ExpressVPN Review – Great User Experience
Is This VPN Really Good At Everything?
Pricing and Features
As previously mentioned, ExpressVPN is one of the pricier VPN options, but that does not mean that it will break the bank. ExpressVPN offers three different options regarding their subscription plans. The first option is the monthly plan, which will cost you $12.95 every month. The second option is their 6-month plan, which will run you $59.95, and lastly, ExpressVPN offers a yearly subscription for the annual price of $99.95. Like other VPNs, the main difference between each price point is the length of commitment.
This service also offers a variety of ways to pay for your subscription. They accept all major credit cards, Alipay, WebMoney, and of course, PayPal. If you are looking for a more discrete way to pay for your subscription, ExpressVPN also allows its users to sign up using Bitcoin.
The current industry standard for a VPN service is $10.21 per month on average, which is slightly below the rather steep asking price of $12.95 per month. Most VPNs that we have come across charge at or below that average industry standard price. For example, the Mullvad VPN service only charges $5.92 each month, making it among the cheapest available VPN services.
However, if you are looking to save money, ExpressVPN offers some savings with their annual plan. The plan is $99.95 per year, cheaper than monthly payments but still well above the industry average of just $71.87 each year. Compared to a service like Kaspersky Secure Connection, which runs only $29.99 each year, almost $100 seems quite steep.
In most cases, we recommend committing to a yearly service plan unless you are dissatisfied with the service. Subscribing to a service on a trial basis or for one month will give users a better understanding of what the service offers and whether it is right.
While some VPN services offer a free trial or a limited free version of their software, that is not the case with ExpressVPN. This is unfortunate for users looking to try the VPN to see if it fits their needs and expectations. Other companies, such as TunnelBear, offer a free version of their service but limit users to a data cap each month. ProtoVPN provides an entirely free version of its service with no data restrictions. Additionally, if you want to join, it will only cost you $5 per month. Compared to ExpressVPN, these companies are quite generous with their customer base and do not make them commit before they try.
However, the good news is that if you are not completely satisfied with the service, the company will issue a 30-day money-back guarantee. That makes the higher price-tag more comforting if you simply test the service before you commit.
In the past, ExpressVPN limited their user’s connections to just three simultaneous devices. It is great news to discover that they have improved their policy to match the industry-standard or five simultaneous devices by researching this review. While this is undoubtedly excellent news, it means that ExpressVPN is a bit behind the game of other services. Other VPN companies offer more connections and even less restrictive subscription plans.
For example, NordVPN offers up to six simultaneous connections. CyberGhost offers seven, and TorGuard lets its users choose how many links they would like to have from 5 all the way up to 205. Better yet, IPVanish, Surfshark VPN, Phantom VPN, and Encrypt.me do not even bother with setting a connection limit with their users. While ExpressVPN has increased its offerings, they are still behind some of the cheaper VPN alternatives.
If you have your heart set on using ExpressVPN, you can always opt to purchase a router preloaded with the VPN software. This is all thanks to a deal between FlashRouters and ExpressVPN, but you can still configure the router yourself if you are more of the DIY type. The best part about using a VPN enabled router is that any device connected to it will be protected. That means you are running on only one of the slots offered by the VPN, but all the traffic going through the router will be protected.
Of course, many users want to use a simple app on their device. If that sounds like you, then ExpressVPN has you covered. They offer apps for almost any device you can think of, so you will be able to find something that fits what you are looking for.
Whether you are an expert or just getting started in the world of VPNs and looking for the best overall VPN, you are most likely interested in keeping your internet traffic safe and secure. While there are many uses for a VPN, the primary technology is focused on obfuscating your location so that it is not tracked back to your original site. To do that, there are several base technologies or protocols that are utilized by VPN networks.
One of the most popular VPN protocols is OpenVPN, an open-source project that is continuously updated. OpenVPN is so popular because it continually has eyes on the code. Users involved with the project are consistently searching for vulnerabilities.
One of the best features of ExpressVPN is that it supports OpenVPN with both TCP and UDP on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and even Linux operating systems. This VPN also supports router configuration using the OpenVPN protocol.
