expressvpn

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 big security and infrastructure updates. The biggest change has been the release of Lightway, a new VPN protocol that promises faster speeds and upgraded encryption – but it also comes with some noteworthy drawbacks.

In this new and updated ExpressVPN review, we set out 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?
We purchased an ExpressVPN account and tested the VPN apps on both desktop and mobile operating systems to answer these questions and more. All test results are posted bellow.

Here is a brief overview of our findings:

Pros of ExpressVPN

Secure VPN apps for all devices
Strong encryption, good security features, and no leaks
No-logs VPN in a safe jurisdiction
Large and secure server network
Works with Netflix and other streaming services
Secure browser extensions
Split tunneling feature
Secure and reliable mobile apps
Dedicated VPN router app (for unlimited connections)
Great customer support and refund policy

Cons of ExpressVPN

Above average prices
Slow OpenVPN speeds
Fewer features than other leading VPNs
Additional research findings

Lightway Protocol (Pros and Cons)

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.

1. Secure VPN apps 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:

Windows
Mac OS
Linux
Android
iOS
Routers
Chromebook
Kindle Fire and Nook

2. Strong encryption, good 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.

ExpressVPN encryption

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 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:

Windows
Mac OS
Linux
Routers
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 leaktest 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.

3. No-logs VPN in a safe jurisdiction
ExpressVPN is 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.

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. This is an advantage ExpressVPN has over other leading VPNs, as you can see in the ProtonVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison.

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.

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 noted in the Surfshark review.

4. 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.

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.)

5. Works with Netflix and 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 one of the best VPNs for Netflix for three main reasons:

Good 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 and Amazon Prime. And if you need a VPN for Hulu or streaming Kodi, ExpressVPN works here as well.

Note on BBC iPlayer: We have gotten feedback that ExpressVPN is currently not working well for BBC iPlayer. As an alternative, we’d recommend either NordVPN or Surfshark for this service.

ExpressVPN is also one of the few VPNs for Firestick with a dedicated app you can find in the Amazon App Store.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Secure and reliable 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.

9. 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
10. 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).

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.