ExpressVPN vs Surfshark Featured

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Will the Crafty Newcomer Win or the Seasoned Veteran?

Last edited: November 20, 2020
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ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark

ExpressVPN and Surfshark are two popular VPN providers with different benefits. ExpressVPN is best known as a seasoned provider you can rely on; Surfshark is a newcomer that has quickly made it to the top. We have compared these two providers on the following categories:

  • Security: ExpressVPN
  • Speed: Surfshark
  • Privacy: ExpressVPN
  • Price: Surfshark
  • Ease of use: ExpressVPN
  • Customer Service: A Tie

Surfshark wins in two categories while ExpressVPN wins in three. We have awarded the overall win to ExpressVPN as this provider offers better privacy.

Do you want to know exactly what the differences are between these two providers? Then read on below.

In our series of popular VPN provider comparisons, we assessed both ExpressVPN and Surfshark. ExpressVPN is undisputedly the number one VPN provider at VPNOverview. Nonetheless, we particularly appreciate Surfshark for its extremely good price vs quality ratio. But which provider ultimately came out best in the test? You can read all about it below.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: their Characteristics at a Glance

Below you will find a brief explanation of all the above-mentioned features:

Feature ExpressVPN Surfshark
Servers 3,000+ servers in 94 countries 1,700+ servers in 63 countries
Torrents/P2P Support
Netflix
Simultaneous connections 5 No limit
Operating systems Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Protocols OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPSec OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard, Shadowsocks (proxy)
Price From $6.67 per month From $2.49 per month
Log policy No logs No logs
Money-back-guarantee 30 days 30 days
DNS Leak Test
Tor over VPN
Obfuscated servers
Double VPN
Dedicated IP
Kill Switch
Split tunneling
Adblocker
Diskless servers
Custom DNS option
Online tracker blocker
Static IP-address Servers
Anonymous search engine
Email leak notification
Automated HTTPS redirect
Data compression option
Link to website Go to ExpressVPN Go to Surfshark

Below you will find a brief explanation of all the above-mentioned features:

  • Servers: Shows how many servers each VPN provider has at its disposal and in how many worldwide locations these servers are located.
  • Torrents/P2P support: Specifies whether torrents can be downloaded by a particular VPN.
  • Netflix/Streaming: Indicates whether you can access the American version of Netflix with the particular VPN provider.
  • Simultaneous connections: Specifies how many simultaneous VPN connections you can have per subscription for each VPN provider.
  • Operating system: Indicates with which operating system(s) the specific VPN is compatible.
  • Protocols: Provides a list of each VPN’s encryption protocols
  • Price: Provides information regarding each VPN’s cheapest monthly subscription costs. The cheapest prices often involve a long-term subscription.
  • Log policy: Specifies the type of log policy the company behind the VPN uses. A VPN provider that does not keep logs is preferable to one that does.
  • Money-back guarantee: States the period within which you can request your money back if you change your mind about using the VPN. This period is often shorter if you take out single monthly subscriptions.
  • DNS Leak test: A DNS leak test is a test that checks whether your IP address is being leaked.
  • Tor over VPN: Specifies whether the VPN provider’s servers are suitable for use with the Tor Network. This network is used to visit the dark web.
  • Obfuscated servers: Obfuscated servers make VPN traffic look like normal traffic. This makes it more difficult for repressive regimes to deny you access to certain websites.
  • Double VPN: When using Double VPN, you connect through two VPN servers instead of one. This creates an even more anonymous VPN tunnel, but it has a detrimental effect on speed.
  • Dedicated IP: Specifies whether you can get a fixed IP address with the particular VPN provider (often for a small additional charge per month).
  • Kill switch: The kill switch is a function that ensures that your internet traffic automatically stops if you lose your VPN connection.
  • Split tunneling: Allows you to specify with which applications and for which websites you would like to connect using the VPN and which not.
  • Adblocker: Allows you to determine whether the particular VPN can block advertisements, if desired, without needing to install a separate browser extension.
  • Diskless servers: These servers do not act as storage servers. The advantage of such servers is that they do not contain any data. Consequently, they are useless to hackers should they manage to gain access to such servers.
  • Custom DNS option: Indicates whether the VPN allows you to setup your own DNS records.
  • Online tracker blocker: Specifies whether the particular VPN provider can block online trackers.
  • Static IP Address Servers: While Surfshark does not have a dedicated IP, it does have shared servers with static IP addresses.
  • Anonymous search engine: Surfshark has its own variation of DuckDuckGo: an anonymous search engine that does not keep track of your data.
  • E-mail leak notification: if your email address appears in an online database, you can choose whether you would like Surfshark to notify you of the fact.
  • Automated HTTPS redirect: if you enable this feature, you are automatically sent to the HTTPS version of a website instead of the HTTP version.
  • Data compression option: this is a nice addition to VPNs. It allows you to reduce your data usage by compressing large images, etc.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which one is More Secure?

