ExpressVPN is undoubtedly one of the names you have come across around the topic of the best VPN apps out there. But if you have difficulty figuring out whether ExpressVPN is a good choice for your needs, this review can help you.
As someone with over a decade of experience writing about macOS apps and the Apple ecosystem, I have been testing the premium version of ExpressVPN for the past week. In this review, I have made an honest attempt to understand whether ExpressVPN is worth the hype.
We shall answer some of the common questions you may have about ExpressVPN.
What Is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN services available for personal and professional requirements. It has been an industry leader for a few years, offering the service in countries across the globe. Often called the ‘best VPN‘ out there, ExpressVPN is an incredible option for Mac and iOS users.
For those who are new to the concept of VPN services, ExpressVPN is designed to protect your online privacy and anonymity with the help of virtual tunneling technology. It also uses encryption and network protection features to enhance the level of privacy.
Is ExpressVPN Safe/Legit?
ExpressVPN is one of the safest and most legit options available on the market right now. As we said, it has maintained a top position on the list of popular VPNs. And this kind of reputation does not come from being subpar. On the other hand, the service must offer a stable experience to customers over years. And, as per our testing and thousands of reviews we have analyzed, ExpressVPN has managed to do it.
Therefore, judging the reputation alone, ExpressVPN is a legit option for all users. The company has been a compliant entity in terms of its zero-logging policy and privacy protection. The ExpressVPN apps for popular platforms have also been tested for being 100% safe and privacy-centric. Overall, you do not have to worry about the safety/legitimacy aspect of ExpressVPN.
Is ExpressVPN Free?
No, ExpressVPN is not free to use. The company believes in offering a comprehensive service by charging a subscription fee, instead of offering something half-baked under the disguise of being free. However, I love the fact that ExpressVPN offers a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee for 30 days.
So, if you do not like the VPN service from ExpressVPN for any reason, you can cancel the subscription and get back the money you paid. Therefore, in practice, you can use ExpressVPN and its features without paying anything.
On the bright side of things, you can use the complete version of ExpressVPN instead of a limited ‘free trial’.
We shall look at the innovative features that ExpressVPN offers.
ExpressVPN is one of the very few services with widespread compatibility. Dedicated apps for ExpressVPN are available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Smart TVs. You can also set up the service on your Wi-Fi router or gaming consoles with ease. In addition, if you want selective control, you can choose to go with the browser extensions of ExpressVPN.
To improve the overall VPN experience and privacy, ExpressVPN has taken a RAM-only approach. It means the VPN servers of ExpressVPN do not use hard disks or SSDs. It not only improves the transmission speed of the service but also removes the chance of data logging. ExpressVPN also adds that RAM-only servers will keep misconfigurations to the minimum.
- Military Encryption & Private DNS
As you can guess, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit data encryption across VPN servers. For both control-channel as well as data-channel encryption, the same technology is used. Combined with the private DNS technology from ExpressVPN, you can expect a seamless VPN experience. The company also makes use of a new VPN protocol called Lightway, which offers improved speed for purposes like gaming and streaming.
We have observed that VPN services, despite how secure they are, take a toll on the download/streaming speed. In addition, ISPs tend to throttle the download speeds when you use a VPN. Considering this point, I should appreciate that ExpressVPN uses multiple features to improve the speed. You also have an option to go for a gaming-optimized server with lower latency.
It is also impressive that ExpressVPN has a versatile collection of VPN servers. The company offers access to over 3000 server locations, which are located in 94 countries. Some of these servers are virtual, whereas a few offer 10Gbps connections. The best part is that ExpressVPN has already converted more than 80% of the server infrastructure to high-speed servers.
We will now discuss the user experience we had with ExpressVPN apps. For reference, we have tested in detail the macOS and iOS apps of ExpressVPN. We have also taken a look at the other apps, and ExpressVPN seems to follow the same UI/UX design philosophy.
Getting started with ExpressVPN is straightforward, and you can complete the process in a few minutes, at the most. Once you have selected and paid for the ExpressVPN plan using one of the available methods, you will be led to the account dashboard. In this dashboard, you can find links to download ExpressVPN apps for multiple platforms. In our case, we downloaded and installed the official apps for macOS and iOS.
The macOS app for ExpressVPN is easy to use and intuitive. It does not take up a lot of screen real estate, either. Instead, you can get started by pasting the account activation code, which you can find on the VPN account dashboard. Once ExpressVPN has verified the code, you can see the connection options. On macOS, you will have to approve the VPN configuration as well.
Then, you can choose between the available VPN locations with ease. There are also options to sort all the available locations based on criteria like latency, download speed, etc.
Even though the iOS app for ExpressVPN does not offer as many options as the macOS/Windows one, the UI remains the same. For instance, you can select one of the locations from the full list. It also shows a small widget for protection summary. This widget contains information such as the current IP address, location, and the time you have been off the VPN protection.
In conclusion, we have no complaints about the usability of ExpressVPN apps. On the other hand, we must appreciate how the developers have kept the designs simple and easy to access. We should also add that it is convenient to manage all your devices from a single dashboard.
We wanted to see the performance ExpressVPN offers in terms of the download/upload speed. Since these speeds rely on location and time, we do not want to bore you with relative numbers. Instead, we checked the impact of the VPN service on the overall speed. This is how we conducted the speed tests:
We picked the United Kingdom as the common point of reference. We tested the speed of our connection before connecting to the VPN location and compared it with the speeds when connected to the UK server. Then, we compared the impact ExpressVPN had on the speed with that of other VPNs we have tested over the past months.
As you can see from the results in the screenshots, ExpressVPN has minimal impact on the speed. Although the latency has had a noticeable change, the download/upload speeds have remained on the higher side. In short, the speeds are great on paper.
However, there were a few areas where ExpressVPN could not keep us impressed. For instance, establishing connection to VPN servers can be a time-consuming task. Compared to other VPNs we have used and tested before, ExpressVPN takes more time to connect to servers.
According to the company, it happens mostly due to the ultra-secure protocols it uses for encryption and DNS routing. So, these slower connection establishment process may not be a deal-breaker, after all.
We tested multiple locations of the ExpressVPN service for tasks like browsing, content-blocking, streaming, and gaming. Here are the common takeaways.
Anonymous browsing has become easier with the help of ExpressVPN. The connection process is quick, and the apps can recommend the best VPN server depending on the time and location. It is a great option when you want to add an enhanced layer of security, especially for something like bank transactions or when you are on a public Wi-Fi network.
Since ExpressVPN is equipped with virtual and actual servers across the globe, you can enable connections to specific server locations. Thanks to private DNS and RAM-only servers, the connections are quick as well. So, when you connect to the UK or the US servers, you can access any website that would be available for a person from the location in question.
ExpressVPN has dedicated servers for streaming and gaming purposes. These servers are designed to offer maximum download speeds and latency in the first place. In our testing, the smart choice by the VPN app was able to offer the best streaming experience, especially on fast Netflix streaming. More often than not, we could not tell whether we were connected to a VPN server.
So, the effectiveness rating of ExpressVPN has stayed commendable in all these sectors. Even so, we cannot call ExpressVPN exceptional by any means. While the available speeds are impressive for specific tasks, there are other VPN services offering almost the same numbers. Many of the other popular VPN services, namely NordVPN and PrivadoVPN, can easily compete with ExpressVPN in terms of the average speed.
In conclusion, ExpressVPN offers a balanced and smooth VPN experience for most people. Even though it is not free, you can try the service for 30 days. As far as the monthly pricing is concerned, you can spend as low as $8.32 to get all the features we have mentioned above. In comparison, these plans are reasonable!
So, ExpressVPN is an easy option to recommend to our readers. Regardless of your purpose — be it gaming, streaming, or secure browsing, you can have a pleasant and guaranteed experience.