Last update: 02.15.2019
ExpressVPN is probably the best tool on the market. It has great speed, security, performance, and support…if you can afford it.
ExpressVPN has long been one of the front runners on the VPN market. This one has it all: strong security, great performance, intuitive apps and professional customer support to ensure users remain happy with the service.
The company behind this stellar VPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands – a location with no data retention laws and outside the 14 Eyes group. History has already proven that the service keeps no connection/activity logs.
With 2,000 servers scattered across the globe, ExpressVPN is one of the most important and versatile tools of the market, but it doesn’t come cheap.
Is ExpressVPN safe to use?
Encryption and tunneling protocols
Encryption and tunneling protocols
The VPN uses AES-256-CBC encryption to obscure your data flows. This is currently standard practice at the top tier and is impossible to breach using contemporary technology. The certification process employs a 4096-bit RSA handshake, and the hash is authenticated using SHA-512. To put it in layman’s terms – this makes your data practically indecipherable.
ExpressVPN offers a selection of solid security protocols. In most situations, you will probably use OpenVPN (through UDP or TCP) because it provides the best mix of performance and security. However, this protocol is not available on all devices, which is why you’ll also have the choice of SSTP, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, as well as IPsec and IKEv2 on iOS devices. The default setting is to “automatically pick the protocol most appropriate for your network” (most likely OpenVPN).
Does it leak?
To prevent your identity from being exposed in the event of connection drops, ExpressVPN has a feature called the “Network Lock.” Within the industry, this is colloquially known as the kill switch – if your VPN connection is interrupted, the Network Lock will terminate all traffic.
VPN services are susceptible to various kinds of leaks – DNS leaks, IPv6 leaks, WebRTC leaks, the list goes on. ExpressVPN has features addressing all these risks. The network has private, zero-knowledge, encrypted DNS servers and DNS 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.
The company behind ExpressVPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This puts it outside the scope of the 5/9/14 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.
Not convinced? Well, how about this:
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 some free advertising for ExpressVPN’s no logs policy.
If you’re worried about visiting their site or are unable to reach their regular homepage, the VPN has a .onion site. Finally, to avoid financial records you can pay for their services using Bitcoin.
Speed and performance
Perhaps it is only natural that a VPN with 2,000+ servers in 148 locations across 94 countries would have great speeds across the board. So just how fast is ExpressVPN? We ran some tests for this ExpressVPN review in 3 different locations and found that it’s very fast on average.
First, we tested our connection speed without a VPN:
Then, we connected to a series of different locations and ran the test again:
USA server speed results
Netherlands speed results
Singapore speed results
Australia speed results
As you can see, the results are consistent across the board. But you should do your own speed test to see if the program does well in your location, with your connection and hardware!
How to install it
Installing the app is a breeze. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to the ExpressVPN website, hover over Products and choose your platform
- Click Download App (or, if you haven’t created an account yet – do so through Get ExpressVPN), and Save File
- Once the installer has downloaded, run it from your browser or find it in your download folder and then run it.
- Windows will ask: Do want to allow this app to make changes to your device? Choose Yes
- Once the installer does its job, you’ll be met with the following screen, following which you will complete the installation (Windows will again ask you to allow the app to make changes to your device)
To subscribe, the website will ask you to choose one of three pricing plans, create an account, and pay for the service.
How to use ExpressVPN
Once the installation is complete, you can have a look at the client. The first thing you’ll have to do is enter the activation code, which you will find on the subscriptions page of the ExpressVPN website.
What will strike you immediately is the minimal design of the Windows client – just a large connection button, a smaller hamburger menu button at the top left for more options, and the “Smart Location”/”Choose Location” buttons.
There is no default server the VPN will connect to, but it does offer the Smart Location feature, which will calculate the best server based on download speed, latency, and distance. If you decide to choose a server from the list, the speed test will help you find the most relevant choices.
We found that, if anything, the app may actually be too simple – customization options are somewhat limited. Nonetheless, the most important choices are still there.
You can pick your desired server, choose the security protocol, manage the Network Lock (kill switch), turn IPv6 and DNS leak protection on or off, set up split tunneling, etc.
Apps and extensions
ExpressVPN has clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, as well as for routers.
You’ve already heard about the Windows client. The ExpressVPN Mac client is almost identical in both appearance and functionality. Both of these share one very important function to make your VPN life easier – Split Tunneling.
