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ProtonVPN – sounds like an energy weapon from the StarCraft franchise. It might have some highly-technological features after all though, seeing as how many reviewers have granted it the Best Free VPN award.
You heard right, this is a free VPN. Well, one part of it is, at least. There’s also a premium variant waiting for you to make the next step, burning with enthusiasm. Apparently, the premium version has plenty of cool features, and it rises to a new level of excellence.
- Five simultaneous connections
- Secure Core (Double VPN) network. Which is fast. And very secure
- Supports Bitcoin and cash for anonymous payments
- P2P torrenting is fully supported on certain servers
- DNS leak protection and a handy kill-switch
- No IP logs
- Supports routers
- WebRTC IPv6 leaks on Android and Windows
- Netflix and BBC iPlayer are inaccessible
Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of ProtonVPN.
Tests were made on the UK, US, Australian, and Hong Kong servers. While the results aren’t mind-blowing, they aren’t in any way bad. The average speed is 20 Mbps, while the maximum recorded was 91.8 Mbps, in the UK.
You can safely stream media content in HD with this speed. It goes well beyond what other supposedly good VPNs achieve.
Surprisingly, there isn’t such a rough speed plummeting when activating the double-hop Secure Core feature. Considering the very low-speed penalty, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t keep this feature permanently active. Its effect on security and privacy is anything but low.
Looking at other reviews, we can see some of the speed tests they did:
- Ping: 190ms
- Download speed: 24.6 Mbps (75% slower than the benchmark speed)
- Upload speed: 36.4 Mbps (31% slower than the benchmark)
- Ping: 66ms
- Download speed: 54.46 Mbps (44% slower)
- Upload speed: 37.86 Mbps (29% slower)
Asia servers (Hong Kong):
- Ping: 317ms
- Download speed: 16 Mbps (84% slower)
- Upload speed: 6.4 Mbps (88% slower)
- Ping: 46ms
- Download speed: 52 Mbps (46% slower)
- Upload speed: 47 Mbps (11% slower)
The Asian servers are especially cranky and slow-witted, as you can see, but I think there’s plenty of space for development. Let’s not forget that even industry leaders such as NordVPN and IPVanish started off slowly and grew wings later on.
Its activity spans across 16 countries, with a total of 140 servers at your disposal to do as you see fit. All of them are bare metal.
Out of five servers we tested for Netflix, only one of them worked. The Netherlands server, to be more specific, won this prize. Two US servers, one Canadian, and one in the UK failed to access Netflix.
As for torrenting, it’s not allowed on free plans at all. Even the premium packages won’t provide you with unlimited torrenting. You have a certain bandwidth that you have to respect.
The reason behind this? Read it for yourself – “P2P would increase the load on our servers due to torrenting and this would put more pressure on us, ultimately not allowing us to subsidize the free accounts from the paid ones”.
Sure, this is understandable, but they also invoke the Swiss law which says that file-sharing is permitted for personal use only.
With these restrictions, you might find it hard and impractical to engage in torrenting with Proton VPN.
It does have a kill-switch, yes. No, it doesn’t have obfuscation servers, and yes it does have a self-hosted and proxied DNS.
ProtonVPN functions only on the OpenVPN protocol. While you might think this is a good thing, since OpenVPN is recognized around the world for being on the highest-possible level of cyber-security, variability is always good.
Assuming that there are users out there with old devices that are incompatible with OpenVPN, they are out of luck. ProtonVPN becomes unusable for them. That’s why it’s good to provide options, even if some are clearly inferior solutions.
As for the other encryption protocols others than OpenVPN and IKEv2, ProtonVPN lacks PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and SSTP compatibility.
The OpenVPN data channel is based on the AES-256-CBC cipher with the HMAC SHA-512 hash authentication. The control channel impresses even more with a variety of cipher suites, the weakest of them being the AES-256 cipher with the RSA-2048 handshake, and the HMAC SHA-1 hash authentication.
Perfect Forward Secrecy? Of course. It’s provided by a Diffie Hellman key exchange.
All in all, this is a very secure setup we can see here. With ProtonVPN, you’ll have no worries of hackers and other third-parties tracking your traffic or worse. Behind the proton neutralizer that disintegrates any perceived threat, you can rest safely.
In terms of jurisdiction, ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland. This is both a good and a bad thing.
Firstly, Switzerland is neither a member of the 14-Eyes Surveillance Alliance, and neither does it subject itself to the EU legislation. Moreover, the country is famous for its privacy and internet neutrality laws.
However, the same country has recently passed some alarming surveillance laws that force ISPs and telecom operators to store in-depth metadata connection logs for up to 12 months.
While the wording of the laws is unclear, and we don’t actually know if this applies to VPN services, it’s enough to raise some question marks.
Other than this, everything is crystal clear. No logs to put your identity or personal data in danger. ProtonVPN is 99% of the way there, to a true no-logs policy.
You can also use the Tor network together with ProtonVPN. The feature to use both of them is something not many VPNs on the market are able to implement. While you can automatically configure it through the client itself, I highly suggest you use the Tor browser directly while connected to the VPN.
It’s much safer to do it this way. ProtonVPN runs its own Tor servers, so you don’t have to worry about any infected Tor exit nodes.
Ease of Use
Compatibility-wise, ProtonVPN is available on the following platforms:
You are given access to manual setup guides for Windows (OpenVPN GUI), Mac (Tunnelblick), Linux, iOS (OpenVPN Connect), and Android (OpenVPN for Android and OpenVPN Connect).
The Windows client looks really slick. It has a very professional and clean design. You can see the map of the world on the main page, showing all the servers you have access to, as well as additional information on each of them.
You can also Quick Connect to the fastest server available. The client does this for you. Hell yeah.
Moreover, the servers that support Secure Core, Tor, and the specific pricing plans are clearly labeled as such.
All in all, it’s a very good experience. Fast, to the point, and practical.
The first line of support comes with the FAQ articles. While not an encyclopedia in itself, this section answers some of the most common issues users meet with.
Alternatively, you can email the support team. Who will forward a reply in a couple of hours or a day at the very most.
They won’t go out of their way to explain to you the ins and outs of the issue, but they will, however, point you to some links that contain all the information you need. And some which you don’t need.
These are ProtonVPN’s plans, both the free and premium ones:
From being totally free up to $24 per month with the Visionary plan, the most expensive one. Paying annually gets you a 20% discount. If you’re using their ProtonMail, then you get another 20% discount.
By all standards, the Plus plan seems to be the best choice you’ve got. It gives you access to all of ProtonVPN’s features, as well as having a modest price.
The 60-day money-back guarantee comes as the cherry on top of the cake. Besides being extremely generous, it shows their confidence in their services.
Payment can be made through a credit or debit card or PayPal. Bitcoin is also accepted, as well as cash.
Should you choose ProtonVPN?
It’s certainly an online security provider you should give a try. If you weren’t already hyped about ProtonVPN after the resounding success of the ProtonMail, then now you have a reason to try it.
It has plenty of good things, cool features, above-average functions, and a pretty good performance. And like I said before, it can only get better, and not worse.
ProtonVPNis extremely fast, simple and private: a truly standout VPNGo to ProtonVPN