ProtonVPN Review

Launched in 2014, Proton Technologies’ ProtonMail has quickly become one of the world’s most popular and trusted encrypted email services. In an age of increased surveillance, amid a global assault on privacy and human rights by governments and agencies, ProtonMail provides a layer of protection for journalists, activists, and everyday users.

ProtonVPN was created by the same team with the same goal. Based in Switzerland, a country with privacy-friendly laws, this security-focused VPN employs a selection of features designed to guarantee you privacy and safety. As you’ll find out by reading our ProtonVPN review, these security measures include tunneling your connection through multiple secure servers, high-end encryption, and trusted VPN protocols.

Key features:

  • High-End Encryption
  • Secure Core Features
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • P2P Servers

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Top-Class Security
  • Unblocks Streaming Services
  • Works With Torrents
  • Offers a Free Plan
  • Trustworthy
  • Small Server Base
  • Some Important Features Reserved for Pricier Subscription Plans

Features

Given Proton’s focus on security, it’s no surprise that ProtonVPN’s key features serve to protect your IP address, connections, and browsing history from outside monitoring. In addition to taking a detailed look into the company’s security systems, we’ll examine metrics like speed, streaming, and torrenting capabilities. In our review of ProtonVPN, we’ll also inspect the company’s network and server infrastructure, deconstruct the privacy policy, and do a background check to see how this VPN provider has resolved issues in the past.

Secure core

One of ProtonVPN’s central security features is the so-called Secure Core, a network architecture that allows ProtonVPN to route your traffic through multiple servers before it leaves the company’s network. That means someone who might be monitoring traffic at the exit server will not be able to figure out the IP address of any ProtonVPN user, nor match any browsing history with your address.

The Secure Core architecture is a crucial part of our ProtonVPN security review, as it protects you against both malicious users and government surveillance. ProtonVPN routes internet traffic only through countries with privacy-friendly laws: Switzerland, Sweden, and Iceland. None of these countries are part of the infamous Five Eyes/Fourteen Eyes agreements, and they employ strong data protection laws, making sure your data, IP address, and browsing habits are fully protected.

Speed

When choosing a VPN service, speed is one of the most important metrics. High-end encryption, traffic routing, and spoofing are just some of the processes VPNs employ to keep your connection private, and each of these processes can have a negative impact on your internet speed.

That’s why we conducted a ProtonVPN speed review to test how much our connection speed would be affected when connected through the VPN. While ProtonVPN has several different pricing plans, the company says that its free plan allows “medium” speeds, while all others use the “high-speed” infrastructure, which works at up to 1 GB/s. We conducted our own tests using the Plus plan to test this claim.

Here are the results of our normal internet connection using the closest server without a VPN:

proton VPN review speed

We then launched ProtonVPN and chose the Quick Connect option, which automatically chooses the closest and fastest servers to your location. These are the speeds we got using ProtonVPN:

protonVPN review speed image 2

While many ProtonVPN reviews show that the system affects their speeds quite badly, we experienced only a slight throttling of our connection. Our download speed was slower by 12.4%, while upload remained relatively untouched.

Next, we connected to a German ProtoVPN server and tested the connection speed to the closest “real” server to us. Here are the results:

protonVPN review speed image 3

As you can see, our download speed took a big hit when routed through a German server back to a local one. This was expected, but the decrease in speed is a bit more severe than we’d like to see.

All in all, the speed test in our review of ProtonVPN didn’t disappoint us. Yes, there will inevitably be some speed loss, but it varies depending on factors like location and current traffic. None of the drops in speed we experienced affected our browsing or streaming experience noticeably.

Servers

The size of a VPN provider’s server network has a direct impact on the quality of your connection. In total, ProtonVPN has 849 servers in 50 countries. When compared to VPN providers like NordVPN, which has more than 5,000 servers, ProtonVPN’s network seems very small. However, ProtonVPN does seem dedicated to broadening its server network; it’s constantly increasing the number of its servers and the countries those servers cover.

It’s important to note that while we were writing our ProtonVPN free review, only three servers were available for use on the free plan. You must switch to a paid plan to get access to the broader network, with full server/country availability reserved for the pricey Plus and Visionary plans.

