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I tested ExpressVPN hoping to find the best VPN service on the market. For a frequent traveler, a VPN tool fit for any purpose is essential. ExpressVPN often gets praised as just that sort of VPN, but so do many others.
Is ExpressVPN safe to use? Does it offer top-of-the-line AES-256 encryption? Can I stream Netflix with it? How good is it for torrenting? And finally, how fast is ExpressVPN – really? After all, this is not the cheapest VPN service out there, and I want to get my money’s worth.
I explore these and other questions in this new ExpressVPN review, so stick around.
Is it safe to use ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is one of the most secure and private VPN services on the market. To protect user anonymity, VPNs must consider many different aspects. Few do this as well as ExpressVPN, which has a particularly rich set of cybersecurity features.
Encryption and tunneling protocols of ExpressVPN
With ExpressVPN, your data is protected by the strongest encryption on the market – AES-256. This is an unbreakable cipher, currently used by government institutions, banks, and the military.
In other words, your data is safe even if a hacker (or the NSA) intercepts your connection. 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is simply too much to handle for brute force attacks.
ExpressVPN uses the following tunneling protocols (not every one of them is available on each platform):
- OpenVPN (UDP and TCP)
These security protocols are responsible for creating encrypted connections between you and the VPN server. OpenVPN (default on most apps) and IKEv2/IPsec are the primary tunneling protocols – they will be enough for most users.
Of the other available options, take care not to use PPTP unless you know what you’re doing. This is an outdated tunneling protocol with weak cryptography and dangerous vulnerabilities.
What is more, recently ExpressVPN launched its new proprietary protocol called Lightway. It is now available to beta users on the Android app only, but more platforms should be supported shortly.
With the new protocol, users can expect both – unbeatable security, and improved performance.
To summarize, you can rest assured that ExpressVPN is one of the most secure services available.
Does ExpressVPN have a reliable kill switch?
The ExpressVPN kill switch is known as the Network Lock. If you’re doing something sensitive and your VPN connection drops, the kill switch will stop all traffic and protect your real IP address from leaking.
The kill switch is a crucial security feature – any serious service should have it.
You can use the Network Lock feature on all desktop apps and routers. To activate it, go to the General settings menu and tick the first box under the Network Lock section. You can also make it ignore LAN traffic or specific apps – some will find this very convenient. There’s also an unbranded kill switch for Android, in addition to its native Always-on VPN feature. Unfortunately, there was no kill switch for iOS at the moment of writing this article.
ExpressVPN‘s Network Lock is a very reliable kill switch. I tried several ways to interrupt my VPN connection, but the app managed to protect my identity every time.
IP and DNS leak protection
VPN services are susceptible to various kinds of leaks – DNS, IPv6, WebRTC leaks, the list goes on. ExpressVPN has features addressing all these risks. The virtual private network has private, zero-knowledge, encrypted DNS servers, and leak protection measures built into the apps and extensive tests reveal no leaks of any kind.
As the image above shows, ExpressVPN doesn’t leak your IP, WebRTC requests, or DNS queries.
To prove their commitment to a leak-free service, ExpressVPN offers various leak testing tools on their official website. Under the Products section of the site, you will find an IP leak test, a DNS leak test, and a WebRTC leak test. Give them a try to make sure your security has not been compromised.
Is ExpressVPN owned by China?
You can find rumors on the web about ExpressVPN’s ownership. Some claim that it’s owned by a Chinese company, while others go that far to say that it belongs to the Chinese government. To put it simply, none of these statements have any backing.
The company behind ExpressVPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This puts it outside the scope of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence country group. It is not subject to EU data protection laws or the far-flung reach of US Intelligence. While the BVI is a British overseas territory, it enjoys a high level of autonomy and has no data retention laws.
Operating under the jurisdiction of the BVI allows ExpressVPN to maintain a strong user-privacy standard. For example, they don’t have to collect sensitive user data or honor subpoenas from the US (and other Western states).
Does ExpressVPN keep logs?
This bold claim has already been proven on at least two occasions:
At the end of 2017, Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server. They were hoping to obtain information related to the killing of a Russian ambassador in Ankara. Unfortunately for them, all this did was give ExpressVPN some free advertising.
The no-logging promises were also independently audited by PWC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) – one of the most respected auditing firms in the world. After rigorous testing, they were able to confirm the truth behind ExpressVPN’s claims about their logging practices.
ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer Technology
In April of 2019, ExpressVPN announced their TrustedServer Technology. It eliminates the need to use hard drives on VPN servers, which instead run purely on RAM. All software is reinstalled every time the server starts, so even if some hacker manages to install a backdoor on ExpressVPN’s server, it would be deleted after reboot.
In comparison, traditional server software requires constant updates. This poses a risk that not all servers have the latest updates, which can be a nuisance to check given the ever-growing number of servers that VPN providers have. In the case of TrustedServer, every server runs the latest software, minimizing the risk of running outdated code.
TrustedServer reduces the risk that user data can fall into the wrong hands. Whereas the data on regular servers has to be deleted periodically, on ExpressVPN servers it gets destroyed automatically with each reboot — yet another example of privacy by design approach.
How to use Tor with ExpressVPN?
While ExpressVPN doesn’t have a “Tor over VPN” feature embedded in its apps, you can still use Tor with ExpressVPN. All you have to do is connect to a preferred server and launch the Tor browser. Congratulations – now you’re protected like never before!
There are cases when you might switch the sequence and go for “VPN over Tor” instead. This way, your traffic stays hidden from the exit node. However, ExpressVPN doesn’t support this option at the moment of writing this review.
ExpressVPN is also one of the few providers that have a Tor (.onion) website. If you’re worried about visiting the ExpressVPN website or are unable to reach it, you can visit their Tor website instead. This is useful if you want to unblock a VPN website or if you want to buy a service anonymously.
The onion website is only reachable via the anonymous Tor network. In other words, it’s very difficult to find out you’re using a VPN if you got it off the ExpressVPN Tor site.
ExpressVPN users benefit from one of the best server lists currently available. With 3000+ servers in 90+ countries, one would be hard-pressed to find a more global coverage. No matter where you are, you can almost be sure that the fastest and the closest server is an ExpressVPN server.
Most continents are more than adequately covered, with a whopping 60+ server locations available in Europe alone. Asia and North America are also popular locations, with more than 30+ server locations in each of these continents. Central America and the Caribbean are perhaps the most under-represented locations. But, at least these locations haven’t been overlooked entirely.
Due to their speed and reliability, ExpressVPN servers are suitable for 4K streaming, online gaming, and other demanding tasks. What’s more, you’ll be able to unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming platforms in multiple countries. ExpressVPN servers are also P2P-friendly, with no bandwidth limits and excellent security, thanks to a reliable kill switch and no leaks.
ExpressVPN Smart Location feature automatically selects the best server for you. It’s especially helpful if you’re in Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. The same applies if you find yourself in China or another country that restricts internet access.
The feature is really easy to use. All you have to do is click on the big VPN On button. ExpressVPN router app will connect you to Smart Location automatically. Of course, you can always pick a location on your own.
All ExpressVPN server locations are accessible with OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol. However, if you want to use L2TP/IPSec or, god forbid, PPTP, I advise checking on ExpressVPN website which countries support those tunneling protocols.
The majority of ExpressVPN servers are physical, which means they are in the same country where it’s IP address is registered. However, sometimes it might be challenging to get and maintain a server in a remote location. In such cases, VPN providers may choose a virtual server, which is in another country.
Using virtual servers is universally shunned if they make a large portion of the provider’s server fleet. In fact, some VPN providers hide the fact that they use such servers which cost less to maintain but are generally slower. In contrast, less than 5% of ExpressVPN servers are virtual, and the company lists all of them openly on their website.
In short, you probably won’t be able to get an IP of those countries if it weren’t for the virtual servers. With the help of them, ExpressVPN gives you a chance to connect to Bhutan, Cambodia, Mongolia, or Taiwan, to name but a few.
ExpressVPN speed review
ExpressVPN has some of the best speeds on the market.
However, where ExpressVPN impressed me most is consistency. I ran speed tests with servers on four different continents and got very similar download speeds across the board.
Perhaps with such a server fleet, this is only natural. So, just how fast is ExpressVPN?
First, I tested my baseline connection speed without a VPN from Europe. Then I checked my speed while connected to the ExpressVPN servers in Germany, the US, and Australia. Here are my results:
|Average speed||91 Mbps|
|Germany server||171 Mbps (32% drop-off)|
|US server||165 Mbps (34% drop-off)|
|Australia server||109 Mbps (56% drop-off)|
|Germany server||75 Mbps (68% drop-off)|
|US server||12 Mbps (95% drop-off)|
|Australia server||11 Mbps (95% drop-off)|
|Germany server||27 ms|
|US server||114 ms|
|Australia server||320 ms|
How do these numbers translate into something that makes sense? Well, to put it into perspective, you’ll be able to stream 4K in most regions. The latency also should be low enough for online gaming. As for the torrenting, downloading a 10 GB file would take around 15 minutes.
