Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: Which is Better?

ExpressVPN is currently the top VPN on the market. A close competitor is Surfshark, which has become a giant in the industry. Although the two are similar, my tests prove that Surfshark is superior. To understand why, let’s go into detail and see what each service has to offer.

In this comparative guide, we’ll be looking at the quirks and features that each VPN has. For a better reading experience, I’ll divide things by category. Each one shall have a winner assigned to it. So what are you waiting for? Let’s jump right into it!

Overall Winner: Surfshark

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Comparison

We’re going to start by looking at an overview of what both have to offer. Underneath is a comparative table that you may refer to:

  logo surfshark
Surfshark
logo expressvpn
ExpressVPN
Logging Policy No Logging No Logging
Jurisdiction The British Virgin Islands The British Virgin Islands
Encryption AES-256
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
ChaCha
AES-256
SHA-212 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
Protocols OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/IKEv2
IPSec/L2TP
Shadowsocks
OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/IKEv2
IPSec/L2TP
Lightway Protocol (Beta)
Ad and malware blockers Yes No
Kill switch Yes Yes (Except iOS)
Leak Tests No Leaks Found No Leaks Found
Speed Tests Fast Fast
Torrenting & P2P Yes (Optimized P2P Servers) Yes (On All Servers)
Streaming Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Firestick
Roku (Via Router)
Kodi
Apple TV (Via SmartDNS)
Android TV
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Firestick
Roku (Via Router)
Kodi
Apple TV (Via DNS or Router)
Android TV
Gaming Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via DNS or Router)
PS4 (Via DNS or Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via DNS or Router)
Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via DNS or Router)
PS4 (Via DNS or Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via DNS or Router)
Compatibility Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected Routers
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected Routers
Simultaneous Connections Unlimited 5
Servers 1700+ 3000+
China Yes Yes
Split Tunneling Yes (As Whitelister) Yes
Additional Features CleanWeb
HackLock (Add-On Feature)
BlindSearch (Add-On Feature)
MultiHop
No Additional Features
Prices

$12.95/Month
$6.49/month (6 Months)
$2.49/Month (2 Years)

Special Offer: 81% off for a 2-year subscription; 50% off for a 6-month subscription

$12.95/Month
$9.99/Month (6 Months)
$8.32/Month (1-Year)

Special Offer: 3 months free with a 1-year subscription

Our Rating 4.9 4.8
Website www.surfshark.com www.expressvpn.com

While they’re alike in many respects, Surfshark and ExpressVPN each have unique offerings. It is necessary to go into detail for a thorough understanding. Only with further analysis will you fully know what’s best for you.

Overall Winner: Surfshark

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Privacy & Security

A VPN wouldn’t be one without being able to provide online privacy and security. Surfshark and ExpressVPN both claim to do this. They’ve got an array of security measures to ensure that you’re safeguarded whenever you use the internet.

It’s important to note that both services are based in the British Virgin Islands. Due to that, they are not obligated to follow obstructive privacy and copyright laws. The Five Eye Alliance does not have jurisdiction over them, giving the two absolute freedom.

Encryption Comparison

Surfshark and ExpressVPN are very serious about encryption. Both use AES-256, which is also utilized by many militaries and intelligence agencies. The two also share an RSA-4096 handshake, which is an industry-standard.

A difference is Surfshark’s use of SHA-256 hash authentication and ExpressVPN of SHA-212. In addition, Surfshark also utilizes ChaCha encryption on Android. This is great as it serves as a backup if ever AES-256 fails or becomes unavailable.

VPN Protocols

The main protocols supported by Surfshark and ExpressVPN are identical. They support OpenVPN (UDP & TCP) along with IPSec (IKEv2 and LT2P). Setting them apart is ExpressVPN’s utilization of Lightway protocol and Surfshark’s of Shadowsocks.

Leak Protection

Leak protection is a priority of the two services. User reports claim that they’re both successful at preventing leaks. I wanted to see if this was true, so I put both services to the test. Before looking at my results, check out the outcome of my test without any VPN in use:

ip leak test no vpn
IP Leak Test – No VPN

My IP address can clearly be seen, which confirms that IPLeak.net works.

Now look at the screenshot of the results after I paired with Surfshark’s server in Hong Kong:

ip leak test surfshark hong kong
IP Leak Test – Surfshark Hong Kong

Following my initial test, I connected to ExpressVPN’s Singapore server:

ip leak test expressvpn singapore
IP Leak Test – ExpressVPN Singapore

As seen above, neither failed to mask my IP address. They can both be trusted with keeping their users anonymous. With them, I know that I’ll be safe whenever I go online and browse a new website.

Server Security

ExpressVPN and Surfshark run all their servers in RAM-disk mode. As such, it’s impossible to store any logs on them. One advantage is that the latter service has an add-on feature (separate subscription) called HackLock. It’s an alarm system that alerts you if your data has been involved in a security breach.

In Conclusion

Both services have undeniably excellent security features. However, my winner in this category is Surfshark. Its use of RAM-disk servers along with an optional alarm system gives it a considerable advantage. Adding to that is its support for ChaCha encryption, which is something few other VPNs have.

