Is ExpressVPN really the fastest out there? Is it worth the price, even with its latest discount? I ran every test possible to find out.
Whether you want to stream Netflix, download torrents, play video games, or stay anonymous and secure online, I’ve got the important info you need. Spoiler: ExpressVPN can do all of these, and its latest version is a serious contender for the VPN crown. But it’s not perfect, and my research found one thing that might surprise you.
Why don’t you try it for yourself with its totally unlimited free trial in the form of a risk-free, 30-day money-back guarantee?
Short on Time? Here’s What Matters Most
While ExpressVPN was always famous for its speed and unblocking capabilities, the market didn’t stay frozen: streaming services added new geoblocks and doubled their efforts to limit access in the last few months, countries like China raised new barriers, hackers became more dangerously creative and, of course, competitors keep getting better and faster.
But ExpressVPN is still one of the fastest and most impressive VPNs I’ve tested. And I’ve tested a lot of VPNs.
To give you a complete picture of ExpressVPNs performance, myself and my researchers in China, Russia, and the USA ran every test possible to dig deep into all of its features and to see how well it really holds up.
I looked at everything from server coverage and speeds to privacy, security, and even customer service and pricing. After all, it doesn’t matter how amazing a product is if the company who sold it leaves you hanging when you need help.
Streaming – Does ExpressVPN Work With Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Other Services?
Yes. I started with the UK and US Netflix libraries, both of which were a success. I even tested the US Netflix library across ExpressVPN’s 20+ US servers, and I was able to unlock content to stream in HD easily on each one.
Then I headed over to Netflix Australia, which I was also able to access hassle-free.
However, when I tried to access Netflix Germany, I did run into geoblocks while connected to a Frankfurt server. I changed to a Nuremberg server and was able to stream freely.
Switching to a different server in Germany immediately solved this problem.
South America was my final test. I tested Netflix libraries in Brazil, Chile, and Peru, and I was able to stream in HD across all. I experienced no buffering, lag, or pixellated images.
Is Netflix your top priority? Check out our top recommendations of VPNs for Netflix – all guaranteed to bypass Netflix’s tough geoblocks and unlock geo-restricted content wherever you are. With its impressive unblocking capabilities, ExpressVPN made it onto our list.
While testing, I found that ExpressVPN can stream Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, and more in Full HD.
It’s also reliable for unblocking YouTube, Google, Facebook, and other popular sites that are often blocked in schools and workplaces, as well as in heavily censored countries like China and Russia.
If streaming is your primary reason for choosing a VPN, ExpressVPN is a sure bet.
Is ExpressVPN Good for Torrenting?
ExpressVPN has unlimited bandwidth and data caps for completely unrestricted torrenting. But it also allows torrenting and P2P sharing across any of its servers.
You can torrent on any of the thousands of ExpressVPN servers around the world.
Since ExpressVPN keeps no logs and is headquartered in a privacy-friendly location, your torrenting activity or history cannot be leaked to anyone. It’s safe to use with uTorrent or any other BitTorrent client, with guaranteed anonymity.
DNS protection through ExpressVPN’s own DNS on every server further protects you from leaks and revealing your torrenting activity. It’s a solid choice for torrenting and P2P sharing, not just for security, but also for its speed and performance.
We like ExpressVPN for torrenting so much that high on our review of the best VPNs for torrenting (based on performance, not because of its special pricing trick).
ExpressVPN has a Smart Location feature that allows you to connect to a server with the simple click of a button. It measures latency, speed, and distance, so that you’ll get the fastest possible server every time. My test shows this feature is one of the reasons for ExpressVPN’s impressive performance.
Connect to the closest server with just one click, or choose your own server location with just three clicks.
There’s the option to view and connect to all of ExpressVPN’s locations, but the quick connect and recommended servers are ExpressVPN’s way of providing you with a guaranteed fast, reliable connection.
Using the Quick Connect feature, I connected to a local server nearest to my home. This connected me to an East London server. My speed was 23.4 Mbps.
My speed only decreased by 23.28%, which is really impressive. Even when connected to local servers, other VPNs often cause your speed to drop significantly. I was able to browse and stream with the same reliability I’d had before I connected.
I only saw about a 23% decrease in speed compared to my normal internet speed—that’s impressive.
As I was connected to the smart location ExpressVPN’s smart algorithm had chosen for me, I wanted to connect to another local server to see if this would have any difference.
My speed was better here than with the Quick Connect feature. That makes it just a 12.64% decrease in total, which is easily the best speeds I’ve had with any VPN so far.
Quick connect is convenient, but it’s not perfect. If you want faster speeds, test a few different servers.
Long-Distance ExpressVPN Speeds
I started with a server in the US. I connected to the recommended server on my list in the app. My speed was 15.5 Mbps, meaning my speeds only slowed down by 49% overall.
My speeds on a US server were 15+ Mbps, so I could stream without buffering.
Then, I headed over to a Hong Kong server. My speeds slowed by 46.89%, giving me a speed of 16.2 Mbps. This was barely noticeable while I was streaming and gaming. After all, speeds of 16.2 Mbps are still pretty fast.
Hong Kong speed tests were also great. I even had success with some gaming.
Finally, I connected to a server in Australia to really test the distance. My speed was 10.3 Mbps. From my base speed of 30.5 Mbps, this means my overall speed decreased by 66.23%. I was pleasantly surprised by this, as I expected my speeds to decrease by at least 80% when I connected to a server so far away.
I expected worse from Australia, so I was quite pleased to see 10+ Mbps download speeds.
ExpressVPN Speed: The Results
My findings show that even when I connected to a server on the other side of the world, my speeds dropped much less than I expected.
The data shows that my speeds only slowed by 66.23% over the longest distance, and since I had such a quick starting speed, the reduction wasn’t noticeable. I was able to browse and stream in Full HD, hassle-free, as if I wasn’t connected to the VPN. Though if you’re starting at a slower speed, you might feel some lag.
I tested packet loss, too – the amount of data packets that didn’t arrive correctly at the destination. Packet loss of 5% significantly impacts the quality of your session. So I was pleased that my results varied from 0 to just 0.3%.
It’s clear from my tests that ExpressVPN’s speeds really are lightning-fast. No matter which server you connect to, anywhere in the world, you’ll have quick, reliable service.
Is ExpressVPN Good for Gaming?
We’ve seen just how impressive ExpressVPN’s speeds are. But the basic speed tests other reviewers rely on only assess how quick a server is with nothing else working in the background – no streaming, no browsing, no gaming.
I believe in tougher tests! And gaming is one of the toughest tests for VPNs.
Can ExpressVPN maintain its high speeds while playing a resource-heavy MMO like League of Legends? Will the ping rate and latency be low enough? Will the bandwidth be high enough? Can I play LoL with ExpressVPN without lag and buffering?
Rather than connecting to the smart location, I decided to connect to a server thousands of miles away, where my speeds would more likely be affected.
I put ExpressVPN to the test by connecting to a server thousands of miles away, but it still performed beautifully while I gamed.
The results? My gameplay was remarkable. I was expecting some lag mid-battle, but ExpressVPN managed to keep up with the fast-paced action easily for the whole hour I tested the game.
I was able to play in HD with amazing speeds, keeping up with my teammates as quickly as if I was not using the VPN at all.
Many VPNs claim to protect you in the event of a connection failure or guarantee that your IP address always remains hidden. Researching, testing, and confirmation are the only ways to find out if the claims are true.
During my review, I was looking for maximum encryption, strong security protocols, and IP leak protection. I also wanted to thoroughly test out ExpressVPN’s extra security features, like its split tunneling feature.
ExpressVPN uses the highest standard of encryption. It keeps you protected with 256-bit AES encryption, which combines an AES 256-bit cypher with a 4096-bit RSA key and SHA-512 HMAC authentication.
What does this mean? AES 256-bit encryption is symmetric, meaning the same key used to encrypt your data must be used to decrypt it. This makes it near-impossible to break. Even the world’s most powerful computer would take billions of years to decrypt just 0.1% of the data it holds.
The SHA-512 HMAC authentication ExpressVPN uses is highly secure for data transfers, such as P2P file sharing. Using a shared secret key, both the sender and receiver of the download have a way of verifying the authenticity of the file.
Any change in the secret key will be proof that somebody tampered with your file.
ExpressVPN also uses perfect forward secrecy. This is a highly advanced feature that changes your encryption key every time you log on, so you’re assigned a new one at the start of each session. Any data from your previous session is completely unrelated to your current session. Should anyone attempt to intercept your browsing session, anything before or after this is completely secure.
ExpressVPN uses multiple security protocols, and will automatically select the best protocol for the most reliable connection. The default is the most advanced OpenVPN UDP protocol, but OpenVPN TCP, PPTP, and L2TP/IPsec are supported as well.
This is an advanced security feature that keeps your IP address and traffic secure, even if the VPN connection drops. ExpressVPN calls this feature a Network Lock, and here I’ve found a surprising downside.
It’s designed to block traffic if your connection is compromised, keeping your data and IP address hidden. I was pleased to see the kill switch is automatically enabled in the app, rather than requiring manual configuration.
You’ll notice that the kill switch is called Network Lock on Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers (left). On Android (right), it’s called Network Protection—but both features do the same thing.
ExpressVPN’s kill switch is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, routers. For Android, it appears as the network protection feature, but it’s the same thing. iOS is a different story. There’s no kill switch available for iOS. At vpnMentor, we keep track of the best VPNs for mobile, including for iOS. And ExpressVPN is among the best, so it’s a shame this important feature is lacking for iOS.
This standout feature lets you encrypt just part of your traffic through certain browsers, but leave everything else untouched.
You can browse locally AND through your VPN at the same time. You just need to decide which apps will use the VPN. Adding and removing apps is easy. Just click on the plus symbol.
I chose to leave my online banking app and both BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub out of the encryption tunnel so I could still use them. Then I actually put this to the test.
Use the split-tunneling settings to determine which apps use the VPN and which maintain the local connection,
I connected to a server in the US, and then revisited the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub apps to see if I was able to stream the content. Success! I could watch all content across both apps, and I was able to browse while being connected to the US server at the same time.
Important Pro Tip: Split tunneling certainly gives you more flexibility. Remember though that any apps you remove from the VPN aren’t secured by encryption, so your local IP address and activity are visible while you’re using them.
Leak Tests and Leak Protection
Although your traffic is sent through an encrypted tunnel, it could still leak; this is known as a DNS leak, and it makes your online activity visible to your ISP. More worryingly, it means your data is accessible to third parties.
A solid VPN protects you against DNS leaks and guarantees your anonymity. I ran leak tests on ExpressVPN’s apps for Android and Windows to see how strong its connections really are.
ExpressVPN does offer its own leak test, but I always prefer running my own tests with a a third party to ensure unbiased info.
In this case, I turned to ipleak.net for comprehensive results on my IP address, location, browser default, and fallback information.
I tested servers in the US, Australia, Canada, and the UK on my Windows device. I had no DNS leaks across any server.
The leak test showed that my IP address in the UK was hidden and that IPv6 was blocked.
The results: I was pleased to see there were no data leaks and my IP address was completely protected throughout my browsing sessions. IPv6 was also blocked, which is the request from your ISP to your device that provides you with an IP address. This means I was undetectable by my ISP as there was no request sent. Pretty impressive!
Tor Compatibility, Security Audits, and Security Breaches
ExpressVPN has Tor compatibility – a feature only a handful of VPNs offer. I was pleased to see that ExpressVPN only supports Tor over VPN rather than the reverse. This means you benefit from maximum anonymity, as your data and online traffic are invisible to the VPN. ExpressVPN performs independent security audits, done by the renowned cybersecurity firm Cure3 and professional services and advisory titan PwC. This VPN did not suffer any breaches.
Having run every possible security test on ExpressVPN and troubleshooting all of its features, I can safely say that its advanced security can protect you, even with an unreliable connection.
Many VPNs claim to keep you private online, but a closer look at their privacy policies reveals all kinds of loopholes and woolly language. This means your data is actually stored and might be shared with third parties, including the government.
ExpressVPN’s headquarters are located discreetly in the British Virgin Islands. The good news is, the British Virgin Islands sit outside of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, meaning it’s a privacy-friendly country.
Does ExpressVPN Have an Adblocker?
ExpressVPN does not have an ad blocker. If you are after an ad blocker, though, check out one of these highly-rated vendors with ad blockers.
Does ExpressVPN Keep Logs?
Its policy states that it keeps no logs of any of your activity or connection logs, which includes all of your online traffic, websites visited, data content, and DNS queries.
The only data it does collect is the information you provide when you sign up, such as your email address and payment details.
How does ExpressVPN’s zero-logs policy really hold up? Very well! In 2017, one of ExpressVPN’s servers was seized by the Turkish government who were seeking information about an assassination, but they received no information, as there was no stored data available.
Server Number and Locations
- 3,000+ servers
- 160+ locations
- Servers in the US, the UK, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, and more.
Some locations have more servers than others, and the service offers the best coverage in the US, with 20+ servers in over 15 cities. By comparison, PrivateVPN only offers servers in 9 US cities. This means you can specifically select a server nearer to you within a certain country, so you can enjoy better speeds, lower latency, and more reliability.
Server Security Standards
ExpressVPN uses TrustedServer Technology. But what does that really mean?
TrustedServer Technology ensures that every server is only run on RAM. This means that all data is entirely wiped with every reboot. RAM is incapable of storing any data, so once it’s turned off and on again, any data from your session is deleted.
In fact, literally everything, including the operating system, is loaded fresh with each reboot, from a secure read-only image stored on the hard drive. This makes you less vulnerable to attacks, especially from hackers, as there’s no data for them to access in the first place.
Virtual Server Locations
When you connect to one of ExpressVPN’s servers, the server and IP address are usually in the same country. However, the service also offers virtual server locations where your IP address is within your target country, but the physical server is elsewhere.
This means ExpressVPN provides a more reliable connection with better speeds. You still have an IP address in your target country, regardless of the virtual location of the server.
Does ExpressVPN Offer Static/Dedicated IP Addresses?
No. ExpressVPN told me it doesn’t offer static/dedicated IP addresses. It says it aims to rotate its IP addresses regularly to increase your overall experience and make sure you get the best speeds every time.
Apps, Extensions, and Compatibility
ExpressVPN offers compatibility across nearly every device.
To get the full functionality of ExpressVPN, you should install it on your desktop. The iOS and Android mobile apps both fell short of a few important features, but on Mac and Windows, you have everything you could possibly need from a VPN.
iOS and Android Apps
You can download both the Android and iOS apps from Google Play or App Store, and configuration is easy. You need to agree to a few security measures and other preferences, and then just connect to a server. There’s also an option to auto-connect to the VPN when you fire up your mobile device.
The iOS and Android apps differ slightly between each other, and neither of them has all of the features included in the desktop app.
There’s no Tor compatibility with mobile, so if you’re looking for added privacy with Tor, you’d be better sticking to the desktop app.
I tested IPv6 leak protection on mobile, but unfortunately, this doesn’t work either. I was unable to see whether this had been blocked, which raises some questions about privacy on mobile.
You can’t use the speed test on mobile, so you can’t assess servers for latency and download speed. Connections are all reliable, despite no speed test. I didn’t experience any buffering or lagging as I switched servers on mobile. In fact, I often found my mobile app was quicker than desktop.
iOS users can choose from OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols. However, Android only supports OpenVPN. This is the highest standard, and probably the only protocol you’d use anyway.
You can see the difference here between available security protocol options for iOS (left) and Android (right).
Android users do have something that iOS users don’t, which is a network protection feature. This acts almost like a kill switch, blocking internet access when it can’t connect to a server or has trouble reconnecting.
ExpressVPN has dedicated browser extensions for both Chrome and Firefox. These only encrypt the traffic that goes through your browser, so everything else you do online is unencrypted. It’s almost like a split tunneling feature.
You install the add-on directly in your browser and just click on the extension to connect. It’s ideal if you’re just looking to encrypt your browser traffic quickly, like when using Chrome and a public WiFi connection.
ExpressVPN does offer an app for routers. If you install the app to your router, you’ll protect every device in your household, even if they don’t usually support VPN software. That includes any TVs, games consoles, mobiles, or tablets. There’s no limit on the number of connections once it’s installed on your router.
There are only a few, quick steps to follow to get set up. You can actually select your specific router from the drop-down on ExpressVPN’s website, and it’ll give you a guide on how to get started.
Setting up ExpressVPN on a router is easy: Just choose your router brand from the list, and you’ll receive step-by-step instructions to get you started.
Important Pro Tip: You can manually configure the VPN yourself with another compatible router. But remember, you often miss out on important security features if you don’t configure the app correctly.
If there are certain devices you don’t want connected to the VPN, you can change your settings using the split tunneling feature, adding and removing devices freely.
Breaking Geoblocks: Can It Work in China?
Lately, many countries have tightened up their geoblocks to detect and block VPNs.
The Chinese government heavily restricts website access in the country, including sites like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. This is known as the Great Firewall of China, and most VPNs simply aren’t powerful enough to get around it. However, ExpressVPN can.
In fact, when the Chinese government cracked down on VPN use a few years ago, ExpressVPN was one of the only VPNs that still worked.
As we’ve already seen, ExpressVPN has servers in Hong Kong, which allow you to access Chinese TV and websites while outside of China.
It works in the reverse, too, helping people inside China access digitally censored sites. It does this by using obfuscation across its servers.
Obfuscation disguises the VPN server code so that it looks like usual internet traffic. This means it won’t be detected as a VPN and blocked, so you can browse freely and access restricted sites from inside China.
ExpressVPN allows you to unblock Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Netflix, and more from inside China. However, you need to install the VPN outside of Chinese borders first, otherwise it will be blocked regardless.
Get Started With ExpressVPN Now!
How Many Devices Can I Connect With ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN allows five simultaneous connections.
However, if you install the app to your router, you’ll actually have unlimited simultaneous connections. This is because the router is considered to be the device connected to the app. You can protect every WiFi-connected device in your household, just by installing ExpressVPN on your router.
ExpressVPN is a bit more expensive than the other top VPNs but it’s worth it. If you’re a VPN perfectionist, you will get what you pay for - military-grade security, high speeds, and user-friendly interface with plenty of features.
- Superior performance
- Proven dedication to privacy
- Unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Large number of servers
- Risk-free 30-day refund guarantee
- Isn’t cheap
- No free trial
ExpressVPN is the best VPN service we've tested at Tom's Guide. And we've tested a lot of them.
The best way to protect your sensitive information online and gain access to services unavailable in your region is through a virtual private network (VPN). One of the best, if not the best, is ExpressVPN, a VPN provider based in the British Virgin Islands.
Good things rarely come cheap and ExpressVPN is the perfect example. There are three pricing options: 1-month, 6-month, and 1-year. The yearly subscription is billed $99.95 or the equivalent of $8.32 per month. The half-year option costs $9.99 per month ($59.95 billed every six months). The most expensive and least advisable is the monthly option that is charged $12.95 every month.