As you can see, the download speeds in Europe and the US are similar despite the distance. The drop-off in Australia was also lower than I expected. That’s not the case with the upload, though, but this metric is not that important in the first place.
After doing the speed test, I can say that ExpressVPN has great performance. Yet speeds depend on many variables, so testing for yourself is a good idea.
Does ExpressVPN support my device?
Most likely, yes: ExpressVPN has apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Android TV, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, Fire TV & Fire Stick, and Routers. There are also ExpressVPN web browser plug-ins for Chrome and Firefox.
Fortunately, one ExpressVPN subscription will let you connect with five devices at a time. This means you’ll probably be able to use the service on all your devices with just one subscription.
Most ExpressVPN apps have an almost identical interface, focusing on simplicity. The home screen has only a few buttons, and all the features have clear explanations. While experienced users might miss customization options, newbies definitely won’t feel lost.
ExpressVPN desktop apps: Windows, macOS, and Linux
ExpressVPN apps for Windows and Mac are very similar. They have the same interface and features, including the most crucial ones: AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, a kill switch, and Split Tunneling.
The home screen of each app only has a large connection button, a smaller hamburger menu button at the top left for more options, and the “Smart Location”/”Choose Location” buttons.
Crucially, ExpressVPN for Mac is just as secure as it is for Windows. Rigorous tests show no leaks with either app – as expected with the VPN’s solid security suite. Typically, VPN apps for Windows are less secure than they are for Mac, but ExpressVPN ensures this is not the case.
The Linux app of ExpressVPN is available on Ubuntu and Fedora. Rather than being a complete graphic interface, the Linux version of ExpressVPN is command-line based. Still, this is more than most VPN providers offer.
ExpressVPN mobile apps: Android and iOS (iPhone & iPad)
The simple, intuitive design of ExpressVPN makes it the ideal VPN app for mobile devices – Android and iOS. With only a few caveats, ExpressVPN for Android and iOS are just as secure as the desktop versions.
Android users will have to use the native Android kill switch (Always-on VPN), and both apps offer fewer tunneling protocols, but nevertheless, they remain among the safest on the market. Unlike many VPN providers, ExpressVPN doesn’t like to water down the features for mobile devices.
The ExpressVPN Android app can either be found on Google Play or downloaded directly as an APK file located on their website. It uses OpenVPN – a top-notch VPN protocol.
The iOS app is available via the App Store. iPhone and iPad users can choose between the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols, both of which have AES-256 encryption. Unfortunately, ExpressVPN is yet to implement a kill switch in its iOS app.
ExpressVPN for web browsers: Chrome and Firefox
You will find browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. These are not fully autonomous – instead they let you control ExpressVPN straight from your browser of choice.
The browser extension can also help users spoof their HTML5 location, features HTTPS Everywhere, and blocks WebRTC leaks, among other features.
ExpressVPN for Chrome and Firefox works on Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can also download the former for Brave and Vivaldi as these are also Chromium-based browsers. It has been translated into 16 languages and downloaded more than 800,000 times, leaving NordVPN behind. The Firefox version has ten times fewer users, but that’s not surprising given the disparity between them.
ExpressVPN Router app: unlimited connections
Using the ExpressVPN app for routers solves quite a few issues:
- You will never have to worry about forgetting to connect.
- It’s a good way to bypass ExpressVPN’s five simultaneous connection limit. The router is just one device, but it works as a funnel for all the traffic that goes through your wifi.
- It’s a good way to make use of the ExpressVPN Split Tunneling feature. Used on the router client, split tunneling allows you to split your traffic by device rather than by app.
You can find a list of router models that support the ExpressVPN router firmware on their website. There are some things you should consider before picking a router for your VPN service—you can read more about it on their website.
Other platforms and ExpressVPN MediaStreamer
If there’s no custom ExpressVPN app for your device, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the service. You can still access the network via manual configuration, freeware OpenVPN apps, or MediaStreamer.
This way, you will be able to use ExpressVPN on game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch), SmartTVs (Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, LG Smart TV), and other platforms, such as Chromecast, Roku, routers, NAS, Kodi, and Nvidia Shield.
ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer is a SmartDNS tool. You can use it on your Android TV, Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick, Apple TV, and other devices. It’s useful for unblocking restricted content when there is no need for encryption. Do not use it if you’re doing something risky!
Streaming with ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is a great option for streaming. It unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming platforms.
What’s more, its MediaStreamer feature (Smart DNS) will let you watch your favorite movies and shows on a wide range of devices, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick, and game consoles.
Finally, ExpressVPN Kodi is definitely a thing—although there’s no custom app, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better for Kodi.
Can ExpressVPN unblock Netflix?
ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix USA regardless of your location. There are plenty of servers to choose from in the United States and other Netflix-critical areas, such as the Netherlands. Even if you’re unable to unblock the stream from the first attempt, simply try another server in that location. ExpressVPN has plenty of them, and chances are you’ll find the one that works.
I tried unblocking Netflix with ExpressVPN in several countries across the world, and they all worked without fail. Also, the focus on performance means your streams will look almost as good as using a regular connection – the speeds were enough for 4K (Ultra HD) across the board.
How to set up ExpressVPN on Roku
You can pair ExpressVPN and Roku together, even though there’s no dedicated app for it. In fact, it’s not supported by MediaStreamer either. Nevertheless, you can still protect your Roku device with a VPN-enabled virtual router or generic router.
For this, you’ll need a US Roku account. Therefore, if you already have one that’s registered outside the US, you should do a factory reset and change the region. Afterward, you can easily set up Roku with ExpressVPN using the following step-by-step tutorial.
When you have your Roku device ready and protected, you can start casting from your devices. However, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work because casting is often disabled on those platforms that use a VPN. Instead, you can try screen mirroring from Windows, Android, Google Chrome, and other sources.
Does ExpressVPN unblock Amazon Prime and other platforms?
ExpressVPN unblocks Amazon Prime Video, in addition to Hulu, Disney+, HBO, and BBC iPlayer. Additionally, it works great with the Kodi media streamer. You don’t have to configure anything – just launch ExpressVPN on Windows, Mac, Android, Chromebook, or iOS and watch Kodi to heart’s content.
Another reason why ExpressVPN is excellent for streaming these different platforms is its MediaStreamer feature (Smart DNS). Most VPNs unblock Amazon Prime and other content libraries only if you use the app. In contrast, ExpressVPN allows you to watch your favorite movies and shows on a wide range of devices like Apple TV or game consoles that are not getting a dedicated app anytime soon.
Does ExpressVPN support torrenting?
Yes, torrenting and P2P is allowed on all ExpressVPN servers. This means you should always be able to find one that’s not overcrowded and situated nearby.
Additionally, ExpressVPN’s strong security features (particularly the kill switch) and the absence of leaks make it great for torrenting in countries that strictly enforce copyrights. Even if a VPN connection fails, your real identity will stay hidden from the government or your ISP.
Torrenters will also appreciate that this service has no bandwidth limit and the speeds are great. Moreover, if you want to save bandwidth, ExpressVPN’s Split Tunneling feature will let you choose to protect only your torrent app.
Perhaps the only thing negative thing I can say is the fact that ExpressVPN does not offer a free SOCKS5 proxy. However, the Split Tunneling feature mostly makes up for it.
Does ExpressVPN work in China?
Yes, the Great Firewall of China is no match for ExpressVPN – at least for now.
Whether it’s censorship or more sinister things you want to avoid in China, ExpressVPN will do the job. You can even get the subscription from their .onion page without anyone seeing you entering the “shop.”
Yet there’s some reason for skepticism with regard to ExpressVPN in China. Namely, the service doesn’t have a “stealth protocol.” China is known to employ Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) – an efficient method for finding VPN traffic on the network. A stealth protocol helps to hinder the effectiveness of DPI by scrambling the traffic. Although reports maintain that ExpressVPN functions in China reliably, the absence of a stealth protocol makes it potentially less secure.
Support: live chat, email, extensive guides
ExpressVPN has great customer support. It will please both those who prefer dealing with issues themselves and those who would rather ask for assistance. You will find:
- 24/7 live chat
- Support tickets
- Troubleshooting guides
- ExpressVPN Internet Privacy How-to guide page
Quite recently ExpressVPN added the support articles within the apps for both iOS and Android clients. These step-by-step instructions are meant to speed up the problem-solving, as well as ensure safer user experience.
There will always be cracks in the support system, but with ExpressVPN, these seem to be minimal. The customer service agents available via the chat are knowledgeable and quick to respond.
When I couldn’t get an answer the quick way, the self-help resources on the website gave me a way out. There are guides and FAQs available in English, French, Dutch, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. I also tried submitting a few tickets and got my answers within hours that were both detailed and concise.
To sum up, you should contact ExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chat first and try other methods only if the chat is unavailable for some reason. This is the fastest way to get help.
How much does ExpressVPN cost?
ExpressVPN is very expensive, even though the price is justified. If you use a VPN as often as I do, you will see that you can get almost the same feature package for half the price.
