Article updated on February 26, 2024 at 8:45 AM PST

ExpressVPN Review 2024: Despite Setbacks, ExpressVPN Remains the Best VPN

We uncovered DNS leaks in ExpressVPN’s Windows app, but the company’s response showed why it’s a top pick.

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Attila Tomaschek
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Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
Expertise Attila has nearly a decade's worth of experience with VPNs and has been covering them for CNET since 2021. As CNET's VPN expert, Attila rigorously tests VPNs and offers readers advice on how they can use the technology to protect their privacy online.
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Express VPN logo on a laptop screen
8.8/ 10


Buy at ExpressVPN
Price $13 a month, $60 for six months or $100 for a year
Latest Tests DNS leaks detected, 25% speed loss in 2024 tests
Network 3,000 plus servers in 105 countries
Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands


  • Strong commitment to privacy and transparency
  • Forward-thinking security enhancements
  • Excellent for streaming
  • Streamlined, easy-to-use app across platforms
  • Privacy-friendly jurisdiction (British Virgin Islands)


  • DNS leaks detected (but immediately addressed)
  • Expensive
  • Only eight simultaneous connections
  • Apple TV app needs work

There are several big players in the virtual private network market jostling for the top spot on CNET’s list of the best VPNs available. It’s a close race, but ExpressVPN has proven itself worthy of maintaining the No. 1 position -- if only by a razor-thin margin ahead of Surfshark and NordVPN. Practically speaking, our top three VPNs are so close that the best choice for you would really depend on what you value most: speed, cost or privacy and transparency. 

If you’re looking for the best in terms of usability, along with a strong commitment to transparency and privacy -- or if you just want to discover a world of streaming content with a VPN that’s a breeze to use across all platforms -- then ExpressVPN should be your go-to service, scoring an industry-leading 8.8 in CNET’s evaluation. The catch is that you’ll have to pony up quite a bit more than you would for its more budget-friendly competitors, including Surfshark and PIA. But if the steeper price isn’t a deterrent, you’ll experience how ExpressVPN is one of the best and most powerful VPNs on the planet.

We ran an extensive battery of tests on ExpressVPN to see how it performs in terms of factors like speeds, privacy, usability, streaming and overall value. We ran more than 250 individual speed tests on multiple servers through various protocols and operating systems. We thoroughly tested ExpressVPN’s features on all platforms and operating systems we had at our disposal. We examined ExpressVPN’s privacy policy and looked at the provider’s audit history to assess its transparency efforts, and we tested its streaming capabilities on various platforms, server locations and streaming services. See here for more detail on how we test and rate VPNs at CNET.

There were a few bumps in the road with speeds and streaming on Apple TV, along with a much higher-stakes issue with DNS leaks in a certain edge case. We were happy with how quickly ExpressVPN engineers sprang into action to patch the DNS issue, but we’d like to see the VPN address the streaming and speed issues soon as well. 

Overall, ExpressVPN topped its competitors when evaluated for usability and received strong scores in privacy and transparency. While it scored lower on cost and speed (some competitors are cheaper or faster), what we’re left with is a VPN that’s sufficiently fast, easy to use, excellent for streaming, trustworthy and a leader in privacy and security, placing it first on CNET’s list of the best VPNs.

ExpressVPN logo on phone

Speed: Windows OpenVPN speeds drag, but Lightway is lightning fast

  • 24.8% speed loss in 2024 tests
  • Number of servers: 3,000-plus
  • Number of server locations: 105 countries

ExpressVPN’s overall speeds took a bit of a tumble in our latest tests. When connecting through a VPN, you have a choice of protocols, which are the set of instructions for your encrypted connection. ExpressVPN offers the OpenVPN protocol, which is highly secure and more proven, alongside its own open-source Lightway protocol that’s newer but generally offers faster speeds. 

Our Labs team in Louisville, Kentucky, tested ExpressVPN’s speeds through both OpenVPN and Lightway on MacOS as well as Windows. From the results of those tests, we calculated an average speed loss of 24.8% -- which is notably slower than the 18% speed loss we calculated last year. 

For comparison, other top providers logged average speed losses of 11% (NordVPN), 17% (Surfshark) and 36% (Proton VPN).

