NordVPN vs. Surfshark 2023: Comparing The Two Popular VPN Providers
VPNs are ideal if you often connect to public WiFi, or don't want to leave traces of your activity at home. NordVPN and Surfshark are two of the most user-friendly providers out there, allowing anyone to easily create a VPN tunnel in a matter of minutes, concealing their IP address and location. Only one question remains: Which of the two is best?
In our comprehensive EXPERTE.com VPN comparison, we assessed 27 services according to several factors. When the dust settled, both NordVPN and Surfshark emerged near the top of our ranking. In order to help you reach a decision, we wanted to take a closer look at both, evaluating them directly against one another.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark
Installation & Features
The first factors we assessed when evaluating VPNs from our sample were how user-friendly their apps were, and which features they provided access to.
Between NordVPN and Surfshark, there's not much difference: Both scored highly thanks to their equally user-friendly desktop and mobile clients that can be installed and configured in a matter of seconds. NordVPN's app features an interactive world map on which you can directly select which VPN server you'd like to connect to. With Surfshark, it's possible to expand (or collapse) the app depending on how much information you'd like to see.
NordVPN's app impresses with its zoomable and scrollable world map.
Both providers offer access to all of the most important features we look for in a VPN, as well as a few extras. With NordVPN, you'll get five different types of special servers, such as Double VPN (connections are created through two servers, enhancing security) and Onion Over VPN (connections are made via the Tor network). Split tunneling is also supported.
For its part, Surfshark allows users to create two VPN connections at the same thanks to its Multi-Hop feature. You can also manage which apps use your VPN tunnel thanks to the app's support of split tunneling.
With NordVPN and Surfshark, you'll also have access to a kill switch (for automatically severing your VPN connection if a disruption is noticed) and static IP addresses.
With Surfshark, you can manually connect to a particular server, or let the app link you to the nearest one.
Similarly, both providers offer excellent mobile apps. As such, we can't name a clear winner so far as features and user-friendliness are concerned.
When it comes to servers, both NordVPN and Surfshark post impressive numbers. As of December 2021, NordVPN provides access to more than 5,200 servers across 60 countries, while Surfshark can boast 3,200 servers in 65 countries. Accordingly, NordVPN has the upper hand in terms of server power, while Surfshark has somewhat more of an international presence. Some of the countries that Surfshark covers (which NordVPN doesn't) include Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Venezuela. Before reading too much into this, it is perhaps important to note that most of these are virtual servers.
NordVPN has more servers, but Surfshark's global footprint is larger.
At the end of the day, NordVPN's advantage in servers trumps Surfshark's slightly better international presence and the round goes to NordVPN.
Performance is another aspect that we can easily assess numerically. To evaluate each provider from our sample, we connect several times per day to random servers in Germany and the US via a 1 GB/s server in Frankfurt. After measuring the upload and download speeds of each connection, we compile these into an average.
Once again, NordVPN and Surfshark are neck and neck taking first and second place, respectively, in our speed ranking.
But speed isn't everything. For that reason, we also check how each provider fares in enabling access to content from abroad on popular video streaming platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and the BBC iPlayer). Beyond that, it's also important to gauge whether a VPN can circumvent Internet restrictions, such as those prevalent in China.
Both NordVPN and Surfshark delivered across the board here leaving no causes for concern either in terms of streaming otherwise geo-blocked content, or accessing websites normally non-accessible in China.
Even though NordVPN is slightly ahead in terms of speed, the difference is so minimal that we made an executive decision not to name a clear winner.
Security and Privacy
To gain a clearer picture of how secure a VPN service is, we examine which VPN protocols they make available. In this area, both NordVPN and Surfshark offer access to WireGuard and OpenVPN, which as of the time of writing, reflect the state of the art.
Similarly, the two providers also passed our VPN leak tests (DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6) with flying colors.
No DNS leaks were determined when connected to either NordVPN or Surfshark servers.
Another aspect to pay attention to is where a provider is located or headquartered since the laws in that jurisdiction correlate to how strictly (or loosely) they need to handle data. Both NordVPN and Surfshark are based in countries that don't have strict data storage laws (Panama and the British Virgin Islands, respectively). Similarly, neither country is a party to any international surveillance or security agreements, and have relatively lax data privacy laws.
Once again, there's almost nothing separating the pair of VPNs. Thanks to their support of the newest protocols, regular and independent security audits, and corporate headquartering in 'data safe' countries, we once again can't name a clear winner.
So far as customer support is concerned, we take two factors into consideration. The first of these is static support, often in the form of a help center featuring articles, guides, and FAQs that users can consult if unsure about how to operate their VPN. Beyond that, we also assess which options a provider offers for direct support, and how responsive and competent this is.
Both advertise 24/7 live chat support, and we never had to wait longer than a minute for a response. Emailed queries were answered within 12 hours (NordVPN) and 7 hours (Surfshark), respectively.
Surfshark has slightly shorter email response times than NordVPN.
Both providers offer well-stocked static support areas featuring FAQs and guides to important features. There's almost nothing separating the two VPNs, however, Surfshark's slightly faster email response time gives it a nudge ahead of NordVPN.
How much you'll pay per month for a VPN depends on the length of your subscription. NordVPN and Surfshark are available monthly, yearly, or for 2-years.
NordVPN's two, shorter subscriptions cost slightly less than those of Surfshark, however, Surfshark's 24-month package offers the lowest monthly price overall.
Below, we've provided a detailed price list for both providers:
|24 months||12 months||1 month|
|Contract Period (Months)||24||12||1|
|Number of Devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of Servers||3,200||3,200||3,200|
|Number of Countries||100||100||100|
|No Server Logs|
|2-year plan||1 year plan||1-month plan|
|Contract Period (Months)||24||12||1|
|Number of Devices||6||6||6|
|Number of Servers||5,000||3,400||3,400|
|Number of Countries||60||60||60|
|No Server Logs|
Determining which of the two is best when it comes to price depends largely on how long you intend to use a VPN. If you only want to try out a VPN or use it for a year, NordVPN will set you back less. On the other hand, should you be in the market for a long-term (2-year or more) solution, your wallet will thank you for going with Surfshark. Because the differences aren't substantial, we can't call a winner for this round.
After perusing a number of review aggregators, it becomes clear that both services enjoy an equally "good" reputation. Surfshark's users commend its price-performance ratio, while those of NordVPN highlight its fast and easy-to-reach support. There is some criticism though: NordVPN apparently has occasional issues with geoblocking, and Surfshark connections allegedly generate too many captchas when surfing.
Even though both providers received similar scores, NordVPN is a few fractions of a point ahead.
Surfshark Customer Ratings
NordVPN Customer Ratings
After seven rounds, two went to NordVPN, one went to Surfshark, and four were undecided. Accordingly, NordVPN edges out Surfshark owing to its better server network and customer reviews. For users looking for a short-term VPN, its monthly and annual subscription options are also slightly more attractive than those of Surfshark.
At the same time, it was a very close call, and Surfshark has shown itself to be a real contender. The relatively young provider (founded in 2018), didn't receive a lower score than "good" in any of the areas we assessed, offering slightly better support response times and edging out NordVPN. As we noted above if in the market for a long-term VPN solution, a 24-month Surfshark subscription will set you back less than two years with NordVPN.
It was a photo finish, but NordVPN was a hair ahead, making it our overall winner. Since NordVPN and Surfshark offer nearly identical features and performance, either provider is a solid choice.
Overall Winner: NordVPN
For detailed reviews of each, as well as the 20 other providers from our sample, be sure to consult our comprehensive EXPERTE.com VPN assessment.