The VPN battle of 2020: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access
Your online security matters, which is why a Virtual Private Network, known as VPN, should help you stay anonymous online. Whether you’re using a VPN to access foreign websites or apps that have geo-restrictions, or you want to use the internet safely and without having your data tracked, there are plenty of VPN services out there that come with a bunch of options and offers.
It’s great to see hundreds of VPNs offering that security, but which ones are trustworthy and which ones are worth your money? What should you look for in a VPN?
We’ve reviewed plenty of VPNs and decided on comparing popular and outstanding services to give you the answers you are looking for. In our ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access comparison we looked at the most essential features and chose the best VPN in each category. Let’s take a look at the top 5 VPNs and what they have to offer.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: SPEEDS & LOCATIONS
ExpressVPN: In speed tests, ExpressVPN makes great use of its name, reaching an average of 175 Mbps for the New York server, 242 Mbps for an EU server and 136 Mbps for the Hong Kong server. ExpressVPN has a huge number of servers – 3,000, in 160 locations along 94 countries.
Surfshark: Speed tests show an average of 161 Mbps for a New York server, an average of 170 Mbps for an EU server, and an average of 150 Mbps for a server from Sydney. The speeds vary depending on the time of the day, but will still yield good results. Surfshark has more than 1040 servers in over 61 countries.
NordVPN: In our tests, the average speed for a New York server was 140 Mbps, and for a EU server 110 Mbps. When it comes to having the biggest server park in the world, Nord VPN is a definite winner. With more than 5,200 servers across 59 countries, users can choose servers from almost any country they want.
Ivacy VPN: With speeds at around 53.0 Mbps for an EU server, and an average of 45 Mbps for the New York server, Ivacy VPN offers decent speed considering the low monthly price. With 50+ countries and 1000+ servers, this VPN has an above-average number of servers and country choices.
PIA (Private Internet Access): PIA speed tests showed us an average of 77 Mbps of a New York server, 81 Mbps for a EU server, and 69 Mbps for a Hong Kong server. The VPN service has a total of 3335 servers in 33 countries.
SPEEDS & LOCATIONS Verdict
When it comes to internet speed and availability of servers across the world, it’s clear ExpressVPN is the winner in this category, followed by Surfshark. Keep in mind that internet speed is one of the most important factors a VPN could offer, aside from privacy and security.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: LOG FILES
ExpressVPN: “No Logging Policy.” ExpressVPN doesn’t collect a user’s IP addresses, browsing history, traffic destination or metadata, DNS queries, activity or connection logs.
Surfshark: “Strict No Logging Policy.” The VPN keeps no data on their users, only keeping the user’s email address, which is used to connect to the VPN and to access support, alongside with the information needed for billing.
NordVPN: “No Logging Policy.” The fact NordVPN allows you to pay with cryptocurrency makes users purely untraceable. There is some monitoring though, but it’s what all VPNs do – the email address associated with the account is kept, there’s also service performance data to recommend servers and the payment data if you don’t pay with bitcoins.
Ivacy VPN: “No Logging Policy.” Ivacy only keeps the email that is associated with the account and it indeed keeps no traffic logs, no bandwidth logs, and no duration logs.
PIA (Private Internet Access): “No Logging Policy.” As all VPNs in our list, PIA has the same no logging policy claims, only tracking the email address and payment data of their users. Private Internet Access accept bitcoin payment, adding another privacy layer for those that want to leave no trace.
LOG FILES Verdict
All VPNs in this category have the same “No Logging Policy.”
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: USER INTERFACE & SUPPORT
ExpressVPN: The VPN service claims you can set up the service in 5 minutes and they’re right. Its UI is easy to use and set up, and you get 24/7 customer support through live chat. The support team is very responsive, and ExpressVPN offers guides on their website to find the answers you’re looking for.
Surfshark: This VPN is quick and very easy to install, activate and use. The UI is clean and there’s even a minimized version to the app. In terms of support, there are plenty of tutorials, FAQs, along with 24/7 live chat and email with a customer support team.
NordVPN: Installing, setting up and using NordVPN is easy once you’ve set up an account and chose the payment plan. Whether you contact NordVPN customer support through live chat or email, the tutorials, guides and knowledgeable tech assistance offer more than perfect support.
Ivacy VPN: Friendly UI, easy to install. Support team is fast and responsive to inquiries, customer service agents are knowledgeable and helpful, which is more than impressive for the low cost of this VPN service.
PIA (Private Internet Access): The apps for the various devices PIA supports are easy to work with, there are plenty of detailed tutorials and a FAQs page to help you set up the service or fix anything you think it’s not working. Unfortunately, the 24/7 live chat support is not really 24/7. However, the Twitter support page interacts with their customers fast and the responses in the live chat support are long and detailed.
USER INTERFACE & SUPPORT Verdict
Except for the laggy tech support from PIA (compensated by their Twitter account and fast response there), all the other VPN services are great in terms of friendly UI and good tech support.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: TORRENTING/NETFLIX/EXTRA FEATURES
ExpressVPN: The VPN supports Tor networks and torrenting. Netflix works on certain servers around the world, but you’ll have to find the servers that are not blocked by Netflix for yourself through some trial and error. ExpressVPN comes with a kill-switch called Network Lock.
Surfshark: The VPN supports torrenting/P2P clients such as uTorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze and more. It’s also great at letting you unblock Netflix in different countries so you can watch whatever content that is normally geo-restricted.
It also comes with a built-in adblocker feature – CleanWeb, and a feature that lets you create white lists – Whitelister, both available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. For an extra $0.99 USD per month added to the subscription, users can add HackLock—email leak protection—and BlindSearch—private search to their VPN service. Surfshark also has a kill switch option, which is available on Windows, macOS, and iOS.
NordVPN: If you’re looking for a reliable VPN that will let you watch Netflix without worrying about geo-restrictions, then NordVPN’s 95% servers work with Netflix. The VPN also allows Torrenting/P2P. You can also enable CyberSec to protect you from intrusive ads (with and without audio), malware (even if it began infecting the device), phishing attempts, and DDoS attacks. NordVPN also offers the Double VPN to offer double encryption, and increased security, but it will slow down your internet speed a lot since it sends traffic through two VPN servers before reaching your destination. NordVPN also comes with an internet kill switch and an app kill switch.
Ivacy VPN: It comes with an internet kill switch. Doesn’t work with Netflix and only offers limited torrenting. There’s also no TOR or Proxy compatibility.
PIA (Private Internet Access): The VPN supports torrenting/P2P clients. As for Netflix, PIA only has a few servers working around Netflix’s detection. It comes with an internet kill switch.
TORRENTING/NETFLIX/EXTRA FEATURES Verdict
NordVPN is a winner in this category since it lets you watch Netflix from various servers and also brings a lot more features with its all-in-one subscription plan. The second best VPN here is Surfshark.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL
ExpressVPN: 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN UDP/TCP, SSTP, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP protocols.
Surfshark: 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. Surfshark supports OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2.
NordVPN: : 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard. NordVPN supports OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2, also offering DNS leak protection.
Ivacy VPN: 256-bit encryption, OpenVPN, SSTP, PPTP, L2TP and IKev2.
PIA (Private Internet Access): This VPN service comes with various encryption settings. Choose 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard for a smooth internet speed or 256-bit for a very secure and a bit slower connection. PIA also supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec.
All VPNs in this category offer the same encryption and essential protocols.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: DEVICE COMPATIBILITY
ExpressVPN: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, Nook, Playstation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire Stick TV, Nintendo Switch, smart TVs, Xbox and PS4. Users can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously with their subscription.
Surfshark: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Fire TV. There’s also the Smart DNS feature that can be installed on devices to unlock streaming services online on smart TVs, Xbox and PS4. Surfshark also supports routers that can support OpenVPN protocol by default. Users can connect an unlimited number of devices to Surfshark.
NordVPN: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Android TV. Users can connect up to 6 devices simultaneously with their subscription.
