ProtonVPN Review 2019

Overall
4









  • Service









  • Speed









  • Apps









  • Policy









  • Price









Summary

A privacy-focused VPN which delivers on this core remit but is still lacking in some other areas.

Pros

  • Strong encryption
  • Impressive privacy protections
  • Solid server network
  • Secure jurisdiction
  • Up to 10 concurrent connections

Cons

  • Inconsistent speeds
  • Not good for streaming
  • A little expensive


ProtonVPN is a relatively new Swiss-based service from the people behind the highly acclaimed ProtonMail encrypted email service.

The question is, does their VPN live up to the same high standards?

While I found this service to be impressive, there are some critical points to consider before you sign up which I’ll cover later in this review.

I have been analysing the service for the past few weeks and in my assessment below you can find out exactly what I discovered.

Service

Speeds

Download speeds

To try and get an overview of the download speeds ProtonVPN offers, we have tested them on a variety of different devices and on several different internet connections too.

Overall we found that ProtonVPN’s speeds were fast but depending on server sometimes mixed.

Most connection speeds were reliable, but on occasion, speeds could be frustratingly slow. On its own this isn’t a huge problem, simply hop server and find a faster one.

When carrying out regular internet tasks there were no noticeable issues with speed, but depending on the connection, we did notice some differences.

We tested ProtonVPN’s download speed using a regular UK internet connection. Our without VPN speed was: 62.20 Mbps

The following are a selection of speed results when connected to ProtonVPN’s servers using their Windows client and OpenVPN.

  • UK – 59.68 Mbps
  • France – 59.11 Mbps
  • Netherlands – 59.66 Mbps
  • Switzerland – 59.68 Mbps
  • Sweden – 59.66 Mbps
  • New York, US – 59.50 Mbps
  • Australia – 53.52 Mbps

The best solution is to use their quick connect feature which finds you the fastest servers, you can then stick with the one it found and those speeds generally remain the same.

Douglas Crawford who writes for ProPrivacy said [1] that he found it difficult to find any faults with the service commending it on its “fast and secure VPN service”.

However, speeds results do seem to be mixed which is not uncommon and a reason you should do your own tests within the 30-day money back guarantee period.

RestorePrivacy’s Sven Taylor highlighted speed issues in his recent review [2] noting that he found other services like ExpressVPN to be faster in all tests.

ProtonVPN is one of the newer VPN services and such teething problem are to be expected. However, if you sign up it’s worth keeping an eye on this and checking from your location.

The impact on speed for ourselves was lower than most providers which is a positive.

Using the UK server as an example, we lost a little over 4% of speed compared to our regular connection. This is far better than most providers.

Note: Please note speed tests are not 100% reliable. They are merely a glimpse of performance at a certain period. Your results may differ depending on your location, time of usage, services accessed, device used and many other factors.

Logging

ProtonVPN is operated by a company that has made its name providing a secure and private email service, ProtonMail.

For all intents and purposes, it’s one of the most well-respected secure email services.

You would therefore expect it to have gone the extra mile to deliver a sufficient no user logs guarantee.

They have.

In their clear and easy-to-read privacy policy, they state in no uncertain terms that the only data ProtonVPN collect about you is a timestamp which tells them when you last logged onto their service successfully.

ProtonVPN logging policy

ProtonVPN offers a clear logging policy.

This contains no identifying information which they overwrite every time you log on, so they do not have a record of when and how many times you use their VPN, just when you last logged on.

But, why do they need this?

They say it is a tool to help them prevent brute force attacks where hackers run software to try and guess the password of an account holder.

In all honesty, we would prefer that they didn’t collect even this, but such is ProtonMail’s reputation that we are comfortable taking this explanation at face value.

Other than that, they do retain some partial payment details but you can set up an account without even giving your name, which is excellent.

Server Locations

Server details

At the time of our review, ProtonVPN was offering 526 servers in 42 different countries around the world.

For a newcomer such as ProtonVPN, this is a very respectable server network and there is a decent global spread as well.

The only downside is that not every user can access every server and depending on what you pay will depend on what you get access too.

Proton VPN website server page

If you opt for the free ProtonVPN service, the server options are limited to just three countries (USA, the Netherlands, and Japan). That’s actually a pretty decent deal for zero dollars (or pounds).

If you choose their Basic plan upwards, you get access to all of their servers.

However, if you want to use their double-hop servers for extra security, you will need to pay more for their Plus or Visionary plans.

ProtonVPN’s Secure Core servers are an interesting addition to the service which is essentially the same as ‘Double-Hop’ available from some other services. It passes your connection through more than one VPN server in safe jurisdictions which gives you an added layer of protection.

Protocols & Encryption

Encryption

ProtonVPN offers users a choice of either IKEv2/IPSec or OpenVPN protocols.

It justifies this somewhat limited selection by arguing that they are the most secure protocols currently available, which is true.

You may be a bit disappointed that there is no option for you to switch protocols. IKEv2/IPSec is the default for the ProtonVPN mobile apps while all their other apps use OpenVPN as standard.

If you like the option of PPTP and L2TP protocols and it’s a deal-breaker for you, then you’ll need to look elsewhere, such as ExpressVPN.

Wireguard has been mooted as a possible option and although ProtonVPN has been considering it since late 2018 (with a donation to the cause), they still feel it’s not stable enough to be offered.

Hopefully something we will see in the future.

Simultaneous Connections

The number of simultaneous connections you get depends on which price plan you opt for.

ProtonVPN’s free plan only allows one connection. Paid subscriptions offer a little more but with the basic account, this rises to just two, which is a little disappointing.

You have to pay for the Plus plan, which is priced above the market average before you reach the industry standard, which is five.

If money is no object, you can go for the Visionary package which will give you a huge ten simultaneous connections with every account. Although it does come with some additional features but these will be overkill for most.

Jurisdiction

ProtonVPN’s headquarters is in Switzerland which, as they stress on their website, means they have the protection of some of the strongest privacy laws in the world.

Switzerland is not part of the EU and it is not a fourteen-eyes country. This means it has no obligation to collect and share information with partner countries.

As a result, ProtonVPN is able to offer a strong privacy policy and, as we have discussed, a very impressive no user logs guarantee.

Note: Some question the claimed benefits of using a VPN outside a 14-eyes country.

Apps

Apps header

Mobile Apps

ProtonVPN offers dedicated Android and Apple iOS apps.

We primarily tested the iOS app but also made some use of the Android app too. However, both apps are broadly the same in appearance and functions.

Downloading the mobile apps is no different from any other service. You can grab them from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

You do have to approve settings changes to your device to use either of them though which is common among mobile VPN apps.

They come with a dark background theme that really makes them stand out. It is pretty simple to navigate around and features a server map as well as a list and allows you to favourite your preferred servers.

ProtonVPN Android app

ProtonVPN’s mobile app.

In the settings menu, you have access to all the main features plus the details of your account, which is welcome as some VPNs offer a more paired-back service for mobiles.

The main difference is that the mobile apps only allow you to connect via the IKEv2/IPSec protocol. We are assured that support for OpenVPN is coming soon. We will be even happier with the mobile apps when it arrives.

Desktop Apps

ProtonVPN also offers apps for Windows and macOS devices which are similar in appearance to their mobile apps.

ProtonVPN Windows app

ProtonVPN desktop app.

We had a few issues signing into our account to start with and getting the macOS app to connect too. It repeatedly asked for passwords and requested permissions. Persistence saw us through this and from then on the apps were pretty user-friendly.

No such issues were encountered on the Windows app and everything worked smoothly.

The initial footprint of the app on the desktop screen is rather large to include the world map view. Thankfully this can be much slimmed down by hiding the map leaving a simple list mode.

The dark theme continues but so too does the usability. Choosing your preferred location can be done on the app’s main screen through either the server map or locations list.

ProtonVPN settings

ProtonVPN settings area.

