NordVPN vs Surfshark

Navigating the many VPN choices can feel daunting, especially if you’re a first-time user. Have you ever felt lost amidst the technical jargon of protocols, advanced tools, or traffic obfuscation? You’re not alone. Without an in-depth networking knowledge, deciphering the best fit for your needs becomes challenging.

After extensive research and rigorous testing, we’ve crafted an insightful comparison between NordVPN and Surfshark, two frontrunners in the VPN world. Not only will we show the unique strengths and weaknesses of each, but we’ll also explain those complex features, translating them into real-world guidance for you.

So, without further ado, let’s get started with our NordVPN vs. Surfshark comparison:

Highlights

NordVPN

  • Expansive server network
  • One of the top performers for speed
  • Works with plenty of popular streaming services
  • Strong security and privacy features

Surfshark

  • Allows unlimited multiple connections
  • Fast, reliable speeds and unlimited bandwidth
  • Strong on security, true no logs policy
  • Excellent unblocking ability

NordVPN vs. Surfshark pricing

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
Subscription periodsOne month, one year, two yearsOne month, one year, two years
Special offer63% discount on the 2-year plan
Highest price per month$12.99$17.95
Lowest monthly cost$3.09$2.19
Money back guarantee30 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

NordVPN and Surfshark both cost $12.95 per month, which is on the higher end. However, as both of these VPNs offer dramatic discounts on their multi-year plans, they’re best suited to users who are looking for long-term protection.

In fact, the price reductions are so significant that if you’re willing to subscribe for a year, we recommend opting for the two-year plan instead.

With NordVPN a two-year subscription costs $88.83 and includes three months extra, which effectively cuts the cost to $3.29 per month. With Surfshark, two years costs $59.76 and you get an extra two months for free, averaging out at just $2.30 per month. As you can see, these are huge discounts when compared to the monthly costs.

Both of these services include a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means you can try them out for a month and simply get your money back if you’re not impressed.

Best Deal for NordVPN:Save 63% when you choose NordVPN’s two-year subscription and get 3 months FREE.

Best Deal for Surfshark:Cut the monthly price by over 80% with Surfshark’s two-year deal.

Surfshark vs NordVPN features

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
Simultaneous Connections10Unlimited
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV
Manual install devicesSelect routersSelect routers
Free extrasAd-blocking, Dark Web Monitor, MeshNet, malware-scanning, automatic wifi protection, browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and FirefoxAutomatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and malware-scanning. Extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. Stealth mode.
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

Both NordVPN and Surfshark have excellent multi-platform support, with apps for all major platforms and a command line-based installer for Linux systems. These services also have a few helpful privacy features in common, including automatic ad-blocking and malware scanning, as well as extensions for Firefox and Chrome. It’s worth mentioning that these browser extensions only secure your browser traffic and won’t allow you to use applications like P2P clients or messaging apps anonymously.

That said, each service offers something the other doesn’t. NordVPN has recently introduced a Dark Web monitor that’ll alert you if your data is leaked, as well as MeshNet, a feature that helps users securely connect several of their devices over long distances. Surfshark, meanwhile, has a toggleable stealth mode and a feature that swaps your IP address periodically for even greater privacy.

The biggest difference between NordVPN and Surfshark is the connection limit. NordVPN permits up to ten simultaneous connections. In contrast, Surfshark allows an unlimited number of connections, making it a very attractive option if you’re looking to protect lots of devices at once.

Streaming comparison

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks Sky Go
Unblocks Prime Video
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Unblocks ABC
Unblocks CBS
Unblocks NBC
Unblocks ITV
Unblocks Channel 4
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

These are two of the best services around when it comes to streaming. Previously, NordVPN was the undisputed champion, but Surfshark has improved since the last time we tested it and succeeded everywhere its rival did.

