ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: 16 Crucial Differences (*Updated)
I wrote this review in August 2019 only to rewrite it soon after because I found out about several new important ways in which ExpressVPN and IPVanish differ.
A new, rather dangerous threat was discovered in the ExpressVPN app while a bug was found in the IPVanish Windows version.
After that, I reconsidered my opinions about both services. Now, I present you with this fully redone review which includes not only their 16 differences but also my recommendations on how to choose a VPN with regards to the newly discovered facts.
ExpressVPN and IPVanish: 16 Differences
ExpressVPN and IPVanish are experienced players in the VPN market. They both have years of experience, the developed technological infrastructure, and a large number of registered users.
On one hand, ExpressVPN is a larger service that supports all sorts of platforms. On the other hand, IPVanish has its own server network and, therefore, offers higher speeds.
But, first things first. I will start with the description of a problem that made ExpressVPN impossible to call 100% safe, even if still more privacy-oriented than IPVanish.
16 differences between ExpressVPN and IPVanish
|Privacy protection||ExpressVPN (nominally)|
|Number of countries||ExpressVPN|
|Server choice convenience||IPVanish|
|ExpressVPN vs IPVanish for streaming||ExpressVPN|
|ExpressVPN vs IPVanish for torrenting||ExpressVPN|
|Functionality differences on various platforms||ExpressVPN|
|Connections via alternative protocols||ExpressVPN|
1. Privacy protection (ExpressVPN wins, but…)
A test of the kill switch function showed a problem. You will recall that this function blocks the Internet connection when the VPN channel disconnects. It occurs during the location change, reconnection, or a problem with a VPN server.
The kill switch serves to protect the user’s real location info.
What does IPVanish offer?
Too little. Only its Windows version has a kill switch. It’s turned off by default but can be switched on at any time in the settings:
Its Android, macOS and iOS apps come with no kill switch, so I do not recommend using IPVanish for torrenting and other delicate tasks that require hiding the real IP reliably.
At the same time, ExpressVPN is considered to protect the user’s private data well as it has a kill switch on all apps. My research, however, proves that it is far from the truth. ExpressVPN’s Android app not only leaks the real IP but also, under certain circumstances, may fully disclose the user’s IP address even after a secure connection has been established.
I’ll elaborate. If for whatever reason, the WiFi signal is lost and the device automatically connects to 3G or 4G mobile Internet, the kill switch doesn’t work. More than that, the user’s IP address remains unhidden even after the reconnection. Meanwhile, the app still shows a VPN tunnel as active. When the user connects to WiFi again, the problem stays and the IP remains undisguised.
I conducted this experiment on two different devices running on different versions of Android. The result did not change.
Does all this allow us to call ExpressVPN a great alternative to IPVanish in terms of privacy? It obviously does not.
You can read more about my tests in the “ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: 12 important features” article. In it, I also talk about a VPN that doesn’t have an Android vulnerability.
The only reason ExpressVPN wins in this category is that it offers reliable software for macOS and iOS. Like on Windows, there are no problems on these platforms.
You may find the comparison of the kill switch function on different platforms in the table below:
|Android||+ (but has a bug)||-|
2. Technological infrastructure (IPVanish wins)
ExpressVPN has 3000+ servers whereas IPVanish has 1300+. Despite that, IPVanish is the better one in this category. Why is that?
The answer is easy. What matters is quality, not numbers.
Let’s take a look at three randomly chosen servers of ExpressVPN and IPVanish each and compare the real proprietors of their VPN servers:
||The company that owns the server|
|UK London||Legaco Networks B.V.||Mudhook Marketing (the owner of IPVanish)|
What do we see? While ExpressVPN rents its servers from third-party hosting companies, IPVanish maintains its servers on its own. It speaks volumes about the quality of this VPN service, as such aspects are concerned as:
- Third-parties’ access to the servers
- The load of the transmission channel
- Server maintenance
Information security, speed, and the quality of the service are important to the end-user. That’s why IPVanish wins in this category.
3. Speed (IPVanish wins)
IPVanish refers to itself as the “fastest and fastest growing top tier VPN in the world” on its website. It’s hard to argue with that.
Of more than 30 IPVanish locations I tested, only 4 were slower than my ISP’s bandwidth capacity. It’s likely related to the fact that this company owns most of its servers and controls the network load.
