ExpressVPN Review

Updated: Mar 17, 2021 / Article by: Timothy Shim

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The Internet has always been a little bit of a dangerous place and as time passes it is becoming increasingly so. Some of you may question the need for a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, but from businesses losing our private data to cybercriminals and governments spying on our online activities, privacy is fast eroding.

If you’re still in doubt about the necessity, read our newbie guide to VPNs here for a ton of reasons why you need a VPN. On that note, I’d like to introduce ExpressVPN, one of the top providers in the world.

With servers in 94 countries around the world, ExpressVPN offers one of the most extensive VPN networks available today. It’s experience in the industry and the solid reputation it has built up over time is indisputable.

About ExpressVPN, the Company 

Usability & Specifications

  • Apps available for – Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, Mac
  • Browser plugins – Chrome, Firefox, Safari
  • Devices – Routers, Apple TV, Play Station, xBox, Android TV Box, and more.
  • Encryption – OpenVPN, IPSec, IKEv2
  • Torrenting and P2P allowed
  • Netflix unblocking
  • 160 VPN server locations

ExpressVPN review

Pros of ExpressVPN

  • Fast and stable network
  • Works well with P2P & torrenting
  • Good for Netflix
  • Transparent, clear no-logging policy
  • High security with kill switch, managed DNS, and connect on startup

Cons of ExpressVPN

Monthly Price

  • Monthly Subscription: $12.95/mo
  • Yearly Subscription: $6.67/mo
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Verdict

While there may be some VPNs that offer rates lower than ExpressVPN, I assure you that it is difficult to find one with the same quality of service. The performance as well as capabilities of ExpressVPN far exceeds that of many others.

What We Like about ExpressVPN Service

1. Offers True Anonymity

One of the first things I’d like to point out about this company is that it is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Although technically a dependant of the United Kingdom, local legislation here is independent.

Most importantly, there is no formal legislation regarding data protection in the BVI. VPN companies who decide to base the interests here are not subject to data retention laws, and ExpressVPN states clearly that they don’t log user activities, so it should be accurate.

The British Virgin Islands (BVI) has not enacted formal legislation to regulate data protection (source).

To add another level of anonymity, should you decide to pay for a subscription with them, aside from the normal channels such as credit cards (Visa, Master, American Express, JCB, etc) and online payment wall (PayPal, UnionPay, Alipay, Mint, OneCard, Klarna, YandexMoney, etc), ExpressVPN also accepts some forms of cryptocurrency such as BitCoin.

If that's not enough, you can also signup ExpressVPN on the Dark Web (.onion address here and learn how to access the Dark Web here).

2. Military-Grade Encryption – Max Data Privacy Level

VPN connections are mainly comprised of two key portions; the connection protocol and the encryption protocol. The connection protocol establishes how data is routed, while the encryption protocol is the portion that scrambles your data to ensure that is can’t be read if anyone were to get their hands on it.

ExpressVPN supports the highest available commercial level of encryption available today, AES-256. This standard is thought of as unbreakable at this point of time and is even used by many governments and militaries around the world.

Although it does support multiple connection protocols such as IPSec and PPTP, I highly recommend you leave the default settings in the client to Automatically select one for you first, before trying the alternates.

Watch this video to learn how ExpressVPN's tunneling and encryption works.

3. Security Extras Included

VPN Kill Switch

ExpressVPN comes with a kill switch option for those who truly value their security. A Kill switch is a software-activated security feature which severs your device from its Internet connection if for any reason the VPN connection is lost or otherwise interrupted.

Managed DNS

Some of you might be used to fiddling with alternate DNS management, but with ExpressVPN you won’t have to worry about that anymore. ExpresVPN comes with private and encrypted DNS, allowing your connection to go anywhere it wants to – irrespective of whether anyone is trying to block it.

Connect on Startup

Many of our devices automatically connect to the Internet the moment they are turned on. By allowing ExpressVPN’s client to start when your device does means that your protection will commence the moment it is turned on as well.

4. Fast and Stable from Various Locations

ExpressVPN - Select Locations
You can choose which server to connect via ExpressVPN app. Currently there are 94 countries on the list.

With such an extensive network, most people would assume that a VPN service would be fast and stable but let me assure you that this is not always the case. Thankfully, ExpressVPN does meet the fast speeds it is known for.

However, an often overlooked aspect is stability and consistency. Among VPN service providers, few are able to offer consistent speeds across their massive server networks. ExpressVPN is one of the rare ones which is able to do so.

Before I discuss ExpressVPN speed in greater detail, some clarifications need to be done. I have noticed some misconceptions where users try and use a VPN and blame the service provider when speeds are not up to their expectations.

VPN speeds depend on many factors, including (but not limited to) – Your own Internet line speed, the capabilities of the device you’re using, what encryption protocols you select, distance from the selected VPN server, and what you’re doing on the VPN server.

For the purpose of the tests I did before, I ran the tests from my current location in Malaysia. My line speed is advertised as 500Mbps (up and down), with an actual speed close to that exact number. To showcase this, check out the speed results before I activate ExpressVPN:

With no VPN active, I get around full speed of 500Mbps each way.
With no VPN active, I get around full speed of 500Mbps each way.  (See the original results here)

The following speed test results were obtained using the OpenVPN UDP protocol. This protocol is offered by almost all VPN service providers, making it ideal for comparative testing.

This set of test results have been updated for 2021 and are the latest obtained using their service. 

ExpressVPN US Server Speed

ExpressVPN speed test results from their US server. Ping = 198 ms, download = 129.06 Mbps, upload = 79.84 Mbps.
ExpressVPN speed test results from their US server (see the original result here).  Ping = 198 ms, download = 129.06 Mbps, upload = 79.84 Mbps.

With the US being around the world from my current location, I was surprised that I managed to get 129 Mbps download speeds on ExpressVPN. I have tried on several VPNs and this is not always the case. Uplink speeds have improved over my previous test results and are up to almost 80Mbps.

ExpressVPN Europe Server Speed (Germany)

ExpressVPN speed test results from their Europe server
ExpressVPN speed test results from their Europe server (see the original result here). Ping = 169 ms, download = 104.03 Mbps, upload = 77.89 Mbps.

Although my normal choice of speed testing for Europe is normally either London or Amsterdam, today I decided to choose Germany because the Autobahn was on my mind for some reason. In any case, I was again pleasantly surprised at the speeds I managed to obtain here.

ExpressVPN Africa Server Speed

ExpressVPN speed test results from their Africa server
ExpressVPN speed test results from their Africa server (see the original result here). Ping = 253ms, download =116.06 Mbps, upload = 166.28 Mbps.

Africa is usually one of the hardest segments for VPN services as they are quite out of the way. I have in fact tried some VPN services which had connections in Africa but were frequently either uncontactable or so slow that I couldn’t do much of anything.

Imagine my surprise when I connected to ExpressVPN’s South Africa server and got speeds exceeding that of my Speed Test with their servers in Germany!

ExpressVPN Asia Server Speed (Singapore)

ExpressVPN speed test results from an Asia server
ExpressVPN speed test results from an Asia server (see the original result here). Ping = 9 ms, download = 127.66 Mbps, upload = 122.93 Mbps.

Being one of the most highly developed countries in Asia, Singapore did not disappoint and offered not only excellent speeds but also a fast ping rate. The ping rate quality was probably due to my proximity to the location more than anything though.

ExpressVPN Australia Server Speed

ExpressVPN speed test results from their Australia server
ExpressVPN speed test results from their Australia server (see the original result here). Ping = 100 ms, download = 128.89 Mbps, upload = 176.72 Mbps.

The land down under was fast as well, with speeds topping out close to 130 Mbps. Ping rates were about as expected in relation to the other locations I tested.

What’s important to note about these test results is that they show remarkable improvement in ExpressVPN’s server speeds as a whole over the past year or two. 

New Protocol – Lightway

At the beginning of 2021, ExpressVPN introduced a new protocol of their own called Lightway. Many VPN services have been moving towards WireGuard, what many consider the next generation of VPN protocol.

So far, WireGuard has been observed to offer much faster speeds. Yet in some ways, it remains experimental.

Instead of going in that direction, ExpressVPN developed Lightway – a protocol which they claim will eventually be released by them as open-source. Aside from speed, Lightway makes use of wolfSSL, which is well known for its security profile.

Regardless of anything else, Lightway seems to be extremely speedy, managing to match some VPN providers who are using WireGuard. To illustrate this, check out the speed test run using Lightway on ExpressVPN’s Singapore server below:

ExpressVPN Lightway Speed Test
ExpressVPN Lightway Speed Test (see the original result here). Ping = 10 ms, download = 257.90 Mbps, upload = 293.24 Mbps.

The speed hike is very impressive and well worth using. On top of that, ExpressVPN indicates that Lightway is currently still in preview mode. This can mean that it will be further improved on and perhaps, even faster in the future.

ExpressVPN Con – The One Thing We Don't Like

1. Pricing: Not Exactly the Cheapest Around

ExpressVPN pricing

Minimum subscription period for ExpressVPN starts from one month, but I don’t really think anyone would buy in to that plan since it’s the most expensive. Almost all VPN providers encourage users to buy in for longer periods for lower prices.

A one-month plan costs $12.95, but that price drops if you sign up for 6 or 12 months. In fact, sign on for 12 months and you get three months free – essentially halving the monthly fee. While not the cheapest rate, it certainly is a competitive one.

Compare ExpressVPN Pricing with Other VPNs

VPN Services*1-mo12-mo24-mo
ExpressVPN$12.95/mo$6.67/mo$6.67/mo
Surfshark$12.95/mo$6.49/mo$2.49/mo
FastestVPN$10.00/mo$2.49/mo$2.49/mo
NordVPN$11.95/mo$4.92/mo$3.71/mo
PureVPN$10.95/mo$10.95/mo$3.33/mo
TorGuard$9.99/mo$4.99/mo$4.99/mo
VyprVPN$12.95/mo$3.75/mo$3.75/mo
IPVanish$4.99/mo$3.33/mo$3.33/mo

Using ExpressVPN in Real World Situation

Gaming with ExpressVPN

If you’re a gamer and are thinking of using ExpressVPN to play on different server locations, I would not recommend this. There is bad lag on VPN connections that will likely throw off your game unless you’re connecting to a VPN server near your location. This would be pretty much pointless anyway, so do take note.

* Notes on the Tests

All these tests were run on the default protocols and settings in the ExpressVPN Windows client. I did try to run ExpressVPN off my router, but since I have a budget home router, the speeds were appalling. I do not recommend running a VPN service on a home router unless you have a top-of-the-line model such as the Netgear Nighthawk X10 which is horribly expensive.

My test device was a new laptop running an Intel 8th Gen chip. I suspect that this was my bottleneck in some cases and you may get higher speeds if you run the VPN service off a new desktop PC with more processing power.

Streaming and P2P

With speeds on all servers that I tested being so high, there should be technically no issue with streaming even 4K movies over an ExpressVPN connection. I understand some streaming services are geolocation-restricted and yes, ExpressVPN helps with that as well.

Streaming on BBC iPlayer via ExpressVPN.
Streaming on BBC iPlayer via ExpressVPN.

Connecting to the UK, I tested out BBC’s iPlayer (I even registered for a free account with a UK postcode on the site) and it works fine.

Torrenting or P2P is very dear to my heart and I am happy to report that ExpressVPN works very well with P2P activities. In fact, unlike some services which restrict P2P activities to certain servers, ExpressVPN does not.

All you need to do is stick to the smart location connection and run your P2P program and it will work. Word of advice – it does take some time for the ports to map out correctly and then your torrents to start downloading. Do not be alarmed and just give it some time – it will work!

Speeds were smooth and in fact, I think that P2P traffic was able to gain better speeds than usual for the connection. Strange, but true.

Verdict: Is ExpressVPN a Good Choice?

While there may be some VPNs that offer rates lower than ExpressVPN, I assure you that it is difficult to find one with the same quality of service. The performance as well as capabilities of ExpressVPN far exceeds that of many others.

I feel that there is very little to complain about the service. It has ample number of servers in a good geographical spread, fast connection speeds and an excellent reputation in the field. It excels in exactly what it was created for – Privacy and Security.

Quick Recap on Our Review

Pros of ExpressVPN

  • Fast and stable network
  • Works well with P2P & torrenting
  • Transparent, clear no-logging policy
  • High security with kill switch, managed DNS, and connect on startup

Cons of ExpressVPN

  • Expensive monthly contracts

ExpressVPN Alternatives

If ExpressVPN somehow doesn’t float your boat, there are many other alternatives in the market. Some of these alternatives include:

NordVPN

NordVPN is more established in the market and has a solid reputation for reliability. The team at NordVPN has also been developing a suite of other security-related features like NordPass and their own NordLynx VPN protocol.

In an effort to reassure customers of security, NordVPN has of late been working with third-party auditors to test their no-logging claims. So far everything turned out completely fine.

Surfshark

This newer and relatively untested VPN brand has grown phenomenally in terms of both quality and network span. So far Surfshark has been building up steadily but remained more mainstream in its approach to technology. 

Still, that hasn’t stopped them from doing crazy things such as running servers entirely on RAM to ensure that no logging is recorded.

TorGuard

This brand is perhaps our top ExpressVPN alternative for those who are looking to torrent. It was built for this purpose and retains a very old-school feeling in its design. While TorGuard performance may not be the best of the best, it does rank well among top-tier service providers.

To see more choices in VPN services, check out our list of 10 best VPN services.

Earning disclosureWe use affiliate links in this article. WHSR receive referral fees from companies mentioned in this article. Our opinions are based on real experience and actual test data.

About Timothy Shim

Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.