VPN routers have been around for many years but usually, they're bog-standard routers with VPN functionality added.
The downside to this has always been poor download speed. The Vilfo VPN router is a new type of router that has been custom built to solve this problem.
Essentially a mini-computer, there's enough power inside these devices to secure your entire household and all your connected devices.
More importantly, it aims to do this at suitable speeds.
But is the Vilfo router actually any good and is the price tag that initially seems hefty really worth paying?
Over the past month we've been playing around with the router in a home office setting to see how it performs and most importantly, how it compares to what else is available on the market.
What's inside the Vilfo box?
The Vilfo router comes in standard easy to open packaging.
We would have loved to have seen a tamper-proof seal here to ensure it can't be intercepted in the postal system but this isn't the case.
Inside the box you'll find much of what you would expect which includes:
- 1x Vilfo router
- 1x Ethernet cable
- 1x Quick start guide
- 2x Small antennas
- 1x Power cable + regional plug
The first thing that strikes you about the Vilfo router is its basic box design. It certainly won't be winning any awards for design innovation.
A plain white rectangle box with a minor recessed pattern on top.
On a positive note, the box itself is smaller than many home routers which is great for space saving. Although it's worth bearing in mind that you may end up using this as an addition to a home or small office router so you'll essentially have two boxes wherever your current router is situated.
It also comes with a rather large power pack as part of the power cable set-up.
The device features two small antennae which are unobtrusive, although the Wi-Fi range is somewhat lacking, but more on that later.
The Vilfo VPN router's side has small air vents and packing a relatively powerful CPU it's a well thought out design.
On the rear of the device are the antenna connectors, 1x WAN port, 3x LAN ports and the power connection port.
I was massively impressed with the discreet LED arrangement.
Unlike many other standard and VPN routers, there are no unnecessary flashing lights. If your main internet connection is in a bedroom, you'll appreciate this.
The front of the device features 2x USB 3 ports and 1x HDMI port. Sadly there are no USB-C ports for future compatibility.
Vilfo measures 18cm in width, with a height of 4.2cm and a depth of 12cm.
Standard VPN providers usually allow you to connect between 5-10 devices. While there are a handful of VPN services that now offer “unlimited” VPN connections, they're not all that common.
Vilfo is a VPN router that allows you to use an unlimited number of concurrent connections with any VPN provider. If, for example, your VPN of choice was ExpressVPN, then ordinarily you would be limited to just five concurrently connected devices.
With the Vilfo router, this becomes unlimited. It's one of the bonuses of any VPN router, not specific to Vilfo.
The router allows for three wired connections which is a decent number enabling you to connect up any devices that will benefit from maximum speeds coupled with security and privacy.
As most of us have multiple devices that benefit from using Wi-Fi, such as phones, tablets and laptops, the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless options are suitable.
However, and this is a huge “however”. The Vilfo VPN router will only allow you to create 2.4GHz OR 5GHz wireless connections.
You can't have both.
This is a huge faux pas on the developers part. The average Joe may not care too much about this, but you'll be sadly disappointed if you require it.
Another let down of the Vilfo is the poor Wi-Fi range. While it's fine working through thin partition walls to an adjoining room, stretching from one corner of a relatively small building to the opposite corner produced an unusable signal.
Vilfo openly admits the Wi-Fi signal isn't the best. Their solution is to recommend using your regular home or office router as an access point simply for the Wi-Fi. Not an ideal solution and something I would have expected better from a device at this price point.
While the Wi-Fi usage limitations are glaring, under the hood of the Vilfo is much more impressive.
While many ‘VPN routers' contain no specialist hardware, the Vilfo VPN router is powered by nothing less than an Intel® Celeron processor and sports 2GB of DDR3 RAM. The kind of hardware that would have powered many home computers fully in the not so distant past.
Finishing the Vilfo is an 8 GB SSD (hard drive) useful for storing mountains of information about your usage if required.
We tested the Vilfo router for a multitude of purposes. Everything from regular daily browsing and gaming to more intensive tasks such as streaming and large file transfers.
Overall we noted no issues and there was little speed difference between using a desktop based VPN app and connecting directly via the Vilfo router.
This is positive indeed and a good indication of the power possessed inside Vilfo.
To put things to a more ‘scientific' test, we tested and recorded our speeds in different environments.
Firstly using our regular UK residential connection, the kind you would use at home. Both using Wi-Fi 5Ghz and a wired Ethernet connection.
We then ran the same speed tests using the same connections using the ExpressVPN desktop Windows app.
Finally, we ran the same tests connecting to the same ExpressVPN London location on the Vilfo router, again using Wi-Fi 5Ghz and a wired Ethernet connection.
Below are our results:
- No VPN: 61.86 Mbps
- ExpressVPN App UK – London: 56.97 Mbps
- Vilfo ExpressVPN UK – London: 55.88 Mbps
- No VPN: 59.75 Mbps
- ExpressVPN App UK – London: 55.40 Mbps
- Vilfo ExpressVPN UK – London: 55.77 Mbps
For all intents and purposes, Vilfo performed as well as using a regular desktop app. There was no noticeable difference between using a much more powerful desktop software-based connection and using Vilfo directly.
However, it's worth noting that these results are simply a snapshot in time under a particular set of circumstances. We have done our best to ensure they would match your regular home usage.
However, speeds achieved can vary wildly depending on your set-up, usage, the VPN service you utilise, the location of your router to the location of the device you're using, Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection, your home ISP connection, if you voted Brexit or not, if you supported Trump or Biden and even the direction the toilet water flushes.
Our test internet connection is also sold as 60 Mbps. If you have much faster internet, your results may vary.
For users who aren't simply interested in streaming overseas content like Netflix, Privacy is the main reason to use a VPN service and indeed a VPN router such as the Vilfo.
Privacy protection is handled using OpenVPN but where other VPN routers usually tie you into one service provider – often their own – the Vilfo VPN router lets you access almost any VPN service that supports OpenVPN connections.
Of course, you will need your own VPN subscription(s) to utilise them via your Vilfo.
Built into the Vilfo are pre-configured settings for around 25 different service providers. This includes almost all the most popular such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish, PrivateInternetAccess, ProtonVPN and HideMyAss.
At the time of writing, Surfshark was not available built-in.
There is also a selection of lesser known services pre-configured.
But if you don't use one of the big names, it's merely a case of uploading the OpenVPN configuration files for your favourite provider and you're then able to use Vilfo with your service of choice.
This is a handy feature, made even more convenient because you can use multiple VPN services simultaneously. Want one device connected to NordVPN and another connected to ExpressVPN? No problem. A massive bonus for the Vilfo.
I especially liked how Vilfo keeps you connected to the same server often retaining the same IP Address, something which can be quite difficult via software-based apps.
However, it is disappointing to see both Google Analytics and “Intercom” come pre-enabled on the device.
Vilfo claims this is to “better know where to focus development, make meaningful improvements, and improve user experience.” but for a privacy device, this should certainly be disabled by default or at the very least make you aware of this at setup.
The Vilfo router handles connections via what it calls “Groups”. You create a Group, for example, I named one “United Kingdom” and another “United States” and had each connect to a server in the relevant country.
You can create these using whatever naming system you like.
You then connect your devices directly to the singular Vilfo wi-fi connection or via ethernet and assign each device to one of your “Groups”. It's easy to move devices to different groups all handled from within the web-based admin panel.
It's also possible to completely disconnect an entire group and connect to another VPN server or provider for fast moving of a batch of devices.
The beauty of this is each group will be assigned the same IP Address.
A standard of any reliable VPN app these days is a Kill Switch and while most are effective, they have the limitation of being software-based. Vilfo has its own inbuilt kill switch system and should connection to your provider drop connection, the devices connected to that particular group are cut until connection is restored.
Other groups will continue to function if their connections are reliable.
Another handy feature is the Split Tunnelling option. This has become popular with many app-based services and it's great to see it included in the Vilfo.
If you have a website or particular service that you want to fall outside of the VPN connection, you can omit it.
This lets you stay connected to the VPN service but access something like your banking service via your home connection. Very useful if the service you're accessing is highly sensitive to changed IP addresses or “unknown” connection locations.
I used this to make Paypal fall outside the VPN connection and it appeared to work well, although access was slightly slower than usual.
Home VPN Server
One of the smartest features of Vilfo VPN router is the ability to run your own VPN server on your home connection.
This serves two purposes.
The first is allowing you to access your entire home network securely from any location in the world. This is useful for advanced users who have needs to connect home.
However, for less tech-inclined users, the more useful function is being able to connect and use your home internet connection.
While you can use a regular VPN service that has unblocked those services there are some around the world such as Virgin TV Go from the UK, Sky Go from New Zealand and Astro Go from Malaysia amongst others that work with no commercial VPN provider.
By connecting to your home network you can access these worldwide.
It's not limited to streaming services. Often banking apps and others throw up issues when you're out of your home country, so being able to access your home internet connection is a huge bonus of Vilfo.
With little complicated set-up, it makes it viable for even users who only have a little technical knowledge.
Connecting to your home via your favourite VPN client is then effortless.
If streaming is important to you then you'll appreciate how the Vilfo router functions and what that means for opening up streaming on gadgets across your household.
By being able to create more than one connection to different VPN server locations and indeed different providers it means you can assign devices by what you intend to watch.
