ExpressVPN Review: An Established VPN Service Provider
Thoroughly Secure and Well-Designed
For many years, ExpressVPN garnered much acclaim from established tech reviewers even if its nature remains a talking point:
How can a secure VPN provider build customer trust when it doesn’t disclose its president or CEO? The top VPN service stands by its choice — but is there enough reason to try ExpressVPN in the first place?
Over the past few months, we’ve assessed the anonymous VPN and its main selling points. Here’s what we have to say.
Privacy and Security
Encryption and Leak Prevention
ExpressVPN has the NSA-approved, industry-leading AES-256 as its encryption standard. This is virtually impossible (even for all supercomputers) to decode through brute force cracking (i.e. continuous sending of possible combinations).
Along with AES-256 is the SHA-256 hash algorithm, which verifies the authenticity of data packets being transmitted over a network.
Likewise, ExpressVPN has the open-source OpenVPN, widely considered the most secure VPN protocol today.
The VPN service is well aware of DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks, which can reveal a user’s public IP address and browsing activities to their ISP or unauthorized entities. ExpressVPN addresses these by providing its own DNS servers and browser extensions.
ExpressVPN has Network Lock. Like any other kill switch, it ensures that no unencrypted goes out when the device loses its VPN connection, which happens for a variety of reasons:
- Computer enters sleep mode
- Voltage fluctuations
- ISP connection issues
- Wi-fi network switches
The VPN for privacy automatically activates Network Lock for its Windows, Linux, Mac, and router apps.
ExpressVPN has Perfect Forward Secrecy, a last-ditch security feature. If a hacker successfully infiltrates a device or VPN server, they still won’t have access to all data — only for one session lasting up to just 60 minutes.
All previous and future sessions remain encrypted because ExpressVPN creates keys for every new VPN connection. Once a connection passes 60 minutes, the company automatically makes a new secret key.
While we don’t know who owns ExpressVPN, we’ve identified its headquarters: the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
It’s a solid choice for a few reasons:
- The 14 Eyes intelligence group has no jurisdiction over BVI.
- BVI has no data retention laws.
- Foreign governments have to go through an arduous legal process if they want a company residing in the BVI to hand over data.
ExpressVPN is highly transparent with what data it collects. Simply put, the VPN service only stores data necessary for one of four purposes:
- Completing payments
- Providing customer support
- Monitoring unusually high data transfers
- Identifying service issues
Users who don’t want to reveal information when paying for the anonymous VPN should use bitcoin. It’s also merely optional to allow ExpressVPN to collect anonymous information.
More importantly, none of the collected data can lead to the identification of a specific user. Its no-logs policy means ExpressVPN stores neither activity logs nor connection logs.
ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. The top VPN provider has 160 locations, but some are virtual server locations.
These virtual locations don’t mean ExpressVPN is lying to users. Using them allows server connections in countries that don’t meet the VPN service’s standards in terms of connection speed and cybersecurity.
For one, Singapore has ExpressVPN servers that allow virtual connections to Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the Philippines. The Netherlands does the same for Montenegro, Uzbekistan, and Turkey.
All listed server locations offer connections through OpenVPN (UDP), IPSec, and IKEv2 VPN protocols — and all but Azerbaijan allow OpenVPN (TCP).
Ease of Use
ExpressVPN designed its apps with beginners in mind. For one, it has Smart Location, an algorithm that automatically chooses the best VPN server location based on factors like connection speed and distance.
It also automatically chooses the optimal VPN protocol for users based on their internet quality, although they can manually choose other protocols.
Speed reduction never became an issue regardless of device and time. We had consistent HD streaming and online games didn’t suffer high latency problems — all thanks to unlimited bandwidth and speeds.
The official apps are well-designed: easy to navigate, launch quickly, and offered in many languages.
ExpressVPN is compatible with a wide range of platforms, including:
- Apple TV
- Amazon Fire TV
Also, the VPN for privacy has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
ExpressVPN has three plans:
- 1 month ($12.95)
- 6 months ($59.95)
- 12 months ($99.95)
The monthly plan is expensive compared to what other top VPN services offer. Thankfully, the yearly plan offers generous savings, amounting to just $8.32/mo. All plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Users can pay by credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin (safest option), and others like UnionPay and Yandex.Money — reflecting ExpressVPN’s openness to customers beyond the US and UK.
The VPN service has a dedicted page for setup tutorials, covering everything from Windows and Mac to manual router configurations, Blackberry, Smart TVs, and the Amazon Kindle.
Both app and manual setup guides are available. The guides avoid jargon and utilize proper formatting to help users understand instructions better. Likewise, screenshots and videos are provided for many.
Users having issues using VPN should check the troubleshooting guides section first before requesting a support team member. It covers issues about user accounts, connections, platforms, log file errors, and others.
Interestingly, the FAQ section is part of the troubleshooting page, covering queries about ExpressVPN and VPNs in general.
ExpressVPN has no phone support, but users who need further assistance can ask for email support or live chat, the latter being available 24/7.
Arguably, ExpressVPN has retained its overwhelmingly positive reputation because it communicates its choices clearly. We know why it needs virtual server locations along with its physical servers — and the same goes for its automatic server and protocol selection and default enabling of Network Lock.
The company is transparent with data, ensuring that none it does collect can ever be traced back to a specific user. ExpressVPN has room for improvement: It lacks phone support and introductory rates, and the monthly plan is steep. Still, the anonymous VPN excels where a VPN should: security and privacy.