If you are not interested in using OpenVPN, ExpressVPN also supports the older protocol L2TP on windows and Mac. However, it should be noted that using this protocol is considered much less secure. The only reason that you should need to use one of these older protocols is for some specific legacy related issues.
One thing that set ExpressVPN apart from other VPNs is their support of OpenVPN on the iOS app. For developers to use the OpenVPN protocol, Apple generally makes them jump through a million hoops and cut through red tape, so it is rare to see. ExpressVPN even supports IKEv1/2 protocols on their iOS app. The IKEx1/2 protocol is the second-best protocol for security and privacy concerns.
ExpressVPN began offering support of its own publicly tested beta protocol named Lightway VPN in more recent news. This proprietary protocol utilizes the open-source protocol called wolfSSL cryptography library. This is a smart move since trying to create your crypto code from scratch can be risky. We could not test the beta protocol, but the company says that it will have a wider release in the near future.
Another up and coming protocol technology is known as the Wireguard protocol. It could replace OpenVPN as the most secure protocol in the future. This is also an open-source project that is just passing the experimental phase and entering into more public development. Some VPN companies have picked up this technology as many consider it to be the wave of the future; however, ExpressVPN has not done so yet. They have not announced any plans regarding Wireguard, but one can hope that they pick it up soon.
Servers and Server Locations
When looking for a new VPN, one of your biggest concerns should be their servers and location. When you are paying for a VPN service, part of what you are paying for is access to the company’s servers, usually placed worldwide. The servers are the physical machines that are responsible for routing your web traffic.
In most cases, it is a great idea to go with a company that has a wide array of server locations. If they are well spread out, you will be able to find a nearby server, no matter where you are. You will also get the best service based on your proximity to the server. Lastly, you will have more options when it comes to spoofing your physical location.
ExpressVPN does a great job of offering a wide distribution of servers to choose from. They currently have servers in 160 locations that are spread across 94 different countries. Among all of the top-tier VPN services, ExpressVPN does a great job of balancing their hardware and virtual servers in many countries.
It has actually held the distinction of widest server arrays for quite a while. Still, CyberGhost is nipping at its heels, with servers in 90 countries.
Not only does ExpressVPN offer the most servers in most locations, but it also focuses on geographical diversity. They provide excellent coverage across South America and Africa, two areas that are often left out of the VPN map. ExpressVPN also keeps servers in several countries that are affected by government internet policies, including Vietnam and Turkey.
Many users are also concerned about a company’s use of virtual VPNs, and rightfully so. Virtual servers are software-defined and are not in the physical location it represents. This can mean that a single server can play host to several virtual servers. They can also be set up to represent a country that is not actually physically available. While these types of servers are not harmful in theory, many users are concerned that their data is going to some country that is not actually represented by the server.
ExpressVPN is quite transparent about their virtual servers and how they are used. There is an explanation that states that less than three percent of their entire server load are set up as virtual servers on their website. That means that most of their servers are physically located in the regions that they represent. When we spoke to a company representative, they also confirmed this to be the case. The company goes further to explain why they use virtual servers at all. They claim that these servers are there to provide better overall performance and also to provide additional security.
For instance, you would not really want to have a physical server that is located in a dangerous country. These servers could be tampered with or infiltrated to reveal personal information that users are trying to conceal. An excellent example of this is the servers in Turkey, Venezuela, and Vietnam. These locations are all represented by virtual servers since the government has strict control over internet traffic in these countries. For this purpose, virtual servers are entirely reasonable.
When it comes to server coverage, few have ExpressVPN beat. Many other services offer servers in a wide variety of countries. However, the difference is, many of the options are virtual servers. For example, out of the 140 locations offered by PureVPN, 77 of them are virtual. Out of all 190 areas for HMA! VPN, physical servers cover only 56 places. ExpressVPN has a better approach by offering more physical servers in more locations. They are also upfront about the virtual servers they operate.
With that in mind, most average users are not looking for a ton of options for server locations. Most are looking for a specific region or several choice locations. What is better than many locations is a sizeable server load, especially if there is one nearby their current location. Most internet users do not need to route traffic to 94 different countries. Still, they do need to have a reliable server nearby.
That is where ExpressVPN offers excellent service. It is also a fantastic option for those who often travel – ExpressVPN markets itself as a portable option for travelers and business people on the go.
