Surfshark v ExpressVPN

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are usually pretty easy to use. There’s a lot of complex technology working in the background to make this happen, though, and many providers (understandably) want to let potential customers know all about it. The problem is that unless you’re a computer networking specialist, most of this is likely to go over your head.

Here’s the good news: we’ve put together a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of Surfshark and ExpressVPN so that you can tell at a glance which features they each offer. Of course, we’ll also explain what some of the more advanced features do, in order to give you a better understanding of your security setup. With that out of the way, let’s get started:

In brief

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are excellent choices so you can’t go too far wrong with either. ExpressVPN and Surfshark are both compatible with popular streaming services including Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Max and many more. Both VPNs scored well in our speed tests and offer strong security, although Surfshark edges it in both of these categories.

If you want the best all-round VPN, go with Surfshark’s discounted 2 year deal; it’s hard to beat when it comes to value for money. On the other hand, if you need access to servers in a wider range of countries, or are particularly interested in streaming Netflix, ExpressVPN may be the better choice.

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN highlights

Surfshark

  • Offers strong speeds and access to 3,200+ servers worldwide
  • Works with a wide range of streaming services
  • Major security and privacy focus
  • Has no connection limit

ExpressVPN

  • Plenty of high-speed servers
  • Automatic obfuscation
  • Great for streaming
  • Privacy-first VPN that accepts Bitcoin

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN pricing

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
Subscription periodsOne month, one year, two years1 month, 6 months, 1 year
Special offerThree months free with a 1 year subscription
Highest price per month$17.95$12.95
Lowest monthly cost$2.19$6.67
One year price$41.88 $99.95 (actually for 15 months)
Money back guarantee30 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

ExpressVPN has a nice, simple pricing structure. A single month of coverage costs $12.95 USD, with a slight discount on six-month plans, and nearly half off if you sign up for a year.

Things aren’t quite so straightforward with Surfshark, though. Its Surfshark Starter plan costs $10.99 per month, with discounts of around 60 and 80 percent on its annual and two-year plans, respectively. However, there are also Surfshark One and Surfshark One+ subscriptions that come bundled with extras like antivirus software and a personal data-deletion service.

Each of these VPNs includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. Although you will have to pay upfront, this means you can try them both out and claim a full refund if they fail to impress you. Additionally, Surfshark now offers a seven-day free trial for users who sign up using Google Play or iTunes.

Best Deal for Surfshark:Save more than 80% by choosing Surfshark’s two-year plan.

Best Deal for ExpressVPN:Get 49% off and an extra three months free with ExpressVPN’s one-year subscription.

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN features

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
Simultaneous ConnectionsUnlimited8
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, Routers
Manual install devicesSelect routersCertain routers
Free extrasAutomatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and malware-scanning. Extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. Stealth mode.Password manager (on mobile), ad and tracker-blocking, Smart DNS service. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Vivaldi, and Brave
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

These services both offer excellent multi-platform support, with apps for all major operating systems, as well as command line-based installers for Linux systems. Users can take advantage of a wide range of browser extensions, although it’s worth noting that these don’t secure traffic from any of your other apps.

ExpressVPN has recently added a Threat Protection feature that works blocks ads, trackers, and malicious sites, similar to Surfshark’s CleanWeb tool. For a while, this worked in the background but newer versions of the app allow you to change your preferences in the Advanced Protection menu. ExpressVPN also offers custom firmware for supported routers, and unlike its rival, does not need to be configured for use in countries with heavily-censored internet access.

One of the biggest advantages Surfshark has over ExpressVPN (and most other services on the market) is that it allows an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. This makes it especially attractive to people who want to share their VPN with their family. ExpressVPN has been experimenting with its connection limit lately, first offering higher limits for users on long-term plans before scrapping this idea and just letting everyone connect eight devices as opposed to five.

Streaming and Netflix comparison

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.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)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

As you can see, both of these VPNs do a fantastic job at unblocking geo-restricted streaming services. Now, obviously, we can’t test every streaming service in the world. As such, there may well be platforms Surfshark can access that ExpressVPN can’t, and vice versa. We will say that while ExpressVPN used to struggle with BBC iPlayer, it seems to have resolved these issues now.

Which of these VPNs work in China?

Plenty of countries restrict access to specific websites. That said, China’s internet-filtering tools (known collectively as the Great Firewall) are some of the most advanced in the world. As a result, most VPNs are blocked and simply won’t work on the mainland.

