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NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which VPN is Better?

Last edited: November 13, 2020
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NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which VPN is Better?

By extensively testing NordVPN and Surfshark and assessing them for comparison, we have come to a clear winner. We have considered the following criteria and determined the winner based on these criteria:

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

This has led us to the conclusion that NordVPN is better out of the two VPNs.

Want to know more about the test results and our comparison? Then read the entire article below.

NordVPN and Surfshark are both popular VPN providers. NordVPN has an established name, while Surfshark is the new kid on the block. In order to compete with the big boys, Surfshark has been offering its products cheaply. This ultimately resulted in the growth of regular users.

To see which VPN is the best, we compared these two VPN providers. Not only in terms of price and functionality, but also in terms of speed, security, ease of use, and customer service.

NordVPN or Surfshark: Functionalities, Features, and Extra Options

These are the basic features of both providers.

Feature NordVPN Surfshark
Servers 5,500+ servers in 59 countries 1,700+ servers in 63 countries
Torrents/P2P Support
Netflix
Simultaneous connections 6 No limit
Operating systems Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Protocols OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, NordLynx (WireGuard) OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard, Shadowsocks (proxy)
Price From $3.71 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
Malicious website blocker
Custom DNS option
Online tracker blocker
Static IP address Servers
Anonymous search engine
Email leak notification
Link to website Go to NordVPN Go to Surfshark

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

  • Servers: Shows how many servers a VPN has and across how many countries these servers are distributed
  • Torrents/P2P support: Specifies whether each VPN provider allows P2P traffic on their servers, for example for downloading torrents.
  • Netflix/Streaming: Indicates whether the particular VPN works with the American version of Netflix.
  • Simultaneous connections: Specifies how many devices you can connect to the VPN concurrently.
  • Operating system: Indicates which operating system(s) the specific VPN works on.
  • Protocols: Shows which VPN encryption protocols a VPN supports. You can find out more about encryption protocols here.
  • Price: Provides each VPN provider’s cheapest price per month for a subscription
  • Log policy: Indicates whether the particular VPN provider keeps data (i.e. logs).
  • Money-back guarantee: States the period within which you can request your money back if you are not satisfied with the particular VPN.
  • DNS Leak test: Specifies whether each VPN has a built-in DNS leak test, which determines if your IP address is being leaked.
  • Tor over VPN: Specifies whether each VPN provider has special dark web servers available. Tor over VPN servers are special servers suitable for use with Tor browser
  • Obfuscated servers: Indicates whether a VPN has obfuscated servers. These servers can unblock the internet even in countries with the most restrictive regimes. They are servers especially equipped to combat censorship.
  • Double VPN: Indicates whether a particular VPN provider has double VPN servers. Instead of connecting to the internet with one VPN server, with double VPN, you connect with two VPN servers simultaneously.
  • Dedicated IP: Specifies whether the particular VPN offers dedicated IP addresses. You do not share such an IP address with anyone else, however, it often costs extra.
  • Kill switch: Shows if a particular VPN has a kill switch. This is a switch that ensures that your data is not available on the street should the VPN malfunction.
  • Split tunneling: Some VPNs, such as Surfshark call split tunneling “Whitelister”. In principle, with this feature, you can select which applications you want to connect via VPN and which not.
  • Adblocker: Some VPNs have started offering adblockers as an additional privacy measure.
  • Diskless servers: these are servers on which nothing is stored. Diskless servers only use RAM. As a result, nothing is stored on the server itself and the server only serves as a conduit.
  • Malicious website blocker: This option protects you against visiting malicious websites
  • Custom DNS option: This is an option that allows you to use your own DNS records.
  • Online tracker blocker: This extra feature blocks online trackers contained in certain websites and other online services.
  • Static IP address servers: Surfshark does not have a dedicated IP address option but has some servers with fixed IP addresses. However, these servers are shared with other users.
  • Anonymous search engine: Surfshark has its own search engine that does not track data usage.
  • Email leak notification: Surfshark has a crawler that allows them to see if your email address can be found in databases somewhere online. They will then notify you if your email address is in such databases.

NordVPN or Surfshark: Which VPN is More Secure?

The biggest differences in security between NordVPN and Surfshark are:

  • Encryption Protocols: There is only a small difference between the protocols supported by NordVPN and Surfshark. NordVPN has NordLynx, which is a modified version of WireGuard. Surfshark has WireGuard and a Shadowsocks proxy, which is not really an encryption protocol, but a proxy to bypass censorship. Currently, whether WireGuard or Shadowsocks is used does not really make much of a difference with regards to security. This is because WireGuard is still in trials and Shadowsocks is more of a censorship bypass tool that is more comparable with NordVPN’s obfuscated servers.
  • Special purpose servers: NordVPN has dedicated Tor servers for use with the Tor browser, while Surfshark does not. Furthermore, they both have obfuscated and double VPN servers. The Tor servers give NordVPN a small safety advantage to users of Tor browsers.
  • Blocking online trackers: Surfshark has a special function to block online trackers. This is good for privacy and security but is not a huge benefit as there are very good free browser extensions out there that accomplish the same thing. NordVPN has a malicious website blocker, but this provides only a small advantage over Surfshark.

Most secure VPN: NordVPN (by the smallest of margins, thanks to its Tor servers)

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Security Banner NordVPN


NordVPN or Surfshark: Which VPN is Faster?

To see which of these two VPN providers is the fastest, we put them through a speed test. However, first, we tested our own internet connection without a VPN to set the speed baseline. Our baseline measurements are provided in the following screenshot.

Speedtest no VPN

The test results for both NordVPN and Surfshark are provided in the table below (best scores entered in bold).

Speed metric NordVPN Surfshark
Download speed local server (Mbps) 257.20 381.40
Upload Speed local server (in Mbps) 388.64 265.15
Ping local server 9 ms 4 ms
Download speed international server (in Mbps) 146.64 372.46
Upload speed international server (in Mbps) 27.24 19.02
Ping international server 78 ms 78 ms

During daily internet use, we did not notice anything in particular with either NordVPN or Surfshark. Nevertheless, we can see a clear difference emerging from the test results. Surfshark scores much better on download speed, and NordVPN scores slightly better on upload speed. However, since to most users download speed is more important than upload speed, we give the money for the speed category to Surfshark.

Speed winner: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Speed Banner Surfshark


NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which VPN Handles Data Better?

Security and privacy go hand in hand. It is therefore important, in addition to encryption, to also look at how a VPN, and the company behind the VPN, handles your data. If a VPN’s encryption is good, but the VPN provider sells your data to other parties, then you better choose a different VPN. Below you will find details regarding the degree of privacy provided by NordVPN and Surfshark.

NordVPN’s privacy details

  • As NordVPN is based in Panama, this means that they do not need to store data. NordVPN also does not have to heed requests to access their data (if any data is held) by other parties.
  • In 2018, a NordVPN server located in Finland was hacked. Although this was somewhat concerning, it turned out that no data had actually been leaked. That is because no data was on the server. NordVPN responded quickly and adequately and has since terminated its collaboration with the server farm that held the hacked server.
  • You can pay by Bitcoin when creating a NordVPN account, which is an anonymous means to create an account.
  • NordVPN does not seem to keep any logs. This has also been confirmed by an independent audit.
  • Since NordVPN uses diskless RAM servers, no data is stored on the servers. The servers only serve as conduits. Thus, even if someone were able to access such a server, it would be of no use to them.
  • NordVPN has a DNS leak test to check if your IP is being leaked.

Surfshark’s privacy details

  • Surfshark is located in the British Virgin Islands. Like in Panama where NordVPN is based, this is a territory without strict data retention rules. Consequently, Surfshark just like NordVPN, does not have to keep records of its users.
  • Surfshark also allows you to pay with cryptocurrency. Consequently, you do not have to link your account to a personal payment method.
  • Surfshark also uses diskless RAM servers. In terms of privacy and security, these are just as well set up as NordVPN’s.
  • In terms of privacy, Surfshark has some features that are both good and not so good for privacy. Instead of a dedicated IP address (like NordVPN offers), Surfshark has a few static IP servers. While this does not have all the benefits of dedicated IP addresses, it is better for privacy than having nothing at all. In addition, Surfshark has an anonymous browser as an extra option, and a notification to let you know when your email address appears to have been leaked online. These are nice additional privacy features, although they are also available via free browser extensions or sites like “haveibeenpwned?”. All in all, some good intentions, but not as good for privacy as it might seem.
  • Surfshark offers the option to use their anonymous search engine. This is another nice addition, but you should probably use the free anonymous DuckDuckGo search engine.

