Whenever I search for anything to do with VPNs, I’m immediately confronted with cybersecurity and online privacy experts extolling the virtues of ExpressVPN.
It’s fast, secure, private, and offers good value for money despite being one of the most expensive VPNs on the market.
If you glance at the headlines of ExpressVPN review of any reputable publication, you’ll find accolades like these screaming out at you:
“The fastest VPN for outright speed 2020”
“The best VPN money can buy”
“The absolute best VPN service”
So what’s its secret and how does it top so many charts? For the most part, all VPNs use the same security protocols and encryption, so how can one distinguish itself so markedly from the rest?
To find out whether ExpressVPN really is as superior a VPN as it claims to be, I decided to give it a thorough test run and write this ExpressVPN review. Not only did I test it out in the comparatively still waters of the US internet, but I also took it overseas to see how it would cope with more restrictive internet environments.
Some of the concerns I wanted to address were whether ExpressVPN really is so much faster than the competition. Does its security do the job they claim it does? Is a no-logging policy really so important, that it’s worth paying the extra cash for?
Find out the answers to all these questions and more as we delve deep into the heart of ExpressVPN and find out what makes it tick. Don’t have time for that? Check out the summary of our findings below in my ExpressVPN review and then try it for yourself.
With a 30-day money-back guarantee, there’s no financial risk – just some serious cybersecurity gains.
ExpressVPN – The Highlights
Streaming – works flawlessly with all major streaming sites, including BBC iPlayer, DisneyPlus, and Netflix
Speed – consistently fast speeds and prevents bandwidth throttling to secure a smoother torrenting experience
Security – military-grade encryption, zero-knowledge DNS, and a strict no-logging policy gives users the secure edge
Servers – with servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN is ideal for international travelers, keeping them safe and secure even in the most remote corners of the globe
|SERVERS||3,000+ servers in 94 countries|
|LOGS:||Proven No-Logging Policy|
|STREAMING:||Unblocks Netflix, DisneyPlus, BBC iPlayer|
|TORRENTING:||P2P & Torrenting Allowed|
|SUPPORT:||24/7 Live Chat|
|SECURITY PROTOCOLS:||OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, PPTP|
Getting Started with ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a sophisticated cybersecurity tool but getting it downloaded and set up is childs’ play.
Even though I was using a relatively sluggish and unstable internet connection, it took less than 10 minutes to get the ExpressVPN app downloaded, installed, and operational.
ExpressVPN is compatible with devices, browsers, and routers across the board, and each one of those apps is as easy to install as the next. You don’t even need to reveal your identity when signing up.
I signed up and used Bitcoin to pay for the subscription so I could remain as anonymous as possible. The only information I had to reveal was my email address. When it comes to ExpressVPN and its dedication to user privacy and anonymity – this is just the beginning, but more about that later.
Installing ExpressVPN is as simple as any other VPN, with an installation wizard taking care of the process unless you choose manual setup.
Using the wizard, you simply enter the activation code when prompted and select your destination folder.
If you do opt for manual setup, there are online tutorials should you need assistance with this process, although it’s surprisingly simple.
Opening the ExpressVPN app for the first time, I was asked to re-enter the activation code I received earlier. After that, it was simply a case of agreeing to or declining ExpressVPN the right to collect anonymized analytics data, and the setup was complete.
Given that a VPN is all about privacy, to be asked so early on to share data was a little disconcerting. I checked it out, however, and discovered that the anonymized data ExpressVPN collects, which includes information associated with speed tests, crash reports, and connection failures, isn’t linked to any user nor could it be used to identify me.
For my first experiment, I decided to test out ExpressVPN’s ability to bypass geographical restrictions. DisneyPlus has been particularly vigilant in trying to prevent unauthorized access and many leading VPNs have failed to circumvent those blocks.
ExpressVPN, however, leaped over them as though they didn’t exist, giving me almost instant access to the whole US library.
ExpressVPN hides your original IP address, which indicates your geographical location, behind a mask of invisibility. In its place, it presents the IP address of one of its secure VPN servers. This fools sites into believing you’re in Arizona when really you’re relaxing on Bondi Beach in Australia.
I then tried connecting using the Smart Location option. This is designed to connect to the best server, using a clever algorithm to assess each server’s download speed, distance, and latency.
Both methods worked effectively, producing speeds that were equal to, if not better than, the speeds I get without a VPN.
Why? Well, I suspect that my internet service provider (ISP) has a nasty habit of throttling users’ bandwidth, including mine. By hiding my online activities from my ISP, ExpressVPN managed to limit the throttling and took my connection straight into the fast lane.
One of the things I like about ExpressVPN is that it keeps things simple, avoiding the additional ad blockers and other tools its rivals throw into the mix. It supports split-tunneling and has a Network Lock that protects you should the VPN connection fail.
