When it comes to the best VPN services, there are a handful of names that tower above the rest – and ExpressVPN is undeniably one of the most prominent. With just about every feature newbies and experts alike will need, it's a well-rounded privacy package that's earned its place at the top.
ExpressVPN is based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, and since 2009 it has been delivering a quality, premium VPN service. With one of the widest ranges of server locations and excellent connection speeds, it's designed to work well wherever you are in the world – and its millions of customers appear to be testament to that.
If money is your primary concern, though, ExpressVPN's relatively high prices could put you off. So, in this complete and unbiased ExpressVPN review, I'm going to get under Team Red's skin to see how it justifies that price tag, and how it competes with its closest rivals.
If you're eager to learn about a particular feature, use the navigation menu to jump to a particular section. If you want to know everything there is to know about this VPN, all you need to do is keep scrolling to take in my full, in-depth ExpressVPN review.
ExpressVPN on paper
|Number of servers||3,000+||Row 0 - Cell 2|
|Server countries||94||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|Supported platforms||Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, consoles (MediaStreamer), Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Boxee, Chromebook, Windows Phone||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|Simultaneous connections||5||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|Split tunneling||Yes||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|Kill switch||Yes||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|Protocols supported||Lightway, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|Country of registration||British Virgin Islands||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|Support||24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebase||Row 8 - Cell 2|
ExpressVPN 1-minute review
Starting at a pretty standard $12.95 on a monthly rolling plan, ExpressVPN isn't exactly a bargain in the short-term. However, sign up for a year through Tom's Guide and you'll bag 3 months free, working out at a reasonable $6.67 a month. You'll also get a year of Backblaze cloud storage for free, and a no-quibble 30-day money-back guarantee should the VPN not live up to your standards.
Privacy is high on ExpressVPN's hit-list, and so it should be. You get 256-AES encryption and a 4096-bit RSA certificate, plus a choice of a number of protocols, including the fast and secure Lightway – developed in-house by ExpressVPN.
Over 3,000 servers are available in 94 countries, all of which are RAM-only (known as TrustedServer), meaning none of your data can be physically be stored. Its no-logging policy and apps have been independently audited, backing up the strong claims made on-site.
ExpressVPN isn't the very fastest VPN I've tested, but with a peak of 560Mbps, it's more than fast enough for just about any purpose – and certainly won't slow you down if you're on regular domestic Wi-Fi. In my experience, the connections are also very reliable and rarely, if ever, drop out.
Of the dozens of providers I've tested in-depth, ExpressVPN is one of only five to unblock every streaming service it faced – including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, as well as more niche sites such as 10Play, ITV, Channel 4, and 9Now. Every server is also optimized for torrenting, too.
Not only does ExpressVPN offer tons of apps for various devices, but these apps are invariably well-designed and stable. Whether you're using an iPhone, Windows PC or Amazon Fire Stick, it's the same intuitive experience every time.
However, you'll only be able to have ExpressVPN active on five individual devices at a time, which seems a little stingy when you consider the price. However, to enable an extra device you only have to log out of another, which isn't too much of a hassle in practice. The techier user can also get around this by making the most of ExpressVPN's router VPN prowess – or even purchasing the brand's first hardware product, ExpressVPN Aircove.
With excellent 24/7 support as well as clear, concise written articles, any issues you may have should be cleared up in no time. Overall, no VPN I've tested combines ease-of-use, superb privacy and an excellent customer experience as well as ExpressVPN. While some rivals offer slightly more expert-level features, for the vast majority ExpressVPN is quite simply the best choice.
- Click to head straight through to the ExpressVPN website (opens in new tab)
- Major networks updates, including upgrading 1Gbps servers to 10Gbps, and increasing 4-core servers to 20- or 32-core versions.