Unusually slow OpenVPN speeds on Windows were primarily to blame for the speed dip with ExpressVPN. We lost 48% of our base internet speeds when connecting through the OpenVPN protocol using the ExpressVPN app on Windows 11. Our experience was similar -- if not nearly as dramatic -- with Surfshark and NordVPN in recent speed tests, both of which also struggled to deliver speedy connections through OpenVPN on Windows. Both NordVPN and Surfshark were cutting our speeds by more than 75% when we connected through OpenVPN on Windows. NordVPN representatives told us that the issue stems from a recent Windows 11 update and affects all VPN providers that offer OpenVPN or L2TP protocols. Surfshark and NordVPN were able to resolve the issue and improve their Windows OpenVPN speeds and drop the speed loss to 28.5% and 18.5%, respectively. That’s considerably better than the 48% speed loss we calculated with ExpressVPN’s Windows app using OpenVPN. ExpressVPN told us that engineers are focusing their resources on Lightway over OpenVPN because 99% of ExpressVPN users use Lightway to connect. It is therefore unlikely that ExpressVPN’s OpenVPN speeds will improve much in the future, if at all. 

While OpenVPN can usually deliver a good balance of privacy and speed, it’s generally not quite as fast as some of the newer lightweight protocols like WireGuard or ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol. Case in point: We calculated an average speed loss of 38.5% (29% on MacOS and 48% on Windows) through the OpenVPN protocol with ExpressVPN and an average speed loss of just 11% (7% on MacOS and 15% on Windows) through Lightway. Lightway is a relatively new protocol and its efficient codebase allows for fast connection speeds, so if you’re looking to optimize your speeds, we recommend using Lightway. But if your privacy is critical or if you need to bypass firewalls and censorship, then OpenVPN is the way to go, because it’s able to reliably get around internet restrictions, and its privacy is rock-solid and has been extensively tested in the wild.

Overall, ExpressVPN’s speeds were consistent during each round of testing -- even taking into account its somewhat disappointing OpenVPN performance on Windows. Some VPNs are prone to dramatic speed dips or spikes from one test to another, but we didn’t experience that while testing ExpressVPN’s speeds. The speeds we measured to each location were, in most cases, as expected.

For the most part, our speeds were fastest through servers in New York, London and Europe, and slowest through servers in Australia and Singapore. This is expected, because your VPN speeds will usually be faster to servers closer to your physical location, where your data has a shorter distance to travel. We did see a few instances where speeds were faster to distant locations than they were to servers nearer to our testing locations. For example, while we saw the fastest speeds to New York (261Mbps), we registered marginally faster speeds overall to both Australia (190Mbps) and Singapore (180Mbps) than we did to France (163Mbps). Apparent anomalies like this can happen from time to time, but in this case it seemed to be more reflective of ExpressVPN’s strong speed performance to distant locations rather than poor speeds to closer locations. 

As long as your internet connection is sufficiently fast and you’re using Lightway on Windows or either Lightway or OpenVPN on Mac, your VPN speeds with ExpressVPN will be plenty fast enough for basically anything you’d want to do online. That includes data-heavy activities like gaming, downloading, video conferencing and streaming. And with ExpressVPN recently expanding its server network from 94 to 105 countries, you’ll have access to fast, stable connections on one of the largest VPN server networks in the industry. However, in our testing, we found NordVPN to be the fastest VPN overall, as well as the VPN with the most consistently stable connections.

Key takeaway: ExpressVPN is fast enough for pretty much anything, but use Lightway if you want the best speeds.

Cost: One of the most expensive VPNs on the market

  • $13 per month, $60 every six months or $100 per year
  • Money-back guarantee: 30 days
  • Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, bitcoin, various other international payment methods via Paymentwall
  • Apps available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Apple TV, routers 

ExpressVPN is expensive compared to most of its competitors, but the cost feels justified for a VPN product that cannot be beat. ExpressVPN’s monthly plan costs $13, which is more than Surfshark’s $11 monthly plan, and its lengthier plans are more expensive than most other VPNs, at $60 every six months or $100 for its yearly subscription. By comparison, Surfshark’s annual plan costs $60 per year after its promotional period lapses. PIA is even cheaper at $12 per month or $40 per year. NordVPN is priced similarly to ExpressVPN at $13 per month or $100 per year after its promotional period lapses. Though on the expensive side overall, I like how straightforward ExpressVPN’s pricing is at a time when VPN pricing schemes seem to be getting excessively complicated.

Signing up is easy, and you can use traditional payment methods like a credit card or PayPal to purchase a subscription. If you want a greater degree of anonymity during the transaction, ExpressVPN also accepts payments via bitcoin. Still, it would be good to see ExpressVPN allow for payments in additional cryptocurrencies (other VPNs like Surfshark and NordVPN accept various cryptocurrencies in addition to bitcoin). On the other hand, ExpressVPN accepts a wide range of international and online payment methods, including some like Mint Prepaid, which allow you to pay for services securely without disclosing personal information or bank account details.

