Setup and Feedback
For our usual setup, we normally use the superb Asus RT-N66U with a mix of super-fast Wi-Fi and GigabitLAN connections. We also employ several TP-Link TL-PA8030P AV1200 3-Port Gigabit Pass Through Powerline adapters around the office to cut down the amount of Wi-Fi dependency. All LAN cabled traffic is via CAT 6 cabling, utilising the GigabitLAN capabilities of the setup.
This may seem like a lot of setup but it’s not, and not much more than the average techno-family home with three or four members, who do not want any bottlenecks or packet loss issues. We directly replaced the Asus RT-N66U with the Linksys WRT1200AC and utilised the very same setup, we tried to achieve a seamless integration that would mimic a small office or normal family home. We are not going to compare the Asus RT-N66U with the Linksys WRT1200AC, the Asus RT-N66U is a very well-known and high end router, the Linksys WRT1200AC is a solid router, but not in the same feature range as the Asus.
Our main concerns were around ping, either being missing or high when gaming. For anyone who doesn’t know, a high ping will introduce lag into your game play, causing a degraded experience and may even get you kicked from the server. We tested with World of Warcraft and Battlefield 1 and found that World of Warcraft’s ping increase from 12ms/12ms using the Titan Panel to 17ms/17ms with ExpressVPN connected to the Reading server.
We tested World of Warcraft for the day, and noticed no issues with ExpressVPN and our ping was a solid 17ms. Battlefield 1 was a slightly different matter, normally our ping in the office is higher than with Battlefield 4, being around 9ms at its most responsive, and usually sits around 16ms for the best multiplayer servers.
With ExpressVPN this was the very same, 16ms ping for the good servers, which impressed us a lot. We gamed online with Battlefield 1 and noticed no network related issues, no lag or slow down, and the ping remained constant. We did notice some servers had a really high ping, but there was plenty of normal ping servers on the multiplayer list to game normally.
We were satisfied with gaming, so what’s next? We tested YouTube Red, a service that’s not in the UK and it was accessible without issue. In fact, we had no content or blocking issues from any content around the world. We did change the server connection to test various locations and found the same result, so it definitely works as a VPN tunnel to other geographical locations. There’s not much to say, it just works as you would expect. It’s like using a proxy with none of the usual drawbacks.
Download speed next and this is the only issue we had, though it was minor. We noticed some speed issues with bandwidth when using online speed tests. This was download only and would only really affect downloading a file. This was around 50% of our normal speed of 9Mb/s download. We had noticed there was a firmware update notification at the top of the router’s setup pages so we updated with the latest WRT1200AC firmware dated Nov2016 and retested.
We got some encouraging results, but we still noticed some fall off in our downloads speeds, and constantly benchmarked the performance at around 75% of normal. You can accuse us of being optimists, but that’s not bad considering the other benefits and the fact that you are using VPN to connect to the internet, effectively a middle man, but with your privacy in mind.
Just like most components that only have a few actual outputs or functions, the ExpressVPN Router and service do everything they are supposed to without any fuss. That’s going to be our main point here, it was truly seamless, and with the choice of a Linksys WRT1200AC router, throughput performance, or Wi-Fi performance was as expected, good for the type of hardware. Between Wi-Fi testing on an iPad 2 Air, our Server and main test system, we had no issues with any aspect of the ExpressVPN service, in fact it enhanced our internet presence.
VPN has privacy built in, but it was always a secondary connection, everyone who works from home now and again will know this. With the ExpressVPN service it’s not a secondary connection, just one, and it’s as close to “Plug n Play” as you can get for networking. Speed was the only downside, but if you game, surf or are just a general internet user who wants more protection and privacy, ExpressVPN is the type of service that will give you what you want. We would rather there was no need for this type of service, but for the foreseeable future, it’s looking like a must. Oh, and did we mention there’s zero logging too…