Overall Rating 91%Excellent
Features
95%Excellent
Pricing
80%Good
Supported Devices
90%Excellent
ExpressVPN SmartDNS
90%Excellent
Server Locations
99%Excellent
Speed
95%Excellent
Security
90%Excellent
Privacy Policy
89%Very Good
Support
95%Excellent

ExpressVPN Overview

ExpressVPN receives its fair share of buzz (suspiciously so, I thought at first), so when the chance came to review it, I have to admit to being predisposed towards criticism.

My conclusion? Whether you’re a Mac or Windows user, ExpressVPN is a snappy service that’s aptly named.

Of course, VPN services are about much more than just speed. They’re also about protecting user privacy, and in that regard, ExpressVPN again earns top marks thanks to OpenVPN encryption and excellent supplemental security features.

Then there’s the fact that ExpressVPN maintains servers in over 80 countries – more than any other VPN service I’ve used before. Add 24/7 live chat support, and it becomes pretty clear why they’re a consumer favorite.

No, the service isn’t free – or even particularly cheap – but it pays dividends in user experience. For those as leery of the hype as I was, ExpressVPN offers a generous 30-day money back guarantee so you can take it for a test drive.

Tag along with me below, to find out why ExpressVPN is has earned its place as Cloudward.net’s top VPN provider. I’ll also point out a few shortcomings that you’ll want to know about, before deciding if it’s the best VPN for you.

Pros And Cons

Features

95% – Excellent

I’ll be diving into ExpressVPN’s feature set, in detail, throughout this review. In the meantime, here’s a broad overview of what you get after signing up:

  • Servers in 136 cities and 87 countries
  • Speed analyzer to find the fastest connections
  • Zero bandwidth throttling
  • Unlimited server switches
  • Super-secure OpenVPN tunneling
  • SSTP, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP tunneling
  • Up to 256-bit AES encryption
  • Shared IP addresses
  • Desktop apps for Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Mobile apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Amazon Kindle
  • Router apps for Linksys
  • DD-WRT and Tomato routers supported
  • Free Smart DNS (DNS proxy) service
  • Supports P2P/torrenting
  • No logging of browser activity
  • Network Lock (kill switch, DNS-leak and IPv6-leak protection)
  • Automatic connection
  • 24/7 customer support (live chat, email)
  • Extensive tutorial and troubleshooting guides

Who is ExpressVPN For?

One of the essential value propositions of any VPN service is that it can change the location and IP address of your device; that way you can be kicking back in a coffee shop in Chiang Mai, but appear as if you’re actually in London, minding the gap.

ExpressVPN is available in 87 different countries around the world, which is a whole lot of places you can pretend to be from.

For users of Vuze or other P2P clients, masking an IP address means that entities who monitor such traffic for copyright infringement can’t tell where – or even who – you are.

Corporations also often use IP addresses to pinpoint your location. They then use this knowledge to market and even scale pricing based on location. This process is called “dynamic pricing,” and it’s pretty dubious.

Also at play are government security agencies. I can’t break down every government’s policy on Internet traffic monitoring, so I’ll instead use the United States as an example (this procedure  falls under the purview of the Stored Communications Act).

In the U.S., Internet service providers are not legally required to keep logs of your browsing history. However, most ISPs do track your IP address and which websites you visit. And, if they do store this data, they’re are required to share it, if the U.S. government ever comes calling.

By masking your identity, VPN services leave third-parties (like your ISP) unable to monitor what you’re doing.  Better yet, with OpenVPN and similar encryption technologies, any data that gets captured in-transit is scrambled and unreadable.

Many – myself included – find strong security to be the most compelling reason to consider an ExpressVPN subscription. While public Wi-Fi spots are convenient, they’re also common hunting grounds for online criminals.

Public Wi-Fi networks have sniffer software deployed to eavesdrop on your Internet activity. Thanks to a variety of easy-to-get tools, hackers can hijack email and social media accounts, or watch as you login into commercial websites.  

As we’ll see, ExpressVPN offers the best possible encryption setup and extends that protection to a wide variety of devices like:

  • Desktops
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Mobile phones

ExpressVPN even works on your home router; protecting the entire home’s Wi-Fi network.