ExpressVPN is available on Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV and routers. You’ll get a pretty consistent experience across most platforms, with a streamlined app that’s easy to use whether you’re a novice or seasoned VPN user. However, ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a full GUI for Linux machines, so if you’re a Linux user you’ll need to connect via the CLI, which may be less convenient than using the regular app. Some VPNs, like Surfshark, offer a full GUI for Linux users. 

ExpressVPN’s app is minimalist in design and doesn’t boast quite as many features as NordVPN or Surfshark, or as many options for customization as Private Internet Access, but it does its job well and includes crucial features like a kill switch and leak protection. Additionally, you have the option to select the VPN protocol you want to connect through and customize shortcuts to apps or websites that you can access directly from the app once it connects to a VPN server. ExpressVPN also recently released its new Advanced Protection suite that lets you block trackers, malicious sites, ads and adult sites. All apps include a few onboard privacy/security tools including an IP address checker, DNS leak test and WebRTC leak test, which collectively help you make sure the VPN is doing its job and not leaking your data. The Android app includes split tunneling and a privacy checklist tool that aims to help you shore up your digital privacy on your Android device. ExpressVPN’s built-in password manager, Keys, is included with its Android and iOS apps at no additional cost. 

We rate ExpressVPN as the best VPN for usability overall thanks to how simple and straightforward the app is to use across devices. The app features a prominent Connect button and finding a server location is a simple affair. Additional features are neatly tucked away in the Options menu and are easy to toggle on or off. It’s one of the most polished VPN apps you’ll find and its features -- like its Network Lock kill switch and Advanced Protection tools -- work as advertised.

In my previous review, I lamented the fact that ExpressVPN only offered five simultaneous connections -- my gripes at the time being threefold: 

  1. Many other VPNs offer far more (up to unlimited) simultaneous connections. 
  2. People have a lot of connected devices these days.
  3. For the high price tag, folks should be able to connect more than five devices at once.

I was therefore happy to see ExpressVPN recently bump its simultaneous connection allowance to eight. Even though it’s not unlimited (like Surfshark, IPVanish or PIA), it’s still an improvement and should suffice for most users. 

However, if you’re set on ExpressVPN and need more than eight simultaneous connections, you still have options -- pricey as they may be. You can pay for extra subscriptions, but that still gets you only another eight connections and is less economical over time than using a router. You can buy a third-party VPN-compatible router and set ExpressVPN up on it, or you can use Express’s own Aircove Wi-Fi 6 router with the VPN built right in. The Aircove router costs $190, but it’s an excellent option if you have lots of devices because you can connect any number of devices to the VPN at once. It’s also a solid choice for families, because it includes parental control features that let you block adult sites and limit internet time on whichever devices you choose.

If you get stuck, ExpressVPN has support staff on hand 24/7 who can help you via email or live chat. You can also browse or search ExpressVPN’s extensive knowledge base if you prefer to go it alone.

ExpressVPN is tops for streaming, except on Apple TV 

On most platforms, ExpressVPN does a superb job of unblocking streaming content from various global regions. During my testing I was easily able to access content from several different Netflix regional libraries, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. My streaming experience with ExpressVPN was exceptionally smooth on Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick

Most streaming sites like Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Hulu all worked well through ExpressVPN’s Apple TV app. Disappointingly, ExpressVPN’s Apple TV app was severely underwhelming -- even irritating -- when I tried using it for streaming Netflix. I kept getting SSL errors on various servers when attempting to stream content like Seinfeld, Unsolved Mysteries and Life on Our Planet -- shows that I had no issues streaming from the same servers on different platforms. ExpressVPN told me that engineers have been working on the issue and should have resolved it, but upon retesting, I was still getting SSL errors on many of the shows I tried to watch from various regions. To be fair, I was able to access those shows if I tried from a different server. But that meant that I would have to jump around from server to server until it finally worked, which was frustrating. 

ExpressVPN’s Apple TV app is new, and Apple just recently rolled out native VPN support for its Apple TV devices, so the Netflix issue could be just a minor hiccup as things start to get rolling on the platform. I’m encouraged that ExpressVPN engineers are working on the issue and I’m confident that they’ll be able to iron it out in due time. Even with its subpar performance on Apple TV, ExpressVPN’s exceptional streaming capabilities across other platforms still solidifies it as the best VPN for streaming

Key takeaway: Be prepared to pay a premium, but its top-notch performance and usability make the steep price mostly palatable.

