExpressVPN

Based in

Netherlands

British Virgin Islands

Number of servers

3,200+

3,000+

VPN Protocols

WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2

Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP

Kill Switch

Yes

Yes

Split Tunneling

Yes

Yes

Multi-Hop

Yes

Yes

Streaming services

Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu

Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu

Torrenting

Available

Available

Simultaneous connections

Unlimited

Up to 5 connections

Supported platforms

Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV

Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, smart TVs, Xbox, PlayStation

Customer support

Email, live chat, FAQ section

Email, live chat, FAQ section

Website

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: Key Features

Whenever I test a VPN provider, I look at the main functions of the platform, first and foremost. This includes things like how many server locations a particular service offers, the various tools and options I can tinker around with to customize my experience, as well as privacy and security features.

Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both complete packages that contain everything you could possibly need to hide your true IP address and browse the internet in anonymity. However, once I dove into the details of both services, it became clear to me that each individual provider has some unique features that are missing from its competitor.

VPN Server Network

VPN server network is an element that I always take a look at first when choosing a VPN service. Both ExpressVPN and Shurfshark offer reliable server networks to subscribers, but when it comes to comparing the two, ExpressVPN does offer a lot more locations you can access.

ExpressVPN boasts over 3,000 servers around the world, while Shurfshark offers over 3,200 servers. While these numbers may seem similar, ExpressVPN has more than double the number of server locations compared to Shurfshark, with 160 locations, versus Shurfshark’s over 60 locations.

Having more locations translates to faster speeds and better connectivity for users, as they are free to choose from a number of countries, resulting in a more spread-out total usage and less strain on servers in a particular location. If you’re like me and are always on the lookout for unique, international content, ExpressVPN will allow you to gain access to more geo-restricted services from a myriad of different locales.

ExpressVPN may have a more extensive server network with more than double the number of server locations. However, Shurfshark’s focus on increasing the number of servers in each location provides better performance to its users in those regions. When I tried to connect to a country that’s popular with other VPN users, I found that Surfshark was a better option since the higher number of servers allowed me to connect to that location without the server being overwhelmed by hundreds of users, all connecting at the same time.

Winner: Surfshark

VPN Tools & Features

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide multi-platform support, including apps for all major operating systems and command-line-based installers for Linux systems. They also offer browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, although it’s important to note that they do not secure traffic from other apps.

Despite their similarities, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are not all the same. The former, for example, has a built-in ad-blocker and malware-scanner, as well as tools that notify you of any data leaks that may have affected you. It also allows you to search anonymously. In contrast, ExpressVPN offers custom firmware for supported routers, and unlike its competitor, does not require configuration for use in countries with heavily-censored internet access.

One of the significant advantages of Surfshark over ExpressVPN (and most other VPN services) is that it permits an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. This feature is especially appealing if you want to share your VPN with family members. On the other hand, ExpressVPN only allows up to five devices to connect at once.

All in all, while both VPN providers have all the features you could possibly need to protect yourself online and customize the experience to your liking, I think that the option to connect as many devices as you want at the same time puts Surfshark ahead of ExpressVPN in terms of features and functionality.

Winner: Surfshark

Security Features

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer multiple protocols for users to connect with, including OpenVPN and IKEv2. ExpressVPN also supports the older L2TP protocol, which is more secure but easier to block. Meanwhile, Surfshark users also have access to faster protocols like WireGuard and Shadowsocks. I also have to note ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol, a proprietary technology that’s exclusive to this VPN service, which offers the best balance between performance and security that I’ve seen in a long time.

Both providers use 256-bit AES encryption, which is virtually uncrackable. However, ExpressVPN’s RSA keys are longer at 4096 bits, making them slightly more secure than Surfshark’s. Additionally, both providers offer a kill switch feature that stops sending traffic if your connection drops, ensuring your data is never exposed.

ExpressVPN uses cipher block chaining, a technique that makes it impossible to decrypt a packet of data without access to the one before it. This means your data cannot be read unless someone can crack the service’s encryption and capture your entire session’s traffic from the start. Surfshark, on the other hand, uses a special NoBorders mode that allows you to browse freely. While it’s unclear how this feature works exactly, other VPNs achieve similar results by reshaping your data to hide the signs of VPN traffic.

Overall, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark prioritize user security by offering multiple protocols, strong encryption, and features like kill switches. Users can rest assured that their data is safe and protected while using these VPN services.

Winner: Tie

Privacy

Privacy is arguably one of the main reasons why people purchase VPN software. While both ExpressVPN and Surfshark do keep some connection and activity logs, these are mainly for managing server loads and improving performance (or so they claim).

ExpressVPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands, a country with no mandatory data-retention laws. This means that neither VPN service is required to keep any logs that could personally identify their users. This is a significant advantage for those who want to ensure their online activities remain private.

Moreover, the British Virgin Islands is far from the influence of the 14 Eyes security alliance, a group of countries that collaborate to collect and share intelligence. This makes ExpressVPN even more secure, as they are not subject to any surveillance from the 14 Eyes countries.

For those who want to take their privacy a step further, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark allow users to sign up anonymously. Users can use a throwaway email address and pay with Bitcoin, which ensures complete anonymity. Surfshark also accepts other popular cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple.

Seeing as both VPNs prioritize the protection of their users’ privacy, this one was a close call. However, I feel like Surfshark is a tiny bit more accommodating to users who want to really keep their online activity away from prying eyes by accepting more cryptocurrencies.

Winner: Surfshark

Speed & Performance

When it comes to speed and performance, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are excellent choices for HD streaming. However, in terms of overall speed, Surfshark takes the lead with an average speed of around 324 Mbps, while ExpressVPN trails behind with a speed of 135 Mbps. It’s worth noting that I carried out this performance test on a 1 Gbps connection, so your actual speeds may vary depending on your internet service provider and location.

Surfshark’s impressive speed is largely due to its optimized servers that are strategically placed around the world, with a larger number of servers for highly sought-after locations. This ensures that you can connect to the server you want with the least amount of latency, resulting in faster download and upload speeds.

Winner: Surfshark

Pricing

Cost is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a VPN service. ExpressVPN and Shurfshark offer different pricing plans, and when you compare the two providers side-by-side, it becomes clear that Shurfshark has a competitive edge over ExpressVPN in terms of pricing.

Shurfshark offers an affordable pricing plan of $59.76 per year, which is almost half the price of ExpressVPN. In contrast, ExpressVPN charges $99.95 per year for its services, making it significantly more expensive than Shurfshark.

In conclusion, when comparing the pricing plans of these two VPN providers, Shurfshark stands out as the more affordable option, with its competitive annual fee of $59.76. While ExpressVPN may offer some additional features, it is significantly more expensive than Shurfshark, making it less accessible for budget-conscious users.

Winner: Surfshark

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: User Experience

Too many applications nowadays are unnecessarily complicated, making the overall user experience much more annoying than it needs to be. VPN providers are not an exception, but thankfully, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are user-friendly programs that allow you to quickly establish a connection to their servers and get out of your way. Below, you’ll find a detailed comparison of the various features that, in my opinion, are crucial components that determine the user-friendliness of a VPN service.

Device Compatibility

I’ve never been the type of person who’s devoted to a single software ecosystem or hardware provider. I have a number of internet-enabled devices that I use on a daily basis, many of which use different operating systems. This is why device compatibility is one of the most important features of any service, especially VPNs, which I’d ideally like to use to protect any device I use the Internet on.

Surfshark is compatible with Windows and MacOS desktop computers, as well as Android and iOS smartphones. It is also available as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. Finally, you can also install it onto your Amazon Fire TV stick. It’s a decent line-up that will be more than enough for most users, but it’s by no means all-encompassing.

ExpressVPN, on the other hand, is compatible with all of the systems mentioned above, as well as game consoles (Xbox and PlayStation), most smart TVs out there, and, most importantly, WiFi routers. The last compatibility allows you to bypass the simultaneous connections limitation of ExpressVPN and protect any and all devices that use your home WiFi network. Thus, I have no choice but to declare ExpressVPN the winner when it comes to device compatibility.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Simultaneous Connections

As I already mentioned earlier, Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections, whereas VPN only lets you connect up to 5 devices at the same time. Contrary to many other popular VPN services (especially free ones), there are no limitations or speed caps depending on the number of connected devices in both Surfshark and ExpressVPN. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t run into slowdowns or connectivity issues if you connect numerous devices to the service. Depending on your broadband speed, you might experience slower streaming and browsing speeds when connecting multiple devices.

As far as the two VPN services are concerned, though, Surfshark is the clear winner here. Not only does it let you connect as many devices as you want, but it also does so at a lower price than its competitor!

Winner: Surfshark

VPN Apps and User Experience

The desktop apps of both providers have a similar layout, with Surfshark having a list of recently-used servers and a location-selection button on the main screen. However, some options like the kill switch and NoBorders mode are hidden in the settings submenus.

ExpressVPN’s app is also similar to Surfshark’s, but its quick-connect button is more prominent and takes up most of the main screen. The settings menu is divided into several categories, making it easy for users to find the options they need. ExpressVPN also allows users to add certain websites to their shortcuts for faster access.

The mobile apps of both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are almost identical to their desktop counterparts. However, Surfshark’s tabs are now located at the bottom of the screen instead of the left-hand side. Some features like NoBorders mode are not available on mobile devices, but Surfshark’s Android app allows users to automatically match their phone’s GPS location to their server location without any third-party apps.

ExpressVPN’s mobile apps have fewer features than their desktop equivalents but still offer auto-connection, wifi protection, split tunneling, and protocol selection options. Despite having pared-down selections, both providers’ mobile apps remain easy to use and provide the same level of security as their desktop counterparts.

In conclusion, Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer simple yet effective apps that provide a user-friendly experience for both desktop and mobile users. While some features may be hidden or not available on mobile devices, both providers prioritize ease of use and security for their customers.

Winner: Tie

Customer Support

When it comes to customer support, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are two VPN providers that truly stand out. Both offer 24/7 support via email and live chat, ensuring that their customers can get help whenever they need it. Additionally, both companies have extensive knowledge bases that cover the most common questions and issues that users might encounter.

One of the things I love about Surfshark and ExpressVPN is that they go beyond just providing written resources. Both companies have YouTube channels that feature video guides to help users troubleshoot and configure their VPNs. This is a great option for people who prefer visual aids or who want to see how to perform certain tasks in action.

In my testing, I found that the live chat support from both providers was incredibly fast and helpful. Most questions were answered within seconds, and the agents I talked to were knowledgeable and friendly.

I also tested how responsive the customer support departments were when using other methods, like email. To my delight, Surfshark and ExpressVPN both responded to all of my inquiries quickly and thoroughly. In fact, their response times were some of the fastest I’ve seen in the VPN industry. Even more impressive was the level of detail they went into when answering my questions. Both companies provided step-by-step instructions for configuring their services on a variety of devices and encouraged me to reach out again if I had any further issues.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the customer support offered by Surfshark and ExpressVPN. Their dedication to helping their customers is evident in the speed and quality of their responses, making them both excellent choices for anyone looking for a reliable VPN provider with top-notch support.

Winner: Tie

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: Streaming, Torrenting, and Gaming

There’s no point in having a VPN with top-notch security and privacy features if it doesn’t perform well in demanding scenarios, such as torrenting large files, streaming movies and TV shows, or playing multiplayer games. I put ExpressVPN and Surfshark to the test in all three of these areas, and I’m pleased to report that both providers haven’t disappointed.

Streaming

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are top-rated VPNs that excel at unblocking geo-restricted streaming services. While I haven’t tested every streaming service in the world, these VPNs have proven to be effective at accessing popular platforms like Disney Plus, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Netflix.