NordVPN is a favorite among users who stream frequently, in part because it unblocks many of the most popular streaming services abroad. However, Surfshark performed admirably in this area, matching NordVPN in most of our tests. While Surfshark was able to unblock several major platforms, it couldn’t bypass ABC’s geo-blocking, whereas NordVPN could.

It’s worth noting that both VPNs perform well with Netflix and can technically access the service on whichever server you choose; they’ll just redirect you to the American version if they don’t work with a particular library.

Check out our complete guide on the best VPNs for streaming.

Which of these VPNs work in China?

China has some of the widest-reaching internet restrictions in the world and blocks most VPNs outright. It can be incredibly difficult for most VPNs to bypass such blocks. Despite this, both of these VPNs work in China, once they’ve been configured properly.

All Surfshark users have to do to browse anonymously in China is turn on the NoBorders feature (Settings > Advanced > NoBorders). The process is similar for NordVPN users, although in this case, you have to specifically tell the app that you’d like to use its specialized obfuscated servers (Settings > Advanced > Obfuscated Servers) and then choose one of these from the main screen.

You should note that the Great Firewall currently blocks access to the NordVPN and Surfshark websites. This means that you’ll have to install your chosen service before arriving in China.

Setup and interface

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
Automatic setup wizardLinux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, Android, iOS, Linux, MacOS
Main location selectionMap-based/List-basedList-based
Extra settings pages
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

These VPNs both have user-friendly desktop apps. NordVPN has recently had a redesign, giving it a cleaner appearance and bringing features like split tunneling to every version of the app. Users can choose a server location either from a list or a map, and specialized servers (such as those for torrenting or enhanced privacy) are available directly on the main page.

NordVPN windows app screenshot

Surfshark’s desktop app, on the other hand, takes a “less is more” approach. Its main screen has a simple quick-connect button and access to a few of your most recently-used servers. Settings are easy enough to navigate, though it’s worth mentioning that three of the five tabs on the left are for features that you can’t actually use without signing up for Surfshark One, which costs extra.

Surfshark windows app server list

NordVPN’s mobile app retains the map-based layout from the desktop version, but removes the sidebar, instead placing a quick-connect button and recent servers front and center. Scrolling down reveals a full list of available countries and specialty servers. Certain features have been removed, like the kill switch (on Android) and the ability to use obfuscated servers, but automatic wifi protection and ad-blocking are still available. In fact, Android users recently got the ability to use multi-hop servers too.

Surfshark’s mobile app is almost identical to its desktop version, except the sidebar runs along the bottom of the screen. More importantly, most of its security features are available and in some cases, expanded upon. For instance, the Android app lets you send smaller packets to conserve data when on mobile wifi, and you can choose between Surfshark’s kill switch and the one that’s built into the OS.

Servers and performance

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
Server countries111100
Total number of servers6,000+3,200
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

NordVPN has a larger network by far (8,200+ servers vs around 3,200), but this doesn’t tell the full story. After all, every server is configured differently, so it’s not simply a case of more being better. We can see that Surfshark offers a significantly higher number of locations, something it’s put a lot of effort into over the last year.

So, how do these services compare when it comes to performance? Almost identically! They each averaged around 190 Mbps in our most recent tests, though it’s worth mentioning that for NordVPN, this actually represents a steep reduction in average speeds since the last time we checked. In any case, these remain two of the fastest VPNs on the market.

No valueNordVPN
WebsiteNordVPN.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)354 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)262 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)284 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
No valueSurfshark
WebsiteSurfshark.com
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)521 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)702 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)561 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

Below, you’ll find a list of every country where these VPNs have servers:

NordVPNSurfshark
Albania
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Malaysia
Mexico
Moldova
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nigeria
Norway
Paraguay
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Vietnam

NordVPN has servers in 111 countries, which is around the industry standard. Notably, this includes a few less-commonly-seen locations like the UAE and Vietnam. Surfshark, however, has much more representation across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with servers in Ghana, Algeria, Morocco, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, to name but a few places.