70-85 Mbps was the speed of most IPVanish servers that I tested.
And what about ExpressVPN? Its speed turned out to be very fast, too.
65-80 Mbps was the speed of ExpressVPN’s US and European servers, which is a great result.
To determine the winner, I decided to use a high-speed hosting on Linux to measure the speed of uploading a large file on my server under a VPN. Thanks to this test only I was able to see who was the winner.
The max speed of IPVanish was 194 Mbps.
As for ExpressVPN, it amounted to 130 Mbps.
However, both providers had few servers reaching speeds higher than 100 Mbps.
So, IPVanish won by a slim margin.
I’d like to note that speeds higher than 30-50 Mbps (needed, for example, to watch videos in 4K) are rarely necessary. That’s why I recommend against using solely this category to decide which VPN to choose.
4. Power consumption (IPVanish wins)
Despite most VPN reviews paying little attention to the app power consumption, I believe that this characteristic is one of the most important ones.
And here’s why. VPN providers do not publicize the fact that the functioning of their apps requires a lot of energy. The reason is that traffic encryption and decryption as well as setting up a VPN channel require a large number of calculations. The stronger the encryption is, the greater the load on the CPU.
The time that a device can work without being charged depends on how effectively the VPN app uses energy.
And believe me, the difference can be drastic!
Android devices are especially affected by it.
Having compared the apps of ExpressVPN and IPVanish, I determined the winner at once. IPVanish uses the battery charge much more efficiently.
It took ExpressVPN 7 hours to fully starve the two devices I tested – an Android smartphone and a tablet.
With IPVanish, the battery lost no more than 25% of its charge in 7 hours.
This test is unbiased enough to show the advantage IPVanish has against ExpressVPN in terms of power consumption.
Here’s a table showing the comparison of energy consumption by the apps of both VPNs:
5. Number of countries (ExpressVPN wins)
VPN services are fond of advertising huge numbers related to the size of their hardware infrastructure to seem bigger. Some put the number of IP addresses in their system or the number of locations up on their sites. This information is quite useless, as it’s difficult to see the provider’s parameters based on it. However, it looks impressive.
It looks very imposing, especially the 40.000 figure. But what is behind these figures and which one is more powerful: IPVanish or ExpressVPN?
To compare the size of a VPN service, we need to know the number of countries where it has its servers. An inexperienced user may think that locations are countries but it isn’t so. Physically speaking, locations are data centers, and there can be as many as 75 of them in a single country! My experience suggests that, if a provider does not state the number of countries directly, this number is lower than desired.
So I had to count the countries manually:
The total of 50 is very considerable.
What information do we have about ExpressVPN?
160 locations in 94 countries! This is the largest result in the present-day VPN market.
So, if we don’t pay any mind to large figures of little importance but instead think hard about what they mean, it’s easy to determine the winner. In terms of countries covered, ExpressVPN wins.
6. Server choice convenience (IPVanish wins)
As far as the convenience of location choice goes, IPVanish is better for two reasons:
- You can choose a definite server inside a location
- The choice is visualized on a world map.
The ability to choose a specific server is more important in practice. Thanks to it, one can browse the Internet from the same virtual IP address more than once. This function is useful when, for instance, a website requests credentials after every change of the user’s IP address.
ExpressVPN only lets to choose a location. The server is chosen automatically and, generally, its IP is changed frequently.
7. ExpressVPN vs IPVanish for streaming (ExpressVPN wins)
Do you want to bypass geo-restrictions imposed by Netflix, Hulu and other video services? If you’re an ExpressVPN user, you’ll be able to do it without a hitch.
Out of the 12 locations in the US, UK, and JP I tested, 10 allowed me to unblock Netflix. To add to that, connections speeds were high enough to watch video content in HD quality.
The situation with IPVanish was much worse. Only 2 servers out of the 10 tested were not blocked by Netflix.
Therefore, IPVanish is worse suited for streaming.
Additionally, Redditors who use VPN for Netflix recommend ExpressVPN quite frequently:
8. ExpressVPN vs IPVanish for torrenting (ExpressVPN wins)
Often enough, users find it hard to choose a VPN for torrenting, the reason being that it’s unclear what characteristics a “correct” VPN service should have.
But in reality, it’s simple enough:
- The provider’s policy allowing torrents
- High speed
- Presence of a kill switch
- No-logging policy
Not all VPNs allow torrenting.
Good speed is obviously important as it affects the downloading speed.
The kill switch is needed to ensure privacy when using torrents.
The no-logs policy will keep your mind in peace in the future.
What do ExpressVPN and IPVanish offer to users of torrent trackers or services like KODI?
ExpressVPN allows torrenting. There’s even a special page on its website. As I mentioned earlier, this service offers great speeds and a kill switch on all platforms. Moreover, ExpressVPN keeps no logs.
IPVanish allows torrenting as well. Its speeds are very good and it hasn’t been keeping logs since 2014. It does, however, have a critical flaw: only the Windows version of IPVanish comes with a kill switch, leaving Android, macOS, and iOS users at risk.
I should also mention that IPVanish is based in the US, which can potentially decrease the level of its privacy. I will provide further details on this below.
Thus, ExpressVPN narrowly wins. It is better suited for P2P/torrenting than IPVanish.
9. Functionality differences on various platforms (ExpressVPN wins)
When choosing a VPN, it’s necessary to take functionality differences on various platforms into consideration. Frequently, though, official websites and third-party reviews describe features of the “fullest” version only.
Usually, it is the PC VPN app. Not all services offer the same functions in their apps for different platforms. In my experience, those that do are a minority.
Why is this question so important? It’s because today, VPNs provide multi-connection subscriptions that allow users to connect from 5 to 10 devices per one subscription. So why not use this opportunity even if you planned to use the VPN on Windows only at first?
So, let’s compare ExpressVPN to IPVanish.
Functionality differences between ExpressVPN and IPVanish apps for the 4 main platforms and browsers
|Windows||Full version||Full version|
|macOS||Full version||No additional settings. Functionality is barebones.|
|Android||Full version||No kill switch|
|iOS||No Split tunneling||♦ No OpenVPN protocol
♦ No kill switch
|Browsers||Full version||Proxy with no additional features|
In the table above, you can see that ExpressVPN has more features than IPVanish on all platforms but Windows. Both VPNs have full functionality on PC.
10. Browser extensions (ExpressVPN wins)
Out of several dozen VPNs I have tested, I found out that ExpressVPN has the best extensions for Chrome and Firefox. They are the only ones that offer not simply a proxy connection (meaning that there’s no VPN channel and only browser traffic is protected) but also a fully-featured VPN that can also be controlled from within the browser.
What does IPVanish provide? Only a proxy extension for Chrome. Firefox isn’t supported. It allows you to connect to all the countries available in the desktop app but only via a proxy.
Therefore, ExpressVPN wins in this category because its plugins are more technically powerful and because it offers support of 2 browsers against IPVanish’s 1.
11. Stability (ExpressVPN wins)
What is the connection stability of a VPN? It shows the period of stable high-quality VPN connection during which a user doesn’t have any problems with Internet connectivity.
This value depends on:
- the load of the chosen VPN server
- that server’s output
- how well the app works
- parameters of the user’s initial Internet connection
- the VPN protocol type
- the encryption standard
The most widespread problem is the VPN server’s power or output overload. In most cases, it is the thing that affects the convenience of using a VPN.
Your initial Internet speed is also worth considering. Even the fastest VPN will drop it by 10-20%.
With that said, which VPN service is the more stable one? ExpressVPN or IPVanish?
To find out, I conducted 5-day connection tests on different devices and to different locations. To oversee the connection stability, I had developed a special web-logger that registers all changes occurring to the IP address and all connectivity problems.
Both ExpressVPN and IPVanish had such problems.
However, ExpressVPN’s results were generally more favorable. I couldn’t make a table with the data I got because this test yielded no absolute values. Victory in this category goes to ExpressVPN with an approximate margin of 15-20%.
12. Connection via alternative protocols (ExpressVPN wins)
Frequently, it’s necessary to change the service-suggested default VPN protocol to an alternative one. It can happen due to various reasons. Sometimes, the ISP blocks certain ports and sometimes, the user is dissatisfied with the speed or they don’t trust any protocols but one, etc.
ExpressVPN and IPVanish allow their users to change protocols.
At first, I didn’t plan on including this category into my comparison at all. Later, though, I learned that none of IPVanish’s protocols worked in the Windows app save for OpenVPN.
I tried to get them to work several times with various combinations of ports, turned obfuscation and the kill switch on and off, but all the IPVanish app did was freezing at every connection attempt. I had to abort and restart it every time. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to connect via another protocol.
I didn’t have such problems with ExpressVPN.
13. VPN obfuscation (IPVanish wins, but…)
What is VPN obfuscation? It is an adaptation of a regular VPN protocol aimed at hiding it from special filtering devices.
For example, such VPN detection and blocking methods are commonly used in countries with heavy censorship.
What do our tested VPNs offer in regards to VPN obfuscation?
ExpressVPN does not have such a feature.
IPVanish provides the Scramble function, which allows users to modify OpenVPN, the most popular protocol.
I read through users’ reviews on Reddit to get some information about real-life tests of this feature. It turns out, it does not help to bypass censorship. IP addresses of VPN servers themselves were blocked. It makes it impossible to connect to them from a country that restricts the use of VPNs either with obfuscation or without it.
Moreover, even the website of IPVanish says that their obfuscation doesn’t help to bypass the VPN restriction:
Our IPVanish VPN apps are unlikely to work if you are attempting to connect to our VPN from inside of China or other countries that block our domain or website.
Alternatively, you may be able to connect via a manual configuration by connecting to our servers' IP addresses instead of our server names. However, please note that China, in particular, has started blacklisting our IP addresses too... so even this measure may not help
So, IPVanish provides more ways of VPN block bypassing. However, they are unlikely to work in practice.
If you’re looking for a good VPN that has obfuscation and actually helps to bypass censorship, you may find it in the article about Free and Best VPNs for China.
14. Jurisdiction (ExpressVPN wins)
Almost every VPN service is controlled by a company that has to adhere to the laws of a certain state. The home country can be a part of alliances or groups alongside other countries that may influence the service.
There are good, average, and poor jurisdictions for VPNs.
The good ones are countries or territories that are not members of any alliances. Liability is not very strict in these jurisdictions, and the influence authorities have over a VPN service is minimal.
The average ones include countries that do not belong to “dangerous” alliances but have strict legislation allowing them to access personal data of the VPN service users in special cases.
The poor ones are those that have commitments to other countries as to disclosing their citizens’ actions and, potentially, surveilling them. Their laws are also strict and provide for the possibility of private data access.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. It is an offshore zone and good jurisdiction.
IPVanish is based in the United States. The US is a member of the 5 Eyes alliance (read the Wikipedia article about the 5 Eyes) and its laws allow accessing private information at a court judgment. It’s a poor jurisdiction for a VPN.
Therefore, ExpressVPN’s jurisdiction is better than that of IPVanish.
15. Free trial (ExpressVPN wins)
Only ExpressVPN has a free trial. You can use its full Android version (other platforms are available only after you pay) for 7 days.
I’d like to draw your attention to an advantage that the ExpressVPN’s free trial has. It doesn’t require a credit card to activate, unlike many other VPNs that offer a free trial. Only your email is needed. It means that you won’t subscribe automatically when your free trial period is over. Thus, you can choose the tariff you like the most or decide against using ExpressVPN.
IPVanish doesn’t offer a free trial.
You can choose a good VPN with a free trial in our Free Trial VPN: options, nuances, advice article.
16. Pricing (IPVanish wins)
Both of the tested VPNs do not offer low prices. Rather, they can be described as “premium” services.
ExpressVPN and IPVanish prices comparison (for the same plans)
The prices of IPVanish are higher than the average but are considerably cheaper than ExpressVPN’s.
It’s worth noting that ExpressVPN offers more advantageous refund conditions: you can get your money back within 30 days of use.
With IPVanish, this period is only 7 days.
The score of ExpressVPN vs IPVanish is 11:5.
ExpressVPN wins by a large margin.
I’d like to add that I’ve been using both ExpressVPN and IPVanish for a long time, and liked ExpressVPN more. As of this day, however, I do not use any of these services. If you are interested in what VPN I chose for personal use, you can learn it from the “ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: 12 important features” article.
Considering the newfound bug in ExpressVPN, my advice is to think outside the binary choice between it and IPVanish. Take a look at our unbiased best VPN services rating to find a provider with a great level of privacy and security, good jurisdiction and coverage, as well as other important aspects of a modern VPN.
The following articles will also help you to find an optimal VPN: