CactusVPN Review 2022: Before You Buy, Is It Worth It?

What do we look at?

🚀Speed 6.0 / 10
📍Servers 5.0 / 10
👍User Experience 7.0 / 10
📞Support 7.0 / 10
🏷️Pricing 7.0 / 10
Disclosures:
Our Reviews

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Reviews standards

The reviews published on Wizcase are written by experts that examine the products according to our strict reviewing standards. Such standards ensure that each review is based on the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, and takes into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings we publish may take into consideration the affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website.

CactusVPN Overview August 2022

I was drawn to CactusVPN’s claim of unblocking 340+ streaming platforms while protecting the privacy of its users. I wanted to find out the features that make it possible for this Moldova-based VPN to do so and see if there’s more to it than just unblocking abilities.

After running different tests, I found CactusVPN to be a small but decent VPN service. Key to the service is its smart DNS feature, military-grade security, and user-friendly apps across different devices. However, the drawback is its small server network that has a few blindspots that larger VPNs cover.

You can go ahead and try CactusVPN risk-free. The VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for you to check out the service for yourself. But you’ll have to provide an explanation about how the service doesn’t work for you to be eligible for a refund.

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Don’t Have Time? Here’s a 1-Minute Summary

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CactusVPN Unblocks Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video (But Can’t Access Hulu, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer)

Considering its claims of unblocking more than 340 streaming platforms, I was disappointed that I could only access half my accounts using CactusVPN. Subscribing to the full service comes with VPN + Smart DNS features. Although the VPN service provides complete security while streaming, the Smart DNS feature doesn’t hide your IP address. This means your identity isn’t protected when using the Smart DNS feature.

The VPN service could only unblock services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video during my tests. But the Smart DNS unblocked all the other streaming platforms where the VPN service failed. I got to stream in HD no matter which server I connected with.

Netflix, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video: Unblocked

CactusVPN successfully unblocked a few popular streaming platforms during my tests. I effortlessly unblocked my Netflix US account and watched my favorite comedy shows in HD. My colleagues in countries like the UK, Germany, Japan, and India also seamlessly unblocked their respective Netflix libraries.

Screenshot of CactusVPN unblocking Netflix

I watched popular shows on Netflix lag-free with CactusVPN

I was also able to unblock other popular streaming platforms like HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video. I watched shows like The Wheel of Time and Four Hours at the Capitol documentary from my account during my tests.

Screenshot of CactusVPN unblocking HBO Max and Prime Video

I was happy that I could watch my favorite shows in HD with CactusVPN

There were no lags or buffering while I watched these shows. I still, however, was not able to access every single one of the sites that I tested.

Hulu, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer: Blocked

It was disappointing that I couldn’t unblock some popular streaming sites with the VPN. When I tried to unblock my Hulu and Disney+ account, the services detected that I was connected to a VPN and blocked my access with an error code similar to the one below.

“Your device is connected to the Internet using a VPN or proxy service.”

My colleague in the UK didn’t have any luck either. When she tried to access her BBC iPlayer account while connected to the CactusVPN London server, it blocked her from streaming any shows.

However, the Smart DNS feature unblocked all of the streaming services that I tested. These included YouTube, Hulu, Disney+, CBS, BBC Sport, and CNNgo. Despite Smart DNS unblocking every platform, using it does leave you at risk of being detected by third parties as your IP address is not encrypted. If unblocking streaming platforms is important to you, I would suggest using a VPN like ExpressVPN that can unblock every platform I mentioned but also keep your online idenity and data secure.

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Speed6.0

CactusVPN Speeds Are Fast on Nearby Servers but Not With Distant Servers

CactusVPN maintained fast speeds on nearby servers, but this wasn’t the case with the farther servers. Even then, the speeds on all the servers I tested were fast enough for streaming in HD, torrenting speedily, and playing online games.

Speed Test Results

With a base internet speed of 23.58Mbps, I began my tests. During testing, CactusVPN servers provided me with an average speed of 12.21Mbps — a 48% drop in my internet speed. With the server in the US, I got a download speed of 21.16Mbps while the server in the UK got 18.04Mbps, and the server in Canada got a speed of 14.81Mbps. Given the small network, these speeds were pretty impressive.

Japan was the farthest server from my location and saw a speed of about 7Mbps — a 70% drop in my speed. This didn’t surpirse me as it’s not unusual for a server so far away to have such a significant drop in speed.

Screenshot of CactusVPN speeds in 4 locations

I got considerably fast speeds when I connected with CactusVPN’s nearby servers

The upload speeds dropped significantly during my tests. I got an average of 1Mbps on a 14Mbps base internet upload speed. While my overall speeds were good, it is worth noting that I experienced significantly high ping on just about every connection, which means that you can expect a decent bit of latency.

CactusVPN Is Fast for Gaming

CactusVPN is fast for gaming if you’re using nearby servers. I got upload speeds roughly above 2Mbps on most servers except for the server in Japan, which was around 1Mbps. These speeds are enough for playing most online multiplayer games. But latency also matters. Only the nearby servers provided latency close to the acceptable requirement of 100ms or less for online games.

Screenshot gaming with CactusVPN

CactusVPN provided me okay upload speeds for gaming lag-free

When I connected to nearby servers in the Netherlands and the UK, I was able to play Mini Royale on my PC, and I didn’t experience any lags while I played the game. Keep in mind that the recommended requirements for playing online multiplayer games are upload speeds of 3Mbps and an optimum latency between 20ms and 40ms. Unfortunately, CactusVPN doesn’t come anywhere near these figures. While my experience was free from lag, that may not be the case for everyone, as I saw latency ranging from 100-400ms while connected to the VPN.

For a VPN that can deliver stellar online gaming performance with low latency, I suggest you check out ExpressVPN. Its upload speeds and ping match or even come in better than the recommended figures and make it the best for online multiplayer games.

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Why Most Speed Tests are Pointless & How We Correctly Test VPN Speeds

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.

Servers5.0

Server Network — 35+ Servers in 20+ Countries

CactusVPN offers a small network of 39 VPN servers in 22 countries. These servers only cover 4 continents in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Europe has the largest coverage with 13 server locations. North America follows with 9 server locations, while the Asia-Pacific has just 6 server locations. There are no servers in Africa and the Middle East.

CactusVPN’s servers are found in countries like the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Latvia, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and more.

Connections to the servers are steady and usually take about 5 seconds. Also, a tab on the app allows you to sort out the server locations with the fastest speeds depending on the proximity to your location.

I perused through the complete list of CactusVPN servers

CactusVPN makes use of leased servers from the likes of Digital Ocean and Choopa. The servers provide shared IP addresses from data centers around the world. But using leased servers means lesser security compared to fully-owned servers. This is because the data center providers may install trackers without the knowledge of the VPN that could potentially log users’ information.

CactusVPN makes use of a mix of geo-located and virtual servers. For instance, the server in France is a virtual server (the actual server is a server in the UK). The VPN offers specialized servers for P2P but none optimized for streaming. Each server in the network doubles as a free proxy server that you can use for any purpose.

Security — Offers Military-Grade Security

When it comes to its security, CactusVPN is keeping up with premium providers. It comes with 7 different VPN protocols: OpenVPN (TCP & UDP), Wireguard, SSTP, SoftEther, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP. For the cipher, CactusVPN offers AES-256 bit encryption with SHA512 HMAC authentication that provides a secure means of data exchange.

For iOS and macOS, OpenVPN isn’t supported. So, you’ll have to make do with the similarly secure IKEv2 protocol.

You’ll feel secure surfing the web as it protects your data with industry-standard protection. This way, neither hackers nor the government can steal your data. Although the Smart DNS feature doesn’t come protected by default, you can activate DNS leak protection to encrypt your data. CactusVPN uses Cloudflare, Google, OpenDNS, and CactusVPN DNS servers.

Additionally, CactusVPN features Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). This is a technique that involves changing the private key for data encryption periodically. This way, even if a hacker somehow gets hold of your private key, they won’t have access to other sessions of your communication, thereby keeping your data safe.

One other warning is regarding CactusVPN’s kill switch — it doesn’t come pre-activated. You have to go to settings to activate it. This takes a few seconds, making it very simple and easy. Also, the “App killer” feature allows you to select specific applications to close when the connection drops.

CactusVPN also supports routing your data through TCP Port 443. This is the port used for HTTPS traffic. With this, your data is protected from governments, censors, and hackers. Using this port means that your traffic won’t appear as a VPN connection.

Screenshot of CactusVPN passing my DNS test

I was happy that CactusVPN didn’t leak my real IP address during my tests

Moreover, I was pleased that CactusVPN completely masked my IP address during my tests. Also, there were no viruses or malware installed on the VPN’s app when I ran it through VirusTotal and Exodus.

Privacy — No-Logs but No Third-Party Audits

CactusVPN boasts a no-logs guaranteed policy, putting them on par with big-name VPN providers. It claims that it doesn’t log IP addresses, traffic logs, connection timestamps, used bandwidth, or session duration information that could be traced to an individual.

However, after reaching out to customer support, I learned that CactusVPN has never had an official audit of its no-logs guarantee. Without an official audit, there isn’t a guarantee that CactusVPN is upholding its no-logs policy.

CactusVPN is based in Moldova — a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. Moldova isn’t part of the EU or any of the 5/9/14 Eyes data-sharing alliances or groups like SIGINT that compel VPN providers to share data with governments for surveillance. Moldova also has a data protection legislation (similar to GDPR) that ensures that the data of its citizens are protected.

