HomeTechnologyExpressVPN review: Stellar Virtual Private Network is definitely worth the price
ExpressVPN review: Stellar Virtual Private Network is definitely worth the price
July 29, 2022
ExpressVPN review: It might be a little more expensive, but can it justify the extra cost? (Image: EXPRESSVPN • GETTY)
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ExpressVPN: 60-Second Review
When searching around for the best VPN, it’s never long before ExpressVPN comes into the conversation. And there’s a very good reason for that. ExpressVPN is one of the most dependable, well-rounded Virtual Private Networks available. Even with the best VPN deal, ExpressVPN is more expensive than its closest rivals …but for our money, this stellar VPN definitely manages to justify those extra pennies.
With only a marginal impact on download speeds – even when connected to server locations on the other side of the planet, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming. And that’s before you account for the service’s unparalleled efforts to ensure its servers work with Netflix, despite the recent VPN crackdown from the streamer.
ExpressVPN comes packed with advanced features, like split-tunnelling, a kill switch, a private DNS, and a built-in speed test.
Privacy is one of the core appeals of a Virtual Private Network and ExpressVPN really walks the walk. It’s based in the British Virgin Islands because there it has no data retention laws, so ExpressVPN doesn’t need to keep any records on its customers for law enforcement. Countries around the globe, like the United Kingdom and the United States, do not have jurisdiction to compel a company headquartered in the British Virgin Islands to produce any records relating to its customers.
If you’re concerned about the security of your online activity …ExpressVPN is a brilliant choice.
There are a few nitpicks with ExpressVPN – you can only sign in to five devices simultaneously, which isn’t as generous as comparably priced VPN services. Not only that, but rivals like NordVPN also offer features like a meshnet to secure IoT gadgets and a service that automatically scans Dark Web leaks for your login credentials to warn you about any compromised passwords.
That said, unless any of these features especially call to you, ExpressVPN will be perfectly suited to your needs. This Virtual Private Network is one of the most popular on the market, and in our testing, we’ve seen exactly why it deserves that prestigious podium position. Highly recommended.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) used to be niche apps for enterprise users. But with the dramatic increase in hacks, the unstoppable rise in popularity for streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max, and concerns about privacy ….VPNs have been catapulted into the mainstream.
For those who missed the memos, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for all of your web traffic whenever you head online. If you’re using a busy public Wi-Fi network, like those in coffee shops and airports, a VPN will shield all of your online activity and prevent bad actors from intercepting your data. Back at home, a VPN will also stop your broadband supplier and advertisers from keeping tabs on your online activity too.
Think of it as a supercharged version of the Incognito Mode found in the Google Chrome web browser. This is why VPNs are so important for whistleblowers and sources helping journalists uncover wrongdoing – who don’t want their Government keeping detailed notes on their every move online.
But that’s not all.
ExpressVPN has a beautifully designed app on iPhone, although it is missing a few advanced features (Image: EXPRESSVPN • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS • APPLE )
That encrypted tunnel can be routed to a number of server locations around the world, masking your IP address and the location data that can be gleaned from it. As far as everyone online is concerned, you’re based in whatever server location you’ve chosen. ExpressVPN subscribers get the choice of 94 countries around the globe, opening a vast number of streaming services and websites that might not be available in your current location.
Anyone who has logged into their Netflix account when abroad on holiday will be aware of what an incredible superpower this is. Streaming services place geographic restrictions on their content, usually due to different licensing agreements and historic deals with local broadcasters in each country. While anything produced by the streamer – like Netflix’s blockbuster shows Stranger Things, Squid Game, and Bridgerton – will be available anywhere in the world in dozens of languages, the library of syndicated shows varies between regions.
For example, while Tina Fey’s seminal sit-com 30 Rock is available to watch in its entirety on Netflix in the United States …however, the show is only available via Sky Comedy in the UK due to a previous agreement with the broadcaster. Supernatural – from The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke – is available in its entirety on Netflix US, but is unavailable to stream anywhere in the UK. Instead, you’ll need to buy individual episodes on Amazon’s Prime Video or iTunes, which seems a little unfair if you already pay for a Netflix subscription.
Meanwhile, Hulu is unavailable in the UK and Europe. While some of the biggest shows from this streaming platform – Only Murders In The Building – arrive on Disney+ in the UK, that’s not always the case. For access to the complete library, you’ll need to use a VPN. Likewise, HBO Max – which exclusively streams the latest Warners Bros blockbusters, like The Batman and Dune – isn’t available in the UK, but can be accessed in much of mainland Europe and North America.
ExpressVPN enables you to travel abroad – without moving a muscle – so you can unlock a completely new catalogue of TV shows and movies
In our testing, ExpressVPN had no trouble unlocking different catalogues in the most popular streaming services. If you’re an ex-pat, Brit on holiday abroad, or an Anglophile looking to access must-see British telly like Peep Show, The Inbetweeners, The Great British Bake-Off, Love Island, People Just Do Nothing, The Office, Peter Kay’s Car Share, and more …ExpressVPN will spoof your IP address so that it appears like you’re sitting on the sofa in Blighty and unlock all of these shows and more.
Likewise, if you’re struggling to find something to watch in the UK catalogue on Netflix or Prime Video, ExpressVPN enables you to travel abroad – without moving a muscle – so you can unlock a completely different new catalogue of TV shows and movies (all included as part of your existing Netflix subscription fee). It’s worth digging into the small print of your chosen streaming service as not all are happy for subscribers to use a VPN to unlock boxsets from across the globe.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer streaming Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video or Disney+ on your iPhone, Android, tablet, laptop or Smart TV …ExpressVPN will have a dedicated app. And even in the rare instances where it doesn’t have a standalone app, the Virtual Private Network offers software for your Wi-Fi router, so that every device on your network enjoys an encrypted connection. Downloading and installing ExpressVPN to an iPhone, iPad, Windows PC and Fire TV Stick during our test was a breeze.
ExpressVPN will need to install a configuration before you can secure your internet connection (Image: EXPRESSVPN • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS • APPLE)
Each of these applications is beautifully designed, with a prominent On/Off button to establish or cut your VPN connection. By default, ExpressVPN will use the last server location that you selected, so if you’re always switching your IP address to the United States to improve streaming – you won’t need to worry about hunting across a map of the globe.
To make things even easier, ExpressVPN lets you automatically establish a VPN connection each time your device connects to the internet. If you’re the forgetful type, this feature is an absolute must.
Without thinking, each time you connect to a publicly available Wi-Fi network – like those available in coffee shop chains, airports and the London Underground – your online traffic will be shielded with AES-256 encryption. That’s the same level of encryption adopted by the US government when transmitting its sensitive data. This dramatically reduces the chance of being compromised in a man-in-the-middle attack (when a bad actor intercepts the communications between your device and online services – stealing payment information, sensitive messages, and login credentials as they’re sent over the Wi-Fi network) as everything being transmitted from your gadget will be automatically encrypted.
Of course, you might not want everything you do to be routed via a server on the other side of the globe. While the impact on internet speeds from ExpressVPN is marginal, there is still an impact. Plus, if you want to be able to map out directions with Google Maps from your current location, find the nearest Starbucks, or check local traffic conditions …you want your device to have an approximate idea of where on the planet you’re located.
That’s where split-tunnelling comes in. For those who don’t know, split-tunnelling allows you to pick multiple servers for your online traffic. So, while it might be an advantage for certain devices, like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, to think that it’s in the United States to unlock more boxsets, sports, and movies on streaming services …you might not want that for your iPhone, which needs to know your approximate location for Google Maps, for example. Picking a server closer to home should also reduce the impact on your download speeds. So, it’s possible to stay connected via a Virtual Private Network in the UK, without sacrificing any download speed on devices where you don’t need to appear abroad.
ExpressVPN makes it incredibly easy to access split-tunnelling from within its app, so you can choose on a per-app basis where your traffic is routed. It’s worth noting that split-tunnelling isn’t available on iOS or iPadOS, with Android users the only smartphone owners who can currently take advantage of this advanced feature. It would be great to see that feature roll out to iPhone owners in the coming months and years.
Another feature missing from iOS is the Network Lock kill switch. This crucial security feature is designed to prevent your real IP address from ever being unmasked – even if your device unexpectedly disconnects from the VPN server. When this happens, data can be transmitted from your device to the internet – exposing your true identity, even if it’s only for a few seconds before the connection to the VPN server is re-established. With Network Lock kill switch enabled, ExpressVPN will cut off your internet connection whenever your VPN disconnects. This might be a little inconvenient, it could interrupt downloads and streams, but it’s guaranteed to prevent a breach of your privacy.
