ExpressVPN is one of the safest, fastest VPNs around, but the one drawback has always been the price. It often offers discounts that make it more affordable, but there are other decent VPNs offering similar security features for much cheaper. So, do you really need to pay so much for a VPN as good as ExpressVPN?
My conclusion: ExpressVPN is tough to beat in almost every way. It’s definitely worth the price — I even figured out some tricks that add even more value. Plus, it has a money-back guarantee, so you can test out all of ExpressVPN’s features risk-free. You have 30 days to ask for a refund if it’s not for you.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- Unblocks a ton of streaming platforms. ExpressVPN is incredibly reliable for bypassing geoblocks — Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more were easy to access. Read my test results to see if there were any it couldn’t access.
- Superfast speeds for buffer-free streaming. No other VPN performs so well at long distances. A location halfway around the world was faster than my base speed! Find out how much it improved my download rate here.
- Vast server network. It has 3,000 servers in 90 locations, so you’ll be able to find one near you to ensure the fastest speeds possible. Read ahead to see if its virtual locations affect performance.
- Military-grade encryption with advanced security features. ExpressVPN keeps your connection completely anonymous with its encryption technology and advanced security features. Find out why it’s impossible for hackers to crack here.
- A trustworthy company dedicated to privacy. The strict no-logs policy isn’t just talk. It’s been proven that ExpressVPN protects its customers. Find out why you can trust ExpressVPN with your data here.
- Native apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and routers. On every major operating system, you’ll get a user-friendly, feature-packed app, although there’s 1 that’s lacking a few features. See which apps have the most features here.
- Works in China. ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs left that can bypass the Great Firewall of China. See how it works in restrictive countries.
- Great value for the price, especially with long-term subscriptions. The price is way more affordable if you opt for a year-long plan. Check out a few tricks to get the best deal here.
ExpressVPN Features — Updated in September 2021
|Money Back Guarantee||30|
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Number of servers||3000|
|Number of devices per license||5|
|Based in country||Virgin Islands (British)|
|Support||24/7 Live Chat Support|
ExpressVPN is fantastic at unblocking streaming platforms. I watched shows on Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer with no issues. ExpressVPN also publishes a list of all the streaming platforms it currently works with on its website. I tested every platform they listed and more. I didn’t find any streaming service it couldn’t unblock. The only small negative is there are a few popular Netflix regions ExpressVPN doesn’t have access to.
I tested over 30+ servers and unblocked the following platforms:
|Netflix||Hulu||Disney+||BBC iPlayer||HBO Max||Crunchyroll|
|Amazon Prime Video||Peacock||ESPN+||Paramount+||Rai Play||Globoplay|
|Pluto TV||Discovery+||Locast||Rakuten Viki||IPTV||AT&T TV|
|NOW TV||ITV||Hotstar||Crackle||Zattoo||Channel 4|
|Sky TV||beIN Sports||DAZN||fuboTV||Sling TV||Kodi|
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble accessing a platform, try switching browsers. When I had issues unblocking HBO Max and Hulu, I switched from Chrome to Microsoft Edge and they loaded in a matter of seconds.
ExpressVPN let me unblock Netflix regions all over the world and stream without interruptions. I began my tests by connecting to the San Francisco location and logged in to Netflix with no issues. After selecting Back to the Future, it started playing instantly and I never experienced any loading or quality issues. The movie streamed in smooth, buffer-free HD the entire time.
I was able to unblock 20 different Netflix libraries. Even the servers far away let me watch in HD without buffering. When I used the Wembley location, I was able to access UK Netflix, and the performance was identical to watching Netflix with no VPN connected. But at super long distances, the videos usually took longer to load. For example, watching Netflix on the Tokyo 2 server (8,494 km away), I had to wait about 8-10 seconds for my videos to start.
However, I had some issues unblocking Netflix on ExpressVPN’s virtual servers. These are servers that make it seem like you’re in one location, but the server itself is physically located in a different one. When I connected to the Argentina virtual location, I was only shown Netflix Originals. These are available in every country that has Netflix. When I tested other virtual locations (like Taiwan, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Bahamas), the same thing happened. It’s better than being blocked by the annoying Netflix proxy error, but still a bit disappointing that it can’t access the region-specific content in these locations.
While it’s unfortunate that virtual locations can’t get you more content, I was able to access a ton of Netflix libraries. Netflix is pretty serious about its geoblocking, so it’s impressive that ExpressVPN unblocks so many regions.
In addition to the US library, I was able to unblock Netflix in the following countries:
|United Kingdom||Canada||United States||Australia||France|
|Sweden||New Zealand||Hong Kong||Netherlands||Switzerland|
Disney+ has some incredible picture quality, and ExpressVPN unblocked the platform and let me watch Pirates of the Caribbean in crystal-clear Ultra HD on all 10 servers I tested.
I had perfect results when testing its US servers.. Plus, I was able to watch Disney+ with servers from Australia, Canada, Italy and the UK. Each one let me watch with zero buffering. The only difference was the Canadian server took about 2-3 more seconds to load videos.
Unblocked Amazon Prime Video
I only had one small issue accessing Amazon Prime Video, but for the most part it worked great. Amazon Prime Video is available worldwide, and I used servers in the US, Germany, and Canada to unblock it. Shows and movies played back instantly in HD without buffering.
I did run into one issue when I used the UK Docklands server. It didn’t work even when I went through my basic troubleshooting procedure of switching browsers, clearing my cache, and switching to other UK servers. The London servers gave me error screens too, so I contacted support.
ExpressVPN’s support team member told me Amazon Prime Video saw my billing address. It’s in the US, which didn’t match the region of the VPN so I didn’t get access. That makes sense, but it still worked in the US, Canada, and Germany, so you’re still able to watch APV in multiple regions.
I was able to unblock Hulu and watch shows and movies in HD with super short load times. I normally have a tough time unblocking Hulu with other VPNs, but I used 7 different ExpressVPN servers to access it easily.
Parasite began streaming 2 seconds after I pressed play in perfect HD. I was able to watch it with zero interruptions.
Unblocked: HBO Max
I unblocked HBO Max and watched shows on the platform without any problems. Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows, so I was happy ExpressVPN gave me access to it.
HBO Max worked great; the show loaded immediately, and it never stuttered or stalled. I performed tests with servers in Denver, Tampa, Atlanta, and Santa Monica. Each one let me access the platform without issues.
Unblocked: BBC iPlayer
Each of ExpressVPN’s 4 UK server locations let me watch BBC iPlayer. This was relieving because it had issues in the past unblocking the platform.
I was impressed by this because many VPNs focus on their US servers rather than the UK ones (American content tends to be the most popular). This makes it hard to find a VPN that can reliably access BBC iPlayer.
If you do encounter difficulties, you can try switching to another UK server. Another trick is changing the protocol. Finally, its MediaStreamer Smart DNS feature is another option that can help you bypass any error screens.
With ExpressVPN connected, I was able to stream on Kodi without a single instance of buffering or audio/visual issues. Kodi is open-source software you can use to access P2P streaming sites. I downloaded the PopcornFlix add-on through Kodi to watch the public domain movie The Wasp Woman.
It’s legal to use Kodi to stream copyright-free movies or videos. However, platforms like PopcornFlix host copyrighted materials and you could face legal problems if you watch them. My team and I do not condone any illegal activities. But I performed tests on Kodi so that people who use it responsibly know they can do so safely.
Also Unblocks: Crunchyroll, Peacock, ESPN+, and more
ExpressVPN unblocked every platform I tried, including Crunchyroll, Peacock, ESPN+, and many more.
On Peacock, videos took about 10 seconds to load and started out fuzzy. They upgraded to HD in 2 seconds. Streaming live basketball worked great on ESPN+; the game loaded instantly and played back with no errors. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord streamed perfectly on Crunchyroll as well.
Overall, ExpressVPN is an excellent VPN for streaming. I could access every single streaming platform I tested it with and the videos played back perfectly with very few exceptions.
ExpressVPN has tons of servers worldwide, which will help you find a faster, more stable connection. When servers have a high load — a percentage telling you how full they are — the speed can slow down and the connection can become less reliable. Generally, your speeds will also drop a little the farther away a server is. That’s why it’s a good thing ExpressVPN has 3,000 servers in 90 countries. There’s a good chance you’ll find a server close by that isn’t crowded.
ExpressVPN doesn’t just have wide coverage throughout the world but also within countries. For example, it’s nice to see servers on both Australian coasts. There are also servers in several countries that other VPNs often neglect, including Hong Kong, Venezuela, and Turkey. Just keep in mind these are virtual locations, and that might affect speeds. Western Europe and North America have the best coverage with servers evenly distributed throughout each.
City-level servers make it easier for you to pinpoint a server’s location, giving you better speeds. ExpressVPN offers city-level server selection in 16 countries including the US, UK, Australia, and Brazil. On a city-level server, you know the server is in the city listed. If it’s a country-level server, it could be located anywhere in a much larger area. For example, you can only select a server in Mexico. There’s over a 10,000 km range where the server could be. This means the server’s distance from you will fluctuate, which could cause inconsistent speeds.
While the IP addresses are all owned by ExpressVPN, they do work with third-party data centers. Their job is to maintain the servers, but they have no access to the information on them. After contacting ExpressVPN, I was told their partners can see traffic coming in and out of the server but don’t have the proper credentials to tie any online activity to individual users. So even though it works with a third party to maintain its servers, this won’t compromise your privacy.
Smart Location is convenient, but I was able to find faster servers on my own. This feature chooses a server for you based on distance, latency, and speed. While it definitely saves you time, you’ll be able to find faster servers with a little trial-and-error. For example, Smart Location connected me to the San Francisco server, but when I tried the East London location my speeds were 31 Mbps faster.
This feature is also useful when you’re in a country with restrictions on VPNs. Using Smart Location in China, for example, will save you a lot of effort. Instead of searching through locations looking for the closest nearby country that will work, you can rely on ExpressVPN’s algorithm to do the work for you.
ExpressVPN increases your security and privacy by running RAM-only servers. They call this TrustedServer Technology. RAM is incapable of storing any data, so once it’s restarted, any data from your session is deleted. Everything, including the operating system, is loaded fresh with each reboot from a secure read-only image stored on the hard drive. This increases the safety of the technology in the following ways:
- None of your data is ever stored in a hard drive.
- Data is stored for shorter periods of time.
- The software is reinstalled every time the server reboots, so they’re all updated with the latest security patches.
- It ensures the software is consistent across all servers. With some VPN services, the software can vary across servers, leaving some more vulnerable.
Most VPNs store their information on hard drives. This is less secure because hard drives store data until it’s manually deleted. ExpressVPN’s servers are rebooted every 1-2 weeks. Since these servers won’t store your sensitive information, you’d be safe no matter how often they reboot. However, it’s good that they are continually restarted to make sure they’re always running the most updated technology.
Does ExpressVPN Use Virtual Locations? Yes
Less than 3% of ExpressVPN’s servers are virtual locations, meaning the physical server is somewhere else. Your new IP address is within the target country, but the actual server is located nearby. All of ExpressVPN’s virtual locations are listed on its website.
Virtual servers let ExpressVPN offer you IPs in countries that have restrictive internet policies. It can be difficult to find safe locations to place a data center in countries that ban or restrict VPNs. Having no physical servers in countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia, also keeps ExpressVPN outside their jurisdiction.
It can also provide you with better speeds and more reliable connections. Some countries don’t have fast or stable internet connections, so the VPN’s performance is improved by placing the server in a country with better infrastructure.
The downside is these locations aren’t great at unblocking streaming sites. On top of that, sometimes they can lower your speeds if the server’s real location is farther away than the virtual one. Overall, these servers allow ExpressVPN to offer much wider global coverage than most other top VPNs.
Does ExpressVPN offer Static/Dedicated IP Addresses? No
ExpressVPN doesn’t offer fixed IP addresses; all servers are used by everyone.
Some VPNs let you buy a dedicated IP address that only you use. This is useful for people who want to run a website and need a single IP, so it can be easily found. There are also certain online services, like stock trading, that may ban your account for logging in from multiple locations.
However, dedicated IPs aren’t as safe as shared ones, so I’d recommend avoiding them anyway. ExpressVPN mixes your IP with the traffic of other users, making it much harder to track your information and activity. All of ExpressVPN’s servers are listed as one location, but there are multiple IPs for each. Every time you reconnect, you’ll be randomly assigned a new one because they’re regularly rotated.
Rotating IP addresses increases ExpressVPN’s security and streaming capabilities. Although static IPs do serve a purpose, rotating IP addresses is the best way to stay safe online.
ExpressVPN gave me the fastest speeds of any VPN I’ve tested. I was also impressed by how consistently fast my speeds were on both local and long-distance servers. While streaming, I experienced no instances of lag connected to any location. It took longer for my videos to load on a few servers, but I never encountered any drops in video quality or buffering.
My tests were done on a Microsoft Surface laptop running Windows 10. I recorded my data with Ookla’s speed test tool. Even though I got good speeds using all security protocols, I chose to use Lightway TCP to make sure my results were consistent.
These were the 3 aspects I focused on during my tests comparing server speeds:
- Ping is how long it takes data to travel. This is crucial when you’re gaming; the lower the ping, the faster your inputs are received. It’s measured in milliseconds (ms).
- Download speed is how quickly you can receive information. This affects your computer’s performance while streaming videos, loading web pages, downloading etc. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
- Upload speed is how fast you can send data. This tells you how quickly you can upload videos, post to social media, share files, etc. It is also measured in Mbps. It’s important to note that your upload speed will be considerably slower than your download speed on most home networks. Your connection is specifically set up this way because most people spend much more time downloading (receiving data) than uploading (sending data).
I tested servers in 30+ locations and didn’t record any speeds below 362 Mbps.
ExpressVPN has a built-in speed test, but I don’t recommend using it because it’s inaccurate. It’s meant to show you the relative difference in ping (listed as latency), download, and upload speeds between servers. But it was often wrong; for example, it reported the Los Angeles server as 33% faster than the San Francisco location. As you can see in the chart above, the San Francisco server was a little bit faster.
It’s normal for a VPN to slow you down, especially at long distances. So I was impressed that 2 distant servers actually increased my speeds. The East London location was 5% faster than my base download speed of 461 Mbps. But overall, my speeds decreased slightly as the servers got farther away.
My first test used Smart Location to connect to the San Francisco server. I compared this to my results with no VPN connected.
|Speed Drop with
The VPN hardly affected my speeds at all. The ping was a few ms higher, but it’s so small you wouldn’t be able to notice it.
On average, servers 4,000 km away or less only dropped my speed by 1.5%! I was blown away by how well my speed held up. Since a VPN has to reroute and encrypt your traffic, most reduce your speed much more. After my Smart Location test in San Francisco, I connected to the Los Angeles 3 location.
Los Angeles 3:
|Ping (ms)||26 (10 ms slower)|
|Download (Mbps)||441.19 (4% drop)|
|Upload (Mbps)||42.03 (0% drop)|
Los Angeles is 110 km farther away than San Francisco, and it was around 3% slower. The ping was also 5 ms higher. Next, I tested the Dallas server, which is 2,547 km from me.
|Ping (ms)||56 (40 ms slower)|
|Download (Mbps)||443.14 (4% drop)|
|Upload (Mbps)||41.97 (0.1% drop)|
This was a little bit faster than the Los Angeles server. ExpressVPN’s speeds hold up well over long distances, and sometimes even the closest location won’t be the fastest. Unfortunately, you can’t see how crowded each server is in the app (also known as the load percentage). I suspect that Dallas had fewer users connected at this time, making it faster.
I didn’t notice any difference in performance between the local servers I tested. Gaming and streaming were smooth and lag-free on every server 4,000 km away or less.
For the most part, my speeds dropped a little over long distances, but were still very impressive. The Tokyo 2 server is 8,494 km from my location, but I only lost 11% from my base connection. It’s normal for a VPN to slow you down about 15-20%, so this is a really good result on a server so far away.
|Ping (ms)||124 (108 ms slower)|
|Download (Mbps)||409.06 (11% drop)|
|Upload (Mbps)||37.36 (11% drop)|
This was 10% slower than my Smart Location connection in San Francisco. I didn’t experience any difference while streaming or browsing compared to local servers. Next, I tried out the Easton London server, which is over 100 km farther from me than Tokyo.
|Ping (ms)||148 (132 ms slower)|
|Download (Mbps)||486.30 (5% faster)|
|Upload (Mbps)||39.48 (6% slower)|
Even though it’s on the other side of the world, London actually increased my base speed, which is super impressive.
Overall, ExpressVPN’s speeds hold up incredibly well at long distances. Even the Reykjavik location, which is remote, gave me a download speed of 414 Mbps, which is only an 10% drop!
Protocol Speed Tests
L2TP/IPsec was the fastest in my tests when I compared the speeds of each protocol. Although L2TP/IPsec came out on top, each of the protocols performed well, giving me speeds over 300 Mbps.
Even though L2TP/IPsec was the fastest, I would always recommend using one of the other protocols if possible. This is because it’s an older protocol that’s less secure. Lightway TCP, OpenVPN UDP, and IKEv2 were almost identical in speed. I recommend using Lightway TCP for the best balance of security and speed.
Are ExpressVPN’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes
ExpressVPN is an excellent VPN for gaming as long as you stick to local servers. On long-distance servers, I wasn’t able to load a match because the ping was too high.
When you’re playing competitive online games, your inputs are very important. This is why you want a ping rate below 100 ms. If it takes too long for the game to register your commands, it stops being fun — even a split-second of lag puts you at a disadvantage, especially in games that require instant reactions.
That’s why I performed my tests with Counter-Strike Global Offensive. It’s a fast-paced online shooter where you have total control over your character and notice the tiniest amount of lag. I started on the San Francisco location with a 21 ms ping.
I found a match in no time at all. Once the game loaded up, I was able to run, duck, jump, and shoot with zero delays. I’m no good at the game, so we still lost, but it had nothing to do with the VPN.
However, playing on a long-distance server was impossible. I got the best download speeds from the East London location, 8,562 km away. So, I decided to test it with gaming. The quick download rate didn’t matter because my ping was over 6 times higher than San Francisco at 148 ms. I waited 3 minutes for a game to load. After that, I decided to exit out and reconnect. The same thing happened again, so I couldn’t even see how it played.
Unfortunately, the same issue popped up when I tried a New York server. It’s only 4,743 km away from me, but I still couldn’t find a game even after multiple attempts. Because of this, I can only recommend ExpressVPN for gamers if you know there’s a server near you.
So, ExpressVPN’s fast speeds will let you play games with short load times and zero lag, but only if your server is nearby.
ExpressVPN’s wide variety of security features and military-grade encryption will keep your data safe in any situation. Many VPNs claim to protect you in the event of a connection failure or guarantee that your IP address always remains hidden. Researching, testing, and confirmation are the only ways to find out if the claims are valid.
I thoroughly tested ExpressVPN’s extra security features, like its kill switch, split tunneling, and Tor compatibility. Plus, I compared its protocols and did a deep dive into its exclusive Lightway technology. Lastly, I looked into the results of its third-party audits to see how its infrastructure and practices held up under scrutiny.
The only downside I found is that ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a built-in ad and malware blocker. This is a really convenient feature for sure, but the ad and malware blockers offered by other VPNs usually don’t work very well. You need to use a dedicated app or extension for full protection anyway. Since there are many effective ad blockers available for free, I wasn’t too bothered that ExpressVPN doesn’t have this built in to its app.
Encryption — Military-Grade Protection
ExpressVPN’s encryption technology protects your private information. It keeps you safe with 256-bit AES encryption, which combines an AES 256-bit cipher with a 4096-bit RSA key and SHA-512 HMAC authentication. In layman terms, your data is essentially uncrackable. This is the same level of encryption used by militaries, banks, and governments to protect sensitive data.
The number of bits lets you know how many possible combinations are available to make the key. With 1 bit, there are 2 possible combinations. Once you get to 8 bits, there are already 256 — at 256 bits, it’s a number 78 digits long! Even the world’s most powerful computer would take billions of years to decrypt just 0.1% of the data it holds.
The SHA-512 HMAC authentication (or handshake) ExpressVPN uses is highly secure for data transfers, such as P2P file sharing. Using a shared secret key, both the sender and receiver of the download have a way of verifying the file’s authenticity. Any change in the secret key will be proof that somebody tampered with your file, so any breach would be quickly identified and dealt with.
ExpressVPN also uses perfect forward secrecy. Perfect forward secrecy changes your encryption key every time you log on. So, even if someone could figure out the key (improbable), none of your past or future VPN sessions could be decrypted (since they would have used a different key).
Each protocol will change your encryption level slightly. For example, the Lightway protocol uses wolfSSL instead of AES. This is still 256-bit encryption. It is just as secure, and it’s open-source, meaning it’s continuously tested and updated by third parties.
Security Protocols — Multiple Options for All Devices
ExpressVPN offers multiple security protocols that let you customize the VPN for any situation. Protocols are a set of rules a VPN uses to tell it how to encrypt your information. They can be switched in the protocols tab for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. On Linux, you use commands in the terminal.
Each of the protocols is a little different:
- Lightway: This protocol was developed by ExpressVPN and no other VPN offers it. It drains less battery and transitions betweens networks seamlessly, making it a good choice for phones. The TCP option is better for unreliable networks and was 10% faster than UDP in my tests.
- OpenVPN: Since it’s open-source, this is one of the most secure protocols. People all over the world continuously examine the code to strengthen it. It also has UDP and TCP options. They were almost equal in speed for me.
- IKEv2: Generally thought to be faster than OpenVPN, it was only 1% quicker in my tests. I only use this protocol if the others aren’t working because it’s not as secure. There’s no TCP option, so it’ll be blocked by some firewalls.
- L2TP/IPsec: Being one of the older protocols, this is the least secure option. However, it was the fastest in my tests. It’s good to use when you’re prioritizing speed over security.
You’ll have different options for protocols depending on your device:
There is also an automatic selection option. This will choose the best protocol for you based on your current connection. In addition, some servers don’t support L2TP/IPsec. You can check the server list on ExpressVPN’s website to see which do.
Overall, I’d recommend Lightway TCP since it gives you the best balance of speed and security.
Lightway is ExpressVPN’s proprietary protocol that’s super lightweight, making it ideal for mobile devices. These are some of the benefits of using Lightway:
- Fast speeds. I was able to reach download speeds 5% faster than my regular connection. You can also switch from wolfSSL encryption to ChaCha20 to boost the speeds even more.
- Updated encryption. wolfSSL is a modern cryptographic library vetted by third parties and provides military-grade 256-bit encryption.
- Quickly changes networks. When the signal drops, Lightway idles your VPN connection rather than terminating it. This lets you reconnect right away when you’re moving from WiFi to a mobile network. It also helps you connect faster when you’re reactivating a phone from sleep or airplane mode.
- Establishes connections instantly. I was often able to connect with Lightway in less than a second.
- Small codebase. Lightway only has 1,000 lines of code, which is one of the lightest VPN protocol code bases. This makes Lighway easier to audit. It also means it drains less battery, so it’s great when you’re encrypting traffic on a phone.
Although ExpressVPN doesn’t offer Wireguard, Lightway is a comparable replacement that’s similarly speedy and safe. ExpressVPN also plans to make Lightway’s core library open-source shortly, which will make it even more secure.
Leak Test Results — Passed
ExpressVPN passed all of my leak tests on Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone apps. In my first set of tests, I used ipleak.net with 10 different servers.
The image above shows that each of the tests only saw the Montreal IP address and DNS server I was connected to with the app. IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks are all different ways that your data can be accessed. Even if a VPN does a great job protecting you in every other way, leaks like these can still occur. That’s why it’s great that ExpressVPN has built-in leak protection to conceal your data from every method hackers use to access it.
Private DNS on All Servers
One of the reasons ExpressVPN passed my leak tests is because of its private DNS servers. You need to access a network called the Domain Name Server to move between websites. A Private DNS server cuts out this middleman, eliminating one more area where your information can be leaked.
There is an option to use your own DNS, but I recommend sticking with ExpressVPN’s own Private DNS servers as often as possible.
Independent audits done by Cure53 and PwC proved ExpressVPN is as secure as it claims. There aren’t many VPNs that have had independent audits performed on their logging policies. This shows that ExpressVPN has an honest policy and that they’re willing to put it to the test.
Cure53 is a cybersecurity team that assessed its browser extensions on Chrome and Firefox. Although there wasn’t anything that would allow hackers to reroute your traffic to a malicious site, a few minor issues were found. A month later, Cure53 verified that ExpressVPN had addressed the concerns. The browser extensions are also open-source, so anyone with the technical ability can perform a similar test.
ExpressVPN’s kill switch blocks your internet traffic if the VPN ever disconnects, so you’re always protected. This is an essential feature in any VPN, and ExpressVPN calls its version “Network Lock”.
To test this feature, I tried refreshing a website while I was switching to the Toronto server. Whenever the connection is incomplete, ExpressVPN lets you know in the browser that the traffic is blocked.
On Windows, Linux, and Mac, the kill switch is enabled automatically. You can also grant access to devices on the LAN. This is handy if you have a printer connected to WiFi, so your documents aren’t affected by a faulty server. With the desktop and Android apps you can toggle the kill switch on and off, but the router app cannot. It’s called Network Protection on Android, and it takes one additional step to activate: you just need to set the VPN to “Always On” in the Android settings.
While Network Lock is available on desktop, Android, and routers, there’s no kill switch available for iOS. I keep track of the best VPNs for mobile, including for iOS, and ExpressVPN is among the best, so it’s a shame this critical feature is missing.
Split tunneling lets you exempt some traffic from the VPN tunnel. This comes in handy if you need a local connection for banking while streaming in an international region. You can also use it for printing or to save bandwidth while you’re downloading files (by only encrypting your torrenting app).
To get started, you just need to decide which apps will use the VPN. Adding and removing apps is easy, but you will need to disconnect the VPN while adding in exemptions.
Under the Split Tunneling settings, you have 3 options:
- All apps use the VPN
- Do not allow selected apps to use the VPN
- Only allow selected apps to use the VPN
I chose the second option to remove my online banking app from the tunnel and put this feature to the test.
I connected to a UK server and returned to BBC iPlayer. It worked, and I was able to stream Sherlock while still staying connected to my US bank.
This feature is available for Linux, Windows, Android, Mac, and router apps. Unfortunately, there is no split tunneling in the iOS app.
You can use ExpressVPN with Tor (The Onion Router) using the Tor over VPN method. Tor is a special browser that encrypts all traffic within its network, anonymizing your data. Since it’s one of the main hubs to access the dark web, it has a bad reputation for housing many darknet sites where illegal activities can occur. However, Tor is also necessary since it allows activists and whistleblowers from anywhere to share important information anonymously.
For ExpressVPN to work with Tor, you need to connect to the VPN first. This lets you access Tor even if it’s blocked on your network. You also won’t have to worry about being flagged for using Tor, and you’ll have extra protection against any bugs in the browser.
ExpressVPN even has its own .onion website in the Tor network. This is useful because you can access blocked sites in countries with lots of internet censorship. So, if you accidentally forgot to download your VPN before traveling to China, you can still download the app via Tor.
Since Tor is highly encrypted, it’s a little slower than traditional browsers. Connected to the Los Angeles 1 server, I loaded up a Tor browser in 4 seconds. Accessing ExpressVPN’s .onion site took 9 seconds. This is equivalent to my speeds with no VPN connected, so I used Tor without any extra delays.
Its incredible speeds, no-logs policy, strong encryption, kill switch and TrustedServer Technology make ExpressVPN a solid fit to pair with TOR.
When you connect to a VPN, you’re handing your IP and logs of your internet activity over to a third party. That’s why it’s so important to choose a trustworthy company to be responsible for the information you give them. Luckily, ExpressVPN has proven that it takes customer privacy seriously.
Does ExpressVPN Keep Logs? No
ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy, so it will never store, share, or sell your personal data.
ExpressVPN states it only collects:
- Information you used to sign up (billing details and email address)
- How many apps and app versions you’ve activated
- The day a connection was made (no specific time)
- The server location you connect to (but not the IP address assigned to you)
- The amount of data transferred in one day
I was impressed with how little information is stored; I can’t think of another VPN that collects less. This is the minimal amount of information needed to maintain the VPN and stay in contact with customers. It only reveals that you’ve used a VPN at some point, nothing more.
To protect yourself further, you can pay with cryptocurrency and make a new email for your account. I reached out to ExpressVPN support through the live chat to see if your data, payment, and email information can be deleted. It can, but only after you cancel your subscription.
ExpressVPN does not collect:
- Your personal IP address or the VPN IP address you’ve used
- Data on your browsing history (which websites you’ve accessed)
- DNS queries (the websites you’ve attempted to access)
In other words, there’s no record of where you used ExpressVPN from or what you did while connected.
Diagnostic information can be shared with ExpressVPN voluntarily. When you download the app, simply choose “No Thanks” on the “Help Improve ExpressVPN” page.
On top of all of this, ExpressVPN’s zero-logs policy was put to the test in 2017. One of ExpressVPN’s servers was seized by the Turkish government while seeking information about an assassination. But they found nothing because no data was stored, proving the no-logs policy is legitimate.
ExpressVPN International Limited (the parent company behind the app) uses ExpressVPN as its sole source of revenue. The company has also worked with the Center for Democracy and Technology to help improve privacy rights worldwide. This, along with its proven track record, shows me that ExpressVPN is dedicated to online anonymity.
Based in the Privacy-Friendly British Virgin Islands
ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, a country with no data retention laws. The country where a VPN company is incorporated is very important because it’s required to follow the rules and regulations of its jurisdiction. Along with their strong privacy laws, it’s very difficult for prosecutors to acquire a warrant. They don’t have a mass surveillance program, and the BVI are also outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance (or SIGINT Seniors Europe). This is an agreement between countries to share data on their citizens.
Although it’s a British overseas territory, the BVI has a completely autonomous government. This is good because Britain is a member of 14 Eyes. Other countries can petition the BVI high court to share data, but they can’t be forced to reveal information about their citizens or companies. Even if another country was able to persuade them, ExpressVPN retains no data on its customers anyways. Still, it adds an extra layer of protection to be headquartered in such a privacy-friendly area.
Torrenting — P2P Support on Every Server for Quick Downloads
ExpressVPN allows P2P file sharing with unlimited bandwidth on every server, which makes it great for torrenting.
Many VPNs restrict P2P to a specific server, but with ExpressVPN, you’ll be able to use the best location near you for top speeds. ExpressVPN works with qBitTorrent, Transmission, Vuze, Deluge, uTorrent, and every other major P2P application. It also works with Kodi, where you can access P2P streaming sites.
To test ExpressVPN’s torrenting performance, I used uTorrent to download the public domain movie A Boy and His Dog. On a New York server, I was able to download at 2.1 MB/s with only 0.44 seeders. That let me complete the 700 MB file in under 10 minutes.
ExpressVPN only supports port forwarding on the router app, but not on the others. It also doesn’t offer a SOCKS5 proxy. People mainly use these to seed faster, but as my test shows, you’ll still be able to download quickly without these features.
All of ExpressVPN’s security and privacy protocols will keep you well protected while torrenting. For example, built-in leak protection and a kill switch are essential features for staying anonymous while using P2P-file sharing software. Split tunneling lets you keep your regular internet traffic local while your real IP is hidden from the torrenting app. All of this combined with ExpressVPN’s impressive speeds make it a great VPN for torrenting.
That being said, my team and I do not condone any illegal torrenting or streaming, but many people use P2P services to legally share files. I recommend researching any applications you use to download torrents to make sure they’re not sharing copyrighted movies or shows.
You can use ExpressVPN in China, but it’s best to download it before entering the country. While only government-approved VPNs are legal in China, so far, the government fights these VPNs by blocking them. It’s uncommon for them to go after the individuals using them. However, we urge you to read up as much as you can about VPN use in China so that you’re fully aware of the risks.
The Chinese government heavily censors internet usage in the country. Sites like Google, Facebook, and YouTube are inaccessible with a standard Chinese internet connection. This online censorship is known as the Great Firewall of China. However, when the Chinese government cracked down on VPN use a few years ago, ExpressVPN was one of the only VPNs that still worked (and still does).
ExpressVPN also has servers in Hong Kong, which allow you to access Chinese TV and websites while outside of China.
Although the ping was too high for gaming (202 ms), the Hong Kong 2 server increased my download speed by 19%! I was able to stream Chinese shows with no lag in HD.
It works in reverse, too: people inside China can access digitally censored sites with foreign locations. While ExpressVPN uses obfuscation technology, it also keeps an updated list of servers that are guaranteed to work in China, so you’re always well-equipped when traveling to the country. To stay safe, I recommend you do your research because the laws and regulations are always changing.
The support team told me it also works in restrictive countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE (anywhere with an internet connection). For China specifically, the company has a website with troubleshooting advice. You need to make sure your app is updated, keep your protocol set to automatic, and use one of the servers it recommends for China. These are constantly changing, so be sure to check out the list each time you connect.
ExpressVPN allows you to unblock Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Netflix, and more from inside China. However, just remember to install it before you enter the country to make sure it isn’t blocked. If you have to download it while in China, you can still do so if you use the Tor browser to access its .onion site.