ExpressVPN review 2023

ExpressVPN review 2023
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ExpressVPN is at the top of our list of best VPNs in 2023. It’s one of the safest VPNs to use and with all the great features it offers, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to protect their online identity. Some may find it a bit expensive, but with all the premium features it comes with, ExpressVPN has sufficient grounds to justify the high price tag.

Everything you need in a good VPN, ExpressVPN has it. Features such as kill switch, split tunneling, DNS leak protection, and multiple VPN protocols can be easily enabled. It gives faster speeds than other VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark. Most of the time, you won’t even notice that you’re using a VPN. You can use it to unblock geo-restricted content in 94 countries and you can even use it to bypass China’s Great Firewall.

ExpressVPN specifications

ExpressVPN has tons of great features that make it stand out, with its proprietary protocol Lightway being the most notable one. To save you some time, we’ve made a table that summarizes all the important features of ExpressVPN. Here are the specifications that make ExpressVPN stand out:

Number of servers Over 3000 in 94 countries
Location British Virgin Islands (Non-4/9/14 Eyes member)
Encryption Military-grade 256-bit AES
VPN protocols Lightway and OpenVPN
Bypass China’s Great Firewall Yes
Streaming capabilities Supports major platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, and HBO
Logging No-log policy
Price Yearly package costs $6.67 per month
Money-back guarantee 30 days
Website expressvpn.com

ExpressVPN short overview

To save you time, we’ve summarized our review of ExpressVPN. You can quickly read our analysis below:

Pros

  • Strict no-log policy – ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, which isn’t a member of the 14 Eyes alliances. It doesn’t have any obligation to hand over user data to any third party and there have been external audits which have proved the VPN service’s no-log claims.
  • Advanced security features – With military-grade encryption and tons of other advanced security features like kill switch, split tunneling, and Threat Manager, you can rest assured that your online data will be safe and secure with ExpressVPN.
  • Large number of servers – There aren’t a lot of popular VPNs that have their server network spread out in so many countries. ExpressVPN has over 3000 servers in 94 countries, giving you a variety of different regions to stream content from. Compare this with NordVPN, which has 5000 servers in 54 countries.
  • Supports major streaming platforms – Whether you’re traveling or just want to enjoy some foreign content, ExpressVPN has got your back. It supports almost every major streaming platform like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer. You’ll get extremely fast speeds even when you’re connected to distant servers.
  • Free trial version for smartphones – Unlike its rival company NordVPN, ExpressVPN offers a free 7-day trial version on both iOS and Android phones. If you want to use it on desktop only, you’ll get a 30-day money-back guarantee with your purchase so you can try the VPN and get a refund within 30 days if you don’t enjoy using it.
  • Consistent app design – When you switch from desktop to smartphone, you’ll notice that ExpressVPN has a consistent aesthetic and design. The app is incredibly minimalistic and we love the uniform design. 

Cons

  • Expensive – ExpressVPN has a hefty price tag attached to it. The yearly package, which comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and 3 months free usage, costs $6.67 per month. Compare this with the yearly package of NordVPN, which costs $4.49 per month and offers the same features.

ExpressVPN how does it compare to other VPNs

There are many other VPNs on the market that perform just as well as ExpressVPN. Here’s a tstable to help you understand the differences between ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark:

  ExpressVPN NordVPN Surfshark
Number of servers 3000+ in 94 countries 5000+ in 54 countries 3200+ in 100 countries
Location British Virgin Islands Panama The Netherlands (14-Eyes member)
Encryption 256-bit AES encryption 256-bit AES encryption 256-bit AES encryption
No-logs policy Independently audited and proven in court Independently audited Independently audited
Number of simultaneous connections 5 devices 6 devices Unlimited devices
VPN protocols Lightway and OpenVPN NordLynx (WireGuard) and OpenVPN WireGuard and OpenVPN
Torrenting Yes Yes Yes
Streaming platforms Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and more Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and more Netflix, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more
Money-back guarantee 30 days 30 days 30 days
Free trial Android and iOS Only Android Android, iOS, and macOS
Price (yearly package) $6.69 per month $4.49 per month $3.99 per month

Speed – is ExpressVPN fast?

We’ve tested plenty of VPNs and we’ve found ExpressVPN to be one of the fastest VPN services. The company has its proprietary VPN protocol called Lightway. Not only is the protocol open-source, but it also gives faster speeds and better protection than other protocols.

Using the Lightway protocol will give you faster speeds than other popular VPNs like NordVPN and Surfshark, though there doesn’t seem to be a big difference when you use the OpenVPN protocol.

We tested ExpressVPN on our 100 Mbps connection on servers in the US and the UK and compared the speeds with NordVPN. ExpressVPN performed much better, even when connected to distant servers. It also gave better speeds when streaming content on Netflix and playing games. We experienced no lag at all while playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on our PC.

ExpressVPN speed test while connected to a server in the USAExpressVPN speed test while connected to a server in the USA.

Here’s a table to show you the connection speeds on both ExpressVPN and NordVPN:

  ExpressVPN NordVPN
US download speed 89 Mbps 81 Mbps
UK download speed 83 Mbps 78 Mbps
VPN protocol Lightway OpenVPN

Lightway protocol is available on all platforms and you can use it on a router, too. It’s worth mentioning that connection speeds may differ as they depend on multiple factors. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that in most cases, ExpressVPN seems to give faster speeds than other VPNs.

On what apps and devices does ExpressVPN work?

You can get ExpressVPN on pretty much any device. It supports 5 simultaneous connections and since the app’s UI is consistent across all devices, you won’t have much trouble switching from one to another. Here are some of the devices it’s compatible with:

  • Windows
  • MacOS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV and Android TV
  • Compatible routers like the Netgear R6400v2 and Linksys WRT1200AC

ExpressVPN for Windows, macOS, and Linux

Unfortunately, there’s no free trial version on the desktop ExpressVPN app. The good thing is, however, that you get a 30-day money-back guarantee with your purchase so you can easily try out the app and see if you like using it. The design of the app is similar to how it is on the smartphone app and it’s extremely user friendly.

To connect to a server, all you have to do is click the large power button in the center of the app. It’ll automatically connect you to the nearest and fastest server. If you want to choose a server in a specific location, click on Selected Location and choose your preferred server from the list that opens.

The desktop version has all the important features you need in a VPN. The kill switch is enabled by default. There are two types of split tunneling methods on ExpressVPN: one is where you choose which apps to exclude from the VPN connection, and the other is where you choose which apps to connect to it. Split tunneling isn’t supported on macOS 11 and above.

ExpressVPN for Android and iOS

ExpressVPN retains its minimalist and simple design on the smartphone version of the app. To connect to the nearest server, simply tap the power button in the center of the screen and you’ll be connected to the VPN server in a matter of seconds.

The mobile version of the app has most of the functionalities you’d find on the desktop version. The Network Lock feature (kill switch) that’s present in the desktop version is called “Network Protection” in the mobile version. Split tunneling is only available on the Android version of the app. Due to restrictions set in place by Apple, you can’t use split tunneling no matter what VPN client you use.

ExpressVPN for streaming devices

Using ExpressVPN directly on a streaming device will change your IP address and allow you to watch your favorite geo-restricted content. You’ll get faster speeds since the streaming device won’t be using the VPN for anything other than streaming content. You can easily download the app by searching for it in the streaming device’s store (Google Play Store in the case of Android TV).

The streaming device version of the app looks exactly the same as it does on desktop and smartphone, so you’ll have no problem navigating your way around it. Click on the power button to connect to a server and you can immediately start watching shows from different regions.

If your streaming device doesn’t have ExpressVPN in the store (Apple TV, for example), you can connect to it by changing your default DNS servers. ExpressVPN comes with MediaStreamer DNS which you can use to alter your location. Keep in mind, though, that MediaStreamer doesn’t give all the security benefits of ExpressVPN and it’ll only allow you to stream blocked content on your streaming device.

Use MediaStreamer DNS to use ExpressVPN on a streaming device that doesn’t support the appUse MediaStreamer DNS to use ExpressVPN on a streaming device that doesn’t support the app. (Source: expressvpn.com)

If your streaming device doesn’t support ExpressVPN and you want it to be encrypted, you’ll have no choice but to connect it to a VPN-enabled router.

ExpressVPN for routers

The most significant benefit of an ExpressVPN-enabled router is that every device connected to it will be encrypted and protected by the VPN. Once you’ve enabled ExpressVPN on your router, it’ll always stay connected. And since you can use Network Lock on the router as well, you’ll never have to worry about your data being compromised if the VPN connection drops.

On ExpressVPN-enabled routers, split tunneling is called “Device Groups”. It allows you to choose which devices pass through the VPN server and which ones don’t.

ExpressVPN on a routerExpressVPN on a router. (Source: expressvpn.com)

To get ExpressVPN on a router, you have to purchase one that’s compatible with it. ExpressVPN recommends Aircove AX1800 as it comes preinstalled with the VPN service. If you’re located outside the US, you can get the Netgear R7000, but you’ll have to install the VPN on it yourself.

Every router is different so it’s only natural for the installation process to be different, too. You can check the ExpressVPN site to see how you can install the VPN on your router.

Is ExpressVPN good for streaming?

ExpressVPN is the perfect choice for streaming geo-restricted content because it has servers in 94 countries and it supports almost every major streaming platform. We tested ExpressVPN with Netflix Japan and we were easily able to access the Japanese library.

Finding a server in Japan that works with Netflix wasn’t difficult at all and if you struggle with that, you can contact the customer support and they’ll tell you which server you should connect to.

Here’s a list of some of the streaming platforms ExpressVPN works with:

  • BBC iPlayer
  • Crunchyroll
  • Disney+
  • HBO Max
  • YouTube
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime
  • Paramount Plus

Note that for some of these platforms, it’ll take you some time to find the right server. As mentioned above, if it takes too long, you should contact customer service and ask them which server you should connect to for a specific streaming site to work.

ExpressVPN for torrenting

ExpressVPN is great for torrenting and P2P file sharing, whether you’re doing it on desktop or smartphone. It has a kill switch, called Network Lock, in place which immediately disconnects your device from the Internet if the VPN connection goes down.

We tested quite a large number of servers for torrenting, and all of them worked, so it’s very unlikely for a torrent site to not work with ExpressVPN enabled. Just make sure you have IPv6 and DNS leak protection enabled so your ISP can’t find out what sites you’re visiting. If you do get caught, you risk having your connection throttled by your ISP.

Keep in mind that ExpressVPN won’t be able to protect you if a torrent contains malicious files. It’ll only allow you to access torrenting sites and download torrents without getting caught by your ISP.

Is ExpressVPN safe?

Yes, ExpressVPN is one of the safest VPNs you can use because it has a variety of advanced security features like a kill switch, split tunneling, and DNS leak protection, and it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, a non-4/9/14 Eyes member territory.

Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the things that make ExpressVPN safe:

No-log policy

As mentioned above, ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The BVI is outside the jurisdiction of the 4/9/14 Eyes alliances, which means ExpressVPN is under no legal obligation to hand over their users’ data to government agencies.

It has a strict no-log policy which we know it adheres to because it’s been proven in court and through multiple external audits. ExpressVPN’s most recent external audits took place in November 2022. The VPN service doesn’t even ask you to provide any billing information when subscribing to it. You can pay through cryptocurrency which is completely anonymous.

You can pay for your ExpressVPN subscription with cryptocurrencyYou can pay for your ExpressVPN subscription with cryptocurrency.

