ExpressVPN is the best VPN service we've tested at Tom's Guide. And we've tested a lot of them.
The best way to protect your sensitive information online and gain access to services unavailable in your region is through a virtual private network (VPN). One of the best, if not the best, is ExpressVPN, a VPN provider based in the British Virgin Islands.
Good things rarely come cheap and ExpressVPN is the perfect example. There are three pricing options: 1-month, 6-month, and 1-year. The yearly subscription is billed $99.95 or the equivalent of $8.32 per month. The half-year option costs $9.99 per month ($59.95 billed every six months). The most expensive and least advisable is the monthly option that is charged $12.95 every month.
If you don’t wish to continue using the service, you can ask for a refund within 30 days after the payment. This policy applies to all subscription plans. It is also a fair alternative to a free trial since ExpressVPN doesn’t have one. It instead guarantees you will get a full refund regardless of the reason for the discontinuation.
Whichever subscription you decide on, you’ll have a wide range of payment methods at your disposal - credit cards, Paypal, Bitcoin, UnionPay, Webmoney, Alipay… the list goes on.
Not only does ExpressVPN have clients for Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, Linux, Nook, Chromebook, and Kindle Fire, but it also offers configuration files, firmware, and instruction manuals for routers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and so forth. It also offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
All the native apps are outstandingly easy to install and navigate. The service can be used on up to five devices at the same time, and installing it on a supported router will extend the coverage to a virtually unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
What you get
ExpressVPN has an enormous server network spread all over the world, covering more than 3,000 servers in 160 cities across 94 countries.
It unblocks the most popular streaming channels like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, ESPN, DAZN, Showtime, and SkyGO, as well as the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and other websites censored by authoritarian regimes.
As expected, ExpressVPN also supports file exchange via torrenting clients without the risk of your metadata and location being exposed to outsiders. All of the provider’s servers are P2P-friendly and there are no limitations on bandwidth or speed.
The apps employ a kill switch or a ‘Network Lock’, a useful mechanism that instantly terminates your whole Internet access if the VPN connection is interrupted, successfully preventing your data from being leaked to any inquisitive entities.
ExpressVPN's clients are also equipped with the split-tunneling feature that separates your apps into those you want to run with VPN only and those you want to leave on the regular Internet connection.
ExpressVPN uses only the best security mechanisms to safeguard your privacy. This includes the super-strong AES-256-CBC encryption protocol, as well as the Hash Message Authentication Code (HMAC) for the prevention of real-time regular data alterations. The transfer protocols employed by the apps include OpenVPN (UDP and TCP), L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP.
The company also manages its own zero-knowledge 256-bit DNS on each server, which means that your traffic is safe from attackers intercepting it, blocking it, and more - a risk that unencrypted DNS entails.
ExpressVPN has recently introduced an innovative VPN server technology called TrustedServer. It relies on RAM instead of hard drives and ensures all of the VPN servers run the most up-to-date software, minimizing the risk of vulnerabilities and misconfiguration. As a result, this significantly increases VPN security.
Privacy is also guaranteed by the strict no-logging policy. The company’s website states that it does not and will never log any traffic destination or metadata, DNS queries, IP addresses (neither source or VPN), browsing history, or any other information that could be connected to you.
On the other hand, it collects minimal information about the usage of its services like apps and app versions successfully activated, dates (not times) when you connected to the VPN, which server you used, and the total amount of data transferred per day.
With most providers you just have to take their word for guarantees such as the no-logs one, but ExpressVPN is a whole different story. This VPN vendor has opened its doors to an independent firm which conducted an audit of its privacy technologies and confirmed their quality.
If that isn’t enough, its location should be. The headquarters are in the British Virgin Islands, a place with no laws demanding data retention and outside the watchful gaze of governments with a less favorable stance on data privacy.
Performance-wise, ExpressVPN ticks all the right boxes. There are no connection failures or latencies, the apps connect quickly and download speeds are exceedingly fast, with some of the more distant locations delivering lower speeds, which is normal.
The support section has troubleshooting guides, instruction manuals for setting up the service, as well as providing you with other options for getting assistance. These include sending an email and opening a support ticket. Needless to say, a live chat option is available on the website and allows you to reach a helpful customer support agent within seconds. Support is available 24/7
ExpressVPN also excels in the support for both its customers and those still window-shopping. The website has a blog where you can find out all the information and updates relating to the provider and the VPN industry in general.
ExpressVPN is the epitome of ideal VPN service. It provides everything you expect of an expensive privacy service plus more. Its service is almost impeccable in terms of speed and security, and it facilitates access to private torrenting and streaming popular TV shows that aren’t available in some parts of the world.
The good news continues elsewhere, with ExpressVPN delivering in almost every area. 256-bit tunneling with industrial-strength encryption? Check. P2P support? Yep. Netflix unblocking? Naturally. Split tunneling? No problem! Kill switch, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, solid and reliable performance and a clear no-logging policy? You’ve got it.
(ed: As of May 2019, ExpressVPN has an integrated kill switch in its Android and iOS app)
The ExpressVPN service is hosted in the British Virgin Islands, which is notable for its lack of data retention laws. This VPN provider takes privacy seriously with the promise of “no activity logs” and “no connection logs,” which is a hard to beat policy for its VPN rivals.
There are also useful VPN tools on the ExpressVPN website. These make it easy to check what your IP is, perform a DNS leak test, or a WebRTC leak test. Doing these before installing the VPN, and then repeating them with ExpressVPN running, can verify that the VPN is installed, working properly, and providing the full benefit of its protection. That ExpressVPN provides these tools shows that the company is willing to show users exactly how well its VPN service really works.
Downsides? Thy only real fly in the ointment to bear in mind is that - thanks to its quality - ExpressVPN commands a premium price tag for the monthly subscription, which is partially offset by the discounts provided for longer subscriptions. That said, for those who want a speedy service, crammed with top-notch features that support just about every device out there, with all the 24/7 support you need to help you use them, and with almost too many options for payment, ExpressVPN will be a great fit.
ExpressVPN’s performance got off to a great start with a very fast initial connection time. However, it was overall lackluster with slower download speeds, and a higher latency than some other services. In addition, it has frequent reconnects in some locations, and not the fastest upload speed.
Verdict and Conclusion
Overall, ExpressVPN is a strong entry into the crowded VPN space. For those willing to pay the price, this full-featured VPN provides a speedy connection, at the highest level of security, with support for just about any device that a user would need a VPN for. For these reasons, ExpressVPN should easily make it onto the shortlist of top VPN providers to consider.
Client software platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, Nook, routers, Playstation
Native supported platforms: All of the above, plus Chromebook, Windows Phone, Proxy service (not VPN) available for game consoles, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Boxee
Supported protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP
No. of servers: 3000+
No. of countries: 94
Country of registration: British Virgin Islands
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, AliPay, GiroPay, WebMoney
Real name necessary? No
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no. of simultaneously connected devices: Five
Customer support: 24/7 chat and email