|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
ExpressVPN is a well-regarded VPN service used by many people – but how well does it actually perform?
In the past few months, ExpressVPN has undergone some big security and infrastructure updates. The biggest change has been the release of Lightway, a new VPN protocol that promises faster speeds and upgraded encryption – but it also comes with some noteworthy drawbacks.
In this new and updated ExpressVPN review, we set out to answer these questions:
- How fast is ExpressVPN and does it outperform other leading VPNs?
- How well do the features and leak-protection settings work?
- Are the VPN apps secure and user-friendly?
- Can it unblock Netflix and other streaming services?
- Is ExpressVPN worth the (above average) price?
We purchased an ExpressVPN account and tested the VPN apps on both desktop and mobile operating systems to answer these questions and more. All test results are posted bellow.
Here is a brief overview of our findings:
Pros of ExpressVPN
- Secure VPN apps for all devices
- Strong encryption, good security features, and no leaks
- No-logs VPN in a safe jurisdiction
- Large and secure server network
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- Secure browser extensions
- Split tunneling feature
- Secure and reliable mobile apps
- Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
- Great customer support and refund policy
Cons of ExpressVPN
- Above average prices
- Slow OpenVPN speeds
- Fewer features than other leading VPNs
Additional research findings
- Lightway Protocol (Pros and Cons)
- Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
- Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
- How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
- Is ExpressVPN worth it?
Now let’s examine the details and findings of this ExpressVPN review, starting with the pros.
Here are the pros of ExpressVPN:
1. Secure VPN apps for all devices
When it comes to secure, reliable, and user-friendly VPN apps that just work, ExpressVPN is one of the best options available.
They offer dedicated apps for all major operating systems and devices, including:
- Mac OS
- Kindle Fire and Nook
Below I’m testing out the ExpressVPN Windows app for this review. You can see it has a clean and minimal design that doesn’t take up too much space on your desktop.
Tapping the three lines in the top-left corner of the VPN app opens up a new window with more features and settings that we’ll discuss further below.
The ExpressVPN apps have always had an intuitive design and simple layout. Many VPN apps are buggy and/or clunky, but this is not the case with ExpressVPN.
2. Strong encryption, good security features, and no leaks
When it comes to implementing strong encryption and security, ExpressVPN does not cut any corners. We’ll examine the encryption, VPN protocols, security features, and leak test results in this section.
With the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, ExpressVPN uses an AES-256 cipher with an RSA-4096 key and SHA-512 HMAC authentication. The Lightway protocol uses AES-256-GCM and ChaCha20/Poly1305 ciphers to encrypt traffic, along with D/TLS 1.2 for server authentication.
The AES-256 and ChaCha20 ciphers offer an extremely high level of encryption that is currently considered unbreakable, even with modern quantum computers. They also provide excellent performance, especially the Lightway protocol (test results below). Additionally, ExpressVPN supports Perfect Forward Secrecy negotiated through a Diffie-Hellman key exchange.
ExpressVPN gives you the ability to select which VPN protocols you want to use directly in the apps. Here you can see the available VPN protocols in the Windows client:
With “Automatic” enabled, ExpressVPN will select the best VPN protocol based on your network settings. I tested out OpenVPN UDP and Lightway UDP for this review.
In my tests, Lightway was faster than OpenVPN by a large margin. If you want the best performance, then I’d recommend using Lightway at all times, although OpenVPN UDP was still plenty fast enough for browsing, streaming, and torrenting.
ExpressVPN Network Lock (kill switch)
ExpressVPN refers to the kill switch as the Network Lock. The Network Lock feature will keep your data secure by blocking all traffic if the VPN connection drops. This ensures every data packet remains encrypted and secure, with your real IP address being protected at all times.
The Network Lock feature is currently available in the following apps:
- Mac OS
Below you can see ExpressVPN’s Network Lock feature under the General settings in the Windows app:
The Network Lock feature worked well when I tested it out with Windows and Mac OS. All traffic was effectively blocked when I manually interrupted the VPN connection.
The kill switch (Network Lock) is important to keep your data secure if your connection drops for any reason. Most VPNs offer this feature, but in many cases it does not work well.
Kill switch for mobile devices – On mobile devices, ExpressVPN does not offer the official Network Lock feature, but it still has a kill switch to protect against traffic leaks.
- Android has the “Network Protection” option that functions as a kill switch and will block traffic when the connection drops.
- iOS has the “Auto-Connect” feature that will also block traffic and automatically reconnect the VPN when your internet connection resumes.
