At Cloudwards, we don’t hide the fact that we like ExpressVPN. If you look at our ExpressVPN review, you’ll see we praise its speed, security, streaming performance and feature set. ExpressVPN does a good job of representing almost everything there is to like about a good VPN.
IPVanish is a large competitor in the VPN market with a bit of a troubled past. In our IPVanish review, we looked at its solid speeds but also dug into its questionable history that involves user logging and handing information over to U.S. law enforcement.
We wanted to have an ExpressVPN vs IPVanish matchup to see whether IPVanish could outrun its past and contend with a top-of-the-line VPN like ExpressVPN.
Setting Up a Fight: ExpressVPN vs IPVanish
In order to ensure our ExpressVPN vs IPVanish matchup is fair and has a structure that is easy to follow, we’ve broken things down into nine rounds. In each round, we focus on a single factor of VPN performance.
We look at how both VPNs perform in each category and compare them directly. At the end of each round, we pick which VPN did better in that particular field. The VPN that wins the most rounds wins this ExpressVPN vs IPVanish matchup and is declared the better of the two VPN options.
IPVanish certainly came out swinging with very impressive speeds in the United States, which is where we did our testing. We saw absolutely rock-bottom ping and most of our bandwidth still intact, with IPVanish even beating out ExpressVPN here.
However, this was the only location where IPVanish was able to come out on top. In every other location we tested, ExpressVPN had higher download and upload speeds, as well as lower ping times. This comes as no real surprise to us, though, because we’ve seen ExpressVPN’s performance in the past and it won the top spot in our fastest VPNs article.
IPVanish’s performance was decent all around with the worst server by far being the UK. Even using the UK server, though, we were able to perform standard web browsing just fine, despite the poor speeds. YouTube videos even defaulted to 1080p, and everything felt normal with no drastically noticeable increase in loading times.
ExpressVPN is too good in this regard, though, and indisputably wins this category. While IPVanish has serviceable server speeds and can handle most tasks, ExpressVPN makes it pretty much impossible a lot of the time to tell whether you’re even connected.
ExpressVPN’s downloads and updates seem to come in just as quickly as without the VPN, and it’s very easy to have ExpressVPN connected without ever even knowing it.
While some VPN services have dedicated streaming servers — such as Windscribe, which you can read about in our best VPN for Hulu article — ExpressVPN and IPVanish both forego this and instead seem to try to support streaming across all servers. This is great for convenience but can yield some hit-or-miss results.
With IPVanish we were able to get through to Netflix without a problem, but every other streaming service we tried blocked us out.
We noticed an option in the settings to “scramble” our VPN traffic, which claims that it can bypass network traffic sensors that are aimed at detecting and blocking VPN usage. However, even with this on, we were not able to get Hulu, Amazon Prime Video or BBC iPlayer working.
ExpressVPN, on the other hand, worked on every streaming site without any changes to the settings. Hulu, Netflix and Amazon all worked flawlessly with videos loading in quickly and looking sharp. ExpressVPN has been featured on a number of our best VPN streaming lists for this reason, including our best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for Amazon Prime Video (read our how to watch Hulu with ExpressVPN and how to watch Netflix with ExpressVPN guides).
3. Security and Privacy
Starting with ExpressVPN’s security, there are a few options but only one that really matters. The recommended protocol is OpenVPN, but there is also the choice of L2TP and PPTP.
However, ExpressVPN has labeled both of these as “weak security,” and we agree. Generally, we would urge everyone to set the protocol to OpenVPN UDP, but you can read about the other options in our VPN protocol breakdown.
IPVanish offers even more protocols than ExpressVPN with not only OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP, but also IKEv2 and SSTP. Again, while it’s great to have options, OpenVPN is considered the pick of the litter when it comes to protocols, and it’s what we suggest most people choose for most uses.
Both ExpressVPN and IPVanish use AES-256 encryption, which, when paired with OpenVPN, forms the golden standard for VPN security. Neither VPN provider exposed us to DNS or IP leaks during our testing, and the overall security of both VPNs seemed up to snuff.
Although both VPNs are comparable when it comes to security, privacy is another matter. ExpressVPN doesn’t keep logs. It has a solid track record of respecting user privacy and has not given out any user information in the past.
An incident like this leaves a permanent mark on a VPN’s track record. Although the current CEO claims that the company is run differently now, with entirely different executives and a new legal team, it’s probably best to take lessons from the past and avoid IPVanish if you are at all wary of having logs kept by your VPN provider.
We tested the torrenting performance of both VPNs using a 1.4GB test file. The large video file gives a good idea of what kind of wait you can expect from downloading a well-seeded 1080p episode of a 30-minute TV show.
Both ExpressVPN and IPVanish performed very similarly. IPVanish ramped up to about 4MB/s after around 30 seconds and ended up spending most of the download time in the range of 7MB/s to 8MB/s. There were short bursts as high as 12MB/s, and the entire download finished in three minutes and 10 seconds.
ExpressVPN was a bit slower getting started and took about 45 seconds to really get going, but it wound up settling in at the same 7MB/s to 8MB/s. There were similar peaks, as well, of around 12MB/, and the entire download finished in about three minutes and 15 seconds.
Although ExpressVPN did take a few seconds longer, it’s worth noting that we did this testing on the local United States servers for both VPNs. This was the only server location that IPVanish won in the “speed” round and was by far IPVanish’s best server, which means ExpressVPN vastly outperforms IPVanish in other regions of the world when it comes to downloads.
In our torrent testing, however, ExpressVPN and IPVanish both performed similarly and completed the download very quickly, meaning this round ends in a tie. Read our guide to torrenting with ExpressVPN.
5. Server Locations
ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 servers, which is a lot, but some VPN services, such as NordVPN, have it beat. Where NordVPN doesn’t have ExpressVPN beat, though, is in the number of available server locations. ExpressVPN has its servers well distributed with a whopping 148 locations in 94 countries. Read our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN and NordVPN vs IPVanish comparisons.
ExpressVPN has only one contender when it comes to the sheer number of available locations in its server network, and it’s HideMyAss. If you read our HideMyAss review, you’ll see it has a jaw-dropping 290 locations in 190 countries.
Knowing that HideMyAss is ExpressVPN’s only competitor for server location options means it pretty much goes without saying that IPVanish has a smaller network. IPVanish has more than 1,000 servers in 60 countries, which is respectable but simply not enough to beat a top-shelf option like ExpressVPN.
6. Simultaneous Connections
Simultaneous connections are arguably ExpressVPN’s weakest aspect. ExpressVPN only allows a maximum of five simultaneous connections, which is pretty measly.
Although it’s always an option to set up your router to protect all your devices at home while only using one of your connections, there are a few issues with this implementation, especially if you’re often out and about using public WiFi.
IPVanish gives users 10 simultaneous connections per account. This is enough for most people to keep all of their devices protected without having to disconnect a tablet in order to get a laptop on the VPN. Naturally, 10 simultaneous connections are better than only five, so IPVanish has just won its first round in this IPVanish vs ExpressVPN matchup.
ExpressVPN and IPVanish have pricing models that are pretty similar, with only a few notable differences. For starters, each VPN provider has a monthly option, with ExpressVPN being one of the costlier options on the market and IPVanish coming in at only $1 a month less.
Next, IPVanish has a three-month option while ExpressVPN offers six-month plans. Again, when broken into the monthly cost, the IPVanish pricing for three months is $1 less than what ExpressVPN charges per month for six months.
Finally, both providers have an annual option. ExpressVPN actually gives users an extra 3 months for free if you get the one-year plan, which makes it a 15-month subscription in total. In this time frame, IPVanish comes out to about 50 cents less per month for the annual plan compared to ExpressVPN.
Although neither provider offers a free trial, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee while IPVanish only has a 7-day money-back guarantee. ExpressVPN also accepts more payment options, including bitcoin, UnionPay, Sofort and more, while IPVanish only accepts credit cards and PayPal.
This round is hard to call and the better pricing potentially depends on your needs. IPVanish has slightly lower prices across the board, but ExpressVPN offers a better money-back guarantee and has more payment options (find out how to cancel ExpressVPN). In the end, we’re giving this round to IPVanish for it’s lower prices paired with the better deal that allows for more simultaneous connections.
IPVanish has a cluttered and busy user interface that throws pretty much all the information you could need right at you. There is a large box in the middle of the window that is occupied by a graph of network traffic while you’re connected and is blank while not connected. There’s also a box below this that shows other connection information, such as protocol and connection time.
IPVanish uses several dropdown menus in the bottom right of the window for choosing your location. One menu selects the country you’ll be connecting to, another chooses which city and yet another lets you choose which server you’ll connect to in your chosen city. There are tabs on the left that let you access the settings as well as a more fleshed-out server list with a search bar.
ExpressVPN’s interface, by comparison, is remarkably clean, with very little information being thrown at you. In place of a graph and connection timer, there is just a large connect button in the middle of the screen.
The window itself is much smaller with ExpressVPN, coming in at about half the size of IPVanish’s user interface. The server list is also more navigable with ExpressVPN. The standard server list already has a search bar, unlike IPVanish, and the server locations are organized by region.
Beyond just the poor ease of use of the interface and software, we also had some trouble with the way that IPVanish’s kill switch worked. The kill switch, when turned on, would block all traffic whenever the VPN wasn’t connected.
This means that if the software is running and the kill switch is turned on, but the VPN is not connected, you will not have access to the internet. IPVanish will block all traffic not only if the VPN disconnects but if you are not connected to the VPN for any reason, even if by choice.
This kind of implementation means that many users will probably just have the kill switch off most or all of the time. This is not the best way to design this feature to function and will turn many people away from a critical aspect of VPN security.
IPVanish doesn’t have much in terms of added bells and whistles. It can start up automatically on bootup and connect automatically when it starts, but these are very basic features that nearly all VPNs have.
ExpressVPN, in contrast, has features that are both useful and hard to find. ExpressVPN’s most noteworthy feature is its excellent split tunneling. Split tunneling makes it possible to choose which applications use the VPN’s protected connection and which apps use a standard internet connection.
This is great for browsing the web with your normal internet while, for example, downloading a torrent with your VPN’s connection at the same time. Aside from the split tunneling, ExpressVPN has a better kill switch and all of the automatic connection capabilities that IPVanish supports.
Both VPNs also have 24-hour live chat customer support, which is great for troubleshooting and help in case something goes wrong. ExpressVPN’s split tunneling single-handedly wins the round, though, and is a feature we’re surprised to not see more often, considering how useful it can be.
10. The Verdict
With a final score of seven to three, with one round ending in a tie, ExpressVPN easily takes the win in this IPVanish vs ExpressVPN matchup. While IPVanish took the simultaneous connections round and the pricing round (narrowly), it still couldn’t compete with ExpressVPN’s better functionality, higher speeds and superior security and privacy track record.
If you’ve had experience with ExpressVPN vs IPVanish, let us know about it in the comments below. Read our ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost and ExpressVPN vs PIA comparisons, too. As always, thanks for reading.