If you don’t wish to continue using the service, you can ask for a refund within 30 days after the payment. This policy applies to all subscription plans. It is also a fair alternative to a free trial since ExpressVPN doesn’t have one. It instead guarantees you will get a full refund regardless of the reason for the discontinuation.
Whichever subscription you decide on, you’ll have a wide range of payment methods at your disposal - credit cards, Paypal, Bitcoin, UnionPay, Webmoney, Alipay… the list goes on.
Not only does ExpressVPN have clients for Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, Linux, Nook, Chromebook, and Kindle Fire, but it also offers configuration files, firmware, and instruction manuals for routers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and so forth. It also offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
All the native apps are outstandingly easy to install and navigate. The service can be used on up to five devices at the same time, and installing it on a supported router will extend the coverage to a virtually unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
What you get
ExpressVPN has an enormous server network spread all over the world, covering more than 3,000 servers in 160 cities across 94 countries.
It unblocks the most popular streaming channels like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, ESPN, DAZN, Showtime, and SkyGO, as well as the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and other websites censored by authoritarian regimes.
As expected, ExpressVPN also supports file exchange via torrenting clients without the risk of your metadata and location being exposed to outsiders. All of the provider’s servers are P2P-friendly and there are no limitations on bandwidth or speed.
The apps employ a kill switch or a ‘Network Lock’, a useful mechanism that instantly terminates your whole Internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted, successfully preventing your data from being leaked to any inquisitive entities.
ExpressVPN's clients are also equipped with the split-tunneling feature that separates your apps into those you want to run with VPN only and those you want to leave on the regular Internet connection.
ExpressVPN uses only the best security mechanisms to safeguard your privacy. This includes the super-strong AES-256-CBC encryption protocol, as well as the Hash Message Authentication Code (HMAC) for the prevention of real-time regular data alterations. The transfer protocols employed by the apps include OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP.
The company also manages its own zero-knowledge 256-bit DNS on each server, which means that your traffic is safe from attackers intercepting it, blocking it, and more - a risk that unencrypted DNS entails.
ExpressVPN has recently introduced an innovative VPN server technology called TrustedServer. It relies on RAM instead of hard drives and ensures all of the VPN servers run the most up-to-date software, minimizing the risk of vulnerabilities and misconfiguration. As a result, this significantly increases VPN security.
Privacy is also guaranteed by the strict no-logging policy. The company’s website states that it does not and will never log any traffic destination or metadata, DNS queries, IP addresses (neither source or VPN), browsing history, or any other information that could be connected to you.
On the other hand, it collects minimal information about the usage of its services like apps and app versions successfully activated, dates (not times) when you connected to the VPN, which server you used, and the total amount of data transferred per day.
With most providers you just have to take their word for guarantees such as the no-logs one, but ExpressVPN is a whole different story. This VPN vendor has opened its doors to an independent firm which conducted an audit of its privacy technologies and confirmed their quality.
If that isn’t enough, its location should be. The headquarters are in the British Virgin Islands, a place with no laws demanding data retention and outside the watchful gaze of governments with a less favorable stance on data privacy.
Performance-wise, ExpressVPN ticks all the right boxes. There are no connection failures or latencies, the apps connect quickly and download speeds are exceedingly fast, with some of the more distant locations delivering lower speeds, which is normal.
The support section has troubleshooting guides, instruction manuals for setting up the service, as well as providing you with other options for getting assistance. These include sending an email and opening a support ticket. Needless to say, a live chat option is available on the website and allows you to reach a helpful customer support agent within seconds. Support is available 24/7
ExpressVPN also excels in the support for both its customers and those still window-shopping. The website has a blog where you can find out all the information and updates relating to the provider and the VPN industry in general.
ExpressVPN is the epitome of ideal VPN service. It provides everything you expect of an expensive privacy service plus more. Its service is almost impeccable in terms of speed and security, and it facilitates access to private torrenting and streaming popular TV shows that aren’t available in some parts of the world.
The good news continues elsewhere, with ExpressVPN delivering in almost every area. 256-bit tunneling with industrial-strength encryption? Check. P2P support? Yep. Netflix unblocking? Naturally. Split tunneling? No problem! Kill switch, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, solid and reliable performance and a clear no-logging policy? You’ve got it.
(ed: As of May 2019, ExpressVPN has an integrated kill switch in its Android and iOS app)
The ExpressVPN service is hosted in the British Virgin Islands, which is notable for its lack of data retention laws. This VPN provider takes privacy seriously with the promise of “no activity logs” and “no connection logs,” which is a hard to beat policy for its VPN rivals.
There are also useful VPN tools on the ExpressVPN website. These make it easy to check what your IP is, perform a DNS leak test, or a WebRTC leak test. Doing these before installing the VPN, and then repeating them with ExpressVPN running, can verify that the VPN is installed, working properly, and providing the full benefit of its protection. That ExpressVPN provides these tools shows that the company is willing to show users exactly how well its VPN service really works.
Downsides? Thy only real fly in the ointment to bear in mind is that - thanks to its quality - ExpressVPN commands a premium price tag for the monthly subscription, which is partially offset by the discounts provided for longer subscriptions. That said, for those who want a speedy service, crammed with top-notch features that support just about every device out there, with all the 24/7 support you need to help you use them, and with almost too many options for payment, ExpressVPN will be a great fit.
ExpressVPN’s performance got off to a great start with a very fast initial connection time. However, it was overall lackluster with slower download speeds, and a higher latency than some other services. In addition, it has frequent reconnects in some locations, and not the fastest upload speed.
Verdict and Conclusion
Overall, ExpressVPN is a strong entry into the crowded VPN space. For those willing to pay the price, this full-featured VPN provides a speedy connection, at the highest level of security, with support for just about any device that a user would need a VPN for. For these reasons, ExpressVPN should easily make it onto the shortlist of top VPN providers to consider.
Client software platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, Playstation
Native supported platforms: All of the above, plus Chromebook, Windows Phone, Proxy service (not VPN) available for game consoles, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Boxee
Supported protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP
No. of servers: 3000+
No. of countries: 94
Country of registration: British Virgin Islands
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, AliPay, GiroPay, WebMoney
Real name necessary? No
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no. of simultaneously connected devices: Five
Customer support: 24/7 chat and email
ExpressVPN has consistently ranked at the top of our best VPN listings, and it’s easy to see why. Everything about the service is rock solid, from the speed to the user experience to the security and privacy. It’s undoubtedly at the top of the game, but recent refreshes to competitors like NordVPN and CyberGhost are starting to give ExpressVPN a run for its money.
In this ExpressVPN review, we’re taking ol’ faithful out for a spin once again, testing its security, speed, features, user-friendliness and more. Although we think of ExpressVPN as a fast and secure virtual private network, we’re not cutting it any slack in this review. It’s still getting the full treatment, from speed tests to streaming performance.
You can read the gory details below, but in short, ExpressVPN is still the best of the best. Even in an elite tier with competitors like NordVPN and PIA, ExpressVPN manages to set itself apart with uncompromising speed and a no-nonsense user experience.
If you’re more of a fan of hands-on testing rather than reading, you can try ExpressVPN with a 30-day money-back guarantee to put our claim to the test. If you sign up for a year from the get-go, you get an extra three months for free, as well.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- No-logs policy
- Very fast
- Large server network
- Easy to use
- In-app split tunneling
- Excellent browser extension
- Multiple VPN protocols
- A little expensive
- No ad blocker included
Alternatives for ExpressVPN
Although ExpressVPN comes with some unique goodies, it isn’t as packed with features as CyberGhost or NordVPN. For example, you’re missing malware protection and an ad blocker that some other VPNs include.
However, given how poorly these extras usually perform, we’re not too upset with ExpressVPN’s omission. You should be using a tool from our best antivirus software list, anyway.
ExpressVPN offers in-app split tunneling, which shockingly few VPNs support (read our StrongVPN review for another service that does). Although you can manually set up any VPN with split tunneling, the process is unintuitive and arduous. ExpressVPN makes it easy, allowing you to specify directly in the app which programs use the VPN connection and which don’t.
ExpressVPN is pretty fast across the board, as we’ll get into shortly, but not all of the locations in its server network are equal. Thankfully, you can quickly get a grasp on which servers are best for your location with the built-in speed test. ExpressVPN even stores your speed test results so you can consult them later down the line.
You can run the test on either recommended locations, all locations or locations within a specific region. ExpressVPN provides a download speed, latency and speed index for each service.
Although they are helpful as a point of comparison, we wouldn’t recommend paying too much mind to the actual numbers. Based on our testing, they’re inaccurate (usually slower than the actual speed). They’re relatively accurate when related to each other, though. If location A looks faster than location B, it usually is, even if the specific numbers aren’t reliable.
Routers, Browsers and Consoles, Oh My!
As a network tool, you can use a VPN with any internet-connected device, so long as you have access to configure the network settings of that device. That said, an installer goes a long way. ExpressVPN offers installers for just about every device imaginable, allowing you to keep your data safe no matter where you are.
The standards are accounted for, with applications for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. Beyond that, ExpressVPN natively supports ChromeOS through the Google Play store, Fire TV and Kindle Fire, multiple Linux distros and routers.
You can also use ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer function on Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and Xbox 360, though it won’t provide the same level of protection (more on that in the “streaming” section below).
If you prefer a manual approach, ExpressVPN can accommodate. You can download OpenVPN configuration files for most of ExpressVPN’s network, including locations in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Although it may seem daunting, configuring manually isn’t so bad as long as you have easy access to the OpenVPN client.
All you need to do is import the OpenVPN configuration file into your client. The configuration file includes all of the necessary keys to use your account with ExpressVPN.
Outside of that, you may need your username and password — generated by ExpressVPN — and import the necessary certificates. Thankfully, that’s simple, too, because ExpressVPN includes a .zip file with all the necessary keys and certificates.
ExpressVPN Features Overview
Starts from$ 666per month
PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin
Worldwide server amount
Windows, MacOS, Linux, ChromeOS
Can be installed on routers
Can access Amazon Prime Video
VPN protocols available
OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2
Enabled at device startup
Malware/ad blocker included
Every VPN service has a weakness, and for ExpressVPN, that’s price. Although it’s traditionally been the most expensive service out of our VPN reviews, high-cost options like Hide.me and Astrill have made it look more reasonable. Still, ExpressVPN isn’t cheap, and there are plenty of less expensive options.
The base monthly price is around $13. However, as is the case with nearly all VPNs, you’ll save a lot by subscribing for the long term. A year runs around $100, which isn’t a terrible rate, though we’ve seen better. PureVPN, for all its faults, offers up to five years of service, bringing the monthly price to only a few dollars.
Thankfully, the high cost is offset by ExpressVPN’s no-nonsense refund policy, which we’ll get to in a minute. Although you can try out ExpressVPN for a month for essentially free, you can’t use the VPN service for free beyond that. It didn’t make the list of our best free VPNs, beat out by options like Windscribe.
As for payment, ExpressVPN gives you a lot of options, including PayPal, credit cards, regional payment systems and anonymous bitcoin payment. We would’ve liked to see cold, hard cash as a payment option — Mullvad offers that — but even so, ExpressVPN gives you plenty of ways to pay, some of which are anonymous.
ExpressVPN Simultaneous Connections
No matter which duration you choose, you’ll be able to use ExpressVPN on up to five devices at once. That’s not an install limit, mind you; you can install ExpressVPN on as many devices as you want. However, only five of those devices can be actively connected to ExpressVPN’s services at any given time.
Having simultaneous connections is often touted as a key spec of VPNs, with services like ProtonVPN offering up to 10 devices at once (read our ProtonVPN review). In practice, though, five is more than enough. In a personal use case, you’re unlikely to have more than one or two devices connected to a network at any given time.
If you’re running up against the device limit, you can always install ExpressVPN on your router, too. As long as your router is protected, all devices connected to that network will be protected, as well. The setup is more involved than running an installer on Windows, but with ExpressVPN’s guides, it’s not too difficult.
Does ExpressVPN Have a Free Trial?
Now for some bad news. Unfortunately, ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, at least not in the traditional sense. Unlike Surfshark, which offers a week-long VPN trial for mobile users, you’ll have to pay upfront if you want to use ExpressVPN (read our Surfshark review). That said, if you’re unsatisfied, you can get a refund quickly.
ExpressVPN offers a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee. No matter what duration you purchase, you can get a full refund within the first 30 days for any reason. Although it’s not as long as CyberGhost’s 45-day refund period, it’s on par with PIA (read our Private Internet Access review).
ExpressVPN is the perfect example of how a VPN should function. The signup process is as straightforward as they come, and the local application presents few hurdles. When comparing ExpressVPN to a service like AirVPN, it becomes very clear why we rank the former in a different league .
Starting with signup, ExpressVPN makes it easy to get an account, with a large, red “get started” button following you around the site. On the checkout page, you’ll need to enter an email and your payment information, but that’s it. There’s no account creation or any other nonsense to bog down the experience.
Instead, ExpressVPN generates an activation key, which you’ll need to enter into the application once you download it. On nontraditional installs, where you’ll need to use the command line, ExpressVPN offers a randomly generated username and password.
The important thing here is that you don’t need to remember any credentials. Once ExpressVPN is registered to your device, it’ll stay that way as long as you have an account.
Anyone can use the local application (unless pressing an obvious “on” button is above your pay grade). ExpressVPN automatically assigns you a “smart location,” and although you can squeeze more performance out of the service by choosing a location manually, the “smart location” gets pretty close. All you need to do is click the “on” button, and you’ll be connected in seconds.
Once you’re connected, ExpressVPN shows some links to popular websites — you can set your own, too — though we rarely used them. A VPN should operate in the background, and on that front, ExpressVPN is great.
However, we did run into a few issues with startup. Occasionally, the connection would snag, leaving us without internet for five or so minutes. Those cases were few and far between, though, and easily solved by disconnecting and reconnecting.
Using the ExpressVPN Chrome Extension
ExpressVPN has massively improved its browser extensions since the last time we tested it. Essentially, the Chrome extension is ExpressVPN in your browser, but with a home in your address bar and a sleek, black finish. The same rules apply: click the “on” button to get connected, either with your chosen location or a “smart location.”
Outside of reminding you that you can open the extension with a shortcut — Ctrl + Shift + X, by default — the extension mirrors the local app, both in terms of usability and settings. The extension actually pairs to your local application, so whatever settings you have there will be mirrored in the extension.
That doesn’t make the extension obsolete, though. HTTPS Everywhere, HTML5 geolocation spoofing and a WebRTC blocker are built in, offering some additional security and privacy for your browser.
ExpressVPN on Android
ExpressVPN took first place in our best VPN for mobile and best VPN for Android guides, and it’s easy to see why. The desktop application looks tailor-made for mobile, and unsurprisingly, the same interface is present on Android. Simply choose your location, tap the big “on” button, rinse and repeat.
You can, of course, download the app through the Google Play store (that’s the easiest method). However, ExpressVPN makes the APK openly available, allowing you to use ExpressVPN on rooted devices or limited versions of Android that otherwise wouldn’t have access to the full Google Play store.
Mobile users have the benefit of a free week-long trial, too. It’s tied to Google Pay, of course, so you’ll need to be vigilant to cancel if you don’t want to continue your subscription. Still, it’s a nice offer for mobile users, and it gives you a taste of how ExpressVPN works without putting any money down.
ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested, not only considering the speed test data close to home, but also abroad. You can see the numbers we gathered during this review in the table below, as well as our testing process a little further down.
|New Jersey (Smart Location)||42||195.45||18.57|
Looking at the download speeds, we never dropped below 125 Mbps, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise with our unprotected speed of 458 Mbps. It seems like a severe drop, and it is, though we’ve noticed that there’s a large initial drop when making the first connection, which ExpressVPN shares with NordVPN and CyberGhost, among others.
The real test is how the VPN handles speeds across locations, and on that front, ExpressVPN is a winner. After the initial drop, we stayed within the same range of speed, no matter where we were tunneling to in the world. The latency also stayed low in all locations except South Africa, which is why ExpressVPN ranks among the best VPNs for gaming.
As we’ll get into in a moment, we let ExpressVPN choose the specific location, with us simply specifying the country in order to emulate a normal-use scenario. The only exception to that was Chicago, which we chose based on the fact that it was the closest to our testing location.
Interesting, the “smart location” in New Jersey had far better download and upload performance, though the closer server still won in terms of latency.
How We Ran Our ExpressVPN Speed Tests
To keep everything fair, we tested ExpressVPN’s speeds using OpenVPN UDP on a wired connection. Before taking our numbers, we tested the unprotected speed of our connection to gauge the relative drop in performance when connected to the VPN service. Although you may have faster or slower internet, the drop in speed should be about the same.
Our numbers aren’t law, though. As we’ll get into in the next section, ExpressVPN supports a wide range of protocols, each of which will affect your performance and security in some way.
OpenVPN is the standard for just about every VPN service out there and is what we use to universally compare providers, so that’s what we tested with. However, you should see higher numbers with protocols like IKEv2 and L2TP, if you choose to use them.
As for locations, we picked the country but not the specific VPN server, letting ExpressVPN choose the best server for the job. The only exception to that is the Chicago location, which we gathered numbers for to compare with the “smart location” in New Jersey.
Security with ExpressVPN is about as stock as it comes. Your connection is usually established using OpenVPN with UDP as the transport protocol, which is paired with AES-256 encryption . There are other protocols available, though OpenVPN is usually the best option.
The other options include IKEv2, which is great for mobile connections, and L2TP/IPSec, which is a good choice for low-risk situations. PPTP is also available, though we wouldn’t recommend using it (read our VPN protocol breakdown to learn why). Finally, there’s OpenVPN with TCP, which we’ll circle back to in a minute.
ExpressVPN may be stock, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsecure. OpenVPN and AES-256 is the secret to a safe connection, and that’s what ExpressVPN is rocking out of the box. Still, we would’ve liked to see some sort of encapsulated OpenVPN protocol like the one VyprVPN offers .
Even so, there’s no denying that ExpressVPN is a secure VPN. In the app, you’ll find quick links to DNS, IP and WebRTC link tests, as well as IPv6 leak protection. We tested using ExpressVPN’s tools, as well as our own, and didn’t find any IP, WebRTC or DNS leaks.
Torrenting With ExpressVPN
You can easily torrent with ExpressVPN, though we should remind you that torrenting copyrighted content is illegal in most countries. Still, if you fancy sailing the digital seas, ExpressVPN will keep you protected. In fact, it ranked near the top of our best VPN for torrenting guide.
Although a lack of peer-to-peer servers puts a damper on the experience, ExpressVPN’s high security and uncompromising speed makes it an ideal choice for downloading torrent files quickly and securely.
If you fancy streaming movies and TV shows from, say, questionable websites, ExpressVPN is a good choice there, too (read our Kodi guide if that sounds like your thing).
ExpressVPN Security in China and Other High-Risk Countries
One of the main reasons to use a VPN is to bypass censors in high-risk countries like China. Although internet censorship is a problem in one form or another in most countries around the world, some are worse than others, with countries like China, Russia, Egypt and Iran being particularly nasty offenders.