Surfshark’s performance can vary from platform to platform. While it successfully unblocked Disney Plus on the first attempt, it took multiple attempts to access HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, Surfshark was unable to bypass Netflix’s geo-restrictions during my testing, which is a huge bummer considering that it’s arguably the most popular streaming service out there. However, it’s important to note that Netflix has recently blocked some of Surfshark’s IP addresses, so this issue may be resolved if the provider refreshes its pool of IPs.

On the other hand, ExpressVPN consistently outperforms Surfshark in terms of unblocking capabilities. While Surfshark has struggled with accessing BBC iPlayer in recent times, ExpressVPN continues to provide seamless access to this service. As a result, ExpressVPN takes the lead in my comparison between these two VPNs for streaming purposes.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Torrenting

Neither of the VPN providers offers torrenting-optimized servers. Despite this, I figured it would be a good idea to see how the two VPN giants fare against each other when used for this purpose. As it turns out, there is one clear winner here.

For instance, when I conducted a speed test, I expected ExpressVPN to outshine Surfshark due to its fast download speeds. However, the results of my test showed otherwise.

To compare the two VPN providers, I used the automatic server option to download a 1GB test file on 3 Mbps internet. While Surfshark initially started slowly, it quickly gathered pace and reached a maximum speed of 0.4 Mbps compared to ExpressVPN’s 0.41 Mbps. Although Surfshark’s download speed was slower, it completed the download in 75 minutes, beating ExpressVPN by six minutes.

Surfshark outperformed ExpressVPN when it comes to torrenting by a few minutes. This is because Surfshark proved to be more consistent in its performance, despite its slower maximum download speed, whereas with ExpressVPN, there was a lot of dips along the way. In conclusion, Surfshark gets the point in this round for providing reliable and efficient service when it comes to torrenting.

Winner: Surfshark

Gaming

When playing multiplayer games, your internet connection speed matters, but latency is the most important metric to look at in order to ensure that your experience is as smooth as possible. I hate when ping gets in the way of my killstreaks, or worse yet, gets me killed in fast-paced first person shooters.

Surfshark and ExpressVPN don’t offer dedicated gaming servers, which is a pity, seeing as some of their competitors, such as Cyberghost have had it for years. However, gamers looking to play on servers abroad will still be able to get plenty of gametime using both services.

If you want to play online titles using a VPN, keep in mind that you’ll have a much better time using server locations that are closer to where you live, as the further away you get, the higher the latency will be. I tested both services playing Call of Duty: Warzone and GTA Online on a few US servers (Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City), and the ping remained between 25-50ms, which is more than good enough to enjoy an uninterrupted experience.

Once I got further away from North America, though, it became much more noticeable. To test the latency for gaming, I connected to the UK servers. With ExpressVPN, the browser speed test displayed a ping of 70-80ms, but in-game, I was getting 150-200ms, which had a noticeable, negative effect on the gameplay. On Surfshark, it was a lot better, and my in-game ping remained at a steady 90-100ms. It wasn’t ideal by any means, but I’d consider it good enough. So, if you’re planning to engage in intercontinental gaming sessions often, you might want to consider getting Surfshark.

I also tested both VPNs’ performance when using game streaming services, namely xCloud and Nvidia’s GeForce NOW. Much to my disappointment, neither Surfshark nor ExpressVPN proved good enough to handle cloud gaming, even for slow-paced, single-player titles.

Winner: Surfshark

Category Winner: Tie

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: Which Service Comes Out on Top?

 

Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both excellent VPN providers that have been in the industry for years now. As I expected before comparing them for the purposes of this review, there was not much separating these services in terms of the most important features, such as speed, security, and privacy features. However, if I absolutely had to pick one of these to spend money on and use on a daily basis, it would be Surfshark. It’s cheaper than ExpressVPN, and on top of that, it allows for unlimited simultaneous connections, which is definitely the main advantage it holds over ExpressVPN.

 

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$6.67
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ExpressVPN

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No logs policy
  • Allows torrenting
  • Works in China
  • 24/7 live chat support

Cons

  • No dedicated IP address
  • Kill Switch only available for desktop
  • More expensive than direct competitors

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    • No logs policy
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