UsenetExpress is a powerful new tier-1 Usenet provider which offers strong security, a 10GB uplink per server and up to 150 streams for an excellent price.
The service is relatively young, and that brings some issues of its own. There's only a US-based server farm currently, for instance. A European location is coming, but that won't help your performance right now.
Retention doesn't match the best of the rest, at ‘up to 1100+ days’ quoted for binary, 3000+ for text over 110,000 newsgroups. It takes time to build retention, too, so UsenetExpress currently has agreements with a couple of other providers to deliver older articles. That may also have a small effect on performance.
These issues may seem relatively small, though, especially when you see the 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) over six months, $7.50 (£6) a month paid annually – that's around half 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 you'll need a seriously fast connection of your own to need that.
UsenetExpress says every plan comes with a ‘30-day money-back guarantee’. The company doesn't specify any restrictions or data transfer limits, which makes it look much better than Giganews which offers a 14-day, 10GB trial. But there is one possible disadvantage: UsenetExpress takes your first month's payment immediately, while Giganews gives you 14 days grace before this happens.
UsenetExpress encrypts its connections using SSL. As it's a tier-1 provider with its own server farm and network, 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. This 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 includes 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.
Finally, 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 should also improve speeds. Overall this seems like a good start for a new service, and we'll be interested to see what happens over the next year.
UsenetExpress has a few rough edges, but overall it's a promising new service which offers you a lot of power for a great value price. If you're looking for a new Usenet home, take the 30-day trial and check it out for yourself.