Thankfully, ExpressVPN is among our best VPNs for China, able to bypass any amount of censorship thrown at it. There are two reasons for this, the first of which is OpenVPN with TCP. OpenVPN appears as a normal internet connection, but should a censor capture the signal when you are using UDP, they can monitor it without you knowing.
On the other hand, TCP features packet confirmation. It’s slower, but you’ll know if your packets are going where you intend. If a censor were to intercept your packets, it wouldn’t reach the destination, and you wouldn’t receive confirmation back. That means your connection is protected.
There are other factors that make ExpressVPN a solid choice in high-risk situations, including its kill switch, DNS settings and IPv6 leak protection. For us, however, perfect forward secrecy is the most important security feature for high-risk situations. In short, PFS protects a network snooper from using a single encryption key to decrypt all historic traffic.
ExpressVPN generates a new key each time you connect, or in the event you’re connected for a long period, every 60 minutes. Even if someone intercepting your connection were able to crack it, the most they’d be able to see is an hour of history.
As for VPN blocks — which China is notorious for — there’s little ExpressVPN can do to prevent them. However, ExpressVPN has a long history of solving blocks as they come up. Read our guide on how to use ExpressVPN in China if you plan on visiting the country.
Let’s start with what isn’t collected. ExpressVPN knows nothing about the IP addresses that connect to its servers, nor the DNS queries its users send. In short, ExpressVPN may know that a user is connected to one of its servers, but it has no information about who that user is, what server they’re connected to or what they’re doing while connected.
As mentioned above, ExpressVPN also implements perfect forward secrecy, meaning that your browsing data is refreshed every hour. Even if ExpressVPN were to log your browsing data, it could view only up to an hour of that data. The likelihood that your browsing data is collected is very low, too, considering ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands.
The British Virgin Islands have some of the best privacy laws in the world, with no data retention laws. Furthermore, normal courts in the British Virgin Islands can’t force companies to produce records, unlike the U.S. The only way the government could see your browsing data is if an order comes from the British Virgin Islands High Court, and even then, ExpressVPN has nothing to hand over.
Now for what ExpressVPN does collect. When you’re connected to the service, ExpressVPN can see the app version, if the connection was successful or not and the amount of data transferred. However, the time of the connection, the original IP address, the destination IP address and the browsing history of the user isn’t logged or monitored.
How Safe Is Your Information With ExpressVPN?
As for what is collected, ExpressVPN keeps very little on record, just enough to help in the event that your version of the app runs into issues. This anonymous aggregate information is used only for diagnostics, not for sale, and you can even turn off that collection in ExpressVPN’s settings.
ExpressVPN is a streaming monster. Although it lacks streaming-specific servers like CyberGhost offers, most server locations will break into Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. We also gave ExpressVPN a spin with Kodi, and after trying it out, we crowned it as the best VPN for Kodi.
Hulu and Amazon Prime Video were a little touchy based on our testing, which shouldn’t come as a surprise (these services are generally hard on VPNs, as you can see in our best VPN for Hulu and best VPN for Prime Video guides). ExpressVPN also broke into Disney+, BBC iPlayer and CBS All Access.
Using ExpressVPN With Netflix
ExpressVPN really comes into its own with Netflix. We tested across 10 server locations, and only two returned a proxy error. ExpressVPN has consistently beat out the competition in our best VPN for Netflix guide, and our testing in this ExpressVPN review only affirms that. If you’re looking for a Netflix VPN, it doesn’t get much better than ExpressVPN. Check out our guide on how to watch Netflix with ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN ranks first in our best VPN for streaming guide, and that’s not just because it can easily access various platforms. If your connection is relatively secure or you have a device that normally doesn’t support a VPN, you can use MediaStreamer. This tool adds the geographical spoofing benefits of a VPN without the encryption overhead.
It’s a bit like a proxy in that it doesn’t offer any additional encryption to your connection (read our VPN vs proxy vs Tor guide for more on that). Although that means your connection is less secure, it also means it’s much faster. With MediaStreamer, you can break into just about any streaming platform in any location with any device.
ExpressVPN is no NordVPN when it comes to server locations, but it beats just about every other VPN. More than 3,000 servers span 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries. No matter if you’re in New York or Kenya, you’ll have a VPN server close to you.
Furthermore, all server locations support OpenVPN with UDP, at minimum, though many support all of ExpressVPN’s protocols.
There are plenty of VPN services with a lot of servers. ExpressVPN’s spread is what’s most impressive. It covers the media centers of the world, including the U.S., UK and nearly all countries in Europe. However, unlike other VPNs, ExpressVPN also has a presence in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
Not all of these locations have bare-metal servers, though, a fact that ExpressVPN is very upfront about. More remote locations — like Monaco, Isle of Man and Sri Lanka — are obtained through virtual servers, most of which run through the Netherlands. This is the same way the HideMyAss VPN achieves its massive server network.
If you need help, you can contact ExpressVPN over live chat or email, though we much prefer the former. Throughout our review, we reached out to live chat a handful of times, and we received a response quickly each time. They weren’t the most technical of responses, but for surface-level questions, live chat does the trick.
Email is around for the heavy lifting, though you’ll need to wait a few hours before hearing back. Although this is much faster than most other VPNs, live chat is still the best option for most questions. Still, if you want to speak with a support rep on a deeper level, email is an option.
The contact options are fine, but we like the self-help resources much more. Support resources are divided into two categories: troubleshooting articles and instructions. ExpressVPN touches on just about every topic possible, from setup instructions for your Kindle Fire to troubleshooting articles on specific error codes.
Out of the lot, the setup guides are most impressive. Even if ExpressVPN doesn’t have a dedicated app for the platform you want to install it on, it likely has a setup guide. That includes the browser extension, nontraditional Linux installs and even BlackBerry guides.
We’ve seen plenty of VPNs with decent direct support, and although ExpressVPN is slightly faster and a little more thorough, the direct support isn’t leagues better than the competition. However, the self-help resources set ExpressVPN apart from the pack.
We’ve tested the limits of ExpressVPN time and again, and after each evaluation, we come to the same conclusion: it’s simply the best VPN option.
Competitors like NordVPN and CyberGhost get very close in terms of speed, security and usability, and they even beat ExpressVPN in features. However, ExpressVPN is still the fastest, and although the competition has come a long way in terms of usability, it’s still the easiest to use.
We’ve sang its praise enough, though. We recommend giving ExpressVPN a shot either with the free mobile trial or 30-day money-back guarantee to see how you like it. Be sure to let us know about your experience in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.
Is It Safe to Use ExpressVPN?
How Much Does ExpressVPN Cost?
ExpressVPN costs $12.95 per month, but you can save by subscribing for a longer period of time. For example, the yearly plan costs $99.95. No matter which duration you choose, all of ExpressVPN’s plans come with up to five simultaneous connections and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
How Do You Cancel ExpressVPN?
You can cancel ExpressVPN by going to “my account” on the home page and clicking on “subscription settings.” From there, you can turn off auto-renew so you won’t be charged for your next term. If you’re taking advantage of the VPN’s refund policy, you need to reach out to support via live chat.
Fast and easy to use, ExpressVPN is a great service
In this updated review, Cloudwards.net takes a look at one of its favorite providers, ExpressVPN. It's a fast and secure service that is guaranteed to get you into Netflix as well as other streaming services, while keeping your data away from prying eyes.
Starts from$ 666per month
ExpressVPN is fast, secure and keeps you fully anonymous with their strict no logging policy. They allow torrenting/P2P and even work with Tor for the maximum level of privacy. The app looks great and it’s very easy to use. ExpressVPN supports virtually all devices you need it on.
ExpressVPN uses the industry standard OpenVPN tunneling protocol and AES 256-bit as default, but if you’re more techy and want to spice it up, you can do so manually. Their server park consists of a staggering amount of 3000+ servers in 94 countries.
The price of their service is rather expensive and it isn’t the best option for Netflix. In our tests, only 6 out of 30 US servers worked.
All in all, it’s a very good premium VPN service, but not the best choice when you’re looking for a Netflix VPN on a budget. If you’re looking to be secure and anonymous, ExpressVPN is an excellent choice.
1. Massive Selection of Servers on Almost All Continents
One of the biggest advantages of ExpressVPN is the sheer number of servers. This VPN boasts 3,000 servers in 160 server locations in 94 countries. They have a server on every single continent except for Antarctica. ExpressVPN only competes with NordVPN, PIA, TorGuard and CyberGhost when it comes down to the sheer number of servers they offer.
For most of their servers, the registered IP address and physical server are in the same country, but they also give you the option of using virtual servers. Virtual servers match the registered IP address to the country you’ve connected to, although their servers are physically located in another country that’s usually close by.
Though less than 3% of their servers are virtual servers, these servers make sure that you enjoy a speedy, dependable, and secure connection at all times.
This large selection of servers means you won’t have to settle for the farthest ones from you, which are usually the slowest.
2. Speed Tests Prove They’re Really Fast
Another important aspect of ExpressVPN that makes them easy to like is their speed. I tested their performance on SpeedTest.net and Fast.com to be extra thorough. The results from SpeedTest.net show a blazingly fast performance for most of the locations tested.
I tested for the following:
- Ping: 25ms / Download: 45.14 Mbps / Upload: 18.60 Mbps
- Ping: 39ms / Download: 175.75 Mbps / Upload: 46.54 Mbps
- Ping: 174ms / Download: 242.16 Mbps / Upload: 43.77 Mbps
- Ping: 447ms / Download: 136.18 Mbps / Upload: 13.42 Mbps
The results from Fast.com, on the other hand, show a mixed bag that was potentially due to Netflix connections:
- Ping: 107ms / Download: 140 Mbps / Upload: 37 Mbps
- Ping: 247ms / Download: 130 Mbps / Upload: 28 Mbps
Still, you should never put too much emphasis on a speed test. Different factors like the physical location, your internet connection, and the speed of your computer can impact these results.
3. Usability: A Satisfying User Experience
ExpressVPN claims that you can get yourself set up with their service in about 5 minutes, so I wanted to test this out. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to install and activate ExpressVPN quickly and with no problems.
Before I knew it, I was already using their “Smart Location” feature to efficiently connect to their server.
You can even manually configure your connection by using OS-level VPN settings. There’s also support for literally every single device you can think of—more on that later in the review.
Get started in just three steps:
- Choose your subscription.
- Head to their setup page.
- Download and install ExpressVPN.
4. Useful Features to Help You Stay Secure
Network Lock: Kill-Switch
In case your VPN is disconnected, it’s crucial that your data still doesn’t get compromised. Meet their kill-switch, called Network Lock.
As soon as your connection suffers any interruption, this will stop any traffic from going in or out of your device. I was happy to realize that this means that my personal data will never be exposed to anyone on the web, whether my ISP or criminals. Even a failed connection won’t compromise my information.
ExpressVPN offers this as a standard feature on their apps for Mac, Windows, Linux, and routers.
5. Device Compatibility and Routers
There’s a lot of value in just one subscription since you can use it simultaneously on as many as five supported devices, regardless of the platform.
I contacted ExpressVPN’s live chat while I was looking for this information on their site, and they confirmed to me that I can use their service on a wide range of devices:
- Devices – Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, Linux, Routers, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, Nook
- Browser Extensions – Chrome, Firefox
- Consoles and Smart TVs – Playstation, Apple TV, Xbox, Amazon Fire Stick TV, Nintendo Switch, Samsung Smart TV, all game consoles, and smart TVs
There are numerous reasons to protect more than one device, such as comprehensive security and smooth streaming on all your devices.
If you need to protect more than five devices, you have two options: Either buy an additional subscription or just set up ExpressVPN for your router.
If you’re going to use this VPN with a router, then you can protect numerous devices more efficiently and eliminate the need to install your VPN app on every device. This makes using the VPN for your router the more productive option since you can protect game consoles and smart TVs (everything that’s on your Wi-Fi network) just by securing your router alone.
As I’m finding out with many things on ExpressVPN, securing your router takes only a few, quick steps:
- Buy your initial subscription.
- Choose your VPN router.
- Choose your router model.
In no time at all, you’ll have secured your entire Wi-Fi network and numerous devices with only one VPN for your router.
6. Support for Both Tor and Torrenting
As someone who wants the securest connection available to me, I naturally wanted to find out if ExpressVPN supported Tor networks and torrenting. After scouring their website, I was pleased to read that they indeed do.
Using ExpressVPN with Tor gives you the strongest security possible. You get the anonymity of Tor along with the encryption of VPN. The end result is an airtight connection where even your VPN won’t be able to see what you’re doing inside the Tor network.
It’s important to remember that you first have to connect to ExpressVPN and then to Tor to make this work.
Using a Tor can slow down your connection speed, but if you live in a country with an oppressive government that’s watching your every move, it’s essential to have this as an option.
Torrenting is great if you want to download and share big files efficiently and quickly. Unfortunately, without a VPN, your IP address, location, and metadata will be exposed to prying eyes. ExpressVPN works with uTorrent, one of the most used torrenting clients around, to make sure that your file-sharing activity will never be traced back to you.
A live chat agent on the site confirmed to me that ExpressVPN allows file-sharing traffic from their servers.
7. No Leaks Found at All
I also made sure to test ExpressVPN for any potential IP, DNS, WebRTC, and IPX leaks.
Here are the websites I tested.
- Result: No Leak
Perfect-Privacy.com DNS Leak Test
- Result: No Leak
BrowserLeaks WebRTC Leak Test
- Result: No Leak
- Result: No Leak
To be extra thorough, I also tested this VPN’s installation file on VirusTotal.com.
There were no viruses found in the installer package.
8. Customer Support Shows Great Care for Customers
Good customer support is integral to any service that you buy. Aside from the tech considerations, it’s one of the strongest factors that can influence whether or not to go with a specific VPN. After all, if you’re not tech-savvy and you’re struggling to make your VPN work properly, then you want to have someone available 24/7 to help you out (and make sure your information stays protected all the time).
Customer support is definitely one of ExpressVPN’s most helpful offerings.
First of all, their live chat is open 24/7. I contacted them and asked a series of questions about their features. They gave me clear answers and were very responsive.
Another way their customer support comes through for you is with their many self-help guides available right on their website. If you don’t want to wait around for an agent, then this is your best bet.
You can also reach out to their email support or file a support ticket.
Any way you cut it, I found that ExpressVPN has knowledgeable, helpful agents and resources on their website that make it easy for you to get the answers you need to properly use their VPN and stay protected.
9. Company Location: British Virgin Islands
ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, as I was able to confirm from one of their live chat agents.
The BVI is a collection of self-governing islands in the Caribbean. Perhaps best of all, from a data-privacy standpoint, they’re not part of the so-called 14 Eyes or the SIGINT Seniors Europe. These 14 countries share intelligence data with one another, so being outside this reach of coordination is helpful in protecting your privacy.
The good thing about being located in the BVI is:
- There are no data-retention laws in their jurisdiction.
- The only time a BVI company can be forced to reveal information in an investigation is by an order of their high court (outside countries can’t compel a BVI company to reveal anything).
- There are many hoops investigators have to jump through to successfully convince a court to force a BVI company to reveal information.
From what I can tell, having a VPN based in the BVI is a major plus to keeping your identity and data safe.
10. Logging Policy
This VPN is committed to your privacy, which is why they have a strict, no-logging policy. They’ll never collect your:
- IP addresses
- Browsing history
- Traffic destination or metadata
- DNS queries
Information on: https://www.expressvpn.com/what-is-vpn/policy-towards-logs
They also never collect any activity or connection logs.
A VPN will always have to collect some information, though. It’s good to know that ExpressVPN values customers to such an extent that they’re always open about what they take. When they do collect some of your data, they’ll always let you know.
- Apps you’ve activated
- Only the dates you’ve connected to the VPN
- VPN server locations
- Total MBs of data transfers
They’ll only store the least amount of information about you that they need in order to run a reliable VPN service.
11. Encryption Standards
You never want third parties like your ISP or Wi-Fi operators intercepting your sensitive data when it’s traveling from your computer to VPN servers. To make sure this never happens, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).
The U.S. government and security experts around the globe use AES-256, so you can be confident that your own data will always stay confidential.
Even brute-force attacks on AES-256 are improbable.
Protecting your data involves more than choosing a high-quality VPN. The VPN protocol is equally important since this is how the VPN secures data transfers.
It can get quite complicated to figure out which protocol is most secure.
Luckily, ExpressVPN makes this selection a cinch by letting you know which protocol is the best. For added security, ExpressVPN’s tunneling protocols—methods your device uses to connect to a VPN server—go beyond the default (and most secure) OpenVPN.
You can let ExpressVPN automatically choose the best protocol for you. ExpressVPN also supports SSTP, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP protocols. The OpenVPN UDP/TCP option is the best combination of security and speed.
1. Netflix Has Connection Issues in Quite a Few Locations
No review would be complete without examining one of the most popular reasons for using a VPN: Does it work with Netflix?
Technically, it does work, but you have to find a specific server that doesn’t get blocked, which means a bit of trial and error.
The following servers worked great in our tests, though there were issues with a lot of U.S. servers:
- United States (only 6 out of 30 servers worked)
- United Kingdom (5 servers)
- Hong Kong
Middle East & Africa
ExpressVPN Pricing, Payment Options, Money-Back Guarantee and Free Trial
Price is always a significant factor when deciding on a VPN. ExpressVPN makes this very clear: They’re a premium VPN, so that’s reflected in their pricing. You’ll have to decide if paying a little extra is worth it for their top-notch security and good reputation.
ExpressVPN features various subscription plans:
- Monthly: $12.95
- 6-month plan: $9.99 per month
- 15-month plan: $6.67 per month
The longer your subscription, the cheaper it gets.
That’s not to say that this is a low-cost VPN. If you compare them to free VPNs, this may seem a bit steep, but when you consider all of their features (servers) and performance (fast speeds), you can see why ExpressVPN charges what they do.
ExpressVPN makes it easy to pay for their services.
You can pay for your subscription in a number of ways, with all major credit cards being accepted. There are also alternative ways of payment, such as PayPal and Bitcoin, if that’s more convenient for you.
To pay, simply select your plan, input your email address, and choose your preferred payment method.
You’ll be pleased to know that there’s a 30-day refund guarantee for any subscription plan. This means you can try their service risk-free.
If you change your mind for any reason after 30 days, you’ll get your money back, no questions asked.
Getting your money back is as easy as contacting ExpressVPN’s support team.
Unfortunately, because they’re a premium VPN, there’s no free trial offered.
There is a free trial for some mobile devices, however. Any mobile device in countries that can access the Google Play (Android) / App Store (iOS) can receive a free 7-day trial once they download the app.
Taking everything about ExpressVPN’s pricing into consideration, it can definitely come across as a con. You do get what you pay for, but there are other VPNs we rate higher than them, and they’re not as expensive. At the end of the day, ExpressVPN is still very expensive compared to many other VPNs.
Do I Recommend ExpressVPN?
Yes, I recommend ExpressVPN.
As far as VPNs go, they are hard to beat. Their security is top-notch, and they make it easy for you to protect as many devices as you want while not sacrificing speed.
While it is a premium service, as the pricing reflects, they offer a large number of servers spread across various regions of the world. Their customer service and support of Tor and torrenting are commendable.
It’s worth your money, which is why I recommend them.
ExpressVPN is a well-regarded VPN service used by many people – but how well does it actually perform?
In this new and updated ExpressVPN review, I put the service through extensive testing in order to answer the following questions:
- Is ExpressVPN fast and reliable?
- How well do the features and leak-protection settings work?
- Are the VPN apps secure and user-friendly?
- Can it unblock Netflix and other streaming services?
- Is it really worth the price?
To answer these questions, I ran dozens of tests using ExpressVPN apps on all major operating systems. The test results are posted as screenshots in the review below.
Here is a brief overview of the test results and research findings for this ExpressVPN review:
Pros of ExpressVPN
- Secure and reliable VPN apps (support for all devices)
- Strong encryption, great security features, and no leaks
- Excellent speeds and reliability
- Proven no logs VPN provider (audited)
- Located in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI)
- Large, secure server network, servers running in RAM-disk mode
- Works well for Netflix and other streaming services
- Secure browser extensions with HTTPS Everywhere
- Split tunneling feature
- Reliable Android and iOS apps
- Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
- Great customer support and refund policy
Cons of ExpressVPN
- More expensive than some rivals (but currently offering a three months free coupon)
Additional research findings
- Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
- Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
- How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
Budge alternative: For those concerned about the high price of ExpressVPN, a low-cost yet high-quality alternative I’ve tested is NordVPN. You can get NordVPN for only $3.49 per month with this 70% off coupon.
Now let’s examine the details and findings of this ExpressVPN review, starting with the pros.
Here are the pros of ExpressVPN:
1. Secure and reliable VPN apps (support for all devices)
When it comes to secure, reliable, and user-friendly VPN apps that just work, ExpressVPN is one of the best options available.
ExpressVPN offers dedicated apps for all major operating systems and devices, including:
- Mac OS
- Kindle Fire and Nook
Here you can see the new ExpressVPN Windows app I tested for this review. (It is the same design for Mac OS, Android, and iOS.)
Tapping the three lines in the top-left corner of the VPN app opens up a new window with more features and settings, which we’ll cover below.
The ExpressVPN app has always been one of my favorites with an intuitive design and great layout. Many VPN apps are buggy and/or clunky. The well-designed apps are one reason ExpressVPN came out on top in the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison.
2. Strong encryption, great security features, and no leaks
When it comes to implementing strong encryption and security, ExpressVPN does not cut any corners. We’ll examine the encryption, VPN protocols, security features, and leak test results in this section.
For encryption, ExpressVPN uses an AES-256 cipher with an RSA-4096 key and SHA-512 HMAC authentication. This is the highest level of encryption and is currently considered unbreakable, while also offering good performance. Additionally, ExpressVPN supports Perfect Forward Secrecy negotiated through a Diffie-Hellman key exchange.
ExpressVPN gives you the ability to select which VPN protocols you want to use directly in the apps. Here you can see the available VPN protocols in the Windows client:
With “Automatic” enabled, ExpressVPN will select the best VPN protocol based on your network settings. For the vast majority of cases, this will be the OpenVPN UDP protocol, which offers the best combination of speed and security. If you are experiencing connection problems on your network, OpenVPN TCP may be a better option (but not as fast as UDP). The IKEv2 protocol is also secure and fast.
ExpressVPN Network Lock (kill switch)
ExpressVPN refers to the kill switch as the Network Lock. The Network Lock feature will keep your data secure by blocking all traffic if the VPN connection drops. This ensures every data packet remains encrypted and secure, with your real IP address being protected at all times.
The Network Lock feature is currently available in the following apps:
- Mac OS
Below you can see ExpressVPN’s Network Lock feature under the General settings in the Windows app:
The Network Lock feature worked well when I tested it out with Windows and Mac OS. All traffic was effectively blocked when I manually interrupted the VPN connection.
The kill switch (Network Lock) is important to keep your data secure if your connection drops for any reason. Most VPNs offer this feature, but in many cases it does not work well.
Kill switch for mobile devices – On mobile devices, ExpressVPN does not offer the official Network Lock feature, but it still has a kill switch to protect against traffic leaks.
- Android has the “Network Protection” option that functions as a kill switch and will block traffic when the connection drops.
- iOS has the “Auto-Connect” feature that will also block traffic and automatically reconnect the VPN when your internet connection resumes.
ExpressVPN leak test results (no leaks)
I ran the ExpressVPN Windows and Mac OS apps through some basic VPN tests to identify any issues or problems. The main testing site I used was ipleak.net. I did not find any leaks or security issues with any of the ExpressVPN apps.
ExpressVPN Windows client with no leaks:
As you can see above, ExpressVPN is securing all my traffic by providing me with an IPv4 address, blocking IPv6, and handling all my DNS requests with their secure DNS resolvers. ExpressVPN’s Windows app passed all tests (no leaks were found). It is currently our top recommendation as the best VPN for Windows.
I also ran the ExpressVPN Mac OS app and also the Android app through the same leak tests. As with previous tests, no leaks were found.
Conclusion on ExpressVPN security
ExpressVPN is a great choice if you want a high-security VPN service, with maximum encryption and data protection features. It offers both performance and security.
3. Excellent speeds and reliability
In terms of speeds, ExpressVPN also does very well. For testing, my baseline speed was about 155 Mbps and I ran all tests from my location in Western Europe.
Nearby ExpressVPN speed tests
First I tested a server in Frankfurt, Germany: 144 Mbps.
Considering my baseline speed was around 155 Mbps, this is great (not far from my baseline speed).
Here was an ExpressVPN server in Belgium with speeds of 145 Mbps.
Once again, great speed test results with ExpressVPN servers. Next I tested speeds with an ExpressVPN server in Switzerland. It was similar to the others at around 146 Mbps.
ExpressVPN had excellent performance with all nearby servers tested.
Long-distance speed tests
I also tested some ExpressVPN servers in the US and Canada.
Here was an ExpressVPN server in New York giving me 140 Mbps.
Despite the long distance between me and the server, the speeds with ExpressVPN were still excellent.
Next, was an ExpressVPN server in Dallas, Texas at 137 Mbps.
Overall these are great speeds with the US servers. ExpressVPN is an excellent option if you need a VPN for USA with fast speeds.
Finally I also tested servers in Canada. Once again, the speeds were fast and reliable.
Here was an ExpressVPN server in Toronto at 145 Mbps.
Speeds with an ExpressVPN server in Montreal were also impressive at 141 Mbps:
If you need a good VPN for Canada, ExpressVPN is a strong contender.
Tip for getting the fastest speeds with ExpressVPN
The ExpressVPN apps have a useful feature to help you select the fastest server, which is the “recommended server” feature. The “Recommended” servers will offer the best speeds based on your proximity to the server location and available bandwidth (server loads).
Conclusion on speeds: ExpressVPN offers very fast and reliable speeds and does well in the performance category. It consistently outperforms other leading VPN services, as was evident in the ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison.
4. Proven and audited no logs VPN provider
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPNs with no logs that has been verified and proven. First, we will take an in-depth look at ExpressVPN’s policies, then we’ll cover the real-world case that further verified these policies.
ExpressVPN no-logs policy
ExpressVPN clarifies its commitment to user privacy on their website:
ExpressVPN is a premium VPN provider focused on user privacy and anonymity. Our network is built around specifically NOT knowing the internet activities of our users. As privacy is a core part of our service offering, ExpressVPN is in the business of protecting our users’ private internet data.
Here is a brief overview of ExpressVPN’s stance on logs:
ExpressVPN is committed to protecting your privacy. We want you to understand what information we collect, what we don’t collect, and how we collect, use, and store information. We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.
That being said, there is an option in the VPN apps to share crash statistics, which helps ExpressVPN improve apps, but this data is completely anonymized, does not include personal information, and is optional. Nonetheless, it can also easily be disabled with one click in the Settings area.
ExpressVPN passed third-party audit of logging policies
ExpressVPN is also one of a handful of VPNs that has been independently audited.
To verify and prove their no-logs claims, ExpressVPN underwent a third-party audit from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The audit verified the TrustedServer feature (discussed below), no logs policy, and that all privacy protections are being adhered to correctly.
Very few VPNs have undergone third-party audits to verify logging policies. And there’s also further proof that ExpressVPN is following a true no-logs policy.
ExpressVPN servers seized: ‘no logs’ policy tested
In December 2017 news broke that authorities in Turkey seized an ExpressVPN server in an attempt to obtain customer data. Before the server was seized in Turkey, Turkish authorities had attempted to force ExpressVPN to provide logs from the server in question. ExpressVPN informed the officials that they are a no-logs VPN, not subject to Turkish law, and they do not have any data to provide.
Why is this important?
The relevant issue here is that the authorities were not able to obtain any customer data – because there were no logs available.
ExpressVPN issued a statement here, which explains the case:
As we stated to Turkish authorities in January 2017, ExpressVPN does not and has never possessed any customer connection logs that would enable us to know which customer was using the specific IPs cited by the investigators. Furthermore, we were unable to see which customers accessed Gmail or Facebook during the time in question, as we do not keep activity logs. We believe that the investigators’ seizure and inspection of the VPN server in question confirmed these points.
This case confirms ExpressVPN’s logging policies and overall commitment to securing customer data.
5. Located in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI)
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The BVI is an independent, self-governing entity with strict laws protecting the privacy of businesses and individuals operating there.
Unlike the UK, the BVI has no mandatory data retention laws or wide-scale surveillance programs, which affect UK VPN services. Similar to Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands are well-known for strong privacy protection and data secrecy.
The judicial system in the BVI also cannot be compelled to force BVI companies to produce records on their customers. As a country, the BVI is fully independent and does not fall under any other country’s jurisdiction, despite the historical connection to Britain.
Considering all these factors, ExpressVPN seems to be located in a good privacy jurisdiction, which is not part of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance.
6. Large and secure server network
ExpressVPN offers a large selection of servers around the world, with a very secure network setup.
At the time of this review, ExpressVPN has about 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries. This includes a total of more than 3,000 VPN servers. Europe and North America have the best coverage, but they also offer a good selection of servers in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region.
All servers running in RAM-disk mode (TrustedServer feature)
ExpressVPN is now one of only a few VPNs that run all servers in RAM-disk mode. In other words, ExpressVPN does not use any hard drives with its server network, but instead, only RAM memory. This network security setup is referred to as the TrustedServer feature.
This major upgrade offers ExpressVPN users a higher level of security:
With our industry-first TrustedServer technology, our VPN servers run only on volatile memory (RAM), not on hard drives. Since RAM requires power to store data, this guarantees that all information on a server is wiped every time it is powered off and on again.
In contrast, the traditional and most common way of running servers relies very much on hard drives, which retain all data until they are erased and written over, a painstaking and error-prone process. This increases the risk that servers could inadvertently contain sensitive user information. If someone were to hack or seize the server, they could gain access to this data. Even worse, hackers who do find their way in might be able to install a backdoor that remains indefinitely.
This is a great benefit for ExpressVPN users and also lines up with no logs and no data collection. Furthermore, it also protects customer data if a VPN server were ever to be seized by authorities, such as the case in Turkey.
Does ExpressVPN use virtual server locations?
A virtual server location is when a VPN server announces an IP address that does not match the physical location of the server. As ExpressVPN has explained on its website, they utilize virtual server locations for these reasons:
- When data centers in certain countries do not meet the security requirements of ExpressVPN (such as in Turkey, where servers were seized by authorities)
- In countries where there is inadequate network infrastructure to support ExpressVPN servers
Because some ExpressVPN users need IP addresses in these locations, ExpressVPN does utilize a limited number of virtual server locations, which comprise less than 3% of the total network. Some other VPNs that use virtual locations, such as PureVPN and HideMyAss, are not transparent about the exact locations. ExpressVPN, however, lists all virtual locations and explains the reason for using them.
If you want to use IP addresses from remote regions of the world, ExpressVPN would be a good choice due to the large network of servers.
Does ExpressVPN offer static/dedicated IP addresses?
No, ExpressVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
If you want a dedicated IP address, see my guide on VPNs with dedicated IPs for more details. (Note that dedicated/static IPs are not the best choice for privacy because your internet traffic is not getting mixed with other users.)
7. Works with Netflix, great for streaming
If you need a good VPN that works with Netflix and other streaming services, then ExpressVPN is a great choice. It is one of the few VPNs that continues to work with Netflix, providing 24/7 access.
For this review, I tested out US Netflix with an ExpressVPN server in Washington DC. Everything worked perfectly, as you can see below.
ExpressVPN is a great VPN for streaming Netflix.
To use Netflix with ExpressVPN, simply start the ExpressVPN app on your device, connect to a server of your choice in the Netflix region you want to use, and then stream Netflix as normal.
If you get any kind of proxy error with Netflix when you are connected to an ExpressVPN server, just contact ExpressVPN’s chat support and they’ll tell which server to use instead.
ExpressVPN is currently the best VPN for Netflix for three main reasons:
- Excellent streaming quality with fast speeds (no buffering or interruptions)
- 24/7 access to Netflix (no network-wide blocks)
- Unblocks numerous Netflix regions around the world: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany.
Other streaming services that work with ExpressVPN
In addition to Netflix, ExpressVPN also works well with these services:
- Amazon Prime
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime Video
Lastly, speaking of streaming, ExpressVPN is also a great choice if you need a reliable VPN for Kodi.
8. Browser extensions with HTTPS Everywhere
ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers. The browser add-on is an extension of the ExpressVPN desktop app. This means you’ll need to be running the ExpressVPN Windows, Mac OS, or Linux desktop application.
Why use the browser extension when you can use the desktop VPN app?
The biggest advantage of using the browser app is convenience. It offers the ability to easily switch server locations directly in your browser, rather than having to navigate to the desktop VPN client. Here are some additional advantages of the ExpressVPN browser extensions:
- Block WebRTC in the browser (WebRTC is a privacy risk that can expose your real IP, even when using a good VPN).
- Spoof your HTML5 geolocation data in the browser.
- HTTPS Everywhere – automatically connects to the more-secure HTTPS version of websites where available.
Here’s what the ExpressVPN browser extension looks like in Chrome:
The extension can be set to light or dark mode (above). We tested out ExpressVPN’s extension for our report on VPNs for Chrome. Everything worked well.
9. Split tunneling feature
ExpressVPN offers a split tunneling feature with their applications for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and routers.
Split tunneling allows you to select which apps will go through the VPN tunnel and which can bypass the VPN to the regular (unencrypted) internet.
This feature can be found in the settings area of the VPN client. By default, all traffic and applications are routed through the VPN. In the settings, you can select three different options:
- All apps use the VPN
- Do not allow selected apps to use the VPN
- Only allow selected apps to use the VPN
If you click the second or third options, a pop-up window appears, allowing you to select the specific apps.
This is also really useful with routers, because it allows you to select specific devices and/or websites to bypass the VPN.
10. Reliable Android and iOS apps
The ExpressVPN mobile apps I tested on Android and iOS performed well.
ExpressVPN is one of the best options for both Android and iOS, allowing you to use the OpenVPN protocol for secure tunneling. Most VPN providers are limited with the VPN protocols they offer on mobile devices, particularly with iOS.
ExpressVPN has fully-functional OpenVPN apps with secure AES-256 encryption for both Android and iOS (iPhone and iPads). The Android and iOS apps both come with all available features and functionality. The one exception to this is with the iOS app, which does not offer the split tunneling feature.
Here’s a screenshot of the ExpressVPN iOS client.
If you are a heavy mobile user, ExpressVPN has you covered with mobile VPN apps.
11. Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPN services that offer a dedicated VPN router app. The router app works on select router models.
Using a VPN on your router is a smart way to get an unlimited number of connections with your VPN. This is because the router will only count as one connection, but it will provide every device that connects to your router with the full benefits of the VPN: encrypted traffic, new IP address, location anonymity.
If you want to use ExpressVPN on your router, you have the following options:
- Use the ExpressVPN router app on one of the supported router models (recommended)
- Manually setup ExpressVPN on your router (more work, but not too difficult with some routers, such as with most Asus models)
Using the ExpressVPN router app is the best solution because it offers the following features:
- Easily switch between VPN servers
- Split tunneling (select which apps or websites bypass the VPN)
- Network Lock (kill switch) to block all traffic if the VPN connection drops
You can check the ExpressVPN website to see what options are available with your router.
Lastly, see my VPN router guide for additional setup options.
12. Great customer support and refund policy
While support with larger VPN services can sometimes be hit or miss, ExpressVPN seems to be doing quite well with live chat support.
I tested out ExpressVPN’s support repeatedly for this review. In all my interactions, I found the support department to be prompt, knowledgeable, and polite.
You can get access to 24/7 live chat support directly through their website in the bottom-right corner. With all of my chat sessions, I was connected with a representative in under a minute (no long delays).
Live chat is available 24/7.
Live chat support is definitely a plus if you need help setting up the VPN on your devices or have specific questions that are not answered on the website.
30 day money-back guarantee
Another great benefit with ExpressVPN is that it offers one of the longest refund windows in the industry. With all VPN subscriptions (even one-month plans), you get a full 30 day money-back guarantee. If you are not 100% satisfied with your VPN subscription, you can cancel on day 30 for a full refund, no questions asked.
Overall ExpressVPN offers great customer support.
1. More expensive than some rivals
One drawback with ExpressVPN is that it is more expensive than some other rival VPN competitors (but certainly not the most expensive).
ExpressVPN costs $6.67 per month if you use this discount coupon and select the 15-month plan. Without the discount coupon, the cheapest price for ExpressVPN is $8.32 per month with the annual plan.
Here are the prices with the current ExpressVPN coupon:
- $6.67 per month (15-month plan)
- $9.99 per month (6-month plan)
- $12.95 per month (monthly plan)
This makes ExpressVPN more expensive than NordVPN ($3.49 per month), even with the NordVPN coupon.
The key question, however, is value: what you get for your money. In terms of value, ExpressVPN has a lot to offer, as you can see with all of the pros above. I would argue the biggest factors that make ExpressVPN a good value are:
- Fast speeds (consistently fast throughout the entire server network)
- Secure and reliable apps with great features
- 24/7 access to Netflix and other streaming services
- Live chat support
While ExpressVPN is on the higher end of the price spectrum, you typically get what you pay for with VPNs.
Note: I’m also maintaining an ExpressVPN coupon page to track the latest discounts and deals.
Additional review findings
Here is some additional information I found for this ExpressVPN review:
Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
Many VPNs restrict or limit torrenting on their network. With ExpressVPN, torrenting is allowed without any restrictions or limitations.
There are four factors that make ExpressVPN a good choice for torrenting:
- High-performance (premium) server network with exceptionally fast speeds and great reliability.