For a VPN company, being transparent is one of the most important things because it can’t last without the trust of its users. An external audit helps build more confidence and proves the veracity of the company’s claims. Cure53, the company that audited ExpressVPN’s macOS and Linux apps, only found two vulnerabilities in the macOS app, which were quickly fixed by ExpressVPN and later reviewed by the auditing company.

The audit performed on the Windows app concluded that no information is leaked outside of the VPN tunnel and the app isn’t “susceptible to remote code execution attacks.”

It’s safe to say that ExpressVPN takes the privacy of its users seriously and does all it can to protect their data.

Split tunneling

Split tunneling is one of the most important features a VPN can have. ExpressVPN has split tunneling on every platform except iOS. On the desktop version, you can use the feature in two different ways. One is regular split tunneling where you can exclude apps from the VPN tunnel, and the other method is called inverse split tunneling where you can protect specific apps.

Split tunneling is useful because it lets you reap the benefits of a VPN service while still being able to browse the web on your real IP address. For example, by including a web browser in the list of apps that pass through the VPN tunnel, you’re excluding everything else. You can watch geo-restricted content on the browser and use other apps as you normally would. This will also ensure that you get faster speeds because only one app is using the VPN.

There are very few risks associated with using split tunneling. Human error is common when setting it up. You could accidentally exclude the apps you want to include in the VPN tunnel. Other than that, there’s not much room for error.

Use the split tunneling feature to “split” your connection into twoUse the split tunneling feature to “split” your connection into two.

Kill switch

A kill switch is a feature that immediately blocks your device from connecting to the Internet when your VPN connection drops. It only lets the device reconnect to the Internet when the VPN connection is restored. This ensures that none of your data is leaked when you switch from the VPN network to the open network.

ExpressVPN’s kill switch, or Network Lock as it’s called, is available on every platform, even on a VPN-enabled router.

On smartphones, Network Lock is called Network Protection. The feature is enabled by default. Your real IP address will always remain hidden if you have kill switch enabled. A kill switch-enabled VPN makes torrenting safer as there are no chances of your IP address being leaked or your ISP finding out about your online activities.

You can disable the kill switch in the settings on the desktop and smartphone apps, but there’s no way to turn it off on routers. We recommend always keeping it on so your data is never leaked.

To enable/disable the kill switch, check the “Stop all internet traffic…” boxTo enable/disable the kill switch, check the “Stop all internet traffic…” box. (Source: expressvpn.com)

RAM-based servers

ExpressVPN has over 3000 RAM-based servers in 94 countries. Most VPNs still store all of their data on hard disks, which can be a security issue since the data isn’t removed until the hard disk is erased or overwritten with new data. Storing data on hard disks also makes it easier for hackers and government agencies to get their hands on sensitive information.

RAM or random access memory is volatile. Any information stored in it is completely wiped out when you restart your device or turn off the VPN server. RAM-based servers provide a higher degree of protection and every VPN that claims to be no-log should have them.

Tracking data stored in RAM-only servers is essentially useless since it’s encrypted and is erased as soon as you restart your device or disable the VPN. It is possible to hack them, but if any third party tries to gain access to the data, it’ll cause the VPN to restart, thereby deleting everything.

ExpressVPN calls this technology “TrustedServer Technology.” It’s been audited independently by a firm called PwC, which confirmed that it works exactly the way ExpressVPN described.

ExpressVPN servers run completely on RAM instead of the hard disk like servers of other VPNs doExpressVPN servers run completely on RAM instead of the hard disk like servers of other VPNs do. (Source: expressvpn.com)

DNS leak protection

In many cases, even if you’re connected to a VPN, your DNS requests can be leaked to your ISP and other third parties. They won’t be able to see what it is exactly you’re doing, but they’ll know what websites you visit. This can be a problem if, for example, you’re using a torrent or an illegal streaming website.

ExpressVPN has a feature called DNS leak protection which blocks your DNS requests from being sent to any server other than the VPN’s. ExpressVPN also has its own DNS leak tester which you can use to confirm no DNS requests are leaked while using the VPN.

Use ExpressVPN’s DNS leak tester to make sure your DNS requests aren’t leaked to your ISPUse ExpressVPN’s DNS leak tester to make sure your DNS requests aren’t leaked to your ISP. (Source: expressvpn.com)

ExpressVPN pricing

Compared to other VPNs, ExpressVPN may seem a bit more expensive. We’ve created a table that compares the prices of ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark, three VPNs with similar features and reputation. Here’s how they differ:

  ExpressVPN NordVPN Surfshark
Monthly $12.95 per month $11.99 per month $12.95 per month
Semi-annually $9.99 per month N/A N/A
Yearly $6.67 per month $4.49 per month $3.99 per month
Bi-yearly   $3.69 per month $2.05 per month
  Get ExpressVPN Get NordVPN Get Surfshark

You probably have a good idea by now of just how secure and fast it is, which sort of justifies the price. Here are the different plans ExpressVPN offers:

  • The monthly plan is the most expensive out of all the plans. It costs $12.95 per month.
  • The 6-month plan is available for $9.99 per month. You can save a few bucks with this plan, but you’d save a lot more with the yearly subscription.
  • The 1-year plan costs $6.67 per month. You’ll save the most with the yearly plan.

All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and there are no different tiers, so you get all the features with every plan. The yearly plan will also give you 3 additional months for free.

The high price is the only disadvantage you get with ExpressVPN, but again, all the features you get with it make it absolutely worth it. You can buy ExpressVPN by clicking here.

ExpressVPN subscription plansExpressVPN subscription plans.

Does ExpressVPN work in China?

Yes, ExpressVPN is one of the most stable and reliable VPNs you can use in China. It’s no secret that China heavily censors the Internet in the country and it doesn’t take long for the government to block any VPN that works there. Luckily, ExpressVPN knows how to fight back. It’s one of the few VPNs that can bypass China’s Great Firewall.

ExpressVPN’s site doesn’t work in China and you should download the app before you go there. Don’t worry if you’re already in the country and you don’t have the app, though. You can get it by contacting ExpressVPN’s customer support and requesting a mirror link.

You can choose cryptocurrency as a payment method to remain anonymous. Once you’ve installed the app, set the protocol to automatic so ExpressVPN can automatically find the best protocol for China.

Make sure you don’t disable kill switch or DNS leak protection, so your IP address and other data don’t get leaked.

ExpressVPN servers locations

ExpressVPN has over 3000 RAM-based servers in 94 countries. Many of them are virtual servers, which means they don’t exist physically in the country they’re from. For example, for a VPN to maintain physical presence in India, it has to log user data. Since ExpressVPN has a no-log policy, it’s set up virtual Indian servers which are physically based in different regions but have an Indian IP address.

Virtual servers tend to perform just as fast as regular servers. Sometimes users request servers from countries where there are no reliable servers available. In that case, VPN companies have to set up the server virtually otherwise they won’t perform as well.

You have to keep in mind that they’re only safe if the VPN company is transparent about them. ExpressVPN has a list of all their virtual servers on their site. Any server that’s not on the list is physically located in the country the server is from.

The exact number of their servers is unknown but most of them are in Europe and the US. Many of the servers don’t specify the city. The region with the least amount of servers is Central America (around 3) and the region with the highest is Europe (over 60).

How to install ExpressVPN?

Setting up ExpressVPN is simple. Here’s how you install it on desktop:

  1. Go to https://www.expressvpn.com/order and purchase your preferred subscription plan.
  2. Download ExpressVPN.
  3. Open the app and click on Sign In. Copy and paste your subscription activation code which you received after you purchased the subscription.
    Open the app and click on Sign In. Copy and paste your subscription activation code which you received after you purchased the subscription.
  4. After it’s confirmed your activation code, you can connect to a server by clicking on the power button.
  5. You’re now ready to start browsing the web with ExpressVPN!

Installing it on your phone is just as simple. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Go to Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and download the ExpressVPN app.
  2. Sign in with your activation code or start the free 7-day trial version.
  3. Tap the power button to quickly connect to the nearest server.
  4. Start browsing the web anonymously on your phone!
    ExpressVPN’s smartphone appExpressVPN’s smartphone app.

As we mentioned above, installing ExpressVPN on a router depends on which device you have. You can check the ExpressVPN guide to see how to install it on your model, but in most cases, all you’ll have to do is install the VPN firmware on the router. It’s pertinent to mention here that installing a third-party firmware on your router will void its warranty.

Reliability & Support

The only other VPN that rivals ExpressVPN’s level of reliability is NordVPN. It’s been through multiple audits and it has 24/7 customer support who will always be more than happy to help you. The VPN service also has tutorials and guides to help you get familiar with the app.

In case you run into any problem which the guides fail to solve, you can easily get in touch with customer support either by live chat or by sending an email.

To see how quick their live chat is, we decided to get in touch and ask them how we can disable the kill switch on the macOS app. In just a few seconds, our agent Danielle started typing in response to our question and helped us figure out how to turn off the kill switch. We were thoroughly impressed by the timing and the professionalism of the response.

ExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chatExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chat.

If you send them an email, it won’t take more than two hours for them to reply to you.

Bottom line

All in all, we believe ExpressVPN is one of the best and most reliable VPNs on the market. There’s a reason why you see it on the top of everyone’s list of best VPNs. With military-grade encryption, a kill switch, split tunneling, and DNS leak protection, the VPN client is armed with advanced security features that keep your online data safe at all times.

ExpressVPN has left very little room for anyone to question its integrity and transparency. It’s had multiple independent audits that have confirmed its claims of having a no-log policy. It’s based in the British Virgin Islands where no one can force it to share data with any legal authority. The 3000+ RAM-based servers are a testament to the fact that ExpressVPN has no intention of retaining any user data.

You can unblock almost every streaming platform with ExpressVPN. Majority of the servers are compatible with platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime. You can also download torrents without worrying about your ISP throttling your connection.

It may be a bit more expensive than its competitors, but other than that, it would be difficult to find anything else to criticize about it. You can get the yearly package for $6.67 per month. Once you’ve installed ExpressVPN on your device, you can start browsing the web safely and anonymously.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, ExpressVPN is one of the safest VPNs to use. It has over 3000 RAM-based servers, which means any information that’s stored on them when you’re using the VPN is erased as soon as you disable the connection. The VPN has a no-log policy and you can pay through cryptocurrency while signing up to avoid handing over any personally identifying information.

If you’re not satisfied with ExpressVPN, you can cancel your subscription by turning off “automatic renewal” in the settings of the VPN client. If you turn it off within 30 days of subscribing to it, you can get a refund by contacting the customer support. Just send them an email and let them know that you’ve canceled your subscription and would like a refund. They’ll respond within a few hours and let you know when you’ll get your money back.

No, ExpressVPN is one of the fastest VPNs on the market. It’s very unlikely that your connection speed will suffer after activating it. If you do notice a significant difference in the speed, we recommend turning on split tunneling and only letting specific apps connect to the VPN server. This will ensure that no unnecessary app or background process uses the VPN and slows down your connection. 

You’ll get the fastest speeds if you connect to the nearest server. The farther you go, the slower your connection will become, but the difference won’t be too noticeable.

Yes, ExpressVPN has performed better than NordVPN in our speed tests, but some may find the latter to be better. They’re both quite good at what they claim to do, so it’s difficult to decide which one is better. Even speed tests results will vary from one user to another. We prefer ExpressVPN but the best way to decide is to just try both. They both have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can use both and see which one works better for you.

Yes, ExpressVPN is very clear about its privacy policy and what user data it records. It even has a list of all the virtual servers it uses on its site. It’s had multiple external audits (with three of them having taken place in November 2022) and it doesn’t even ask you to submit any billing information. You can pay using cryptocurrency.