In this ExpressVPN review, we’ll take a look at one of the best VPN services on the market and ask “is it worth it?” ExpressVPN is a virtual private network vendor committed to privacy, and has been for over a decade. In an increasingly digital world, most of our lives are now carried out online. ExpressVPN is one of many top-tier VPN vendors that can protect your data, but what makes ExpressVPN unique is the commitment to 24/7 service, worldwide servers, and consistently great speeds.
As more and more services are making the move to become fully online, it’s important not to compromise on safety or usability when choosing a VPN. Savvy users might wonder if ExpressVPN lives up to the hype, where so many products fail to deliver, carried mostly by their aggressive marketing.
|🖥 Number of Servers||3,000+|
|🏝 Price||From $6.67/month|
|💵 Max Devices Supported||5|
|🔢 Average Speeds||375-430 Mbps|
|🚤 Customer Service||24/7 live chat and email|
|📞 Money-back Guarantee||30 days|
|🏞 Number of Countries||94|
Fortunately, ExpressVPN’s many features and exceptional speeds make it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a VPN to use in their day-to-day activities. While it is on the expensive side, the quality offered is well worth it. Even better, ExpressVPN offers a free 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re still not convinced, try ExpressVPN for yourself with no obligation to commit to a subscription plan, and all without risking a penny.
Network Lock is a system-level kill-switch, meaning that it forces all network traffic to go only through your VPN connection. This is done to prevent the transfer of data over your unencrypted default connection if your VPN connection goes down, thus making your data more secure and private. The kill-switch automatically activates when the network is unstable, when the firewall is blocking the VPN, or when switching servers. This feature is on by default across all ExpressVPN apps, and cannot be turned off on routers.
Split tunneling is another feature of ExpressVPN which lets you choose which apps or devices use the VPN. This has numerous benefits. For example, you can stream from other countries while using local services such as LAN. It also helps reduce the load on the bandwidth for faster internet, as any device connected to it will use more. Thus, by removing non-essential devices, more bandwidth, and therefore speed, can be allocated to the ones who need it. You can set the split-tunneling to either include or exclude everything by default and then toggle exceptions as desired. The ExpressVPN app for routers can also group devices depending on whether they use the service and which server they connect to.
The servers at ExpressVPN, named TrustedServer, have several features designed to increase security. The servers run off of a temporary OS that is stored entirely in RAM, which means no data running through the server is ever saved to a physical disk. All data is wiped on each reboot, so none of your browsing data or network traffic is logged. ExpressVPN also uses a hardened build system that reinstalls the server using its most up-to-date iteration on boot. ExpressVPN is confident in their security architecture, as evidenced by a $100,000 bounty for anyone who can find TrustedServer vulnerabilities and an audit performed by PwC in 2019. The TrustedServer technology was also reviewed by KPMG.
ExpressVPN runs its own private encrypted DNS, meaning that no outsider can tell which website is being accessed through the VPN. Combined with the fact that browsing data is not logged makes this information difficult to be intercepted by third parties. As DNS are often used by internet providers or larger organizations to block specific websites’ access, private DNS encryption also enables getting around various censors. The 256-bit encryption used makes it virtually impossible to brute-force it, as it would billions of years with current technology.
Lightway is ExpressVPN’s custom VPN protocol, designed specifically for use with ExpressVPN apps. Built from scratch by the ExpressVPN team, Lightway takes all of the speed and portability of WireGuard but also fixes key security flaws that preclude WireGuard from being the best solution for VPN vendors straight out of the box. Lightway is offered on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers.
What Devices Can I Use ExpressVPN on?
ExpressVPN is compatible across Windows from 7 onwards. It features the same clean and minimalist interface that makes up ExpressVPN’s iconic app design, and a strong feature set to boot. With accessibility settings for over 16 languages, it’s a highly compatible package that secures your device with minimal installation necessary. Download from ExpressVPN’s site, install, type in your activation code. Once you’re connected, you’ll find that ExpressVPN is not intrusive. However, you’ll notice less ads thanks to ExpressVPN’s DNS whitelisting technology, ensuring ads are blocked before they even get sent to your PC.
OpenVPN and Lightway are supported on Windows, and it seemed that Lightway connected quicker most of the time. However, obfuscation is only available while connecting with OpenVPN. This always-on technology ensures your VPN traffic is disguised as normal browsing traffic. If you’re worried about your VPN traffic being identified by Deep Packet Inspection while publishing free news in an unfriendly nation, you should stick to OpenVPN where possible. Again, this is enabled by default – once you’re connected, you’re protected.
ExpressVPN on MacOS is a similar experience to the Windows app, with some slight differences. IKEv2 is enabled by default, as well as OpenVPN and Lightway support. Split-tunneling is only available on OSX 11, with later versions not being able to take advantage of it. This is unfortunate, but otherwise everything else you’d expect is here: IPv6 leak protection, TrustedServer support, 24/7 helpdesk support, and a simple interface. Just click connect and you’ll see which server you’re connected to, along with a dropdown for your server location choices.
ExpressVPN can be installed on the 32-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS and both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Linux Mint and Arch. However, Linux support is lacking for ExpressVPN, compared with other platforms. There is an ExpressVPN app, but it isn’t the same simple GUI-based app you can find on Windows or OSX. Instead, Linux support is limited to a terminal-based app which requires a user to download a Linux package and paste their activation code into the terminal to install.
If you’re not happy using the terminal interface, ExpressVPN does offer another solution. There’s a browser-based app available for Chrome and Firefox which ExpressVPN recommends as the official solution for users who need a GUI to manage the ExpressVPN in Linux. The browser app itself is fairly similar to those on other platforms, and has the added benefit of protecting against several types of privacy problems, such as WebRTC leaks.
Downloading the ExpressVPN app for our Android test device was an easy process. ExpressVPN supports Android 5 through 12. The .apk is offered directly from ExpressVPN’s site, as well as the Google Play Store, but we recommend downloading the .apk directly. There’s the normal ExpressVPN app interface, which felt responsive and light on Android. A shortcuts bar helped us arrange the apps we felt worked best when under a VPN, such as Netflix, in addition to the normal server location picker.
There’s also all the normal features you’d expect, such as a system-wide kill-switch, Lightway & OpenVPN support, auto-connect, and split-tunneling. The ability to do split-tunneling on Android is particularly useful, as we often found we had to change locations to get some apps to play nice. The only majorly disappointing aspect is the lack of advanced DNS settings, but the Android app simply defaults to using ExpressVPN’s encrypted private DNS servers with no way to choose anything else. Secure, yes, but sometimes inconvenient.
iOS | iPhones
As for iOS, ExpressVPN can be used on all versions of iPhone 6 through 14, iPad Pro, Air and Mini, with iOS 12 onwards. Like any other ExpressVPN app offering, the iOS app is smooth and lag-free. Unlike most other ExpressVPN apps, you can only pick from Lightway or IKEv2. There’s no OpenVPN option to choose from here, but Lightway and IKEv2 are both extremely secure.You can confirm for yourself that the DNS settings are secure and there are no WebRTC leaks in the browser.
The real problem is the lack of a system-wide kill-switch, although ExpressVPN does offer an auto-reconnect option if your connection goes down. If you’re paranoid about any data whatsoever leaking from your VPN, the lack of a kill-switch is probably a deal-breaker. Aside from these pain-points, the iOS app does the job well and even comes with a seven day free trial. Unlike the 30-day money-back guarantee, this is an absolutely free trial and all you need to do is download the app for iOS.
You can also install ExpressVPN on routers. There’s a ton of great reasons to protect your network using ExpressVPN for routers, but the main one is the subscription limit. The amount of devices that can connect directly to ExpressVPN is limited to 5. However, a router with ExpressVPN covers all the devices connected to it, while only counting as one subscription. The app further allows each connected device to be grouped according to the user’s wishes.