When your VPN connection is reestablished, ExpressVPN will reenable your internet connection again. This feature isn’t for everyone – only for the most privacy-conscious users – but it’s a brilliant tool to have at your disposal.
Network Lock kill switch is available on Android phones, PCs and Wi-Fi routers (which will cover iOS, iPadOS and other devices without a dedicated setting within their app). In our testing, this worked a treat. Although, for our money, we wouldn’t keep this feature enabled all of the time. The risk of dropping out of a video call, interrupting an important software download, or disrupting a cliffhanger during your new favourite boxset binge and the disruption that could cause is a little too high for our liking.
Monthly price and discounts
As mentioned above, ExpressVPN charges a little more than some of its closest competitors. If you’re looking to subscribe to a VPN with a rolling 30-day contract, you might want to look elsewhere as ExpressVPN is really expensive compared to the competition. Thankfully, ExpressVPN does offer some very competitive deals for those willing to sign-up for a longer period, between 6- and 12 months. These plans unlock huge savings, with monthly prices dropping down to a fiver and change.
If you’re new to VPNs, subscribing to a service for one year might seem a little risky. However, there’s nothing to worry about as ExpressVPN offers a no-quibbles 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 customer support, so you’ll be able to chat with a customer service representative no matter what timezone you’re in. At any point during the first few weeks with ExpressVPN if you run into any trouble, incompatibilities, or simply don’t think the service is worth the cash… you can request a full refund.
ExpressVPN accepts a number of payment methods, including the biggest credit and debit card providers, like Mastercard, VISA, American Express, and Discover. Paypal and Bitcoin are also options. If you don’t want to pay everything upfront, there’s even Klarna support now – so you can break up the payment into smaller instalments. This is one major advantage that ExpressVPN has over its rivals, which have yet to implement a payment plan option like Klarna, as it allows you to take advantage of the huge discounts available with a one-year subscription but still pay for your subscription in smaller instalments. As such, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
Unfortunately, unlike rival NordVPN, ExpressVPN doesn’t offer Google Pay or Apple Pay for a one-tap checkout experience from your phone.
ExpressVPN review: Final Verdict
ExpressVPN isn’t the most affordable VPN available, but it’s well worth the extra cash.
Compared to some of its cheaper rivals, ExpressVPN delivers a reliable connection to servers across 94 countries worldwide. Firing up ExpressVPn on any device, you’ll never doubt that you’re going to get a solid connection each time… something that’s not guaranteed with every VPN.
ExpressVPN review – at a glance
What We Loved
Tiny Impact On Download Speeds
Huge Choice Of Server Locations
Unmatched When Streaming Netflix
Great Apps For All Of Your Devices
Can Be Installed On A Wi-Fi Router To Encrypt Everything
Advanced Features Like Split-Tunnelling and Kill Switch Included
What We Didn’t
Limited To 5 Logins Per Subscription
No Extras, Like Password Manager, That You’ll Get With Some VPNs
Pricier Than Some Rivals
Download speeds were only marginally impacted (we lost between 10-15Mbps when pushing all of our data across to the other side of the planet) when connected via ExpressVPN, so those with a decent broadband connection at home won’t need to worry about an increase in buffering when using a VPN for everything. That minimal impact coupled with ExpressVPN’s dedicated effort to bypass Netflix’s ongoing crackdown on VPN servers makes it the perfect choice for streaming video.
ExpressVPN’s Network Lock kill switch is a brilliant feature for anyone who has installed a VPN to bolster their privacy or those living in countries where Western online services – like Twitter and Google – are blocked by the government. This clever feature ensures that your real IP address will never be shared online, even when a glitch with your device causes you to lose connection with the VPN server.
It would be great to see the Network Lock kill switch and split-tunnelling make their way to the iOS app, but this is a limitation of Apple’s mobile operating system, rather than laziness on the part of the ExpressVPN programming team.
To justify its higher price tag, we’d like to see ExpressVPN incorporate some of the extra functionality that’s included as part of your subscription with other Virtual Private Networks, like NordVPN’s Dark Web monitoring and password manager. But that’s a small nitpick. After all, ExpressVPN only ever claims to be a Virtual Private Network and it does that flawlessly.
Whether you’re looking for an encrypted connection to keep your web browsing and sensitive data from prying eyes or want to supercharge the streaming catalogues available from Netflix, HBO Max and Prime Video… you won’t regret signing up for ExpressVPN.