Tell me this: What is the best way to judge a product? If your answer is “comparison with similar products” then congrats you are right. This is exactly what we are going to do with ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and PureVPN to see which one is the best.
There is a constant debate going on about the best VPN on the market. Some say it’s ExpressVPN, some bet on Surfshark to come out on top while others bet their chips on PureVPN. To settle the matter once and for all we have put all 3 of these products through their paces to see which one offers the best combination of speed, features, security, and affordability.
Ready? Let’s go!
Quick Summary – The Clear Winner
The average attention span of adults falls somewhere between 10-20 minutes. And this makes us pretty sure that not all of you will read this article in its entirety. So here is a quick review of ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN.
Renowned as the VPN that does everything well, Surfshark isn’t lacking anything in the feature department. Features such as Onion over VPN, internet kill switch, and an AES 256-bit encryption leave nothing to be desired. What it does lack, however, is the blazing fast speed like ExpressVPN. All in all, it is a pretty good option if you want a secure VPN and it also made it to our list of best VPN services for 2020.
ExpressVPN is considered by many as the fastest VPN on the market and there is nothing that makes me doubt this. It is blazing fast, uses AES 256-bit encryption to encrypt the network traffic, and provides DNS leak protection. Couple this with its support for protocols like IKEv2 and it becomes a great option.
PureVPN is for people who don’t want to be locked into yearly contracts. Suppose you are on such a guy and only want a VPN for a month then PureVPN is perfect for you as it doesn’t offer a yearly contract. Furthermore, It is awesome as far as streaming geo-blocked content is concerned. And with features like internet kill switch, AES 256-bit encryption, and DNS leak protection you aren’t missing out on anything.
Got time and would like to read more? Then keep on reading as the following sections detail everything you need to know about these VPNs.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN – Price Comparison
When it comes to choosing a product, few factors are as important as pricing. So let’s see how these VPNs stack up against each other.
|6 month||$9.99/month||N/A||$8.33/month ( 24% off)|
|1-year||$8.32/month (35% off)||$5.99/month (50% off)||N/A|
|2-year||N/A||$1.99/month (83% off)||N/A|
The pricing situation is rather interesting. Aside from Surfshark none of the other two offer a 2 or a 3-year plan. PureVPN also doesn’t offer a 1-year plan. The max it can do is 6 months. Surprisingly enough, Surfshark does not offer a 6-month plan while the other 2 do.
Putting the duration aside for a moment, if you are after the cheapest per month plan, then Surfshark is for you. At $1.99/month it is by far the cheapest option on the market. But, here is a catch, you would have to pay upfront for 2 years. Whether you want to make such a trade is up to you.
ExpressVPN is cheapest at $8.32/month for a 1-year contract. The same 1-year contract comes in at around $5.99/month when we move on to Surfshark. Unfortunately, PureVPN doesn’t offer a 1-year contract.
What PureVPN does offer however is a 6-month contract that manages to have cheaper per month costs than ExpressVPN (Surfshark doesn’t have a 6-month option). If you opt-in for it, PureVPN will cost you $6.99/month for 6 months. The same duration costs $8.32/month on ExpressVPN.
Finally, VPNs cost the greatest when you choose them for 1 month and this holds true here. Owing to its state of the art infrastructure and unmatched speed ExpressVPN costs $12.95/month followed closely by Surfshark which costs $11.95/month. PureVPN is again the cheapest one here coming in at $10.95/month.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN – Speed Tests
Before we move on to the actual tests here is what you need to understand:
No matter what VPN you choose your internet speed will take a hit.
Why? Well, there are several reasons like:
- Establishing a connection to remote servers takes time
- Applying encryption to your internet traffic on both ways also takes its toll on the connection speed
- The actual quality of the servers a VPN service is using also determines the speed of your connection
Of course, establishing a VPN is an intricate process and as such there can be a lot of other hidden costs associated with the whole process. The bottom line is:
You are never going to get the full bandwidth of your internet connection.
With that out of the way here is how each of these VPN performed in our testing.
To give you some context about the impact on speed each VPN will have, here are some stats about our internet connection.
The above numbers are the result of direct speed testing without connecting to a VPN service. As you can see our connection is a solid 10.10 Mbps with upload speed coming in at 10.23 Mbps. The latency is also pretty low at just a negligible 2ms.
ExpressVPN is the speed champion in our comparison. Take a look at the numbers yourself:
Establishing a connection to a US server only took about 183 ms which, for a VPN, is very respectable. The download speed, on the other hand, is astonishingly at 95% of the original. The upload speed stands at the same margin retaining 92% of the original speed. For a VPN, these are crazy good numbers.
Surfshark posts numbers almost as good as ExpressVPN:
As you can see the latency has shot up to 358 ms which is almost twice as much as ExpressVPN. The connection has remained almost the same at 9.29 Mbps. The upload fared a little worse and lost about 14% of the connection speed.
PureVPN has unreal latency. It connected to the remote server almost instantaneously.
While the latency is excellent the download and upload speeds have taken a pretty substantial hit. The download speed retained almost 70% of the original connection speed but the upload fell flat on its face losing more than 65%. These are not good numbers.
The Winner: Based on solid download and upload speed, ExpressVPN is our clear winner, with Surfshark trailing behind.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN – User Interface
A piece of software is as good as its user interface. It doesn’t matter whether the VPN has all the features or not if the user doesn’t know how to use it. So here we take a look at the UIs to see if anyone can pick them up and use the services.
ExpressVPN has a clean UI. Upon opening the app you are presented with a button that lets you toggle the connection On and Off. The server you are connected to is mentioned just below this button. You can also change which server you want to connect to by clicking on the 3 dots in the same box.
Once in the server panel, you can scroll or search the server you want to connect to either by name or by entering the location.
Finally, press the hamburger menu located in the top left corner of the main screen to go the settings menu where you can choose the protocol, toggle the kill switch, and a whole lot more.
All in all, using ExpressVPN is quite straightforward.
Surfshark’s UI is a little simpler as compared to ExpressVPN. This makes it excellent for first-time users.
If you press the Locations tab it lets you search for the particular server you want to connect to.
The features menu follows the same design principle. Once you open the features tab you will see all the available features like CleanWeb and will have the option to turn them On/Off.
All in all, Surfshark has an excellent presentation. It is easy, intuitive, and detailed at the same time.
PureVPN is the simplest out of all 3. It doesn’t enforce complex settings on you if you don’t want. Once you enter the app, it presents you with a screen with a home screen that displays your status.
It shows you whether you are connected or not, the mode you are in, and the options to go to the main dashboard.
If you want to change the mode, click on the Change Mode under the mode indicator. Then click on the option that best describes your use case. For instance, if you are going to stream click on streaming and it will set up everything for you.
The main dashboard has also grouped various settings in the left panel.
The setting panel on the left of this dashboard groups various options which you can explore by selecting the type of options you want to see.
In short, PureVPN has something for everyone. It can be as simple and as complex as you like. It all depends on how you use it.
The Winner: All three VPNs has a neat app, however Surfshark stood out due to it’s modern design and interface.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN – Feature List
Let us take a look at what features all three of these VPNs boast.
|No Logs Policy||✓||✓||✓|
|Automatic Kill Switch||✓||✓||✓|
|DNS Leak Protection||✓||✓||✓|
|Onion Over VPN||✓||✓|
|Multi-logins||5 Devices||Unlimited Devices||10 Devices|
Aside from a healthy feature set, the other important thing is the widespread availability of servers. All of these VPN services have thousands of servers located on every continent. So finding a server to connect should not be a problem. Let us see some numbers:
- ExpressVPN has 3000+ servers in 94 countries
- Surfshark has 1700+ servers in 63+ countries
- PureVPN has 2000+ servers in 140 countries
The more servers a VPN has in its arsenal, the more flexible it is while dealing with the problems of its users.
One thing that needs to be mentioned here is the P2P support. Even though the VPN services have matured the P2P support is still a hit or a miss. PureVPN doesn’t support P2P while ExpressVPN doesn’t support P2P on most of its servers.
Surfshark recommends you the server best suited for P2P use. In supports P2P on all of its servers which is great as you won’t have to pick and choose.
Long story short, although all 3 VPNs support the majority of features some features are still kind of in the air.
The Winner: There are countless features offered by every VPN, however Surfshark offers a better list of features at a lower price.
Unblocking Restricted Content
When it comes to unblocking sites like Netflix US or Amazon Prime, all 3 VPN does a pretty amazing job. Once connected to the server of your choice, you will experience no hiccups in streaming what so ever.
Here are a few pictures of us streaming Netflix while connected to a VPN:
Overall, we’d say that Express VPN provided the best unblocking and streaming experience for websites like Netflix US, BBC iPlayer and Hulu. The streaming was lightning fast and we faced no problems in connecting to a New York server.