What to Watch With ExpressVPN

In recent years, Netflix has gone global, even though it still isn’t available in China, and countries where U.S. businesses aren’t permitted, like North Korea, Crimea and Syria.

Also, even where it is available, watching Netflix in one country isn’t the same as watching it in another. That’s because the licensing agreements Netflix has with various film and television studios are location-based.

The good news is, ExpressVPN lets you watch Netflix from anywhere and choose which country to experience it from.

Recently, Netflix has come under pressure from film and television studios to start blocking VPN services entirely, yet as of this writing, ExpressVPN still lets me stream Netflix videos.

Also, even if they do end up blocking all VPN tunneling efforts, ExpressVPN offers users a Smart DNS proxy which should function as an excellent workaround.

Two other streaming services I commonly use VPN services to watch are Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. However, I’m something of a film addict, so I’m always on the lookout for more.

Here’s an overview of services and television network sites that are known to restrict content based on the viewer’s location.

NetflixHuluAmazonHBO NowNow TV
AMC HDAOL TVAdult SwimShowtimeTalkTalk
BBC iPlayerCBSABCMLBBeIN Sports
FXSyFyVuduSky GoT20
Comedy CentralDeezerHistory Channel
TCMMLB TV

Even with these savings, ExpressVPN comes out somewhat pricier on its annual signup, than other traditional VPN services.

Pricing

80% – Good

ExpressVPN offers a simple pricing structure: Go month-to-month, or sign up for six to twelve months in advance. The service’s monthly sticker price is somewhat expensive, but signing up for one of the two long-term options will save you some money.



Even with these savings, ExpressVPN comes out somewhat pricier on its annual signup, than other traditional VPN services.


1. VyprVPN 

PlanPrice PlanBandwidthIncluded DevicesBitcoin
VyprVPN Basic
$ 9.99 Monthly
$ 119.88 1 Year
$ 80.40 (-33%)
Unlimited GB1
VyprVPN Pro
$ 14.99 Monthly
$ 179.88 1 Year
$ 99.96 (-44%)
Unlimited GB2
VyprVPN Premier
$ 19.99 Monthly
$ 239.88 1 Year
$ 120.00 (-50%)
Unlimited GB3


2. IPVanish

PlanPrice PlanBandwidthIncluded DevicesBitcoin
Standard
$ 10 Monthly
$ 120.00 1 Year
$ 77.99 (-35%)
Unlimited GB2Unlimited


3. PIA

PlanPrice PlanBandwidthIncluded DevicesBitcoin
Standard
$ 6.95 Monthly
$ 83.40 1 Year
$ 39.95 (-52%)
Unlimited GB5Unlimited


Is ExpressVPN’s expensive price tag warranted? For the most part, I believe it is – and you’ll find out why below. However, if you have friends also shopping for a VPN service, the question might be moot.

That’s because ExpressVPN offers a generous referral program.

If you manage to sign up both yourself and a friend successfully, you’ll both get 30 days of free service. Better yet, there are no restrictions on how many friends can sign up.

I mentioned earlier that Express offer a 30-day money back guarantee, that’s as good or better than just about every other commercial VPN service I’ve looked into.

Finally, I was pleased to see that ExpressVPN offers many payment options, including:

  • PayPal
  • Bitcoin
  • Paymentwall

They also accept all major credit cards, and a few other ones I’ve never heard of before.  

 

Alternatives for ExpressVPN

Starts from
$ 10.00 per month
IPVanish Review
  • Good for privacy and security
  • Android app
  • Based in US
  • Software is simply functional
  • Abysmal support
www.ipvanish.com
Starts from
$ 9.99 per month
VyprVPN Review
  • Great technical security
  • 3 simultaneous connections
  • Useful extras
  • Great software
  • Great performance
  • No usage logs, but collects a lot of metadata
  • P2P not allowed
  • Liable to US laws
www.goldenfrog.com
Starts from
$ 6.95 per month
Private Internet Access Review
  • Great privacy and security
  • Fantastic Windows client
  • Very fast
  • Fantastic value for money
  • OS X client not so good
  • Based in U.S.
  • Servers in only 24 countries
www.privateinternetaccess.com

Supported Devices

90% – Excellent

ExpressVPN offers desktop clients for

  • Windows: (10, 8, 7, XP, Vista)
  • Mac: (Snow Leopard, Lion, El Capitan, Sierra)
  • Linux :(Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, CentOS)

And other applications are available for:

  • iOS :(iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6 S, 6 S Plus, SE)
  • Android: (Jellybean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow)
  • Amazon Kindle Fire: (all versions)
  •  Linksys Routers: (WRT1200AC, WRT1900AC, WRT3200ACM0

 

Router apps are only available for a handful of Linksys models, but you can manually configure ExpressVPN to work with routers flashed using DD-WRT and Tomato firmware.

Setting up router support extends VPN protection to your entire WLAN network, which is handy since ExpressVPN only connects up to three devices simultaneously.

On a side note, the three-device limit is one of the few disappointing facets of using ExpressVPN, because many other VPN services offer more.

For example, PIA and IPVanish both permit up to five simultaneous connections.

While installing a VPN on your router is a good way to protect the entire home network, other devices can get individually protected too, with a little work. Some of these solutions will require setting up a virtual router on a computer or configuring your device to use ExpressVPN’s SmartDNS service, which we’re covering next.

Here’s a snapshot of popular devices you can protect with ExpressVPN, alongside tutorial links to help give you a better idea of what setup works for each piece of hardware:

Device:
Configuration Tutorial:
Playstation 4 (w/ MediaStreamer)Read
Xbox One (w/ MediaStreamer)Read
Chromecast (w/ Virtual Router/Router)
Read
AppleTV (w/ MediaStreamer)
Read
AppleTV (w/ AirPlay)
Read
Roku (w/ Virtual Router/Router)
Read
TV Streaming Box (running Android)
Read
WD TV Live (w/ Virtual Router/Router)
Read
Amazon Fire TV
Read

I’ll walk you through the user experience on both the desktop and mobile apps, towards the end of this review.

ExpressVPN SmartDNS

90% – Excellent

As a DNS proxy, Smart DNS is used to obscure both your IP address and location. It does so by redirecting web activity through a remote server; anyone monitoring your activity will think the server is what’s browsing.

In that regard, Smart DNS acts very much like a VPN tunnel. The difference is that routing data packets through a proxy server is faster, because there’s no encryption involved.

That means more nimble P2P connections and better VOIP quality.

The trade off is that due to a lack of encryption, others can potentially eavesdrop on your activity.

Server Locations

99% – Excellent

ExpressVPN currently has servers in 87 countries, beating the competition by a wide margin.

VPN Service:
Number of Countries:
1. ExpressVPN87
2. VyprVPN64
3. IPVanish60
4. BufferedVPN37
5. PIA24

Many of the countries represent multiple cities. In fact, ExpressVPN currently has servers in 136 cities, with multiple servers in most of them.

ExpressVPN provides users with two different ways to discover optimal server connections.

The first one is a feature called “Smart Location,” which chooses a location for you, based on proximity. There’s also a helpful Speed Test feature that pings all server locations so that you can pick the fastest server connection in the city of your choice

ExpressVPN grants users unlimited server switching. That means you can bounce between servers in each of the 80 countries, as often as you please, I like to think of it as a master key to the Internet.

Speed

95% – Excellent

According to ExpressVPN, they never throttle connections or cap data. That said:

  1. Encryption strength
  2. Distance-to-server
  3. Network traffic

Impact speeds when using any VPN service. To get a better picture of how ExpressVPN slows down, I executed a few tests using speedtest.net.

The tests were performed over a Wi-Fi network just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I used OpenVPN as my tunnel protocol since it’s the best and very common.

First,here are  the download results:

Server:Download (Mbps):Change:
VPN off
32.01n/a
New York
30.23-5.56%
London18.93-40.86%
Hong Kong
9.83-69.29%

Just 200 miles away, New York saw the smallest speed drop, followed respectively by London and Hong Kong in descending order.