Privacy and security: Decisive response to DNS issue helps ExpressVPN maintain solid privacy posture

  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
  • Encryption: AES 256-bit
  • Diskless TrustedServer technology
  • DNS leak detected (but immediately addressed)
  • Regular independent security audits

ExpressVPN’s privacy evaluation got off to a rocky start when I uncovered a bug in the Windows app that resulted in my DNS requests being sent to my ISP instead of to ExpressVPN’s designated DNS servers. This occurred when I had ExpressVPN’s split tunneling feature enabled on my Windows 11 laptop and meant that my location and the websites I visited while connected to the VPN were visible to my ISP or any other entity who may have been monitoring my connection. A DNS leak is a major privacy vulnerability and can pose significant risks to VPN users, especially those with critical privacy requirements, or those in regions with draconian internet censorship and surveillance in place.

I immediately notified ExpressVPN of my findings and I was extremely impressed with the prompt attention the team gave to my bug report and the swiftness with which engineers worked to patch the bug. ExpressVPN immediately took action and temporarily pulled the split tunneling feature from its Windows app while engineers worked on a permanent fix. 

“Our latest version of the Windows app … removes split tunneling from our UI and turns off that functionality entirely so customers won’t be inadvertently affected by this issue while we find a solution,” an ExpressVPN representative told me via email. “Internally, we are conducting a full postmortem and examining our processes to ensure that such edge cases (rare though they are) cannot occur in the future.”

The representative also said that the issue could have affected less than 1% of ExpressVPN’s active Windows users, based on the company’s analysis of user diagnostic data. And a troubleshooting page published by ExpressVPN clarifies that “the ISP is able to determine the web domains visited by that user (e.g., google.com), but not any individual webpages, searches, or other online behavior. All contents of the user’s traffic remain encrypted by the VPN and unviewable by the ISP or any other third party.” 

ExpressVPN also promptly published a blog post acknowledging the issue and recommending Windows 11 users update their ExpressVPN software. Ultimately, ExpressVPN was able to roll out a fix to its Windows app that resolved the DNS issue and reinstated the split tunneling feature shortly after I reported the bug. During our tests with the updated Windows app, we detected no leaks with or without split tunneling enabled.

Nevertheless, this incident highlights that no software is perfect and that it’s important to run tests often to ensure the software is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Running your own DNS leak tests is easy -- just go to a leak testing site like ipleak.net or dnsleaktest.com while connected to a VPN server and make sure that only the VPN server location you’re connected to shows up in the test results. If your location is displayed in the results, your DNS requests are being leaked. That said, ExpressVPN’s overall response and bias for action following my bug report was exactly what I would have wanted to see and underscores the provider’s strong commitment to privacy and transparency.

ExpressVPN is one of the most transparent VPN providers available. The company's comprehensive Trust Center offers a wealth of information about what’s going on behind the scenes and the efforts ExpressVPN makes to protect its users. The company also just released its first biannual transparency report -- which is another step towards increased transparency because it gives the public a look into the number of legal requests the VPN has received and how it responded to those requests. We're happy to see ExpressVPN adding transparency reports like many other VPNs, including PIA and Proton VPN, have been doing.

In terms of independent audit count, ExpressVPN is tops. The company underwent 12 independent security audits in 2022, far more than any of its competitors. Even though ExpressVPN didn’t undergo any audits in 2023, the company was audited at a consistent clip from March to November 2022. A company representative told me that a new privacy policy audit is currently being conducted by KPMG and should be ready for publication soon. 

ExpressVPN’s privacy policy also displays a commitment to protecting users’ privacy. “We do not collect logs of your online activity while you are connected to our Services, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries," it says. "We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.”

We appreciate the unambiguous language used throughout ExpressVPN’s privacy policy, which clearly lays out how the company processes user data. While some VPNs’ privacy policies are vague about exactly who can access your data, ExpressVPN makes it clear that “any personal information associated with ExpressVPN accounts is controlled only by ExpressVPN, including being stored on systems, servers, and services owned or leased by ExpressVPN and its subsidiaries.” 

While it’s impossible to verify with 100% certainty that a VPN’s no-logs claims are true, an independent security audit can help build trust. 

New features and security improvements

Since my last review, ExpressVPN has made significant strides in strengthening its already strong privacy posture. Its open-source Lightway protocol was recently upgraded to DTLS 1.3, which enhances encryption and helps better to protect against threats like eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks, where an adversary can monitor your connection and even steal sensitive data that you may be transmitting online, like passwords or financial information. 

Integrated with Lightway’s upgrade to DTLS 1.3 is post-quantum protection to help future-proof ExpressVPN’s encryption standards against threats from quantum computers going forward. Quantum computers are getting increasingly advanced and are projected to be able to decrypt the encryption algorithms that are considered secure today -- which would make it exponentially easier for an attacker to ultimately compromise your private data. ExpressVPN is one of the very few providers at this time that offers such protections. Its proactive approach to address the looming expanded threat landscape early on puts the provider in a favorable position ahead of other VPNs who haven’t yet implemented similar technology to safeguard against future threats.

ExpressVPN’s new Advanced Protection features also help boost user privacy and security by blocking trackers, malicious sites, ads and adult sites. You can enable or disable each blocker individually directly from the app to customize your desired level of protection. In my testing, the features worked as expected. Other VPNs like Surfshark, NordVPN and PIA already offer tools for blocking ads, trackers and malware, so it’s good to see that ExpressVPN has stepped up and begun offering similar functionality in its apps.

Also, ExpressVPN’s new auto-update feature helps protect your privacy by automatically updating your app to the latest version. You can disable this feature in the Settings menu if you prefer to update manually, but we recommend keeping it on.

Core privacy protections still in place

One of the ways ExpressVPN sets itself apart on privacy is through its TrustedServer technology. TrustedServer builds on the principles behind the diskless, RAM-only server infrastructure, which is based on the goal that server data is not stored on a hard disk and is completely wiped when the server is shut down or rebooted. ExpressVPN takes this a step further with TrustedServer by reinstalling the entire software stack with every reboot, minimizing potential risks associated with misconfiguration. That additional reinstallation step is one of the ways that ExpressVPN continues to set the bar for privacy protections in the VPN industry.

The Network Lock kill switch worked as expected during my testing when I forced a break in the VPN connection. ExpressVPN’s industry standard AES 256-bit encryption is solid and in line with other top VPNs like Surfshark and NordVPN. Privacy-conscious users will also appreciate that ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, a privacy-friendly jurisdiction without mandatory data retention laws and outside data-sharing alliances like the Fourteen Eyes countries. NordVPN’s Panama jurisdiction is similarly favorable for privacy, while Surfshark’s Netherlands, PIA’s and IPVanish’s US jurisdictions are less so. I also like how the Lightway protocol implements obfuscation by default: As long as you’re connecting through Lightway, you won’t have to connect separately to obfuscated servers to conceal your VPN use.

Overall, ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs when it comes to privacy and security -- even despite the DNS issue, considering the team’s rapid response.

Key takeaway: The DNS leaks were alarming, but the company’s exhaustive efforts to remedy the situation helped put me at ease. Also, the quantum protection is pretty rad, because it can help safeguard your data from futuristic threats. The company’s unwavering commitment to privacy and transparency, along with its other Lightway enhancements, help put it a cut above most of its rivals -- even after we knocked its privacy rating down a notch on account of the DNS issue. Perhaps the only VPN that tops ExpressVPN on privacy and transparency is the Swiss-based, open-source Proton VPN

ExpressVPN continues to set the standard for VPN services

Sure, ExpressVPN is expensive, but ultimately you’re getting one of the very best VPNs on the planet. One of the things I like most about ExpressVPN is that it’s consistently proving to be ahead of the curve and setting standards by proactively implementing solutions for the cyberthreats of the future. I also like how streamlined the app is and how easy it is to use across platforms. Even if you’ve never used a VPN app before, you’ll have no issues interacting with ExpressVPN’s simple, straightforward design right out of the box. It’s sufficiently fast for casual users who simply want to stream content, and its privacy protections are some of the best for folks who need heightened privacy online. And ExpressVPN’s enhancements to Lightway that include post-quantum protection, along with its TrustedServer technology, helps set standards and drive the industry forward.

However, ExpressVPN is not flawless. The DNS leak issue demonstrated that even some of the best VPN software can have chinks in its armor. That said, ExpressVPN handled my bug report professionally and went above and beyond to transparently address the situation. The company’s response was immediate and decisive, and helped convince me of its commitment to user privacy. In an industry that’s rife with misrepresentations and hyperbolic claims, ExpressVPN shows that it’s one of the few that actually walks the walk.