Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN 2023: Premium Service Wins Over Affordable Plan

Discover the key differences between Proton VPN and ExpressVPN to determine which VPN offers the best value, features, and security for your unique needs.
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Best for Privacy-Conscious Users

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On Proton VPN's website

Best for Streaming and High-Speed Connections

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On ExpressVPN's website

In the ever-growing world of virtual private networks (VPNs), two major players stand out: Proton VPN and ExpressVPN. Both offer a variety of features and benefits catering to specific users and use cases. In this comprehensive comparison, we'll examine the differences in pricing, features, speed, and more to help you make an informed decision on which VPN is best for your needs.

In this article
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN at a glance
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: prices
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: features
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: internet speeds
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: compatibility and ease of use
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: customer service
Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN FAQs
Which is the best VPN: Proton VPN or ExpressVPN?

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN at a glance

When comparing these popular VPNs, there are several key differences to consider.

Proton VPN stands out for its strong focus on privacy and security, making it an ideal choice for users who prioritize protecting their data above all else. On the other hand, ExpressVPN is known for its lightning-fast speeds and excellent unblocking capabilities, perfect for streaming enthusiasts and those who demand high-performance connections.

  • Proton VPN: Best for privacy-conscious users
  • ExpressVPN: Best for streaming and high-speed connections

How do Proton VPN and ExpressVPN compare?

Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Our Pick
Starting price Starts at $4.99/mo (for paid plans) Starts at $8.32/mo
Max # of connected devices 10 8
24/7 customer support
Compatibility Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, routers, and more Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, routers, and more
# of servers 2,900+ in 65+ countries Servers in 94 countries
VPN protocol OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP
No-logs policy No logs No logs
Unblocks Netflix?
Get Proton VPN
Read Proton VPN Review
Get ExpressVPN
Read ExpressVPN Review

Prices as of 05/31/2023.

Both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN offer competitive pricing, with Proton VPN starting at a lower rate of just under Free compared to ExpressVPN’s lowest rate, which usually sits around $8.32/mo. 

Proton VPN also has a free VPN plan. However, ExpressVPN provides 24/7 customer support, while Proton VPN does not. In terms of compatibility, both VPNs support all major platforms, but ExpressVPN also supports routers.

ExpressVPN boasts a larger number of server locations than Proton VPN, which can translate into better performance and more options for server locations. However, Proton VPN is transparent about its server count while ExpressVPN is not. Both VPNs have a no-logs policy, which ensures your privacy, and they can both unblock Netflix, which allows you to access geo-restricted content from other regions.

When it comes to VPN protocols, ExpressVPN offers its proprietary Lightway protocol in addition to the standard options like OpenVPN, L2TP, IKEv2/IPsec, and PPTP, while Proton VPN sticks to OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. ExpressVPN’s variety of protocols gives you more flexibility in balancing speed and security.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: prices

Proton VPN
Our Pick
Price range $4.99–$9.99/mo $8.32–$12.95/mo
Best value plan Proton Free for Free 12 Months for $8.32/mo
Money-back guarantee Yes — 30 days Yes — 30 days
See Full Pricing Details See Full Pricing Details

Prices as of 05/16/2023.

Proton VPN has a wider price range than ExpressVPN, starting at Free for the two-year plan. Proton even has a free plan, with access to 100-plus servers in three countries (the U.S., Netherlands, and Japan). If you’re looking for more extensive features, Proton VPN’s Unlimited plan ranges from $4.99–$9.99/mo. This package includes all of Proton’s services: Proton VPN, Proton Mail, Proton Calendar, and Proton Drive.

Meanwhile, ExpressVPN's best value plan starts higher than Proton’s highest at $8.32/mo for a 12-month subscription at the time of writing. There’s also the chance to pay every six months, working out at about $9.99/mo, or you could pay month-to-month for $12.95/mo.

Both VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test the service and decide if it meets your needs before fully committing to a subscription. With these guarantees, you can confidently explore each VPN's features and capabilities.

Winner: Proton VPN offers a more affordable entry point and a free version, making it the winner in terms of price. It also offers a greater range of pricing options compared to ExpressVPN. However, it's important to consider the trade-offs regarding features and support when comparing these two VPNs.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: features

Feature Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Our Pick
Number of servers 2,900+ in 65+ countries Servers in 94 countries
No-logs policy No logs No logs
VPN headquarters Switzerland British Virgin Islands
Encryption AES-256 or ChaCha20 AES-256
VPN protocol OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP
Kill switch
Split tunneling
Netflix support
Torrenting support
Double VPN
Port forwarding
Blocks ads and trackers
Smart DNS
Get Proton VPN
Read Proton VPN Review
Get ExpressVPN
Read ExpressVPN Review

Data as of 05/31/2023.

ExpressVPN offers more server locations, with servers across 94 countries, compared to Proton VPN's servers in 65-plus countries. However, Proton VPN is explicit about its server count while ExpressVPN is not, so it could have more servers.

Both VPNs have a strict no-logs policy, with Proton VPN's policy audited by SEC Consult. ExpressVPN's policy was audited by PwC. These audits help ensure the VPNs are living up to their privacy claims.

Both VPNs use AES 256-bit encryption and support OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec protocols. However, ExpressVPN also offers its proprietary Lightway protocol, which aims to provide faster connections and improved security, as well as the OpenVPN, IKEv2, and more protocols. On the other hand, ProtonVPN can also use ChaCha20 encryption and WireGuard protocol.

Both services have a lot of features in common, including a kill switch, split tunneling, smart DNS/routing, and ad-and-tracker blocking. 

The ExpressVPN split tunneling feature allows you to require all apps to use the encrypted VPN connection or designate certain apps to not use the VPN connection.

Proton VPN stands out for offering double VPN and port forwarding. The choice between the two will largely depend on the features you prioritize in your VPN experience.

Proton VPN's port forwarding feature allows certain apps or software to bypass the VPN firewall and connect through an open port. It could speed up your torrenting or gaming, but also poses a security risk.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: streaming support

Platform Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Our Pick
Amazon Prime Video
BBC iPlayer

Both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN provide excellent streaming support, allowing users to unblock regional content on popular platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and HBO Max. That way, you can access your favorite movies and TV shows from various regions hassle-free.

However, ExpressVPN stands out as a superior streaming solution. It offers MediaStreamer, an exclusive SmartDNS feature to access content that is unavailable in your region, even if the device doesn't natively support VPNs. This helps provide access to content that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Winner: Although both VPNs excel in their ways, in terms of features, ExpressVPN comes out ahead overall. ExpressVPN provides a more comprehensive user experience with more server locations, its Lightway protocol for faster connections, and support for more VPN protocols. However, users who prioritize a double VPN and port forwarding might find Proton VPN more suitable for their needs.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: internet speeds

Quick and consistent internet speeds are essential for a smooth online experience, whether you are streaming, gaming, or surfing the web. We tested Proton VPN’s and ExpressVPN’s internet speeds on several server locations using several devices.

We began the speed testing without a VPN connection by measuring download, upload, and download latency (ping). Then, we measured the download speed, upload speed, and latency for each server location. Using this method, we can compare the effects of ProtonVPN and ExpressVPN on internet speeds in different regions and under different conditions.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN speed test results 

Server location Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Our Pick
Speed % difference with US server
  • Download: 6%
  • Upload: -4%
  • Download: 14%
  • Upload: 15%
Speed % difference with EU server
  • Download: -10%
  • Upload: -4%
  • Download: 38%
  • Upload: 17%
Speed % difference with AU server
  • Download: -19%
  • Upload: -6%
  • Download: 55%
  • Upload: 28%
Get Proton VPN
Read Proton VPN Review
Get ExpressVPN
Read ExpressVPN Review

In our speed test results, ExpressVPN consistently outperformed Proton VPN in terms of download and upload speeds across all tested server locations. Higher speeds mean faster browsing, streaming, and downloading experiences for users.

When it comes to latency, Proton VPN had a clear advantage with significantly lower latency times compared to ExpressVPN in all the tested server locations. Lower latency is crucial for a smoother online experience, especially for online gaming and video calls, where minimal lag is desired.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN latency comparison

Server location Proton VPN
Our Pick
Latency % difference with US server -40% 15%
Latency % difference with EU server -171% 88%
Latency % difference with AU server -180% 118%

Winner: It’s a tie. ExpressVPN takes the crown for overall speed performance, offering faster download and upload speeds. However, Proton VPN claims victory in the latency department, providing lower latency times for users who prioritize seamless online gaming and video calling.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: compatibility and ease of use

Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Smart devices

Reviewed by Ryan L. Clancy
“In terms of compatibility, both VPNs support all major platforms, but ExpressVPN also supports routers.”

Proton VPN and ExpressVPN both offer excellent compatibility across various platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and routers. Both VPNs also support smart devices and browsers, including Chrome and Firefox. This wide range of compatibility ensures you can enjoy a secure and private browsing experience on multiple devices.

In terms of ease of use, both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN provide user-friendly interfaces, with easy-to-navigate settings and options. Their apps cater to beginners and advanced users, ensuring that everyone can find and customize their VPN experience according to their preferences.

Winner: It's a draw. Both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN excel in compatibility and offer user-friendly interfaces, making them equally suitable for users who prioritize device support and ease of use.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: customer service

Proton VPN ExpressVPN
Our Pick
24/7 live chat
Support forums
Online guides

Proton VPN and ExpressVPN both offer a range of customer service options to assist users with any issues or questions they may have. Proton VPN provides email support and support forums, while ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat, email, and support forums. Additionally, both VPNs offer comprehensive online guides to help users troubleshoot any problems.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN: payment options

Both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN have various payment options, so you can pick the method that best suits you, whether it be for privacy or convenience. Anonymous payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies, can provide an added layer of privacy for users who want to keep their VPN subscription details discreet.

Proton VPN payment options:

  • Credit or debit card
  • PayPal
  • Bitcoin
  • Cash
  • Bank transfer

ExpressVPN payment options:

  • Credit card
  • Prepaid debit card
  • PayPal
  • bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies
  • Online transfer payments via Giropay, iDEAL, Interac, and Klarna (or SOFORT)

Winner: ExpressVPN narrowly wins this one based on them offering 24/7 live chat support. Both Proton VPN and ExpressVPN offer a well-rounded set of support tools and customer service options, ensuring you can find the help you need when required. In terms of payment options, both VPNs provide a good range of methods, including anonymous options for privacy-conscious users.

Proton VPN vs. ExpressVPN FAQs


Is Proton VPN free?

Proton VPN offers a free plan but it has limited features. With the free plan, you can access 100-plus servers across the U.S., Netherlands, and Japan only, and you can connect to one device at a medium speed. If you want greater speeds, significantly more servers, and more features, then you can upgrade to one of Proton VPN’s paid plans.


Can I use ExpressVPN for gaming?

ExpressVPN is a great choice for gaming. The service prides itself on its minimized lag and ping. ExpressVPN also limits internet service providers (ISPs) from slowing your connection. By using a VPN, you can grab the most recent downloadable content (DLC) and games from nations with early release dates and even play games that are censored in your location.


Is Proton VPN good against hackers?

Proton VPN is excellent against cybercriminals. To safeguard your data from hackers, it employs powerful encryption, AES 256-bit or ChaCha20, and secure VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. Furthermore, Proton VPN has a no-logs policy and is based in Switzerland, which has strict privacy laws.


Why is ExpressVPN so expensive?

ExpressVPN is expensive because of its premium features, huge server network, consistently fast connections, and great customer service. To maintain a high degree of security and performance for its consumers, it also invests in frequent independent audits and the development of unique technologies, such as the Lightway protocol.

Which is the best VPN: Proton VPN or ExpressVPN?

Proton VPN has a robust feature set that includes double VPN and port forwarding. It also offers a free plan, making its services accessible to customers on a tight budget. However, its server network and speeds may be limited compared to ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN stands out for its speed, server locations, and streaming ability. It also offers a unique Lightway protocol for increased performance. However, when compared to other VPN providers like Proton VPN, ExpressVPN's pricing is on the higher end.

If we had to pick an overall champion, ExpressVPN would win because of its quicker speeds and better streaming support. While Proton VPN offers strong privacy features and is suitable for those who want to save on a VPN, ExpressVPN's performance and extensive compatibility make it the better choice for most users who are willing to invest in a premium VPN service.

Learn More
On ExpressVPN's website

Author Details
Ryan Clancy is a freelance writer and blogger. With 5+ years of mechanical engineering experience, he's passionate about all things engineering and tech. He loves bringing engineering (especially mechanical) down to a level that everyone can understand.