ExpressVPN leak test results (no leaks)
I ran the ExpressVPN apps through some basic VPN tests to identify any issues or problems. The main testing site I used was ipleak.net. I did not find any leaks or security issues with any of the ExpressVPN apps.
Below is the ExpressVPN Windows client with no leaks:
Above you can see everything matches up with the VPN server I’m connected to in The Netherlands. ExpressVPN is securing all traffic by providing me with an IPv4 address, blocking IPv6, and handling all my DNS requests with their secure DNS resolvers. ExpressVPN’s Windows app passed all tests and is currently our top recommendation as the best VPN for Windows.
I also ran the ExpressVPN Mac OS app and also the Android app through the same leak tests. As with previous tests, no leaks were found.
3. No-logs VPN in a safe jurisdiction
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs with no logs that have been verified and proven to be true. Why is this important? Choosing a VPN is all about trust, since the VPN has the ability to log and record your data. There have been at least two cases where “no logs” VPNs have given up information on their users:
- IPVanish handed over logs to the FBI for a criminal investigation (details in the IPVanish review).
- PureVPN also provided government agents with data logs for a criminal case (see the PureVPN review for more info).
But back to ExpressVPN. First, we will take an in-depth look at ExpressVPN’s policies, then we’ll cover the real-world cases that verified these policies.
ExpressVPN no-logs policy
ExpressVPN explains their general stance on logging as follows:
ExpressVPN is a premium VPN provider focused on user privacy and anonymity. Our network is built around specifically NOT knowing the internet activities of our users. As privacy is a core part of our service offering, ExpressVPN is in the business of protecting our users’ private internet data.
And this screenshot from their website provides a good summary:
We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.
That being said, there is an option in the VPN apps to share crash statistics, which helps ExpressVPN improve apps, but this data is completely anonymized, does not include personal information, and is optional. Nonetheless, it can also easily be disabled with one click in the Settings area.
ExpressVPN passed third-party audit of logging policies
ExpressVPN is also one of a handful of VPNs that has been independently audited.
To verify and prove their no-logs claims, ExpressVPN underwent a third-party audit from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The audit verified the TrustedServer feature (discussed below), no logs policy, and that all privacy protections are being adhered to correctly.
Very few VPNs have undergone third-party audits to verify logging policies. And there’s also further proof that ExpressVPN is following a true no-logs policy.
ExpressVPN servers seized: ‘no logs’ policy tested
In December 2017 news broke that authorities in Turkey seized an ExpressVPN server in an attempt to obtain customer data. Before the server was seized in Turkey, Turkish authorities had attempted to force ExpressVPN to provide logs from the server in question. ExpressVPN informed the officials that they are a no-logs VPN, not subject to Turkish law, and they do not have any data to provide.
After these demands failed, the Turkish government then seized an ExpressVPN server, but still came up empty-handed in their quest for user data.
Why is this important?
The relevant issue here is that the authorities were not able to obtain any customer data – either through demands or seizing a server – because there were no logs available.
This case from Turkey, and also the no-logs audit, confirm ExpressVPN’s logging policies and overall commitment to securing customer data.
Located in a safe, privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI)
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The BVI is an independent, self-governing entity with strict laws protecting the privacy of businesses and individuals operating there.
Unlike the UK, the BVI has no mandatory data retention laws or wide-scale surveillance programs, which affect UK VPN services. Similar to Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands are well-known for strong privacy protection and data secrecy, unlike the different Five Eyes countries.
The judicial system in the BVI also cannot be compelled to force companies there to produce records on their customers. As a country, the BVI is fully independent and does not fall under any other country’s jurisdiction, despite the historical connection to Britain. We also see other VPNs incorporating in the BVI for these same reasons, as noted in the Surfshark review.
4. Large and secure server network
ExpressVPN offers a large selection of servers around the world, with a very secure network setup.
At the time of this review, ExpressVPN has about 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries. This includes a total of more than 3,000 VPN servers. Europe and North America have the best coverage, but they also offer a good selection of servers in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region.
All servers running in RAM-disk mode (TrustedServer feature)
ExpressVPN is now one of only a handful of VPNs that run all servers in RAM-disk mode. In other words, ExpressVPN does not use any hard drives with its server network, but instead, only RAM memory. This network security setup is referred to as the TrustedServer feature.
The TrustedServer feature offers ExpressVPN users a higher level of security.
This video does a good job explaining the benefits:
Does ExpressVPN offer static/dedicated IP addresses?
No, ExpressVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
If you want a dedicated IP address, see my guide on VPNs with dedicated IPs for more details. (Note that dedicated/static IPs are not the best choice for privacy because your internet traffic is not getting mixed with other users.)
5. Works with Netflix and other streaming services
If you need a good VPN that works with Netflix and other streaming services, then ExpressVPN is a great choice. It is one of the few VPNs that continues to work with Netflix, providing 24/7 access.
For this review, I tested out US Netflix with an ExpressVPN server in Washington DC. Everything worked perfectly, as you can see below.
To use Netflix with ExpressVPN, simply start the ExpressVPN app on your device, connect to a server of your choice in the Netflix region you want to use, and then stream Netflix as normal.
If you get any kind of proxy error with Netflix when you are connected to an ExpressVPN server, just contact ExpressVPN’s chat support and they’ll tell which server(s) to use instead.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs for Netflix for three main reasons:
- Good streaming quality with fast speeds (no buffering or interruptions)
- 24/7 access to Netflix (no network-wide blocks)
- Unblocks numerous Netflix regions around the world: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany.
Other streaming services that work with ExpressVPN
Note on BBC iPlayer: We have gotten feedback that ExpressVPN is currently not working well for BBC iPlayer. As an alternative, we’d recommend either NordVPN or Surfshark for this service.
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPNs for Firestick with a dedicated app you can find in the Amazon App Store.
6. Secure browser extensions
ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers. The browser add-on is an extension of the ExpressVPN desktop app. This means you’ll need to be running the ExpressVPN Windows, Mac OS, or Linux desktop application.
Why use the browser extension when you can use the desktop VPN app?
The biggest advantage of using the browser app is convenience. It offers the ability to easily switch server locations directly in your browser, rather than having to navigate to the desktop VPN client. Here are some additional advantages of the ExpressVPN browser extensions:
- Block WebRTC leaks in the browser (WebRTC is a privacy risk that can expose your real IP, even when using a good VPN).
- Spoof your HTML5 geolocation data in the browser.
- HTTPS Everywhere – automatically connects to the more-secure HTTPS version of websites where available.
Here’s what the ExpressVPN browser extension looks like in Chrome:
The extension can be set to light or dark mode (above). We tested out ExpressVPN’s extension on Chrome browsers, then rated it as one of the best VPNs for Chrome. Everything worked well.
7. Split tunneling feature
ExpressVPN offers a split tunneling feature with their applications for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and routers.
Split tunneling allows you to select which apps will go through the VPN tunnel and which can bypass the VPN to the regular (unencrypted) internet.
This feature can be found in the settings area of the VPN client. By default, all traffic and applications are routed through the VPN. In the settings, you can select three different options:
- All apps use the VPN
- Do not allow selected apps to use the VPN
- Only allow selected apps to use the VPN
If you click the second or third options, a pop-up window appears, allowing you to select the specific apps.
This is also really useful with routers, because it allows you to select specific devices and/or websites to bypass the VPN.
8. Secure and reliable mobile apps
The ExpressVPN mobile apps I tested on Android and iOS performed very well.
Android users will be happy to hear they can take advantage of the Lightway protocol with the latest Android app release. This offers huge advantages to mobile users:
- Seamlessly transition between different networks (WiFi and 4G) without your VPN connection dropping
- Faster download speeds
- Better reliability
- Improved battery life
Legacy protocols, particularly OpenVPN, simply do not perform well on mobile devices. Lightway solves these problems.
Note: Lightway is available with the Android app right now, and will be released for iOS later in 2020. Meanwhile, iOS users can maximize performance by using the IKEv2 protocol, or stick with the traditional OpenVPN protocol.
Here’s a screenshot of the ExpressVPN iOS client.
If you are a heavy mobile user, ExpressVPN has you covered with excellent mobile VPN apps. See our best VPNs for Android for more discussion on this topic.
9. Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPN services that offer a dedicated VPN router app. The router app works on select router models with the supported firmware.
Using a VPN on your router is a smart way to get an unlimited number of connections with your VPN. This is because the router will only count as one connection, but it will provide every device that connects to your router with the full benefits of the VPN: encrypted traffic, new IP address, location anonymity.
If you want to use ExpressVPN on your router, you have the following options:
- Use the ExpressVPN router app on one of the supported router models (recommended)
- Manually setup ExpressVPN on your router (more work, but not too difficult with some routers, such as with most Asus models)
Using the ExpressVPN router app (option 1) is the best solution because it offers the following features:
- Easily switch between VPN servers
- Split tunneling (select which apps or websites bypass the VPN)
- Network Lock (kill switch) to block all traffic if the VPN connection drops
You can check the ExpressVPN website to see what options are available with your router.
