NordVPN Alternatives » A Review of 22 VPN Services

Martin Gschwentner
Author
Last update

A VPN has a variety of good uses, from enabling anonymous Internet surfing and providing secure access to public WLAN connections to bypassing annoying geo-blocks. NordVPN, the top performer in our EXPERTE.com VPN comparison, offers all of the above, delivering what we consider to be the best overall package on the market. However, NordVPN is just one of many VPN services.

For our EXPERTE.com VPN comparison, we rigorously assessed 22 providers from all over the world. In the end, NordVPN emerged atop our winners' podium, but don't discard the other services! In some areas, NordVPN's competitors are enhancing their capabilities to challenge the provider's position.

Below, we'll introduce you to some of the best alternatives to NordVPN:

1.

Bargain Subscription: Surfshark

Surfshark VPN Test
Surfshark VPN
(75,808)
3200+ servers in 65 countries
Unlimited number of devices
Many apps (Linux, FireTV, ...)
Saves no logs
Very cheap on the 24-month plan
Surfshark is one of the cheapest providers on the market, but besides the price also impresses with strong protection, many features and a great support with 24/7 live chat.
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
unlimited
Protocols
3
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
Surfshark 24 months
$2.49
monthly price
Visit Website »
Get 83% Discount
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good

In the age of subscriptions, we gladly pay for various services on a monthly basis, with a VPN just being another cost to add to the list. NordVPN is competitively priced, however, lurking at #3 in our VPN ranking is an even more affordable rival: Surfshark.

Launched in 2017, Surfshark is relatively young compared to many of the other providers we assessed, however, it didn't shy away from the competition across the five categories we assessed our sample in. On the contrary: In our performance evaluation, Surfshark secured second place, making it almost on par with NordVPN.

In addition, Surfshark comes with an excellent package of features that allow split tunneling, multihop routing, static IP addresses, while also including an ad blocker.

Surfshark offers an excellent price-performance ratio.

Surfshark is impressive all-round, and their most affordable 2-year package costs $1 less per month than a NordVPN subscription for the same duration. In fact, considering that the handling and features are similar to those offered by NordVPN, Surfshark's price-performance ratio is actually better.

Nice variety of features, including split tunneling

Intuitive applications

Excellent performance

Server network could be a bit larger

Review Score
4.4 / 5
04/2021
good
Visit Website
Performance
5.0 / 5
Installation and Features
4.7 / 5
Customer Support
4.3 / 5
Server Network
4.0 / 5
Security and Privacy
4.0 / 5
2.

Better Server Network: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Test
ExpressVPN
(459,682)
3000+ Server
160 cities in 94 countries
Excellent performance
Saves no logs
30-day money-back guarantee
ExpressVPN impresses with strong performance, a huge server network and excellently designed applications, but this quality also comes at a higher price.
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
3
Protocols
7
Contract Period
1 - 12 months
ExpressVPN 12 Months
$8.33
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
4.7 / 5
excellent

One of the five criteria we looked at in every VPN review from our series was the size of the provider's server network. Here, not only does the sheer number of servers matter, but also how many countries those servers are located in.

NordVPN boasts an impressive server count, with more than 5,400 servers across 59 countries. However, our runner-up, ExpressVPN, has a network with more global reach: its more than 3,000 servers can be found in an impressive 94 countries.

ExpressVPN scores points for its impressive server network.

A good server network isn't the only argument in favor of ExpressVPN; its apps are user-friendly, the service performs excellently, and support through live chat is never more than a few seconds away.

However, ExpressVPN's 12-month subscription (its longest and most affordable) costs nearly double what a year with NordVPN does. Privacy enthusiasts have also expressed skepticism ever since ExpressVPN's 2021 purchase by Kape Technologies, which achieved notoriety in the past as a malware distributor under the name Crossrider.

Huge server network with 160 locations across 94 countries

Top performance

Straightforward app with a focus on performance

Somewhat costly

Offers few extra features

Questionable parent company

Review Score
4.7 / 5
04/2021
excellent
Visit Website
Performance
5.0 / 5
Customer Support
4.7 / 5
Server Network
4.7 / 5
Security and Privacy
4.7 / 5
Installation and Features
4.3 / 5
3.

Enhanced Privacy: ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN Test
ProtonVPN
(41,581)
Strong focus on security
1200+ servers in 55 countries
Headquarters in Switzerland
Solid performance
Open Source & external audits
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
1 - 10
Protocols
3
Contract Period
0 - 24 months
ProtonVPN Free
$0.00
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
4.3 / 5
good

VPNs offer a multitude of advantages, but for many users, they're primarily a tool for maintaining security and privacy. For that reason, we assess the security promises each provider from our samples makes, whether they have any IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, as well as what conclusions external audits have reached.

