The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

ExpressVPN review: Speed and security tested

Verified by Nick Jones

ExpressVPN review: One of the best VPNs on the market

ExpressVPN, owned by Kape Technologies, has over 4 million users worldwide with servers in 94 different countries. Internet users concerned with privacy or who wish to stream content can benefit from the main feature that VPNs seek to provide – hiding your IP address. 

ExpressVPN uses military-grade encryption to protect the user’s identity and allow complete privacy while browsing or streaming. It’s the highest level of encryption and is trusted to protect classified information. Our researchers have spent hundreds of hours comparing and testing ExpressVPN’s features, including privacy, security, compatibility and speed, to determine how beneficial the service is for VPN users.

60-second review

Rating: ★★★★½

ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPN providers on the market, but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not worth the price. Users benefit from the highest level of security – AES-256, which is military-grade encryption that has never been hacked. It also offers desktop and mobile apps for all major platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows and Linux – and it’s been named the best VPN for Mac by our reviewers – as well as router compatibility. 

With more than 3,000 ExpressVPN servers across 94 different countries, the service’s internet speed and usability for streaming content provided suitable coverage. For the privacy-conscious, ExpressVPN has a strict no-logs policy, which has been tested via independent VPN audits. The company’s 24/7 live chat support service is one of its standout features when compared with its competitors.

How we research and rate VPNs

100+
hours performance testing
500+
customer reviews read
100+
hours of research
25
competitors compared
4
vpn experts consulted

Our reviewers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a VPN after hours of testing, extensive head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account verified customer feedback and reviews, and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined by the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30 per cent)
  • Features and functionality (30 per cent)
  • Reputation and credibility (25 per cent)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10 per cent)
  • Customer experience (5 per cent)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories, including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload and download speeds, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are fact-checked and verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is as accurate and up to date as possible. To find out more, read our article on how we review VPNs.

ExpressVPN overview

  • Lowest price: £5.36 ($6.86) per month for a 12-month subscription (plus three months free)
  • Free version: No
  • Maximum number of connected devices: 5
  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Encryption: AES-256
  • VPN protocols: Lightway, IKEv2, L2TP, and OpenVPN
  • No-log policy: Yes
  • Audited: Yes
  • Headquarters: British Virgin Islands

Pros

Recently added 12 countries to its server fleet, bringing total to 105 Unblock home Netflix account when travelling abroad AES-256 encryption Excellent customer service

Cons

Expensive when compared with other providers High latency when connecting to far-away servers

How does ExpressVPN compare?

ExpressVPN is a high-quality VPN with over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, and it can be difficult to compete with its features. Although it’s at the top end of the price range, it can do most things – and does them well. Our experts have compared the top five VPNs to see which service offers the best features overall.

VPN provider Price Free version? Number of servers Maximum number of devices Netflix BBC iPlayer Disney+ Amazon HBO Max Audit?
ExpressVPN From £5.36/m No 3,000+ 5 Yes
NordVPN From £2.79/m No 5,400+ 6 Yes
Surfshark From £1.80/m No 3,200+ Unlimited Yes
VPNSecure From $2.99 (£2.33)/m No 75 5 No
CyberGhost From £1.85/m No 9,773 7 Yes

Some prices exclusive of VAT or local taxes. Prices correct as of 10/7/2023
Compare our top recommended providers
Best Overall
Get up to 67% off
Best Value
Get 79% off + 2 months free
Best All-rounder
3 months free on the 12 month plan
Best for Gaming
Get 82% off + 2 months extra

How much does ExpressVPN cost?

Most VPNs offer one-month rolling plans and an option to pay annually; the latter is always the cheapest option. When customers download ExpressVPN, they can pay monthly, but this will see them paying a considerable amount more per month than the annual fee. 

ExpressVPN is confident that customers will find its service satisfactory. Cancelling any of its plans is pretty straightforward, and if customers are not satisfied with the service, they can benefit from a 30-day money-back guarantee. Customers only need to contact the support team and request a refund, and they’ll receive their money back with no questions asked, provided it’s within the 30-day window. 

Subscription term Price
Monthly £10.41 ($13.33) / month
Six months £8.03 ($10.28) / month (£48.19/$61.70 up front)
12 months (+3 months free) £5.36 ($6.86) / month (£80.35/$102.87 up front for 15 months)

Prices correct as of 10/7/2023

Payment options

ExpressVPN offers a variety of convenient payment methods that should suit most – if not all – customers’ purchasing needs. The provider even accepts cryptocurrency – a method of payment with low transaction fees and a high level of security.  

Ways to pay for ExpressVPN

  • Credit card
  • Paypal
  • Bitcoin
  • Paymentwall

ExpressVPN features

When it comes to choosing a VPN service, it’s important to choose one that has superior features – after all, it’s a service you’ll be paying for, so it’s crucial that it can do exactly what you need. ExpressVPN has plenty of servers,  offers a high level of privacy and supports split tunnelling.

Server count and countries

More than 3,000 ExpressVPN servers are located in an impressive 94 countries. Its wide range of server locations means it’s guaranteed that, wherever you are in the world, you’re never too far away from a server.  It’s this broad server network and the ability to bypass geo-restrictions that makes ExpressVPN one of the best VPNs for iPhone, as it means you can access the content you want no matter where in the world you are. The company’s servers are all RAM-only – this means none of your data can be stored, granting you the highest level of privacy.

According to our research, there are a few other VPN services that have more servers than ExpressVPN, including CyberGhost, NordVPN, PureVPN and Surfshark. However, only ExpressVPN and Surfshark have their servers in more than 90 different countries.

No-log policy and headquarters

ExpressVPN boldly advertises its no-log policy on its homepage. Unlike other providers, information relating to its zero logging is easy to locate and the information is jargon-free. VPNs with no-log policies mean that companies can never be compelled to provide customer data that does not exist. 

Clearly stated on the no-logs page, ExpressVPN makes note of what it does and doesn’t keep a record of.  Its high-quality apps and VPN servers eliminate IP addresses, browsing history, traffic destination of metadata and DNS queries. 

However, there is still some information that ExpressVPN does collect, including:

  • Choice of VPN server location
  • Date (but not times), when connected to the VPN service
  • Total amount of data (in MB) transferred per day
  • Apps and app versions successfully updated

The company says it keeps a log of these details to help troubleshoot technical issues relating to the service, provide technical support and give country-specific advice and enable ExpressVPN engineers to identify and fix network issues.

Headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN benefits from a high degree of autonomy. The British Virgin Islands has no laws that require companies based within the territory to submit any data. The British Virgin Islands is a separate legal jurisdiction from the UK, and has its own laws. Currently, UK and US authorities don’t have any jurisdiction to request data from ExpressVPN.

Kill switch

For the privacy-conscious, a kill switch may be a top priority when choosing a VPN provider. ExpressVPN’s Network Lock is a reliable kill switch that will protect your data at all times. 

A VPN works to protect your privacy and security while browsing. If your internet connection is suddenly interrupted, your privacy could be compromised. This is where the kill switch comes into play; if your VPN drops connection, the kill switch disables all internet traffic on your device, ensuring your IP address and sensitive information are protected.

Split tunnelling

Split tunnelling is available for Windows, Mac, Android and routers through ExpressVPN’s service. 

VPN split tunnelling allows users to route some of their devices or app traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel, while other devices or apps access the internet directly. 

ExpressVPN users can select which apps use the VPN and those that don’t. The split tunnelling feature also allows users to choose which devices connected to their router can use the VPN. Users can create up to five groups of devices that are connected to the wifi network. This allows users to have devices connected to their real network and have devices that are not connected to the VPN at all. 

ExpressVPN users can take advantage of:

  • Split tunnelling: Protects all devices and applications, except for those excluded
  • Inverse split tunnelling: Protects only selected devices or applications. Everything else flows outside the VPN

With split tunnelling, users can:

  • Stream video while using web services from local IP addresses
  • Download safely without slowing down other web activity
  • Access a network printer while browsing the internet securely

Without split tunnelling:

  • Users can’t access foreign and local internet services at the same time
  • Transmitting all data through a VPN uses up a lot of bandwidth
  • Users can’t access LAN devices while connected to the VPN

Encryption and privacy

Privacy is an area in which ExpressVPN excels. It uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys – also known as AES-256. This is the same encryption standard used by the US government and is trusted by security experts worldwide. AES-256 is the highest level of encryption and is trusted to protect classified information, which means you can trust that ExpressVPN takes its users’ privacy very seriously.  

In technical terms – 256-bit keys means 2^256 or 1.1 x 10^77 possible combinations.

It’s also worth noting that AES-256 has been targeted unsuccessfully by hackers – it’s claimed to be unhackable.

How it works

ExpressVPN hides users’ IP addresses and mixes their traffic with other users. This traffic is also encrypted between secure VPN servers and the user’s device, which keeps their data safe and out of sight from being read by third parties. 

According to our research, we found that AES-256 isn’t actually that much of a unique selling point, as it turns out most leading VPN providers have adopted the military-grade encryption.  Our researchers found that NordVPN, Surfshark, VPNSecure and CyberGhost all offer AES-256 encryption as part of their services.

ExpressVPN performance test results

VPNs are a great tool to protect internet users’ privacy, but they can use up a lot of bandwidth, which has a direct effect on internet speed. The best way to find out what effect a VPN has on a user’s internet speed is to test it. 

There are three main components to consider when testing internet speed, with or without a VPN; these include download speed, upload speed and latency (ping).

  • Download speed: Refers to the rate at which digital data is transferred from the internet to your device.
  • Upload speed: The rate that data is transferred from your device to the internet. 
  • Latency (ping): The time it takes for a set of data to be transmitted to a server on the internet and back to your device again. 

Our researchers put ExpressVPN to the test to find out how much using the service affected internet download and upload speeds. Testing the internet speed without using a VPN first gave us a baseline to work with and helped calculate the degradation between the speed with and without using ExpressVPN. Our reviewers used the Ookla Speedtest for this research.

ExpressVPN speed test without VPN
Speed test result without ExpressVPN activated. This is our base line. The numbers along the bottom of the image are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test, measured in megabytes.
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 52.5 13.28 14ms
UK to UK 36.77 16.65 20ms 70% 125.30%
UK to US 38.66 12.44 157ms 73.60% 93.67%
UK to Aus 11.66 5.49 540ms 22.90% 41.34%

Throughout our testing of ExpressVPN’s download speed, we found this to be the area where speed dropped considerably when compared with not using a VPN. 

When connected to an Australian server, the download speed was only 22.9 per cent as fast as the download speed recorded when not using a VPN. This was not surprising if we also take a closer look at the latency, which was 540ms – meaning it took 526ms more to transmit to a server and back to the device again than it did when connecting without a VPN. 

The upload speed, however, performed slightly better. The Australian server’s upload speed was 41.34 per cent as fast as the upload speed recorded when not using a VPN. 

The connection to a US server performed the best, according to our test results. The download speed was 73.6 per cent as fast and the upload speed was 93.67 per cent as fast compared with not using a VPN. ExpressVPN’s US server connection would see users benefit from an internet speed that would cope well with streaming services. 

ExpressVPN speed test UK to US
Speed test result when connected to an ExpressVPN US server from the UK.

Interestingly, when connected to a UK server, the upload speed was faster than when connected without, but the download speed was only 70 per cent as fast as the download speed without using a VPN. There could be a number of factors that influenced this, such as the number of users connected to a particular server at any given time. 

The latency for the no VPN and UK server were very similar, and there was only a 7ms difference, which could explain why the upload speed was so quick in transmitting data to an internet server. 

ExpressVPN speed test UK to UK
Speed test result when connected to an ExpressVPN UK server from the UK.

Overall, our researchers found that ExpressVPN provides a good level of internet speed when connected to different server locations, and its speed makes it a great VPN for Android users looking to download content on the go, as well as those who want a VPN for Firestick so they can benefit from an added layer of privacy while streaming without sacrificing speed. One thing to remember is that whatever VPN provider you use, if the geographical location you are trying to connect to is on the other side of the world, it will always be slower than those locations that are closer to your device’s physical location.

WebRTC leak test

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), is a collection of standardised technologies that allows web browsers to directly communicate with each other without the need for an intermediate server. The benefits of WebRTC include faster internet speeds and less lag for video chat, file transfer and live streaming. 

In order for WebRTC to work, the two devices would need to know each other’s IP addresses. However, any leak of your real IP address to a third party is a threat to your privacy. 

Our researcher performed a WebRTC leak test – which tells you if your IP address is exposed – with and without using an ExpressVPN server. When performing the test while connected to the VPN, the IP address was undetectable and there was no WebRTC leak detected. The test showed there was a WebRTC exposed IP address when performed without using a VPN.

Breaches and audits

When our researchers delved deeper into the claims that ExpressVPN has made regarding no-logs, security and privacy, we’re confident these appear to be true. On its website, the company discloses all of its audits conducted via independent security auditors such as Cure53, F-Secure and PwC Switzerland. 

There were a few minor issues found while conducting some of these audits, but there were no major breaches, and any such bugs have since been fixed by the company.

Compatibility and apps

ExpressVPN has apps that work on computers and devices with the following operating systems:

  • Computers: Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook
  • Mobile devices: Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Nook HD
  • TV systems: Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, and Android TV systems
  • Supported wifi routers

Desktop app 

ExpressVPN desktop app screenshot
The ExpressVPN desktop app showing your VPN protocol options.

ExpressVPN’s desktop app has plenty of user-friendly functions and is easy to use, even for those who are new to VPNs. The desktop app clearly shows whether users are connected to a VPN server, using a very large and unmissable on-and-off button. As well as this, users will find it easy to switch between locations. ExpressVPN also suggests a Smart Location – this is the location in which the service determines the user will find the best connection.  

While on the app, users can also test the speed of each individual VPN location, which can be helpful in choosing the server that best suits your device’s geographical location.

Through the desktop app’s preferences, users are able to optimise their protocol. ExpressVPN automatically selects which one it deems to be most appropriate for your device. However, you can change those settings to improve speed and reliability.

Also through preferences, there is an option to install ExpressVPN directly to your web browser, as well as add shortcuts to websites of your choosing. 

Mobile app

ExpressVPN mobile app screenshot
The ExpressVPN mobile app.

ExpressVPN’s mobile VPN app is similar to the desktop version. It’s user-friendly and allows you to seamlessly switch between different server locations, and just like the desktop version, the app also suggests a smart location. 

Through the app’s preferences, users can change the VPN protocols and activate Threat Manager – this blocks other apps on the device from sharing the user’s activity with third-party trackers.

Router compatibility

ExpressVPN can be set up on a router, but this depends on whether your router is compatible. If it is, then this is one of the best ways to use the service. It means that whenever the router is on, all devices on the network will be connected automatically to the VPN, cutting out the hassle of remembering to turn it on when you need browsing privacy. 

To set up ExpressVPN on your router, open the router setup page.  Select your router model from the drop-down menu and download the firmware. Once downloaded, you’ll notice that it comes pre-configured with all of ExpressVPN’s servers, along with features that allow you to control which devices are connected to the VPN server in your home.

ExpressVPN customer support

There are a few simple ways to contact ExpressVPN’s customer support team when things don’t quite go to plan. 

24/7 Live chat via ExpressVPN’s website: Our researchers found this the best way to contact customer support. Through the support centre page, click the live chat button and enter the email address you used to sign up for the service. Within less than one minute of opening the chat, a member of the customer service team was on hand to answer any of our researchers’ questions. 

Email: If you’re not in a hurry, you can also email the customer support team. The address can be located by clicking on the ‘email us’ button next to the live chat button.

What do customers say?

  • Trustpilot: 4.6/5
  • Apple App store: 4.5/5
  • Google Play: 4.5/5

ExpressVPN receives high scores on Trustpilot, Apple App Store and Google Play, but the reviews left by customers give a more mixed opinion of the service. One thing that is mentioned repeatedly in reviews is that ExpressVPN does not work well in China – for those who don’t know, China has high-level firewalls and you need a VPN to access most, if not all, forms of social media and worldwide streaming services. 

Another downside that users have highlighted is that the service has a tendency to crash and lose connection. On a more positive note, reviews praised the service for its fast connection speed that is comparable to internet speeds when not connected to a VPN server. 

“When it connects right away, it’s great, and I feel safe and secure in my internet use. But very often, like just now, it doesn’t connect immediately, and then I can’t connect to the internet at all. Sometimes it takes up to five minutes to connect, which is annoying if I just want to do one quick thing. At that point, I use my iPad instead.”

“ExpressVPN is very easy to use, and it is endorsed by privacy-minded people I trust. I am sometimes a digital nomad doing cybersecurity, so when I’m away from the office or my home network, ExpressVPN keeps my communications private. In addition, it allows me to VPN into locations around the world, which helps me work from the national context of my clients and access information I otherwise could not.”

“Express is unfortunately extremely unreliable for use in China. I’ve experienced periods of several weeks where it functions wonderfully on my laptop with minimal issues, then it’s followed by constant disconnecting and failure to connect. Even while it functions well on my laptop, it will absolutely not work on my phone or tablet concurrently. This is a feature they explicitly say is something they have, several connected devices, but it does not work.”

“Great VPN for the most part. Speeds are superb. There is a loss so don’t be surprised, but nowhere near as bad as some of the others I’ve tried. For the most part, it runs fine in auto. I use the VPN on several devices. On my phone nearly 100%. Sometimes on certain networks, I have to change protocol but then it works fine. I’d give it five stars if it worked a little more fluidly in auto and wasn’t so expensive. But I guess you can’t put a price on privacy. The app also comes with a password generator.”

Independent Advisor’s verdict

ExpressVPN is often considered to be one of the most popular VPNs, and our findings reflect this in many ways. Throughout our research, we found that ExpressVPN excelled in privacy and security, its no-log policy and customer service. 

The service’s privacy and security use AES-256 encryption, which is the highest level; this means users can browse and stream with the reassurance that their online identity is hidden. Although there are some other VPN providers who also use the same level of encryption, ExpressVPN benefits from its headquarters being located in the British Virgin Islands, meaning it does not need to disclose any data to the UK or US.

ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs on the market, but our researchers still found it to be good value for money. It has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, which enables users to enjoy a good level of internet speed when connected, which we have tested using different server locations. 

Overall, ExpressVPN offers users an excellent level of privacy and security and its desktop and mobile apps are easy to use, and should you need support you can expect a high level of customer service that is available 24/7.

★★★★½

Score breakdown

Reputation ★★★★★
Privacy ★★★★★
Performance and features ★★★★★
Plans and pricing value ★★★★
Customer experience ★★★★ 1/2
Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.