- Overseas jurisdiction that is not subject to DMCA requests or copyright violation demands.
- High-quality applications that will keep your data secure while also protecting you against leaks and vulnerabilities. This, of course, also protects you from copyright trolls and DMCA notices.
- No bandwidth limitations or traffic restrictions whatsoever.
ExpressVPN is among the top recommendations in our VPN for torrenting guide.
Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
Despite the current VPN blocks and censorship efforts, ExpressVPN continues to work in China.
To use ExpressVPN in China, simply connect to one of the China-designated servers (check with support to see these). These servers will automatically utilize an obfuscation protocol with the VPN app, thereby concealing the VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption. This easily gets through the Great Firewall and censorship efforts.
See the best VPNs for China guide for additional information and setup tips.
How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
With your ExpressVPN subscription, you will get five simultaneous connections.
Note: You can use ExpressVPN on an unlimited number of devices, but you are limited to five simultaneous connections at any one time with your subscription.
If you want to use more than five devices with the VPN, there is an easy solution. Simply use ExpressVPN on your router, as we covered above, for an unlimited number of connections. The router will count as only one connection and you’ll be able to use it with as many devices as you wish.
ExpressVPN review conclusion
ExpressVPN’s performance for this latest review update has earned it a top spot as one of the best VPNs for 2020.
In an overcrowded VPN market, ExpressVPN continues to stand out from the rest and outperform the competition. To summarize, here are the main findings from this ExpressVPN review:
- High-security applications with maximum encryption (passed all privacy/security tests) and the Network Lock feature to keep all data secure.
- Excellent offshore jurisdiction and company policies to protect customer data and user privacy (which were also verified with the server seizure in Turkey).
- Solid performance with good speeds and reliability throughout the VPN server network.
- Continues to work with Netflix and other streaming services.
- Huge selection of apps that are well-designed, secure, reliable, and user-friendly.
- Proven and audited no logs VPN service with all servers operating in RAM-disk mode (no data storage possible)
- Top-notch customer service with 24/7 live chat support and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
There is very little not to like with ExpressVPN.
It is a service that continues to improve and gets better over time. While the price has traditionally been on the higher end (at $8.32 per month) you can now get a great discount below to reduce the price down to $6.67 per month.
ExpressVPN is a leader in nearly all facets of the VPN industry. To date, they boast 3000+ servers in 94 countries worldwide. They offer best-in-class security, usability, and customer service. For these reasons and more, they are often referred to as a premium VPN provider.
ExpressVPN is a subscription VPN providing deep anonymity in an intuitive, user-friendly package. The cost runs a little high. But this service comes with nearly universal device support, a strong server selection, and 24/7 live chat support. Their feature-set is designed for average users, with few drawbacks for power users.
Pricing – Expensive / Subscription plan, 30-day money-back guarantee / 1 mo $12.95, 6 mo $59.95 ($9.99/mo), 12 mo $99.95 ($8.32/mo)
Connectivity – Comprehensive and Reliable / Most major OS systems (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, etc.), streaming devices (Apple TV, Fire TV, etc.), gaming devices (PlayStation, Xbox, more), router support, standalone DNS; 2000+ servers in 94 countries, built-in server speed testing
Security – Highly Anonymous / Popular encryption methods (OpenVPN, SSTP, L2Tp/IPsec, and PPTP), AES-256 bit +, No data logs, anonymous purchasing available
Usability – Easy / Streamlined interface, smart server selection, fast server switching,
Service & Support – Great / 24/7 live support (via chat and e-mail), Online FAQs for troubleshooting and setup
- Intuitive Setup & Use for VPN Users of All Levels
- Top-Tier Encryption, Privacy, & Anonymity
- Wide Selection of Supported Devices
- Unlimited Bandwidth & Server Switching
- P2P Enabled Servers for Torrenting
- Protect Your Home Wifi with VPN Router
- Detailed Knowledgebase & Fast Live Support
- Avoid Geoblocks & Censorship While Streaming
- One of the Most Expensive VPNs in its Class
- Average Server Speeds are Middle of the Road
- Only 3 Simultaneous Connections Allowed
- No Built-In Ad Block or Malware Protection
- Lacks Some Customizations for Power Users
- No Option for Dedicated Servers
How secure is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN utilizes military-grade encryption to keep your data safe.
AES-256 bit encryption via the OpenVPN protocol is the default. This is the level of encryption recommended for those trying to avoid government censorship. Authentication is executed with 4096-bit SHA512 key. On top of this, they issue a new key every 60 minutes or every time you reconnect to their servers, helping ensure perfect forward secrecy.
ExpressVPN provides both TCP and UDP support for OpenVPN. Beyond that, they also offer encryption via the SSTP, L2Tp/IPsec, and PPTP protocols. Switching between protocols is easy. And if you don’t have any idea which to use, use the app’s automatic selection. It will choose the best options based on speed and security.
If you’re a real tech pro, you can download and edit your configuration files to further customize certain aspects of security.
ExpressVPN offers methods to conceal all your identifying data, from purchase to daily use.
For starters, ExpressVPN enforces a strict “no logs” policy.
Furthermore, DNS and IP leak protection are key features of ExpressVPN. They force all DNS requests over the IPv4 protocol, which is safer than the newer IPv6. And of course, sharing servers with other VPN users increases anonymity even more.
To top it all off, you can anonymously access the .onion version of their website using the TOR browser. If you also make your payments with Bitcoin, your access to the service is virtually untraceable to your real location or identity.
ExpressVPN positions every aspect of their operations in the interest of user privacy.
Location is critical for VPN company legal protections. ExpressVPN resides in the British Virgin Islands, which helps protect them against invasive governments. BVI laws do not require the retention of data. This allows ExpressVPN to never keep any activity or connection logs.
Furthermore, the entire company is anonymous. Depending on your views, this could be positive or negative. Keeping company info private is standard in the VPN industry—it helps them avoid government scrutiny. But please understand: an untraceable company is handling your data.
There’s no telling what ANY company may do with your data. So you’ll have to consider whether this is worth the risk. If you’re using a VPN to fight totalitarian policies, this may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Other Security Features
Encryption, anonymity, and company values are easily the most important aspects of VPN security. However, there are a variety of additional features that may or may not be important to you.
Here’s how ExpressVPN deals with some of those:
Killswitch – A VPN killswitch marries your Internet connection to your VPN. If the connection to ExpressVPN (or an individual ExpressVPN server) is lost, the killswitch cuts your Internet connection entirely to prevent unencrypted data from leaking through and your identity from being revealed.
Run on Startup – You can set ExpressVPN to connect on system startup. This means you’ll be protected as soon as you turn on your device. ExpressVPN offers this feature for any and all devices.
Split Tunneling – This feature allows you to choose which data runs through your VPN. While not everyone needs this feature, it can be especially useful for business owners. ExpressVPN is one of the few premium VPN services that offer split tunneling.
Virtual Servers – ExpressVPN uses a number of virtual servers. These may not be as safe as physical ones. Whatever your opinion, ExpressVPN provides a list of which of their servers are which.
Router Support – VPNs can help secure your home connection. Luckily, ExpressVPN provides support for a variety of router brands and models. (This is the only way to achieve more than three simultaneous connections through ExpressVPN.)
ExpressvPN provides the level of compatibility you would expect from a “premium VPN service”.
ExpressVPN provides compatibility with a wide selection of devices via their native platform apps, browser extensions, or through their router app. Most users will get the most use from the native or router apps, while the browser extensions are simply a nice bonus.
Here are some of the popular supported OS systems:
*Linux Setup requires a slightly more in-depth setup process.
Browser extensions are also available for most major web browsers:
Console and streaming systems also have native DNS support using the ExpressVPN MediaStreamer.
- Amazon FireTV
***MediaStreamer is not a VPN. As such, it does not offer encryption benefits.
For any other devices you’d like to protect, ExpressVPN has an app you can install directly to your router. Of course, this means you’ll need to be close to the router to connect your device to the VPN. Plus, your router must be VPN-compatible.
ExpressVPN offers a multitude of servers with unlimited server switching.
Geoblocking keeps many users from accessing content locked to other regions. Streaming services are notorious for this. But by offering servers located in other countries, ExpressVPN allows you to access content that may be blocked in your current location.
Geoblocking practices extend beyond streaming services. Many governments around the world engage in Internet censorship. ExpressVPN is one of your best bets to beat such country-wide firewalls. Whether its Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or porn, ExpressVPN is great for streaming.
Additionally, ExpressVPN provides unlimited server switches and a plethora of locations to connect to. Still, VPN server availability, speed, and features may change at any moment. If you’re having a hard time, ask the live support team which servers support Netflix and you’ll get a prompt reply.
Express VPN is slower than some of its competitors but does provide unlimited bandwidth.
The built-in speed test can test server speeds within a few minutes. Some may dislike the time it takes (about 5 minutes), but it does test speeds for every server accessible to the VPN.
If you’re willing to sacrifice security for speed, you may consider using an encryption protocol besides OpenVPN. ExpressVPN only allows 256-bit encryption for OpenVPN. Configuration is just as easy, as you’ll only need a single configuration for any server on the mobile app. Plus, built-in walkthroughs show you all you need to access faster servers on-the-fly.
ExpressVPN supports torrenting with its unlimited bandwidth, making it easy to engage in P2P file sharing.
You’ll find that server speeds aren’t always ideal for torrenting. That said, the split tunneling option can be of use in this situation. If you want to keep your other traffic on your home network, you can exclusively dedicate your torrenting to the VPN.
Ease of Use
ExpressVPN is simple to run for everyday uses. There is little you’ll need to do once the app is set up on your devices.
The design is great for beginners and techies alike. The app’s default settings are fine for most users. It has automatic selection features for both encryption and servers. They also make it easy to find important options like “run on startup”.
Based on the user interface and simplicity of design, ExpressVPN has done a decent job creating a VPN service that “the whole family can use”. One-click activation, simple server switching, and a decluttered interface help make this VPN simple enough for children and the elderly.
The app’s clean home screen feels great with the giant “on” switch and quick access to the server menu. Menus in the app are simple and hardly present. They even made it so that you can close out the interface to the system tray if you don’t want to keep it open.
When it comes to server switching, ExpressVPN offers two excellent benefits. First, the “smart server” function can find and select “the best” server for you. Second, ExpressVPN also has a built-in server speed test. It can take a little over 5 minutes—but that’s not bad considering how much time and frustration it may save you.
Neither of these features is perfect: the smart server function doesn’t always get it right and server speeds change so quickly that the speed test may be incorrect shortly after you run it. Still, they are a good start. Plus, switching servers manually only takes a few clicks and it’s easy to save your favorite servers for later use.
One of the few (but quite valid) complaints against ExpressVPN is the lack of built-in malware and/or ad block protection. Not all VPN services offer this feature, but you would expect it from one of the industry leaders (and the ExpressVPN price).
Other usability drawbacks only affect a certain type of user. Advanced users may find some of the deep configuration options lacking. Families and others sharing a single subscription may want more than three simultaneous connections. While the router app will allow you to connect additional devices through wifi, this option may not work for students looking to share a single subscription. Plus, you need a compatible router.
Under the Hood
A quick note: this section covers material for non-novices, so you may want to skip this if you don’t plan on fiddling with the advanced options.
ExpressVPN doesn’t have as much under the hood as some other VPNs, but there are a few native features to give you more control.
Advanced security features are just a click away in most cases. For encryption method selection, the protocols menu offers one-click choices of OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), SSTP (Windows only), L2Tp/IPSec, and PPTP. If you need to split your traffic between your faster home connection and the VPN servers, the app comes with a split tunneling option. You can even set up split tunneling on a per-app basis.
The built-in diagnostics tool is nice if you need to send off error info to the live support team. Some tech-savvy users might even be able to make use of the diagnostics tool themselves. You can also download your configuration files and do the editing yourself if you have a specific speed and/or security needs.
One notable absence: ExpressVPN lacks a dedicated server option. If anonymity is your utmost priority, that’s a good thing. But some users may need a server all to themselves. If that’s you, you might try NordVPN. They offer dedicated servers as a $70 add-on.
How to a set up a VPN through ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN has built-in walkthroughs for apps on all operating systems. Even without them, all OS apps are fairly intuitive. Most users should have no trouble getting started.
Once you’ve purchased the service, you’ll be able to activate the VPN on all your supported devices using your activation code (or account login). From installation to switching it on, here’s what the setup looks like:
Step 1: Download the app from the ExpressVPN website.
Step 2: Install the app.
Step 3: Sign in using your activation code.
Step 4: Choose whether to launch the app on startup.
Step 5: Choose whether to allow diagnostic reporting.
Step 6 (optional): Choose a server location, or just keep the pre-selected smart location.
Step 7: Turn on the VPN and enjoy secure browsing.
For advanced users: Access the options window to turn off the internet kill switch, enable split tunneling, or change your encryption method.
Step 1: Set up your desktop app.
Step 2: Download the extension from your browser’s web store.
Step 3: Turn on the VPN and browse securely.
Step 1: Install the app from your native App Store.
Step 2: Sign in using your account login.
Step 3: Follow the simple guided setup of your VPN.
Step 4: Turn on the VPN and enjoy secure browsing.
Step 1: Buy (or already own) a VPN-compatible router.
Step 2: Setup your router using the website instructions
Step 3: Connect devices to your router and enjoy secure browsing.
Service & Support
As a “premium VPN provider”, ExpressVPN is almost required to have excellent support.
First, they have an extensive knowledgebase. The website includes step-by-step setup instructions for every supported device. The guides are easy to read and come complete with screenshots and YouTube video walkthroughs. The website also has an impressive troubleshooting section that covers most user issues.
Live support is available in the forms of an e-mail ticketing system and 24/7 live chat. The chat support runs an average response time of 15 seconds according to Comparitech. You can even use the chat to ask questions before even becoming a customer. The only downside: there is no phone support.
ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPN services in its class.
The cheapest subscription is $12.95 per month, assuming monthly billing.
Subscriptions come in three tiers at discounted rates for longer plan cycles. All tiers offer the service’s full feature set, including all apps, 24/7 customer support, and high-speed unlimited bandwidth. The only differences in plans are price and term length.
If you’re not happy with your experience, ExpressVPN offers a full 30-day money-back guarantee. Simply reach out to support via live chat or e-mail and they’ll credit you the full refund.
Payments are accepted in many forms, including credit/debit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin.
- 1 month: $12.95 per month
- 6 months: $59.95 billed every 6 months ($9.99 per month)
- 12 months: $99.95 billed every 12 months ($8.32 per month)
ExpressVPN is not without its shortcomings, but it is a leader in the personal VPN industry for good reason.
The ease of use and simple setup make it a great option for those who are less technical. Around-the-clock support is another major bonus. It also has everything you need to avoid geoblocking and government censorship. But perhaps most important, ExpressVPN offers top-of-the-line encryption, anonymity, and overall security.
On the downside, we’re surprised not to see built-in ad-block and malware protection. For certain users, the three connection maximum and lack of dedicated servers may be a deal-breaker.
ExpressVPN is not a cheap VPN provider. But if you’re looking for an easy-to-use VPN that will keep you safe, it’s worth a try. After all, if you don’t like it, you can always make use of the 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN in brief:
- P2P allowed: Yes
- Number of servers: 3,000+
- Number of country locations: 94
- Business location: British Virgin Islands
- Cost: $99.95
- VPN protocol: OpenVPN
- Data encryption: SHA-256
- Data authentication: AES-256-SHA256/AES-256-GCM
- Handshake: 2048-bit RSA
Paying more than $60 for a VPN service is too much. Unless that company is offering a ton of extra features and device compatibility to justify the cost. One company making that gamble is ExpressVPN, which charges nearly $100 per year. I’d still like to see ExpressVPN be up front about who’s behind the company, but you sure get a lot for your annual fee.
On top of the usual VPN connections, ExpressVPN says it works with Netflix in more than two dozen countries (we only tested the U.S. connection), and you can use its smart DNS service to make an Apple TV or gaming console access U.S. media from overseas.
Note: This review is part of our best VPNs roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
ExpressVPN with an active connection.
A key change with the latest version of ExpressVPN is that it’s in the process of switching its server configuration to what it calls TrustedServer. These are servers that don’t have a hard drive and run entirely on RAM. The only other service we’ve seen do this is OVPN. Running everything in RAM avoids the possibility of any data logging since there’s nowhere to the write the data to permanently. It also means that data is frequently overwritten and all data is lost when the server reboots. Authorities could employ some forensic techniques to pull limited data off RAM, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Features and services
When you first start up ExpressVPN, it looks similar to its previous incarnation. It still has a simple single-panel interface with an on/off button, and the country selection below it. This version is a little cleaner than the one we looked at in 2017.
Click the hamburger menu in the upper-right corner, and you can get to the options where you can choose your VPN protocol including OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP.
There’s also a VPN kill switch, and a split tunneling feature where you can specify which apps will use the VPN.
To get to the country options, you have to click the circular icon on the main dashboard. The country list has two tabs: Recommended and All locations. Under All locations you can find all 94 country locations, while Recommended is a list of good country connections based on your location.
ExpressVPN’s built-in speed test.
By default, ExpressVPN doesn’t show ping times or server load, but you can use the built-in speed test under the “hamburger” menu icon to see ping times and estimated download speeds for each country. These speed tests happen in a separate window and don’t show up in the main country list. You can, however, connect to the VPN from here.
As we mentioned earlier, ExpressVPN is $99.95 per year, which covers up to five simultaneous device connections and is available on Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, macOS, routers, and Windows. There is also the MediaStream service for Apple TV, Fire TV, PlayStation, and Xbox that lets you view U.S. streaming media from overseas.
Browser extensions from Chrome and Firefox let you control the app from the browser instead of acting as simple browser-only proxy connections.
In our tests, ExpressVPN was very fast. It didn’t hit the top-tier speeds we saw with HotSpot Shield, but it’s in the tier just below that. In our tests, ExpressVPN maintained 55.18 percent of the base speed across five locations worldwide during three separate days of testing. That’s a lot faster than most services we’ve evaluated, and is more than sufficient to accommodate a home user’s online activities.
Privacy, anonymity, and trust
ExpressVPN asks if you want to contribute to crash reports during initial setup.
ExpressVPN promises not to log any of your browsing history, or other personal data such as DNS queries, IP addresses, connection timestamps, or session duration. It does keep diagnostic and crash reports, but one thing that I really like is that ExpressVPN’s app on Windows asks you upfront if you want to contribute this data. That’s an excellent approach, which should be standard for all VPNs.
While ExpressVPN doesn’t keep logs on your activity, it does save some data. It logs the version of the ExpressVPN you’re using, successful connection attempts, which VPN location you connected to and from which country. That’s a lot of information; however ExpressVPN says it does not log any IP addresses, neither your original or the one the VPN assigns to you. ExpressVPN also logs the total amount of data transferred in order to kick data hogs off its platform.
That’s all okay, but not great for anyone trying to maximize privacy. The thing that bothers me about ExpressVPN is that it doesn’t publish its business address, nor the names of its CEO or founders. The company does have one person who puts a public face on ExpressVPN, and that’s Harold Li, company vice president.
The company says despite its position on anonymity for the founders (and no business address) it’s working towards greater transparency. It expects to publish third-party audits on its servers and “security posture” in the coming weeks. The company also works with the Center for Democracy and Technology to define trustworthy signals for VPNs. It also publishes its security practices on its site.
That’s pretty good stuff, but I’d still like to see more transparency behind who is running the show.
ExpressVPN has a great service. The speeds are phenomenal, the device support is off the charts, and the country locations and number of servers are vast. There is no question in my mind that you get more than enough value for your money. But I really don’t like that its founders and leaders prefer to remain anonymous, and that the company’s business address is not publicly available. As I’ve said many times before, using a VPN is all about trust, and that’s hard to have when you don’t know who you’re trusting.
Ultimately, then, (as with any VPN service) it’s up to you to decide whether or not to trust the company.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
ExpressVPN provides a solid service with fantastic speeds, an easy-to-use Windows desktop app, and broad device support. We still don't like that the people behind the company are doing their best to remain anonymous, which is a problem when it comes to trust. But you sure do get a lot for your annual fee with ExpressVPN.
- Consistently good speeds
- Easy-to-use desktop program
- Broad device support
- ExpressVPN's team is largely anonymous
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.
ExpressVPN gets a lot of praise, but it costs more than most of its competitors, (even with the discounted offer it is currently running).
So is it really worth it?
What does ExpressVPN offer that others don’t?
Most VPNs use the same underlying technology, so I have to wonder how much better it can possibly be.
Is it better than NordVPN, PIA, Cyberghost, IPVanish and other highly rated services?
In my 2020 ExpressVPN review, I sought to find out whether the benefits really outweigh the cost. I tested the service on both desktop and mobile to answer these questions:
- How fast is ExpressVPN?
- Can ExpressVPN unblock region-locked websites (Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video)?
- Is ExpressVPN safe and private?
- Does ExpressVPN work in China?
- Is it really better than the cheaper alternatives?
I’ll cover all that and more in this review.
During my time with ExpressVPN, I used it to secure my connection while on a trip to China and to unblock video streams that I couldn’t normally access from my home in Canada. I also put it through a battery of tests to gauge its speed and security.
I summarized my thoughts on ExpressVPN below, but read the full review to get a comprehensive look at this premium service.
ExpressVPN is a true jack of all trades, able to unblock all sorts of region-locked content, bypass China’s Great Firewall, and quickly download files. I challenge anyone to find a VPN with more advanced security while keeping the experience simple and novice-friendly.
ExpressVPN Key data
|OVERALL RANK: #1 of 42 VPNs|
|Average Speed *:||58 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K UHD|
|Other Streaming Services:||Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Hulu|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES w/ Perfect Forward Secrecy|
|Log Policy:||No identifying logs|
|Protocols:||OpenVPN, L2TP, PPTP|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$6.67|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
ExpressVPN pros and cons
Here’s a summary of what I liked and didn’t like during my time with ExpressVPN.
- Very fast speeds across all servers
- Advanced security on both apps and servers
- Easily unblocks streaming sites from abroad, including US Netflix
- Works in China and the UAE
- Zero logs
- 24/7 live chat support
- Slightly more expensive than rivals
- Streaming servers aren’t labelled
- Occasional dropped connections
I’ll go into more detail about each of these points below.
Speed: Is ExpressVPN fast?
ExpressVPN has earned the top spot in previous rounds of my speed tests, but it’s since been surpassed by NordVPN. While connected to most servers, I had plenty of bandwidth to stream 4K video or video chat in high definition.
Across all locations and times tested, ExpressVPN averaged 58 Mbps download speed.
International servers were located in North America, Europe, and Asia. You won’t notice much of a bandwidth difference unless your home internet speed is well over 100 Mbps. Here are the average speeds for servers in each region:
- North America (nearest): 63 Mbps
- Asia: 54 Mbps
- Europe: 57 Mbps
OpenVPN is the default protocol for all ExpressVPN connections, with the option to connect over UDP or TCP. L2TP and PPTP are also options, though the latter isn’t recommended due to security issues.
In addition to streaming video, ExpressVPN also performed admirably while gaming online. I didn’t notice much lag or high ping times when playing fast-paced games like Rocket League and Brawlhalla. Just be sure to choose a server either near yourself or the game servers.
The desktop app comes with a built-in speed tester that measures ping time and download speed to all locations.
Ping time, or latency, is useful if I’m trying to find a server with as little lag as possible. It takes a bit longer to run the download speed test than the ping time test, and the results are questionable–our internal tests show much higher speeds than what the app reports.
Note that these tests can only serve as a general indication of the performance you might see and cannot be considered definitive. The inherent volatility of the internet adds a significant factor of randomness. Users with faster connections will likely see larger discrepancies in speed.
Apps: What devices work with ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN makes apps for more types of devices than any other VPN provider I know of:
- Android TV and Nvidia Shield
- Amazon Fire TV
I can connect five devices at once. Most VPNs allow at least five and some go as high as 10 or don’t limit simultaneous connections at all. ExpressVPN recently switched from three to five, so I wouldn’t expect the limit to go up again anytime soon.
ExpressVPN Windows app
App design is fairly consistent across all platforms, so if you know how to use one, then using another should feel familiar. ExpressVPN’s apps are simple to set up and easy to use.
ExpressVPN app for Android: Connect, Locations, and Settings
Upon first installing ExpressVPN, I have to verify my device with a code listed in my account dashboard on the ExpressVPN website. Although this takes a bit of extra hassle to set up new devices, it means I don’t have to constantly type in my username and password for subsequent logins.
Once I was all set up, I got access to thousands of servers across 94 countries.
ExpressVPN browser extensions
Desktop browser extensions are available for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Unlike most VPN browser extensions, ExpressVPN’s plugins are not standalone proxies. They simply control the main VPN app, which must also be installed on my device. This is useful for Chromebook users, for example, but less so for Mac and PC users.
The ExpressVPN browser extensions come with a few added bonuses, including protection against WebRTC leaks and HTML5 geolocation spoofing, that make them worth installing.
The geo-location spoofing feature enables you to hide your location by doing more than just masking your IP address. Websites can still determine your location through the HTML5 geolocation API, which uses wi-fi and mobile signals, GPS, and other positioning hardware to determine your location. ExpressVPN’s browser extension “spoofs” the location retrieved by the API to a semi-random point near the VPN server to which you’re connected.
Every ExpressVPN subscription comes packaged with the MediaStreamer smart DNS proxy service. Many devices don’t support VPN apps, but do allow you to change your default DNS servers. For devices like the Apple TV, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, you can go into the internet settings and replace the default DNS server IP addresses with MediaStreamer IPs.
With MediaStreamer set up, I can unblock all sorts of region-locked content from abroad. That includes Netflix and most other major streaming services, which I’ll cover in more detail a bit later. MediaStreamer doesn’t offer the same security and privacy benefits as the normal VPN, though.
Unfortunately, devices connected through MediaStreamer also count against your five-device limit.
If your device doesn’t support VPN apps and doesn’t allow you to change DNS servers (Roku, Chromecast), then you can still connect it to the VPN via a wi-fi router. If your router firmware supports it, you can set up a VPN on it manually. However, ExpressVPN has a better option.
ExpressVPN’s router firmware is free and completely replaces a router’s existing firmware. It comes pre-configured with all of ExpressVPN’s servers, as well as a ton of other features that let you control which devices in your home use the VPN, which use MediaStreamer, and which use a standard, direct connection.
You can purchase a router with the ExpressVPN firmware already on it, or install it yourself. If you go the latter route, double check that your wi-fi router is compatible and that you take proper precautions. If you make a mistake when flashing new firmware, it could permanently damage your router.
A router only counts as one device, no matter how many other devices connect to the VPN through it. So if the three-device connection allowance isn’t enough, this is a good option.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
Does ExpressVPN work with Netflix?
ExpressVPN has reliably worked with Netflix nearly since Netflix first started blocking VPN users. However, not every server location works. At the moment, I recommend going to the ExpressVPN website and clicking the live chat button to ask a representative which locations currently work with Netflix. It’s a bit of a hassle but, thankfully, ExpressVPN’s support desk is manned around the clock.
Each country has its own library of shows and movies on Netflix. ExpressVPN can unblock the US, UK, Japan, Canada, and France versions of Netflix, among others.
In addition to Netflix, I’ve found that ExpressVPN unblocks a wealth of other region-locked streaming sites, including:
- BBC iPlayer
- Amazon Prime Video
- Sky TV
… And many more. Note again that you might need to hit up the customer service desk to ask which servers work with which streaming services.
ExpressVPN works with all of the Kodi add-ons I’ve used. The apps for Linux, Android TV, and Fire TV let you connect pretty much any Kodi device to the VPN.
Does ExpressVPN allow torrenting?
Unlike most VPN providers, ExpressVPN doesn’t even push me to torrent on specific servers. I usually just pick a fast server near where I live and start downloading.
P2P filesharing is allowed and well protected. A kill switch, or “network lock” in ExpressVPN parlance, stops all internet traffic if the VPN unexpectedly disconnects. That means your P2P traffic is always encrypted no matter what. The network lock is available on the desktop apps, while a simpler kill switch comes built into the mobile apps.
The ExpressVPN apps support split tunneling, which lets you select which other apps use the VPN and which connect to the internet without it. This is very useful for P2P filesharing because you can set your torrent client to use the VPN while other apps connect normally.
Security, privacy, and logging
A lot of VPNs make big claims about their security and privacy, and ExpressVPN is no exception. I was curious to find out whether ExpressVPN can walk the talk.
ExpressVPN is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, which has no mandatory data retention laws and is beyond the jurisdiction of the UK and other high surveillance countries.
The company doesn’t log any of my internet traffic, nor does it record your IP address or the IP address of the server to which you’re connected. It only collects dates (not times) that you connected, which location you connected to (not specific servers), and amount of data transferred per day. None of this can be traced back to you and is primarily used for diagnostic purposes and to curb abuse.
ExpressVPN’s logging policies have been put to the test on multiple occasions. In one high profile case, authorities seized one of its servers in Turkey, saying it was used to hide details regarding the assassination of the Russian Ambassador, Andrei Karlov. The server held no useful information for the authorities, who were investigating the deletion of possible evidence on Facebook and Gmail.
“[…] ExpressVPN does not and has never possessed any customer connection logs that would enable us to know which customer was using the specific IPs cited by the investigators. Furthermore, we were unable to see which customers accessed Gmail or Facebook during the time in question, as we do not keep activity logs. We believe that the investigators’ seizure and inspection of the VPN server in question confirmed these points.”
ExpressVPN employs uncrackable encryption on every connection, ensuring no one can decipher the contents of my online communication. Here are the encryption specifics:
- 256-bit AES channel encryption
- 4096-bit DHE-RSA keys
- SHA512 hash authentication
- Perfect forward secrecy – ensures that even if my encryption key is somehow compromised, it cannot be used to decrypt past sessions
ExpressVPN operates its own private DNS servers, though you can set your own in the app settings.
ExpressVPN is remarkably leakproof. I didn’t encounter any DNS, IPv6, or WebRTC leaks when connected, or even when my connection was unexpectedly disrupted. My real IP address and internet traffic never leaked onto my unencrypted network.
Like most other VPNs, ExpressVPN assigns users shared IP addresses. When I connect to a server, I share that server’s IP address with many other users. This makes it more difficult to track online activity back to a single user and adds a significant layer of anonymity.
This year, ExpressVPN introduced a new server-side privacy mechanism called TrustedServer. With TrustedServer, the VPN server software only runs on the server’s RAM and not on the hard disk. Because RAM requires power to store data, the server gets wiped upon every reboot. This helps to ensure that servers never retain sensitive user data, even by accident. No other VPN providers I know of offer a similar feature to TrustedServer.
“To enable PwC to thoroughly audit our servers, we gave them extensive access to our team and system information. Over the course of a month, PwC interviewed staff responsible for managing our VPN servers; inspected source code, configurations, and technical log files; and observed our server configuration and deployment processes.”
For the extra-privacy conscious, ExpressVPN operates an onion site on the dark web where you can sign up anonymously and pay with bitcoin.
We’ve put together this graphic to show how ExpressVPN’s encryption works and how long it would take to break it.
Does ExpressVPN work in China?
ExpressVPN is a veteran VPN provider in China and provides fairly reliable access to the free and open internet from the mainland. I spent some time in Beijing shortly before writing this review and kept ExpressVPN connected on my phone pretty much the whole time. I didn’t have to change any settings; it just works.
Maintaining a VPN that can bypass the Great Firewall is an ongoing battle, so you might experience occasional downtime, especially around politically-sensitive events. But this is the case for every VPN provider, and ExpressVPN always bounces back quickly.
Is ExpressVPN’s customer service any good?
Competent customer support staff are available around the clock via live chat on the ExpressVPN website.
I’ve contacted ExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chat support on several occasions, and never have I had to wait more than five minutes to get a response. The support system uses Zendesk to manage help tickets.
Support documentation is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. ExpressVPN has a wealth of guides on a wide variety of topics across all platforms.
Aside from the live chat option, you can submit a ticket on the website or send a direct email. If you don’t trust Zendesk, email is a more private option.
The average customer service response time is an impressive 15 seconds according to this ExpressVPN review video from ProPrivacy.
ExpressVPN is a bit pricier than most. Here’s what is costs:
- The 1 month plan costs $12.95
- The 6 month plan is $9.99 per month
- The 12 month plan is $6.67
The monthly cost of the 12 month plan is calculated based on this deal which includes 3 months additional months free.
The company positions itself as a premium VPN provider. I think of it as the Apple of VPNs.
That being said, it’s not exorbitant; just a couple dollars more per month on average. I’ve certainly seen worse VPNs that cost as much or more.
You can get a significant discount for signing up on the 1-year plan instead of paying month-by-month.
Special Offer - get 3 months extra FREE
Coupon applied automatically
Do I recommend ExpressVPN?
After weeks of testing ExpressVPN for myself, would I recommend it to others?
If price is not a major concern, you won’t find a better all-around VPN. ExpressVPN performs well on every front, including speed, security, unblocking region-locked sites, evading censorship, and customer support. I would recommend it to everyone from novices to veteran VPN users.
I like ExpressVPN a lot, but I appreciate that some people want something cheaper or with more simultaneous connections.
NordVPN allows up to six connections and comes in at as little as half the price for plans of a similar duration, pending current discounts. It’s a bit slower but offers many of the same benefits to security, as well as the ability to unblock streaming sites, torrent, and access the web from China.
CyberGhost is another budget option with an allowance of up to seven devices. It doesn’t work in China and you don’t get as much support for those less-popular operating systems, but it’s fast, secure, and makes unblocking region-locked content a breeze.
ExpressVPN has a huge network, plus it's fast, secure, unblocks Netflix, supports torrents, has no serious logging, offers clients for everything, and is easy to use. In short, this is a quality VPN which delivers in just about every area.
- 160 locations across 94 countries
- Good performance from most servers
- Clients for almost everything
- Excellent support
- Above-average prices
- Browser extensions require ExpressVPN app
- Android app is OpenVPN-only
Quite simply the best VPN on the market, ExpressVPN knows exactly how to stand out from the crowd: it piles on the professional features, delivering way more than just about anybody else.
Top-notch platform support includes apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and other platforms, not to mention custom firmware for many routers, as well as detailed manual setup guides for Apple TV, Fire TV, PlayStation, Chromebooks, Kindle Fire and more.
ExpressVPN's browser extensions aren't the feeble offerings you'll often get from other providers (if they have them at all.) Extras include WebRTC leak blocking, location spoofing and HTTPS Everywhere support, and they're available for Chrome and Firefox.
- Want to try ExpressVPN? Check out the website here
There are valuable technical features everywhere you look. ExpressVPN protects your internet traffic by using its own DNS servers, for instance. High-end encryption technologies prevent even the most advanced attackers from snooping on your activities. And a clever split-tunneling system allows you to control exactly which apps use the VPN, and which will be routed through your regular internet connection. That's very useful if you find some apps don't work with a VPN, or running through the VPN noticeably slows them down.
The company offers a vast network of more than 3,000 servers spread across 160 cities in 94 countries. Europe and the US have the best coverage, but ExpressVPN also has many locations in Asia and several countries that rarely appear elsewhere. There are 27 Asia Pacific countries alone, for instance – even the massive TunnelBear network only covers 22.
The real standout feature could be support, though, where ExpressVPN has agents available 24/7 on live chat. This isn't the very basic, outsourced, first-line support you'll often get with other services, either: they're experts who can walk you through just about any technical issue. If you run into trouble, then, you won't be waiting a day (or potentially longer) for a support response. In our experience, there's always someone available on ExpressVPN's live chat, and you could be getting quality help within a couple of minutes.
The service hasn't seen many technical changes in the past few months (maybe no great surprise, considering it has so many features already). The mobile apps have gained some handy troubleshooting tools and in-app help, and the browser extensions now have a dark mode, but there's not a lot else to report.
Other recent improvements are looking smarter than ever, though. After news of NordVPN being hacked broke last year, for example, that rival VPN announced it was upgrading its servers to run in RAM, reducing the chance of being compromised or hackers being able to recover sensitive files. A smart move, but ExpressVPN got there first, introducing its own TrustedServer technology earlier in 2019.
ExpressVPN reduces its monthly price when you sign up for a longer plan (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Plans and pricing
As explained in our dedicated ExpressVPN price and deals guide, the provider has a very simple pricing structure with only three plans, and these start with a monthly-billed product for $12.95.
That's not cheap, but it's similar to many providers (CyberGhost, Hotspot Shield and VyprVPN all charge around $13 for their monthly plans), and not far from the $9-$10 charged by most big-name VPNs.
Sign up for ExpressVPN's 6-month plan and the price drops to $9.99 per month. That's a reasonable discount, and it also gives you more flexibility than you'll get with some competitors, who don't offer a 6-month plan at all.
The annual plan cuts your costs still further to a monthly equivalent of $8.32, a chunky 35% discount on the monthly subscription. While that beats Hotspot Shield's annual $9.99, and isn't far from NordVPN and HideMyAss! which are pitched at $6.99, it's more than twice some of the competition (Private Internet Access asks $3.33 on its annual plan, Ivacy is priced at $3.50, Windscribe is $4.08).
The difference becomes even more significant if you're happy to sign up for longer periods. While ExpressVPN stops with its annual plan, some providers offer serious discounts if you sign up for longer. Speedify's three-year plan costs only $3 a month, for instance, while we've seen Ivacy offer an occasional five-year deal (not available at the time of writing) at an effective $1.50 a month, or $90 in total – that's cheaper than one year with ExpressVPN.
There's more to a VPN than price, of course. Anyone can offer low headline rates; it's offering a decent service, too, that's the tricky part.
