NordVPN vs. Surfshark: 13 Comparison Tests, 1 Winner in 2020

Lucca RF Last 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
Speed NordVPN
Features NordVPN
Streaming (Netflix and More!) NordVPN
China Tie
Torrenting Tie
Gaming Surfshark
Security NordVPN
Logging Policy NordVPN
Device Compatibility Surfshark
Interface NordVPN
Setup Tie
Customer Service Tie

Overall Winner: NordVPN

If you want the full test results now, jump to the summary!

Try NordVPN for free today

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Pricing and Coupons

NordVPN Surfshark
Monthly $11.95 $12.95
6-Month $9.00 $6.49
2-Years $3.71 $2.49
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.

Winner: Surfshark

Sign up for a plan with Surfshark today

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Speed

NordVPN Surfshark
Multiple connections (local) 186Mbps 114Mbps
Single connection (local) 158Mbps 113Mbps
Distant server speeds (US) 164Mbps 115Mbps
Average speed 169Mbps 114Mbps
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.

  1. Local single-connection test: In order to test server performance on a single device (and to compare to speeds from the other tests).
  2. Local multiple-connection test: In order to simulate connecting to multiple data sources such as several video streams or downloads.
  3. 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:

During my single-connection test, NordVPN was 39% faster than Surfshark.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark running a single-connection speed test.

NordVPN offered significantly higher speeds on my local servers

During my multi-connection test, NordVPN was 62% faster than Surfshark.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark running a multi-connection speed test.

NordVPN beat Surfshark by over 70Mbps in my local tests

NordVPN was 42% faster than Surfshark during a test with a distant New York server.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark running a US speed test.

NordVPN beat Surfshark in US server tests

NordVPN was faster in every category I tested apart from server setup speeds — so it’s the clear winner of this category.

Winner: NordVPN

Get fast speeds with NordVPN

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Features

NordVPN Surfshark
Servers 5,700+ servers 1,040+ servers
Countries 59+ countries 60+ countries
Simultaneous connections 6 Unlimited
Unlimited bandwidth Yes Yes
24/7 customer suppor Yes Yes
P2P support Yes Yes
Malware blocker Yes Yes
Split tunneling Yes – but only on Android Yes
Kill switch Yes Yes
Auto-connect Yes 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.

Winner: NordVPN

Choose from thousands of servers with NordVPN

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Streaming (Netflix and More!)

NordVPN Surfshark
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
BBC iPlayer Yes Yes
Hulu US, Japan US, Japan
Disney+ Yes Yes
Vudu Yes No
SkyTV Yes Yes
HBO Go Yes Yes
HBO Now Yes Yes
Sky (UK) Yes No
SHOWTIME (US) Yes No
DAZN (Sports) Yes Yes
ESPN (Sports) Yes Yes

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.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark unblocking various TV shows and movies on Netflix and Disney+.

NordVPN and Surfshark can unblock platforms with thousands of hours of content

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.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark unblocking various local TV stations, including 9Now, TVP, and CBC.

Both VPNs are able to unblock several free, local streams

I gained easy access to the BBC iPlayer’s huge catalog of children’s content with NordVPN. Unfortunately, when connected to Surfshark, BBC iPlayer showed an error message.

Screenshot of NordVPN successfully unblocking BBC iPlayer and Surfshark failing to do so.

NordVPN is the clear choice for streaming, giving me no issues during testing

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.

Winner: NordVPN

Stream from anywhere with NordVPN

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

  1. Go to settings by clicking on the gear icon.
  2. Select “Advanced”.
  3. Turn on “Obfuscated servers”.
    Screenshot of NordVPN obfuscated server setup.

How To Turn on Surfshark’s NoBorders Feature in Under a Minute

  1. Go to “Settings” by clicking on the gear icon.
  2. Select “Advanced”.
  3. Turn on “NoBorders”.
    Screenshot of Surfshark NoBorders setup.

I tested these features myself and was relieved to find that both VPNs help bypass government restrictions in China (even if connectivity is inconsistent).

Winner: Tie

Bypass the Great Wall of China with NordVPN

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Torrenting

NordVPN Surfshark
P2P servers 4,800+ 1,040+
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.

For my tests, I connected each VPN to a local Warsaw server. While both services performed well, I could download a 2.17GB file in just 3 minutes with Surfshark — and it took NordVPN over 4 minutes.

Screenshot of Surfshark downloading a torrent with a 95.6 Mbps average speed, and NordVPN with a 74.6 Mbps average speed.

Surfshark downloaded the same file roughly 28% faster than NordVPN

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.

Winner: Tie

Torrent securely with Surfshark

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
Rocket League 34ms 75ms 33ms
Call of Duty: Warzone 39ms 54ms 50ms
Apex Legends 31ms 44ms 35ms
Average 34.6ms 57.6ms 39.3ms

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.

With Surfshark, latency stayed low while gaming

If you need to use a VPN while gaming, connect to your closest available server to limit the amount of latency.

Screenshot of Call of Duty: Warzone and Rocket League latency results while gaming with NordVPN connected.

