It’s no secret that Cloudwards.net is a fan of ExpressVPN. It ranked in all but one round in our best VPN guide and has been a mainstay of peripheral guides, such as the best VPN for torrenting. Its excellent feature set, usability and security are only hindered by an above market price.
IPVanish is no slouch, though, with a lower price tag, comfortable interface and nice range of features. This ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish comparison will see if the underdog can dethrone the king.
We’re going to go over the criteria in which these providers will be compared, give our thoughts on the services and declare a victor for each round. While it’s almost as close as our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN head-to-head, it, like that one, will have a definitive winner.
Setting Up a Fight: ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish
To make for a more concise comparison, some rounds from our VPN reviews have been condensed. For example, round two covers price, as well as the number of simultaneous connections included with each plan.
While we’ll still cover the pros and cons of each service, breaking the comparison into fewer rounds makes it easier to find a winner in broad categories and weigh each evenly. For instance, winning a server locations round wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as a win in security and privacy.
We’ve shortened the match to five rounds: features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security. We’ll start every round by explaining how the service will be judged, go over the specifics of each provider, give our thoughts on how they compare and declare a winner. Whichever takes three or more rounds wins.
As with all of our comparisons, we urge you to read through each section instead of just skimming for the winners. There are concrete areas, such as security and privacy, but other rounds will come down to personal preference. We’ll back our stance up, but rounds where one provider wins with narrow margins shouldn’t deter you from the other.
It seems like there’s a new VPN provider popping up every day, most of which will connect you to the internet through a secure tunnel. For this round, we’re stepping outside of the namesake function of VPNs and talking about the extra goodies each provider offers to distinguish itself from the crowd.
You’d be forgiven for thinking ExpressVPN is light on features. The application only cares about getting you connected, with little in the way of features or settings on first glance. Digging deeper is a rewarding experience, though, as it offers tools for benchmarking your connection and configuring what traffic goes through the VPN tunnel.
There’s a speed test you can run on all servers to see which is performing best. It takes a few minutes, but will provide you with an overview of latency and download speeds for each data center.
If you’re experiencing connection problems, you can use the built-in diagnostic tool to detect what’s happening under the hood. Some users will find the information helpful, but it’s mainly there so you can send the log to ExpressVPN support.
ExpressVPN includes an IP address checker and DNS leak test, but there are available tools online to test both. That said, those tools are nice to have as a sanity check in the application.
The security features are where ExpressVPN shines. It doesn’t have quite as many options as TorGuard (read our TorGuard review), but there are still plenty of ways to tweak your connection.
It includes a killswitch, which is an important feature for VPNs. It will sever your connection to the internet if you get disconnected from the remote server. That protects your information from ever being exposed, and is large reason why ExpressVPN beat out the competition in our best VPN for China guide.
ExpressVPN is among the few providers that offer split tunneling and a simple way to configure it. Competitors such as Private Internet Access (read our Private Internet Access review) can support it, too, but the process is rather difficult.
Perhaps most impressive about ExpressVPN’s features is its access to streaming platforms. It took first place in our best VPN for Netflix guide for good reason. It has the chops to bypass the dreaded Netflix proxy error, with impressive streaming speeds, to boot.
IPVanish has a good list of features, but the fan favorite IP cycling is no longer configurable in the user interface. Support informed us that IP addresses are still cycled, but there were no options to configure the rate of cycling or turn off the feature in our most recent outing with the application.
Privacy protection settings are great. Like ExpressVPN, IPVanish includes a killswitch in the settings menu. You can also set the application to run at start-up and automatically reconnect, meaning your IP address never has to be exposed.
The start-up settings work well. You can configure IPVanish to connect to the last server you used, the fastest available or the fastest in a particular country. The same options are in the “quick connect” tab of the UI, which is opened by default.
There, you can connect to a server based on country and speed without having to dig through the server list. IPVanish shows you a large speed chart with your upload and download speeds, as well as the current protocol and IP address of the server you’re connected to.
It matches ExpressVPN with IP address verification and diagnostics. Both are found in the settings and there are four third-party sources for verifying your IP. There isn’t a built-in tool for testing DNS leaks, though.
It also failed to access Netflix on five servers we tested. It struggled with BBC iPlayer, too. That is a shame as IPVanish ranked highly in our fastest VPN guide. You may have better luck, depending on the server and time you’re accessing Netflix.
Oddly, there’s no dedicated setting for split tunneling on desktop applications. That is strange because IPVanish has a setting on Android that makes split tunneling simple. You can still use it on the desktop client, but you’ll need to set it up manually.
Round One Thoughts
ExpressVPN and IPVanish are similar in that they focus on getting you connected. The features are similar, too, with both providers including IP address verification, diagnostic tools and speed data.
That said, ExpressVPN distinguishes itself with quick split tunneling controls and access to streaming platforms. Neither one offers the flashy features of NordVPN, but it’s clear that ExpressVPN has an edge in this round.
Price shouldn’t be a non-factor, so we’re going to compare how much the providers cost. While the actual number is important, we’re focusing more on value. One provider being more expensive doesn’t mean it automatically loses in this round.
We’ll also briefly touch on the number of simultaneous connections included with each plan.
Even the best providers aren’t without weaknesses, and pricing is ExpressVPN’s soft spot. While the rates aren’t terrible, they’re higher than normal. The number of supported devices isn’t impressive, either.
$ 12 95monthly
$ 59 956 months
$ 99 99yearly includes 3 free months
|Bandwidth||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
Monthly rates are always bad, but ExpressVPN’s are worse. At $13 per month, it’s one of the most expensive services out there. NordVPN, which provides a comparable albeit slower service, is a dollar cheaper on the monthly rate for twice the devices (read our NordVPN review).
You get what you pay for, though. ExpressVPN’s price is high, but so is the quality of its service. Cheaping out with a service such as PureVPN will save you money, but cost you privacy (read our PureVPN review to learn about its iffy security).
ExpressVPN’s semi-annual and annual plans provide a far better value. You’re shaving a couple of dollars off the monthly rate by paying upfront, but $99 can get you further with other providers. Spending the same for CyberGhost will get you nearly two years of service and seven simultaneous connections (read our CyberGhost review).
There are no biennial or triennial plans, though, and that hurts ExpressVPN most. The rates are higher than normal, so providing value plans for loyal customers makes sense.
While it’s one of the most expensive VPNs, it isn’t by much. Given how much ExpressVPN has to offer, the price is worth it. All major forms of payment are accepted, including bitcoin, and there’s a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try before you buy.
IPVanish is more in line with the pricing we’d expect from a VPN. The lineup of plans is different, though. You can purchase one month, three months or one year of service upfront, and each comes with 10 simultaneous connections.
$ 12 95monthly
$ 59 956 months
$ 99 99yearly includes 3 free months
|Bandwidth||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB||Unlimited GB|
The monthly rate is good in the sense that monthly rates are usually bad. You’ll save $3 every four weeks over ExpressVPN, which isn’t insignificant, but isn’t impressive, either. For triple the devices, though, it’s a better value.
We don’t like the three-month plan. You’re saving $3 in total by purchasing a quarter of protection upfront. It would make more sense to have a six-month plan for around $50, as you’re essentially getting a month of service for free.
Unsurprisingly, the annual plan is the best value. You’re saving over $20 versus the monthly rate, which, again, makes more sense if a six-month plan was in place. After trying the service, paying for the year is the best way to get a decent price.
There are a few issues, though. IPVanish doesn’t offer a free plan, free trial or long-term subscription. ExpressVPN doesn’t have a free plan or trial, either, but provides a month-long money-back guarantee. IPVanish’s only lasts one week.
Free plans are usually bad, anyway, so we’re not too upset about the omission. Windscribe is the only exception to that rule, as you can read in our Windscribe review.
The rates are cheaper than ExpressVPN’s, though. Unfortunately, IPVanish doesn’t accept cryptocurrency or local payment methods, such as AliPay. Major credit cards and PayPal are accepted.
Round Two Thoughts
IPVanish is cheaper and supports more devices, so this rounds looks cut and dry on the surface. That said, there are drawbacks, including limited payment options and a shorter refund window.
If paying with cryptocurrency is important to you, IPVanish doesn’t stack up. For most people, though, it provides a better value.
Ease of Use
Ease of use has crosstalk with features, as we’ll be discussing them in the context of usability. We’re going to look at how much power each provider packs and how settings are laid out in their interfaces.
ExpressVPN is streamlined with a three-button interface that only points you toward the relevant settings. You can find more options if you dig, but you don’t need to, which is what makes the service’s user-friendliness excellent.
When you first load it, ExpressVPN will assign you a “smart” location. To connect, you just click the massive “on” button in the center of the interface. The faded shield behind the button will light up green to let you know that you’re connected.
You may want to swap servers, though, as the smart recommendation isn’t always the best. The tool seems good at picking the location you should connect to, but not the server. As we noted in our review, smart connect would hook up to Amsterdam 1, which was the best location, but Amsterdam 2 usually had better speeds.
It’s easy to select your server, though, and we’d recommend that after running the speed test for your location. Clicking the “choose location” button will open a new window with ExpressVPN’s server list.
It has three tabs: “recommended,” “all” and “recent.” Like smart connect, the first often picks suboptimal servers. The “recent” tab shows you the last few servers you’ve connected to, as well as favorites you’ve marked.
You can select favorites by hitting the star icon next to any location.
Browsing the full list of servers is a fine solution, though. The locations are broken up by continent and, if there are multiple servers, by country. You can also use the search bar to find the location you want.
There aren’t many options, but you’ll find the bread and butter of a VPN in the settings menu. Click on the three dashes in the top left of the interface and select “options.”
The settings menu has five tabs, most of which are self-explanatory. You can configure how ExpressVPN behaves on start-up, turn on the killswitch and enable split tunneling from the general settings screen. Split tunneling is on a per-app basis, so you’ll have to select which applications you want to move around the VPN tunnel.
The “advanced” and “protocol” tabs deal with your security, so we don’t recommend snooping around those areas unless you know what you’re doing. We’ll discuss them in the next round.
“Browsers” is the only other notable tab. It gives you a link to install the extension in Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Most VPN browser extensions only protect your browsing, but ExpressVPN’s is simply a different way to control your connection.
IPVanish is easy to use, too, but it has more options on its face, making it more difficult to navigate. The client starts you in the “quick connect” tab, which recommends a server and shows you information such as your IP address and protocol.
Most of the screen is taken by the speed graph in the middle, though, so you’d be forgiven for missing the “on” button in the top right corner.
As with ExpressVPN, the recommended server is decent, but not always optimal. You’ll have to use the “server list” tab to find the best option. You can choose from a list either by scrolling or using the search bar. There’s also a map where you can select your location.
There aren’t specific data centers, though. You can only choose the country you want to connect to. For example, Amsterdam has almost 100 servers, but you can only connect to the country as a whole.
That has upsides in ease of use, especially if you don’t want to mess with specifics. The “quick connection” tab covers this use case well, though, so a longer list of servers would allow those familiar with VPNs to get in the trenches.
Once you’ve found the location you like, you can favorite it by clicking the star icon next to the location. Unfortunately, that process will come through trial and error as IPVanish doesn’t have a speed test function.
The “settings” tab is straightforward. It is where you can turn on the killswitch, change the protocol you’re using, verify your IP address and configure custom DNS. If any of that was Greek to you, read our VPN security guide or leave it as is.
Round Three Thoughts
ExpressVPN and IPVanish fit in the “commercial” category of VPNs, so it’s no surprise they’re easy to get around. While newbies won’t struggle with either, ExpressVPN’s minimalist main screen makes it easier to get connected.
Plus, ExpressVPN offers the speed test and split tunnel settings. Neither interface is bad, though, so we would understand if you preferred over the other. For us, ExpressVPN still has an edge.
VPNs eat a chunk of your bandwidth no matter what, so minimizing the effect is important. We tested ExpressVPN and IPVanish in six locations, noting the latency and times for uploads and downloads. We’ll compare the speed results for each provider, as well as the number and distribution of servers in their networks.
ExpressVPN has some of the best speeds we’ve seen. The majority of your speed is kept intact when close, but ExpressVPN is unique in that it stays fast over long distances. That is particularly true in the download rate, as you can see in our table below.
|Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Amsterdam, NL (2)||17||33.84||3.47|
|New York City||106||11.76||3.53|
Our unprotected speed was tested near Amsterdam, and the server tested in that location had little effect on speed. Most impressive was the download rate in Japan, which was around 80 percent of our unprotected rate despite the server being over 6,000 miles away. Those excellent download scores earned ExpressVPN first place in our best VPN for streaming guide.
The latency is also impressive. New York had a great showing, with the ping rate staying around 100 milliseconds. Taiwan and Japan struggled, but their results weren’t horrible, either.
ExpressVPN ranked first in our best VPN for gaming guide for its lack of latency, even over long distances.
There’s one inconsistency, though, and that’s Taiwan. It ranked last in all three metrics, suggesting that it’s a server issue and not a location issue. VPNs are finicky in that way, and it seems the Taichung location is a worse performer than others.
Even so, the results weren’t too far off. ExpressVPN is efficient, even when connecting to servers across the world.
The server network isn’t massive, but the globe is covered well. ExpressVPN boasts 148 locations in 94 countries. It’s unique in having servers in odd locations, such as Vientiane or Algiers. These remote areas are virtual servers, though, which may raise security concerns.
IPVanish puts up a good fight, considering our download speed dropped by, at most, 20 percent. As with ExpressVPN, there are outliers, but IPVanish’s poor performers stoop lower.
|Location:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|Unprotected (St. Louis, MO)||10||59.13||11.55|
|Los Angeles, CA||96||53.59||8.21|
The latency times are just as impressive as ExpressVPN’s. There’s an increase consistent with distance, which to be expected. It’s still a good choice for gaming, but not as good as ExpressVPN. While the latency stays low across long distances, there’s a big jump when connecting to a server in your local country.
Connecting to the other side of the U.S. increased our latency by almost 90 ms.
The download rates are among the best we’ve seen, which is a pity because IPVanish can’t take advantage of it. Connecting to servers across the world and streaming go hand in hand and, unfortunately, IPVanish can’t do it.
The outlier is Glasgow, which maintained decent latency and upload speeds, but slowed to a crawl for downloads. We reran the test multiple times and rarely got 4 megabits per second out of that server. It’s comparable to Taichung, but the low is lower.
IPVanish has a larger server network, but not a wider one. There are 1,095 servers in 60 countries, most of which are in the U.S. and Europe. Unfortunately, South America, Asia and Africa have little to contribute to the server list.
Round Four Thoughts
IPVanish has fantastic download speeds and a larger, if unevenly distributed, server network. That said, ExpressVPN is no slouch, as it ranks among the fastest VPNs on the market. Based on raw speed, though, IPVanish has the edge.
All things considered, this round is a bit of a wash. IPVanish retains more of your download speed, but it can’t break into streaming platforms. Likewise, it has more servers, but you can’t choose the specific one you want to connect to.
Based on our results, IPVanish is the winner, but there’s a strong argument for ExpressVPN given the other factors at play.
Security & Privacy
ExpressVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol with AES 256-bit encryption to protect your traffic. You can use up to a 4096-bit RSA key, too, which should be enough to get you through the Great Firewall of China. Having OpenVPN be the default protocol means you can also download configuration files to tweak different aspects of security.
OpenVPN isn’t the only protocol offered, though. ExpressVPN also supports L2TP/IPSec, PPTP and SSTP, all of which are suboptimal choices for security in a desktop setting. All servers support OpenVPN, as it’s the default protocol, but some don’t support the other options.
ExpressVPN’s encrypted connection held up well in our testing, too. It passed tests for DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks and IP leaks using third-party tools. We tried ExpressVPN’s built-in tools, too, but used the options online for verification.
That’s likely due to its location in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the best privacy laws. It’s unlikely the government would knock on ExpressVPN’s doors, but if it did, there wouldn’t be anything for the service to hand over.
IPVanish is built around OpenVPN and secured with AES 256-bit encryption, too. Like ExpressVPN, it offers SSTP, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec. It also includes IKEv2, a less secure but faster protocol that performs well on mobile devices.
Its security is sound. We tested IP, DNS and WebRTC leaks using third-party tools and IPVanish passed without issues.
It can trade blows with security, but not with privacy. Despite claiming a no-logs policy, IPVanish has been caught handing records it said it didn’t have to U.S. government agencies.
In early 2018, a Reddit post broke the story that a U.S. resident using IPVanish was was charged with distribution of child pornography. A court document showed the real IP address, name and location of the user, despite IPVanish’s no-logs policy.
The incident happened in 2015 and, since then, IPVanish’s corporate makeup has changed entirely. Lance Crosby, the CEO of the service’s parent company StackPath, said in a 2018 interview with TechRadar that, “it’s a completely different company, with a new executive and legal team.”
Other VPNs have been caught with their pants down, including HideMyAss and PureVPN (read our HideMyAss review and PureVPN review). We’re not defending someone who distributed child pornorgraphy, but we are holding IPVanish accountable for its false claims.
Round Five Thoughts
You could roll the dice on IPVanish, but we’re not putting our money on it. This round easily goes to ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN and IPVanish are good VPNs on their face. There are differences between them, though. ExpressVPN is slower but can get into Netflix, while IPVanish has better speeds but can’t take advantage of them. Even so, for server selection, features and ease of use, neither is a bad choice.
The glaring issue is privacy. ExpressVPN is one of the most secure and private VPNs on the market, while IPVanish has been caught lying to its customers in the past. Whether that’s still happening remains to be seen, but ExpressVPN’s flawless record looks much more enticing.
As a well-rounded VPN with a slightly higher price, ExpressVPN is the better choice. It’s easy to use, fast and provides some of the best protection in the industry.
If neither suits your needs or budget, you can read through our other VPN reviews. GooseVPN, for example, is a well-rounded option with excellent security, as you can read about in our GooseVPN review.
Do you agree that ExpressVPN should be the winner? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading.