VPNs Uncovered

VPNs Uncovered: A Detailed Examination of Express VPN and its Competitors

Introduction

In today’s digital age, privacy and security are paramount concerns, especially when it comes to online activities. Enter Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), the guardians of your digital footprint. Two of the most prominent players in the VPN market, ExpressVPN and NordVPN, have emerged as top contenders, boasting strong encryption protocols and no-logging policies that prioritize user privacy. While both are highly regarded, ExpressVPN stands out for its transparency, ease of use, and innovative server technology spread across 105 countries.

This article delves into the world of VPNs, focusing on ExpressVPN and its notable competitors, such as NordVPN, CyberGhost VPN, Private Internet Access (PIA), and Surfshark. We’ll explore their unique features, server coverage, and overall performance to help you make an informed decision when choosing a VPN for your specific needs, whether it’s for secure banking, streaming, or general cybersecurity.

ExpressVPN: The Pioneer of Speed and Security

ExpressVPN, a seasoned VPN provider, constantly exhibits a solid dedication to privacy and openness, making it a top pick for streaming, albeit at a higher cost. With over 3,000 servers spread across 105 countries, ExpressVPN offers a broad range of server locations, which can be advantageous for users looking to connect to specific regions.

ExpressVPN’s apps are deliberately simple, making them easy to set up and use, even for beginners. The provider uses its proprietary Lightway protocol, along with standard VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and DNS Leak Protection. Additionally, ExpressVPN has undergone two third-party no-log audits, showcasing its dedication to user privacy.

Feature

  • ExpressVPN

Servers

  • 3,000+ servers in 105 countries 

Protocols

  • OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Lightway 

Kill Switch

  • Available in apps 

No-Logs Audits

  • Two third-party audits 

Jurisdiction

  • British Virgin Islands 

Simultaneous Connections

Router Support

  • Custom router firmware 

Streaming Support

  • Streaming options include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and more. 

P2P/Torrenting

  • Supported on every server 

Pricing

  • $12.95/Month, $8.32/Month (1-year plan) 

NordVPN: A Contender with Immense Server Coverage

NordVPN, a highly-regarded VPN service in 2024, consistently ranks among the fastest VPN services, thanks to its NordLynx protocol, an in-house variant of the open-source WireGuard protocol. With over 6,200 servers in 111 countries, NordVPN offers a wide range of server options for users, enabling access to popular Streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and others. The service supports various tunneling protocols, including NordLynx, OpenVPN (UDP/TCP), and IKEv2, and offers specialty servers such as double-VPN servers, onion-over-VPN servers, and obfuscated servers for bypassing VPN blocks in restricted countries.

NordVPN’s robust security features include:

  • Market-leading encryption and secure tunneling protocols to ensure user data safety
  • RAM-only server infrastructure, which means all data gets wiped out every time a server is restarted, offering no information for anyone to steal
  • A kill switch and security against DNS breaches.
  • Meshnet: A secure file-sharing system that allows users to share files between multiple devices through an encrypted connection
  • Threat Protection: An anti-malware tool that scans files downloaded onto a machine and blocks possible malware attached to them
  • Dark Web Monitor: Continuously scans the dark web for any credentials related to the user’s NordVPN email, alerting them of any possible leaks or vulnerabilities

In terms of pricing, NordVPN offers better value for money compared to ExpressVPN, with plans starting from $3.09/month for a two-year subscription. The service also provides a 7-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Feature

  • NordVPN

Servers:

  • 6,200+ servers in 111 countries 

Protocols

  • NordLynx, OpenVPN (UDP/TCP), and IKEv2 

Kill Switch

  • Available 

No-Logs Policy

  • Thoroughly audited 

Jurisdiction

  • Panama 

Simultaneous Connections

Specialty Servers

  • It includes double VPN, onion over VPN, and obfuscated servers. 

Streaming Support

  • Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more 

P2P/Torrenting

  • Supported 

Pricing

  • $3.09/month (2-year plan), $4.92/month (1-year plan) 

CyberGhost VPN: User-Friendly Interface Meets Massive Server Fleet

CyberGhost VPN, a top VPN service in 2024, offers industry-standard encryption and specialty servers for efficient torrenting and streaming. With over 11,500 servers in 100 countries, CyberGhost boasts one of the largest server fleets in the industry. The service provides specialized servers for gaming, torrenting, and streaming, with specific servers optimized for particular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.

CyberGhost VPN’s key features include:

  • No-logs policy, independently audited by Deloitte
  • RAM-only servers, ensuring complete data erasure when a server is unplugged
  • 45-day money-back guarantee, longer than typical 1-month guarantees
  • Free trial
  • Services are available in many languages, including English, German, and French
  • French
  • Dedicated IP

Performance Metric

  • CyberGhost VPN

Speed Test Results

  • Average Speed Loss: Nearly 49% 

Fastest Server Locations:

  • Australian servers: 144 Mbps 
  • Paris servers: 327 Mbps 

Slowest Server Locations:

  • US servers in New York: 55 Mbps 
  • Singapore servers: 3 Mbps 
  • Server Fleet Upgrades (2018-2023)
  • Upgraded servers to 10 GB 

– Added more colocated servers for better security 

– Average active connections increased from 51,000 to 160,000 

– Average physical cores per server increased from 6 to 8 

While CyberGhost VPN is faster than ExpressVPN, making it ideal for live streaming and torrenting, some areas for improvement include connection speeds and concerns related to logging policies and app permissions. The macOS and iOS CyberGhost apps also offer less functionality compared to other platforms.

Private Internet Access (PIA): The Budget-Friendly Option

VPN service
VPN service

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a budget-friendly VPN option that offers competitive features and pricing plans. With three subscription options, including $12 per month, $40 annually ($3.33/month), and $79 for three years ($2.19/month), PIA caters to various user needs and budgets. The service supports a wide range of platforms, such as Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android/Android TV, iOS/iPadOS, Fire TV, and browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

PIA employs robust security measures, including:

  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • A kill switch
  • Obfuscation
  • Multi-hop,
  • No DNS leaks
  • OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols
  • SOCKS5 proxy and PIA’s proprietary MACE ad-blocker
  • RAM-only servers
  • A strict no-logging policy was independently audited by Deloitte in 2022

PIA boasts an extensive server network, with over 12,000 servers spanning 91 countries. The service supports unlimited simultaneous connections and offers streaming-optimized servers for popular platforms like Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount Plus, Peacock, and Max (formerly HBO Max). PIA’s user-friendly app includes features such as split tunneling, obfuscation, and multi-hop connections.

Feature

Pricing

  • $12/month, $40/year ($3.33/month), $79/3 years ($2.19/month) 

Platforms

  • Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android/Android TV, iOS/iPad, Fire TV, browsers 

Encryption

  • AES 256-bit 

Protocols

  • OpenVPN, WireGuard 

Server Network

  • 12,000+ servers in 91 countries 

Simultaneous Connections

  • Unlimited 

Streaming Support

  • Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount Plus, Peacock, and Max 

Extra Features

  • Ad blocker, private browser, Identity Guard 

Money-back Guarantee

  • 30 days 

While PIA offers excellent features and performance for streaming and general use, its jurisdiction in the US (a 5-Eyes country) might concern some users due to data retention laws. Additionally, PIA’s encryption and tunneling protocol options might be confusing for beginners.

Surfshark: Unrivaled Device Connectivity

Surfshark, a budget-friendly VPN option, stands out for its extensive device compatibility and generous simultaneous connection allowance. The company provides programs for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Amazon Fire TV, Android, iOS, and Linux as well as extensions for popular web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. This versatility ensures that users can secure their online activities across multiple devices with ease.

One of Surfshark’s most attractive features is its support for unlimited simultaneous connections. This means that users can protect all their devices, including routers, gaming consoles, and smart TVs, with a single subscription. Additionally, Surfshark offers a dedicated IP add-on for $3.75/month, providing users with a static IP address for enhanced privacy and convenience.

Surfshark employs various VPN protocols, such as WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2, to ensure secure and fast connections. The provider also offers advanced features like MultiHop, Kill Switch, and CleanWeb to enhance user privacy and security. Camouflage Mode, a unique feature, hides not only browsing activity but also the fact that a VPN is being used. However, it’s worth noting that despite being a ‘no-logs’ VPN, Surfshark records users’ IP addresses when they connect, although this information is encrypted and deleted 15 minutes after each session.

Feature

Servers

  • 3,200+ servers in 100 countries 

Protocols

  • WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 

Simultaneous Connections

  • Unlimited 

Platforms

  • Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and Amazon Fire TV 

Browser Extensions

  • Chrome, Firefox, and Edge 

Advanced Features

  • MultiHop, Kill Switch, and CleanWeb 
  • Camouflage Mode 
  • Dedicated IP
  • Available for $3.75/month 
  • Jurisdiction

Netherlands (Nine Eyes) 

Pricing

  • Budget-friendly 

Free Trial

  • 7-day free trial on Android and iOS 

Comparative Analysis: Key Considerations when Choosing a VPN

VPN technology
VPN technology

When comparing VPNs, it’s essential to consider various factors to make an informed decision. Here are some key considerations:

Security and Privacy:

  • Most VPNs use AES-256 encryption, which is considered very secure.
  • A strict no-logging policy is crucial to ensuring user privacy.
  • Be aware that a VPN company must follow the laws of its home country, which can require data collection and provision to authorities, potentially compromising user privacy.
  • Verify your VPN provider’s claims regarding data logging by checking their privacy policy. Some data, such as browsing history, may be kept private.

Server Network and Performance:

  • A larger server network can provide better performance and more location options.
  • VPNs can impact internet speed, but this varies between providers and servers. Some VPNs offer features to improve speed, such as split tunneling.
  • Thousands of servers may indicate less control over the network, potentially posing a security risk.

Compatibility and Features:

  • Most VPNs support major platforms like Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
  • Many VPNs offer user-friendly interfaces and additional features like ad-blocking and malware protection.
  • Consider other factors such as VPN protocol options, bandwidth limitations, kill switch, multi-hop, and specialized servers for gaming or torrenting.

Pricing and reputation:

  • VPN pricing varies greatly, with monthly, yearly, and multi-year options available. Some VPN services include free trials or money-back guarantees.
  • 24/7 customer support and a good reputation among users are important factors
  • It is crucial to choose a VPN provider with a solid background in cybersecurity and transparency.
  • Be critical when reading comparisons and reviews, and favor independent, non-paid sources.

When evaluating VPN providers, identify your reasons for using a VPN, such as unblocking region-restricted content, accessing geo-blocked live sports broadcasts, improving the gaming experience, torrenting, device compatibility, number of simultaneous connections, and location. Research, compare options, read reviews, and try free trials or refund windows to make an informed decision.

Conclusion and Recommendations

As we navigate the digital landscape, protecting our online privacy and security becomes increasingly crucial. ExpressVPN, NordVPNCyberGhost VPN, Private Internet Access, and Surfshark have emerged as leading VPN providers, each offering a unique set of features and benefits. By carefully evaluating factors such as security measures, server networks, performance, compatibility, and pricing, users can make an informed decision when selecting a VPN that best suits their needs.

Ultimately, the choice of a VPN provider depends on individual priorities and use cases. Whether you prioritize streaming, gaming, torrenting, or general online privacy, there is a VPN solution tailored to your requirements. As the digital world continues to evolve, investing in a reliable VPN service is a proactive step towards safeguarding your online presence and ensuring a secure, private browsing experience.

FAQs

1. What VPN offers better performance than ExpressVPN?

While both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are among the fastest VPNs available, NordVPN has been identified as the fastest in tests conducted in 2024, with an average speed loss of only 11.1%. Although all VPNs can slow down your internet connection to some extent, NordVPN and ExpressVPN minimize this effect significantly.

2. Can ExpressVPN be considered reliable?

Yes, ExpressVPN maintains a high level of trustworthiness, especially in terms of security audits. In 2022, the company completed 12 independent security audits, which is a notably higher number than its competitors. Despite not having any audits in 2023, ExpressVPN had a consistent record of audits from March to November of the previous year.

3. How do ExpressVPN and NordVPN compare in terms of service?

When comparing ExpressVPN and NordVPN, NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol provides superior download speeds, making it the faster option overall. Although ExpressVPN may offer better upload speeds in certain server locations, NordVPN generally has the upper hand in both download and upload speeds.

4. Are there any reasons to avoid using ExpressVPN?

There are a couple of drawbacks to consider with ExpressVPN. Firstly, it allows for a maximum of only eight simultaneous device connections, which might not be sufficient for larger households. Secondly, their email support response times can be slow, with our inquiry taking nearly two days to receive a response.

5. What are the key considerations when choosing a VPN?

Key considerations when choosing a VPN include security and privacy features, server network and performance, compatibility and additional features, pricing, and reputation of the provider. It’s important to assess factors such as encryption protocols, logging policies, server coverage, speed, device compatibility, customer support, and user feedback to make an informed decision.

Image credits: Designed by Freepik

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top