EarthVPN Review 2017
EarthVPN has plenty to be proud of, but there are some drawbacks as well. However, it undeniably still offers great value for money.
- Top value and straightforward pricing packages.
- Great range of servers and server locations.
- Top of the range encryption.
- Excellent privacy policies.
- 7-day money back guarantee.
- Speeds can be variable.
- Sometimes issues when connecting.
- No apps for iOS or Android operating systems.
- No live chat customer service .
EarthVPN is a provider which has been making a big impact in the sector thanks to its low prices and high-quality service and features. It is based in Northern Cyprus (Turkish) and as such is able to confidently claim that it keeps absolutely no user logs (although there have been issues with this in the past as you will see below).
Whilst EarthVPN is not by any means a household name, it is, without a doubt, an up and coming force in the market, which is why we here at VPNCompare.co.uk were so keen to try it out.
So, I have been putting it through its paces over the past few weeks and am excited to be able to report back on both the great and not so great, experiences I have enjoyed with it.
Let’s first take a look at Earth VPNs pricing structure. As with much of the rest of their service, EarthVPN has chosen to keep it simple. Whilst some VPNs like to provide multiple subscriber options, EarthVPN has just two:
- Monthly: A one month subscription plan to their full service for US$3.99 (approx £3.18)
- Annually: A one year subscription plan to their full service for US$39.99 (approx £31.94)
So, users are left with a very easy choice to make. They can sign up on a rolling one month agreement for as long as they like. Or they can sign up on an annual basis and make a saving over the year of US$7.89.
In order words, you get almost exactly 2 months free if you sign up for a year. But whichever package you opt for, the prices are going to be amongst the best on the market.
There is one of the biggest ranges of payment options I have seen from any VPN provider as well. With EarthVPN, you can make payment using VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover via PayPal, PayPal, BitCoin, Alipay, UnionPay, WebMoney, CashU, and Ukash. They also accept payment by Paysafecard for their Anonymous VPN Services (about which more later).
EarthVPN does not, as far as I can ascertain, offer customers a free trial. But they do offer a 7-day money back guarantee. This means that users can try their service for up to 7 days, risk-free, and with a guarantee of getting all their money back if they are not completely satisfied.
Frankly, for the low prices that EarthVPN offers their service for, if users are not absolutely sure they want to sign up for a full year, the option to sign up for a month, to begin with, and extend this to an annual subscription if they are satisfied is all but risk-free. Most people would be willing to risk $3.99 to try out a service.
But for those who are set on EarthVPN as their provider, the annual package works out as one of the best priced deals for a premium VPN around, equating as it does to just US$3.33 a month.
So, the pricing of EarthVPN is both cheap and simple, and they accept multiple methods of payment, including some which allow users to remain completely anonymous. So far, so good. The big question now is whether the service can deliver too.
I signed up for EarthVPNs annual package, although they do stress the service they provide is identical for both annual and monthly subscribers. Their service is available using the most common four VPN protocols; PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN.
But how good is the service in practice?
Custom Software & Apps
EarthVPN makes a point of stressing the wide variety of different operating systems their service is available on. And it is certainly true that it can be used with most. But whilst the support is there, it is not always a straightforward process.
The setup page of their website lists the various operating systems they support and then has different tutorials depending on which protocols you want to use. This is fine if you are an experienced VPN user, but for a newcomer, it can be pretty daunting.
This is exacerbated by the fact that for some operating systems, it is necessary to set up the VPN connection manually. I wanted to install EarthVPN on my iPhone but to do this, I had to manually enter the details for my server of choice in the VPN section of the settings menu.
To be fair to EarthVPN, their tutorial explains how to do this clearly and with step-by-step images. But these days most premium VPNs, which EarthVPN purports to be, will offer a much more user-friendly app with the same functionality which can be found online.
By failing to have a dedicated app for iOS or Android devices, EarthVPN definitely lets itself down and it is somewhere they must be looking to make improvements as a matter of urgency.