- Native Apple Silicon M1/M2 compatibility
- Network Protection (kill switch) added to iOS app
- Launch of the Aircove router and the hardware's Cure53 results
- Router app supports QR code Wi-Fi sharing
- The launch of ExpressVPN Keys (opens in new tab) password manager (free forever, even if you cancel your subscription)
- As always, app updates are released every couple of weeks on average, and the ExpressVPN dev team appears to be one of the busiest in the industry.
ExpressVPN price and payment
|Plan length||Overall cost||Monthly cost|
|12 months||$99.95||$8.32 ($6.67 with Tom's Guide +3 months deal|
Like just about every VPN provider, if you go for a one-month rolling plan you’ll be paying the most – $12.95 to be exact. If I'm honest, this is really only any good for true commitment-phobes, or those signing up to test out the service.
A six-month plan drops the equivalent monthly price to $9.99, and ExpressVPN is one of the few providers to offer a mid-length plan like this. By far the most appealing, though, is the 12-month plan, which works out at $8.32 – or $99.95 for the year.
If you've done your research, you'll know that's hardly a bargain, especially when cheap VPN rivals like Surfshark are offering sub-$3 price points. However, unlike those rivals, ExpressVPN doesn't sneakily ramp up the price when your plan renews.
To sweeten the deal, however, readers of Tom's Guide can save a little more by claiming three months free, which works out at a reasonable $6.67 a month (opens in new tab). It's also worth taking a look at our ExpressVPN promo codes for the latest deals and discounts.
In terms of payment methods, there’s a good selection on offer. Alongside traditional methods like PayPal and credit card, you’ll also be able to use Bitcoin, and other payment providers including AliPay, Yandex Money, WebMoney and more. Most of all, I'm pleased to see Bitcoin support, as this can help make the whole paper trail more difficult to link back to you.
Thankfully, cancellation is straightforward. All you need to do is contact the support team and request your refund, and they will oblige – there’ll be no investigation into how much you’ve used the service, and as long as it’s within the 30 days, you’ll get your money back. That displays impressive confidence on ExpressVPN’s part.
As mentioned earlier, if price is a defining factor for you there may well be better options. For example, at the time of writing Ivacy is offering an admittedly lengthy 5-year plan for just $1 a month. Fellow Kape-owned Private Internet Access is only $2.03 a month on its longest plan.
So, on the face of it, ExpressVPN looks like a pretty pricy product. However, it's refreshing to see a provider not lure new subscribers in with a low base rate and then crank up the price on renewal. What you pay initially is what you'll always pay with ExpressVPN, and that's what I like to see.
Does ExpressVPN have a free trial?
If you fancy a VPN free trial, downloading the Android or iOS VPN app will get you seven days free, and plans of any length can be tested risk-free by making the most of the 30-day money-back guarantee. However, be aware that this chargeback is only available once.
How private is ExpressVPN?
At its core, ExpressVPN employs industry-standard AES-256-CBC encryption alongside HMAC to safeguard against real-time alteration of regular data, and a 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA certificate. In non-technical terms, these are some of the most advanced encryption methods available, and are absolutely uncrackable in real-world circumstances.
What's more, this isn't just lifted from the company's website – when I dug into the OpenVPN config files, every claim was confirmed.
To give you even more protection, Perfect Forward Secrecy is also present, meaning that you’re given a new session key each time you connect, and a new one every 60 minutes after that. That means that even if your connection is somehow compromised, all they’ll get is a maximum of 60 minutes of data before they’re booted.
While the extent of which isn’t made public, ExpressVPN also has a number of obfuscated servers which prove very useful for using it as a China VPN. These servers cloak the fact that you’re using a VPN at all, and can sidestep regional VPN blocks, or even make it useable at places like universities that may restrict VPN use.
ExpressVPN’s Android app has been given the ioXt certification (opens in new tab). That means the design of the app and service has been investigated on a low level, so users can be sure that the software is behaving in the correct way. Undertaking these tests is a tricky task for even the most hardened techie, so this certification is a big green tick in my book.
Finally, in March 2022 ExpressVPN completed an independent audit of its Windows app (opens in new tab), with no critical, high, or medium severity issues discovered. Good stuff.
How secure is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN runs its own zero-knowledge 256-bit encrypted DNS on every one of its servers. This eliminates the need to use the vulnerable OpenDNS or any other third-party DNS services. These third parties are liable to log your DNS requests and, if unencrypted, offer up a handy way for hackers to intercept and alter your requests.
While I can't investigate this in absolute detail, my testing on websites such as IPLeak and DNS Leak Test proved that ExpressVPN indeed does not leak DNS information – and if you want to use it, ExpressVPN provides its own DNS leak test tool (opens in new tab).
A simple and effective kill switch is present, which cuts your internet access in the event that the VPN connection fails, which is very useful for torrenting, or in situations where absolute privacy is paramount. If you didn’t have this, you could be browsing or downloading for hours without realising you were disconnected.
It's enabled by default, and in this round of testing I undertook even more rigorous testing of the feature, including shutting down individual processes and services – but nothing could trip it up.
Finally, we get to the fact that every one of ExpressVPN’s servers is 100% RAM-only. Compared to traditional hard-disk servers, RAM-only servers are physically unable to save information after power-down (even after a complete wipe, data can sometimes still be retrieved from hard drives).
It's true that today, this is common practice amongst almost all VPNs worth their salt, but it's still very much worth pointing out. And, it leads us very well onto…(opens in new tab)
Does ExpressVPN keep logs?
ExpressVPN seems confident enough in its reputation to not plaster its homepage with claims of zero logging – which, I've found with other VPNs, isn't always true anyway. You’ll have to head to the right page to find out.
On its "What is VPN (opens in new tab)" page, ExpressVPN claims that: "privacy is a fundamental right. We don’t keep connection or activity logs, and we never share your details with anyone."
What’s more, to clarify this you’ll find a simple, effective no-logging statement (opens in new tab) that's written in plain English (you’ll see that this is something ExpressVPN does very well later on, too).
ExpressVPN does not keep track of the IP address used to connect, your login time, the IP you’re assigned, any of your traffic, or any information concerning the pages you visit.
However, there are still some minimal logs kept, namely the date (not time) of when you connect, your server choice, the amount of data transferred, and the version number of your client. Without the time, IP, or browsing data though, it’s impossible to use this to link any action taken on the web to any specific ExpressVPN user.
Another positive is that fact ExpressVPN is based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands. The BVI has no laws requiring companies based there to submit data to the UK or US, and it’s also not part of either the 5 Eyes or 14 Eyes alliances. This, combined with the fact Express logs no personally identifiable data and is very clear about what it does keep track of, makes for pleasing reading for the privacy-conscious.
However, don’t take my word for it – ExpressVPN has been independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (opens in new tab), and while I'm not permitted to quote from the report, it is freely available to read for anyone (opens in new tab).
How fast is ExpressVPN?
Connection speeds are absolutely crucial for ensuring hassle-free usage of a VPN, and even the most privacy-focused user will demand rapid loading of websites alongside rock-solid protection.
When I tested ExpressVPN on an uncontested 1Gbps connection, the results were impressive. When using Express's in-house Lightway protocol, I saw speeds of around 560Mbps. That's more than fast enough to cope with the vast majority of domestic connections – meaning in practice your ISP will likely be the limiting factor when it comes to speed, not ExpressVPN.
OpenVPN speeds are also impressive, with the old faithful protocol reliably delivering 355Mbps – again, plenty fast enough for just about anyone.
ExpressVPN isn't quite the fastest VPN on the market though – in fact, when it comes to peak speeds, it's decidedly mid-pack.
Big-name rivals Surfshark (950Mbps) and NordVPN (820Mbps) outstrip ExpressVPN with their WireGuard-based protocols. Smaller player TorGuard also delivered blistering speeds of 950Mbps.
Of course, it's worth noting that different servers, different ISPs, different times of the day, and myriad other factors will all have an effect on the speeds you personally will see from any VPN. However, my testing aims to deliver a good baseline so users can make a more informed decision on which provider to choose.
Here, I think ExpressVPN's performance proves that while it's not the very fastest, speed certainly isn't a factor on which to discount this so far very impressive service.(opens in new tab)
How good is ExpressVPN for streaming?
|Netflix||Working (UK, US, CA, AU, JP)|
One of the best-known VPN uses is unblocking streaming content on Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and many more. I test all the VPNs I review with these, as well as smaller services that frequently offer free streams if popular sporting events and entertainment like Australia's 10Play.
ExpressVPN isn’t shy – its website overtly states which services you’ll be able to unblock (hint: it’s pretty much all of them). This can only be good news, as it means the provider is essentially holding itself to these claims, and using them as direct selling points.
When I tested these services, ExpressVPN was one of the only providers to come out of the process with a clean sheet. For almost all services, any selected server in the correct country was able to access the respective streaming site. ExpressVPN is an excellent Amazon Prime VPN, and every time I tested the service, I was able to watch US content. As a BBC iPlayer VPN it's also very effective, with a clean sweep of access over five tests.
Around a year ago, Netflix made a huge change to the way it detects and blocks IP addresses, and since then success rates have plummeted. However, ExpressVPN is still one of the best Netflix VPN services around.
In my testing, 3 of the 5 servers I randomly selected were able to unblock US content. Other locations like the UK, Canada, Japan and Australia were equally as successful.
I'll explore ExpressVPN's support in more detail below, but I've found them incredibly useful in diagnosing and solving issues with streaming. After completing my random tests, I spoke to a live chat agent to see what they recommended. They provided me with a list of servers which all unblocked what I needed. So, if you're having an issue, a solution is only a few messages away.
Also, it’s worth noting that ExpressVPN has a dedicated Smart DNS function called MediaStreamer, which lets users streaming on non-VPN supporting devices like Smart TVs and game consoles switch location and watch geo-blocked content. Out of the VPNs that offer Smart DNS (and not all do), ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer is probably the easiest to use.
How good is ExpressVPN for torrenting?
While not hugely publicised on the website, every VPN server ExpressVPN offers is optimized for P2P sharing – which is more than most other providers can say. That means there’s no faffing around trying to find a torrenting server, because whichever one you choose will be suitable.
If you find other applications affected by ExpressVPN, you’ll also be able to activate split tunneling. This allows you to separate the traffic from certain apps – in this case your torrent client – and direct that through the VPN while leaving the rest of your inter use unaffected.
There are also no caps on data transfer, and you’ll never have your connection throttled. Plus, the excellent privacy and security features, alongside Bitcoin support and no activity logs make ExpressVPN an excellent option if you’re looking for a torrenting VPN.(opens in new tab)
How easy is it to install ExpressVPN?
For many people, setting up a VPN can be a daunting experience, but ExpressVPN has quite effectively taken the stress out of it.
Unlike most providers, to download ExpressVPN you’ll have to sign up and make an account first. However, once you’ve done that, the process is very simple.
From the homepage, ExpressVPN will detect your system OS and direct you towards the version it thinks you need – and in my experience it’s always been correct. If you want to download a different version, you can also select that from the navigation bar at the top of the site.
Incidentally, these pages are far more than just, say, links to the Google Play Store. You can go there if you want, but you can also download the .APK files for the Android VPN version, and even use a QR code to email yourself a setup link.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the app on whatever device you’re using, you’ll be prompted to verify with an activation code. Thanks to this you don’t need to enter your login details, which is more welcome than you’d think – and I'd welcome this method for just about any app that needs verification to use, not just VPNs.
If you’d prefer to use a different client, you can do this easily by using Express’s OVPN configuration files.(opens in new tab)
How good are ExpressVPN's desktop apps?
The bread and butter of any VPN service, desktop VPN apps should be simple, clear, and give you access to everything you’ll want to do in a couple of clicks. ExpressVPN does not disappoint.
With an initially simple interface, you’ll see the automatically chosen Smart Location plus a huge, inviting on/off button. If you just want to get protected and forget about it, all you need to do is click that button.
Clicking the selected location brings up a list and search box for choosing a different server, and the app also allows you to choose favorites and displays your three most recent servers. You’ll also be able to connect to your last three locations through a system tray icon on Windows, and the menu bar on Mac, without opening the app.
There's little in the way of information about the health of any particular server – compared to, say, Proton VPN or IPVanish's stats – but a built-in speed test is also easily available and can give you exact data on whatever servers you wish.
Open settings, and you’ll have a choice of protocols, including Lightway, OpenVPN UDP, and OpenVPN TCP, as well as IKEv2 on Mac (Windows support for this protocol has been dropped). You can toggle the reliable kill switch from here, alongside IPv6 leak protection and DNS settings.
On Windows you'll also get access to split tunneling, which allows you to select which apps route through the VPN and which don’t. The lack of a kill switch in the Mac app is really the only significant omission that separates the two clients
The Mac app pokes its nose ahead of the Windows offering with support for the new Threat Manager, which blocks ads, trackers, and malware-infected sites. Overall, though, both the Windows and Mac apps are simple, slick, and are quite simply some of the best-designed VPN interfaces on the market today.(opens in new tab)
How good are ExpressVPN's mobile apps?
In terms of interfaces, both the Android and iOS apps are very similar to the desktop versions – and both are available from their respective apps stores. Setup is super simple on both systems, and all you need to do is enter your login details and accept a couple of permissions.
In short, they're much simpler to set up and use than much of the competition, and in my experience they've been incredibly reliable, too.
Both versions include some interesting extra utilities beyond VPN protection, including an IP address checker, a WebRTC leak tester, and a password generator.
Creating a favorites list on Android is very slick, but may be easily missed. All you need to do is swipe right on your chosen server – just like queueing a song on Spotify – and it's added. A landscape mode on Android is also welcome, thanks to the prevalence of Android-based tablets.
You'll also get a 'Protection Summary', which outlines your recent usage, current location, IP address and the like. It's an interesting addition for sure, and the IP info is great. However, I – and I'm sure almost all other users – will have very little interest in finding out which day of the week I spend the most time connected to my VPN.
The iOS version has a couple of limitations thanks to the OS. You don’t get split tunneling – which the Android version has – but since my last review ExpressVPN has finally managed to integrate a kill switch-like feature called 'Network Protection'. This is by far the biggest and best update for iOS in the last year, and it's very welcome – especially considering most rivals still lack this functionality.
Threat Manager is now also available on the iOS client. This blocks trackers and malicious websites, and is a welcome addition. However, if this is a deal-breaker, I still wouldn't absolutely rely on it as dedicated tools are likely to provide a more comprehensive suite of functions.
Finally, on iOS ExpressVPN has implemented something called Parallel Connections. It's a little complex to explain, but in layman's terms, when a VPN connects to a server it typically tries to do so in one manner at a time. If one fails, it will try a second method. Parallel Connections tries everything at once, meaning you're never slowed down by the first method failing. And, on my iPhone, I've never waited longer than a second or two since its implementation to get protected. Learn more from ExpressVPN's blog on Parallel Connections (opens in new tab).
While they lack some niche expert features such as the ability to set your preferred DNS servers, ExpressVPN’s mobile apps are powerful, well designed and, importantly, incredibly easy to use. A select few other providers offer marginally more in-depth apps, but unless you’re genuinely going to miss power-user features like DNS customization, ExpressVPN delivers arguably the best mobile VPN apps on the market.(opens in new tab)
How good is ExpressVPN's browser extension?
ExpressVPN also offers a useful browser extension, available for both Chrome and Firefox. And, unlike some competitors, it’s not a simple proxy – this is a full-blown VPN in your browser. While this does mean you’ll have to have the standalone client installed as well, it does give you some serious added benefits.
In effect, it means you don’t have to switch between windows to change settings (again, more useful that you might think), but there are a few extra bonuses. Firstly, the extension will enforce HTTPS Everywhere, prevent HTML5 geolocation from revealing your true location, and it also blocks WebRTC leaks.
While the extension doesn’t offer everything the app does (no favorites, for example), it’s a useful addition. In fact, I've found that throughout my extended use of ExpressVPN, I often only use the Chrome extension, and rarely fire up the app proper itself. For quickly accessing blocked Netflix shows or checking overseas pricing, it's a massive timesaver.
However, many users of Chrome VPN extensions (and browser VPNs as a whole) use them because they don’t want to install a true VPN client on their PC – and in this case, ExpressVPN’s browser add-on won’t fit the bill. But, in terms of features, it’s one of the very best.
ExpressVPN Aircove router
A first in the industry, in late 2022 ExpressVPN launched a hardware product: ExpressVPN Aircove. Essentially, Aircove is a Wi-Fi 6 router with a custom backend, accessible through the Aircove website (opens in new tab).
This allows users to avoid the laborious task of setting up a VPN on a router manually (even though ExpressVPN leads the charge with its router app anyway). It offers interesting features such as device groups, protection for otherwise incompatible Wi-Fi connected devices like a Ring doorbell, family-friendly restrictions, and – most appealingly – a way around the measly 5-device limit.
Audited by Cure53 and priced at $189.90 and only available at Amazon (opens in new tab), it's very interesting, but likely to have limited appeal. However, it certainly shows a level of innovation not seen anywhere else in the industry. Stay tuned for our full Aircove review soon.
What customer support does ExpressVPN offer?
It has become the norm for VPN providers to offer seriously comprehensive customer support, and due to the the software's rise into the mainstream, many less techy users may be having issues that previously were simply considered par for the course – think server upsets or lost streaming access.
And as has been the case for a number of years now, ExpressVPN offers some of the best support out of any of the VPN I've tested, from written guides to knowledgeable live-chat agents.
Your first port of call should be ExpressVPN’s encyclopaedic raft of articles and setup guides, which cover topics as varied as remedying connections that drop out, setting up the VPN on a router, how to cancel your account and how to set up MediaStreamer.
These articles don’t go on for thousands of words, but they’re not too brief either – you’ll get the background info necessary to understand the problem, and then the steps you need to take to resolve it. Each app also has a dedicated setup guide, and I'm quite comfortable saying they’re the best-written FAQ articles from any VPN.
If you don’t want to search through that, though, you’ll want to hop on the 24/7 live chat – and boy, are they good. I asked a whole bunch of admittedly geeky questions, and each time a real person replied within minutes – it was evident I wasn't talking to a bot.
Even if you think you might not need this sort of support, it’s incredibly useful when you come up against an issue that you can’t work out yourself – or can’t be bothered to do the digging around to resolve yourself. Plus, they can also tell you the best servers at any given point to use to access blocked Netflix locations, and that’s a really useful tool in itself.
Should you buy ExpressVPN?
Almost every aspect of ExpressVPN is absolutely top-tier, and there's a reason why it's so highly recommend across the internet. And, although in a few areas it doesn't have absolutely market-leading stats on paper (number of servers, peak connection speeds, ultra-configurable apps), there's not a single area where I think there's room for essential improvement.
It's great for streaming, is super secure, and an absolute pleasure to use. As a package, and for just about every regular user, ExpressVPN is quite simply the best on the market.
Sign up to ExpressVPN if:
- You want one of the most private and secure VPNs on the market
- You need access to every streaming service worldwide
- You want a wide range of apps for a huge number of devices
- You're looking for the best VPN for routers
- You need a free password manager
- You're intimidated by VPNs and want an intuitive piece of software
- You're looking for a bargain-basement price-point
- You need more than 5 simultaneous connections
- You absolutely need speeds above 600Mbps
- You require niche features like DNS server selection or port forwarding