Security

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, NordLynxOpenVPN, WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-2048
Kill Switch
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

These services both allow you to connect using OpenVPN protocols but Surfshark also supports WireGuard, the newest major player in the industry. This feature is known for being easier to audit, and faster over long-distance connections. In fact, NordVPN actually bases its own proprietary protocol, NordLynx, on WireGuard, citing its “lean architecture” as a major selling point.

Both use 256-bit AES encryption, which is effectively uncrackable. This essentially scrambles your traffic using a secret key, meaning anyone looking in can only see meaningless data. NordVPN uses a 4096-bit RSA key to let your device communicate with the VPN privately. In contrast, Surfshark uses 2048-bit RSA keys, which are still secure, but slightly less so.

NordVPN and Surfshark both offer a kill switch on desktop (though mobile users may have to replicate this using their phone’s settings). A kill switch stops all data transferal whenever you lose connection suddenly, ensuring you never browse without protection. Additionally, these VPNs both use private DNS servers, meaning no third party ever has access to your internet traffic.

Finally, each service has its own cloaking technology, which is used to circumvent VPN blocking and country-wide internet restrictions. NordVPN uses Obfsproxy, a tool that reshapes your traffic, hiding the signs that you’re using a VPN at all. Surfshark, however, has its own proprietary software called NoBorders, which presumably works in a similar manner. We do, however, always recommend being vigilant when using proprietary software as it is much more difficult for us to test on your behalf.

Privacy

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
HQ base of operationPanamaThe Netherlands
Connection logs Effectively none
Activity logs
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, RippleBitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

NordVPN and Surfshark are based in Panama and the Netherlands, respectively. These countries don’t have any mandatory data retention laws, making them ideal locations for operating a VPN.

NordVPN does not keep any logs whatsoever, though it does record advertising IDs on mobile. Over a long enough period, these could be used to identify you, so we’d recommend clearing them regularly.

Surfshark keeps limited information such as how often you use the service and if the app has crashed, but none of this can be used to identify you. As such, whichever of these services you use, you’ll be nearly completely anonymous online. If you’d like even greater privacy, you can sign up with a throwaway email address and pay with cryptocurrency.

Surfshark vs NordVPN for Gaming

NordVPN and Surfshark both have apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. This means you can easily use either of the VPNs for gaming.

Users who want to play games on consoles like PlayStation or Xbox have the option to either share their VPN connection with their PC or Mac via an ethernet connection or set up their computer as a VPN-enabled virtual router.

In addition, both Surfshark and NordVPN have router compatibility. This means you can set up the VPN connection on a VPN-compatible router (both providers have guides for various makes and models) and then connect your console to the wifi to protect it with the VPN. This removes the need to connect to the VPN on the console itself.

It is also worth noting that both Surfshark and NordVPN provide a Smart DNS service, at no extra cost. This provides another way to set up your console with a spoofed location, which gives you another option for accessing foreign game servers. Just remember that a Smart DNS connection will not provide the additional privacy benefits you get with a fully encrypted VPN tunnel.

Perhaps the only noticeable difference between these two VPNs for gaming is that NordVPN is slightly faster. That said, they both provide exceptionally fast speeds and they both provide Wireguard connections (NordLynx is a Wireguard fork). Thus, overall, there is little to set these two VPNs apart when it comes to using them for online gaming.

NordVPN vs Surfshark for torrenting safely

Both Surfshark and NordVPN permit torrenting throughout their network, and they have servers that have been set up to be optimized for P2P connections. In addition, both of these services offer robust AES encryption, and highly secure VPN tunnels that can be used to torrent privately and securely.

The VPN tunnels with either of these services will prevent your ISP from tracking what you do while torrenting. They also prevent fellow peers from being able to detect your home IP, which could create issues if you connect to a nefarious peer (by allowing them to scan for open ports, for example.)

It is also worth noting that neither NordVPN nor Surfshark offer port forwarding, so if this feature is important to you, you may want to look elsewhere. That said, both these VPNs offer exceptional speeds and security for torrenting regularly on either a Mac or Windows machine.

Customer service

No valueNordVPNSurfshark
WebsiteNordVPN.comSurfshark.com
24/7 live chat
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time3 hours, 45 mins2 hours, 28 minutes
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$3.09
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free

NordVPN and Surfshark clearly take customer support seriously. Getting in touch is easy, and both providers offer an expansive, searchable knowledge base. As such, you should be able to resolve some of the most common problems on your own. NordVPN even has a YouTube channel with video walkthroughs.

These VPNs both provide 24/7 support over live chat; NordVPN is run by an in-house team, whereas Surfshark’s is outsourced. We found that both teams responded promptly (usually within a few seconds). This means that if you need assistance, live chat is likely the easiest way to get help.

That said, there might be times when users can’t access live chat (if they’re in China, for instance). With this in mind, we sent three questions to both services by email. You’ll find the average response time below, as well as whether our question was answered or not:

NordVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Can I install NordVPN on a DD-WRT router?3 hours, 52 minutesYes
How do I set up NordVPN for use in China?4 hours, 44 minutesYes
Does NordVPN protect against WebRTC leaks?9 hours, 15 minutes1Yes
Surfshark
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Can I install Surfshark on a DD-WRT router?5 hours, 47 minutes1Yes
How do I set up Surfshark for use in China?9 hours, 25 mins1Yes
Does Surfshark protect against WebRTC leaks?21 minutes1Yes

These services had a similar average email response time. Replies were easy to follow, and both VPNs provided step-by-step guides to configuring their apps for use in China. If live chat is unavailable for any reason, email support is a perfectly viable alternative.

The winner: NordVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux
  • Background FireTV

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

This was a very close contest between two exceptional VPNs. Surfshark is fast, offers strong security and privacy features, has no connection limit, and works in China, which already elevates it above many of its rivals. When you consider that Surfshark is very affordable and also unblocks some of the most popular streaming platforms, it becomes clear that it would make an excellent VPN for day-to-day usage.

However, we feel that NordVPN is the better choice overall. It’s a tad faster, offers all of the same features that Surfshark does, and actually includes a few new ones, like its MeshNet tool. Plus it’s better suited to power users, with options to obtain a dedicated IP address, hide your device from others on the network, and use custom DNS servers.

NordVPN Coupon
Up to 74% off + 3 months FREE
Get Deal >
Discount applied automatically
Surfshark Coupon
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
Get Deal >
Discount applied automatically

Have any independent audits been done on NordVPN and Surfshark?

Yes and no need to take our word on how secure these two providers are. Both NordVPN and Surfshark have been independently audited in recent times.

NordVPN has had three audits of its no-logs policy, the latest by Deloitte in 2022, confirming that it doesn’t record or store user activity logs. Deloitte also inspected NordVPN’s server configuration and deployment processes. NordVPN’s security was audited by Cure53, a cybersecurity firm.

Surfshark’s server infrastructure was also audited by Cure53, which found no serious issues. Surfshark also passed its first no-logs audit by Deloitte in 2022, which examined the configuration and management of its IT systems. Surfshark had its browser extensions audited in 2018 and its server infrastructure in 2021.

These audits provide assurance that the VPN providers’ claims are genuine. Note an audit’s findings are only valid for the scope and duration of the audit. We have no reason to think these two providers are doing anything different.

NordVPN vs Surfshark FAQs

Which VPN is faster: NordVPN or Surfshark?

We tested NordVPN and Surfshark’s speeds by connecting to servers in multiple locations at various times of day, running a speed test, and then averaging the results.

In our most recent testing, NordVPN was slightly faster, with an average download speed of 196 Mbps to Surfshark’s 189 Mbps. To be clear, these are both particularly speedy VPNs, and most people wouldn’t notice much of a difference between the two in terms of performance.

Does Nord or Surfshark have easier to use apps?