If US Netflix is important then create a new United States connection for your VPN provider and add devices you want to watch US Netflix on. BBC iPlayer? Create a new UK connection and so on.
You can then move devices in and out of those connections at will unlocking the services you require.
Another handy feature is this enables devices that don't support VPN access directly like SmartTVs or those which are low powered like the Amazon Fire TV Stick letting the hardware intensive task of VPN encryption be handled by the Vilfo freeing up your low-powered device for streaming.
This extends to all types of devices that don't support VPN such as music devices and more.
Often the negatives of VPN routers of the past have been the difficulty of setting them up for the beginner.
Vilfo aims to resolve this issue by offering a quick 5 step set-up via its web interface.
You need to connect the antennas to the device, plug in the supplied ethernet cable to the WAN port and to a LAN port on your regular router and connect the power cable.
After powering on the Vilfo and waiting a few minutes a new Wi-Fi connection called “Vilfo” is created.
It is then simply a case of logging into the web-based admin panel where there's a five-step setup process to run through.
I liked the fact Vilfo is ready to set up with your favourite VPN provider, meaning you're ready to get going and using it as soon as the initial set-up is complete.
You can, of course add other VPN providers later, but having this initial feature removes a layer of headache.
One step that did seem unnecessary was the need for a license code, but more worryingly, your email address. Now, of course, you could enter a temporary email address, but I would much prefer this information wasn't required at all.
The setup user interface is straightforward and all but the most novice users should have no issues with the setup process.
The settings area is fairly straightforward, although at first glance it can seem extensively complicated. The home screen deals with statistics and usage.
Most of the important settings are stored under ‘Devices‘ which allows you to create new groups and basically deal with adding new servers or providers and adding which of your devices you want to fall into each group.
‘Port Forwards‘ and running your ‘VPN Server‘ have their own settings area as do other informational type areas such as Statistics, System, a section for installing new VPN Providers and a dedicated area that details with authorising devices to use the Vilfo browser extension.
Other areas include ‘Bypass‘ which allows adding sites or services to bypass the VPN connection and a ‘Network‘ section that allows you change the Wi-Fi network (SSID) name, change the password and select the band for Wi-Fi, either 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz.
As mentioned earlier in this review, only allowing 2.4Ghz OR 5Ghz is a big drawback.
Further areas include the likes of ‘Notifications‘, some ‘OpenVPN‘ settings, a ‘Parental Control‘ area which you can control access times and devices and a section for adding new Users, either allowed to access the admin panel or for connecting to services like the home VPN server.
The Vilfo router does away with forgetting to run your VPN service's app and the initial lag between connection and protection. After using the VPN router for the better part of the month, it's easy to see the advantage.
VPN routers are nothing new but in the past they've been plagued by poor speeds. Vilfo has certainly done away with this and the impressive hardware puts the device at the peak in the speed stakes.
Setting up the Vilfo is effortless and I love how you can connect to multiple servers and multiple VPN providers at the same time. This feature is a game-changer.
Physically, Vilfo sports plenty of wired connections which is excellent and if you're aiming for those peak speeds, you'll appreciate the three ethernet ports.
Sadly, the router is let down by the poor Wi-Fi signal.
In a relatively small building, the Wi-Fi struggled to reach from the top corner to its opposite lower corner through very thin walls. Couple the lack of being able to use both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz and this is a significant oversight.
While you can use your regular router purely for its Wi-Fi connection tagged onto the Vilfo VPN router, it seems a clunky solution that I would rather have seen the device solve.
There really is a lot to love about Vilfo but at $399 without VAT and just shy of $500 including it (~£365) it's not an impulse purchase.
While it's 90% of the way to being perfect, those small Wi-Fi oversights make me question why it's not the full package for its price tag.
Compared to traditional routers with added VPN functionality, it's impressive. When a decent branded router with VPN added on can cost in the $200-$250 range with poor speeds, you're getting good value for money here.
The Vilfo VPN router is a great buy and there are lots of useful features like the built-in kill switch and split tunnelling. I love the fact you can run your own home VPN server. Sadly an overall positive device is let down by its poor Wi-Fi coverage.
If you're planning on using Vilfo near your devices or hard-wired you're in for some fast speeds, if Wi-Fi at range is a necessity then get ready to tag your existing router on as an access point should your ISP allow.
Overall I'm impressed with the Vilfo. There's a lot right here, and if you're after a VPN router it's well worth considering.
If only they had sorted the Wi-Fi niggles, it could have been perfect.
A high-spec device which enables super fast downloads that offers VPN protection across your entire household.
- Super fast speeds
- High spec
- Easy to set up and use
- Run your own VPN server
- Use multiple VPN providers
- Poor Wi-Fi signal
- Unable to use both Wi-Fi frequencies
- Pre-enabled analytics