In terms of privacy, it is difficult to choose a winner. NordVPN has a DNS leak test as an extra feature, but in principle, you would hope that a VPN would not leak your IP address in the first place. Surfshark has some extra (sometimes paid) features to improve privacy, but these features are also available from free browser extensions and other free websites, which are often just as good. In terms of privacy, we find the distinction between the two VPNs too small to declare a clear winner. In our opinion, this category is a draw.

Privacy winner: A Tie

VPN Provider vs Provider Privacy Banner Tie


NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which provider is Cheaper?

As the table below shows, Sufshark’s cheapest plan is cheaper than NordVPN’s. NordVPN is slightly cheaper when it comes to single monthly subscriptions, but with the longer subscriptions Surfshark is clearly a lot cheaper. The monthly costs for the various subscriptions are provided in the table below.

Subscription NordVPN Surfshark
1 month $11.95 $12.95
6 months $6.49
1-year plan $4.92
2-year plan $3.71 $2.49

Please note: With long-term subscriptions you usually pay once for the entire subscription period. Therefore, you would be billed per subscription period and not per month.

The winner on price: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Price Banner Surfshark


Ease of Use: Appearance and Installation

In our list of top VPN providers, all providers are actually very user-friendly. Therefore, it is more a matter of taste and user preference than one being better than the other. Below we briefly discuss the appearance of both NordVPN’s and Surfshark’s software and the ease of their installation processes.

Differences between NordVPN’s and Surfshark’s appearance

Like CyberGhost, Surfshark prefers to display a list view of its available VPN servers. NordVPN, on the other hand, opts to display a map view by default, with the option to display the servers in a list, if preferred. Therefore, with NordVPN you actually have the best of both worlds. An intuitive map, and a more in-depth list.

We also find the structure of NordVPN’s “settings” page a little clearer. Plus, NordVPN has an option to ‘pause’ the VPN’s connection for a couple of minutes, which is very user-friendly.

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

Screenshots NordVPN and Surfshark Software

Both VPNs work intuitively and are suitable for almost any user. We do think that NordVPN has a couple of neat features and options that make it just a little bit more user-friendly than Surfshark.

Installation process

NordVPN’s and Surfshark’s installation processes are so similar that they are almost identical to each other. Once you have created an account, you log in to the website and download the appropriate file for your operating system. Then an executable (.exe) file is downloaded. You open this file, after which the VPN will be installed. Once the VPN software has been installed, all you need to do is log in.

On smartphones or tablets, you can download the VPN app from the provider’s website, or you can install it from the App Store or Google Play. After downloading and installing the app, you then only need to give the app permission to adjust your network settings. As soon as you have clicked on agree, the VPN is ready for use.

Ease of Use Winner: NordVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Ease of Use Banner NordVPN


Customer Service: How Well are Users Supported?

The quality of a VPN provider’s customer service can also be important. For the majority of users, the software will work just fine straight off. However, if something goes wrong, you should be able to get help. We contacted NordVPN and Surfshark with several questions and these are our findings:

  • NordVPN and Surfshark both offer chat support.
  • Both support agents were able to provide us with an appropriate answer. NordVPN was quicker to respond and was more thorough in its response.
  • Both NordVPN and Surfshark have a support database containing the answers to frequently asked questions and helpful guides.

The difference between the customer service of these two providers was very small. However, because at NordVPN they helped us a little bit better, we give NordVPN the win.

Customer service winner: NordVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Customer Service Banner NordVPN


Conclusion: NordVPN or Surfshark, which VPN is better?

NordVPN and Surfshark are very similar to each other in terms of quality. Both VPNs are good, but based on our criteria, one is slightly better than the other. The list below provides the winner of each category:

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

As you can see, NordVPN is a clear winner. Surfshark is a clear winner in terms of speed and price. In terms of customer service, security, and ease of use, NordVPN is clearly the winner. Consequently, we conclude that, based on these criteria, NordVPN is better than Surfshark overall.

NordVPN
Deal:
Only $3.71 a month for a 2-year subscription
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN
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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