There are already a lot of VPNs on the market, and the number available to choose from only seems to be growing. Two very popular offerings are Surfshark and NordVPN.
While you’ll find that most companies with VPNs make the same promises about how they’ll perform, there are actually significant differences between the products when you really get down to it.
In this article, we’ll tease out the differences between Surfshark and NordVPN so you can decide which of them is better suited to your needs.
We’ll start with the most important thing for any VPN: security. A good VPN should make sure that nobody can access any information about your online activity, so let’s see how these two VPNs do on that front.
Naturally, both of them use the industry standard 256 encryption, as banks and governments do, which is a good start.
They’re also both protected against DNS and IP leaks (i.e. situations where your information can still be seen even though you’re using a VPN) and both have kill switches, which will disconnect your device from the internet immediately if you lose your VPN connection.
This ensures that there are no circumstances where you won’t be fully protected as you browse the web.
So far, the two are neck and neck for security. That continues, as both of them also permit split tunneling (i.e. you can channel some of your activity through the VPN while leaving other activity unsecured, allowing you to hide the important stuff while keeping higher speeds).
They both also have a server chaining function, where your data is sent through not one, but two VPN servers to make extra sure that nobody’s snooping on you. NordVPN does have more of these connections available, though.
The only area where there’s a real difference between the two is that NordVPN, unlike Surfshark, allows you to go through not only a VPN server but also the Tor network, which adds an extra layer of security. Given this, a narrow victory on the security front has to go to NordVPN.
This is closely related to how secure your VPN is. Basically, the logging policy refers to whether or not a VPN will collect or share any of your information. Any VPN even worth considering will promise a no-logging policy, as Surfshark and NordVPN both do.
However, to our knowledge, neither of these policies have been conclusively proven in response to an information request. Compare this with the case of ExpressVPN – the government of Turkey seized some of the company’s physical servers, but didn’t find any traces of user information stored there.
That said, there is no particular reason to think that either Surfshark or NordVPN do not operate a no-logging policy, and it’s not their fault that no government has tried to get information from them yet.
As an extra note, it’s worth considering where your VPN is located. In particular, it’s best if the country where the company is based is outside the Five Eyes / Nine Eyes / Fourteen Eyes jurisdictions.
These are intelligence-sharing alliances of countries that share various kinds of information with each other to varying degrees, including information obtained through digital espionage.
They can apply pressure to companies within their borders to release information about their activities which could, in theory, include records of VPN users and their activity, if the company keeps such records.
Thankfully, both Surfshark and NordVPN are headquartered outside the reach of these alliances, in the British Virgin Islands and Panama respectively.
This means that the powerful governments of these intelligence-sharing networks can’t lean on the companies to give up records of user data or anything like that, meaning that you’re safe.
Speed is one of the trickier things to measure when it comes to VPNs, since it can be so heavily influenced by location and other factors. While you can certainly do speed tests, you’re not likely to get consistent results from one place or time to another.
With that being said, we did actually find a clear winner in our own speed tests: NordVPN. This applied not only for connections to local servers, but also to distant ones as well (though of course connecting to a distant server is always going to impact the speed a bit for any VPN).
Or, to give it its more formal title, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. While some VPNs actually don’t allow torrenting at all, you won’t need to worry about that with either of these two.
In fact, both of them offer several thousand servers that support it, so you should have no trouble torrenting wherever you are. NordVPN does offer more of them, however, though it shouldn’t make a huge difference.
With that being said, our tests found that Surfshark actually offered speedier downloads, so if you’re planning to do a lot of torrenting, then Surfshark will probably offer you a better service.
VPNs are not very often used for gaming. This is largely because they increase latency (also known as ping), which is the measure of the delay between your taking an action (e.g. shooting or moving) and it being registered by the server. Obviously, high latency makes playing games online very difficult.
However, NordVPN and Surfshark both offer pretty low ping, meaning you should be able to game quite well on them if you want to.
In particular Surfshark offered a markedly lower ping than NordVPN, so if you want to game with a VPN active, Surfshark is the ideal choice. Some users have even reported that their ping was lower when using Surfshark than without, which would of course be ideal for anyone playing online games.
Devices And Compatibility
There’s not a lot to separate the two VPNs on this front. Both of them are compatible with the standard big four: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. They’re also both compatible with quite a lot more besides those, such as routers, Xbox One, Fire TV etc.
There are a few platforms where one is compatible and the other isn’t, however. For example, NordVPN works on Windows phones while Surfshark doesn’t, whereas the opposite is true for PlayStation 4. Overall, though, they come in more or less the same.
One other thing to note is that NordVPN can be used on up to 6 different devices simultaneously.
This is around average, and while it might be enough for most people, it’s not quite as good as what Surfshark offers. Surfshark actually allows you to connect to an unlimited number of devices at any time, meaning you and your family can browse safely without any limitations.
Both Surfshark and NordVPN can offer quite a lot when it comes to server selection. NordVPN supports a very impressive 5400 servers spread across 60 different countries, while Surfshark can boast over 3200 servers in 65 countries.
While NordVPN comes out on top as regards the numbers, 3200 is still a very respectable number of servers to choose from, and whichever you go for, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a server near where you are.
One of the most common reasons that people like to use VPNs is that they can unlock regionally locked content. For instance, if someone in the UK wants to view Netflix’s US library, or vice versa, a VPN can allow them to do this.
However, some VPNs allow access to more streaming services than others. Thankfully, both Surfshark and NordVPN are exceptionally good at unblocking all kinds of content. The big ones are all catered for – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and so on.
However, Surfshark has been shown to struggle to unblock a couple of services, such as ABC’s online library, so we’ll have to award a narrow win to NordVPN here as well.
As China is the country with the most wide-ranging and sophisticated internet restrictions on Earth, being able to work there is a real test that sorts the wheat from the chaff in the VPN world.
Thankfully, both NordVPN and Surfshark do in fact work there, allowing you to bypass the blocks that affect a huge list of websites in China.
One thing to note is that the websites of both VPNs are themselves blocked in China, so if you want to use them there, it’d be better to install them before you arrive.
Overall, both Surfshark and NordVPN are very good options if you’re looking for a VPN. In a side by side comparison, NordVPN just about comes out on top, having won slight victories in most categories of comparison.
However, that doesn’t mean that Surfshark isn’t worth a look. There are no categories in which it does poorly, and even in cases where NordVPN offers something better, Surfshark is still respectable.
So, while we’d have to recommend NordVPN overall, Surfshark is still a great option.
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