The popularity of ProtonVPN is rapidly growing. Its ranks are getting higher and recommendations better. We decided to prepare our own ProtonVPN review, and to verify if all the stated features and characteristics make ProtonVPN one of the key players in the market.
A wide range of offered reviews claim ProtonVPN to be safe and secure, and this is something one would naturally expect from the service developed by people who created ProtonMail, probably the most secure e-mail service. But is it really so? Let’s take a closer look at ProtonVPN to find out.
According to ProtonVPN official website, its history began at CERN, which is the place of birth of the world wide web. The same CERN Scientist, who created the ProtonMail encrypted mail service to commemorate the 25ths anniversary of the web, decided to come up with a VPN solution to allow even better protection on the web for journalists and public activists who used ProtonMail.
As a crowdfunded project, ProtonVPN keeps being supported by the community. The team of qualified engineers, scientists and developers are working on further improvement and development of the service to guarantee the leading encryption connection standards, undeniable security, competitive speed, and moderate pricing.
It all sounds great, and still, we cannot but mention that if you dig a little dipper, it becomes clear that PtoronVPN/ProtonMail is actually closely associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, as this is where they initially got the funding. At the same time, you won’t find a single mention of the fact through the company’s official channel – they prefer to be treated as an exclusively Swiss company.
Anyway, the company’s official jurisdiction really is in Switzerland, which unlike, the US is rather privacy-friendly. It is not a 14-eyes country (just a cooperative member of the eyes alliance), which make it a good, but not perfect location for VPN’s HQ. Zero-logs policy the company maintains is a big plus in this regard.
But let’s move on to basic features ProtonVPN has to offer to see if the service is really focused on users’ privacy and security as it claims.
What Do You Get with ProtonVPN?
At the first glance, the set of features one can get with ProtonVPN looks quite impressive. As the service was designed on the back of protection experts, its encryption and protocol standards are top-notch. Additionally, other important features such as connections and customer support don’t disappoint. However, there are certain drawbacks that may interfere with ProtonVPN functioning and use.
- Based in Genève, Switzerland;
- Advanced security features;
- Strong encryption;
- Consistently speedy connection;
- Double-hop configurations;
- No logs;
- Perfect forward secrecy;
- Free tier;
- Built-in Tor support;
- Up to 10 connections at a time;
- DSN leak protection;
- Unlimited bandwidth;
- P2P support.
- Comparatively high prices (above average);
- Manual setup for iOS;
- Frequent connection issues;
- Bitcoin is not accepted;
- No live chat.
Privacy and Security
So, let’s proceed with our review of ProtonVPN and shift our focus back to privacy and security. ProtonVPN claims that the safety and security of the client are their primary concern. We do agree that advanced security system developed by ProtonVPN eliminates the ability of attackers to eavesdrop on your connection.
Encryption and Protocols
All the traffic within the network is encrypted with absolutely secure AES-256 encryption. Additionally, the network is characterized by carefully selected encryption cipher suites. Perfect Forward Secrecy is used to ensure that encrypted traffic can’t be decrypted or captured in case the encryption key from the session is compromised. Each connection has a separate specifically generated encryption key to eliminate possible risks.
OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols are used as they may guarantee the maximal security of the connection. Furthermore, a customer may be 100% sure that the VPN tunnel will not use an already compromised protocol.
While OpenVPN is a gold industry standard, most VPNs offer several more options for users to choose from (L2TP, PPTP). With PrrotonVPN other protocols are not available, which is a disappointing fact for the users of older devices that do not support OpenVPN.
Apart from the top-notch encryptions and protocols, ProtonVPN has some extra useful features:
- Kill Switch. Both desktop and mobile apps feature a kill switch that is supposed to block all the network connections the moment the connection with ProtonVPN server is lost. The function is ultimately useful. It helps to prevent revealing of your IP address when the VPN server disconnects.
- Secure Core. To ensure ultimate security and anonymity, the traffic is routed through several servers (in Switzerland, Sweden or Iceland) before leaving ProtonVPN’s network. It is worth noting, though, that enabling this feature leads to a significant speed drop.
ProtonVPN Logging Policy
Privacy-focused users will appreciate ProtonVPN’s adherence to zero-logging policy. With this provider, you can rest assured that your VPN connection is anonymous and no personal information or other details of your connections are stored by the company.
However, to maximize the safety of user’s experience, the platform preserves a single timestamp of the accounts latest login and ProtonID. Anyway, this will not let any surveillance service track you, and no information about your location and the time of your staying logged is stored.
ProtonVPN also features the built-in Tor support. Literally, it means that a customer can route all the traffic through Tor network, as well as access darkweb sites. Thus, a customer gets a unique opportunity to access Onion sites conveniently just in one click.
ProtonVPN is an undeniable expert in privacy and security. With more than 200 servers in more than 20 locations, it is also a good tool for accessing geo-restricted content. However, a great number of servers to choose from do not guarantee stable performance. Therefore, we tested ProtonVPN in terms of speed, and for DNS and IP leaks to see if we can expect to have a pleasant experience with this service.
Speed is one of the most important features of VPN, as it determines whether the service will be a good match for torrent downloads, streaming, and gaming, and these activities are among the major reason to use a VPN. Based on the results of several speed tests we came to the conclusion that ProtonVPN’s speed is overall decent, but lags behind the industry leaders. It depends to a great extent on the location of the server. Here are the results we’ve obtained.
- UK servers. Ping – 46ms, download – 53Mbps, upload – 49Mbps;
- EU servers. Ping – 66ms, download – 54.46Mbps, upload – 37.86Mbps;
- US servers. Ping – 190ms, download – 24.6Mbps, upload – 36.4Mbps;
- Asia servers. Ping – 317ms, download – 16Mbps, upload – 6.4Mbps.
Naturally, when connecting to more distant locations, one can expect to experience a significant speed drop. Overall, if the speed is crucial for you, and you plan to connect to distant servers (like US servers to unlock US Netflix), ProtonVPN is not your best choice.
No Leaks Detected
Web-RTC and DNS leak can expose your real IP address. The issue can be caused mainly by the connection conflicts, which results in data seeping through.
What happens at his point? Governments, hackers, and ISP can potentially spot you from a long distance.
We were happy to discover that all the ProtonVPN connections turned out to be leak-free. All the conducted tests proved that the service guarantees 100% safety and protection of the connection.
Torrenting and Streaming
Relying on a VPN with the safety of your data is just a part of a deal, as the ability to torrent and stream is highly valued by many users.
While ProtonVPN is good at keeping the IP address anonymous, speed tests results turn it into a rather bad choice for torrenting and streaming. Which means you may torrent with no worries that this fact will become evident to your ISP, but it may take you ages to actually get the file downloaded.
Moreover, with ProtonVPN’s free and basic plans you will not have access to torrent file sharing at all (the plans come with numerous limitation, which we’ll discuss in detail shortly).
The reason for the inconvenience can be easily explained, though. P2P can enhance the load on the servers, putting more pressure and restricting the ability to subsidize free accounts. Nevertheless, torrenting is available on paid plans, on certain servers.
With Plus and Visionary plans (top tiers) you’ll get a chance to use the Secure Core feature, enjoy safe file sharing and secure streaming.
Is Torrenting Allowed?
Generally speaking, ProtonVPN allows torrenting on the condition that is intended for “personal, non-commercial use.” Therefore, Plus and Visionary plans users can torrent using selected servers in torrenting-friendly location.
What about Netflix?
According to the information, offered within ProtonVPN website, Netflix can be successfully accessed on certain servers. We’ve managed to access Netflix on Netherland severs, and after a number of tries one of the US servers worked as well. Therefore, for now ProtonVPN does successfully unblock Netflix, but it may take you a while to find a server that will work for you.
Other Streaming Options
When it comes to other popular streaming options such as Kodi, Firestick and Popcorn time, ProtonVPN doesn’t block them, but they are only available on some specific servers.
How Much Does ProtonVPN Cost?
Currently, ProtonVPN offers 4 plans, one of them being free. The pricing is as follows:
- Free plan – free;
- Basic plan – $4/mo ($5 if billed monthly);
- Plus plan – $8/mo ($10 if billed monthly);
- Visionary plan – $24/mo.
Unlike most VPN providers who offer one single plan with different billing periods, and therefore different prices per month, ProtonVPN’s plans differ in terms of available features. All the paid plans are by default offered as yearly plans, and in this way, you save 20%. You can manually switch to monthly plans with Basic and Plus packages, while for Visionary plan such an option is not available.
Let’s take a closer look at what each plan has to offer.
- Free. This plan presupposes a simple set of primary functions. You can only use the service on one device at a time and will have servers in three selected countries at your disposal. You are not likely to have bandwidth limitations or annoying ads, but the speed will be comparatively low. Advanced features, such as Tor support, Secure Core or P2P are naturally not a part of the deal.
- Basic. The plan allows access to servers in all the countries where the service operates. The number of devices that can be used simultaneously is limited to two gadgets. The speed is higher, but still not the top speed offered by the service. No advanced features, except for P2P are provided.
- Plus. With this plan ProtonVPN will work at the highest speed, as customers with this plan have an opportunity to connect to unique high-speed Plus servers. Five simultaneous connections are available. Moreover, your traffic can be routed through the Secure Core and Tor networks.
- Visionary. The most expensive plan you 10 simultaneous connections, plus ProtonMail Visionary is included in the plan. You will also have access to all the extra features available in the Plus plan (but you’ll have to pay three times more for the ultimate tier). Thus, it makes sense to go for this plan only if you want to protect all your devices plus the devices of your family members and use the company’s encrypted mail service.
Let us note that the company offers a 30-day money back guarantee irrespective of the plan you have chosen. PayPal and major credit cards are accepted.
In the event that you encounter any problems when using the VPN service, you may contact their customer support via one of the two available options. It is either an online chat with a bot that can help you with basic problems or sending an email.
We were quite disappointed to see no live chat option is available, as pretty often the whole process of back-and-forth requests and replies sending may take up to a week.
However, it took ProtonVPN less than 24 hours to answer our request, just like other users’ reviews advice. Moreover, the answer was quite comprehensive and informative.
Do We Recommend ProtonVPN?
ProtonVPN is a new player in the market that was designed primarily to ensure maximum security and privacy to its users. Stellar encryption and top-notch protocols along with some special features like Secure Core make it a solid pick for privacy fans.
However, we do understand that most users want to use a VPN service to the full. With not really satisfying speed tests results along with limited availability of torrenting and streaming, ProtonVPN may look slightly overpriced.
Lack of a dedicated app for iOS may be disappointing for some users, and a live chat is yet another thing that would let ProtonVPN customers have a much better user experience.
Overall, ProtonVPN does have the potential, but it still has a lot of things to work upon.