ExpressVPN review: many wonder if this provider is overhyped
A company owned by ExpressVPN International Ltd. The exact owner is unknown, however, the highest-ranking known executive is Harold Li. Read ExpressVPN review.
Many wonder if this provider is overhyped
ExpressVPN is our number one premium virtual private network service. It is a high-quality, fast VPN and the favorite of many users.
But you may be wondering how we arrived at that conclusion?
This ExpressVPN review will highlight how we came to rank ExpressVPN amongst the best and why you will enjoy using this VPN service too. We’ll be looking at their safety features, level of encryption, logging policies, speed testing, torrenting and P2P support, unblocking geo-restricted content, and more.
Let’s take a deep dive into how ExpressVPN works to protect your browsing activity and why users love it.
|Parent company:||ExpressVPN International Ltd.|
|Jurisdiction:||The British Virgin Islands|
|Locations:||90+ countries/3000+ servers|
|Overall test result:||SAFE|
|Torrenting:||PASSED (P2P torrent allowed)|
|Netflix:||PASSED (Unblocks Netflix 2/3)|
|Encryption/protocols:||AES-256/IKEv2/IPsec/L2TP/PPTP/OpenVPN UDP & TCP|
|Support:||E-mail response ~0.5h/Live Chat (24/7)|
First is checking if we have any issues to worry about regarding signal sharing intel amongst countries. And as far as we can see, there isn’t anything to concern us on this issue at this point.
But who owns ExpressVPN?
Expressvpn is owned by Express VPN International Ltd. The exact owner is unknown, however, based on the public sources, the highest-ranking known executive is Harold Li. And highly likely it is NOT owned by an industry giant.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a popular offshore jurisdiction for the registration of foreign companies. One of the primary reasons for its popularity in this capacity is its high level of confidentiality of information. This is captured in the country’s company and trust legislation. So, even though the BVI is technically an overseas territory of the UK, as an autonomous country, they are not confined by the laws of the UK.
More importantly, they aren’t signed to the international signals sharing alliance (nine-eyes/14-eyes alliances), and as ExpressVPN noted on their policy page, the BVI has strict laws on information disclosures. This means you won’t need to worry about intrusive legislation and agreements which are staples of the 14-eyes member nations.
So, in addition to the lack of disclosure regulations, the company itself – ExpressVPN – does not collect personally identifiable data from its users’ activities online outside of what is necessary to establish their paid account and deliver the service.
Apart from where the company is based, the next thing we looked at is what sort of security measures they offer users. For this section, we are looking at encryption protocols used, logging policy, DNS leaks issues.
- ExpressVPN Encryption Protocols
The encryption software used as the bedrock of any quality VPN service. So, it was good to note that ExpressVPN uses one of the favorite encryption protocols for confidential information and used by agencies to encrypt data. They use AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit keys — also known as AES-256.
Encryption options available to users, therefore, include OpenVPN (UDP), OpenVPN (TCP), L2TP/IPsec, IPsec, IKEv2, and PPTP. However, only select countries have all protocol options available, and for some encryption options like IPsec and IKEv2, they are only available on iOS devices. You can carry out further checks on which countries have which protocol at the ExpressVPN server page.
You can choose to let ExpressVPN select an automatic protocol or select your preferred protocol from the list of options. The section does a great job of explaining the benefit of each protocol option to help you choose what to do. But, when in doubt, just work with the “Automatic (recommended)” version of the protocol.
- Logging Data – A no-no for ExpressVPN
We love ExpressVPN for its no-logging policy. While there are VPNs out there with questionable logging activities, ExpressVPN does not log data such as your browsing history, data content, or traffic destination as they have outlined in their Terms of Service and shown in the image below.
- The app version in use
- Dates that you connect to the VPN
- Your server choice
- MB of data transferred per day
None of this data can be considered personally identifiable information which should help to keep your online activities private from your VPN service provider and online.
In December 2017 ExpressVPN came into the spotlight in relation to the investigation of the incident in Turkey . Turkish investigators seized an ExpressVPN server, but were unable to find any logs to aid their investigation, which the company said verified its claim that it did not store user activity or connection logs, adding:
“while it’s unfortunate that security tools like VPNs can be abused for illicit purposes, they are critical for our safety and the preservation of our right to privacy online. ExpressVPN is fundamentally opposed to any efforts to install ‘backdoors’ or to otherwise undermine such technologies.”
This is one example of why ExpressVPN is highly respected.
- DNS leaks – Not a problem for this VPN
ExpressVPN offers its own DNS leak testing to show users whether there are any leaks. I connected to the service and ran the test which showed that I wasn’t leaking. I tried it without any of my VPNs connected, and it showed that I wasn’t connected to a virtual private network and that there is potential leakage.
I also tested leaks with third-party DNS leak detection services. They all implied no leaks.
With its DNS leak protection, ExpressVPN ensures to stop unauthorized entities from seeing what you’re doing online. This includes entities like your internet service provider or your DNS service.
One issue I did find was in switching to a new server. Whenever I attempted to switch, the app gave me a message indicating that “internet traffic may be unsecured during reconnection”. On the one hand, this notice was an excellent reminder that if I didn’t want anything to leak from my activities, that I may want to cease before switching. On the other hand, this would have been a great time for the kill switch to come into effect if there is a connection loss.
The good thing is that you have the option to select “stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly” in the app settings.
Our comments included correcting spelling and grammatical errors, finding clarity issues, and discussing concerns about data privacy and consumer protection. For sources we use case law (as it is available), secondary sources, and international agreements – specifically the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
What’s it like?
Full version with comments: download
We use a list of necessary sections for terms of service agreements and privacy policies to determine whether all the necessary components of the policy were present. In this case, we found everything in ExpressVPN’s disclosures except for the Last Updated section.
Section 8 – Language and Translation of Content
Section 14 – Arbitration
- Location Spoofing
One of the highlights of using ExpressVPN is its support for location spoofing. While your VPN may be able to show a different IP address, your location may not change. That’s because services detect your physical location often by using the GPS on your device, nearby Wi-Fi networks, and other items that feed into your HTML5 geolocation.
So, instead of declining to share your website location when asked, you can instead opt to use the ExpressVPN service. The option to spoof your location is invaluable and a great reason why the price tag for ExpressVPN may be justifiable.
Spoofing your location is accessible through your Google Chrome extension, an aspect of this VPN’s services which we’ll be discussing next.
- Devices supported
ExpressVPN is accessible and widely available across a multitude of platforms. It is available on desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, streaming, and gaming consoles. There is also an app for your router. So, compatibility with your devices won’t be an issue with ExpressVPN.
- Surface RT
- Nook HD
- Kindle Fire
Gaming & streaming consoles
- Apple TV
Further, ExpressVPN allows you to connect to up to 5 devices simultaneously with a single subscription irrespective of the platform you use. However, you can connect to more devices if you use the ExpressVPN app for routers. Or purchase additional subscriptions from the service.
ExpressVPN Setup review – Process, Usability, and Server Availability
The setup and use of the service are quite straightforward. Once you sign up for your ExpressVPN service, you’ll get a welcome email that outlines the VPN setup details. Compared to some of the other VPNs we tested, I found it had just one extra step but nothing too hard – you had to put in your activation code.
The app display is basic in that it provides only what you need to connect and no fancy add-ons like maps. The click to connect button is prominent, and everything about the app is user-friendly and very intuitive.
You can click to connect to the server displayed or choose a different server. In selecting another option, you’ll be presented with the recommended servers. Or, you can search the list for your preferred server location.
There are 3000 servers in 160 locations across 94 countries. While not as abundant in servers as some of the other VPNs, it does offer the relevant locations in which having a server is useful.
Another useful tool they offer are browser extensions. When I was testing out the service, I didn’t initially think about directly adding the browser extension. But, I hadn’t connected to ExpressVPN (you can set it to automatically connect each time you start your computer, or to connect manually) and there was a message enticing me to try out the browser extension.
So, of course, I clicked.
It immediately opened a new window in my preferred browser and was already set to the browser extension version, that is in my case the Chrome extension. All I had to do was click to start the installation process.
One of the even more exciting features of the browser extension lies within the Chrome version. The Chrome extension now has HTTPS Everywhere with EFF’s secure browsing technology. So, now when you browse HTTP-only websites, your ExpressVPN Chrome extension will automatically encrypt your communication with that site. HTTPS Everywhere in the ExpressVPN Chrome extension is enabled by default, so your communication online is automatically secured when you visit these sites. So, go ahead and browse comfortably and safely with ExpressVPN and its Chrome extension.
ExpressVPN offers streaming services. They offer Amazon Prime access, Kodi, Netflix, and other sites and streaming services that you may want to unblock access to certain content.
So, try out their torrenting, P2P support, and unblocking geo-restricted content during their 30-day money back guarantee period and see how well it works for you.
- Speed test review
ExpressVPN is billed as one of the fastest VPNs available. You need fast upload and download times and not a VPN service that will throttle your speeds. ExpressVPN has its own inbuilt speed test though it’s not always available as I found out when connected to a server in Canada.
To access the in-built speed test, simply go to the App menu and select a speed test. It then provides the speed according to the location of their popular server locations.
Keep in mind that running a speed test does come with its limitations such as the computer being used or the internet connection and where you’re located. So, when you run a speed test for ExpressVPN, remember to keep these in mind. However, when compared to all the others we’ve tested, ExpressVPN is a clear leader in the speed Olympics of VPN services.
Independently testing the VPN speed with Ookla speedtest.net below. There is a slight decrease when using the UK server, but compared to 51 other VPN services their speed ranks the third best.
The United States server ping went up by 600%. Download decreased by -8.84% and upload by -6.06%.
The United Kingdom server ping went up by 268.18%. Download decreased by -22.53% and upload by -4.55%.
Tokyo server ping went up by 1290.91%. Download decreased by -9.68% and upload by -15.15%.
- Customer support
If you need help with any issue with ExpressVPN or have questions you want to be answered, they give you multiple options to engage them. They offer a live chat option that is visible no matter which page of the site you land on.
If you’re not ready to speak with someone, you can review their troubleshooting guides or get their setup instructions in the support section of their website.
So, how much does ExpressVPN cost?
This VPN service is at an above-average price point and is one of the pricier virtual private network services on the market. However, while we’ve classified it as the best premium VPN service available, it doesn’t mean that they are unaffordable. Or that the service doesn’t deliver what you pay for.
For a month, the price is currently $12.95. But, you can save when you opt for a 6-month plan and save even more on a 1-year plan. The one-year VPN plan offers you 35% in savings and starts at $8.32 per month (billed annually).
With the 30-day money-back guarantee, you can access all the features on all devices allowed. You’ll get the full experience of the VPN.
- How to pay
ExpressVPN offers a variety of ways to pay, from popular options like PayPal and credit cards to other options like GiroPay and webMoney. Even better to help maintain your anonymity on the web is paying by bitcoin which ExpressVPN accepts.
So, whatever is your preferred method for paying for services online, more than likely, ExpressVPN supports it to make it easy for you to pay.
- User reviews
Now, what about how others feel about the service? Overall, like us, ExpressVPN users rate the service at above-average to excellent. For example, in the Google Play Store, it stands at a 4.3 rating from nearly 1,383,754 reviews.
In conclusion… is ExpressVPN worth the money?
Anonymity is the basic feature that any quality VPN should have. This and a fast connection that doesn’t affect your browsing activity. ExpressVPN offers that and more.
Our final verdict on ExpressVPN is that it’s quite a large yet secure network with fast servers. It doesn’t log your data outside of what is necessary to deliver you the service, it supports torrents and it unblocks Netflix, and other geo-blocked content. But most of all, it is easy to set up and use.
While we know we’ve done a great job outlining all the benefits in this ExpressVPN review, you’ll only truly appreciate them when you try it out for yourself. So, take advantage of the ExpressVPN 30-day money back guarantee.
Let us know about your experience with ExpressVPN