Express VPN Review: is it really that good?

In this review we’re taking a comprehensive look at one of the most established players on the market, ExpressVPN.
Find out everything you need to know about the service, and what it can do for you.

Available on:
8.61
“Very Good”
145
Servers in
92 Countries
30 Days
Moneyback
¥54.01 Per
Month
Plans & pricing

Express VPN Review: is it really that good?

8.61

Very Good
145
Servers in
92 Countries
30 Days
Moneyback
¥54.01 Per
Month
Plans & pricing
Available on:
Written By: Adam Dagan Cyber security & Privacy expert

With cyber-attacks on the rise and companies snooping on our online activities more than ever, being able to connect to the internet privately and anonymously is becoming increasingly important.

ExpressVPN is incredibly fast, unblocks all major streaming sites, supports torrents, and has an impressive set of security features. In short, it’s a definite thumbs up from us. The service is highly recommended for those that like to do a lot of streaming, gaming, and torrenting.

Feel free to use the table of contents at anytime to jump to different sections on the page.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Great for unblocking streaming sites
  • Has a no-logs policy - Meaning none of your personal data is collected
  • Excellent worldwide speeds
  • Fantastic customer support
  • Worldwide distribution of servers - 160 locations in 90 countries
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Multiple security features, including split-tunneling and a kill switch
  • Prevents bandwidth throttling from ISPs
    • Works with:
Cons
  • More expensive than competitors
  • No free version
  • You’ll need the ExpressVPN app for browser extensions
  • Some features aren’t available on the iOS version of the app

Pricing

7.00
“Good”

ExpressVPN keeps things pretty simple when it comes to pricing, and has three basic packages. Essentially, the longer you sign up for, the cheaper your subscription will be.

Many VPN services offer a free version with a limited amount of data usage per month, however, you won’t find a free version at ExpressVPN. This is really only a small drawback, though, as you get a lot of excellent features for your money, and you can make some big savings by signing up for the annual package.

If you’re not happy with the service for any reason,
you’re entitled to your money back in full if you cancel within 30 days.

Bear in mind that if you sign up for a three or 12-month package, you’ll still need to keep up payments until the end of the contract.
Once you commit, you’ll be locked in.

Speed

8.00
“Very Good”

Speed is one of ExpressVPN’s biggest selling points and something the service prides itself on. You’ll be able to connect to servers in just a few seconds, and this is consistent no matter where in the world you’re connecting to. Switching between servers is a breeze and can be done almost instantly. With other providers, it tends to be the case that the further a server is from your location, the longer it takes to connect, but you’ll have no issues with that here.

The service has speed limits between 150-200 Mbps, which is quite impressive. Most users will need an excellent internet connection at home to come close to hitting this cap. Average speeds across all regions are more than capable of handling everyday usage, including gaming and streaming.

The fastest VPN in the world is ExpressVPN our #1 best-rated VPN for 2020 for its outstanding security and consistent speed and reliability

Servers

A critical aspect of any VPN is how many servers are available and in how many countries. The more choice of locations you have, the more likely you are to find a quality server. Plus, accessing multiple regions will enable you to view sites and streaming services that otherwise wouldn’t be available to you.

You’ll find a generous number of servers available at ExpressVPN, with more than 3000 available in 164 locations in 90 countries. You’ll even be able to use the service when traveling in China as the provider has all the tech you need via the app to bypass firewall and censorship controls.

Data Caps Unlimited
Number of servers Over 3000
Top download speed reached 106Mbps
Server locations 160 locations in 94 countries
Simultaneous Connections Five simultaneous connections

Bear in mind that some servers you connect to will be virtual, meaning the server you connect to won’t physically be in the location listed. Some users aren’t 100% comfortable with this type of connection as their data won’t be going to the country they expect it to. However, Express VPN makes it clear which servers are virtual and you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to.

User Experience

ExpressVPN presents you with a straightforward interface, and you can opt to use the ‘Smart Location’ option which will allow the service to pick the location it thinks is best for your current browsing session.

For example, you might want to unblock streaming services to watch some Netflix in another country – the VPN will auto-select the best server to do this.

Advanced options include built-in speed tests of different servers, kill-switch activation, and choices of protocols like OpenVPN and Lightway.

Users will be pleased to hear that both the iOS and Android versions of the app are very similar to the desktop version. However, a few other features are missing from the iOS version of the app, including the kill-switch, split-tunneling options and the speed test.

This might mean a little trial and error finding the right server on mobile devices. At the rate ExpressVPN is investing in its product though, we expect to see improvements in the future.

https://vpnpros.com/go/vpn/524/review-summary

Languages

  • English (US)
  • English (UK)
  • Japanese
  • English (AU)

Security

9.00
“Excellent”

This is now the required standard across all VPNs and basically means the provider won’t record and store any of your activity and data. ExpressVPN will never log your IP address, data, DNS queries, traffic destination, or browsing history

Since no data is recorded, there’s nothing for third-parties to access. In addition, the provider is headquartered in the British Virgin Island and isn’t obligated to hand over any information to government authorities.

Split-tunnelling allows you to select which apps you’d like to connect using the VPN and which you’d like to bypass. The advantage here comes with what you’d like to get out of each region.

For example, you might want your news app to connect to servers local to you so you can get the latest updates from your city and state, but choose to run your Netflix account through a UK server if there are some interesting shows you want to watch that aren’t available in the US. This saves you constantly having to switch between different servers and locations for different activities.

The platform complies with industry-standard encryption and uses 256-AES, alongside a 4096-bit RSA certificate. This might sound a little technical, but simply put, you’re getting the same level of security that the US military uses to protect its data, so you can relax knowing your information is safe. As an added layer of protection, the provider supports Perfect Forward Secrecy, a tool that forces encryption keys to constantly change and be updated.

ExpressVPN’s auto-encryption tools hide your data from would-be cyber-attacker or snoopers trying to get a look at your information. It does this through what are called ‘Protocols’ in the industry. This is the technology used to send your information from one point to another while masking it along the way.

The platform has even developed its own in-house encryption tool called lightway, making it even harder for governments, censors and cyber-criminals to track your online activity.

You’ll find even more security features built-in to the browser on each version of the app which include:

  • HTTPS Everywhere – This automated tool will always connect to the more secure HTTPS version of any website where one is available
  • Web RTC leaks are blocked – This is a vulnerability that can affect any web browser and refers to possible exposure of your IP address when using voice and video chat through peer to peer sharing within the browser. The ExpressVPN plug-in prevents these leaks
  • Spoofing of your HTML5 geolocation data – No matter which server you’re connected to in the world, you can take your privacy one step further and hide your location from your browser

Kill switches are fast becoming a must-have among VPN users, and you’ll find a top-notch one on offer here. Whenever the platform detects that your VPN has disconnected, it’ll immediately cut your internet to prevent any data leakage. This is a particularly useful feature for those that do a lot of torrenting and often leave their device unattended for long stretches.

In addition, the kill switch will activate whenever you put your device in sleep mode, switch between different WiFi connections, and in instances when unencrypted traffic is detected. This feature runs in the background automatically unless you choose to turn it off. However, the tool isn’t available for iOS users and further highlights the poor support for Apple’s software when it comes to VPNs.

One of the most innovative security features can be found built-into the provider’s servers across the globe. It uses 100% RAM-disk servers exclusively which, to those not in the know, means that every time a server is powered down it’s unable to save any information at all.

This means that in the highly unlikely event the company’s servers are breached, they’d shut down, instantly wiping any data and stopping the attack. Once new security mitigations are
put in place, the server is simply turned back on and things are back to normal.

Privacy

9.00
“Excellent”

The provider is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which gives users some additional advantages and protections when it comes to personal data. Although the BVI is a British overseas territory, they have a completely different judicial system. Companies incorporated here can’t be compelled to provide customer records or personal data.

Plus, the islands have no data retention laws meaning the company isn’t obligated to hold any of your personal data at all. The final icing on the cake is that the BVI has no data-sharing agreements with any other countries, even the UK. This makes it one of the most secure places to base a VPN provider and you can be sure your data is in safe hands.

Another popular feature on offer is router firmware. In a nutshell, this app allows you to connect every device in your home via your WiFi router and is a way of getting around the five device limit set by your subscription.

It’s incredibly easy to use, comes pre-configured with all of ExpressVPN’s servers, and replaces the existing firmware on your router, although you’ll have to check that your router is compatible. You can find a full list via the provider’s homepage.

Once you download the router app, you simply follow the install instructions and flash the firmware onto your device. Then you’ll be able to connect every internet-capable gadget in your household to it and enjoy safe browsing for the whole family.

While once a rarity in the industry, we’re starting to see more and more VPN providers publishing reports carried out by external audit firms. ExpressVPN is thankfully one of the providers to now do this annually.

These audits provide proof that the provider can back up the bold security claims it makes, and we’re pleased to say that the results have all come back with positive results to date Customers can read the full reports online.

This transparency will hopefully encourage others in the industry to follow suit, and stop customers having to just take provider’s claims at face value.

ExpressVPN spent more than a year developing its own in-house protocol, known as Lightway. It’s an interesting piece of technology that’s aimed at delivering a faster experience and is used as a method to mask your data. Benefits include updated encryption protections, excellent connection times and no delays when switching between different WiFi connections

As it’s still under development, there are of course a couple of drawbacks to Lightway. For example, it’s not yet open source, which stifles development opportunities, but it certainly looks like the provider intends to support this protocol for the foreseeable future.