10. Great customer support and refund policy
While support with larger VPN services can sometimes be hit or miss, ExpressVPN seems to be doing quite well with live chat support.
I tested out ExpressVPN’s support repeatedly for this review. In all my interactions, I found the support department to be prompt, knowledgeable, and polite.
You can get access to 24/7 live chat support directly through their website in the bottom-right corner. With all of my chat sessions, I was connected with a representative in under a minute (no long delays).
Live chat support is definitely a plus if you need help setting up the VPN on your devices or have specific questions that are not answered on the website.
30 day money-back guarantee
Another great benefit with ExpressVPN is that it offers one of the longest refund windows in the industry. With all VPN subscriptions (even one-month plans), you get a full 30 day money-back guarantee. If you are not 100% satisfied with your VPN subscription, you can cancel on day 30 for a full refund, no questions asked.
Overall ExpressVPN offers great customer support.
1. Above average prices
One drawback with ExpressVPN is that it is more expensive than some other rival VPN competitors (but also not the most expensive VPN). In short, it is not a cheap VPN.
With the regular pricing, the cheapest you can get ExpressVPN for is $8.32 per month, or $99.95 per year. However, there is a discounted coupon rate that gives you three months for free with the coupon below.
While ExpressVPN is more expensive than some other rivals, namely NordVPN and Surfshark, the key question is always value, or what you get for your money. In terms of value, ExpressVPN has a lot to offer, as you can see with all of the pros above. Based on the results and information in this review, these are the factors that make ExpressVPN stand out from other options:
- Faster speeds with the Lightway protocol
- Secure and reliable apps with strong encryption and built-in leak protection
- 24/7 access to Netflix and many other streaming services
- Live chat support
Another factor that’s important to consider is the history of the VPN itself. ExpressVPN has a squeaky-clean record going back many years. Additionally, it is a verified and proven no-logs VPN service that runs a very secure server network.
2. ExpressVPN slow speeds with OpenVPN protocol
Another noteworthy drawback with ExpressVPN is the performance issues we found with the OpenVPN protocol. The OpenVPN protocol is still the most widely-used protocol with VPN services and offers security and (typically) good performance. OpenVPN is also open source and trusted by many users and organizations.
We ran speed tests using the OpenVPN protocol with ExpressVPN on a 500 Mbps connect. The results were not very good.
ExpressVPN server in Seattle with the OpenVPN protocol: 32 Mbps.
This is really slow considering my baseline of 500 Mbps and the fact that OpenVPN speeds can often get about 200 to 300 Mbps.
Next up was an ExpressVPN server in Los Angeles at 41 Mbps.
While this is slightly better than the previous server in Seattle, it is still far slower than it should be. We should be getting speeds of well over 100 Mbps with the OpenVPN protocol.
ExpressVPN is really struggling with OpenVPN speeds. And that is a big deal because most people still opt for OpenVPN over other protocols because it is open source and trustworthy.
There is another alternative, however, and that is to use the Lightway protocol – but it also comes with some drawbacks, as we’ll show you below.
3. Fewer features than other leading VPNs
The last con we are going to discuss with ExpressVPN is the lack of features.
As we noted above, ExpressVPN is more expensive than other leading VPNs. In relation to the high price, it’s also important to note that you don’t get a lot of features. To illustrate this point, we’ll take a look at NordVPN, which is currently the #1 best VPN service in our rankings.
What features do we find with NordVPN that are not available with ExpressVPN? NordVPN offers:
- Double VPN servers that encrypt traffic over two separate hops. This adds a higher level of security for those who want it.
- Tor-over-VPN servers that add an additional layer of encryption via the Tor network.
- Obfuscated servers that allow you to use the VPN in restricted locations, where VPNs may be blocked.
- P2P servers that are optimized for torrenting and fast download speeds.
- CyberSec feature to block ads, trackers, malware, and phishing domains. CyberSec was rated as the best VPN ad blocker we’ve tested.
The lack of features was one of the big reasons that NordVPN came out on top in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
And aside from all of the features noted above, NordVPN also runs all servers in RAM-disk mode and does not use any virtual server locations like ExpressVPN. We discuss these items more in our NordVPN review.
Additional review findings
Here is some additional information I found for this ExpressVPN review:
Lightway protocol (Pros and Cons)
After over a year of development, ExpressVPN has finally launched the Lightway VPN protocol. Lightway is available on all major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android (but not yet iOS).
So what does Lightway offer? Here’s what I found:
- Faster speeds than OpenVPN (thank goodness!)