Happily, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark can bypass Chinese internet restrictions. ExpressVPN does so without any special configuration required, while Surfshark users may need to enable the NoBorders mode (Settings > VPN Settings > NoBorders) first. The most important thing to remember is that the Surfshark and ExpressVPN websites are blocked, which means you’ll have to install the app before arriving in China.

Setup and interface

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
Automatic setup wizardWindows, Android, iOS, Linux, MacOSWindows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Tomato and DD-WRT routers
Main location selectionList-basedList-based
Extra settings pages
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

Surfshark’s desktop apps are straightforward enough. The main screen features a list of your most recently-used servers and a simple location-selection button. If we had to find a complaint, it’d be that certain options (such as the kill switch and NoBorders mode) are hidden away in the settings submenus instead of being easily accessible.

Screenshot of Surfshark's main screen on Windows
Surfshark puts all of the important information front and center

ExpressVPN’s app is very similar, although its quick-connect button is much larger and dominates most of the main screen. You shouldn’t have any issues finding the options you need since the settings menu is broken down into several categories. As a bonus, users can add certain websites to their shortcuts and have a link to them appear after you connect for faster access.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN's home screen, location selection page, and Advanced Protection settings
ExpressVPN recently added an Advanced Protection page to its settings so you can customize what is automatically filtered out

Surfshark’s mobile apps are almost identical to the desktop ones. Some features aren’t available, like the NoBorders mode, but on the plus side, Surfshark’s Android app allows you to automatically match your phone’s GPS location to your server location without the need for any third-party apps.

Screenshots of Surfshark's Android app
Surfshark’s mobile apps are nice and straightforward, although there’s plenty of customization options if you’re willing to go digging

There’s one major difference between the desktop and mobile versions of ExpressVPN: the Android and iOS versions include ExpressVPN Keys — a password manager that’s not yet available via the desktop apps.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN's Android app - main screen, location selection, and settings pages
ExpressVPN’s Android app makes it quick and easy to get connected

Servers and Performance

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
Server countries100105
Total number of servers3,200Undisclosed
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

There used to be quite a large gap between these providers when it came to network size. However, Surfshark has rapidly closed the gap, and now offers access to more than 3,200 servers in 100 countries. ExpressVPN, meanwhile, has added a more locations of its own and now covers 105 countries — more than any other major VPN.

Both VPNs are fast enough for HD streaming. Surfshark is faster overall, with an average speed of around 324 Mbps to ExpressVPN’s 193 Mbps. Note that these tests were run on a 1 Gbps connection, so your speeds may be noticeably slower.

Take a look below for the full list of countries where Surfshark and ExpressVPN have servers:

SurfsharkExpressVPN
Albania
Algeria
Argentina
Andorra
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bangladesh
Belarus
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Brunei Darussalam
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Canada
Cayman Islands
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Estonia
Egypt
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Greenland
Guam
Guatemala
Honduras
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jersey
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Libya
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macau
Macedonia
Malaysia
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Myanmar
Netherlands
Nepal
New Zealand
Nigeria
Norway
Pakistan
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Trinidad & Tobago
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Venezuela
Vietnam

While ExpressVPN has servers in more countries, Surfshark actually covers a few locations its rival doesn’t including Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, has servers in places like Guam, the Cayman Islands, and Kenya.

For most people, there’s no noticeable difference between a virtual and physical server. That said, they can lead to your data being subject to different laws than you expected. This isn’t a major issue though since both ExpressVPN and Surfshark follow a strict no-logs policy. To their credit, both providers offer a full list of their virtual servers.

Security

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, WireGuardOpenVPN, Lightway, IKEv2
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-2048RSA-4096
Kill SwitchDesktop only
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

Users can connect via the OpenVPN protocol, whichever service they choose. Surfshark also supported WireGuard connections, which are generally faster. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN offers IKEv2 (on Mac and iOS) and its own protocol, Lightway, which can keep your data secure even while switching networks.

Both providers use 256-bit AES encryption, which is effectively impossible to crack. ExpressVPN’s RSA keys are slightly more secure, though, as they’re 4096 bits long. In other words, they’re twice as long (though not necessarily twice as secure) as Surfshark’s. Each offers a kill switch that stops sending traffic the second your connection drops, ensuring you never accidentally browse unprotected.

These services each have their own way of keeping you safe online. ExpressVPN uses a technique called cipher block chaining, which means you can’t decrypt a packet of data without access to the one before it. Simply, unless an attacker can crack the service’s encryption and capture your entire session’s traffic from the start, your data cannot be read. Surfshark, on the other hand, uses a special NoBorders mode to let you browse freely. Surfshark hasn’t revealed exactly how this feature works, but other VPNs achieve similar results by reshaping your data to hide the easily-recognizable signs of VPN traffic.

Privacy

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
HQ base of operationThe NetherlandsBritish Virgin Islands
Connection logsEffectively noneSome aggregated data
Activity logs No identifying data
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

One thing is clear from the table above: these services really do take user privacy seriously. ExpressVPN and Surfshark are both based in the British Virgin Islands. This is a country with no mandatory data-retention laws that’s far from the influence of the 14 Eyes security alliance. Further, neither keeps any logs that could personally identify you. In fact, both VPNs have undergone independent audits to prove this.

It’s possible to sign up for either VPN anonymously by using a throwaway email address and paying with Bitcoin. Surfshark accepts a couple of other popular cryptocurrencies as well.

Customer service

No valueSurfsharkExpressVPN
WebsiteSurfshark.comExpressVPN.com
24/7 live chat
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time2 hours, 28 minutes49 mins
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$2.19
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer round-the-clock support via email and live chat. There are also large, searchable databases addressing the most common questions. If you’d prefer a video guide, you’ll find these on the official Surfshark and ExpressVPN YouTube channels.

Both providers responded extremely quickly to email inquiries. In fact, these are some of the fastest average response times we’ve seen. Further, while some of their answers appeared to be pre-written, Surfshark and ExpressVPN both went into great detail explaining how to configure their services for use on an Amazon Firestick. Most importantly, they each encouraged users to contact them again with any other issues they might have.

The winner: Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this testing, it’s that these are both high-end VPNs. ExpressVPN boasts impressive speeds and a huge network, while managing to support plenty of popular region-locked services. What’s more, it even works in China! In other words, Whether you’re looking to torrent, stream, or just browse privately, ExpressVPN would be an excellent choice.

That said, we think Surfshark is slightly better, all things considered. For one, it’s more affordable (provided you’re signing up for six months or more). It’s also faster, and is one of the few major VPNs that allows you to secure any number of devices at once. Simply, if you’re in the market for a true zero-log VPN that can handle anything you throw at it, Surfshark is the one to go for.

Surfshark Coupon
Save 86% on a 2 year Starter plan + 3 months free
Get Deal >
Discount applied automatically

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: FAQ

Which of these VPNs is best for censorship?

There’s little to separate Surfshark and ExpressVPN when it comes to bypassing censorship. Both are excellent in this respect. For example, both are able to navigate the strict censorship restrictions in China. The only difference is that you’ll probably need to activate the NoBorders mode (this is quick and easy to do) with Surfshark while ExpressVPN should work without any extra configuration.

Which VPN has the best international server coverage?

Surfshark and ExpressVPN both have more server locations than most of the competition. Surfshark offers 100, while ExpressVPN has roughly 105 at the time of writing. Both cover the most in-demand countries (such as the US and UK), so neither is really “best”. The only exception is if you specifically need an IP address from a country that only one of these VPNs supports.

Which provider, Surfshark vs ExpressVPN has the lowest latency?

There’s no easy way to measure a VPN’s latency, as this is impact by all manner of things including the time of day, your distance from the server, and your hardware.

However, we can say that Surfshark and ExpressVPN are two of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested. Surfshark supports WireGuard connections, which are significantly quicker than OpenVPN, whereas ExpressVPN developed its own protocol, named Lightway, that was designed to be as speedy and lightweight as possible.

Which of these VPNs is best for Netflix?

Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both reliable choices for streaming, but when it comes to Netflix specifically, Surfshark has a considerable advantage. In our recent testing, it worked with over 30 Netflix catalogs, including Netflix India, Canada, and Japan, UK, and USA. This means that more people can access their usual content while traveling, and won’t be limited to whatever is available in their local library

There are a couple of other reasons to choose Surfshark over ExpressVPN too. For instance, it has far more security features than its rival, and allows you to connect as many devices as you like. Finally, Surfshark has one of the largest networks around, with servers in 100 countries, meaning you can theoretically access a huge range of other streaming platforms as well.

See also: