Pro rating:9 / 10
Verdict:Excellent

ExpressVPN is a great one-size-fits-all VPN for those who are willing to pay a bit more for great design, solid security, strong performance, and fantastic customer service.

For:
  • Quick, consistent speeds
  • Great app design
  • Solid security
  • 24/7 live customer service
  • Works with Netflix
Against
  • Slightly more expensive than rivals
  • Limited configurations
Visit web site

"The fastest VPN on Earth," reads the headline plastered onto ExpressVPN's homepage. That's a big claim for any VPN to make, but ExpressVPN backs up its claim with a no quibbles 30-day money-back guarantee in a space where seven days is the standard and is one of the few VPNs that works with Netflix and all other streaming services we have tested to date.

Launched in 2009, ExpressVPN has grown to one of the most popular premium VPN services in the world. Can it put its money where its mouth is?

Update: ExpressVPN recently changed their policy on simultaneous devices to allow any three devices instead of just one of each type. You can now have three laptops connected at the same time instead of just a phone, laptop, and router, for example. In light of this and the addition of a network lock since this review was originally written, we have elected to bump ExpressVPN's rating from 8/10 (4 stars) to a 9/10 (4.5 stars).

Features and pricing
Express VPN server locations

ExpressVPN is not for users on a budget. The basic monthly price is $12.95 per month, while a yearly subscription cuts it down to $8.32 per month. That puts ExpressVPN firmly in the upper price bracket. ExpressVPN accepts payment via credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and several third-party payment gateways. 

By default, ExpressVPN will automatically choose the most favorable protocol on your behalf. Usually this is OpenVPN over UDP. Users may also manually choose to connect with OpenVPN over TDP, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and SSTP. You can learn about each of these protocols using our cheat sheet, but OpenVPN is generally regarded as the best option.

To make ExpressVPN as accessible and unintimidating as possible for novice users, it has cut out a few tweaks and features available on some more configurable rivals. Encryption levels are non-negotiable, for example; you can't speed up the connection by sacrificing security.

The latest update to the ExpressVPN app added a "network lock" feature that halts all internet traffic when the connection to the VPN drops. This prevents DNS leaks and effectively functions as a kill switch. Additionally, ExpressVPN forces all DNS requests over the IPv4 protocol instead of the less secure IPv6.

ExpressVPN speed tests

The ExpressVPN app includes a built-in speed tester tool to check which servers offer the fastest download times. The tool gives latency and download speeds for every server location on ExpressVPN's network. This sounds great in theory, but it can take several minutes to finish, and the results could change from one hour to the next.

Split tunneling was recently added to the Mac version, which allows you to pick and choose which apps and services get tunneled through the VPN tunnel and which are sent over the default ISP network.

Setup and interface
ExpressVPN app

This is where ExpressVPN shines the brightest. After signup, the user can download and install the VPN client. Upon first running it, you'll be prompted to input an activation code, which differs for each device. A link to a web page containing this code is included in the confirmation email, so be sure to save it. While it's a bit tedious to input the activation code for each device separately, it means you'll never--or, at least, rarely--need to waste time logging in. As soon as you start the app, it's ready to go. During the install process, the user can choose whether to share anonymous connection data to help improve speeds.

The app is probably the most intuitive and simply-designed VPN software we've ever used. Just select a server, star it if you want to quick access to it later, and hit Connect. A few basic settings can be tweaked in the options menu, such as which protocol you prefer to use, but all that can be ignored if you don't need it. The straightforward plug-and-play interface makes ExpressVPN a great choice for novice users or for people who need something their kids or elderly family members can use.

If you prefer not to leave the ExpressVPN GUI open, it will run quietly in the system tray. You can quickly connect to your favorite servers, disconnect, and access the options from there as well.

ExpressVPN Android App

The mobile apps require the same activation process and are equally simple. ExpressVPN clearly put a lot of thought into designing idiot-proof apps.

One downside comes into play when you want to use a fourth device. I have two PCs, a tablet, and a smartphone, for instance. If I leave ExpressVPN connected on three devices, then I can't connect on a fourth. Instead of simply booting one computer off the network, I must manually disconnect it. This means if I leave ExpressVPN connected on an office computer and forget that it's on, I won't be able to connect three devices at home. We would like to see a mechanism in which the old connection is booted off to make room for the new one.

Aside from the desktop and mobile apps, ExpressVPN also makes firmware that can be used by certain popular models of wifi routers. You can either buy a router pre-configured with ExpressVPN, or install the router app for free if your existing router is compatible. With the VPN set up on a router, all the devices connected to your home wifi will have their internet traffic routed through a VPN. The router only counts as one device, so an unlimited number of devices can use the VPN on a normal subscription, bandwidth pending.

If you want to flash ExpressVPN's firmware onto your router, double check that it is compatible first. Otherwise, you could brick your wifi router so that it's unusable.

expressvpn browser extension

In 2017, ExpressVPN added a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox to its repertoire. After adding the plug-in to your browser, you'll be able to control the VPN connection and location from a simplified version of the native app. Note that you still need to have the native app for either MacOS or Windows installed for it to work. This is not a standalone extension like the HTTPS proxy extensions offered by some other VPN providers. Sorry, Chromebook users. Instead, the extensions are simply another way to control the native app.

Does ExpressVPN work with Netflix?

Yes, but only on certain servers. If Netflix shows a proxy error when connected to ExpressVPN, contact the live chat support and ask which servers can currently access Netflix. We do not want to disclose which servers we used during testing so as not to draw undue attention to them but we can say ExpressVPN has been working consistently during out testing.

We only test VPNs with Netflix US, but ExpressVPN purports to also work with Netflix Canada and Netflix UK.

The same goes for Hulu and BBC iPlayer. You'll need to ask customer support, but ExpressVPN almost always has a server that can bypass the firewalls.

Servers and performance

ExpressVPN operates over 1,500 servers in 94 countries. That's more than your average run-of-the-mill provider, but a handful of rivals offer even more. Bandwidth and server switches are unlimited.

We streamed 1080p video without waiting for video to buffer and could seamlessly play fast-paced online games without any noticeable extra lag. Our only complaint is the very occasional dropped connection. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but users who spend a lot of time online can expect to see a temporary disconnection notification about once every couple of days. That means streams and downloads occasionally get interrupted, but the network lock will still make sure no traffic escapes the VPN tunnel.

To test the speed more empirically, we downloaded the same 82.7MB file (compressed from 103MB) three times from three different servers at three different times per day for a total of nine tests. For comparison's sake, we did the same for Private Internet Access, IronSocket, and without a VPN as a control group. Our tester connected to servers in Florida and Texas in the US, which are geographically closest to him, and in London. In the boxplot below, the thick black line represents the median download time, while the red diamond represents the mean. Lower is better.

vpn speed test

Express performed quite well in our tests. It recorded the fastest mean download time among the three VPNs we've tested, and the small size of the blue box shows it was remarkably consistent across all servers and times. PIA recorded a few faster download times, but was far more volatile depending on the time of day and server location.

Keep in mind that this test is not a definitive indicator of which VPN is fastest. The internet's inherent volatility adds a significant factor of randomness, so VPN speed tests should always be taken with a big grain of salt. Our tester's location is in Bogota, Colombia, where these tests are run on a 10 Mbps connection. Those with faster connections may well notice a larger discrepancy in speeds.

Security

ExpressVPN is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, placing it beyond the legal jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies like the NSA and GCHQ. All OpenVPN traffic--the default protocol--is encrypted with a 256-bit AES algorithm, which is as good as it gets for consumer-level transfer security.  Not only is the channel encryption strong, ExpressVPN also sets a gold standard when it comes to authentication (SHA 512).  4,096-bit ephemeral encryption protects key exchanges with perfect forward secrecy, which guards past sessions against future compromises of secret keys or passwords.

If you're using ExpressVPN's app, then the default encryption standards can't be altered, although the VPN protocol can if you prefer something faster.

ExpressVPN doesn't keep activity logs or monitor user activity, so you're free to use it however you like. Connection logs can be viewed on the local computer, however, and the user has the option to save them to a local file. Normally this is just used for troubleshooting. In the latest client update, ExpressVPN switched from calling these text files "logs" to "diagnostics." I guess the term "logs" tends to scare people away.

ExpressVPN does track dates (not times) that you connect to the service, which server you use, and the amount of data transferred. It does not log your IP address, however, and this information is only associated with your account. If you signed up anonymously using bitcoin and a burner email account, for example, none of this activity can be traced back to you or your devices.

Users get a shared static IP address. Because multiple users--sometimes hundreds or even thousands--use the same IP address, shared IPs add a significant level of anonymity. ExpressVPN does not offer dedicated/private IP addresses.

