ExpressVPN review

A premium VPN for a very fair price

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Our Verdict

ExpressVPN offers a premium service, with well-crafted clients, an ample choice of locations and excellent support.

For

  • Hassle-free 30-day refund
  • Desktop and mobile clients
  • Wide choice of servers and locations
  • Excellent support

Against

  • No free plan or trial
  • Supports 3 simultaneous connections ‘only’

ExpressVPN is a large British Virgin Islands-based provider of VPN services. The company's products start off a little more expensive than most, from $12.95 (£10.50, AU$16.90) for a one-off month option. This drops to $8.33 (£6.75, AU$10.90) for the standard yearly plan, though, and right now you can get 15 months for the same price – effectively $6.33 (£5.10, AU$8.15) a month.

There are services which can beat that, but ExpressVPN gives you a lot for your money. We’re talking more than 1,000 services across 145 locations in 94 countries, P2P support, and easy setup with custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, even Linux. You also get a lot of genuinely helpful web-based tutorials and troubleshooting guides, and 24/7 email and live chat support if you have problems.

There's no free plan or trial, but ExpressVPN's ‘no-hassle money-back guarantee’ is arguably better. You're able to try the full service for up to 30 days with no sneaky small-print restrictions on bandwidth or sessions, and if you still want a refund you can just email and ask. We tried this and there were no questions at all, just a quick acknowledgement the next day, and a full PayPal refund three days later.

If you like the service, ExpressVPN also has a simple referral scheme which can help reduce costs. Get a friend to sign up and provide your email address during the order process, and you both get a free month.

Privacy

ExpressVPN's privacy policy explains that the company doesn't "collect or log traffic data or browsing activity from individual users connected to our VPN".

There is a little session logging, with your connection dates, choice of server and total amount of data transferred all being recorded. ExpressVPN doesn't collect your connection times or IP addresses, though, so this can't be used to identify you.

Unusually, ExpressVPN's clients have a telemetry feature, enabled by default, which "may send diagnostic data to a third party analytics provider". But the company says "the information collected is generic in nature and does not contain personally identifying information", and if you don't want it anyway, the feature can be permanently disabled on installation with a single click.

The rest of ExpressVPN's small-print was very, very standard. The company stores basic information about you, but doesn't share it with anyone else, and the website uses cookies and third-party analytics, but then so does almost everybody else. It's all very normal and we saw no reason for any privacy concerns.

Performance

ExpressVPN does its very best to get you set up correctly, with easy-to-use apps for all your main devices, and an array of setup instructions for everything else (Apple TV, Kindle Fire, PlayStation, Xbox, MediaStreamer, and more).

Our PC client provided several ways to help choose a location. A Recommended tab highlights local and fast servers, and the Favourites tab lists recently-connected servers and any you've set as favourites, plus there’s the Location Picker which organises servers by continent, region and country.

This is all very simple and straightforward, but there are also a few extras hidden away, including a Speed Test module, diagnostics report, kill switch, and manual or automatic selection of protocol (OpenVPN, L2TP – IPSEC, PPTP, SSTP).

One issue we noticed immediately is the client gives very little feedback when it connects or disconnects. Other software displays pop-up alerts to let you know exactly when you're protected, but ExpressVPN only updates the taskbar button and system tray icon, and – depending on what you're doing – they might not always be visible. However, that's still enough to let you know what's happening, and some users might prefer ExpressVPN's quieter pop-up-free approach.

ExpressVPN achieved solid results in our performance tests*. UK-UK connections were fractionally lower than we expected at 25-30Mbps, but we achieved similar or higher rates with the French, Netherlands, German and Swedish servers. 

There was little change in UK-US traffic with downloads averaging 20-25Mbps, and even moving on to Pakistan (18Mbps) and Australia (15Mbps) gave us very acceptable speeds. There were one or two glitches – under 5Mbps downloads from South Africa, barely 1Mbps in Mongolia – but that's no surprise with this size of network, and performance overall was very good.

ExpressVPN completed the positive picture by doing well in our leak tests, with its DNS protection ensuring our identity was protected at all times.

Update: We’ve heard from Localhost LLC that ExpressVPN is currently developing an app for LibreELEC (Libre Embedded Linux Entertainment Center), the OS which Localhost uses for its home theatre PCs – and which the aforementioned ExpressVPN app will be pre-installed on, when it’s ready.

Final verdict

ExpressVPN costs more than most VPNs, but then it also gives you more locations, more clients, along with more help and support if something goes wrong. If you value service quality more than price, take advantage of the money-back guarantee and check it out for yourself.

*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.