ZenMate VPN Review – Offering Several Interesting Features
ZenMate VPN Review
How Does It Stand Out From Other Similar VPNs?
Plans and Pricing
ZenMate pricing plans start at $10.99, which is billed monthly. This falls in the average range of most other providers if you are going with the monthly option.
ZenMate used to have the six-month ultimate plan, but it has since done away with it. Instead, they have an annual plan that runs at $4.49 per month, increasing from their previous $3.33 last year.
If these plans are out of your price range, the best deal that ZenMate offers is their 3-year plan, which comes out to just $1.64 per month. This is obviously a more considerable initial investment, but if you plan to use a VPN long term, this is a great monthly price.
Of course, this pricing structure is a bit unusual, especially when you consider the upfront costs. If you sign up for one year, you will initially pay $53.88, but if you sign up for three years, you are only paying $59 upfront. ZenMate is obviously trying to entice their customers to choose the three-year plan with such a minimal price difference. There are only a few companies that offer a lower price than this. Ivacy offers a five-year option for $1.16, but ZenMate seems to be the more popular option.
ZenMate also has a unique offering in that they have a ZenMate Pro for browser plans. As you might have concluded, this is a plan that offers access for the browser extensions only. The browser extensions can connect to the full ZenMate network, with additional streaming support. If you are strictly using your browser for streaming or other activities, this might be a good plan for you.
The ZenMate for Browsers is relatively cheap and runs at only $5.99 billed each month. If you choose the six-month plan, it is only $3.19 and only $1.99 for the year.
When you are choosing a new VPN service, it is always wise to go with a company that offers a seven-day trial, so you can get your bearings and make sure the product works for you. However, this trial phase becomes rarer and rarer as time passes, so ZenMate’s 7-day trial is something quite special. Even if you surpass the seven-day trial, the company still offers a generous 30-day money-back policy to keep you satisfied.
Privacy and Logging
Almost every portion of this policy takes longer than it should get to the actual meaning of the terms. It seems as if this policy was written strictly for those who went to Harvard Law rather than their average users. For example, one portion describing how offering your payment means you agree to the terms, loops, and twirls in different directions before actually arriving at anything meaningful.
These documents also do nothing to highlight most VPN users’ actual points of interest, such as defining their policy for logging data or what actions ZenMate would take should they be faced with legal procedures. This document alone is over 4,000 words long, and it hardly describes anything that most users could take away with confidence. Framing the policy this way is suspicious or, at the very least, unnecessary.
Instead of giving users clear and concrete definitions of their terms and policies, the document spends most of its time listing scenarios that are not relevant to most VPN users. Just looking for a simple explanation about how the data is stored and processed leads to a strange example of how an injured person would not want their medical information released. Of course, that’s true, but the example is irrelevant to a VPN company.
We did find some nuggets of information that would be helpful to most users. For instance, we did find some reassurance that the company will never log or store their user’s data based on the fact that “they can’t.” They point to German privacy laws as the reasoning for not legally being able to store the information. From there, they make the supposition that because they have no actual data, it would be impossible for them to turn it over to any government agencies or third parties.
Finally, some useful information. However, if that is the case, then why not just spell it out clearly in the first place, instead of leading the user on a wild-goose chase through a jungle of legal speech? Even better, they should follow the lead of TunnelBear and publish a third-party audit of their systems and services each year.
Performance and Speed
To check the speed and performance of ZenMate VPN, we used the ookla.com speed test and tested before and after and a specific setting for the US. We found what we found to be expected from a VPN on the lower end of the pricing spectrum, which was a mixed performance.
For the first test, we ran the speed test without turning on the VPN.
For the next test, we turned on the torrent but did not specify a location. The location simply took us to the best available server nearby. Again, even with the optimized server location, it takes a while to connect to the VPN. It is long enough to make you think something is wrong. When we ran the speed test, we found that it was throttled significantly.
For the last test, we specified a region in the US. The results were much better and adequate enough for streaming and torrenting purposes.
While the optimized server is based on your location and might not be the best overall server, connecting to the US server offered decent results. It’s certainly not the fastest VPN around, but it will get the job done.
How does ZenMate handle torrenting and streaming?
For the most part, we had no issues using ZenMate for either of these applications. Getting around region blocks and controlling the service for streaming is relatively straightforward. However, many streaming services took a more rigid stance on region changing than before, especially Netflix. In addition to Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu have also decided to make it more difficult for streamers to get around these blocks. With these restrictions getting more and more difficult to circumvent, there are only a handful of apps that can still tackle this issue head-on.
When you connect to a VPN, you can change your location to virtually any country, giving you access to content that you would not be able to access in your current physical region. Many users use VPNs to access other regional libraries or even YouTube clips that they would not be able to see otherwise.
Many sites have become vigilant about this issue because they have certain license agreements with content providers. If people are accessing the content outside the region, those content providers aren’t getting paid. So to test the strength of ZenMate VPN, we attempted to unblock US Netflix, US YouTube, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.
YouTube often does minimal regional blocking with their content, so we expected it to work, and it did. ZenMate allowed us to stream content from YouTube from every location that we tried. One decent feature of the ZenMate Windows client is that it provides a separate section for streaming services. These options are optimized for specific purposes, such as streaming. Many other VPNs will offer several cities in the same country but leave you to your own devices in order to choose the one that works the best. ZenMate does the optimization for you.
However, with the BBC iPlayer, we had a bit of trouble at first. It instantly spotted that we were using a VPN and gave the standard warning telling us so. However, if you change the location several times, you should be able to find something that works well.
Even though US Netflix is famous for blocking VPNs, we could get around restrictions reasonably quickly. We used the specialized streaming servers in our attempts. While it worked for us in this test, there is no telling when Netflix will crack the code and successfully block the VPN connection.
We also ran into some issues with Amazon Prime, which we were not successful in unblocking. Disney+ gave us no problems, however. With all of these streaming services considered, it is safe to say that ZenMate provides a “mixed” performance and could change at any time. If you are only using it to access platforms that are less protected, this VPN will work for you. But if you are adamant about the others, you might look into more robust options such as NordVPN.
Even though ZenMate had no issues with YouTube or Netflix, it couldn’t access some of the region-blocked content that others unblock with ease. Hopefully, ZenMate puts some more effort into maintaining their Netflix connection and works a little harder at unblocking the others, but there is no telling what the future holds.
When it comes to torrenting and P2P connections, almost all of ZenMate’s servers are optimized to handle torrents and P2P connections. They have an excellent selection of servers to choose from as well. However, discounting the ability to select your server, ZenMate does not offer many other options regarding torrenting. If you are a casual torrenter, this VPN will work well, but if you are looking for some more bells and whistles, your best option would be to choose another service.
ZenMate’s Desktop Apps
As we mentioned before, ZenMate is primarily created from the structure of CyberGhost 7. That means that users who have experienced CyberGhost VPNs will have no trouble using ZenMate, as it is practically the same. However, a few things are missing that were present in CyberGhost. It is missing both the ad blocking and tracker from CyberGhost, and all of the brandings have been replaced by the updated ZM logos.
When you boot up the Windows client, if you do not make any changes to the settings, you will be given a default server that is based on your current location. To start the VPN, just click on the rather large connect button in the console center. If you would like to change your location, the location settings are quite simple to navigate. You have the option to sort your choices by the server load or the server distance. You can also search for specialized servers for streaming or torrenting and even save your favorite selections for later use.
One drawback of the ZenMate platform is that it took up to 14 seconds for us actually to establish a connection to a server. While that might not seem like a lot of time, other VPNs connect almost instantly. This matter was not affected by changing the connection from IKEv2 to OpenVPN. Some VPNs take as long as 6 seconds using a VPN, but it is somewhat unusual for a service to take more than twice that time.
Another disadvantage of the ZenMate application is that there is no easily accessible killswitch. Most other VPNs will notify you when the connection is cut so you can monitor your traffic; however, ZenMate will simply cut your connection with no explanation whatsoever. If you find the killswitch, it does work well; however, it would be a great feature to know if the VPN loses connection or has issues with the server.
The good news is that registering for ZenMate is quick and painless. If you are new to the service, you can enjoy a 7-day free trial to test out the VPN and make sure that it is right for you. These days that is a rare agreement, so it is nice to see that this option is included with ZenMate. Another great thing about ZenMate is they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so even if you are unhappy with the VPN after seven days, you will get a full refund.
As mentioned previously, the new ZenMate client is built on what was yet CyberGhost 7; however, they have stripped some of the extras, but the client itself is still laid out in a simple, easy-to-use interface.
When you launch the client, you are greeted with all the buttons and options that you need to get started. This is a great client for beginners but does not offer a wide range of customization for more experienced VPNs. The best feature of the client by far is their sorting list by use. They have options for streaming, torrenting, and general use.
To get started, just double-click a location, and you will soon be switched to that server. The settings panel has options to change the protocol that you use to connect. This is a feature that you will find in most VPNs, but it is handy if you have reasons for switching. One important point to mention is that it no longer offers an L2TP option. The only options that you have now are between OpenVPN, IKEv2, OpenVPN TCP, or UDP.
In other reviews, we have mentioned the new technology called WireGuard, which should become the standard protocol for VPNs shortly. Unfortunately, ZenMate does not offer WireGuard as an option, but we assume that it will become an option once the protocol becomes more standard.
There are also a few other options to connect. You can connect to a random port, which will allow users to get around some services that block VPNs or DNS. There is also the option to connect to the VPN service automatically whenever your system boots up. When the system starts, you can then choose your preferred server location, and you are ready to go. This is helpful for those users that use a VPN at all times.
While the client does have a kill switch, it is not located very prominently. When you click the killswitch, you can forcibly close the VPN connection and block all traffic until you reconnect. This option is aimed at preventing data leaks should you lose your internet or VPN connection.
ZenMate offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android, which is pretty standard for most VPN services. The Android app is very similar to the desktop version in that it is straightforward in design and seems stripped down compared to most other mobile applications. When you open the app, you are greeted with your current location and a big On/Off switch.
Next to the power button, there is a small menu where you will find the settings and extras. This app is very simple to operate and keeps in line with all of the other offerings from ZenMate. If you ever need to encrypt your data, there is no fuss. Just hit the start button, and the traffic from your mobile device will be protected.
The location options are also very similar to the desktop version. You have the opportunity to change to any of ZenMate’s selection of streaming servers, and there is also a favorite option to save all of the servers that you would like to use in the future.
As far as we can tell, the mobile apps only run on the OpenVPN protocol. This protocol has only two settings to choose from: using a TCP or UDP connection or connecting to a random port. Again, connecting to an arbitrary port is an excellent option if VPN protections are blocking another service.
Overall, the Android app is good for what it does. It is simple, it works well, and it gets the job done. However, it has almost no bells and whistles. If you are looking for an app with a lot of configuration options, you should check out other VPNs because ZenMate is anything but complicated.
The same goes for the iOS app. It has the same look and design as the Android version, with nothing more to offer than what is seen on the desktop version. When looking at the version history, the iOS app rarely gets any updates, which tells us that it will most likely remain unchanged for some time.
Are mobile apps worthwhile?
If you like the desktop version of ZenMate, then absolutely, the mobile apps are going to work for you. The whole appeal of the ZenMate VPN is that it is simple and easy to use (thus the “Zen” in their name).
These apps are almost foolproof, and they are great for beginners (or even children). There is not really any way to mess up while using the application. The lack of configuration means that there is not much that could go wrong. You are either connected, or you aren’t.
Those who are more tech-literate might not enjoy this app and would be quick to point out the missing features. For instance, most VPN apps offer more options than merely switching between TCP/UDP and a random port, but again, this app is not aimed at those who would need more than that.
It seems that the biggest drawback of both of these apps is that they do not receive frequent updates. That means that if you have a problem with the interface, it will not change any time soon.
Much like other similar VPNs, Zemate offers their VPN service through browser extensions for Firefox, Opera, and Chrome at no additional charge. These can easily be downloaded and accessed from within the browser’s interface.
While browser VPNs are convenient and lite, they do have their limits. Mostly, they only protect the traffic that a user interacts with from within the browser. All other traffic is routed through your regular internet connection. This is enough for many people, as they only use browsers for surfing and do not do any other torrenting or downloading.
These extensions are also offered for free. However, they are limited to just four locations. You can connect to Germany, Singapore, Romania, or the United States. The drawback of using the browser extension is that there are no specific servers for streaming content. You will also experience some included ads aimed at getting customers to purchase the full product.
The Chrome and Firefox extensions both feature a simple console that allows users to choose their location with just a few simple mouse clicks. The location dropdown menu is very similar to the desktop version. It has a list of locations to select, and it also has a favorites option. If you have ever used a VPN before, you will be able to use this VPN with no issues at all.
These extensions do come with a few bonus privacy features as well. They offer malicious website blocking and protection against WebRTC leaks. When you first install, these options will be disabled, but you can quickly enable them in the setting menu.
If you opt for the paid version, you will also notice a few exciting extras. There is a “Stealth Connect” option that will disable cookies, cache, and browsing history whenever the VPN powers up. There is also “Smart Location”, which will automatically switch to a new server location when you visit a particular site. For instance, anytime you visit Netflix, it will automatically switch you to a US connection.
When you access the ZenMate support site, you will be greeted with a conventional knowledge base of support related issues. Here, many articles feature common problems and solutions to help customers before contacting customer support. You will find articles on Getting Started, Troubleshooting, and Using ZenMAte. There are also some other links to options offered within the ZenMate app.
This looks like a reasonably comprehensive group of articles, that is, until you begin to explore further. Most other VPN sites have detailed documentation on how to set up the VPN and guides for getting the most out of their product. However, if you search for an installation guide on this site, it isn’t easy to find. We eventually found it nestled in the “Getting Started” section; however, it only included an elementary Windows setup guide.
In complete fairness, the “Using ZenMate” section has a “how-to guide” for all platforms, yet this was not completely obvious upon the first impression. Generally, finding help and documentation for a paid product should be more comfortable and should not require a scavenger hunt to locate.
If you are genuinely lost, you can also contact the support staff directly. They do not offer a live chat, and even their own support page gives the disclaimer that it could take up to 48 hours for the support staff to respond to your ticket. We decided to put this to the test and were pleasantly surprised that it only took a few hours to receive a response.
When comparing ZenMate’s customer service to other VPNs, they lag behind significantly. Not having a live chat function is a questionable choice, since they mostly market themselves as a VPN for beginners. Many of those with less experience might need customer support, and their documentation is not easy to navigate.
Although it only took a few hours to receive a response, some users might become frustrated and give up entirely. If you are looking for VPN responsiveness and easy access documentation, ZenMate falls a bit short in this category.
ZenMate is far from being the perfect VPN, but it does come with some redeeming qualities. While it is not elegant, it is simple to use and appears to be reliable. It performed in the middle of the line on the speed tests so that you won’t be getting blazing speeds, but they do have access to a number of servers compared to other VPN services.
One of the best features of this VPN is access to servers that are optimized for streaming and torrenting. While this is becoming more common, especially as services are cracking down, it is not something that every service offers yet. However, even with the dedicated servers, we did have some trouble accessing all of the streaming content that most users are looking for. If you are looking to torrent and stream Netflix, ZenMate should be enough for you. However, if you are looking for any other streaming service, you will not be guaranteed access.
However, you indeed get what you pay for, and one thing is for sure, ZenMate’s price is right. It has one of the lowest yearly plans available and offers a generous money-back guarantee. So, if you are curious about this VPN and don’t have a lot of cash, it wouldn’t hurt to try it out for a few days and see if the service works for you.
Overall, ZenMate is an affordable VPN with barebone offerings. If you are looking for a simple VPN without many frills, this one is worth checking out. Beginners and those who are just starting in the world of VPNs will find that this VPN is the right speed for them. More advanced users should look for a VPN with more custom options regarding the protocol and operational settings.