Support

9.00
“Excellent”

ExpressVPN has world-class customer support, with your first port of call being the website. On offer here are dozens of guides, FAQs, and articles that cover some of the most common problems and issues you might encounter with the service. 

Many will find the answers they need in these articles but, If your problem is a little more complex, you can opt to contact customer support via live chat or email. The service is available 24/7, has fast response rates and you’ll get to speak to a human being and not a chatbot.

How to install

ExpressVPN is one of just a handful of VPN providers that provides native apps for a variety of operating systems. You can install the service in a few clicks and be up and running in just a couple of minutes.

It’s a great tool for newcomers to VPNs, and you won’t have to deal with any complex manual configurations to get started. The service will auto-detect the type of device and operating system you’re downloading from and it’s a straightforward process to set up your credentials.

If you’re using the MediaStreamer app to watch streaming services via your smart TV, you’ll need to set this up manually. If you get stuck, you can contact a helpful customer service agent or check out the instructions on the ExpressVPN website.

24/7

If your problem is a little more complex, you can opt to contact customer support via live chat or email. The service is available 24/7, has fast response rates and you’ll get to speak to a human being and not a chatbot.

Service Agents

The service agents are happy to cover all topics and will discuss your issues in detail until a resolution is found. They’ll even be happy to tell you which servers are the best for streaming services in different countries.

What’s missing?

No built-in ad-blocker
The provider states that the choice is up to the individual user whether they want to block ads or not, and doesn’t include this as standard. You can get around this by installing a third-party tool though.
No double VPN servers
This feature is in use by competitor services and is a method for encrypting your data twice by routing it through two different servers. It’s not a major omission, but would certainly be nice to have down the line.
Peer-to-peer servers are not optimized
Other platforms have optimized P2P servers to allow fast download speeds and smooth torrenting. Again, this isn’t a huge drawback as ExpressVPN’s core speeds are quite fast, but if it implemented this feature it could really help it stand out from the pack.

Gaming and Consoles

You might not think you need a VPN while playing Call of Duty on your Playstation or Xbox but we couldn’t recommend it more. Putting aside the need for protection against DDoS attacks and other such threats, just like on your computer, you’re likely making online payments and other such transactions that require sharing your personal banking information. It’s just the same for anyone using PC, except there are even more risks involved with government snooping and hacking. 

 

Using a VPN has the added benefit of getting you around geo restrictions too, so you can access exclusive promotions as well as new releases before anyone else.

As an added bonus your subscription will get you access to MediaStreamer, a smart DNS function. In simple terms, this feature lets you switch server locations for non-VPN supporting devices like games consoles and smart TVs.

Despite an increase in geoblocking from streaming services, ExpressVPN manages to stay ahead of the game and even the most dedicated fan if streaming shouldn’t have too many issues getting around the blocks.

If you find you can’t unblock services in a particular region, just get onto the 24/7 live chat and they’ll direct you to servers in the region most likely to beat the blocks.

Desktop and Laptops

We do most of our browsing on computers and laptops, whether that’s banking, using social media, shopping, or anything else that’s personal to us. Using a VPN while on your computer is crucial for safety and, at the very least, is what prevents your ISP from tracking your digital whereabouts. 

 

But besides safety and privacy, VPNs offer other benefits too, mainly in the form of geo-spoofing. Bypassing your ISP’s servers is what allows you to stream Netflix content that’s only available in other countries; that gives you access to promotions and discounts on software and shopping that aren’t available where you’re based, and torrent the latest entertainment without the worry of being hit with copyright infringements.

The fastest VPN in the world is our #1 best-rated VPN for 2020 for its outstanding security and consistent speed and reliability

ExpressVPN is no slouch here, either. You’ll get unlimited bandwidth and completely unrestricted torrenting. Some providers will force you into using certain servers to complete your downloads, but here you can choose any server you wish. Plus, the excellent customer service and FAQ section can walk you through any common issues you might come across.

You’ll get guaranteed anonymity with additional security controls like DNS protection, and the provider keeps no logs at all of your activity.

Browsers

The only limitation that comes with VPN browser extensions is that once you come off Chrome or Firefox, this is where your protection ends. But that isn’t to say you shouldn’t get one. Most of the major VPN services provide free extensions alongside their software for added protection, so installing yours is no effort at all.

 

It’s recommended to only use a browser extension alongside the VPN app, and not just on their own. This way, you ensure total protection of your devices and confidential data rather than leaving them partially exposed.

As an added bonus your subscription will get you access to MediaStreamer, a smart DNS function. In simple terms, this feature lets you switch server locations for non-VPN supporting devices like games consoles and smart TVs.

Despite an increase in geoblocking from streaming services, ExpressVPN manages to stay ahead of the game and even the most dedicated fan if streaming shouldn’t have too many issues getting around the blocks.

If you find you can’t unblock services in a particular region, just get onto the 24/7 live chat and they’ll direct you to servers in the region most likely to beat the blocks.

Mobile and Tablets

Once you leave your house, your mobile devices and tablets are exposed without VPN protection in place. You’ll need to download the app for your chosen VPN provider if you want to keep your browsing safe while on the move. Without realizing, you’re even more vulnerable in some ways when you leave the house than when you are while at home. Public Wi-Fi zones, despite their convenience, are far riskier than your home connection since they have no encryption, making them the perfect places for hackers to gain access to your details. We’re talking hotels, trains, cafes, bars, and any other free Wi-Fi you can think of.

As an added bonus your subscription will get you access to MediaStreamer, a smart DNS function. In simple terms, this feature lets you switch server locations for non-VPN supporting devices like games consoles and smart TVs.

Despite an increase in geoblocking from streaming services, ExpressVPN manages to stay ahead of the game and even the most dedicated fan if streaming shouldn’t have too many issues getting around the blocks.

If you find you can’t unblock services in a particular region, just get onto the 24/7 live chat and they’ll direct you to servers in the region most likely to beat the blocks.

Routers

Buying a pre-flashed router or configuring your current one with a VPN is your best way of ensuring total protection of any device under your roof. Rather than installing the app on your mobile, console, or computer, you simply configure the VPN to your router, which means that any device that connects to it will be secured. Plus, most VPN subscriptions come with a limitation on how many devices can be connected simultaneously, which is typically around five. Installing a VPN on your router means this restriction is avoided. 

 

Many providers sell their own pre-flashed routers or you can find your own online.

As an added bonus your subscription will get you access to MediaStreamer, a smart DNS function. In simple terms, this feature lets you switch server locations for non-VPN supporting devices like games consoles and smart TVs.

Despite an increase in geoblocking from streaming services, ExpressVPN manages to stay ahead of the game and even the most dedicated fan if streaming shouldn’t have too many issues getting around the blocks.

If you find you can’t unblock services in a particular region, just get onto the 24/7 live chat and they’ll direct you to servers in the region most likely to beat the blocks.

Summary

Written By: Adam Dagan Cyber security & Privacy expert

ExpressVPN is one of the most impressive platforms on the market right now. It might not have as many features as some of its competitors, but the ones you do get are of excellent quality.

Security and privacy have been put front and center of the service and it’s difficult to find another provider that can beat it in terms of encryption and vulnerability protection. Add to this its impressive speeds, customization options, the ability to connect all your household devices, and an easy-to-use interface, and you’ve got yourself a great deal.

This doesn’t come without a cost, though, and it’s a little disappointing to see no free version on offer. In addition, it’s a little pricier than its rivals, but you get what you pay for and it still won’t break the bank for most users.

Features and options are unfortunately thin on the ground for iOS users, so if you’re an iPhone or iPad user you might want to check out a couple of other providers before making the commitment. Other operating systems are very well catered for, and whether you’re streaming, gaming, torrenting or just looking for some privacy when you browse, the platform will be a clear first choice for many.

If you’re interested, why not give it a try? The 30-day trial should be more than enough time to get to grips with the platform and find out if it’s the right one for you.

Go with ExpressVPN

FAQ

Is ExpressVPN 100% anonymous?

Almost. There may be some instances where your ISP will know you’re connectend to an ExpressVPN server, but it won’t be able to monitor what you actually do on the sites you visit.

Is ExpressVPN legal?

Yes, you don’t need to worry at all about downloading and using the platform as it’s perfectly legal in most countries, including the US. We’d always highly recommend reading up on local VPN laws though.

Is it safe to use ExpressVPN?

Most definitely. Security levels here are comparable to governments and military organizations. Add to this the fact that no-one has yet been able to significantly breach its systems, and you can relax.

Will ExpressVPN affect my internet speed?

Yes, but not significantly. As all of your internet traffic is being encrypted, the platform needs to take up some of your bandwidth to do this. However, slow-down isn’t noticeable at all.

Is there a free version of ExpressVPN?

No. You won’t find a free version here, but you can access a 30-day free trial. If you’re not completely satisfied you’ll be entitled to a full refund.

What to do if ExpressVPN servers are down?

This scenario is thankfully an incredibly rare one. However, if you do experience any downtime, you can switch to another server location in just a few clicks.

Can ExpressVPN stop bandwidth throttling?

Yes, when using ExpressVPN your ISP can’t actually monitor your web traffic or apply throttling tools, and you’ll experience no slow-down at all. Leaving you with incredibly fast connections.

Is there a referral program?

Yes, for every new customer you refer to the platform you’ll get 30 days for free added to your subscription. Plus, there’s no limit on how many people you can refer.