Looking for a quality VPN? Then you know how hard it can be to make a choice. Free VPNs cost nothing but can compromise your security, steal your data and even use your process for criminal ends (like botnet attacks). The fastest VPNs often have poor user interfaces or cost a proverbial arm and leg. In other words, virtually every provider and brand comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Two VPNs that stand out from the rest are ExpressVPN and CyberGhost. If you’ve been researching VPNs (or reading AddictiveTips) for any length of time, you’ve likely heard about both – and may be wondering how the two measure up against each other. In this article, we’ll give you the blow-by-blow and compare the two on speed, server networks, ease of installation, ease of use and more. We’ll also give you some of the best discounts available for both services, right after introducing both of them below.
Introducing ExpressVPN and CyberGhost
Each provider is one of the best on the internet. Before we start comparing the two services, here’s both of them at a glance.
ExpressVPN consistently ranks as one of the top VPN services on the market across the board. It has a large server network that covers every continent on earth, except for Antarctica. The servers are high-quality, meaning connections are lightning fast and latencies – low. Speed and bandwidth are both unlimited, meaning you can use the service as much as you want. Moreover, you can connect up to 3 devices simultaneously – and since ExpressVPN works on every known modern operating system, this means you can get a foreign IP and protect data on a mobile, desktop and auxiliary device simultaneously. All these features, combined with an attractive user interface that immediately feels intuitive, make ExpressVPN fun and easy to use.
On the security front, ExpressVPN uses 256-bit encryption protocols that are military-grade and virtually impossible to break. This includes OpenVPN technologies – UDP and TCP – that combine speed and flexibility and have never been cracked with any consistency. Features that supplement the encryption include a kill switch that stops your apps and browsers from leaking data if your connection suddenly stops. There’s also a DNS leak test that helps you make sure your ISP isn’t seeing some or all of your data requests while you’re behind a VPN. Last but not least, ExpressVPN advertises a strong no-logging policy, meaning virtually no records of what you do online are kept, ever.
If you want to learn more about the service without any comparisons to other providers, you can do so in our full review of ExpressVPN.
CyberGhost is one of the most user-friendly VPN services on the market. It comes with a large suite of apps that are easy to install on macOS, Windows, Android devices, iOS, modern video game consoles and even routers. Once you’ve installed an app, you get to choose from 1 of 6 configuration profiles, which makes getting started easy – even if you’re a complete beginner with VPNs. Further, there’s a series of toggles that give you extra speed, block ads, and more, letting you customize how CyberGhost works without having to set anything up manually. All these features are presented in a convenient, intuitive interface, making CyberGhost almost fun to use.
At the same time, CyberGhost is also technologically powerful and feature-rich. With servers in 62 countries, it can get you an IP from major countries in 6 continents.Connections are snappy, latencies are low, and with unlimited server switches and up to 6 simultaneous connections, you can enjoy CyberGhost around the clock on all your devices. Security-wisse, the encryption standards used are so strong the average key would take a supercomputer quadrillions of years to crack. The no-logging policy is also one of the toughest in the business, to the point that not even your e-mail is stored. All in all, CyberGhost is powerful enough that users often wonder how it measures up against other top VPNs on the market.
If you want to learn more about the service in the context of a VPN review, you can do so in our 2018 CyberGhost review.
ExpressVPN vs. CyberGhost
As you can see from the previous section, each of these services is excellent in their own right. Having said that, they’re not necessarily equally good – and in this section, we’re going to go through some important VPN qualities and see how each service measures up.
Speed is one of the first things to look for in a VPN. The reason is that VPNs route your data through remote servers which are often on the other side of the world. This can slow connections down by as much as 20-25%, and lead to high latencies. Results include laggy gaming, long buffering times when streaming, and slow downloads. All of this is undesirable, especially because the modern internet is so dependent on quick downloads.
