NordVPN vs Surfshark

It’s often difficult to tell which VPN is right for your needs, particularly if you’ve never used one before. For example, some services brag about the various protocols they offer, or their traffic obfuscation features. But unless you have an in-depth understanding of networking concepts, this information is next to useless.

To make things easier, we’ve created a side-by-side comparison of NordVPN and Surfshark, allowing you to see the strengths and weaknesses of each. We’ll also be explaining exactly what each feature actually means and how it will affect your day-to-day usage of the VPN. Without further ado, let’s get started with our NordVPN vs. Surfshark review:

Highlights

NordVPN

  • Expansive server network
  • Fast enough for HD streaming
  • Unblocks popular services abroad
  • Strong security and privacy features

Surfshark

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

Pricing and discounts

NordVPNSurfshark
Subscription periodsOne monthOne month
Six monthsOne year
Two yearsTwo years
Special offer65% discount on two-year plan81% discount on two-year plan
Highest price per month$11.95$12.95
Lowest price per month$4.13$2.49
One-year price$59$77.88 (two six-month plans)
Money-back guarantee30 days30 days

At $11.95 and $12.95 per month, respectively, NordVPN and Surfshark are affordable enough on a month-to-month subscription. 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, you really might as well choose the two-year plan. This is only an extra $40 ($99) for NordVPN, and actually reduces the upfront cost of Surfshark by $18.12 ($59.76).

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 65% when you choose NordVPN’s two-year subscription.

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

Features

NordVPNSurfshark
Simultaneous connections6No limit
Operating system appsWindows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/ FirestickWindows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/ Firestick
Manual install devicesRouters, set-top boxesRouters, set-top boxes
Split tunnelingYes - Windows and AndroidYes
Free extrasAd-blocking, malware-scanning, automatic wifi protection, browser extensions for Chrome and FirefoxMalware-scanning, ad-blocking, and anti-tracking features. Browser extensions (Chrome, Firefox) 

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. For instance, NordVPN allows you to automatically connect whenever you’re using an unsecured wifi network. Meanwhile, Surfshark has a split tunneling feature (known as Whitelister) which lets you specify apps and websites that can bypass the VPN. Crucially, this feature is available on all platforms, whereas NordVPN only offers it on Windows and Android devices.

The biggest difference between NordVPN and Surfshark is the connection limit. NordVPN permits up to six simultaneous connections, which is just above the industry average of five. 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 and unblocking

NordVPNSurfshark
NetflixOver a dozen libraries including Netflix US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, NetherlandsOver a dozen libraries including Netflix US, UK, France, India, Japan, Netherlands
HuluUS, JapanUS, Japan
Sky GoYesYes
Amazon Prime VideoUS, UKUS, UK
BBC iPlayerYesYes
ABCYesNo
CBSYesYes
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Channel 4YesYes

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 unblock the service whichever server you choose; they’ll just redirect you to the American version if they can’t unblock a particular library.

China

China has some of the widest-reaching internet restrictions in the world and blocks most VPNs outright. 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

NordVPNSurfshark
Automatic setup wizardLinux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, AndroidWindows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS
Main location selectionMap-based/List-basedList-based
Extra settings pagesYesYes
Mobile-friendlyYesYes

These VPNs both have user-friendly desktop apps. NordVPN’s app allows you to choose a server location either from a list or a map and lets you connect to specialized servers (such as those for torrenting or enhanced privacy) directly from the main page. Settings can be changed on a different page, and advanced settings are kept separate, making it less likely you’ll accidentally change something you shouldn’t.

Surfshark’s desktop app, on the other hand, takes a “less is more” approach. Its main screen has a simple quick-connect button (with an option to automatically choose the fastest P2P server) and quick access to a few of your most recently-used servers. The only issue with Surfshark’s interface is that settings are effectively spread across three tabs, one of which has two additional submenus. This isn’t a huge problem, but it does make finding a specific setting slightly more difficult.

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.

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

NordVPNSurfshark
Server countries5960+
Total number of servers5,400+3,200+

There’s no contest here: NordVPN has a larger network by far. That said, Surfshark has almost doubled its network size in recent months and covers more countries than its rival.

So what does this mean in practical terms? Essentially, as NordVPN’s users are spread among a higher number of servers, there’s less strain on the network. This makes it more likely that you’ll obtain a low-latency, high-speed connection, allowing you to browse and stream without any interruptions. For what it’s worth, Surfshark’s speeds are impressive, but it’s theoretically more likely to struggle during peak times (though there are other factors that feed into this as well).

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 every country that Surfshark does, except for a handful: Azerbaijan, Colombia, Paraguay, Nigeria, and Russia. NordVPN used to have servers in Russia, but shut them down when a bill was passed that required VPN companies to provide the government with access to their servers.

We contacted Surfshark customer support directly to ask about the security implications of having servers in Russia. A support representative claimed that as Surfshark’s servers are configured to keep no logs, there’s no information to be handed over to the government, and as such, no risk.

Security

NordVPNSurfshark
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynxOpenVPN, IKEv2, Shadowsocks, WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryptionAES-256AES-256
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-2048
Cloaking technologyObfsproxyNoBorders obfuscation
App securityKill switch (all platforms)Kill switch (all platforms)
DNS statusPrivate DNSPrivate DNS

These services both allow you to connect using OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols but Surfshark also supports Shadowsocks (an open-source proxy) and 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 every platform. 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.

Privacy

 NordVPNSurfshark
HQ basePanamaBritish Virgin Islands
Connection logsNoneSome, for diagnostic purposes
Activity logsNoneNone
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, RippleBitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple

NordVPN and Surfshark are based in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, 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. 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.

Configuration

 NordVPNSurfshark
Address allocationSharedShared
Dedicated IP address possibleYes (in France, Germany, the US, the UK, the Netherlands)No
DDoS protectionNoNo
NAT firewallYesNo

These VPNs use shared address allocation. This means that everyone who connects to a particular server shares one IP address. With numerous users all accessing different sites at the same time, it becomes near-impossible to tell who is doing what. NordVPN allows you to pay extra each month in exchange for a dedicated IP address (essentially a server that only you can access). Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for Surfshark users.

Neither of these services provides specialized anti-DDoS servers, but really, any VPN will protect you from DDoS attacks. Most have automatic systems which can switch the server’s IP address if they detect that an attack is taking place. Further, since the impact is spread across the whole server network instead of just your home router, most small or medium-scale attacks will be absorbed with no real effect on performance.

Customer service

 NordVPNSurfshark
Live chatYes (in-house)Yes (ZenDesk)
Ticket supportYesYes
Email supportYesYes
Average email response time4 hours, 57 minutes4 hours, 10 minutes
Phone supportNoNo
Searchable knowledge baseYesYes
Video guidesYesNo

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’s is run by an in-house team whereas Surfshark’s is outsourced. We found that both teams respond 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 both services three questions over 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

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. Its expansive server network and unblocking abilities are second-to-none, allowing you to access whatever you like, wherever you like. This service places a major emphasis on your security and privacy. 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.

Best Deal for NordVPN:Save 65% when you choose NordVPN’s two-year subscription.

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

See also: