ExpressVPN review: Our favorite for gaming and streaming

ExpressVPN has become a household name – or at least as close to one as a VPN is likely to get – taking over mainstream advertisements on sites like YouTube. On our roundup of the nine top providers in June, it came out tops for streaming services, frequent travel and gaming. But, notably, it wasn’t the overall best, falling short on areas like security and user friendliness.

There are three main VPN use cases on top of general security: geoblocking, streaming and gaming. That means my tests looked like watching Shrek on the clock, by using a VPN to access Canadian Netflix from my US-based home office, where the ogre movie isn’t currently available.

ExpressVPN was easy to sign up for, download and use, but compared to the other services, it didn’t wow me. Competitors like ProtonVPN, for example, had easier ways to sign in across platforms. But an ExpressVPN subscription does come with a password manager to store and autofill credentials across websites. That’s a plus in a world where complex passwords are crucial to keeping your accounts secure.

The best VPNs stay out of your way and you’ll barely even notice they’re running. But one oddity was that ExpressVPN internet speeds outperformed our baseline internet speed measures. The service is likely circumventing traffic shaping by the internet service provider or a similar anomaly because every other VPN will hurt internet speed in some way. But it did successfully mask the IP address, and pass the DNS and WebRTC leak tests as privacy measures.

ExpressVPN

It was also easy to access geo-blocked content using ExpressVPN, with little-to-no buffering. There were some loading delays that only lasted a few seconds when I tried to stream the news on YouTube using ExpressVPN, but no lag came up after that. Finally, ExpressVPN passed the gaming test by avoiding lag and maintaining a normal loading time. Although, it was a pretty basic test where I logged into online game Slither.io from a UK-based VPN to play the worm-eating competition with international users. Surfing the web with ExpressVPN was just as easy as being online without it. With ExpressVPN, a ping test measured how long data takes to travel from the computer to the server and back at 100 milliseconds, versus 16 milliseconds with no VPN turned on.

ExpressVPN’s biggest perk is that it supports up to five devices at once. That means I could conduct all tests simultaneously and still had no slowdown. That’s great for sharing it with a family, or folks that like to game, watch TV and scroll on their phone at the same time. It’s the main reason ExpressVPN landed as our top choice for streaming and gaming. The connectivity was solid, it had a wide range of servers in 94 countries and provided clear instructions on configuration for any device.

But security-wise, I found myself wanting more. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which the company touts because the territory lacks any foreign intelligence operations and does not participate in 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements. But it is owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns competitor CyberGhost, and Kape has a problematic history that includes spreading malware. Not only that, in 2021, the Department of Justice charged ExpressVPN CIO Daniel Gericke for cyberspying activities on behalf of the UAE. ExpressVPN stood by the CIO in a blog post.

But it’s not all bad. ExpressVPN publicly shared security audits of its mobile apps, protocol and desktop apps last year. That’s a win for security transparency. Still, a 2021 Consumer Reports study found that ExpressVPN didn’t support multifactor authentication, did not meet brute force mitigation checks and retained some data even after an account was terminated. ExpressVPN did, however, exceed industry standards in protections against unauthorized access, implement a vulnerability disclosure program and said it would not pursue legal action against security researchers. That means when it comes to security standards and practices, ExpressVPN as a company has a few too many misses and not enough hits.

I recommended ExpressVPN as our top choice for gamers, frequent travelers and heavy users of streaming services because it lets users access a wide range of locations from a variety of devices with high speed connections and no lag. With options to configure directly to routers and gaming consoles, it’s a solid choice for people that put a lot of strain on their ISPs. Still, there are better VPNs for the security-minded or those who want something more affordable.

Best for streaming services, frequent travel and gaming
ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

With 2,000 servers in 160 cities, according to the company, it had one of the broadest global reaches. It also passed our geoblock, streaming and gaming tests, and it does regular security audits.

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