What makes the competition between Surfshark and ExpressVPN most noteworthy is all that the two virtual private network options have in common. The two VPNs are known for their private, no-logs services featuring competitive encryption and fast speeds. And more pointedly, they're both headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands.
When it comes to a privacy starting point, you want to look for a VPN headquartered or owned by countries outside of the US. While the British Virgin Islands is a UK territory, it isn't explicitly subject to UK data retention laws nor does it participate in intelligence-sharing agreements. Sure, its status as a UK territory gives us pause when considering the potential privacy exposure if political pressure were ever to be applied. But right now, we're feeling the island breeze.
Most recently, ExpressVPN just spent the better part of the past year battling for NordVPN's spot at the top of the VPN industry food chain, but now relative newcomer Surfshark is looking to eat ExpressVPN's lunch. Here's how the two island services stack up when it comes to speed, security and cost.
Read more: How we evaluate and review VPNs
Better features, lower cost
It won't be long until big-name VPNs realize what kind of threat Surfshark really is: It's faster than a VPN of its size should be, has stronger security than you'd expect, offers a suite of impressive features and has cutthroat prices to go with its unlimited simultaneous connection allowance. During our 2020 testing, Surfshark has given even our most highly recommended VPNs a run for their money on speed, security and cost.
You want to watch Netflix from any country? Surfshark's watertight DNS features make that possible. You want to torrent quickly and privately? Surfshark routes you to its own P2P-configured servers out of the US. You want to block fingerprinting trackers, use a private search engine and camouflage your traffic so it looks completely normal with the assurance of a kill switch? Surfshark's CleanWeb ad-blocker, Blindsearch search engine and on-board obfuscation covers you.
Read more: How we evaluate and review VPNs
With just 1,000 servers in 60 countries, we lost only 27% of average internet speeds during our Surfshark speed tests. The service immediately blew past NordVPN's and Norton Secure VPN's tested speeds (which averaged 32% speed loss and 57% speed loss, respectively), and into competition with the likes of other speed-intensive VPNs such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish.
Surfshark is currently living up to its name with an aggressive pricing scheme. Right now, it's offering an 83% discount, bringing costs down to $2 a month for a two-year plan ($48 billed every two years). ExpressVPN isn't going to get anywhere near those prices right now.
Faster speeds, tried and true privacy
No matter how fast the service, a secure VPN will always slow your connection speeds. Combine that with the sluggish speeds of most public Wi-Fi (when you need your VPN the most), and speed moves to the forefront as a crucial feature for many VPN shoppers.
Enter ExpressVPN. Offering more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries, this service might have fewer servers than NordVPN, but they're in a greater number of countries. And they fly. Our speed tests found ExpressVPN resulted in less than 2% overall loss of speed, compared to Surfshark's 27% speed loss.
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ExpressVPN muscled its way ahead of the VPN pack last year and has been hard to beat ever since, offering outstanding speeds and a reputation for reliability and security. Its easy-to-navigate interface makes it an apt choice for newcomers just learning about VPNs, and its multiplatform compatibility expands its value to a wide base of consumers. These factors more than justify ExpressVPN's slightly higher-than-average prices, starting at about $7 a month (with three months free). It does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can pay with credit card, PayPal or Bitcoin.
ExpressVPN only offers five simultaneous connections compared to Surfshark's unlimited allowance, but it snagged a 4.5 out of 5 in our list of the best mobile VPN services for 2020, thanks in part to its hyper-flexible platform compatibility. Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox — if it's something you surf on, ExpressVPN is probably going to work with it. By contrast, Surfshark runs on Linux, Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
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