Ivacy VPN: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, smart TVs, Xbox and PS4. Users can connect up to 5 devices at the same time with their subscription.
PIA (Private Internet Access): Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and Firefox, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, routers (through OpenVPN). Users can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously connected to the VPN.
DEVICE COMPATIBILITY Verdict
All VPNs support most of the platforms we use, but a clear winner here would be Surfshark since it lets you connect an unlimited number of devices to the VPN.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: COST & OFFERS
ExpressVPN: The cheaper plan is the 15-month plan subscription, which costs $6.67 per month.
Mobile devices get a 7-day free trial once they download the app. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try any subscription plan and get your money back after you contact the ExpressVPN support team. There are multiple payment methods, such as card, PayPal, Alipay, Maestro, Bitcoin through BitPay, and more.
Surfshark: The cheapest plan is the 24 months subscription, which would cost $1.99 per month. You can only try a 7-day trial on the phone (Android and iOS), but you must provide a credit card information.
There are multiple payment methods, such as Paypal, Apple Pay, cryptocurrency and Alipay.
NordVPN: If you choose the 3-year plan, you would only pay $3.10 per month billed annually. Nonetheless, you can opt for a subscription and get your money back through their 30-day money-back guarantee if you contact the customer support team and ask for a refund.
There are many payment options, such as card, Maestro, cryptocurrency and Alipay among others (doesn’t yet support Paypal, though).
Ivacy VPN: At only $1.16 a month (for the two-year plan), this is indeed a cheap VPN worth your money. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee, which means you’re free to try out Ivacy VPN and decide whether it’s a good service or not for free, as long as you remember to cancel it in time. There’s also an offer for its mobile apps where you can get a 1-day (Android) or 3-day (iOS) free trial to figure out what you get from Ivacy before deciding to subscribe to the service.
Ivacy offers support for multiple payment methods, such as card, PayPal, Alipay, Paymentwall, PerfectMoney, and Bitcoin through BitPay.
PIA (Private Internet Access): This VPN comes with various subscription plans, but the cheapest one would be the 1-year plan for $3.33 per month. There’s a 7-day money-back guarantee no matter what payment you choose – credit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, BEAM, and even cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Zcash, Ethereum, and Litecoin).
COST & OFFERS Verdict
This category is tough since each VPN comes with either a limited amount of features to keep the prices low or with a bigger package, thus raising the subscription price. However, the price-service ratio makes Surfshark the winner in this competition, since it offers more features and high internet speeds for a reasonable monthly price. NordVPN would be the second-best VPN in this category only because it has a 3-year plan and is $1/month more expensive than Surfshark.
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark vs. NordVPN vs. Ivacy VPN vs. Private Internet Access: THE WINNER
Winning in two categories on the first place (DEVICE COMPATIBILITY and COST & OFFERS) and two on the second place (SPEEDS & LOCATIONS and (TORRENTING/NETFLIX/EXTRA FEATURES), Surfshark is the clear winner in our comparison review. Surfshark is affordable, offering a 2-year plan for $1.99 per month, speeds averaging from 150 to 170 Mbps depending on which servers you choose.
The second best VPN in our list is NordVPN, which lost because of the (slightly) slower speeds compared to Surfshark. Nonetheless, it definitely wins in the Netflix category, which for some users, this would mean NordVPN should be on the first place!
The third place is taken by ExpressVPN, and the fourth by Private Internet Access.
Ivacy VPN is lagging at number five just because it doesn’t offer good internet speeds, and it’s lightweight when it comes to extra features.
What VPN Service to Choose?
If you’re wondering which VPN to choose, you must look at what features are essential.
- Do you want a fast VPN and money is not an issue? Go for ExpressVPN.
- Do you want a good price offer, extra features and reasonable speeds? Choose Surfshark or NordVPN.
- Are you looking for casual use and tight encryption at a low price? Then Ivacy VPN is surely a bargain at only $1.16 a month.
Wondering whether these top 5 VPNs are worth your money? We would say you will definitely get what you pay for, and with the money-back guarantee, you can test each VPN service and see for yourself which VPN service is more to your liking.