Beyond that, it simply does what it says on the tin. Let’s explore exactly what that is in a bit more detail.
How Easy is ExpressVPN to Use?
ExpressVPN’s interface is clear, simple, and welcoming. It doesn’t have the cute graphics or terrible puns of the likes of CyberGhost and TunnelBear but it doesn’t need them. It’s serious without being overbearing and performs the task at hand efficiently whether you’re in Buenos Aires or Boston.
The main interface prominently displays a connect button, behind which is a list of all the available servers. While some VPNs include information about server speed and latency in its location list, ExpressVPN omits this feature.
To get detailed information about each server’s estimated download speed and latency, I head over to the Speed Test section. I was glad I did, however, as it gave me a clear idea of traffic loads and speeds, making it easy to select the best server for my needs.
Advanced settings are as simple to customize as basic ones. For instance, if you want to change from OpenVPN to the faster but less secure IKEv2, simply click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner, select Preferences and then click on Protocols and make your selection.
Fiddling with the settings, I found that even the most advanced settings are simple to customize. I could enable the Network Lock, select which apps could bypass the secure network tunnel, and change my protocol from a single menu.
Even if you do get stuck, ExpressVPN has a wealth of information online, from how-to guides and to video tutorials.
I was testing out ExpressVPN’s Mac app but also noted that the design and appearance differ little from device to device. In other words, you could happily switch from Android to Windows and back again without having to adjust to different interfaces.
You don’t need any technical know-how or nerdy tendencies to use ExpressVPN – it’s one of the most sophisticated personal cybersecurity solutions in the world but its real strength is in its simplicity.
“Simple is clever. Complicated just means you haven’t been clever enough to reduce ‘it’ to its essence.”
― Phil Dourado
ExpressVPN doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles beyond the basics which, in many ways, is part of its appeal. What it does, it does exceptionally well.
DNS Leak Protection
DNS leaks are a constant headache for many VPNs and their users, leaking sensitive information without you even realizing it.
As ExpressVPN explains, “When a leak occurs, typically you will browse sites believing you’re doing so privately, but actually, your ISP (or some other snooping third party) can see every website you visit”.
Fortunately, ExpressVPN found a clever way to prevent your data from leaking. By using its own DNS (Domain Name System) on all its servers, ExpressVPN ensures “your DNS activity is protected by the same encryption and tunneling protocol that covers the rest of your internet traffic”.
ExpressVPN also has a DNS leak test available so I decided to give it a run for its money and see what it revealed. Unsurprisingly, everything was fine.
I tested the WebRTC as well to make sure my VPN connection wasn’t being compromised. Again, the results showed that everything was as safe as houses. There was no way a third party would be stumbling across my real IP address.
Another security measure ExpressVPN has put in place is its Network Lock. This is a common feature of most VPNs, although it’s more usually referred to as a Kill Switch.
Should your VPN connection fail for any reason and you have the Network Lock activated, ExpressVPN will automatically block all internet connections until the VPN protection is restored.
This guarantees that you’ll never be unknowingly exposed on the internet while under the watchful eye of ExpressVPN. Even in the following situations, ExpressVPN will guard your IP address and unencrypted data with the ferocity of a mother bear.
The Network Lock will severe all connections in the following circumstances:
- Your signal wavers
- You switch Wi-Fi networks
- You switch off or put your device to sleep
- You turn off your internet connection
- Your ISP fails
While there is a lot of data you want to keep safely within your encrypted tunnel, there may be other instances where you want traffic to bypass that tunnel.
For instance, while I was traveling, I arrived in South Africa and experienced a problem with my bank account. At the same time, I was trying to book accommodation for the night, having left it to the last minute as usual.
The trouble was, I couldn’t connect to my online banking site using a South African IP address and couldn’t access the accommodation information I needed using a US one.
Split tunneling saved the day. In ExpressVPN’s Options menu, I found I could allow my online banking app to use the encrypted VPN tunnel while preventing my accommodation app from using.
The result? I could literally be in two places at the same time and still bank securely online.
ExpressVPN Servers and Server Selection
One of ExpressVPN’s most impressive features is its server network. With servers in 160 locations in 94 different countries, it’s the most geographically diverse server network in the world.
Some VPNs, namely CyberGhost and NordVPN, have more servers but they can’t compete when it comes to distribution. Take a look at the chart below:
The more servers a VPN has, the more traffic it can support which means you’ve got a better chance of getting consistently high speeds. ExpressVPN’s server distribution also means that, should you be traveling the world, you’ll be able to get reliable connections wherever you are because the closest server is never far away.
What’s more, if you’re an avid cricket fan like me, having servers in India is just as important as having plenty of US servers to choose from. Why? Because the OTT streaming service Hotstar operates out of India.
Using ExpressVPN, I can connect to a server in Mumbai or Chennai and get instant access to the latest Indian Premier League cricket action.
At the same time, if I want to watch content that’s only available in the US where, due to the high level of traffic, multiple servers are required to carry the load, I can choose from 21 different servers.
ExpressVPN has servers all over the US, from Washington in the North West to Tampa in the South East. For National Football League fans, that means no more regional blackouts – just pure, unadulterated sporting pleasure.
While some VPN providers, like NordVPN and Surfshark, have introduced specialist servers to perform specific tasks, ExpressVPN has stuck with the one-size-fits-all approach… and it works.
There’s little point in having a VPN that can bypass Netflix’s geographical restrictions if it’s not fast enough to stream the content once you get there. So speed is one of the most important factors when selecting a VPN.
In terms of performance, it’s as important to me that a VPN connects efficiently as it is that it provides high-speed connections. ExpressVPN didn’t let me down on either front.
It connected to local servers within a couple of seconds, taking a few seconds longer to connect to those on the other side of the world.
Once connected, latency remained within the normal range, while download speeds surpassed those of its competitors.
As I traveled to South Africa, taking ExpressVPN with me, I decided to see how it fared against NordVPN – another market leader and a VPN provider I’ve relied on for some time, especially when traveling.
NordVPN proved superior in terms of latency, with a ping rate of 92, compared to ExpressVPN’s scarily high 369.
When it came to download speeds, however, ExpressVPN overtook its rival as easily as Secretariat overtook the other racehorses at The Belmont Stakes in ’73. ExpressVPN clocked a mediocre speed of 3.56 Mbps which put NordVPn’s 0.71 Mbps to shame.
Admittedly, none of those figures are going to set the world alight but that says more about South African internet provision than it does the VPN.
If we head over to Europe, the speeds increase significantly. ExpressVPN’s London server is particularly impressive, churning out ping rates of 79ms, download speeds of 32,65 Mbps, and upload speeds of around 48.
But what do these numbers mean? To put it in perspective, we’ve created a comparison chart to show how ExpressVPN matches up against its biggest rivals.
Remember – a high ping rate is a bad thing, indicating how many milliseconds it takes for an instruction to travel from origin to destination.
Overall, ExpressVPN proved fast enough to stream from almost anywhere. Admittedly, trying to watch a movie on Amazon Prime using a South African server would test the patience of a saint, but, for the most part, ExpressVPN does a decent job, out-performing much of the competition.
ExpressVPN Compatibility – Apps, Browsers, and Routers
Established in 2009, ExpressVPN initially released apps for Mac and Windows only. These days, it’s got everything covered, including the following:
- Apple TV
- Chrome (browser extension)
- Firefox (browser extension)
- Fire TV
- Nintendo Switch
- Smart home devices
A single subscription with ExpressVPN allows you to connect up to five different devices and, with the apps so easy to install, it’s easy to reach that limit. Protect your smartphone, laptop, smart TV, browser, PlayStation, and Kindle, and suddenly, there’s nothing left for your smart home devices.
So, if your home is packed to the brim with smart devices, the best way of protecting them against external threats is by installing ExpressVPN onto your home router.
ExpressVPN is compatible with all the most popular brands of router, including Asus, Netgear, and Linksys. It can also be used on TP-Link and D-Link routers, among others, but will require manual setup.
If you’re quite at the point that you need a home router you can, as I did, use the Android app to safeguard communications between my smart home and my slightly smarter phone.
iOS users can similarly use their mobile ExpressVPN to stop third parties from snooping on their Wi-Fi connections.
If you plan on using xpressVPN’s extensions for Chrome and Firefox, it’s important to remember that a VPN browser extension will only encrypt the traffic traveling through your browser. All other apps will be operating outside the virtual tunnel and will, therefore, be visible to prying eyes and third parties.
One of the benefits of the ExpressVPN browser extension is that it works like a split-tunneling feature but doesn’t require the user to come up with the rules.
Even if you find yourself trying to install ExpressVPN manually onto a router that it’s not altogether familiar with – don’t panic! The likelihood is, you’ll find all the answers you were looking for in ExpressVPN’s online support section. If not, just open up the live chat and ask a technician.
Super-fast Streaming with ExpressVPN
Cybersecurity experts would like to believe that people like you and me use VPNs because we’re concerned about our online privacy.
Truth is, for most of us, it’s the other benefits of a VPN that we’re really after. We want to travel the virtual world uninhibited and that’s precisely why ExpressVPN is so popular.
For those living in the outer reaches of Africa or Asia, it must seem as though the streaming business has got something in for them.
Sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, DisneyPlus, and so on don’t offer the same content to all their users. In fact, Netflix viewers in Italy get just over 20% of the content enjoyed by Netflix viewers in the US.
The reason for this is that streaming sites don’t always have international rights for a series or movie. They may have purchased the right to broadcast that content in the US, but in India, those rights are held by a rival company.
As a result, Netflix is legally obliged to prevent viewers in those regions from accessing those shows. And this is where the beauty of the VPN comes to the fore.
By connecting to a secure VPN server in a country where accessing that content is permitted, you can do away with geo-blocks, restrictions, and censorship, and view whatever content you like whenever you like.
Inevitably, it’s not always that simple. VPNs struggle to maintain access to streaming sites, especially when those sites are keen to hit back.
While I was in South Africa, I tried to connect to Disney Plus using ExpressVPN’s Atlanta server and was met with one of those demoralizing error messages. It said the service wasn’t available in my location. I switched to the server known as Los Angeles 5 and suddenly my prayers were answered! I was in!
Needless to say, my review got neglected at that point as I was soon sucked into the chilling world of American Crime – an anthology crime drama you can’t afford to miss.
The inconsistency of ExpressVPN’s ability to navigate around geographical restrictions isn’t unique. It’s just the nature of the cat and mouse game streaming sites are playing with their VPN adversaries.
Streaming sites use IP blacklisting and other techniques to keep VPNs out, and VPNs find new IP addresses and other means to dodge around them.
ExpressVPN might not score 100% when it comes to unblocking sites like Hulu and DisneyPlus, but it does a lot better than many of its rivals.
ExpressVPN works with the following sites:
- Amazon Prime
- BBC iPlayer
Is ExpressVPN Good for Gaming?
If you’re an avid online gamer, you’ll know that lag can cost you more than just a game. This is why you need a reliably fast VPN if you want to produce your number one game, especially if you’re into resource-heavy games like Metro Exodus or the ever-popular League of Legends.
ExpressVPN copes remarkably well with the additional workload and, because it has servers all over the world, it means you can play as easily with players in Peru as you can those in Portland.
Another benefit of ExpressVPN’s worldwide coverage is that you can access content that may not be available in your country. You might even pick up a game from an online store in Estonia for half the price you might have paid in the US.
ExpressVPN may not be the first choice among gamers despite its impressive download speeds and low ping rates. Some users have reported sluggish upload times which can mean your character doesn’t always respond to your instructions quickly enough to give you a fair chance.
In general, however, ExpressVPN’s upload speeds are well within the target range for gamers while its lightning-fast download speeds are fast enough to give you a competitive advantage.
P2P and Torrenting with ExpressVPN
Some VPNs make a big deal of their support for peer-to-peer traffic and torrenting, probably because, to do it well, they must provide both speed and security. ExpressVPN’s not one to blow its own trumpet but it is nevertheless one of the best VPNs for torrenting.
The first key to safe torrenting is to have sufficient security measures in place to minimize the potential risks associated with file sharing. The second is to maintain speeds that are fast enough to download large files without interruption. After that, it’s simply a case of making sure no leaks occur.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially as many torrenting sites are riddled with malware and other potentially malicious dangers.
At the beginning of May, Microsoft warned users of the dangers of using unlicensed streaming sites.
The company drew attention to “a Bitcoin mining script that embeds itself on computers through corrupted files, specifically popular Hollywood movies”.
Because torrenting uses file-sharing techniques to minimize the data load, when you download a torrent file, other users can see the IP address you’re downloading from. If this is your original IP address, it exposes you to unwanted third-party intervention.
As ExpressVPN hides your IP address behind that of a secure server in another location, it helps to protect your identity and keep trackers off your back.
To find out for myself what all the fuss was about, I girded my loins and headed over to the notorious Pirate Bay site. The experience was something of a disappointment.
I wasn’t attacked by a sudden flurry of evil bots and nor did my Mac suddenly stagger to a halt. I saw, I downloaded, and then I left again – thanks to ExpressVPN.
Although ExpressVPN provides a high standard of security for its users, on the downside, unlike NordVPN and Surfshark, it does not include an in-built ad blocker in its VPN toolbox. This is something you need if you’re going to visit torrenting sites and participate in file sharing.
The fact that ExpressVPN doesn’t have one isn’t the end of the world, however, and there is some excellent ad-blocking software available for free. ExpressVPN recommends either uBlock Origin or Adblock Plus.
Eager torrentors and file-sharers will definitely benefit from ExpressVPN’s virtually unbeatable download speeds and its super-strength leak protection.
How ExpressVPN Tackles The Great Firewall of China
In most of Europe and the US, internet users enjoy a high level of freedom in terms of what content we can access online. Not everyone is so fortunate, however, Geographical restrictions pose one problem but another comes in the form of government censorship and surveillance.
North Korea is one of the worst offenders, blocking social media sites, banning torrenting, and outlawing the use of VPNs. China and Russia follow hot on their heels as the leading enemies of the internet.
The so-called Great Firewall of China is one of the most sophisticated online censorship systems in the world. It will stop you from accessing almost any social media site, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Whatsapp. Even Wikipedia and Google are banned!
For many VPNs, the sophistication of the Great Firewall of China is simply too much and they fail to scale its great heights, leaving its users disconnected and isolated on the other side.
Other VPNs, like NordVPN, use obfuscated servers to design the encrypted VPN traffic, making it harder to detect.
ExpressVPN maintains its straightforward approach – using the same encryption, servers, and protocols for users in China as it does the rest of the world. And, do you know what? It works. It works more consistently than almost any other VPN when it comes to bypassing government censorship and eluding government surveillance.
With servers in the nearby countries of South Korea, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, and Nepal, ExpressVPN gives users in China the ability to leap over the Great Wall as if it were nothing more than a decorative picket fence.
It’s not only the likes of North Korea and China that we need to worry about, however. Australia and France were both recently put on Freedom House’s surveillance list.
Critics believe Australia’s national content-filtering system – designed to block access to child pornography – is too broad and infringes on users’ online freedoms.
Meanwhile, France earned itself a black mark “for a series of criminal indictments of journalists for stories they wrote”.
According to Freedom House’ Freedom on the Net 2019 report, internet freedom around the world is becoming “increasingly imperiled by the tools and by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism”.
That means we can expect increasing censorship, more restrictions on what content we can access, and more government spies peering over our shoulders and tracking our online movements.
All the more reason to get a subscription with ExpressVPN. That way, you know your connection won’t leak information and that your data is protected by military-grade encryption. Furthermore, ExpressVPN’s no-logging policy is not only watertight but has even been proved in a court of law.
Privacy and ExpressVPN’s No-Logging Policy
Worse still, VPNs that claimed they were strictly no logging were not only found to be collecting data but sharing it with law enforcement agencies to boot. A couple of years ago, PureVPN helped the FBI track down and arrest a cyberstalker.
Despite saying that it does not “monitor user activity” or “keep any logs”, PureVPN was nonetheless “able to determine that their service was accessed by the same customer” from two different IP addresses, both linked to the suspect.
A similar situation occurred in 2016 when IPVanish VPN’s parent company handed over “a set of detailed connection logs that clearly identified the suspect” in a child pornography case.
So, how can we trust ExpressVPN’s claim that:
“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”?
There are three main reasons you can trust ExpressVPN not to keep logs:
1 TrustedServer Technology
Last year, ExpressVPN upgraded its server network to increase security. Instead of relying on “hard drives, which retain all data until they are erased and written over”, ExpressVPN switched all its servers to RAM only.
As RAM needs “power to store data, this guarantees that all information on a server is wiped every time it is powered off and on again”.
TrustedServer technology also means each of ExpressVPN’s 3,000+ servers runs the latest software.
“Each time a server starts up, it loads the latest read-only image containing the entire software stack, OS and all. That means ExpressVPN knows exactly what’s running on each and every server—minimizing the risk of vulnerabilities or misconfiguration and dramatically improving VPN security”.
2 Third-party Audits
Next, ExpressVPN got the German cybersecurity company, Cure53, to check out its browser extensions.
Following its investigation, Cure53 concluded that the “ExpressVPN browser extension is well-implemented and it is apparent that the usual VPN bypass tricks, as well as actively malicious web pages trying to unmask the user, were taken into consideration and mitigated”.
It also confirmed that “the project complies with the major security and privacy standards”.
3 No-Logging Policy Proven in Court
In 2017, Turkish law enforcement authorities approached ExpressVPN to assist in a murder investigation.
The Turkish police had evidence that a suspect in the murder of Russian ambassador, Andrey Karlov, had used ExpressVPN to access the Gmail and Facebook accounts of the assassin, removing vital evidence in the process.
Even though Turkish authorities issued a subpoena and seized one of ExpressVPN’s servers, they were unable to find any logs or other evidence to support their case.
ExpressVPN subsequently issued a statement saying, “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”.
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN providers to have escaped accusations of logging for the simple reason that it doesn’t, it never has, and it never will.
ExpressVPN’s BVI Headquarters and Why It Matters
Within the statement ExpressVPN made about its inability to assist Turkish officials, it went on to draw attention to the fact that its headquarters are located in the British Virgin Islands.
You’re probably picturing ExpressVPN executives soaking up the Caribbean sun, but that’s not why the company’s boasting about it.
