ProtonVPN Review

ProtonVPN Review

ProtonVPN is an outlier among VPN services. It is not the flashiest nor the most feature-rich VPN out there, but what it does it does surprisingly well. It provides top-notch security features, has a reputation as one of the most privacy-focused VPNs out there. And the best part – it is cheap!

Features

ProtonVPN has a long list of useful features. Some are available on a “Free” and “Basic” package, and some unlock only after signing up to two most expensive packages. We especially liked the user interface on the Windows platform. There are 2 options for connecting: !) pick a country from the map; 2) choose “fastest” or “random” to get connected. ProtonVPN has expanded massively during the last couple of years.

ProtonVPN has a long list of useful features. Some are available on a “Free” and “Basic” package, and some unlock only after signing up to two most expensive packages. We especially liked the user interface on the Windows platform. There are 2 options for connecting: !) pick a country from the map; 2) choose “fastest” or “random” to get connected. ProtonVPN has expanded massively during the last couple of years.

Other notable features:

  • No logs policy
  • DNS/IP leak prevention
  • AES-256 encryption
  • Secure protocols IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN
  • Kill switch
  • Secure Core servers in low-risk countries
  • Perfect Forward Secrecy
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Multi-platform support
  • Up to 10 devices

Privacy

ProtonVPN is a Swiss-based company. As far as we know Switzerland is not part of any intelligence alliances. Although ProtonVPN has servers in 33 countries, what makes them interesting is that their core servers are located in 3 countries with especially strong privacy laws: Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. Swedish and Swiss servers are located in underground data centers, whereas Icelandic servers are housed in a former military base! How about that? 🙂 All those servers are 100% owned and provisioned by ProtonVPN. 

ProtonVPN Secure Core servers route traffic through Sweden, Switzerland or Iceland

Those Secure Core servers in Sweden, Switzerland, and Iceland help to mitigate the risk of timing/correlation attacks. It only takes a country with broad surveillance powers to monitor the network of the server and they are able to match VPN clients with their traffic, impairing the benefits of the VPN. That’s why all the traffic multi-hops through those secure core servers before it enters into high-risk jurisdictions. Secure Core server feature is included only in the top two tier plans.

By June 2019 there is listed only one data request incident which they were unable to provide an answer for.

Compatibility

You can use native apps on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. For Windows client, it is possible to specify which apps can use direct connection and which should be routed through the VPN.

ProtonVPN currently also works for those residing in China. However, the accessibility varies from region to region within China. There is also no guarantee that the servers can be accessed in the future from China.

“Plus” and “Visionary” subscribers can watch US Netflix if they connect to a US-based server. This only works on desktop clients, streaming on mobile devices is not currently supported officially.

Support

ProtonVPN does not offer a 24/7 online chat. You are encouraged to contact via a webform or email. There is a limited knowledge base where you can get answers to general questions.

Speed Test

ProtonVPN showed good results with most of the tests we conducted. The Quick Connect feature connected us to Finland server that had great speeds with just 4% drop in download speeds and 6% drop in uploads.

Quick Connect feature connected to Finland server

The closer countries performed well with Denmark around 16% and 28% download and upload speed decrease and UK server showing good downloads but suffered a bit with uploads showing 29% and 80% drop.

Denmark server
UK, London server

The USA servers had varied results. The San Jose (West Coast) had very stable results with around 30Mbps down and 10Mbps up but the New York Server we tested (East Coast) varied in results. At times we saw download speeds around 50Mbps and in other test runs it went down to 5.5Mbps. Upload speeds ranged from 2Mbps to 15Mbps.

San Jose server (West Coast)
New York server (East Coast)

The asian server in the test (South Korea) had average results with 20Mbps down and 5 Mbps up. This is expected from servers this far away.

South Korea server

Torrenting is very easy with ProtonVPN and switching from no VPN to the closest foreigh server in Finland caused a drop from 3.5 – 5.5 Mbps to 2.5 – 3.5 Mbps and from Finland to UK, London caused a slight drop further to around 2.5 – 3.0 Mbps.

ProtonVPN torrenting

Pricing

ProtonVPN pricing is quite complicated. There are 4 tiers.

ProtonVPN pricing has 4 tiers

The 2 most expensive ones (Plus and Visionary) offer the possibility to use their Secure Core servers. The first tier is an outstanding  “Free” tier.

With ProtonVPN “Free” tier you are limited to 1 device and servers in 3 countries (US, Japan, and the Netherlands). There are no bandwidth limits. It doesn’t get better than that for a free service.

There are 3 paid services that come with a 7-day trial period during which time you can try out all the advanced features. After the trial ends and you are still not convinced whether to keep the paid plan you are limited to a restricted “Free” version.

The cheapest paid option is “Basic”. It costs $4/mo if you take the annual package. With this plan, you have access to all their servers, P2P,  and you can use up to 2 devices at the same time. Top tier plans include “Plus” and “Visionary” where you get access to Secure Core servers, Tor servers, and streaming. The only difference is that “Visionary” provides a connection up to 10 devices (“Plus” has 5 device limit) and access to their highest tier ProtonMail product. The price of $24 may be a little overkill though. That’s why we recommend the 3rd tier “Plus” option – it is only $8 and comes with a similar set of features.

ProtonVPN offers 30-day money-back guarantee but you need to fill out a contact form to initiate the refund process. A lot more complicated and there are no clear instructions in the support threads on how to get the refund.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • No IP/DNS leaking
  • AES-256 encryption
  • No log policy
  • Secure Core Servers
  • Multi-platform support
  • Switzerland jurisdiction
  • Free tier
Cons
  • No 24/7 chat support
  • A low number of servers
  • High price for the full package

Verdict

ProtonVPN is a solid privacy-focused VPN. This is what it does well. It is not about accessing geo-restricted content. The creators behind the product have proved that they know about privacy and take it seriously. We especially like the Secure Core architecture that minimizes the privacy risks even further. We recommend you either sign up for a “Free” package or pick a reasonably priced “Plus” package and give it a try.

Scores

Privacy features
Security
Speed
Ease of Use
Price
Average

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