ProtonVPN vs ExpressVPN
ProtonVPN and ExpressVPN are right at the top of the VPN market. They both use advanced cybersecurity technology to keep their users’ data safe. They both promise high-speed steaming and safe P2P sharing. And they both claim to be anonymous services that keep their users’ online activity 100% private. They’re both excellent VPN services. But which one is right for your needs? We’re putting ProtonVPN and ExpressVPN head-to-head to see how they match up.
ExpressVPN emerges as the clear winner of its side-by-side comparison with ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN is still a great project, and its dedication to privacy and security is admirable. These are extremely important qualities for a VPN, and it’s shocking how certain other VPN providers neglect them. However, ExpressVPN is great on these fronts, too — and it combines its secure, private technology with an extremely fast, user-friendly experience. In some ways, such as control channel encryption, ExpressVPN is even more secure than ProtonVPN.
But please remember — different VPN providers serve different needs. If you want to try ExpressVPN and/or ProtonVPN, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee available on both products.
|1-month plan||$10 per month||$12.95 per month|
|6-month plan||N/A||$59.99 (equivalent to $9.99 per month)|
|1-year plan||$96 (equivalent to $8 per month)||$99.95 (equivalent to $8.32 per month)|
|Refund period||30 days||30 days|
First, note that ProtonVPN has a number of different pricing plans available. We’re reviewing ProtonVPN Plus as it’s the best comparison to ExpressVPN. However, two cheaper options — ProtonVPN’s Basic plan and Free plan — come with major restrictions. There’s also a more expensive option — ProtonVPN’s Visionary plan — which includes a ProtonMail account.
ProtonVPN and ExpressVPN are both quite expensive. There are plenty of cheaper VPNs, including Private Internet Access and PureVPN. However, ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN are both top-quality products.
ProtonVPN Premium is cheaper than ExpressVPN across both its monthly and one-year plans. ExpressVPN also offers a six-month plan, but ProtonVPN does not.
Both brands offer a 30-day money-back guarantee period, so you can try either of them with no risks attached.
Although it’s one of the more expensive VPNs on the market, ProtonVPN is cheaper than ExpressVPN, so it wins this round.
|VPN apps — operating systems||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, various routers including ASUS, Linksys, and Netgear models|
|Browser extensions||None||Chrome, Firefox, Safari|
|Split tunneling||Windows and Android only||Desktop only|
ExpressVPN wins this round because it provides apps and browser extensions that make using the product a much more user-friendly experience.
|Protocols||OpenVPN with TCP/UDP,||OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP.|
|Data/control-channel encryption||AES-256-CBC, RSA-2048||AES-256-CBC, RSA-4096|
|Killswitch||Yes (except iOS)||Yes|
ProtonVPN only provides access to the OpenVPN protocol. This is the best protocol for most purposes, but it’s unusual for a VPN provider to be restrictive in this way. ExpressVPN allows several alternative protocols, such as IKEv2, L2TP, and PPTP.
Security is one of ProtonVPN’s main selling points. It’s an extremely strong brand created by a team of Swiss cybersecurity experts working at CERN in Switzerland. However, it’s worth noting that ProtonVPN doesn’t have any obvious security advantages over ExpressVPN.
For example, both brands use “military-grade” 256-bit encryption to keep their users’ data secure. And in fact, ExpressVPN actually uses a higher grade of control channel encryption.
One interesting security feature of ProtonVPN is its “Secure Core” technology, which repeatedly passes network traffic through several VPN servers. Each time user data passes through a server, it goes through another round of encryption and becomes more secure.
Both VPNs feature a “killswitch.” This protects you from accidentally revealing your IP address or browsing activity if your VPN connection fails. ProtonVPN’s killswitch doesn’t work on its iOS app.
ExpressVPN has super-high grade control channel encryption, ProtonVPN has its “Secure Core” VPN technology — both of these VPNs offer cast-iron security.
Speed & servers
|Servers||Over 630||Over 3000|
It’s really hard to judge a VPN provider’s “overall” speed because it varies so much depending on the location of the user, the VPN server, and the internet resource the user wants to access.
But when we look at the number of servers a VPN has and where those servers are located, this can give us an idea of how likely it is that the average person will get a fast, reliable connection.
ProtonVPN has very few servers compared to most VPN providers located across a small variety of countries. ExpressVPN has nearly 5x more servers across more than double the number of countries.
Now, like some other smaller providers, ProtonVPN can provide pretty good connection speeds even with relatively few server locations. However, the difference here is particularly stark, and we’ve found that ExpressVPN does outperform ProtonVPN in most circumstances.
To be fair to ProtonVPN — it is still fast, and it’s adding more servers all the time. However, it can’t beat ExpressVPN on speed and server availability.
Express VPN has more servers in more places. This translates into faster connections speeds for the majority of users, so ExpressVPN beats ProtonVPN in this round.
|Logging policy||No logs||Logs certain data about the apps you use and the servers you connect to|
|User info required||Email address||Email address|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin||Cryptocurrencies, gift cards|
|Home jurisdiction||Switzerland||British Virgin Islands (BVI)|
Privacy is another one of ProtonVPN’s big marketing angles. The company behind ProtonVPN also has an email product, ProtonMail, which was created to provide anonymity and privacy for journalists and political activists.
It’s very important for many VPN users that their identity and internet activity will never be revealed. Certain VPNs, such as Hotspot Shield and PureVPN, have been accused of logging their users’ data and sharing it with third parties.
Both ProtonVPN and ExpressVPN are truly private VPN providers. ExpressVPN does log certain aggregate data for debugging purposes. However, both VPN providers have no-log policies that appear to be watertight.
It’s also possible to sign up for both VPN services anonymously by paying via Bitcoin rather than using a credit card or PayPal. ExpressVPN also accepts several other cryptocurrencies and gift cards for some popular stores.
Against virtually any other VPN provider, ProtonVPN would probably win our “Privacy” round. However, ExpressVPN’s superb privacy practices easily match up to those of ProtonVPN.
|Amazon Prime Video||No||Yes|
You may know that VPNs can be used to bypass internet censorship and access online content that is blocked in your home country. This might mean getting around China’s “Great Firewall” — or it might simply mean watching US Netflix from Australia.
When it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content, not all VPN providers are created equal. ProtonVPN can unblock Netflix and Hulu in several regions, but that’s pretty much it.
ExpressVPN is easily one of the best VPN services for unblocking content. It breaks through Netflix and Hulu’s defenses across numerous countries, plus Amazon Prime video and even the tougher-to-crack streaming services such as BBC iPlayer.
ExpressVPN wins hands down for content-unblocking. It’s easily one of the best VPNs available for watching geographically-restricted streaming services and viewing censored web content.