| One of the best-known VPN providers around, ExpressVPN offers fast performance, great client software design and some of the strongest security features you’ll find. It’s both easy for beginners to pick up and run with and packs more than enough power for the advanced user.|
- Excellent data encryption options
- A very complete and intuitive client
- Fast servers with consistent speeds
- Plenty of servers and server locations
- Strong back-end technology
- Top notch customer service
- Low number of concurrent connections
- Some aggregated connection logging
ExpressVPN Speed Tests
On just about every page of ExpressVPN’s website, you’ll see statements links “high speed” or “ultra-fast.” Are they a little cocky? Maybe. But, being one of the more established VPN providers, fast speeds is what I would expect, with anything less being a disappointment. After running my usual battery of tests, I can say that, with one small exception, Express VPN delivers. Both download and upload speeds were top notch and very consistent in all my test runs.
The one small exception was downloads for Canada, where I saw pretty bad results in every single test. The speeds at all other locations around the world ranged from above average to blazingly fast. I’m not sure what the deal was with Canada, but I will re-run my tests sometime soon to see if the issues have been fixed. In the meantime, if Canada is a country you need to connect to often, I recommend either Private Internet Access or Invisible Browsing VPN. Both have shown excellent performance there.
If you’re curious about how Express VPN scores relative to other providers, jump over to the homepage where I compare all the high speed VPN services with each other. Also, don’t forget to take a look at my complete ExpressVPN review to see how it does beyond just performance.
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ExpressVPN operates out of the British Virgin Islands. It was founded in 2009, which makes it one of the older and more established premium VPN providers in the market. It is also one of the biggest and most popular. Express VPN is a vocal advocate for Internet privacy and freedom, and unlike a few other providers, they’re not just all talk either. They back it up with significant financial support of various non-profit organizations which fight to protect Internet freedom and privacy rights. And that’s a great thing to see.
Privacy and Security
On their website, ExpressVPN claims to have the best anonymous VPN protection and promises to never log your browsing history, traffic data or DNS queries. While that is all great, the devil is often in the details. Claims on a sales page don’t always give you the whole truth.
As I do with every VPN provider I look at, I read over Express VPN’s Terms of Service and found out that they may indeed keep some addition bits of information about your usage. This includes the dates (though not times) of when you connect to the service, which server location you connect to and the total amount of data transferred each day. Because this information is stored anonymously, the good news is none of it can uniquely identify any user. It’s claimed purpose is for network performance analysis and balancing.
The fact that ExpressVPN is based out of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is also of little concern. Though it is a British territory, BVI has no mandatory data retention laws and is free to oversee its internal affairs with no outside interference. I suppose that in the future, the UK could apply pressure on the BVI government to brings its data retention laws up to part with the (horrible for privacy) laws that exist in the UK. But so far, nothing like this has happened.
For encryption, ExpressVPN quite literally offers the strongest options you can get. Their choices include AES-256-CBC to encrypt the control channel with an RSA-4096 handshake and SHA-512 hash authentication. If these techy terms don’t mean much to you, know that some would almost consider these encryption levels as overkill, that’s how strong they are. Using strong encryption usually comes at the cost of performance, but as we have seen, ExpressVPN has no such issues. Somehow, they managed to pull off what many others fail to, so kudos to them.
Another important aspect of VPN privacy is DNS and WebRTC leaks, which, if they exist, can reveal your IP address, making the whole exercise of using a VPN a moot point. Here too ExpressVPN gets a clean bill of health as my tests have revealed zero such leaks.
One last thing worth mentioning on the privacy front is that since 2016, Express VPN runs a .onion version of their website, which makes it accessible to anonymous Tor users. Combine this with the ability to pay for the service using Bitcoin, and you can get yourself an ExpressVPN subscription without a single trace of your true identity or location.
ExpressVPN has done a good job of balancing features with ease of use. I find their client very logically laid out and intuitive. It takes about 5 seconds to get your bearings and be up and running. Access to all the more advanced options, like internet kill switch functionality, is exactly where I would expect it.
The client software is available on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, but ExpressVPN can also be installed and run on Linux, Chromebooks and various routers.
ExpressVPN supports all four major VPN protocols: OpenVPN using both TCP and UDP, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP. The software default on all platforms is OpenVPN, but you can easily switch to any other protocol whenever you wish.
There are several additional features ExpressVPN offers which many other VPN providers don’t. SmartDNS is one such offering. While using SmartDNS does nothing for your privacy and online security, it is ideal if you want to access Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, or any other geo-blocked streaming services. Because it doesn’t encrypt data, SmartDNS results in fewer buffering issues. It can also be installed on just about any internet capable device ranging from smart TVs to game consoles and Roku-like devices. Express VPN’s SmartDNS is included with the subscription.
The client software comes with a built-in speed testing feature, which checks all the servers in real time to figure out which currently have the fastest download speeds. Of course, just because a server has blazing speed this moment, doesn’t mean it will in 10 minutes. Still, this feature allows you to make a more educated decision on where to connect, which is far better than going in blind.
ExpressVPN also runs a dark website accessible using the Tor Browser at http://expressobutiolem.onion/, which is ideal for those living in countries where VPN usage is “frowned upon.” It’s quite easy for governments to restrict access to VPN websites and prevent their citizens from signing up. By being accessible through a .onion address, ExpressVPN becomes as hard to censor as it gets.
ExpressVPN restricts the number of devices you can connect at the same time to 3. That is only half of what industry leader NordVPN offers. In practice, depending on your needs, that may just be enough. If you do find you need more, you can either opt for a different provider like Private Internet Access or IPVanish, or install the VPN on a router (ExpressVPN provides detailed setup instructions) which counts as only one device. The latter option is a bit more advanced though.
Other than the number of concurrent connections, the only other restriction you need to follow is to make sure you play nice when using the VPN. Bad behavior includes spamming, hacking, etc. These are things that any VPN provider won’t let you do, at the risk of getting your account terminated.
ExpressVPN has no bandwidth, time of day or server switch restrictions. They also allow BitTorrent and peer-to-peer file sharing on all their servers.
Customer support for Express VPN is available 24/7. If you need to get in touch, you have two options: live chat and email. Live chat will usually be your quickest bet.
In general, customer service reps have been friendly and very knowledgeable.
On a few occasions, their initial responses have been of the not so helpful “re-install your application” variety. But even in those cases, once you get past that first exchange, things work out. Even the most complex questions were answered to my complete satisfaction.
ExpressVPN does offer an in-depth online knowledge base which should take care of most, if not all, of your basic needs. The have detailed setup guides, which include step by step pictorial instructions for just about every platform under the sun. They also have an extensive troubleshooting guide which offers solutions for the most common technical issues.
Though ExpressVPN is on the pricey side – even if you take advantage of a coupon code – your subscription is backed up by a 30-day guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied with it. The support staff will first try to help you to resolve whatever your issue is, but if the resolution is not to your satisfaction, you will be able to get a full refund.
While not holding the top spot, ExpressVPN is certainly near the head of the pack when it comes to server locations and countries. With some powerful hardware in 162 locations in 95 countries, they are ahead of just about every other VPN provider except server leader HideMyAss! and server runner-up PureVPN. You can take a look at the full list of ExpressVPN servers here.