The number of servers isn’t great, but it should satisfy the needs of most users, especially with the recent addition of servers based in Africa.

Security

We’ve already covered one important pillar of ProtonVPN’s security-first approach: Secure Core. The Secure Core feature is also reserved only for Plus and Visionary subscribers. Worry not, as you’ll see here in our ProtonVPN review that the company employs a string of other security measures that will keep you safe in cyberspace.

The first layer of defense is high-end encryption. ProtonVPN uses the strongest level of encryption available. The user’s internet traffic is protected by AES-256 encryption, the key exchange is kept safe by 4,096-bit RSA, while message authentication is protected by HMAC with SHA384. If these words and numbers mean nothing to you, just rest assured that this is the strongest level of encryption available.

In addition to encryption, what makes ProtonVPN safe to use is a system called Perfect Forward Secrecy. This system generates a new encryption key for each session. This prevents third parties from capturing and de-encrypting your traffic if a key from one of your sessions is compromised.

Finally, there are VPN protocols. Many VPN providers deploy servers relying on PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. These are older VPN protocols that are now widely considered unsafe or easily blocked. That’s why ProtonVPN uses OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec, the strongest and safest VPN protocols currently available.

Another factor that influences our ProtonVPN Plus review: Proton Technologies is based in Switzerland. This adds a layer of protection, as the country’s strong data protection laws prohibit any government or agency from requisitioning user information from the VPN provider.

Privacy

Another huge concern for all VPN users is privacy. A provider might offer superb levels of security, but if the provider itself is not dedicated to preserving your privacy, then you certainly have cause for concern.

ProtonVPN’s privacy policy, prior record, and wealth of features show that your privacy will be maintained in full.

The first stop in the privacy section of our Proton VPN review is the company’s logs policy. ProtonVPN has a strict no-logs policy. This means that it does not store any information about your connection or browsing habits. The only type of information stored is a single timestamp of your account’s most recent login.

This means ProtonVPN couldn’t disclose your info to any third party even if it wanted to.

Further, the company’s track record shows that it has always been staunchly opposed to all invasions of user privacy. The people behind ProtonVPN also developed ProtonMail – they have a long history of supporting privacy and anti-censorship activists.

As other Proton VPN reviews also point out, this service includes a few other features designed to guarantee privacy. These include DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and an always-on VPN feature, which makes sure you don’t spend a single unprotected moment online.

Platform Availability

ProtonVPN is available on all the usual platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, and Linux. The versions for each platform are practically the same, retaining identical functionality across all of your devices. The interface also looks exactly the same regardless of which version you’re using. Here’s how the UI looked when we tested it on a Mac (bearing in mind that it looked identical during our review of ProtonVPN for Windows):

protonVPN review platform image

User Experience

All in all, ProtonVPN is very enjoyable to use. The setup process is extremely easy. After you choose your pricing plan, you register, verify your email, and then you can immediately download the appropriate client.

As you can see above, the UI is very polished and all the necessary functions are where you’d expect them to be. You can choose your server from the list or click on it directly on the map. There’s a “Quick Connect” option, too, which automatically connects to the closest and fastest server near you. During our free ProtonVPN review, most servers and features like Secure Core were locked out; if you wish to use those features, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid plan.

The ProtonVPN mobile app performs the same as the desktop version and has the same interface, just properly scaled down for mobile screens.

Streaming and Torrenting

One of the most common uses for VPNs is unblocking geo-locked content on streaming sites and providing anonymity for torrenting. ProtonVPN is fully capable of unblocking content reserved for specific locations on most streaming services. We tested ProtonVPN’s Netflix capabilities and were able to access US Netflix – the most commonly sought-after library – without a problem.

ProtonVPN also works with Hulu, Amazon, and BBC iPlayer without a problem. However, depending on how much the VPN affects your connection speed, loading up HD streams might take some time. Note that unblocking geo-locked streaming content is available only with the Plus and Visionary pricing plans.

If you’re into torrenting, never fear – ProtonVPN offers fully functional P2P servers. While researching our ProtonVPN torrenting review, we tested out sharing via BitTorrent and managed to share files without a problem while retaining full privacy. P2P servers are available on all paid pricing plans.

Related Products

As we’ve said, the folks behind ProtonVPN have one other successful product under their belt: ProtonMail. Indeed, ProtonMail actually served as the inspiration for this VPN service. ProtonVPN started as a way of extending and strengthening the privacy protections built into ProtonMail.

ProtonMail was conceived in 2013 by scientists who met at CERN. It’s an encrypted email service that allows users to safely communicate with one another without any prying eyes tapping into their lines of communication. While we’ve focused exclusively on our ProtonVPN review here, we thoroughly recommend giving ProtonMail a spin. It has paid versions and a free plan with limited features that might suit you.

Customer Support

We were somewhat disappointed by the fact that ProtonVPN’s support staff can be reached only via an online form on the website. There’s no direct email, live chat, or phone support. However, the agents were pretty diligent in responding to all our queries within 24 hours.

As part of our VPN ProtonVPN review, we checked out the knowledge base on the company’s site and found it to be extremely helpful, containing the answers to all the most common questions that might arise.

Pricing

ProtonVPN may be quite more expensive than CyberGhost or Avast, but you are in for quite a service for the price. There are four pricing plans available with ProtonVPN: Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary. The free plan allows one VPN connection at a time, access to servers located in three countries, and “medium” connection speeds. While the VPN capabilities with the free plan are fairly limited, the service does offer basic protection and can be extremely useful if you’re in a bind. During our ProtonVPN free version review, we found it more than adequate for regular browsing and unblocking restricted sites.

The Basic plan costs $5 per month. It grants you access to a much wider selection of servers located in 50 countries. Furthermore, it gives you access to P2P servers and allows ProtonVPN’s maximum connection speeds.

The Plus plan will set you back $10 per month. It allows you to unblock restricted streaming content, broadens server availability, allows five simultaneous VPN connections and Tor network routing, and gives you access to the Secure Core feature. This is the plan we recommend, as it gives you access to all of ProtonVPN’s best features and servers.

The last ProtonVPN pricing option is the Visionary plan. It includes all the features of the Plus plan but allows 10 simultaneous VPN connections and comes with a ProtonMail Visionary account. This bundle will set you back $30 per month. Bear in mind that all ProtonVPN plans are cheaper if you opt for yearly payments.

Apart from the Visionary plan, which we consider a bit overpriced, the pricing of ProtonVPN is pretty much on par with most of its competitors.

How Does ProtonVPN Compare to Other VPN Services?

protonvpn logo protonvpn review 2020
  • High-End Encryption
  • Secure Core Features
  • Unblocks Netflix
  • P2P Servers
Price $8
cyberghost logo - cyberghost Review 2020
  • 5800+ servers
  • Ad blocking
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
Price $2.75
avast VPN logo
  • AES 256 bit encryption
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Specialized P2P servers
Price $3.99

Conclusion

All in all, ProtonVPN is one of the best VPNs on the internet. Also, as we’ve emphasised in our ProtonVPN free VPN review, the free plan does the trick for users with basic needs. Thanks to its many security measures, ProtonVPN provides industry-leading protection. However, it does have a significantly smaller server base than most of its competitors, and many of its more useful features are reserved for the pricier plans. 

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Top-Class Security
  • Unblocks Streaming Services
  • Works With Torrents
  • Offers a Free Plan
  • Trustworthy
  • Small Server Base
  • Some Important Features Reserved for Pricier Subscription Plans

FAQ

Is ProtonVPN trustworthy?

While researching our ProtonVPN logging policy review and by examining the company’s track record and selection of features, we found ProtonVPN completely trustworthy.

Is ProtonVPN really free?

Yes, the ProtonVPN free plan is completely free, but most of the advanced features are not available with that plan.

Does ProtonVPN sell your data?

No, ProtonVPN keeps no logs or user data, nor does it feature ads of any kind. Your data is completely safe.

Does ProtonVPN free work with Netflix?

Our ProtonVPN review reveals that the free plan does not unblock Netflix. If you wish to unblock Netflix, you must opt for the Plus or Visionary plan.

protonvpn logo protonvpn review 2020
Price $8/mo
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