EXPRESSVPN REVIEW: Is premium VPN worth its price? Features overview
|Pros of ExpressVPN||Cons of ExpressVPN|
ExpressVPN is a large multiplatform paid VPN service.
It has the second-largest number of supported countries (160 locations in 94 countries) and its speed is really high but its price is significantly steeper than the average.
ExpressVPN is often called a premium VPN for its flawless reputation, high-quality apps, support of all platforms, and a large number of user manuals available.
But is that so? Have the people who put ExpressVPN first tested its security? Is it so flawless?
In this article, I’ll give the answer to this question. To do that, I’ve thoroughly tested all the provider’s parameters on every OS as well as its security and traffic protection.
At the risk of jumping ahead, I’ll mention that many things have been confirmed:
- ExpressVPN consistently supports streaming.
- It has fast servers.
- Its apps have useful extended functionality.
I have discovered an issue with transmitted data security. Weirdly, it is the most popular version of ExpressVPN, the one for Windows, has this issue. I’ll go in detail about it later on in the review.
I’d like to emphasize that this article is not a paid one and I have received no reward from ExpressVPN or any other VPN service. I used a regular paid subscription to conduct my tests:
Despite this issue, ExpressVPN is still one of the best VPN services. Here’s why:
- Access to a large number of VPN servers in 94 countries
- Proven high level of security on Mac, Android, and iOS
- Support of all the systems including TV, routers, etc.
- Consistent support of Netflix, Hulu, and other video services
- Proven no-logs policy
- Diskless servers
- More than 15 payment methods.
Are there any flaws other than the data leak on Windows?
Unless you consider its relatively high price to be one, the provider doesn’t really have any other significant flaws. On the contrary, ExpressVPN managed to get rid of its kill switch issues on Android as well as the high energy consumption issues by 2020. However, these peculiarities can be a bit troublesome:
- Connection freezes occur on Windows after exiting sleep mode (infrequently).
- It takes slightly more time to connect than most other VPNs (present only on PC).
- The expanded functionality is not as powerful as that of its closest rivals.
- Features and opportunities
- ExpressVPN free trial
- ExpressVPN cons
- ExpressVPN pros
- Plans and pricing
- Information about the company owner
What are the main benefits of ExpressVPN?
This question is hard to answer because the provider is versatile and adapted for all the modern needs of using a VPN. That’s why it’s hard to point out any of its unique advantages.
Judging by the user comments, ExpressVPN is mentioned most frequently in relation to IP hiding, torrenting, and streaming (you can read more about the user opinions in our extended review of Reddit posts). It used to be considered capable of bypassing the Great Firewall of China but now it is not true anymore.
The list of the provider’s biggest upsides and downsides:
+ A 7-day free trial on Android with no card required
+ 256-bit traffic encryption
+ High speed
+ Kill Switch on every OS except for iOS;
+ 94 available countries
+ P2P/torrenting allowed
+ Servers for streaming
+ Split Tunneling
+ VPN browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox (unlike other VPNs, they are actually VPN and not proxy)
+ 5 devices simultaneously.
But at the same time:
- No obfuscation (to work in China or other countries that block VPN)
- No ability to choose a specific server within a location
- No double VPN, dedicated IP, port forwarding, custom DNS, IP automatic change, etc.
These four points are the most important ones on the list:
- A 7-day free trial. Good news for Android users: ExpressVPN provides 7 days of using the full version of its app for free.
- Supports 94 countries. It seems like only HMA VPN (HideMyAss) offers more countries. However, ExpressVPN doesn’t restrict the user’s choice by a single IP range (HMA gives only one subnetwork in most countries).
- Consistent Netflix support for almost every region.
- High speed. You’ll see later on in the review that ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPN providers.
So, despite the data leak issue, ExpressVPN is deservedly on the list of Top 10 VPNs.
There are three ways to use ExpressVPN for free:
- By using their 30-day money-back guarantee
- By using the free trial on Android
- By getting an invitation that gives 30 days of using the VPN completely free of charge from a subscriber.
I’ll tell you about the first way in the Plans and pricing chapter, while the third one is not very likely.
As for the free trial period, it is available to anyone who has an Android device. Besides, the app functionality on this platform is almost identical to the Windows one. That’s why this period will help you get a grasp on the provider’s performance to the fullest extent.
What can the free version of ExpressVPN do?
It has the same functions and settings as the paid version. There’s also no difference in speeds or the number of available locations whatsoever.
What peculiarities of the trial version do you need to know about?
- It is available only on Android.
- You don’t have to subscribe to start using it.
- No credit card required.
- The free trial is only available once.
When testing ExpressVPN, I used both the paid and the free versions of the Android app. I can confirm that all the provider’s features, streaming included, are available for free.
- You can also use our ranking of free trial VPN providers. In it, we’ve collected other VPN services that don’t require you to sign up.
I’ll start my detailed review of this provider’s features from analyzing its cons. This decision is caused by ExpressVPN leaking data on Windows with the default app settings and this is something you should know about.
I’ve got two bad things to tell you and two good ones:
1. Express VPN can indeed cause a partial data leak, leading to the ISP, systems of state control, or hackers gaining access to a part of the data transmitted by the user.
2. This data may originate not only from the OS’s system utilities (as is the case with some other VPNs that have a similar problem) but also from messengers and web browsers.
3. There is a simple way to eliminate this issue.
4. DNS queries (addresses of the website you visit) are securely protected.
For starters, I’ll prove that I didn’t just make this up. You can see the window of the Wireshark traffic interceptor in the screenshot. I use it to analyze the outgoing traffic of the device I test. The IP address of the VPN server is marked in blue. Ideally, the entirety of the traffic should pass through it. However, we also observe a lengthy list of other IP addresses (marked in red) that traffic is sent to outside the VPN channel.
This traffic isn’t protected in any way and the IP address isn’t hidden.
How bad is it, exactly?
To answer this question, I further analyzed the traffic and found out what apps were left unprotected.
First, I got the list of active processes and took several of them as an example:
I put the two IP addresses that are also present in the Wireshark log into the red rectangle. The last column shows the procedure number (PID), using which you can learn the name of the app.
The tasklist system-level command log output:
The conclusion is unpromising: this traffic originates from a web browser. So, any open website could exchange data with my computer without protection despite the VPN being on!
I have also found unprotected connections from the Telegram messenger.
Is it a failure? What can be done?
Not really. There is actually an ability to easily block all these unprotected connections. All you need to do is activate the kill switch in the ExpressVPN app. You can do it in the app settings:
You need to check the “Stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly” box as shown in the screengrab.
It should be noted that this issue is only present on Windows. On other OSs, my tests of ExpressVPN have found no security problems.
Good DNS protection:
To conclude the test records, I’m going to tell you about ExpressVPN’s positive features. It has its own DNS servers that are combined with its VPN servers.
The DNS is required to process the domain names prior to establishing a connection. As my tests have shown, DNS queries are sent to a server through the VPN channel and are encrypted. It makes determining what websites the user accesses impossible.
In the above screenshot of ipleak.net, you can see the IP address of ExpressVPN’s VPN server at the top. Down below, there is its DNS. They are either the same or are located within the same subnetwork.
So, ExpressVPN does really have an unprotected data leak issue with the default settings on Windows. It can and should be rectified, however, by activating the kill switch. The DNS leak test showed the top-quality of the website name protection.
The following minor flaws of the provider are only noticeable if you compare it to the best VPN services, one of which many researchers including CoolTechZone consider to be ExpressVPN.
Obfuscation is needed to bypass any blocks of VPN protocols. For example, it is necessary in China, very useful in the UAE, and indispensable in private corporate networks that prohibit the use of VPN.
Obfuscation alters the standard protocol and makes the use of VPN technology untraceable to tracking devices. It bolsters the user’s security a lot.
- Clarification. VPN obfuscation isn’t related to the encryption of transmitted data. It is a separate extra function that doesn’t affect the traffic directly.
ExpressVPN doesn’t offer any means of double protection (double or multihop VPN). This feature can hardly be called important but it does provide extra privacy protection in some cases. It can be especially useful when you need to use a VPN without government agencies catching wind of it. Double VPN allows connecting to a server located inside the user’s country and through it, to another one in any available country.
One way or another, you can’t do that with ExpressVPN.
If you need this technology, you can find VPN services that support double VPN on our website.
Another useful function unavailable with ExpressVPN is fixed IP addresses (dedicated IP).
Its purpose is to connect through the same virtual address every time. For example, it’s useful when you need to log into a website that has high security requirements and prohibits connections from different IP addresses or makes them harder. It can be a payment system, a corporate VPN, or some other system.
Here are some other flaws that can be called subjective or arguable:
- High price (described in greater detail in the chapter on prices and plans)
- Slightly slower-than-usual connection on Windows
- No modern advanced VPN protocols (WireGuard, SoftEther).
Moving on, welcome to the largest and the most interesting chapter of this review. From it, you will learn not only about some widely known features of ExpressVPN but also about the real customer reviews and certain hidden peculiarities of the provider.
ExpressVPN is very popular among those who are like to use Netflix to unblock Netflix for the US, UK, and any other region.
Indeed, I’ve been observing how VPN providers perform with streaming services for about three years now and ExpressVPN consistently copes with the task. What’s more, it almost never fails in a single instance during my tests (10 out of 10 are usually successful).
What regions are available for Netflix?
This provider supports all the regions. I know only of four VPN services that are equally good at bypassing the restrictions of the streaming giant essentially in any country.
My tests returned positive results for the following countries:
- United States (US)
- United Kingdom (UK)
- Germany (DE)
- Canada (CA)
- Netherlands (NL)
- Japan (JP)
- France (FR)
What video quality is available with ExpressVPN?
Thanks to the provider’s great speeds (more on them in the next chapter), Netflix is available in the highest quality without any extra period of buffering.
So you just turn it on and watch whatever you want!
However, it’s not only Netflix that is available with ExpressVPN. HBO, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime (though not on every server) as well as other video services and TV channels can be unblocked for the country you require.
Successful Hulu support:
Thus, ExpressVPN is a great service to use for streaming. However, it’s placed fifth in our ranking of VPNs for Netflix because of its high price.
ExpressVPN is one of the fastest services I’ve ever tested. What’s even better, its speed doesn’t get slower as time wears on. On the contrary, new servers with speeds of more than 100 Mbps get added all the time.
The speed tests took me three days. During that time, speeds did not change much but were dependent on the specific location chosen.
Since ExpressVPN doesn’t allow choosing a definite server, I couldn’t determine how the speed changes depending on the time of day because the system connected me to different IP addresses most of the time.
Here’s the table with the aggregate figures for 5 locations:
|Country||Download speed, Mbps||Upload speed, Mbps|
*- the test was conducted on a 100 Mbps channel
Sadly, numbers can’t convey the feeling I get when the internet is fast as wind despite the active VPN. With ExpressVPN, its use can’t even be noticed. The only thing that reminds you that your traffic is protected and your IP address is hidden in the service’s icon located next to the battery charge indicator. Neither do websites load slower nor does the video quality drop – there are no ‘’symptoms’’ common for most services.
More than 3000 VPN servers in 94 countries allow hiding your IP address very effectively.
That really is a few!
Not many VPNs have more servers and only one provider that supports more countries.
ExpressVPN has been the leader in terms of the technical infrastructure for a long time. However, it was outdone by at least three other services in recent years. Two of them, NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN, offer access to any specific server they have while ExpressVPN only allows choosing a VPN location.
You can choose a precise location within several countries (cities):
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Hong Kong (3 data centers)
ExpressVPN doesn’t only have a wide server network but also is one of the first services that support diskless servers, which allows it to guarantee its no-logs policy. I’ll tell you more about it in the next section.
More and more people start to consider a logs policy when choosing a VPN service. At the same time, many users think that VPN services can’t be trusted because they can store user activity data secretly. Such cases are not unheard of.
ExpressVPN is one of the VPN services that have proven they do not keep logs.
How, you might ask?
In 2017, an ExpressVPN server was put under arrest during the investigation of a high-profile case in Turkey. The criminals’ activities were conducted through that server. However, no information about its users was found on the server.
Another thing to note is that this provider uses new diskless servers that simply can’t save logs.
ExpressVPN can be installed on any device that supports VPN technology.
There’s software for every platform on which software can be installed. For all the other ones, there are settings and detailed manuals.
I will now tell you about the results of my latest tests (January 2020) of all the major ExpressVPN apps. You’ll also learn all about the functionality differences and other peculiarities of various versions.
The Windows version of ExpressVPN is the most full-fledged one. It has the highest number of settings as well as the main and additional functions.
Other than the data leak I told you about in the previous chapter, I have no reservations about the Windows app’s performance. ExpressVPN also couldn’t restore the connection after leaving sleep mode sometimes:
What characteristics and settings does ExpressVPN have on Windows?
+ Biggest functionality on any OS
+ 94 countries available
+ Choice between UDP and TCP (UDP by default)
+ OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP protocols
+ Stop all internet traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly (Kill Switch) option
+ Split tunneling for specific apps (turning the VPN on or off for chosen programs)
- No free trial
- Insufficient protection with the default settings
- Infrequent connection freezes after exiting sleep mode or hibernation.
That’s it. There are no visual representation of where the VPN locations are situated on the world map, specialized server lists for streaming and torrenting, and several other modern features found in the best VPNs.
Moreover, as I’ve mentioned before, in my subjective opinion, ExpressVPN for PC connects slightly slower than what is usual.
Generally, it’s easy to use the provider’s services on Windows 10 which is the most popular OS. Thanks to the high speeds and optimized CPU load, the app’s work can hardly be noticed. If the connection fails, it gets restored automatically, allowing you to leave your computer unattended for a long time without worrying about your safety even when you’re using torrents.
ExpressVPN for Android is nearly identical to the PC version in terms of its features. On the other hand, it only supports the OpenVPN protocol, doesn’t have the DNS control. However, it has certain extra tools that can prove useful to you.
The Android app has the following benefits and differences from the desktop version:
+ Free trial period
+ Different name of the kill switch function: Block internet when unable to connect or reconnect to VPN
+ No security issues
+ Connects quickly
+ Offers to tweak the system parameters related to the work of the app in sleep mode
+ Has Privacy & Security Tools
- No choice of the VPN protocol.
It’s worth mentioning that ExpressVPN has improved its app’s performance on Android versions 7 and below. Now it doesn’t have a security issue in nonstandard situations that may arise in the real-world conditions of using a mobile gadget.
I confirmed it by conducting a test with the Cool Tech Realtime IP Logger:
As you can see in the screencap, it was only the IP address of the VPN server that was logged when every possible issue with the internet occurred (loss of connection, access point change, switching from a Wi-Fi to cellular internet and back). My device’s real IP wasn’t leaked.
As for the older versions of Android, not everything is so good:
When reconnecting from the Wi-Fi to the cellular internet, the app failed to keep the real IP address from leaking into the network. Moreover, the app couldn’t reconnect to the VPN:
To use ExpressVPN safely on the older versions of the operating system, I recommend that you watch the internet connection closely.
I should also note that the app doesn’t drain the battery now as much as it used to.
Therefore, ExpressVPN for Android is better and more stable now than ever before and doesn’t have any significant drawbacks. It can help you to solve the same tasks as on desktops while the level of its security is high even with the default settings.
ExpressVPN for Mac has very few differences from the PC version. Both apps have the identical menu, structure, and settings.
What peculiarities does ExpressVPN have on Mac?
+ Can exit sleep mode without issues
- No data leaks even when the kill switch isn’t active
Considering that the app for Mac doesn’t have the drawbacks of the Windows version, we put ExpressVPN on our list of the best VPNs for Mac. It allows watching streaming services conveniently, hiding your IP address, and doing everything else that VPN technology enables.
ExpressVPN for iOS has everything necessary for the protection of this OS. It allows choosing the VPN protocol, keeps the connection stable even in the most complicated conditions, and protects data and location very well.
Compared to other VPN services for iOS, ExpressVPN’s features put it among the leaders thanks to its speed and stability. However, it is not the best one of them because it lacks certain extra functionality. On iPhone and iPad, only the choice of countries and VPN protocols are available. There are no extra functions that are present on other OSs.
What peculiarities does ExpressVPN have on iOS?
+ Protocol choice
- No useful extra features from other platforms
- No free trial
If you consider the use of ExpressVPN on iOS complementary to using it on desktops or Android, it is a good service. However, if your primary goal is to use a VPN on an iOS device, you should take a look at other VPN services such as Surfshark.
Like most of its competitors, ExpressVPN offers a console script to access the VPN. This software is relatively easy to install and launch.
You can tweak the functionality of the script with a great deal of flexibility according to your needs. For example, you can choose the VPN protocol, set automatic connection rules up, etc.
One of its flaws is the necessity to check the status of your VPN connection via the console to make certain that protection is active.
What peculiarities does ExpressVPN have on Linux?
+ Command-line software
+ Easy to install
+ Extra features available
- Can only see the VPN connection status by entering the corresponding command in the console.
I found no issues with the performance of the ExpressVPN software on Linux during my tests.
ExpressVPN for Chrome as well as for Firefox deserves a separate article dedicated to it. The reason for it is that it’s the only VPN I know of that offers not a proxy extension for browsers but a real VPN.
This software is made in a way that allows you to control the VPN connection of the entire device directly from the browser. It’s so convenient and efficient! And it isn’t only the browser traffic and the addresses of the websites visited from it that are protected but all the traffic of the computer including system services and other apps.
What peculiarities does ExpressVPN have on Chrome?
- Separate settings menu for the browser extension that allows you to go to the main VPN app settings.
- Spoof your location function prevents websites from accessing your real location via your web browser.
- HTTPS everywhere automatically changes http to https to increase security.
ExpressVPN for Chrome is the best VPN solution for web browsers today.
ExpressVPN also supports the following platforms:
- TV and set-top boxes
- Gaming consoles
It is enabled by these three advantages of ExpressVPN:
- Apps for Android TV, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV/Fire Stick
- Settings for any device supporting OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP, or PPTP
- Huge knowledge base with detailed instructions and even videos
You can go to the ExpressVPN website to look for in-depth information on how to set your device up.
ExpressVPN holds the fourth spot in our best VPNs for torrenting ranking.
There are three reasons for it:
- High speeds
- Torrenting-friendly disposition
- No-logs policy and safe jurisdiction
However, its higher-than-average among other VPNs price is worth mentioning. It can make a difference for torrent users because the very purpose of torrenting is free access to content. It’s up to you to decide if you want to use a premium service that costs more than twice as much as its closest competitors while it doesn’t exceed their characteristics security-wise.
In any case, technically speaking, ExpressVPN is a great tool to protect your torrenting activities.
ExpressVPN is based offshore in the British Virgin Islands.
It allows it to stay independent and safe from any potential pressure coming from the governments that are not interested in developing their citizens’ freedom on the Internet.
I have also analyzed open sources from recent years to find any trustworthy information about what country or countries the management of the provider is based in. This information, however, is kept secret and all we got is rumors and assumptions despite the provider working for 10 years in the market.
All these facts speak of the company’s high level of professionalism and big experience on matters of privacy.
ExpressVPN is one of the services that are often talked about and recommended. I’ll show you several Reddit posts that mention the pros and cons of this provider.
About Disney Plus support:
Issues with reinstallation on Windows 10:
I cannot publish all the recent posts discussing ExpressVPN in this article. The general attitude towards this provider is a positive one:
- It is often recommended.
- It has very few issues.
- It is a good fit for Netflix and torrenting.
- However, it doesn’t work in China.
The price of ExpressVPN is unequivocally high. Compared to the market’s average, the lowest price is more than twice as expensive. As for the 1-year plan price, it exceeds that of the competitors by about 30-100%.
What is interesting about ExpressVPN’s tariffs?
- The longest plan is 12 months long.
- There is the Dedicated IP extra feature available for a surcharge of $5 per month per IP address (choice of 5 countries).
- Can be paid for with credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin (via BitPlay), AliPay, UnionPay, Webmoney, and other payment systems.
Can you save money by using a coupon?
There is such a possibility. You can go to the page on coupons on the website of the service and get an additional 20% discount for the 12-month plan (CoolTechZone doesn’t benefit from this link).
Any other coupons you may find online are just variations of this 20% discount. I advise against using them because you can often get scammed by third-party websites that offer coupons: sometimes they demand that you install potentially dangerous software or enter your email to put it on their mailing list. All the while, the ultimate price of ExpressVPN will be the same as the ones displayed on our website:
- $8.32 per month for the 12-month subscription ($6.67 with the discount)
- $9.99 per month for the 6-month subscription
- $12.95 for a 1-month subscription
As I have already mentioned, you can make use of the 7-day free trial period on the Android version or of the 30-day money-back guarantee when you subscribe to any tariff.
The ExpressVPN service belongs to ExpressVPN International Ltd which is registered in the BVI offshore.
There isn’t much info about this company’s origins on the Internet at all. Some relatively credible clues point at Hong Kong as its birthplace. At least, it was Hong Kong that was mentioned on ExpressVPN’s website back in 2009 when it was founded.
There were attempts to find out who exactly owns the company in 2018 and the traces led to Hong Kong again.
Almost nothing is known about the company’s activities apart from its participation in and support of projects related to security and privacy:
- Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.com)
- The Internet Defense League (internetdefenseleague.org)
- Fight for the Future (fightforthefuture.org)
- Access Now (accessnow.org)
- OpenMedia (openmedia.org)
The address of ExpressVPN International Ltd:
Road Town, Tortola, VG1110 British Virgin Islands
So, when should you use ExpressVPN and when should you not?
+ Hiding the IP address (location)
+ Unblocking websites when the use of VPN isn’t traced or blocked
+ Using a particularly fast VPN
+ Getting access to any region for streaming
+ Exchanging data safely (considering the issues described in the article)
+ Safeguarding oneself in public networks
- Saving money
- Solving sensitive matters that require stronger data and privacy protection without extra settings on Windows.
I personally used this VPN quite often once but lately switched to cheaper VPN services that are just as safe.
Leave your comments and questions about ExpressVPN down below! My colleagues and I will be happy to answer them.