Laptop Mag Verdict
ExpressVPN continues to shine thanks to a large number of servers, quick connection speeds and multiple security protocols, but is it the best VPN for you?
Best servers with speedy connections
Multiple VPN protocols
Incredibly helpful support
Works on virtually every device
New Lightway protocol
Limited devices for the price
Pricier than competitors
Why you can trust Laptop Mag
Works on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, gaming consoles, routers
24/7 support: Yes
Trial period: 30 days
VPN servers: 3,000+
Server locations: 160
Maximum devices supported: 5
If you haven’t heard by now, let it be known by us: ExpressVPN is the best VPN service around. From its large number of servers that connect wickedly fast despite its global reach, to its incredible accessibility for users, it’s the VPN service that doesn’t disappoint.
All that with lightning-fast speeds? Indeed, but now made even faster with the homegrown Lightway protocol. While ExpressVPN isn’t the cheapest for the five devices it supports, costing $12.95 per month without a subscription plan, it can be used on a router thanks to the app.
There are very good reasons why ExpressVPN has topped our list of best VPN services, although others beat it in terms of device support and price. But those looking for a premium, easy-to-use service should stick with this.
ExpressVPN price and availability
ExpressVPN has three subscription plans with longer commitments to the service being cheaper per month. Subscriptions cost $12.95 per month for a one-month plan, $9.99 per month for a six-month plan, and $8.32 per month for a 12-month plan.
This may be pricey, especially for casual VPN users, but it does come with a great list of perks and all subscriptions handily come with a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not too keen.
For platforms, ExpressVPN works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, gaming consoles and routers, with dedicated apps for smartphones and tablets, too. While each subscription only lets users connect up to five devices (which isn’t the worst), you may notice that routers are in that list of platforms, which can be an incredibly handy semi-loophole.
Using the ExpressVPN app on your router means you can connect as many devices as you want. This process is outlined by ExpressVPN as a genuine loophole for connecting to more than five devices.
ExpressVPN streaming and unblocking
We used ExpressVPN on a number of different streaming services, including the usual suspects: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Disney+. We’re happy to say that it worked smoothly and effortlessly for all those platforms, which meant full quality video from every server location. Even better, it did so without any hiccups.
It gave access to each country-specific catalogue of series and movies in multiple locations including the U.S., the U.K., Japan and various countries in Europe, including France and the Netherlands. So, if you’re looking for a varied list of Japanese anime, Dutch crime shows or Korean dramas, with a simple location switch, ExpressVPN has you covered.
There are still a few countries ExpressVPN can’t bypass when it comes to censored or blocked sites, including the United Arab Emirates. However, we found it can unblock sites in some heavily-censored spots, such as China.
ExpressVPN server locations
ExpressVPN has among the most VPN servers available, in various locations and countries. Better yet, connection speeds to each of them are wicked fast, even if servers are farther away.
Currently, ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in 160 server locations and in 94 countries. There are multiple countries in both North and South America, Europe, Asia and Middle East and Africa. And, in hotspot countries, there are multiple servers just in case one doesn’t work as well (which was handy for Hong Kong where I experienced one server not working for me, but another did).
ExpressVPN offers multiple security protocols including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2 and its recently debuted, proprietary Lightway protocol (more on that later). Even better, it uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is nearly impossible to break. That, along with its no-log policy and Perfect Forward Secrecy so your encrypted data won’t be captured and deciphered later, put any security fears at ease.
Other security features include a kill switch, which is called ‘Network Lock’ on ExpressVPN, which is enabled by default for subscribers (note: you’ll want to keep it on). Basically, it stops all internet traffic if the VPN unexpectedly disconnects, keeping your web activities secure. However, this feature isn’t available on iOS apps yet, so iPhone users should keep this in mind. It is, however, available for Windows, Mac, Linux and routers.
ExpressVPN also supports split tunneling, which worked seamlessly in our testing. Using this feature, I chose which apps worked through theVPN and which ones I wanted to use locally. It didn’t noticeably slow down internet speeds, even when I was browsing the internet in one location and streaming U.S. Netflix (I’m based in the U.K.).
As you’ll find with most VPN services, security audits are a thing, and ExpressVPN does independent security audits through cybersecurity firm Cure3. So far, there have been no breaches. Along with its no-log policy, Tor connections and being based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, rest assured your data is safe.
ExpressVPN user accessibility and support
ExpressVPN utilizes a one-click connection that links to the fastest server. But user accessibility is the real star of the show, offering easy connections for those who simply want to be anonymous, along with DNS leak prevention, split tunneling, a kill switch and then some.
However, more experienced VPN users will find a few security protocols only work in certain countries and on certain devices. For example, iOS devices can use OpenVPN and IPsec, whereas Android devices can only use OpenVPN. Another example is L2TP/IPsec, which won’t work in a few countries such as Brazil, but functions in Canada. That being said, this is a common thing for all VPN service providers, and the majority of users shouldn’t be hassled by it.
ExpressVPN actually recently released its very own security protocol that works in all countries. Known as Lightway, it’s an upgrade to a “next-generation VPN protocol.” We gave it a go.
ExpressVPN Lightway Protocol
So, what is Lightway? It’s ExpressVPN’s homegrown security protocol built from the ground up. Instead of using various security protocols to connect to a VPN, Lightway will be the ‘one-size-fits-all’ of sorts, which makes connections simpler.
In terms of security, Lightway uses wolfSSL, whose well-established cryptography library has been extensively vetted by third parties, and against the FIPS 140-2 standard. It preserves perfect forward secrecy, with dynamic encryption keys that are regularly purged and regenerated. Soon, it will also be open-sourced for all to look at.
In terms of speed, ExpressVPN boasts a codebase that simply has 1,000 lines of code, which makes for a faster established VPN connection. It also states that the small amount of code means a lower processing load, so expect less battery consumption when using the VPN connection.
I checked it out, although currently, the security protocol is still listed as a ‘(preview)’, so it may not be the fully-fledged feature. In terms of speed, its connections to different countries blew away OpenVPN, which is known for its quick speeds. We connected and switched to the United States, Belgium, Ireland, France and India in under 10 seconds, which is ridiculous. Browsing the internet, watching Netflix and even playing a game of Call of Duty Mobile was seamless, making it seem like we weren’t really using a VPN at all. Now, ExpressVPN already had speed going for it, so general users will only notice a slight bump in speed, but power users will definitely get a kick out of its download speeds.
Using fast.com and a legacy protocol (standard security protocol) in Germany, I got speeds of 1.8Mbps. Using the Lightway protocol, I achieved 5.5 Mbps. Then I tried a connection in India using the legacy protocol, and tested 1.7Mbps, while the Lightway protocol gave us 2.5Mbps. Next, I got a connection in South Africa with legacy protocol, and got 4.1Mbps, while the Lightway protocol achieved 6.2Mbps.
Just for good measure, we also tried U.S. servers in New York and Washington DC, but neither worked with fast.com using any protocol.
So, ExpressVPN just got faster for the same price, as Lightway is now available for all VPN subscribers on the ExpressVPN apps for Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, and routers. iOS will soon be on its way.
While many use VPNs for their security, which ExpressVPN has in spades thanks to a list of privacy and security features, there are many more that the service to access blocked sites or change streaming locations — another aspect ExpressVPN excels at.
There are a few downsides to using ExpressVPN. Unlike some other options out there, ExpressVPN requires a subscription, and pricing can get expensive depending on your needs. Also, the number of devices you can connect to is limited to five, although this can be bypassed by using the router app.
Overall, ExpressVPN is a winner in all of its features, and Lightway just proved it will continue to excel. It’s worth paying for a year’s subscription if you know you’ll be an avid VPN user, especially if it’s offering a better rate at $8.32 per month. Continue to shine, ExpressVPN.
|Maximum devices supported
|Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, gaming consoles, routers
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.