Surfshark was right behind Express VPN when it came to streaming. Although it allowed us to easily stream shows at 1080p, Surshark couldn’t compete with the sheer speed that ExpressVPN is famous for.
PureVPN performed fine as well. The connection speed did take a hit for sure and the streaming experience could certainly have been better. However, PureVPN was able to unblock Netflix US and other streaming services and seems to be a fine option for the price.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN – Performance on Different Servers
All 3 VPNs performed admirably when connected to different servers. The performance was, for the most part, the same as our testing indicated earlier. And this includes the overall performance ranking as well. PureVPN was the worse performer here. However, it is still a capable VPN for streaming.
The Winner: ExpressVPN was by far the best performing of the 3 no matter which server we connected to. A huge increase in latency aside, Surfshark managed FHD streaming pretty well. But it was a bit behind ExpressVPN when it came to sheer speed.
Support for Different Protocols
Every VPN supports a different subset of security protocols. There is no VPN that supports all of them. Here is a quick overview of the different security protocols and the levels of security they provide.
|PPTP||Fast||Poor||Medium||Good||Good||Most OS and devices|
|IPSec||Medium||Good||Good||Good||Good||Most OS and devices|
|L2TP/IPSec||Medium||Medium||Good||Good||Good||Most OS and devices|
|IKEv2/IPSec||Fast||Good||Good||Good||Good||Most OS and devices|
|OpenVPN TCP||Medium||Good||Good||Medium||Good||Most OS and devices|
|OpenVPN UDP||Fast||Good||Medium||Good||Good||Most OS and devices|
|WireGuard||Fast||Good||Poor||Medium||Medium||Android, Linux, iOS, and Mac|
The following table shows the VPNs under discussion in comparison to the protocols they support.
|Wireguard||Not offered||Not offered||Not offered|
|Shadowsocks||Not offered||✓||Not offered|
As you can see in the table above, ExpressVPN and PureVPN support the majority of the security protocols. Surfshark, on the other hand, is the only one that can use Shadowsocks. Shadowsocks was developed mainly to bypass the Great Firewall implemented by Chinese authorities.
ExpressVPN uses different protocols depending upon the conditions and the use case. As always you can choose to use a different one. ExpressVPN cannot use Wireguard at the moment but the developers say that they are looking into it.
Finally, PureVPN can also use all of the above except Wireguard and Shadowsocks. So, you are covered should you choose to go with PureVPN.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN Ease of Signing Up
All three VPNs support the same standard ways of signing up for the service. You have your usual email and credit card options. Aside from this Surfshark and ExpressVPN also support varied payment options like Bitcoins and UnionPay.
It is interesting to note that all 3 of these VPN services offer a money-back guarantee. And while we are on the subject of payment options, sadly PureVPN does not support any cryptocurrency which is a shame considering the rise of Bitcoin and Ethereum.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark vs PureVPN Customer Service
All the features and pricing aside, customer service sets a quality business and a mediocre one apart. If a business can’t provide satisfactory after-sales services, there is a pretty slim chance that it will succeed.
|Mode of Support||ExpressVPN||SurfShark||PureVPN|
|Dedicated “Help/Support” tab||✓||✓|
ExpressVPN has excellent after-sale services. It offers the option to chat live with one of its customer sales representatives. Additionally, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have a separate help center or tab on their website.
As far as the quality of the customer service is concerned, ExpressVPN is excellent. The live chat quickly connects you to one of its representatives which helps immensely in troubleshooting issues.
Surfshark is not without issues, however. The service has unnecessary procedures like going through multiple phone channels that complicate the process more than it needs to be and there is no Live Chat support. Your only hope is to shoot them an email.
A quick note here:
Due to the current pandemic, the live chat feature is not working on ExpressVPN. However, you can email your issues to ExpressVPN and they will get back to you.
PureVPN is also a solid performer but lags behind the competition in some areas.
These areas include delayed response, long wait times, and overall subpar experience.
All in all, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of the VPNs when it comes to their customer service. It all comes down to personal preference.
After such a detailed comparison we feel that there is no true winner here. No one VPN exists that does everything perfectly. But there are use cases that you can use to decide what VPN you want to shell out your cash for.
If you are looking for unmatched speed and don’t mind paying a little extra, choose ExpressVPN. On the other hand, if you need a VPN that does everything without compromising much speed then Surfshark will be a better choice.