Welcome to our ExpressVPN review, where we’ll take a hard look at ExpressVPN–a premium VPN service at a premium price.
ExpressVPN is a high-end VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands. They cater to the higher-end consumer, and their prices are higher than average. The upside is they can afford more server bandwidth per user, and a great development team.
This is why their speeds and software are solidly above the industry average. ExpressVPN has an industry-leading 30 day money-back guarantee, so you can try their software risk-free for a full month.
RELATED: All our VPN reviews in one place.
Company: ExpressVPN (based in British Virgin Islands)
Server Locations: 100+ servers in 78+ countries
Protocols: OpenVPN (best), PPTP, L2TP/IPSec,
Encryption Strength: 256-bit
Logging Policy: Temporary connection logs
ExpressVPN App for: Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone
Best Uses: Media Streaming, Security, Torrents, gaming
Regular Price: $12.95/month
Current Best Price: $8.32/month (Claim this deal and save 35%)
ExpressVPN Review Sections
- Software and Features
- Security and Encryption
- Privacy/Logging Policy
- Alternative VPN Providers
ExpressVPN is a high-performance premium VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands. BVI is not subject to UK data retention laws, though they do keep some minimal connection logs.
They have excellent desktop and mobile software. Their mobile VPN client (for both iOS and Android) is one of the best in the industry.
ExpressVPN is a good choice for power users, who are looking for a high-quality VPN service (as long as you’re willing to pay a premium price). They’re a good fit for: HD Video streaming, Website unblocking, travel, and general internet security. They also do allow torrents, but we recommend frequent torrenters always choose a true non-logging VPN.
Software and Features
ExpressVPN’s desktop software is easy to use and very stable. It is available for both Windows and Mac computers (They also have a separate mobile VPN app for iOS/Android).
ExpressVPN’s software includes several bonus features not found in most VPN software including:
- Favorite servers list (customizable)
- Smart VPN protocol selection
- Choice of all 4 VPN protocols (most software is OpenVPN only)
- Built-in server speed testing
The software itself is quite light-weight (it hardly takes up any system resources). Once you get used to the interface and location selection tool, it’s quite easy to use.
Main software screen
The startup screen is very minimal. Basically you get a ‘connect’ button, and 1-click access to the server selection menu.
Server Selection Tool
Clicking the ‘Select Another Location’ link will launch the server selection tool. ExpressVPN currently has servers in more than 70 countries worldwide.
You can choose a server organized by:
- recommended locations
- region (US, Asia, Europe, etc)
- all servers in alphabetical order
- your ‘favorite servers’ list
The two screens I found myself using the most were: My favorite server list (#1) and the regional server list (#2)
Regional Server list
All of ExpressVPN’s servers are divided into 4 general regions. You can then expand each list to browse the servers within that region.
You may have noticed the yellow and gray stars beside each server in the image above. From any server list, you can add a specific server (country location) to your favorite servers list by clicking a gray star beside a server. If the star is yellow, that means it’s in your favorites list.
You access the favorite’s list by clicking the ‘star’ icon in the top left corner of the server selection tool.
Software settings menu
To access the settings menu, click the ‘…’ icon in the top right of the software
The general settings give you access to several preferences (you likely will set these the way you like, and then forget about them).
You get the following options:
- Launch Express VPN on system startup
- Auto-connect to most recent server (if you usually use the same server)
- Force use of ExpressVPN’s DNS (recommend. see DNS leak protection)
- Choose to share anonymous usage statistics
Most of these settings are completely optional, though I recommend you enable the ‘ExpressVPN DNS option’, which will make sure your ISP doesn’t have access to your web history.
ExpressVPN lets you choose from all 5 of their available VPN protocols. Or you can just let the software pick the best option (recommended for most users).
Commonly used protocols would be:
- OpenVPN UDP (Ideal for HD video streaming, Torrents, general use.)
- SSTP (if you need to get through a firewall. Stealth protocol).
- PPTP (if speed is more important than security. Try OpenVPN UDP first.)
What the software is missing?
The only thing really missing from ExpressVPN’s software is a Kill-Switch, which is a handy security feature to prevent IP leaks in the case of a dropped connection. Fortunately we have a guide on how to create your own kill-switch for free.
Security/Encryption & DNS Leak Test
ExpressVPN uses a 256-bit encryption tunnel with the OpenVPN protocol. OpenVPN 256-bit is the industry standard as is considered extremely secure.
If you choose to use the PPTP, or L2TP protocol instead (only recommended for high speed media streaming) you will use lighter/faster 128-bit encryption.
DNS Leak Test
DNS Leaks are one of the most commons ways your true IP address and/or web browsing history can leak to 3rd parties when using a VPN. This is primarily due to a Windows security flaw. Learn more about DNS leaks and how to fix them.
Many of the top VPN providers have now built ‘DNS Leak Protection’ into their software, which makes sure that the VPN software always uses private DNS servers to look up web addresses.
ExpressVPN has had DNS leak protection for a while now, though I actually recently brought to their attention a flaw in the way ExpressVPN’s software handles tranparent DNS proxies. The issue was completely patched in the most recent software version (4.01).
Here are the latest results from our ExpressVPN test on dnsleaktest.com:
The test found only 1 DNS server, and it doesn’t belong to my ISP (which is exactly what we want to see). ExpressVPN scored a perfect 10 on our DNS leak test.
Privacy & Logging Policy
ExpressVPN does take privacy seriously, and they only require a minimum of information (Email & Payment method) to subscribe. They keep temporary connection logs for troubleshooting purposes, but don’t log or record any information about your web history or activity.
ExpressVPN allows you to signup and pay anonymously. All they require is:
- A valid email address (to receive your login/password)
- A form of payment (anonymous bitcoin payments accepted)
That’s it. You can even use a disposable email service like guerillamail.com if you want.
ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands. They are not subject to the strict EU data retention laws (or UK retention laws for that matter). As such, are not required to maintain detailed information about your VPN usage.
Like most VPN’s, Express VPN does keep some minimal connection logs primarily for troubleshooting purposes and to prevent abuse of their 30-day refund policy.
Typical connection logs consist of:
- Incoming/Outgoing IP address
- KB of data transferred
That’s it. If used in conjunction with shared IP addresses (multiple users sharing a single VPN IP address; expressvpn does use shared IP’s) then connection logs cannot be used to identify a specific vpn account or user based on their assigned IP address.
Connection logs are not a major security threat and should not discourage you from choosing ExpressVPN.
If however, you want maximum possible privacy, you may want to look at VPN’s that keep no logs whatsoever.
ExpressVPN Speed/ Speed Tests
We tested ExpressVPN across a variety of server locations. The tests were performed on a 100 Mbps wired connection, so the results are pretty close to the optimal speed scenario (real world results will vary). We also perform a 4k Video streaming test to get a better feel for how VPNs perform in highly demanding bandwidth scenarios.
USA Speed Tests
International Speed Tests
As you can see, the results are quite impressive. We got 50+mbps on all servers, and an outrageously good 61Mbps from Australia (most VPN’s struggle to break 10mbps).
4k Video Test
We tested server locations in 4 countries, and rated them yes/no on our ability to stream this 4k video at maximum resolution without rebuffering.
Below are the scores, showing the highest resolution we could stream from each server location (4k is the best score)
- USA – 4k
- Canada – 4k
- United Kingdom – 4k
- Australia – 4k
ExpressVPN got a perfect score on our 4k streaming test. They’re one of only 2 VPN’s (as of this date) to do so. The other being IPVanish.
Bottom Line…ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN’s we’ve tested.
The Best (and worst) uses for ExpressVPN
In this section we’ll rate ExpressVPN for the most common VPN uses, so you know what they’re best (and worst) for.
HD Streaming/Unblocking Geo-restricted sites (A+)
If you want to unblock geo-restricted VOD services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc… you want to things:
- Excellent speed
- lots of server locations
ExpressVPN is loaded on both counts, and is a great choice as a streaming VPN
General Security/ Travel (A)
ExpressVPN is a solid choice for general VPN use, or security on open wifi networks (especially when travelling).
Their 256-bit encryption is extremely strong, and the choice of VPN protocol gives you extra flexibility, especially when you’re trying to get through a firewall (whether at work, or the ‘Great Firewall of China).
At $10+/month it might be overkill if you don’t really need all the extra speed, but their impressive mobile apps may well be worth the extra $$$.
ExpressVPN does allow torrents on their network (many VPNs don’t) but we hesitate to recommend them if downloading torrents anonymously is your primary purchase motivation.
ExpressVPN uses ‘shared ip addresses’ so theoretically a 3rd party can’t identify your account based on your torrent download history. Still, it’s probably better to stick with a true non-logging vpn. There are several that can match ExpressVPN’s performance at an even lower price point (My favorite is Private Internet Access). PIA also has some useful bonus features such as: A free SOCKS proxy, and a VPN kill-switch.
Conclusion & Recommendation
ExpressVPN performs quite well in our tests, and their software is well above average. Perhaps not quite as good as VyprVPN’s software, but pretty close.
Their service is very-good to excellent across the board. Standout features include:
- Great software (especially mobile apps)
- Extremely fast speeds (100% on our 4k streaming test)
- Solid security
- Industry-leading 30 day refund policy
The one main drawback is the price. At prices of $8.32-$12/month (depending on your subscription length), ExpressVPN isn’t cheap. In fact, their one of the most expensive VPN’s we’ve tested. Many users will probably be quite happy with Private Internet Access at 1/3 the price.
If you want the best possible performance (and have at least a 30mbps connection) ExpressVPN may certainly be worth the premium.