Express VPN Review
Updated September 13, 2018
Keeping your privacy safe on the Internet has become concerned. Identity theft is a daily threat in today’s world. A virtual private network (VPN) is your first line of defense for protecting system and valuable personal information. This review will examine the ExpressVPN to see if it really does what it says and how it compares to other virtual private networks that are on the market for consumers.
How does a VPN work?
If you are like most, you may be wondering what a VPN is and why you need one. It is a common misconception that if you have antivirus software that you are safe. While antivirus software is your first line of defense against hackers system, it does not keep you completely safe online.
Every time you go up on the Internet you are tracked by a location identifier called your IP address. This can be tracked right to the address where you are sitting in using the computer. Someone with this information can easily pretend they are you and use this information to break into bank accounts, or other places where your online private information is stored. A virtual private network works by telling everyone else that you are not where you are. It is like a virtual game of hide and seek.
When you are using a VPN, your IP address will show as a different location. ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in over 94 countries. You could pretend that you are from any one of them. This simply means that all of your information is routed through the VPN and encrypted before it is broadcast out onto the Internet. When you combine this type of security with a firewall or other security system, it is difficult for anyone to get your personal information. With a VPN, they simply can’t find where you are located.
One of the things that we liked about ExpressVPN is that it works on a vast number of systems. This means that you only need one service for all of your devices. They boast blazing fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth. They will not throttle connection, which means they will not slow it down intentionally. We are going to test this speed in just a minute.
They have absolutely no restrictions on their servers and what you download. You can download anything from any of the servers across the globe. All the while, your IP address and relocation are hidden from prying eyes.
The company is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has no data retention laws. They do not have to keep activity logs or connection logs for your system. However, you need to know that if you are from a country, such as the U.S., it will be known that you are accessing the Internet using a VPN, but they will not know where you are.
ExpressVPN has some of the most advanced security protocol in place among VPNs that are available for the average user. For instance, they use 256-bit AES encryption, a DNS/IPv6 leak protection, and split tunneling to keep your location secure. They also have a kill switch so that if you believe you have been discovered, you can quickly and your Internet connection and get out of sight. Then, you can go back in and change your location and resume browsing privately.
How does ExpressVPN compare to other services?
ExpressVPN is one of the pricier options, but we feel that you get what you pay for. We like that they have approximately 2,000 server locations in 145 different countries and growing. They also allow torrenting three simultaneous connections and have an average speed of 62.05 mb/sec. They support Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, and Linux systems.
ExpressVPN is comparable to NordVPN and CyberghostVPN in terms of features and quality. Both NordVPN and Cyberghost VPN are top names in the industry. NordVPN is located in Panama and Cyberghost is located in Romania. Neither one of them save logs of your sessions or information. All of the systems use AES 256-bit encryption. Both of them have a kill switch that allows you to instantly disconnect your Internet connection if privacy has been breached.
NordVPN uses a few more layers of protection than Cyberghost and ExpressVPN. For instance, they use dedicated IP addresses, the option for a double VPN, and Onion over VPN. However, NordVPN is a bit more difficult to configure and understand than the other options.
One of the big tests in comparing different VPN software is how much speed is lost compared to speeds prior to the installation of the software. For NordVPN we experienced about a 5% loss of speed after installation of the software. CyberGostVPN slow down the system by about 7%. This was enough to be noticeable, especially when downloading videos and playing games. By comparison, ExpressVPN resulted in almost no loss of speed, except when peak browsing times were in effect.
Both NordVPN and CyberGhostVPN allow torrenting in all of the countries in which their servers are located, as does ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN does not offer a free trial. You have to provide credit card for payment information prior to installing the software. Once you have secured payment, it will give you a system-generated password and activation code. Make sure to copy and paste these somewhere where you can access them quickly because you will need it during the installation process. You can use either a system-generated password, or you can change it to one that you will remember. The important thing is to write it down. Also, copy your activation code because you cannot access the software without it. As a backup, this information will be sent to the email that you to sign up, but it is best to make sure that you have it copied and pasted correctly into somewhere that is handy.
Many companies offer a free trial where you will not be charged before trying out the software. With ExpressVPN, you will be charged immediately for the package that you select. However, they offer a full money-back guarantee. There are no questions asked. They simply return the money.
One difference between those that offer a free trial and those that offer the full version with a money-back guarantee is that often times the free trial does not allow you to access all of the premium services. They offer only the most basic services and you cannot try out the entire package unless you commit to the full package. With the money-back guarantee, you get all of the services that you will get in the full version without limitation. If for any reason you decide not to keep the package, you can simply cancel your subscription and your money will be returned as long as it is in the 30-day trial period.
