ExpressVPN Review (Oct. 2020) – Really Safe & Secure VPN?
ExpressVPN is a well-established VPN service. It gets a lot of praise from users and is often recommended on various forums. But how well does it actually perform? Is it legitimately good, or does it just have a strong PR game? We take a look in this unbiased ExpressVPN review.
My team and I spent around three weeks evaluating ExpressVPN. We took it apart and tested all its features, making sure nothing was left uncovered. A special mention must go to our coffee making machine here, without which this wouldn’t have been possible☺.
Still, if you find anything missing from the review (after all, we are only humans), feel free to drop your questions in the comments section below, and we’ll try our best to answer them.
So without any further ado, let’s get the ball rolling.
ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a British overseas territory in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The country operates as a parliamentary democracy, headed by a premier. The premier and the chief executive officer (chosen by the Queen) nominate and appoint the cabinet, which is charged with the policymaking function.
Of course, the British links make one wary of whether BVI could actually be an unsafe place to establish a VPN company. After all, the UK is a member of the Five Eyes Alliance.
Initially, we had our doubts too. However, after some research, we were able to conclude that all our fears were unfounded.
The British Virgin Islands is a very much self-governing territory, thanks to a constitution that came into effect in 2007. It is politically stable, and there is no evidence of the British government interfering in its privacy laws.
Furthermore, BVI itself has never got involved in any data retention practices. Neither does it compel telecommunications providers operating in the jurisdiction to record metadata of users. Companies have no obligations to reveal confidential information unless an investigation is ordered by the high court.
In short, the British Virgin Islands is a safe haven for VPN services. ExpressVPN management could not have picked a more sensible location for incorporating the company.
Is ExpressVPN a Chinese-owned company?
There is no information available online about the owners of ExpressVPN. All we know is Harold Li is the company’s vice president. This makes many people think that ExpressVPN is owned by Chinese or Hong Kong-based private shareholders. However, that’s not true. The company’s owners are from the US as we were able to confirm from one of their live chat agents.
Unable to find much information about the primary stakeholders, we turned our attention to the VPN Trust Initiative to check whether ExpressVPN could indeed be trusted with the online privacy of users. A quick visit to the site revealed ExpressVPN as an active member of the group.
ExpressVPN servers and server location
ExpressVPN operates 3000+ servers in 94 countries. That’s a huge server inventory, bettered only by NordVPN, CyberGhost, and TorGuard in the market. One advantage of using a VPN with a high number of servers is you rarely suffer from traffic congestions, even on busy days.
ExpressVPN provides servers in almost all regions, including The Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East. Europe has got the most extensive coverage on the continent level with sixty-four locations. On the country level, it’s the US that ranks first. You get to connect to fifteen different US cities.
There are also plenty of server options for Australia. You can choose from servers in four cities: Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane. We tested all the four locations and experienced no problems whatsoever.
While the majority of ExpressVPN servers are physical servers, the company has some virtual servers too. These servers are configured to provide connections in locations where it’s difficult to install physical hardware. The total number of ExpressVPN virtual servers is forty-one. You can view them here.
Can ExpressVPN be traced?
ExpressVPN is a well-guarded VPN service. It uses advanced tunnelling protocols and military-grade encryption to move your online traffic across the web. This makes it virtually impossible for hackers to trace or intercept your internet connections.
ExpressVPN tunnelling protocols list
The ExpressVPN app automatically configures the security side for you, picking the best tunnelling protocol for your use-case. However, you can also select a tunnelling protocol manually for greater control.
The service offers four connection protocols to choose from: Lightway, OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec. The encryption standard is set to AES-256 by default and cannot be changed. It comes combined with perfect forward secrecy (PFS) technology for added protection.
What is PFS, you ask?
PFS is a cryptography feature that allows an encryption system to automatically change its encryption/decryption keys after every 60 minutes, reducing the risks of a breach.
One of the things we really liked about ExpressVPN was that it uses its own private DNS servers to handle your DNS requests rather than leaving the responsibility to your ISP or other third-party services. This makes your communications even more secure.
Other security and privacy features offered by ExpressVPN include:
Network Lock is ExpressVPN’s own version of VPN kill switch. It temporarily disconnects your internet until your VPN connection is stored, preventing any accidental IP spills. All ExpressVPN apps have this feature, except for the iOS client.
Split tunnelling is a useful privacy feature that allows you to choose which apps you want to be covered under the VPN and which ones you want to travel outside it.
IP Leak Protection
IP leak protection ensures your identity remains anonymous on the internet, keeping your IP address well and truly hidden.
TrustedServer is a proprietary framework that allows ExpressVPN servers to operate without solid-state drives, helping minimize data losses.
HTTPS Everywhere is a collaborative technology available on ExpressVPN’s browser extensions. It encrypts your browser traffic with HTTPS protocol regardless of the encryption status of the website you visit.
ExpressVPN provides complete protection against IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks
Has ExpressVPN ever been hacked?
While no VPN service is 100% hack-proof, ExpressVPN has so far recorded no hacking incidents on any of its servers. That definitely deserves some praise. Even NordVPN, one of ExpressVPN’s main competitors, has fallen to hacking attempts in the past.
Does ExpressVPN keep logs?
However, it does collect details about your connection dates, the servers you use, and the amount of data you transfer during a session. None of this information is traceable to your account, though.
How can we be so certain about that?
We came across a couple of findings that we would like to share with you. These findings put light on how the company handles data.
The Andrey Karlov investigation
In 2017, Turkish authorities seized one of ExpressVPN’s servers to investigate the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov. They believed the alleged criminal had used ExpressVPN to delete key clues from his Gmail and Facebook accounts that could have proved him guilty.
ExpressVPN remained adamant that even if this were true, it would be impossible for anyone to extract the information from the server since it contained no logs. Upon confiscating the hardware, the investigators realized that ExpressVPN management was indeed speaking the truth as they were unable to find anything helpful.
The company later released a full statement confirming this, while condemning the assassination of Andrey Karlov.
It has become a growing trend for VPNs to conduct external audits to validate the security and privacy of their services. ExpressVPN has been into this practice for quite some time.
Devices ExpressVPN supports
ExpressVPN offers incredible device support. It works with everything, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire, routers, and more. You can even set it up on your Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch gaming console using the exclusive MediaStreamer service.
Perhaps the most impressive offering of ExpressVPN is its browser extensions. It’s the only VPN service that provides full-form VPN extensions for your Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Unlike other browser extensions that serve as mere proxies, ExpressVPN extensions work like true VPNs, securing your browser traffic at just a click of a button. They come free of any restrictions or limitations and are directly synced to the ExpressVPN app.
You can connect up to five devices simultaneously on a single ExpressVPN account. That’s not bad at all. However, we feel the company can improve on it. Currently, Surfshark offers unlimited simultaneous connections, while NordVPN and PureVPN all offer multi-login support exceeding five devices.
Does ExpressVPN work with Netflix?
ExpressVPN brings its A-game to the streaming floor. It provides twenty-three server locations in the US, of which almost all unblock Netflix without any problems. However, some servers work better than others.
We found servers in New York, Dallas, Washington DC, Denver, and Miami as best configured for watching Netflix from Australia. They were fast and stable. On the other hand, the LA-3 server failed to impress us and kept disconnecting frequently. We would advise you to avoid it.
Streaming Netflix USA on ExpressVPN
We also tried running other streaming services on ExpressVPN to get an idea of the VPN’s full streaming scope. BBC iPlayer worked like a treat. HBO Max and Hulu allowed us in without any complaining. YouTube TV ran like a horse. Streaming on Hotstar was effortless. Following is a summary of our findings:
|Streaming service||Does it work?||Best performing servers|
|BBC iPlayer||Yes||Docklands and London|
|Hulu||Yes||NY, Miami, NJ-1, and Washington DC-2|
|HBO Max||Yes||NY, Washington DC, LA, and Santa Monica|
|YouTube TV||Yes||NY, NJ-1, NJ-3, and Dallas 2|
|Hotstar||Yes||Mumbai-1 and Chennai|
Does ExpressVPN slow down internet speed?
Speed is always a perennial concern when using a VPN. Thankfully, ExpressVPN performs great in this department. Of course, it slows down your internet like any other VPN service, but the drop is hardly noticeable. In fact, it recorded the fastest results on our speed charts to date.
We randomly picked three ExpressVPN UK, US, and Australian servers and ran them on Ookla’s online speed test tool. We then calculated the averages for each region to eliminate any anomalies. Keep in mind that not all network connections are built the same, so your experience might differ from ours.
ExpressVPN Speed Test Results for the UK
- Upload speed % change: Roughly 26% (negative)
- Download speed % change: Roughly 13% (negative)
|Speed Test Type||Speed Test Results|
|Control Ping||23 (ms)|
|Control Upload||24.7 (Mbps)|
|Control Download||63.6 (Mbps)|
|UK Server Ping||306 (ms)|
|UK Server Upload||18.2 (Mbps)|
|UK Server Download||55.2 (Mbps)|
ExpressVPN Speed Test Results for the US
- Upload speed % change: Roughly 24% (negative)
- Download speed % change: Roughly 11% (negative)
|Speed Test Type||Speed Test Results|
|Control Ping||21 (ms)|
|Control Upload||23.3 (Mbps)|
|Control Download||59.7 (Mbps)|
|US Server Ping||300 (ms)|
|US Server Upload||17.8 (Mbps)|
|US Server Download||53.3 (Mbps)|
ExpressVPN Speed Test Results for Australia
- Upload speed % change: Roughly 12% (negative)
- Download speed % change: Roughly 7% (negative)
|Speed Test Type||Speed Test Results|
|Control Ping||20 (ms)|
|Control Upload||24.5 (Mbps)|
|Control Download||62.8 (Mbps)|
|AU Server Ping||23 (ms)|
|AU Server Upload||21.6 (Mbps)|
|Au Server Download||58.3 (Mbps)|
You might notice from the above results that ExpressVPN has got a high ping on international servers. As such, we don’t recommend it for international competitive gaming. For local gaming, it definitely works.
ExpressVPN torrent support
Quick Fact Sheet
Torrenting support: Available
Negative(s): No port forwarding
Since we are avid torrent users, we were really interested in finding out if ExpressVPN offered torrent support.
We first checked on the website and were pleased to read that ExpressVPN did indeed allow torrenting. Once confirmed, we tested it with a couple of torrent clients. The download speeds were fast, and the connection did not drop for a second.
The best part was, unlike other VPNs, ExpressVPN does not limit you to a few specialized torrenting servers. You can connect to any server from the list and enjoy unrestricted torrent support. We would, however, recommend you to use your nearest server to get the best results.
With P2P file-sharing, things were significantly different. Due to a lack of port forwarding option, we struggled to download large files.
If you are looking for a VPN exclusively for torrenting and P2P applications, NordVPN is the best that the industry has to offer.
Is ExpressVPN blocked in China?
If you’re travelling to China and looking for a VPN that would work there, ExpressVPN should definitely be on the top of your list. It’s one of the few VPN services that evades the Great Firewall and beats Chinese censorship convincingly.
We connected to ExpressVPN’s Hong Kong-4 server and were able to browse Chinese websites from Australia with ease. We also streamed Chinese TV on Youku.
If the Hong Kong server doesn’t work for you, try connecting to one of the following locations. And make sure your protocol is set to automatic.
- Singapore – Marina Bay
- Japan – Yokohama
- USA – LA – 5
- UK – Wembley
Streaming Youku on ExpressVPN
You can also use ExpressVPN to unblock content in other high-censorship countries, including UAE, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
How much does ExpressVPN cost?
ExpressVPN offers three subscription plans to users: monthly, bi-annual, and yearly. The monthly plan is the most expensive and costs $12.95 per month. The biannual plan is priced at $59.95 and is billed every six months. Finally, we have a yearly plan, which costs $99.95. Compared to the monthly plan, the yearly plan is almost 35% cheaper.
All ExpressVPN plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The company processes refunds without any questions, so you can always request your money back if you aren’t satisfied with the service.
ExpressVPN payment options
You can pay for your ExpressVPN subscription through a credit card, PayPal, UnionPay, Alipay, WebMoney, Giropay, Yandex.Money, or Klarna. The service also provides anonymous payment options via Bitcoin.
How can I get ExpressVPN for free?
ExpressVPN offers an unrestricted 7-day free trial to Android and iOS users. However, the trial is only available in limited regions. To add to the confusion, the company keeps making changes to the trial offer, taking it down and re-introducing it with time. You can learn more about it here.
In case if you can’t sign up for an ExpressVPN free trial in your area, you can still use the service for free. How so? You can subscribe to a regular ExpressVPN plan and cancel your subscription within 30 days of your date of purchase to get a full refund. Of course, you’ll have to pay initially, but you can get your money back later.
How do I get my money back from ExpressVPN?
The fastest and easiest way to request for a refund is to contact the company’s live chat support. The agent will ask you for your account details and the reason to cancel your subscription. You can simply tell them that you don’t need the VPN anymore, and they will forward your request to the concerned department for further processing.
Thoughts on the ExpressVPN app interface
ExpressVPN provides easy to use apps for both desktop and mobile devices. The Windows version offers the most complete experience, featuring all the tools and functions.
There is a big On/Off button in the centre, which allows you to connect to the VPN instantly. Just below it, you have a Choose Location tab. When you click on it, a full list of servers expands, from which you can manually pick your desired location and server.
On the top left, you have three horizontal lines. These display the menu for VPN settings, device set-up, help & support, and more. The VPN settings allow you to configure the VPN and manage your account. The device set-up takes you to an online control panel, where you can set up different devices on your ExpressVPN subscription.
Inside the VPN settings window, you can select tunnelling protocols, activate kill switch, enable/disable split tunnelling, change language, and perform other similar tweaks. The company has kept the options to a minimum, so that’s excellent for beginners.
Do we think the app designers could have done a better job of giving the app a more stylish and modern look? Definitely! Right now, it looks a little dull and boring.
The Mac, iOS and Android versions have a practically identical interface to the Windows client, with the iOS app missing the kill switch.
How do I know if ExpressVPN is working?
The On/Off button on the ExpressVPN app displays the current status of your VPN connection. It reads “Connected” if you are live, and “Not connected” if you are offline. You can also check ExpressVPN’s IP address checker to see if your connection is working properly. It should show the location you are connected to via the VPN.
ExpressVPN customer support
ExpressVPN customer support is one of the best in class. It offers a 24/7 live chat option, an up-to-date online resource section, and a fast-working email ticketing system.
We tested ExpressVPN’s live chat support to see how responsive the agents were. Jasper connected to us within a few seconds and answered all our questions promptly and politely.
All in all, we were left quite impressed with ExpressVPN’s customer service. It would have been even better if the company had offered on-call support.
Is ExpressVPN worth the money?
ExpressVPN is a near-ideal VPN solution for your online privacy needs. It is fast and reliable and allows you to connect to websites in different countries around the world. You can use it to watch Netflix, browse the internet, bypass government censorship, and download torrent files. Furthermore, if anything goes wrong, you can instantly contact the customer service and quickly resolve your problem. The best part is it even offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all its plans. That’s as safe as it gets.
So, if you’re looking for a premium VPN service and can afford to spend on the higher side, you should definitely go for ExpressVPN. It’s completely worth the money. Yes, it lacks a couple of important features. For example, it does not offer ad-blocking or the WireGuard tunnelling protocol – the next frontier in VPN security. But no VPN is 100% perfect. And ExpressVPN comes closest to perfection.
We hope you found this ExpressVPN review helpful. You can also check the comprehensive list of VPN reviews here. Until next time, take care and goodbye!