Today we are doing a BlackVPN review. If you have made use of their service or do so after reading our review then we welcome your comments at the bottom of the article.
BlackVPN have multiple account options available which include a TV Package, Privacy Package, Global Package and a Single Server only account. For the purpose of this review we took in the Global Package which had access to the TV Package, we tested both of these over a 8 to 9 day period for a variety of tasks including watching online catch up/TV services such as Hulu and iPlayer as well as downloading and day to day web browsing & Skype use. We also tested the service via our Android device using the mobile version of OpenVPN.
The BlackVPN website is similar to many VPN service websites. Covering the top of the website is a logo questioning the security of your internet connection and the marketing answer that they care about the security of it. This is always good information and expected of many VPN services as the security of your connection and information is the very reason why you will be looking at taking up the services of a VPN provider.
The website is easy to navigate with the main front page giving the crucial details of the services that BlackVPN offer with the four available account types instantly recognisable. Below we will explain a little detail about each account type available to select from the front page of the website.
TV Package – An account type suitable to private web browsing and usage plus the added bonus of accessing many of the world TV services such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer etc. We’ll go in to further detail regarding what makes this package special a little further down in our BlackVPN review. The package comes with access to the USA, Canada and United Kingdom servers and comes in priced at €7.50 per month, €20 for 3 months or €75 for 12 months. It is possible to add in access to the Switzerland server for an added €1 per month on all package time lengths.
Privacy Package – This package includes some of the more privacy respecting countries which are also more friendly towards the use of torrents etc. Access to servers in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Panama, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia & Luxembourg are included in this package. 1 month will set you back €7.50 with a 3 and 12 month time length available at €20 and €75 respectively.
Global Package – The most complete package that BlackVPN offer with access to their full range which has an extensive list of servers spread across the world and includes access to servers in the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Panama, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia, Singapore & Luxembourg as standard. For the small price difference between this and the Privacy Package it is certainly one to consider signing up to. Prices come in at €9.50 per month with 3 and 12 months lengths costing €27 and €99.
The website is very well set out and access to all the important areas that you will need are within easy reach of the top menu. A handy server status area can also be found on the bottom left hand corner of the front page of the website which is great for checking if you ever had issues connecting at any time to see if the server is down.
My only personal gripe about the website is the use of black backgrounds with white text. This may not bother all people but is a personal bugbear of mine which after time can hurt my eyes, although as said this may just be personal preference and a sign of my ever increasing age. How they would alter this when the service is after all called “Black” VPN is beyond me but due to my personal preference in regard to white text on dark backgrounds it means I can only spend a short amount of time browsing the website without irritation to my eyes.
BlackVPN allow connection via the usual protocols which include L2TP/IPSec, PPTP and OpenVPN. For the purpose of our tests we chose to only make use of OpenVPN as we firmly believe that when a service works well via OpenVPN then as this is the most secure and flexible method of connection the others should be discounted. The other protocols are available for those who aren’t able to make use of OpenVPN.
There are no custom GUI connection programs available at BlackVPN but the downloads section and sign up information point you in the direction of where to download OpenVPN and the required server profiles which are available in a zip file. [UPDATE – There is also an easier to use custom installer which automatically installs the server profiles and fixes the “Run as administrator” issues faced in Windows 7 & 8]. Although this process is relatively simple the absolute beginner could struggle with no friendly GUI “one click” solution offered by some other providers. That said there are handy and easy to understand guides available on their website, the custom installer should be simple enough for even the newest user of VPNs and if you’re really stuck then support provided via email is helpful and fast.
As is to be expected we put the service through a range of tests and as explained earlier we used the service for our day to day web browsing and usage. We mainly used the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland servers for our general internet usage. As we’re located in the UK these are physically some of the closest servers although they do also have a server in Luxembourg which is also close enough to our physical location.
We found general use from web browsing, Skype usage and even online gaming to be an absolute joy. The speed of browsing and gaming was on par with our general internet connection and we found the service to be seamless, it was definitely possible to connect and surf as usual without noticing that you were connected to a VPN. This general web browsing and internet usage speed continued even when using servers much further afield such as Singapore and Panama, obviously with such servers there was some noticeable delay compared to the physically closer servers but not enough that you couldn’t make use of those far flung servers for general internet use for small periods of time if you needed or had specific reason to.
Pages and images loaded quickly and smoothly, we suffered no breakages in Skype conversations and when gaming we only noticed a very slight increase in our ping to servers and not enough to cause any lag of any kind when using the closest BlackVPN servers. We did have one very minor issue on the very first day of using the service which on the UK server only we could not access the BBC.co.uk website. We had no issues connecting via any of the other servers so we contacted BlackVPN support to find out what the issue was. They responded that they had tested it from their end and found no issue although we still couldn’t access it from our end. The day after we tried again and it was working fine so we are still unsure as to what caused the issue but from that point on we had no trouble accessing the BBC.co.uk website nor did we hit any problems on any of the servers accessing any other website or service.
We also tested accessing services such as Hulu and although the US server we got connected to was hosted further over towards the west coast of the US we found no lag issues when watching various programs on the Hulu site. We also suffered no buffering issues and could switch to the highest quality available without any lag or pauses. For those of you who are not US based then the speed and usability of Hulu when making use of a VPN service can be high on the list of priorities and BlackVPN does not disappoint in this area. For readers based in the US they may want to consider that BlackVPN only offer one connection in the US which should be automatically allocated to the server closest to you and with a country with such a population and size span this may be the next area BlackVPN may want to concentrate on by offering a selection of servers to connect to manually. For US residents who like a choice of servers based locally the one connection only may not be enough. However with recent revelations from details released by the likes of Edward Snowdon and the ever growing concerns over the NSA and US tech companies it may be a fact that US based servers are less sought after and only in use when wanting to circumvent geo-restriction like is the case with sites such as Hulu.
In both viewing and general web use we tested the general range of servers both at peak and off peak times and found little to no difference between the hours of the day.
We also ran a few speed tests to give you a better understanding of the speeds achieved when using the various servers which can be seen in the images below. Our own internet connection is 30Mb/s.
BlackVPN On Peak
BlackVPN Off Peak
We also tested downloading from a well known public file site based in the US via a download manager and achieved brilliant speeds from the Switzerland, UK and Ukraine servers as can be seen in order in the following screen shot.
BlackVPN Download Speed
BlackVPN does not allow torrent downloading via the USA, UK or Singapore servers and although we do not use torrents it will be of the users best interest to respect that request. None of the three servers listed keep general logs but for the purpose of stopping illegal activity on these servers they do log on these servers only the IP that you have been assigned at the time. Any DMCA violations on those servers can lead to your service being suspended. Torrent downloading is an accepted service on the remainder of their servers.
Your package allows you to connect three different devices at the same time so you are authorised to connect a selection of devices such as your PC, phone and another device without issue. We made use of this and connected both our computer and Android phone at the same time. We hit a problem connecting both via OpenVPN to the same server so quizzed BlackVPN on the matter to which they informed us that due to the limitations of OpenVPN it wasn’t possible to connect two difference devices running OpenVPN to the same server but it was perfectly fine to connect each to different servers. We did this and found no issue. Setting up our Android device using the OpenVPN Connect app was quite simple but we required BlackVPN to point us in the right direction for the server configs as the most obvious Android ones on their site are for “OpenVPN for Android” and not “OpenVPN Connect” but with the help of the support team we grabbed the correct config files and got up and running on our phone within minutes. Something to consider should you be installing one of the plethora of “OpenVPN” titled android apps.
To test the responsiveness of the support offered by BlackVPN we fired off a few questions at various times to their support team which in all cases received a prompt response, usually within a few hours with only one taking around 12 hours over night to receive a reply. Their support is helpful and willing to answer any questions you may have. No problems here that we can see.
To summarise we found the speeds excellent and had no major issues when making use of the service. We are extremely impressed with BlackVPN and the service that they offer.
One of the most interesting packages available from BlackVPN is the TV Package service also known as “TOTAL=TV+Privacy”
This is a somewhat unique service that we haven’t seen before at other providers and the reason why we’ve dedicated a specific section to this. The basic premise of it is it allows you to connect to a server and in turn watch the various online TV services from the likes of Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Netflix USA etc. This in itself may not sound jaw dropping but let me explain…
When you connect to the “TOTAL=TV+Privacy” server you are given connection to a Dutch server. This gives you a Dutch IP address and allows you the freedom of private encrypted surfing and the possibility of downloading torrents from one of the more torrent friendly countries. Now normally because you’re connected to a Dutch IP you couldn’t make use of geo-restricted services such as the UK’s BBC iPlayer or Hulu over in the US. Both services as with others only serve content to people physically located in those respective countries, oh, and those smart folks of us who use VPN servers in the US and UK to fool those services in to thinking we’re located there. This in itself is fine but can become a pain, one server for private surfing, torrents, etc. Another you have to connect to in order to make use of Hulu and a third round of disconnection and connection to a UK server to watch BBC iPlayer, etc. None of which are possible to do or access at the same time.
This is where the magic of the “TOTAL=TV+Privacy” service comes in to play. Not only can you surf privately and download via the Dutch server but you can also at the SAME time watch Hulu, BBC iPlayer and a host of other US and UK based streaming services. No longer do you need to disconnect and do one thing at a time, the clever people over at BlackVPN have created a smart system of when connecting to one of the TV streaming services it automatically routes the connection through the appropriate country to circumvent the geo-restrictions in place, all while you surf and download with your Dutch IP. So in theory you can download and while waiting for your download to finish catch up on some TV using the streaming service of your choice. Its a great little idea and I’m sure we’ll see other providers offering a similar service when they see the BlackVPN package in action.
We’re told “TOTAL=TV+Privacy” is available free on all packages until the end of 2013 after which it will only be available on the Global Package and presumably still available if you specifically buy the “TOTAL=TV+Privacy” package.
BlackVPN Total (Click to enlarge)
The Verdict aka tl;dr:
Overall we’ve had an amazing time using the service of BlackVPN. We really can’t fault their service or support. The speeds we achieved when both browsing and downloading are at the peak available and regardless of the servers we connected to there was little to no loss of speed compared to our own internet connection. To date this was the most smooth and best VPN service we have made use of. The little extras like the TV Package make it an attractive option for anyone who likes to surf and download with encryption while watching the TV streaming services around the world, an added feature that most other providers don’t offer.
BlackVPN might not have the bells and whistles when it comes to a dedicated custom GUI connection program but for anyone with a small knowledge of computers or the ability to follow instructions the set up shouldn’t be too difficult. The extreme novice might miss a “one click” connection solution but for the beginner the customer installer will suffice and for the majority of people the FAQ of BlackVPN will solve most questions and point you in the right direction.
The only tiny negative we could find is the lack of manual connections to US and Asian servers which might put off some people who are in those areas of the world. [UPDATE – We have been informed after this article was published that they have a variety of servers in the US and Asia and your connection is made to the closest to you physically, or the fastest so to speak. It may be nice to if BlackVPN offer they ability to manually connect to the server of your choice in these areas.]
We really can’t say any more good words about BlackVPN and would whole heartedly recommend you consider their service should their packages and server locations live up to your needs. We are so impressed that we will definitely be making use of their services ourselves in to the future.
Top marks BlackVPN!