ExpressVPN Review 2016

ExpressVPN Review

Features and Pricing Summary:
Network: Servers in 78 countries
Software: Win, Mac, iOS, Android
Refund Policy: 30 day guarantee
Retail Price: $12.95 a month
Discount Price: Save 35% Off

Introduction

Welcome to our review of the ExpressVPN service. ExpressVPN is a fairly well known and highly popular VPN service that has been in business since 2009. Since then, they have grown to be one of the biggest VPN providers in the world. If you take a look at some of their features, you can see why. An important thing to mention is they have a no logs policy, but we will discuss that more in a moment. If you are looking for a way to protect your privacy and view content that is currently blocked, whether it is by a government or by a media company, ExpressVPN will provide you a way of doing so.

Prices and Discounts

In choosing a VPN service, you want to remember that the best one is not always the highest priced. There are many on the market that offer a good deal at a reasonable price. ExpressVPN offers an unlimited plan, which means buying a month of service gives you unlimited access to their network. A month of their service is $12.95. By buying 6 months, your price drops to $9.99 a month. As with many things, if you buy in longer terms, your rate drops. 12 months of service drops the price to $99.95, which is $8.32 a month. In other words, their yearly term will save you 35% off of their retail price.

ExpressVPN PricingPayment wise, there are many options to choose from. They take all four major credit cards (Visa, Amex, MC, Disc), and some non major cards as well. You also have the choice of PayPal if you like to manage your subscription, or even one of our favorites, Bitcoin. They offer several other choices as well, but we are happy to see Bitcoin on the list. Bitcoin is good for adding some anonymity to your transaction, so not everyone has to have your payment info.

30 Day Risk-Free Money Back Guarantee

A big selling point of the ExpressVPN service, is their risk free, 30 day money back guarantee. If you decide during the first 30 days that the service is not right for you, ExpressVPN will refund your money with no questions asked. There are no other limits or conditions. In other words, there is no limit on the amount of data you can use. That is the longest guarantee in the market, and is surprising when you consider that they are a major provider.

Visit ExpressVPNFeatures

Often times, what makes one VPN service different from the others is their list of features, and there are a few that we will specifically mention now. ExpressVPN has the standard ones you would expect, such as launching the service when you start your operating system, and the ability to connect to the last server you connected to. They also have one of our favorites, the kill switch. That will offer you an extra layer of protection if your connection suddenly drops. Activating this feature will stop all internet traffic until the connection is re-established.

ExpressVPN Features

The image you see on your right shows some of the options that we mentioned above, including the kill switch (shown by a red arrow). You will also notice the option to switch accounts here. That is designed for people that have more that one ExpressVPN account. An option that we have not seen before is their refer friends button. As you can see, you get a free month of service if you refer a friend. We advise running the speed test within the client when you first begin. Though it does take a few moments, it will give you a good baseline for the available servers around you.

Under their advanced tab, there are two boxes you may check. Checking the top box will make sure you only use the ExpressVPN DNS servers when connected to the VPN. The other box on the advanced tab is a way of helping ExpressVPN. Checking that box will allow you to share anonymous speed test data to help make them faster. Of course, the choice to assist them is up to you.

Server Locations

As we mentioned, ExpressVPN has a very large network of 1000+ servers in more than 78 countries around the globe. As they point out, having that many servers across the world, not only means privacy for you, but it means you could view content from other countries that would normally be blocked. In the image below, you see flags of the different countries. However, we will go through them since the names are not there. In the Americas, there are servers available in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In the Asia Pacific region, they have servers in Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The final region has servers in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. That includes locations like India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and others. Feel free to look at their website for the full list.

ExpressVPN ServersGenerally, you won’t need access to servers in all 78 countries, but it is nice to have that option.When you open the client, you have the option of placing a star next to a favorite server. That will help you find your favorites quickly and easily. Because there is some great content in popular countries, they have fast servers in the US, Canada, the UK, and even Australia.

Visit ExpressVPNPerformance

Any time you use an encrypted connection, you will see some degree of speed loss. As we performed our speed test on ExpressVPN, we connected to a server in Atlanta. As you can see by the image below, our speed was 59.31 mbps with the VPN connected, and 65.99 mbps without. That is about a 10% speed loss, and that is what we would expect.

The acceptable ranges for encrypted traffic is a 10-25% loss. There is one thing that did surprise us, however, and that was the server latency. The rates there were identical at 60ms. Though there was a speed decrease, there was no lag on the server between the two readings. That is unusual, but it does support their claims of fast servers. In this image, we used the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol, but the speeds of the other protocols offered may vary, depending on the location you connect to, and the time of day. All of the speeds were more than acceptable for streaming HD video. We also got fast speeds when we connected to servers in the countries we mentioned above.

ExpressVPN Speed Test

Security and Privacy

The way a VPN works is by encrypting your traffic through the use of protocols. ExpressVPN offers more than the normal share of options including OpenVPN (TCP & UDP), L2TP, PPTP, and SSTP. You may let the software choose the protocol for you, or you may choose it yourself. They use 256-bit encryption with their connections, and we recommend that you use OpenVPN (UDP) whenever possible. That is because it offers the best mix of speed and encryption. SSTP is a secure protocol for Windows machines, but it is not quite as fast as using OpenVPN (UDP).

Their software is relatively easy to use, providing you have some knowledge of what you are doing. As an example, to choose your protocol, you must click on the 3 dots indicated by the blue arrow. Then, you can pick OpenVPN (UDP), or whatever protocol you wish to use. If you are not familiar with what those dots mean, they typically indicate an “options” menu.

ExpressVPN Protocols

ExpressVPN also has what they call a logless VPN policy. There are two types of logs that they refer to in this case. Activity logs are used for browsing, search history, and visited sites. Session data includes source locations, usage, and time stamps. According to ExpressVPN’s website, they do not keep activity logs or session data. If you are concerned about your privacy, the last thing you want is for that information to be shared with third party sources.

Support

Though everything should work as intended, we all need to use the support channels available from time to time. Fortunately, ExpressVPN has some great support options. They have easy to use tutorials for setup, a contact form, a direct email link, and one of our favorite features, a live chat. The contact form and email options are available 24/7/365. The live chat feature is one we wish more VPN providers had, since you can get immediate answers to your questions.

expressvpn-support

Compatibility

In the category of support, ExpressVPN offers stand alone applications for the following systems, but they also provide setup guides to manually add VPNs to gaming consoles, routers, Chromebook, and others.

Operating Systems:

  • Windows – XP or newer
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux

Mobile Devices:

  • iOS
  • Android

No matter what device you wish to use, ExpressVPN apparently has a way to set it up. For the Android version of the client, it is available in the Google Play store. The iOS version is available through the App Store. They do allow you to have 2 simultaneous connections, as long as the connections are not the same. In other words, it could be a computer and a mobile device, etc. but not 2 computers.

Visit ExpressVPNSign Up Process

Now that we have gone in to some depth about the service, we will take you through how to get started. Your first step will be to choose the length of service you would like. ExpressVPN is so streamlined that you only have to enter an email address and your payment information. Again, they offer various methods to pay for your service, whether it is by credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, or the others shown below.

ExpressVPN Payment

After your payment is processed, ExpressVPN will send you a link to download the software via email, and provide you with your login password. Don’t worry if you occasionally get stuck on creating passwords, or are guilty of using the same password for different accounts, ExpressVPN will manage that.

How to Use ExpressVPN for Windows

ExpressVPN Connecting

  1. After downloading the software and launching the app, you will see a box like the one in the left side of the image above.
  2. Next, you may choose your protocol or let the software do it for you. If you want to choose your own protocol, click the three dots shown by the blue arrow. Of course, we suggest you pick OpenVPN(UDP).
  3. Then, click on the link that says select another location, as shown by the green arrow. Now, it is time to connect by pressing the green connect button in the center.
  4. The software should show up as connected, as shown by the image on the right. And finally, you are connected and you may browse, just as you would if you were in the location shown.

How to Use ExpressVPN for Mac

The Mac version of this software is very similar, but may not look exactly the same. We will take you through a brief overview of how to use ExpressVPN for Mac.

  1. ExpressVPN Mac InstallFirst, you want make sure you have OSX 10.6 or higher. If not, we advise contacting the ExpressVPN staff.
  2. Next, download the app. You may do that from the email they sent you, or from the active subscriptions page once you login.
  3. Proceed to the Mac OSX section, open it, and download the version you need. Install the software. Once you see the first continue button, you will see a box that looks like the one below.
  4. ExpressVPN Mac InstallOf course, the install process is easily completed because of the way it is designed.
  5. Clicking continue will guide you through the various stages, including where you wish the client to install.
  6. Before the software will install however, you will need to enter your Mac user name and password.
  7. If you have installed the ExpressVPN client before on that computer, you will see the option to keep your existing account or remove the settings and use a different account.
  8. After everything is complete, you will see the message on the summary process screen stating that the installation was successful.
  9. When you launch the client, it will ask for the verification code. Enter the code you received earlier via email, and you will see a client that looks like the one below.

ExpressVPN Mac client

Just connect and enjoy the benefits of using your VPN service. The Mac version offers most of the same options as their Windows client, with the exception of the “Enable Network Lock” feature. The VPN kill switch is not available in the Mac version yet.

How to Use ExpressVPN for Android

For this section, we are going to demonstrate ExpressVPN using the Android operating system. First of all, go the Google Play Store, and search for the ExpressVPN app. Once you find it, go ahead and install it like you see below.ExtressVPN Mobile InstallIf you try to login, it will ask you for your username and password, which you would receive along with the activation code provided by ExpressVPN. Just enter the information, hit the next button, select a server,  and select that you trust the connection.

ExpressVPN Mobile Use

Then, you will be connected to whatever server you choose. When we spoke of protocol choice earlier, we mentioned the three dots. Those dots are still there, but now they are vertical. That is how you would pick the protocol on the mobile device. Now, simply browse or stream content from wherever you connected to.

How to Use ExpressVPN for iOS

As with Android, we will show you how to use ExpressVPN for iOS. Let’s start by saying that you must run iOS 8 or above. The ExpressVPN app does not support iOS 7 or lower. Your first step is to go to the App Store. Next, search for and download the ExpressVPN app. After completing the download, open the app and click sign in like you see in the first panel below. The second panel shows the setup, so click allow.ExpressVPN iOS SetupAfter clicking allow, you must enter a pass code, or you can use your fingerprint to add the VPN configurations. Now that you have done that, you can decide to share information with ExpressVPN or not. Doing so helps make the service better, but that is up to you. Since that is done, it is time to connect.

ExpressVPN iOS Setup

Here, you may choose a location from the map, or push the location bar for a list of servers. As you see, we are connecting to a server in Los Angeles. The red arrow shows where you may change the VPN protocol if you need too. Now that you are set up, you may go wherever you wish and have a secure connection.

Access your Favorite Streaming Service

One of the newsworthy items you may have heard about recently, is the crackdown on using VPN services while streaming content. The most well known company that has done this is Netflix. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you probably already know that every region has different titles, and the country with the largest number of titles is the United States. When Netflix made this move, subscribers were not allowed to use a VPN to stream content, even if it was in their home region. As you can imagine, there has been a backlash. VPNs are primarily used for privacy protection, and should not be blocked.

Netflix was not the only media company to implemented the block. Other favorite streaming services include BBC iPlayer in the UK, and Hulu in the US. These streaming providers are all blocked if you use the traditional means by connecting to a server in that country. However, ExpressVPN offers an alternative method that we will demonstrate in a moment.

*Note*All ExpressVPN members have access to their Streaming Media DNS service. You may use this SmartDNS feature to help get around the VPN blocks that are currently in place from popular streaming services.

Netflix – If you are trying to access the US library while using a VPN, you will likely see a streaming error message that says something went wrong. Netflix then mentions that they have detected a proxy. You must turn off your VPN to avoid this block. You may not always get this message if you are connecting to another region, but connecting to the US with a VPN will generate a blocked message.

BBC iPlayer – The BBC and other TV stations located in the United Kingdom have long been known for their great programming. Currently, there are eleven different channels that post their content to the iPlayer, so no matter what genre you are interested in, the chances are you can find it there. As with Netflix, we attempted to use the regular VPN service to stream content from the channel online, and we received the message that you must be in the UK to watch.

Hulu – Another well known streaming service, at least in the United States, is Hulu. If you go to their site, you may purchase a subscription, but you may also watch some episodes of American TV for free. That is providing you are located in the US. With Hulu, we encountered a different message than we received with iPlayer. We were told to turn off our VPN service if we wanted to watch any content there.

The alternative that ExpressVPN offers involves changing your computer’s DNS entries to match their servers, and it is part of your account. They give you the information to manually enter, so you will be able to gain access to the streaming services we just mentioned, and others. We will walk you through the setup below by using the Windows version

Media Streaming DNS Settings

You need to begin this procedure by logging on to their website. Now, select the tab that says DNS settings, as shown by the red arrow in the image below. To be able to adjust the settings, you need to register your IP address as shown by the blue arrow.

ExpressVPN DNS Setup

Once you register, click the button that says “Configure DNS on this device”, as shown by the orange arrow. Pushing the button brings up another screen where you choose your operating system as shown below.

ExpressVPN DNS Setup

Make sure you copy the activation code, because you will need it in a moment. Here, we chose the green “Download Now” button for Windows 7 and later. Download the program and launch it. Paste the activation code you just copied in to the field, and press the next button. Now that you have done that, ExpressVPN will provide you with two DNS entries. Here is where it might seem tricky. Locate the internet connection you are using. You can do this by searching or, if you have the icon available, going to the network places icon. Right click on your connection and select properties.

ExpressVPN DNS SetupYou should see a box that looks like the image to the right. Highlight the entry that says “Internet Protocol Version 4” as shown by the red arrow. Now, click on properties. The second set of entries there allows you to use the DNS servers you were just given. Of course, you will want to enter those and click the “OK” button. Next, restart your computer. Instead of seeing the content blocked messages that we showed you earlier, you should have access to not only those streaming providers, but others as well. Be aware that you don’t connect to the VPN service when you go through this procedure. However, if you are only trying to unblock content, using the encryption of the service would be overkill.

There you are. It may seem complex to set up initially, but as long as you follow the directions, you too can enjoy content without receiving the types of messages that we displayed earlier.

Final Thoughts

Favorite features for ExpressVPN:

  • Great support including tutorials, 24 hour support by mail and limited live chat
  • Offers OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and SSTP protocols
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • Stand-alone apps forWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux
  • 2 simultaneous connections
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • Gaming system and router support
  • Fast Speeds
  • Media Streaming DNS option

Thoughts to make ExpressVPN better:

  • Lower the price of the service
  • Label components of the user interface more clearly
  • Make it easier to obtain software
  • Eliminate device registration codes

ExpressVPN has a great product that will help you gain access to content in more than 100 locations around the world. They also promise fast servers and deliver on that promise. It is not hard to see why they are well thought of in the marketplace. As you can see, there are only a few suggestions we have that would improve the service. Though their pricing point may be higher than some, they offer their new members a 30 day money back guarantee, which is the longest in the industry. That is more than enough time to test their service, and make the right decision. Don’t forget, if you choose a year of service, you will receive 35% off.

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