NordVPN vs Surfshark

Bottom Line NordVPN and Surfshark are very closely matched as providers of VPN services, each with its own particular strengths. Ultimately, which of them is better for you will depend on the specifics of your situation and needs.

 

If superb media and streaming performance, top-quality security and maximally secure privacy options are the most important considerations for you, the favored choice would be NordVPN. On the other hand, if you need superior per-device value and access to the VPN for the largest possible number of users — without sacrificing safety and functionality — the ideal choice is Surfshark.

In this review, we break down the key features of a good VPN to help you make an informed comparison between the offerings of NordVPN and Surfshark.

How We Evaluated NordVPN vs. Surfshark

The VPN market is flourishing, with plenty of competitors in the field advertising a multitude of features and services. Identifying the truly high-quality offerings is a matter of focusing on the core key indicators of high performance in a VPN. With clear information about how competing companies perform in those key metrics, both home and business users can make confident decisions about which VPN will serve their specific needs and objectives.

Common Features We Looked For

These are the four most important features we look for in a VPN. Keep in mind that, in addition to the presence or absence of these features, a lot about your eventual choice will depend on the specific uses you have for a VPN.

1. Security & Privacy The core mission of a VPN’s work is to maintain the user’s security and privacy. Any VPN worth using should have the most up-to-date security protocols available. That includes encryption tools (the current standard is 256-bit AES encryption with PBKDF2-HMAC-SHA512 password hashing) and a privacy policy that protects your data from third parties (particularly key is having a no-log policy that ensures the company doesn’t hold on to any data that it might be tempted to pass on to third parties or government agencies).

2. Server Coverage A VPN provides access to a network of servers. The more server coverage it has in more countries, the more your VPN will be able to spread out “server load” from multiple users and ensure reliable performance at all times. Having access to servers that are geographically closer to you will matter to the speed and performance of your VPN connection, so it’s important to be aware of the specific countries in which your VPN network has coverage.

3. Performance We evaluated performance features that will be key to the streaming capabilities of multiple team or household members using the same connection. That includes download speeds, monthly data limits and the number of devices that can be connected to the VPN simultaneously.

4. Price We look at how various plans are priced for a given VPN and how those prices work out as value-for-money when compared to features and services.

NordVPN vs. Surfshark Comparison

We spent over 10 hours researching and comparing NordVPN and Surfshark to see how they stack up on the four key metrics identified above. The breakdown is below.

Security & Privacy

NordVPN offers high-quality security, with standard AES-256-CBC encryption and frequently changed encryption keys. It uses the highly secure OpenVPN protocol (or, for macOS and iOS devices, IKEv2/IPSec as the default option, a little less bleeding-edge than OpenVPN but still a very secure protocol) and provides a customizable kill switch feature that can shut down certain apps in the event of a VPN drop-out, ensuring they don’t keep functioning and transmitting data outside of the VPN’s protected environment. Its site filter blocks out broad swathes of malicious sites, and its optional tracker blocking provides added protection against ad tracking, improving performance for its users. Its Double VPN mode allows users to route traffic through two servers instead of one for some added protection.

Although NordVPN has experienced a recent hacking event in 2018, the company has mounted a comprehensive response to that breach, which compromised no user-identifying information. It has been made clear that the company has a genuine no-log policy for users’ activity. Added to all this, there are clear advantages in NordVPN’s headquartering in the privacy-friendly jurisdiction of Panama which does not maintain surveillance-sharing agreements with any other countries.

Surfshark matches the 256-bit encryption and automatic kill switch features of NordVPN, and it provides a MultiHop mode similar to the Double VPN feature. It also features a HackLock tool that scans for possible breaches of emails and passwords and has its own private, ad-free search tool called BlindSearch. Both NordVPN and Surfshark are able to camouflage VPN traffic — in Surfshark’s case using Camouflage Mode, but with Surfshark, this capability is only functional on Windows, iOS and Android.

Like NordVPN, Surfshark is headquartered in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction — in this case the British Virgin Islands — but it does collect a certain kind of user-related data. Its privacy policy is transparent and fairly comprehensive, and it doesn’t keep user logs, but it may collect unique third-party advertising identifiers for marketing purposes. Fortunately, this can be circumvented relatively easily. The security offerings of the two companies are, thus, on fairly even footing, although NordVPN’s slightly better privacy policy gives it a mild edge.

Server Coverage

NordVPN’s server coverage is extensive, including over 5,200 servers in more than five dozen countries. Most of that coverage — just over 80% of its server count — is concentrated in the Americas and Europe. Surfshark matches this network for geographical breadth, present in 63 countries, but doesn’t have the same depth of support. It sports only just over 1,700 servers by comparison. This network is most concentrated in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. While both VPNs are strong in this category, the extraordinary number of servers supported by NordVPN gives it a clear edge.

Performance

The use of any VPN can slow the performance of your local internet, cutting it by half its normal speed or even more; one of the trade-offs of using this kind of technology is that lossless internet is a rare experience. A high-performing VPN will have less impact on your internet’s performance, and NordVPN does well to reduce speed by only around 20-30% on average, delivering reliable speed while averting any interruptions or sudden drops in service. Surfshark, despite its small network, exhibits average losses of around 27% and similarly reliable connectivity. These speed losses can vary considerably with the distance of a server from the user’s home, and local servers can deliver much higher speeds; this is particularly true with NordVPN.

Both NordVPN and Surfshark can be used to unblock and stream services like Netflix and BBC’s iPlayer — with NordVPN defaulting to optimized servers for that kind of traffic and delivering overall better quality, along with superior server coverage and tools for accessing specialty servers — and both are designed for user-friendliness and ease of installation. Both companies sport 24/7 customer service that’s generally quick, responsive and informative via both live chat and ticketing systems.

While the edge for pure speed and bandwidth ultimately has to go to NordVPN, Surfshark enjoys one particularly standout performance advantage. While NordVPN connects six devices per license in normal circumstances, Surfshark’s licensing is considerably more generous, offering unlimited device connection with every license. This alone might make it the better pick for some users’ needs in the long run.

Price

Both NordVPN and Surfshark are priced very reasonably, especially given the advanced features they offer. For per-device cost-effectiveness, Surfshark with its unlimited device connections per license is hard to beat. NordVPN also delivers extraordinary value for money when comparing its very reasonable monthly prices with a list of features and all-around performance and server coverage that rank among the best offerings on the market. Both companies offer access to all the same features regardless of the plan you select, and both offer both free trials and 30-day money-back guarantees. On the whole, it’s hard to pick decisively between them; which pricing packages look better for your purposes will depend on your specific needs.

Comparison Table
 NordVPNSurfshark
Free Trial30 days7 days
1-Month Plan$11.95/month$11.95/month
1-Year Plan$6.99/month$5.99/month
Multi-Year Plan$3.49/month (3-year plan)$1.94/month (3-year plan)

Overview: NordVPN vs Surfshark

NordVPN and Surfshark are closely competitive VPN services that deliver excellent security, performance, user-friendly functionality and reasonable pricing. Both of them deliver speed and features that put them in contention with the leading bracket of VPN providers on the market. Either is a strong VPN choice, so the choice between them will depend mostly on which specific traits are most important for your needs. The table below summarizes what each company offers for the main features of a VPN.

NordVPN vs Surfshark Comparison Table

Comparison Table
 NordVPNSurfshark
Free TrialYesYes
Customer Support24/7 Live Chat and Ticketing Support24/7 Live Chat and Ticketing Support
Platform/Browser CompatibilityAll major devices and browsersAll major devices and browsers
Server Coverage5,200+ servers in 62 countries1,700+ servers in 63 countries
Number of Devices6 per licenseUnlimited
No-log PolicyYesYes
TorrentingYesYes
Streaming ServicesYesYes
Security Encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
Kill SwitchYes (Customizable)Yes
Learn MoreVisit NordVPNVisit Surfshark