ExpressVPN vs ProtonVPN

With remote working on the rise and a growing interest in digital privacy around the world, there’s never been a better time to start using a VPN. However, there are so many to choose from that it can be hard to decide which is best for your needs. ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN are two of the biggest VPN names in the world, and we’ve taken a close look at both.

In this comparison of ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN, we explore the features available, how they work, how much each service costs, and much more. If you’re in a rush and just want to know the outcome, ExpressVPN is our winner. Keep reading to find out how we came to that conclusion.

Highlights

ExpressVPN

  • Large network of high-speed servers
  • Great at accessing geo-restricted streaming platforms
  • Powerful security and privacy features
  • Pay anonymously with Bitcoin
  • Custom firmware for routers

ProtonVPN

  • Consistently high speeds
  • Works with plenty of popular geo-blocked services
  • Known for its strong security offering
  • Keeps no logs and accepts Bitcoin

ExpressVPN vs ProtonVPN pricing

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Subscription periods1 month, 6 months, 1 yearOne month, one year, two years
Highest price per month$12.95$9.99
One year price $99.95 (actually for 15 months)$71.88
Money back guarantee30 days30 days
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

ProtonVPN offers three tiers of service. The most basic is the free plan, which gives you access to 100+ servers in three countries. The next is the Proton Plus plan, which includes access to all Proton servers. You can subscribe to Proton Plus for one month at $9.99, for one year at $5.99 a month, and for two years at $4.99 a month.

The ProtonVPN Unlimited tier includes access to all Proton servers plus premium services such as Proton Mail, Calendar, Drive, and Pass. Prices range from $7.99 and month to $12.99 a month.

For the sake of clarity, we’ll use the Proton Plus plans for our comparison. So how do these stack up against ExpressVPN price-wise?

ExpressVPN’s monthly plan is $2.96 more expensive, at $12.95. Its annual plan, however, is $1.67 a month cheaper at $8.32. ExpressVPN also has a six-monthly plan which costs the equivalent of $9.99 a month.

Taken together, ProtonVPN is the cheapest for both the longest subscriptions and the shortest. You’ll only get a better deal with ExpressVPN if you want to subscribe for a year.

Whichever service you choose, you can take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means you’ll be able to try both out, risk-free, safe in the knowledge that you can claim a full refund at any point.

BEST DEAL FOR EXPRESSVPN:Sign up for a year to get a 49% discount and three extra months.

BEST DEAL FOR PROTONVPN:Cut the cost of your ProtonVPN subscription by 33% by signing up for the two-year plan.

ExpressVPN vs ProtonVPN features

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Simultaneous Connections8Free: 1, VPN Plus: 10
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, RoutersWindows, Linux, MacOS, iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox, Chromebook
Manual install devicesCertain routersRouters
Free extrasPassword manager (on mobile), ad and tracker-blocking, Smart DNS service. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Vivaldi, and BraveAutomatic Kill Switch, browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Both of these services have strong multi-platform support. They even offer Amazon Fire TV apps and command line-based installers for Linux systems, two things that many other VPNs neglect to do.

ExpressVPN goes one step further, though, and offers its own custom firmware for routers. This makes it easier to secure your home network and allows you to protect all of your devices simultaneously (since a router only counts as one connection, regardless of how many devices are connected to it).

ProtonVPN has a built-in ad-blocker and automatically scans downloaded files for malware. ExpressVPN doesn’t offer this feature, but it does come with extensions for Firefox and Chrome that allow you to control the app directly from your browser. It can also be configured to connect automatically whenever you use an unsecured wireless network. This is particularly helpful if you travel a lot, as you’ll be more reliant on public wi-fi hotspots, which are notoriously insecure.

ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN both offer split tunneling support. However, ExpressVPN has this feature on all platforms while ProtonVPN restricts it to Windows and Android. So what is split tunneling? Simply, it lets you choose apps to bypass the VPN. This could be useful, for instance, if you want to access geo-blocked services with the VPN while using your regular connection to ensure the highest possible download speeds.

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks Sky Go
Unblocks Prime Video
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Unblocks ABC
Unblocks CBS
Unblocks NBC
Unblocks ITV
Unblocks Channel 4
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

ProtonVPN puts up a good fight here, working with some of the most popular streaming platforms with ease. In fact, it was even able to access an impressive number of Netflix libraries, as well as Amazon Prime Video, which is particularly difficult to access. That said, it ran into trouble with CBS and All 4.

ExpressVPN worked similarly well, and was able to access most of the services we tested. It did struggle with All 4 and BBC iPlayer (which is a particularly difficult platform to access). Notably, this VPN excelled at accessing regional Netflix libraries. For contrast, most other providers settle for providing access to the American library, and perhaps the British one if you’re lucky.

Which of these VPNs work in China?

China has some of the strictest, most widespread internet censorship of any country in the world. What’s more, the government knows that its citizens can bypass these restrictions with a VPN, and has taken steps to block most major providers outright.

Luckily, ExpressVPN still works perfectly in China. There are no settings to be changed and no manual setup required. This service even operates a mirror site that can be accessed in China (although you’ll have to ask for the address before arriving).

Unfortunately, ProtonVPN no longer works in China. The relevant support article on the website claims that the service is investigating the situation but the page hasn’t been updated since 2019 and as such, this service should no longer be relied upon if you’re planning on traveling to China.

Setup and interface

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Automatic setup wizardWindows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Tomato and DD-WRT routersWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android
Main location selectionList-basedList and map-based
Extra settings pages
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Each of these services has easy-to-use apps for all of the most popular platforms. ExpressVPN’s desktop app features a large quick connection button, plus a server list that’s separated by continent.

Of course, you can also search for a specific country if you’d like. The settings menu is split across several tabs which helps to keep things neat. We particularly liked how descriptive the option names are, and that the app gives examples of situations when you might need to change them.

ExpressVPN UI

ProtonVPN’s desktop app lets you choose your server from a map or a list. Alternatively, you can configure specific profiles, for instance, if you want to use a random server every time. The server menu is uncluttered and easy to navigate, with most options activated using a simple toggle switch.

That said, the NetShield and kill switch have to be activated on the main screen, which is a little counterintuitive given that these are some of the most important security features this service has to offer.

ProtonVPN UI

ExpressVPN is almost identical on mobile devices. There are a couple of items (DNS server choice and IPv6 leak protection) missing from the settings menu. However, you can choose to connect automatically any time you use an unsecured network, a feature that isn’t present in desktop versions of the software.

ExpressVPN Mobile

ProtonVPN changes its layout slightly for mobile users, with the server list, map, and profile list put into separate tabs. Additionally, instead of showing the quick connect button at all times, users have to click a popup at the bottom of the screen to show it. This isn’t immediately obvious the first time you use the app, and definitely takes some getting used to. Also, the IPV6 leak protection and ability to automatically connect when opening the app have been removed.

ProtonVPN Mobile

Servers and performance

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Server countries10585+
Total number of serversUndisclosed3,800
Mobile-friendly
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

When it comes to network size, ExpressVPN has ProtonVPN beat. It has servers in 34+ more countries, which is a significant difference. Note that the industry average is around 60, so ProtonVPN having coverage in 71+ countries is nonetheless respectable.

Both of these services are very fast. In our most recent tests, ExpressVPN averaged 193 Mbps, while ProtonVPN averaged a highly impressive 320 Mbps. They’re consistent, too, so there’s no need to worry about network slowdown at peak times or inadvertently connecting to a dud server. In fact, you should even be able to stream 4K video without any noticeable lag or buffering.

Here’s a full list of every country where ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN have servers:

ExpressVPNProtonVPN
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 Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Venezuela
Vietnam

ExpressVPN has servers in more countries than almost any other major provider. This does mean that some are more sought after than others (the US servers are more popular than those in Brunei, for instance) but it also means that you can access a far wider range of services. Furthermore, there’ll always be a server nearby, so you won’t have to compromise speed for security.

To its credit, ProtonVPN has servers in two locations ExpressVPN doesn’t: Russia and the United Arab Emirates. It’s worth mentioning that both of these countries have widespread online censorship and particularly harsh punishments for breaking the law. As such, it’s a great idea to use a VPN when travelling there. Further, as ProtonVPN follows a strict no-logging policy, you’ll be kept safe from government surveillance.

Security

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, Lightway, IKEv2OpenVPN, Smart Protocol (Windows only), WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-4096
Kill SwitchDesktop only
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Both of these services support the OpenVPN protocol. This has traditionally been the industry standard, though it’s more recently been surpassed by the speedy WireGuard protocol. ProtonVPN supports WireGuard, for example.

Rather than jump on the WireGuard bandwagon, ExpressVPN has created Lightway, its own proprietary, security-focused protocol. Lightway boasts faster speeds than OpenVPN, especially on long-distance connections and will soon be made open-source, which will allow it to be fully audited for privacy.

Both providers support IKEv2, with ExpressVPN providing additional support for the L2TP protocol

ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN both use 256-bit AES encryption and 4096-bit RSA keys. Without getting too technical, this is extremely secure. In fact, this level of protection would take the fastest computers in the world thousands of years to crack without the correct decryption key.

Both providers include a kill switch that stops sending data when your connection to the VPN drops. Neither provider includes this feature in their mobile apps (although similar functionality can be replicated using built-in settings on Android).

Each service has one more trick up its sleeve. ExpressVPN’s cipher-block chaining requires a hacker to capture every data packet in your session to even have a shot at beating your encryption. Meanwhile, ProtonVPN sends requests to its servers, website, and Proton Mail service via a different route. This should help you access these services, even in places where they’re specifically blacklisted (although China remains an exception).

Privacy

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
HQ base of operationBritish Virgin IslandsGeneva, Switzerland
Connection logsSome aggregated data
Activity logsNo identifying data
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoinBitcoin
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

It’s clear that both of these providers value your privacy. ExpressVPN operates out of the British Virgin Islands and as such, isn’t required to keep any logs. Accordingly, the only data it stores is your connection date (not time), the server you chose, and how much data was transferred. That said, if you sign up with Bitcoin and a disposable email address, there’s nothing to tie any of this information to you.

ProtonVPN’s website mentions that its data center is located in an underground bunker below the Alps, so you’d rightly expect it to be pretty privacy-focused. It doesn’t keep any logs that could identify you, and only stores the date and time you last connected. Like ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN allows you to sign up almost completely anonymously with Bitcoin.

Configuration

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
Address allocationSharedShared
Dedicated IP possible?
DDoS protection
NAT firewall
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

These VPNs both use shared address allocation systems to provide another layer of anonymity. This means that you’ll share a single IP address with everyone else on the same server. Even if there were traffic logs (which neither ExpressVPN or ProtonVPN keep), there’d be no real way to tell which user accessed what.

It’s currently not possible to get your own dedicated IP address (or even a static IP address) with either service. ExpressVPN’s reason for this is that it regularly changes its server addresses. This could explain how it’s able to reliably access geo-blocked services that most of its rivals struggle with.

No valueExpressVPNProton VPN
WebsiteExpressVPN.comprotonvpn.com
24/7 live chatPaid plans only
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time49 mins1-2 days
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
$3.59
Up to 64% off a 2-year plan

Each of these providers has a searchable help center full of setup guides and answers to commonly-asked questions. However, only ExpressVPN provides live chat support, with ProtonVPN being entirely reliant on a ticket system.

This is actually a pretty big deal, since around-the-clock support is a feature most major VPNs offer. We could maybe overlook this if ProtonVPN were an entirely free-to-use service, but paying customers generally expect more.

Of course, what really matters is the quality of the responses. After all, live chat might go offline at times, and users in China can’t access it at all. With this in mind, we sent three questions to each service over email. Take a look below to see how long it took them to respond, and how effectively they answered our questions:

ExpressVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Is this service safe to use in the UAE? 32 minutes1Yes
What kind of speeds can I expect when connected? 50 minutes1Yes
Which server should I use to unblock Amazon Prime Video? 1 hour, 16 minutes1Yes
ProtonVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
Is this service safe to use in the UAE? >2 days1Yes
What kind of speeds can I expect when connected? >2 days1Yes
Which server should I use to unblock Amazon Prime Video? >2 days1Yes

ProtonVPN’s response time could certainly be improved. This is especially important as email is the main way customers are expected to get in touch. For comparison, even when contacted over email, most other providers would usually address your queries in hours, but usually not days. ExpressVPN for instance, provided full, clear responses with an average response time of under an hour.

The winner

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

It’s clear that ProtonVPN has its strengths. It’s extremely fast and great at accessing stubborn streaming services from abroad. The company also clearly has a strong commitment to user privacy. However, for most people, ExpressVPN is the better choice.

There are a few reasons for this. First, its subscription model is easier to understand; users get the same level of service no matter which plan they pick. There’s also a far greater number of servers (and locations) to choose from, plus you’ll be able to browse without restriction in places like China and easily configure a connection on your router. Finally, unlike ProtonVPN, ExpressVPN offers around-the-clock support over live chat and email. In other words, ExpressVPN is an extremely versatile service that’s well worth checking out.

ExpressVPN Coupon
SAVE: 49% + 3 months free
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