ExpressVPN is the Xbox to NordVPN’s PlayStation: a big-name contender with plenty to offer, even if it’s not quite as popular.
ExpressVPN Review: User-Friendly Protection
ExpressVPN is locked in a sibling-like rivalry with NordVPN. The two virtual private network (VPN) providers are alike in the best ways, albeit with some respective wins in certain areas. While its top-notch encryption is paramount for online security and privacy, ExpressVPN’s ease of use and abundance of guides makes it a first-timer’s haven.
We’re impressed by ExpressVPN’s country and virtual-server location counts, but its tallies for countries and devices are on the low side compared to its closest peers. ExpressVPN is also a comparatively pricey VPN service whose fee doesn’t include security extras like antimalware, which may turn off some users.
We balked at NordVPN’s US$11.99 monthly fee, but the US$12.95 monthly cost for ExpressVPN is even higher. Like other VPN competitors, you can save money by signing up for longer periods. Still, while ExpressVPN offers a common annual subscription (US$99.95 upfront), it also offers an odd six-month subscription (US$59.95 upfront) and lacks the biennial or triennial savings of its closest competitors.
The annual fee is noticeably more expensive than its peers—US$40 pricier than NordVPN’s annual plan at the time of writing—but there are at least plenty of ways to pay: major credit cards, PayPal, bitcoin, plus a handful of other options. Be aware of the US conversion fee when determining value. If you want to try it for free, there’s a seven-day trial available to iOS and Android users, plus a 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to try it before investing.
An ExpressVPN subscription includes access to 3,000+ servers around the globe, located at 160 locations in 94 countries. That server count is the lowest among ExpressVPN’s peers, but the VPN provider has a blog dedicated to explaining why that’s not the be-all and end-all.
The number that’s most disappointing, though, is the limit of five simultaneous connections, which is one behind NordVPN, two fewer than CyberGhost, five lower than ProtonVPN, and can’t hold a candle to Surfshark’s unlimited simultaneous connections. That said, you can install ExpressVPN on as many devices as you like; you just can’t have more than five connected at once.
It may not have enhanced protection care of antimalware (like NordVPN and ProtonVPN do) or antivirus (Surfshark and CyberGhost), but ExpressVPN does boast impressive Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit data encryption and a 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman (DH) key for channel encryption. This makes for incredible foundational security, on par with NordVPN, CyberGhost, and ProtonVPN. ExpressVPN also has split tunnelling for app-specific protection, a kill switch (called “Network Lock”) for stopping the internet when ExpressVPN unexpectedly disconnects, and the company has a no-log policy that’s open to third-party audits.
ExpressVPN user experience
ExpressVPN connects and disconnects in a few seconds with the press of a giant power button, favouring the nearest location by default. While not as pretty as the world-map view of NordVPN, ExpressVPN is a cinch to use. This easy-to-use logic starts with the appreciated handholding when you sign up, continues to using the app, and gets even better via a range of video guides on the ExpressVPN website for discovering more advanced features.
The kill switch isn’t as punitive as NordVPN, either, in that you don’t need to be connected to ExpressVPN to access your internet connection. Instead, NordVPN’s Network Lock feature is on by default and intelligently maintains access to devices on the local network and only kills your internet connection if ExpressVPN unexpectedly disconnects. Split tunnelling is an optional feature that’s a checkbox away from letting you allow or disallow selected apps from using the VPN.
Manually switching servers is another couple of clicks away, which is separated into regions (Asia Pacific, Americas, Europe, plus Middle East and Africa). When connecting, the smart location will pick your nearest server, there’s a list of recent locations, or you can manually scroll the full list (or type in a city or country). Unlike other VPN services like NordVPN, there aren’t any specialty servers, and you can’t manually select individual servers either.
ExpressVPN Australian privacy
For the lowest latency and fastest download/upload speeds, you’ll want to use ‘smart location’ or connect to an Australian location. ExpressVPN offers servers in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and two options in Sydney. Unfortunately, this leaves the middle and northern parts of Australia reliant on Brisbane or Perth as the nearest options.
All of the Australian servers support ExpressVPN’s full range of VPN protocols—Lightway UDP and TCP, OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IPsec, and IKEV2—with the exception of the second Sydney server, which has everything except for IPsec support. In fairness, manually switching protocols is for more advanced users (ExpressVPN defaults to automatic), but there are punchy descriptions for the manual protocols in the options menu if you do want to experiment.
In practical terms, ExpressVPN had a fractional uptick in latency, while download speeds were lowered by about 18%, which is still faster than NordVPN. Upload speeds only had a 7% change, which is very respectable. ExpressVPN passed our IP address and DNS leak tests without any issues.
ExpressVPN vs other VPNs
The table below outlines the key differences between ExpressVPN and its closest VPN peers.
|US $11.99||US $59.88||5404||60||83||6||Zero||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|US $12.95||US $99.95||3000+||94||160||5||Zero||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|US $12.95||US $47.88||3200+||65||111||Unlimited||Zero||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||2048-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
|AU $17.99||AU $72||7618||91||113||7||Zero||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||45-day money-back guarantee|
|US $10||US $96||1625||63||89||10||Zero||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||AES 256-bit||4096-bit||30-day money-back guarantee|
Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
*ProtonVPN Plus plan used for comparison. Cheaper plans are available, but offer limited servers, connections, speed, and more.
ExpressVPN is an expensive VPN service, but one that’s clearly tailored to newcomers. You’ll be guided through every step of the installation after signing up, which includes installation guides for ExpressVPN’s impressive range of supported devices.
It’s a shame the comparatively expensive pricing doesn’t include more advanced security features, a higher country count, or more than five simultaneous connections. Still, that’s not enough to stop ExpressVPN from being the best VPN for newcomers. It’s fast to connect and fast with local servers, plus it keeps your connection private and secure without interfering with your everyday online adventures.
How we evaluate VPNs
We compare VPNs on several factors, starting with the price and whether you’re paying in Australian currency. After this, we weigh up the numbers: servers, countries, locations, and simultaneous connections for a single account. The bigger the number, the better the ranking. Most VPNs don’t offer a truly free trial, but we like when they do, and we value a reasonable money-back guarantee.
In terms of all-important security and privacy, a no-log policy is considered essential, and we look favourably on VPN providers that are open to third-party security audits. From here, encryption is evaluated alongside meaningful inclusions, such as antimalware and antivirus features, as well as the inclusion of a kill switch and split tunnelling.
Testing is conducted with the VPN running in the background and evaluated through a variety of everyday tasks to rate it in terms of convenience. We also run tests for speed and latency, IP address and DNS leaks, as well as for a kill switch (where available).
Below are the answers to some of the most pressing ExpressVPN questions.
In the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN showdown, it’s a close race, but NordVPN has the edge on its closest competitor. NordVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN, plus it has more servers, allows for more devices, and it includes some advanced optional security features, including anti-malware.
ExpressVPN can be installed on an unlimited number of devices (capped at five simultaneous connections), which cover the following things:
- iPhone, iPad, iPod
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Microsoft Edge
- Fire TV and Kindle Fire
- Apple TV
- Android TV
- Smart home devices
- Manual configuration