19 January 2023
When shopping for a virtual private network (VPN) provider, it's almost impossible to ignore ExpressVPN. It has become among the most trusted VPN platforms for consumers, and is regularly named one of the best by critics and testers. It promises not only high-end security to keep you safe online — a must for any good VPN — but also impressive performance and seamless compatibility across all of your devices.
I've used around a dozen VPN providers over the years as an extra level of protection, particularly while working in public places, on my Mac. ExpressVPN is easily one of my favorites. It's easy to set up, not only on macOS but on iPhone and other devices, too — and it ships without many of the headaches I've suffered with other VPN services. If I had to recommend one VPN provider to a friend, it would be ExpressVPN.
|Simple to set up on Mac and other devices
|Not the most affordable VPN provider there is
|Clean and friendly user interface that lets you get connected in just one click
|No free trial for new users (though there is a 30-day money back guarantee)
|Cross-platform support for all your smartphones, tablets, and computers with just one subscription
|No built-in ad blocker
|Reliable connectivity and decent performance from worldwide servers
|A slight decrease in internet speeds at times, as is usually the case with VPNs
|Best-in-class encryption and security to keep you safe
ExpressVPN is packed with features — all designed to protect your privacy and security, and deliver a better browsing experience while you're online. It may cost more than other VPN services, but it makes up for it by offering 24/7 customer support, an extensive feature set, and some benefits that other, more affordable VPN providers do not match.
When ExpressVPN is active on your Mac and other devices, it's impossible for your true IP address and location to be seen. The service provides you with an IP address — that changes regularly — based in a server location that you can choose. This helps you stay completely anonymous online and ensures browsing activity cannot be linked to you.
In addition to IP address masking, ExpressVPN offers some additional protections that make your online activity untraceable. It holds no traffic or connection logs, and never records any data that could be used to identify you. It also takes steps to ensure that not even your internet service provider (ISP) can tell that you're using a VPN.
This prevents your ISP from slowing you down when you access certain types of content. Some may throttle your connection speed for select activities — like streaming video — but ExpressVPN prevents that by not allowing your ISP to see what you're doing.
What's more, ExpressVPN features a Network Lock kill switch. If ever your VPN connection drops, it blocks all online traffic until protection is restored, so there will never be a time when you're left browsing the web unprotected inadvertently. This is particularly handy if you regularly use public Wi-Fi networks that are more susceptible to hacking.
ExpressVPN boasts 160 VPN servers across 94 countries. This allows you to access content — such as streaming services, local TV, and live sports — almost anywhere. It also means you can visit websites that might be banned in your country. There are no bandwidth or usage limits, so you can watch, download, and browse as much as you like.
ExpressVPN works great on Mac, as well as on iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows, and Linux. It's also available as a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, and on set-top boxes, streaming sticks, and games consoles via ExpressVPN's handy MediaStreamer feature. You can activate the service on up to five devices simultaneously.
If you need to use ExpressVPN on more than five devices at a time, you can set up the service directly on your router — assuming you have a compatible device. This protects all of the devices on your network at all times, even when they don't have the ExpressVPN app installed natively.
ExpressVPN's biggest selling point is its best-in-class security, and it ships with a number of advanced technologies that most other VPNs do not provide. In addition to all of the protections mentioned above, ExpressVPN offers private, encrypted DNS on every server and AES-256 encryption — the standard trusted by security experts worldwide.
You also get ExpressVPN's TrustedServer feature, which you won't find anywhere else. It ensures all 160 of its servers run on RAM only, and that all data is wiped with every reboot. No information is ever written to a hard drive, minimizing the risk of a leak.
You can open the ExpressVPN app from the Applications folder or from Launchpad on your Mac once it's installed. It also gets added to your Mac's menu bar, allowing you to connect, disconnect, and access the app's preferences from anywhere. You can also choose to have ExpressVPN launch and connect automatically at login if you wish.
The entire user experience is streamlined and simple. ExpressVPN opens in a small window and has one big button that lets you connect or disconnect in one click. Aside from that, there's the server selector, and a small area for website shortcuts. And that's it. Even ExpressVPN's preferences menu is clean and easy to use. It's broken up into six tabs — General, Protocol, Account, Shortcuts, Browsers, and Advanced—that let you personalize your experience.
If you want to, however, you can disable the Network Lock and access to devices on the local network, such as printers. You can also change your ExpressVPN protocol, and specify where the ExpressVPN icon appears on your Mac — in the menu bar and Dock or in the menu bar only—when it's open and in use.
Using ExpressVPN is never complicated or overwhelming. Most users will be happy with the default setup, and they'll never need to change its settings, but it's nice to have options for those advanced users who want things to work a little differently. This is one of my favorite aspects of ExpressVPN; you never need to spend a long time inside the app itself — it just gets out of your way and lets you get on with browsing.
Every VPN will have some impact on connection speeds. That's just an unavoidable side effect of having your traffic routed through another server for privacy and protection. But ExpressVPN prides itself on delivering good connection speeds, and in my experience after using the service for several years now, it rarely disappoints in performance.
The already lackluster network I'm connected to as I write this gives me a download speed of 9.84 Mbps with ExpressVPN disabled. When I activate the service and connect to a local server in the U.K., it drops only slightly to 9.72 Mbps. Connected to a server in Germany, I get a download speed of 7.82 Mbps, while switching to the east coast of the U.S. drops that speed to less than 2 Mbps. I have enjoyed much faster speeds on almost all servers when using a faster network connection, as you might expect.
On the whole, I've always been pleased with the performance ExpressVPN provides. It's almost always fast enough for everything I need it for, and on the rare occasions that it does slow to a crawl, switching to another server solves that problem quickly. The service almost never disconnects unless my entire Wi-Fi network goes down.
Its reliable performance is one of the reasons why I've long favored ExpressVPN over competing services. I've encountered stability and speed issues with other providers I have tried over the years, while ExpressVPN has remained rock-solid when browsing the web, streaming content, and downloading large files.
Naturally, its long list of features, best-in-class protections, and impressive performance make ExpressVPN more expensive than many of its rivals. A monthly subscription is priced at $12.95, while the average monthly cost of premium VPN services today is $8.32. However, you can save a little by subscribing to ExpressVPN for six months at $59.95.
If you need a fast, reliable VPN that takes your privacy and security seriously, you can't go wrong with ExpressVPN. It's easy to set up, incredibly simple to use, and it does exactly as promised. It has a nice selection of advanced features for those who need them, and some benefits that aren't available from other providers. It's also available on almost any device, and generously allows up to five devices to be connected simultaneously.
I've found ExpressVPN to be well worth its slightly steeper asking price, which is why it's my VPN platform of choice — and has been for some time. However, it may be overkill for those who have only basic VPN needs. It also misses out on some features other VPNs provide, like a built-in content blocker to eliminate ads.
Content Manager for the MacUpdate blog
Ruslana is a passionate Mac admirer and tech writer with 5+ years of experience in Mac support.