Winner: Surfshark

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Speed Test

Our ExpressVPN vs Surfshark battle will be taken to the next level in this round. After all, both VPNs are reputed to be the fastest out there. Many say only NordVPN can match the two’s capabilities.

To see which is faster, I did some tests. Before looking at the results, here’s a look at my base connection:

speed test no vpn
Speed Test – No VPN

And this is how paring with Surfshark’s HK server affected it:

speed test surfshark hong kong
Speed Test – Surfshark Hong Kong

Lastly, here’s how ExpressVPN’s server in SG did:

speed test expressvpn singapore
Speed Test – ExpressVPN Singapore

I was surprised to see how good both services did. None made a bad impact on my internet connection. Still, Surfshark had the advantage. Download and uploading were slightly better. Moreover, the ping almost doubled when I switched to ExpressVPN.

Winner: Surfshark

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Torrenting & P2P

Surfshark’s claim that it’s the “best VPN for torrenting” is a bold one. Though it has a kill switch and unlimited bandwidth, it lacks a fully enabled P2P server network. As a workaround, it automatically connects you to a P2P-friendly server when a torrenting activity gets detected.

In comparison, all of ExpressVPN’s servers support P2P. Furthermore, the VPN also has a kill switch and unlimited bandwidth. A thing to note though is that it doesn’t have a kill switch for its iOS app.

To make sure that both could protect me when torrenting, I ran some torrent tests. Check out the results without me using any service:

torrenting no vpn
Torrenting Leak Test – No VPN

IPleak.net’s torrent was able to detect my IP address in no time. If it could do that, so can other people that would potentially harm me and my family.

Surfshark was the first VPN that I tested. My server of choice was the one Hong Kong:

torrenting surfshark hong kong
Torrenting Leak Test – Surfshark Hong Kong

My next course of action was to transfer to ExpressVPN and its server in Hong Kong:

torrenting expressvpn hong kong
Torrenting Leak Test – ExpressVPN Hong Kong

Both VPNs succeeded in masking my IP address when torrenting. I think they’re both great for the job. Nevertheless, my winner for this round of ExpressVPN vs Surfshark is ExpressVPN. I chose it because all its servers are P2P-enabled.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Streaming

Streaming is something that Surfshark and ExpressVPN are great at. The two get around the geoblocks of almost all mainstream streaming platforms with ease. With both, you can access media content in nearly every country. Consistency is guaranteed, which makes them ideal for movie buffs like myself.

Netflix

I wanted to experience what each service could do with Netflix. Since I was already connected to Surfshark, I decided to test it out first. The server I paired to was the one in New York, and my title of choice was Spotlight:

netflix us surfshark
Netflix US – Surfshark

The next thing I did was move over to ExpressVPN’s San Francisco server and watch the movie again:

netflix us expressvpn
Netflix US – ExpressVPN

I couldn’t notice a difference between the services. Both were able to circumvent Netflix’s geoblocks. They also streamed the movie in full resolution without buffering.

Since they both performed excellently, I’m going to leave this round at a tie. Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both adequate for streaming and will meet your needs.

Winner: Tie

Gaming

Gaming is a passion of mine that I take very seriously. I need a VPN that can protect and connect me to gaming servers around the world. ExpressVPN and Surfshark both say they’re able to do this. To see if that’s true, I put each service to the test. My game of choice was Call of Duty Mobile.

The first VPN that I used was Surfshark. Since I have friends in Singapore, I paired to the server there. I then invited a few buddies for a match. From the start until the end, there were zero issues with lagging. The game ran smoothly at 60 FPS, even during the most hectic parts of the match.

After my initial success, I switched to ExpressVPN. Hong Kong was my selected server as my friends in Singapore didn’t have time for another game. As expected, the VPN did just as good as its competitor. Frames ran smoothly, and lag was nonexistent.

Deciding on a winner for this round of Surfshark vs ExpressVPN was difficult. In the end, I had to settle on neither. Both are great for gaming and won’t let you down.

Winner: Tie

Compatibility

I own several devices that use different operating systems. For that reason, my VPN must have wide compatibility. After all, I must stay protected whenever I use each one.

Surfshark and ExpressVPN both have browser extensions and apps for every commonly used platform. They can also be installed on compatible routers and used on Smart TVs.

To get an overview of what each service is compatible with, refer to the chart below:

Surfshark NordVPN
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected routers
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected routers

No service has got an advantage because they’ve made sure to develop native software for every mainstream platform. That said, this round of Surfshark vs ExpressVPN again has no winner.

Winner: Tie

Simultaneous Connections

People that own businesses or have large households need a VPN that allows for multiple simultaneous connections. Without one, they won’t be able to completely stay protected whenever they go online. Furthermore, a service that doesn’t permit many concurrent connections is one that offers less value.

ExpressVPN lets you connect 5 devices simultaneously using one account. Meanwhile, Surfshark allows unlimited same-time device pairings. As such, it has got a tremendous edge over its competitor.

Winner: Surfshark

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Servers

More servers make it easier for a VPN to hide the IP addresses of its users. Hence, a service with a larger network makes it a better one. Fortunately, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have an impressive amount of servers.

The winner in this category is ExpressVPN, as it operates more than 3000 severs around the globe. Its network is massive and is one of the most impressive of any VPN. By comparison, Surfshark’s network only has 1700+ servers. Though that amount is still worthy of praise, it’s nowhere near that of its competitor.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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China

The Great Firewall of China is a system of censorship measures put in place by the Chinese government. Only the best VPNs can successfully bypass it. Thus, the ability to is a great measure of a service’s quality.

User reports state that ExpressVPN and Surfshark are capable of climbing the Great Firewall. Both do it with consistency, which gives them significant leverage with the Chinese market. Surfshark even has dedicated testers in the country to ensure it performs wonderfully there.

ExpressVPN is banned by the Chinese government. Don’t worry, though, as you can still download the VPN’s apps in the country. It has created a special web domain specifically for Chinese users.

The winner in this round of ExpressVPN vs Surfshark is neither. You can rely on either whenever you visit the country as they’re guaranteed to give you internet freedom.

Winner: Tie

Interface & Usability

The apps of ExpressVPN and Surfshark are very similar. Each VPN keeps things simple and user-friendly.

Upon opening Surfshark’s app on Windows, you’ll immediately see a connect button. Clicking it pairs you to the closest major server. To manually select a server, click the location button on the sidebar. It’s also there where you can find access to the VPN’s special features and settings.

interface surfshark
Surfshark Interface

ExpressVPN’s app also first shows you a connect button that pairs you to the server that you previously used. Beneath it is a smart location and recent location button. The former connects you to the nearest major server while the latter with the second to the last one you paired with.

interface expressvpn
ExpressVPN Interface

My preference lies with ExpressVPN because of the “cleaner” look of its app. The larger quick connect button just looks so much more inviting. Besides that, I like the color scheme that oozes positivity.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Additional Features

Surfshark has many extra features that are worth mentioning.

First is MultiHop which lets you route web traffic through two servers. In doing so, a whole new degree of protection is added. Another feature present is Whitelister, which is the service’s version of split tunneling. Using it, you’ll get to reveal your IP address to certain websites and services.

One more feature the VPN boasts is BlindSeach, which is a private search tool. Lastly, the service has a security breach alert system called HackLock. Unfortunately, there’s an extra charge if you want to use BlindSearch and HackLock. Both don’t come free with a base subscription to Surfshark.

ExpressVPN has fewer special features. It also has split tunneling, which means you won’t have to turn the VPN on and off whenever you’re dealing with a particular service.

Because it has more unique features, the winner for this round of Surfshark vs ExpressVPN is Surfshark. While it does charge extra for BlindSearch and HackLock, it’s nice to have the option to have them.

Winner: Surfshark

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Customer Support

Surfshark and ExpressVPN’s customer support is excellent. I had a few questions, and their chat representatives gave me detailed answers. Moreover, they were cordial and quick at delivering their responses.

Below is a table that shows you what each service offers when it comes to customer support:

  Surfshark ExpressVPN
Live Chat Yes Yes
Email Support Yes Yes
Phone Support No No
Ticket Support Yes Yes
Video Tutorials No Yes
Online Knowledge Base Yes Yes
Average Response Time 4 Hours 45 Minutes

ExpressVPN is the winner here because it has video tutorials available. Also, the VPN has faster response times. While Surfshark’s customer support is great, it would be better if it uploaded video guides on its website like its competitor.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Prices

Price is a major thing to consider when choosing a VPN. To see what’s best for you, refer to the comparative table below:

  Surfshark ExpressVPN
Subscription Lengths $12.95/Month 1 Month ($12.95/Month)
  $6.49/month (6 Months) 6 Months ($9.99/Month)
  $2.49/Month (2-Year) 15 Months ($8.32/Month)
Highest Price Per Month $12.95 $12.95
Lowest Price Per Month $2.49 $8.32
One Year Price $77.88 $99.95 (12 Months +3)
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days 30 Days
Special Offer 81% discount for a 2-year plan
50% discount for a 6-month plan
3 months free with a 1-year subscription

The cheaper service is Surfshark, with its lowest per month price being just $2.49. On the other hand, ExpressVPN offers more flexible plans.

One thing that should be noted is that neither service offers a free trial. Fortunately, there’s a workaround if you want to try them without risks. Both VPNs have a 30-day money-back policy. If you’re not satisfied, simply ask for a refund within the allotted period.

My winner for this category is Surfshark. I chose the service because it's way more affordable than ExpressVPN.

Winner: Surfshark

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Verdict

Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?

Yes. Surfshark is better because it has better security, is faster, cheaper, has more extra features, and allows for unlimited simultaneous connections. While ExpressVPN has more servers along with better apps, it comes in shorthanded. The VPN fails to check all the right boxes. Hence, I recommend that you subscribe to Surfshark as you’ll be getting a better deal.

Overall Winner: Surfshark

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About the author 

Kris Soliongco

Kris has two passions in life: writing and tech. He’s been building computers since he was eight years old and is very knowledgeable about online security. The first time he was exposed to VPNs was in 2016. Since then, he’s used a plethora of services and has gained much experience.