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What makes a good VPN provider? What magical cocktail of features can set one particular product apart from the others? That’s a tough question to answer, because most of them do the exact same things. If you look at a list of the top-tier VPN services out there, you’ll likely see selling points that are remarkably similar. More often than not, the differentiating factors are ease-of-use and reliability — the sorts of qualities you have to try out firsthand.
This particular review is all about ExpressVPN: what it provides, how much it costs, and what it’s like to actually use. My goal here isn’t necessarily to lay out all the facts about ExpressVPN in a neutral fashion (we have an ExpressVPN guide here on the site for that!) — instead, I’m going to be pretty blunt about whether or not I believe this VPN service is a good one for an internet user like you. I’m here to lay out what a “day in the life” is like for an ExpressVPN user, and give you a sense of what you can expect should you choose to sign up yourself. So let’s dive in!
Most VPN users will be content with what ExpressVPN has to offer in terms of servers. The company is set up in a multitude of countries around the globe, and each country has a number of different servers to choose from. If you’re someone working abroad who needs a VPN, ExpressVPN will likely meet your needs. You’re not in any real danger there.
Of course, while ExpressVPN’s presence is expansive — lots of servers in lots of countries — it doesn’t try to be absolutely everywhere. Depending on what you need, that could be a problem. Do you need to connect to a very specific location? Say, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? These are the instances where you might be out of luck. ExpressVPN has plenty of servers in the United States, but none in the Philadelphia area.
I can’t see this being a major issue for most users. If you’re outside a particular country and need to route your internet traffic through it, ExpressVPN will likely have you covered. ExpressVPN servers may dot the globe, but they’re not in every single city imaginable. Be sure to check ExpressVPN’s server list before you subscribe if this might present a problem.
For this review, I used ExpressVPN on three different devices: my Windows laptop, my iPhone, and my iPad. I can report that, no matter which device you happen to be on, the ExpressVPN experience remains largely the same. You open the app, and a comically large button tells you whether you’re connected or disconnected. If ExpressVPN isn’t connected, you can choose a “Smart Location” — one recommended by ExpressVPN — or select your own from a list. After that, you just tap or click the giant button and you’re off to the races. There’s a straightforward simplicity to the whole process that is reminiscent of Tunnelbear’s approach to VPNs.
Most of the time, you are just fine selecting the Smart Location. Choosing a server and location manually, however, is pretty straightforward. You just tap or click on the current server and a list pops up with all your other options. As I mentioned, the apps handle all of the complicated configurations behind the scenes. For this reason, you can switch from one server to another in a matter of seconds.
I haven’t experienced any issues with the apps themselves — there are no glitches or crashes to speak of. I presume these are what the vast majority of ExpressVPN’s customers use to access the service, and the company has clearly put a lot of time and thought into them.
When you’re using a VPN, you’re essentially routing your internet traffic through an entirely different country. As you might expect, this can add some travel time to that data, so the last thing you’ll want to deal with is any kind of speed cap.
One of the things I really enjoyed about ExpressVPN is that it didn’t feel all that different from browsing without a VPN — at least, not in the ways that might feel detrimental. If you’re downloading a large file from a website, it’ll likely do so just as quickly as it would without the VPN. If you’re video chatting, you might experience a tinge of a delay, but not because ExpressVPN is throttling your internet speed — it’s just that VPNs always slow you down a bit.
But “a bit” of a slowdown is all I experienced in my testing. If keeping fast connection speeds up is important to you — or even necessary for your job — ExpressVPN shouldn’t present you with any issues on that front.
Regardless of the device you have, there’s a very good chance ExpressVPN has an app for it. That’s good news if you’re not particularly technical, as the various ExpressVPN apps do all of the work for you. They change your network settings when the VPN is turned on, and change them back again when it’s turned off. You won’t have to tinker around in the settings menu of any operating system.
Most VPN providers sweeten the deal for long-term customers, and ExpressVPN is no exception. ExpressVPN offers a lot of value on its longer-term plans. I did find myself wondering, though: Does a single month really have to be that expensive?
To be fair, ExpressVPN isn’t the worst single-month price-gouger I’ve seen. For a one-month subscription to ExpressVPN, you’ll have to hand over $12.95. That’s not as much as some competitors, but it’s still quite a bit when compared to a six-month upfront subscription ($9.99 per month), or a one-year upfront subscription ($8.32 per month). That latter option will let you sneak by paying less than $100 for an entire year of service. If you decide you’d rather stick to the monthly plan, your wallet is going to take a lot more punishment as a result.
Aside from the issues I have with ExpressVPN’s pricing — which really really aren’t out of the ordinary for VPN providers — it’s tough to find something bad to say about this service. It supports a wide range of devices. The ExpressVPN apps are easy to use. Speeds aren’t capped in any way, shape or form. And there is at least the option to pay more upfront if you want to save some money.
ExpressVPN does its job and does it well. If you’re in the market for a VPN service that is both reliable and has some impressive features, you probably can’t go wrong with ExpressVPN.