Both providers have put a lot of effort into their apps’ usability, and it shows. You can connect in a single click, for instance, and the menus are neatly organized, making it easy to find whatever you’re looking for. As such, we’d say NordVPN and Surfshark are about evenly matched when it comes to user-friendliness.

Do NordVPN and Surfshark both work with Netflix?

Most VPNs simply won’t work with a single Netflix library, which is why we were so surprised to see NordVPN and Surfshark both securely access several. There were a couple of differences, though, with NordVPN unable to access Netflix Sweden and Surfshark not working with Netflix Korea. That said, if you just want to access a more popular library (like Netflix US), either service will work.

Which VPN has the best international server coverage?

While NordVPN’s servers are located across 60 countries, Surfshark’s servers can be found in 100 countries. As such, it has servers in countries that NordVPN doesn’t such as Colombia and Nigeria. This is far more countries than most VPNs and makes it an excellent choice if you frequently travel abroad.

Based on the above, Surfshark offers the best international server coverage. However, NordVPN does offer more servers overall (over 5,000 to Surfshark’s 3,200).

Is Surfshark owned by NordVPN?

The answer is yes. Surfshark is now owned by the same company that owns NordVPN: Nord Security. This surprised many people in the VPN industry, as Surfshark had already established itself as one of the leading independent providers in such a short time.

Which is more secure? Surfshark or NordVPN?

These providers are two of the most security-conscious on the market. They both keep you safe using uncrackable encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, a kill switch, and tracker-blocking. The similarities don’t end there, though: each offers some form of cloaking (NordVPN has obfuscated servers, whereas Surfshark has a toggleable stealth mode) and has been independently audited to prove that it keeps no logs. 

If we had to find a fault in one provider’s security, it’d be that NordVPN stores advertising IDs on mobile devices. These aren’t a huge problem and can be cleared manually (NordVPN’s website explains how to do this), but over time could be used to identify you. Regardless, this remains a fantastic choice for security, and you really can’t go wrong with either NordVPN or Surfshark.

Is it legal to use Surfshark or NordVPN?

Using Surfshark or NordVPN is legal in most countries, including the US, Canada, and most of Europe. However, VPNs are illegal in some countries like North Korea, Belarus, Oman, Iraq, and Turkmenistan. VPN usage is restricted or heavily regulated in other countries, such as China, Russia, Turkey, UAE, and India. It’s important to note that while using a VPN is legal in many countries, engaging in illegal activities while using a VPN is still against the law. For example, downloading copyrighted material or hacking remains illegal regardless of whether you use a VPN or not.

We advise you to always check your location’s specific laws and regulations before using a VPN.

Does Surfshark and NordVPN share the same VPN infrastructure?

Although both VPN providers are owned by the same parent company, we don’t believe Surfshark and NordVPN share the same VPN infrastructure. We have evidence of this, with each provider having its own unique features and technologies.

NordVPN, as detailed in the search results, operates a large network with over 8,200 servers across 111 countries. It uses advanced technologies such as AES-256 encryption, its proprietary NordLynx protocol (a variant of WireGuard), and offers specialized servers like Double VPN and Onion over VPN. NordVPN’s infrastructure also includes features like threat protection and a strict no-logs policy, which has been verified through multiple audits.

Surfshark, on the other hand, has a unique server setup and innovative technologies. It operates over 3,200 servers in 100 countries, all of which are RAM-only servers. This setup ensures that all information is wiped when servers are rebooted, supporting their no-logs policy. The service has also introduced innovative technologies like Camouflage Mode and NoBorders Mode, and has pioneered Nexus technology. This technology connects all its servers into a single network using Software-Defined Networking (SDN), enhancing speed, security, and privacy.

This indicates that while both VPN providers aim to offer secure and private internet access, they do so using their own proprietary technologies and server networks, which are not shared between them. However, it’s intriguing to consider the possibility of them sharing resources in the future for efficiency gains.

See also: