ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost

ExpressVPN and CyberGhost are two of our favorite VPN providers here at Cloudwards.net. They took first and third place, respectively, in our VPN reviews, in addition to being featured in countless guides, including our best VPN providers.

CyberGhost’s release of version 7 puts it into the ring for a comparison with ExpressVPN, which has reigned supreme in our rankings for a while. It beat NordVPN by a thin margin in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison and pounded PureVPN into a pulp in our PureVPN vs. ExpressVPN bout.

Even so, it may have met its match with CyberGhost. In this ExpressVPN vs. CyberGhost comparison, we’ll go over where the providers excel and where they fall behind. Over the course of five rounds, we’ll discover which is the best VPN that your money can buy.

If you want a deep dive into how they stack up in the broader VPN field, make sure to read our ExpressVPN review and CyberGhost review.

Setting Up a Fight: ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost

ExpressVPN and CyberGhost are top-shelf VPN providers, so this comparison will be close. We pulled criteria from our VPN reviews to create the rounds for it, but not all sections are worthy of being split into a separate round.

Smaller sections, such as server locations, won’t get their own round. Instead, we’re combining those into other areas. After all, a win in device support isn’t equal to a win in speed.

The five rounds we’ll be comparing ExpressVPN and CyberGhost in are features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security. We’ll give a broad overview of what we’re looking for in each round, how well each provider fits the criteria, our thoughts on how they compare and name a winner. Whichever provider takes three or more rounds will be crowned the champion.

As with all of our comparisons, we urge you to read through each round in its entirety. Especially in a case such as this, where both providers are excellent options, much of the decision on which you should choose will come down to personal preferences.

We’ll back up why we like a particular feature set or interface over another, but that doesn’t mean you’ll agree. Make sure to pay particular attention to rounds one and three, as these rounds are most heavily dictated by what you prefer.

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1

Features

Features aren’t a make or break area for VPNs, but they are important. ExpressVPN is among the top options on the market, despite its surprisingly lacking feature set. CyberGhost, on the other hand, packs the features in and the update to version 7 adds even more.

We’re concerned with quality over quantity, though. There are no set features we’re looking for, other than a killswitch, so both CyberGhost and ExpressVPN have a chance to surprise us. In addition to the feature sets, we’ll briefly cover streaming performance in this section.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN isn’t as customizable as, say, NordVPN (read our NordVPN review), but it has unique features. Most of the interface is dedicated to getting you connected, though, so you’ll have to do dig to find anything useful.

The best of the bunch is a speed test, which is one of the many reasons ExpressVPN won in our ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish comparison. It shares the feature with Astrill, though, as you can read in our Astrill review. That said, ExpressVPN’s implementation is far better.

ExpressVPN-Speed-Test

While the test takes a few minutes to run — around five in our testing — the time is well spent. Instead of only showing the servers you select, ExpressVPN displays the download speed and latency of each of its servers, as well as a ranking for speed.

If you have problems with the client, and you shouldn’t, there’s a diagnostics tool. Though its logs are word spaghetti to most users, they are handy to have if you’re submitting a support request.

There’s also a DNS leak and IP address checker in the application, which is useful, though it’s nothing you can’t find online for free. Even so, it’s a nice sanity check to have without opening a web browser. Make sure to read our what are DNS leaks guide if you don’t know the importance of them.

There’s a killswitch, as well, which is a necessary feature for any VPN worth its weight. ExpressVPN’s version is simple and effective. It will sever your internet connection if your connection to the remote server is lost. While nothing flashy, it earned ExpressVPN first place in our best VPN for torrenting guide.

VyprVPN, which you can learn about in our VyprVPN review, has an interesting twist on the killswitch where it can be set to continue working after you quit the app. You can see how it stacks up to ExpressVPN in our VyprVPN vs. ExpressVPN comparison.

The best feature ExpressVPN offers, though, is split tunneling. While there are a few other providers that offer it — read our StrongVPN review for an example — none do it as well.

Split tunneling allows you to choose which data is sent through the VPN tunnel. You could, for example, protect your torrenting and browsing while running an online backup at full speed. That, among other reasons, is why we picked ExpressVPN in our best VPN for cloud storage guide.

As for streaming, ExpressVPN is excellent. It took first place in our best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for BBC iPlayer guides because it broke into every service we tested without any hiccups. No matter what you want to stream, be it Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Kodi or Amazon Prime Video, ExpressVPN has you covered.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of the most feature-rich VPNs out there, rivaling the customization of TorGuard, though it’s still a notch below the service in that department, as you can read in our TorGuard review. Version 7 helps with that a lot, too, adding new features to the interface that other providers can’t contend with.

There are several privacy settings you can configure that boil down to ad, malware and tracker blocking. During our testing, these tools didn’t do much to protect our privacy, so we’re not too impressed. Read our PureVPN review for an example of another provider that failed to block much.

During our review, we thought that was because we didn’t have the browser extension installed. After installing it, though, it became clear that wasn’t the case. CyberGhost’s browser extension is a free proxy that has nothing to do with the VPN. You can read about the difference between that and a VPN in our VPN vs. proxy vs. Tor guide.

You’re better off using an option in our 99 free tools to protect your privacy guide instead.

Even with that downside, CyberGhost has a lot of unique features. “Smart rules” allow you to automate some of the aspects of the VPN. For example, you can set CyberGhost to automatically launch a browser after making a connection or automatically secure certain WiFi networks.

There’s also a killswitch, but you won’t find controls for it in the interface. It’s always on, so if your connection to CyberGhost’s server drops, your internet connection will go with it. While you should always use a killswitch, especially if you’re torrenting, the ability to turn it off would be nice.

Still, the killswitch is one of CyberGhost’s strong points. That feature, along with its NoSpy servers, earned it a place in our best VPN for New Zealand guide.

NoSpy servers are included with every plan but the month-to-month one — there’ll be more on that in the next section — and include premium hardware for the best speed and uptime. They are out of the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes, too, so they’re a safe bet from a privacy standpoint.

CyberGhost holds up on the streaming front, too. If you’re trying to beat the Netflix VPN ban and avoid the dreaded proxy error, it is one of the best options available. It has many specialty servers aimed at different streaming platforms, which earned it a spot in our best VPN for streaming guide.

The servers aren’t just for Netflix and BBC iPlayer, either. CyberGhost has servers dedicated to almost anything, including Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, ESPN and others. In fact, it ranked highly in our best VPN for ESPN guide for that reason.

Round One Thoughts

ExpressVPN has a small, but effective, list of features that furthers its ready-to-go mentality. CyberGhost, on the other hand, caters to the tinkerers, with unique automation tools, speciality servers for streaming and a range of settings.

It comes down to the approach you prefer. If you just want to connect, ExpressVPN is the better option. That said, CyberGhost is superior for us because we’re fans of its many bits and bobs.

Round: Features Point for CyberGhost
2

Pricing

ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive providers on the market and, while the price is worth it, your wallet will still be thinner as a result. We’re looking at the price of ExpressVPN and CyberGhost in the context of service, as a low price tag doesn’t always mean a better value. Read our e-VPN review to see what we mean.

We’re also going to discuss money-back guarantees, plan durations, simultaneous connections and payment options in this section.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is fighting an uphill battle in this round. It is one of the more expensive VPN providers and the low number of simultaneous connections it allows doesn’t help matters.

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6-months plan $ 9.99 / month
$59.95 billed every 6 month
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15-months plan $ 6.66 / month
$99.95 billed first 15 months
and 12 months thereafter
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The month-to-month rate is bad, but if you’ve pursued any VPN services online, you know that’s true of almost all of them. It’s in line with what we’d expect from other providers in that it’s probably the worst option out of the lineup, but it’s not egregiously overpriced.

