Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

August 20, 2018

ExpressVPN is a British Virgin Islands-based VPN provider that always leads the way when it comes to offering a customer-focused service. Ease of use, a highly responsive 24/7 customer service team, and an industry-leading, no quibbles, 30-day money-back guarantee ensure ExpressVPN’s place at the top of the VPN industry.

ExpressVPN’s experience at keeping customers happy is matched by superb technical capabilities. Not only is the encryption used nearly flawless, but VPN connections are also fast.

Being based in the British Virgin Islands, and keeping very minimal aggregated logs, might be issues for some privacy fanatics out there. However, in reality these pose little threat to most users, who will benefit from using what I consider to be the most professionally run VPN service on the market.

PROS:
  • Super fast - great for streaming!
  • Super secure - 256-bit encryption
  • Unlimited downloading
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 5* 24/7 customer support
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today
CONS:
  • None

Visit ExpressVPN »

Pricing and Plans

ExpressVPN’s packages are listed below. The longer the package, the better the value:

1 Month12.95Details anzeigen
Bestes Angebot
15 months6.67Details anzeigen
6 months9.99Details anzeigen

ExpressVPN does not offer a free trial*, as such, but it does offer a very generous 30-day money-back guarantee. And unlike with some companies out there, there are no catches to watch out for. Cancel any time within 30 days and you will get your money back. No explanation is required.

*A free trial is available for mobile users – seven days for the iOS app and one day for the Android app – as per standard Apple Store and Google Play Store policies.

It is also worth mentioning that ExpressVPN offers quite a groovy referral program. Convince a friend to sign up and you both get 30 days free.

ExpressVPN accepts payment via credit/debit card, PayPal and bitcoin. It has also partnered with Paymentwall to accept a number of more obscure international payment options.

Features

ExpressVPN supports most VPN protocols, including OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), SSTP, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP. Please see here for a full discussion on this subject, but the main takeaway should be: use OpenVPN whenever possible. Other features include:

  • Servers in 145 cities in 94 countries. This include plenty of more unusual and exotic locations
  • Up to three simultaneous connections
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Smart DNS
  • Stealth servers
  • A dark web website

I discuss some of these features in more detail below.

Smart DNS

Smart DNS is technology used for geo-spoofing your location. This very useful for accessing streaming services such as US Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which are geo-blocked. It works by resolving your DNS requests at a specified location, and has the following advantages over using a VPN:

  • It is must faster, as no encryption/decryption is required. This means fewer buffering issues.
  • It can be used with any internet-capable device, including many that cannot run VPN software. For example, smart TVs,  games consoles, and Roku devices.
  • It is less likely to be blocked by services that try to ban VPN users (although this cannot be guaranteed).

On the flip side, Smart DNS does nothing to improve your privacy or security.

All ExpressVPN customers gain full access to both its VPN and Smart DNS services.

ExpressVPN Smart DNS Netflix March 2017

ExpressVPN Smart DNS unblocked both US Netflix and BBC iPlayer for me.

Stealth Servers

Designed specially to defeat censorship in mainland China, these Hong-Kong based servers should be useful wherever VPNs are blocked. ExpressVPN is understandably cagey about how these servers actually work. However, from the reports we receive, they work well.

Just remember that nothing can be 100% guaranteed when a powerful government is actively working to counter technologies such as this.

A .onion Tor Web Address

Sometimes the most difficult thing about defeating censorship with a VPN is actually getting onto a VPN provider’s website so you can sign up for the service and download its software. ExpressVPN has a solution for this!

Onion Site

Just type http://expressobutiolem.onion into the URL bar of the Tor Browser to visit a Tor Hidden Services dark web mirror of the ExpressVPN website. Using a .onion address makes it more or less impossible to censor the website.

Visit ExpressVPN »

Privacy

ExpressVPN keeps no usage logs:

We never keep traffic logs, and we also don’t keep any logs that might enable someone to match an IP and timestamp back to a user. We work entirely on the basis of shared IPs, meaning that a single IP does not track back to an individual user.”

However, it does keep some (pretty minimal) connection logs:

For the purpose of improving network resource allocation, we record aggregate data-transfer amounts and choice of server location, neither of which are data points that can identify a specific user as part of an investigation. We may collect the following information: dates (not times) when connected to our service, choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred per day.

Furthermore,

“Our software may send diagnostic data to a third party analytics provider for the purpose of identifying connection errors and possible bugs in our application. The information collected is generic in nature and does not contain personally identifying information.”

This last part is important. ExpressVPN only keeps logs in aggregate form. This means that the minimal amount of information collected for troubleshooting purposes is not associated with the IP addresses of individual customers.

Privacy purists may still not be entirely happy about even this level of logging, but it is unlikely to be of concern to most users.

Another potential issue is that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is a British overseas territory. The BVI regulates its own internal affairs, and has no mandatory data retention laws.

However, since it lies under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the UK government, it seems reasonable to assume that the UK could put pressure on the BVI government and businesses. So (and this is something of a guess, as the legal situation is very murky), being  based in the BVI is probably safer than being based in a Fourteen Eyes country, but is not ideal.

Security

ExpressVPN uses the following OpenVPN encryption:

OpenVPN Encryption
Cipher
AES-256
Data Auth
HMAC SHA-512
Handshake
RSA-4096
Forward Secrecy
ECDH
Logs & Legal
Connection
minimal
Traffic
None
Country
BVI

AES-256 cipher with RSA-4096 handshake and SHA-512 HMAC hash authentication. Perfect forward secrecy is provided courtesy of Elliptic Curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH) key exchanges for data channel encryption.

To put it another way, OpenVPN encryption is quite literally as strong as OpenVPN encryption can get. In theory, this could negatively impact performance results, which is why many other providers settle for lower levels of encryption.

This is not unreasonable, as the settings used by ExpressVPN are arguably overkill! As we shall see later, however, ExpressVPN still manages to show great performance results, which is a spectacular technical feat, given the high levels of encryption it uses!

Take a look at this interesting graphic on the ExpressVPN review over at Comparitech.com which explains exactly how long it would take to break their encryption

The Website

The ExpressVPN website is a slick looking and very professional affair. There is a great deal of information available on it, although I do feel this could be a little better organized.

A good example of this is the existence of an excellent page detailing the encryption that ExpressVPN uses, which I would not have found without the assistance of the live support staff.

A blog is also available, which is regularly updated and contains useful and interesting articles.

Support

ExpressVPN in large part built its reputation on the level of support it provides to customers. Instant 24/7/365 support is available via live chat or a ticketed email system.

As is to be expected, front-line staff are not all technical whizz-kids. However, even with more difficult questions they always managed to point me to relevant resources, or answer my questions knowledgeably after a quick consultation with other staff members.

The Process

Signing Up

Registering with ExpressVPN is easy enough. Other than payment details, the only information you are asked for is a valid email address. There is nothing to prevent you from using a disposable email address, and because ExpressVPN accepts payment in bitcoins, if care is taken it is possible to register anonymously. Do please remember, though, that however you register and pay, ExpressVPN will know your real IP address.

Once signed up, you will receive a welcome email, which includes a number of useful links for setting up the service.

The ExpressVPN Windows Client

ExpressVPN specializes in making its service easy-to-use and as layman-friendly as possible.

One wrinkle is that you need to enter a unique activation code. This is available via your subscriptions page on the ExpressVPN website.

Once installed, all you need do is select a location and hit the big friendly Connect button!

If you wish to delve deeper, however, the ExpressVPN client contains some powerful features. This includes a firewall-based kill switch and DNS leak protection.

Various VPN protocols are available. I sort of wish that, given how insecure it is, PPTP wasn’t even offered, but at least ExpressVPN clearly warns you about the issue.

So the Windows client is very easy to use, but packed with powerful features that are actually useful.

Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)

Please see VPN Speed Testing Done Right for an overview of our new scientific speed test system. At the time of writing ExpressVPN has the fastest average speed test results of any VPN we have tested (40.33 Mbit/s), and the second fastest Max Speed/Burst Result (115.28 Mbit/s).

DNS lookup time is a good measure of how fast users perceive their connection to be. Faster lookup time = faster web page loading. ExpressVPN does not break records, but scores perfectly well in this test.

ExpressVPN’s connection times are well above average.

Overall, ExpressVPN scores very well in these  tests. It is a fast VPN service with the fastest overall speed test results on the market. Color me impressed.

ExpressVPN leak results

I detected no IPv4 DNS or WebRTC leaks.

Please note that Private Use RFC IPs are local IPs only. They cannot be used to identify an individual, and so do not constitute an IP leak. Unfortunately, my ISP (Virgin Media UK) does not support IPv6 connections, so I am unable to test for IPv6 leaks at this time. This is a situation that should change in the near future.

BBC iPlayer worked when I connected to suitable servers. I was blocked by US Netflix when connected to its New York server, but all other servers worked fine. This is part of the usual cat-and-mouse game played by VPNs with Netflix, and I would expect to see the New York server find a way around this issue soon.

Other Platforms

Custom VPN apps are available for Windows, Mac OS/OS X, Android, and iOS. A custom Linux app is also available. This is terminal command-line only, but does include DNS leak protection.

The website features a ton of setup guides for a wide range of devices and platforms. In addition to this, pre-configured ExpressVPN routers are available via FlashRouters. These use custom firmware developed by ExpressVPN, and feature DNS leak protection and split tunneling for connected devices.

New additions to the ExpressVPN app lineup are browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox (Windows ans MacOS only).

Browser Extensions

Unlike most such extensions, these are not browser-only proxy servers. They are instead a front-end to the full desktop software, which must also be installed.

This means that when the VPN is turned on with the browser extension, your entire computer is protected by the VPN. The primary advantage of using a browser extension  over just using the full VPN client, therefore, is convenience.

Mac OS X/Mac OS client

expressvpn-mac-1

Recent changes to the Windows client mean that it now matches the Mac client in looks.

expressvpn-mac-2

Both clients offer the same functionality.

The Android App

Available for Android 4.2+, this app can be installed from the Google Play store or downloaded directly as an .apk file. This is great news for anti-Google privacy heads.

The app has the same aesthetic as its desktop siblings, and is similarly easy to use. When using it I detected no DNS or WebRTC leaks, but please bear in mind that I cannot currently test for IPv6 leaks.

iOS Client

I don’t use iOS, but the app looks to be more or less identical to the Android one, and unlike many custom iOS VPN apps, OpenVPN is fully supported.

Conclusion

I liked:

  • Great customer service
  • 30-day genuinely no quibble money-back guarantee
  • Superb encryption (with perfect forward secrecy)
  • Smart DNS service
  • Great mobile apps
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • DNS leak and WebRTC protection
  • Excellent speed performance
  • Generous referral program
  • Works with US Netflix and iPlayer (at date tested)
  • .onion address
  • “Stealth” servers located in Hong Kong
  • Fully featured and easy-to-use software
  • A Linux client (basic but it works)
  • Browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox

I wasn’t so sure about:

  • Um…

I hated:

  • Nothing

ExpressVPN offers a fully featured and highly polished service that oozes professionalism. Its superb customer service, easy-to-use software, and generous 30-day money-back guarantee have always been big pulls.

I am glad to say that ExpressVPN’s technical security now matches the professionalism it shows in making the service as user-friendly as possible. Encryption is truly excellent, which makes ExpressVPN’s great speed performance all the more remarkable.

The minimal aggregated connection logs kept by ExpressVPN may concern privacy purists, but they really do present very little threat to your privacy.

Throw in an excellent, Smart DNS service, anti-censorship stealth servers, and a very generous referral program, and I think it fair to say that ExpressVPN is a market-leading VPN service that is at the very top of its game.

Visit ExpressVPN »

Note: Speed test results, IP leak tests, and checking for Netflx availability updated on 16 June 2017.

Douglas Crawford

Geschrieben von

Veröffentlicht auf: August 20, 2018.

August 20th, 2018

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

173 Antworten auf “ExpressVPN Review

  1. Having no kill switch in their mobile apps is pretty much my only criticism of ExpressVPN.

    Over the last year or so I’ve used 5 VPNs (PureVPN, VPNarea, hide.me, CyberGhost and finally ExpressVPN). Apart from PureVPN (which I have a lifetime subscription to, but will never use again – refer to this site’s comments about PureVPN for more info on that!) I’ve tested out the others for a month each. At last, ExpressVPN is the first one I’ve had zero issues with – it just works! No annoying crashes on Windows shutdown, no network failures on resumption from Hibernation, no slow DNS resolution… these were a few of the various issues I faced with the others.

    A Kill Switch (aka Seamless Tunneling) is an absolute essential if you ever use public wifi, especially if it’s unsecured wifi (no password required). So I can’t understand why, after all these years, ExpressVPN still doesn’t have one in its mobile apps. If you’re using Android 7 you can setup a kill switch natively anyway. But I use Android 5 and 6 on my devices, which is why having one in the app is so important to me. But all is not lost, because you can use a 3rd party app instead called OpenVPN for Android, which does incorporate the feature, and what’s more, it’s supported by ExpressVPN, in fact there are instructions on the website for setting it up (although they are not particularly clear, I have to say).

    My one and only other niggle is that after signing for a month to test the waters, and having then decided to pay for a full year, the BestVPN 15-month deal was not available to me, as it’s only for new customers. I believe that a business’s first priority should always be to support its existing customers, so this was a minor disappointment; and easily circumvented simply by signing up again as a new customer with a different email address 🙂

  2. This glowing recommendation is far from the actual service I am receiving from expressVPN. I have had the service for about a year now, as a matter of fact, it is just coming up for renewal and I think I’m moving on to another service.

    When I first got their service I followed their instructions for downloading their FW to my router and ended up with a bricked router. They said sorry of course but could not help beyond that. Luckily, it was a new router so I returned it and tried again. The second time it worked – not sure why.

    I have 100 mbps cable modem service. With the VPN turned on it drops to 35 mbps. I’ve tried working through their chat line to mitigate the speed degradation and their support people seem mediocre at best.

    So I don’t know how this glowing recommendation was arrived at, but reality just doesn’t support “Best VPN” recommendation.

    1. I asked ExpressVPN if that would work. They told me that they don’t know. They also don’t care enough to try it. This attitude about a serious flaw, with possibly a simple workaround, really worries me and makes me doubt their product in general.

  3. I use ExpressVPN for mac os and checked the Diagnostics function wthin the app. I stumbled about the following line: Thu May 17 2018 OpenVPN 2.3.14 x86_64-apple-darwin [SSL (OpenSSL)] [LZO] [MH] [IPv6] built on Feb 2 2017
    The version of OpenVPN (2.3.14) is from December 2016 and the version of OpenSSL seems outdated too. Is this concerning in terms of security? The newest version from OpenVPN is 2.4.6, i don´t get it why they don´t update their apps.

    1. Hi Brad,

      I do feel that, as a mater of principle, ExpressVPN should update all of its software to at least OpenVPN 2.4.2, which fixed all issues found in the two big audits published in May 2017 (here and here).

      That said, to the best of my knowledge, pre-2.4.2 OpenVPN clients are not a security risk. The vulnerabilities found in the audits were server-side issues, and even these did not affect the security of users – they just made OpenVPN servers potentially open to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

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