ExpressVPN vs Proton VPN – which is better?

Proton VPN versus ExpressVPN on a blue background
(Image credit: Future)

On the one hand, we have ProtonVPN. A quality VPN built by the mind behind ProtonMail, a name that is now synonymous with private technology. On the other hand, we have ExpressVPN. Another quality VPN built by experts working with industry leaders when it comes to encryption, security, and privacy. It's a tough choice. That's why they're both featured in our best VPN rankings. For reference, ProtonVPN is featured at #6, whereas ExpressVPN is all the way up there at #2.

I wouldn't just dismiss ProtonVPN out of hand though. It's just as good as ExpressVPN, and actually exceeds it in some areas. To try and nail down exactly why you'd want to try each VPN, I'm going to be putting both of them head to head and comparing security, speed, usability, and overall feature set for the best possible view on which VPN provider you should try. If you've seen something here you want to know more about, you can also read our ExpressVPN and Proton VPN reviews to dig deeper into each provider.


What really sets VPNs apart now is the extras they offer. There are a lot of good VPNs out there, but the great ones all do something that's hard to find elsewhere. I'm constantly surprised by the innovation some VPN companies are bringing to the table (although, every once in a while you'll see an added feature that will really leave you scratching your head).

So, let's see how ExpressVPN and Proton VPN compare when it comes to added value. Once again, there's a lot to talk about with Proton VPN so they're up first. The most obvious place to start is what you'll get access to in the Unlimited plan. You won't really get any more VPN features than on the default plan, but you will get upgraded versions of all the other tools in Proton's privacy ecosystem. 

There are a few extra email features but the most notable ones are support for up to 15 email addresses across 3 custom email domains. There's also 500 GB extra online storage, although this is split between Drive, Mail, and Calendar. You can also build up to 20 calendars on Unlimited. All in all, you might be compelled by these features if you're highly organized, privacy-conscious or running a small business, but you're also probably using a few different services already and migrating your whole life over to Proton could be kind of a hassle. I think it's great value, but your mileage may vary.


ExpressVPN used to dominate the VPN speed charts, but that's not the case anymore. ExpressVPN's OpenVPN protocol averaged 210 Mbps in our testing, which is adequate for multiple simultaneous connections in a small household. However, Proton VPN outperformed with its OpenVPN speeds logging at 400 Mbps, nearly double that of ExpressVPN, making it a superior choice for bandwidth-intensive tasks.

When comparing specialist protocols, ExpressVPN's Lightway delivered impressive speeds of around 410 Mbps, significantly faster than its OpenVPN performance. Yet, Proton VPN's WireGuard implementation really blew our socks off, maxing out our connection at a staggering 950 Mbps.

Want to see how they compare in the broader spectrum of the industry? Check out our latest speed test results:

Want to know more about our reviews? Check out our latest VPN test results, and how TechRadar tests VPNs.


Okay, so both providers offer speeds that will comfortably support even the highest quality streams. Next up is figuring out which streams they can access. It's a tricky task, because you can't always rely on what a VPN provider advertises they can unblock. Streaming services are constantly trying to enforce their geo-restrictions by blocking VPN IP addresses so you can't watch content from outside of the intended country. It's a game of cat and mouse, and the only way to know who's winning is to try a VPN our for yourself.

So, that's what I did. I've tried out both ExpressVPN and Proton VPN against a bunch of different regional and global streaming providers to see how they fare. Obviously, this includes Netflix US and all of its major regional variants (to be specific: Canada, Japan, Australia, and the UK). I've also tried out Disney+ and Amazon Prime, as well as some more obscure providers. Let's get into it.

Proton VPN has made some serious h I breezed through Netflix libraries in the US, UK, Japan, Australia, and Canada without a hitch. And it doesn't stop there; BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, 9Now, ITVX, Channel 4— ExpressVPN let me sidestep all of their geo-blocks with ease. The only streaming service I couldn't access was 10Play. Proton VPN couldn't unblock it by default, so I changed location to their Australian locations one-by-one to see if it would make a difference. This didn't work, but hopefully Proton will provide a solution soon.

In the meantime, if you want a VPN that unblocks absolutely everything, it has to be ExpressVPN. They're well known for their unblocking capabilities, and with good reason. It goes without saying that every streaming service I tried on Proton VPN also worked here, and I was even able to access 10Play first time. A clear winner.


Stick ten people in a room and you'll get ten different answers about what the perfect VPN looks like. It all comes down to personal preference, so please don't take what I'm saying here as the be-all and end-all of VPN design. If you end up finding something you like about either VPN that I'm not so hot on, that's completely valid.

Proton VPN's app isn't as beginner-friendly as it could be. When you open up the app, most of the screen space is dominated by a world map showing off all the VPN locations with a data readout below it. All the actual VPN operation takes place in a bar to the left, including the connect button and a VPN location list. It takes a little getting used to before you're able to effectively use it, but there's a good reason for that. 

Proton VPN in use on a smartphone

(Image credit: Proton VPN)

One of Proton VPN's core features is Secure Core, which lets you pick two VPNs: one you connect to, and one you're connecting to the rest of the world from. Only a few of Proton VPN's servers support being the start point of a Secure Core connection, so the world map lets you visualize what your total point-to-point connection is going to look like and allows you to choose the shortest route possible.

If that all sounds like a headache to manage and you just want an app where you can press connect and forget about it, ExpressVPN is what you want. The main screen presents a clean, uncluttered layout without any of the complexities you'd find with Proton VPN. A large power button in the middle of the app invites you to connect with just a single click. There's a recommended server option below as well as the most recent server you've connected to. 

ExpressVPN working on several devices including Apple TV

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Need to switch locations? No problem. Opening the server list brings up a separate window where locations are neatly categorized by region, allowing you to explore and select your desired location with ease. Settings? They're just as straightforward. Each option is clearly labeled and accessible without digging through layers of menus. With all the effort ExpressVPN have put into making their VPN as effortless as possible, it's a great choice for your first VPN.

I really have to give the app design crown to ExpressVPN here. It's simple, it works, and there's still all of the complexity underneath without an overwhelming splash screen.

Privacy and security

A VPN is a privacy tool. At least, it should be. If you trust the wrong VPN, you're giving your data away to a third party that may be selling your data to advertisers, scraping your traffic for usernames and passwords, and sending malware back to your device. Even if your VPN provider is trustworthy, if their network and apps aren't set up correctly you could end up being vulnerable to hackers using the VPN connection as a way to read your data and sneak into your computer. 

This is why we only recommend VPNs that demonstrate their security is up to scratch, as well as their privacy policy. Do ExpressVPN and Proton VPN pass the bar? Let's find out.

First, let's talk about ExpressVPN. Sending your data across the internet requires rock-solid encryption to make sure hackers can't capture and decode your internet traffic. To this end, ExpressVPN uses AES-256 encryption which is widely regarded as the current gold standard for securing sensitive data. However, ExpressVPN isn't just content with protecting against current threats. They've also implemented post-quantum algorithms into their encryption scheme, which basically means that even if quantum computing advances to the point where modern encryption strategies are no longer secure, ExpressVPN is already future-proofing your data against new decryption attacks.


Like most VPNs, ExpressVPN and Proton VPN both offer multiple pricing plans that get cheaper the longer you subscribe for upfront. ExpressVPN's pricing is pretty straightforward, so I'm going to talk about Proton VPN first.

Proton VPN's monthly subscription plan costs $9.99, which is on the lower side of VPN subscription prices. Indeed, this is the same price you'd get if you bought into ExpressVPN for six months. The yearly plan chops that price in half, bringing it down to $4.99 per month for a total of $59.88 overall. However, purchasing the two-year plan won't net you anywhere near the same savings: it only brings the price down by another 5% compared to the monthly rate, working out at $4.49 per month, or $107.76 overall. 

Proton VPN's base plan is a monthly subscription that will cost you $9.99. I'll cover how much functionality you get for this later on, but suffice it to say this is surprisingly cheap for a top-tier VPN. There's also a yearly plan, which costs only $4.99 per month or $59.88 overall. That's half price just for buying a year. You could also buy into the two-year plan for $107.76 which brings the cost down to $4.49 per month, which isn't a huge increase in savings but it's still cheaper. 

ExpressVPN vs Proton VPN – which is better?

When you take into account price, feature set, speeds, and connectivity, I think you have to give it to Proton VPN. That's not to say ExpressVPN is a bad VPN provider - they're actually pretty brilliant (especially if you're looking for a streaming VPN) but Proton VPN just slightly edges ahead in a bunch of different areas. It's faster, it costs less, and it packs more for the price.

This is especially true when it comes to all of the extra features on offer from Proton VPN. For the same price as a monthly subscription from ExpressVPN, you get access to the full suite of Proton Unlimited tools. That's on top of all the features built into Proton VPN such as Secure Core and Tor over VPN, but I digress. I would still recommend ExpressVPN if you're a first-time VPN user who needs something that will just work, but other than that I'd say Proton VPN is the clear winner here.

Although, you might not be convinced by either VPN yet. In that case, you should check out NordVPN instead. It's our number one recommended VPN for most of the reasons I'd recommend Express and Proton. Unparalleled unblocking ability, almost unmatched speeds, and a provider that's constantly going the extra mile to add innovative tools like Meshnet, which allows you to run your own file-sharing network protected entirely by their VPN. Best of all, you can give it a look with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Sam Dawson
VPN and cybersecurity expert

Sam Dawson is a cybersecurity expert who has over four years of experience reviewing security-related software products. He focuses his writing on VPNs and security, previously writing for ProPrivacy before freelancing for Future PLC's brands, including TechRadar. Between running a penetration testing company and finishing a PhD focusing on speculative execution attacks at the University of Kent, he still somehow finds the time to keep an eye on how technology is impacting current affairs.