We’ve been taking a look at IPVanish over the past 8 days and are pleased to bring you a full IPVanish Review. For those of you who haven’t previously heard of them they are a US based VPN provider that opened in 2012 and have expanded server wise at a fast pace, they offer a wide range of server locations which currently clocks in at 44 different locations making them one of the bigger VPN providers based on server locations alone. If you’re interested to hear how they measured up then keep on reading…
The Website & Packages:
The IPVanish website is one of the fresher looking VPN provider websites. A nice Green, White and Black colour scheme makes for a pleasing to the eye experience. From some of our earlier reviews we have previously struggled with colours and layouts, IPVanish suffers none of those awkward characteristics and provides a fresh and interesting looking website. The main page of the website is done well and includes some of the relevant details you will mainly want to know when searching out a VPN provider such as server locations and VPN protocols accepted. It is not overly crowded and not all the information you require is crammed on one page, what it does allow is easy browsing to the various sections of the site at which you can find out the information you would want to know.
The important links of the site are accessible from the top in a menu style system, these include, A joining section. Information about why you may require a VPN and what benefits it can offer you. The set up guide section, which as a nice touch is visible before you sign up allowing you to peruse what software and guides are available before you commit to their service. A FAQ section which may answer some of the more in-depth questions you have, again, before you take up the service. Plus the obligatory About Us area and a Support section.
IPVanish offer one type of package available in three lengths. There are no accounts based on server choices and each account is only dictated by the length of service which you wish to take out. These are available in 1 Month, 3 Months or 1 Year packages, there is no option for a 6 month package as far as we could ascertain. As with the majority of providers the longer subscription you take the more of a saving you can make, as previously mentioned in our other reviews we would always recommend taking out a 1 month service to see if the service is suitable for your needs with a view to taking out a longer package after you have tested the service. The pricing for 1 Month, 3 Months and 1 Year come in at a price range of $10.00, $26.99 and $77.99 respectively. This puts IPVanish in the medium price range, although by saying this you get access to a wide range of servers in over 44 countries and as such it makes the price good value for money. Those who require a wide range of servers and country locations will do well to consider the service at these prices but those who maker lesser use and only of local servers may feel a smaller package at a lesser price may of been more appropriate.
A good range of server configuration guides is backed up by custom software for Windows, MAC OS 10.6.8+ and Android. There are no custom software packages for iPhone but a set-up guide is available for this system should you require it.
IPVanish offer the standard protocol connections of OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP. A selection of configuration files and set-up guides are available for the range of connection protocols. For the major systems, namely Windows, Apple and Android there are custom written GUI programs available. I always see this as an added bonus and as mentioned in previous articles I am a big fan of these types of one-click solutions as it opens the world of VPN use to those less technically able. For the purpose of the review I made use of a mixture of both the custom GUI software, OpenVPN and the custom Android software for mobile use.
The IPVanish custom Windows software is neatly laid out and makes the process of connection very easy indeed. Once you have entered your login and password details you are presented with a window containing the full range of servers available. After a few seconds of waiting the table updates and reports back with the server response times, basically the smaller the number (ms) the closer the server and in theory the better the speed achieved. The larger the number the further away the server is and again usually the slower the speed achieved would be the case.
There are over 100 servers available which can take some time to check and many of these servers report “unresponsive” unless you wait a while, these are of course the further afield servers usually but even servers as close to our UK location as Ireland, Iceland and others reported unresponsive which lead to the sorting of the list appearing confused. The server list can be sorted by City, Country, Server or Response Time. Due to the somewhat confused response time unless left for a long period I found it sometimes better to sort by country and if you’re aware of your closest countries then you may wish to connect directly to some of the closer ones even when reporting as unresponsive.
IPVanish Software Settings
A nice feature of the software is it informs you when certain servers are unavailable which are characterised by the “down” flag and pushed to the bottom of the server listing. This is handy as it saves you checking the provider website which would be the case with many other providers or when using software that hasn’t been custom written such as OpenVPN or by using one of the other non GUI protocols.
As well as the server listing the software has the option of which protocol to connect via including OpenVPN (TCP), OpenVPN (UDP), L2TP and PPTP. I found the feature pleasing as it is sometimes the case with some other providers that the type of connection isn’t always initially clear or selectable. It would be a nice feature to add a small help bubble next to each option as for the uneducated user the differences may not be easily understandable and it would save the user researching the differences elsewhere if the main features of each connection protocol could be quickly displayed by hovering over a small “?” or similar. For those of you who are well versed you will find these options acceptable and easy to change. As a little tip, for Windows 8 users the option of OpenVPN is not initially visible and is hidden away in the menu options of the program, I am not quite sure why this is the case and without checking the menu options you could be lead to believe that only PPTP and L2TP is available as a connection protocol.