The security of a provider can be summarized in a few points: the protocols offered, the types of servers used, and whether any additional functions are offered, such as blocking online trackers and the like.

  • ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN with UDP or TCP, as well as the IKEv2/IPSec, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP protocols. Using the latter two protocols is not recommended; ExpressVPN itself also recommends using these protocols only to change your location (for example, to watch movies from the US Netflix library). The security benefits of the last two protocols are very limited. Surfshark offers OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2/IPSec protocols. WireGuard is a new protocol that is supposed to be faster and more secure than OpenVPN. However, WireGuard is still in its developmental phase.
  • Shadowsocks is also offered as a “protocol” by Surfshark, but this in fact is only a proxy function. However, this function is useful in countries such as China, where VPN use is blocked. It is unfortunate, however, that Surfshark does not explain clearly that Shadowsocks is actually not really a true VPN protocol. Having a proxy to unblock content in certain countries is less safe than using a VPN, so we don’t necessarily like this option.
  • Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN use 256-bit encryption, and both providers also have a kill switch in case the VPN connection unexpectedly drops.
  • Surfshark offers double VPN connections. But this doesn’t benefit your level of security that much.
  • ExpressVPN has an option to create custom DNS records. Which is quite handy.
  • Furthermore, both VPNs support obfsproxy. This Tor technique can prevent a Deep Packet Inspection, which is used to ascertain whether an individual is using a VPN connection. In many cases, with an obfsproxy you can use VPNs in countries where this is not permitted.

In the end, we do think that ExpressVPN beats Surfshark when it comes to security, although by a very thin margin.

Security winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Security Banner ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN or Surfshark: Which Provider Wins on Speed?

To compare the speed of these two VPNs, we conducted speed tests for them both. However, first, we tested our own internet connection without a VPN to set the speed baseline. The results are provided in the following screenshot.

Speedtest no VPN

We then tested international and local servers belonging to both ExpressVPN and Surfshark. The results are provided in the table below, with the fastest speeds provided in bold.

Speed metric ExpressVPN Surfshark
Download speed local server (Mbps) 322.38 381.40
Upload speed local server (in Mbps) 171.11 265.15
Ping local server 8 ms 4 ms
Download speed international server (in Mbps) 139.68 372.46
Upload speed international server (in Mbps) 26.97 19.02
Ping international server 114 ms 78 ms

Test results show that during daily use both providers are definitely fast enough. Therefore, it does not matter which provider you choose when it comes to daily use, you probably will not experience any slowness with either of them. However, if you regularly run intensive downloads or stream a lot, the difference in obtainable speeds can certainly be a reason for choosing Surfshark. During our speed tests, Surfshark emerged as one of the very best VPN providers in terms of speed.

Fastest VPN: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Speed Banner Surfshark


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: How do these VPN Providers Deal with your Privacy?

In addition to third-party data security, the VPN provider’s internal policy is of course also of importance. If a provider keeps logs, the VPN connection is likely to be very secure, but your data could still end up in the hands of others. How do ExpressVPN and Surfshark manage your data?

In addition to speed, it is also important that your personal data does not fall into the hands of third parties thanks to the VPN provider itself. Do these two providers keep logs, and if so, what happens to them?

ExpressVPN

  • It is immediately clear that ExpressVPN does not keep logs. The company operates out of the British Virgin Islands, where they have extremely strict privacy laws.
  • Furthermore, TrustedServers are used on which no data can be permanently stored because the servers are “diskless”. Even if you would like to keep logs, this is not possible with these types of servers.

Surfshark

  • Surfshark also has a “no logs” policy. However, Surfshark does ask for some information, which it uses to monitor their software. The company uses this (anonymized) data to see how busy its servers are.
  • Surfshark has recently switched to a diskless-only server network. As with ExpressVPN’s servers, no data can be saved on these servers because all data only exists temporarily.

Both providers do not keep logs, but since Surfshark does keep anonymous data, we are giving the victory to ExpressVPN. The reason for this is that in effect we need to blindly trust Surfshark that this data is and will remain anonymous.

Privacy winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Privacy Banner ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which Provider is Easier on your Pocket?

Surfshark’s most attractive feature is its unprecedented low price. This is the cheapest of all the premium providers that we recommend (with the exception of the occasional VPN deal). The table below provides an overview of the various subscription options available (the price per month is shown).

Subscription ExpressVPN Surfshark
1 month $12.95 $12.95
6 months $9.99 $6.49
1,25-year plan (15 months) $6.67
2-year plan $2.49

The winner on price: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Price Banner Surfshark


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which Application is Easier to Work With?

Our previous reviews of ExpressVPN and Surfshark showed that both providers offer an easy to use application. However, are there any differences, and what about the installation process and their respective websites?

  • The layout of ExpressVPN’s application is very clear, which provides a large button to connect, so that you waste minimal time before being able to go online. You can also select different locations. Surfshark basically has the same layout as ExpressVPN, but with Surfshark you can choose from the start screen whether you wish to connect with the “fastest server” or to the “nearest country”. ExpressVPN automatically chooses the fastest server.
  • Surfshark only provides limited information regarding its application’s various functions. For example, you could turn on Shadowsocks without knowing what this function actually does. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, provides an explanation as to when it is best to use each of the protocols.
  • The websites of both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide a knowledge center where novice users can find information about the VPN’s functions, as well as guides on how to use these functions. We found that Surfshark’s website is slightly easier to navigate, but ExpressVPN often provides more in-depth information.
  • The installation of both applications is self-explanatory; you click on the downloaded file and follow the steps indicated on screen. This is similar to the installation process of many other software packages.

Firstly, we must say that both applications work well. However, Surfshark could provide a little more information about its various settings. That is why ExpressVPN narrowly wins in this category.

Screenshots of ExpressVPN’s and Surfshark’s software are provided below.

Screenshots ExpressVPN and Surfshark Software

Ease of Use Winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Ease of Use Banner ExpressVPN


Customer Service: How Do these Providers Solve your Problems?

Of course, problems can crop up where looking at the provider’s website is not enough to solve them. How does ExpressVPN‘s and Surfshark’s customer service respond?

  • ExpressVPN and Surfshark both have customer service representatives who can be reached via live chat. Furthermore, both providers connected us directly with an employee.
  • Both employees were knowledgeable and gave appropriate answers to our questions.
  • Customer service is only available in English for both providers.
  • As described above, both providers’ websites also include an information database that holds answers to frequently asked questions.

Finally, there was no clear difference to us between these two providers in terms of customer service.

Customer service winner: A Tie

VPN Provider vs Provider Customer Service Banner Tie


Our Final Verdict: When would you Choose ExpressVPN, and When would you Choose Surfshark?

It often happens that the best VPN providers frequently are neck-and-neck. Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are excellent choices, but if you just want to go for the lowest price, then you should probably go with Surfshark.

On the other hand, Surfshark is not as good when it comes to privacy. Since this is the main reason for using a VPN in the first place, this category is weighted very heavily. In the end, Surfshark wins in two categories while ExpressVPN wins in three. Yes, you pay more for ExpressVPN, but it also means that you have less of a chance of privacy infringement.

The following list provides an overview of each category’s results:

  • Security: ExpressVPN
  • Speed: Surfshark
  • Privacy: ExpressVPN
  • Price: Surfshark
  • Ease of use: ExpressVPN
  • Customer Service: A Tie

Would you like to take out a subscription to one of these providers? Then click the appropriate box below to go to either ExpressVPN’s or Surfshark’s websites.

ExpressVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
3 months for free with a one-year subscription
9.5
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN
Surfshark
Deal:
Safe and anonymous internet for only $2.49 a month
9.0
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30 days money back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
Visit Surfshark

Would you like to see the other VPN comparisons? Then click on one of the links below:

IT communication specialist
Sandra has many years of experience in the IT and tech sector as a communication specialist. She's also been co-director of a company specializing in IT, editorial services and communications project management. For VPNoverview.com she follows relevant cybercrime and online privacy developments.

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