NordVPN vs. Surfshark: 13 Comparison Tests, 1 Winner in 2020Last Updated by Lucca RF on October 01, 2020
When I first started shopping around for a VPN, I realized that every service promises to deliver on the same things (speed, security, and unblocking content) — but they can’t all possibly be “the best”! To try and find the right VPN for me, I tested over 35 services with streaming, torrenting, security, and more.
Based on all of my testing, I can honestly say that NordVPN and Surfshark are both great options, but deciding on which one meets your needs takes a lot of time and research. That’s why I compared these 2 premium VPNs in 13 key areas.
Short on Time? Find Out Who Won Right Here
If you want to make a quick decision, take a look at the test results below (spoiler alert — NordVPN is the winner!).
Winner of Each Category
|Pricing and Coupons||Surfshark|
|Streaming (Netflix and More!)||NordVPN|
Overall Winner: NordVPN
If you want the full test results now, jump to the summary!
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Pricing and Coupons
|Best offer||68% off the 2-year plan||81% off the 2-year plan|
Both VPNs provide a number of subscription options, but you’ll get a better deal if you sign up for a yearly plan instead of paying month-to-month. Luckily, you can usually find hidden discounts on these VPNs to bring down the cost (but be careful of fake or expired coupons). I found some offers to help you save on your subscription — you can click on either link in the table for more details.
Although Surfshark doesn’t have a 3-year option, all of its plans (apart from month-to-month) are cheaper compared to NordVPN. That’s why I chose Surfshark as the winner of this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Speed
|Multiple connections (local)||186Mbps||114Mbps|
|Single connection (local)||158Mbps||113Mbps|
|Distant server speeds (US)||164Mbps||115Mbps|
|Average time to initiate server connection||13 seconds||2 seconds|
I conducted 3 different speed tests to find the average speeds for both VPNs. However, keep in mind that server speeds vary based on many factors like how far the server is from your location. If I ran these tests again, I would probably get different results.
- Local single-connection test: In order to test server performance on a single device (and to compare to speeds from the other tests).
- Local multiple-connection test: In order to simulate connecting to multiple data sources such as several video streams or downloads.
- US server test: To test how each VPN performs when connecting to a distant server. I chose the US because it’s a popular server choice and home to many of the most popular streaming libraries
As you can see in the table above, both VPNs demonstrated high speeds. However, during my tests, NordVPN was faster in all download tests, making it the best choice for consistently high performance. Here’s a more detailed look at my test results:
NordVPN was faster in every category I tested apart from server setup speeds — so it’s the clear winner of this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Features
|Servers||5,700+ servers||1,040+ servers|
|Countries||59+ countries||60+ countries|
|24/7 customer suppor||Yes||Yes|
|Split tunneling||Yes – but only on Android||Yes|
|Onion over VPN servers||Yes||No|
Surfshark and NordVPN share most of the same standard features (like a global server network and unlimited bandwidth) — but when I took a deeper look, I noticed some differences.
They both have widespread server networks, but NordVPN has one of the largest VPN networks on the market (with over 5,700 servers to choose from!). This means you’ll always have alternative servers to choose from in case your server is slow.
The only place Surfshark outperforms NordVPN is in device connections. With Surfshark, you can connect an unlimited number of devices at once, while NordVPN only supports 6 connections.
Overall, both services offer a wide range of features but NordVPN goes above and beyond in areas like coverage and security. After testing so many VPNs, I found that more servers to choose from means better server performance — so NordVPN is the winner here.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Streaming (Netflix and More!)
|Netflix||US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Spain||US, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia, India, Norway, Singapore, South Korea|
|Amazon Prime||US, UK, Japan||US|
|Hulu||US, Japan||US, Japan|
NordVPN and Surfshark are closely matched when it comes to streaming as both support many popular platforms. Both gave me consistent streaming connections and avoided the dreaded Netflix proxy error.
You can stream Netflix US with both services, but I experienced faster speeds with NordVPN. With Surfshark, Netflix took almost 20 seconds to load and I had to wait another 30 seconds for the streams to start. My experience with Prime and HBO Go was identical to Netflix. Interestingly, Disney+ buffered in under a second with Surfshark, while NordVPN took roughly 5 seconds.
I also tested each service with multiple free regional streaming platforms such as 9NOW in Australia, CBC in Canada, and TVP in Poland. Both VPNs managed to unblock all 3 websites, although Surfshark had 10–15 second buffering times, while NordVPN was running in under 5.
My tests prove that Surfshark is a capable VPN for streaming but lacks several platforms that NordVPN supports (like Vudu, Sky, and SHOWTIME). For this reason, NordVPN wins this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — China
As you probably know, China has severe internet restrictions in place. However, with certain VPNs, you can bypass the Great Firewall of China and use the internet freely. NordVPN and Surfshark work in China, although during my tests, both occasionally failed to connect. This is likely due to the Chinese government identifying and blocking my servers.
Each provider offers a different feature for overcoming internet restrictions in countries with heavy surveillance. For NordVPN, these are obfuscated servers, while Surfshark calls them “NoBorders” servers. Regardless of the name, you can use both to use the internet anonymously in China. Here’s how:
3 Steps to Enable NordVPN’s Obfuscated Servers
How To Turn on Surfshark’s NoBorders Feature in Under a Minute
I tested these features myself and was relieved to find that both VPNs help bypass government restrictions in China (even if connectivity is inconsistent).
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Torrenting
|Average torrent download speed||74.6Mbps||95.6Mbps|
NordVPN and Surfshark each support torrenting — however, NordVPN has thousands of servers dedicated to torrenting. Apparently all of Surfshark’s servers support torrenting, so I ran some tests to see how they performed compared to NordVPN’s P2P servers.
When it comes to torrenting, Surfshark has higher speeds and NordVPN has a larger number of servers dedicated to torrenting. You’ll have to decide which feature is more important to you.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Gaming
As a gamer, I know the most important metric for gaming is latency (sometimes known as ping). Latency is the time it takes for your command to reach the server and the result of that command (movement, shooting, etc.) to be sent back to your device.
I know firsthand that VPNs aren’t often used while gaming because they have a bad reputation for increasing latency (due to the extra server connections). However, I was positively surprised by Surfshark’s results.
Be aware that the lower the ping (in ms), the better!
|Without a VPN||NordVPN||Surfshark|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||39ms||54ms||50ms|
While testing, Surfshark had lower ping than NordVPN in all 3 games. In Rocket League, my ping while connected to Surfshark was even lower than my base ping. I assume that the VPN was taking a more direct route to the game servers than my ISP, resulting in lower ping.
Surfshark’s lower latency results make it the best choice for gaming, and mean it wins this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Security
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec||IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks|
|Leak protection||DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch||DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch|
|Server chaining||Yes, “Double VPN”||Yes, “MultiHop”|
NordVPN and Surfshark each use the fastest and most secure VPN protocols (including OpenVPN), which means no matter which one you choose — you’ll always be secure.
A core feature of a VPN is that it masks your IP address, therefore IP and DNS leak protection is an essential part of any VPN. I ran leak tests on both services to ensure they protect your personal data with every connection — they both passed with no issues.
With server chaining technology, NordVPN and Surfshark allow you to connect to two VPN servers at once. This sends your data through two encrypted VPN tunnels and countries, making you harder to track. However, NordVPN offers 70 Double VPN connections, compared to Surfshark’s 13.
For those wanting even more privacy, NordVPN’s “Onion over VPN” servers are a great option. Your traffic is first sent to NordVPN’s encrypted servers and then through the Tor network. Tor is seen as the most secure browser available as it anonymously bounces traffic across multiple nodes (individual computers) before reaching its final destination.
This category is a close match, with both VPNs offering the same core security functionality. However, with NordVPN’s Tor servers and larger selection of Double VPN connections, it takes a slight lead and wins this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Logging Policy
NordVPN and Surfshark both claim to keep no logs of your personal data, but I couldn’t just trust that they were telling the truth. After doing some research, I found out that:
- NordVPN was audited by PWC in 2018, which fully verified their no-log policy. It was shown to keep no IP addresses, traffic logs, or connection logs of any kind.
- Surfshark underwent an audit in 2018 as well, although it was far more limited in scope — only auditing the Chrome and Firefox extensions. While Surfshark passed that audit, a full audit of the main software is necessary to ensure full compliance with the no-log policy.
Apart from auditing, where a VPN provider is located is also extremely important. The 5, 9, and 14 Eyes alliances are groups of countries that share data gathered by intelligence services (and can pressure companies within their borders to share information). Luckily, both of these services are outside of the alliances, with NordVPN based in Panama and Surfshark in the British Virgin Islands.
While both VPNs are in safe international jurisdictions, only NordVPN has received a full independent audit so I had to choose NordVPN as the winner.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Device Compatibility
|Samsung Smart TV||No||Yes|
|LG Smart TV||No||Yes|
|Android Smart TV||Yes||Yes|
I obviously couldn’t test every single one of these devices, but both VPNs performed well on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook. As you can see above, both services support the most popular operating systems and mobile devices. However, Surfshark is the clear winner of this category as it supports 18 devices and will allow you to connect them all on a single account, while NordVPN only supports 14.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Interface
Both NordVPN and Surfshark have an appealing interface. However, with NordVPN you can pick a server from a list of countries or directly from the map. I prefer this over Surfshark’s list-only approach as the map allows me to check nearby servers and automatically connect to the best available server.
Both VPNs have menus and settings that are simple to understand and enable in just a few clicks.
During my tests, I realized that both apps run in the background once you’re connected. You can easily disconnect by swiping down your notification bar and clicking “disconnect”. When you’re not actively using them, both apps stay hidden.
NordVPN’s map-based server overview and more streamlined menu navigation made it a lot easier for me to use, so it wins this category.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Setup
|3-step installation available for:||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Android TV||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Android TV|
|Server selection from||Choose a specific country from the interactive map or select an individual server from the list||Choose a specific country from the server list only|
Both NordVPN and Surfshark are easy to install on desktop. In 5 simple steps (and less than 3 minutes), I installed both apps to my MacBook and started browsing. I found the download for Surfshark took an extra minute compared to NordVPN, but once the app was installed I had no issues.
Most how-to pages tell you to get the mobile app from the Play Store (Android) or App Store (iOS), but I don’t recommend doing that. I learned the hard way that if you don’t buy directly from the vendor, it may not process your refund (or could take much longer in Surfshark’s case). I had to read through both Apple and NordVPN’s refund policies — Apple’s took me over an hour to read and understand.
To save yourself the hassle of speaking to a middle man (like Apple), follow these simple instructions:
How to Use NordVPN on Your Mobile Device
How to Use Surfshark on Your Mobile Device
Apart from computers and mobile devices, both VPNs offer installs for other hardware.
- You can download either VPN from the “Apps” section on Fire TV devices.
- Download both services from the Play Store on Android TV.
- Find the manual install files in your NordVPN or Surfshark account for router setup.
- Easily download the Linux repo and install both VPNs through the terminal.
Both VPNs offer a fast download and installation experience on both desktop and mobile, so this category is a tie.
NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Customer Service
|24/7 live chat and email support||24/7 live chat and email support|
|FAQ sections covering the most common issues||FAQ sections covering the most common issues|
|Setup tutorials||Setup tutorials|
I found NordVPN and Surfshark do equally well in the field of customer service. They both have a deep and well-organized help section full of tutorials, guides, and troubleshooting material.
Live chat is a convenient feature as it offers you the quickest answer to your questions. For both providers, this feature is easy to connect. I’ve used live chat for both VPNs dozens of times over the past year and have only positive things to say about them.
Each time I’ve used this feature, the representatives have responded quickly and been knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects like manual VPN setup and choosing the best server for streaming in a certain country.
As both VPNs offer thorough and responsive customer support, there is a tie for this category.
Final Look: NordVPN vs. Surfshark
|Setup||Easy to install on all main devices||Easy to install on all main devices|
|Device Compatibility||Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Chromebook, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Android TV, Fire TV, and select routers||Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Android TV, Fire Stick, Kodi, and select routers|
|Interface||Map and list-based server selection||List-based server selection|
|Pricing||As low as $3.71/month with a 2-year plan||As low as $2.49/month with a 2-year plan|
|Speed||Average speed: 169Mbps||Average speed: 114Mbps|
|Logging Policy||No-log policy, fully audited by independent auditors||No-log policy, partially audited (only browser extensions)|
|Customer Service||24/7 live chat and email support||24/7 live chat and email support|
|China||Works, but occasionally failed to connect||Works, but occasionally failed to connect|
|Streaming||Unblocks 10 Netflix countries, Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more||Unblocks 10 Netflix countries, Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more|
|Torrenting||Average torrent download speed: 74.6Mbps||Average torrent download speed: 95.6Mbps|
|Gaming||Average ping (connection delay while gaming): 64.5ms||Average ping (connection delay while gaming): 41.5ms|
And the Winner Is… NordVPN!
NordVPN is the overall winner, but that doesn’t mean Surfshark isn’t worth your attention.
If you’re looking for a high-speed VPN with the best access to streaming services and a verified no-logs policy, then NordVPN is the best choice for you. If price, number of device connections, and gaming performance matter the most, then Surfshark is my recommendation. However, compared to many other VPNs I’ve tested, both NordVPN and Surfshark are quality VPNs that offer great value for money.
NordVPN and Surfshark each offer 30-day money-back guarantees. You can test each service yourself risk-free and get a full refund through customer service.