ExpressVPN is one of our favorite VPNs thanks to its high speeds and strict logging policy.
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 our personal data, like our IP addresses, browsing history, traffic, etc. remains encrypted forever.
- Split tunneling: We accessed public and private networks simultaneously.
What We Don't Like
- Limited simultaneous connections: Although we could have purchased more connections for more cash, under the plans themselves, we were limited to only five simultaneous connections. To see how to save more money with this VPN, read our page on ExpressVPN deals and discounts.
- No customer support over the phone: We got help only through live chat or email, but that is pretty typical for VPNs.
Bottom LineBased in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN can never be legally forced to hand the government customer data.
On September 13, 2021, Kape Technologies agreed to buy ExpressVPN for $936 million.
On September 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice fined ExpressVPN’s Chief Information Officer Daniel Gericke for spying for the United Arab Emirates.
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 we’re excited to review ExpressVPN. It’s one of the leading VPN companies around with a fantastic reputation.
Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in 160 locations, allowing you to access secure private networks all around the globe. This all sounds really impressive, but we wanted to see for ourselves how ExpressVPN works. What can we say? It’s what we do.
In this review, we take you through ExpressVPN— the product’s features, subscription info, and customer support. We examine the ExpressVPN app. We compare ExpressVPN with NordVPN, one of its biggest competitors.
Only then do we deliver our final verdict on whether ExpressVPN is the right VPN for you. Let’s dive in!
ExpressVPN Quick Stats
|IP Addresses||Anonymous, regularly rotated|
As we said, ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in 160 locations. It’s important for VPN companies to have a lot of servers all over the world, as your proximity to a server can affect your internet speed.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Although the British Virgin Islands is a territory of the United Kingdom, it has its own laws and is 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 its own.
Despite these positives, ExpressVPN has endured its fair share of controversy, especially lately. In early September of 2021, Kape Technologies purchased the company for $936 million in one of the largest tech acquisitions in history. Kape began life as Crossrider, a company with a history of producing malware.1
Kape seems to have cleaned up its act since those early days and insists that ExpressVPN will continue to operate as an independent entity. Nevertheless, the two companies would seem to be unusual partners.
In the same week, the U.S. government revealed that it has indicted ExpressVPN’s CIO, Daniel Garicke, for helping the United Arab Emirates hack American targets.2 That revelation has only heightened concerns about the company. For now, we continue to trust ExpressVPN, but we advise keeping a close eye on the technology you use.
OpenVPN is the gold standard of VPN software. The company crowdsources the software’s development and updates the software frequently 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.
ExpressVPN doesn’t default to OpenVPN the way it once did. Instead, when we signed on, the software chose the best protocol option for our particular situation. Still, we had the choice to use OpenVPN whenever we wanted.
We used 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, the reason we joined a VPN in the first place was to protect our data from hackers. ExpressVPN understood, though, that we probably don’t want the VPN itself accessing our personal data, either. The ExpressVPN website says quite clearly that the company doesn’t currently and will never log IP addresses, timestamps, or browsing histories.
The only information that ExpressVPN collected about us was which app and version we activated, the dates we used the ExpressVPN service, our choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred through ExpressVPN in MB. In addition, ExpressVPN collected payment information unless you used an anonymous payment method. Virtually all VPN companies record this information, so we weren’t especially worried when ExpressVPN did, as well.
Does ExpressVPN Have A Kill Switch?
ExpressVPN comes with a kill switch, typically standard. That meant we didn’t have to worry if our privacy would ever be compromised. Whenever we lost the VPN connection, the kill switch shut down, or killed, all the software programs we were running and the websites we were viewing. Whenever others could see what we were doing, the kill switch made sure there was nothing to see.
What Kind of Tunneling does ExpressVPN Offer?
Another feature we liked about ExpressVPN is its split tunneling. Split tunneling meant that we could be on a VPN and a local network simultaneously, which let us lower bandwidth.
Here’s how it worked: part of our traffic went through the ExpressVPN tunnel, while some of our traffic connected directly with the internet. That was awesome when we were working at the coffee shop and needed 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?
Using an ExpressVPN server, we watched Netflix. We had access to our good old U.S.A. shows no matter where we were in the world. And when we were home in Brooklyn? We checked out Netflix in other countries, like Canada and the U.K. Finally, when we felt like watching a movie, we used ExpressVPN for a little torrenting, as well.
ExpressVPN encrypted all of our data using AES-256 bits, the modern encryption standard the U.S. military uses. Our connection had its own private, encrypted domain name server, and our IP address was completely anonymous and rotated regularly. Our data was 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 if you like to switch between Wi-Fi and mobile hotspots, a very common dance while using the internet in public.
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 to dispatch data packets across a network. We 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 take only major highways, the mail will arrive safely, but perhaps later than it would’ve if it had gone through the woods.
The metaphor holds true for internet protocols, as safe protocols mean a safer, if slower, VPN server. ExpressVPN offers the following VPN protocols:
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.
OpenVPN is the most popular protocol among VPNs and with good reason. It provides the perfect combination of safety and speed. Plus, OpenVPN offers two separate flavors:
- UDP: 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.
- TCP: 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, which makes sure the data is put back together in the right order.
Think of UDP and TCP 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.
Finally, ExpressVPN offers its own, proprietary protocol it calls Lightway. Lightway does away with non-essential, outdated features. That means faster speeds. At the same time, it uses WolfSSL, for its cryptography, ensuring data security.
Not sure which protocol is right for your specific situation? By default, ExpressVPN chooses the best protocol when you sign on automatically.
Before revealing whether we recommend ExpressVPN or not, we wanted to do some objective tests to see how it functions. With the tests, we looked at internet speed as well as leak protection, specifically. How well did the ExpressVPN software perform?
Obviously, internet speed is really important. As we note in our guide to VPNs, all VPNs slow down internet connections because they create more internet protocols. We wanted to make sure, though, that ExpressVPN didn’t make our internet speed unbearable.
Keep in mind that internet speed is made up of several factors, including the time of day, location, internet service provider, software, hardware, and the VPN server. We tested ExpressVPN on a Macbook Air and a Windows Vivobook from our apartments in Brooklyn, New York. Without a VPN, we’re on an Optimum Wi-Fi network, typically.
Download Speed Tests
|Without VPN||37.05 mbps|
|With VPN||22.7 mbps|
|Without VPN||62.88 mbps|
|With VPN||39.77 mbps|
First, we measured the difference in download speed in megabits per second. As the above picture demonstrates, ExpressVPN had a very similar decrease in the download speeds on both the Mac and the Windows computers. The Mac’s download speed slowed by about 39 percent and the Windows speed slowed about 37 percent.
Upload Speed Tests
|Without VPN||25.9 mbps|
|With VPN||22.19 mbps|
|Without VPN||40.61 mbps|
|With VPN||30.95 mbps|
Next, we tested the difference in upload speeds with and without the VPN. Again, ExpressVPN performed well, but it did better on the Mac with a decrease of only about 14 percent compared to 23 percent on the Windows computer.
Ping Speed Tests
|Without VPN||14 mbps|
|With VPN||20 mbps|
|Without VPN||14 mbps|
|With VPN||19 mbps|
Finally, we tested the ping, or latency, in milliseconds. In this category, the Windows computer actually performed better than the Mac, but not by much, as you can see. Overall, we concluded that ExpressVPN worked really well on both Macs and Windows computers. We were perfectly content with our speeds.
DNS Leak Test
We always perform DNS leak tests because if it has a leak, a device could send DNS traffic outside of the VPN’s tunnel. Alternatively, it might use the VPN tunnel but connect to a third-party server. A leak can happen even if you configure your VPN manually if an attacker gets control of your router.
ExpressVPN has a DNS leak test on its website. All we had to do was turn our VPN on and click the button to look for leaks. In a matter of seconds, we had our answer.
As the above photo shows, our ExpressVPN server had no DNS leaks, definitely a 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 with each other directly. That means they don’t have to go through intermediate servers. WebRTC creates faster speeds, particularly for video chat, live streaming, and file transfers. Sounds great, right?
The possible security issue arises from the fact that WebRTC needs your private IP address.
ISPs, or internet service providers, issue public IP addresses. These addresses are globally unique, and your ISP can assign only one to each device, typically a router. Public IP addresses allow users to access the internet directly.
On the other hand, routers issue private IP addresses to each device in your network. Mostly, computers, smartphones, and tablets use them. A VPN issues you a unique private IP address so no one can track your online activity.
As WebRTC uses your private IP address, if you’re using a VPN, it’s important to test for WebRTC leaks. A leak could make your address available to prying eyes. Keep in mind that Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft Edge all default to WebRTC.
Like DNS leaks, ExpressVPN has a WebRTC leak test on its website, and it’s incredibly easy to use. We made sure our VPN was turned on and clicked a button to detect leaks.
Blessedly, our ExpressVPN protected us from WebRTC leaks. We had a fast connection without risking the security of our private IP addresses.
Let’s cut to the chase. What does all this protection cost?
We had a choice, between one month, six months, or one-year billing. Essentially, the monthly price gets lower as the term length increases. ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so we tried the VPN out without any real risk. We knew we could “return it” digitally for a full refund.
|Subscription length||1 month||6 months||12 months|
In fact, we managed to do even better than $8.32 a month. Right now, ExpressVPN is throwing in an extra three months for free the first year. That brought our Express VPN price to just $6.67 per month.
For comparison, NordVPN’s cheapest plan is just $3.67. However, it requires you purchase a two-year subscription upfront.
With all of ExpressVPN’s subscriptions, we switched between an unlimited number of servers and maintained five connections at once. Had we needed more simultaneous connections, we could have bought an additional license or set up a VPN router to get an unlimited amount.
ExpressVPN works with Linux, Chromebook, wireless routers (Sabai, DD-WRT, Asus, or Tomato), and with several different streaming media and gaming consoles (Apple TV, FireTV, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, or Xbox).
We had the choice to enter an ExpressVPN server using Chrome, Firefox, or Edge.
ExpressVPN Customer Support
When we ran into trouble with ExpressVPN, we were pleased to have access to a knowledgeable customer support team.
ExpressVPN has 24/7 customer support through live chat and email. As millennials, these services were enough for us, despite the lack of a phone line. We also had the option to contact customer support through our ExpressVPN app directly, which should have made the whole experience seamless.
The ExpressVPN App
Of course, we always want a good app to connect with our VPN. Let’s talk about the ExpressVPN app: what it offers, where we used it, and just how well it worked.
The ExpressVPN app supports the Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Blackberry, routers, and Kindle operating systems. From the app, we selected our VPN and talked to customer support when we needed it.
All in all, we were pretty happy with the ExpressVPN app. Others on the app store seem to be happy with it as well. It has a nearly perfect 4.6 rating from the Apple store and a decent 4.3 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 160 countries, when we reviewed NordVPN we found that it has a whopping 5,246 in 62 countries. Make sure to check out its server locations before making your decision, though.
In addition, neither NordVPN or 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.
|IP Addresses||Anonymous, regularly rotated||Static, Shared with Other NordVPN Users|
Neither VPN logs data, including the time or duration of your session, IP addresses, servers used, files downloaded, and websites visited. Both have kill switches, an essential security feature, and we could stream from Netflix and download torrent files with both VPNs.
Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN does not offer split tunneling, so we couldn’t access private and public networks simultaneously. While both VPNs offer anonymous IP addresses, NordVPN gave us the same IP address each time, which wasn’t great for security. Sharing our IP address with other NordVPN users made us harder to trace.
If you want a dedicated IP address, you can buy one for a small fee. We prefer how ExpressVPN rotates its IP addresses regularly, as it makes it harder for hackers to track us.
Now that we’ve gone over how NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s features compare, let’s talk about their performances. While ExpressVPN worked better on our Windows computer speed-wise, NordVPN worked better on our Macs. Neither system had any DNS or WebRTC leaks.
For more details, check out our page comparing ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Overall, these are both top choices for VPNs, but we’d recommend ExpressVPN to a Windows user and NordVPN to a Mac user.
Recap of ExpressVPN
Overall, we recommend ExpressVPN to our readers, as it’s very secure, performs well, and allows us to go on Netflix and torrent movies. But since everyone has their personal preferences, we’ll break it down even further.
We’d recommend ExpressVPN to anyone that wants a VPN based in a Five Eyes non-member country, with an extensive network of more than 2,000 servers worldwide. ExpressVPN is also a great choice for anyone that wants to watch Netflix or torrent content, and it performed well in our speed tests.
However, ExpressVPN may not be for you if you’d like multi-hop encryption, dedicated IP addresses, or unlimited simultaneous connections. Otherwise, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for a reason: it’s safe, it’s secure, and it won’t break the bank.
Our readers have a ton of questions about ExpressVPN, and we’ve answered the ones we get the most below.
Is ExpressVPN legit?
ExpressVPN is a legitimate VPN service. The company is based in the British Virgin Islands and has over 2,000 servers in 160 countries.
How much does ExpressVPN cost?
Monthly, ExpressVPN costs either $12.95, $9.99 per month if you sign up for six months ($59.95 billed in total), or $8.32 per month if you sign up for a year ($99.95 billed in total).
Right now, the company is running a special promotion. You get an extra three months when you sign up for a year, lowering your monthly total to $6.67.
Is ExpressVPN illegal?
In the United States, ExpressVPN is legal, as VPNs are legal here. However, not all countries allow for VPNs, so in some countries like Russia and China, ExpressVPN may be illegal.
Is ExpressVPN free?
ExpressVPN is not free. Rather, its monthly costs start at $8.32 if you sign up for a year. However, while ExpressVPN lacks a free version or trial, the company does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you cancel before the first billing date, you can get your money refunded.
The Register. (2021). ExpressVPN bought for $1bn by Brit biz with an intriguing history in adware.
Reuters. (2021). ExpressVPN employees complain about ex-spy's top role at company.