ProtonVPN Review – Good but Pricey
Is This Rather Expensive VPN Worth Its Price?
Pricing and Features
We don’t usually like tiered pricing structures in VPNs since they’re generally a ploy to conceal a product’s actual cost and upsell users. Thankfully, most VPNs have avoided this strategy and instead promote longer subscriptions with rising savings. Although ProtonVPN places sophisticated functions behind subscription levels, their design appears to be more about accessibility than upsells. With ProtonVPN, you can receive an excellent VPN experience without paying for the most expensive subscription.
ProtonVPN’s initial subscription tier is their free VPN service, which has just three VPN availability zones (Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States) and enables only one device to connect at a time. To use ProtonVPN’s free tier, you must first establish an account with the company. Even for their premium memberships, neither Mullvad nor IVPN demands any information.
Despite these limits, ProtonVPN is unusual in that, as previously stated, it does not restrict the amount of data a free member may use. KeepSolid VPN Lite’s free version has no data restrictions but does confine users to a single server. TunnelBear’s free version limits you to 500MB of protected traffic each month, Hotspot Shield’s free version limits you to 500MB each day, and KeepSolid VPN Lite’s free version has no actual data restrictions. Still, it does limit customers to a single server. Other free VPNs have further limitations. As a result of all of this, we prefer ProtonVPN over all of the alternative free VPNs we’ve tried.
ProtonVPN Basic is the second option, which charges $5 each month (which comes out to $48 per year, $79 per two years). This tier gives you access to all of ProtonVPN’s VPN locations, but it restricts you to only two different devices and a selection of servers. You may use P2P as well as BitTorrent file sharing and the NetShield ad blocker at this level. Mullvad, the Editors’ Choice winner, charges $6.03 per month for unlimited access to its VPN service.
We chose the third of four price tiers for our review, which costs $10 per month ($96 every year, $159 every two years). This is about identical to the average monthly pricing of a VPN we’ve tested ($10.05 per month), and it’s still cheaper than rivals with similar capabilities, such as Editors’ Choice finalist NordVPN. This subscription gives you access to all of ProtonVPN’s VPN servers and allows you to use up to five devices simultaneously. It also allows you to connect to Plus servers. These servers are only available to ProtonVPN’s top two tiers. In addition, customers gain VPN access to the Tor anonymization network, which is a unique feature. Users can access tor without paying or using a VPN, although it’s great to have. At the Plus level, there are additional dedicated servers for streaming video.
If all of that isn’t enough, you may upgrade to the Visionary plan, which costs $30 per month ($288 yearly, $479 every two years) and is the most expensive of the four price categories. This tier contains all of the capabilities of the previous level, but it increases the number of devices that may be connected at the same time to ten. With a Visionary plan, you receive access to the highest level of ProtonMail, ProtonVPN’s encrypted and secure email service. That includes 20GB of ProtonMail storage, fifty email aliases, ten email domains supported, and up to five users per email account. A secure contact book, private ProtonCalendar, and the upcoming ProtonDrive file vault are all included with ProtonMail.
Although ProtonVPN has a typical monthly pricing plan, the same cannot be said for its yearly cost. Because most firms offer substantial discounts for longer-term subscriptions, the average yearly price of a VPN we evaluated is $71.58. ProtonVPN Plus subscriptions cost $96 per year or $159 per two years. On the other side, Kaspersky Secure Connection is just $29.99 per year. Despite the cost reductions, we advise against signing up for a long-term VPN subscription right now. Instead, obtain a trial or free VPN subscription to test how it works in your house and with the services you need before committing to a high-cost plan.
If you are ready to sign up, you may purchase subscriptions to ProtonVPN through PayPal or by using a major credit card. Users can make payments with Bitcoin, but you must first register an account. We’ve only seen this option Mullvad and IVPN, but ProtonVPN says it would take payments delivered straight to its headquarters.