This sci-fi-sounding term refers to the ability to choose which data flow goes where. For example, let’s say you want to use torrents discretely, but would rather do everything else through a regular connection. With split tunneling, you can make ExpressVPN send only uTorrent traffic through a VPN tunnel.
The ExpressVPN Android app, available for Android 4.2+, can either be found on Google Play or downloaded directly as an .apk file found on their website.
The look stays the same, while the functionality is only slightly different.
One of the main differences is that Android supports fewer security protocols. However, the most important one – OpenVPN – is still available. In general, the ExpressVPN Android client seems to be almost as secure as the desktop versions.
The ExpressVPN iOS client (for iPhone and iPad) looks pretty much the same as ExpressVPN for Android.
It doesn’t support all the security protocols available on the desktop either, but otherwise, security seems good.
Usually, VPN providers don’t pay too much attention to Linux users. This makes hardcore tech people understandably upset and they flood comment sections to no avail. Well, ExpressVPN Linux is a thing – there are custom apps for Ubuntu and Fedora.
You will find browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari as well. These are not fully autonomous – rather they let you control ExpressVPN straight from your browser of choice.
Finally, there’s the custom ExpressVPN router app, which makes using their VPN on the router level a lot more straightforward.
The advantages of using your VPN at the router level
There are several bonuses when using the service on routers:
- You will never have to worry about forgetting to connect.
- It’s a good way to bypass the 3 simultaneous connection limitation. The router is just 1 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.
ExpressVPN for Netflix
Express will allow you to watch Netflix regardless of where you are located. There are plenty of servers to choose from in the United States and other Netflix-critical areas, such as the Netherlands. We tried several, and they all worked without fail. In addition, the focus on performance means your streams will look almost as good as using a regular connection.
Using ExpressVPN SmartDNS, you’ll also have access to the MediaStreamer feature. This will let you watch on more or less any device (Amazon Firestick, PS4, Xbox, etc.). Finally, ExpressVPN Kodi is definitely a thing—although there’s no custom app, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better for Kodi.
ExpressVPN for torrenting
There are generally three routes VPN service providers take with regard to P2P: 1) block all P2P traffic; 2) block P2P traffic on some servers; 3) allow P2P traffic everywhere. ExpressVPN falls into the third category.
Additionally, the VPN’s strong security features (particularly the kill switch) and absence of leaks makes it great for torrenting in countries where copyrights are robustly enforced. Torrenters will also appreciate that this service has no bandwidth limit and the speeds are great.
Perhaps the only thing lacking is that ExpressVPN does not offer a free SOCKS5 proxy, but the split tunneling function partially makes up for it.
ExpressVPN works 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, this VPN will do the job. You can even get it from their .onion page to avoid being seen entering the “shop.”
Yet there’s good reason for some 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 Express functions in China reliably, the absence of a stealth protocol makes it potentially less secure.
ExpressVPN has support worthy of an industry leader. It will please both those who prefer dealing with issues themselves and those who would rather ask for assistance. You will find:
- An extensive list of troubleshooting guides
- An Internet Privacy How-to guide page
- Support tickets
- A 24/7 live chat
There will always be cracks in the support system, but with ExpressVPN these seem to be minimal.
The service is on the expensive side of the market. Here are the pricing plan options:
- 1-month plan for multiple devices (up to 3): $12.95
- 6-month plan for multiple devices (up to 3): $59.95 ($9.99/month)
- 1-year plan for multiple devices (up to 3): $99.95 ($8.32/month)
All pricing plans offer the same features, so you won’t feel forced into a more expensive deal. There is no ExpressVPN free version, lifetime subscription and no free trial for the desktop versions. With that said, the provider does offer a 30-day no questions asked money-back guarantee. While we haven’t tested it, all sources seem to suggest the refund comes quickly!
Each subscription allows 3 simultaneous connections. It sounds great, but in reality, that’s not much and most top VPN services will let you use a bigger number of devices at any given time.
Bottom line of our ExpressVPN review
In terms of quality, there is no question that Express is one of the best. Its security is as great as its speed test performance, and you’ll have someone to help you troubleshoot 24/7. Power users may want more advanced options to tinker with, but for most, the only real drawback will be the high cost.
If you’re looking for top-notch security, great speeds, and awesome entertainment options, ExpressVPN will deliver!