ExpressVPN has the following pricing plan options:
- 1-month plan: $12.95/month
- 6-month plan: $59.95 ($9.99/month)
- 1-year plan: $99.95 ($8.32/month)
All ExpressVPN plans offer the same features (AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN, DNS leak protection, kill switch, etc.), so you won’t feel forced into a more expensive deal.
There is no free version, lifetime subscription, and no free trial for the desktop versions. With that said, ExpressVPN does offer an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee. While I haven’t tested it, all sources seem to suggest the refund comes quickly!
Each subscription allows five simultaneous connections. This means you can probably get away with one subscription for your whole family or team.
Is ExpressVPN worth your money?
No, even though ExpressVPN is one of the best. In today’s VPN market, you can find a secure and transparent VPN service for a much better price. To get the idea, I suggest checking out our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
Is ExpressVPN the best VPN? In terms of quality, there is no question that ExpressVPN is at the top of the market. Its security is as great as its speed test performance, and you’ll have someone to help you troubleshoot 24/7.
Those who are only looking for an entertainment tool will also appreciate ExpressVPN because of its ability to unblock online content and support for P2P (torrenting) traffic.
Power users may want more advanced options to tinker with, but for most, the high cost is probably the only serious issue.
How can I get ExpressVPN for free?
Unfortunately, there’s no legal way to get ExpressVPN for free. This service never had a free version and ditched the free trial for all platforms but iOS and Android. Therefore, if you have one of those, you can try ExpressVPN for free for one week. Desktop users can sign up for the service and use its 30-day money-back guarantee.
How much is ExpressVPN per month?
ExpressVPN prices start at $6.67/month. Yes, it’s not a cheap service by any means and to get the mentioned offer, you’ll need to sign up for one year. The six-month plan is $9.99/month while one month costs $12.95/month.
How to install ExpressVPN on Fire Stick?
Installing ExpressVPN on Amazon Fire Stick, Fire TV, or Fire TV Cube is easy because it has a dedicated app. All you have to do is to get ExpressVPN, download the app on your Amazon Fire device, and sign in. Now you can pick a VPN server and start streaming.
Unfortunately, the 1st generation of Amazon Fire devices is not supported either by ExpressVPN or any other provider. If you have any questions, check our dedicated page on installing ExpressVPN on Fire Stick.
How many devices does ExpressVPN support?
ExpressVPN supports five simultaneous connections. If that turns out to be not enough, I advise installing the router app. This way, every device behind the router will stay protected.
How to cancel ExpressVPN subscription?
If you decide to cancel your ExpressVPN subscription, make sure to do so before the renewal or before the 30-day money-back guarantee expires. It’s not possible to do this from the app, so you should go straight to the ExpressVPN website and log in.
In case you paid with a credit card or PayPal, go to Subscription > Manage Settings > Automatic Renewal Settings > Turn off automatic renewal.
If you paid either with BitPay or Paymentwall, you won’t see the Manage Settings option. That is because your subscription automatically ends and is not removed.
Who owns ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN hasn’t disclosed who owns this service. All we know is that it’s registered in the British Virgin Island, a country with privacy-friendly laws. Although there are some claims about ExpressVPN’s ties with China, there are no solid arguments that would lead us to believe this.
How to watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?
Watching Netflix with ExpressVPN is easy. All you have to do is turn on the VPN and connect to the desired location. You should be able to access not only Netflix US but other libraries as well.
Are you feeling sad because ExpressVPN doesn’t have an app for your device? No worries! Chances are you’ll be able to use its MediaStreamer feature, which supports a wide range of Netflix-friendly platforms, such as smart TVs, game consoles, Chromecast, or Roku.
How to use ExpressVPN in China?
I highly recommend installing ExpressVPN before visiting China. That is because its website is blocked, just like any other VPN-related resource. Once you’re there, simply turn on the app, connect to a server (Hong Kong, Taiwan, or US West Coast) and access the now unblocked content.
Which is better, ExpressVPN or NordVPN?
This is a tough one to answer in a few sentences. Each provider has its pros and cons, which may or may not be a deal-breaker for you. That’s why I recommend reading our comprehensive NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison.
How to get ExpressVPN on PS4?
ExpressVPN doesn’t have an app for PlayStation 4 or any other game console. However, you can use its MediaStreamer feature that acts as a Smart DNS and unblocks multiple streaming platforms. Another option is to install ExpressVPN on your router. This way, it will protect all devices that use your home wifi because MediaStreamer doesn’t encrypt your internet traffic.