Skip to main content

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

  • 160 locations across 94 countries
  • Good performance from most servers
  • Clients for most platforms
  • Excellent support

Against

  • Above-average prices
  • Fairly basic mobile apps
  • Browser extensions require ExpressVPN app

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 providers, 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 27 Asia Pacific countries alone, for instance - TunnelBear covers 22 countries in total.

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.

There are valuable technical features 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 a clever split-tunneling system allows you to control exactly which apps use the VPN, and which will be routed through your regular internet connection. That's 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 website goes into great detail on exactly what the service does and doesn't collect, and ExpressVPN has recently had its servers audited to confirm it's following its own privacy policy.

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.

Recent improvements include support for five simultaneous connections, up from the previous three. A few providers support even more - IPVanish and Private Internet Access can handle 10 simultaneous connections, Surfshark and Windscribe have no limits at all - but five is the industry standard, and likely to be enough for most users. And if it's not quite enough to suit your needs, use a router and you'll bypass the limit entirely.

App improvements include IKEv2 support on Windows and Mac. The Android app can now both automatically connect you to the VPN when joining untrusted networks, but also disconnect when you join a trusted network (an unusual but smart idea.) And a simplified interface means it now takes fewer clicks to find and connect to the servers you need.

There's a boost for ExpressVPN's Firefox extension, too, which has gained the same WebRTC blocking, location spoofing and HTTPS Everywhere support as the company’s Chrome offering.

The apps and browser extensions are now available in more than a dozen languages: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. (Some of those languages aren't available on all platforms, but it's a good start, and the company will presumably fill in the gaps over time.)

ExpressVPN's new TrustedServer technology sees all the company's servers now run in RAM. They never write to the hard drive, minimizing the chance that an attacker can recover any sensitive files. Every server loads the latest image when it boots, too, limiting vulnerabilities that might arise from any misconfiguration, and ensuring that a server can't be compromised by an attacker installing a backdoor. (Or not for long, anyway.)

ExpressVPN reduces its monthly price when you sign up for a longer plan

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 not cheap, but it's similar to many providers (CyberGhost, GooseVPN, Hotspot Shield and VyprVPN all charge around $13 for their monthly plans), and not far from the $9-$10 charged by most big-name VPNs.

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. While that beats Hotspot Shield's annual $9.99, and isn't far from NordVPN and HideMyAss! $6.99, it's more than twice some of the competition (Ivacy and Private Internet Access ask $3.33, Speedify and Zenmate are priced at $3.99, Windscribe is $4.08.)

The difference becomes even more significant if you're happy to sign up for longer periods. While ExpressVPN stops with its annual plan, opting for a two or three-year subscription with GooseVPN, Ivacy, VPN Unlimited, Surfshark and others can cut prices to an equivalent $2 to $3 a month.

There's more to a VPN than price, of course. Anyone can offer low headline rates; it's offering a decent service, too, that's the tricky part.

There are ways to save some cash, too. Signing up with our exclusive deal adds three free months to the annual ExpressVPN subscription, giving you 15 months of service for an effective $6.67 per month.

Decide to sign up and you'll find a wide range 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, installing the Android or iOS app gets you a 7-day trial. And even after handing over your cash, ExpressVPN's 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to safely check out the service for yourself. 

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. 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 lesser providers, which in the worst case might 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.

ExpressVPN clearly states that it keeps no logs on its users

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’re 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.

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.

Independent audits are a growing trend in the VPN industry and for good reason

Independent audits are a growing trend in the VPN industry and for good reason (Image credit: ExpressVPN)

You don't simply have to take what ExpressVPN says on trust, though. The company has had its TrustedServer technology and backend systems audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers to confirm that it's living up to its privacy promises. Legal restrictions mean we can't quote from the summary report, but it's freely available for customers to download and read.

ExpressVPN has a number of useful articles on a variety of topics on its site

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 a sample 25 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 (many VPNs take twice as long, ProtonVPN regularly required 12-13 seconds.) 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.

Elsewhere, latency was within our expected range, and geolocation checks showed all servers were in their advertised locations.

We checked performance by using the benchmarking sites SpeedTest and TestMy to measure download speeds from UK and US locations.

UK performance was very reasonable at 60-64Mbps on our 75Mbps test line. Some VPNs might give us 2-3Mbps more, but that's not a significant or noticeable difference, and essentially the service gave us as much as we'd expect from that connection.

Our US connection had a 475Mbps line, giving us a much better idea of just what ExpressVPN could do, and the results were impressive at 200-250Mbps. To put those figures in perspective, out of the 20 VPNs we've benchmarked from that location, only three performed better (Goose VPN, Hotspot Shield, Private Internet Access.)

(These might sound like irrelevant figures if your internet connection is a fraction of that speed, but we think they matter for everyone. The higher the speeds a server gives us, the more bandwidth it has available, and the more likely it'll deliver decent performance, even at peak times.

Long distance tests are more difficult to interpret, as there are a whole host of non-VPN-related factors which might affect performance. But we ran our sample set of 25 ExpressVPN servers past some benchmarking sites, anyway, just to see what would happen.

The results were generally very positive, with most of Europe, the US and even some more distant locations - Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Karachi - managing close to 60Mbps from our UK base. There were a few more disappointing exceptions - Brazil and Kenya peaked at 20Mbps and were usually much less - but that can happen in any short-term tests, 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 great, with a perfect 10 out of 10 locations unblocking the service (that's up from 7 last time.) Even if the service doesn't work for you, we've found that 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.

ExpressVPN does support torrenting

ExpressVPN does support torrenting (Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Torrents

ExpressVPN doesn't appear very torrent-friendly at first glance, as at first glance its website doesn't seem to mention the topic at all. There's so little torrent awareness that if you type 'p2p' 'in the knowledgebase Search box, for instance, it assumes you've made a mistake and searches for 'pap', instead.

No need to worry, though, ExpressVPN isn't trying to hide anything. 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.

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.

ExpressVPN has clients available for most popular platforms 

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 username 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 usernames 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, and you can add individual locations to a Favorites list. 

The latest edition of the client even displays the currently selected location, the 'smart location' (ExpressVPN's recommended server) and your last choice of location on the main client window. You can connect to any of these with a click, no need to head off to a location list at all.

The client also makes smart use of its system tray icon, too. 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.

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, PPTP and IKEv2 (new this time). 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 (IKEv2 or 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 always ready to protect your privacy.

It works, too. We used multiple tricks to forcibly close both OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections, but the client handled everything perfectly, blocking internet traffic, keeping us informed with a desktop notification, and reconnecting in seconds.

Low-level technical touches include specialist IPv6 leak protection, and the ability to use your default DNS servers when using the VPN (you'll use ExpressVPN's own, by default.)

ExpressVPN's most advanced feature is probably its support for split tunneling, a smart technology which enables defining which apps use the VPN, and which use your regular internet connection. 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 username 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.

The Settings section has improved since our last review with the addition of an integrated kill switch. That's a major addition, but the app is still missing some of settings of the desktop build. Protocol choices are restricted to OpenVPN TCP or UDP, for instance. There's no IPv6 leak protection, and no control over DNS.

The app does have split tunneling, though, allowing you to define which apps should or shouldn't use the VPN. 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 Auto-connect feature is a particularly welcome addition, optionally connecting you to the VPN whenever you join untrusted networks.

The app's '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. It's a very simple idea, but a useful one, which enable launching commonly used apps with a tap just as soon as you're connected.

It's not quite the most powerful Android app we've seen (and in particular, we'd like more choice of protocols), 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: a recommended location, a big Connect button to get online, and a menu button to explore further.

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.

Your choice of protocol doesn't just include OpenVPN UDP and TCP, for instance - you also have access to L2TP and IKEv2, neither of which are available on 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.

New browser 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.

As it is just a basic front end for the desktop engine, it's no surprise that the extension has some limitations. There's no Favorites system, for instance. No Speed test. There are only two options, too ('Connect on browser launch' and 'Show desktop notifications'), although you're able to open the desktop app's Settings dialog directly from the browser extension.

There's good news, too, with some welcome privacy tools. Both the Chrome and now the Firefox extension include 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.

The browser extension won't be for everyone, especially as you must have the app installed to use it. But the ability to control the app from within the browser is a genuinely useful feature that you won't find with the competition, and overall it's a very worthwhile addition to the package.

live chat popup

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 6 for Mac, 6 for iOS, 5 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. It's hugely refreshing to enter keywords on a VPN support site and actually come with a lot of useful content. (OpenVPN gets 42 hits, DNS gets 73, there's 45 for Android, 16 for Ubuntu, 15 for DD-WRT, and the list goes on.)

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.

Final verdict

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.

  • Also check out the best VPN services of 2019