In this regard, NordVPN does almost everything right: Their program supports the WireGuard-based protocols NordLynx and OpenVPN, and our assessment didn't uncover leaks. In addition, NordVPN promises to never store any logs that reveal personal or identifying information and the provider has submitted to external audits.

As good as this is, ProtonVPN goes a few steps further: Since 2020, all of its apps have been open-source. As a result, outsiders can easily access the source code and check it for vulnerabilities. ProtonVPN has also submitted to independent security audits.

ProtonVPN also offers dedicated security features. One example is "Secure Core", which, in addition to the normal VPN connection, allows you to route your traffic over secure servers in countries with strong data privacy laws.

ProtonVPN places an especially high premium on their users' security and privacy.

For all of the above reasons, ProtonVPN is an excellent choice for those who are particularly concerned about their privacy. In addition, there's a free plan with no data or speed limits. However, in some respects, such as its performance or server network, ProtonVPN can't keep up with the leading VPN providers from our sample.

Solid performance

Security features, such as "Secure Core"

User-friendly applications

Server network still growing

Few support options

Review Score
4.3 / 5
04/2021
good
Visit Website
Installation and Features
5.0 / 5
Security and Privacy
5.0 / 5
Performance
4.3 / 5
Customer Support
3.7 / 5
Server Network
3.7 / 5
4.

Free Version: hide.me

hide.me VPN Test
hide.me VPN
(21,667)
1900+ servers
75+ locations in 47+ countries
Saves no logs
14-day money-back guarantee
with free plan
Data volume
10 - ∞
Devices
1 - 10
Protocols
7
Contract Period
0 - 24 months
hide.me Free
$0.00
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
4.2 / 5
good

The best VPN services in our comparison, including NordVPN, are mostly premium, meaning that you'll need to pay to use them. However, we also encountered some providers which offer free versions of their VPNs according to the "freemium" model. With these, access to the basics is provided at no cost, however, for extra bells and whistles, some of which are essential, you'll either be greatly limited or unable to access them. All of this is meant to encourage free users to upgrade to a premium (paid) subscription.

Most free VPNs aren't particularly useful owing to their limited data volume (ProtonVPN is an exception in this regard). However, beyond the Swiss provider, you can also check out the relatively generous free version of hide.me that doesn't have any speed limits and comes with 10 GB of data per month.

Apart from ProtonVPN, hide.me offers the most attractive free plan among all of the programs we reviewed.

hide.me also gets points for achieving good-very good scores in most of our assessment categories, and their feature-filled plan which includes split tunneling and Stealth Guard. There's room for improvement in the server network though, as we had to deal with a few severed connections during our evaluation.

Good speeds

User-friendly applications

Nice selection of options and settings

Server network is "only" good

No independent audit since 2015

Review Score
4.2 / 5
04/2021
good
Visit Website
Bedienung & Features
5.0 / 5
Customer Support
4.3 / 5
Performance
4.0 / 5
Server Network
4.0 / 5
Sicherheit & Privatsphäre
3.7 / 5

Other Alternatives

HideMyAss

HideMyAss offers a server network that's second to none, and the service includes interesting features such as automatic IP switching. HideMyAss is also one of the fastest VPN services on the market according to performance tests. They could modernize their applications a bit, however, they are user-friendly.

HideMyAss! VPN Test
HideMyAss! VPN
(79,167)
1100+ servers
290 locations in 210 countries
7 days free trial
Excellent performance
Unreliable for streaming
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
5
Protocols
1
Contract Period
12 - 36 months
HideMyAss! 36 months
$2.99
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
4.3 / 5
good

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access combines multifunctionality and granular settings with user-friendliness. As such, its VPN client can be personalized to a considerable extent thanks to its modular approach. However, performance-wise, the provider isn't very impressive. Moreover, Private Internet Access also belongs to Kape Technologies.

Private Internet Access Test
Private Internet Access
(142,148)
34,000+ servers in 75 countries
Very good VPN client
Wide range of features
No independent security audit
Weak performance in speed test
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
10
Protocols
2
Contract Period
1 - 36 months
Private Internet Access 3 Years
$2.19
monthly price
Visit Website »
Review Score
4.1 / 5
good

CyberGhost

Just like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access, CyberGhost belongs to Kape Technologies. If that doesn't discourage you from using it (there are VPN services with much cleaner records), you'll find elegant apps, a large server network, and solid support.

