ExpressVPN vs Private Tunnel

One of the biggest challenges of shopping for a VPN is deciding which one to use. It doesn’t help that many providers boast about technical specifications, most of which are meaningless to the general public. This leaves potential customers with a choice: research the ins and outs of computer networking or simply pick a service and hope it’s up to the task.

There is a third option, though. Below, you’ll find an extensive, detailed comparison of two VPNs. To help you better understand what they have to offer, we’ve not only listed their features, specifications, and abilities, but also explained how these affect you during everyday browsing.

Highlights

ExpressVPN

  • High-speed servers in 94 countries
  • Solid unblocking capabilities
  • Best in class for security and privacy
  • Accepts Bitcoin payments

Private Tunnel

  • Low price point
  • Fast enough for most purposes
  • Uses powerful encryption
  • Very user-friendly service

Pricing and discounts

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Subscription periodsOne monthOne month
Six monthsOne year
One year
Special offerThree months extra and a 49% discount with one-year plans
No offer running
Highest price per month$12.95$6 per month, rising to a maximum of $68 (for 100 simultaneous connections)
Lowest price per month$6.67$3
One-year price$99.95$36
Money-back guarantee30 daysSeven days or 60 days for annual subscriptions

At $12.95 per month on a monthly basis, ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive services if you’re only looking for short-term coverage. In contrast, its rival’s monthly plan costs $6 per month. There’s one major difference, though: Private Tunnel’s price is dependent on the number of devices you’d like to be able to connect simultaneously. The standard plan lets you connect three devices at a time, while ExpressVPN comes with a five-connection limit.

Users who are willing to commit to a longer-term upfront can take advantage of steep discounts. For instance, ExpressVPN effectively cuts its price in half ($99.95 instead of $194.20) for the first 15 months if you choose its annual plan. It should be noted that after this term ends, you’ll be billed annually, which effectively brings the monthly price up to $8.32.

Private Tunnel offers a similarly impressive price cut, with 50 percent off for annual subscribers ($36 per year). Further discounts are available for plans with higher connection limits, but this doesn’t really provide much value considering there are services out there that are only slightly more expensive and have no connection limits by default. Comparatively, Private Tunnel expects you to pay $408 per year (after a 83% discount — it’s originally $2400) for the ability to secure 100 devices at once.

All ExpressVPN plans come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee. This allows you to sign up and try the service as much as you like for a month. If you’re unimpressed, just cancel for a full refund, no questions asked. Private Tunnel provides a seven-day trial instead but doesn’t limit your speeds, bandwidth, or server selection like many other VPNs with a trial. You will have to provide payment details before being able to use the service though.

Best Deal for ExpressVPN:Save 49% for the first 15 months with ExpressVPN’s annual plan.

Best Deal for Private Tunnel: At the moment, Private Tunnel isn’t running any deals or promotions.

Features

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Simultaneous connections5Between 3 and 100 by default, higher limits negotiable
Operating system appsWindows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/Fire TVWindows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick
Manual install devicesSelect routersLinux systems, supported routers
Split tunnelingYesNo
Free extrasBrowser extensions (Chrome, Firefox) None

Whichever service you choose, you’ll have access to a wide range of apps. That said, ExpressVPN offers a simple command line-based Linux app, whereas Private Tunnel has to be configured manually. While Private Tunnel has the potential for a far higher number of connections, this quickly becomes prohibitively expensive, and ExpressVPN allows almost twice as many (five instead of three) straight off the bat. Of course, you can install either VPN on a router to bypass these limits, and ExpressVPN offers custom firmware to make this as easy as possible.

ExpressVPN has a couple of other features that Private Tunnel doesn’t. First, there’s split tunneling ability, which allows you to let certain apps through the VPN. This can be helpful for accessing local and international services simultaneously while traveling, for instance. There are also extensions for Chrome and Firefox that let you control the app without ever leaving your browser window.

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Streaming service
Netflix10+ libraries including US, UK,
Australia, Canada, France, India,
Japan, and Germany
No
HuluUS, JapanNo
Sky GoYesNo
Amazon Prime VideoUS, UKNo
BBC iPlayerNoNo
ABCYesNo
CBSYesNo
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Eleven SportsYesNo
Channel 4NoNo

ExpressVPN is the clear winner in this category. Not only was this service able to unblock most of the streaming platforms we tested it with, but it could even access a large number of international Netflix libraries. For context, most VPNs struggle to unblock anything other than the US library, so this is a very impressive result. On the other hand, Private Tunnel could only access a couple of smaller services, making it a poor choice for those hoping to stream while traveling.

There is a reason for this, however. ExpressVPN has marketed itself as being a great way to access region-locked services from abroad, and accordingly has put lots of time into finding ways around strict geo-blocking. Private Tunnel, however, was developed by the OpenVPN team, and was intended more as a general-use privacy tool.

China

China’s web-filtering technologies are known collectively as the Great Firewall. These prevent citizens (and tourists) from accessing huge swathes of material, from social media sites to impartial news sources. Predictably, most VPN sites are blocked outright, and many services simply don’t work in China. While this includes Private Tunnel, ExpressVPN works perfectly, and users don’t even have to configure anything or change any settings.

Note that there’s a good chance you’ll be unable to visit your provider’s website when you get to China. This means that you won’t have access to the downloads page or live chat, so it’s vital you install the service and save a copy of the manual setup instructions before arriving.

See also: Best China VPNs

Setup and interface

ExpressVPN desktop interface

ExpressVPN’s desktop app is free from clutter and very easy to use, with a quick-connection button that allows you to connect to the best available server in a single click. Its server list and settings menus are simple to navigate, and your most recent location can be accessed right on the main page. There are a few other helpful features too, like the ability to install browser extensions, run a speed test, or contact support directly (with diagnostic information included) directly from the app.

ExpressVPN mobile interface

Things aren’t much different in ExpressVPN’s mobile app. In fact, the only real changes are in the settings menu. Users can’t turn on the IPv6 leak protection, and can’t connect via the IKEv2 protocol like they can in desktop versions. But the kill switch, split tunneling ability, and local traffic blocker remain, and there’s an automatic wifi protection feature that isn’t yet present in desktop versions. This connects you to the VPN automatically any time you use a public internet hotspot, ensuring you never have to trade privacy for convenience.

private tunnel desktop interface

There are no differences at all between mobile and desktop versions of Private Tunnel. The main page features the ubiquitous quick-connect button and users can swipe to the right to monitor performance in real-time. Users can select a location (and in some cases, a specific region) in two clicks, which is great. The settings menu is pretty bare, but at the very least, this means you’ll never get lost looking for a particular option.

Servers and performance

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Server countries9412
Total number of servers3,000+Would not disclose

ExpressVPN and Private Tunnel have clearly taken different approaches to their networks. For instance, ExpressVPN has tried to cover as many locations as possible, while Private Tunnel seems to have aimed for consistent, reliable connections in a handful of in-demand countries. Still, it’s a little disappointing to see a paid VPN, even one as inexpensive as this, only covering 12 countries.

We’d have liked to see some data on the number of servers Private Tunnel has but this isn’t publicly available and staff refused to provide any details. Conversely, ExpressVPN lists details of its 3,000+ servers prominently on its website. Network size isn’t just a meaningless number; in theory, the more servers a provider has, the more users it can support, and the more reliable your speeds during peak times. Of course, other things can impact reliability too, but network size is a significant contributing factor.

ExpressVPN is a very fast service, averaging around 58 Mbps in our tests. This is fast enough for just about any day-to-day task. Private Tunnel is quick too, but struggles to keep up, even when ExpressVPN is on an OpenVPN connection. In fact, with the new, faster Lightway protocol, ExpressVPN pulls ahead even further. Essentially, Private Tunnel is pretty quick but might struggle with data-intensive tasks like 4K streaming.

Below, you’ll find a complete list of everywhere these VPNs have servers:

 ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Albania
Algeria
Andorra
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bangladesh
Belarus
Belgium
Bhutan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Brunei Darussalam
Bulgaria
Cambodia
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Ecuador
Estonia
Egypt
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Guatemala
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Japan
Jersey
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kyrgyzstan
Laos
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macau
Macedonia
Malaysia
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Myanmar
Netherlands
Nepal
New Zealand
Norway
Pakistan
Panama
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Venezuela
Vietnam

No matter how you look at it, ExpressVPN has the upper hand here. In fact, we’re effectively comparing one of the largest networks on the market against one of the smallest. On the plus side, Private Tunnel has made sure to offer servers across a fairly large geographical area. This means that wherever you are in the world, you should be able to get a reasonably fast connection.

Security

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, LightwayOpenVPN
OpenVPN data encryptionAES-256AES-256
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-2048
Cloaking technologyCipher-block chainingOVPN proxy
App securityKill switch (all platforms)Option to continuously try and reconnect 
DNS statusPrivate DNSPrivate DNS

Like most major services, both of these VPNs support the OpenVPN protocol. Private Tunnel was actually developed by the same organization that created this protocol, so on paper at least, it comes from pedigree stock. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t allow users to connect via any other protocols. Conversely, ExpressVPN supports connections over L2TP, IKEv2, and Lightway, its own proprietary answer to the up-and-coming Wireguard protocol.

Both providers use 256-bit AES encryption, but ExpressVPN’s RSA keys are twice as long as Private Tunnel’s. This means that, while neither service’s keys are easy to crack, it should theoretically take an attacker longer to brute force ExpressVPN’s. Instead of offering a kill switch like ExpressVPN (and really, most major services), Private Tunnel does something a little different; it has a feature that simply tries to reconnect over and over again if your connection times out.

These providers each protect your data in different ways. ExpressVPN uses a technique called cipher-block chaining. Simply, this means an attacker needs to capture the entirety of your session’s data before they can even attempt to crack the encryption. With even a single packet missing, there’s no way to decode any of the others. Meanwhile, Private Tunnel offers an OpenVPN proxy that essentially sends your traffic through two servers. This functionality is commonly referred to as a multi-hop or double VPN server in other VPN apps.

Privacy

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
HQ baseBritish Virgin IslandsCanada
Connection logsSome, but no identifiable dataIP address, bandwidth used, connection timestamps
Activity logsNoneNone
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoinNone

ExpressVPN operates out of the British Virgin Islands, a country with no data-retention laws. Private Tunnel, on the other hand, is based in Canada. This country is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, but this doesn’t automatically mean that Private Tunnel isn’t privacy-conscious. Let’s take a look at the type of information each service logs.

We’ll start with ExpressVPN. This VPN stores the date of your connection, the server you use, and the amount of data transferred. If you sign up using Bitcoin and a throwaway email address, none of this can be traced back to you personally. Even if it was, it couldn’t be used to track your activity.

Private Tunnel has a similar logging policy, but goes slightly further: as well as all of the information above, it stores the user’s real IP address and the time that you connected. Given that there are no anonymous payment options, this data makes it pretty simple for someone to personally identify you from your activities. According to Private Tunnel’s privacy policy, it deletes this information within a month.

Configuration

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Address allocationSharedShared
Dedicated IP address possibleNoNo
NAT firewallNoNo

Both providers rely on shared address allocation systems. Simply put, this means that when you connect to the VPN, you’ll share the same IP address as everyone else who’s currently using the same server. This mixes everyone’s activities together and makes it especially difficult to tell who accessed what.

Neither service offers a dedicated IP address, and neither includes a NAT Firewall (which helps filter out suspicious incoming traffic). ExpressVPN says that it doesn’t need one because it rejects all incoming data automatically. Although Private Tunnel doesn’t specifically address this on its website, it’s likely that it does as well.

Customer Service

ExpressVPNPrivateTunnel
Live chatYes (Zendesk)Yes (outsourced)
Ticket supportYesYes
Email supportYesYes
Average email response time35 minutes3 hours, 10 minutes
Phone supportNoNo
Searchable knowledge baseYesYes
Video guidesYesNo

Whichever service you choose, you’ll have plenty of ways to get help with any problems. Both providers offer 24/7 live chat, email support, and a knowledge base full of answers to common questions. Additionally, users can find video walkthroughs on ExpressVPN’s YouTube channel. Although Private Tunnel also has a YouTube channel, it only hosts ads there.

Usually, live chat is the best way to get help. In fact, you’ll often get a reply in seconds. However, this service may not always be available. That’s why we decided to send three questions to each provider over email. Below, you can see how responsive and helpful ExpressVPN and Private Tunnel were when we contacted them:

ExpressVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Can I install this service on an Amazon Firestick?28 minutes1Yes
Does this service allow torrenting?30 minutes1Yes
Is this VPN fast enough for streaming?47 minutes1Yes
PrivateTunnel
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Can I install this service on an Amazon Firestick?43 minutes1Yes
Does this service allow torrenting?15 minutes1Yes
Is this VPN fast enough for streaming?8 hours, 34 minutes1Yes

These providers both have impressive response times, with the vast majority of replies coming within the hour. Private Tunnel’s average was dragged down by one fairly long wait, but it’s important to remember that response times are influenced by everything from the volume of questions to the availability of staff. As such, you may even find that they answer your question faster than ours.

ExpressVPN’s support team provided detailed answers that appeared to be a blend of pre-written and customized text. Private Tunnel usually provides entirely personalized answers over email, although they’re often only a sentence or two long. If you can wait a little longer, it might be best to use email, since Private Tunnel’s live chat support staff tend to struggle with questions that aren’t already answered in the help center.

The winner: ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Private Tunnel was designed to enhance your online privacy, and it does this pretty well. However, it never goes as far as you’d hope. For instance, it fails to include standard security features and stores more personally identifiable information than it needs to. For this reason, ExpressVPN is the better choice for most people.

ExpressVPN is more versatile too, with faster speeds, multiple supported protocols, stronger unblocking abilities, and a higher connection limit. Most importantly, it offers a far more robust selection of privacy and security features, so you can access whatever you like over a secure connection.

ExpressVPN Coupon
Special Offer - get 3 months extra FREE
Black Friday TagGET DEAL
Discount applied automatically

See also: