A New Breed of VPN Router

To get a network-wide VPN up and running traditionally, you’ve had to buy a compatible router and flash custom firmware. But with the Aircove, ExpressVPN is ready to go the moment you finish setting up the router. I tested out the device to see if the all-in-one solution is worth your money.

Turns out, the Aircove is a pretty nifty bit of technology. It’s ridiculously easy to set up—though a bit of patience will come in handy—comes with a very user-friendly UI, and is a lot cheaper than the competition. While it has a few small issues, I could imagine it being a fan favorite.

First Impressions and Available Ports

Aircove box
Fergus O’Sullivan / How-To Geek

A big selling point for the ExpressVPN Aircove, the biggest if you’ve ever set up a VPN router manually, is that it comes ready to go out of the box. I was very curious to test this out for myself, so once it arrived in the mail, I started testing this out immediately. Turns out, there was truth in advertising; the Aircove can be up and running in minutes.

First, though, let’s go over the router itself, which is manufactured by Hong Kong-based GL.iNet. It’s small and quite light, weighing about a pound, or half a kilo. It comes with a power cable, an extra ethernet cable, and a few leaflets that detail the warranty details and instructions on how to set up the Aircove.

The ExpressVPN Aircove is a rebranded GL.iNet GL-AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 router that you can buy for $129. Of course, while you will save a couple of bucks if you choose this over the Aircove, GL.iNet’s device won’t come running ExpressVPN’s firmware.

front view of the Aircove
Fergus O’Sullivan / How-To Geek

Overall, I like the design of the Aircove. It’s unmistakably a router with the four antennas sticking out, and seems to have a decent range. It’s a Wi-Fi 6 router (with dual-band Wi-Fi speeds of up to 1,200 Mbps)and ExpressVPN boasts that it can cover a 1,600 square foot home, which seems about right. My apartment is a little smaller than that and I had no connection issues at any point. Even in the stairwell below outside my door I could catch a signal, albeit a weak one.

Related: What Is Wi-Fi 6? (802.11ax)

At the back of the router there are four LAN connection ports, one entry point where you connect your modem, as well as a power hookup. On the side, there is a USB port, but that’s currently non-functional. According to David Gilbert, Aircove’s product manager, it may be activated in the future through a firmware update, but for now it will remain non-functional for security reasons.

back view of the Aircove
Fergus O’Sullivan / How-To Geek

Really the only criticism I have of the design of the Aircove is that it doesn’t really have any lights on it to show it’s working. I know it sounds a bit silly, but when first switching it on, I wasn’t sure if the power was on. It turns out there is one, but it took a short conversation with Gilbert to realize it was there. It’s a small gripe, but I found it a little annoying.

Setting Up the ExpressVPN Aircove

To set up the ExpressVPN Aircove, you just need to plug it into a power outlet and then connect the router to your existing router or modem with the included ethernet cable. That’s it. No need to bridge the modem (if you don’t want to) or anything, just plug and play.

That said, in my case, it took about ten minutes for the router to start working properly, until then it had trouble connecting. I guess it’s normal, so don’t panic if there’s an issue at first. You didn’t just buy an expensive paperweight, it just needs to warm up, I guess.

When it’s working, you need to take any one of your devices, connect to the new Wi-Fi network created by the Aircove, and then connect to it. From there, connect to expressvpnrouter.com and follow the steps on screen; the Aircove should be set up within a few minutes. In my case, it took about five, which is a huge improvement over setting up most other VPN routers.

If you can handle creating an online shopping account, say, you have the skills to set up the Aircove. It’s a far cry from manually configuring a router.

You Can Use Multiple Servers at Once

Once everything is ready to go, the device you accessed expressvpnrouter.com with will automatically go into the user interface for the Aircove. Note that this isn’t part of the ExpressVPN app or even a separate app. It’s entirely in-browser via the site. I found this a little confusing at first, especially since ExpressVPN refers to the router interface as an “app” in some of its documentation.

Regardless, this interface is the other massive selling point for the Aircove. Besides the easy set up, this UI makes it very easy to decide which of your devices will use the VPN and which not. On top of that, you can also designate different server locations for various apps. It’s incredibly handy and very easy to get a handle on.

ExpressVPN Aircove UI home group

In the above example, I have four devices connected to the Aircove’s Wi-Fi network, my laptop and phone, and those of my girlfriend’s. Currently, all four of those, when using the Aircove, will connect to Barcelona, Spain as that’s where the router is set to. However, if my girlfriend wanted to stream a show on U.K. Netflix, this setting obviously wouldn’t work.

This is where it gets interesting. ExpressVPN will let me add a new group, which I’ll call streaming, which will connect to a streaming server in the U.K. I’ll then add the device “K’s Laptop” to it, meaning she can now watch U.K. Netflix while I’m still using the Spanish server on my work laptop.

ExpressVPN Aircove UI new group

Adding and removing devices from a group is a matter of clicking and dragging, no contextual menus required. You can have up to five groups, meaning you can have up to five server locations for all your devices. You just need to move devices between groups to get them to connect there.

Another neat little feature is that you don’t have to connect to a server, you can also set groups to connect without the VPN—great if you’re downloading games from Steam, say—or even set it to not having internet access at all. For example, below I have created a third group and set it so the devices in there cannot access the web at all.

ExpressVPN Aircove UI no internet

I really like this flexibility, and this will be a huge draw for anybody that has ever had to manually change server locations on other routers. That said, ExpressVPN offers this UI on any router that has its firmware installed, not just the Aircove.

Should You Buy the ExpressVPN Aircove Router?

I really like the ExpressVPN Aircove, simply because it makes it attractive to use a VPN router. For most, it doesn’t make sense to connect their entire network to a VPN router: devices are a pain to set up and changing servers usually means messing around with finicky settings. The Aircove circumvents both these problems neatly with its easy install and friendly interface.

If you have a lot of devices that you need to connect and you like ExpressVPN—read our full review for more on the service—then the Aircove is an attractive choice. Especially since it costs $189, it is a good bit cheaper than most VPN-enabled routers.

Related: ExpressVPN Review: An Easy-to-Use and Secure VPN for Most People

That said, if you have fewer than five devices in your home, or at least only five that you want to connect to a VPN, then the Aircove won’t be all that useful to you. Much the same goes for people that don’t like ExpressVPN, since the router won’t accept any other firmware.

However, the Aircove will work without an ExpressVPN subscription, too, though using it that way seems a bit silly. You can get cheaper routers than the Aircove if you don’t need a VPN. Still, it’s good to know the Aircove won’t be dead weight just because you didn’t renew your ExpressVPN subscription.

Overall, the Aircove is a milestone in router development, and I expect plenty of other VPN providers will follow in ExpressVPN’s footsteps. If you’re interested in getting the Aircove, you can buy it on Amazon and check it out. At the time of writing, it’s only available in the U.S., with a rollout expected to Europe and the U.K. in early 2023. Availability in other parts of the world is as yet unknown.


ExpressVPN Aircove Router

  • Quick setup
  • Easy to use
  • Decently priced

  • ExpressVPN subscription is an additional cost
  • No working USB port

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