The best decentralized exchanges (DEX)

The best decentralized exchanges (DEX)

In the infancy of the cryptocurrency world, the concept of centralization still played a pivotal role within the industry. Despite the push towards decentralization by various crypto initiatives, trading of digital assets remained confined to centralized exchanges (CEXs). For years, the development community made numerous attempts at creating decentralized exchanges (DEXs), yet these efforts largely fell short. The primary hurdle for early DEXs was their lack of liquidity.

This landscape transformed with the introduction of Uniswap, which employed the Automated Market Maker (AMM) model to cultivate liquidity. This innovation marked the dawn of a new era for DEXs, ushering in a diverse array of decentralized trading platforms. This guide aims to demystify DEXs, explaining their mechanics and operation. Additionally, it will highlight a selection of the premier decentralized exchanges currently in operation.

What is a decentralized exchange?

Decentralized exchanges (DEXs) operate as peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platforms, distinct from centralized counterparts by not being governed by any single central authority. While sharing some similarities with traditional centralized exchanges, DEXs mainly diverge in their operational model. Key distinctions include their decentralized ownership and operation structure, eliminating the need for users to transfer their funds into a platform-controlled wallet for trading activities, thereby offering non-custodial trading experiences.

DEXs typically facilitate the trading of assets native to the same blockchain on which the exchange itself is built. However, advancements have led to the emergence of cross-chain DEXs, enabling the exchange of assets across different blockchains. These platforms are powered by smart contracts, negating the need for traditional order books to pair trades. Instead, they rely on Automated Market Makers (AMMs) and liquidity pools contributed by users for trading liquidity. Furthermore, DEXs are often characterized by lower trading fees and enhanced security measures compared to their centralized counterparts.


Topping the list of premier decentralized exchanges is Uniswap, which stands as Ethereum's pioneering and most voluminous DEX. Uniswap is a favored platform for those aiming to augment their asset portfolio, renowned for its substantial popularity, with its daily transaction volume frequently surpassing $4 billion. Functioning as an Automated Market Maker (AMM) DEX, Uniswap orchestrates its decentralized liquidity pool via an algorithm designed to ascertain the optimal exchange rate for each pair of traded assets. Users have the flexibility to engage with pre-existing liquidity pools or initiate their own. Liquidity providers benefit financially by acquiring a share of transaction fees. The platform's governance is vested in a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), placing decision-making power directly in the hands of its community.


  • Supports a vast array of over 400 tokens.
  • A well-established exchange with a strong reputation and high liquidity.
  • Governed by a DAO, ensuring democratic oversight.
  • Opportunities for users to earn passively through liquidity provision.
  • Transaction fees range between 0.1% to 1%, keeping trading costs transparent.


  • Does not support fiat currency transactions.
  • Participants are subject to the potential for impermanent loss.
  • Transaction costs may be elevated due to Ethereum network gas fees.


Curve stands out as a leading decentralized exchange (DEX) for those concerned about market volatility. As an Automated Market Maker (AMM) DEX, similar to Uniswap, Curve operates on the Ethereum decentralized network. Yet, it distinguishes itself in several ways. One notable feature is its native token, CRV, which empowers its holders with governance rights through voting.


  • Hosts a selection of over 45 tokens.
  • Maintains low transaction fees, approximately 0.04%.
  • Enables token holders to participate in governance by voting on pivotal decisions.


  • The platform's intricate interface may present a steep learning curve for new users.
  • Users may encounter high transaction costs due to Ethereum network gas fees.


dYdX sets itself apart from the majority of decentralized exchanges (DEXs) by functioning as an order book DEX, thereby providing a trading experience more akin to that of traditional crypto markets while still incorporating distinct features. A notable aspect of dYdX is its provision for leveraged trading, allowing users to amplify their investment up to 5x when going long or short on ETH. Additionally, dYdX serves as a lending platform, featuring cross-margin lending and borrowing, enabling users to earn passively by keeping their funds on the platform. Actively traded assets can also accrue interest. In terms of trading volume, dYdX ranks just behind Uniswap.


  • Boasts a user-friendly interface.
  • Holds the position for the second-highest trading volume among DEXs.
  • Available mobile app enhances accessibility.
  • Low trading fee set at only 0.1%.
  • Supports leveraged trading.
  • Provides multiple avenues for generating passive income.


  • Does not accept fiat currency deposits.
  • Offers a limited range of trading options.


The seventh entry in our selection is 1inch, renowned for simplifying the cryptocurrency trading process. It stands out as the premier DEX aggregator in the lineup, scanning a multitude of DEXs to ensure users benefit from the most favorable prices available for token purchases. The platform's liquidity pool invites users to stake their tokens, rewarding them with 1INCH tokens. Holding these native tokens not only provides financial incentives but also confers voting rights, allowing users to have a say in the platform's governance.

1inch Advantages:

  • Boasts a vast selection of over 400 tokens.
  • Eliminates transaction fees, offering cost-efficient trading.
  • Empowers 1INCH token holders with governance participation rights.
  • Ensures superior exchange rates by scanning multiple DEXs.


  • Transactions might incur fees on other DEXs, despite 1inch's zero-fee policy.
  • The platform's sophistication may pose challenges for newcomers to the trading scene.


Following on our list is Balancer, another DEX built on the Ethereum network, renowned for facilitating swift trades through the use of smart contracts and liquidity pools. As an Automated Market Maker (AMM), Balancer offers users a variety of liquidity pools and even permits the creation of personalized pools, with options including smart pools, private pools, and shared pools.


  • Offers gas-free payments, a significant perk for an Ethereum-based platform.
  • Provides a selection of pool types for users looking to create their own, enhancing customization.
  • Known for its user-friendly interface, facilitating quick and straightforward transactions.
  • Enables users to earn passively, adding an investment incentive.


  • Transaction fees are determined by pool owners and can range widely from 0.0001% to 10%, leading to potential variability in trading costs.


Bancor takes its place as another reputable decentralized exchange (DEX). Launching as one of the initial Automated Market Makers (AMMs) on the Ethereum network in 2017, Bancor has been pivotal in instant trade executions through its automatic liquidity provision. This hallmark feature positions Bancor as a top choice for many traders within the decentralized finance space. Moreover, the platform's native token, BNT, enables swift and seamless transactions. Bancor stands out for its innovative approach to mitigating impermanent loss for its users through staking in various liquidity pools. Staking rewards and contributions made in BNT yield substantial returns, with the most lucrative rewards reserved for those who stake both BNT and other cryptocurrencies.


  • Recognized as a reliable and well-established trading platform.
  • Offers protection against impermanent loss for its users.
  • Maintains low exchange fees, enhancing its appeal to traders.


  • Does not offer fiat currency transaction support.
  • Requires users to store their assets in the Bancor wallet to participate in trading and staking activities.


SushiSwap has cemented its position as one of the most recognizable decentralized exchanges (DEXs) in the cryptocurrency arena. Originating as a fork of Uniswap, SushiSwap has earned its spot on the list of top DEXs for a multitude of reasons. The platform's native token, SUSHI, opens up avenues for users to earn passively through staking. Additionally, holding SUSHI grants users governance rights, allowing them to partake in the decision-making process. SushiSwap distinguishes itself with a unique DEX architecture that aims to diminish market centralization, offering a fresh perspective on decentralized trading.


  • Known for its competitive transaction fees, making it an attractive option for traders.
  • Compatible with a wide range of ERC-20 tokens, ensuring broad market accessibility.
  • Features a user-friendly interface, simplifying the trading experience for newcomers and seasoned users alike.


  • The platform's rewards structure can be complex and may require a learning curve to understand fully.
  • Some critiques point to its limitations in adopting cutting-edge technologies compared to some competitors.


PancakeSwap earns its place as the leading decentralized exchange (DEX) on the Binance Smart Chain (BSC), celebrated for its exceptionally cost-effective liquidity pools. It stands out for its minimal slippage risk, enhancing the trading experience. As a non-custodial DEX, PancakeSwap enables automated trading through its liquidity pools, which are powered by smart contracts on the BSC. Furthermore, the platform's native token, CAKE, plays a versatile role in staking, yield farming, and governance, offering users various ways to engage with the platform.


  • Supports an extensive array of over 50 DeFi tokens, providing users with a wide range of trading options.
  • Boasts low transaction fees, making it an economical choice for traders.
  • Significantly reduces the risk of slippage, ensuring more predictable and stable trade executions.


  • Users may face the risk of impermanent loss, a common concern across liquidity pool-based DEXs.


IDEX marks its spot as another notable decentralized exchange (DEX) operating on the Ethereum network, tailored for the active trader with a penchant for high-volume trading. Uniquely, it facilitates the execution of multiple trades in tandem, distinguishing itself with the ability to cancel orders without incurring gas fees. IDEX incorporates both market and limit orders into its trading framework. Enhanced security measures are in place, providing robust protection against breaches. Importantly, IDEX leverages both centralized exchanges (CEXs) and decentralized exchanges (DEXs) to bolster trade support and security.


  • Hosts a diverse selection of approximately 26 tokens, catering to varied trading preferences.
  • Offers staking opportunities, allowing users to earn rewards on their holdings.
  • Enables gas-free trade cancellations, providing flexibility in trading strategies.
  • Boasts a low risk of security breaches, thanks to advanced protection mechanisms.
  • Maintains a low transaction fee of only 0.1%, ensuring cost-effective trading experiences.


  • The interface may present complexities, potentially steepening the learning curve for new users.
  • Lacks fiat currency transaction support, limiting accessibility for traditional currency entry.
  • Requires users to authenticate trades using private keys, adding a layer of complexity to the trading process.

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