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ExpressVPN is a well-regarded VPN service used by many people – but how well does it actually perform?
In the past few months, ExpressVPN has undergone some major security and infrastructure updates. The biggest change has been the release of Lightway, a new VPN protocol that promises faster speeds, better reliability, and cutting-edge encryption. In addition to testing out Lightway for this ExpressVPN review, we also tested and examined many other areas of the service to answer these questions:
- How fast is ExpressVPN and does it outperform other leading VPNs?
- How well do the features and leak-protection settings work?
- Are the VPN apps secure and user-friendly?
- Can it unblock Netflix and other streaming services?
- Is ExpressVPN worth the (above average) price?
To answer these questions, we ran dozens of tests from our US lab on a 500 Mbps internet connection, using various desktop and mobile operating systems. We posted all test results below to help you decide if this VPN is worth your time.
Here is a brief overview of our test results and research findings:
Pros of ExpressVPN
- Secure and reliable VPN apps (support for all devices)
- Strong encryption, great security features, and no leaks
- Lightway delivers faster speeds and improved security
- Excellent speeds throughout the server network
- Proven and audited no-logs VPN provider
- Located in a safe, privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI)
- Large and secure server network
- Works well for Netflix and many other streaming services
- Secure browser extensions
- Split tunneling feature
- Reliable and secure mobile apps
- Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
- Great customer support and refund policy
Cons of ExpressVPN
- More expensive than some rivals (but currently offering a three months free coupon)
Additional research findings
- Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
- Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
- How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
- Is ExpressVPN worth it?
Now let’s examine the details and findings of this ExpressVPN review, starting with the pros.
Here are the pros of ExpressVPN:
1. Secure and reliable VPN apps (support for all devices)
When it comes to secure, reliable, and user-friendly VPN apps that just work, ExpressVPN is one of the best options available.
They offer dedicated apps for all major operating systems and devices, including:
- Mac OS
- Kindle Fire and Nook
Below I’m testing out the ExpressVPN Windows app for this review. You can see it has a clean and minimal design that doesn’t take up too much space on your desktop.
The ExpressVPN apps are clean and minimal.
Tapping the three lines in the top-left corner of the VPN app opens up a new window with more features and settings that we’ll discuss further below.
The ExpressVPN app has always been one of my favorites with an intuitive design and great layout. Many VPN apps are buggy and/or clunky, but this is not the case with ExpressVPN. The well-designed apps are one reason ExpressVPN came out on top in the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison.
2. Strong encryption, great security features, and no leaks
When it comes to implementing strong encryption and security, ExpressVPN does not cut any corners. We’ll examine the encryption, VPN protocols, security features, and leak test results in this section.
With the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, ExpressVPN uses an AES-256 cipher with an RSA-4096 key and SHA-512 HMAC authentication. The Lightway protocol uses AES-256-GCM and ChaCha20/Poly1305 ciphers to encrypt traffic, along with D/TLS 1.2 for server authentication.
The AES-256 and ChaCha20 ciphers offer an extremely high level of encryption that is currently considered unbreakable, even with modern quantum computers. They also provide excellent performance, especially the Lightway protocol (test results below). Additionally, ExpressVPN supports Perfect Forward Secrecy negotiated through a Diffie-Hellman key exchange.
ExpressVPN gives you the ability to select which VPN protocols you want to use directly in the apps. Here you can see the available VPN protocols in the Windows client:
With “Automatic” enabled, ExpressVPN will select the best VPN protocol based on your network settings. I tested out OpenVPN UDP and Lightway UDP for this review.
In my tests, Lightway was faster than OpenVPN by a large margin. If you want the best performance, then I’d recommend using Lightway at all times, although OpenVPN UDP was still plenty fast enough for browsing, streaming, and torrenting.
ExpressVPN Network Lock (kill switch)
ExpressVPN refers to the kill switch as the Network Lock. The Network Lock feature will keep your data secure by blocking all traffic if the VPN connection drops. This ensures every data packet remains encrypted and secure, with your real IP address being protected at all times.
