UsenetExpress has one server farm in the US with retention rates that grade quite low. The retention they list on their website is up to 1100 days for binary, although we got considerably less in our testing, and 3000 days for text groups. Retention correlates to the number of posts you have access to on a Usenet provider’s server. Considering that some of the best Usenet providers out there offer more than 8 years of additional retention, there will be a very substantial number of posts not available on UsenetExpress’ servers that would be available elswehere.
The service is relatively young, and that brings some issues of its own. There’s only a US-based server farm, for instance, and they use low-cost transit instead of premium congestion-prone networks. A European location has said to be coming for a couple of years now, but that won’t help your performance right now. Regardless, UsenetExpress offers strong security, a 10GB uplink for their server and up to 50 streams for a good price.
There is no newsreader included, but in terms of price, $10 (£8) a month gets you unlimited bandwidth, a maximum of 50 connections and a bundled VPN. The price drops to $8.66 (£6.95) a month over six months and $7.50 (£6) a month if paid annually – that’s around half of what you’ll pay for the similar Giganews Diamond plan.
If you’re looking for more flexibility, a 500GB block is priced at $20 (£16). The VPN isn’t included, but you can add it for extra cash. All the plans can also be extended to support up to 150 connections, although using that many connections may actually lower your overall transfer speeds.
UsenetExpress says every plan comes with a ’30-day money-back guarantee’. The company doesn’t specify what the restrictions or data transfer limitations are, but we assume you will have to write in within your first 30 days to request a refund. Other providers like Giganews offer a 14-day free trial with 10GB of downloads, where you will not be charged up front to try their service.
UsenetExpress encrypts its connections using SSL. As it’s a tier-1 provider with its own server farm, there’s no other upstream provider involved that can log your usage of the service.
The company says it has “a strong zero logging policy on the news you read from day one.” The FAQ page gives a little more information: “UsenetExpress does not and cannot log what you download. The only thing that we are able to determine is the volume of information that you download, but not any of the content.”
UsenetExpress subscription-based plans include a VPN for extra protection. The block plan also has it available for an added cost. The VPN offers multiple servers across 40+ countries, so you should find a location near you. There’s also a multi-hop feature for the maximum possible privacy.
Signing up for UsenetExpress works much the same as most other internet services: choose a plan, enter your email address and select a payment option (card, PayPal and Bitcoin are supported).
Post-payment we were taken to the UsenetExpress member area, a very simple web portal with some details of the account. There are some support pages, too, although they’re not very detailed right now. That’s no great surprise for a new service and we expect they’ll improve over time.
Experienced users shouldn’t have any issues getting started. The host name (news.Usenetexpress.com) is displayed on the support site, username and password are sent in a welcome email, and there’s the usual choice of ports: 563 or 443 for SSL (TLS 1.0+), 564 for old SSL clients (SSLv2); 119, 23, or 80 without SSL enabled.
Getting hold of the bundled VPN service is more difficult. We had to request it on the web portal, then wait a couple of days for our request to be approved. The next step: set a password back on the web portal. After that, download the client from a Dropbox page, a less-than-professional touch. Why not host it on the UsenetExpress site, where we can be more confident about what we’re downloading?
The client, branded VitalVPN, is easy-to-use and included IP and DNS leak protection. But it has problems of its own, opening a web browser at a non-existent domain when we clicked Help.
To be fair, UsenetExpress seems to acknowledge these issues in a mildly apologetic email, saying: “We’re still working through getting our systems set up, so for now you’ll need to use the following VPN client.” Hopefully the process will be improved soon.
VPN performance is much more important, and it proved to be excellent in our brief tests, easily reaching 35Mbps and more from a UK to UK connection. Your speeds will vary depending on your location and hardware, but with servers in 40+ countries and multiple cities in the US and UK, it’s likely most users will get good results.
For Usenet, we ran some basic benchmarks of download speeds. UsenetExpress single streams managed barely 1Mbps on our test system, but as users are allowed up to 50 connections that could still achieve a very acceptable 40-50Mbps. We were connecting from the UK to the US, so if you’re nearer you’ll see better performance, and the arrival of the European server farm, which has been listed as ‘coming soon’ for a couple of years now, should also improve speeds.
Another benchmark test we ran was the content availability on each platform. We chose 5 Usenet posts that were less than 2 years old that should be available on all the services. On Usenet Express, only 2 of the 5 posts were available which may be an indication that Usenet Express’s retention within their advertised “up to 1100 days” is not complete. We were able to download these posts on all of our top choices.
Retention-wise, the service does fall noticeably behind. They provide ‘up to 1100+ days’ and ‘3000+’ for text, compared to 4,085+ days of both binary and text retention that other tier-1 Usenet services provide. Retention is the number of days that Usenet posts are stored on a provider’s servers and determines the amount of posts you will have access to. This is an important service level indicator and one that we recommend considering closely when determining what provider to choose. To get an idea of what retention levels other providers offer, check out our best Usenet providers list.
UsenetExpress has a few rough edges -- mainly very low retention rates, a few missing posts in our testing and a US-only server location. If retention times server locations, and not having a bundled newsreader aren’t important to you, then you can check it out with a 30 day money-back guarantee.