screen-shot-2019-12-13-at-10-46-50-am.png
ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has muscled its way ahead of the VPN pack in 2019, 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. 

ExpressVPN

CNET may get a commission from these offers.

Like

  • Market-leading speeds
  • Solid security suite
  • Company is based in privacy-friendly jurisdiction

Don't Like

  • Higher-than-average price
  • Limited number of simultaneous connections
  • No Safari ExpressVPN browser extension for WebRTC security

We recommend ExpressVPN as an excellent choice for privacy novices and professionals alike. 

Read moreHow we review VPNs

Speed

  • Average speed loss: Less than 2% 
  • Number of servers: 3,000-plus
  • Number of server locations: 160 in 94 countries (four in Hong Kong)
  • Number of IP addresses: 30,000

There's no room for debate about ExpressVPN's speeds: It consistently proves itself one of the fastest VPNs on the market.

We ran our ExpressVPN speed tests over the course of three days, in two locations, using both wireless and Ethernet connections -- one location offered slower broadband speeds, and the other offered higher speeds via fiber optic internet. Internet speeds in the US vary widely by state and provider. And with any speed test, results are going to rely on your local infrastructure, with hyperfast internet service yielding higher test speed results. 

That's one reason we're more interested in the amount of speed lost. In the case of ExpressVPN, we were impressed: The use of any VPN can typically cut your internet speed by half or more, but ExpressVPN reduced our overall internet speeds by less than 2%.

An overview of the common findings of major VPN speed testers online shows that, at the close of 2019, ExpressVPN's main competitors in terms of speed are PureVPN, Surfshark and NordVPN. PureVPN's speeds have been somewhat inconsistent, but it often hits peak speeds above ExpressVPN's steadily rising average. Surfshark has been narrowing the gap and may yet catch up to ExpressVPN. And NordVPN, with its vast international server roster, has stayed on ExpressVPN's heels through most of 2019, but only occasionally overtakes it. 

Read moreAll the VPN terms you need to know

expressvpn-devices

You can use ExpressVPN across different devices.

ExpressVPN

Security and privacy

  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands 
  • Encryption: AES-256, 4096-bit RSA key, Perfect Forward Secrecy
  • No leaks detected
  • Includes kill switch

We like that ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is generally considered a privacy-friendly country due to its lack of surveillance-sharing agreements with other countries. Although a territory of the UK, the British Virgin Islands is a separate legal jurisdiction to the UK with no data retention laws, whose national High Court is historically averse to extranational business records requests.

Its encryption is standard AES-256, and it supports Perfect Forward Secrecy, which means it frequently changes encryption keys to avoid security compromises. The company offers a useful kill switch feature, which prevents network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails.

ExpressVPN's lengthy privacy policy is explicit in its stance against keeping logs of personally identifying user data. Like almost every VPN, it does collect maintenance-related data including server location choices, the total amount of data transferred, server connection time, and which app versions you've installed. You can opt into sending the company crash reports to help improve diagnostics.

One of the clearest ways a VPN provider can prove it keeps no logs is to have its servers seized by authorities. That's exactly what happened to ExpressVPN in 2017, when an investigation into the 2016 assassination of Russia's Turkish ambassador, Andrei Korlov, led Turkish authorities to seize one of ExpressVPN's servers looking for logs of criminal conversation. Authorities came up empty-handed, and since then ExpressVPN has retained a no-logs reputation.   

In 2019, the company went into RAM-disk mode, meaning it's not storing anything on hard drives. That's not something every VPN offers. NordVPN, for example, only moved to full RAM-disk use as a security response following this year's breach. That said, about 3% of ExpressVPN's server fleet are virtual servers (which are often argued to be less secure than physical machines), but those virtual servers, the company says, are limited to use for countries without enough supporting network infrastructure, or those where having hardware would be riskier, like Turkey. 

No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during our testing. Even so, we recommend some caution here. Previously in 2019, reviewers at ProPrivacy detected an IPv6 leak on both MacOS and Windows during testing. That leak shouldn't come as a surprise, though; a piece of technology built into most browsers called WebRTC -- used to help voice and video applications run -- has been known to have data-leaking problems, even if you're using a VPN.

That kind of leak could compromise your identity and location but, despite sounding complicated to the average user, it's simple to avoid. ExpressVPN's browser add-ons plug most gaps, and you can get them free via the company's user-friendly walk-through on disabling WebRTC. You can also test for IPv6 leaks yourself, independent of ExpressVPN's site, by going to the widely-used IPv6 Leak Test provided by a competitor VPN, Private Internet Access, for free (if you're fluent in internet, we recommend the classic standby, IPLeak).

Cost 

Its clean interface, easy-to-navigate server options, and one-click connect make ExpressVPN a welcoming choice for VPN newcomers. ExpressVPN has nearly all of the same configuration options you're likely to find in VPNs aimed at power users, but it's miles friendlier to the privacy-minded beginner. ExpressVPN also offers 24/7 customer service support through live chat, with an email option and a crop of tutorial videos. 

Setup on both desktop and mobile is a cinch. It not only works on most operating systems -- whether desktop or mobile -- but 10 media streaming consoles, nine router brands, and even e-readers. ExpressVPN imposes no data caps, allows unlimited server switching and torrenting, and we had no problems using it to access Netflix. Unlike some competitors, however, you can only run five devices simultaneously on a single subscription.

The price is a little higher than many of its competitors', but we're still convinced it's worth it. ExpressVPN's best plan is priced at $6.67 a month for an annual package, which includes three months free. It does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can pay with credit card, PayPal or via Bitcoin

Now playing: Watch this: Top 5 reasons to use a VPN
2:42