The Network Lock feature is currently available in the following apps:
- Mac OS
Below you can see ExpressVPN’s Network Lock feature under the General settings in the Windows app:
The Network Lock feature worked well when I tested it out with Windows and Mac OS. All traffic was effectively blocked when I manually interrupted the VPN connection.
The kill switch (Network Lock) is important to keep your data secure if your connection drops for any reason. Most VPNs offer this feature, but in many cases it does not work well.
Kill switch for mobile devices – On mobile devices, ExpressVPN does not offer the official Network Lock feature, but it still has a kill switch to protect against traffic leaks.
- Android has the “Network Protection” option that functions as a kill switch and will block traffic when the connection drops.
- iOS has the “Auto-Connect” feature that will also block traffic and automatically reconnect the VPN when your internet connection resumes.
ExpressVPN leak test results (no leaks)
I ran the ExpressVPN apps through some basic VPN tests to identify any issues or problems. The main testing site I used was ipleak.net. I did not find any leaks or security issues with any of the ExpressVPN apps.
Below is the ExpressVPN Windows client with no leaks:
Above you can see everything matches up with the VPN server I’m connected to in The Netherlands. ExpressVPN is securing all traffic by providing me with an IPv4 address, blocking IPv6, and handling all my DNS requests with their secure DNS resolvers. ExpressVPN’s Windows app passed all tests and is currently our top recommendation as the best VPN for Windows.
I also ran the ExpressVPN Mac OS app and also the Android app through the same leak tests. As with previous tests, no leaks were found.
Conclusion on ExpressVPN security
ExpressVPN is a great choice if you want a high-security VPN service, with maximum encryption and data protection features. It offers both performance and security.
3. Lightway delivers faster speeds and improved security
After over a year of development, ExpressVPN has finally launched the Lightway VPN protocol. Lightway is available on all major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android. (Lightway on iOS will be available soon, according to support.)
So what does Lightway offer? Here’s what I found:
- Faster speeds (results posted below)
- Improved and updated encryption
- Very fast to establish connections (about one second or less)
- Seamless transition when going in and out of connectivity, or changing networks (such as Wi-Fi to 4G)
- Better mobile performance
- Smaller code base makes it easier to audit than OpenVPN and IPSec
In many respects, Lightway reminds me of the WireGuard protocol. It is smaller, leaner, faster, and more secure, while solving a lot of the problems and baggage of legacy protocols like OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2. It’s great to see this protocol is now live and supported in the ExpressVPN apps.
Is Lightway open source?
While ExpressVPN has not yet made Lightway open source, they will be releasing it soon. According to their website:
Lightway uses wolfSSL, whose well-established cryptography library has been extensively vetted by third-parties, including against the FIPS 140-2 standard.
And soon, the core library of Lightway will be open-sourced, ensuring that it can be transparently and widely scrutinized.
I reached out to ExpressVPN for further comment on this issue. They explained that Lightway remains under development and will be open source in the near future once they achieve a few more development milestones.
4. Excellent speeds throughout the server network
One of the main things I wanted to test out in this ExpressVPN review update was if the new Lightway protocol can actually deliver on speeds. To answer this question, I ran all tests on a 500 Mbps connection from our US lab.
Most VPNs I’ve tested get around 100 Mbps or less with nearby servers in the US. This is about average when using the OpenVPN protocol. So let’s see if ExpressVPN can do any better with Lightway.
First, I tested an ExpressVPN server in Los Angeles, which gave me around 209 Mbps.
Getting more than 200 Mbps is great. So far, so good.
Next I tested an ExpressVPN server in Seattle, which was a bit slower at 136 Mbps.
This isn’t an amazing speed test result, but it’s not too bad either.
Next I tested an ExpressVPN server in New York, with better results at 214 Mbps.
Another solid result, and better than the previous two locations.
I also tested servers in Canada, and the speeds were good. Here was the ExpressVPN server in Toronto at 213 Mbps.
This is a good VPN for Canada with consistent speeds.
Lastly, I tested a server in the UK. Despite the long distance between me and the VPN server, I was still able to get 235 Mbps.
Overall, these are great speeds and a nice improvement over previous reviews with OpenVPN.
Aside from the download speeds, I also noticed that Lightway is extremely fast to connect. After you hit the connect button, there is a near-instant connection with Lightway. Compare this to OpenVPN, which can take a while (sometimes up to 15 seconds or more).
With the integration of Lightway, ExpressVPN will most likely outperform other VPNs that rely solely on the OpenVPN protocol. Even before with OpenVPN, it outperformed the competition in the ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison.
While I’m overall impressed with Lightway’s performance, it is not the fastest VPN protocol I’ve tested. That honor goes to WireGuard, where I hit 445 Mbps when testing it out for the NordVPN review.
5. Proven and audited no logs VPN provider
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPNs with no logs that have been verified and proven to be true. Why is this important? Choosing a VPN is all about trust, since the VPN has the ability to log and record your data. There have been at least two cases where “no logs” VPNs have given up information on their users:
- IPVanish handed over logs to the FBI for a criminal investigation (details in the IPVanish review).
- PureVPN also provided government agents with data logs for a criminal case (see the PureVPN review for more info).
But back to ExpressVPN. First, we will take an in-depth look at ExpressVPN’s policies, then we’ll cover the real-world cases that verified these policies.
ExpressVPN no-logs policy
ExpressVPN explains their general stance on logging as follows:
ExpressVPN is a premium VPN provider focused on user privacy and anonymity. Our network is built around specifically NOT knowing the internet activities of our users. As privacy is a core part of our service offering, ExpressVPN is in the business of protecting our users’ private internet data.
And this screenshot from their website provides a good summary:
We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.
That being said, there is an option in the VPN apps to share crash statistics, which helps ExpressVPN improve apps, but this data is completely anonymized, does not include personal information, and is optional. Nonetheless, it can also easily be disabled with one click in the Settings area.
ExpressVPN passed third-party audit of logging policies
ExpressVPN is also one of a handful of VPNs that has been independently audited.
To verify and prove their no-logs claims, ExpressVPN underwent a third-party audit from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The audit verified the TrustedServer feature (discussed below), no logs policy, and that all privacy protections are being adhered to correctly.
Very few VPNs have undergone third-party audits to verify logging policies. And there’s also further proof that ExpressVPN is following a true no-logs policy.
ExpressVPN servers seized: ‘no logs’ policy tested
In December 2017 news broke that authorities in Turkey seized an ExpressVPN server in an attempt to obtain customer data. Before the server was seized in Turkey, Turkish authorities had attempted to force ExpressVPN to provide logs from the server in question. ExpressVPN informed the officials that they are a no-logs VPN, not subject to Turkish law, and they do not have any data to provide.
After these demands failed, the Turkish government then seized an ExpressVPN server, but still came up empty-handed in their quest for user data.
Why is this important?
The relevant issue here is that the authorities were not able to obtain any customer data – either through demands or seizing a server – because there were no logs available.
This case from Turkey, and also the no-logs audit, confirm ExpressVPN’s logging policies and overall commitment to securing customer data.
6. Located in a safe, privacy-friendly jurisdiction (BVI)
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The BVI is an independent, self-governing entity with strict laws protecting the privacy of businesses and individuals operating there.
Unlike the UK, the BVI has no mandatory data retention laws or wide-scale surveillance programs, which affect UK VPN services. Similar to Switzerland, the British Virgin Islands are well-known for strong privacy protection and data secrecy, unlike the different Five Eyes countries.
The judicial system in the BVI also cannot be compelled to force companies there to produce records on their customers. As a country, the BVI is fully independent and does not fall under any other country’s jurisdiction, despite the historical connection to Britain. We also see other VPNs incorporating in the BVI for these same reasons, as we noted in the Surfshark review.
7. Large and secure server network
ExpressVPN offers a large selection of servers around the world, with a very secure network setup.
At the time of this review, ExpressVPN has about 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries. This includes a total of more than 3,000 VPN servers. Europe and North America have the best coverage, but they also offer a good selection of servers in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region.
All servers running in RAM-disk mode (TrustedServer feature)
ExpressVPN is now one of only a handful of VPNs that run all servers in RAM-disk mode. In other words, ExpressVPN does not use any hard drives with its server network, but instead, only RAM memory. This network security setup is referred to as the TrustedServer feature.
The TrustedServer feature offers ExpressVPN users a higher level of security.
This video does a good job explaining the benefits:
Does ExpressVPN offer static/dedicated IP addresses?
No, ExpressVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
If you want a dedicated IP address, see my guide on VPNs with dedicated IPs for more details. (Note that dedicated/static IPs are not the best choice for privacy because your internet traffic is not getting mixed with other users.)
8. Works with Netflix and many other streaming services
If you need a good VPN that works with Netflix and other streaming services, then ExpressVPN is a great choice. It is one of the few VPNs that continues to work with Netflix, providing 24/7 access.
For this review, I tested out US Netflix with an ExpressVPN server in Washington DC. Everything worked perfectly, as you can see below.
To use Netflix with ExpressVPN, simply start the ExpressVPN app on your device, connect to a server of your choice in the Netflix region you want to use, and then stream Netflix as normal.
If you get any kind of proxy error with Netflix when you are connected to an ExpressVPN server, just contact ExpressVPN’s chat support and they’ll tell which server(s) to use instead.
ExpressVPN is currently the best VPN for Netflix for three main reasons:
- Excellent streaming quality with fast speeds (no buffering or interruptions)
- 24/7 access to Netflix (no network-wide blocks)
- Unblocks numerous Netflix regions around the world: US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany.
Other streaming services that work with ExpressVPN
In addition to Netflix, ExpressVPN also works well with Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime. And if you need a VPN for Hulu or streaming Kodi, ExpressVPN works here as well.
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPNs for Firestick with a dedicated app you can find in the Amazon App Store.
9. Secure browser extensions
ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox browsers. The browser add-on is an extension of the ExpressVPN desktop app. This means you’ll need to be running the ExpressVPN Windows, Mac OS, or Linux desktop application.
Why use the browser extension when you can use the desktop VPN app?
The biggest advantage of using the browser app is convenience. It offers the ability to easily switch server locations directly in your browser, rather than having to navigate to the desktop VPN client. Here are some additional advantages of the ExpressVPN browser extensions:
- Block WebRTC leaks in the browser (WebRTC is a privacy risk that can expose your real IP, even when using a good VPN).
- Spoof your HTML5 geolocation data in the browser.
- HTTPS Everywhere – automatically connects to the more-secure HTTPS version of websites where available.
Here’s what the ExpressVPN browser extension looks like in Chrome:
The extension can be set to light or dark mode (above). We tested out ExpressVPN’s extension on Chrome browsers, then rated it as the best VPN for Chrome. Everything worked well.
10. Split tunneling feature
ExpressVPN offers a split tunneling feature with their applications for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and routers.
Split tunneling allows you to select which apps will go through the VPN tunnel and which can bypass the VPN to the regular (unencrypted) internet.
This feature can be found in the settings area of the VPN client. By default, all traffic and applications are routed through the VPN. In the settings, you can select three different options:
- All apps use the VPN
- Do not allow selected apps to use the VPN
- Only allow selected apps to use the VPN
If you click the second or third options, a pop-up window appears, allowing you to select the specific apps.
This is also really useful with routers, because it allows you to select specific devices and/or websites to bypass the VPN.
11. Reliable and secure mobile apps
The ExpressVPN mobile apps I tested on Android and iOS performed very well.
