Last update: 07.18.2018
ExpressVPN is a bit like a Mercedes sedan – fast, secure, and somewhat expensive. Probably the best tool on the market if you can afford it. Read our ExpressVPN review to learn more!
ExpressVPN has long been one of the frontrunners on the VPN market. This one is very legit: it offers strong security, has good performance, is easy to use and provides great customer support to ensure that remains the case.
With AES-256-CBC data encryption and a 4096-bit RSA handshake, there’s not much more one can hope for. The network has private, zero-knowledge DNS servers to make sure there are no DNS leaks. In fact, tests for our ExpressVPN review show neither DNS leaks nor IPv6 leaks. The provider is registered in the British Virgin Islands – a location with no data retention laws and outside the 14-eyes group. History has already provided evidence for their claims about not keeping any connection/activity logs.
Express has over 2,000 servers across the globe, even covering regions less known for their internet infrastructure. Currently, the list of countries with ExpressVPN servers consists of 94 entries – one of the largest numbers on the market. This means that despite very good security, it’s also a fast service. This is great for things like watching Netflix, which you’ll be able to do anywhere in the world.
Those without Windows PCs can get ExpressVPN apps for their Mac, Linux, or iOS/Android devices. The clients are easy to use and there’s a 24/7 live chat function to help with technical difficulties.
You can get all of this and more by choosing one of their three pricing plans, which are on the expensive side. Consequently, this is by far the VPN’s biggest drawback. There’s no free trial either, but if you don’t like the service you can use their 100% 30-day money-back guarantee.
This is one of the best VPNs on the market if you need great speed and security, and don’t mind paying a little bit extra. Read our full ExpressVPN review to learn why.
Is ExpressVPN safe to use?
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. One of the primary concerns for anyone in need of a premium VPN service is online privacy and security. There is a wide array of reasons to be worried online. Perhaps you are trying to avoid the gaze of a repressive government, or perhaps you just want to torrent a new show and would rather not attract the authorities. For these and other uses, VPN has become almost indispensable. As our tests for the ExpressVPN review show, this is a highly secure product whose place at the top of the market is rightfully earned.
So, do they keep logs? Let’s start at the beginning. The company behind ExpressVPN is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). This puts it outside the scope of the “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.
- Apps and app versions successfully activated
- Dates (not times) when connected to the VPN service
- Choice of VPN server location
- Total amount (in MB) of data transferred per day
Still unconvinced? 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 the VPN’s no logs policy.
Express has several of the most important security protocols readily available. In most situations, you will probably use OpenVPN (through UDP or TCP), because it provides the best mix of performance and security. This protocol is not available on all devices, therefore you are given the choice of using SSTP, PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, as well as IPsec and IKEv2 on iOS devices. As we saw during the testing phase for the ExpressVPN review, the default setting is to automatically choose the most appropriate security protocol (most likely OpenVPN).
One of the trickier VPN security questions is “What happens if your VPN connection drops?” Does your real IP become visible to those you were just hiding it from? In many cases the answer to that question is “yes”, but not this time. To deal with such situations ExpressVPN has a network kill switch.
They call this function the “Network Lock”. If your VPN connection drops, the Network Lock will terminate all traffic. This is a very important feature because occasional connection drops are an unavoidable part of using VPNs. For this ExpressVPN review, we tried to stress the feature using various interruptions and found it to be impenetrable. This is brilliant news if you are interested in maximum security. You’ll find the kill switch feature on the Windows, Mac, Linux, and Router apps, where it is enabled by default.
Another important test for VPNs is the DNS leak test. Some services may put you in an uncomfortable situation:
Let’s say you are connected to a VPN and all your data travels through an encrypted VPN tunnel. Sounds great, but unbeknownst to you, Chrome decides to use your local DNS server to resolve the domain name. The result is that your ISP knows your browsing destination, completely defeating the purpose of VPN.
To address this concern Express has a private, zero-knowledge, encrypted DNS on each server. We have performed an extensive ExpressVPN DNS leak test and can safely say that there are no such issues. This isn’t merely a consequence of the private ExpressVPN DNS, but also due to inbuilt DNS leak protection measures.
