ExpressVPN likes to boast about being the world’s fastest VPN. But in the highly competitive VPN market, it’s easy to fall behind. Does its bold claim still hold true? And how do its other features stack up to the competition? In this ExpressVPN review 2018, we looked at its features, pricing and server speeds to see how it ranks against the rest of the market. We rated ExpressVPN the highest out of all the VPN services we’ve reviewed, with a 96 out of 100. Here’s why.
ExpressVPN Review – Pros and Cons
ExpressVPN is a top class VPN, with an enviable list of features including compatibility including a vast selection of operating systems, built-in speed testing, and the ability to run only on certain apps. With very few drawbacks to its name, this service is arguably the top in its class.
- Easy setup
- Huge platform support
- No P2P restrictions
- Speed testing feature
- Unlimited connection bandwidth
- Excellent streaming quality and supports all services such as Netflix
- Not the cheapest provider
- Based in a British overseas territory
- No phone support
Overall Score for ExpressVPN: 96/100 (our highest rated VPN)
ExpressVPN: Setup and Usability
To get ExpressVPN up and running, we tried out the program on both Windows and Ubuntu, the world’s most popular Linux distribution.
Installing the VPN on Windows is as easy as downloading an executable file and proceeding through the installation prompts. In the Windows install, we did have to click ‘yes’ to installing ExpressVPN’s network adapters.
After that, however, the program was up and running in seconds.
Ubuntu users simply download and install the Debian file through the user account area and pass their activation code to the terminal program.
Once that’s complete, users can simply type ‘expressvpn connect’ followed by the city or country they wish to connect to. For users of any major operating system, it simply doesn’t get much easier than that.
Rating: 9.8/10 – Straightforward setup on both the Windows and Ubuntu program.
Besides its famed server speeds, ExpressVPN has also developed a reputation for having a seriously impressive feature line-up. Here are some of the functionalities that make ExpressVPN stand out against the competition.
Feature 1: OS Compatibility
ExpressVPN really covers the gamut when it comes to the variety of platforms that it supports. In fact, we haven’t come across such a variety in any other provider that we have reviewed.
While there are the old favorites such as Windows and Mac, ExpressVPN has also provided dedicated apps for less common choices such as Blackberry, as well as ExpressVPN MediaStreamer which supports Playstation, Xbox, AppleTV, and Amazon FireTV. There’s also a router install and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Even if your router isn’t supported, it’s practically inconceivable that any device you own will not be able to install the VPN.
Feature 2: Connections:
One ExpressVPN subscription can be used simultaneously on three devices, including virtual machines and routers.
The simultaneous connection support means that it’s possible to provide geolocation protection for your entire family via a router installation and still have two simultaneous connections to use while you’re at work and on the move. That kind of versatility makes it the perfect choice for customers wishing to roll it out as an ‘always on’ functionality for their home or office.
Feature 3: Server Locations
ExpressVPN has provisioned a sizable server network which features over 1,500 servers in 94 countries throughout the world.
Its server information page offers users comprehensive information on exactly which protocols each server can handle and – in many cases – which cities the machines are set up in.
Geographically, ExpressVPN offers a pretty wide-spread across and within continents. There are seven servers located in the UK and over 25 in the US – the latter important, of course, for accessing Netflix. More exotic and privacy-neutral locations available for users’ access are Panama, the Bahamas, and the Isle of Man.
Feature 4: Bandwidth
ExpressVPN offers unlimited bandwidth on all its connections.
Because using a VPN involves creating an encrypted tunnel between your connection point and the internet, using a bandwidth-free VPN is also a pretty clever way of working around any bandwidth restrictions that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has levied on your connection. Given that some providers impose limits low enough to limit your ability to stream significant amounts of multimedia, that’s a pretty nice bonus.
Feature 5: P2P / BitTorrent Capabilities
Peer to peer software, such as BitTorrent, make transmitting large files between users fast and easy. However not all VPN providers allow such traffic on their servers. While some ban P2P activity altogether, others allow it only on a certain pool of servers. Thankfully, ExpressVPN has traditionally taken a more permissive approach and has confirmed that they intend to maintain their current policy of not interfering with users’ online activity in the near future.
Feature 6: Apps
ExpressVPN has clearly devoted considerable effort to ensuring that the user experience on mobile devices is as reliable and fast as that available on desktops. ExpressVPN is one of the few companies that offer apps that will work with Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Windows Phone meaning that practically no matter what smartphone or tablet you use, you’ll be able to take advantage of your ExpressVPN subscription on it.
Feature 7: Split Tunneling
Besides encrypting internet activity, VPNs’ primary use is directing users’ internet activity through servers in different countries in order to give websites the impression that they are located elsewhere. This allows geographically restricted content to be freely accessed no matter where users are located.
Because VPNs tend to result in a slight slowdown in browsing speed, many users will want to limit which apps route traffic over a VPN and which connect directly to the internet. Split tunneling provides this functionality.
ExpressVPN offers this feature both at the device and router level. This means that users can specify which devices, device types, or apps connect through a VPN. Want desktop and laptop to connect directly to the internet but to force all your multimedia center’s traffic through a server in the US? With Express VPN’s split tunneling capabilities, this is easily achievable.
Feature 8: Server Switch
ExpressVPN makes it easy to connect and disconnect from the VPN – and to switch servers – within all its user interfaces.
To accomplish this, users simply click on a button with the power symbol to toggle the VPN connection on and off and select a server from the geographical navigation menu to identify their best connection choice. There’s even a ‘smart location’ feature which automatically selects the best connection server based on an algorithm which considers factors such as download speed, latency, and distance.
Feature 9: Built-in Speed Tests
Every long-time VPN user will be familiar with websites to test key parameters of internet connection speed, such as speedtest.net. Knowing the download speed, upload speed and latency a VPN server achieves is vital to achieving optimal performance under various browsing conditions.
While a fast download speed is important for multimedia streaming, a strong uplink might be more important for securely uploading large files, or seeding them on a P2P network.
ExpressVPN packages this functionality directly within the user interface. Its ‘Speed Test’ tool polls all the servers in its network from the connection point and ranks them according to latency, download speed, and a ‘speed index’ (an aggregation of the two). The feature is available on the Windows, Mac, and Android versions of the app.
Feature 10: ‘Preferences’ Feature
ExpressVPN’s Windows client also bundles some additional goodies within the preferences menu of the program. Some useful ‘under the hood’ features that can be configured include:
- Launching the program on startup. This is perfect for users that want the VPN connection to run all the time.
- Connecting to the latest used server when relaunching the program.
- Only using ExpressVPN’s DNS servers while maintaining an active connection.
Feature 11: Network Lock Feature
In certain situations, using a VPN at all times is an imperative rather than a nice bonus feature. Think repressive regimes, activism, and browsing activity that simply must be kept under wraps from ISPs and government censors.
Network Lock is ExpressVPN’s kill switch for Mac and Windows and will automatically block internet traffic whenever the VPN connection drops. The feature is enabled by default, giving new users added peace of mind.
Feature 12: ExpressVPN Leak Testing Tool
DNS leaks are a possibility that every security-focused VPN user should be aware of.
Even while browsing activity is encrypted within a VPN tunnel, DNS queries (which map the websites you type into the search bar with their public IP address) may not be.
Because leaked DNS queries also leak entire browsing histories, it’s important to be sure that they are not happening. ExpressVPN’s website features an online DNS leak test tool which users connected to the service can use to make double sure that they are not only half protected while connected.
Rating: 9.8/10 – The best compilation of features in any major VPN, in our opinion.
Can ExpressVPN Unblock Netflix
Although many VPN users are drawn to the idea of the programs by their ability to unblock Netflix, the company attempts to enforce its content copyright by blocking traffic from certain providers.
Thankfully, Netflix appears to have the upper hand in this game of cat and mouse – at least thus far. The company provides high-quality multimedia-suitable servers in eleven US-based localities and even provides a comprehensive dedicated guide to using them to stream Netflix.
Rating: 9.2/10 – ExpressVPN Netflix works and the company even offers help setting it up.
ExpressVPN can be acquired for $12.95 (billed monthly), $9.99 for six months, or subscribed to for just $6.67 for 15 months (that’s a promo price with 49% off the monthly rate and with three months thrown in completely for free).
Although ExpressVPN’s cost per month is a bit higher than their competitors, we have concluded that its price-to-value ratio is the best in the market. You can try the service for a period of 30 days with a full refund on your money if you decide not to commit to a longer-term contract.
Rating: 9.8/10 – Great promo rate makes it an unbeatable deal.
How Fast is ExpressVPN – Servers and Performance
ExpressVPN proudly bills itself as the “fastest VPN service around”. Do its servers live up to that claim?
We started the test on a fairly impressive baseline connection of 84.15 Mbps download and 19.19 Mbps upload from a connection point in Ireland.
Connecting through Frankfurt, speeds dropped to only 75.17 Mbps download (a roughly 10.7% slowdown) and 16.54 Mbps upload.
Routing traffic the algorithm-chosen ‘smart location’ in the UK resulted in an equally minuscule drop to only 75 Mbps.
Although when we routed traffic through more distant climes, such as Pakistan, the drop in performance was a lot more significant (19.85 Mbps), we found that the vast majority of servers – including, importantly those in the US – yielded the most impressive speed results of any company that we have tested so far.
Rating: 9.8/10 This appears to be one marketing claim that’s more fact than fiction.
How Secure is ExpressVPN – ExpressVPN Logs
Based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a British overseas territory, ExpressVPN may draw some raised eyebrows from privacy aficionados concerned about that country’s participation in international signals intelligence collection alliances, such as those party to the Five Eyes agreement. As we have covered, however, governments taking an interest in innocuous browsing activity is an unlikely possibility.
More important for users is ExpressVPN’s logging policy.
First, lets specify the following regarding connection logs.
A connection log means:
- Timestamp of connection
- Source IP from which the user connnected
- VPN IP the user connected to
- The ability for the VPN provider to go back and query on those data.
But ExpressVPN engineered their systems to specifically never possess any such information (and can’t query on data they don’t have).
Furthermore, ExpressVPN crash reports remove all personally identifiable information, so they can’t be mapped back to customers, and sending crash reports is an optional setting in all ExpressVPN apps and can be turned off by the user.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the company has even set up a .onion site to prevent exit node tracking in countries where users’ browsing could be easily tampered with by rogue actors.
Rating: 8.8/10 – Minimal logs rather than zero logs, but transparently collected.
Is ExpressVPN Reliable? Customer Support
Users have three methods of getting in touch with ExpressVPN’s team of technical experts: a contact form (average response time: several hours); live chat; and email.
In addition, there’s an extremely well-crafted library of tutorials available to guide users through both common issues such as setting up applications and advanced ones such as verifying the integrity of installation files.
These make use of video, text, and screenshots to provide even novice users with all the instruction they could ever need to get up and running quickly.
ExpressVPN’s support is also consistently ranked highly on independent customer review forums.
Rating: 9.2/10 – All the help users could need is available.
ExpressVPN Rating by SecureThoughts.com
As in previous years, there’s extremely little to find fault with ExpressVPN and its features continue to place it at the cutting-edge of the VPN market.
ExpressVPN is a feature-packed provider providing solutions for practically every VPN user out there. The majority of its server network lives up to the company’s claims. Minimal logs are kept but transparently so and the company’s customer support is deservedly highly regarded.
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