ExpressVPN Review

 ExpressVPN logo
  • Raiting: 9.0 / 10
  • Pricing (monthly): $12.95
  • Pricing (Half yearly): $59.70 (equivalent to $9.95 per month)
  • Pricing (Yearly): $99.95 including discount and three free months (equivalent to $6.67 per month)
  • Simultaneous Connection: 5
  • Server Locations: 94 Countries
  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Can be used on:
  • Can unblock:

ExpressVPN is a premium VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands that markets itself as having one of the best performances thanks to its in-house Lightway protocol. This is a bespoke open-source protocol built on the open-source WolfSSL libraries. This implementation is fully transparent for security researchers looking to validate privacy claims. The Lightway protocol supports both TCP and UDP options. Users have the option to switch to using OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec if an alternative protocol is wanted. There is no planned option for ExpressVPN to support WireGuard.

Its primary selling features are its zero-logging policy and claimed high bandwidth, fast network speeds. It offers subscribers unlimited bandwidth for up to five simultaneously connected devices, and the company claims never to throttle speeds. There are currently no data retention laws for services based in the British Virgin Islands, unlike other regions such as Europe. An audit of the privacy policy has been completed by PricewaterhouseCoopers with no issues reported. Combined with its zero-logging policy, this means that, in theory, user privacy should be guaranteed.

Subscriptions can be taken out monthly, half-yearly, or yearly. The annual subscription offers the best value for money over the long term as it currently includes an additional three free months for US subscribers and a 30% discount for UK subscribers. With the modest discounts, the basic service cost is more expensive than comparable popular premium VPN service providers. Payment options include an extensive list of options, significantly more than the other VPN service providers reviewed to date. It is worth noting that payments are taken using US dollars rather than local currency for UK subscribers.

Unlike other VPN service providers, the standard subscription does not include any additional features such as ad blockers or malware protection. The ExpressVPN service has only one service offering with no extra features or add-on subscription options.

The VPN apps support the most popular devices and platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, KindleFire, Android, and iOS. There are also lightweight browser extensions available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. The standout feature is the availability of apps for Smart TV and streaming devices (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, Chromecast) and popular games consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo switch). Apps are also available for Asus, Linksys, and Netgear routers, with manual configuration support for other router manufacturers.

The VPN apps have very limited configuration options. For example, the iOS app has no Kill Switch option. Also, the service advertises a split tunneling capability to allow the exclusion of specific apps or an inverse split tunneling capability to protect explicitly defined apps. However, this feature is only available on the apps for the routers, Windows OS, some versions of macOS and Android devices.

Accessibility to streaming services such as Disney+ and Netflix are reliable for users looking for legitimate access to these services while maintaining browsing history privacy. The ExpressVPN service terms of use do not permit accessing content protected by copyright or any other proprietary right..

Pros & Cons of ExpressVPN

  • The ExpressVPN service can be configured to use either its bespoke open-source protocol or other trusted VPN protocols.
  • The subscription fee for the ExpressVPN service covers the simultaneous use of up to five different devices.
  • The ExpressVPN subscription fee can be paid using a vast array of different methods including anonymous payment methods.
  • The ExpressVPN service includes support for routing VPN connection traffic through onion servers for additional VPN routing obscuration and supporting torrenting.
  • The ExpressVPN service supports a wide array of devices, operating systems, and browsers. This includes apps for simple installation on several different routers.
  • Important VPN features such as the Kill Switch and Split Tunneling are not available on all supported devices and operating systems. This limitation is not immediately evident from the marketing materials.
  • The ExpressVPN service does not include any additional features such as ad-blocking, malware detection, dark web monitoring, or the supply of a static IP address.
  • The application has minimal configuration options that vary by installation and uses a fixed encryption algorithm.
  • Access to the ExpressVPN service cannot be configured to use multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • The ExpressVPN service does not include the ability to route traffic through multiple VPN servers to provide additional protection.
  • The user interface for the application is rudimentary and offers very limited information.
Screenshot of the iOS app main screen

Using ExpressVPN

The ExpressVPN application supports a wide range of target devices and operating systems. The iOS application is straightforward to install, but configuration options are limited. The features available vary significantly by host OS. For example, important functions like split tunneling are only available on a small subset of supported OS.

Applications are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Chromebook, and KindleFire. Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Applications are also available for smart TVs and streaming devices, popular gaming consoles, and some routers. For this review, the iOS app was installed on an iPad and evaluated.

The interface takes minimalism to the extreme, with connectivity status indicated with the screen color with a small box showing the connected VPN server. There is no world map or any other useful status information.

Switching to a different server was straightforward. A list showing recommended servers or all servers can be pulled up to choose an alternate server. The main display also lists the last servers used and the recommended server. The specific criteria for how the recommended server is determined is not provided.

Not all servers support all the available VPN protocols, so care will need to be taken if a specific protocol is required. The support pages include details of which servers support which protocols.

While the service supports a global network, the focus is on the US. The application offers connections through servers located in 94 countries and has options for 24 different locations in the US, 5 in Australia, 4 in the UK, and 4 in Canada. There are options for major European countries and 4 options for Africa. There is good support for Asia, including a server within China. The service does use virtual servers for some countries, and these are listed on the support pages.

For some platforms, the VPN service includes an automatic Kill Switch function if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly, blocking the internet connection to prevent a data leak. This feature was not available for the iOS app evaluated.

A limited number of supported platforms include a split tunnelling function that allows users to choose which specific applications or websites do not connect via the VPN, connecting directly via the ISP server. The network traffic encryption uses AES-256, not configurable by the user.

ExpressVPN does not include support for anonymous static IP addresses or include any add-on services to the standard product subscription.

Screenshot of the iOS app showing server choice

Payments Accepted by ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Speeds

ExpressVPN VPN Server Locations Download Upload
United Kingdon 468.98 Mbit 212.99 Mbit
Australia 316.19 Mbit 18.08 Mbit
Taiwan 345.33 Mbit 25.09 Mbit
South Africa 331.56 Mbit 9.37 Mbit
California, USA 354.08 Mbit 42.8 Mbit
New York, USA 400.08 Mbit 65.08 Mbit
Germany 540.43 Mbit 118.08 Mbit
Brazil 411.00 Mbit 15.49 Mbit

Logging Policy and Privacy of ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN states that it operates a no-logging policy to ensure the privacy and anonymity of subscribers' internet usage. This is implemented using RAM disk technology to ensure that no server data is saved to a hard disk. The service states that no connection or activity data is collected, with the exception of an anonymized daily log summary of servers connected to and data transferred for each user. An independent audit undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers has confirmed this claim. The applications do have an option to collect anonymized analytics data for performance monitoring and fault diagnostics. Still, on the iOS app, the option to disable this function was clearly displayed during installation.

ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, a country with no data retention laws. It is important to note that subscriber account and contact information is stored, comprising email address, associated payment information, and details of the devices that have been used to access the ExpressVPN service. This payment information is shared with third-party payment processing providers. The email address and device information are also used when online support functions are accessed. Therefore, total anonymity can only be achieved if the subscriber can provide a non-attributable email address, uses an anonymous payment method.

Visitors to the website are presented with non-persistent cookies that manage the current session. In addition, Google Analytics and AdWords cookies are used, including some with ten years and sixteen years expiration dates. The use of these cookies is covered in the privacy policy for the website. This states that information collected by tracking cookies is not sold to any third parties.

Where ExpressVPN is used for streaming services such as Apple TV, access authentication cannot use subscription information, and so an authorized IP address is set in its place. However, this is clearly stated in the privacy policy, and support pages offer alternative options for router VPN configuration in place of the streaming device VPN configuration.

Supported Devices and Operating Systems by ExpressVPN


Windows

Linux

Apple

Chrome

Android

Apple-IOS

Chrome

Firefox

Edge

Playstation

Xbox

Apple-TV

Platforms that can be Unblocked by using ExpressVPN


Netflix

Apple TV

Disney Plus

Sky Go

Amazon Prime Video

BBC
Screenshot of the settings options in the iOS App

Verdict / Conclusion

ExpressVPN is an expensive premium service that delivers fast network speeds over reasonably stable connections through servers distributed in over ninety countries worldwide. It uses a bespoke VPN protocol to deliver its fast performance but has made this open-source to provide informed users with visibility of the implementation. OpenVPN is supported as an alternative, though currently there are no plans to support WireGuard.

Costs are reduced if the one-year subscription is taken. Limited discounting means these are not competitive with similar services. It was also noted that offers available to US subscribers were unavailable to subscribers in other countries.

The ExpressVPN service operates an independently audited no-logging policy and is transparent in the technology used to implement this. It retains limited subscriber information that, combined with the acceptance of anonymous payment methods, means that it is relatively straightforward to set up and operate an entirely anonymous VPN connection for users seeking absolute privacy. Combined with support for simple onion routing connections and the provision of private encrypted DNS on every server, the service offers great privacy protection. The ExpressVPN iOS application was simple to install and set up due to the limited options available. Creating an account was straightforward. ExpressVPN is very limited compared to its peers in terms of configuration options and security features, even for the few supported devices that have all possible options available. The unavailability of key features lets down the service on some of the supported platforms.

Tests for anonymously accessing geo-locked content were positive, with no issues encountered during any of the tests. Overall, the privacy protection offered was reasonable, network speeds were good, and the service was seen to support access to popular online streaming services. The online support was found to be responsive, and the live chat feature was available on the iOS app, unlike other similar VPN services.