Aside from options to view your IP, check the log files or contact support and find other help, the software is basically explained. It is easy to use and within one click you can be connected quickly to the server of your choice. It may be nice to see further options added in the future which are currently missing such as the option to enable/disable DNS Leak Protection, IPv6 protection etc. as these are available on other providers software and make for nice touches.
As explained the software is extremely easy to use and a very welcome addition, however there were one or two niggles which could be addressed to improve the overall user experience. Firstly with most software that requires keeping connection the quit “X” would usually send the program either to the task bar or the notification area, with the IPVanish software it immediately quits the software which drops connection. After initially quitting the software in this manner I had to ensure for future reference to remember not to press the “X” as an instant disconnection could cause sensitive information to be disclosed if mid-browsing or by not noticing the software has exited. If on the other hand users prefer the software to quit by using the “X” then it would be nice if the software asked you to confirm if you are sure you want to quit and drop connection.
Another minor detail which would improve the software would be if it would automatically remember which connection protocol was used last. I make a conscious decision to always make use of OpenVPN via UDP when available and unless unavailable for some reason I would not make use of the other protocols due to the speed and security that OpenVPN via UDP provides. As it stands the software reverts to the first in the list each time it is loaded which happens to be OpenVPN via TCP.
Furthermore in regard to improvements for the software, the sending to “tray” option is accessible only via the menu of the program which is a little strange, but that aside when sitting in the tray/notification area it would be nice if the icon changed from perhaps green when connected to red when disconnect, currently it impossible to know the connection status by quickly glancing at the notification area icon and would require opening of the software to double check you are still connected. A final oversight of the software is it appears to continually update the server response times of all the other servers based on your current VPN server connection, this is unnecessary and would be welcomed if server response time checking could turn off once connected to a server.
These are only minor details but with that added finesse it could really improve the user experience of the software. That said, the software is very smartly presented and easily used by those of all abilities, this is one of the major plus points when dealing with custom written software. I am pleased to see this enables the service to be used simply by even the most novice computer user.
As with all our reviews we used the service for a little over a week at both peak and off peak times for our every day internet use making use of both the custom software and OpenVPN directly. This included general browsing, TV streaming from both Hulu and BBC iPlayer plus other general activities like Skype, FTP and other general internet software usage. We found no trouble connecting to a range of servers and found the general usage speeds to be very acceptable with only one or two noticeable browsing issues in the week of testing which occurred on the Icelandic server but only very rarely and these were over come by switching to another server.
IPVanish have a massive range of servers and locations available spanning the majority of the world. Regardless of where you are located they are sure to have a server close to you and at the time of writing have servers available in 44 countries. This makes IPVanish one of the larger providers based on country server availability and is one of the more pleasing features of the service that they sell. If you are a global traveller or require access in plenty of different countries then IPVanish is definitely one service provider that you should consider.
Although a large range of countries and servers are available one of the more disappointing aspects of the service is the lack of country specific IP addresses. A large portion of the European servers that we tested report back on 3 out of 4 geo-IP location services as being in the US with only 1 giving the correct location. We even came across one or two servers which although supposed to be located in the likes of Spain and elsewhere reported on all 4 geo-IP location services as being in the US. Now this is not necessarily a problem for the majority of users and some may consider this the fault of the geo-IP service for being incorrect, but if you are after a specific hostname that ends in the country location or need to give the impression that you are in a certain country then these kind of block IP addresses which report as if they are US based would not be suitable for your needs. While on one hand this can be a nuisance for certain tasks on the other hand we found that you could connect to certain European servers and still make use of Hulu because the IP address of the European server was giving the impression of being in the US thus acting as work around on a fast local server over Hulu’s geo-restriction. This has pluses and minuses but we would like to see more correctly reporting IP addresses in the future especially if you are trying to access a certain country specific service which could be inconvenienced by this anomaly.
