Expressvpn review – updated 2018

Browsing through the options on the ExpressVPN app can feel a little underwhelming at first, but this is just because all the good stuff is happening under the hood. We’ll get into details a little further down in our “ease of use” section, but what it boils down to is that ExpressVPN cares only about getting you connected, it handles the how for you.

Not that you’re left with nothing to do but twiddle your thumbs (or other forms of manual entertainment): ExpressVPN has plenty of nifty tools built in, including a speed test which lets you get an overview of all the servers at your disposal and their speeds. It takes around five minutes or so to run, but it gives you a handy overview to work with.

There’s also a diagnostics tool, which allows you to detect from within the program itself whether there are problems with your connection.

Though it may not be of great use for most people, if a problem ever does occur all you need to do is run it, send the info that it belches out to ExpressVPN’s support staff, and you should be on your way.

Other tools include an IP address checker and DNS leak test, which are useful tools that can help suppress any worry you’re feeling, though many other providers, even meh ones like Shellfire, include your “new” IP address in the app’s main window (read our Shellfire review to find out why we gave it our seal of mehproval). ExpressVPN Security Features

With the toolkit out of the way, we’ll move on to ExpressVPN’s impressive array of security features. Though the service isn’t as tweakable within the client as TorGuard (then again, if you read our TorGuard review you’ll quickly see no one is) or even NordVPN, it all fits into ExpressVPN’s ready-to-go mentality.

ExpressVPN boasts 256-bit AES encryption (which will take several billion years to decrypt), and gives you the option to use even more secure protocols if you don’t mind getting under the hood for a while (more on that in our “security” section below). On top of that, it also keeps no logs, meaning you leave no trace anywhere.

Another critical feature, which many services leave out for some reason, is a killswitch, which severs your internet connection when your VPN server stops working for whatever reason. This is especially important for torrenters as well as people trying to stay off totalitarian regimes’ radar, making ExpressVPN a top choice in our best VPN for torrenting article as well as our best VPN for China roundup.

Though this may seem trivial at first, it’s fantastic for business users as you’ll be able to, say, keep your torrenting secure, but allow your backup upload to run at the full speed of your internet connection. For more practical applications of split tunneling, check out our best VPN for cloud storage article. Streaming with ExpressVPN

If you’re into streaming shows and films, you’ll love ExpressVPN: the service didn’t win our article on the best VPN for Netflix for nothing. No matter if you’re consuming your media over Kodi, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, iPlayer or Netflix, ExpressVPN’s impressive speed and large server network will get you watching international content without trouble.

As for payment, ExpressVPN accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, bitcoin as well as a host of local payment methods such as iDeal, GiroPay and AliPay; we won’t list them all as pretty much all are gobbledygook unless you actually live in a country that uses one of them.

At $13 for one month ExpressVPN is pretty much the most expensive service out there. Of course going month-to-month is rarely a good idea with VPNs as every service out there will sting you, except for maybe Private Internet Access — though as you can read in our PIA review, going for an annual plan is still a lot smarter.

Value gets a lot better with the semi-annual and annual plan, though the latter is better by far. Again, however, $99 gets you a lot when it comes to VPNs: NordVPN and CyberGhost both will give you three years of use for the same price (read our CyberGhost review to find out why it’s such a good buy).

When you add it all up, however, you do get a really good service with excellent speeds and great customer service. As with anything, you pay extra to get the very best. ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is always honored, so if you don’t like it or feel you’d prefer a different deal, there’s no real risk. Ease of Use

Setting up ExpressVPN is easy: go to the website, select a plan, enter your email address and choose a payment method. It’s as simple as that and fairly anonymous (you could use a throwaway email account and pay with cryptocurrency if you want to remain truly off the radar).

For this review we used the Windows client of ExpressVPN, which works for all flavors of Windows going back to XP. We downloaded the package, clicked it and the installer did all the work for us. Install took around five minutes and we were in business.

As we mentioned in the “features” section above, ExpressVPN offers a highly simple, set-it-and-forget-it interface that’s exactly the same on all OSes except Linux. There’s very little that can go wrong here, unless hitting a large, very obvious button is beyond your abilities. Even so, on your very first time you get a tooltip to see which button it is.

If you’re happy with your assigned “smart” location, just hit the button and it will connect, this usually takes a few seconds. With some VPN providers it’s hard to see at a single glance whether you’re connected or not, but not with ExpressVPN; the button gets a massive shield as a backdrop.

It should be noted that the smart server function has a mind of its own and you may want to swap around a bit if you’re not happy with the speeds you’re getting. Your reviewer has two anecdotal examples of this: smart connect used to always connect to the Amsterdam 1 server when in that city, while the number 2 was usually faster (and better for Netflix), but it’s sorrowfully enough discontinued.

Another example is during a holiday in Thailand smart connect always sent him to the Singapore server, even when the Thai server was just a few blocks up the road in Bangkok and got way better speeds. Again, your mileage may vary, but it seems better to manually find a server using the speed test function.

Switching locations is done by using the “choose location” button to the right beneath the big button and opens up a new window that is pretty easy to navigate, though it would have been nice to have a server map like NordVPN gives you, even just to give you that control room feel.

The list is split into three, with a “recommended” tab, useful but suffering from the same problems as the smart locations above, as well as an “all” tab and a “recents” tab. This last one is handy as it will show you not only where you recently connected to, but also your favorites, which is great if you’re doing the Netflix VPN ban dance (most of those worked at time of writing, by the way).

Under “all,” finding a specific server is easy: just find the country you want (or use the search bar above), then click it. If there is more than one server in a country, just click the little arrow next to the name of the country and you’ll get a secondary menu.

“General” is used only for basic functions, such as letting ExpressVPN launch on startup and fiddling with the split tunneling features, while the “account” setting is a shortcut to the account section of the website. We don’t advise messing with the settings under “protocol” and “advanced” as these are serious business; we’ll talk more about them in the “security” section of this review.

More interesting perhaps is the “browsers” tab, which lets you install ExpressVPN extensions in your browser. These are pretty handy to have, as it’s basically a way for you to control your VPN through your browser. Note that this is unlike most VPN browser extensions, that usually only protect your browsing, leaving you vulnerable to spying eyes.

ExpressVPN has a massive network of servers, scattered all over the globe in 148 locations and 94 countries. Besides the usual suspects in Europe and North America, however, ExpressVPN stands out by having servers in all kinds of odd places, as well. Though we don’t expect many of our readers to need IP addresses located in Algeria or Laos, for some people this will be a godsend.

Not all these servers are dedicated servers, however, meaning that the server is virtual rather than a physical machine in Vientiane or Algiers. Though this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, there are some questions surrounding the security of virtual servers, so buyer beware seems to be the watchword.

Servers are on all continents except Antarctica and, unlike most competitors, the coverage on all is good. The Americas are represented with countries across North, Central and South America (including one in the Bahamas), while another underrepresented continent with most providers, Africa, has servers in Kenya, Algeria, Egypt as well as usual suspect South Africa.

Asia and Europe are of course well represented, with servers in every single European country as well as some Asian countries you’ll need Google to find. In short, if wide coverage is a priority for you, ExpressVPN should probably be on your list. Speed

ExpressVPN’s security is, quite simply, great, though it scores a little less well than NordVPN here because it’s not as out-of-the-box as its competitor. Thanks to its use of the OpenVPN protocol (more on that in a bit), users can download several configuration files and mess around in their guts to improve certain aspects of security. This, of course, shouldn’t be attempted by novices.

ExpressVPN comes standard with 256-bit AES encryption which should prove enough to withstand most, if not all, attempts to decypher it. That said, to make sure that ExpressVPN can tunnel under the Great Firewall, you should set it to 4096-bit security to make sure the Chinese authorities don’t come after you.

Supported protocols are OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and SSTP. In principle only OpenVPN connections are ever used — assuming you set it to “automatic” in the settings — all others can only be switched on manually. If you decide to switch to a server that doesn’t support more advanced protocols, you will get a warning.

We ran some third-party DNS leak tests, webRTC tests and IP leak tests (we like and trust ExpressVPN’s suite of built-in tools, but as the KGB always used to say: “trust, but verify”) and the service passed with flying colors on all fronts. This VPN is safe to use for everyone and anyone; you won’t have to worry about corporate or government surveillance.

ExpressVPN is strictly a no-logs service, meaning it doesn’t even keep temporary record of where you’ve been and what content you’ve viewed, meaning even if someone showed up with a warrant, there’s nothing to hand over. The corporation is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the best privacy laws around, so you’re safe on that front as well. Customer Service