CyberGhost VPN Test
CyberGhost VPN
(166,961)
6400+ server
90 countries
Saves no logs
45 days money-back guarantee
Reliable Streaming
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
7
Protocols
6
Contract Period
1 - 36 months
CyberGhost 3 Years
$2.48
monthly price
Visit Website »
45 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
3.9 / 5
good

Windscribe

Windscribe is, in our opinion, the third-best free VPN solution on the market after ProtonVPN and hide. me. With Windscribe, you get a monthly data volume of up to 10 GB distributed across all synchronized devices. In addition, you can access ten different server locations, which is more than offered by ProtonVPN. However, Windscribe falls behind in terms of performance.

Windscribe VPN Test
Windscribe VPN
(105,037)
500+ servers in 60+ countries
Free version with 10 GB limit
Connect unlimited devices
Good for video streaming
Headquarters in Canada
Data volume
10 - ∞
Devices
unlimited
Protocols
2
Contract Period
0 - 12 months
Windscribe Free
$0.00
monthly price
Visit Website »
Download for free
Review Score
3.9 / 5
good

Overall Results

In our VPN comparison, we evaluated 22 providers across five categories: "Installation and Usage", "Server Network", "Performance", "Security and Privacy", and "Customer Support". In the end, NordVPN came out on top because it achieved the highest overall score. You can find a complete ranking of all 22 providers here:

NordVPN
Review Score
4.7 / 5
excellent
Visit Website
ExpressVPN
Review Score
4.7 / 5
excellent
Visit Website
Surfshark
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good
Visit Website
ProtonVPN
Review Score
4.3 / 5
good
Visit Website
HideMyAss!
Review Score
4.3 / 5
good
Visit Website
hide.me
Review Score
4.2 / 5
good
Visit Website
Private Internet Access
Review Score
4.1 / 5
good
Visit Website
CyberGhost
Review Score
3.9 / 5
good
Visit Website
Windscribe
Review Score
3.9 / 5
good
Visit Website
PureVPN
Review Score
3.9 / 5
good
Visit Website
VyprVPN
Review Score
3.8 / 5
good
Visit Website
Hotspot Shield
Review Score
3.7 / 5
good
Visit Website
IPVanish
Review Score
3.7 / 5
good
Visit Website
Mullvad
Review Score
3.7 / 5
good
Visit Website
VPN Unlimited
Review Score
3.7 / 5
good
Visit Website
PrivateVPN
Review Score
3.6 / 5
good
Visit Website
TorGuard
Review Score
3.6 / 5
good
Visit Website
TunnelBear
Review Score
3.5 / 5
good
Visit Website
ZenMate
Review Score
3.5 / 5
satisfactory
Visit Website
Avast
Review Score
3.4 / 5
satisfactory
Visit Website
Perfect Privacy
Review Score
3.3 / 5
satisfactory
Visit Website
Avira
Review Score
3.2 / 5
satisfactory
Visit Website

Conclusion

Already there exist a multitude of VPN services to choose from, and the number of options is only growing. NordVPN may deliver the best overall package on the market at an attractive price (especially when it comes to their 2-year package). However, there are a number of comparable VPN services that cost even less (Surfshark), are free (ProtonVPN, hide.me), or that offer even more security features (ProtonVPN).

For those reasons, depending on your budget and the settings and features you need in a VPN, there are plenty of good choices and solid deals apart from the best-in-show of our EXPERTE.com review. The comprehensive review of 22 popular VPN services can be found in our comprehensive EXPERTE.com VPN comparison.

Best Overall 2022
NordVPN Test
NordVPN
(577,766)
5400+ servers, 60 countries
Excellent performance
No logs
6 devices simultaneously
Inexpensive 2-year package
NordVPN combines speed, user-friendliness and functionality into a coherent overall package that is also fairly affordable.
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
6
Protocols
5
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
NordVPN 2-year plan
$3.29
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Best Overall
4.7 / 5
excellent
Author (German Version): Martin Gschwentner
Martin Gschwentner majored in American Studies and Media Studies in Germany, the USA and France and works as a freelance editor in Paris. He is a doctoral student at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Paris Diderot, where he is researching the influence of money on US politics. On EXPERTE.com he writes about IT security, data protection and software for the self-employed and small businesses.
Translator & Editor: Lisa Torelli-Sauer
Other languages:
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