Android users will be happy to hear they can take advantage of the Lightway protocol with the latest Android app release. This offers huge advantages to mobile users:
- Seamlessly transition between different networks (WiFi and 4G) without your VPN connection dropping
- Faster download speeds
- Better reliability
- Improved battery life
Legacy protocols, particularly OpenVPN, simply do not perform well on mobile devices. Lightway solves these problems.
Note: Lightway is available with the Android app right now, and will be released for iOS later in 2020. Meanwhile, iOS users can maximize performance by using the IKEv2 protocol, or stick with the traditional OpenVPN protocol.
Here’s a screenshot of the ExpressVPN iOS client.
If you are a heavy mobile user, ExpressVPN has you covered with excellent mobile VPN apps. See our best VPNs for Android for more discussion on this topic.
12. Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPN services that offer a dedicated VPN router app. The router app works on select router models with the supported firmware.
Using a VPN on your router is a smart way to get an unlimited number of connections with your VPN. This is because the router will only count as one connection, but it will provide every device that connects to your router with the full benefits of the VPN: encrypted traffic, new IP address, location anonymity.
If you want to use ExpressVPN on your router, you have the following options:
- Use the ExpressVPN router app on one of the supported router models (recommended)
- Manually setup ExpressVPN on your router (more work, but not too difficult with some routers, such as with most Asus models)
Using the ExpressVPN router app (option 1) is the best solution because it offers the following features:
- Easily switch between VPN servers
- Split tunneling (select which apps or websites bypass the VPN)
- Network Lock (kill switch) to block all traffic if the VPN connection drops
You can check the ExpressVPN website to see what options are available with your router.
13. Great customer support and refund policy
While support with larger VPN services can sometimes be hit or miss, ExpressVPN seems to be doing quite well with live chat support.
I tested out ExpressVPN’s support repeatedly for this review. In all my interactions, I found the support department to be prompt, knowledgeable, and polite.
You can get access to 24/7 live chat support directly through their website in the bottom-right corner. With all of my chat sessions, I was connected with a representative in under a minute (no long delays).
Live chat support is definitely a plus if you need help setting up the VPN on your devices or have specific questions that are not answered on the website.
30 day money-back guarantee
Another great benefit with ExpressVPN is that it offers one of the longest refund windows in the industry. With all VPN subscriptions (even one-month plans), you get a full 30 day money-back guarantee. If you are not 100% satisfied with your VPN subscription, you can cancel on day 30 for a full refund, no questions asked.
Overall ExpressVPN offers great customer support.
1. More expensive than some rivals
One drawback with ExpressVPN is that it is more expensive than some other rival VPN competitors (but also not the most expensive VPN). In short, it is not a cheap VPN.
With the regular pricing, the cheapest you can get ExpressVPN for is $8.32 per month, or $99.95 per year. However, there is a discounted coupon rate that gives you three months for free with the coupon below.
This 49% off coupon gives you three months free >>
While ExpressVPN is more expensive than some other rivals, namely NordVPN and Surfshark, the key question is always value., or what you get for your money. In terms of value, ExpressVPN has a lot to offer, as you can see with all of the pros above. Based on the results and information in this review, these are the factors that make ExpressVPN stand out from other options:
- Excellent speeds with the new Lightway protocol
- Secure and reliable apps with strong encryption and built-in leak protection
- 24/7 access to Netflix and many other streaming services
- Live chat support
Another factor that’s important to consider is the history of the VPN itself. ExpressVPN has a squeaky-clean record going back many years. Additionally, it is a verified and proven no-logs VPN service that runs a very secure server network.
While ExpressVPN is on the higher end of the price spectrum, you typically get what you pay for with VPNs.
Additional review findings
Here is some additional information I found for this ExpressVPN review:
Can you use ExpressVPN for torrenting? (Yes)
Many VPNs restrict or limit torrenting on their network. With ExpressVPN, torrenting is allowed without any restrictions or limitations.
There are four factors that make ExpressVPN a good choice for torrenting:
- High-performance (premium) server network with exceptionally fast speeds and great reliability.
- Overseas jurisdiction that is not subject to DMCA requests or copyright violation demands.
- High-quality applications that will keep your data secure while also protecting you against leaks and vulnerabilities. This, of course, also protects you from copyright trolls and DMCA notices.
- No bandwidth limitations or traffic restrictions whatsoever.
ExpressVPN is among the top recommendations in our VPN for torrenting guide.
Does ExpressVPN work in China? (Yes)
Despite the current VPN blocks and censorship efforts, ExpressVPN continues to work in China.
To use ExpressVPN in China, simply connect to one of the China-designated servers (check with support to see these). These servers will automatically utilize an obfuscation protocol with the VPN app, thereby concealing the VPN traffic as regular HTTPS encryption. This easily gets through the Great Firewall and censorship efforts.
See the best VPNs for China guide for additional information and setup tips.
How many connections do you get with ExpressVPN?
With your ExpressVPN subscription, you will get five simultaneous connections.
Note: You can use ExpressVPN on an unlimited number of devices, but you are limited to five simultaneous connections at any one time with your subscription.
If you want to use more than five devices with the VPN, there is an easy solution. Simply use ExpressVPN on your router, as we covered above, for an unlimited number of connections. The router will count as only one connection and you’ll be able to use it with as many devices as you wish.
Conclusion: Is ExpressVPN worth it?
ExpressVPN’s performance for this latest review update has earned it a top spot as one of the best VPNs we’ve tested.
In an overcrowded VPN market, ExpressVPN continues to stand out from the rest and outperform the competition. To summarize, here are the main findings from this ExpressVPN review:
- Excellent VPN speeds with the new Lightway protocol, which also offers the latest in encryption technology.
- High-security applications with maximum encryption (passed all privacy/security tests) and the Network Lock feature to keep all data secure.
- Excellent offshore jurisdiction and company policies to protect customer data and user privacy (which were also verified with the server seizure in Turkey).
- Continues to work with Netflix and many other streaming services.
- Huge selection of apps that are well-designed, secure, reliable, and user-friendly.
- Proven and audited no logs VPN service with all servers operating in RAM-disk mode (no data storage possible)
- Top-notch customer service with 24/7 live chat support and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
There is very little not to like with ExpressVPN.
It is a service that continues to improve and gets better over time. While the price has traditionally been on the higher end (at $8.32 per month) the discount below drops the price down to $6.67 per month.
Sign up for the 12 month plan, and get 3 months FREE (49% Off)
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(Discount is applied automatically through the link above.)
Alternatives to ExpressVPN
Click the VPN name below to read our full review – or click the discount coupon for the best savings. Both of these VPNs have a 30 day money-back guarantee.
- NordVPN review [68% discount coupon]
- Surfshark review [81% discount coupon]
Final Disclaimer and Instructions from NetTodays
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A VPN is a service that both encrypts your data and hides your IP address by bouncing your network activity through a secure chain to another server miles away. This obscures your online identity, even on public Wi-Fi networks, so you can browse the internet safely, securely, and anonymously.
NetTodays gives you answers to all questions which are in your mind about VPN.
NetTodays also suggest continually utilizing Best VPN when you are using a newer Wi-Fi Network. Here is a decent dependable guideline: If you’re away from the workplace or home, and you’re utilizing another person’s Wi-Fi (even that of a relative or a companion, since you can’t be sure whether they’ve been compromised), utilize a VPN. It’s especially significant in case you’re getting to help that has specifically distinguishing data. Keep in mind, a great deal goes on in the background, and you never truly know whether at least one of your applications is verifying behind the scenes and putting your data in danger.
You can also check out our guide on the list of the best VPN services for other recommendations.
If you have used ExpressVPN, feel free to share your honest review (good or bad) below in the comments section.