ExpressVPN Review Overview
- 3000+ servers
- Works with streaming services
- Super fast speeds
- Not in the location they say they are
- 12 month plan - $8.33 per month ($99.95 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $12.95 per month ($12.95 total cost)
There’s a lot of hype surrounding ExpressVPN. The VPN provider gets a lot of praise from VPN comparison sites, and even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye, most of them rank ExpressVPN in the top 3.
For this reason, we were very curious to test and review ExpressVPN ourselves.
We decided to look into all the biggest claims, like how it’s a great VPN for Netflix and torrenting, as well as whether it’s really as expensive as everyone makes it out to be.
If you’ve been wondering the same thing, you’re in the right place.
How ExpressVPN Compares to the Competition
Iffy Jurisdiction Secrets
ExpressVPN boasts of a safe jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
BVI is world-renowned as one of the best places for a VPN company to be based in. They have no data retention laws and are very protective of privacy rights.
The problem? Our team visited ExpressVPN – in Hong Kong.
And while Hong Kong isn’t necessarily a terrible location, it is a Chinese territory. The good news: China’s draconian privacy laws don’t extend to Hong Kong.
The bad news: it’s only a matter of time until they do. The Hong Kong government is already known for surveillance and privacy issues, and it’s no secret China has been trying to gain more control over the territory.
Fortunately, ExpressVPN is a no logs VPN provider. We’ll talk more on that next.
Strict No-Logs Policy
You always want a VPN provider with a strict no-logs policy, so we’re glad to confirm ExpressVPN does, indeed, have one.
After all, some VPN providers have very questionable logging policies or even lie about them (like PureVPN and HideMyAss).
According to their website, ExpressVPN doesn’t record user data. This includes:
- Your original IP address
- The IP address you use when connected to their VPN servers
- Your browsing history
- Any traffic destination or metadata
- DNS queries
Even more exciting, ExpressVPN introduced their TrustedServer initiative earlier this year.
TrustedServer is a new type of server platform that runs on Random Access Memory (RAM) rather than hard drives.
What this means is every time an ExpressVPN server is rebooted, its memory is completely wiped. Any data stored in its RAM theoretically becomes unrecoverable by any known methods.
This is very important, because it means almost all the data ExpressVPN does record gets wiped out periodically.
And even that little bit of data is common practice, as the company needs it for diagnostic purposes, and none of it can be traced back to any individual user.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
If you’ve read anything to do with online security before, you’re probably familiar with encryption. We won’t confuse you with technicalities, but you can check out this article for more information.
What you should know is ExpressVPN uses the best-known military-grade encryption on their servers: 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).
Intelligence agencies like the FBI use the same type of encryption to protect their own files, including those at the Top Secret level.
To top it off, ExpressVPN uses the OpenVPN tunneling protocol. Tunneling is very simply the connection between your device and the VPN server, and protocols are how that connection is used.
OpenVPN is the best protocol for a VPN to use, so it’s great news ExpressVPN offers it as their preferred default.
If you do feel the need to use a different protocol, you have the option of switching to L2TP/IPSec or PPTP. You can read all about them in our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols.
Network Lock Kill Switch, Split Tunneling, and Zero-Knowledge DNS
A kill switch is one of the most important safety features of a VPN.
This is because, if you’re busy with something location-specific and your internet connection is interrupted, the kill switch will automatically close the websites or apps being used.
ExpressVPN uses its own Network Lock Kill Switch, which is activated by default but can also be switched off (though it’s never recommended to do so).
If you don’t want everything run through the VPN or subject to the kill switch, you can opt for Split Tunneling. This way, you can still access local networks while also connecting to foreign streaming sites (more on streaming later).
The provider also uses its own Zero-Knowledge DNS (Domain Name System). This means it uses the same encryption and tunneling protocols as the VPN itself, rather than relying on a third-party DNS.
It also automatically prevents any DNS leaks, which can be used by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to discover your online activities.
Everything has its vulnerabilities, but The Onion Router, or TOR for short, is the closest thing to a 100% secure network.
It becomes virtually impossible to track your data or location, which is especially good news if you’re living in or visiting a country like China.
For this reason, we’re glad to see ExpressVPN has its own TOR service and a complete guide on how to use TOR with your VPN.
Thousands of Server Connections
We always prefer using a VPN service with a huge server network spread across the globe. This is exactly what you get with ExpressVPN: 3,000+ servers and 160 VPN server locations between 94 countries.
One thing that did disappoint us a little is ExpressVPN doesn’t have a Double VPN feature, also known as a Multi-Hop.
It’s not crucial, but being able to connect to a second VPN server via the first does add an extra layer of security.
A very important aspect of any VPN is its connection speed, which is partially affected by its VPN protocols and the number of servers it has.
It’s difficult to objectively test a VPN’s speed because of all the other variables involved, like your normal internet speed, computer specs, and how far away you are from the VPN server. But we ran a few tests just to get a feel for things:
As you can see, not only were ExpressVPN’s speeds optimal – but they were better than our speeds without a VPN. It’s rare to come across a VPN like this. Without a doubt, ExpressVPN receives full marks here.
Device Compatibility and Connections
ExpressVPN offers clients and apps* for just about every type of device:
- Kindle Fire
- Game consoles
- Smart TVs
- Amazon Firestick
They even have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, as well as manual set-up tutorials for Chromecast, Roku, and Nvidia Shield.
ExpressVPN allows all users up to 5 simultaneous connections (it used to be only 3), which is enough for most people. If you need to connect more devices, you can also set up a VPN router, which only counts as 1 connection.
*When it comes to VPN software, most people use the terms “app” and “client” interchangeably. This is perfectly fine for everyday conversation – we usually call it an app too.
However, considering this is a tech review, we prefer to separate the term. A “client” is the desktop software installation, while an “app” is the software for all other devices.
They’re really the same thing, just in slightly different formats. We wanted to clear that up for anyone who gets confused when reviews start talking about software clients.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
This is as good a time as any to cover ExpressVPN’s pricing, which most VPN comparison sites point out as rather high – us included.
However, considering the great features and applications included, it shouldn’t be a surprise when we say yes, ExpressVPN is a premium VPN service with a premium price tag.
ExpressVPN offers 3 different subscription plans:
This means ExpressVPN isn’t exactly the cheapest option, but you really do get what you pay for.
And speaking of paying, there are plenty of payment options – including Bitcoin. You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee on all subscription plans, which we prefer over free trials with limited functionality.
Additionally, the fact ExpressVPN doesn’t offer lifetime subscriptions is actually a good thing.
We try avoiding VPNs with a lifetime subscription, as they’re usually some kind of VPN scam.
Typically, they cut corners on security measures to save on operating expenses, sell user data to third parties, and/or disappear with your money.
Granted, there are also other premium VPNs that cost less than ExpressVPN and are just as good (or at least very nearly so). This is why we try to avoid calling any provider the one-and-only best VPN – it’s all about what works best for you.
Unblock Websites for Unlimited Streaming
Something a lot of people are frustrated with is the way online streaming platforms limit what you can watch based on where you’re located.
It’s not just in countries with Draconian censorship laws, like China and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Depending on what streaming platforms can get a license for sharing copyright material, what you’re allowed to watch is dictated by where you live.
And if you’re traveling abroad, this also means you might be unable to keep up with your favorite shows.
Streaming platforms don’t like it when VPNs are used to get around their geo-location blocks, so they use proxy detection technology to blacklist VPN IP addresses.
This means a lot of VPNs can no longer help with streaming, or can only unblock some streaming services.
Fortunately, ExpressVPN is one of the best – we were able to unblock a variety of streaming services, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer. We even found it was great for using with Kodi streaming add ons.
Granted, not all of ExpressVPN’s servers were able to unblock these services and we did run into a few Netflix proxy errors during testing.
It would’ve been great to see a list of optimized servers clearly marked in the app, as we also had to ask support for a recommendation.
While that’s more work than preferred, ExpressVPN does offer 24/7 live chat support and therefore makes our list of the best Netflix VPNs.
Streaming services are also coming out with exclusivity deals, which is even more frustrating than their geo-blocking because there’s no legal way to get around them.
This is one of the reasons torrenting is becoming so popular again.
Some VPN providers don’t allow users to torrent via their servers. We sympathize with their reasoning – even though using a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) connection for sharing files is 100% legal, if the file contents are copyright protected, then it’s 100% illegal.
ExpressVPN clearly has no issues with using TOR, as mentioned earlier. And they also state outright they allow users to torrent through uTorrent or just about any other P2P torrenting client.
Like us, ExpressVPN doesn’t condone using your VPN to torrent and commit acts of piracy, but they’re not going to stop you from using the BitTorrent protocol to share legal files.
We do prefer seeing something like an option to automatically connect to a P2P server specifically, but all of the ExpressVPN servers seem to be optimized for P2P downloads.
Usability and Support
Installing the ExpressVPN Windows app was dead easy and only took us about 5 minutes from start to finish.
The video tutorial on their website talked us through the whole process and we were quickly able to start testing their service.
Overall, it was very user-friendly – but if you have any difficulties, their support system is one of the best in the industry.
If you open the Support tab, you can opt to go through their Troubleshooting Guides. These are fairly extensive, but if you’re in a hurry, you should use their 24/7 live chat feature instead.
ExpressVPN’s live chat support agents set the bar pretty high. They’re prompt (we tested this a few times and never had to wait more than 2 minutes at the most) and know what they’re talking about.
You can also send them an email or file a support ticket, though you’ll be prompted to switch to live chat with each answer (along with the information you need, of course).
How to Cancel ExpressVPN and Get Your Money Back
We definitely recommend ExpressVPN, but if you’re not happy with them, cancelling your subscription and getting your money back isn’t difficult.
- Log into your ExpressVPN account
- Select “Manage settings” under the Subscription tab
- Select “Turn off automatic renewal”
- Confirm you want to cancel automatic renewal (you’ll be asked twice)
- Ask for a refund via live chat
- The support agent will verify you’re still eligible for their 30-day money-back guarantee before confirming
That’s it! No pain, no fuss. Your refund will be processed in 5 to 7 business days.
How much does ExpressVPN cost per month?
Does ExpressVPN work for Netflix?
Is ExpressVPN legit?
That said, they do raise questions as to why they’re hiding their true location (Hong Kong, as opposed to the BVI.)