Most other VPN services will spin their servers virtually to meet the demand of their customers. That means that the overall amount of servers and their locations are determined by how many customers subscribe to the service. When a company has a large fleet of servers, its customers are more likely to connect to a less crowded server and improve its performance.
ExpressVPN boasts of 3,000 servers in their fleet, which puts this company at the peak of server loads compared to other VPN services. ExpressVPN, PIA, TorGuard, and Hotspot Shield all have sizable server loads at over 3,000. However, they still do not correspond to NordVPN‘s and CyberGhost‘s 5,000.
The fact remains that ExpressVPN is a great option when you are looking for a wide variety of physical servers. The more physical server locations, the better chance you will connect to a server near your location. This usually means improved performance and speed, something that ExpressVPN is keen to boast about.
Privacy With ExpressVPN
When you choose to use a VPN service, you trust it to handle your internet traffic discretely. If a company lacked any decency or morals, they would be able to easily monetize all of your private information in the same way that an ISP does.
Don’t worry; we did that for you. It is great to see that a large company such as ExpressVPN goes through extraordinary lengths to ensure that their customer’s information remains private. It is just one of a small list of companies who have undergone a proper stress test and make great efforts to keep their customers satisfied.
ExpressVPN is upfront about where they draw the line when it comes to gathering data. The company claims that they do not log any of their user’s activity, which server they connect to, or the originating IP address. They also do not record the duration of the VPN session or a timestamp of connection. This is precisely what you would like to hear from a company that is handling your sensitive data.
Better yet, ExpressVPN makes it explicitly clear that their only source of income is through their subscription fees. They will never sell your data or make any revenue through your private information.
They do, however, collect a small amount of data that is typical of most VPN companies. They do collect the aggregate data that is produced by their users. It will keep a record of the date, but not when a successful connection was established. They do not include a public-facing IP address with this information, though. They make an effort to stress that this is not enough information to identify any individual user and that this data is only utilized internally.
Naturally, many consumers are skeptical about a company that collects any data at all for fear of a leak or malicious hack. If it is any reassurance to those consumers, the ExpressVPN policies have been tested and practiced. In fact, the company is quick to point out that Turkish authorities once seized an entire ExpressVPN server. They could not find any server logs or information that would be useful to link to any individual users. While that is impressive, it is probably better for everyone that ExpressVPN chose to replace their Turkish server with a virtual one.
The ExpressVPN headquarters is located conveniently in the British Virgin Islands. This region does not impose any data retention regulations or laws. The VPN company is happy to point out that any attempted request for information about their users would only be viable if the local jurisdiction approved it. Additionally, the request would have to coincide with a punishable crime by a year or more in prison. This system is actually quite helpful in preventing any frivolous or unnecessary lawsuits or investigations.
Many VPNs have also released third-party reviews or audits in order to corroborate their security claims. NordVPN, for instance, chose to do a third-party audit of their no-logs policy. TunnelBear also releases a privacy report each year to give their customers peace of mind about their security policies.
Additionally, ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN companies that have switched their server to RAM only. This move means that the servers are completely rebuilt every time they reboot and dump any lingering data. The RAM servers are also much more challenging to confiscate because they do not store data as the traditional servers do.
The company also claims that they use a cryptographic key scheme in order to assign individual and unique keys to each server. These keys are not stored on the disk, so it is almost impossible for hackers to impersonate a VPN server. Those servers are also at third-party data centers, which put restrictions on access to their servers.
Hands-On With ExpressVPN
We had no trouble installing the ExpressVPN software on the latest version of Windows 10. It is quick and straightforward and should be no problem for users of any skill level.
One rather interesting thing that we noticed while installing the software is that you do not use a username or password to log in. Instead, you can find an activation code in the customer portal on their website. This might be a little confusing to those who have used other VPNs, but the instructions are clear and walk you through step by step.
After you log into ExpressVPN, you are met with a minimal and uncomplicated interface. From the main window, you can connect and disconnect with the click of a button. It is clearly marked and very intuitive.
Any time that you successfully connect to a server, that server will be stored on a quick connect list that can be edited at any time.
