PrivateVPN claims that it “unlocks anything and protects everything” for a low price point, so I was skeptical. To see how PrivateVPN measures up to market-leading contenders, I ran a series of rigorous tests and was surprised with the results.
PrivateVPN unblocks most popular streaming sites and even works in countries with severe censorship. Its relatively small server network doesn’t cause network overcrowding or slowdowns. The suite of security features is a bit underwhelming, but it has the essentials, such as DNS leak protection and a kill switch.
My only troubling finding was PrivateVPN’s questionable logs policy, which could be a problem if you need strict privacy to safeguard your online activities. It also doesn’t have 24/7 live support for immediate troubleshooting.
If you want to test its features yourself, you can try PrivateVPN’s money-back guarantee for 30 days and get a full refund. After testing it for 3 weeks, I easily received a refund within 5 business days.
I was impressed that PrivateVPN unblocked most popular streaming services. Only ESPN+ barred me from its content when it detected that I was using a VPN. While PrivateVPN no longer has designated servers in its “Streamed Services” tab, a support agent assured me that every server is optimized for streaming.
During my tests, PrivateVPN unblocked Netflix libraries from every country where it has a server location. It took about 10 seconds to switch between server locations and another 5 seconds to load each library.
You may notice lagging, buffering, and reduced image quality when you try to access Netflix using a distant country server. I found that the network speed decreased the farther I got from my location in Toronto. PrivateVPN’s server in Miami was the fastest during my tests, giving me 45Mbps — more than enough to watch Netflix content lag-free.
PrivateVPN was able to access most of the Disney+ libraries worldwide, and only Finland and Indonesia were blocked during my tests. When I connected to the server in Finland and opened the Disney+ home page, I noticed that the URL was based in Luxembourg. Since both libraries had almost the same number of titles, it wasn’t a huge deal. While trying to connect to the library in Indonesia, I was redirected to Singapore. I was able to watch the majority of the same content on Netflix Indonesia by switching to a US server that worked with Disney+.
I had no problems getting past Hulu’s geo-blocks with any of PrivateVPN’s servers in the US. I was able to load Palm Springs in just 3 seconds, and it didn’t buffer once during the entire film.
PrivateVPN easily circumvents HBO Max’s restrictions. I tested the servers in Atlanta, Phoenix, New York, and Los Angeles and accessed HBO Max from my location in Canada without any issues. When I watched Aquaman, the high speed was as fast as on my home network.
With PrivateVPN’s servers in London and Manchester, it didn’t take much effort to access exclusive BBC iPlayer content. Not only did the VPN defy the site’s regional restrictions, but it also let me stream comfortably at 30Mbps with no lag, buffering, or image issues.
I didn’t have any luck accessing ESPN+ with PrivateVPN. I tried every single server in the US to open the ESPN+ homepage, and I got this annoying message:
We’re sorry, an unexpected error occurred.
While the error message was vague, I knew that ESPN’s geo-blocks were the problem, as the page URL ended with “block=geo.” If you want to watch ESPN+ content from outside of the US, you can easily use ExpressVPN to unblock the streaming service. When I tested this myself, I was able to watch an NBA highlight without any lag.
PrivateVPN is almost as fast as many of its top-tier competitors. However, finding a speedy server is not always straightforward. I was annoyed to find that there wasn’t an in-app speed test, a list of recommended servers, or an option to pair with the best connection automatically. I had to manually test all of the servers myself to find the fastest one.
My tests revealed that longer distances have more reduction in network speeds with PrivateVPN. From my location in Toronto, I ran a benchmark speed test without any VPN connection and got 60Mbps. After I connected to PrivateVPN’s server in Miami, the speed dropped 27% to 44Mbps. When I tried the server in London, the speed plummeted by 50% to only 30Mbps. I tried servers farther away in Romania and New Zealand and had 61% and 68% speed reductions, respectively.
While all these speeds are sufficient for gaming and even streaming, you’ll want to connect to nearby server locations for torrenting. BitTorrent consumes a ton of bandwidth, and you’ll be waiting hours for your files to download without top speeds.
I was impressed with PrivateVPN’s gaming speeds. To test the limits of PrivateVPN’s servers, I connected to a distant location in Brisbane, Australia, and launched Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. At only 19Mbps, the game was in HD quality without freezing or buffering a single time.