VPN providers are required to abide by the laws of the country it is based in. By selecting the BVI, ExpressVPN exempts itself from any data retention, avoids the pressure to share data with members of the Five and 14 Eyes Alliances, and minimizes the likelihood of being forced to respond to a foreign government’s request for information.
As ExpressVPN states, “There are no data retention laws in the BVI. The BVI is an offshore jurisdiction renowned for privacy protection. This is in contrast to many European countries and Australia, which have laws requiring ISPs to retain metadata related to their users’ internet activity”.
In comparison, US legislation “requires data storage up to 180 days on government demand”.
VPNs based in countries that belong to surveillance groups like the Five and 14 Eyes could be subjected to basic data retention policies, intrusive surveillance, and even gag order laws.
The governments of the Five Eyes countries – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and the USA – have agreed to work cooperatively together, gathering, analyzing, and sharing intelligence.
This means any one of its members could put pressure on another, forcing it to hand over any VPN logs associated with the online activities of its citizens.
Furthermore, members of the Five Eyes alliance work together to make sure data retention laws are being adhered to.
Most leading VPNs have sought sanctuary in countries with privacy-friendly laws and that lack any mandatory data retention legislation.
NordVPN opted for Panama, CyberGhost, Romania, and Surfshark followed in ExpressVPN’s footsteps, and settled in the BVI.
If it were based elsewhere in the world, ExpressVPN may find it infeasible to operate under its current no-logging policy as it could be legally required to observe national data collection and retention laws.
ExpressVPN has a four-pronged approach to security:
1 AES-256 bit Encryption
ExpressVPN’s first line of defense comes in the form of its AES 256-bit encryption. This is the standard encryption used by VPNs across the board, although a few still rely on the older AES 128-bit system.
Excuse the technical speak for a moment while I try to explain to you why AES-256 encryption is important and how it helps to secure your data.
AES-256 is basically a code that uses a block cipher algorithm to encrypt and decrypt data.
It was developed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001 and quickly adopted by the US government to “be used by Federal departments and agencies when an agency determines that sensitive (unclassified) information … requires cryptographic protection”.
If it’s good enough to protect national government secrets, I think it’s probably up to the task of keeping my Netflix password out of hackers’ hands!
2 Security Protocols
A VPN protocol is a set of rules or instructions that govern how data is being tunneled between the VPN client and the server. Users can select different protocols according to their needs.
Some protocols prioritize speed, others, security, and still others, connection stability. ExpressVPN’s default protocol is OpenVPN, which it calls “the gold standard of VPN protocols”.
Other protocols available include PPTP, L2TP, and IKEv2. ExpressVPN does not support WireGuard or SSTP.
So which protocol is which? Why is OpenVPN the gold standard and why would I use anything else?
Personally, I have yet to find a situation where OpenVPN wasn’t my first choice. It’s fast, secure, and “can most easily be configured to mask itself as ordinary internet traffic, which helps it evade detection by filters and firewalls”.
One of the first security protocols, PPTP or point-to-point tunneling protocol is fast but lacks the security of OpenVPN. PPTP doesn’t encrypt your data so your ISP and pretty much anyone else can see exactly what you’re up to. As a result, it’s rarely used.
Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol appeared in the Nineties and is a step up from PPTP. It doesn’t offer any encryption or data protection, however, so is often used in conjunction with IPsec. It’s secure but not as good as OpenVPN.
IKEv2 is one of the newer protocols and is a faster, more lightweight protocol than OpenVPN. Many VPNs make IKEv2 the default protocol for mobile devices where speed is the priority.
“ExpressVPN uses an open-source implementation of IKEv2 to ensure the integrity of the protocol”.
3 Zero-Knowledge DNS
ExpressVPN uses its own Domain Name System to increase security.
Again, it’s all a bit technical but what it basically means is that ExpressVPN excludes potential third-party interference by using its own system of identification.
That means that the system itself is protected by the same tunneling protocols and encryption as the rest of your traffic.
4 TrustedServer Security
As we mentioned earlier, TrustedServer Security uses only RAM and no hard drive memory, which minimizes the risk of data exposure.
ExpressVPN Subscriptions and Pricing
ExpressVPN is a premium cybersecurity tool and, unfortunately, its prices reflect that.
Take a look at the table below:
And now take a look at what the competition charges:
|NordVPN||CyberGhost VPN||SurfShark VPN|
It’s clear that ExpressVPN is not a budget option but we also all know that you get what you pay for.
If you want speed and security, a global server network, a proven no-logging policy, and a VPN provider dedicated to user privacy and transparency, you’re going to have to pay for it.
Looking more closely at the prices of other VPNs, however, reveals that ExpressVPN isn’t exactly breaking the bank.
A one-month subscription with ExpressVPN is just a dollar more than NordVPN and Surfshark and a few cents cheaper than CyberGhost.
CyberGhost is the only other VPN in our list offering a six-month subscription and that certainly does offer better value for money than ExpressVPN’s, undercutting it by $2 per month.
ExpressVPN remains slightly more expensive than NordVPN on the one-year plans, coming in at $8.32, compared to NordVPN’s $6.99, but there’s not much in it.
It would be nice to see ExpressVPN introduce a multi-year subscription option to compete with the likes of NordVPN and Surfshark – it may also give potential users a more affordable way to enjoy the benefits of this excellent service.
Most VPNs run specials and offer discounts and coupons regularly and ExpressVPN is no exception.
If you sign up with ExpressVPN now, you’ll get 15 months of protection for the price of 12. That means you’ll only pay $6.67 per month, making it cheaper than NordVPN. It also means I will be green with envy having paid full whack for mine six months ago!
Like most of its rivals, ExpressVPN offers a money-back guarantee period. New users can cancel their subscription at any point in the first 30 days and receive a full refund.
Another benefit of signing up with ExpressVPN is that you have a range of payment options, including using Bitcoin to make an anonymous payment.
ExpressVPN also accepts all major credit cards and payments from other services, including PayPal, Mint, Klarna, and AliPay.
ExpressVPN Customer Support
Just because a piece of software or an internet security tool is easy to use, it doesn’t mean the developers can skimp when it comes to customer service.
If you’re having trouble with your VPN, password manager, antivirus, or any other cybersecurity tool, you want to resolve the problem as fast as possible so as to minimize the potential dangers.
When I first started using ExpressVPN earlier this year, I experienced a problem with my emails. For some reason, ExpressVPN was preventing me from sending any.
I immediately headed over to ExpressVPN’s extensive online support section where I was greeted by a clean design, clearly categorized FAQs, and a powerful search tool.
I soon found the answer to my question and resolved my problem by using the split-tunneling feature to divert all my email traffic outside the VPN connection.
That same support center contains a selection of video tutorials designed to guide users through tasks such as:
- The initial setup process
- How to use the Network Lock
- How to switch the protocol to L2TP
- How to use the shortcuts feature
Due to its international popularity, ExpressVPN makes all its support documentation available in the following languages, as well as English:
ExpressVPN also has a YouTube channel where you’ll find general information about online privacy and security, as well as videos explaining the basics of VPNs, how they work, and why you should be using one.
If you can’t resolve your problem or find the information you’re looking for on either of these resources, you can either turn to social media or the live chat support option.
ExpressVPN is active on both Facebook and Twitter. If you send them a message via either of these platforms, you can expect a response within the hour.
The live chat system offers more immediate assistance. I messaged them with a query a moment ago and have already received a response. Not only was the response prompt, but it was also informative and easy to understand.
If you don’t like social media and don’t trust Zendesk – the provider of ExpressVPN’s live chat service – since its 2016 data breach, then you can use the email support service instead.
ExpressVPN – Privacy and Beyond
ExpressVPN doesn’t just do what it needs to do to deliver a good VPN service. It goes far beyond the call of duty in terms of spearheading new privacy initiatives and supporting non-profit internet privacy organizations.
Privacy Research Lab
In 2017, ExpressVPN launched its Privacy Research Lab. Dedicated to giving users the tools to test the speed and reliability of their VPNs.
All these tools are open source and free of charge. According to ExpressVPN, that’s because it wants to “help the entire VPN industry raise its privacy and security standards”.
ExpressVPN’s current toolkit consists of tests for:
IP address and traffic leaks
Leaks caused by unstable network connections
Leaks caused by unreachable VPN servers
The company says it will continue to develop and release more tools in the future.
Signals of Trustworthy VPNs
In 2018, ExpressVPN teamed up with the Center for Democracy and Technology to produce a set of questions that could illustrate the transparency and reliability of a VPN.
The questions are designed to address specific areas of concern. After all, who hasn’t wondered about the validity of a no-logging policy, or wondered if a positive review was written by the developers themselves.
Only a few VPNs have come on board with the CDT’s initiative and ExpressVPN is one of them. Its answers can be found here on the CDT website.
The Bug Bounty Program
ExpressVPN has had a bug bounty program running since 2016.
It is intended to “reward researchers who find bugs and vulnerabilities in our website, network, servers, apps, routers, and other assets”.
Just a week before writing this review, ExpressVPN announced that it would be both extending the program and moving it to the Bugcrowd platform.
The program’s goal is to find “vulnerabilities that would allow an attacker to access customer data, break encryption protocols, or access our servers, as well as any bugs that can harm our systems and users”.
ExpressVPN is offering rewards of up to $2,500 to those who discover critical vulnerabilities.
Final Thoughts about ExpressVPN
- Easy to install and set up
- Simple to operate
- Quick to connect
- High-speed connections
- Excellent for streaming
- Bypasses geographical restrictions
- Support P2P and torrenting
- Proven no-logging policy
- International server distribution
- Outstanding customer support
As far as I’m concerned, it, therefore, ticks all the right boxes and leaves little room for any of its competitors to give it a run for its money – even if the amount of money needed to invest in it is slightly higher.
Reviewers often make a big song and dance about how expensive ExpressVPN is but, as we revealed in our pricing section, its monthly subscription is cheaper than some, and its yearly offering is just marginally more expensive.
When it comes to getting the best online security and a VPN that you know will reliably connect and protect from anywhere in the world, what’s a couple of extra dollars?
A Man-in-the-Middle attack could end up costing you thousands so if forking out $8 or so a month can prevent it, that’s good value for money in my book.
To soften the blow a little more – did you know a VPN can actually save you money – especially a VPN like ExpressVPN.
Many industries use a technique known as dynamic pricing. What it means is that people in lower-income areas get lower prices for certain goods and services. Prices for things like hotel bookings, car hire, and flights can vary by hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, depending on where you book them from.
In other words, if the only reason you haven’t signed up with ExpressVPN yet is that you think it’s too expensive, it’s time to think again.
If you need a little further convincing, let’s recap on how ExpressVPN compares to some of the other leading VPNs:
- Struggles to unblock streaming sites like Amazon Prime and Netflix
- Can’t maintain the high speeds of ExpressVPN
- Doesn’t run TrustedServer Technology
- No independent security audits
- Long-term subscriptions are cheaper
- User-friendly interface
- Apps are resource-heavy
- Struggles to access Netflix
- Plans to use RAM on servers but has not implemented it yet
- Slower connections
- Excellent security
- Solid customer support
- Limited server network of 1,700+ servers
- Stark user interface
- Can’t consistently navigate the Great Firewall of China
- No router apps available
- Uses RAM diskless servers
- More affordable than ExpressVPN
If you want a pretty interface – go for CyberGhost. If you want a budget VPN – opt for Surfshark. If you’re all about security and don’t mind the lag – sign up with NordVPN.
If you simply want the best of all worlds – ExpressVPN is the answer.
FAQs about ExpressVPN
Does ExpressVPN work with Netflix?
Yes. ExpressVPN has been consistently navigating its way around Netflix’s geographical restrictions since its inception. The best servers to use for the US libraries are Chicago, Los Angeles 3 and 5, and San Jose.
To access the UK library, try the East London, London, or Wembley servers.
Does ExpressVPN support torrenting?
Not only does ExpressVPN support torrenting, it gives its users faster speeds and more security than many of its rivals.
Is ExpressVPN good for gaming?
High speeds and reliable connections make ExpressVPN a great choice for gaming, although slow uploads speeds may disrupt your online experience.
Can I get ExpressVPN for free?
ExpressVPN doesn’t offer any free services or trials. You can, however, sign up and enjoy 30 days of unlimited service safe in the knowledge that you can get a full refund at any point.
Will ExpressVPN slow down my internet speed?
All VPNs have the capacity to negatively affect internet speeds. ExpressVPN, however, is more likely to improve them by preventing bandwidth throttling.
Is ExpressVPN compatible with my device?
ExpressVPN has apps available for all major operating systems, routers, and browsers.
Widely celebrated as the fastest VPN in the world, ExpressVPN has got a lot more going for it than speed alone. It uses the latest, military-grade encryption, boasts impressive additional security measures, and has exemplary privacy and no-logging policies.
ExpressVPN forgoes extra tools, like ad blockers and double VPN servers, to focus on providing a near-perfect VPN experience. While it might be nice to see a few extras thrown in, it will do little to improve the service.
Simple to use, highly effective, and with the largest global distribution of servers of any VPN, ExpressVPN is setting the standard for the rest of the industry to follow.
It’s not the cheapest VPN around and it could boost its appeal by introducing a more budget-friendly, multi-year plan. Having said that, it is only marginally more expensive than other leading VPNs and, in some instances, slightly cheaper than some.
Committed to online privacy and security, ExpressVPN rolls out regular initiatives and supports non-profit activists who are fighting for freedom on the net.
In terms of speed, security, privacy, server distribution, customer service, and commitment to online freedoms, ExpressVPN is, quite simply, the best in the world and liable to remain so for many years to come.
The only thing left to say is – if you haven’t already signed up for a subscription with ExpressVPN, it’s about time you did. Improve your internet speeds and online security while giving yourself the opportunity to surf without borders.