I experienced higher latency with NordVPN than Surfshark

Surfshark’s lower latency results make it the best choice for gaming, and mean it wins this category.

Winner: Surfshark

Game with no lag with Surfshark

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Security

NordVPN Surfshark
VPN protocols OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks
Encryption type AES-256-GCM AES-256-GCM
Leak protection DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch
Malware blocker Yes Yes
Split tunneling Yes Yes
Server chaining Yes, “Double VPN” Yes, “MultiHop”
Tor servers Yes No

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.

Screenshot of NordVPN passing a leak test connected to a German server, and Surfshark passing a leak test connected to a Swedish server.

NordVPN and Surfshark didn’t reveal my real location or IP address

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.

Finally, both VPNs have an integrated kill switch for all your devices. This cuts off your internet connection if your VPN connection ever fails, preventing accidental data leaks.

Screenshot of NordVPN's and Surfshark's integrated kill switches.

The integrated kill switches protect you from data leaks if your VPN connection drops

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.

Winner: NordVPN

Keep your devices secure with NordVPN

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.

Winner: NordVPN

Use NordVPN’s fully audited service

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Device Compatibility

NordVPN Surfshark
Windows Yes Yes
macOS Yes Yes
Android Yes Yes
iOS Yes Yes
Fire TV Yes Yes
Chromecast No No
Roku No No
Kodi No Yes
Blackberry Yes Yes
Raspberry Pi Yes Yes
Windows Phone Yes No
Chrome Yes Yes
Firefox Yes Yes
Opera No Yes
PS4 No Yes
Xbox One Yes Yes
Nintendo Switch Yes Yes
Samsung Smart TV No Yes
LG Smart TV No Yes
Android Smart TV Yes Yes
Routers 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.

Winner: Surfshark

Connect all of your devices with Surfshark

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Interface

Desktop

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.

Screenshot of NordVPN connected to a UK server.

I prefer NordVPN’s map and list-based server selection options

Both VPNs have menus and settings that are simple to understand and enable in just a few clicks.

Surfshark splits its settings across 3 menus in a slightly disorganized way, so finding a specific setting can sometimes be frustrating.

Screenshot of Surfshark's desktop menus.

Surfshark’s settings are well-explained but the menus are slightly disorganized

Personally, I find NordVPN’s menu structure more intuitive as it clearly labels every setting option so you can find and enable specific settings quickly.

Screenshot of NordVPN's desktop menus.

NordVPN’s settings menu is well-organized

Mobile

NordVPN and Surfshark use the same desktop interface on mobile so I found it easy to connect to a server on either interface.

Screenshot of NordVPN and Surfshark Android apps.

Both mobile apps are very similar to their desktop versions

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.

Winner: NordVPN

Try NordVPN’s simple interface today

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Setup

NordVPN Surfshark
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

Desktop

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.

NordVPN

  1. Go to the NordVPN website.
  2. Click on “VPN Apps” at the top of the page.
  3. Select your device (Android, Windows, Mac OS), click “Download”.
  4. Install the app to your device.
  5. Open the app, sign in, and connect!

Surfshark

  1. Navigate to Surfshark’s website.
  2. Select “Apps” from the top of the landing page.
  3. Under “Desktop & Laptops” select your device.
  4. Click on “Download” and install the app.
  5. Launch the app, sign into your account, and start browsing!

Mobile

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

  1. Sign up for NordVPN using your mobile browser.
  2. Click on “install” to download and install the app to your device.
  3. Sign in to your account and connect to a server!

How to Use Surfshark on Your Mobile Device

  1. Get Surfshark through your mobile browser.
  2. Click “get” to download and install the app to your device.
  3. Sign in, connect, and start browsing!

Other Devices

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.

Winner: Tie

Download NordVPN on all your devices

NordVPN vs. Surfshark — Customer Service

NordVPN Surfshark
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
Guides:
  • Streaming
  • Connectivity Issues
  • Manual setup
  • Restricted countries
  • P2P
  • Device-specific troubleshooting
Guides:
  • Streaming
  • Connectivity Issues
  • Manual setup
  • Restricted countries
  • P2P
  • Device-specific troubleshooting

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.

If you can’t find the answer to your question in any of the guides, NordVPN and Surfshark offer 24/7 support through email or live chat.

Screenshot of Surfshark live chat assistance.

Getting support via Surfshark’s live chat is quick and easy

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.

Screenshot of NordVPN live chat assistance.

NordVPN’s support is knowledgeable and quick to help

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.

Winner: Tie

Get 24/7 support with NordVPN

Final Look: NordVPN vs. Surfshark

NordVPN 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
Security
  • OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec protocols
  • AES-256-GCM encryption
  • DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch
  • Double VPN
  • IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks protocols
  • AES-256-GCM encryption
  • DNS and IP leak protection and kill switch
  • MultiHop servers
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

Get NordVPN for free for 30 days!

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.

Try NordVPN for free today!

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Lucca RF
Written By Lucca RF
Lucca is a tech writer with a focus on cyber security, cryptocurrency, and logistics. He has been researching government overreach via digital surveillance for several years now, and his interest in VPNs and online safety goes hand-in-hand with this.