While making use of the Windows custom software we also spent some time using the Android edition of their software which is installed simply from the Google Play Store. As with the desktop big brother version the mobile solution is also easy to set up and basically requires a user name and password to get started. A full list of servers is available with response times when using wifi which are cleverly disabled when using mobile internet to save on bandwidth usage. A nice touch that really enhances the user experience and shows they have considered the little extras when it comes to the mobile implementation. The mobile application is basic and void of enhanced options but does the job it is intended to do well and does not interfere with the rest of the mobile browsing experience. Applications like this are a godsend to those less technically minded and the requirement to set up configuration is removed leaving only the simple process of connecting down to the user. We found no issues making connection to different servers at the same time on both desktop and mobile, another plus that IPVanish allow more than one device at a time which really should be the staple of any good VPN provider these days. A minor issue with the mobile software is due to our test device having quite a small screen it appears that some icon overlap occurs, something which I am sure IPVanish will rectify once being made aware of it by this review!
We tested a range of servers all over the world and although we are based in the UK so found more favourable speeds as expected using the closest servers, ie; Western European ones, we also found surprisingly good speeds on Canadian, US and other far flung servers such as those located in places such as India. This is especially good news when it comes to US servers as it makes accessing services such as Hulu a breeze and gives the ability to watch programs in higher quality without the trouble of buffering or delays.
Overall we had a very positive experience making use of the servers provided by IPVanish and we suffered no major slow downs or issues regardless of which server we made use of. Browsing and downloading was a brilliant experience and we would definitely recommend the service of IPVanish based on the speeds we achieved. As stated earlier a huge range of servers is available located in a large range of locations and even if you are based on the opposite side of the world to us you will easily be able to find servers close to your location, if the speeds of those locally match those of our local servers then you will be in for a pleasant experience.
As per our usual tests we selected a range of servers to download a freely available 1GB test file. We tested the same file on the same servers at both Peak and Off-Peak times in the GMT time zone.
The server selection tested and represented in order on the images below are Canada, India, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Los Angeles, United States. Our own internet connection speed is 30Mb/s. All downloads were made using a download manager opening 11 concurrent connections. The connection was using OpenVPN (UDP) via their custom Windows software.
IPVanish Peak Speeds
IPVanish Off-Peak Speeds
As you can see from the images above the speed results are excellent and exactly what you want from your VPN service. As noted earlier even using servers far away from our physical location such as the Indian VPN server we achieved speeds of approximately 20Mb/s. Top marks to IPVanish for speeds and speed reliability.
We contacted IPVanish on two separate occasions to test their support speed response and are pleased to inform you that on each occasion they responded via email within 14 minutes and 8 minutes. Superb speeds on response and one of the nicer features is that between 9am-5pm EST live help is available which is an added bonus and useful if you need to query something quickly within their working hours.
While we received swift responses one of our queries was regarding their Icelandic server which was listed as “down” on our first day of testing, we queried when this would be available again and although we receive a prompt and polite response they weren’t able to offer “an estimated time of repair” – A little disappointing that a rough estimate couldn’t be given but perhaps it was a fault or issue that hadn’t been examined thoroughly enough to gauge a time at that point, however a follow up email when the server came back up or at a point when they had more of an idea of the down time would of been a nice added touch. We checked the Icelandic server two days later and it was back up and working although we have no idea how long the server was unavailable for.
From our example queries we see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get technical support swiftly regardless of the hour of day in a polite and helpful manner.
The Verdict aka tl;dr:
We had a very good experience making use of the services of IPVanish. The main area of importance regarding download speeds was well rounded and regardless of server we found little problem in achieving decent speeds which included maximum speeds for locations closest to us and more than decent speeds for servers located in further away locations. Although not the cheapest provider around we liked the huge range of country locations available which would cover most needs. This would be especially welcomed for the seasoned or business traveller as those who make regular journeys around the world will always be safe in the knowledge that they have a server in a location close enough to them to offer an acceptable speed while securing their connection.
For those who require only one or two locations in the more regular counties for services such as TV streaming services in the US and UK then the packages available may feel a little like overkill and the mass of servers available go unused, this may cause you to consider if paying for so much is something you really require. A lesser priced package with far fewer servers may be something that would be more suitable to certain users and may be a wise addition for IPVanish to consider for the future. With that said you get a lot of bang for your buck with them and for only a few dollars more over some of the other VPN providers you get access to more than double the servers in an outstanding range of countries.
IPVanish provide some very well made custom software and although we had a little nitpicking with one or two areas that could add polish we found the overall software range easy to use and simple enough for even the most inexperienced user to understand.
Overall we would definitely recommend considering IPVanish as a very well rounded and wide ranging VPN provider, all the required elements are available and the speeds top notch, an excellent service from a professional looking company.
If you’re interested in taking a look at their service then head over to their website using the link below.
[UPDATE] Days after our review IPVanish responded by fixing some of the issues we encountered with their custom software, read our update on their quick solutions.