Last updated: November 30th, 2020
ExpressVPN is one of the top VPN services in the world. Judging by many reviewers, it is the best in the world. While you might want to argue the point, there’s no doubt that this is an incredibly popular VPN choice.
The provider is based in the British Virgin Islands, and it currently has one of the broadest server coverage of any top VPN service. This base, as well as a competitive price and a ton of nifty features, has made the VPN truly one of the industry’s best services.
Given its popularity, I decided to check out how well the VPN performed. My tests covered a broad spectrum of features, and I outlined them in the review below. Check it out.
Currently, ExpressVPN comes with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. It doesn’t have the highest server count, but its coverage is among the best in the industry.
The VPN uses TrustedServer Technology, which ensures that every server runs on just your device’s RAM. So, whenever you reboot the VPN, all data is wiped. Since the RAM can’t store any data, everything from a previous session is deleted when you turn the VPN on and off again. This means that everything is loaded after a reboot – your operating system, your data, etc. The feature reduces your vulnerability to attacks and third-party hacks.
You should also note that the IP and server are usually in the same country whenever you connect to ExpressVPN. However, you can also access virtual server locations. With these, your IP is in your target country, and the physical server is in another country. The feature can improve your speed and connection strength.
You also get a Server Recommendation feature that helps you to find the best servers based on your location. While you can always select the server you want of your own volition, it never hurts to take advantage of this feature’s convenience. I tested it out, and it does pretty okay with its server suggestions.
Speed and Performance
As far as speed goes, I love the Smart Location feature on ExpressVPN. The feature allows you to connect to a server quickly. Literally, just flip a switch.
The Smart Location feature combines three metrics before recommending a server – distance, latency, and speed. This way, it produces the best available server to you on such short notice. While I can’t say it is one reason for ExpressVPN’s impressive performance, I have to point out that it is very convenient for users. Instead of having to go through various processes, you can connect to a server easily.
As expected, you can also choose to view the various locations available and connect to anyone you would like. The entire point of the Smart Location feature is to give you an option that is convenient and quick.
Speed Test for Short Distances
I plugged into the Quick Connect feature on ExpressVPN to begin my local speed test. I connected to a server close to me, and I found that the speed was an impressive 30Mbps. So, the decrease in my speed was just a little over 20 percent. That was more than impressive.
Many other VPN options will cause your speed to drop significantly when you connect to nearby servers, but not ExpressVPN. It functioned optimally, and I could still carry out my favorite activities with all the reliability I needed.
However, I decided to go even further. A lot of the time, the Quick Connect feature capitalizes on an algorithm to choose a server for you that will work well. I connected to another nearby server manually to see how things worked, and I found that the speed was even better. Using a manual connection, I saw decreases of just 12 percent. That’s easily one of the best VPN performances as far as speed is concerned.
Note, however, that this doesn’t work across the board. There will always be server locations that don’t work as optimally as you’d hope.
Speed Test for Long Distances
As expected, I started my tests with a U.S.-based server. I decided to leave things to chance and use the server recommendation tool on ExpressVPN. Once connected, I tested the server and found that I had 15.5 Mbps. It wasn’t too bad, considering that I could still do pretty much all I wanted without breaking a sweat.
Then, I went to a server in Hong Kong, and I still got 16.2 Mbps speed. Again, I could still play games and stream content easily. So, it wasn’t so noticeable that the rate had reduced. Since they’re all pretty fast, I could draw a verdict.
Based on the tests I conducted, there are a lot of good sides to ExpressVPN. For one, over the longest distance, speeds reduced by almost 50 percent. However, the fact that I had a good starting speed meant that I could barely notice the drop at the end of the day.
Even when connected to servers worldwide, I could stream music and videos, access high-quality content quickly, and even play games. It was almost like I was connecting to a WiFi network near me the whole time.
Note, however, that you might notice some lag if you’re starting at a lower speed, and you have to connect to a server far away. This is why most experts recommend that you have reliable internet connectivity to start with before you connect to the VPN. It indeed always helps.
I also considered packet loss – a metric that considers the amount of data packets that end up not arriving correctly at the destination. Usually, your internet connection will get significantly affected if packet loss exceeds 5 percent. When I tested for ExpressVPN, I was more than happy to see a packed loss between 0.1 and 0.3 percent.
In general, there’s no doubt that ExpressVPN is a fast VPN. Servers are quick, and you can easily connect anywhere in the world to enjoy a swift and reliable access.
Does ExpressVPN Work for Gaming?
Oh, you bet it does!
ExpressVPN has impressive speed. At this point, that’s not up for debate. However, most speed tests only go to the surface level. To get an accurate picture of how well a VPN does, you will need to see it work when conducting activities. Gaming tests are one of the toughest for VPNs, as gaming involves a combination of different activities at once.
For this test, I decided to ditch the Smart Location feature and select a server manually. I also selected one far from me, instead of a closeby one. I figured that since distance typically affects speed, I’d get a good view of how the VPN performs by making use of a far-off server.
Despite theses# manipulations, I accessed some impressive gameplay across the board. I used the VPN on League of Legends, and I could play in high-definition while keeping pace with my fellow players. There were no lags whatsoever.
Safety and Security Features
Security is another top consideration for anyone who wants to get a VPN. Well, ExpressVPN is one of the top VPN providers available, and it has support for some of the top security features you could ever see.
I decided to check these as well since many VPNs claim that you’re safe no matter what happens to you or your connection. Based on my tests, I chose to focus primarily on security protocols, leak and address protection, and encryption protocols. There are also some additional features on the VPN, which include a kill switch and an impressive split tunneling service.
To the most critical – encryption protocols. ExpressVPN currently has one of the best encryption features available, as it comes with the AES 256-bit encryption. This is currently one of the highest-rated encryption protocols, and it is even being used by military personnel to protect their data transfer channels and critical information. AES 256-bit encryption combines a 4096-bit RSA key with an AES 256-bit cipher and SHA-512-HMAC authentication.
The primary encryption protocol is symmetric, so any key used to encrypt the data is what you’ll need to decrypt it. Alone, this feature makes it almost impossible to break the encryption. Even the most advanced computers will need quite a lot of time to decrypt your data.
As for the SHA-512 HMAC authentication, it allows ExpressVPN to ensure highly secure data transfers. For activities like peer-to-peer file sharing and more, this is pretty nifty. The authentication uses a shared secret key that allows the receiver and sender of your data to verify that the file is authentic. If the secret key changes, then you know that someone has managed to damage the file – or, at the very least, alter it.
You also get Perfect Forward Secrecy with ExpressVPN. This feature isn’t so famous, but it works wonders in specific situations. Essentially, it changes your encryption key whenever you log into ExpressVPN. At the start of every session, you get a new security key.
Remember that your data is protected by an encryption protocol that is almost impossible to break. However, some hackers are skilled enough and might want to give it their best shot. With Perfect Forward Secrecy, ExpressVPN ensures that anyone who even manages to intercept your data won’t be able to find anything on previous data sessions.
As for security protocols, ExpressVPN comes with quite a few. It sets the default to OpenVPN UDP, which is usually the best based on your location. However, you can also get other protocols like PPTP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPSec, and more. I know that a lot of this is technological jargon, but believe me when I tell you that you will hardly find any VPN that protects you as this one does.
The kill switch is an impressive feature that gets talked about quite a lot. With this feature, you have an additional security layer for those times when your device suddenly disconnects from the VPN. As soon as the network drops, you’re usually vulnerable. The kill switch makes up for this by protecting you.
On ExpressVPN, the kill switch is called Network Lock. So, in case you don’t find it, look for this moniker instead. The Network Lock feature blocks your traffic if your network becomes compromised. Thus, it hides your IP address and data.
ExpressVPN will automatically enable this by default. So, you don’t need to do a thing. However, note that the kill switch is only available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and router versions. There’s no kill switch feature available on iOS. If you have an Android, the kill switch is embedded in the network protection feature. So, it’s still the same thing essentially.
All in all, kill switches are available for just about every device but iOS. It’s quite a shame.
The split tunneling feature is one of ExpressVPN’s standout security features. It’s not available on many other VPNs, so that makes it even more special. With this feature, you get to encrypt a portion of your traffic, while the remaining part is left alone.
ExpressVPN’s split tunneling feature allows you to browse through its network and your regular network provider at the same time. You merely need to choose the apps that will work with the VPN, and the rest will connect via your network. To activate it, just go to the VPN’s split tunneling section and click on the “+” button. Select the apps that you would like to add to it, and you’re good to go.
In general, the split tunneling feature allows you greater flexibility when surfing the internet and accessing your favorite services. However, you should remember that the apps you remove from its tunnel aren’t covered by your encryption protocols anymore. So, people will find your location address and even your internet activity while you use those.
I tested the feature using some apps and streaming services. When I connected to a U.S.-based server, I found that it didn’t have any problems whatsoever. I could still access the apps and stream the content I wanted without any issues. I was also able to surf the internet normally without any hiccups.
Anonymity and Privacy Features
Privacy is another area where many people tend to watch VPN services and see whether they perform. ExpressVPN hits top notes here as well, and I’ll show how.
To begin, ExpressVPN is based out of the British Virgin Islands. It isn’t under any regulation to give the government any data. The service’s policy claims that it doesn’t keep any logs on your activity or location.
Essentially, the only data that ExpressVPN collects is the data you submitted when you registered. The only privacy gripe I have with this service is that it doesn’t have an ad blocker. Despite users clamoring for it, the feature isn’t there yet.
While ExpressVPN takes your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, there’s always the possibility of a leak. This phenomenon is what we call a DNS leak. It essentially exposes your location and address. Even worse, it means that unauthorized parties can access your data.
For your anonymity, you will need a VPN that protects you from this. ExpressVPN has some leak protection protocols, including IPv6 and DNS leak protection. The VPN offers its leak test, but I decided to conduct an independent one to be sure I was safe.
With my test, I checked servers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The tests showed no DNS leaks on any server.
I was more than happy to find that everything was as ExpressVPN said it would be. My data and address were entirely protected, and it blocked my IPv6 too. The IPv6 is a request that your internet service provider sends to your device to grant it a location address.
By blocking IPv6, ExpressVPN protected my IP address.
Tor Compatibility and Security Audits
ExpressVPN is compatible with Tor – a security and anonymity protocol that conceals your data even more. Not many VPN services offer this, which is another testament to ExpressVPN’s optimal security.
Even better, ExpressVPN supports Tor over VPN. Through this, you get optimal anonymity as your traffic isn’t visible to the VPN. The developers behind this VPN also regularly conduct security audits, thanks to a partnership with auditing and financial services firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) and cybersecurity firm Cure3. Note, however, that Tor support isn’t available on mobile devices.
The ExpressVPN service supports all major platforms. These include macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and even Linux. While some platforms have more features than others, everyone has what you need to ensure the most critical things – speed, privacy, security, and access.
Moving on, there are also impressive browser extensions on ExpressVPN. They work primarily for Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Google Chrome, and you should keep in mind that they only encrypt the traffic that flows through the web browsers. Every other activity you conduct while online is still open and vulnerable.
There is an ExpressVPN app for routers too. If you can install the router app, you’ll essentially protect every device that connects to it. These include tablets, consoles, smart TVs, and more. You can connect as many devices to a router as you want – which is great because a paid account on ExpressVPN only allows six devices to connect. The router feature is indeed a great bypass.
Streaming and Torrenting
ExpressVPN has a reliable streaming system, which includes bypassing geo-location restrictions. With this bypass feature, the VPN allows you to access services like Netflix and Hulu without breaking a sweat. Even better, ExpressVPN’s optimal speed means that you don’t have to worry about it.
However, you should note that some countries are better for streaming than others. The best servers are usually in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. You will also get great access in countries like France, Canada, and Japan.
Remember that many countries have their dedicated libraries of shows on Netflix from which you can choose. With ExpressVPN, you can access these countries and their content libraries. This way, you hardly miss a thing.
Now, for the tests. I know that libraries in the United States and the United Kingdom are the most famous, so I started with those. I wasn’t surprised to find that ExpressVPN allowed access without breaking a sweat. I even tested the Netflix US library over several servers in the country, and I didn’t have any hiccups whatsoever.
For Netflix UK and Netflix Australia, the experience was similar. All I got was smooth streaming without any interruptions.
For countries like Germany, there were some hiccups. Some servers in a few locations didn’t work, but areas like Munich and Nuremberg worked like a charm. So, if you’re German or in the country for the holidays, you can get any server in these locations and rest assured of seamless streaming.
In other countries of the world, I found similar issues. South American countries like Chile, Argentina, and Brazil gave me smooth streaming, but I also ran into some of those selection issues in Asian countries like Japan. Still, I’ll say that the experience was more than impressive.
The tests returned similar results for many other streaming services – including Hulu, the BBC iPlayer, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
Then, you’ll be glad to know that this geo-location restriction bypass is also optimal for social media sites and search engines. Many countries tend to restrict access to certain parts of the internet, whether for government policy reasons or national security. With ExpressVPN, you’re ready to access the internet in its full capacity at any point in time.
As for torrenting, ExpressVPN is also a surefire hit. The VPN comes with unlimited bandwidth and data caps. So, you can access any torrenting site you want and download content as you please. Even better, ExpressVPN allows you to share files via peer-to-peer networks as much as you want. Talk about freedom.
You’ll also benefit from the fact that ExpressVPN doesn’t take any logs. The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, and as such, it’s not under any privacy laws or requirements. Since it doesn’t take any of your logs, there are no chances that your data can get leaked to any third party without your express consent.
DNS leak protection is also available through ExpressVPN’s DNS features on every server. These will protect you from any hackers who threaten your data or try to access your torrenting activity.
ExpressVPN is safe with both BitTorrent and uTorrent, and it works for other torrenting platforms as well. However, it is also a reliable torrenting feature because of its speed and performance. Since ExpressVPN is fast, you won’t have to spend hours downloading content or sharing files with your friends.
Plans and Pricing
ExpressVPN has a simple pricing structure. A one-month plan costs $12.96, a six-month plan goes for $9.99 monthly, and a yearly plan that costs $8.32 per month. You also get a 30-day money-back guarantee for your troubles.
I found ExpressVPN to be very easy to use. While I know it would be easy for me, a VPN enthusiast, I also saw several features that made the platform accessible to newbie users. The Server Recommendation and QuickConnect features allow users to find high-speed and secure servers by pushing a button. There are no tedious manual installations, and I could even find servers manually pretty easily.
Also, ExpressVPN has a reasonably uniform interface across platforms. So, if you switch between devices, it won’t look like you’re using a separate VPN entirely.
If you have any problems, you can always reach the service’s customer support feature. ExpressVPN is accessible through email, a support ticket, and live chat. I’ll recommend the email support, however. I sent the company a message, and they got back to me in a matter of hours. There’s also an FAQ page on the service’s website and several tutorial videos.
Is the VPN Any Good for China?
China is currently one of the most restrictive platforms in the world when it comes to internet access. The government is notorious for blocking out several aspects of the internet. This feature is known as the Great Chinese Firewall.
Thankfully, ExpressVPN bypasses the firewall. The VPN has servers in Hong Kong, thus allowing you to view Chinese content. If you’re traveling to China or you live there, this is a great VPN to have for continued internet access.
Pros and Cons
- Router support
- Easy access to restrictive countries, especially China
- Server Recommendation feature for convenience
- No kill switch for iOS
- Doesn’t include an ad blocker
Recommendations and Conclusion
Many believe ExpressVPN to be the best in the world, as I pointed out. Based on the features I saw and the tests I concluded, there’s no reason to doubt it. The VPN delivers on all aspects and promises, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’ll definitely be recommending it to anyone looking for a VPN.