ExpressVPN Review and Test Results 2017
ExpressVPN is a British Virgin Islands-based VPN service that offers a nice lineup of reliable apps with decent performance. Despite maintaining minimum connection logs, ExpressVPN may be a good choice for those seeking a stable and user-friendly service that will protect your privacy – just beware of the drawbacks.
Extensive testing and research for this ExpressVPN review identified the following issues:
- IPv6 leaks (WebRTC) with the Windows app
- Network lock (kill switch) does not block all non-VPN traffic
- Apps that are configured to report crash statistics and send data to third parties (but users can opt-out)
Due to these issues, ExpressVPN did not earn a recommendation for this review. Nonetheless, it is still a decent option and an overall high-quality service that may be worth your consideration.
Keep reading for a detailed review of the pros and cons, or check out the ExpressVPN website for more info >>
- User-friendly and reliable apps
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Great for getting around VPN blocks/restrictions (China)
- 24/7 live chat support
- Reduced price for RestorePrivacy readers
- Connection logs
- Variable speeds
- Limited to 3 connections per subscription
- Kill switch does not block all non-VPN traffic
British Virgin Islands
IPv6 WebRTC leaks
ExpressVPN company and jurisdiction
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Overall this seems to be a decent privacy jurisdiction, but there is one drawback…
The British Virgin Islands are officially a British Overseas Territory (see here), which puts them under UK influence. This connection between the BVI and UK is concerning because the UK is a leading member of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance and a habitual offender of online privacy (see Investigatory Powers Act).
It’s difficult to determine exactly how much a VPN’s jurisdiction affects people. But as a general rule, it’s best to choose a VPN located in a good privacy jurisdiction. The British Virgin Islands are not an awful jurisdiction, but also not ideal.
ExpressVPN price and refund policy
ExpressVPN has cordially extended a reduced price to RestorePrivacy readers. Previously, the cheapest price you could get ExpressVPN for was $8.32 per month.
Through this discount link you can now get ExpressVPN for $6.67 per month.
When considering price, the key question is always value – what you get for your money.
For some, this may be a good value (depending on your needs and uses for a VPN). Many people use ExpressVPN in China and other locations where VPNs are blocked. The feedback I’ve seen has usually been positive. Nonetheless, there may be alternatives that work better for your situation.
ExpressVPN refund policy – ExpressVPN offers one of the best refund policies in the industry. They give you a 30 day “no questions asked” money-back guarantee, without any stipulations or hidden clauses. This gives you ample time to test out their service to see if it will work for your needs.
ExpressVPN offers a nice lineup of apps for different devices and platforms.
For this review I tested the ExpressVPN apps on Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS (iPhone).
Overall I found all of their apps to be well-designed and also user-friendly despite some drawbacks, which we’ll cover below.
Here is a screenshot of the Windows client with the server locations screen on the right:
While the ExpressVPN apps do offer some great benefits, they also have some drawbacks.
ExpressVPN app problems
Testing and research identified the following issues:
- Apps are configured to collect and share data with ExpressVPN and third parties (Apple, Microsoft and Google)
- Only three connections allowed per subscription
- IPv6 leaks via WebRTC (also known as WebRTC leaks)
- The kill switch (network lock) does not block all non-VPN traffic (such as when switching VPN servers)
We’ll closely examine each of these points below.
Logs and data collection
After downloading the ExpressVPN apps you’ll notice that they are configured to collect diagnostic data. I found this to be the case with the Windows, Android, Mac OS and iOS clients.
It’s important to note that the user can always opt-out, but in some cases the data sharing option is enabled by default.
Here’s the Mac OS app, where this data collection option is automatically enabled:
And the ExpressVPN Android app is also configured in this way:
Here are a few relevant excerpts:
Many people use a VPN to keep their data out of the hands of third parties. While governments abuse privacy via mass surveillance programs, corporate surveillance is just as concerning.
The problem here is that many people don’t trust these companies due to their history of data collection and tracking (especially Google and Microsoft).
Only 3 connections allowed
One drawback with ExpressVPN is that you are limited to only three connections with your subscription.
If you try to connect more than three devices you will be greeted with this message:
If you click “learn more” you will be taken to a sales page instructing you to buy another subscription in order to connect more devices.
TIP: One way to extend the benefits of a VPN to more devices is to use a VPN on a router. This will only count as one connection, regardless of how many devices are on the VPN-secured network.
For comparison, here are the connection limits with a few other VPN providers:
- Perfect Privacy – unlimited connections
- VPNArea – 6 connections (can be shared with others)
- VPN.ac – 6 connections
- VyprVPN – 5 connections (premium) or 3 connections (basic)
- ZorroVPN – 5 connections
IPv6 leaks via WebRTC
Testing with the ExpressVPN Windows app identified IPv6 leaks via WebRTC (also known as WebRTC leaks).
It’s important to note that WebRTC can be disabled in Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers. Ideally, however, there would not be any leaks when using the VPN client, especially since many users may not be aware of these vulnerabilities.
Leak testing results
Windows VPN app:
As you can see below, there were IPv6 WebRTC leaks found with the Windows app:
Here is another test result further verifying IPv6 WebRTC leaks with the Firefox browser (same result):
There were no other leaks found with the ExpressVPN Windows client.
Solution: the simple solution here is to disable WebRTC on your browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and Opera). Also note that there are many factors that affect WebRTC leaks, including your network, network setup, and browser settings (so test results may vary).
I also ran the ExpressVPN Mac OS, iOS and Android clients through the same testing procedures.
There were no problems or leaks identified with these apps.
Kill switch (network lock) problems
ExpressVPN provides a kill switch for their Windows and Mac OS clients.
They refer to this feature as a “network lock” in the settings area.
In testing out the network lock feature I found one flaw: it will not block all non-VPN traffic. In other words, the network lock is only designed to protect you “if ExpressVPN disconnects unexpectedly”.
So what this means is that every time you switch servers (disconnect and reconnect to a new VPN server) your traffic will be exposed. If you have any downloads, torrents, or anything else running in the background, this would expose your IP address when switching servers.
Both Windows and Mac OS by default have numerous apps sending data in the background (you can observe this with any firewall/traffic monitor such as GlassWire or Little Snitch). Therefore, any time you switch servers with ExpressVPN, this background traffic will hit your ISP.
I verified this problem with support and also found that ExpressVPN further clarifies the issue on their website.
The ExpressVPN support also informed me that there is no way to modify the network lock to block all non-VPN traffic. For that, you would need to setup custom firewall rules.
This may be a drawback for those wanting a fully-functioning kill switch that will block all non-VPN traffic.
Alternatives – The three VPNs below offer a full kill switch that effectively blocks all non-VPN traffic:
In testing out the network lock I also learned that it blocks IPv6 connectivity and prevents DNS leaks when the connection is active. Therefore, if you disable the network lock, you will have IPv6 and DNS leaks – even when the VPN connection is active and stable.
With the screenshot above, you can see that the ExpressVPN windows client is active in the background and the connection is stable (top of the green shield on the right), but network lock is disabled. So with VPN connection active and stable, there were still DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, and IPv6 leaks.
TIP: Even after activating the network lock, I continued to have leaks until I rebooted the client (but the WebRTC leaks persisted, regardless). Therefore if you modify the network lock, be sure to reboot the client for the settings to be applied.
ExpressVPN speed test results
Overall ExpressVPN did well with speed tests, although the speeds were not always consistent.
With nearby servers I could usually get between 30 and 50 Mbps. Here is one test when connected to server in Milan, Italy.
However, with some servers and at various times of the day the speeds could be quite poor.
Here is one example where my download speed was reduced to under 2 Mbps with a UK server.
This variability in speed may be related to overloaded servers. Unfortunately ExpressVPN does not provide any server status page, which would allow you to verify available bandwidth on their network.
I have also noticed others complaining about speeds, both on this website and elsewhere online.
It’s important to note that there are numerous factors affecting speeds, especially now that internet service providers are manipulating and throttling traffic.
Therefore you can take speed tests with a grain of salt and instead test out the VPN yourself to see how it works for you.
ExpressVPN offers a few different encryption protocols within the preferences: OpenVPN, L2TP, or PPTP. Here is a screenshot from the Mac OS client.
One annoying issue I found is that even when you select a specific encryption protocol, the Windows and Mac OS clients always revert back to “Automatic” when you close and reboot the app.
No native Mac OS support – Another issue I discovered is that ExpressVPN does not support the native IPSec/IKEv2 configuration for Mac OS and iOS.
The built-in IKEv2 Mac OS and iOS VPN setup is very stable and leak proof – see the best VPNs for Mac OS guide for more info. Unfortunately this is not an option with ExpressVPN at this time.
ExpressVPN offers a good selection of servers from around the world.
While I previously criticized ExpressVPN for the use of “virtual” server locations, they have since clarified all virtual locations on their website (where the physical location does not match the “virtual” location). For the record, I do not consider these “virtual server” locations to be of any benefit, but at least they aren’t hiding it anymore.
If you want to use IP addresses from remote regions of the world, ExpressVPN would be a decent choice.
I tested out ExpressVPN’s support repeatedly for this review. In all my interactions I found the support department to be friendly and helpful.
You can get access to 24/7 live chat support directly on their website:
Support with larger VPNs can often be hit or miss.
With ExpressVPN, it seems to be pretty good (as of now).
ExpressVPN has made some great improvements since the last review, and I commend them for this. They have:
- Clarified all “virtual” server locations on their website.
- Removed all contradictory statements concerning logs.
- Reduced the price down to $6.67 per month (with this discount link).
While there are still some concerning issues, it is clear that ExpressVPN is moving in the right direction. Nonetheless, you may still want to consider some alternatives:
- VPN.ac, which offers more advanced encryption options, a better kill switch, double-hop server configurations, great apps, and a cheaper price (read review).
- Perfect Privacy, which has very advanced Windows and Linux clients, an excellent advertisement and tracking blocker, but no custom mobile apps and a higher price (read review).
And for more of a discussion on these options, see the Best VPNs guide.
ExpressVPN review conclusion
ExpressVPN has made some great improvements since the last review and overall it is high-quality VPN service. Unfortunately, however, due to the kill switch problems, IPv6 WebRTC leaks, and apps that collect user data through third parties, ExpressVPN does not earn a recommendation for this review.
For some, however, these issues may not be a deal-breaker. It is still a reliable, go-to service with a great reputation. The new discounted pricing and 30 day refund window may be worth it if you are on the fence.
Top 3 alternatives to ExpressVPN