We found it extremely easy to install, set up, and use ExpressVPN. We chose our subscription plan, created an account, and entered our payment details.
After we subscribed, we received a confirmation email with an activation code and a link to the installation guide for our device.
Thankfully, ExpressVPN updated its design in 2021. Before then, we criticized it for looking outdated and for being difficult to use on some platforms. The new update looks a lot better and keeps the design consistent across devices.
Here’s a more detailed look at the interface of each ExpressVPN application:
Desktop & Laptop (Windows & Mac)
Although many VPNs release subpar Mac apps compared to the Windows versions, both ExpressVPN desktop apps are practically identical. This is a good thing, as ExpressVPN’s desktop apps are the most intuitive VPN apps we’ve used.
The home screen of ExpressVPN’s Windows app (left) and macOS app (right).
You can customize the home screen to include shortcuts to your most frequently visited websites. We prefer the app’s design without them, though, so we’re glad you can disable this feature in the settings.
80% of the time we were using ExpressVPN, we simply had to open the app and click the large ‘on’ button in the center of the home screen. We only had to leave the home screen when changing to an international server location, like when accessing geo-blocked websites.
The VPN’s server list is easy to navigate, too. ‘Recommended’ servers are selected by default, but it doesn’t reveal the whole server list. We had to click ‘All Locations’ to see the full list, or we used the search bar to find a specific location.
That said, we would like to see some information about each server, like ping and server load. Without it, it’s impossible to determine which server will provide the best connection.
Mobile (iPhone & Android)
ExpressVPN’s mobile apps look and feel very similar to the desktop versions. The interface is taken up by the large connect button and you change servers by using the same server list.
The main difference is that the Android app includes Protection Summary in the bottom half of the home screen. This tells you how long you’ve been connected to an ExpressVPN server over the past week, as well as the IP address of the VPN server.
The Android app (right) includes additional information to the iOS app (left).
Frankly, we don’t find the Protection Summary feature useful at all and it makes the app worse to use. The information it provides isn’t practical and is intimidating to beginners. Thankfully, Protection Summary can be disabled in the app’s settings.
We’d much prefer if the VPN used this space to provide more functional buttons, like PIA’s mobile apps, where you can connect to up to six server locations right from the home screen.
The one downside is the lack of dark mode on the mobile apps, though.
Disappointingly, ExpressVPN doesn’t provide an app for Linux with a GUI (graphical user interface). Instead, you’ll have to run the app using the command line.
Unless you’re an advanced user, ExpressVPN is very difficult to install and use on Linux. We much prefer VPNs with true Linux apps, like Private Internet Access and Proton VPN. With these, you can use the app just like on every other platform.
Operating ExpressVPN is difficult on Linux.
Unlike almost every other service, ExpressVPN has a browser-based app for routers. The only other VPN with a router app is VyprVPN, but it’s incompatible with most routers and is trickier to set up.
This makes ExpressVPN by far the best router VPN.
Setting up ExpressVPN’s router app requires no technical knowledge and is just as intuitive once installed. You use it the same way as any other ExpressVPN app, with a GUI for changing servers and adjusting any VPN settings.
To avoid set up altogether, you can purchase ExpressVPN’s Aircove router. This comes with ExpressVPN pre-installed, but it’s expensive.
ExpressVPN’s router app is simple to set up and use.
With VPNs that don’t provide a router app, you’ll have to download a new server file and reboot the router every time you want to change your IP address. This took as long as 15 minutes in our tests, while ExpressVPN’s router app can do it in only five seconds.
When using ExpressVPN to browse the web, we encounter CAPTCHAs more often than with any other VPN service. This significantly worsens the experience of using it as these CAPTCHAs often take over 10 seconds to finish.
ExpressVPN triggers CAPCTHAs more often than any other VPN.
To fix this, we’d like to see ExpressVPN refresh the IP addresses on its servers more often or limit the number of people who can connect to a single server IP address. A dedicated IP feature would also be useful for users who are happy to pay extra.
Fire TV & Android TV Apps
ExpressVPN’s Fire TV app is functional, working with Kodi, US Netflix, and other streaming apps. However, it’s less pleasant to use than its other apps.
The app isn’t optimized for a larger TV-sized screen, making the interface stretched and less attractive. There’s also no indication of which button is selected at any time. For instance, we’d often accidentally disconnect from the VPN server when trying to open the server list.
The app’s general UI is consistent with the other apps, though, so you won’t have an issue connecting to a server or changing any settings.
ExpressVPN’s Fire TV app isn’t optimized for larger displays.
MediaStreamer is ExpressVPN’s Smart DNS tool. It allows you to bypass geo-blocks on devices that don’t support VPN software, like Smart TVs and game consoles.
In our research, we configured MediaStreamer with Apple TV by manually changing the device’s DNS settings.
Setting up MediaStreamer on Apple TV.
Though the set-up is simple, you’ll have to update your IP address on the ExpressVPN website every time it changes. If you don’t, your connection will stop working.
We want ExpressVPN to add some secure DNS options, like DNS-over-HTTPS. That way, your IP address isn’t required for authentication, so you won’t have to update your IP address each time.
Disappointingly, ExpressVPN also doesn’t say which streaming services MediaStreamer works with. Currently, to find out, you’ll have to contact its customer support team. It often took over five minutes for us to get an answer.
Most other VPNs with a Smart DNS feature provide a full list of compatible streaming apps on their website.
ExpressVPN’s browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge are essentially remote controls for the desktop app. As a result, they’re just as easy to use as the desktop apps.
All of the browser-specific features, like WebRTC blocking and HTTPS everywhere, are enabled by default. You don’t need to configure any advanced settings to benefit from all of the extension’s features.
Oddly, unlike all its other apps, ExpressVPN’s browser extensions have a dark mode interface. We’d like this as an option on the VPN’s other apps.
ExpressVPN’s Chrome extension allows you to use a dark UI.