There are ways to save some cash, as well. Signing up with our exclusive deal adds three free months to the annual ExpressVPN subscription, giving you 15 months of service for an effective $6.67 per month.
If you decide to sign up you'll discover a wide range of payment methods, including cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and a host of other players (AliPay, Yandex Money, WebMoney and more).
If you're not quite convinced, installing the Android or iOS app gets you a 7-day trial. And even after handing over your cash, ExpressVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to safely check out the service for yourself.
Getting in touch with customer support is fairly easy with ExpressVPN (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
If you decide you want to cancel, it's also very straightforward. There are no small print clauses to catch you out (some firms insist on providing no refund if you've logged on more than x times, or used more than y GB of bandwidth). You can use the service, in full, for 30 days, and if you're unhappy, or you simply change your mind, just tell ExpressVPN and you'll get your money back. That has to be a reassuring sign of just how confident ExpressVPN is in its service.
ExpressVPN runs its own DNS to prevent leaks (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Every VPN claims to offer complete privacy, but drill down to the details and there's often very little substance to back this up. ExpressVPN is refreshingly different, because the company doesn't just tell you how great it is – it also has an impressively lengthy list of features to help justify every word.
Take encryption, for instance. Most services might mention that they support OpenVPN, or drop in a reference to AES-256, but ExpressVPN goes much, much further.
The company explains that it uses a 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA certificate, for example, with AES-256-CBC to encrypt its control channel and HMAC (Hash Message Authentication Code) protecting against regular data being altered in real-time.
To confirm this, we examined ExpressVPN's configuration files for OpenVPN, and the details were just as the company had described.
Support for Perfect Forward Secrecy adds another layer of protection by automatically assigning you a new secret key every time you connect, and then replacing it every 60 minutes while the session remains open. Even if an attacker has somehow managed to compromise your system, the very most they'll get is 60 minutes of data.
DNS support is another highlight. ExpressVPN doesn't just offer DNS leak protection, to prevent data about your online activities leaking out of the tunnel, but it also runs its own private, zero-knowledge, 256-bit encrypted DNS on each of its own servers.
That's a major advantage over some lesser providers, which in the worst case might redirect your DNS traffic to OpenDNS or some other third-party service. Apart from the risk of logging at the DNS server, using unencrypted DNS gives attackers the chance to intercept your requests, filter them, block or even alter them – all issues which largely disappear using the ExpressVPN scheme.
We didn't test the DNS server in-depth, but websites such as IPLeak, DNS Leak Test and Browser Leaks confirmed that ExpressVPN servers were using the IP address for their DNS queries, and none of them had any DNS or traffic leaks.
ExpressVPN clearly states that it keeps no logs on its users (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
ExpressVPN does things a little differently. The front page of the website doesn't have any 'zero log' boasting, for instance, and you have to head off to a 'What Is VPN' page to get a first look at the company's position: 'Privacy is a fundamental right. We don’t keep connection or activity logs, and we never share your details with anyone.'
If you need more, the company doesn't force you to go hunting for the relevant details amongst 2,000 words of jargon-packed small print. Just clicking a link within the 'no log' statement takes you to a clearly written 'Policy towards logs' page which explains what ExpressVPN collects, what it doesn't, why the service works this way, and what it means for users.
The page states that the service doesn't keep any logs of your IP address when you connect to ExpressVPN, or of the time you've logged in, the VPN IP address you're assigned, or any information on the websites or pages you're visiting (including via DNS requests), or any of your traffic.
There is still some logging. The company records each date of when you connect to the service, and your choice of server. But as it doesn't store the connection time, or the IP address you’re allocated, there's no way anyone can use this data to definitively link an internet action back to a specific ExpressVPN account.
The company also records the version number of any clients you've installed, along with the total amount of data you've transferred each day. This data also doesn't constitute any kind of privacy risk, and we've no doubt that other VPNs do similar things: they just don't admit it.
The country isn't a part of '14 Eyes', the intelligence sharing agreement also known as SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR), and not known to be a party to any of its intelligence sharing arrangements.
Despite its small size, the BVI (British Virgin Islands, where ExpressVPN is based) regulates its own affairs and the UK and US don't have jurisdiction to automatically compel ExpressVPN to release any data.
To make this happen, a complainant would have to raise the issue in the BVI High Court, show that the records related to a serious crime (one punishable by a year or more in prison if it happened in the BVI), and explain how those records would provide relevant evidence to that case. It's hard to see how the minimal ExpressVPN records could provide useful evidence of anything.
There's a lot to like here. It's clear that ExpressVPN understands the issues and is making considerable efforts to explain them, properly and in full, to its customers. That in itself is reassuring, and a huge improvement on the detail-free privacy policies of many VPNs.
Independent audits are a growing trend in the VPN industry and for good reason (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
You don't simply have to take what ExpressVPN says on trust, though. The company has had its TrustedServer technology and backend systems audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers to confirm that it's living up to its privacy promises. Legal restrictions mean we can't quote from the summary report, but it's freely available for customers to download and read.
ExpressVPN has a number of useful articles on a variety of topics on its site (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Speed is an important factor in the choice of a VPN, and we use several intensive tests in two countries (UK and US) to find out how a service performs.
The process began in the UK, where we logged into a sample 25 of ExpressVPN's OpenVPN-enabled servers, recorded the initial connection times and ran some ping tests to check for latency issues. These won't necessarily affect download speeds, but they're still a crucial part of the service experience (if half the servers are always down, or connection times and latencies vary hugely, that's going to be bad news.)
Our first test saw no connection failures at all, and every server connected within a speedy two to five seconds, a very good start (many VPNs take twice as long, some are even slower). These tests were taken over a short period of time and won't necessarily reflect the long-term experience of using ExpressVPN, but from what we saw, the service has no significant connection issues at all.
Elsewhere, latency was within our expected range, and geolocation checks showed all servers were in their advertised locations.
We checked performance by using the benchmarking sites SpeedTest and TestMy.net to measure download speeds from UK and US locations.
UK performance was excellent at 68-70Mbps on our 75Mbps test line, a minimal 5-6% reduction on our normal VPN-free speeds.
Our US connection was capable of up to 600Mbps, giving us a much better idea of just what ExpressVPN could do, and the results were impressive at a typical 200-250Mbps. Even the lowest figure across all tests, 157Mbps, would be more than fast enough for just about anything you might want to do.
Note that these might sound like irrelevant figures if your internet connection is a fraction of that speed, but we think they matter for everyone. The higher the speeds a server gives us, the more bandwidth it has available, and the more likely it'll deliver decent performance, even at peak times.
Long distance tests are more difficult to interpret, as there are a whole host of non-VPN-related factors which might affect performance. But we ran our sample set of 25 ExpressVPN servers past some benchmarking sites, anyway, just to see what would happen.
The results were generally very positive, with most of Europe, the US and even some more distant locations – Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Karachi – managing close to 60Mbps from our UK base. There were a few more disappointing exceptions – Brazil peaked at 15Mbps and a handful were even slower – but that can happen in any testing conducted over a short period of time, and overall ExpressVPN performed very well.
In our tests ExpressVPN was able to unblock Netflix (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
One major benefit of a VPN is that it can give you access to geoblocked websites. If your favorite streaming site only allows US visitors to view some content, for instance, log in to a US VPN server and you might bypass the block.
Unfortunately, it's not always that simple. Providers such as Netflix know exactly what users are doing to try and get around their rules, and they're constantly updating their systems to detect and block individual VPNs. Specific websites might also be blocked by anyone from a Wi-Fi hotspot administrator who doesn't want users accessing YouTube, to a nation state trying to control the internet use of its entire population.
Getting around region blocks is one of the most useful features of using a VPN (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
ExpressVPN scored an immediate thumbs-up from us by listing the sites the company claims it can unblock: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and others (there are more than 25 services on the list). Most VPNs don't make that kind of commitment, presumably because they don't want users to complain if they can't deliver, so it's good to see ExpressVPN spell out exactly what it can do.
To get a feel for ExpressVPN's unblocking abilities, we ran several tests, checking whether we could access US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and geoblocked YouTube sites while connected to various ExpressVPN servers.
Netflix results were great, with a perfect 10 out of 10 locations unblocking the service. It's no surprise that it tops our list of best Netflix VPNs.
Amazon Prime Video also worked, though in a much more limited way. The ExpressVPN website explains that you're able to watch UK or US Amazon Prime Video content, but only if you have an account with a billing address in that country. We tried this, and it worked; we streamed video from Amazon's UK site without it detecting that we were connecting via a VPN. But as we were in the UK anyway, this wasn't particularly useful.
(Keep in mind also that Amazon's Prime Video terms states the company will 'use technologies to verify your geographic location' and 'you may not use any technology or technique to obscure or disguise your location', so you break these rules at your own risk.)
Unblocking YouTube is always much easier, and sure enough, ExpressVPN gave us instant access from each of its US servers.
The good news continued with BBC iPlayer. The platform has far better VPN protection than YouTube, but ExpressVPN didn’t care, and each of its UK servers allowed us to browse and stream content.
ExpressVPN does support torrenting (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
ExpressVPN doesn't appear very torrent-friendly at first glance, as its website doesn't seem to mention the topic at all. There's so little torrent awareness that if you type 'p2p' 'in the knowledgebase search box, for instance, it assumes you've made a mistake and searches for 'pap' instead.
No need to worry, though, ExpressVPN isn't trying to hide anything. We dug around the FAQ, ran a few tests and eventually discovered the truth.
The service not only supports torrents, it also avoids the common hassles and annoyances you'll often get with other providers.
Torrent users aren't forced onto a small number of overloaded servers, for instance. You can choose from the full set of ExpressVPN locations.
There are no bandwidth or transfer-related catches, either. The company has no data cap, and says it will never throttle your connection.
Factor in other key features of the service – no activity logs, lots of locations, apps for everything, Bitcoin support, the 30-day money-back guarantee – and ExpressVPN looks like a great choice of VPN for all your torrenting needs.
ExpressVPN has clients available for most popular platforms (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Getting a VPN client installed and working properly can sometimes be a challenge, but the well-designed ExpressVPN website has clearly been set up to keep hassles to an absolute minimum.
Log in to your account dashboard, for instance, and you don't have to hunt for a Download link. The website detects the type of device you're using, displays a Download button for that client, and enables grabbing a copy with one click.
If you need something for another platform, clicking 'Set up on all your devices' takes you to a huge list of options, including Windows, iOS, Amazon Fire, Mac, Android, Linux and more. Tapping any of these displays more download links and instructions.
Even these are far more helpful than you would expect. Tap the 'Android' link with most VPNs and you'll probably just be redirected to Google Play. ExpressVPN has a Play Store link, but it also gives you a QR code, a button to email yourself a setup link (ideal if you need to install it on another device), and even an option for experts to directly download the APK file.
In a neat setup touch, ExpressVPN doesn't force you to find and manually enter your username and password. Instead, all you have to do is copy the unique activation code displayed on your download page, and paste it into the client when you're asked. The software then automatically sets up your login credentials, and you won't have to think about usernames and passwords, at all. (Very handy if, say, you're using a password manager and don't even know what your passwords are.)
Your other option is to set up a third-party OpenVPN client. ExpressVPN makes this much easier by providing sensibly named .OVPN configuration files (my_expressvpn_argentina_udp.ovpn, as opposed to something like NordVPN's ar1.nordvpn.com.udp1194.ovpn), and we had the OpenVPN Connect client up and running within minutes.
This is the interface of ExpressVPN's Windows Client (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
The ExpressVPN Windows client has a comfortable and familiar interface which immediately makes you feel at home. A big On/Off button allows you to activate the service when required, a clear status display shows you the current server, a Choose Location button enables picking something else, and a menu button top-left gives speedy access to other features. This is a very strong PC VPN for Windows 10.
There are a host of ways to choose the best server. A Smart Location feature picks your closest server. You can double-click a country to access its best location, or browse every location within a country and choose one manually. A Search box allows you to find locations by keyword, and you can add individual locations to a Favorites list.
The latest edition of the client even displays the currently selected location, the 'smart location' (ExpressVPN's recommended server) and your last choice of location on the main client window. You can connect to any of these with a click, no need to head off to a location list at all.
The client also makes smart use of its system tray icon, too. Right-clicking displays a menu which includes your last three locations, and choosing one of those will get you connected immediately, without having to open the full client.
ExpressVPN was able to get acceptable speeds from a number of locations (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
The Location list doesn't initially display any information on the speed of its servers, something which can help you choose the fastest location. The client has a Speed Test feature which can add this for you, and it provides far more useful information than the competition, including latency and an estimate of download speed.
This took a while to run for us – around six minutes to check every available location from our system – but if you're likely to use a range of more distant servers, it's worth the wait, giving you an instant overview of which locations are worth trying right now, and which should be left alone.
A capable Settings dialog allows you to choose from four protocol variations: OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP - IPSec and IKEv2 (PPTP is no longer on offer as it's just too insecure.) It's good to have that choice, although we're less enthusiastic about the default 'Automatic' setting, where apparently 'ExpressVPN will automatically pick the protocol most appropriate for your network.'
Not only do we have no idea how that decision is made (the website offers no clues), but we can't even check it, because the client doesn't say which protocol is currently active. This seems a poor design decision to us, but if you're concerned, it's easily fixed: choose a specific protocol (IKEv2 or OpenVPN UDP, probably) and the client will use that, every time.
Elsewhere, a kill switch blocks all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops, reducing the chance of any data leaks. There's no setup involved with this, it's enabled by default, and always ready to protect your privacy.
It works, too. We used multiple tricks to forcibly close both OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections, but the client handled everything perfectly, blocking internet traffic, keeping us informed with a desktop notification, and reconnecting in seconds.
Low-level technical touches include basic IPv6 leak protection, and the ability to use your default DNS servers when using the VPN (you'll use ExpressVPN's own by default).
ExpressVPN's most advanced feature is probably its support for split tunneling, a smart technology which enables defining which apps use the VPN, and which use your regular internet connection. If an application won't work when your VPN is up (an email client, say), you can make it use your normal internet connection, instead. And if you use your VPN for one or two applications only – a browser, a torrent app – then redirecting everything else out of the tunnel could improve their performance.
ExpressVPN's Android client is well designed and easy to use (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
If you're new to ExpressVPN, installing the Android app works much like any other. Go to the Play Store, find the app, notice its impressive stats (10 million+ installs and a 4.2 rating), install it as usual and work through the signup process.
If you've already set up an ExpressVPN account, there are some easier options. We went to the ExpressVPN web console on our Windows system, chose the Setup > Android page, scanned the QR code and automatically downloaded and installed the app (your phone must allow installations from outside of the Play Store for this to work).
We still had to make a couple of basic setup choices, for example deciding if we wanted to allow the app to send anonymous analytics back to ExpressVPN, but otherwise the process was completed in seconds.
The app looks good, and works in much the same way as the Windows edition. An excellent Location Picker makes it quick and easy to find and reconnect to particular servers, you can connect and disconnect with a click, and the straightforward interface allows you to check your current location and Android VPN status at a glance.
A new Privacy and Security Tools menu adds some useful features to help you check your connection, with options to display your current IP address and location, check for DNS and WebRTC leaks and generate secure passwords. ExpressVPN has had most of these tools on its website for quite some time, but it's far more convenient to access them from within the apps.
Hopefully the company will upgrade the desktop clients to present the tools in the same way (the Windows builds only have web links, which then open the tools in a separate web page).
The Android app leaves out some of the more advanced features from the Windows client. There's no Speed Test, for instance, which means you'll only ever see the names of ExpressVPN locations, with no indicator of how fast, slow or overloaded they might be.
The Settings section can't quite match the features of the desktop builds. Protocol choices are restricted to OpenVPN TCP or UDP, for instance. There's no IPv6 leak protection, and no control over DNS.
You do get an integrated kill switch, though, to protect your real IP address if the VPN drops.
Split tunneling, a handy bonus addition, enables defining which apps should or shouldn't use the VPN. If you're only interested in Netflix, for instance, you could set up ExpressVPN to channel your Netflix app traffic through the tunnel, while allowing everything else to go through your regular connection, perhaps improving performance.
The auto-connect feature is particularly welcome, optionally connecting you to the VPN whenever you join untrusted networks.
The 'App and Website Shortcuts' feature provides a configurable toolbar on the connection window which can hold up to five icons for your favorite apps and shortcuts. It's a very simple idea, but a useful one, which facilitates launching commonly used apps with a tap just as soon as you're connected.
Problems? If any of this doesn't work as you expect, new in-app help gives you speedy access to support documents without having to head off to the website, while an 'Email us' link should give you more hands-on assistance when required.
It's not quite the most powerful Android app we've seen (in particular, we'd like more choice of protocols), but otherwise ExpressVPN's Android offering is well-designed and easy to use. Even better, install the app and you can try the service for free for seven days, an offer you won't get if you sign up on the website. If you're at all interested in Android VPN apps, ExpressVPN needs to be on your shortlist.
ExpressVPN's iOS client is quite similar to its Android offering (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
ExpressVPN's iOS app takes a few more taps to install than its Android cousin, but that's mostly due to Apple's extra security measures. You have to spend a little longer confirming that the app is authorized to do what it needs, and there's no Android-like direct download link to save you some time.
The setup procedure still only takes a couple of minutes, though, and once it's done, the app opens with the same clean and straightforward interface that you'll see on other platforms: a recommended location, a big Connect button to get online, and a menu button to explore further.
This is what ExpressVPN looks like running on an iPad (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
The well-designed Location Picker offers multiple ways to find specific cities or countries, as well as maintaining a Recent Connection list and allowing you to add commonly used locations to your Favorites.
As with the Android app, the iOS edition allows you to switch servers without manually closing the current connection first. This only saves you a single tap, but if you regularly switch servers, it's going to be a welcome usability plus.
Your choice of protocol doesn't just include OpenVPN UDP and TCP, for instance – you also have access to L2TP and IKEv2, neither of which are available on Android.
Although the app doesn't have a kill switch, it does include an auto-reconnect option which will try to re-establish the tunnel if your connection drops.
Like its Android cousin, the iOS app has gained a Privacy and Security Tools menu since our last review. If you're not quite sure about the VPN or its safety, the tools here should confirm that your IP address has changed, it's from your selected country, and the VPN doesn't have any DNS or WebRTC leaks.
We've seen more feature-packed VPN apps, but on balance ExpressVPN's iOS offering is likeable, easy to use and delivers the functionality most folks are likely to need. And if you'd like to check the service for yourself, good news: as with Android, there's a risk-free 7-day trial available.
ExpressVPN even offers a browser extension for Chrome (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
The ExpressVPN clients are generally very polished and user-friendly, but they're not your only way to work with the VPN. The company also offers Chrome and Firefox extensions which allow you to control the client and service directly from your browser.
Unlike just about every VPN provider, ExpressVPN's browser extensions aren't simple proxies. They are browser-based interfaces for your Windows, Mac or Linux client: they won't work unless you have them installed. That's inconvenient, but there are some major benefits, too.
