ExpressVPN Review (2019)

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN services in the world — and one of the few to stand up to a national government investigation regarding “no logging” claims. It’s a colorful service with some very unique features — let’s take a look.

The Verdict

Blazing fast speeds, split-tunneling, and a quality kill-switch implementation make ExpressVPN an excellent choice for most users.

Author: @smartprivacyio | Updated: Aug 16, 2019

Affiliate Disclosure

ExpressVPN was founded in 2009 and is based in the British Virgin Islands. The service currently includes 160 locations spread across 94 countries.

In 2017, ExpressVPN was embroiled in an incredible tale of international assassination and espionage. Turkish authorities seized one of their servers, said to have been used by the assassin of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. They were unable to recover or find any logs to aid in their investigation. This is seen as a strong endorsement and verification of “no logging” claims by ExpressVPN.

Logging Policy

Per their privacy policy, ExpressVPN does not collect activity, connections, or DNS logs.

The only information collected is information that you have given them — mostly to administrate your account subscription. These details include payment information, email address, which version of the apps you have installed, and aggregate quantities of MB/GB of data transferred.

Per the privacy policy:

We may know THAT a customer has used ExpressVPN, but we never know HOW they have utilized our Service.

Installation

You cannot create an account or subscribe to the service using the app. Once you complete payment on the website, you’ll be given a system generated password. Mine was eight characters and not entirely as secure as I like — so I selected the option to create my own.

After you’ve created your account and set your password, you’ll need to install the various apps and copy/paste the activation code given to you on the next screen. However, upon opening the app again on my iPhone, it showed that I was already logged in, and my account status was set to active.

ExpressVPN allows for three simultaneously connected devices. This is fewer than average, but still should be sufficient for most users who have a desktop/laptop, a tablet, and a phone. One way that many people bypass these restrictions is by installing the VPN on their router. This will put every connected device on the VPN without installing individual apps, too.

Configuration and Settings

Network Lock - This is the ExpressVPN version of a kill-switch. It’s enabled by default on Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers. If your VPN drops connection for any reason, the Network Lock feature will block all internet traffic until the connection can be restored. This helps ensure that your IP address isn’t leaked. One great feature with the ExpressVPN version is that the kill-switch turns off when you manually disconnect from the VPN. A lot of other VPN providers commit an oversight there that requires you to use the VPN to access the internet at all.

Another great feature of Network Lock is the ability to keep local devices functioning — such as printers, networked drives, etc. Lots of other VPN services overlook this too!

Split Tunneling - This feature allows you to route some of your traffic through the VPN, and some of it through a direct connection to the internet. It can often be handy to use some apps on a VPN and some apps direct — such as those that might have issues with VPN usage (Netflix, smart home devices, services with whitelists, etc.) This is a relatively rare feature, and the ExpressVPN implementation seems very solid and reliable.

With Split Tunnel, you have two options:

  • Split Tunneling - Connect all devices except for those expressly excluded.
  • Inverse Split Tunneling - Connect only those devices or apps that are specifically chosen.

The split tunneling feature is available on macOS, Windows, Android, and routers.

Zero Knowledge DNS - ExpressVPN runs its own private, encrypted DNS servers that do not record any request logs. You have the option to disable this and use any of your choosing.

Shortcuts - A unique feature, ExpressVPN can add shortcuts to apps that enables “one-click access.” You can select any app or website and add it to the list, and once you connect to the VPN, you’ll see it displayed. Not sure how useful this is, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Performance

Out of all of the VPNs I have tested, ExpressVPN was by far the fastest. We’re talking double the speeds of any of the others.

Taking the default settings and allowing the macOS application to quick connect to the recommended location:

Chicago, United States


  • 142.3mbps Download
  • 20.4mbps Upload
  • 133.6ms Ping

Trying for something thousands of miles away didn’t change much at all.

Toronto, Canada


  • 119.8mbps Download
  • 20.6mbps Upload
  • 147.4ms Ping

I tested several connections with ipleak.net for IP and DNS leaks. None were found.

Supported Platforms

ExpressVPN has broad platform support. Available implementations include:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Chrome (standalone, includes Chromebooks)
  • Firefox
  • Routers
  • Linux
  • Amazon FireTV and Kindle Fire

By setting custom DNS server IPs, you can use the service on these devices too:

  • Apple TV
  • Xbox
  • PlayStation

iPhone and Android Mobile Apps

Typically, when I test mobile apps from various VPN providers, I find that there is an overall lack of feature parity between the desktop versions. ExpressVPN is not an exception to this rule.

The iOS app is so feature slim that it only has two configurable features:

  • VPN Protocol - allows you to set UDP, TCP, IPsec, or IKEv2.
  • Auto Reconnect - automatically reconnects to the VPN if the connection is lost for any reason.

That’s it. No kill-switch configuration, no split tunneling, no custom DNS servers, not even the ability to manage your subscription.

Maybe these features don’t matter to you — after all, most people want a simple, easy to use app with blazing connection speeds. ExpressVPN fits that mold at least.

That said, the full list of locations and servers is available, and the connections were speedy and stable. Not much to complain about there.

Pricing

The ExpressVPN website doesn’t offer any trial — but there’s a trick. If you install the app (at least on iOS devices), you’ll have a 7-day trial instantly. The problem is that you can only use the service on the iOS device, and you can’t create a login.

Pricing is:

  • 1 month ($12.95)
  • 12 months ($99.95 or $8.32 per month)
  • 6 months ($59.95 or $9.99 per month)

Accepted payment methods include credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and several international card networks.

ExpressVPN has a 30-day money back guarantee.

Features

  • British Virgin Islands based
  • 3000 Servers
  • Config Downloads

Protocols

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP

Logs

  • Traffic Logs
  • DNS Logs
  • Connection Logs

Operating System Support

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Linux