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ExpressVPN review

ExpressVPN is our highest-rated VPN – here's how it earned that accolade

ExpressVPN review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © ExpressVPN)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Despite huge competition, ExpressVPN remains the very best VPN that we've tested. Its apps are user-friendly, stable, and packed with features, it delivers great speeds across the board, is backed up by serious privacy and security features, and is one of the very best for unblocking streaming sites. All that adds up to a VPN service that more than earns its premium price tag.

Pros

  • +

    Plenty of servers and locations

  • +

    Class-leading app design

  • +

    Lightway protocol delivers excellent speeds

  • +

    Excellent support team

Cons

  • -

    More expensive than some alternatives

  • -

    Only five simultaneous connections per plan

In the world of the best VPN services, there are a handful of names that tower above the rest – and ExpressVPN is indisputably one of them. 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 a product that'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 our complete and unbiased ExpressVPN review, we get under Team Red's skin to see whether it's worth the outlay, and how it matches up with its rivals.

If you’re interested in a particular aspect of ExpressVPN, you can jump to the following sections by clicking the navigation bar at the top of the page. If not, then just keep scrolling for our full, in-depth ExpressVPN review.

ExpressVPN 1-minute review

ExpressVPN starts at a pretty standard $12.95 on a monthly rolling plan, but Tom's guide readers can claim three months free, dropping the price to a reasonable $6.67 a month. That's not hugely cheap, but the addition of 12 months of cloud backup Backblaze certainly sweetens the deal. Plus, a 30-day money-back guarantee means you can test it out risk free if you're not sure.

In terms of privacy, ExpressVPN has you more than covered. As well as industry-standard 256-AES encryption plus a 4096-bit RSA certificate, and you'll have a choice of a number of protocols, including the fast and secure Lightway – developed in-house by ExpressVPN. All 3,000+ of the provider's servers are RAM-only (known as TrustedServer), meaning none of your data can be physically be stored. Plus, its no-logging policy and apps have been independently audited, backing up the strong claims made on-site.

While not the absolute fastest provider we've tested, ExpressVPN is definitely in the top tier when it come to connection speeds. In our most recent testing (April 2022), it delivered speeds of 630Mbps. That's more than fast enough for just about any domestic internet connection, and they're also supremely reliable, with no drop-outs throughout our extensive review procedure.

That’s good news, since it’s great for unblocking pretty much every streaming provider we tried too – regional Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more. And, P2P sharers will be pleased as every server is optimized for torrenting – although the website seems to keep it pretty quiet.

With apps for tons of different platforms, ExpressVPN proves to be a good choice whether you're using an Amazon Fire Stick, iPhone, Apple TV, or just your garden-variety PC. You’ll also get access to a dedicated router app, a Linux client, and MediaStreamer (Smart DNS) support for games consoles. All of these are easy to use and powerful with in-depth setup guides. 

The limit of five devices is something of a drawback, and disappointing considering the price. Another small gripe is that while the browser extension is powerful, it relies on having ExpressVPN installed on your PC or Mac – not great for those looking for a browser extension to avoid just that.

However, with excellent support – both written articles and 24/7 live chat – any issues you have should be sorted easily, and if we’re honest, few VPNs offer everything ExpressVPN does in one package, and none do it as well.

Keen to get stuck into the nitty-gritty details of ExpressVPN? Just keep scrolling, as we’ve got everything you need to know, right here.

ExpressVPN review

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Latest updates

Since our last review, ExpressVPN has released a number of appealing new features.

Threat Manager blocks ads, malware-infected sites, and trackers, and is available on iOS, Mac, and Linux – with other platforms in the works.

Parallel Connections is a very welcome performance upgrade, which sees ExpressVPN connect in under a second in most situations. In short, the app has a number of ways it can establish a connection. Previously, it would try these in sequence, moving on to the next when one method failed. Parallel Connections means that it tries them at the same time, connecting with whichever is successful first. This feature is only available on iOS, but other platforms are in development. 

A couple of legacy features have been removed from ExpressVPN's apps, notably the speed test, and IKEv2 and L2TP support on Windows – not a huge issue for anyone, really. 

It's now easier to cancel your subscription from within the iOS app.

The most recent addition to the app, however, is ExpressVPN Keys (opens in new tab). Still in beta, Keys is the VPN's in-house password manager. On some platforms you'll need to sign up as a beta tester, but you won't need to install anything – it's all done through the VPN app.

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. Keep squashing those bugs, fellas.

ExpressVPN on paper

Number of servers: 3,000+
Number of countries:
94
Platforms supported:
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, consoles (MediaStreamer), Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Boxee, Chromebook, Windows Phone
Simultaneous connections:
Five
Split tunneling:
Yes
Kill switch:
Yes
Supported protocols:
Lightway, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2
Country of registration:
British Virgin Islands
Support:
24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebase

ExpressVPN review - homepage

Take a look at ExpressVPN's shiny new rebrand! (Image credit: ExpressVPN)
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ExpressVPN price: how much is it, and is there an ExpressVPN free trial?

To start off, let’s look at the numbers – an area in which plenty of potential users will make up their minds.

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 we’re honest, this is really only any good for true commitment-phobes, or those signing up to test out the service.

Sign up for six months and you’ll see that price drop to $9.99, which isn’t bad, but it’s still fairly expensive compared to other providers. ExpressVPN is one of the only providers to offer a mid-length plan like this, though, so we’re sure it’ll appeal to some users.

You’ll get the best value if you sign up for a year, and without any deals or discounts you’ll be paying $8.32 a month – which, overall, works out at $99.95 a year. That’s still substantially more expensive than cheap VPN providers like Surfshark, whose longest plan dips under $2.50 a month. However, if you sign up through Tom’s Guide, you’ll be able to claim three months free on any 12-month plan, which takes the monthly cost down to a much more reasonable $6.67.

It’s also worth noting that other cheaper providers may crank up the price upon renewal. If you’re in it for the long haul, your ExpressVPN outlay will stay the same for an indefinite amount of time (sans the three months free, of course), whereas providers like NordVPN and Surfshark offer admittedly tasty introductory offers, but increase to prices similar to or even more than ExpressVPN after the first term’s up.

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, we’re pleased to see Bitcoin support, as this can help make the whole paper trail more difficult to link back to you.

If you fancy a VPN free trial, downloading the Android or iOS 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 – be aware that this chargeback is only available once, though.

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.

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 we like to see.

How private is Expressvpn? ExpressVPN review

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How private is ExpressVPN?

Privacy is at the heart of any VPN worth its salt, and we've seen enough flimsy promises and lacklustre tech in our time to be fooled by marketing jargon. Here, we explore exactly what ExpressVPN packs under the hood.

To kick off – and be forewarned that we’re getting technical here – ExpressVPN uses a 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA certificate, employs industry-standard AES-256-CBC to encrypt its control channel and HMAC to safeguard against real-time alteration of regular data. When we inspected the OpenVPN config files, we confirmed this was absolutely the case.

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 are 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 yourself is a tricky task, so this certification is a big green tick in our books.

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 we investigate this in absolute detail, our 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, the apps also provide a DNS checker tool, too.

You’ll also get a simple and effective kill switch to cut your internet in the event that your VPN-protected connection fails, which is very useful for torrenting. If you didn’t have this, you could be browsing or downloading for hours without realising you were disconnected.

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). This follows VPN best practice to a tee, and leads us very well onto…

How fast is ExpressVPN review

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Does ExpressVPN keep logs?

ExpressVPN seems confident enough in its reputation to not plaster its homepage with claims of zero logging. You’ll have to head to the right page to find out.

On its What is VPN (opens in new tab)’ page, you’ll find out that ExpressVPN believes 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) written in plain English (you’ll see that this is something ExpressVPN does very well later on, too).

You’ll see that 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, just like competitor Surfshark. 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 our word for it – ExpressVPN has been independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (opens in new tab), and while we’re 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 hitch-free usage of a VPN, and even the most privacy-focused user will demand rapid loading alongide rock-solid protection. 

With the introduction of truly modern protocols like WireGuard and Lightway, we're seeing countless VPN providers send their connection speeds through the roof, and while peak speeds are very impressive across the board on paper, they're becoming a little meaningless in practice. We all want the fastest VPN, though, and ExpressVPN is keeping up with the best of them.

To briefly summarize our methodology, we used a Windows 10 machine to connect ExpressVPN to the nearest location (US and UK). To test the speeds we used a number of different speed test sites and services, and we noted down at least five results from each. We repeated the process three times, using OpenVPN and Lightway.

Starting off on our 1Gbps US line, ExpressVPN’s OpenVPN connections were impressive, delivering speeds of around 385Mbps. That's slightly better than our last test results, and although a couple of providers were marginally faster (Hide.me at 415Mbps and ProtonVPN at 440Mbps), it's safe to say ExpressVPN delivers some of the fastest OpenVPN connections around.

When using Lightway, speeds shot up to 630Mbps, which is comparable to most other services' WireGuard speeds. Some, such as ProtonVPN, CyberGhost, and IPVanish deliver faster connections still, but for the average user on average home Wi-Fi, there will be no discernible difference in performance.

Can ExpressVPN unblock netflix - ExpressVPN review

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How good is ExpressVPN for streaming?

One of the best-known VPN uses is unblocking streaming content on Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and many more.

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.

We tested the top services – Netflix, Amazon, iPlayer, and Disney+ - from a selection servers worldwide.

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, reliably unblocking Netflix with a number of servers. 

We'll explore ExpressVPN's support in more detail below, but we've found them incredibly useful in diagnosing and solving issues with streaming. When we had an issue with one server, the live chat agent told us exactly which alternative to use – and it did. 

ExpressVPN is also an excellent Amazon Prime VPN, and every time we used the service, we were able to watch US content. As a BBC iPlayer VPN it's also very effective, with a clean sweep of access over five tests.

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 (opens in new tab) 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 review

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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 (opens in new tab) 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 it’s always been correct in our experience. 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 (opens in new tab) 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 that’s all there is to it.

If you’d prefer to use a different client, you can do this easily by using Express’s OVPN configuration files.

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 will bring up a list and search box for choosing a different server, and the app also allows you to choose favorites and displays your two 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.

You won’t find much information about the health of any particular server from the server list, 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 has been dropped. You can toggle the reliable kill switch from here, alongside IPv6 leak protection and DNS settings. You also get access to split tunneling, which allows you to select which apps route through the VPN and which don’t.

The Mac app pokes its nose ahead of the Windows offering with support for the new Threat Protection, which blocks ads, trackers, and malware-infected sites – but unfortunately split tunneling isn't available for MacOS users. Overall, though, Both the Windows and Mac apps are simple, slick, and definitely feel premium to use.

ExpressVPN iphone app - ExpressVPN review

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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 just requires you to enter your login details and accept a couple of permissions.

Both versions include some interesting extra utilities beyond VPN protection, including an IP address checker, a DNS leak tester, a WebRTC leak tester, and a password generator.

The iOS version has a couple of limitations thanks to the OS. You don’t get split tunneling or a kill switch – both of which the Android version has – but you do get the option of automatic reconnection, which is as close to a kill switch as iOS will allow. It’s not perfect, but it’s about as good as we’re going to get with Apple’s software for now.

While they lack some other expert features such as the ability to set your preferred DNS servers, ExpressVPN’s mobile apps are powerful, well designed and, importantly, easy to use. We’ve seen some others provide marginally more in-depth apps, but unless you’re genuinely going to miss DNS customization, these mobile versions will be more than enough.

How good is ExpressVPN's browser extension? ExpressVPN review

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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 that you may or may not want to use. We certainly welcome the choice.

However, many users of Chrome VPN extensions (opens in new tab) (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.

What customer support does ExpressVPN offer?

While ExpressVPN has proven to be very stable in our experience, like any complex software, problems can crop up – from server upsets to lost Netflix access. This is when it’s important to have an experienced customer support team on hand when you need it the most.

Your first port of call should 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 we’re 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. We asked a whole bunch of admittedly geeky questions, and each time a real person replied within minutes – it was evident we weren’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 – 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.

Final verdict

Almost every aspect of ExpressVPN is absolutely top-tier, and there's a reason why it's so highly recommend across the internet. It's quick and easy to use, offers class-leading privacy and protection, and is even great for streaming with.

And it ought to be – if it lacked any area, we'd immediately be drawn to the above-average ticket price. But, as it stands, ExpressVPN is well worth every penny. If you want the very best, we think this is it.

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.

  • gadfly_mta
    Why is it in all your reviews for Express VPN you never mention their Chief Information Officer Daniel Gerick who use to work for the UAE helping them spy on critics? Gizmodo, Snowden and many others have covered this story and recommend not using them. Your failure to mention it while recommending it as one of the best VPNs seems a little odd. If you have any integrity at all you will address this and stop taking money to recommend them

    https://gizmodo.com/you-should-probably-stop-using-expressvpn-1847739547https://www.techradar.com/news/edward-snowden-warns-expressvpn-users-to-ditch-the-service-immediatelyhttps://www.vice.com/en/article/jg87p4/expressvpn-employees-ask-questions-project-raven
    Reply