When you decide to download a VPN, whether it is a free trial or one such as ExpressVPN that offers a 30-day money-back guarantee you will want to test it to make sure that it is the right fit for you. The right fit depends on what you plan to use it for. If you want to use it for privacy and security purposes, download videos, play games on the Internet, or access content such as Netflix or Hulu movies from restricted locations, different VPNs may suit your needs best.
IP and DNS Leaks
The purpose of a VPN is to ensure your online privacy by keeping your IP and DNS address secure. If the service does not do this and can be hacked, then you are not secure. If the product does not properly secure your IP or DNS address, then it is unacceptable and you are wasting your money. You can easily test whether your IP and DNS are being leaked using a tool such as https://ipleak.net/. To test ExpressVPN, I first determined the results prior to installing it and then tested it again afterwards.
Prior to installing Express VPN, this tool pinpointed my location exactly, placing a pin right over my house. It also gave complete information about my system including the screen resolution, and software that I had installed on my system. The scary part is that any hacker would have access to the same information. It clearly shows that prior to installing ExpressCPN, my data and my identity is not secure.
After installing the software and running the leak test again, it showed my location in the virtual place. However, on some occasions, it still revealed my true geographic location in the Midwestern U.S. If you want to be truly hidden from more advanced software, it would be suggested to use the IP leak test to make certain that you are secure at all of the servers used by ExpressVPN. There may be some that reveal your true location unintentionally.
It might also be noted that the fact that you are using a private VPN can also be determined using this leak test. For the most part, this software is secure enough to download geographically restricted videos or perform other more common operations. However, you want to be sure. The reason for these differences is that in some countries, hiding the IP address is not allowed the best bet is to choose a country for your virtual address that is not affected by these types of laws. The system will automatically pick an IP address that is close to you, but if you are in a country where this type of information is collected by law, your true IP address will still be available in that country.
Speed is another component of testing VPN security. Maybe also possible to reconfigure the system from the options and events options in the software services. Once again, it was important to test prior to installing the VPN network and afterwards. http://www.speedtest.net/ is another free website where you can test your speed both before and after installing the VPN.
In my case, I had a ping speed of 43, the download speed of 46.23 mbps and an upload speed of 1.61 mbps. After installing the software the results were a ping speed of 79 mbps, a download speed of 9.54 mbps, and an upload speed of 4.07. It may be noted that the time of day may have had an effect on the results obtained. The first test was ran at an off-peak time, while the second one was ran during peak Internet usage hours.
Of course, you want the VPN to do its job quickly and efficiently. However, when it comes to price, this is where you will want to compare features. A VPN will always slow down your connection, at least some. This is because the data has to go through next step before it is sent out into the Internet. The key is finding software that will do the least damage to speed. In this respect, ExpressVPN proved itself to be one of our favorites in terms of amount of impact that it has on your Internet speed.
Customer support is also important. When testing a VPN, we always call customer support. First off, we want to see if a live human actually answers the phone. Those that do not offer live human support are a sign of trouble because if you have a question or something goes wrong, you will often have to wait your line and align for an email response. Talking to someone live on the phone is much different than discussing an issue over the email.
We want to find a friendly staff and one that is knowledgeable and helpful about the system. In terms of customer support, we felt that ExpressVPN was top-notch. Their support specialists were knowledgeable and more than willing to help make certain that all of our questions were answered and our issues were solved.
In addition to phone support, ExpressVPN also has a helpful blog and plenty of information on the website. Most of this information could be accessed from the landing page and was easy to discern where you want to go. We found that most of the common questions were answered in the online support without having to contact customer support. However, it is good to know that if you do need to contact customer support, they have an excellent staff of experienced professionals in place.
The bottom line comes down to user experience. The only way to really know how good a software works is after you’ve downloaded it onto your system and see how it does. We have tested many VPN services and have quite a bit to compare the user experience to when it comes to both performance and ease of the download system and set up.
Before you download ExpressVPN make sure that you are on the right page. The page should look like this. If it does not, you may be on a third-party site that may try to install other software in addition to ExpressVPN. Make sure that your page looks at looks like this to make sure that you are on the authentic ExpressVPN download page.
After you have made your payment and received your temporary password and activation code, you will be returned to a page that looks like this. It will show details of your subscription and your renewal date. Remember, if you are not satisfied, you will have to cancel by this date. Under the “manage settings” link, you can change automatic renewal and manage your subscription settings.
Now, let us turn our attention to how to set up the VPN on your system. Please note that ExpressVPN must have at least Windows 7 or higher operating system. I will be setting up the system on a Windows platform running the latest version of Windows 10. As you will notice, the software already detected that I was running Windows. To set it up on this device, I simply need to click the green “Download for Windows” button. Once you have it set up for Windows, you want to set it up for any other devices, you will have to return to this page and click the button that says “set up on more devices”.
