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NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which VPN provider comes out on top?

Verified by Molly Dyson

When it comes to choosing the right VPN service, customers should consider security, features and price. NordVPN and Surfshark – both owned by Nord Security – are two of the top providers in the industry, but is Surfshark better than NordVPN, or vice versa? A good VPN service will boast fast connection speeds and include a variety of security features, all for an affordable price. 

We’ve compared NordVPN and Surfshark, looking closely at each provider’s performance and security features before deciding which service is the best VPN.

How we research and rate VPNs

100+
hours performance testing
500+
customer reviews read
150+
hours comparing products
25
providers compared
4
VPN experts consulted

Our researchers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a provider after hours of testing, head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account customer feedback and reviews and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30%)
  • Features and functionality (30%)
  • Reputation and credibility (20%)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10%)
  • Customer experience (10%)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload, download, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees, and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are fact-checked and verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is accurate and up to date as possible. To find out more, read our article on how we review VPNs.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: At a glance

With the increasing demand for cybersecurity, customers are inundated with VPN providers to choose from – this can be tricky to navigate, especially for beginners. NordVPN and Surfshark are some of the top VPN services in the industry, providing excellent security and privacy for their customers. 

We’ve compared the two providers in the table below, considering the main features and subscription prices to see which service comes out on top.

NordVPN Surfshark
Lowest price £2.79 (£66.96 up front for 24 months) £1.79/m (£46.65 up front for 26 months)
Free version No No
Max no. connected devices 6 Unlimited
Number of servers 5,500+ 3,200+
Server locations 60 63+
Encryption AES-256 and ChaCha20 AES-256 and ChaCha20
VPN protocols IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN, and NordLynx (built around WireGuard) WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN
No-logs policy
Audited
Headquarters Panama Netherlands

Surfshark offers a lower subscription price than NordVPN, but it also offers fewer servers, with NordVPN providing more than 5,500 and Surfshark falling short with just over 3,200 available.  

Since most people now own multiple devices or want a service that will cover their entire family, a VPN that can be used on an unlimited number of devices is ideal; this is where Surfshark comes out on top. NordVPN only allows for six simultaneous connections. However, it’s important to note that both NordVPN and Surfshark offer support for routers, meaning you could install the VPN on your wifi router to cover all devices connected to your network. 

NordVPN has its own protocol – NordLynx – which is built around WireGuard, and overall offers one more protocol than Surfshark, but this isn’t something that would majorly affect a user’s overall experience of either product.

Plans, pricing and trials

When choosing a VPN service, security and privacy are just as important as the provider’s pricing. 

We’ve compared NordVPN and Surfshark’s plans and pricing, as well as any VPN free trials available.

Subscription term NordVPN Surfshark
Monthly £10.39 / month £10.09 / month
12 months £3.99 / month (£47.88 up front) £3.11 / month (£37.30 up front)
24 months £2.79 / month (£66.96 up front) £1.79 / month (£46.55 up front for 26 months)
Plus plan monthly £11.19 / month N/A
Plus plan 12 months £4.79 / month (£57.48 up front) N/A
Plus plan 24 months £3.59 / month (£86.16 up front) N/A
Complete plan monthly £11.99 / month N/A
Complete plan 12 months £5.59 / month (£67.08 up front) N/A
Complete plan 24 months £4.39 / month (£105.36 up front) N/A

NordVPN offers three subscription levels – standard, plus and complete – with options to pay monthly, annually or for a two-year plan. With both the plus plan and complete plan, users have access to a cross-platform password manager and a data breach scanner. Complete plan customers also get 1TB of cloud storage and next-generation file encryption. Surfshark is clearly the optimal solution for users on a budget, but NordVPN does offer an especially polished service that is also highly affordable. Current deals for the latter include an impressive discount of 67 per cent for two-year plans, along with three extra months for free if you sign up by 20 March 2024. 

Surfshark offers just one type of subscription that has options to pay monthly, annually or every two years. 

Although Nord offers three different plans, it only allows for a maximum of six simultaneous device connections, whereas Surfshark’s customers can connect an unlimited number of devices. 

Both providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for users to try the product, and they will get a refund as long as they cancel within the 30-day period. NordVPN doesn’t have any free trials available, but Surfshark does offer a seven-day free trial for Android, MacOS and iOS devices.

Security

A VPN’s security should be of a high standard, and there are certain components that contribute to the overall security level. 

There are two main components to consider when looking at a VPN’s security offering – encryption, which is the part that conceals your IP address by routing your internet traffic via a remote host and assigning you a different IP address – and VPN protocols, which are a set of rules that decide how data will be moved and sent between the device and a VPN server. 

Both NordVPN and Surfshark present a high level of security, but there are a few differences. 

Encryption

Encryption type NordVPN Surfshark
AES-256
ChaCha20

Protocols available

Protocol NordVPN Surfshark
OpenVPN
SSTP
IKEv2
WireGuard
PPTP
L2TP
IPSec
NordLynx (built around WireGuard)

Both providers are encrypted by AES-256. This is the highest level of encryption currently available and is often used by governments to conceal classified information. 

The only difference here is that Surkshark uses the AES-256-GCM algorithm, which is slightly faster than standard AES-256. However, for everyday use, there would not be a noticeable difference between the two providers. 

When it comes to VPN protocols, there are three main ones that are commonly used and considered to be the best of the best – OpenVPN, WireGuard and IKEv2. For context, WireGuard is the fastest and most stable, IKEv2 is good for streaming and stability, and OpenVPN has an excellent level of encryption. 

Surfshark offers all three of these protocols, while NordVPN offers OpenVPN and IKEv2. Nord also has its own protocol – NordLynx – which is based on WireGuard and acts in a very similar way. NordLynx helps you connect to NordVPN faster (and is quicker than OpenVPN), and it retains a good level of privacy.

Performance

Connecting to a VPN can have adverse effects on your internet speed. It uses up a significant amount of bandwidth due to its security and privacy features. A good VPN will have the right balance between keeping you safe online while retaining similar speeds to a non-VPN connection.

Our researchers tested both NordVPN and Surfshark to see which provider had the best performance. To carry out a fair test, we first established a baseline speed without connecting to any VPN, then we tested both providers’ download and upload speeds for three server locations. 

Download speed

NordVPN (Mbps) Surfshark (Mbps)
No VPN 75.05 74.01
UK to UK 71.74 69.43
UK to US 70.65 70.9
UK to Aus 66.85 62.44
Average degradation (% of base download speed) 93% 91%

Although the download speed was a close call, NordVPN did come out on top for all of the servers we tested. 

Connecting to a NordVPN UK server only slowed our download speed by 4 per cent, while Surfshark’s download speed was 6 per cent slower. For both of the US servers, the two providers were virtually the same speed, but NordVPN’s download was noticeably faster when we tested the Australian server. 

Upload speed

NordVPN Surfshark
No VPN 18.23 18.1
UK to UK 17.55 17.33
UK to US 17.8 17.42
UK to Aus 14.25 17.21
Average degradation (% of base upload speed) 91% 95%

Similarly to the download speed, NordVPN is marginally faster than Surfshark on most servers. Testing UK servers, we found the upload speed for both Nord and Surfshark was 96 per cent as fast. 

Surfshark’s Australian upload speed was nearly as fast as our non-VPN connection, and this is an area where NordVPN lacked. NordVPN’s upload speed for its Australian server was slower than any other upload speed recorded in our tests.

Logging and privacy

With any service that handles your sensitive information, it’s crucial that you know this data is safe and secure. Most VPNs have a no-logs policy, meaning your IP address, personal information, web sessions, or activity are not logged or stored. 

Taking it one step further, the best VPN providers will also have this no-logs policy independently audited. If the policy is audited by one of the big four consulting firms – Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, or KPMG – this can add another layer of trust.

NordVPN Surfshark
No-logs policy
Audited
Kill switch
HQ in data-secure country
HQ Panama Netherlands

Both NordVPN and Surfshark have a strict no-logs policy, and they’ve both had this policy audited. Surfshark has been audited by Deloitte and has also had a security review carried out by Cure53. NordVPN has been audited by both PwC and Deloitte, which could be seen as more trustworthy than Surfshark, but both have consistently passed audits. 

Most VPNs offer a kill switch – this is when, in the event your VPN connection drops, your provider automatically disconnects your device from the internet and keeps your IP address and data safe and secure in the process. 

Both providers have a kill switch available on all of their apps.

The two providers differ when comparing headquarter locations. 

NordVPN is headquartered in Panama, which doesn’t have any data retention laws and is not part of any intelligence-sharing alliance. 

Surfshark used to operate from the British Virgin Islands, but in 2021, the company moved its headquarters to the Netherlands. While the jurisdiction has a liberal political environment and legal system, one concern is that the Netherlands is a member of the Nine Eyes intelligence-sharing network. 

The Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes are international intelligence-sharing alliance agreements between governments and participating countries. When a VPN is headquartered in a country belonging to one of the Eyes, it may receive requests from the governments of any member state to hand over customers’ data. However, an independently verified no-logs policy, in theory, means the provider won’t have anything to hand over anyway.

Geo-unblocking and streaming

One use for a VPN is to bypass geo-restrictions, whether that be when travelling to another country or to access content that is otherwise blocked in your jurisdiction. 

The below table outlines which sites and services NordVPN and Surfshark are able to unblock. 

Sites and services unblocked

Service NordVPN Surfshark
Twitter
YouTube
Netflix
Disney+
Amazon Prime
HBO
BBC iPlayer

Geo-unblocking is an area in which both VPNs excel. When our researchers tested the streaming platforms, we found that both NordVPN and Surfshark were capable of bypassing any type of geo-restrictions and we were able to access streaming content related to the server location we were connected to.

Torrenting

VPNs can be used to protect your online identity while torrenting. Torrenting refers to downloading or distributing files via BitTorrent – a communication protocol for peer-to-peer file sharing through a decentralised network. 

NordVPN is ideal for torrenting, as it has fast connection speeds, is encrypted by AES-256 and has a kill switch. Surfshark also has all of the above, but NordVPN also offers a double VPN feature, which encrypts your internet traffic twice, providing multiple layers of privacy, making it virtually impossible for your IP address to be revealed while torrenting.

Apps

Both NordVPN and Surfshark have apps that can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Like most VPNs, these apps can be downloaded for both desktop and mobile devices. 

We’ve compared NordVPN and Surfshark’s mobile and desktop apps, considering user experience, speed and user interface. 

Mobile apps

NordVPN’s mobile app is clean, clear and simple by design. The app’s interface allows you to quickly connect to a server that NordVPN believes is best suited for you. Just under the quick connect button, there are options to search for a specific server, favourite the ones you prefer, or connect to one of the speciality servers. 

Nord’s speciality servers add an extra layer of privacy – its Onion Over VPN allows you to access the Onion router network without the need for a Tor browser

NordVPN’s mobile app is fully customisable via its settings. Users are able to easily choose to turn on or off security features and protocols and choose a light or dark theme for the app. 

Surfshark’s mobile app is very similar to NordVPN’s version. Its interface has a quick connect option, where the VPN will choose the best server for you to connect to. In the toolbar at the bottom of the app, there is a world icon, which has a list of all Surfshark’s servers. From here, you can choose from the entire server base or be more specific and opt for the fastest location, nearest country, static IP, or MultiHop server.

Much like Nord, Surfshark also has an option to customise the appearance of the app, with a dark and light mode available. From the toolbar, you can access all of Surfshark’s security features.   

Desktop apps

NordVPN’s desktop app’s default window size is larger than Surfshark’s, and most of the app’s interface consists of a large map pinpointing your server location – it’s more intrusive than Surfshark’s desktop app, in our researcher’s opinion. 

