VPN Review: ExpressVPN
The insatiable appetite for internet and tracking data of all sorts has seen virtual private networks (VPNs) grow in popularity over recent years. However, the anonymity which they offer should not come at the cost of performance. Our test below shows whether ExpressVPN truly lives up to its name.
What Is ExpressVPN?
Pros and Cons
Uncomplicated app which emphasizes performance
Huge server network
Regularly conducts independent security audits
Comes with few extra features
Installation and Features
Upon registering with ExpressVPN, you receive an activation code through the program's dashboard, with which you can log in to various devices, eliminating the need to create a new username and password for each device. Your username and password are only needed when you log in through a browser. As an added layer of anonymity, it isn't necessary to verify the email address to which the authentication code is sent.
Although we limited our test to Windows and Android, the selection of supported devices is impressive, including Mac, as well as various routers and gaming consoles.
You can find a list of all dedicated VPN apps as well as installation guides for other devices on ExpressVPN's website.
After entering the activation code, the application automatically configures itself, asking only about your preferences for certain settings, such as auto-start. Once finished, you'll be on the application's main screen.
ExpressVPN has a no-frills interface: Apart from the server location and a hamburger menu, its only other feature is a prominent dark red 'start' button. There's little doubt that the app was designed with the goal of allowing its users to connect to a network as quickly and with as few distractions as possible. The only small disruption to the interface's otherwise 'clean' look comes from an ad space below the interface that cannot be closed. During testing, this promoted an ExpressVPN competition with monetary prizes.
ExpressVPN's desktop client features a minimalist design.
If you would prefer to connect to a specific server in a certain country, instead of that automatically chosen by the program, you can click on 'server location', which opens a second window. Here, a search function, a list of suggested server locations, your favorite server locations, and a complete list of all servers can be selected from. Favorites are stored in a separate list.
By default servers are sorted by region, however, it is possible to mark your favorites.
Specific server categories, such as those well-suited for streaming or P2P filesharing, aren't offered. ExpressVPN also doesn't provide any information about server performance next to the servers appearing on the list, however, through the main menu, you can run a speed test that will offer such insight. This test can assess all locations, recommended locations, or be limited to specific regions. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to create a user-defined test or evaluate your favorites. In this area, ExpressVPN would definitely benefit from greater flexibility.
The speed test provides insight into server latency and download speeds.
All further settings can be managed by clicking on 'options', the menu for which will open in a new window. Alongside familiar features such as a kill switch ("Network Lock") and protocol options (more on these in the "Security and Privacy" section of this report), you can also install browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
These extensions are nice additions for users who prefer to use the app directly in their browsers, offering additional security features like HTTPS Everywhere, which ensures that you automatically connect to the secure HTTPS version of a website whenever possible.
In terms of appearance, ExpressVPN's browser extension is identical to its desktop client, however, it also offers some additional features.
ExpressVPN also offers split tunneling, which makes it possible to limit your VPN connection to specific apps, or to exclude certain programs from using the connection.
With split tunneling, it's possible to select which apps can use your VPN tunnel.
We tested ExpressVPN's Android app which is, in essence, identical to its desktop counterpart. As a result, it is just as simple and intuitive to operate. In the center, it features a prominent red 'connect' button, and connections can be established as quickly in the app as on the desktop. The only question that arises here is why the mobile app does not have an integrated option to select from one's favorite servers: Alongside 'auto-location', you can also select from servers you've recently used.
You can also view statistics about your VPN usage and information regarding your IP location. Split tunneling and a kill switch are also available to smartphone users.
It doesn't take long to get used to ExpressVPN's smartphone app.
ExpressVPN is straightforward and streamlined: The app's design has been optimized for speed, and its additional features are just the figurative cherries on top. These encompass a number of important features which one expects from a VPN provider, however, those searching for something extravagant should look elsewhere. We could do without a lot of the bells and whistles on offer, such as the adblocker and antivirus scanner, and would much rather be able to create multi-hop connections instead. As things stand, ExpressVPN doesn't have any unique selling points.
For anyone who wants to quickly and easily protect themselves using a VPN either on their desktop or elsewhere, ExpressVPN's sleek user interface serves precisely this purpose.
Score: 4.3 / 5
ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 servers in 160 VPN server centers located in 94 countries. Along these dimensions, the provider has few competitors. However, when it comes to pure server power, NordVPN still outmuscles ExpressVPN. At the same time, owing to the greater variety of the latter's server locations, ExpressVPN's servers are less-burdened.
Alongside the usual presence in Europe and North America, ExpressVPN also has a number of servers in Asia, South America, and Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Algeria, and Egypt), the last of which is usually overlooked by other providers.
You can find a list of all available server locations and their current status on ExpressVPN's website.
Over the past few years, ExpressVPN's server network has not grown much, but it doesn't really need to. In its price class, the service remains a contender for having the best server network on the VPN market.
Score: 4.7 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random ExpressVPN servers in the US and Germany at different times of the day to more accurately evaluate their performances. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending).
When the test was conducted, ExpressVPN clocked a download speed of 175 MB/s and an upload speed of 42 MB/s, taking fourth place in our ranking.
The diagram below shows ExpressVPN's average speeds over the past months.
ExpressVPN not only did well in our speed test, it also put in an excellent performance when it came to usage. Within a few seconds and with only a single mouse click, it created a VPN tunnel. We didn't notice any service disruptions or problems, such as captchas, even when completing Google searches.
There's no need for dedicated streaming servers either, as we were able to access all streaming platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+) and watch foreign content.
And what about using the VPN during your next trip to China? ExpressVPN should be a good companion and during testing, we were able to establish a connection, so long as we used the Lightway protocol. While connections to Germany and the US didn't work, we were able to circumvent the "Great Firewall" through VPN tunnels to Hong Kong and Singapore.
In sum, ExpressVPN shines in terms of both server quantity and quality.
Score: 5 / 5
Security and Privacy
ExpressVPN is registered on the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, a country known for its lack of data retention legislation. This means that your data is in safe hands and can only be accessed by authorities with great difficulty.
Even then, they won't be able to get much from ExpressVPN since the company doesn't hold on to a significant amount of information. According to their website, "ExpressVPN does not and will never log traffic data, DNS queries, or anything that could be used to identify you."
However, the company still logs some data, saving your email address (a throw-away email account could be used for the activation code) and the date of your connections. Pertinent data security information should be safe, at least according to the company's statements. And you should trust these since ExpressVPN has allowed its security to be independently audited by third parties, the most recent of which was conducted by PwC in June 2020.
No leaks were identified during our test meaning that our privacy was secure.
ExpressVPN offers users a selection of several VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec. One notable absence is WireGuard, however, ExpressVPN developed an in-house VPN protocol, Lightway, that claims to offer similar functionality and protection. VPN connections are encrypted with the global norm, AES-256, which guarantees maximum security.
When it comes to security and privacy, ExpressVPN doesn't raise any red flags. The integration of a few features offered by other providers, such as NordVPN's server categories or hide.me's Stealth Guard would be welcome, but as things stand, there's not much to complain about.
Score: 4.7 / 5
ExpressVPN's support center provides answers to a variety of FAQs, in addition to video tutorials and guides.
The support team can be contacted directly through live chat, email, or support ticket. The app also has an integrated contact form, allowing for questions to easily be asked in regard to whatever function or aspect requires clarification. Staffers then reply to an email address of your choosing.
ExpressVPN offers solid support.
During the numerous tests conducted using the service's live chat, we received answers from knowledgeable support personnel within seconds. A question sent using the app's contact form was answered within 20 hours.
Score: 4.3 / 5
For ExpressVPN's excellent services and features, customers need to dig a bit deeper into their wallets than with other providers. Similar to other services, the price depends on the length of the contract, however, the savings from long-term contracts are a bit less than elsewhere. An overview of ExpressVPN's current rates is provided in the table below:
|12 Months||6 Months||1 Month|
|Base price per month||$8.33||$9.99||$12.95|
|Contract period (months)||12||6||1|
|Number of Devices||3||3||3|
|Number of servers||3,000||3,000||3,000|
|Number of countries||94||94||94|
|No server logs|
ExpressVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, and additional payment methods such as Alipay, Yandex, or Giropay. For even more anonymity, subscriptions can also be paid with BitCoin.
While a free trial version isn't offered, every subscription comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Speed is not only part of ExpressVPN's name; as one of the leading VPN providers, ExpressVPN consistently performs well. Alongside its high upload and download rates, ExpressVPN also possesses a superbly designed application that leaves little to be desired, to say nothing of its unparalleled network of servers. The provider also belongs to the (unfortunately) small circle of VPN services that allow their security to be regularly evaluated by independent auditors.
There isn't really anything 'wrong' with ExpressVPN, apart from its price, which may be off-putting to some potential customers. As such, other VPN services offer similar performance for much less. Somewhat complicating things further, ExpressVPN doesn't bring any interesting or unique extras to the table either. Ignoring the price and assuming that you're only after the basics, ExpressVPN is one of the most reliable VPN options available on the market.
ExpressVPN is highly regarded by its users, with its good performance and user-friendliness frequently lauded. Its main disadvantage is its high price.
Should you be looking for more power at a lower price, you can check out the fastest provider from our sample, NordVPN, which costs less than half as much per month as ExpressVPN. You won't be sacrificing security either, as NordVPN also regularly conducts independent external audits.
Alternatively, if you're in the market for a completely free VPN, we recommend ProtonVPN, since you won't have to worry about data limits.
The best alternatives can be found below: