ExpressVPN is one of our favorite VPNs thanks to its high speeds and strict logging policy.
When it comes to a VPN, you don’t want to take a risk with a company you don’t know that much about. That’s why I’m excited to review ExpressVPN. They’re one of the leading VPN companies around with a fantastic reputation. Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN has over 2000 servers in 148 locations, allowing you to access secure private networks all around the globe. This all sounds really impressive, but I want to see for myself how ExpressVPN works. What can I say? It’s what I do.
Today, I’m going to take you through ExpressVPN— the product’s features, how well they perform, subscription info, customer support, and the ExpressVPN app. Next, I’ll compare it to NordVPN, one of its biggest competitors. Finally, we’ll decide together if ExpressVPN is the right VPN for you. Let’s dive in!
ExpressVPN Pros and Cons
Before I get into the meat of the review, I want to go over ExpressVPN’s best and worst qualities.
What We Like
- No data retention laws: As ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, it’s not part of any international surveillance alliance.
- No logging: All of your personal data, like your IP addresses, browsing history, traffic, etc. will remain encrypted forever.
- Split tunneling: You’ll be able to access public and private networks simultaneously.
- Good app ratings: Both Android and iPhone users gave the ExpressVPN app at least four stars.
- Can access Netflix: ExpressVPN works with Netflix and other video streaming websites
- Positive reviews for customer support: Most Amazon customers thought ExpressVPN support was helpful.
- Speed: ExpressVPN did not slow my Internet down significantly or noticeably.
What We Don’t Like
- Only five simultaneous connections per subscription: Although you can purchase an unlimited amount for a little more cash.
- No customer support over the phone: You will only be able to live chat or email customer support, but this is pretty typical for VPNs.
- Significant slowdowns on Mac: ExpressVPN did not perform well during speed tests on my Macbook.
Let’s get into it.
As I said, ExpressVPN has over 2000 servers in 148 locations. It’s important for VPN companies to have a lot of servers all over the world, as your proximity to the server will affect your Internet speed.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Although the British Virgin Islands is a territory of the United Kingdom, they have their own laws and are not a member of any international surveillance alliances. That means that ExpressVPN is not subject to surveillance laws that would allow intelligence agencies to legally access customer data. On top of that, the British Virgin Islands has no data retention laws of their own, so this is definitely a good location for a VPN business as well as a vacation.
OpenVPN is the gold standard of VPN software. It’s crowdsourced and frequently updated to prevent tampering by surveillance agencies. ExpressVPN describes OpenVPN as “the ideal combo of speed, security, and performance,” which we’ll test in a bit. The only downside of OpenVPN is that you’ll have to download third-party software, which you may or may not care about. ExpressVPN defaults on OpenVPN, although you can choose between UDP and TCP (more on this later).
You’ll be able to use ExpressVPN anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, or through LTE, 4G, or 3G connections from all the mobile data carriers.
Will ExpressVPN Log My Data?
Obviously, by joining a VPN in the first place, you want to make sure your data is protected from hackers, but ExpressVPN understands that you probably don’t want them accessing your personal data either. One of the most important things about ExpressVPN is that it doesn’t log your files, meaning it won’t track or store your personal data.
On the ExpressVPN website, you can see that they currently don’t and will never log IP addresses of the source or the VPN, browsing history, traffic destination or metadata, and DNS queries.
The only information that ExpressVPN collects is which app and version you activated, the dates you used the ExpressVPN service, your choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred through ExpressVPN in MB. These are all pretty standard practices of VPN companies, so you can rest assured that no one is finding out anything about your actual data or traffic.
Does ExpressVPN Have A Kill Switch?
Say you’re on an ExpressVPN network and your connection dies. Will your privacy be compromised? The answer is no, and that’s due to the kill switch, also known as a network lock feature. If your network connection is lost, the kill switch will automatically kill whatever software or websites you were using, so your privacy will be protected.
What Kind of Tunneling does ExpressVPN Offer?
Another feature I like about ExpressVPN is its split tunneling. Split tunneling means that you can be on a VPN and a local network simultaneously, a great way to lower bandwidth. Here’s how it works: part of your traffic will go through the ExpressVPN tunnel, while some of your traffic will connect directly with the Internet. It’s awesome if you need access to a public network and a private network at the same time. Kudos to ExpressVPN for giving customers that flexibility!
Can I Use Netflix with ExpressVPN?
Under an ExpressVPN network, you’ll be able to watch Netflix and even torrent files by downloading uTorrent. This is great for someone who wants to watch Netflix on another country’s server or anyone who likes to download movies online.
All of your data will be encrypted in 256 bits, which is a modern and widely-used Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Your connection will have its own private, encrypted domain name server, and your IP address will be completely anonymous and rotated regularly. Your data will be encrypted through the following methods:
Internet Key Exchange version 2 is a widely used VPN protocol that automatically re-establishes your connection with your VPN after you’re disconnected from the Internet. It’s particularly helpful for anyone that likes to switch in between Wi-Fi and mobile hotspots, a very common dance while using the Internet in public.
Finally, IP Security creates secure Internet connections, often used in tandem with other protocols to increase security. IPsec employs one of two modes: transport mode, which only encrypts the data packet message itself, or tunneling mode, which encrypts the entire data packet.
Internet protocols determine how data packets are dispatched across a network. I like to think of the data packets as mail, and protocols as the different routes that mailmen could take. Sure, they could go through the woods and get there quicker, but they might run into a wolf on the way. On the other hand, if they only take major highways, the mail will arrive safely, but perhaps later than it would in the woods. The metaphor holds true through internet protocols, as safe protocols mean a safe VPN server. ExpressVPN uses the following VPN protocols:
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is known for its performance and speed, and it’s supported on all Windows devices. It’s known for being able to easily bypass firewalls, and it creates a very secure connection.
The Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol works with IPsec (see above) to create a very secure VPN client. While the L2TP creates the tunnel itself, IPSec handles the encryption and channel security. It also makes sure that the data’s integrity hasn’t been compromised.
Finally, Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol creates tunnels to encapsulate the data packets. Although PPTP has been used often since the 1990s, it’s not the most secure method available.
ExpressVPN is also compatible with TOR, if you’re really trying to fly under the radar.
UDP, or User Datagram Protocol, sends messages called datagrams that don’t require virtual circuits to transfer data. The advantage of UDP is that it requires lower bandwidth, resulting in less delay. Its disadvantage is that some packets may be lost or out of order.
Transmission Control Protocol is made up of seven layers that transport data and make sure it gets to the right place by breaking the data into smaller packets. It’s an excellent combination with UDP, as it can make sure the data is put back together in the right order. Think of them as your parents packing for a trip. While your Dad might pack your stuff a bit quicker, your Mom will make sure that everything gets to your destination safely and in order.
Before I recommend ExpressVPN or not, I want to do some objective tests to see how it functions. With the tests, I’m looking for Internet speed as well as leak protection. Let’s see how well the ExpressVPN software performed.
Obviously, Internet speed is really important to me. While most VPNs slow down Internet connections as they create more Internet protocols, I want to make sure ExpressVPN doesn’t make my Internet speed unbearable. Keep in mind that Internet speed is determined by a few factors— the time of day, location, internet service provider, software, hardware, what VPN server you’re on and more. I test all VPNs on a Macbook Air and a Windows Vivobook from my apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Without a VPN, I’m on an Optimum Wi-Fi network.
First, I measured the difference in download speed in megabits per second. As you can see from the above picture, ExpressVPN had a very similar decrease in the download speeds on both the Mac and the Windows computers, which the Mac’s download slowed down by about 39% and Windows at about 37%.
Next, I tested the difference in upload speeds with and without the VPN. Again, ExpressVPN performed well, but it did better on the Mac with only a decrease of about 14% compared to 23% on the Windows computer.
Finally, I tested the ping, or latency in milliseconds. For this category, the Windows computer actually performed better than the Mac, but not by much as you can see. Overall, I can conclude that ExpressVPN worked really well on both my Mac and my Windows computer, so I’m happy with the speed.
DNS Leak Test
DNS leak tests are important to do because a device might either send DNS traffic outside of the VPN’s tunnel, or it might use the VPN tunnel but connect to a third-party server. It can also happen if your VPN was configured manually, if an attacker got control of your router, or if you chose to do a manual DNS setup.
ExpressVPN has a DNS leak test on their website. All you have to do is turn your VPN on and click the button to look for leaks. In a matter of seconds, you’ll have your answer.
As you can see from the above photo, my ExpressVPN server had no DNS leaks detected, a definite good sign.
WebRTC Leak Test
WebRTC, otherwise known as Web Real-Time Communication Test, is a collection of standardized technologies that allow web browsers to communicate directly with each other rather than going through an intermediate server. WebRTC creates faster speeds, particularly for video chat, live streaming, and file transfers. Sounds great, right?
The possible security issue rises from the fact that WebRTC needs your private IP address. Let me explain the difference between public and private IP addresses.
Public IP addresses are issued by your ISP, or Internet Service Provider. They’re globally unique and can only be assigned to one device, typically a router. Public IP addresses allow users to directly access the Internet.
Private IP addresses, on the other hand, are issued by a router to each device in your network. They’re used mostly for computers, smartphones, and tablets.
As WebRTC uses your private IP address, it’s important to test for WebRTC leaks. Keep in mind that Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft Edge all default to WebRTC.
Like DNS leaks, ExpressVPN has a WebRTC leak test on their website, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Just make sure your VPN is turned on and click a button to detect WebRTC links.
Blessedly, my ExpressVPN protected me from WebRTC leaks, so I got a faster connection without risking the security of my private IP address.
Cut to the chase, Gabe. What’s this gonna cost me?
You can choose from either one month, six months, or one-year billing. As you can see, the monthly price gets lower as the term-length increases. Keep in mind that ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you absolutely despise ExpressVPN, you can digitally “return it” for a full refund. It might be a good idea to try the service for a month before investing in a lower cost, longer-term plan.
With any subscription, you’ll be able to switch between an unlimited number of servers and maintain five connections at once. If you’re looking for more simultaneous connections, you can buy an additional license or set up a VPN router to get an unlimited amount. You’ll be able to use an unlimited number of devices with each subscription, which I love.
ExpressVPN works with Linux, Chromebook, wireless routers (Sabai, DD-WRT, Asus, or Tomato), and streaming media or gaming consoles (Apple TV, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One).
You’ll be able to enter an ExpressVPN network using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.
ExpressVPN Customer Support
If your ExpressVPN network isn’t working, you’re going to want a customer support team that’s available and knowledgeable. Let’s see how ExpressVPN does customer support.
Lucky for you, ExpressVPN has 24/7 customer support through live chat and email. As an (admittedly older) millennial, these services are enough for me, despite the lack of phone line. You can contact customer support directly through your ExpressVPN app, which should make it a seamless experience— but let’s see what customers think.
Customer Support Ratings
If you are buying ExpressVPN through Amazon, you’ll see that they have an overall customer rating of 3.8 from over 640 customer reviews. Although the reviews were fairly mixed, over half of them were a perfect five stars. When I looked at the reviews that mentioned customer support specifically, I was pleased to see that about 60% of them were positive. Although some people had a frustrating experience, it’s comforting to see real customers praise ExpressVPN’s helpful customer support.
The ExpressVPN App
Of course, you’ll need a good app to connect with ExpressVPN. Let’s talk about the ExpressVPN app- where you can use it, what it offers, and whether or not it works well.
The ExpressVPN app is supported on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Blackberry, routers, and Kindle. From the app, you’ll be able to select your VPN and talk to customer support if needed (more on that below). People are pretty happy with the ExpressVPN app. It has a nearly perfect 4.7 rating from the Apple store and a decent 4.1 rating from the Google Play store.
“Very impressed with the new in-app shortcuts to navigate to favorite apps…I have noticed a significant improvement of the connection reliability,”
wrote Android user Bruno Perovic in a recent four-star review.
ExpressVPN Vs. NordVPN
NordVPN is another leading VPN with a lot of similarities to ExpressVPN. While ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in 148 countries, NordVPN has a whopping 5,246 in 62 countries. Make sure to check out their server locations before making your decision. Most importantly, you should neither that neither NordVPN nor ExpressVPN is part of an international surveillance alliance or is subject to data retention laws, as they’re based in the British Virgin Islands and Panama, respectively.
Neither VPN logs data, including the time or duration of your session, IP addresses, servers used, files download, and websites visited. Both have kill switches, an essential security feature, and you should be able to stream from Netflix and torrent files with both VPNs.
Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN does not offer split tunneling, so you can’t access a private and a public network simultaneously. While both VPNs offer anonymous IP addresses, NordVPN will give you the same IP address each time, which isn’t great for security. Keep in mind that your IP address will be shared with other NordVPN users, making it harder to trace. If you want a dedicated IP address, you can buy one for a small fee. I prefer how ExpressVPN regularly rotates its IP addresses, as it makes it harder for a hacker to track you.
Now that we’ve gone over how NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s features compare, let’s talk about their performances. While ExpressVPN worked better on my Windows computer speed-wise, NordVPN worked better on my Mac. Neither system had any DNS or WebRTC leaks. Overall, these are both top choices for VPNs, but I’d recommend ExpressVPN to a Windows user and NordVPN to a Mac user.
Recap of ExpressVPN
Overall, I would recommend ExpressVPN. It’s very secure, performs well, and allows me to go on Netflix and torrent movies. But since everyone has their personal preferences, I’ll break it down even further.
ExpressVPN might be the VPN for you if you’d like:
- No data retention laws: No country can legally access your data used on ExpressVPN.
- Doesn’t log files: ExpressVPN can’t view or save your data.
- Kill-switch: if your network connection is lost, all of the software and websites you were using will be killed immediately.
- Split tunneling: You’ll be able to access public and private servers at the same time.
- Speed: ExpressVPN performed well on both the Mac and the Windows computer.
- Highly-rated app: Both Android and iPhone users rated the ExpressVPN app at least four stars.
On the other hand, you might want to avoid ExpressVPN if you can’t stand:
- Only five simultaneous connections per subscription: Although you can purchase another subscription or router for more connections.