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IPVanish vs. ExpressVPN: Security, speed and price compared

IPVanish has a fun interface at low cost, but how does it stack up against ExpressVPN's blazing speeds?

Committing to a to a multiyear subscription with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can mean dropping hundreds of dollars. Before you sign on the dotted line, I've got a side-by-side comparison to help you weigh the pros and cons of two of the most popular VPNs on the market. IPVanish's fun user interface encourages you to get under the hood and learn the mechanics powering the technology. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN's speed is quickly developing a reputation for being unbeatable. 

Which software has the advantage? Here's our breakdown on each VPN's strengths and weaknesses

Read more: The best VPN services for 2020

IPVanish

A big win for IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it an ideal client for beginners who are interested in learning what a VPN does under the hood. In terms of user experience, our only complaint is that IPVanish's desktop clients have been known to get stuck in a loading loop. This occurs in both the Windows and Mac version of the app, and IPVanish's site advises a reinstall. Otherwise, this has become one of our favorite user experiences with a VPN client. 

IPVanish's multiplatform flexibility and 40,000-plus IP addresses are also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN. It's compatible with iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, Linux, routers, Amazon Fire devices, and any Android-based media device. 

Compared to VPN speed-leaders like ExpressVPN, it's tempting to paint IPVanish's speeds as sluggish. In our speed tests, ExpressVPN reduced our speeds by less than 2% compared to IPVanish, which reduced our speeds by about 65%. But IPVanish regularly gives high-profile players such as NordVPN a run for its money in the thrice-daily tests conducted by ProPrivacy. And IPVanish is reaching those speeds with just 1,300 servers in 60 locations, compared to ExpressVPN's 3,000-plus server fleet in 160 locations. 

While I appreciate that IPVanish comes with a standard kill switch feature, I always retain some caution when a VPN is headquartered in the US, and reserve our higher recommendations for those outside of international intelligence-sharing rings such as Five Eyes. I'm also not as confident in IPVanish's leak security as I am with other VPNs, after reviewers at CNET's sister publication ZDNet detected a partial DNS leak during testing. I'm also still hoping to see an independent third-party audit of its operations. 

At $3.99 per month and $48 for a year, IPVanish is obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. ExpressVPN can't beat that price. I'm a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee. That said, the company gets kudos for its recent increase from five to 10 simultaneous connections.  IPVanish review: This speedy VPN has a great user interface.

ExpressVPN

No matter how fast the service, a secure VPN will always slow your connection speeds. Combine that with the sluggish speeds of most public Wi-Fi (when you need your VPN the most), and speed moves to the forefront as a crucial feature for many VPN shoppers.

Enter ExpressVPN. Offering more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries, this British Virgin Islands-based service has more servers than IPVanish, its in a greater number of countries, and it is lightning fast. Up-and-coming VPNs may be closing in on Express, but I've yet to test a VPN that beats it when it comes to speed. 

ExpressVPN muscled its way ahead of the VPN pack last year and has been hard to beat ever since, offering outstanding speeds and a reputation for reliability and security. Its easy-to-navigate interface makes it an apt choice for newcomers just learning about VPNs, and its multiplatform compatibility expands its value to a wide base of consumers. These factors more than justify ExpressVPN's slightly higher-than-average prices, starting at $6.67 a month (with three months free). It does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can pay with credit card, PayPal or Bitcoin.

ExpressVPN only offers five simultaneous connections compared to IPVanish's 10, but it snagged a 4.5 out of 5 in our list of the best mobile VPN services for 2020 thanks in part to its hyper-flexible platform compatibility. You can use it on Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation and Xbox. If it's something you surf on, ExpressVPN is probably going to work with it. 

The best part? ExpressVPN's fast speeds don't require the kinds of privacy sacrifices you often see with other stress-tested, high-speed VPNs. While the British Virgin Islands are a UK territory, they aren't explicitly subject to UK data retention laws nor do they participate in intelligence-sharing agreements. Sure, their status as a UK territory gives me pause when considering the potential privacy exposure if political pressure is ever applied. But right now, I'm feeling the island breeze. ExpressVPN review: A VPN speed leader with a secure reputation.