NordVPN vs Surfshark Nord app
NordVPN’s desktop app is dominated by a large map of the world showing server locations (NordVPN)

Much like the mobile app, there is an option to quickly connect to a server chosen by Nord. The app has a long list of servers on the left-hand side, with presets for downloads, speed and browsing – this feature is particularly useful. Located within a toolbar, all of Nord’s security settings are easy to find and customise. 

Surfshark’s desktop app’s interface has a quick connect button and option to connect to the fastest server or nearest location. Users also have a choice of connecting to a Multihop or static IP server. All of Surfsharks’ security features can be found within the app’s settings and are easy to navigate. There are no real differences here, apart from Nord’s app being slightly larger. 

NordVPN vs Surfshark Surfshark app
Surfshark’s desktop app is clean and easy to use (Surfshark)

Platforms supported

Platform NordVPN Surfshark
Windows
Mac
Android
iPhone
iPad
Chrome
Android TV
Apple TV X
Amazon Firestick
Roku
Router support
Xbox
PlayStation
Nintendo Switch
Chromebook
Kindle Fire X

Both providers support a large number of platforms and include all of the main devices, such as Windows, Android, Mac and iPhone. 

Both Nord and Surfshark have apps for Amazon Firestick so you can stream with ease. Nord has an app for Android TV, whereas Surfshark says you can use its service with Apple TV if you install the VPN on your router – this isn’t problematic unless you require a VPN to have apps for both platforms. 

Both VPNs have also apps for major gaming consoles – Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch – making the services ideal for gamers.

Support

There are times when you may require some support when using a VPN service, either with setting up the app, utilising security features, or troubleshooting issues. 

We’ve compared NordVPN and Surfshark’s customer support and considered how helpful the level of support available is. 

NordVPN offers an excellent level of support for its customers. For urgent requests, its 24/7 live chat service is the best channel. Through the live chat, you’re able to speak to a customer support member in just a few clicks. Surfshark also has a 24/7 live chat service, and much like Nord, you’re able to bypass the chatbot in just a few clicks. 

Surfshark also has an email address for customers to contact the support team, though this mode of communication receives slower replies and is not meant for urgent enquires. NordVPN also provides this service, and it too is only meant for general queries.

Reputation and credibility

Throughout our research of NordVPN and Surfshark, we’ve compared their reputation and credibility by considering customer reviews, data breaches and years in business. 

NordVPN has 11 years in business, whereas Surfshark is a relative newcomer, with just five years in the industry. 

However, years in business don’t necessarily mean one provider is better than another. In fact, when our researcher dug a little deeper into NordVPN’s reputation, we discovered a previous data breach. 

In 2018, NordVPN had a security breach. The attack affected a single VPN server in Finland and was the result of a compromised data centre account – not an account managed by NordVPN itself. NordVPN stated its servers were not compromised, but as a result, moved to manage its own physical servers. It subsequently had its no-logs policy audited and verified by PwC in 2018 and again in 2020. The latest audit, at the end of 2022, was conducted by Deloitte. 

On the other hand, our researchers found Surfshark had not suffered any data or security breaches in its five years in business, and its no-logs policy has also recently been audited by Deloitte.

NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which is best?

Our researchers have compared NordVPN and Surfshark, researching features, price plans, performance and privacy policies with a fine-tooth comb to establish which provider offers the best service overall. 

NordVPN marginally takes the top spot. Simply put, NordVPN is headquartered in a data-secure country, is good for torrenting, supports more platforms and has a slightly better performance than Surfshark. 

However, there are plenty of things Surfshark does well: its price plans are marginally cheaper and it offers an unlimited number of simultaneous device connections, whereas Nord only offers six. 

However, considering the product overall, NordVPN has its own VPN protocol and over 5,000 VPN servers, which is much larger than Surfshark’s 3,200. 

NordVPN is a fantastic all-rounder VPN that supports a large number of platforms, including gaming apps, and it has Onion Over VPN servers, which allow for safe and secure torrenting; the service has something for everyone.

Read our full Nord VPN review and our Surfshark review.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.