I liked that I could play online games with PrivateVPN without the risk of throttling. ISPs throttle or artificially reduce network speeds when users consume too much bandwidth, and gamers are frequently targeted. My DNS leak test revealed that PrivateVPN successfully hid my gaming activities from my ISP’s prying eyes.
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.
PrivateVPN claims to have more than 150 server locations in over 60 countries, but I could only access about 80 cities in 60 countries from the app. After some back and forth with the support team, I learned that some cities have more than one server, but this information isn’t visible on the native app for Mac.
I was disappointed with PrivateVPN’s limited server network. A high ratio of servers per location offers greater flexibility if you want to mask your location. It also prevents server overcrowding to maintain decent streaming and torrenting speeds.
In contrast, I found thousands of lightning-fast server locations when I tested ExpressVPN. I was surprised because the latter was established the same year as PrivateVPN, yet its server network was much bigger.
I liked that PrivateVPN offers unrestricted P2P file sharing, unlimited bandwidth, and dedicated IP servers. The support team even told me which servers work best for torrenting: Stockholm, Paris, Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam.
PrivateVPN is one of the very few VPNs capable of overcoming the Chinese government’s censorship. With its Stealth VPN feature, PrivateVPN can hide its connection among unsecured network traffic. The authorities have no way of singling out and blocking your VPN connection so that you can browse unrestricted from within China.
However, you won’t be able to install PrivateVPN’s apps if you’re in China. If you’re going to travel there, make sure you subscribe and download the app before arriving in the country.
PrivateVPN has many useful security features, but my tests also revealed a lack of essential functions, such as a working kill switch and split tunneling.
Only top-grade encryption protocols are safe enough if you want to hide your sensitive data from cybercriminals and spying governments. With PrivateVPN’s military-grade AES-256 encryption, SHA256 and 2,048-bit RSA keys for authentication, 2,048-DHE keys for perfect forward secrecy, I felt assured that my data was impossible to hack. What’s more, the VPN uses the highly secure TLSv1.2 protocol to encrypt the entire connection.
The VPN’s selection of tunneling protocols also impressed me — PrivateVPN has a range of secure protocols, including OpenVPN with UDP/TCP, L2TP, IPsec, PPTP, and IKEv2. Better yet, these protocols are easy enough to change in the settings.
I was a fan of PrivateVPN’s IPv6 leak protection function, which allowed me to mask my IP address when using the latest Internet Protocol version. If your device sends data via the older IPv4 and the newer IPv6, your IP address, identity, and activities won’t leak to your ISP, government, or cybercriminals. I ran an IPv6 leak test while connected to PrivateVPN’s server in Frankfurt, and the results confirmed that my IP address was never compromised.
I was less impressed with PrivateVPN’s kill switch, which failed to activate when I disconnected from the server during my tests. The company states that its kill switch activates “in the event of a server ceasing to work,” but there are other failures that can leave your internet connection exposed. If you experience a power outage, your computer goes to sleep, or you accidentally disconnect from a server, your IP address and location can be revealed in a split second. To protect your connection during any of these events, you’ll need to use a quality kill switch from a top-tier service like ExpressVPN.
I was also surprised that PrivateVPN lacks a split tunneling feature, which is common among almost all premium VPNs. Split tunneling allows users to exempt certain apps from the VPN connection and is particularly useful if you have devices that you control over your WiFi, such as a wireless printer. You can also ensure access to your country’s content while you’re connected to a VPN server in another country to perform a sensitive task like torrenting.
I discovered that PrivateVPN’s app has a button that takes you to the “logs folder” with time-stamped .txt files that I couldn’t open.
I emailed customer support to ask about the purpose of the logs folder and whether the company records my online activities. The answer was prompt but hardly assuring: the logs folder only keeps track of when you connect to its server, and PrivateVPN doesn’t collect or log traffic data. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any independent audit results to back up these claims.
You can connect up to 6 simultaneous device connections on a PrivateVPN subscription. The company claims that it supports all OS platforms, and my tests confirmed that it works on:
PrivateVPN is also compatible with routers, so this means you’ll be able to use it on any device connected to your internet.
Keep in mind that there isn’t a PrivateVPN extension for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge. It also doesn’t work on Apple TV, Playstation, or Xbox, as they don’t support the VPN software. If you need an alternative VPN, you can use ExpressVPN to protect all of your devices.
I discovered that downloading and installing PrivateVPN is quick and simple, but only after you locate the “download” button on the company’s website. It took me 5 minutes to find this button after I paid for my subscription.
After installing the apps, I was pleased to find that PrivateVPN has a user-friendly interface. You can find all the features easily as the Windows and macOS apps are almost identical in style and layout. The only difference is that the Windows app has DNS leak protection and Application Guard features, which aren’t available on the macOS app. The Application Guard works much like the kill switch but lets you select which apps should lose internet access when your device disconnects from the VPN. I tested PrivateVPN on my Mac and didn’t experience a single leak even without the DNS leak protection extra.
PrivateVPN offers effective and (mainly) friendly support, with prompt replies via email or live chat. My only complaint is that the live chat hours aren’t consistent. As PrivateVPN’s agent explained to me, live agents are available 24/7 “except late at night Swedish time.”
I asked a live chat agent why the “Streamed Services” tab is empty, and he explained that the tab is no longer necessary since all the servers are optimized for streaming. He also provided a list of servers optimized for torrenting when I asked which ones I should try first.
When I emailed PrivateVPN for help to inquire why I couldn’t find all of the advertised server locations in the desktop app, here’s the response I got:
I’ll never know whether the PrivateVPN agent was rude on purpose or the response was translated poorly. However, the subsequent replies (from a different agent) were polite, professional, and helpful and typically arrived in my inbox only 5-10 minutes after I sent my queries.
While you may be tempted to reach out to PrivateVPN through its social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, the company uses these primarily to promote its how-to blog posts rather than answer questions.
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.
PrivateVPN offers 3 subscription plans, a 7-day free trial, and a 30-day money-back guarantee on all its paid plans.
Getting started with PrivateVPN’s free trial took me less than 5 minutes. All I had to do was provide my email, create a password, and confirm the email link that arrived in 20 seconds. Although PrivateVPN issued a trial code during registration, I didn’t have to use it to get the app and start using it — all I needed were my login credentials.
All of the 3 paid plans were far more economical than what most premium VPNs charge. You can choose to pay monthly, quarterly, or annually, with the most substantial discount for the latter option.
Like most of its contenders, PrivateVPN offers a money-back guarantee with all its paid plans. With this policy, you can try PrivateVPN’s features for 30 days without commitment and get your money back if you’re not satisfied.
To see whether the guarantee actually works, I reached out to a live agent over chat. The process was smooth and stress-free. The agent asked why I was canceling, and I told him that I changed my mind. He confirmed my refund, and I had my money back 5 business days later.
PrivateVPN is great for streaming and gaming, but it’s not the safest option for sensitive activities like torrenting, banking, or accessing restricted content from countries with strict censorship.
Despite its limited network of servers, PrivateVPN excels at defying most streaming geo-blocks and causes minimal reduction to network speeds. I was able to watch Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer lag-free and without buffering using various server locations. I also found that PrivateVPN is more than fast enough for gaming without issues.
While PrivateVPN has a standard range of security features, it lacks split tunneling, so you won’t be able to choose which apps to exclude from the VPN connection. The kill switch also didn’t work as expected in my tests.
However, PrivateVPN may be adequate for your needs if you’re not worried about your online privacy. If you simply need a reliable VPN for gaming or unblocking streaming libraries worldwide, PrivateVPN is a quality and cost-effective option. You can also try PrivateVPN’s features for free for 30 days before committing to a long-term subscription.
Yes! During my tests, PrivateVPN unblocked Netflix libraries from all but 2 countries where it has server locations. I was very impressed with its fast streaming speeds too. While connecting to a server far away leads to a noticeable reduction in speed, I still found every server fast enough to watch Netflix content without lags, buffering, or image quality issues.
Yes, PrivateVPN has a 7-day free trial that you can use to test its features risk-free. All you need is a working email address to subscribe — I had my free trial up and running in less than 5 minutes.
All of the paid plans also come with a money-back guarantee, so you can try PrivateVPN for 30 days and get a full refund if you’re not satisfied with the service. I tested the policy and was surprised with how fast and smooth the refund process was. It only took a few minutes, and I had my money back in only 5 business days.
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