You can connect up to three devices at once, but you can download them on all of your devices without restriction as long as they are a listed device. To find out if your devices are supported, you simply need to check the website on the download page.. Under the “see all devices” link you can see all of the different devices that are supported by ExpressVPN.
As you can see, it supports most common devices and browsers. Now, it is time to begin the actual download process by clicking on the red “Download” button.
When you first click on the download button you will get a pop-up that asks you whether you want to save the file. Click on “Save File” to begin the download process. This may be different if you are on a Mac or Linux system or one of the other supported devices. You will simply have to follow the instructions for your particular device. Next, if it will ask you where you want to save your file.
I always save them in my downloads file so that I can easily find them if I want to in the future. Where the file is saved depends on the type of system that you have. If my downloads file does not automatically pop up, I make sure to change the file location to downloads. This process may be slightly different, depending on which system or device you are on.
From this point on, you will have to follow the instructions for your particular system and browser completing the download. In my case, I am on Firefox so I simply click the down arrow located at the top right portion of the screen. Once I do this, the following image pops up.
You simply click “run” and the download will begin and then one more pop-up will appear.
Now, you have to click the “Install” button to begin the actual download. This process has a few more steps than some downloads that run automatically. However, with this process, there is no chance that you will accidentally download an additional copy of the software that you did not mean to.
The entire download process took seven minutes to complete on my system. When it finished, the following screen appeared.
You do not have to click close for the system to open. In under one minute, you will get the following screen. You simply click the red ”Sign in” button to open the software.
When you click on the button, you will be asked to put in your activation code. You can simply copy and paste it from where you have it stored.
The procedure that was just demonstrated is for installation on a Windows based system. However, if you wish to install the software on a Mac, clinics, smart phone, PlayStation, or other device, you simply click on the link for that device on this page and then you can click send link through email to begin the download process that device. This process will have to be followed for every device that you wish to onto which you wish to install the software. Either way, you will be brought back to the same sign in page as for the Windows example that I have provided.
Once you have entered your activation code, it will then pop up with the screen that ask you if you want to launch on startup. If you click OK, ExpressVPN will be automatically launched every time you start or reboot your system. You can always go back into your task manager and change this later if you wish. If you choose “No Thanks,” then you will have to click on the ExpressVPN icon on your desktop to launch the system. If you do not, then you will not be protected and sitting behind a VPN.
If you do not click on the icon to start it and you do not have it set up to start every time you boot your system, then you are exposed to hackers or anyone else who wants your IP and DNS information. One thing to note is that if you choose to have ExpressVPN start every time you launch your system, it may affect geographic-based software or websites.
For instance, if you want to use a mapping system that automatically detects your location when the VPN is on, it will not show your current location; it will show the location of the server that you are using, and this could be halfway across the world. If you foresee yourself using geographically-based web searches or other content that is dependent on location, click “No Thanks” so that you can turn it on when you wish and turn it off again when you are using those services.
You will notice that at the bottom of the general settings, you will see a link at the bottom that says “Show Advanced Settings.” When you open Advanced Settings that will ask you if you think that you are advanced enough to got forward. If you are a user who does not know what the terms TCP, UDP Protocol, or what a DNS server is, you should probably leave this area alone, but for those who understand these terms, NordVPN offers much more.
You are not finished clicking through screens before you access the VPN yet. Next, it ask you if you want to have your computer automatically send crash reports, speed test, and connection attempts to ExpressVPN and developers. They claim that these reports never contain personally identifiable information but this cannot be verified. In my opinion, if you want your system to be completely anonymous, I would click “No Thanks,” but that is a matter of personal opinion.
Summary of Download Experience
In my opinion, the download process was easy, but you did have to click quite a few different buttons to finally get to the setup page for the software. Some of the options that you are given may be confusing to beginners who are not familiar with VPNs, or how to install software. All in all, the process was relatively easy and took about 10 minutes to get to this point.
Finally, you are at the screen where you can set up the VPN service. You will notice a green bar at the top advertising and other add on service. This service is not free, so if you do not want it, you simply close it by clicking on the X. Now, you are ready to use the software.
You will notice that when you first entered the screen the VPN is off. This interface is easy to use, if you understand what a VPN is and how to use them. However, for the beginner, the choices may not be so obvious.
Let us go through a few of the settings and buttons on this page. You will also notice at the bottom of the panel is another link that says see details. This is another advertisement for an additional service that allows you to torrent files. Once again, this is not a free service so if you do not want it, you may want to avoid it. Clicking on this link opens another website for that specific product.
Clicking on the three lines at the upper left corner of the interface will open the menu. As you can see, there are several different menu options.
If you click on Options, it will bring you to this screen. As you can see, it can support a number of different protocols. If you are not familiar with these protocols, it is best to make sure that automatic is selected. This way, the software will choose the most appropriate protocol for your system.
In the options menu under the “advanced” tab, you will find several different optional protections. Several steps back when asked to send crash reports and speed tests to ExpressVPN and I clicked no thanks. As you can see, on this screen the box is unchecked. It would be checked had you selected OK and allow them receive this information from your system.
If you do not know what any of these terms mean, that’s okay, it is already set up for the recommended settings. One thing we want to crawl it attention to is under networks and settings there is a checkbox to optimize Windows and speed. We ran a test with it both checked and unchecked. Unchecking it resulted in about a 20 Mb per second decrease in speed. Therefore, we would recommend keeping it checked and running at optimum speed. This was enough of a slowdown that it could affect things such as video streaming or games. Therefore, we would suggest allowing the system to optimize Windows. Now, let’s go back to the Main Menu on the interface.
You will notice under the three menu lines the top selection is locations. By clicking on this selection, it brings you to a list of recommended servers for your physical proximity. This recommended list is chosen based on speed and the most efficient one for you. Clicking on one of these locations will give you the best speed and experience. However, you do not have to choose one from this list. By clicking on the all tab you will get a list of servers divided by region.
Keep in mind that there are over 2,000 servers available worldwide. Let’s see what servers are available in Europe.
If you will notice, some of these selections have an arrow beside them. This gray arrow means that there is more than one server in that country. If you scroll through the list, you will see that some of the servers are located in quite remote and unknown locations. You can choose to hide your system and any one of these geographic locations around the world. You will also notice at the top right-hand side there is a tab that says recently. This allows you to go back to the same server quickly you find one that works particularly well for you. You’ll also notice that you can star or favorite certain servers depending on your experience with them. This allows you to keep a list of servers that work well for you and access them quickly and easily. Now, let’s turn the system on and see how well it works and protects you.
As you can see, you have two choices. You can either choose smart location or Choose Location. If you want to choose your own location, simply click the Choose Location Circle on the right side of the interface. For this example, I have chosen Milan, Italy. Once I have chosen my location, and it is showing the selected location, you can simply double-click on the location, click on the Choose Location button, or click on the icon that looks like the power symbol for your computer. Doing either one of these things will cause the system to begin connecting to that location.
It took approximately 10 seconds to show that my computer was now located in Milan, Italy. It is really that easy. Now, my system is hidden from any would-be hackers or anyone who wants to gain access to my private information. If I want to access any content that is not allowed in my physical geographic location, I may be able to access it from my home on the Internet in Milan, Italy.
Now, let’s go back and see what server the system would choose for me as the best option. First, I have to click the green power button and turn the VPN off to get back to that screen. When I get to the screen with Choose Location on the right and Smart Location on the left, I simply choose smart location.
As you can see, the system decided that the state of Virginia in the U.S. was the best choice for speed and efficiency of my system. All I have to do to change the virtual location of my system is to click on the gray power button or Choose Location and in about 10 seconds my new home on the Internet will be in the state of Virginia in the U.S. instead of my real geographic location.
As you can see, my public IP address is now located at 220.127.116.11. This is no where close to my physical IP address, which is in the Midwestern U.S. Let’s change to a different location in the U.S.
Now, my location shows as New York City. As you can see, this software is very easy to use. It is easy to hide yourself on the Internet.
The question is what did we think when we were finally finished with the download and set up process. Well, actually we were finished with the testing of the system. We tried it doing a number of different activities for several hours. We tried downloading video, playing online games, and even torrenting. We found that are performed satisfactorily most based on our experiences, we would highly recommend ExpressVP for most users.
That being said, there were some drawbacks. For instance, the farther away we were from our actual physical location, the slower the network seemed to operate. In some cases, it even caused buffering in videos and lag time in games. For the most part, as long as the location is not too remote, it worked with almost no noticeable slowdown in speed.
In terms of the download and set up process, we felt that this was not as easy as some other VPNs that we have tested. There was a lot more clicking involved, but the process was well-guided and you usually didn’t have to make too many choices. However, it did offer you choices during the setup process that may be confusing and required extra research. We think that they could streamline this process and make the experience much easier for the average user.
In terms of the interface itself, it was simple and easy to follow, even if you were not a VPN expert. However, one of the things that we did like is that it gives you enough choices for configuration that if you want to change the type of system or other more Advanced Settings, you have the option to do so. If you are not at that level and simply want the system to do everything for you, then it is one of the easier systems to use. It all depends on how advanced you want to be with your setup.
I would highly recommend expressed deep in for most circumstances, but with that being said there were some leaks detected in terms of DNS address. One of the reasons for this may be that I am located in the U.S., which has strict laws about hiding your IP address due to homeland security. It is not known if this would be the case for other users in other countries. The software platform performed as expected.
The best feature about this software is its speed and that it does not slow down your system considerably. Based on this alone, we would recommend this software, but it has much more to offer than that.