The same can be said about IPv6 leaking, which can potentially be even more devastating. If onlookers can see your IP address, they can accurately pinpoint your location. No one wants that, regardless of how benign your activities are. ExpressVPN knows this and makes sure your real IP is nowhere to be seen.
If you’re worried about going or 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 & Performance
This is an important question because as security increases, speed falls. Fortunately, ExpressVPN is able to minimize its exposure to this issue and boast some of the best speeds on the market. Perhaps this is only natural with 2,000+ servers in 148 locations across 94 countries. The user can choose which specific server to join and Express makes the best of this fact. It provides a very helpful feature to manage speed issues – the speed test. This sorts all servers based on their Speed Index, latency, and download speed, ensuring that you always have the quickest connection possible. So, you’re secure. Your bits and bytes are in a jumble, locked under keys no one could replicate. Your identifiable data is not leaking – there’s not a hole in sight. Even the VPN doesn’t know what you’re up to. That’s all well and good, but are you fast?
ExpressVPN offers a nice selection of server locations, covering all non-permafrost continents. Recently they have increased the number of servers in Africa and the Middle East. Of course, Europe, the Americas (particularly the US), and Australia are well represented.
“So just how fast is ExpressVPN?” I hear you asking, excitedly. Objective VPN speed testing is a difficult thing to do. It requires taking note of server locations, time of day, and a whole bunch of other factors I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say we ran some tests for this ExpressVPN review and found that it’s very fast on average. But you should do your own speed test to see if the program does well in your location!
How to install it
We went through the process for our ExpressVPN review and, as usual, installing the app is no rocket science. The website will ask you to choose one of three pricing plans, create an account, and pay for the service. Afterward, you will be prompted to download the client and receive an email detailing the installation process. It’s nothing out of the ordinary – clicking “Next” a few times, choosing an installation directory, etc.
How to use ExpressVPN
Once the installation is complete, you can have a look at the client. The first thing you will have to do is enter the activation code. You will find it 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.
While using the app for our ExpressVPN review, we found that, If anything, the app may actually be too simple. This is true in a sense – you may find the room for customization limited. I feel that the most important choices are still there. You can pick the 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 & Extensions
ExpressVPN has clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, as well as for Routers.
You have 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.
Alternatively, you might want to use it for everything except, for example, a maps app that requires your real location.
There might be other reasons to consider using split tunneling. Perhaps you need access to work resources that are only available with a local connection – instead of abusing the on/off switch, you might allow that resource to use your regular connection.
Split tunneling is also a good way to conserve bandwidth. Even the fastest VPNs (ExpressVPN being one of them) lower your download/upload speeds. If your internet plan is not great, you might use VPN only for the most critical operations.
The ExpressVPN Android app, available for Android 4.2+, can either be found on Google Play or downloaded directly as a .apk file. You’ll find the ExpressVPN APK 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. 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 much the same as ExpressVPN Android.
It doesn’t support all 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. While ExpressVPN Linux is not much, it’s still more than most VPN services can say for themselves!
There‘s also the custom ExpressVPN router app, which makes using the VPN on the router level a lot more straightforward. There are several great advantages to using the service on routers:
- You will never have to worry about forgetting to connect.
- It’s a good way to bypass the 3 device limitation. The router is just 1 device, but it works as a funnel for all the traffic that goes through your wi-fi.
- 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.
Additionally, you will find browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. These are not fully autonomous – rather they let you control ExpressVPN straight from your browser of choice.
ExpressVPN for Netflix
Other entertainment platforms also use geo-blocking. Our ExpressVPN review doesn’t cover on all of them, but the VPN’s website claims it will let you use Hulu, Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, HBO Go, CBC, and NBC as well. Thus far they haven’t given us reasons to doubt them. Now that everyone’s eaten their broccoli, we can get to the cake. Yes, 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 for our ExpressVPN review, 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.
Unlimited bandwidth means you’ll be able to enjoy all those cool shows to your heart’s content.
ExpressVPN for Torrenting
The VPN’s strong security features make sure no one can know your identity. All traffic will undergo impenetrable AES-256-CBC encryption, making it useless for an interceptor. As we have already said, ExpressVPN doesn’t leak your DNS or IP, which is an important concern for many other services. Finally, ExpressVPN’s no logging policy means that even physically the authorities would not be able to find out about you. While you could probably use other ways to bypass geo-blocking for things like Netflix, torrents are more sensitive. Many countries are aggressively prosecuting BitTorrent users, which is why privacy and security are paramount.
With this service, there’s no bandwidth limit and the speeds are great. So happy swashbucklin’, me mateys!
ExpressVPN works in China!
Yes, the Great Firewall of China is no match for ExpressVPN – at least for now. The Chinese government has given users plenty of reasons to use a secure VPN, and reports indicate that many do. As of September 2017, as many as 14% of all China’s online population uses a VPN. If you’re reaching for your calculator, let me help you out – that’s around 100 million people.
Whether it’s geo-blocking or more sinister situations 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”. While we base this part of our ExpressVPN review on reports rather than tests, opinions to the contrary are hard to find.
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.
On the ExpressVPN website, you will find an extensive list of Troubleshooting guides. These are well-structured and easy to understand for experts and novices alike. There are also Setup instructions for all possible devices in case you need help getting started.
For more general information there’s the ExpressVPN blog, which covers important industry news and will give you a useful overview of current VPN/online privacy trends. In addition, they also have an Internet Privacy How-to guide page, which covers many practical privacy topics, such as “How to Defend against Online Stalkers and Doxing” or “How to Delete Your Facebook Account, Google Search History, and More”. Both resources are really above and beyond what is expected of a VPN company, and that’s refreshing.
If you can’t be bothered to browse all these pages in search of an answer, there’s customer support as well. ExpressVPN is one of a few tools on the market that offer a 24/7 live chat function. You will find it in the “Support” section of their website.
We tried running a few different queries past the support agents for our ExpressVPN review and each time received a reply within minutes. The agents were polite and seemed to know what they were doing. I should note that my questions weren’t the most complicated, so others might have a different experience.
For more complicated issues you can also contact ExpressVPN via email or open a support ticket.
There will always be cracks in the support system, but with ExpressVPN these are minimal. You can expect quick and effective answers to anything but the weirdest issues.
The service is on the expensive side of the market. There are good reasons for this price premium: security, speed, great customer service – you name it. However, with tight competition at the top, we can’t ignore that NordVPN boasts comparable features for a lower cost.
You have three pricing plans to choose from – 1 Month for $12.95, 6 Months for $59.95, or 12 Months for $99.95. No ExpressVPN lifetime subscription here! The 1-year plan claims to offer a 35% discount, but one can’t help but notice the trick. It’s 35% off $12.95, but the $9.99 monthly fee for 6 Months is somehow not a discount. Why does it have to be this way, ExpressVPN?
I’ll be the first to admit this is a minor issue. All pricing plans offer the same features, so you won’t feel forced into a more expensive deal. There is no ExpressVPN free version and no ExpressVPN free trial for the desktop versions, although you can try pestering customer support into giving you one (at your own risk). ExpressVPN does offer a 30-day no questions asked money-back guarantee. While we haven’t tested it, all sources seem to suggest the ExpressVPN refund comes quickly!
While this has only an indirect relation to price, some might ask how many devices ExpressVPN allows. The answer to that is 3. That’s not much and most top VPN services will let you use a bigger number of devices at any given time. For example, with NordVPN it’s 6, with CyberGhost it’s 7, and so on. You can counteract some of that by using the ExpressVPN router app, which should decrease the number of devices you need to 1 (at least while you’re at home).
Unlike Mac and Windows clients, iOS users can take advantage of a 7-day free trial, while Android users get a 1-day free trial.
In conclusion – ExpressVPN is well worth the money if you can afford it.
Bottom line of our ExpressVPN review
At the end of our ExpressVPN review, we feel good about recommending this tool to those who can afford it! 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. More experienced users might want more advanced options to tinker with, but for most, the only real drawback will be the stinginess. The prices are somewhat high, and the number of devices you are allowed is only 3 at a time. There’s also, unfortunately, no ExpressVPN free version or free trial. However, the program is unquestionably legit, and if none of those drawbacks is a concern – go for it. This VPN will treat you very well. And if push comes to shove, well, the ExpressVPN refund is a few lines away!