Did you know that the BetterNet VPN has more than 38 million worldwide users?
Well, despite such fantastic growth, the free VPN service still receives a lot of criticism. Largely because of a study performed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) study which discovered that it pushes ads to its users.
In this detailed review, we highly recommend that you try the premium or paid packages. Why? First, it was not criticized by the CSIRO study plus it does not rely on advertising for funds. Therefore, not all complaints or remarks made about the free BetterNet VPN service apply to the paid service.
Unfortunately, BetterNet is located in Canada, one of the countries in the Five Eyes surveillance act. This means that when it comes to privacy, the VPN might not be so reliable. Even more troublesome, it also keeps connection logs which it hands over to the government or authorities upon request. This isn’t good for privacy considering other VPNs who stand behind a strict no logs policy.
We ran multiple speed tests throughout the day to bring you the most accurate results. We performed five experiments using different servers. We used the US (New York) and the UK (London) servers. The VPN was quite slow on downloads, but uploads maintained their normal speeds with or without the VPN present.
We saw in our UK tests that the average connectivity speed dropped significantly from our baseline. When we tried watching videos on YouTube and Netflix we had a substantial buffering pause, but once it loaded, we were able to stream videos, although the quality ranged from poor to nearly HD throughout the shows.
Our test of the New York server was even worse. Our base performance test from the United Kingdom to the United States showed a decrease of nearly 8 mbps during our testing.
Speed determines how fast content uploads, so if you're torrenting or streaming, you want the speed to be somewhat identical to your regular internet speed. Since a VPN encrypts your data, it usually takes a bit longer to send your data back and forth, which can slow down your connection. However, if your ISP deliberately slows down your connection (also known as throttling) a VPN might increase your internet speed. Testing a VPN is somewhat pointless because new servers pop up and affect speed. Your speed can also differ according to your location, so your speed test might not match ours. Having said that, we tested the speed in numerous locations to provide you with the average.
If you’re a premium customer, you have the chance of choosing from a list of different servers. Unfortunately, this is all the VPN allows you to do. It doesn’t even permit you to change the VPN protocol or specify whether it wants Open VPN with UDP or TCP.
In fact, what we discovered from this VPN is that it lacks all the essential features which define a premium service. What we found was quite underwhelming. Here are the crucial things which were missing:
To choose a suitable server location, click on the ‘select virtual location,’ function. Here, you’ll get ten countries, and seven cities in the United States. Although this is a reasonable amount, there are other VPNs which provide services in more than 50 countries, making BetterNet a bit underwhelming.
Luckily, switching to another server location is pretty straightforward. You don’t even have to disconnect your current server before turning to a new one. This VPN will do this for you automatically
We put the servers to the test by testing their ability to access geo blocked content from Netflix and the BBC iPlayer. We connected to one of the US servers and logged into our Netflix account and ran a search for The Office (US) which is only available for US users. We were able to find the show, meaning that Netflix recognized the servers as coming from the US, however when we tried to play the video we were blocked for using a proxy service. So, unable to watch Netflix we tried the to stream shows from two American TV channels, ABC and NBC had no problem streaming shows from their websites. When we switched from the US server to a UK server, it unblocked the BBC iPlayer easily.
Getting the Betternet VPN is quite simple. Here, all you have to do is visit the website to download it. You’ll normally see it on the right-hand corner of the page. Once you’ve launched the application, it will ask you if you wish to try the premium service for seven days. Decline, if you only want to use the free version. However, after launching the software, you can still upgrade it to premium and enjoy the seven-day free trial period.
Once you’ve chosen a suitable plan, you can now select from a list of ten countries. Just pick your preferred server and then press the ‘connect’ function. We realized that the VPN connected quickly and with no issues. As soon as it establishes a connection, the shield becomes blue with a happy face to show you that everything is okay.
BetterNet VPN is compatible with Mac, Windows, Android and iOS devices. What’s more, you can get the browser extension for both Firefox and Chrome. Despite these fantastic features, we found that both browser extensions come with several bugs.
We were surprised when testing the Chrome extension, we connected with what we thought was a UK server, but when we checked our IP location we saw we had a US IP address. The situation is even worse if you’re using the Firefox extension. This is why we recommend that you stay away from such extensions completely!
