NordVPN vs. Surfshark 2023: Comparing Two Top VPNs
VPNs are perfect if you use a lot of 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. With them, anyone can easily create a VPN tunnel in a matter of minutes, hiding their IP address and location. Only one question remains: Which is the 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. 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 and Features
The first things we looked at among the VPNs in our sample were how user-friendly their apps were, and which features they included.
There isn't much difference between NordVPN and Surfshark: 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 that you can connect to VPN servers on. 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 VPN features, as well as a few extras. With NordVPN, you'll get five different types of special servers, like 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's Multi-Hop feature allows users to create two VPN connections at the same time. You can also manage which apps use your VPN tunnel thanks to its support of split tunneling.
Both provide 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. It's too close to call so far as features and user-friendliness are concerned.
When it comes to servers, both NordVPN and Surfshark post impressive numbers. NordVPN provides access to more than 5,000 servers across 60 countries, while Surfshark can boast 3,200 servers in 65 countries. This means that NordVPN has the upper hand in terms of server power, while Surfshark is more international, covering Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Venezuela. These are mostly virtual servers, however.
NordVPN has more servers, but Surfshark's global footprint is larger.
At the end of the day, NordVPN's server advantage trumps Surfshark's slightly better international presence and the round goes to NordVPN.
Performance is another aspect that we can easily assess in numbers. 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 them 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 BBC iPlayer). Beyond that, it's also important whether a VPN can get around Internet restrictions and censorship, like those in China.
Both NordVPN and Surfshark delivered across the board and performed equally well at both streaming geo-blocked content and connecting to websites normally blocked in China.
Even though NordVPN is slightly ahead in terms of speed, the difference between the two is so slight that we can't designate a winner.
Security and Privacy
We didn't find any DNS leaks when connected to NordVPN or Surfshark servers.
Another aspect to pay attention to is where a provider is headquartered since the laws in that jurisdiction decide how they 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 has relatively lax data privacy laws.
Once again, there's almost nothing separating the two VPNs. Thanks to their support of the newest protocols, regular and independent security audits, and corporate basing in 'data safe' countries, we can't name a clear winner.
So far as customer support is concerned, we take two factors into consideration. The first is static support, often in the form of a help center featuring articles, guides, and FAQs that users can consult for help in operating their VPN. Beyond that, we also assess which options a provider offers for direct support, and how responsive and competent it 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 tiny edge over NordVPN.
How much you 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 priced 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 cost 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 are minor, 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 geo-blocking, and Surfshark connections allegedly generate too many captchas when surfing.
Even though both providers received similar scores, NordVPN is slightly 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 slightly better server network and customer reviews. For users looking for a short-term VPN, its monthly and annual subscriptions are also just a bit better than Surfshark's.
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 better support response times and edging out NordVPN in that area. As we noted above if you're shopping for a long-term VPN solution, a 24-month Surfshark subscription will cost 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 25 other providers from our sample, be sure to consult our comprehensive EXPERTE.com VPN test.