One of the elements that draw users of all skill levels to ExpressVPN is the minimalist, timeless look of the interface. It is not by any means dazzling and not quite as engaging as NordVPN or SurfShark. Still, it is straightforward to navigate while being aesthetically pleasing.
The interface also has additional windows that will let you sort out and save your favorite servers. One thing missing on this list is details about each server, such as the overall usage and load.
Another great feature is the speed test window, which allows users to perform a quick test overall available servers and directs you to the fastest connection. This is a fantastic feature if you aren’t sure which server is best for your needs.
One final feature that sets ExpressVPN apart from other VPN applications is the ability to use what is called split tunneling. This feature allows you to choose which application will utilize the VPN connection to send their information and act naturally without encryptions.
Suppose you run into any applications that block VPN traffic or some apps that run slowly on a VPN connection. In that case, you can activate the split tunneling feature to work around these issues. Split tunneling is a fantastic feature for those who use VPN connections for some apps but not others. It allows you to keep functioning seamlessly without toggling the VPN on and off.
ExpressVPN and Netflix
Many VPN users are looking for a VPN service that can handle streaming services without complications. Many streaming services block content from being accessed from outside of certain regions due to licensing agreements. These services are becoming more challenging to crack, so you must find a VPN that takes this issue seriously if you plan on streaming.
When we tested ExpressVPN with Netflix, we could connect with ease in all of the regions that we tested. We also tried the VPN with BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Peacock services and all were able to stream with no issues.
Speed and Performance
With all VPNs comes the inevitable decrease in speed. When choosing a new VPN, you must select one that does not slow your internet to a crawl. Every VPN on the market will increase your network’s latency and reduce upload and download speeds. Still, if it is too noticeable, it would be pointless to switch the service on in the first place.
In order to get a picture of how ExpressVPN affects internet speeds, we ran the VPN through several speed tests. The first speed test was with no connection in order to establish a baseline. Then we compared the VPN to the fastest available server and a connection to a US server.
With these tests, you can get a better idea of how ExpressVPN will affect your network speeds if you choose to use this service.
Here is the first test, without turning the VPN on.
Next, we ran a test using the best location (nearby server).
As you can see, our ping was only increased slightly, but our download speed decreased by 23.51 Mbps, and upload went down by 8.73 Mbps. Not bad at all.
Lastly, we connected to the US.
The U.S. was quite far from our physical location, so it is reasonable that the ping increased so much. Still, it is disappointing to see that the download speed went down by 28.39 Mbps. The upload speed was relatively unchanged from the ideal server, however.
In line with all of our previous testing, we have found that Hotspot Shield VPN performed the best on the speed tests. It had relatively little impact on both the speed and the latency when running the test. In addition, SurfShark was not far behind. They just barely missed the mark for the fastest VPN service.
It is important to remember that speed is essential. Still, it is not the only thing you should consider when purchasing a VPN. It is also necessary to consider the overall features of the service, security, and usability as well. Take from these results what you will, but do not put all your eggs in a VPN’s speed basket.
ExpressVPN is reasonably comprehensive with its app offerings and has an app for all major platforms. Their Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows apps are relatively the same and offer similar, simple to use interfaces. Their apps are easy to use and do not require any configuration.
Their app is also supported for Linux users; however, they should be familiar with operating the command-line tool.
Suppose you are only interested in protecting your browser traffic. In that case, ExpressVPN also has browser plugins for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. These plugins will not cover any traffic outside of your browser, however. These plugins will not have the same function as the full app.
Lastly, ExpressVPN also offers apps for other devices, including Fire TV, Kindle, Xbox, AppleTV, and Playstation.
ExpressVPN does an excellent job of making it easy to use app available on all platforms. That means you won’t have to worry about any detailed configuration or setup, and you are ready to protect your traffic directly from the app store.
Express VPN is a popular VPN for a reason: it is easy to use. It is available on almost every device and has plenty of server locations. It has enough options for even the most advanced VPN user, yet it is simple enough for a novice to navigate. It has decent speeds, but one drawback is the price is much higher than the industry standard.
ExpressVPN is a secure option with very few downsides if you are willing to pay a little more. Overall, Express VPN is a great option, but it is not a budget VPN. In some cases, you truly get what you pay for.