ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: which should you get?
There are countless VPNs available, so which one is actually best for you? We’re here to help, lining up various VPN providers and putting them head-to-head to figure out which one you should buy, and why.
On this page we’ll be pitting ExpressVPN vs Surfshark.
ExpressVPN is one of the all-round best VPNs on the market today, boasting great privacy, excellent support and plenty of servers. However, Surfshark is a real up-and-comer, offering super-fast speeds, intuitive design and cracking value for money.
Below we’ll be outlining all the important areas you should be considering when making your choice, including price, privacy and performance. Once you’ve reached the bottom, you’ll be able to make a properly informed decision on which service offers exactly what you want from a VPN.
So, without further ado, let’s go head to head.
First impressions and specs
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN deliver simple, effective desktop clients that make using a VPN as simple as it can be.
After installation, Surfshark opens up an attractive and minimal display which invites you to connect to the quickest server. From there, you can access a comprehensive list of servers to the left, where the MultiHop function also lives.
ExpressVPN is very similar, with a Smart Location option plus any recent servers you’ve used housed below the big on/off button. A full server list is accessed by clicking the three lines in the top left. Visually – apart from Surfshark’s blue and Express’s red scheme – the apps look and behave pretty similarly.
ExpressVPN does boast twice as many servers in a load more countries, so there’s definitely a better chance you’ll be able to place yourself exactly where you want than with Surfshark.
However, a standout feature of Surfshark is its unlimited simultaneous connections compared to ExpressVPN’s five – if you’ve got tons of devices then you can cover them all with one plan.
Number of servers:
ExpressVPN: 3,000+ / Surfshark: 1700+
ExpressVPN: 90+ / Surfshark: 63+
Maximum simultaneous connections:
ExpressVPN: 5 / Surfshark: Unlimited
Money back guarantee:
ExpressVPN: 30 days / Surfshark: 30 days
Lowest monthly cost:
ExpressVPN: $6.67 / Surfshark: $1.99
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Plans, pricing and trials
As with many short-term contracts, both services start off quite pricy – Surfshark’s one-month plan costs $11.95 and ExpressVPN’s one-month plan is $12.95.
If you want a longer plan, you can sign up to ExpressVPN for six months and pay $9.99 a month. However, the one-year plan is the best value at only $6.67 a month – and with Express currently offering three months free, that means you’ll save 49% over 15 months.
Surfshark’s next plan is the one-year plan, costing $5.99 a month, but prices really start to fall if you fancy signing up for two years – at only $1.99 a month, it’s one of the cheapest VPNs available.
We have to admit, Surfshark’s rock-bottom price for its longest plan is seriously tempting – it’s little wonder that it takes the top spot in our dedicated cheap VPN guide. If you want to grab yourself a VPN for as little money as possible, it’s a great option. However, is there anything you miss out on for that bargain price?
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Privacy
ExpressVPN has a great suite of privacy features. This includes four different protocols, the ability to ‘split tunnel’ your traffic and Perfect Forward Secrecy – which changes your key each time you connect, and again every 60 minutes afterwards.
Surfshark doesn’t lag behind here, though, and has all the features you’d expect: a choice of protocols, a kill switch, its own private DNS on every server and the useful MultiHop.
Both VPNs provide excellent privacy for users. However, we’d say ExpressVPN has a little more depth to its configuration, and also offers a couple of small features Surfshark does without. While many may not use them, it’s always good to have the option.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Logging
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that doesn’t boast about its zero-logging policy, but in the areas that it really matters, it protects your data without fail. It doesn’t log your connection time, your IP address, the IP address you’re assigned or anything about what websites you visit. However, it does collect the date accessed and the server of choice.
Surfshark does also collect a minimum of data, which includes your email address and billing information. Cure53 has also undertaken an audit of sorts, but it only focused on its browser extension and the results don’t wholly apply to the desktop client – so not as comprehensive as from the likes of NordVPN, for example.
With zero-logging being such a big selling point, we appreciate ExpressVPN not pulling the wool over our eyes – and what it does log is harmless, anyway. Surfshark is also honest about its policy, so there’s no shadiness on either side. On balance, we’d say they’re about even here.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Performance
Now to the exciting bit – which is the fastest?
In our full review of Surfshark, we reported a very minimal reduction in connection speed on our 75Mb test line. Tests on a 110Mb UK line for this head to head repeated that, with the VPN giving an impressive performance on all UK servers.
ExpressVPN is also swift, with our full review reporting a similar small reduction in speeds. On the same 110Mb UK line for this head to head, Express performed well again – although fractionally slower than Surfshark.
US speeds are where real differences can be found – while Surfshark can certainly provide a good connection, ExpressVPN consistently delivers faster speeds.
Although Surfshark tests marginally quicker in the UK, it’s not enough to be detectable in everyday usage. For those in the US, ExpressVPN is a safer bet to deliver consistently great connections. However, both are reliable, and miles ahead of much of much of the competition.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Streaming
As one of the main attractions of a VPN, being able to access geo-blocked streaming media is a must-have for any service.
ExpressVPN is confident enough to list exactly what it can unlock, and it doesn’t let us down. While YouTube isn’t much of an issue for any VPN, Netflix can prove a problem – but Express gave us access to every region we tried.
Surfshark is a little less transparent with what they can access for you, with detail hidden away on pages that are tricky to find. We’re not sure why, though, as it too accessed YouTube and Netflix without a hitch.
However, iPlayer is much more stringent with its restriction, and many VPNs can access Netflix but not the BBC’s streaming platform. However, neither ExpressVPN or Surfshark were fazed, and got us watching in no time.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Torrents
Surfshark’s claims of being the ‘best VPN for torrenting’ are bold, but they’re not entirely unfounded. Although not every server is optimised for P2P activity, when the VPN detects torrenting traffic it will automatically move you to a suitable one.
However, ExpressVPN is more tailored to P2P sharing, and each of its 160 locations in 94 countries has torrent-friendly servers available to use.
While in practice both will work similarly, ExpressVPN does have a breadth of P2P-friendly servers that Surfshark lacks, and you’ll be more likely to find a quick server exactly where you want – but both work just fine in the vast majority of cases.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Mobile apps
ExpressVPN and Surfshark both offer excellent mobile apps – essential for anyone looking to stay protected on the move.
ExpressVPN’s apps are quick and easy to get going, and once you’ve given all the requisite permissions you’re greeted by a familiar sight: a great big on/off switch and a selection of servers. Much like the desktop client, the mobile apps are clean and simple to understand. It’s the same story with Surfshark – nice, polished apps that retain the simple UI of the desktop clients.
Once you start rooting through the settings of Surfshark’s apps you’ll find plenty of options, including a variety of protocols as well as Surfshark’s own HackLock and BlindSearch. Those last two features are in beta, but are interesting additions to the VPN’s suite of extras.
ExpressVPN’s apps are also fully featured, supporting multiple protocols alongside DNS and WebRTC leak detectors, and split tunnelling on Android. There’s plenty more to explore as well.
Both providers’ apps are excellent options for mobile devices, and with Surfshark’s unlimited connections you’ll be able to cover everything you own. However, Express’s apps have a few more extra features, so if you’re looking to take full control, that’s what we’d recommend.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Support
Having great support is often overlooked by users, only for them to discover a little way down the line that their VPN has gone kaput and there’s no one to help them out.
ExpressVPN offers stellar support to its customers, including well-written articles, email and a truly helpful live-chat feature. While during lockdown the live chat has slowed down, previously we experienced sub-minute responses. Even during this time, email tickets were replied to in minutes, and responses are always friendly and helpful.
Surfshark also offers similar articles, live chat and email support. In our full review we noted the articles were a little thin on the ground, but since then they’ve been expanded upon and improved. The live chat has always been excellent, too.
ExpressVPN’s support is second to none, and has been for a long time – but you’re in capable hands with either provider.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: which is better?
ExpressVPN and Surfshark are two of – if not the two – best VPN providers available today, and which one you’ll want to go for will be down to your personal preferences.
As the absolute best on the market, we’d always recommend ExpressVPN due to its reliability, excellent support, streaming abilities and all-round great usability. The three months free offer also makes it better value as well.
However, if you’re really on a budget, Surfshark offers a fantastic service for a very tempting price. If you can afford it, go with ExpressVPN, but if you can’t, Surfshark might be just what you’re after.