- ExpressVPN’s calling card is their incredible speed. They use fast encryption protocols and have a vast server network, both of which help. In our 2018 ExpressVPN review, we ran 3 tests on the service. In the first, we downloaded a series of increasingly large files: 1, 2, 4,8 and 16 MB in size. In the second, we downloaded 100 MB files from the same server every 60 seconds. In the third, we measured speed by connecting to a single server repeatedly. This gave us a balanced idea of what the service can do, speed-wise, with files of all sizes. The results were impressive: download speed was between 70-90% of our regular Internet connection’s, regardless of the test being conducted. This makes ExpressVPN one of the fastest servers out by default.
- With CyberGhost, the tests we ran in our 2018 CyberGhost review were a little different. In the first test, we used the service’s Protect WiFi setting and used speedtest.net. Our latency was a little higher than without a VPN – but download speeds stayed unchanged. In the second test, we kept the same setting but used TestMy.net instead. This website – which uses a more complex protocol that measures upload speed, download speed, and overall speed – ranked speed at about 62.5% of our regular ISP’s (7 Mbps vs 11.2 Mbps).
Overall, it’s hard to name a clear winner. CyberGhost’s download speed tests ranged from 62.5% to about 100%, while ExpressVPN’s went from 70% to 90%. The average for both services is around 80% – but ExpressVPN has a slight edge given that it has a significantly higher minimum speed.
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins at speed.
Server network size is important for several reasons. First, the more servers there are, the less traffic each has to process – which means higher speeds and lower latencies for you. In other words, server numbers are correlated to overall connection quality. Second, a larger number of servers means that it’s easier to find the specific encryption protocol you want to use. Third, a higher number of servers is usually correlated to a bigger international presence, meaning that large networks tend to give you more local IPs.
- CyberGhost and ExpressVPN both have some of the biggest VPN networks in existence today. CyberGhost’s network grew by 150% in 2018, and now has over 3,100+ servers in 60+ countries. This is a vast number of nodes, and the cool thing is that these aren’t all concentrated in a few countries. Albania has 10 servers, as do Cyprus, South Africa and Taiwan. Countries that most users want to get IPs from – Italy, Great Britain, the US, Canada – have hundreds. This means that finding the exact server and IP you want is easy when you’re with CyberGhost.
- ExpressVPN may have fewer servers – just over 2,000 – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember: different servers have rank differently in terms of speed, maximum traffic and maximum user numbers. With that in mind, ExpressVPN wins on two fronts. First, it has one of the widest server networks in the business, covering over 94 countries. This means fast gaming, streaming and downloading from virtually anywhere (except, maybe, the South Pole). Moreover, ExpressVPN has servers in countries that CyberGhost doesn’t cover – like Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Peru. This may not be important to most users, but is a dealbreaker for anyone who wants IP addresses from countries not covered by CyberGhost.
All in all, CyberGhost has more servers, but ExpressVPN covers a much larger number of countries. Depending on what matters to you – more concentrated servers vs. a larger, more dispersed network – either can be the winner here.
Conclusion: tie between CyberGhost and ExpressVPN.
By default, all the data you send and receive online is unencrypted, meaning that anyone who holds it can also view it with no restrictions. This can be problematic, because when you’re online, data can pass through dozens and hundreds of computers before reaching its destination. This is an even bigger concern when using VPNs, which route your data through remote servers. The good news is that all VPN services use some form of encryption. The bad news is that not all forms of encryption are created equal. In fact, some are downright easy to crack – which is why it’s important to know what a provider can here before making a purchase.
- By default, CyberGhost encrypts connections using 256-bit AES encryption with 2048-bit keys. This means that each key has more possible combinations than there are atoms in the known universe: a very tough encryption technology, indeed. Random keys are generated each time you log on, which means that criminals and other third parties can’t take their time trying to break your connections. Auxiliary protocols offered are L2TP/IPSec, which is optimized for mobile devices; PPTP, which works when OpenVPN doesn’t; IPSec, which is handy for certain commercial applications.
- ExpressVPN also uses 256-bit AES with 256-bit keys. At face value, you may assume the smaller number of beats means you’re less secure. However, the truth is that even 256-bit keys made with 256-bit AES would take the world’s best supercomputer quadrillions of years to crack. To understand how vast this number is, consider that all of the world’s processors would take over a century to crack a single key like this. In other words, ExpressVPN is no slouch simply because they use smaller keys.
In fact, ExpressVPN has an advantage over CyberGhost. The service offers all the same protocols, but also adds IKEv2 and SSTP. IKEv2 is optimized for iOS devices like iPads and iPhones. SSTP is a rarely used but important technology that bypasses hardcore censorship filters, like the Great Firewall of China, and may be slightly more attractive for Windows users since it is Microsoft proprietary. All in all, though, there’s a clear victor in this round, and it’s ExpressVPN.
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins this round.
Quality VPN services comes with apps that make installation easy. Ideally, you want to go through as few steps as possible and start using the service you want quickly. This is a benefit for advanced users, and an absolute necessity for beginners and intermediates, which makes it pretty important. Here’s how our 2 services measure up.
Installing ExpressVPN is easy. You don’t have to scour their website for download links; instead, their web page detects the device you’re using, and gives you a convenient Download button. If you want to install the software on another piece of software – say, a router – this is also easy using the “Set up on more devices” button. Moreover, you don’t have to login once you’ve downloaded the necessary file and installed it. Instead, you just use your unique activation code, presented on the download page, and paste it into the client. Put simply, ExpressVPN is very easy and convenient to install.
CyberGhost is quite easy to install too. You simply have to create an account and follow the on-screen instructions. Once you select a screen name and password, you’ll be given a unique PUK number to input into your app once it loads. Then, you get to choose the specific device you’re going to be using – and follow on-screen instructions to download CyberGhost and start running it. This is a very simple process, but it’s a little tougher than with ExpressVPN because you have to remember your PUK or write it down, as well as choose your device type yourself.
All in all, this is a very close round – but ExpressVPN is, once again, victorious.
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins.
Both ExpressVPN and CyberGhost come with a suite of applications. ExpressVPN’s 2 main ones are the Windows and macOS versions. Both are intuitive and easy to use, showing you your current server, on/off, choose location and menu buttons. If you don’t want to choose your locations, there’s a Smart Location feature that picks the closest one – and a list of recently used nodes that makes it easier to re-open previous connections. The Search box makes finding locations easy, too.
The main auxiliary app versions are for the Android and iOS. In both cases, logging into your account once you’ve installed the app is easy; you can just go to the ExpressVPN website, go to Setup > Device, and scan the QR code. Voila: you are now connected to your ExpressVPN. Once you’re inside your account, you’re given most of the same settings you get with the desktop versions. You can still pick servers manually or let the app handle this step automatically. You can still choose your encryption standards, although you’re limited to OpenVPN’s TCP and UDP. You can switch servers while running a connection, letting the app disconnect and reconnect automatically.
CyberGhost’s apps are, in some ways, even better. The Windows and Mac OS versions have a small pop-up window with the brand logo, an on/off button, and a “best location” setting that automatically picks servers for you. There’s a gear button that takes you to settings, and a server selection sub-menu that’s easy to find in the bottom left corner. The apps can take a second or two to load, but they look beautiful and work quickly. The server you’re connected to is presented inside an attractive little window in the center of the pop-up. An important advantage is that you can use one of 6 configuration profiles without having to set much (if anything) up manually.
The mobile app versions are, very surprisingly, virtually similar to the desktop ones. There are fewer settings because they have to fit on one screen – and as with ExpressVPN, there’s less choice in terms of encryption. Despite this, you can enjoy most of the same features and servers.
All in all, the two service’s apps are very similar, to the point of being virtually identical in terms of overall quality and convenience. Each has some unique features, like CyberGhost’s configuration profiles and ExpressVPN’s speed test – but that’s neither here nor there. This round, once again, is a tie.
Conclusion: tie between CyberGhost and ExpressVPN.
Restricted websites and Netflix
The ability to unblock restricted websites and services is key for any VPN, given that it’s the main reason users sign up to these services in the first place. Reasons range from wanting to overcome censorship from being able to watch local content libraries, most notably the American versions of Netflix and Hulu. Unfortunately, some websites – especially streaming ones – are aware of users trying to beat their geoblocking controls. They often block IPs known to belong to VPN services, so it’s important to know whether your provider can help you beat these blocks or not. The last thing you want to see after paying for several years of subscription is a message like this:
In our tests, ExpressVPN beat most censorship filters, including China’s. It can take several tries to get the website you need – but that’s the only hiccup. Facebook, WhatsApp and other services all work reliably as well, although it can take a couple of tries to find a server that allows for smooth HD video calls. All in all, ExpressVPN isn’t perfect – no VPN is – but it certainly has a proven ability to unblock most websites. With Netflix, we found that some connections were more problematic. For example, using a UK server got us to the French version of Netflix, but that’s a rare exception rather thant the rule. Most of the time, finding a Netflix-enabled server is a matter of seconds.
We expected that CyberGhost would be a better service, given that 2 of its settings are “unblock streaming” and “unblock common websites”. When using “unblock streaming”, we found that it was a little easier to find a server that works with Netflix quickly. Occasionally, you do have to disconnect and reconnect, but that’s something all VPNs struggle with, since Netflix tends to block IPs quickly. In terms of unblocking websites, things were a litttle more complicated. All the popular websites – Facebook, WhatsApp, Wikipedia – did become unblocked quickly and easily. However, less popular websites, including online poker rooms, lesser-known streaming services and foreign news sources were sometimes unreachable, requiring manual configuration.
Overall, we thought CyberGhost had a narrow edge here. Both services helped us access the web freely, but CyberGhost makes it very easy to find the the servers you need to unblock content regardless of your experience level.
Conclusion: CyberGhost wins this round.
As the last point of our review, let’s talk about the jurisdictions that each company is based in. This is an important point to consider, because some countries’ VPN providers – e.g. the UK’s and the USA’s – hand over users’ personal data quickly and easily. Fortunately, neither CyberGhost nor ExpressVPN are based in countries like that and here’s what that means for you.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, but don’t let the name fool you: the BVI are legally separate from the UK. This means that local authorities and companies don’t automatically have to cooperate with British intelligence agencies and government workers. Moreover, it means that the islands are exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major governments. This means that ExpressVPN is safe to use for virtually everyone.
CyberGhost’s story is different. It’s based in Romania – an EU country – but here’s the kicker. Unlike most EU countries, Romania is very liberal in terms of data privacy and internet security. The country has fought online censorship and data controls in the EU in the past, and has virtually never pressured companies to give up users’ information. In other words, CyberGhost may be based in the EU, but your data is safe there. Moreover, Romania isn’t part of the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes pacts either, giving you an extra layer of protection.
Conclusion: tie between ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.
ExpressVPN wins on speed, encryption, and ease of installation. CyberGhost wins at unblocking websites and streaming services. The other categories – software, server networks, ease of use – are all ties.
Does this mean that ExpressVPN is the better service? Not necessarily. It is faster, overall, but only by a little bit. This can make a difference to live streamers and casual gamers, but not most other user categories. Moreover, the encryption advantage comes in the form of SSTP connections which are useful for people living in China and other countries with censorship and government snooping – but unimportant outside of that. The service may trump CyberGhost in a few departments, but whether it’s overall better or not depends on your individual needs.
The same goes for CyberGhost. It is generally better at unblocking websites, including streaming services like Netflix – but it can be a little less fast. Nevertheless, remember that the categories in which the services tied – like server networks and ease of use – can easily go CyberGhost’s way, considering the higher total node count and more beginner-friendly apps. In other words, as the old motivational adage goes, “everyone’s a winner” in this specific review.
After reading this article and/or trying out the services for yourself, which one do you think is better? Leave a comment below and let us know; we love readers’ feedback!