Monthly rates can be cheaper — read  our Private Internet Access review and Windscribe review for examples– but ExpressVPN is still the same price as Goose VPN, another good option that you can learn about in our Goose VPN review.

ExpressVPN’s problem is that it doesn’t offer enough of a discount on long-term plans. The semi-annual option is decent, cutting the monthly rate down a few dollars, but the annual plan is rough. You’ll save around $5 on the monthly rate, but other providers offer a steeper discount.

We’d expect ExpressVPN to charge for a year what it’s charging for six months.

The simultaneous connection limit is a bummer, too. The going number for VPNs at this level is five, but ExpressVPN only offers three. There’s no option to purchase more connections, either, so families will have to go with something else or purchase multiple plans.

That’s somewhat made up for by the generous money-back guarantee. ExpressVPN gives you 30 days to try the service with a refund period that it always follows through on (we’ve tested it).

As far as payment options go, ExpressVPN has you covered. It accepts major credit cards, PayPal, bitcoin and an assortment of local payment methods, such as AliPay, GiroPay and iDeal. The real winner is bitcoin because it enables you to set up a recurring payment method without providing identifying details.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost has the same monthly rate as ExpressVPN (well, technically, 4 cents higher), so it’s not earning points there. That said, it outclasses its competitor in this round with a more generous money-back guarantee and higher value on long-term subscriptions.

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1-year plan $ 5.99 / month
$71.88 billed every year
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2-year plan $ 3.69 / month
$88.56 billed every 2 years
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3-year plan $ 2.75 / month
$99.00 billed every 3 years
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Outside of the obvious value loss when purchasing a month-to-month plan, CyberGhost has a few hurdles to deter you from the option. It only has a 14-day refund window and lacks features, such as the NoSpy servers, that longer durations include.

The six-month, one-year and 18-month plans include NoSpy servers and a much more attractive 45-day money-back guarantee, which is the longest we’ve seen from a VPN provider. They also come with a one-year subscription to McAfee Total Protection, though, as you can read in our McAfee Total Protection review, it might be better to install the best antivirus software instead.

CyberGhost has a larger discount than ExpressVPN as you increase your subscription length. The six-month plan is unimpressive, sitting at just under $50, but the annual and 18-month plans are significantly discounted.

In fact, the 18-month plan is the same price as the annual plan, which is just over $60. CyberGhost provides triple the duration of ExpressVPN for the same amount of money.

Plus, it offers four more simultaneous connections, though you should note that it handles the limit differently than ExpressVPN does. You can install ExpressVPN on as many devices as you want, but only three can be connected at one time. With CyberGhost, you can only have it installed on seven devices.

Its payment options are worse than ExpressVPN’s, but not by much. You can still pay with credit cards, PayPal or bitcoin, but some of the niche options aren’t available. Neither accepts cash as payment, which doesn’t change our comparison, but is something to consider. Read our Mullvad review to learn about a provider that does take cash.

Round Two Thoughts

This round is pretty clear cut. CyberGhost offers more simultaneous connections, better value on long-term subscriptions and a more generous money-back guarantee. You can get triple the time with it that you get with ExpressVPN for the same price.

Note that the higher simultaneous connection limit and extended refund window are situational advantages. A month is still plenty of time to try ExpressVPN, and three connections may be enough for you. That said, CyberGhost gets the win this round.

Round: Pricing Point for CyberGhost
3

Ease of Use

Some VPNs are notoriously difficult to use — read our AirVPN review for an example — so user-friendliness is an important aspect to consider. That’s less of a concern in this comparison because ExpressVPN and CyberGhost are in the more commercially viable camp of VPNs. Both are easy to use.

Even more than our previous rounds, this one will be determined by slight advantages. We’re going to look at how easy it is to sign up for an account, the process of getting connected and how you can configure the settings in each interface.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN doesn’t fiddle with anything it doesn’t need to. It’s only concerned with getting you connected. That starts during sign up. On the checkout page, you simply need to select a plan, enter your email address and choose a payment method.

While ExpressVPN will send you an order confirmation, you don’t need to open your email to continue the sign-up process. Instead, you’ll be sent to the account page, where you can download the client. The installation takes about five minutes and the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether ExpressVPN starts when your computer does, which you can change later.

After booting up the app, you’ll see ExpressVPN’s ready-to-go mentality in action. The large “on” button in the middle of the user interface is all you need to click to get connected if you just want to secure your browsing. By default, ExpressVPN uses one of its “smart” locations, which it determines based on geographical location, server speed and load.

Once you click the “on” button, the gray shield behind the button will glow green in a way that screams “you’re secured.” From there, you can minimize the application and continue your online life as an anonymous denizen of the internet.

You may not get the best experience, though. During testing, we noticed that ExpressVPN’s “smart” location wasn’t that smart. On more than one occasion, ExpressVPN defaulted to a suboptimal location. While it got close, the human touch always seemed to be lacking.

Thankfully, finding the best server for you is easy. Below the “on” button, you’ll see the “choose location” one. Clicking it will open another window with a list of ExpressVPN’s servers. There are three tabs: “recommended,” “all” and “recent.” There’s a search bar above it, too.

Your best bet is to favorite servers you frequent by clicking the star icon next to the option. Doing so will bring the location to the top of the “recent” list, so you can quickly access it. Navigating the full list isn’t bad, though. ExpressVPN organizes locations by continent and then by country, which makes it simple to sift through the list.

Though it’s unlikely you’ll need the settings, you can access them by clicking the hamburger menu at the top left of the UI and selecting “options.” You can run the speed test and access support through that menu, too.

The default settings are fine. ExpressVPN already has AES 256-bit set for your encryption, the killswitch engaged and the protocol set to OpenVPN. If you want split tunneling, you’ll have to set it up, though.

Outside of configuring the features, you can also install ExpressVPN’s browser extensions in the settings menu. ExpressVPN has extensions for Chrome, Safari and Firefox and, unlike other VPN browser extensions, they are simply continuations of the full application.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost’s moved closer to the experience ExpressVPN offers with version 7, but troubles during sign-up make the process less fluid. That said, it gets close in a lot of areas and even surpasses it in others.

You’ll have to get through checkout first, though. The sign-up process itself isn’t bad. You’ll choose a plan, enter an email address and select a payment method, just like you would with ExpressVPN. After that, there’s some confusion.

The last section of CyberGhost’s three-part sign-up process is called “download,” but there’s nothing other than your invoice to download. Assuming we’d missed it, we checked the email CyberGhost sent to find a link to the installer. It wasn’t there, either.

You have to go back to the CyberGhost homepage and click “my account” to open your dashboard. The service will ask you to enter a username and password, then you can download the application. You do so by clicking “my devices” and populating one of the seven slots allotted to you.

CyberGhost can only be installed on seven devices at once, so you’ll want to get familiar with that area if you’re planning on swapping things out.

While it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to figure all of that out, we still had to do so, and that’s a problem. Compared to ExpressVPN, the sign-up process falls flat. Directing you to the account dashboard after sign-up gives CyberGhost an opportunity to explain how the interface works instead of leaving it to you to figure out.

Things get better after that, though. The interface is strange at first, but after spending time with it, we found it to be one of the more fluid options on the market. CyberGhost launches in the bottom right corner of your screen, indicating that it’s controlled through the tray. It’s not, though. The window can be dragged anywhere you want.

As with ExpressVPN, making an initial connect is simple. You just need to slide the “on” switch to the right and CyberGhost will connect to the best server for your location. Like ExpressVPN, its selections aren’t perfect, though.

At the bottom of the condensed interface, you’ll find a small list of servers. That is your favorites list. CyberGhost includes a few options in it by default. If you want to swap favorites or browse the full list of servers, you’ll need to click the yellow arrow toward the bottom left.

Doing so will expand the interface with a full server list. Locations show the name, number of users, server load and approximate distance from your location. Unlike with ExpressVPN, you simply select the country you want to connect to, not an individual data center.

Plus, there’s no specification on where in a country you’re tunneling. Connecting in the U.S., for example, has the same likelihood of landing in Los Angeles as New York City.

Below the “all servers” tab in the left navigation menu, you’ll find “for streaming” and “for torrenting.” The latter are dedicated peer-to-peer servers that show the same information as the full server list: number of users, server load and approximate distance.

Steaming servers don’t show that information, though. Instead, they show what platform each is optimized for. The list is impressive, too, with CyberGhost having servers dedicated to Netflix, Spotify, Crunchyroll, Channel 4 and more.

Below those tabs are two more: “connection features” and “smart rules.” In those areas, you can set the automation mentioned in round one, as well as turn on the ad, malware and tracker blocker.

Finally, at the bottom, there’s a settings button. Most of the settings are standard fare, such as your protocol and encryption level. One that piqued our interest, though, was “repair virtual network card.” VPNs use specialized software to virtualize a network card, which can cause problems with other software. That feature fixes those issues and we wish more VPNs had it.

Round Three Thoughts

Neither service offers a bad user experience. Both interfaces pack a lot of power while making the connection process streamlined. Depending on what your tastes are, you could find a home with either.

This round was determined by slight advantages. ExpressVPN’s more fluid sign-up process and streamlined interface make it easy to get connected, all without sacrificing power.

Round: Ease of Use Point for ExpressVPN
4

Speed

VPNs take some of your speed and, sometimes, that decline is pretty bad, just read our Surfshark review to see how sluggish it can get. Thankfully, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost are among the fastest VPNs on the market. Only one can be the winner, though, so we’re going to dive into the details of our hands-on testing to see which one has the advantage.

ExpressVPN

We already know that ExpressVPN is fast. It’s unique in the VPN market, though, in that it stays fast over long distances. Plus, it maintains most of your speed on the initial connection, which is an area where a lot of VPNs, including CyberGhost, suffer.

 Ping (ms)Download (Mbps)
Upload (Mbps)
Unprotected1338.464.03
Amsterdam, NL (2)1733.843.47
Lisbon, PT5131.283.53
New York City10611.763.53
Taichung, TW2976.002.22
Tokyo, JP27631.952.45

Anything that had decent proximity to our location in Amsterdam maintained most of our download and upload speeds and kept the latency relatively low. When connecting in the same country, it was difficult to see a difference in our speeds.

New York City and Taichung City, Taiwan, had the worst results, but that’s to be expected when traveling so much distance virtually. Even so, the speeds were usable. Even Taiwan, which seemed like an outlier given the rest of ExpressVPN’s numbers, managed Netflix’s recommend 5 megabits per second for high-definition streaming.

ExpressVPN is excellent in almost every use case. It maintains most of your download speeds for tasks such as streaming, only loses a bit of your upload speeds and keeps latency low for gaming. That’s why it’s our first pick for the best VPN for gaming.

CyberGhost

Ignoring our unprotected score, CyberGhost shares a lot of traits with ExpressVPN. It’s fast, overall, and stays relatively quick over long distances. That said, it lags behind ExpressVPN on the initial connection. Even when staying close to home, CyberGhost takes a hefty VPN tax.

Location:Ping (ms):Download (Mbps):Upload (Mbps):
Unprotected (St. Louis):1065.6911.39
United States:1822.7510.72
United States (Streaming):1725.2510.46
United Kingdom:10211.716.54
Japan:16910.014.12
Indonesia:24810.312.58

While our upload speed and ping stayed about the same, we lost over 40 Mbps of our unprotected download speed, which is the difference between 4K and HD streaming on Netflix. While around 25 Mbps is still quite usable, we gave up a lot when we flicked the “on” switch.

After that initial drop, though, CyberGhost was consistent. There was a decline in speed as distance increased, but the service managed to keep our latency below 300 milliseconds and our download speed above 10 Mbps.

The most surprising result was Indonesia, which, at nearly 10,000 miles away, was the farthest data center from our testing location. The speeds weren’t impressive, but they were fast enough for browsing and even streaming, which earned CyberGhost a slot in our best VPN for Indonesia guide.

Round Four Thoughts

While CyberGhost is impressive in its consistency, the speed it takes on the initial connection can’t be ignored. ExpressVPN not only has the same level of consistency, it keeps most of your unprotected speed intact.

Round: Speed Point for ExpressVPN
5

Security & Privacy

Security is the primary focus of VPNs. After all, you’re taking your personal data away from the government, internet service providers and snoopers and handing it over to the VPN provider. We’re looking at how well ExpressVPN and CyberGhost protect your connection, both from outside threats and from themselves.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN uses OpenVPN with AES 256-bit encryption by default. While that level of security is more than enough for most users, you may want to pair it with an RSA-4096 key if you’re trying to bypass censorship in China. ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best VPN services for China, after all.

The fact that the option is there is what makes ExpressVPN great. While the core protection is secure enough for most people, you can configure it to your heart’s content. The service makes several OpenVPN configuration files available, so you can try to improve different aspects of its security.

Besides OpenVPN, ExpressVPN supports L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and SSTP. Assuming you’re using the “automatic” setting for your protocol, you’ll only use OpenVPN. Still, the option is there if you fancy using something else.

While ExpressVPN has a DNS leak test and IP address checker in the application, we wanted to verify that it, in fact, wasn’t leaking DNS requests. We used third-party tools to test DNS, WebRTC and IP leaks and ExpressVPN came back with a clean record.

As far as privacy goes, everything is solid. ExpressVPN anonymizes your traffic when it reaches the server, no personal data is kept on file and you can stay anonymous if you pay with bitcoin.

Plus, it maintains a strict no-logs policy, meaning nothing is kept on record, not even temporarily. Your IP address, location, name and more are hidden from ExpressVPN and anyone who might come and ask for user logs.

It’s doubtful anyone would come along, though. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the best privacy laws in the world.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is no slouch, either, when it comes to security. Like its competitor, it secures your connection with AES 256-bit, but it doesn’t default to OpenVPN. CyberGhost’s “automatic” setting on Windows uses IKEv2 instead.

IKEv2 isn’t an encryption method. It’s a key exchange protocol. In most cases, it’s paired with IPSec, and we assume that’s what’s happening with CyberGhost, too.

The difference is that OpenVPN secures data in the transport layer, while IPSec secures it at the IP level. Both are considered secure. As far as practical differences, IPSec is more easily blocked than a TLS connection, so bear that in mind if you’re trying to get past geoblocks.

That said, you can change it to OpenVPN is the settings. CyberGhost supports L2TP, as well.

Its privacy is solid, too. CyberGhost is based in Romania, which is one of the most privacy-friendly countries in the world. It maintains a strict no-logs policy, not that the government would ask for your data. The only things it keeps on record are your email and payment method.

Round Five Thoughts

Security is, frankly, great with ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. You could reasonably choose either one and be just fine. We’re here to split hairs, though, and ExpressVPN has an advantage when we do. It defaults to OpenVPN as a protocol, which, while slower, is better at getting through firewalls than IKEv2/IPSec.

Round: Security & Privacy Point for ExpressVPN
6

Final Thoughts

While CyberGhost got off to a great start, ExpressVPN packed it in where it counts. The ease of use, speed and security of ExpressVPN are unmatched, even by an opponent as formidable as CyberGhost.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Even so, CyberGhost is worthy of your consideration. It falls just behind ExpressVPN in ease of use, speed and security, but has an excellent feature set and low price point. The biggest difference between the two is how much CyberGhost taxes your initial connection.

Do you think ExpressVPN is the better choice, too? Make sure to let us know why or why not in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.

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