Customer Service

Because ExpressVPN is so easy to use, the demand for customer service should be quite low. Despite that, the company offers 24/7 live chat support with representatives that are fast, professional, and knowledgeable. You don't even have to be a customer. Support staff are available if you just want to ask a few questions before making a purchase decision.

If live chat isn't your thing, a contact form and email are also available. The only missing medium is a phone number.

Numerous tutorials, FAQs, and troubleshooting guides are at the user's disposal, for everything from how to watch live sports to descriptions of different types of VPN protocols.

During our time with ExpressVPN, we never received any spam email or other unsolicited promotions. The website, however, is littered with "Get ExpressVPN now" buttons, and the client always advertises its referral program or blog.

Update: ExpressVPN recently added a .onion version of its website that's accessible to anonymous Tor users. This, combined with the fact that ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin, allows customers to buy subscriptions without leaving any trace to their real identity or location.

Verdict

ExpressVPN is a great one-size-fits-all VPN for those who are willing to pay a bit more for great design, solid security, strong performance, and fantastic customer service. Those who prefer a ton of configuration options might find it lacking. For individual users who want a no-fuss VPN that's as simple and intuitive as possible, ExpressVPN is well worth the high price tag, particularly given the extra peace of mind the money back guarantee provides.

51 thoughts on “ExpressVPN Review

  • Hi all:
    I’m very much a noob with vpn. I’m moving to China in a few weeks and want to be able to use my Xbox to connect and play multiplayer games with my son back in Canada. I will also be using iPhones, iPads MacBook, etc.. Will ExpressVPN fit the bill?

  • Hi, Recently I have tried a well known VPN service for streaming through my Amazon stick with Kodi. Downloaded all ok. IP changed. However, when I tried to connect to a site on the internet I was blocked over and over again by my internet provider.
    I had done reasearch and was assured that if I downloaded it just to the stick all would be ok, it wasn’t. So, do I have to download to my Virgin Media router? Because how else do they not manage to block me?

  • I am leaving for China to teach for a year and a half. I live in Toronto. will I be able to access my gmail and banking online services?

    • Hi Kelzu,

      Based on how a VPN works, when you connect to one you will always change your IP address. That’s unavoidable, as that’s how a VPN is specifically designed to work. However, you can choose a server location that is as close to your own location as possible. However, if you’re looking to get the same benefit of a VPN without changing your IP address and therefore exact location, you won’t be able to do so.

  • Hi ,
    I want to use VPN on my Andorid Box specifically to kill buffering issues of streaming in KODI add ons . I am on 10 Meg Fibre line and want to know VPN can only be used for andorid app and will it slows downs my internet speed.

    Thanks,
    Chandra

    • All VPNs will slow down your internet connection at least somewhat due to the encryption/decryption process and the longer distance your data needs to travel to go through the VPN server.

  • Just installed on my iPhone as my first vpn and it was very easy. I was up and running in seconds. Been using all day and no issues. I am impressed.

    • Paul Bischoff is quite right but I have found London UK to be excellent and slightly faster than Hong Kong. Make sure you select L2TP under the protocol in Options, performs better than other protocols in China. I was advised to do this by Express VPN. Express VPN is an excellent product.

  • I live in South Africa and need a fast internet connection with Vietnam. Will Express VPN increase my internet speed? We have a 4 MBbp line but will be on fiber during the course of the month.

    • VPNs will not increase your internet speed except in certain scenarios, such as ISP throttling due to torrenting or censorship, for example.

  • Express VPN is the fastest and best service I have used, only way to use torrents so as to keep away the nastygrams from my ISP. I have tried many but overall Express does it all along with good tech support.
    MIKLO

  • I have a 300 Mbps. If I get a Express VPN what could I expect the speeds to drop to? I know there are large variables but if you could give me some idea on how much a VPN reduces your connection

    • 300Mbps isn’t a normal home connection so you’ll probably see significant slowdown, but it really just depends on what server you connect to and when. If you can find an empty one, you should get unlimited bandwidth, in which case you’ll only see a 10% or so slowdown due to the encryption/decryption.

      • Yeah, no kidding. Where I live, we just “upgraded” and now get between 11.5 and 12 Mbs download–and whoo hoo that is like rocket speed compared to what we had. On the other hand, I look out back at deer and the family of red foxes, 25 or so wild turkey’s, a nesting pair of hawks, flowers and my solar array, so I guess it is a fair trade off.
        Question: in 2013, I had a different VPN for CHina that was very expensive and seemed to drop out frequently. I will be back for 3 months coming this Fall so, the above is what I need? (Netflix occasionally, Amazon Prime, Skyping, sending images back and forth and doing business)?

  • Under ‘Servers and Performance’ this sentence needs to be crossed out, as it is no longer accurate: “This is further frustrated by the lack of a kill switch option, which would block all internet traffic while the VPN reconnects.”

    Thanks for the thorough review and for trying to keep it up to date, though. That’s more than many sites do. Much appreciated!

  • The reason I signed up was, because I heard they had great speed, great customer support and great uptime.

    Turns out though that their customer support is the worst, they are far from experts and just read from manuals which are similar the articles they already have online. They can’t actually troubleshoot any problems.

    Initially I liked the service and the software, but I’ve been plagued by slow speeds, all servers closest to me perform poorly and 1 doesn’t connect. So I have to choose between low ping and low speed or high ping and high speed.

    They don’t support 1 single travel router, I still got one and I’m not getting more than 1mbps when its 12mbps normally. Customer support couldn’t do anything to help.

    The extra price doesn’t get you more sadly.

    • Hi Roy,
      ExpressVPN collects some non-identifiable metadata used for diagnostic purposes. This might include what dates (not times) you connected, how much data was transferred, etc. It does not include your IP address or the contents of any of your traffic. While zero logs is always preferable, these metadata logs are minimal and the vast majority of users shouldn’t have anything to worry about when it comes to privacy.
      Best,

      Paul

  • I’m going to China the first of March and basically I just want to connect to Facebook and Google as well as my email. I will be connecting an iphone and a kindle (and possibly another iphone). I will only need it for 10 days but I understand that I can get a month’s subscription and just cancel before the month end. Will it work to access Facebook and Google in China on my devices? Thanks.

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Yes ExpressVPN should work for this and you will be able to cancel within 30 days and get a refund if you wish to.

  • We moved from San Francisco to Paris about 8 months ago, and started with a DNS hider. That quickly proved to be insufficient, so we switched to ExpressVPN. We had to do some tweaking, but customer support is excellent. I’ve been able to live chat with someone each time I had a problem, and they stayed on the line offering alternate DNS addresses and servers until we got everything up and running. They then took my feedback to give their engineers so they knew which servers were working and which weren’t. Things have been flawless since then. And we have 3 teenage girls who keep their phones and/or laptops streaming almost constantly, plus my wife and myself on the Apple TV at night. We use the US version of Netflix and Hulu primarily, but also watch HBO. And so far this is the only workable solution I’ve found.

  • Hi,

    I’m concerned that with the possibility of disconnects and with no kill switch, doesn’t that render this useless if for any period you and unprotected? Am missing something? Thanks.

  • I live in Bali/Indonesia and have fiber with 50+ mbps in my villa. But when i use ExpressVNP to connect to Denmark (my home country) the speed falls to 0.50 – 2.00 mbps (tested with Ookla speedtest MANY times). It’s makes streaming unusable. If anyone know a better solution or a workaround – i’m in!

    • Also live in Indonesia (Jakarta) with close to 100mbps speed. With Express VPN, my speed gets to about 50-75% of the normal speed when connecting to the US servers (depending on the time of day + weekday/weekend). Perhaps there was some server issue when you were testing your speed. You should contact their customer service to figure out what’s going on.

      • “Nola”? Are you from New Orleans?? (N ew O rleans, LA)

        I recently started using Expressvpn and I’m also experiencing around 50% reduction in throughput. However, I’m starting at a much lower rate without the VPN (~ 12mb/sec). This puts me below the level necessary for quality streaming. I’m using US Servers only, so far. Have you learned of any ways to mitigate the reduction in speed?

        Thanks!

        • Hi Steven,
          There are dozens of factors that can affect your VPN speed, so this is probably a question best left to the ExpressVPN support team.
          Best,
          Paul

  • Novice User here, i live in UAE for now, and i only tried one other paid VPN service, which worked fine for me a while until they updated their system and app. Now i have a hard time connecting or maintaining a connection and i am strongly considering trying something else asap so that i can cancel my subscription renewal which is due in couple of days. So i have to ask anybody who tried expressvpn german servers in online gaming, share your experience or rating.

  • I’m in China. After lots of free methods to bypass China’s GFW been blocked, I started using paid VPNs. I’ve tried a lot, ExpressVPN is the only one I’ve found so far that’s a always working & allows torrent traffics & unlimited data and speed. Sure sometimes it got difficult connecting, but by retrying and changing locations (and connecting methods) it worked good, even when times that other VPNs been blocked here in China. It one of the more expensive ones, but data and speed is unlimited is nice, so I don’t have to constantly checking a dashboard to see how much I’ve left.

    I don’t know how this VPN performed on other countries, but it worked fine for me, it’s nice they’ve got clients for just about any platform, make things more convenient. (You can use OS default ways like L2TP to connect too. With or without a client) I’ve tried setting this up on my DD-WRT router and it worked great, making everything go through VPN, without having to set each device up individually. I’ve made two Wi-Fi signals for my house, one with this ExpressVPN and one without, needs a bit of work to set this up, but it’s fun and convenient. Pretty much any DD-WRT router can do it, you don’t have to buy theirs (those routers on ExpiresVPN website), they’re over priced.

  • I am seeing the same thing. I have 150/20 biz line and when the VPN is active I only get about 60/12 on the fastest server tested by their app on the Mac client. Pretty disappointing performance for those with high speed connections

  • Hi, I am a dead-set novice so need some advice. I frequently travel to Asia from Australia and get very frustrated when i can’t watch my Australian home paid Foxtel Sports programs when I am in Asia. Will this VPN allow me access to this site or is there alternative channels i could access through the VPN to view the likes of Aust rules football, Motogp and F1 motor sports.

    • Hi Colin,
      ExpressVPN has servers in Australia and should work for watching all of those things. I haven’t tested it personally, but you can always get your money back in 30 days if I’m wrong.
      Best,
      Paul

  • I’ve been trying to use ExpressVPN with a RaspberryPi running OpenELEC / Kodi. I can’t get it to work and the online chat at ExpressVPN says this configuration is not supported so they can’t help me.

  • Didn’t work out for me, but their customer service was better than expected. I gave them a try thinking that they had the best speeds available. Maybe they did since I haven’t tried anything else, but once I started using them, my internet speed slowed down to back the the dial up modem days. Even loading just simple websites would take a minute or two. I chatted with their service rep which I got a hold of via their live chat quite fast. Changed a few settings, but it was still slow. Changing locations of different servers didn’t help either. So a few days later I cancelled and asked for a refund. A few days after that, I got my refund back. Overall, it didn’t work out for me, but at least they didn’t try to scam me out of my money and their customer service was pretty good.

  • Hi there, I am a Canadian living overseas (Asia) and am interested in the best VPN for connecting to Canadian based sites. I read one complaint with ExpressVPN on accessing (apparently) their single/only Canadian server (in Montreal), for example. I have no experience using VPN’s, so I’m starting from scratch here. Would BufferedVPN (or something else) be a better choice for accessing Canadian content? Appreciate any help you can provide!

    • Hi David,
      ExpressVPN has four server locations in Canada. Buffered only has one. I don’t have any issues when connecting to ExpressVPN’s Canada servers. That being said, there are several more VPNs with servers in Canada worth considering, especially if you want to save money as Express is pretty expensive.
      Best,

      Paul

  • ExpressVPN and I go way back. The first time I ever used a VPN was a no cost service that my colleague told me about when we went to China for a business conference. My friend and I decided that we needed some good old american entertainment to cool off after our intense days of negotiation. We would switch on our VPN and unblock Netflix, and spent hours watching movies. We binge watched entire seasons after unblocking geo-restricted websites.We never had any problems, thanks to the 78 ExpressVPN servers. We would use a different VPN server every day and we never had any problems bypassing the great firewall. The best bit was that we could unblock Netflix US. I’d read about it in a few ExpressVPN reviews but we’d never tried this out back home in Australia and the kids were psyched when I got back home and told him that they could unblock all the movies and shows on Netflix US using ExpressVPN.Logged in to post this comment because I’ve got a friend at work who uses another VPN service and is complaining about streaming speeds and payment issues with the service every second day. But I always say that

  • I just had an on-line chat with the folks at ExpressVPN. They said I could use ANY 3 supported devices at the same time. So 3 computers would be OK if no other of your devices were connected. Or 2 computers and one mobile device… They said Any 3.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *