Astrill VPN and ExpressVPN are a couple of the most expensive VPNs on the market right now. One really has to wonder what could be the reason for such prices and whether either of these services is worth the money.
Like most good VPNs, ExpressVPN and Astrill VPN use military-grade AES-256 encryption. Astrill VPNs fastest tunneling protocol is WireGuard, while ExpressVPN uses their proprietary Lightway protocol. Both have OpenVPN as well as split tunneling and port-forwarding features.
Astrill VPN has only 500 servers, which is considerably less than the 3000 of ExpressVPN. However, Astrill VPN is way more expensive than ExpressVPN and offers no refunds. Additionally, both are good options for getting around online restrictions and geo-blocking on services like Netflix.
There’s much more ground to cover when comparing Astrill VPN vs ExpressVPN so let’s move on to some more detailed overviews of these two.
|“Best for” nominee||Best for China, Best free trial, Best with dedicated IP||Best overall, Best for Disney+, Best for Twitch|
|Price starts from||$10.00/month||$8.32/month|
|Review||Astrill VPN review||ExpressVPN review|
Astrill VPN has implemented the WireGuard tunneling protocol into their software. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has their Lightway protocol, which is not based on WireGuard, but does use the WolfSSL cryptography library, which has been audited and vetted by a lot of third parties.
Unfortunately, this protocol and provider combination is currently unavailable in our in-house speed testing tool, so I will be testing Astrill VPNs WireGuard implementation against ExpressVPNs Lightway with speedtest.net tool. These are their fastest tunneling protocols so we should get a good picture of the whole situation.
For reference, the base speed without a VPN is 300Mbps.
|Download||140.10 Mbps||156.54 Mbps|
|Upload||33.62 Mbps||1.31 Mbps|
|Download||143.87 Mbps||198.83 Mbps|
|Upload||43.55 Mbps||66.66 Mbps|
|Download||96.16 Mbps||127.39 Mbps|
|Upload||21.14 Mbps||20.18 Mbps|
|Download||187.13 Mbps||236.18 Mbps|
|Upload||60.18 Mbps||52.77 Mbps|
As you can see, ExpressVPN has performed better overall. Although upload speed was a bit smaller when connected to servers in the US, overall the results are superior to Astrill VPN.
|Physical servers||All||Not all|
|Owns all servers||Yes||No|
In terms of server count, Astrill VPN is lagging behind with only 320+ servers in 59+ countries. However, this is offset by the fact that they also own all of their servers and all the locations are physical. This ensures peak performance and extra security.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has over 3000 servers in 94+ countries. Naturally, with so many servers around the world some of them are bound to be virtual. But on the plus side, you get more versatility and location choices.
ExpressVPN has another ace in their sleeve with their TrustedServer technology. Their servers are RAM-only, meaning that no information is stored on hard drives and it gets wiped after every reboot. This feature has also been independently audited and is not just lip service.
Some common ground is found between the two because both VPNs allow P2P traffic on all of their servers.
|Free version||Yes (Android)||No|
|Free trial||7 days||7 days (Android, iOS)|
|Money-back guarantee||No||30 days|
|Payment options||Credit Card, American Express, PayPal, Alipay, cryptocurrencies||Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Paymentwall (AliPay, UnionPay, and more)|
A glaring issue with both of these VPNs is their higher-than-average prices. But ExpressVPN is still the winner in this category. Let’s zoom in and see why.
For starters, ExpressVPN is cheaper. Their most expensive monthly plan costs $12.95/month, while their cheapest one is the annual plan, which goes for $8.32/month. Still not very cheap, but at least you get a 30-day money-back guarantee. Plus, you may come across various promotions and ExpressVPN coupon codes, which will grant you discounts up to 35%.
Meanwhile, Astrill VPN costs $20 for a monthly subscription, while the cheapest annual plan is half that – $10/month. It’s also worth mentioning that they are so confident in their service that there are simply no refunds. Luckily, there is a free version to try out, but it’s only for Android users.
It’s also possible to add even more costs to the Astrill VPN bundle with a VIP package for $10/month, which gives prioritized traffic and the Multi-hop feature. Plus, dedicated IPs will set you back another $5/month.
Both providers have a good number of payment options, including cryptocurrencies. Both also mention 7 day free trials, but for ExpressVPN users this only applies to Android and iOS.
|Protocols||WireGuard, OpenVPN, OpenWeb, StealthVPN||Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec|
|DNS and IP leaks||No leaks||No leaks|
|Security features||Smart mode, VPN sharing, split tunneling, port forwarding, Multi-hop, Dedicated IP, SOCKS5 proxy||TrustedServer, MediaStreamer, zero-knowledge DNS, split tunneling, port forwarding|
These providers are quite capable in the realm of security. The most obvious commonality is their use of military-grade AES-256 encryption. Both also share the OpenVPN tunneling protocol, a kill switch feature, and no DNS or IP leaks.
The first divergence between the duo is in terms of tunneling protocols. As mentioned before, Astrill VPN has implemented the WireGuard protocol, plus OpenWeb and StealthVPN. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has their proprietary Lightway, plus IKEv2 and L2TP/IPsec. A nice variety of choices, making these VPNs very versatile from the get-go.
Astrill VPN also provides its users with additional features, such as application and site filters, ad blocking, port forwarding, and Smart mode, which allows you to browse with regional IPs to get around foreign IP restrictions. With the VIP package, you also gain the Multi-hop feature and dedicated IPs are also available for an extra cost.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN uses TrustedServer technology, which means that they only use RAM and don’t store any data on hard drives. They also have split tunneling, port forwarding, MediaStreamer (a Smart DNS feature for easier streaming), a dedicated router app, and Stealth servers.
Both providers have a wide array of security features, which makes it rather difficult to choose a winner. That makes this competition a tie.
|Jurisdiction||Seychelles||British Virgin Islands|
|Logging||No-logs policy||Independently-audited no-logs policy|
|Anonymous payment||Bitcoin, Monero||Bitcoin|
In the realm of privacy, Astrill VPN and ExpressVPN are doing quite well. Both have jurisdictions in privacy-respecting locations and have anonymous payment options. However, ExpressVPN has a slight lead because their no-logging policy has been independently audited, while Astrill VPN’s has not.
|Major dedicated apps||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Other dedicated apps||None||Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV, Chromebook, Routers|
|Browser extensions||None||Chrome, Firefox, Edge|
|Manual setup||Routers, Kindle Fire||Chromecast, nVidia Shield, Kindle Fire, Nook HD|
One area where the two providers don’t see eye-to-eye is device compatibility. Astrill VPN supports all major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android), but can also be manually configured on Apple TV, Kindle Fire, and various routers. But they do lack other dedicated apps and browser extensions.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN also has major apps, while also having dedicated apps for Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick, Android TV, Nook HD, Chromebook, and routers. In addition, they have browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Finally, manual setup is also available on Chromecast, Roku, and nVidia Shield.
Another thing in common between the two is the ability to connect five devices simultaneously. However, it’s clear that ExpressVPN wins this round.
|Other Netflix libraries||Yes||Yes|
|Smart DNS||Smart Mode||MediaStreamer|
If streaming capabilities are a priority to you, then you’ll be happy to know that both of these providers perform very well at unblocking geo-restricted media. ExpressVPN was more consistent, while I had to change servers more often when using Astrill VPN to find a suitable server. This applies to Netflix, as well as other streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer and DAZN.
Best VPN for streaming
Torrenting and P2P
|Allowed on||All servers||All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||Yes||No|
If you ever need some torrenting done, these two VPNs will keep you fairly secure. Both allow P2P traffic on all of their servers and have port forwarding features for extra security. But this time Astrill VPN comes out on top because they also have a SOCKS5 proxy for that added inch of security when torrenting.
|Works in China||Yes||Yes|
|Stealth VPN||Yes||Yes (Stealth servers)|
|Tor over VPN||Yes||Yes|
If you’re thinking about getting around the Great Firewall of China, both providers have some features to get around it. In the case of Astrill VPN, that’s the StealthVPN tunneling protocol, which has fairly good reviews from users in China. You can also visit .onion sites through a regular browser when connected to an Astrill VPN server.
Similarly, ExpressVPN utilizes Stealth server technology, which is enabled if you’re connecting via the automatic tunneling protocol choice and the software determines that you’re being monitored. Although this feature is not promoted that much, it works reliably and makes ExpressVPN a favorite among users in China.
Best VPN for China
Keeping communications available all the time is quite important for any VPN, which is why these two providers are taking customer support seriously. 24/7 live chat, email communication, and various guides are accessible for users of both VPNs. There’s no need to have an account for live chat so it’s always possible to reach out and get some quick assistance.
Best VPN by category
|Speed and servers||Loses❌||Wins✔️|
|Total wins||1 out of 9||4 out of 9|
Astrill VPN vs Express VPN – which is better?
It should be no surprise that the face-off between these two was fairly close. But with a collection of small victories, ExpressVPN came out on top.
It was surprising to see Lightway outperform WireGuard in terms of speed. It appears that ExpressVPN has put a lot of effort into their proprietary protocol. ExpressVPN’s huge number of servers and RAM-only technology make it very secure as well.
Speaking of which, the duo is on the same page when it comes to security. Some technical features overlap, but each provider has their own unique way of dealing with various security and privacy obstacles.
Astrill VPN is a bit lacking in the privacy and compatibility departments. ExpressVPN went the extra mile and had their privacy practices independently audited, while their software is also compatible with a wider array of devices.
Streaming worked without any issues with both VPNs. And Astrill VPN did manage to secure a victory in the torrenting category by having a SOCKS5 proxy. Finally, both VPNs are fairly reliable for use in China and customer support is readily available.
Astrill VPN would be a solid choice if it wasn’t so expensive. Plus the lack of a refund policy is quite a red flag. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN is quite expensive too, but their great performance can justify it and at least they have a money-back guarantee.
Is ExpressVPN good in China?
Yes, Express VPN works quite reliably in China thanks to their stealth server technology. It activates automatically when the software detects that the connection is being monitored.
Is ExpressVPN banned in China?
Most VPN providers, ExpressVPN included, are banned by the Chinese government because these apps make online surveillance impossible. However, this isn’t something that foreign tourists should worry about.
Can I watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?
Yes, ExpressVPN works very well with Netflix and at unblocking geo-restricted content from a lot of countries. Their fast connection speeds will also allow you to watch HD and 4K content without any problems.
Is Astrill VPN a good option?
Astrill is good, but slightly overpriced and with no refund policy. You’d be better off trying out something else first.
Does Astrill work with Netflix?
Yes, Astrill VPN works with Netflix. However, their speeds are not great and they’re overpriced if streaming is a priority.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.