If you find that you require additional simultaneous connections, ProtonVPN allows you to purchase them individually. You may add a Professional ProtonMail account from the subscription portal. After that, for $2 a month, you can use as many VPN connections as you like, with lower pricing for more extended subscriptions.
Don’t get the impression that you can obtain a reliable VPN version just about anywhere. VPNs that provide a free version generally do so with a money-back guarantee. Services that follow the free-forever paradigm are challenging to find.
In this regard, ProtonVPN is among the best alternatives available. Especially since it is free of limitations like data caps used by most other freemium VPN services to reduce the stress on their server infrastructure, this may be an excellent tool for safeguarding your privacy without having to pay any money.
Proton VPN’s Core Servers
Access to multihop servers is included in the ProtonVPN Plus subscription, which is uncommon and deserves more explanation. ProtonVPN claims that it owns these servers, and they are solely located in countries with strict privacy legislation. They are physically housed in safe institutions. Your VPN connection takes two hops when you log in via their Core servers. First, your device connects to the secure servers and then to the VPN server you choose.
While a VPN’s encrypted tunnel secures your data, it makes no difference if an attacker has taken over the VPN server. The Core server method ensures that your information is safe while traveling from your computer to the Secure Core server, password-protected. If the next VPN server you access after the Core server has been hacked, whoever has seized control will be unable to learn anything about you since your communication will appear to be coming from the Secure Core server rather than your actual machine. Tor is comparable, but Tor is more complicated, with many more hops between you and your destination.
Therefore, Multihop connections come at a significant speed and performance cost, but it is a seldom encountered feature that should put even the most worried mind at ease. Comparable multihop VPN connections may be available from other companies, but in our experience, the connection through Proton was just a little more responsive than others.
Proton VPN Protocols
VPN technology has been floating around for a long time, and you can pick from various encrypted tunnels offered through many different companies. The WireGuard protocol is the latest VPN craze. This open-source protocol may be scrutinized for faults at any time, uses cutting-edge encryption, and appears to provide considerably faster internet connections than other choices. WireGuard isn’t available with ProtonVPN, but this isn’t always an issue given how young the technology is. In any event, the firm claims that WireGuard support will be available by the end of 2021.
In all of its iOS, Android, Linux, and Windows apps, ProtonVPN says it employs OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) and IKEv2, all of which are great and safe alternatives. The macOS app supports only IKEv2.
Proton VPN Servers and Server Distribution
ProtonVPN has a 54-country spread, which is somewhat more than the 51-country standard among the VPNs we’ve examined. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, has a whopping 94 countries covered. Having additional server locations is beneficial since it increases your chances of finding a VPN server near you, resulting in improved speed and more possibilities for spoofing your actual location.
ProtonVPN deserves praise for expanding its global reach. The firm now has server locations in Africa and India, two continents that VPN providers typically overlook. Notably, the firm has been slowly growing its worldwide footprint and actively solicits customer opinions on which countries to include.
Having VPN servers in areas with oppressive internet rules does not guarantee that users will bypass censorship, but it may give a measure of protection and privacy. Russia, China (Hong Kong), and Turkey are among the countries covered by ProtonVPN.
ProtonVPN offers a good-sized server network that has constantly been growing over time. It has risen to 1,067, although this is still a long way from CyberGhost VPN’s 6,900 servers. While having many servers is good, it doesn’t always imply you’ll get better service.
Virtual servers are digitally defined servers, which means they may host several virtual servers on a single physical server. VPN servers configured to appear in a place other than their actual location are known as virtual locations. Both aren’t intrinsically bad, but we prefer VPN providers to be open about their infrastructure and its location. According to a ProtonVPN spokesperson, the firm exclusively employs “bare metal” servers, which are dedicated computers located precisely where they claim to be.
ProtonVPN claims to utilize complete disk encryption for physical security, making any seized server unavailable. The firm also claims that because its dedicated servers are not virtual, they are more challenging to hack. Any server that goes down due to “unforeseen circumstances” is promptly erased and re-provisioned. Other VPNs have taken it a step further by running their servers entirely in RAM.
Proton VPN and Privacy
It’s critical that every VPN service respects your privacy and safeguards your data. After all, the primary purpose of using a VPN is to restrict access to personal information. We think that ProtonVPN is working in the best interest of its clients after reviewing its paperwork and interacting with the firm. However, verifying this with absolute confidence is very difficult. If you have any cause to believe you cannot trust a VPN provider, search for another one. There are plenty of options available.
ProtonVPN’s spokesperson assures me that the firm only generates money through subscription purchases, not from selling user information and that the company “uses no targeted advertising or profiling.”
ProtonVPN is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and is owned by Proton Technologies AG. It is registered in the Swiss Commercial Registry and is governed by Swiss legislation. As a result, it only answers to information demands made according to an authorized Swiss court order, demanding that the investigation’s target be told. Even if ProtonVPN were forced to reply to a request, it would offer little or no information. ProtonVPN received a valid information request in January 2019, according to the company’s transparency report, but it did not have any information to offer. All of this is good in terms of privacy and security.
ProtonVPN’s applications are open-sourced, which means that any researcher may check for any flaws. It also runs a bug bounty program, which pays researchers for reporting bug vulnerabilities and inspects its apps by SEC Consult. That’s all well and good, but we’d like to see a public no-logs and infrastructure security assessment. TunnelBear, for instance, has committed to auditing its service every year. Audits aren’t flawless, but they’re nevertheless helpful in building trust.
No Logs Policy
ProtonVPN claims in their privacy statement that they are a no-logs provider. They guarantee that they will not track their users’ traffic, discriminate against device kinds, or restrict your connection. So what you’re doing is your fault.
However, there are several exceptions to the norm. They keep track of the timestamps of your connections, which are overwritten with each session. They believe this is to protect accounts against brute force assaults.
You must still give proof that you are real while establishing an account. Another email, SMS, or a modest gift are all viable confirmation methods. That’s an unusual authentication mechanism, and I’m curious how many donations they receive to keep this button open.
The only thing that warrants criticism is their shifting position on privacy policies. According to their policy, if they ever modify it, “continued use of the Service shall be considered as acceptance of such changes,” according to their policy. If they decide to implement data recording and sell your information to third parties one day, it is your issue. It is the end-responsibility user’s to examine the policy regularly, which nobody in their right state of mind does.
ProtonVPN is unquestionably a VPN service that respects your privacy.
Proton VPN Speed Test
When you’re using a VPN to encrypt your online traffic, your data will not be sent via the internet in the most efficient manner. In general, a VPN increases latency while slowing down upload and download rates. To get a sense of how much influence the VPN has, we run a series of tests with the Ookla speed test tool, comparing the percent change when the VPN is on vs. when it is off.
Next, we ran the speed test connecting to the nearest server.
As you can see, download and ping remained relatively the same, while upload took a huge hit. Next, we tested while connected to the US server.
The U.S. server performed surprisingly well. As we expected, we didn’t match the original speed test with either server, however the U.S. server retained download and upload speed and only really lagged in ping time.
Proton VPN Windows Client Up Close
Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TV, and Chromebooks are available from ProtonVPN. The site also gives step-by-step instructions for setting up a Linux computer to use the service. On an Intel PC running the newest version of Windows 10, we had no problem installing ProtonVPN’s Windows software.
You would anticipate ProtonVPN to be an unsightly, useless mess because it places such a high value on customer privacy and technological superiority. That isn’t the case at all. ProtonVPN is a sleek, well-designed interface that is simple to use and packed with features. The app was updated with a modest but visible aesthetic improvement. Secure Core, Ad blocking, and the app’s kill switch are accessible from a single row of buttons.
When you first launch the VPN app, the Quick Connect option makes it extremely clear how to connect to the internet, which we like. The software also displays your network connection, a list of servers so you can change your VPN location easily, a real-time network traffic analysis, and a map of accessible servers. When you click the little grey button in the middle right, the map compresses, leaving a narrow strip.
You can search for a location or explore the available servers using the map or a list. We appreciate the fact that you can dig down to individual servers within a region. The program also shows how busy a specific server is, whether it’s a Plus server (one designated for Plus members) and whether servers are dedicated to streaming, Tor, file sharing, and other services.
ProtonVPN provides Profiles for particular activities in addition to the dedicated servers. There are four default Profiles: one for connecting securely to the quickest server, one for connecting to a randomized server, one exclusively for P2P servers, and one for connecting to Tor. You may make your Profiles by selecting a nation and a particular server within that region to connect to. You may give your profile a name, a color, and the requirement to use Secure Core servers. You may easily disregard this if it is too difficult.
If your VPN connection is lost, ProtonVPN’s Kill Switch will stop all online activity on your system. This keeps your traffic hidden, even if just for a short time. Split-tunneling— directing traffic from specific applications or IP addresses into or out of the VPN tunnel—is also simple using the app. ProtonVPN also allows you to tunnel only the traffic of the apps you want, leaving the rest unencrypted.
Because Netflix tries to enforce its distribution agreements, watching Netflix with a VPN is extremely difficult. We experienced no problems watching Netflix when connecting to a US-based VPN server in our tests. However, the battle between VPNs and streaming services is still ongoing, and what works today could not work tomorrow.
A VPN, in theory, should not release info about your ISP, actual IP address, or DNS queries. The server we used to test the DNS Leak Test tool secured our data and masked our public IP address. Please remember that we only evaluated one server; other servers may have been set up wrong.
ProtonVPN recently teamed up with Invizbox to offer routers that are preconfigured to function with the VPN service. The VPN will protect every device on your network, and those devices will not count against your simultaneous connection limit. However, this may be more hassle than it’s worth.
Proton VPN Mac Client Up Close
The Mac VPN client from ProtonVPN is only accessible through the company’s website, not the Apple App Store. The interface is black, grey, and green, with a big Quick Connect icon that makes getting started simple. A short lesson walks you through the app’s features and makes it more user-friendly. There are a row of controls for the SecureCore, Kill Switch, and NetShield functions, much like in the Windows version.
This software allows you to completely personalize your experience, putting it ahead of a dependable but less-specialized service like Tunnelbear’s VPN for macOS. You can select the location and server you wish to connect to and the connection type. Using a tab, you may also build a customized profile based on the sort of connection you desire, such as P2P, TOR, or SecureCore.
We used a MacBook Air with OS Big Sur version 11.2.2 to test the MacOS version of ProtonVPN. While connecting to a server in Belgium, we ran a DNS Leak Test. Even though we only tried a single server, the app never leaked our IP address or DNS information. YouTube videos loaded fast and played without buffering issues or interruptions when using ProtonVPN, and Twitch broadcasts loaded promptly and played without buffering or disruptions.
Proton VPN iPhone Client Up Close
Unlike Tunnelbear and Mullvad’s colorful applications, the company’s iPhone VPN emanates a no-nonsense, not wildly entertaining air. A black and red bar appears at the top right of the screen when you first sign in, indicating that your connection is insecure. The bar becomes green with white lettering when you connect to a server, meaning that you are connected. NetShield, a virus and ad blocker that you may turn on and off, is crucial for additional features.
We utilized an iPhone 12 running iOS 14.4 for this test. The first two times we tried to log in, the app had difficulties connecting to its servers, but the third time it did. Unlike Tunnelbear VPN, ProtonVPN for iOS allowed us to limit our search down to specific servers. To see if ProtonVPN was leaking our actual Ip address or DNS queries, we went to DNSLeakTest and conducted an extended test. During the trial, we discovered no leaks, although we only checked one server in Japan.
ProtonVPN’s servers are slower to connect to and detach from than any VPNs we’ve tried. We were able to watch Twitch broadcasts and YouTube videos without interruptions when connected to a Japan-based server after we were connected. The iOS software from ProtonVPN is quick and effective.
Proton VPN Android Client Up Close
We used a Samsung Galaxy Note operating Android version 10 to evaluate ProtonVPN’s Android VPN software. Like the iPhone app, the Android app is immaculate, with not much color other than grey, black, and green. The software successfully connected to a server in Japan. The program will guide you to the quickest server in the nation of your choosing, but it will also offer you a list of alternative servers that you may use. We chose the quickest server in each country for this testing.
To check if ProtonVPN has any DNS leaks with the Android app, we utilized DNSLeakTest. We found no leaks when evaluating a single server in Norway, and ProtonVPN correctly changed our public IP address.
The speed of the Norwegian VPN server was also excellent. We were able to watch YouTube videos without seeing any considerable load time or disruptions. Twitch.tv live broadcasts took a bit longer to load, but the picture quality was outstanding, and there was no latency.
How is Proton VPN For Streaming?
ProtonVPN promises to be capable of unblocking geo-restricted streaming material in addition to being a super-private VPN.
For many, Netflix will be an essential feature, and ProtonVPN could unblock both US and UK Netflix in our tests. In comparison, some providers, like IPVanish, can only unblock US Netflix, while others can’t unblock it. Thus this is a significant victory for Proton.
The BBC iPlayer is frequently more complicated than Netflix, and the well-known free streaming platform is a thorn in the side of many a VPN. ProtonVPN, on the other hand, unlocked iPlayer without a hitch, and we were able to watch without difficulty.
After that, we were able to unblock Disney+ and, to round off the picture, we could view US Amazon Prime Video from three separate locations.
So, the Swiss VPN has delivered an outstanding performance, but there is one catch. You’ll need to upgrade to the Plus plan to access all of these capabilities; the Basic and Free plans don’t include content unblocking as usual.
Proton VPN Mobile Apps
The Android app feels quite familiar, as it’s nearly similar to the Windows build. The map, Profiles system, and nation list will all be the same. You’ll also be able to establish split tunneling, NetShield, a kill switch, and a lot more – the only feature lacking is customizable DNS servers, but IKEv2 is considerably easier to set up on Android than it is on PC.
The iOS version has a somewhat different look and feel, but it’s the same program. However, due to iOS’s restrictions, it’s a smaller version, with some missing functionality such as split tunneling. It’s pretty extensive, and it performs many of the same things as the Android and PC applications.
So, you don’t like Proton’s apps? There is no need to be concerned. Every one of its OpenVPN config files is available for download and usage in any app or device. That gives you a lot of options, and you can even download everything as a zip file.
Proton VPN Customer Support
ProtonVPN’s customer service could be better since the company only provides email help. Although there is an online knowledge base, it does not cover many topics, and the provided instructions are brief. Even so, you’ll most likely be able to discover solutions to typical concerns concerning connection setup or troubleshooting.
We’d like to see some live chat introduced since most larger companies do, and it’s more helpful than you may believe. VPNs of all types can have issues with shady servers or incompatibility with other software. Obtaining a solution in minutes – or even seconds – is vastly preferable to waiting for an email response. On the other hand, Proton responded to our test emails within a day and gave comprehensive, relevant solutions.
Final Verdict on Proton VPN
ProtonVPN’s narrowly tiered pricing options may appear off-putting at first look, but those levels give the flexibility that few rivals can match. In addition, the company provides a unique, utterly free experience that does not limit your bandwidth or push advertisements. ProtonVPN has made the most waves as a privacy-focused firm, which is a welcome change after evaluating many other VPNs that place a premium on speed and video streaming. It also features a wonderfully attractive client, something not every VPN can boast. All of this, along with the company’s emphasis on innovative technology, is a potent combination. Our primary issue is that ProtonVPN has yet to implement WireGuard, although this isn’t a significant issue as of now.
ProtonVPN’s size and reach have more than doubled since our initial evaluation. The firm has demonstrated that it can scale up its offering while maintaining its integrity. Because of its outstanding free version and collection of privacy features, ProtonVPN receives a slightly better grade than its co-winners.