With many potential threats to your security in the internet-age, it’s never been more important to have a virtual private network (VPN), masking your online activity from the prying eyes of criminals, ISPs and government officials.
If you’re not experienced in this field, it may be difficult to know which VPN to choose – each service makes bold claims about the best or most secure product on the market, and they all offer different features.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at ExpressVPN, one of the most well-known VPNs around and consistently voted one of the best available, to see if it lives up to its reputation.
ExpressVPN - Full Review
While VPNs offer privacy and security, the process used to protect your details can slow down your internet speed considerably. This loss of speed varies depending on the VPN you use, with some services reducing your speed by up to 95% – making streaming high-quality video almost impossible.
As you might have guessed from the name, ExpressVPN prides itself on providing excellent internet speeds, and during testing the product certainly lived up to this billing. We started from a base speed of 95mbps without a VPN connected, and this dropped to 85mbps when we connected via ExpressVPN – meaning a loss of around 10%. This small drop in speed should allow you to stream or play online games without experiencing any issues.
Boasting over 3,000 servers in 94 countries around the world, ExpressVPN has one of the largest server bases on the market – ensuring you should always find it easy to find a quick and stable connection. The wide range of countries available also allows you to unblock geo-restricted content libraries in those areas, giving you easy access to a vast array of TV shows that may not be available in your country.
As well as using AES-256-bit encryption as standard to protect your data, ExpressVPN offers a number of excellent additional features that allow you to set up the service according to your needs.
The service offers a kill switch function that will automatically disconnect you from the internet if your connection to the VPN fails – although this feature is not available on iOS, which is a strange oversight – and also provides a split tunnelling option that allows you to choose which applications connect to the internet via the VPN, and which do not.
One feature provided by ExpressVPN that most services do not offer is the use of private DNS servers, which means the details of the websites you visit are encrypted by the VPN itself rather than your ISP, giving you a further level of protection.
One of the major plus points of a VPN is that it can allow you to stream content libraries from around the world that otherwise might be ‘geo-blocked’ i.e. restricted to a specific region. Popular streaming apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus all have region-specific content, which can be frustrating if you’re away from home and want to catch up on your favourite shows or you like to watch foreign television.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs we have tested when it comes to accessing geo-blocked content. By connecting to the internet via a server in another location, we were able to access Netflix content libraries from 18 different regions, as well as other streaming services including Hulu, HBO and Kodi.
ExpressVPN might just be the best virtual private network on the market if you’re a regular user of torrenting software. P2P file-sharing is subject to an ongoing legal battle as the software is often used to transfer copyrighted material, and many VPNs automatically block file-sharing programs.
This product places no restrictions on any of its servers and operates a no-logging policy that ensures your data remains safe from the attention of your ISP – ensuring you can access high-speed downloads securely.
As mentioned earlier, VPNs have a habit of limiting your download speed significantly – and this can be a problem if you play online games that require high bandwidth. An unstable or slow connection can lead to lag that came make games unplayable, but when we tested ExpressVPN the speeds were high enough that we never experienced any problems.
ExpressVPN’s ability to bypass geo-restrictions also makes it an excellent choice for gamers. Many production companies stagger their release dates, putting out games earlier in some countries than other, but ExpressVPN can access games upon release date simply by connecting via a server based in the country where the game has been released.
ExpressVPN is available as a monthly plan, a six-monthly plan, or a yearly plan. The monthly plan costs $12.95 per month, the six-monthly plan costs $59.95 ($9.99 per month) and the yearly plan costs $99.95 ($8.32 per month).
These prices put ExpressVPN towards the more expensive end of the market, but the excellent service means it still represents good value for money.
ExpressVPN does not offer a free trial, but it does provide a 30-day money back guarantee – so you can enjoy a month of seeing what it has to offer, and if you’re not satisfied you can get a refund quickly and easily.
ExpressVPN provides members with 24/7 customer support through various channels like live chat and email. The customer support team is very responsive and professional, and you should expect to get your query solved within a few minutes if you use live chat support.
DNS Leak Test Results
DNS (Domain Name System) leaks on VPN services can be a massive threat as you could get your identity exposed even when you’re connected to a VPN server.
ExpressVPN servers actively block DNS requests to all servers except their own ones, giving you strong protection against DNS leaks.
Additionally, several independent labs have tested ExpressVPN for DNS leaks, and the results that came were pretty assuring. No DNS leaks from ExpressVPN have been reported till the moment of writing this article, so you can safely use it with peace of mind.
It’s also worth noting that the company released an open-source Privacy Research Lab in 2017 that tested VPN services for DNS leaks. The tool is free to use by anyone, and it was reported that 11 common VPN services failed the test. ExpressVPN was one of the few services that showed no leaks whatsoever.
It’s a no brainer that the company tested its service first before launching its Privacy Research Lab, though, so it can be considered as a marketing tactic, and it’s a successful one, indeed.
A warrant canary is a declaration that some VPN companies announce for the public, stating that they haven’t received any secret warrants from the government to hand in their customers’ data on the web.
Unfortunately, ExpressVPN hasn’t yet released a warrant canary, which could be a red flag for some people. Nevertheless, they could release it anytime soon; you never know!
About the Company
Express VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, an excellent location for a VPN service. Why, you ask? Simply because the country doesn’t have any laws in its jurisdiction, where VPN companies are forced to submit their users’ data. Not to mention, the country isn’t part of any international intelligence-sharing agreements like the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliances.
The service currently has over 3000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries, including Brazil, Germany, United States, Singapore, Japan, Netherlands, and Sweden. The number of servers is projected to grow even more in the next few years with more locations.
The servers use volatile memory instead of relying on hard drives, which significantly boosts the servers’ security since no data can be stored permanently on volatile memory (RAM). Moreover, the tool is available on almost all popular platforms, including Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Express VPN provides several VPN protocols for its users to choose from, including OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec SSTP. Additionally, the company released a newly-developed custom protocol called Lightway in 2020, which is claimed to be more secure and faster than other protocols. Still, these claims are yet to be proved.
ExpressVPN was founded in February 2009 by a company called ExpressVPN International Ltd.
In 2016, the tool was criticized by former Google engineer Marc Bervand for using weak 1024 RSA key encryption, claiming that the Chinese government was able to spy on the service’s users. This has led the company to upgrade to 4096 RSA keys, which provided its users with a higher security level.
On the note of using ExpressVPN in China, it’s worth mentioning that the Chinese government was involved in removing more than 600 VPN apps from Apple’s App Store in 2017, including ExpressVPN. However, people in China can still use the service by downloading it from other resources.
In 2017, ExpressVPN was involved in investigating the assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey. The Turkish government claimed that the assassin used ExpressVPN to hide his data on Facebook and Gmail, and the government was unable to find any logs that can help in the investigation.
Keeping the motives of the person who committed this inhumane crime aside, this was indirect proof that ExpressVPN doesn’t keep logs of their users’ data.
Pros & Cons
Who owns ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is privately owned by Express VPN International Ltd., with no external investors that may have their own agendas.
Where is ExpressVPN located?
ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands due to the region’s robust privacy laws and lack of any legal requirement to retain user data.
How many devices can I connect to ExpressVPN?
This product can be used by up to five devices simultaneously on one subscription and can be installed on as many as you wish. If you require the ability to connect more than five devices at once, you will need to pay for an additional subscription.
How do I cancel my ExpressVPN subscription?
Cancelling your ExpressVPN subscription is easy – you just need to sign into your account on the company website, click on ‘subscription’ and then ‘manage settings’, then click ‘turn off automatic renewal’ and confirm your choice. You will receive an e-mail acknowledging your cancellation.
ExpressVPN is one of the more expensive VPNs on the market, but we think it’s worth every penny. With excellent security features, high speeds, a large server base and the ability to unlock region-specific content across a huge number of countries, ExpressVPN is highly recommended whether you’re a novice or an experienced user.
If there’s one minor criticism, it’s that ExpressVPN limits you to five devices connected simultaneously, which should be plenty for most users, but with some rival services offering unlimited simultaneous connections, this may be something to consider if you wish to connect a large number of devices to the VPN.
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