If you follow my blog even a little, you probably already know that I write a fair bit about VPNs. For years, I used a self-hosted VPN (Pritunl). And, that worked wonderfully – until certain streaming sites (hint: Netflix and Amazon Prime) started banning IP addresses owned by DigitalOcean and other hosting platforms. Since 2018, and until just recently, I have been a loyal Express VPN customer and fan. However, I now no longer use Express VPN and have made the switch to SurfShark VPN. In this post, I would like to explain the reasoning behind my decision to switch services.
Express VPN is Great, But…
First, I would like to say that I still believe Express VPN is absolutely one of the best, if not still the best, VPN services available at any price. Express VPN is secure, fast, and just works. Additionally, Express VPN unlocks all the streaming services I use, and the program’s app and browser-plugin interfaces are truly outstanding. Concerning performance and usability, there is not better VPN than Express VPN – that’s just a fact.
So…if Express VPN is so good, why did I recently make the change to SurfShark VPN? Well, it’s quite simple actually – the price difference! However, price – alone anyway – is rarely sufficient reason to switch important software products. And, of course, VPNs are no exception. Therefore, I will discuss a few of the other reasons I considered before finally making the switch from Express VPN to SurfShark VPN.
SurfShark Speed – Every Bit as Good as Express VPN (If Not Better)
One of the best things about Express VPN has always been its raw speed. And, when compared to most other VPNs, it is indeed usually faster – in most cases, much faster. However, that is simply not the case when compared head to head with SurfShark VPN.
With most Express VPN servers, I get between 70 to 90 percent of my native connection speed. For instance, my native connection in Singapore gets me roughly 200 Mbps. And, when connected to an Express VPN server in Singapore, I usually get download speeds of between 140 Mbps and 180 Mbps. That’s not bad; not bad at all. I have never been able to get those kinds of speeds with other VPNs; that is until now.
With SurfShark VPN, I consistently get download speeds (on a SurfShark Singapore server) of between 170 Mbps and 185 Mbps. As far as ping goes, both services are about the same at about 200 to 260 ms.
Now, Express VPN does seem to offer a little better speed in some geographic regions, such as Australia and Europe. In the United States, though, both services seem to offer very comparable download speeds and pings.
My native connection (as mentioned above) is 200 Mbps. With that in mind, and as you can see from the screenshots above, my SurfShark VPN connection speed is pretty impressive. There’s not much overhead at all. So, when it comes to speed, Express VPN is really no better than SurfShark VPN – no better at all.
Software and Plugins
When it comes to application/plugin interfaces and usability, both Express VPN and SurfShark VPN are excellent. That being said, Express VPN’s interface does seem to be a bit more polished and has a more user-friendly layout. That’s not to say, though, that SurfShark’s interface is clunky or not user friendly; it’s just not quite as intuitive or easy to navigate as that of Express VPN.
Now, while the SurfShark VPN interfaces may not be as intuitive or polished, both the Windows app and the browser plugin do offer one significant advantage over their Express VPN counterparts. What’s that you ask? Well, SurfShark just seems to connect much faster to VPN servers. With Express VPN, there is usually a three (3) to five (5) second delay when starting a new VPN session. With SurfShark VPN, though, the connection takes less than a second and seems almost instant.
Both Express VPN and SurfShark VPN support multiple encryption protocols, kill switches, and split tunneling (if you need those features). And, Express VPN does offer significantly more server locations than does SurfShark VPN. Still, SurfShark VPN offers servers in the locations most likely to be needed for unlocking streaming services and other geo-restricted content (i.e. Netflix and Amazon Prime.) SurfShark and Express VPN are both excellent for unblocking Netflix and other streaming services.
I guess it’s also important to note that SurfShark allows you to use an unlimited number of devices with your account. Whereas, Express VPN limits you to 5 devices per account. However, for me, that’s really not that important. For some larger families or households, though, it might be a big deal.
The Bottom Line
From purely technical and performance-related standpoints, at least, it is impossible to say that one of these VPN services is better than the other. Express VPN gets bonus points for its slick app and plugin interfaces, while SurfShark VPN gets bonus points for raw speed and lightning-fast connection times.
If there just has to be one feature that sets one service apart from the other, I suppose it would have to be the fact that Express VPN offers considerably more servers in more countries (SurfShark offers only about 1,000 servers in 60 countries, while Express VPN boasts more than 3000 servers in 94 countries.) Nevertheless, if you’re like me, you probably only need access to a few servers in a few different countries. And, if that’s the case, having access to a vast number of servers and locations is probably a moot point.
By far, the biggest difference between Express VPN and SurfShark VPN is the price. And, when it comes to price, it’s not even close. SurfShark VPN is simply much, much cheaper than Express VPN.
Currently (as of the date of publication of this post,) the best deal for a 12-month Express VPN subscription is $99.95 per year or $8.32 per month. Express VPN’s $99.95 per-year subscription is nearly 30% more than the same plan at SurfShark VPN, which only costs $71.88 per year. And, if you opt for a two-year plan (as I did) with SurfShark, the monthly subscription drops to an insanely-low price of only $1.99 per month ($47.76 for two years.)
So, for a little less than half the cost of an Express VPN annual subscription, you get two full years of VPN access with SurfShark ($99.95 Express VPN vs $47.76 SurfShark.) After all is said and done, I just can’t possibly justify continuing with Express VPN; especially when SurfShark is every bit as good (and in some ways better) for I what I need in a VPN service.
Want to experience the new “King of the Hill” in VPN services, click here to sign up for a SurfShark VPN account today. Disclaimer – if you use the links in this post to subscribe, we both (you and I) get a free month of access. These are referral links and not affiliate links. I receive no monetary compensation for your clicking the links (other than the extra free month of service.) SurfShark also offers an industry-leading 30-day trial period (most other companies offer only 7-day trials). So, there’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to save – especially if you’re considering making a move away from the excellent (but very expensive) service of Express VPN.