ExpressVPN – Design and Features
An extremely simple design, ExpressVPN’s desktop client is essentially a big on/off button with a drop-down menu to choose a server location. But if you look closer, you’ll find a hamburger menu on the top left which leads to windows that display server locations, a speed test, and the app’s preferences, which are surprisingly deep for a small, one-window program. ExpressVPN can also run in the taskbar, giving it an even smaller desktop footprint.
As for features, ExpressVPN primarily promotes hiding users’ IP addresses and encrypting their network data so no one can see what they’re doing online. ”One click, and you’re protected,” the company says – and a gruesome bit of news unfortunately bears that claim out. ExpressVPN’s service was used to cover up the Dec. 2017 assassination of a Russian ambassador. ExpressVPN, which says it does not monitor accounts nor keep logs of user activity, participated in the murder investigation, though ultimately the IP address of the suspect could not be retrieved – the service performed as advertised.
Another major feature distinguishing ExpressVPN is its claim that it works on “all your devices.” This is largely due to ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer service that runs on gaming consoles including Sony PlayStations, Microsoft’s Xbox, and the Nintendo Switch, as well as streaming devices like Apple TV and Fire TV. The service only works on up to 5 devices simultaneously, but it also has an app for routers, which can protect an entire home’s worth of connected gear.
But the backbone of ExpressVPN’s service is its network, which features more than 3,000 servers across 160 locations in 94 countries, worldwide. With this kind of global reach, ExpressVPN also offers 24-hour support and other tools like an IP address locator, a password generator, and both DNS and WebRTC leak tests.
ExpressVPN – Performance
ExpressVPN’s performance was measured in both the afternoon and evening for this review, averaging not only its download and upload speeds while the virtual private network was engaged, but also how well multiple online games pinged their servers as it ran. All tests were conducted using the server that ExpressVPN claimed was its fastest at the time it was engaged.
To see if ExpressVPN is the best VPN for gaming, we ran it while playing Fortnite, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. To see if ExpressVPN was the best VPN for Netflix, we also streamed a movie while using the service.
Regardless of the time of day it was engaged, ExpressVPN averaged faster download speeds than when the service was switched off. This result may not be something other users should expect, as it’s not clear why the non-VPN internet speed was slower to begin with. I could be that the ISP is throttling traffic or that there’s a routing bottleneck. Regardless, ExpressVPN’s high speeds are a sign that the service will not slow users down significantly. Also, ExpressVPN’s upload speeds were also high compared to competing services, though still somewhat slower than what the non-protected internet service provided.
Using ExpressVPN to play Fortnite improved upon what we experienced using an unprotected internet connection, a result we would caution readers not to expect on their own computers. But by providing a quick, responsive internet connection, we were able to run and gun with the best of them, and the same can be said for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. There was an error connecting to Fortnite’s game servers while using ExpressVPN, but it’s unclear if it was related to using the service. Unsurprisingly, ExpressVPN performed similarly well with League of Legends, letting us hack and slash without missing a beat.
With its speed humming, ExpressVPN performed as expected while watching Netflix. Connecting to a remote server in Switzerland from the U.S., ExpressVPN worked with the streaming video service without a hitch, minus a little sound buffering during action scenes – which was also occurring when the VPN was off. Visually, Netflix’s Extraction streamed well, not pixelating or blurring any worse than usual during the film’s fastest moments.
Like competing VPNs, ExpressVPN offers its users a range of pricing with varying degrees of discounts depending on how long users will pay in advance for its service. One month of ExpressVPN costs $12.95. A 6-month ExpressVPN subscription will set subscribers back $59.95, breaking the price down to $9.99 monthly. The best monthly rate comes with ExpressVPN’s 12-month subscription, which runs $99.95 a year and equates to $8.32 a month. All these plans come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
ExpressVPN’s excellent speed, coupled with its ability to be installed on all manner of devices, give it honors as 2020’s best VPN service. A simple service that delivers – ExpressVPN costs a bit more than NordVPN, its closest competitor quality-wise. Its upload speeds are also not top of the charts – but they aren’t far off, which makes it about as good as you can get.