Screenshot of CactusVPN privacy policy

I was surprised to find out that CactusVPN could share my personal data if it has legal reasons to do so

However, I found a disturbing clause in the privacy policy that allows CactusVPN to cooperate with the government to share your personal (not VPN activity) data if it has legal reasons. I reached out to customer support to ask them about this and they insisted that no logs are kept and that they wouldn’t be able to share such data when it was requested. Even so, I found the wording here to be worrying.

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Torrenting — Torrenting Supported on a Few Servers

Torrenting is possible on limited servers indicated as P2P on the server drop-down menu. These servers are located in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Latvia, Romania, and Malaysia.

With most of the P2P servers located in Europe and only 1 in Asia, you may experience slow speeds if you’re far from these locations. Also, since CactusVPN offers only a handful of P2P servers, speeds could drop during peak hours as the servers get overcrowded. For testing purposes, I downloaded a 700MB public domain torrent in less than 20 minutes.

Screenshot safely torrenting with CactusVPN

I was pleased with the fast speeds I got while torrenting with CactusVPN during my tests

CactusVPN offers the necessary features for safe torrenting. Its no-logs policy, automatic kill-switch, fast speeds, and DNS leak protection makes it a torrent-friendly VPN. Keep in mind that torrenting with the Smart DNS feature will leave your identity exposed. Make sure you’re connected via the VPN servers whenever you want to torrent safely.

My team and I don’t condone illegal torrenting, so be sure to check the rules and regulations in your country, and make sure the torrents you download are copyright-free

Does CactusVPN Work in China? Yes!

I was pleased to learn that CactusVPN works in China. Since I don’t live in China, I couldn’t personally test the VPN there. However, CactusVPN support confirmed to me that its VPN works there.

Screenshot showing CactusVPN works in China

I was informed by CactusVPN support that the VPN works in China

The VPN has technologies in place for its VPN to work in China. Firstly, the TCP 443 port encrypts your VPN traffic and, with its obfuscation technology, you can connect with inaccessible content you’ve paid for when visiting the country. Also, the VPN provides a detailed setup guide for OpenVPN and SoftEther protocol that works efficiently in China.

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Server Locations

Australia
Brazil
Canada
Germany
Hong Kong
India
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Malaysia
Netherlands
Portugal
Romania
Singapore
Spain
See all supported locations...

User Experience7.0

Simultaneous Device Connections — Unlimited Connections

CactusVPN allows you to use its services on any number of devices simultaneously. This was great news since most smaller and even top-name VPNs have limits on how many devices you can connect. However, if you’re connecting with some protocols like PPTP, L2TP, IKEv2, and WireGuard, the limit is one connection per subscription per VPN server. To bypass this, you can choose other protocols like OpenVPN and SoftEther on your other devices if you exceed the number of server connections. I connected my Android phone, 2 Windows PCs, an iPhone, and a smart TV during my tests.

CactusVPN frowns on sharing your subscription with people outside of your household. So, you would be infringing on its terms of use if you share your account with friends. In contrast, IPVanish allows for an unlimited number of device connections. But you’re not limited to connecting with just 1 server. Also, you can host a watch party with friends or colleagues on every single device of theirs using IPVanish.

Device Compatibility — Works on Multiple Platforms

CactusVPN works with most popular devices. It has VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV. It also supports browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

Additionally, the VPN offers manual configurations using OpenVPN, SoftEther, Wireguard, and more. You can use this setup for Linux (Ubuntu), Roku, Chromebook, Boxee Box, and Routers. You can set up the Smart DNS service on more devices like PlayStation, Xbox, Samsung TV, Apple TV, NOW TV Box, and LG TV.

CactusVPN supports DD-WRT, ASUS, Mikrotik, D-Link, TP-Link, Linksys, Tomato, Tenda, and OpenWRT routers. With a wide array of device compatibility, CactusVPN offers you flexibility in using its features.

Ease of Setup & Installation — Easy and User Friendly

CactusVPN has a straightforward installation and uninstallation process. It has detailed setup guides for all types of devices on the website support page. CactusVPN features an intuitive, user-friendly app that’s similar across popular operating systems.

There are 4 tabs within the CactusVPN app — VPN service, smart DNS, Settings, and App Killer. The VPN service features the server list in a drop-down list which you can scroll through and connect with, while the Smart DNS tab allows you to enable and disable the Smart DNS service. The settings tab allows you to make flexible changes to how the service should work, and the app killer allows you to select which apps to close when the VPN connection drops.

How to Download and Install CactusVPN on Windows

  1. Subscribe to any CactusVPN premium plan.
  2. You’ll receive 2 emails to verify your email and set up a password.
  3. After creating your password, log in to your dashboard and download the app. 
    Screenshot of CactusVPN app download process
  4. Run the installer and launch the app.
  5. Log in with the email and password that you created.
  6. Navigate to the VPN service, scroll through the server drop-down list. 
    Screenshot of CactusVPN app download process
  7. Select a server and hit ‘Connect’ to start using the service.

The Windows app has its default protocol set to SSTP, while the iOS and Mac apps use IKEv2. One flaw with the app is that it lacks a search bar where you can search for a server. That said, CactusVPN features a really neat interface that I found easy to use.

Support7.0

CactusVPN offers a wide range of support options that are helpful and informative. The VPN has efficient live chat support. Also, there’s a ticketing system, messenger, email support, FAQs, a learning center, and a setup tutorials page. The tutorials and FAQs are pretty detailed and offer helpful step-by-step guides to help you resolve issues smoothly.

Screenshot of CactusVPN live chat support

I was pleased to see that CactusVPN offers a swift live chat support

The ticketing system was prompt. I got helpful feedback within a few hours when I asked about the number of servers that the service offers. It directed me to a page that contained all the information that I needed.

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How We Test Customer Support and Why Should You Care

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.

Pricing7.0

CactusVPN has competitive pricing plans for its service that help those on a budget. There are 4 main plans with smaller plans for limited services. There is a monthly, 3-months, 1-year, and 2-year plans that come with discounts and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The smaller plans follow similar timeframes to the main plans but with limited features. For instance, there’s a US VPN and UK VPN service that doesn’t support P2P or Smart DNS. There’s also a plan that supports P2P (but no Smart DNS) with mostly European VPN servers, excluding the UK. Then, there’s the separate Smart DNS plan and another VPN + Smart DNS plan.

While cheaper (smaller) plans save you money, they limit the number of servers you can access and don’t include the Smart DNS feature. Since CactusVPN’s standard plan is already very affordable and grants access to all servers worldwide and comes equipped with the Smart DNS feature, I recommend you subscribe for that.

You can purchase CactusVPN with major credit/debit cards (Mastercard, Visa, American Express), PayPal, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, Alipay, and more options like UnionPay and WebMoney.

The 30-day money-back guarantee covers all payment options and plans. Note that if you want a refund, CactusVPN requires an explanation about how its services don’t work and have the right to refuse your request if they think your reason is invalid.

Compared to other VPN providers, CactusVPN is reasonably priced. If you’re worried about risking your money on a service you’re not sure about, you can try CactusVPN for free for 3 days — no credit card required. But it’s not available to every region of the world. Signing up for free is a bit tricky — it isn’t on its landing page, so a Google search for “CactusVPN free trial” would be necessary. The 3-day free trial comes with all the full application features — nothing is restricted so that you can get a feel for this VPN. All you need is a working email to sign up for free for 3 days.

CactusVPN offers the following plans

Final Verdict

After extensive tests, I was impressed with CactusVPN’s service. The streaming capabilities and encryption are prime selling points, but it has weaknesses in privacy and the small server network.

CactusVPN’s pricing is low, and there’s the option to buy cheaper plans with limited features. However, I would have loved to see more servers and coverage in some regions like the Middle East and Africa. These are some of the areas where top-grade VPNs excel.

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FAQs About CactusVPN

Is CactusVPN good?

Yes. CactusVPN features military-grade security that makes your data safe from hackers. It also unblocks some popular streaming services. However, it has a limited server network and only a few P2P locations to choose from.

Can I use CactusVPN for free?

Technically, yes. CactusVPN offers a 3-day free trial, but it’s not available to every region of the world. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee that you can use to test the service and get a refund if you’re not satisfied. Unfortunately, it has a difficult refund process. You’ll have to prove beyond doubt that the service doesn’t work for you before you can get a refund.

While it’s common for providers to ask why you wish to cancel their services and help troubleshoot problems, not many would potentially refuse your request for a refund like CactusVPN will. If you’d rather not deal with this inconvenience, I suggest that you try a free VPN that has an easier cancellation policy. Keep in mind that many free VPNs often compromise on security, privacy, and speed, so I mostly don’t recommend them.

Is CactusVPN really safe?

Yes, CactusVPN will keep your data secure with its military-grade encryption. As far as streaming and web browsing go, you’ll be as safe as you can get. However, CactusVPN may hand over your data for legal requests.

One of the main reasons to get a VPN is to ensure secure and anonymous internet activity. CactusVPN cannot guarantee its no-logs policy since it doesn’t have an independent audit. That said, it will provide a safe enough internet connection to protect you from hackers and other third parties.

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Important to know

Moldova
2011
No
30 days guaranteed

Contact Details

support@cactusvpn.com
www.CactusVPN.com

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