Launch ExpressVPN's browser extension, for instance, and it's able to communicate with the desktop client and read its state. The default location will be set to the same as the client. And if the client is currently connected, your extension will reflect that.
You can control the desktop client from the browser, too. If you want to unblock a single website, you can choose a VPN location from within your browser, connect to it, do whatever browsing you need, and disconnect ExpressVPN when you're done. It's all very quick and convenient, with no need at all to switch backwards and forwards between your browser and the ExpressVPN client.
This works well at a simple level. The browser extension interface looks much like the regular clients and apps, with a similar system for browsing and selecting locations.
As it is just a basic frontend for the desktop engine, it's no surprise that the extension has some limitations. There's no Favorites system, for instance, or no speed testing. There are only two significant options, too ('Connect on browser launch' and 'Show desktop notifications'), although you're able to open the desktop app's Settings dialog directly from the browser extension.
There's good news, too, with some welcome privacy tools. Both the Chrome and now the Firefox extension include settings to prevent HTML5 geolocation from revealing your real location while you're connected to the VPN, as well as blocking WebRTC leaks at the browser level, and using HTTPS Everywhere to automatically force connections to the HTTPS versions of websites whenever they're available.
The browser extension won't be for everyone, especially as you must have the app installed to use it. But the ability to control the application from within the browser is a genuinely useful feature that you won't find with the competition, and overall, it's a very worthwhile addition to the package.
Live chat support makes it easy to solve any problems you have with ExpressVPN (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
Much like any other networking technology, a VPN can misbehave in many ways, and figuring out exactly what's going on can be a real challenge. That's why even the most experienced user can benefit from quality VPN support.
ExpressVPN's support site gets off to a good start with its lengthy list of troubleshooting guides. Whether you're trying to diagnose slow speeds or dropped connections, understand error messages, change your password or cancel your account, there's useful information to hand.
Most articles are well-written and deliver in all the key areas. They don't assume technical knowledge, instead taking the time to explain the background, offering multiple suggestions to resolve most problems, and linking to other relevant articles where they'll provide relevant details. For example, where other VPNs might have a single line suggesting you "try another server" to help diagnose speed problems, ExpressVPN also links to a detailed article explaining how to find the best location for you.
The setup articles are even more impressive. You don't get just one generic installation tutorial per platform, for instance. There are no less than eight different Windows tutorials covering the installation of ExpressVPN's own apps, and manual setup for various Windows versions. You get four tutorials for Mac, four for iOS, and four for Android, and even Linux has separate setup guides for Ubuntu, Raspberry Pi, Terminal (via OpenVPN) and more.
An accurate search engine scans more than 250 of these articles to find whatever fits your requirements. It's hugely refreshing to enter keywords on a VPN support site and actually view a lot of useful content. (OpenVPN gets 41 hits returned, DNS gets 70, there's 50 for Android, 16 for Ubuntu, 14 for DD-WRT, and the list goes on.)
If the website can't help, ExpressVPN's support team is available 24/7 via email and live chat.
ExpressVPN recommends live chat for the fastest results, but we sent a test email question anyway to check response times. Although the company suggests it can take up to 24 hours to reply, we got a friendly, detailed and helpful message in under an hour. That's much faster than we expected, and the reply contained everything we needed to diagnose and resolve our issue.
Live chat also performed very well. We ran several checks on the service, there were always agents available, and typically we had a first genuine response (a real comment on our issues, not just an automated 'I'm Steve and I'm here to help you' bot-type reply) within two or three minutes.
The quality of chat support was well above average, too, with the agent spending 30 minutes patiently walking us through some well-chosen diagnostic steps.
If you're a networking expert, it's tempting to assume this doesn't really matter. You know what you're doing, so there's no need to pay a premium for this kind of handholding, right?
Well, maybe, but keep in mind that there's more to VPN support than explaining the low-level geeky technicalities. We've also asked about system status issues like temporary connection problems, or the best server to use for US Netflix or Amazon Prime. Unlike some providers, there's no waiting for a day to get an email response – we've always had useful advice within minutes of asking, and that ability to get speedy help makes a huge difference to the service experience.
This is a top-quality VPN which exceeded our expectations in everything from platform support and privacy, to ease of use, unblocking abilities and its excellent support. It's more expensive than most, but you can see why: this is a polished, powerful and professional service.
If you're ever concerned about who might be peeping over your virtual shoulder, then consider a virtual private network, or VPN. An excellent entrant in the field of consumer VPNs, ExpressVPN has a wide distribution of servers across the globe, ensuring one will likely be close at hand. It has also invested heavily in creating and explaining how it operates a safe and secure company. While it has improved the value of its offering, it's still on the expensive side for what it offers the average consumer.
What Is a VPN?
When you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network at the local coffee shop, you're not safe. An unscrupulous person could snoop on your web traffic, or perhaps the free Wi-Fi is phony and designed expressly to steal information from anyone who connects to it. Out on the web, governments and advertisers are keen to get your data. Even your ISP is looking to profit from selling your anonymized data.
When you're connected to a VPN, your data travels through an encrypted tunnel to a server operated by the VPN company. From here, it exits onto the web. While in transit, it can't be intercepted, stopping sleazes at the coffee shop from snooping on you. Out on the open internet, your real IP address can't be discerned because your traffic appears to be coming from the VPN server. Routing your traffic through the VPN's server also effectively spoofs your location.
Pricing and Features
ExpressVPN has three subscription options: $12.95 billed each month, $59.95 billed every six months, and $99.95 billed annually. Like most services, the only difference is for how long you commit. The company accepts payment by all major credit cards, PayPal, and other services such as Alipay and WebMoney. ExpressVPN subscriptions can also be purchased with Bitcoin.
The current monthly price of a VPN service averages around $10.10, which is quite a bit below ExpressVPN's $12.95 asking price. Many VPNs come in well below the average. Mullvad, for example, costs just $5.54 per month, making it one of the cheapest VPNs available.
The only thing cheaper than cheap is free, and ExpressVPN does not offer a free VPN subscription. That's unfortunate, because the best way to tell if a VPN will work for you is to try it out at home. TunnelBear VPN does offer a free trial, but limits you to 500MB of data per month, while HotSpot Shield's free subscription cuts you off at 500MB per day. ProtonVPN, on the other hand, places no data restrictions on its free subscription and has a flexible pricing structure that can get you started for $5.00 per month.
Previously, ExpressVPN limited you to just three simultaneous connections from different devices. I'm happy to say that the company has improved its offering to match the industry average of five simultaneous connections. That welcome change comes a little late as several VPNs challenge that expectation by offering less restrictive plans. NordVPN offers six connections, and CyberGhost seven, while TorGuard VPN lets you choose how many connections you'd like with a simple slider that goes from five to 205. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN don't even bother to limit the number of simultaneous connections.
Alternatively, you can spring for a router preloaded with ExpressVPN software, thanks to a partnership between ExpressVPN and FlashRouters. Or you can follow ExpressVPN's instructions and configure the router yourself. The advantage of a VPN-enabled router is that it protects every device on your network, including those that can't run VPNs on their own, and effectively lets you connect an infinite number of devices. ExpressVPN notably provides apps or installation instructions on a dizzying number of platforms, so you're sure to find something that meets your needs.
VPNs are a mature technology and as such there are a lot of different ways to create a VPN connection. I prefer OpenVPN, which is an open-source project. That means its code has been picked over for vulnerabilities. ExpressVPN, happily, supports OpenVPN UDP/TCP on Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. It also supports configuring routers to use OpenVPN.
ExpressVPN also supports the older L2TP protocol on macOS and Windows, and the much less secure PPTP on Windows only. I don't recommend using either, unless you absolutely have to for some obscure legacy reason.
It's notable that ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN in its iOS app. Apple makes app developers that wish to use OpenVPN jump through additional hoops, so some developers don't bother. ExpressVPN also supports the IKEv1/2 protocols on iOS, which is my next-best choice of VPN protocol after OpenVPN.
The Wireguard protocol is the heir-apparent to the OpenVPN throne. This open-source project has been long in development and just recently left its experimental phase, leading some VPN companies to adopt it. In my limited testing, I have found this new technology to be extremely fast. I hope ExpressVPN follows suit, but it's not a major issue for the moment.
Servers and Server Locations
Part of what you are paying for with a VPN subscription is access to the company's fleet of VPN servers. These are the machines through which your web traffic will flow. Generally speaking, it's good to have a diverse distribution of servers, since this will ensure that you'll be able to find one close by, no matter where you travel, and likely get better service because of that closeness. It also gives you more options for spoofing your location.
ExpressVPN offers 160 server locations across 94 countries. Among my top-rated VPNs, ExpressVPN offers the best balance of hardware and virtual servers in the most countries (more on this later). It has held this distinction for a long time, but CyberGhost is catching up, offering servers in 90 countries. In addition to having the most server locations, ExpressVPN also excels in geographic diversity, with several in Africa and excellent coverage across South America—two continents often underserved or completely ignored by other VPN companies. ExpressVPN also maintains servers for some countries with repressive internet policies, including Turkey, and Vietnam.
Some readers have expressed concern about virtual servers. These are software-defined servers, meaning that one piece of hardware can host multiple virtual servers. Virtual servers can also be configured to appear as if they are in a country other than where that physical hardware is located. Virtual servers aren't necessarily bad, but the idea that your data may be heading to some country other than where you want it to go can be unnerving.
ExpressVPN is transparent about its use of virtual servers. An explanatory page says that less than three percent of servers are not physically located where they appear to be, and lists their true location. A company spokesperson confirmed this information. ExpressVPN explains that part of why it uses virtual servers is to provide better performance, but also for improved security. You wouldn't necessarily want a VPN server within a dangerous country, as it could be tampered with, potentially revealing private information about its users. ExpressVPN's Turkey, Venezuela, and Vietnam servers, for example, are all virtual. This sounds reasonable.
The only other VPNs that boast better coverage are PureVPN and HMA! VPN, which cover 140 and 190 countries, respectively. These companies, however, are heavily reliant on virtual server infrastructure. Of PureVPN's 140 locations, 77 are virtual. Of the 190 countries of HMA!, only 56 are physical locations. I think ExpressVPN has a better approach, and one that feels more honest to customers.
That said, most consumers probably do not need a lot of server locations—virtual or otherwise. What they probably need are as many servers as possible, as near as possible to their homes. The average person probably doesn't have a reason to tunnel into 90+ countries. This really cuts into ExpressVPN's value proposition. The company offers an excellent service all around, but its best feature is really geared toward the frequent traveler, the business person, or someone with very specific needs.
Most VPN companies will spin up servers as needed (virtual or otherwise) to meet demand. As such, the overall number of servers is influenced by how many subscribers a company can boast. But a large server fleet also means you're more likely to find an uncrowded server, potentially getting you better performance. ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers at its disposal, placing it among the largest collection of servers we've seen. ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, Private Internet Access, and TorGuard all have over 3,000 servers but CyberGhost and NordVPN are at the top of the heap with well over 5,000 servers.
Your Privacy With ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is clear about the limits of its data gathering. The company says it stores no logs of user activity, originating IP address, the VPN IP you connect with, the session duration, nor a connection timestamp. That's what you want to hear from a VPN company. Better still, ExpressVPN makes it clear in its policy (and verified to me) that it only generates revenue through the sale of VPN subscriptions. The company does not sell user data.
The company does, however, collect some information. It gathers the aggregate amount of data transferred by each user. It logs the most recent date, but not time, a successful connection has been made. The company also notes which VPN location you connect with—but not a specific public-facing IP address. ExpressVPN stresses that this information is not sufficient to identify a specific individual, since it would be identical to many other users. Still, customers should always be skeptical of anonymized data, since it doesn't always stay anonymous.
These policies have also been backed up by practice. A company representative proudly pointed out that when Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server, investigators, "could not find any server logs that would enable investigators to link activity to a user or even determine which users, or whether a specific user, were connected at a given time." Perhaps it is a good thing that ExpressVPN now uses a virtual server to cover Turkey.
ExpressVPN has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, which has no data retention laws. The company points out that any request for user information would have to be issued from a local court, and would only be honored if the crime under investigation would be punishable by at least a year in prison in the British Virgin Islands. The hope is that this would slow down frivolous, or intrusive, investigations that would encroach on your privacy.
Some VPN companies have begun releasing the results of third-party audits in order to validate the security of their services. NordVPN commissioned an audit of its no-log policy, and TunnelBear has committed to releasing annual audits of its entire process. In 2019, the company released a third-party audit of its browser extensions, which did little to shed light on how the company handles data. In February 2020, ExpressVPN announced an audit from PricewaterhouseCooper that looked deeper at the company's code and practices. Unfortunately, this report was not made available to the general public (as is often the case with PwC reports), but it's a strong endorsement that ExpressVPN is keeping its word.
ExpressVPN is one of the few companies that told me it uses RAM only servers. That means servers are completely rebuilt at reboot, removing any nasty software hiding inside. It also makes them difficult to confiscate. Several companies, such as NordVPN and SurfShark, are moving toward diskless operation, but ExpressVPN has been there for some time. ExpressVPN also says it uses a cryptographic key scheme that assigns unique keys for each server and does not store those keys on disk, making it much harder for an attacker to impersonate an ExpressVPN server. Those servers, ExpressVPN says, are in third-party data centers that limit access to servers.
While I am satisfied with ExpressVPN's efforts to protect customer privacy, you may feel differently. If you don't feel you can trust a VPN, for any reason, I strongly suggest choosing a different service.
Hands On With ExpressVPN
I had no trouble downloading and installing the software on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. One quirk of ExpressVPN is that you don't log in with a username and password, or a generated username as you do with Private Internet Access. Instead, you use an activation code found on the ExpressVPN customer portal. This might be confusing for some people, but it is certainly easier than having to enter it manually.
Once you're logged in, ExpressVPN presents a minimal interface. The simple main window lets you connect and disconnect quickly, with a large, clearly marked button. It's very straightforward, and, provided you're not too put off by the odd login experience, very easy to intuitively understand. On all the successful connections after the first, ExpressVPN shows a list of shortcuts to apps and websites. You can edit this list from the settings, or turn it off completely.
ExpressVPN's highly functional minimalism certainly helps give it a timeless look, but it's not slick by any measure. SurfShark and NordVPN have some of the best looking and most engaging apps in the VPN industry, while TunnelBear doubles down with powerful bears and a bright yellow color scheme.
Additional windows let you sort and save preferred servers but I wish the app showed more information about each server, such as overall usage. I especially like the speed test window, which performs a quick test across all ExpressVPN's available servers to help you pick the best one. These test results tracked closely with my own.
ExpressVPN eschews specialized servers and upsell features, opting to instead offer a rock solid product out of the box. Everything you'd expect is here, like a Kill Switch to prevent apps from connecting to the Internet if the VPN is disconnected. Other network security features like integrated ad-blocking and anti-malware are not, but they're not missed. Stand-alone options are generally better.
ExpressVPN also offers a rarely seen feature called split tunneling. When active, this lets you designate which applications send their data through the VPN's tunnel or travel outside the tunnel, without encryption. If you have certain activities that are blocked when you use a VPN or are affected negatively by poor network performance, split tunneling is a useful workaround.
The ExpressVPN app falls into an unusual spot where it offers more features than just a set-and-forget operation, but not enough to really tweak your experience. The technically savvy and adventurous may even be frustrated.
If a VPN is configured incorrectly, it can potentially leak your real IP address, your ISP, or your DNS requests. I confirmed that my IP address was hidden and my ISP obscured. Using the DNS Leak Test, I found that ExpressVPN redirected all of my requests to the right spot, without leaking any information. Note that I only tested one server; other servers may be incorrectly configured.
ExpressVPN and Netflix
Streaming media is incredibly important for consumers, but streaming services like Netflix will sometimes block your access when you use a VPN. This is often in order to protect distribution agreements for streaming companies.
Fortunately, I was able to connect to Netflix while ExpressVPN was in use. Keep in mind that you may find yourself blocked, however since VPNs and Netflix are in an ongoing arms race over access.
Some VPN companies include additional features to help differentiate them from competitors. For example, NordVPN attempts to block advertising at the network level. Other companies attempt to block malicious URLs, or provide static public IP addresses. ExpressVPN does not offer these extras.
Speed and Performance
A perennial concern with VPNs is that using one will slow your internet connection to a crawl. While it is true that using a VPN will increase latency and reduce upload and download speeds, it's usually a bearable experience. To get a sense of the impact a VPN has on your internet experience, we run a series of tests using the Ookla speedtest tool. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.) I run through the nitty-gritty of our testing elsewhere, so be sure to read that if you're curious about my methodologies.
Keep in mind that network connections are mercurial things, and your individual experience will probably differ from mine. Think of these results as more of a snapshot for comparison, rather than a final verdict on performance.
In my testing, I found that ExpressVPN performed well, increasing latency by only 65.2 percent. This beat out a median of 69.6 percent. My tests showed that ExpressVPN decreased download speed tests scores by 71.8 percent and upload speed test scores by 76.3 percent. The median result for these two categories is 68.5 percent and 63.6 percent, respectively. ExpressVPN cut fairly close to those figures.
You can see how ExpressVPN compares in the chart below with the top nine performers among the nearly 40 services we tested.
According to my testing, Hotspot Shield VPN is the fastest VPN based on its comparatively small impact on download speeds and latency. Surfshark, however, is close behind, racking up a peerless upload score and narrowly missing Hotspot Shield's download score. That said, I believe that features and overall value are far more important than speed, and discourage readers from judging a VPN solely off these results.
ExpressVPN on Other Platforms
ExpressVPN offers apps for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. I highly recommend that people use an app with a VPN, since it is easier to use, requires no manual configuration, and grants access to additional features. ExpressVPN also supports Linux users with a command line tool.
ExpressVPN also has plug-ins available for browsers, including Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. Note that browser plug-ins function as proxies, letting you change the apparent location of only your browser traffic, and don't apply the same encryption found with VPN protocols.
ExpressVPN provides Fire TV and Kindle Fire apps, and instructions for using the service on Apple TV, PlayStation, and Xbox devices.
ExpressVPN is the premiere service for frequent travelers, or anyone who absolutely must have a server in a specific location. Its small reliance on virtual servers and emphasis on secure hardware set it apart from other VPN services that boast big server distributions. It has made a strong commitment to the privacy and security of its customers, and has worked to make its product a better value by allowing the industry average of five devices.
Despite its achievements, Editors' Choice winners TunnelBear and ProtonVPN shine brighter, but not because of any failing on ExpressVPN's part. These services simply offer a lot for less, making them more attractive to the average consumer. If you're on the road often, require VPN access to a specific country, or are enticed by ExpressVPN's privacy setup, however, ExpressVPN will not disappoint.
Large, diversely distributed fleet of servers
Strong privacy and information security practices
Supports OpenVPN protocol across all platforms
May be challenging to inexperienced users
Would benefit from widely distributed audits
The Bottom Line
ExpressVPN's dedication to privacy is impressive, and its fleet of far-flung servers outclasses much of the competition. That comes at a hefty price, and many may not need its worldwide access.