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ExpressVPN Review

A VPN provider with a vast network, outstanding support, fast speed and great unblocking abilities. Expressvpn

Pros:

  • A vast network of servers in 160 locations in 94 countries
  • Unblocks Netflix and other georestricted sites
  • Good speed performance
  • Clients that support all the major operating systems
  • 24/7 customer support via email and live chat

Cons:

  • A bit highly priced packages
  • ExpressVPN app is needed for browser extensions to work
  • Android app has restricted protocol choices

ExpressVPN is a VPN provider that clearly knows how to position itself as a trusted leader in the VPN market. The service is packed with professional features that hardly can be matched by competitors.

ExpressVPN’s high-end platform covers major operating systems such as Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. There is also custom firmware for routers and comprehensive manual guides on how to set up the service on Apple TV, Fire TV, PlayStation, Chromebooks, Kindle Fire and more. The browser extensions of ExpressVPN are available for Chrome and Firefox and include extras like WebRTC leak blocking, location spoofing, and HTTPS Everywhere support.

ExpressVPN protects your web traffic through a number of technical features. The service provider has its own DNS servers. Military-grade encryption technologies protect your online activities from advanced attackers and prying eyes. And you can precisely specify which applications should use the VPN and which should use your regular internet connection with the help of clever split-tunneling feature. Expressvpn Encryption

The VPN service provider offers a network of 3 000+ servers, distributed over 160 cities in 94 countries. The best coverage is for Europe and the US, however, ExpressVPN has a number of server locations in Asia and a few countries that hardly are supported by other VPN providers.

A clearly written and transparent privacy policy specifies that no personal information is stored by ExpressVPN. Unlike many competitors, the company goes into details about the data it uses. Moreover, its servers have recently undergone external audit in order to validate that the company meets its own privacy policy and no logging claims.

Customer support is also outstanding. ExpressVPN supports users through live chat 24/7. The company’s agents are professionals who can deal with any technological issue and are available within minutes. Most competitors simply can’t match that with their basic outsourced support which often takes more than a day to receive a truly helpful response and professional assistance.

Some recent innovative solutions add up to the sophisticated look of the service. If you are curious about them, we will share with you our take on all the latest ExpressVPN features, plan offerings and performance.

Setting up the VPN client

Many users struggle to get a VPN client installed and functioning properly. Luckily, the well-built ExpressVPN website has all the manuals and support that is needed to minimize that hassle. All you have to do is log in to your account dashboard and the website will automatically identify the kind of device you are using and will display a “Download” button for that particular VPN client.  In case you need a client for another platform, one click on “Set up on all your devices” will take you to a list of options where you can choose the app for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, and more, accompanied by instructions for setting up. Expressvpn Setup

ExpressVPN can reroute you to the corresponding app store for downloading the mobile app when you tap on it. It also lets you email yourself a setup link through an email button, gives you a QR code, and even lets you download the APK file directly. A very nice setup touch is that the VPN does not require you to find your username and password and manually enter them. Instead, you simply have to copy the special activation code from the download page and paste it into the client when prompted. The software then sets your login credentials automatically. You may also set up an OpenVPN client from a third party. ExpressVPN makes it much simpler to do so through .OVPN configuration files.

  •             Windows client

The Windows client of ExpressVPN has a convenient and simple interface that doesn’t take long to get used to. You can activate the service with a big on/off button. You can also view your current server through a status display and choose your location from the “Choose location” button. At the top left, there is a menu button that gives you quick access to a handful of features.

The best server can be picked in a variety of ways. Your nearest server is selected through a Smart Location feature. To find the best location in a country, you can double-click it, or search through all country locations manually. A Search box helps you to quickly find locations by keyword and add them to a Favorites list.

The latest version of the client also shows the location that is currently selected, the “smart location” (ExpressVPN’s suggested server), and your last location on the main panel so you can connect to them by simply tapping, without the need to open the location list.

The system tray icon also has some smart touches – a right-click on it opens a menu which gives you quick access to your last three locations.

Initially, the location list does not provide any data on the speed of its servers, which will allow you to find the fastest location. The Speed Test feature of the client, however, gives you valuable details, including latency and a download speed estimate.

Tapping on the “Settings” dialog opens more customization options. You can select a protocol (OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP – IPSec and IKEv2) manually or you can let ExpressVPN to automatically pick the protocol that suits your network best. The later, in our view, isn’t such a good idea since it is not very clear how the automatic choice of protocol happens (the website doesn’t give any details) and the client doesn’t tell what protocol is working at the moment. So, in case you have concerns, simply pick a protocol that the client will use every time.

If the VPN connection suddenly drops, a default kill switch is there to block all Internet traffic and reduce the chance of data leaks. It works well during tests by notifying you, blocking the traffic and reconnecting in seconds after attempts to forcibly close OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.

Some additional small technical touches include the ability to use your own DNS servers with the VPN (by default you are using ExpressVPN’s own DNS servers) and some basic IPv6 protection.

The most innovative feature of ExpressVPN Windows client is its split tunneling support. This is an intelligent technology for deciding which of the applications should use the VPN and which should use your standard Internet connection. Split tunneling allows you to redirect apps that don’t work well with your VPN to the normal Internet connection and set specific apps, such as browsers or torrent apps, to use your VPN connection only.

  •             Android app

The Android ExpressVPN app is simple to use and well-built. It has been installed more than 10 million times and has a rating of 4.2. on Google Play. The app helps you to connect and disconnect with one click, as well as track your current location and Android VPN status in a single glance.

The Location Picker feature makes identifying and reconnecting to different servers fast and convenient. The Privacy and Security Tools menu offers some helpful options that let you customize your connection.

However, the Android App has dropped some of the Windows client’s most sophisticated functionalities. There’s no Speed Test, and protocol choices are restricted to OpenVPN TCP or UDP only. Still, if the VPN drops, you get a built-in kill switch to secure your IP address.

The auto-connection feature is particularly welcome when you are accessing non-trusted networks. A feature called “Apps and Website Shortcuts” lets you add up to 5 icons for your favorite apps and shortcuts in a configurable toolbar.

In conclusion, ExpressVPN’s Android app isn’t the most feature-packed app that we have seen and we’d like to have more customization options. Yet, it needs to be on the list if you are interested in exploring Android VPN applications. Besides, you can test the service for seven days for free – something that is not available if you sign up on the website.

  •             iOS app

The iOS app of ExpressVPN requires a couple more clicks to get installed than its Android counterpart because of Apple’s additional security measures. You will have to confirm its authorizations but after that, the app opens with a clean and simple interface – a big “Connect” button, a menu button and a recommended location tap.

The Location Picker feature provides several ways to select specific locations by countries and cities. The iOS app enables you to swap servers without first closing the current connection manually, much as the Android app.

There is no kill switch like in the Android version, but there is an auto-connect function that tries to reconnect if the VPN connection drops, and a Privacy and Security Tools menu that gives you access to a set of safety tools.

Unlike the Android client, the iOS client lets you select between OpenVPN UDP, TCP, L2TP and IKEv2 protocols. A risk-free, 7-day trial is available to test all the features if you wish. Expressvpn Money Back

  •             Browser extensions

Aside from its polished VPN clients, ExpressVPN also offers Chrome and Firefox extensions. These extensions need to have the app installed to use them but they allow you to control and customize the service directly from your browser, which is something that you won’t find with the competition.

Unlike the extensions of other VPN providers, ExpressVPN’s browser extensions operate like fully functional browser-based interfaces rather than simple proxies. Once launched, they can communicate with the desktop client and reflect its connection status and default location. In addition, you can control the desktop client through them without the need to switch back and forth between the desktop and the browser app in case you need any changes or adjustments.

The interface of the extensions resembles the regular desktop clients and apps and has almost identical system for browsing and choosing locations. There are some limitations, though. For instance, you won’t find Favorites list or speed testing.

However, privacy tools aren’t missing. Both the Chrome and the Firefox extension have settings that let you prevent HTML5 geolocation from revealing your actual location while you’re connected to the VPN. WebRTC leaks blocking feature is also included, as well as the HTTPS Everywhere function that  automatically forces HTTPS connections of websites whenever they’re available.

Performance

When it comes to evaluating the performance of any given VPN service, speed is what most people are looking at. Therefore, we usually opt for running intensive internal tests by logging into sample servers, registering their connection times and running some ping tests to check latency. This gives us a good foundation to determine how the service performs.

When logged through UK servers, ExpressVPN’s service shows no connection issues even at peak times, and establishes connection within three to five seconds. This is a good sign having in mind that many VPNs take twice the time. Geolocation checks confirm that the servers are in the locations that are advertised and latency is within the normal range.

The performance tests through benchmarking sites such as SpeedTest and TestMy.net also show promising results. Speeds of about 70Mbps are reached for UK connections which is excellent. US connections are even more impressive with 600Mbps which is more than enough to do what you want. The typical speed that can be reached for US with other VPNs is usually about 250Mbps.

Long distance connections, however, show some mixed results in speed tests. Of course, there are tons of non-VPN-related factors that can affect the test results but, in general, the picture is very positive for ExpressVPN. Servers in Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa and a few other distant locations manage to offer speeds of about 60Mbps. The 15Mbps of Brazil is probably the most disappointing result of all tested locations in terms of speed. It is worth to note, though, that our tests are taken over a short period of time. Thus, their results should not necessarily reflect your opinion about the long-term experience of using ExpressVPN.

Streaming

It’s not easy to get around content blockers such as governments and Wi-Fi hotspot administrators. However, ExpressVPN’s service can be used to access geoblocked content in YouTube, Disney+ and some 25+ more sites. Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video all work well with Express VPN and the service can successfully unblock them. Netfilx, in particular, is unblocked in 10 out of 10 locations, which tops ExpressVPN as one of the best Netfilx unblocking VPN services. US and UK Amazon Prime Video content, however, is only available if you have a billing address in that country.

Torrenting

Express VPN doesn’t seem to mention torrents on its website. Still, the service not only supports torrenting but it also makes it much more convenient than other VPN providers. The company has no limits for data, and claims that it will never throttle your connection. Besides, there are no bandwidth or transfer-related restrictions, no activity logs, and a number of locations to choose from. All in all, you won’t be mistaken if you chose ExpressVPN for your torrenting needs.

Pricing and plans

ExpressVPN has three plan offerings. Prices start at $12.95 for a monthly billed access which is not cheap but is similar to what most leading VPN providers offer. The 6-month plan would cost you $9.99 a month, which is a reasonable discount. The annual plan offers a 35% discount on the monthly service and comes down to $8.32 which is a better offer than what competitors like Hotspot Shiled give, but is somewhat similar to what you can get from the offerings of HideMyAss! and NordVPN, for example. Expressvpn PlansThere’s a 30-day money-back guarantee and payment options include PayPal, Bitcoin, cards and a few more payment solutions. There are no small print clauses and catches, and the service is easy to use and straightforward to sign up for.

Privacy policy and logging

ExpressVPN is a service that claims it doesn’t keep any logs of connection or user activity. Its official website has a “Policy towards logs” page which clearly explains more about the way the company uses your data. According to it, the provider does not keep records of your IP address, the time you’ve logged in, the VPN IP address or any data on the pages that you are visiting. The dates you connect to the service, your choice of server, your total amount of data transferred for the day, and the version of the client you’ve installed are logged, though.

The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is not a party to the intelligence-sharing agreement also known as SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR). The BVI has its own regulations and UK and US don’t have jurisdiction mechanisms to automatically force ExpressVPN to release any data.

Support

ExpressVPN’s website has a number of support tools to help its customers fix any issues with the service. There are troubleshooting guides for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux. A Search box lets you scan more than 250 articles to find what you need. You can use a number of tutorials covering the installation of ExpressVPN’s own apps, and manual setups for various client versions. All the support materials are well written and easy to follow. They go into deep details and cover all the key aspects, including some technical tweaks that are explained in a simple language. Expressvpn Support

Support team is available 24/7 via email and live chat. It can take up to 24 hours to receive a response to some questions, but what you get is generally helpful information. For quicker response times, the company recommends using the live chat.

Final words

Ease of use, great unblocking abilities, reliable protection and excellent support are the key features that make ExpressVPN a leading service on the VPN market. It’s more expensive than most competitor offerings, but what you pay for justifies with very user-friendly, powerful and professional service that won’t let you disappointed.

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About the author

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Lidia Howler

Lidia is a web content creator with years of experience in the cyber-security sector. She helps readers with articles on malware removal and online security. Her strive for simplicity and well-researched information provides users with easy-to-follow It-related tips and step-by-step tutorials.

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