ExpressVPN Review: Does It Stack Up in 2021?

Last updated: September 13, 2021

Looking for an honest ExpressVPN review before you make a decision?

With an iron-clad no-logging policy, thousands of servers around the globe, and fast connections, it’s often touted as the best VPN on the market.

But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

In this review, we take a long hard look at ExpressVPN. We cover all of the pros (and there are a lot of those), as well as the cons.

We even compare it head-to-head against two of its most popular competitors: Surfshark and NordVPN.

What is ExpressVPN, and why do you need it?

ExpressVPN is a premier VPN (virtual private network) service that enables you to browse the web without getting spied on by your government, stream your favorite shows while abroad, and maintain a secure encrypted connection even when torrenting.

Instead of directly connecting to sites, it acts as an encrypted tunnel for data, so your ISP (internet service provider) or potential hackers can’t see anything.

Of course, these are just some of the things that most VPNs can do. But ExpressVPN is a different beast.

It first hit the market as an early innovator in the industry with an iron-clad no-logging policy (welcome back web privacy) and quickly became a market leader.

Now, with its well-established customer base, the company has developed its product to offer something that few competitors can match.

Let’s take a closer look at what truly sets ExpressVPN apart from the competition.

ExpressVPN Pros

If you’re still on the fence about trying out ExpressVPN, buckle up. There may not be much doubt left after you see all the pros.

There are a lot of them. That’s why we’ve included links so you can jump straight to the issues you care the most about:

  • Reliably unblocks Netflix and other major streaming sites in most countries
  • 3,000+ servers in 94 countries
  • Stream geo-blocked content or browse the internet privately on any device
  • ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we have tested
  • Best-in-class security and privacy
  • Media Streamer for Increased Speed (but No Encryption)
  • ExpressVPN offers split tunneling
  • It’s a great choice for torrenting
  • ExpressVPN automatically uses the most suitable VPN protocol
  • 24/7 General Customer and Technical Support
  • A stellar customer reputation

Reliably unblocks Netflix and other major streaming sites in most countries

Here’s some great news to start us off with. When using ExpressVPN, you can view geo-restricted Netflix shows from your own country, even when abroad.

You can even explore streaming catalogs from other countries if you’re interested. Netflix geo-restricts content, so users in the UK have a vastly different library than someone in the U.S.

By using ExpressVPN to sidestep that pesky geography, you’re able to unlock content from all over the world. But the ability to unblock Netflix is pretty rare in the VPN world.

The streaming service uses an upgraded security system to block VPN users from accessing content.

Thankfully, ExpressVPN has a way around it. Without getting into too many technical details, it actively rotates and changes IP addresses to avoid users getting spotted and blocked.

ExpressVPN supports all major streaming platforms, including:

  • Netflix
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • Disney Plus
  • HBO Go

3,000+ servers in 94 countries

Not based in the U.S.? Wonder if ExpressVPN has you covered?

No matter where in the world you are reading this from, chances are high that ExpressVPN has you covered. With over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, you’re almost guaranteed a good fit.

Most of the world’s most populous countries are on the list:

  • India
  • United States
  • Indonesia
  • Pakistan
  • Brazil
  • Japan
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia

In the U.S., you can choose between multiple server locations to reduce ping and increase the speed of your VPN connection.

Notable exceptions are China and Russia because of government restrictions on VPNs and web privacy in general.

You can easily search the full database of VPN server locations to confirm that your country is there.

This list also includes which VPN protocols each server location supports.

Stream geo-blocked content or browse the internet privately on any device

As the OG VPN service provider, ExpressVPN leads the way on device compatibility with support for an extremely broad range of operating systems and devices.

There’s a native ExpressVPN app for:

  • Windows
  • OSX
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Blackberry (yes, apparently Blackberry’s still a thing…)
  • Chromebook (provided it supports Android apps. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to set up ExpressVPN manually)
  • The following routers:
    • Asus RT-AC56(U/R/S)
    • Asus RT-AC68U
    • Asus RT-AC87U
    • Linksys EA6200
    • Linksys WRT1200AC
    • Linksys WRT1900AC(S)
    • Linksys WRT3200ACM
    • Netgear R6300
    • Netgear Nighthawk R7000

Unless you use a very rare OS or device, you can get the VPN up and running without any painstaking manual setup.

You can also manually install ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer on the following devices by tweaking your DNS settings:

  • PS4 & PS5
  • Xbox (Series X, S, and One)
  • Apple TV (4th and 5th generation)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Samsung Smart TV

If you install ExpressVPN on the router level, you can use the media streamer for any device connected to the WiFi network, including any that aren’t listed above.

If your device is on this list, using ExpressVPN is as easy as downloading the app, installing it, and clicking the “On” button.

If your device isn’t supported — and you don’t mind putting in some elbow grease — there’s a good chance you can still use ExpressVPN by installing it manually. ExpressVPN’s website has step-by-step manual installation instructions with screenshots or video for:

  • Nvidia Shield
  • Roku
  • Chromecast
  • The following routers:
    • Asus models on which the ExpressVPN app isn’t supported
    • D-Link
    • DD-WRT
    • Netduma
    • Sabai
    • Tomato
    • TP-Link
    • Xiaomi

You can also download browser add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Unlike the VPN app, these add-ons won’t encrypt all your internet traffic. Only the traffic coming from your browser.

ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we have tested

What’s a VPN worth if it’s not fast or reliable enough to offer an unchanged, enjoyable browsing experience?

With any VPN, you have to ask yourself:

  • How much does this VPN slow down the regular internet speed?
  • Is the connection stable and reliable, even during peak hours for popular locations?

For ExpressVPN, the answer is barely, and yes, incredibly stable.

The unfortunate truth is that all VPNs are going to sap some of your speed. It’s the trade-off one makes for increased anonymity and stellar security. So the question you should be asking yourself is not, “is this VPN going to slow down my speed?” It’s, “how much is this VPN going to slow down my speed?”

Right off the bat, ExpressVPN impresses with lightning-fast speeds. For our test, we first connected to a local U.S. ExpressVPN server.

VPN Off

  • 64.4 Download (Mbps)
  • 14.6 Ping (ms)
  • 25.0 Upload (Mbps)

When not connected to the VPN, our broadband connection reached 64.4 Mbps download speed, and 25 Mbps upload speed.

VPN On

  • 60.9 Download (Mbps)
  • 26.0 Ping (ms)
  • 17.6 Upload (Mbps)

With the VPN connected, we hit 60.9 Mbps download speed, a negligible loss, and 17.6 Mbps upload speed.

That’s an almost-unheard-of speed drop of only 6.43% for downloads, while upload speed showed numbers more in line with other VPNs, with a 30% drop.

In all of our tests, ExpressVPN has time and time again proven to be the fastest VPN out there.

Elsewhere, ExpressVPN’s performance was equally impressive. We found switching servers to be smooth and effortless, with very little latency.

Best-in-class security and privacy

Finally, you want a VPN service that keeps your connection secure at all times.

Does the VPN provider use up-to-date VPN protocols and encryption to keep your data secure and private?

For our money, ExpressVPN does great in all of these categories, which we’ll cover in-depth throughout the course of this ExpressVPN review.

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world. Accordingly, ExpressVPN’s logging policy is as strict as you’d expect it to be. The privacy policy states categorically that: “We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries.”

If you want it straight from the horse’s mouth, here’s a screen capture of ExpressVPN’s privacy policy.

Of course, ExpressVPN does do some logging. In particular, the company records the date when you connect and the server you choose. That said, ExpressVPN stores neither the connection time nor the IP address you allocated to you. This means there’s no way your account can be linked to a specific online action.

For its actual VPN plumbing, ExpressVPN also puts its money where its mouth is.

All traffic is encrypted using AES 256-bit standard — the same encryption the US government uses to protect classified information. This is also the encryption standard most VPNs use. But unlike other providers, ExpressVPN elaborates that it uses a 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA certificate, as well as HMAC authentication, control-channel encryption, and data-channel encryption.

More to the point, unlike many other VPN providers, which redirect your DNS traffic to a third-party provider, ExpressVPN runs its own zero-knowledge DNS servers. This guarantees your data stays private.

When we used the software, testing on www.dnsleaktest.com confirmed there were no DNS leaks:

ExpressVPN has also created its own open-source DNS testing tool, which you can try and use for free on its website (or access on GitHub).

Plus, Perfect Forward Secrecy assigns your device a unique secret key whenever you connect to the app. This is replaced every 60 minutes for as long as your session stays open. So, should your system be compromised, the hacker will lose access after 1 hour, which limits the damage

Media Streamer for increased speed (but no encryption)

When all you want to do is stream video, you don’t need military-grade encryption for every video frame and pixel.

ExpressVPN understands that and offers a faster DNS protocol to transfer data and improve your streaming experience.

That’s the ExpressVPN media streamer, one of the unique benefits of this VPN provider.

MediaStreamer unlocks geographically restricted content without encrypting your traffic, so your internet speed won’t be affected.

It’s also the perfect option for devices that don’t support a VPN. You can set it up through your router.

ExpressVPN offers split tunneling

Split tunneling is a way to separate out traffic that doesn’t need to be passed through the VPN. That way, you can, for example, browse the web with your regular internet connection while your torrent client is connected via the VPN.

ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs for split tunneling. It’s built straight into the apps for Mac, Windows, and Android.

Since ExpressVPN lets you freely select or exclude apps on a per-app basis, you can get very granular with which apps to let through.

Note: Split tunneling is not yet available for MacOS 11.

It’s a great choice for torrenting

If you’re wondering if ExpressVPN allows torrenting and peer-to-peer sharing, the answer is a resounding yes.

Torrenting is allowed on ExpressVPN.

The no-log policy — which it can maintain due to the unique privacy laws in its home jurisdiction, the British Virgin Islands — ensures that no government will spy on what you’re doing.

ExpressVPN also hides your real IP address in the swarm, protecting you from potential attacks and download tracking websites.

Due to its stellar speeds, ExpressVPN is one of the better choices out there for torrenting.

For more information on this topic, read our full guide on ExpressVPN and torrenting.

ExpressVPN automatically uses the most suitable VPN protocol

If you don’t know what a VPN protocol is, simply put, it’s the method the VPN uses to connect your computer to the VPN server and transfer data.

Think of it as the pipeline that enables data to flow to and from the VPN server. If you use outdated ones, your connection will be slower and could be vulnerable to hackers. (Just like how a rusted pipe might spring a leak.)

Luckily, ExpressVPN gives you access to all the newest, fastest, and most secure VPN protocols:

  • Lightway
  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2
  • L2TP/IPsec
  • WireGuard
  • PPTP
  • SSTP

If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry. With the default auto setting, ExpressVPN automatically chooses the best protocol based on your usage.

24/7 general customer and technical support

All ExpressVPN plans come with round-the-clock customer support via live chat. You can also open a support ticket or get in touch by email.

But if you’d rather troubleshoot and resolve any issues yourself, you can’t go too far wrong. Alongside its detailed installation guides, ExpressVPN’s website has a comprehensive list of troubleshooting articles, sorted by topic.

The guides are all written in plain, straightforward language and have screenshots and videos to help you follow along.

ExpressVPN also has a growing bank of video tutorials with tips and tricks on getting the most out of your service.

A stellar customer reputation

Our own users have left overwhelmingly positive feedback for ExpressVPN, and other third-party review sites show the same story. Just look at Trustpilot, where 86% of all reviews are excellent.

When more than eight in 10 customers are extremely satisfied, that really says something.

But since this is the real world and not a Hollywood movie, there are also bound to be some downsides. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows.

ExpressVPN cons

Next up, we cover the only two real cons that we experienced with the VPN during our review, pricing and device limitations.

Pricing

In the increasingly competitive world of VPNs, ExpressVPN is no longer the cheapest option. Instead, it’s using its brand power, reliability, and advanced features to charge a premium price.

At $6.67 per month for 15 months — an even $100 — it’s one of the more expensive plans for long-term deals.

For one-month plans, ExpressVPN is competitively priced, sticking to the industry standard of $13/month.

As you’ll see in our next section, where we compare ExpressVPN head-to-head against other top VPN providers, it costs a little bit more than a few select competitors. But that’s to be expected from the fastest VPN on the market.

Yes, there are cheaper options out there, but they often come with significant issues like painfully slow speeds, your original IP address leaking through, not being able to unblock Netflix, and more.

Price doesn’t always indicate quality, but in the case of ExpressVPN, that truly is the case.

Limited to 5 devices

You can only have up to five devices connected at the same time. That’s definitely a con, as some competitors offer unlimited devices connected at the same time.

The silver lining is that it’s only a con if you’re investing in the VPN for your whole family or have an obscene amount of devices. Since ExpressVPN allows you to connect to a router, every device connected to that WiFi network would be protected.

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ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN and Surfshark: How does it stack up against top competitors

You can’t make a decision without knowing how ExpressVPN stacks up against its main competitors.

So in this post, we are taking a closer look at the similarities and differences between ExpressVPN and some of the top VPN companies in the industry, namely Surfshark and NordVPN.

FeaturesExpressVPNNordVPNSurfshark
Speed Test Results (Download)94% (60/64 Mbps)75% (48/64 Mbps)84% (54/64 Mbps)
Encryption Type256-bit AES256-bit AES256-bit AES
Allows Torrenting
Connected DevicesUp to 5Up to 6Unlimited
No Log Policy (Private Surfing)
Kill Switch✓ (only on desktop)
Split Tunneling
Unblocks Netflix
Unblocks Amazon Prime
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Android App
iOS App
Lowest monthly cost$6.67 per month (With 15-month plan)$3.48 per month (With a 2-year plan)$2.49 per month (With a 2-year plan)
Money-back guarantee30 days30 days30 days
Overall Rating9.89.39.5

Looking at the features, you can see that all of these VPN providers work hard to deliver the same amount of functionality.

ExpressVPN doesn’t have a clear-cut advantage in features, but neither do the competitors.

ExpressVPN is the fastest option

Even in this selection of the cream of the crop, ExpressVPN proves to be the fastest overall by a wide margin.

At 84% original download speed on the U.S. server, Surfshark is in a close second place, while NordVPN clocked in at 75%.

Number of connected devices

One thing you may have noticed on the feature list is that both Surfshark and NordVPN allow more connected devices than ExpressVPN.

Surfshark even has a policy that allows you unlimited connected devices on a single subscription.

Check out our Surfshark review for our in-depth take on this service, along with which use cases we think it’s actually better for.

So if you’ve got a large family or just a long list of different connected devices, one of the competitors may be a better option.

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Unbeatable device compatibility and ease of use

As the “original,” ExpressVPN has had more time and money to develop its product. They’ve definitely invested more than competitors in both ease of use and device support.

ExpressVPN has a dedicated VPN client for Chromebook, Kindle Fire tablets, and a wide range of routers.

It’s also clearly the VPN that focuses most on ease of use.

You can set up all local apps from start to finish with a few clicks. It’s all documented with easy-to-understand video tutorials.

If you need a VPN client for a less popular device, ExpressVPN is probably the way to go (but make sure you check compatibility before signing up).

Pricing

For monthly plans, there’s really not a big difference between the three competitors. Surfshark and ExpressVPN clock in at $12.95, NordVPN comes in at $11.95.

There’s a big difference in the long-term plans. Both NordVPN and Surfshark offer two-year plans with cheaper pricing than ExpressVPN’s longest 15-month plan.

This leads to a significantly cheaper monthly cost for both options — $3.48 per month (NordVPN) and $2.49 per month (Surfshark).

However, with NordVPN’s plan, there’s a big asterisk. After the first two years, you’ll get billed at $119 per year. That’s a significant price increase.

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That’s more expensive than ExpressVPN’s yearly plan at $99.95. So if you want to surf privately for the foreseeable future, ExpressVPN is actually cheaper.

Surfshark is the cheapest option, even when rebilling, as the annual plan costs $59.76. It’s a little slower and offers fewer dedicated apps but it’s also a great choice.

ExpressVPN Plans and Pricing

ExpressVPN has monthly, six-monthly and annual plans. The monthly plan is the most expensive, while the annual plan is the cheapest — you save 49% compared to the monthly plan. You can try the mobile app free of charge for seven days.

Seeing as all three plans have the same features, including a 30-day money-back guarantee, it’s worth signing up for the full year. This way, you can maximize your savings in the knowledge that you have 30 days to cancel if you’re not happy.

Here’s a rundown of ExpressVPN’s pricing in US Dollars. Each plan allows you to use ExpressVPN on up to five devices simultaneously.

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Summary: Is ExpressVPN Worth the Premium Price?

While ExpressVPN is on the expensive side — for longer prepaid contracts — and only allows up to five simultaneous connections, it’s hard to argue with the quality, speed, and iron-clad, no track, no log privacy guarantee it offers. All in all, we think that you do get what you pay for. With custom ExpressVPN-owned DNS servers, you get another level of privacy, reliability, and security. Native apps for a variety of devices make it super easy to use, even for complete non-techies. If you want robust security and privacy with negligible speed loss and don’t need to run the VPN on a large number of devices at the same time, it doesn’t get much better than ExpressVPN.

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