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ExpressVPN Review: Is the Media Darling Worth the Hype?

Jack Casey
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ExpressVPN

$8.32
9.2

Price

8.5/10

Security

9.5/10

Features

9.5/10

Speed

9.5/10

Support

9.0/10

Pros

  • Available on Almost Every Platform Imaginable
  • 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • Split Tunneling
  • Unmatched Server Network Coverage

Cons

  • Headquartered in British Virgin Islands
  • Above Average Price
  • Only 3 Simultaneous Connections

If you run a quick Google search for ExpressVPN, you will easily notice that it is a favorite among reviewers. I took it for a test drive to see what the fuss was all about and how it stacks up against the competition. I have been using the mobile app for iPhone, the desktop app for Mac, as well as the Chrome extension. Here’s what I found out.

ExpressVPN headerInstallation & Use

Typically, I don’t tackle installation in my reviews; most apps have a simple and straightforward installation process that makes it not worth mentioning, but ExpressVPN has a slightly unusual setup process. After installing the mac app, instead of simply signing in with my email and a password, I was asked to sign in into my account using the browser, fetch an activation code and then drop it in the app to log in. By contrast, the mobile app does not require such a process, entering my email and password was all it took.

The Chrome app worked like a charm. It’s a simplified version of the desktop app; it is practically a remote control device for the desktop app. It has fewer options but allows you to access the main functions: signing in and out of a network server, choosing the location of the server, in addition to a few other setup options.

Security

1. Protocols

ExpressVPN Preferences

Protocol selection menu on the desktop app

ExpressVPN allows you to choose from a selection of protocols. If you want to brush up on what each entails, be sure to check out our explanatory article on VPN protocols.

There is OpenVPN, arguably the best overall protocol. ExpressVPN has the option to run OpenVPN over User Datagram Protocol (UDP) or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) transports. UDP is highly secure and fast, but might not run on all networks; TCP is more versatile when it comes to networks but is generally slower than the former.

There are also L2TP/IPSec and the infamous PPTP protocols. If you’re confused about which to choose, ExpressVPN offers to do that choice for you: there is an Automatic setting that can pick the most appropriate protocol for you depending on your network.

2. Logging Policy

ExpressVPN states that it does not store any user activity or connection logs, and that proved to be true. In December of last year, during the investigation into the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, investigators seized an Express VPN server – which they claimed was used to delete information from the killer’s Gmail and Facebook accounts – but were unable to find any logs.

3. Headquarters Location

Express VPN International Ltd. is based in the British Virgin Islands, or BVI for short, one of 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom; Its citizens carry British citizenship. But the good news is that the BVI has no mandatory data retention laws in place.

The situation regarding BVI and 14 Eyes is a bit hazy though. As we mentioned above, the Islands fall under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, and despite having their own legal system, defense and most foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the UK. So while technically outside of the 14 Eyes alliance, it’s relation to the UK is a tad concerning in this regard.

4. Kill Switch

ExpressVPN does include a kill switch, which it calls Network Lock. If your VPN connection unexpectedly fails, the Network Lock shuts the internet connection automatically, preventing data from being routed back to your internet service provider.

Features

1. Platforms & Simultaneous Connections

ExpressVPN covers a very broad range of devices: It can be installed on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines, Android, iOS, and Blackberry devices, and configured on routers. The service also offers extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Finally, for streaming devices that don’t support VPN apps – in this case, PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV, and Amazon FireTV – you can use their MediaStreamer Smart DNS service.

While you may install ExpressVPN on any number of devices, the service allows for only 3 simultaneous connections at a time. ExpressVPN, however, does offer unlimited bandwidth and unlimited speeds.

2. Server Network & Switches

ExpressVPN’s network is massive. It comprises 148 server locations spread across 92 countries, covering every continent. It also doesn’t put a cap on the number of switches between servers.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the countries you would be able to connect through:

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

It must be noted that ExpressVPN does not run servers in each of those countries. In some rare instances, your data will be assigned a registered IP address that matches the country you’ve chosen to connect to, but your data will be in fact routed through a server located in another, typically nearby country. This is because, in certain countries, it can be difficult to find servers that meet certain minimum standards of quality and security. ExpressVPN states on its website that those ‘virtual server locations’ represent fewer than 3% of its total server count.

3. Split Tunneling

As the name implies, split tunneling involves splitting your traffic between a VPN and your normal internet connection, which solves for some of the drawbacks of using a VPN, namely, losing the ability to connect to a LAN network as well as accessing foreign and local web services at the same time.

4. Access to Blocked Platforms:

ExpressVPN is able to bypass geo-restrictions for all the main streaming services, including Netflix, Spotify,  BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, HBO Go, CBC, and NBC. It was also able to circumvent the blocking of Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Google, as well as chatting services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Speed

As with all our reviews, we ran speed tests on servers located in the US, UK, and the Netherlands

ExpressVPN performed very well in our tests. Compared to our regular connection, the connection speed dropped 11%, 11.9%, and 23.5% respectively, while the upload speed was reduced by 13.8%, 19.9%, and 15.9% respectively.

User Interface

The user interface is very clean and quite easy to navigate. As with most VPN apps, the main page reveals an oversized connect button, a button for choosing the location, and a rather unusual button: “Smart Location”.

All the other settings and functions are squeezed into the menu, which can be accessed on the top left of the app. The menu reveals information about your account, help and support (more on this later), guides to set up the app on other devices, and the app’s settings.

The settings tab allows you to pick your protocol, toggle auto-reconnect, enabling sending crash reports, reinstalling VPN configurations, as well as picking the language of the interface.

ExpressVPN App navigationSupport

I reached out to the support team on chat – on the website – as well as through the app. The response from the live chat was very timely, practically instant; the response from the app was fairly fast too: I got a response within 5 hours – an email telling me that my inquiry has been received and that I should expect an answer within 24 hours; an hour later, I got my response.

ExpressVPN SupportPricing

ExpressVPN Pricing

You can subscribe to ExpressVPN in one of three packages. Broken down into months, the 1-month plan will cost you $12.95, the 6-month plan will end up costing you $9.99 a month, while the 12-month plan boils down to $8.32 a month. Those are higher than average prices.

Final Verdict

ExpressVPN is sturdy and well-equipped service. Its server network and platform flexibility are almost unmatched. As we mentioned, it’s priced slightly higher than the market, but it would be impossible to assess it’s value without knowing your needs. If your priorities include a wide global coverage or wide cross-platform readiness, then this is most likely the service for you.

Video Review

If you’re interested to see the service in action, make sure to check our detailed review below.

And if you still haven’t made up your mind, here is our list of the best VPN providers out there. Each service has been throuroughly tested by our expert reviewers.

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Jack Casey
Jack Casey

Jack is the Editor in Chief of VPN Review. Having previously headed development teams at multiple IT security firms and VPN providers, Jack's knowledge covers a broad range of subjects, including internet security, cyber threats, and user interface design. His new found passion is digital journalism.

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