The router app is not necessarily easy to set up, however. ExpressVPN can be installed quite easily on select routers such as Flashrouters and certain Asus, Linksys and Netgear models. They are not the only models to support it, but the list is extensive and the installation process requires following specific instructions to configure it manually. We recommend checking out the website for more information on both accounts. American users can buy Aircove, a VPN-enabled router that comes pre-installed with ExpressVPN for protection with absolute minimal setup and installation. Hopefully, ExpressVPN will distribute this router to more countries soon.
SmartTVs are also covered by ExpressVPN. Any Android-based TV that can access the Google Play Store is capable of downloading ExpressVPN for Android. This allows for a native implementation directly inside the TV, giving you easy access to location settings without having to walk over to your computer. Not all smartTVs are supported, and where this is the case, you might be better off setting ExpressVPN up on a router so you can use Device Groups to configure your TV. The devices we can confirm are supported by ExpressVPN are:
- Amazon FireTV and FireStick
- Samsung Smart TV
- Google Chromecast
- Nvidia Shield
Otherwise, you might want to use Mediastreamer service for easy streaming at the cost of less protection, although that shouldn’t be a problem for major streaming services. ExpressVPN does not currently have native VPN apps for any videogame console. Like all other network devices, the best way to protect a Playstation or Xbox is to put it on the network behind an ExpressVPN-enabled router.
How To Install ExpressVPN
To use ExpressVPN on your mobile or computer, you merely need to do the following:
- Subscribe on the website and pay for your plan.
- Download and install the software from your app store. Downloading the .apk directly from the ExpressVPN website is also an option for Android. Linux users will have to install it through the command console, although this should be nothing new for them.
- Open the app and sign in with your ExpressVPN login credential.
- Connect to a server location amongst the large selection and you’re done.
One subscription covers up to five devices, which can be any combination of PCs, laptops, mobiles, and IoT devices. You can also install ExpressVPN on your router, meaning that everything connected to it will be able to enjoy the benefits of the VPN without counting against the subscription limit.
ExpressVPN Performance | How Fast is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN often claims to be one of the fastest VPNs in the market. These claims aren’t exactly unsubstantiated, as evidenced by the numerous positive reviews proudly displayed on their website. But what does ExpressVPN exactly do to achieve their speed? First, it lets you get around any throttling from your internet service provider, making your connection possibly faster than without a VPN! ExpressVPN also offers the choice of multiple encryption protocols to use, OpenVPN and IKEv2, both industry standards, and Lightway, a custom implementation with all the benefits and none of the drawbacks of WireGuard. With both TCP and UDP available, ExpressVPN offers a selection that covers most devices and needs. Split-tunneling is another feature that may help speed by reducing the load on the bandwidth. Furthermore, the vast list of servers that you can connect to means that, if needed, you can choose a relatively close server to improve the connection’s speed.
How Secure is ExpressVPN? | Is ExpressVPN Safe?
The most important aspect of a VPN is how secure it is. Your browsing data is only as safe as the weakest link that handles it. ExpressVPN uses end-to-end encryption to ensure your network traffic is kept secret after it leaves your computer. These are many situations in which your data can end in the hands of unsavory individuals (or larger institutions) when your network traffic is being sent over the internet. Thankfully, ExpressVPN has made great strides to ensure that the sensitive data it handles on a daily basis is secured.
ExpressVPN’s Encryption Protocols
ExpressVPN offers a range of encryption protocols, depending on which platform you’ve installed the app on. Most support OpenVPN and Lightway, whereas generally only Apple and Blackberry devices support IKEv2.
OpenVPN is an open-source protocol and a standard in the industry. Decades of open-source audits by thousands of individuals have ensured that OpenVPN remains secure and trusted. As the code is fully available to anyone, everyone can check the code to convince themselves it’s secure. ExpressVPN offers 2 options for port connection with OpenVPN. The first is TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), in which a client and the server it connects to communicate back and forth in a 3-step process. As a result the data can be more reliably transferred, which makes it especially useful for services where said data needs to be accurate, such as web browsing, emails or downloads.
By contrast, the second option, UDP (User Datagram Protocol), does not confirm with the server whether the data received is accurate. This, of course, means that there might be some lost data in the process, but it is much faster as a result. UDP is often more suited for streaming services or online gaming. Bear in mind that OpenVPN is better suited to UDP and therefore these services.
For Apple users, ExpressVPN also includes IKEv2/IPSec, usually shortened to IKEv2 as it typically comes together with IPSec. Compared to OpenVPN, IKEv2 is generally faster as it is less resource intensive. This is especially true on mobile, where you’ll notice it is usually is far quicker at reestablishing a connection than OpenVPN. It does have a few drawbacks, the first one being the lack of Windows support. Furthermore, it only supports the UDP port. This makes it far harder to disguise the VPN traffic as normal browsing traffic, which may be necessary for you if you’re in a country with restrictive internet surveillance. However, if you’re just trying to stream a movie on your iPhone, IKEv2 will be perfect for you.
OpenVPN and IKEv2 are both standard protocols, built by external developers. ExpressVPN also offers its own internally developed encryption protocol, Lightway. Lightway takes every positive element from the WireGuard protocol, and removes several key issues, which made it untenable for privacy usage. Although WireGuard solves many of the issues caused by OpenVPN’s bloated codebase, it was not built for commercial VPN vendors. In fact, by default, WireGuard logs all IP addresses being sent to and from a VPN server, which is why VPN vendors will often have their own variant/custom implementation that fixes this issue.
Lightway, like WireGuard, is offered as an open-source project. It uses the wolfSSL SSL/TLS encryption library. Its compact code leads to both easier maintenance, since it is easier to edit, and faster speed as it consumes fewer resources. Just like OpenVPN, Lightway offers both TCP and UDP ports to send and receive network traffic. Our personal testing has found that connection times using Lightway are almost instant, whereas OpenVPN sometimes took several seconds to connect.
To allay any doubts regarding the safety of Lightway, ExpressVPN has requested Cure53 to perform an audit on the encryption protocol in 2021. The results were favorable, finding no critical severity bug and only issues that can be trivially fixed. Since then, ExpressVPN has made sure to improve its code with regular updates and as of 2022 Express has fixed all the aforementioned issues. It seems that Lightway more than lives up to the hype generated by ExpressVPN, both in terms of speed and security.
ExpressVPN’s Transparency Reputation
Cure53, a German-based cybersecurity company, has also conducted code reviews of Aircove, ExpressVPN’s own pre-configured router, and Lightway, their custom VPN protocol. Both audits revealed generally good security practices, with few major shortcomings in terms of overall security. As of the writing of this article, all recommendations posed by Cure53 have been implemented. Being able to follow this audit process massively increases confidence in ExpressVPN as a responsible developer for security-critical software.
Another audit was carried out by F-Secure, based in Singapore, in 2021. F-Secure tested the Windows 10 application of ExpressVPN over a 2 weeks period, and only found 1 low severity and 7 informational severity vulnerabilities. These are cases which deviate from best security practices, but with no exploitation actually achieved in testing. In a retest in 2022, most of these have been solved, and only 2 informational vulnerabilities remain open.
No-Logs Policy | Does ExpressVPN Log Your Data?
Jurisdiction | Where Are ExpressVPN Based?
ExpressVPN are also based in the British Virgin Islands which have privacy laws that are slightly more favorable than those found in the US or EU. In practice, this means that there’s a large amount of legal tape to step through before ExpressVPN could be compelled to hand over any data belonging to you.
Despite all these excellent claims and achievements in privacy, a few relatively recent events tarnish an otherwise nigh perfect picture. The first of these was the acquisition of ExpressVPN by Kape Technologies in 2021. Kape was formerly known as Crossrider, a cross-platform development platform for browser extensions, that was unfortunately abused by third-party developers. Sadly these events are often misattributed to Crossrider (despite there being no direct involvement on Crossrider’s part in the creation of adware/malware).
After Crossrider closed its doors in 2016, the majority of its founders (and entire C-suite) left. From the ashes, Kape was born, and has since pivoted its towards being one of the largest brands in cybersecurity. ExpressVPN have publically stated their relationship with Kape has worked well, and has not caused them to compromise on security as their primary principle.
A hacker with a history | Daniel Gericke and ExpressVPN
It’s also worth noting that Daniel Gericke, currently Chief Information Officer at ExpressVPN, was fined for violating US hacking laws. He was discovered offering his expertise on behalf of the United Arab Emirates’ monarchy as part of Project Raven, prior to joining the company. ExpressVPN was allegedly aware of some of his past hacking experience and hired him still, noting that such experience made him invaluable when it came to protecting against other hacking attacks. This is certainly true, as few cybersecurity experts on the planet have Gericke’s range of professional experience or skill set.
While none of this ultimately voids the existing evidence towards ExpressVPN’s claims of security, it does put a bit of a damper on them. The casual US resident who wants to watch Netflix UK will probably have nothing to worry about, but for those who consider themselves more on the paranoid side may think twice before taking the plunge.
ExpressVPN’s Server List | Where Can I use ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN has a wide selection of servers in over 94 countries with the full range of the protocols the app supports (with the exception of IKEV2 in Croatia). Notably, none are in China. This means they aren’t forced to comply with Chinese legislation requiring them to keep data logs, and decreasing the odds of being network compromise.
- Costa Rica
- United States
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Isle of Man
- North Macedonia
- United Kingdom
- Brunei Darussalam
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
Africa & Middle East
- South Africa
ExpressVPN Price | How Much Does ExpressVPN Cost?
ExpressVPN offers 3 plans: monthly at $12.95 per month, every 6 months at $9.99 per month and yearly at $6.67 per month with an additional 3 months for free on the first purchase. This puts ExpressVPN at a relatively higher price than its competition, which, compounded with the lack of free options, makes it a bit less attractive to someone only looking to use a VPN occasionally.
On a more positive note, every plan comes with a 30-day back guarantee so that one can try it out with no reserves. Payment is possible through any of the major credit card systems such as Visa, Mastercard or American Express, as well as Paypal, Bitcoin and more region-specific services like SEPA or Union Pay.
Does ExpressVPN have a free version?
Does ExpressVPN keep logs?
How good is ExpressVPN for torrenting?
How good is ExpressVPN for streaming?
How many devices can be connected to ExpressVPN?
Does ExpressVPN slow down Internet speed?
Can I use ExpressVPN in China?
ExpressVPN Review Conclusion | Is ExpressVPN Worth it?
It would be easy to dismiss ExpressVPN’s claims of speed and security as nothing more than an empty marketing ploy. However, we must admit that these boasts are backed up by strong evidence and independent experts. ExpressVPN has put a lot of effort into making a fast and reliable service that will also keep your data safe. While we may bemoan the lack of free version, there is a free 30-day money-back guarantee to test out any reservations you might have about ExpressVPN. In fact, Android and iPhone users have the best deal of all, getting exclusive access to a seven day free trial period that cannot be found on any other ExpressVPN app.
Those handling extremely sensitive data may have concerns regarding the team behind it, but the fact is that ExpressVPN has committed to a series of audits that clearly demonstrate openness and security are top priorities. We can unreservedly recommend ExpressVPN, as long as you’re willing to stomach spending a few extra dollars a month. While the price may seem steep compared to other options, the overall quality most definitely makes it worth considering.