- Updated encryption
- Fast to establish connections (about one second or less)
- Seamless transition when going in and out of connectivity, or changing networks (such as Wi-Fi to 4G)
- Smaller code base makes it easier to audit than OpenVPN and IPSec
In many respects, Lightway is similar to the WireGuard protocol. It is smaller, leaner, faster, and more secure, while solving a lot of the problems and baggage of legacy protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2. It’s great to see this protocol is now live and supported in the ExpressVPN apps.
Faster speeds with the Lightway protocol
One of the biggest benefits to Lightway is the potential for faster speeds and better overall performance. I ran some tests of Lightway on a Mac OS computer with a 500 Mbps connection. Here were some results with US servers:
ExpressVPN Lightway server in Seattle: 136 Mbps.
This is better than before with OpenVPN, but certainly not great.
ExpressVPN Lightway server in Los Angeles:
ExpressVPN Lightway server in New York:
As you can see, Lightway speeds are better than OpenVPN, but still not on par with WireGuard.
Lightway vs WireGuard
For comparison, here is a speed test with NordVPN using the WireGuard protocol:
As you can see, NordVPN with the WireGuard protocol is giving us speeds that are over 200 Mbps faster than ExpressVPN with Lightway.
Recommendation: If speed is your top priority, then check out NordVPN with WireGuard.
Lightway is not open source
Right now Lightway is not open source, and this is another drawback it has in comparison to WireGuard.
According to their website:
Lightway uses wolfSSL, whose well-established cryptography library has been extensively vetted by third-parties, including against the FIPS 140-2 standard.
And soon, the core library of Lightway will be open-sourced, ensuring that it can be transparently and widely scrutinized.
I reached out to ExpressVPN for further comment on this issue. They explained that Lightway remains under development and will be open source in the future once they achieve a few more development milestones. Maybe we can expect it to be fully open source in 2021 – but who knows.
Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
Many VPNs restrict or limit torrenting on their network. With ExpressVPN, torrenting is allowed without any restrictions or limitations.
There are four factors that make ExpressVPN a good choice for torrenting:
- High-performance (premium) server network with exceptionally fast speeds and great reliability.
- Overseas jurisdiction that is not subject to DMCA requests or copyright violation demands.
- High-quality applications that will keep your data secure while also protecting you against leaks and vulnerabilities. This, of course, also protects you from copyright trolls and DMCA notices.
- No bandwidth limitations or traffic restrictions whatsoever.
ExpressVPN is among the top recommendations in our VPN for torrenting guide.
Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
Despite the current VPN blocks and censorship efforts, ExpressVPN continues to work in China.
To use ExpressVPN in China, simply connect to one of the China-designated servers (check with support to see these). These servers will automatically utilize an obfuscation protocol with the VPN app, thereby concealing the VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption. This easily gets through the Great Firewall and censorship efforts.
See the best VPNs for China guide for additional information and setup tips.
How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
With your ExpressVPN subscription, you will get five simultaneous connections.
Note: You can use ExpressVPN on an unlimited number of devices, but you are limited to five simultaneous connections at any one time with your subscription.
If you want to use more than five devices with the VPN, there is an easy solution. Simply use ExpressVPN on your router, as we covered above, for an unlimited number of connections. The router will count as only one connection and you’ll be able to use it with as many devices as you wish.
Conclusion: Is ExpressVPN worth it?
ExpressVPN’s performance for this latest review update has earned it a top spot as one of the best VPNs we’ve tested.
Overall, we think it is a great VPN service worthy of consideration. To summarize, here are the main findings from this ExpressVPN review:
- Safe offshore jurisdiction and company policies to protect customer data and user privacy.
- Continues to work with Netflix and most other streaming services.
- Huge selection of apps that are well-designed, secure, reliable, and user-friendly.
- Secure network with all servers running in RAM-disk mode.
- Good customer service with 24/7 live chat support and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
While there are a few drawbacks, we feel ExpressVPN is certainly a good choice for all types of users.
Another factor to consider is that ExpressVPN is continuing to improve and get better going into 2021. The Lightway protocol is now live and the speeds are a great improvement over OpenVPN. ExpressVPN has also told me they will be releasing some new security features and improvements in the coming months, so stay tuned!
And if you want to give this VPN a test drive, then grab the coupon below for the best savings:
Alternatives to ExpressVPN
Click the VPN name below to read our full review – or click the discount coupon for the best savings. Both of these VPNs have a 30 day money-back guarantee.
You can also check out our guide on the top-rated VPN services for other recommendations.
If you have used ExpressVPN, feel free to share your honest review (good or bad) below in the comments section.