These figures compare favorably to other VPN services I’ve tested in the past; for the sake of context, here are the downloads speeds for IPVanish and VyprVPN.

Here are the upload results for ExpressVPN, which are patterned similarly to the download results:

Server:Upload (Mbps):Change:
VPN off12.23n/a
New York10.11-17.33%
London9.84-19.54%
Hong Kong3.82-68.77%

Overall, ExpressVPN maintains a fast network that won’t keep you waiting.

Security

90% – Excellent

ExpressVPN lets users select from the following encryption protocols:

  • OpenVPN
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • SSTP

OpenVPN is considered the top protocol to use today, thanks to a potent combination of security and speed.

Not only does it integrate with the best encryption protocols available – ExpressVPN also uses 256-bit AES – and you can forward activity through any port you want.

Doing so further disguises what you’re upto and lets you slip undetected past firewalls designed to block VPN traffic.

While fast, PPTP is an older protocol that’s no longer popular. In fact, it’s widely rumored to have been cracked by the NSA, which might be Internet gossip, but why take the chance when better options are available?

L2TP offers decent security, but it’s pretty slow.

That’s because L2TP doesn’t provide any encryption of its own and needs to get paired with IPSec. That pairing means more architecture, which in turn puts more strain on a system’s resources.

The inclusion of SSTP as a fourth protocol is interesting. Many VPN services no longer offer PPTP or L2TP/IPSec support and almost none offer SSTP.

However, that’s not necessarily because SSTP is wrong, in fact, many security experts claim it’s as safe as OpenVPN and most consider it more secure on Windows. The problem with SSTP is that it’s owned by Microsoft and isn’t open source, it strength can’t be independently vetted, so use it at your own risk.

Switch between protocols on ExpressVPN by accessing the application menu, selecting “Options” and clicking on the “Protocols” tab.

A big problem with VPN connections is the fact that they can fail.

Should this happen, it could leave you under the gaze of unwanted eyes; since your IP address and location will get revealed, and your Internet activity will once again get routed via your ISP’s DNS servers.

ExpressVPN solves this problem with a feature they’ve dubbed “Network Lock.”

Network Lock is their name for a “kill switch,” kill switches are common among VPN providers because they automatically halt all traffic should your VPN connection get dropped, so that you’re not left exposed.

ExpressVPN’s Network Lock also protects from both DNS and IPv6 leaks, by forcing all traffic through the VPN tunnel – no exceptions.

Both of these leaks occur when an OS sends requests to your ISP’s DNS server, to translate website URLs into IP addresses. These leaks shouldn’t happen with a VPN tunnel active, but sometimes do, unless preventive measures are built-in.

Network Lock is available for both Windows and Mac users and can be enabled or disabled based on personal preference.  

Privacy Policy

89% – Very Good

The problem with free VPN services is that they need to make money somehow, a situation that is ironically solved by frequently logging and selling user activity for profit. For those worried about ExpressVPN doing the same, you’ll be happy to know that they do not maintain any browsing logs of your activity.

They don’t track the amount of time you spend on websites or even what sites you visit. That said, they do maintain some meta-data, including:

  • Connection dates (but not times)
  • VPN server location
  • Total amount of data transferred per day

The reason ExpressVPN maintains this data is to optimize their network. Since they don’t keep a record of IP addresses, timestamps or other identifying information, there’s no actual way to connect any logged activity back to a user.

I never completely take a VPN service’s word when it comes to privacy policies, since it’s easy for them to say one thing and do another. That said, there’s been no chatter that I’ve heard about, that suggests ExpressVPN doesn’t uphold their privacy policy.

While it could easily be posturing, they do further position themselves as privacy advocates, by putting their money where their mouth is.

Namely, ExpressVPN supports several non-profit digital rights groups, including:

Finally, ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, where online anonymity is considerably more protected, compared to the United States.

Support

95% – Excellent

ExpressVPN does a pretty fantastic job with support, and I say this as someone who can be scathing towards customer support, in general.

Many support channels only offer live help during business hours, if they offer it at all, on the other hand — ExpressVPN provides it 24/7, 365 days a year.

Rather than a telephone number, ExpressVPN  offers live support through online chat, which happens to be my favorite way of dealing with issues.

I find it easier to articulate technical issues in writing, than over the phone, usually resulting in more accurate and faster answers.

  

ExpressVPN promises an instant connection to a customer support representative, and they didn’t keep me waiting when I put that claim to the test. I only conversed briefly with the agent, since I didn’t have any real problems to work through, but they seemed friendly, knowledgeable and coherent.

Aside from chatting, you can fill out a web form or send ExpressVPN an email, both of which have advertised turnaround times of a few hours. Of course, I put that claim to the test too:

Support Channel:Response Time:
Web Form
1.27 hours
Email1.45 hours

Very good, but I’ll still stick to live chat in the future.

ExpressVPN also maintains a nice support page.

There, you’ll find tutorials and troubleshooting guides. While not exactly support, ExpressVPN also keeps a regular blog to help users keep abreast of new product features, tips and other news.

How To setup ExpressVPN on Your Desktop (Windows)

After setting up an ExpressVPN account, getting the service up and running on your desktop is a breeze. Regardless of OS, the app looks and functions similarly.

Here’s a look at the Windows version, turned off:

At the application’s bottom, ExpressVPN has picked out a location for me: USA – New York, this is what a server recommendation based on location looks like.

Since you might be concerned with speeds and geolocation, you can pick your own server too. ExpressVPN makes this easy via their speed test tool, which is accessible via the menu button on the top-left side of the application.

Because there are a lot of servers to check, the speed test can take a couple of minutes to run if you’re on a slow connection – so be patient.

Here are what the results looked like for me:

At the top, you’ll notice four columns:

  1. Location
  2. Speed Index
  3. Latency
  4. Download Speed

Latency is the speed at which a data packet travels from a device to the VPN server — the lower this number is, the better.

Download speed gets measured in kilobits per second. In this case, a higher number is preferable. Typically, for HD-quality video (720p), you’ll want at least 5,000Kbps, and for 4K video, 25,000Kbps (according to Netflix anyways).

Speed Index is a combined score that takes both latency and download speed into account. Higher numbers are good once again.

After you’ve selected a server, just click the big round “power button” in the middle of the app. It’s pretty hard to miss. After about three seconds, your Internet traffic will start flowing through the selected VPN tunnel, just like magic.

You can now start surfing, watching movies or fire up P2P connections. Your IP will get masked, your connection encrypted, and your location spoofed.

To switch locations or change other settings, remember to first turn ExpressVPN off.

There are three options tabs:

  • General: set auto connect, network lock, switch accounts and refer friends
  • Protocols: change the VPN tunnel protocol
  • Advanced: limit DNS servers, opt into providing anonymous speed data to ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN’s desktop experience is very well constructed, it doesn’t fall into the trap of cramming too much information into its interface, but it also doesn’t skimp on features.

Finally, ExpressVPN’s speed test and server selection capabilities are probably the best of any commercial VPN service I’ve used so far, which is important since the service offers so many different server locations.  

How to Setup ExpressVPN on Your Mobile Device (Android)

First, download the app from Google Play; if you can’t access Google Play, download the APK from ExpressVPN’s website or on Amazon.  

A cool thing about the mobile app is that it comes with a free trial option upon download. All need you to do is supply an email address, and use the service for a bit to try it out, no money required.

Note: since you don’t have a password for the trial, it’s only usable on your phone. Once installed, it’s just a matter of plugging in your credentials and choosing a server.

The interface works exactly as it does on the desktop app, which means there’s no additional learning curve –  not that there was much of one in the first place.

The same holds true for the other mobile apps.

How to Setup ExpressVPN on Your Router

There are two ways to go about setting up a router with ExpressVPN:

  • Order a router from ExpressVPN with the application pre-installed
  • You can install it yourself

ExpressVPN currently offers two routers for sale on their website:

  1. Linksys WRT1200AC for $299.99
  2. Linksys WRT3200ACM for $499.99

Both are overpriced compared to Amazon.com’s prices, so I would recommend option two (if you feel up to it).

Remember, apps are only available for Linksys-branded routers.

However, ExpressVPN’s setup tutorial site has step-by-step instructions for manually configuring in multiple styles. Most VPN services tend to stick to supporting DD-WRT or Tomato-flashed routers, but ExpressVPN is much more flexible than that.

Even with the instructions, the process can still be a bit of a chore, especially if you’re not using a Linksys router. Just imagine the geek cred you’ll earn though!

Questions and Answers

Q: Does ExpressVPN offer a trial period?

A: Trials are available for Android and iOS devices only. Beyond that, you can request money back within 30 days if you’re not happy with the service.


Q: Does ExpressVPN actually honor their 30-day money back guarantee?

A: All signs point to yes. ExpressVPN promises a no hassle refund upon requests and I’ve never heard anybody complain about a failure to honor that request.


Q: Can I cancel ExpressVPN whenever I want?

A: Yes, you can. ExpressVPN defaults to automatic renewal, but you can turn that feature off, or even set the service to cancel a subscription on a specified end date.

Because ExpressVPN charges for one, six or twelve months in advance, you’ll be able to continue using the service until your subscription’s end date.


Q: How many devices can I use simultaneously with ExpressVPN?

A: Three, ONLY THREE.


Q: Does ExpressVPN take bitcoin?

A: Yes, they sure do.


Q: How often is ExpressVPN down?

A: ExpressVPN has an average uptime of 99.9%, thanks to the fact that they run so many servers around the world. The main cities have multiple servers up and running at any given time.


Q: I heard that Netflix now blocks VPN services, so how can I use it with ExpressVPN?

A: As of this writing, ExpressVPN is NOT blocked. You can use their money-back trial to double check, however.

Also, if they do get blocked in the future, you’ll still be able to watch Netflix using ExpressVPN’s included DNS proxy. Netflix seems to be turning a blind eye to DNS proxies for now.


Q: Does ExpressVPN work in China?

A: Yes! China, as you may be aware, censors many web services around the world. The list includes Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter. VPNs are a way around such censorship, and ExpressVPN is considered one of the best choices for those living and traveling in China, thanks to multiple stealth servers located in Hong Kong.

ExpressVPN also runs a .onion mirror site, accessible only via a Tor browser. Because Tor websites can’t be censored, this is a convenient way for people in China to sign up for ExpressVPN.


Q: Is ExpressVPN safe to use?

A: ExpressVPN incorporates all of the encryption protocols you want to see a VPN usimng (especially OpenVPN). They don’t keep browser logs of your sessions and the few metalogs they do keep, don’t contain any identifying information.

Network Lock protects users from accidental disconnects and DNS leaks. It’s as solid a setup as I’ve ever seen, and you should feel perfectly safe using ExpressVPN.


Q: Can the ExpressVPN service be hacked?

A: Pretty much anybody can be exposed to a data breach. However, because ExpressVPN doesn’t maintain browser logs, there’s nothing a hacker could learn about you, in the event of such a breach.


Final Thoughts

If you want to save a buck, there are numerous free options available –  provided you don’t mind congested networks and the possibility of having your data sold to the highest bidder.  

I can certainly understand wanting to pay less because that’s what I did for a very long time. However, after several bad experiences, I decided that a VPN is one of those things where I don’t mind spoiling myself — and ExpressVPN certainly qualifies.

136 cities in 87 countries with multiple servers in many towns, means a whole lot of virtual doors you can suddenly open, that were shut tight before.

The user experience is simple and intuitive regardless of platform.

A minimalistic interface means you’ll spend minutes (instead of hours) becoming VPN-literate. When you do run into trouble, ExpressVPN’s customer support network offers 24/7 live chat support and a vast library of tutorials and troubleshooting guides. 

Verdict: ExpressVPN is the best all-around VPN service I’ve used so far, even if I can only connect up to three simultaneous devices.

ExpressVPN Review

A fast VPN with excellent features and settings

ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN services we've reviewed. Both fast and secure, it allows users to unblock Netflix and other services , while surfing the web anonymously.
Starts from
$ 12.95 per month
Visit ExpressVPN