In our digital economy, there are specific names that people will tend to recognize. In computers, there are Macs and Windows. In soda, there is Coke and Pepsi. And when it comes to VPNs, there is NordVPN and ExpressVPN. These two companies are the largest players in the VPN market, each gathering a significant share of customers and having the largest presence on podcasts, YouTube and other channels alike. But is ExpressVPN as good as they present themselves?
ExpressVPN is owned by the Virgin Islands-based Express VPN International Ltd and has existed since 2009. The company is well-reviewed, but has drawn some notable controversy when it helped hide an assassin’s data from public officials’ access. The company has made a name for itself among the VPN market. But is it a major player in the market?
ExpressVPN is likely one of the most complex sign-up processes. Users will be asked to choose a plan then create an account with email, payment information and password. The packages come in three forms. First, users can pay $12.95 per month. They can choose to pay every six months with a $9.99/month package, or they can purchase an annual package, which brings the price down to $8.32/month. All of them come with a 30-day-back guarantee and constant customer service.
ExpressVPN is likely one of the most flexible in payment methods that we have discovered. Users can pay with a multitude of credit cards, as well as PayPal, Bitcoin, Alipay, iDeal and a multitude of international financial options for the user.
ExpressVPN currently has one of the most diverse collections of device compatibility. First off, Macs, Windows, iOS and Android devices are all covered. ExpressVPN also offers coverage for Linux users, Chromebooks, Kindle Fires and personal routers. If a user prefers to run the VPN through their browser, ExpressVPN offers extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
Then there are the personal entertainment options. ExpressVPN has options for most smart TVs, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Samsung Smart TV, Roku, Chromecast and Nvidia Shield. And if that was not enough for you, they also have VPN options for all three gaming consoles.
A VPN’s reputation is based primarily on their claims to security. Are they trustworthy? Do they handle their security protocols properly? Do they offer enough options for users? While most VPNs will go out of their way to promote themselves as firm and reliable sources of data security, ExpressVPN does much of its security work up front.
First off, ExpressVPN relies on 4096-bit SHA-512 RSA encryption process to encrypt all of its data transmissions. Security experts predict that such a connection would take decades of effort to breach. ExpressVPN also uses AES-256-CBC to keep its control channels protected, and Hash Message Authentication code, or HMAC for short, to protect data in real time.
Express VPN also offers support for Perfect Forward Secrecy, a software method that changes the keys used to encrypt said data in real-time. ExpressVPN operates its own DNS for all of their servers, all up to private, zero-knowledge, 256-bit encryption data. And all of these tools have been tested by third parties and found to be reliable and strong.
When it comes to protocols, ExpressVPN only maintains four at this time; UDP-OpenVPN, TCP- OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec. Not every protocol is available on every server or location, but the options are easy to swap in the settings.
On top of that, ExpressVPN maintains a lengthy and detailed “No Logs” policy that explains their process. ExpressVPN will not maintain any information about IP addresses or websites visited. It does log details about when the VPN was used and the specific server used, but such information could not identify anything meaningful about the VPN user. But thanks to more than a decade of operations, ExpressVPN understands what it means to protect user security, and has the experience and legalese to do it.
Like most VPNs, installation can seem straightforward. Choose which OS or device you wish to have the software installed on and follow the instructions. The one aspect that separates ExpressVPN in operation is the ease. First off, it requires a verification code upon logging in or downloading the software. Second, it will provide a secondary code that must be input into the software in order to activate it. There’s no more need to log in if you forget the password.
Using it is fairly straightforward. Users will receive an automatically recommended server to connect to (in the author’s case, Chicago.) We could also expand the software out to choose multiple cities in the United States, as well as several other servers in North America and Europe.
While security needs to be a priority for internet users, maintaining internet speed is even more important for said users. And the more software a user is running, the more difficult it can be to justify it. As we tested the ExpressVPN connection, we decided to compare it to other internets. On a 100+ Mbps connection, we found that the software only slowed downloads to around 90 Mbps based on a Chicago server. A connection to a London-based server brought the connection down to 52.0 Mbps. An Australia-based server offered around 38 Mbps.
The vast changes seem to concur with the spread and direction, but we had minimal difficulties operating the computers under those speeds. Results will vary depending on your device and connection, but the servers were overall, quite reliable.
While many VPNs are blocked by video providers, ExpressVPN appears to have gone under the radar for this. Almost every streaming service that we tried was able to connect. This includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube, BBC iPlayer and many more.
As of winter 2020, ExpressVPN maintains an estimated 3,000 servers across 160 cities in 94 different countries. We tested several of them and found connections to be reliable, predictable and overall usable by the average man. There does not appear to be much difference between the servers.
ExpressVPN’s support section is quite detailed. Not only do they offer a very detailed troubleshooting section, but they have 24/7 chat service and email options. They also have a series of videos that help show users how to use their software. It creates the appearance of the company being able to handle whatever needs that the consumer might have.
ExpressVPN is likely one of the strongest options in the market for internet security. Not only do they provide complex security protocols to protect personal data, but they provide a variety of servers and functionality for any user. While they are one of the mid-tier price schemes, there is certainly quite a lot of value in what ExpressVPN offers the everyday user, and should be considered.