All the standard features you would expect from a modern VPN service are available including:

  • Kill Switch
  • DNS Leak Protection
  • IPv6 Leak Protection
  • Split Tunneling

As well as basic interface options such as auto-booting, connecting and such like.

Other Apps

ProtonVPN doesn’t offer any additional apps at the time of writing this review and if you’re a Firestick fan or user of another device there’s no quick solution.

They do have a command-line tool available for Linux systems, but you will need to be comfortable using this type of interface to enjoy the service.

Streaming

Streaming header

Netflix

ProtonVPN can unblock US Netflix but it has been a bit tricky in how it offers this service to its users.

There are several US servers which can unblock US Netflix around the world. But all of these servers are reserved for subscribers to either their Plus or Visionary packages.

This is a little disappointing as unblocking Netflix is a pretty standard feature for a VPN these days and most include it for all subscribers.

But ProtonVPN expects you to pay a higher rate to be able to do so. This is definitely not to their credit.

At the time of this review, ProtonVPN is able to unblock both the UK and German Netflix catalogues too.

BBC iPlayer

In our testing, we found that ProtonVPN was not able to unblock the BBC iPlayer using any of their UK-based servers.

Other services

None of the additional streaming services that we tested could be unblocked using ProtonVPN.

This is in keeping with their reputation as a VPN for privacy rather than for unblocking. If you’re looking for a service for unblocking TV services specifically, then it would be best to stick with another provider.

Price

Price header

We have already touched on the somewhat complicated tiered pricing structure that ProtonVPN uses.

It breaks down as follows:

  • Free – $0 a month but minimal service.
  • Basic – $4 a month ($48 a year) but limited service.
  • Plus – $8 a month ($96 a year).
  • Visionary – $24 a month ($288 a year) with additional features.

We felt that the Plus package is the closest equivalent to the standard packages offered by other VPNs.

ProtonVPN pricing

ProtonVPN pricing options.

On that basis, ProtonVPN’s pricing is a little on the high side.

If you can make do with a lesser service, the Basic package is a reasonable price but for similar money, other VPNs offer a lot more.

If you’re an advanced user, you may be happy to pay a premium but as a general everyday VPN user, ProtonVPN may be a little on the expensive side.

Verdict

Verdict header

Like their connection speeds, we found ProtonVPN to be a little inconsistent. Some of its features are superb but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

If you want privacy, ProtonVPN certainly deliver.

Its policies and no logs guarantee are impressive. On security, we are impressed too, although we would like to see a little more flexibility in protocols.

Speeds are faster than most but we would like to see them more consistent across their network.

The apps are impressive too and while the Windows, Android and iOS apps worked well, the Mac one caused us a few grievances. Although it’s worth remembering, ProtonVPN is mainly a privacy-first service.

Most disappointing is the inability to unblock many streaming services and the decision to keep the US Netflix unblocking servers for higher-rate subscription payments.

At these rates, ProtonVPN is too expensive for the majority of everyday users although the free trial plan is a nice addition. If you’re a more advanced user it may be worth stumping up the extra cash for the claimed security benefits of this Swiss-based service.

K.G Orphanides of Wired matched our review findings [3] for ProtonVPN saying that you get lots of security features but disliked that the service was “expensive”.

Having said all that, there are the makings of a good VPN in ProtonVPN.

We don’t recommend it for streamers but if you value your online privacy, want plenty of security features and don’t mind the higher price tag, it’s doing a lot right.

30-day money back guarantee

Other services to consider

If you’re looking for a higher-rated VPN consider ExpressVPN. A more streaming-friendly service, Surfshark or a smaller but privacy-orientated service, VPN.ac.

References

  1. ProtonVPN | A VPN Worth of your Money?
  2. ProtonVPN | Restore Privacy
  3. ProtonVPN: a brilliant VPN with no free data caps

David Spencer

Author: David Spencer

David is VPNCompare's News Editor. Anything going on in the privacy world and he's got his eye on it. He's also interested in unblocking sports allowing him to watch his favourite football team wherever he is in the world.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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