If it’s your first time to use the BetterNet VPN, we suggest that you try its free trial option. However, although it leads to a costlier monthly payment plan, you can still cancel this free trial and subscribe for a yearly plan, if you prefer the service. Whichever the case, remember that using the free trial gives you a clear idea of what the VPN is all about. Such allows you to decide if you’ll invest in the service or not.
To get its free trial, click on the green like button. A page will open up in the browser you’re using, and here, you’ll need to enter all your credit card information. After it has authorized your credit card, the shield on the site turns green and happy. BetterNet will send you an invoice, showing that your current balance is $0. Finally, you’ll know you’re good to go once you see the cartoon shield with a crown on its head.
We tested the VPN for DNS and Protocol version 4 (IPv4) leaks through our London server. The windows versions didn’t have any problem, but the chrome extension showed web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) and DNS leaks. The Firefox proxy was completely useless as it didn’t even conceal our IP address. We were, however, unable to check for IPv6 leaks.
If you are planning on a trip to China, you will need to bring along a different VPN. Neither the free or premium version will consistently get you passed the Great Firewall of China. We encountered a lot of challenges when using the free version, and there was no change even when we turned to the premium service.
Betternet was far from forthcoming with the details of its encryption. In our experience, this is mostly common with VPNs which have outdated or weak encryption. Even so, its FAQ says that it uses:
However, it didn’t explain where it uses these tunneling protocols. There are no options on the mobile apps or on your PC’s desktop that allow you to change the encryptions. So, some versions run on the OpenVPN, while others use the L2TP/IPsec.
As a premium user, you can get help or support if you have a query or problem using the app. How do you do this? Well, go to the top left corner of your screen and open the menu. On the next screen, click on “Contact Us.” Make sure you’ve specified the nature of your request on this page.
Unfortunately, following this process only takes you back to the site’s standard home page. Therefore, we concluded that the app is somewhat buggy but its developers haven’t bothered to look into it. Maybe customer care is not far from their agenda.
So, where is the help desk on the website? Here, we had to follow a rather frustrating process to find the customer help and support function. There’s no clear link on the menu bar, and you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the “Help Center” feature.
Shockingly, unlike other VPNs (which almost cost the same), Betternet lacks the 24/7 live chat customer support function. So, when it comes to the overall help and support features, we felt that this VPN does not fulfill the promise of a reliable premium service.
In any case, when you arrive at its help center, search for answers to your specific queries. All its FAQs are grouped as per the operating system. Get the help you need by entering your question on the search box above the operating system (OS) buttons.
Once we clicked “submit” we received an automatic response email, where we also got the answer to our query. We got another email asking us to create a help and support account on the site. So, you can easily check your user activity including support tickets by opening the help center using your password and email address. You can also answer all support responses by either using the VPN’s help center ticket records or through email.
Besides, although the Betternet promises improved response time on their premium service, we found that they took a day before answering our question. Sadly, even the information we got had few valuable information. It didn’t give us the crucial encryption details we required!
We personally test the customer support team of every VPN we review. This means asking technical question through the live chat feature (where applicable) and measuring the response time for email questions. Whether you need to connect to a specific server, change your security protocol, or configure a VPN on your router, finding a VPN with quality customer support should be important to you.
To get the premium Betternet version, you’ll have to download its free version first. This service only has one method, with variations in price based on its subscription period. For instance, by choosing a longer period, you reward yourself with a huge loyalty discount. Also, they DON’T accept PayPal or any other payment method.
You’re allowed to subscribe for one year, six months or one month. The process of payment is based on a recurring pricing agreement. What does this mean? Here, if you fail to cancel your plan before the end of your subscription, Betternet will charge you for the next period automatically! The only accepted payment methods for are using a major credit card, or purchasing it through iTunes or Google Play.
BetterNet offers all its customers with a 30-day money-back payment guarantee so that you may test its premium service. However, you’ll only get the refund if you use 50 MB of data or less. So, you can only request your money back after the end of 30 days and for consuming just a small amount of data. Is this worth it? Well no, with this VPN it’s quite hard to get a quality refund.
A suitable option is choosing the seven-day trial period. Unfortunately, with this payment option, you have to enter all your credit card information. If you fail to cancel this plan with the seven days, the VPN will put you on a monthly plan (the most expensive) automatically. To avoid this, make sure you cancel the payment plan before the seven days elapse if you don’t want to continue using that particular service.
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