Turning to the Windows App, and EarthVPN has made amends and got a lot of things right here. The initial download is not perfect, as the software arrives in ZIP format which then has to be extracted and installed. For those familiar with ZIP this won’t be a problem, but others may encounter some problems.
The interface is not at first glance the most appealing, but actually, once you get familiar with it, it is simple to use and has everything you need.
The top section is where you can enter your username and password, and this is followed by tick boxes which allow you to choose whether or not to show your password and save your password.
Below that are four simple drop-down menu’s where you make your choices. The first lets you opt for which VPN protocol you want to use, whilst the second lets you choose a port. Again, for those not technically proficient, these options can prove a little unnerving and it is not the wisest idea for EarthVPN to make them so prominent.
But if in doubt, leave them on their default setting and continue. The service will work just fine.
Below those are the two boxes most users will want to focus on. The first is a drop-down menu where you can choose the country you want your server to be located. The second is titled location but is, in reality, a server list done by location with multiple servers in a single location being numbered.
At the bottom of the interface are three tick-boxes, where you can choose to auto-reconnect, troubleshoot a connection, and kill internet access if EarthVPN disconnects. All of these are fairly self-explanatory options and seem to do precisely what you would expect of them.
Once connected, the service itself was usually reliable. Whilst there were a few times when I struggled to make an immediate connection, once I had got past that connections were both reliable and stable.
It might be expected that given the budget price charged by EarthVPN for their service the number of servers available might be minimal. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
They offer servers in a total of 54 countries and in 190 separate physical locations. The bulk of these servers are located in Europe and North America, but EarthVPN is certainly no different from many other providers in that regard.
But they do offer servers in six separate continents, and in some unexpected locations. This includes three servers in China and other countries where VPNs are the only way to access an uncensored internet such as Iran, Pakistan, and Thailand.
The extent of EarthVPN’s servers means that pretty much every potential user should be able to find a server that works for them. Whether they are looking to circumvent state censorship, access geo-blocked sites, or just beef up their online security and privacy provisions, there should be a server in the right location for you.
And the variety of servers on offer means that no online service or website should be out of reach, no matter where in the world you are located.
It should also be stressed that all servers are available to all users, regardless of which package you have signed up for.
There are a number of additional features that can be added to the EarthVPN offering, but these do come at an additional charge of $1.99 a month each.
Given the cost-effective nature of EarthVPNs standard package, this doesn’t seem wholly unreasonable to me, but I am sure there are some users who will be unhappy and these additional costs are not made very clear on the EarthVPN website, although the information is there if you look for it.
Additional features that are available include:
- Adding an additional device to the package which can connect to the same server from a different location (to be clear, the basic package allows the use of three separate devices, but they must all be in the same location.)
- Having a Static IP Address
- Upgrading OpenVPN to 256-bit AES encryption
- SSH Tunnel/Socks proxy enabled
Whilst the additional charge will displease some, it does make sense to keep features that not every user will need optional and the basic cost to a minimum. Others include these features as standard, but their basic costs are higher.
However, there are some features which have become pretty standard on other premium VPNs which are still lacking from EarthVPN, including DNS leak protection and server statistics. These are not essential features for every user but some may miss them.
Before giving EarthVPN a try, I had read reports that their speeds were inconsistent and very server dependent. I was keen to find out for myself if this was true, so I made sure to try numerous different servers across their full range of protocols.
By way of full transparency, I was running these tests from a location in East Asia, where I might perhaps expect greater speeds from servers located in this part of the world. However, that did not prove to consistently be the case. Whilst some servers located in this region did prove to be amongst the fastest I connected to, so too were some based in the USA and Europe as well.
All protocols offered acceptable speeds on average, although some were better than others. On the whole, I found the OpenVPN to be the most disappointing with connections speeds regularly dropping by as much as 50%. Whilst this was still usable, it is a more significant drop than you would hope for.
However, the SSTP protocol proved to be more successful, with acceptable drops of between 10% and 25% encountered depending on which server I was using.
Broadly speaking then, high speeds is not one of EarthVPNs biggest asset and if you are looking to use this VPN for data intensive tasks, this might prove problematic. But for day-to-day use and streaming content, it proved to be more than sufficient.
It’s worth also giving a nod to their unlimited bandwidth as well. This means that users can undertake multiple tasks without, theoretically, the speed being affected. This is pretty standard fare amongst premium VPNs these days, but for the price EarthVPN charges it is good to see it there.
So, whilst I wouldn’t blow the trumpet too hard about speed, I wouldn’t want to be overly critical either.
The Encryption, Policies & Support:
EarthVPNs encryption levels are pretty good as well. Their L2TP/IPsec uses either 3DES or AES encryption with a 256-bit key whilst the SSTP protocol uses TCP Port 443 (for standard SSL transmissions) and 2048-bit SSL encryption which is better in more oppressive countries such as China.
OpenVPN uses 128-bit AES with an SHA1 hash algorithm and 2048 RSA key authentication as its standard encryption, and for a small additional fee of $1.99, it is possible to upgrade this to 256-bit AES encryption. Overall this does add considerably to the basic price, but still works out cheaper than many competitors (unless you want to add other paid-for features as well).
These are good reliable forms of encryption and mean that EarthVPN users have nothing to be unduly concerned about on this front.
When it comes to privacy, there is little to criticise with EarthVPN. It is based in Northern Cyprus which is a region technically still under the control of Turkey.
Recent developments in Turkey may mean that some readers would be wary of signing up because of this. And Turkey does have laws requiring IT companies to retain online data. However, for now, at least, these laws do not apply to Northern Cyprus.
This means that EarthVPN can justifiably claim that it has a zero-logs policy and that “neither we nor any third parties are technically possible to match an IP address to an account.”
There has been some media coverage about a story in the Netherlands in 2014 of an EarthVPN user being arrested for making bomb threats to his school. The Dutch police allegedly arrested him after identifying the IP Address behind his VPN connection.
According to EarthVPN, in this case, the data centre they were using was thought to be keeping IP transfer logs and when the Dutch Police used a court order to seize the EarthVPN server they were able to get hold of this information.
EarthVPN no longer uses the data centre in question and are no doubt much more thorough in checking the data retained by the ones they do use, so there is no reason to think such an incident could occur again.
The standard of EarthVPNs customer support can be best described as variable. There is no live 24/7 online support facility which is a real bonus on many premium VPN services there days.
Instead, EarthVPN users have to make do with a standard ticketed email system. I tried this out on a number of occasions and response times varied from around three hours to around twelve. Not bad, but by no means as good as a live chat service can offer.
In addition to this, they do offer an extensive FAQ section on their website which has information on pretty much any issue you might encounter. And they also offer a wide range of setup tutorials as well. I personally found these resources far more helpful than the ticketed system.
It is extremely hard to reach a final opinion about EarthVPN because whilst there is much that could be improved upon, there is much that is very good too.
The most notable downsides are speeds, which are variable depending on the protocol being used and the server connected to. Customer service could be improved upon too, with no live chat service and an email ticket system which is not always the quickest to respond.
But on the flip side, EarthVPN offers an exceptional range of servers and server locations, including some in hard to reach places like China and Iran. They are also up there with the very best in terms of privacy policies too and their encryption cannot be faulted either.
But by some distance, the biggest selling point for EarthVPN is its price. It is not just cheap, but it is very cheap. Despite the faults highlighted above, EarthVPN does still offer a premium level service (albeit without some of the bells and whistles of its more expensive competitors) at a budget level price.
If they were to improve on the flaws discussed here, it is likely that prices would have to rise and I suspect they have made a conscious decision to compromise on some areas of service they consider less essential, to keep prices low. In doing so, they have certainly found a gap in the market and it is for this reason that the buzz around EarthVPN has been growing.
And ultimately, for most users, EarthVPN does offer an excellent value-for-money service.