Good VPN service is getting easier to find. Great VPN service is a little harder to come by. In this review, we put ExpressVPN to the test in order to find out if it’s truly fast, leak-proof and reliable.
Quick Look at ExpressVPN:
ExpressVPN reviews by leading media companies including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNET, Forbes, BBC, and others lead us to believe that this offshore VPN might in fact be among the best.
The 30-day money back guarantee is an indicator that the company feels confident about its ability to deliver the expected level of quality, and that it stands behind its service. So, how does ExpressVPN measure up?
Why Use a VPN?
If you’re new to the world of VPNs, then you’re going to want to read this before getting on to the rest of the ExpressVPN review. If you’ve been around the block, then feel free to skip ahead. You’ve probably heard these things before.
Here’s the short, sweet version of the reasons to use a VPN: Your privacy depends on it.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When you’re logged onto a VPN server, data is routed through a secure IP address that keeps you anonymous.
This means that information you transmit can’t be seen by hackers, governments, and other entities who are interested in intercepting your data.
It means that your carrier can’t see what you’re doing, and cannot throttle your data as a punitive measure when it feels you’re watching too many videos or playing too many games.
It means that everything you do online is secure – from your casual chatroom conversations to your important financial details.
There’s another reason to use a VPN: Connecting to a VPN server in a certain country makes it look like you’re in that country, so you can get around geofiltering and censorship.
If, for example, you are visiting a country that censors certain parts of the internet, or you’re visiting an area where your favorite streaming services aren’t available, you can choose a VPN server in a country where those services are allowed, log in, and enjoy the content you prefer.
Spoofing your location lets you access regionally restricted sites and streaming services using Kodi, TV boxes, and other internet enabled devices.
Even though the idea of using a VPN might seem overly technical, there’s nothing difficult about it. Providers like ExpressVPN do all the “work” for you, encrypting data so that it’s safe for you to send and receive.
You stay anonymous, protected, and secure while the VPN application runs in the background. Like other VPNs we’ve reviewed, ExpressVPN works with routers, phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs.
You can even use it to protect other internet-enabled devices like Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more. Your devices work the same as they do now, without you noticing VPN working behind the scenes.
With ExpressVPN, you have your pick of 148 server locations in 94 countries including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
There’s a little more to the story, though. Because some smaller countries are notorious for having slower internet connections, ExpressVPN uses virtual server locations for some localities.
This means that your traffic comes from an IP address that is registered in the country you’ve chosen, but that is physically routed through a server located in a country with a faster, better connection.
ExpressVPN offers server tools to help you determine which server location is best for your needs. You can check your IP address to find out what websites see when you visit.
You can also test your connection speed with the VPN speed test, which measures download speed as well as latency.
If you’re in a hurry, you can choose to use ExpressVPN Smart Location, which uses an algorithm to determine which VPN server location will work fastest and best.
ExpressVPN offers a number of desirable features that help keep you safe while enjoying the benefits of a high-speed network. It’s consistently rated as one of the fastest VPNs out there, and we didn’t notice any slowdowns during testing. Here are some features that help ExpressVPN stand out.
Suitability for Streaming
Many people opt to use VPN service for the express purpose of streaming movies and TV shows without worrying about common issues such as privacy, online censorship, and geofiltering. Where some VPNs fall short in terms of video quality and speed, ExpressVPN passes the test.
Additionally it works with streaming services including HBO Go/Now, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix.
Not only does ExpressVPN offer enough power and speed to assure a pleasant viewing experience, it also allows users to change their virtual locations so that location-based censors cannot prevent Kodi add-ons and other entertainment features from running as desired. Additionally, it prevents your ISP from logging and/or monitoring the content you consume.
ExpressVPN does not allow third party access. It does not maintain connection logs or activity logs.
Because the company runs its own DNS on every one of its VPN servers, your security is assured even when you’re in areas known for vulnerability, i.e. public WiFi hotspots located in hotels, cafes, airports, etc.
Since DNS requests from ExpressVPN are signed and encrypted, users are safe from filtering, phishing, and manipulation, and they aren’t subject to censorship.
Some VPNs come without kill switches. ExpressVPN isn’t one of them: This service offers Network Lock Kill Switch, which automatically stops any internet traffic from entering or being transmitted by your device in the event that you are disconnected from your VPN server.
This assures your complete privacy. If this level of security isn’t important to you, you can disable Network Lock.
ExpressVPN uses AES-256, which is the same level of encryption that the U.S. government uses.
Additionally, it uses different VPN protocols to ensure that a strong level of encryption exists between your device and the VPN server location you choose.
Most users opt for “Automatic,” which means that ExpressVPN automatically decides which protocol will work best in terms of speed and security. You can also choose between UDP OpenVPN, TCP OpenVPN, L2TP over IPSec, or PPTP. It’s worth noting that these additional options are not available everywhere.
You can check the list of ExpressVPN server locations to determine availability.
Other features include:
- Server authentication
- HMAC authentication
- Control-channel encryption
- Data-channel encryption
- Perfect forwarded secrecy
Because you can lose access to local networks when using a VPN server located in a different country, ExpressVPN offers split tunneling.
This lets you get around the problem by routing some of your traffic through the encrypted VPN server, and allowing other portions of your traffic to bypass the VPN server and maintain direct access to the internet via your own service.
Split tunneling lets you access local internet services while simultaneously accessing foreign internet services.
Additionally, it prevents you from using up all your bandwidth by transmitting all data through the VPN, and it allows you to access LAN devices as needed. With split tunneling, you can do basic tasks like download safely and surf securely while accessing your network’s printer.
The split tunneling feature is easy to toggle on and off for every device.
There are two different options for split tunneling with ExpressVPN:
- Use split tunneling to protect all applications or connected devices except the ones you specifically exclude
- Use inverse split tunneling to single out specific devices or applications for protection while allowing everything else to route outside the VPN
You don’t have to use split tunneling if you don’t want to. It’s just an “extra” benefit ExpressVPN offers. It’s worth noting that split tunneling only protects data that’s routed through the VPN. Data that is routed through your own service is not hidden from third parties.
Easy to Connect and Use
It’s easy to set up ExpressVPN once you’ve subscribed. Simply download and install the app.
Afterward, decide on a server location, click connect, and use the internet as you normally would, but minus any worries about privacy. You can save your favorite locations to save time in the future.
ExpressVPN has an excellent reputation for customer service and support, with live chat available 24/7. Requests can be handled via email if you’d rather not speak with support staff.
Are there any drawbacks to ExpressVPN?
As the old saying goes, nobody’s perfect. While ExpressVPN’s level of service, privacy, and ease of use is best in class, this is one of the more expensive VPN services out there.
Of course, it makes sense – the company has to pay a premium to maintain its infrastructure, and it doesn’t sell its users’ information the way some cheaper services do. This being said, it’s possible to save quite a bit of money by going with a 12-moth plan instead of paying month by month.
Express VPN gives its annual users a 35% discount, and it offers a generous referral program that can help you save even more money.
Additionally, there is no limit to the number of devices you can protect with ExpressVPN. You can download the app on all the devices you want to protect, or you can configure it manually on devices that don’t accept apps.
You can connect and use three devices at a time, or you can install the ExpressVPN app on your router and connect as many devices as you want to that router.
ExpressVPN comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, which essentially allows you to try the service for free and decide if it’s right for you without risking anything.
If you value security and performance, you’ll probably like everything about ExpressVPN. The cost is a touch higher than some others, but the benefits outweigh this minor drawback.