ProtonVPN started as a companion to ProtonMail — a popular encrypted email service for journalists and activists to communicate securely in countries with authoritarian regimes. Since ProtonMail is one of my favorite encrypted email services, I was excited to try the sister company’s VPN offering to see if it lives up to its reputation for strong security and privacy features.
ProtonVPN offers excellent privacy protection, a slick client, and solid overall performance, despite its relative newness in the VPN industry. I did not find any security holes in the system, and the speed tests registered satisfactory results. You can also readily access popular entertainment services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video using ProtonVPN.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee included with all paid plans. It should be noted that, unlike some other VPN providers, ProtonVPN only reimburses you for the days still remaining on your subscription. For example, if you decide to cancel your ProtonVPN Plus plan within 10 days of purchase, you will only receive a refund for the 20 days that you didn’t use.
ProtonVPN is devoted to delivering effective VPN solutions for streaming online content. It allowed me to access all of my favorite television programs through HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Netflix.
Despite ProtonVPN being able to unblock Netflix US on its free version instantly, it does have slow speeds. If you intend to use it for that purpose mainly then you should consider upgrading your subscription to a Plus plan. My own experience proves this as it was significantly easier to stream media over the paid versions of Proton than the free version.
ProtonVPN’s help page provided guidance on how to optimize the streaming experience for Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max, as some of the streaming servers failed to work with these services. Ultimately, I had to clear my cookies and cache to be able to improve my stream.
By upgrading to a higher-tier membership, I could access all of the streaming services listed above. Unfortunately, this feature is only available to Plus and Visionary plan subscribers. Subscribing to the Free or Basic version will not afford you the ability to access restricted content.
My colleagues and I have tested ProtonVPN’s service with multiple Netflix locations and can confidently say that it is a good VPN for this streaming service. We could access Netflix in the United States, Germany, India, Australia, and the United Kingdom using ProtonVPN’s Plus plan. There was almost no lag or buffering, thanks to the high connection speed.
The ProtonVPN service worked well with HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. I must say that not every dedicated streaming server could unblock all the streaming channels listed above. It took me a few tries to find servers that worked with them, but they functioned as expected once I did.
A colleague in the UK was also able to stream shows and movies on BBC iPlayer, and the quality of the stream was incredible. Overall, the service was sufficient to provide access to regionally restricted content.
The Free version of ProtonVPN has slower speeds than average, but that may depend on where you live since only three servers are available. With the Basic plan, you’ll have more speed, but it will still be limited. The more expensive Plus plan offers the fastest speed, and that was what I used for my testing.
Considering ProtonVPN offers both a free and a paid version, I decided to test them both. Along with that, I also tested the speed of Secure Core connections. With this feature, your data is sent across two servers, the first of which is either located in Iceland, Switzerland, or Sweden — these are countries known for respecting privacy and not monitoring internet users.
A recent addition, the VPN Accelerator, improves performance by altering network routing algorithms and increasing the efficiency of the VPN infrastructure. By default, this feature is enabled at all times and serves as an excellent way to boost the VPN experience.
My download speed on the pro plan ranged from 14 to 41% of my base speed of 93.02Mbps. It’s a small price to pay for the level of security that ProtonVPN offers. The speed loss on my connection did not prevent me from using online applications. I was able to access my home content while traveling abroad, download torrents, and access my favorite television shows online.
Speeds in the United States were as high as 79.98 Mbps, a drop of just 14%. This is a higher-than-average result for the industry. The speed tests in France averaged 66.95 Mbps, which is better than many VPNs. The long-distance connection speed was also quite impressive, with the US-Australia connection reaching 61.73 Mbps.
According to my Secure Core network connections tests, my connection speed decreased by 95% from my baseline. This was expected as the VPN server path to the destination was extended by first multi-hopping over the Secure Core network of ProtonVPN. If online privacy is of principal concern to you, then the increased protection may be worth the drastic drop in connection speed.
Testing ProtonVPN free server connections showed significant speed drops, some exceeding 90%. While some loss was expected, there was a noticeable difference in the free servers’ speed and premium servers.
I experienced a drastic drop in performance that resulted in a 90% speed loss compared to my base connection. This is unacceptable for those who frequently use VPNs to connect to the internet. However, it offers those with limited financial resources a way of securely browsing the web.
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.
ProtonVPN has a relatively extensive and well-functioning server network, which gives it a distinct advantage over other VPN providers. According to its site, it currently maintains 1520 servers located in 61 countries worldwide. There are VPN servers in South America and Africa, two continents that VPN service providers often neglect. Additionally, all of its servers are RAM-based, meaning you can’t store or collect log files on them.
The subscription plans offer different levels of server access. ProtonVPN free only gives you access to specific free servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. Basic offers 400+ servers across 40+ countries, while Plus and Visionary plans include full access to 1500+ servers across 61 countries. Every single one of these servers is owned and operated by the company.
The company offers dedicated P2P servers for secure file sharing and torrenting. ProtonVPN offers this feature only with its paid plans, not the free version. Its Plus and Visionary subscribers can further benefit from Tor’s integration with ProtonVPN by routing all traffic through this anonymizing network. In other words, you do not have to install the Tor browser to hide your Tor usage from your internet service provider. Currently, there are only 5 Tor servers — two of them are in the USA, one is in France, one is in Germany, and one is in Hong Kong.
The physical security of ProtonVPN’s infrastructure is also very significant to the company. The company’s main hardware is housed in an old army fallout shelter located 1,000 meters under the Swiss ground. Its Iceland infrastructure is housed in a former military base, and its Swedish servers are located in an underground data center.
During my tests, ProtonVPN’s servers were reliable — they always worked on my first try and never unexpectedly disconnected. There are handy icons next to each server showing whether it’s Streaming compatible (play button icon), Smart Routing compatible (web icon), Tor compatible (onion icon), or P2P compatible (arrows icon).
The client shows you the load on each server so that you can avoid crowds and ensure maximum performance. The Quick Connect option can be used when you are unsure of which server is most appropriate for your location. It is crucial to keep in mind that Quick Connect will most likely choose a location within your own country, so it may not be the best option for connecting to regional services while traveling abroad.
You can, however, tweak it to suit your needs. You can choose from a range of countries or server types when you click on the Quick Connect button for the connection you want to make. It is a time-saving process, and the device’s chosen tunneling protocol is shared between the apps. Keeping this in mind is critical because if your client is configured to use OpenVPN on Windows, it won’t work on a Mac because it only supports IKEv2. It is also possible to have the VPN connect automatically to a random server, which is a unique way to make yourself even harder to track.
ProtonVPN combines strong encryption with advanced VPN protocols. The platform uses AES-256 encryption, the same technology many of its rivals use. It also uses SHA-456 hashing for authentication as well as RSA 4096-bit key exchange. Military and banks use AES-256 to protect sensitive information because it is virtually indecipherable by modern computers.
ProtonVPN also utilizes perfect forward secrecy for added security, which ensures that each session is associated with a separate security key. So, even if someone did manage to obtain your encryption key for a particular session, they would be rendered ineffective once you disconnect.
Tunneling protocols used by the service for connection establishment include WireGuard, OpenVPN (TCP/UDP variant), and IKEv2/IPsec. There is no support for IKEv2/IPsec in the Windows version of the application. With the exception of Linux, all operating systems are automatically connected through a feature called Smart Protocol. Smart Protocol helps you stay connected even when others are trying to block your access. When it cannot establish a connection with one protocol, it will automatically attempt to establish a connection using another. ProtonVPN will start with the fastest, most stable option it can find and switch to another if it’s necessary.
The split tunneling feature of ProtonVPN lets you choose whether to encrypt the entire connection or just specific applications. It can help you avoid speed drops when working with secure and trusted applications that don’t require encryption. Sadly, you can only access this feature on the Android and Windows versions of the app.
ProtonVPN, like other top VPN services available today, features DNS leak prevention and a kill switch, two features that provide extra security. With DNS leak protection, you can be assured that your browsing activity won’t be exposed, while the kill switch cuts off your connection if a problem occurs with your VPN tunnel. As an alternative to the traditional kill switch, ProtonVPN has a new feature called the permanent kill switch, that disables your computer’s connection to the internet even after restarting your computer. Instead, it has to be manually re-enabled.
NetShield, a brand-new feature added by ProtonVPN recently, fills in some gaps between the service and the top competitors. NetShield DNS filtering, included with every paid plan of ProtonVPN, shields you from malware, blocks ads, and prevents third-party trackers from following your online activities. Unfortunately, Netshield can only be used while a VPN is connected, and it cannot block YouTube ads. However, my tests on five different websites that I frequent indicated that it is effective at eliminating pop-ups and banner ads.
Alternate Routing is another ProtonVPN feature that allows you to access content that is censored on the web. It will automatically engage when the apps detect that your connection is being censored. The app will then attempt to connect to Proton servers via alternative connections. The functionality is automatically enabled by default in the app, and you can disable it by going to Advanced settings. Generally, the Alternate routing method will not be triggered under normal conditions, so leaving it on poses little risk.
Additionally, ProtonVPN provides extra security to Plus/Visionary subscribers through its Secure Core network. This feature routes your data through 2 servers, starting with one either in Iceland, Switzerland, or Sweden. These are privacy-friendly countries that don’t surveil web users. ProtonVPN claims that by passing your connection through Secure Core servers first, you’ll stay hidden even if a subsequent server has been compromised by malicious third parties.
Secure Core can be enabled in the Desktop app by clicking the lock icon above the server list. After that, you just select “Secure Core on.” You can toggle this option from the top of the server list on Android and iOS devices.
With ProtonVPN’s recent open-source status, anyone can peer behind the scenes and examine its workings. This way, anyone can verify the legitimacy of the company’s claims. In fact, a comprehensive audit conducted by SEC Consult determined that the company is in compliance with all regulatory requirements.
ProtonVPN follows a strict no-logs policy. Therefore, the company does not keep a record of your session usage or collect any information that might give rise to privacy concerns. The provider has further shown its commitment to privacy by converting to a 100% RAM-based server network and by routinely subjecting itself to third-party audits.
Personal data, including email addresses, may be collected during account creation, support requests, bug reports, and payment information. No third parties are ever given access to this information, and its use is limited to customer correspondence only. Additionally, this information is stored on encryption-protected local servers. Upon deletion of your account, all your data will be wiped out.
To see if any of my data was leaking past ProtonVPN’s encryption during communication requests, I connected to a server in the UK and performed an IP and DNS leak test. The test only detected ProtonVPN’s server in the UK — meaning it really kept me anonymous.
ProtonVPN’s Swiss base allows the company to maintain such an unprecedented level of privacy, as the country has some of the most comprehensive data protection and digital privacy laws in the world.
Despite Switzerland’s privacy laws, the country remains part of the extended 14-eyes global security alliance, which means that Proton might be obliged by law to share any data it has. But due to the fact that ProtonVPN does not record logs of your online activities or bandwidth usage, they have very little information they can share with anyone, even the government. In its transparency report, the company states that it received a valid request for information in January 2019 but had nothing to give.
ProtonVPN allows P2P and torrenting to some extent. The company is based in Switzerland, and so it is subject to Swiss law. Therefore, its policy states that any file sharing must be for your personal use only and must be entirely legal.
To test this, I connected to the VPN, launched a torrent client, and tried to download a public domain file. I was generally pleased with the speed as it didn’t seem to be throttled. Sadly though, ProtonVPN does not offer port forwarding or SOCKS 5 proxy options. This alone places the VPN at a significant disadvantage in comparison to competitors who offer port forwarding and have 100% P2P networks.
My team and I don’t condone participation in any illegal activities so please check the rules and regulations in your country to ensure you are not in breach of any laws.
ProtonVPN readily admits it is blocked in China and won’t work. To still serve its users in China, there’s a guide on ProtonVPN’s website for how you can access the open web anonymously in China using the Tor network. I thought it was pretty cool that ProtonVPN tried to offer a solution to users in China without making it an upsell.
So, if you are planning a trip to Mainland China and want to use a VPN while you’re over there, it’s a good idea to consider a VPN provider like ExpressVPN. It’s one of only several VPNs that work consistently in China, hiding your identity and location with top-grade 256-bit encryption and a strict zero-logs policy. Just remember — while a VPN may protect your privacy, it doesn’t give you the right to commit illegal acts. Always exercise caution and common sense when using a VPN in China.
Proton VPN offers up to 10 simultaneous connections. The number of devices you can connect with a single account at one time will depend on the service plan selected. The Free and Basic Plans support 1 and 2 simultaneous connections respectively, while the Plus and Visionary plans allow up to 10. I recommend that you choose either the Visionary or Plus plan if you have a large household or a small business that requires protection.
If you want to be able to protect more than 10 devices using a single account, try using IPVanish and its unlimited connections. Its plans are a lot more affordable than ProtonVPN’s premium subscription, and you can use it on as many devices as you want risk-free for 30 days. It’s one of the few VPNs with no device limits, and I got reliable connections even using IPVanish on 7 devices at once.
ProtonVPN is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Chromebook, and Linux. Additionally, its Android app can be easily installed on certain smart TVs. That being said, ProtonVPN doesn’t function the same way on all the devices it supports.
Unfortunately, there are currently no browser extensions available for ProtonVPN. You can, however, use the Tor Browser with this service. You’ll then have to deal with extremely slow internet connection speeds, which can be very frustrating.
You can install protonVPN on certain routers such as DD-WRT, AsusWRT, and Tomato. Unfortunately, the setup of ProtonVPN on routers can prove quite challenging, especially if you’re not tech-savvy. If you need help getting it done, you can always contact the provider’s customer service or refer to the website for installation guides.
ProtonVPN impressed me with its user-friendliness and great-looking interface. It was also easy to download, install, and configure the application to my liking. I found it pretty easy to choose a server and secure a connection. Even better, you can set up profiles so that everyone who uses your account can customize their VPN.
You can select specific servers from the main endpoint list, which shows how busy each server is and the features it provides. If the service is congested, you can get better performance if you choose a low-traffic server yourself rather than allowing the client to choose for you.
ProtonVPN endpoints offer special features including Secure Core, which affords you further protection against outside network attacks; P2P which is useful for torrent users; and Tor, which uses the onion router network to provide even greater anonymity.
The traffic graph helped me track the performance of my connection as well as how much data I was sending. The client’s Setting interface allows you to activate features such as a VPN kill switch that cuts off all internet traffic if your VPN connection drops. Furthermore, you can enable split tunneling so that specific applications or IP addresses are allowed to connect outside the VPN.
Additionally, you can set ProtonVPN to start at boot, connect automatically when it is launched, and disable DNS leak protection in the preference section.
Regardless of which device you use, ProtonVPN starts with a tutorial the first time you open it. On desktop versions, the tutorial is slightly more in-depth, while the mobile apps will show you basics, like how to quick-connect to a server. I thought these tutorials were a nice touch for VPN beginners.
Proton VPN support options are limited to a ticket-based system and email. The website now also offers a live chat service, which is a terrific addition to its customer support network. This feature is unfortunately only available to those residing in Europe.
Likewise, the online ticket system is quite functional, although you may be inconvenienced by the European time difference if you live in the US. Even so, the response time is good as I received responses to all my requests within 24 hours. Email replies only took longer than 24 hours when I asked on a Friday, in which case I got my answer by Monday. In general, I found the response time fast and it was a pleasure to receive sincere and thoughtful messages that were not saturated with marketing gimmicks.
Besides the other methods of customer support, it also maintains a support center with loads of helpful information. For easy navigation, the support center is divided into 5 categories: general information, download and setup, account, troubleshooting, and access content. Each category has detailed articles that will answer some of your questions. I was still impressed by ProtonVPN’s FAQ page, even if it wasn’t as exhaustive as some VPN providers.
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.
Proton VPN offers four service plans: Free, Basic, Plus, and Visionary. Depending on your plan, you will receive different features, such as how many servers you have access to, how many devices you can connect simultaneously, and the connection speed. This means that the better the features and functionalities in the plan, the more expensive it will be.
With the Free Plan, your access is limited to only three server locations – the US, Japan, and the Netherlands. You can only use it on one device at a time, and the connection speed is extremely slow. But on the bright side, it offers unlimited bandwidth.
The Basic Plan is an upgrade to the Free Plan. This service allows access to servers in 55 countries, but you can’t use premium servers (Plus) or use Tor functionality. Additionally, you are limited to connecting two devices at once, and though higher than the free plan, your connection speed is not the fastest.
The Plus Plan, on the other hand, grants you unlimited access to all the server locations as well as secure core functionality and Tor compatibility. Furthermore, you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously at the fastest possible speed. The prices below show the different options for the ProtonVPN Plus plan.
The Visionary plan has all the inclusions of Plus and gives you a Visionary-level ProtonMail account. This secure, encrypted email service includes 20GB of data, up to 50 aliases, up to 10 domains, and other features. While it’s nice that a bundle is available that combines ProtonMail with the VPN, it isn’t enough of a bonus to justify the cost.
ProtonVPN accepts credit, debit, and gift cards, along with PayPal, making payment a breeze. Unfortunately, these options require you to provide personal information, which may compromise your privacy. Due to this downside, individuals are most likely to seek out anonymous payment options. Luckily, ProtonVPN lets you pay with cash, Bitcoin, and other popular cryptocurrencies.
The lack of a straightforward 30-day money-back guarantee is a disappointing aspect of ProtonVPN’s pricing. On the surface, the 30-day window makes the refund offer look generous, but it isn’t as generous as it looks. Proton VPN will only refund the remaining or unused portion of the service. This effectively means that the company will never give refunds of full payment except if you cancel and request a refund the very next minute after paying for the service. The Proton VPN’s refund policy will not sit well with many users because of its use of prorated payment.
ProtonVPN is a reliable service that caters to almost all the needs of a typical VPN user. ProtonVPN’s website states that the company’s primary concern is the safety of its users. My security checks supported those claims as I found that ProtonVPN employs top-line unhackable encryption, incorporates a kill switch, prevents security leaks, and adheres to strict no-logging policies.
I was impressed with the additional features that ProtonVPN includes like a secure core doubleVPN-like feature that ensures even a compromised VPN terminal server will not reveal your traffic. It also provides Tor compatibility that boosts your anonymity and anonymous payment support that ensures no trail is left behind as you pay for the service.
On the service front, it has a fast download speed, a substantial server network, allows torrenting, it is compatible with a variety of devices, and it allows you to connect multiple devices simultaneously. While its design and operation are great across all standard devices, those with older operating systems might struggle with its exclusive OpenVPN and Wireguard protocol.
Yes, the VPN is a good service that ensures user privacy and security. Getting unlimited data with the free version is a great deal if you don’t mind the limited speed, but the paid versions will give you access to features such as streaming, good torrent support, and some privacy and security features. There are 1,521 servers spread over 61 countries, which can certainly keep speeds up for many locations, including Australia, Brazil, Columbia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea, among others.
Yes, ProtonVPN has a free-tier subscription package. While the free package is quite limited, it does provide unlimited bandwidth, which is relatively uncommon among free VPNs. Despite all that, traffic is limited to a couple of servers, so connection speeds tend to be slower than paid packages. Considering the level of security bundled into the free package combined with this flexibility, it’s one of the best solutions available.
Yes, ProtonVPN is as safe and secure as VPN services go. The device uses both encryption and tunneling protocols that ensure the highest level of security. Its applications are all open-source so anyone can inspect the code to verify that they are safe to use. Additionally, its privacy statement says the company doesn’t keep logs or collect user information.
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