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ExpressVPN review

The best just keeps on getting better

(Image: © ExpressVPN)

Our Verdict

Huge network, fast, secure, unblocks Netflix, supports torrents, no serious logging, clients for everything, easy to use - this is a quality VPN which delivers in just about every area.

For

  • Top speeds from most servers
  • Very strong encryption
  • Clients for most platforms
  • Excellent support

Against

  • Above-average prices

Editor's Note: What immediately follows is a rundown of the latest changes and additions since this review was last updated

  • Browser extensions received an overhaul and with it, Firefox extension now also has WebRTC blocking, location spoofing and HTTPS Everywhere. (June 2019)

ExpressVPN is a popular British Virgin Islands-based provider of VPN services. It's a tough market and there's a lot of competition around, but ExpressVPN knows exactly how to stand out from the crowd: it's our current pick of the very best VPN provider, delivering more features than just about anybody else.

For example, the company offers a vast network of more than 3,000 servers spread across 160 cities in 94 countries. Europe and the US have the best coverage, but ExpressVPN also has many locations in Asia and several countries who rarely appear elsewhere (there are locations in South America, the Middle East, Africa and more.)

Platform support is another highlight, with ExpressVPN providing apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux and others, custom firmware for many routers, as well as detailed manual setup guides for Apple TV, Fire TV, PlayStation, Chromebooks, Kindle Fire and more.

Your account only supports three simultaneous connections, which can't match some of the top competition (NordVPN allows up to 6, IPVanish allows 10). 

(ed: Note that as of June 2019, ExpressVPN supports five simultaneous connections. You can use a router to get even more simultaneous connections). 

But we suspect it's likely to be enough for many users, especially as the router support means you can connect as many devices as you like at home.

There are valuable technical extras everywhere you look. ExpressVPN protects your internet traffic by using its own DNS servers, for instance. High-end encryption technologies prevent even the most advanced attackers from snooping on your activities. And unusual bonus features include a clever split-tunneling system which allows you to control exactly which apps use the VPN, and which will be routed through your regular internet connection, very useful if you find some apps don't work with a VPN, or running through the VPN noticeably slows them down.

A clear and simple privacy policy explains that ExpressVPN doesn't log any sensitive information. And unlike most of the competition, this isn't some generic marketing promise: the company website goes into great detail on exactly what the service does and doesn't collect.

The real standout feature could be support, where ExpressVPN has agents available 24/7 on live chat. This isn't the very basic, outsourced, first-line support you'll often get with other services, either: they're experts who can walk you through just about any technical issue. If you run into trouble, then, you won't be waiting a day for every support response. In our experience, there's always someone available on ExpressVPN's live chat, and you could be getting quality help for your problems within a couple of minutes.

ExpressVPN claims to have made many improvements to the service since our last review, resulting in faster OpenVPN speeds, improved website unblocking, and more effective bypassing of VPN blocking in countries such as China and the UAE. Upcoming features include a major update to the router app, and a TrustedServer scheme to enhance the physical and virtual security of VPN servers, but as they’re not yet available, we’re not going to consider either in this review.

(These new features have now been released: More details about Trustedserver is here and the router update)

What we will be exploring are some significant changes to ExpressVPN’s apps, including revamped interfaces and new features. The Android offering alone has an easier-to-use interface, faster ways to find and reconnect to locations, supports split tunneling, and provides new shortcuts for one-click access to specific apps or websites after connecting.

Plans

ExpressVPN reduces its monthly price when you sign up for a longer plan (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Plans and pricing

ExpressVPN has a very simple pricing structure with only three plans, and these start with a monthly-billed product for $12.95. That's a little higher than some of the competition (NordVPN's monthly plan costs $11.95 VyprVPN's feature-limited product is $8.97), but it's still fair value considering the features you get.

Sign up for ExpressVPN's 6-month plan and the price drops to $9.99 per month. That's a reasonable discount, and it also gives you more flexibility than you'll get with some competitors, who don't offer a 6-month plan at all.

The annual plan cuts your costs still further to a monthly equivalent of $8.32, a chunky 35% discount on the monthly price. It's also a little higher than some competitors (NordVPN's annual plan is $6.99 a month, VyprVPN's comparable Premium plan is $6.23), but still within the range of what we would expect for a premium VPN.

However, also bear in mind that with our exclusive deal, you can get three free months on the annual subscription, meaning 15 months of service for $6.67 per month.

The website does an excellent job of spelling out these details in a clear and honest way. There's no attempt to fool you, no headline prices which only apply if you sign up for years and years, no marketing trickery at all. Each plan clearly displays the amount you'll pay per month, the billing frequency and the total amount you'll pay, exactly what you need to know.

The good news continues with ExpressVPN's wide support of payment methods, including cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and a host of other players (AliPay, Yandex Money, WebMoney and more.)

If you're not quite convinced, ExpressVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to safely check out the service for yourself, and the mobile apps also come with 7-day trials. 

Support

Getting in touch with customer support is fairly easy with ExpressVPN (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

If you decide you want to cancel, it's also very straightforward. You don't have to jump through hoops, make a phone call, fill in forms, justify why you want to leave, and there are no small-print clauses to catch you out (no refund if you've logged on more than x times, or used more than y GB of bandwidth.) You can use the service, in full, for 30 days, and if you're unhappy, or you simply change your mind, just tell ExpressVPN and you'll get your money back. That has to be a reassuring sign of just how confident ExpressVPN is in its service.

Privacy

ExpressVPN runs its own DNS to prevent leaks (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Privacy

Every VPN claims to offer complete privacy, but drill down to the detail and there's often very little substance to back this up. ExpressVPN is refreshingly different, because the company doesn't just tell you how great it is, it also has an impressively lengthy list of features to help justify every word.

Take encryption, for instance. Most services might mention that they support OpenVPN, or drop in a reference to AES-256, but ExpressVPN goes much, much further.

The company explains that it uses a 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA certificate, for example, with AES-256-CBC to encrypt its control channel and HMAC (Hash Message Authentication Code) protecting against regular data being altered in real time.

To confirm this, we examined ExpressVPN's configuration files for OpenVPN, and the details were just as the company had described.

Support for Perfect Forward Secrecy adds another layer of protection by automatically assigning you a new secret key every time you connect, and then replacing it every sixty minutes while the session remains open. Even if an attacker has somehow managed to compromise your system, the very most they'll get is 60 minutes of data.

If you're not an encryption geek, this essentially just means ExpressVPN's encryption scheme is as good as you'll get, anywhere. But if you're familiar with the low-level technical details, you'll appreciate the in-depth explanations the company provides on its website.

DNS support is another highlight. ExpressVPN doesn't just offer DNS leak protection, to prevent data about your online activities leaking out of the tunnel, but it also runs its own private, zero-knowledge, 256-bit encrypted DNS on each of its own servers. That's a major advantage over some providers, which can just redirect your DNS traffic to OpenDNS or some other third-party service. Apart from the risk of logging at the DNS server, using unencrypted DNS gives attackers the chance to intercept your requests, filter them, block them and more, all issues which largely disappear using the ExpressVPN scheme.

We didn't test the DNS server in-depth, but websites such as IPLeak, DNS Leak Test and Browser Leaks  confirmed that ExpressVPN servers were using the IP address for their DNS queries, and none of them had any DNS or traffic leaks.

Logs

ExpressVPN clearly states that it keeps no logs on its users (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Logging

Check out the typical VPN website and you'll usually find 'NO LOGGING!' claims prominently displayed in a very large font, but a privacy policy which either gives you very little details on the specifics, or reveals that the company does log some of your information, after all.

ExpressVPN does things a little differently. The front page of the website doesn't have any 'zero log' boasting, for instance, and you have to head off to the Features page to get a first look at the company's position: 'ExpressVPN does not and will never log traffic data, DNS queries, or anything that could be used to identify you.'

If you need more, the company doesn't force you to go hunting for the relevant details amongst 2,000 words of jargon-packed small print. Just clicking a link next to the 'no log' statement takes you to a clearly-written 'Policy towards logs' page which explains what ExpressVPN collects, what it doesn't, why the service works this way, and what it means for users.

The page states that the service doesn't keep any logs of your IP address when you connect to ExpressVPN, the time you've logged in, the VPN IP address you're assigned, any information on the websites or pages you're visiting (including via DNS requests) or any of your traffic.

There is still some logging. The company records each date when you connected to the service, and your choice of server. But as it doesn't store the connection time, or the IP address you were allocated, there's no way anyone can use this data to definitively link an internet action back to a specific ExpressVPN account.

The company also records the version number of any clients you've installed, along with the total amount of data you've transferred each day. This data also doesn't constitute any kind of privacy risk, and we've no doubt that other VPNs do similar things: they just don't admit it.

We thought we had spotted a minor snag in ExpressVPN's analytics data, where its VPN clients can collect speed test information, connection failures, crash reports and more. But, no-- once again, ExpressVPN appears to outperform the competition. The company explains that this data is anonymized, so there's no way to tell which speed test results came from which client. What's more, you can tell the client not to send telemetry during the installation process, or disable it at any time with a click.

There's more positive news in ExpressVPN's location, as its base in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) brings some privacy benefits.

The country isn't a part of '14 Eyes', the intelligence sharing agreement also known as SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR), and not known to be a party to any of its intelligence-sharing arrangements.

Despite its small size, the BVI regulates its own affairs and the UK and USA don't have jurisdiction to automatically compel ExpressVPN to release any data. To make this happen, a complainant would have to raise the issue in the BVI High Court, show that the records related to a serious crime (one punishable by a year or more in prison if it happened in the BVI), and explain how those records would provide relevant evidence to that case. It's hard to see how the minimal ExpressVPN records could provide useful evidence of anything.

There's a lot to like here. It's clear that ExpressVPN understands the issues and is making considerable efforts to explain them, properly and in full, to its customers. That in itself is reassuring, and a huge improvement on the detail-free privacy policies of many VPNs.

But it's also the case that a lot of what ExpressVPN is saying must still be taken on trust. Some VPN providers (NordVPN, VyprVPN and others) are now trying to reduce this by allowing third parties to audit and report on their systems and procedures, and we'd like to see ExpressVPN and the rest of the industry do the same.

Performance

ExpressVPN has a number of useful articles on a variety of topics on its site (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Performance

Speed is an important factor in the choice of a VPN, and we use several intensive tests and a couple of locations (UK and US) to find out how a service performs.

The process began in the UK, where we logged into more than 50 of ExpressVPN's OpenVPN-enabled servers, recorded the initial connection times and ran some ping tests to check for latency issues. These won't necessarily affect download speeds, but they're still a crucial part of the service experience (if half the servers are always down, or connection times and latencies vary hugely, that's going to be bad news.)

Our first test saw no connection failures at all, and every server connected within a speedy two to five seconds, a very good start. These tests were taken over a short period of time and won't necessarily reflect the long-term experience of using ExpressVPN, but from what we saw, the service has no significant connection issues at all.

Latency was reasonable, and performed more or less as we expected. Our local UK connections were fastest, near European servers were almost as speedy, and US servers also managed consistently good performance. The most distant servers (Australia, New Zealand) and locations which don't have the best infrastructure (some areas of South America) saw latency increase and become much more variable, but that was no surprise, and it was never enough of an issue to prevent us browsing comfortably.

Checking download speeds requires a little more work, but we got started by using Netflix' fast.com to test a sample set of ExpressVPN's servers: all six UK locations, 15 in the US, 16 spread across Europe and 15 covering Asia and Australasia. We then ran further tests using OpenSpeedTest and Ookla's SpeedTest to confirm our results. All checks were run on a Windows 10 system accessing a 75Mbps fiber broadband line.

Our local UK performance was generally excellent, with download speeds typically ranging from 60-65Mbps. Even ExpressVPN's worst UK test result, 40.7 Mbps, outperformed many lesser services.

European speeds matched the UK in the closest and best-connected locations, with Amsterdam averaging 65Mbps. These remained high, even as we moved to more distant servers, with for instance Greece still averaging an excellent 50Mbps.

Despite the longer distances, US speeds were very similar to Europe, ranging from 50Mbps on the west coast to around 65Mbps in the east. That's both faster and more consistent than we'll typically see elsewhere, even with the top competition.

Even the tricky long-distance tests couldn't entirely break the positive mood. The best-connected locations - Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea - averaged 60Mbps and more. Many of the others delivered enough for most tasks (Cambodia managed 40Mbps, Malaysia 25Mbps, Pakistan 15Mbps.) A few were disappointing - India and Vietnam managed 5Mbps, at best - but that can happen in any short-term tests, and overall ExpressVPN performed very well in our UK tests.

For our second set of tests, we ran manual speed checks from a dedicated server in the US. This allowed us to see how performance might change when you're connecting from the US, while the server's excellent 1Gbps connection meant we could accurately assess even the fastest VPN. (But keep in mind that in real world use, you'll almost never have data center levels of connectivity, and you're unlikely to achieve the top speeds we saw.)

US performance was excellent, with our nearest Dallas server averaging a speedy 90Mbps. Most of our test US locations reached 85Mbps, and the lowest individual result we recorded was 78Mbps, from New York.

Connections from the US to the UK averaged 60Mbps, but were surprisingly variable, ranging from 36 to 71Mbps.

Many European servers outperformed the UK, unusually, with 90Mbps average speeds that matched the US. Performance tailed off in a few locations (Greece typically hit 35-40Mbps) but was always very good.

Our long-distance results were mostly impressive, too, with Australia averaging 80Mbps, Japan reaching 70Mbps, Singapore hitting 50Mbps. The only significant issue we had was with Vietnam (actually a virtual server located in Singapore, but returning Vietnamese IP addresses), which wouldn't ever connect. That could have been a temporary issue which appeared while we were testing, though, and overall ExpressVPN performed very well.

Netflix

In our tests ExpressVPN was able to unblock Netflix (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Netflix

One major benefit of a VPN is that it can give you access to geoblocked websites. If your favorite streaming site only allows US visitors to view some content, for instance, log in to a US VPN server and you might bypass the block.

Unfortunately, it's not always that simple. Providers such as Netflix know exactly what users are doing to try and get around their rules, and they're constantly updating their systems to detect and block individual VPNs. Individual websites might also be blocked by anyone from a WiFi hotspot administrator who doesn't want users accessing YouTube, to a nation state trying to control the internet use of its entire population. 

Netflix 2

Getting around region blocks is one of the most useful features of using a VPN (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN scored an immediate thumbs-up from us by listing the sites it claims it can unblock: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and others (there are more than 25 services on the list). Most VPNs don't make that kind of commitment, presumably because they don't want users to complain if they can't deliver, so it's good to see ExpressVPN spell out exactly what it can do.

To get a feel for ExpressVPN's unblocking abilities, we ran a couple of tests. The first required connecting to a sample of ten ExpressVPN US locations, and checking whether we could access US Netflix and geoblocked YouTube sites; the second involved connecting to all 7 UK locations, and trying to access BBC iPlayer.

Netflix results were good, with 7 out of 10 locations unblocking the service. Even if you're unlucky enough to choose all the blocked locations, first, calling up the support team on live chat will generally get you an accurate server recommendation within a couple of minutes. Netflix is improving its VPN detection all the time, and this could easily change, but ExpressVPN's commitment to unblock Netflix suggests the company will fight back to keep the service available.

Unblocking YouTube is always much easier, and sure enough, ExpressVPN gave us instant access from each of its US servers.

The good news continued with BBC iPlayer. The platform has far better VPN protection than YouTube, but ExpressVPN didn’t care, and each of its UK servers allowed us to browse and stream content.

Torrents

ExpressVPN does support torrenting (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Torrents

ExpressVPN doesn't appear very torrent-friendly at first glance, as its website doesn't seem to mention P2P at all, but the reality is different. We dug around the FAQ and eventually discovered the truth.

The service not only supports torrents, it also avoids the common hassles and annoyances you'll often get with other services.

Torrent users aren't forced onto a small number of overloaded servers, for instance. You can choose from the full set of ExpressVPN locations.

There are no bandwidth or transfer-related catches, either. The company has no data cap, and says it will never throttle your connection.

Are these promises genuine, or just marketing spin? No review can offer a 100% guarantee, but there's an interesting clue on the website.

Browse the small print for most VPNs and you'll find a 'fair usage' clause which essentially says you're not allowed to use the service 'too much.' NordVPN, for example, forbids 'acts that may materially affect the quality of other users' experience', something which gives them huge scope for limiting your bandwidth use.

Check the ExpressVPN T&C's and you won't find anything similar. There's an Acceptable Use Policy, but that's more about legal issues (including a warning that you mustn't download copyrighted material) than providing sneaky loopholes to help ban heavy downloaders. 

Factor in other key features of the service - no activity logs, lots of locations, apps for everything, the 30-day money-back guarantee - and ExpressVPN looks like a great choice of VPN for all your torrenting needs.

Client setup

ExpressVPN has clients available for most popular platforms (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Client setup

Getting a VPN client set up properly can sometimes be a challenge, but the well-designed ExpressVPN website has clearly been set up to keep hassles to an absolute minimum.

Log in to your account dashboard, for instance, and you don't have to hunt for a Download link. The website detects the type of device you're using, displays a Download button for that client, and enables grabbing a copy with one click.

If you need something for another platform, clicking 'Set up on all your devices' takes you to a huge list of options, including Windows, iOS, Kindle Fire, Mac, Android, Linux and more. Tapping any of these displays more download links and instructions.

Even these are far more helpful than you would expect. Tap the 'Android' link with most VPNs and you'll probably just be redirected to Google Play. ExpressVPN has a Play Store link, but it also gives you a QR code, a button to email yourself a setup link (ideal if you need to install it on another device), and even an option for experts to directly download the APK file.

In a neat setup touch, ExpressVPN doesn't force you to find and manually enter your user name and password. Instead, all you have to do is copy the unique activation code displayed on your download page, and paste it into the client when you're asked. The software then automatically sets up your login credentials, and you won't have to think about user names and passwords, at all.

Your other option is to set up a third-party OpenVPN client. ExpressVPN makes this much easier by providing sensibly-named .OVPN configuration files (my_expressvpn_argentina_udp.ovpn, as opposed to something like NordVPN's ar1.nordvpn.com.udp1194.ovpn), and we had the OpenVPN GUI up and running within minutes.

Windows Client

This is the interface of ExpressVPN's Windows Client (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Windows client

The ExpressVPN Windows client has a comfortable and familiar interface which immediately makes you feel at home. A big On/ Off button allows you to activate the service when required, a clear status display shows you the current server, a Choose Location button enables picking something else, and a menu button top-left gives speedy access to other features. 

There are a host of ways to choose the best server. A Smart Location feature picks your closest server. You can double-click a country to access its best location, or browse every location within a country and choose one manually. A Search box allows you to find locations by keyword. You can add individual locations to a Favorites list. The latest edition of the client even displays recent locations on the main client window, for faster reconnections. This is just about as much location-picking functionality as we've seen in any VPN software.

The client also makes smart use of its system tray icon. Right-clicking displays a menu which includes your last three locations, and choosing one of those will get you connected immediately, without having to open the full client at all.

The process of changing servers has improved, since our last review. You no longer have to close the current connection before you can choose another server, for instance-- just double-click a location in the list and the client automatically disconnects, then switches to the new server.

Even better, the client correctly warns that your internet traffic won't be protected until it's reconnected. That's a welcome reminder, which we haven't seen from other VPN apps.

Windows speed test

ExpressVPN was able to get acceptable speeds from a number of locations (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

The Location list doesn't initially display any information on the speed of its servers, something which can help you choose the fastest location for you. The client has a Speed Test feature which can add this for you, and it provides far more useful information than the competition, including latency and an estimate of download speed. It can take a long time to run, though - around six minutes to check every available location, on our system - and although you can assess speeds for groups of servers (Europe, Americas, Recommended Locations), you can't ask it to check only your recent and favorite locations, which is possibly where it's needed most. 

A capable Settings dialog allows you to choose from four protocol variations: OpenVPN/ UDP, OpenVPN TCP, L2TP - IPSec and PPTP (SSTP has been dropped). It's good to have that choice, although we're less enthusiastic about the default 'Automatic' setting, where apparently 'ExpressVPN will automatically pick the protocol most appropriate for your network.' Not only do we have no idea how the decision is made (the website offers no clues), but we can't even check it, because the client doesn't tell you which protocol is currently active. This seems a poor design decision to us, but if you're concerned, it's easily fixed: choose a specific protocol (OpenVPN UDP, probably) and the client will use that, every time.

Elsewhere, a Kill Switch blocks all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops, reducing the chance of any data leaks. There's no setup involved with this, it's enabled by default, and will automatically protect your privacy.

If you know what you're doing, though, there is a far more advanced and interesting option in ExpressVPN's support for split tunneling. Turn this on and you're able to force some apps to use the VPN, while others use your regular internet connection. Setting this up can take some thought, but does offer some important benefits. If an application won't work when your VPN is up (an email client, say), you can make it use your normal internet connection, instead. And if you use your VPN for one or two applications only - a browser, a torrent app - then redirecting everything else out of the tunnel could improve their performance.

Android client

ExpressVPN's Android client is well designed and easy to use (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Android app

If you're new to ExpressVPN, installing the Android app works much like any other. Go to the Play Store, find the app, notice its impressive stats (5 million+ users and a 4.1 rating), install it as usual and work through the signup process.

If you've already set up an ExpressVPN account, there are some easier options. We went to the ExpressVPN web console on our Windows system, chose the Setup > Android page, scanned the QR code and automatically downloaded and installed the app (your phone must allow installations from outside of the Play Store for this to work.)

We still had to make a couple of basic setup choices, for example deciding if we wanted to allow the app to send anonymous analytics back to ExpressVPN, but otherwise the process was completed in seconds. In particular, we didn't have to worry about finding and entering some cryptic user name and password, because the app configured that automatically during installation, and once that's done you need never see a login screen again. (Although you can sign out for extra security, if you prefer.)

The app looks good, and works in much the same way as the Windows edition. An excellent Location Picker makes it quick and easy to find and reconnect to particular servers, you can connect and disconnect with a click, and the straightforward interface allows you to check your current location and VPN status at a glance.

The Android app leaves out some of the more advanced features from the Windows edition. There's no Speed Test, for instance, which means you'll only ever see the names of ExpressVPN locations, with no indicator of how fast, slow or overloaded they might be.

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

The Settings section is also more limited. Protocol choices are restricted to OpenVPN TCP or UDP, for instance. There's no integrated kill switch (although you may be able to set up Android's own), and no control over DNS.

(ed: As of May 2019, ExpressVPN has an integrated kill switch in its Android and iOS app)

There are also some welcome additions since our last review. New Split Tunneling support enables defining apps which should or shouldn't use the VPN, for instance, just like the Windows client. If you're only interested in Netflix, for instance, you could set up ExpressVPN to channel your Netflix app traffic through the tunnel, while allowing everything else to go through your regular connection, perhaps improving performance.

The app's new 'App and Website Shortcuts' feature sees a configurable toolbar on the connection window which can hold up to 5 icons for your favorite apps and shortcuts. This isn't nearly as interesting as split tunneling, but it does enable launching commonly-used apps with a tap, just as soon as you're connected.

It needs an integrated kill switch, but otherwise ExpressVPN's Android offering is well-designed and easy to use. Even better, install the app and you can try the service for free for 7 days, an offer you won't get if you sign up on the website. If you're at all interested in Android VPN apps, ExpressVPN needs to be on your shortlist.

iOS client

ExpressVPN's iOS client is quite similar to its Android offering (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

iOS app

ExpressVPN's iOS app takes a few more taps to install than its Android cousin, but that's mostly due to Apple's extra security measures. You have to spend a little longer confirming that the app is authorized to do what it needs, and there's no Android-like direct download app link to save you some time.

The setup procedure still only takes a couple of minutes, though, and once it's done, the app opens with the same clean and straightforward interface that you'll see on other platforms.

For some reason the app chose Los Angeles as its 'Smart Location', not so smart when you're in the UK. But if you're happy with ExpressVPN's selection, all you have to do is tap the Connect button to activate the VPN, and tap again to turn it off.

iOS client

This is what ExpressVPN looks like running on an iPad (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

The well-designed Location Picker offers multiple ways to find specific cities or countries, as well as maintaining a Recent Connection list and allowing you to add commonly-used locations to your Favorites.

As with the Android app, the iOS edition allows you to switch servers without manually closing the current connection first. This only saves you a single tap, but if you regularly switch servers, it's going to be a welcome usability plus.

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

The app only has two significant settings, but that's not quite the criticism it sounds: they're both a little more interesting than we expected.

Your choice of protocol doesn't just include OpenVPN UDP, TCP and IPSec, for instance - you also have access to IKEv2, which isn't available on Windows or Android.

And although the app doesn't have a kill switch, it does include an auto-reconnect option which will try to re-establish the tunnel if your connection drops.

We've seen more feature-packed VPN apps, but on balance ExpressVPN's iOS offering is likeable, easy to use and delivers the functionality most users are likely to need. And if you'd like to check the service for yourself, good news: as with Android, there's a risk-free 7-day trial available.

Extension

ExpressVPN even offers a browser extension for Chrome (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Browser extensions

The ExpressVPN clients are generally very polished and easy to use, but they're not your only way to work with the VPN. The company also offers Chrome and Firefox extensions which allow you to control the client and service directly from your browser.

Unlike just about every VPN provider, ExpressVPN's browser extensions aren't simple proxies. They are browser-based interfaces for your Windows, Mac or Linux client: they won't work unless you have them installed. That's inconvenient, but there are some major benefits, too.

Launch ExpressVPN's browser extension, for instance, and it's able to communicate with the desktop client and read its state. The default location will be set to the same as the client. And if the client is currently connected, your extension will reflect that.

You can control the desktop client from the browser, too. If you want to unblock a single website, you can choose a VPN location from within your browser, connect to it, do whatever browsing you need, and disconnect ExpressVPN when you're done. It's all very quick and convenient, with no need at all to switch backwards and forwards between your browser and the ExpressVPN client.

This works well at a simple level. The browser extension interface looks much like the regular clients and apps, with a similar system for browsing and selecting locations.

There are also some limitations. The most annoying is that the extension doesn't support the client's Favorites, potentially a real hassle if you've built up a custom list. A few of the more advanced tools (the Settings dialog, the speed test) are also only available in the client, but that's less likely to make any difference in day-to-day use.

There's some good news, too, particularly with the Chrome extension, which adds some genuinely useful options of its own. A Privacy and Security section, for instance, gives you settings to prevent HTML5 geolocation from revealing your real location while you're connected to the VPN, as well as blocking WebRTC leaks at the browser level, and using HTTPS Everywhere to automatically force connections to the HTTPS versions of websites whenever they're available.

Not everyone will be interested in the browser extension, and the lack of Favorites support will be a hassle for some. But overall, it's still a worthwhile addition to the package, and there are likely to be more improvements and enhancements to come.

Chat support confirm cancel

Live chat support makes it easy to solve any problems you have with ExpressVPN (Image Credit: ExpressVPN)

Support

Much like any other networking technology, a VPN can misbehave in many ways, and figuring out exactly what's going on can be a real challenge. That's why even the most experienced user can benefit from quality VPN support.

ExpressVPN's support site gets off to a good start with its lengthy list of troubleshooting guides. Whether you're trying to diagnose slow speeds or dropped connections, understand error messages, change your password or cancel your account, there's useful information to hand.

Most articles are well-written and deliver in all the key areas. They don't assume technical knowledge, instead taking the time to explain the background, offering multiple suggestions to resolve most problems, and linking to other relevant articles where they'll provide relevant details. (For example, where other VPNs might have a single line suggesting you "try another server" to help diagnose speed problems, ExpressVPN also links to a detailed article explaining how to find the best location for you.)

The setup articles are even more impressive. You don't get just one generic installation tutorial per platform, for instance. There are no less than 9 Windows tutorials covering the installation of ExpressVPN's own apps, and manual setup for various Windows versions. You get 8 for Mac, 5 for iOS, 4 for Android, and even Linux has separate setup guides for Ubuntu, Raspberry Pi, Terminal (via OpenVPN) and more.

An accurate search engine scans more than 250 of these articles to find whatever fits your requirements.

If the website can't help, ExpressVPN's support team is available 24/7 via email and live chat.

ExpressVPN recommends Live Chat for the fastest results, but we sent a test email question anyway to check response times. Although the company suggests it can take up to 24 hours to get a reply, we got a friendly, detailed and helpful message in under an hour. That's much faster than we expected, and the reply contained everything we needed to diagnose and resolve our issue.

Live chat also performed very well. We ran several checks on the service, there were always agents available, and typically we had a first genuine response (a real comment on our issues, not just an automated 'I'm Steve and I'm here to help you' bot-type reply) within two or three minutes.

The quality of chat support was well above average, too, with the agent spending 30 minutes patiently walking us through some well-chosen diagnostic steps. Whether you're a networking newbie or an experienced expert, there's a good chance that ExpressVPN's support will be able to solve any issues within a very few minutes.

TechRadar's final verdict

ExpressVPN scores a rating of 5 out of 5!

This is a top-quality VPN which exceeded our expectations in everything from platform support and privacy, to ease of use, unblocking abilities and its excellent support. The lack of an integrated kill switch on mobile apps might be an issue for some, but otherwise this is a polished, powerful and professional service.
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