Betternet VPN Review (2022): Free, But Limited and Unsecure
Betternet VPN has been around since 2014 and drew attention in 2016 when an academic study revealed that it put users at risk of third-party tracking software. Betternet and several other VPNs were listed among the worst VPNs that put your security at risk, together with OkVPN and EasyVPN.
Betternet VPN Short Review
|No need to register to use the free version||Lack of security features like secure protocols and a kill switch|
|Unblocks Disney Plus and Hulu||Unreliable speeds|
|Allows torrenting||Does not unblock Netflix|
|Collects a lot of user data|
|No customer support for free users|
Betternet is a popular free VPN that you can use without needing to create an account. However, it’s not an unlimited free VPN, as it offers just 500 MB of VPN traffic per day if you’re a free user. For the premium unlimited VPN, plans are available at $7.99 per month for a 12-month plan. This is quite expensive when compared to some of the best VPNs in the market, which are cheaper and offer better security and features.
Although Betternet employs the highest 256-bit encryption to secure your data, it uses a proprietary protocol known as Catapult Hydra instead of well-known open-source protocols like OpenVPN or WireGuard. This makes it difficult to trust.
- Torrenting allowed
- Catapult Hydra
- Credit card
Speed – How Fast is Betternet VPN?
It’s essential for a VPN to be fast enough for smooth browsing and seamless streaming. It shouldn’t cause any noticeable delays or lags. We found that Betternet offers good speeds on some servers, while others were inconsistent.
Hence, it scores 6.0 out of 10 in our evaluation, considering the following observations:
- The speed test results varied greatly across servers. The fastest speeds we got were on servers in the Netherlands, France, and Germany.
- Most of the time, speeds were good enough for smooth browsing and streaming. However, sometimes, when connected to a distant server, webpages and videos took a few seconds to load.
Speed test results Betternet VPN
The table below summarizes the results of speed tests we conducted using the trusted website speedtest.net. We tested the listed servers multiple times and worked out the average speeds for each.
Please note that these are just our findings, and the speeds might vary depending on your location, time of day, internet connection, and more, so our results are just to give you a general idea of what to expect.
|Server||Download (MBPS)||% Download||Upload (MBPS)||% Upload||Ping (MS)|
|USA (Optimal server)||27.45||28.3%||38.46||81.9%||214|
We found that speeds could change a lot depending on which server you connected to. Interestingly, when we connected to the “Optimal Location” chosen automatically by the VPN client, we got pretty slow speeds.
The best speeds were on European servers in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. We got the slowest speeds when connected to US servers, even when choosing the “optimal server” listed in the app. This shows that Betternet has plenty of inconsistency when it comes to speed.
Speed during daily use
Betternet worked quite well when we connected to the fast servers in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. We could browse the net, watch videos, download files, and play games without interruption.
However, this changed when connected to distant servers, particularly those in the US. We noticed significantly slow speeds, which meant that webpages took a few moments to load and sometimes even failed to load. Moreover, games felt laggy and videos constantly kept stopping.
Given these inconsistencies, Betternet is not a dependable VPN for everyday use. Instead, for reliable speeds and performance, we recommend that you choose a better option like Surfshark.
Safety – How Secure is Betternet VPN?
Safety is a vital aspect of any VPN and Betternet scores 4.0 out of 10 in our evaluation of its security features. This is because of the following points:
- This provider uses a proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra. It does not offer any of the well-known protocols like OpenVPN or WireGuard.
- This VPN doesn’t have a kill switch which is an essential security feature.
- You can use the Betternet free VPN without providing any information, but premium users need to provide an email address and credit card information for payment.
There’s not much information on the Betternet website about its protocols and encryption. We had to dig into the FAQ section on their Help webpage to find details. We learned that it uses industry-standard 256-bit encryption to secure the data of both free and premium users.
As for protocols, it uses a proprietary protocol called Catapult Hydra that’s been developed by AnchorFree and is owned by the parent company Aura. This is concerning because it’s usually better for VPN providers to use well-known protocols like OpenVPN or WireGuard that provide the highest level of security.
With Betternet’s Catapult Hydra, you don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes because it’s closed-source and not audited. This raises questions about its security. To ensure the highest form of security, you should opt for a VPN that uses OpenVPN or WireGuard. Our top recommendations include Surfshark, CyberGhost, and NordVPN.
Logging and privacy
A good VPN helps secure your privacy online and hence should not collect data about you or share it with third parties. Betternet seems to have contradictory views on this.
It also lists other information that Betternet collects about you, which includes usage information, such as how often you use the VPN, how much bandwidth you use, and when and for how long you use it.
Further, the policy states that this information may be shared with third parties for business or legal needs, although no personally identifiable information is shared. The parent company, Aura, is located in the United States and is part of the 5 eyes intelligence alliance.
Lastly, a major cause for concern is that Aura may sell the data of free users. So, Betternet is not a good choice from a privacy standpoint, and you should instead opt for a VPN with better policies like NordVPN or Surfshark.
Yet another disadvantage of Betternet is its lack of a kill switch. A kill switch automatically terminates your internet connection if the VPN connection drops. This prevents information such as your IP address from leaking through. Most of the best VPNs include this vital security feature.
What information does Betternet need?
Perhaps the only good thing about Betternet’s free VPN service is that you do not need to provide any information to start using it. You can simply install the app and connect to a US-based optimized server. However, it will show you personalized ads based on personal data collected by Google. They may also sell your data.
Unfortunately, the free version is highly limited in functionality, so you’ll likely end up upgrading to a premium plan. For this, you’ll need to provide your name, email address, and credit card information. Betternet does not accept any other form of payment (like cryptocurrency) so there’s no way to buy it anonymously.
Usability – How User-Friendly is Betternet VPN?
It’s helpful if a VPN is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Betternet VPN scored 7.0 out of 10 in this aspect of our evaluation. Here are our main takeaways:
- The Betternet website is well laid out and makes it easy to download the app.
- The VPN app has a clean, minimalist interface and is super easy to use.
- There is no unlimited free VPN, and the premium plan is quite expensive at $7.99 per month for 12 months. You can only pay by credit card.
- The customer service is responsive, but there’s no live chat, so you can only reach them through email.
Betternet website and installation process
The Betternet website is pretty straightforward and easy to navigate. However, it does lack detailed information about the service. At the center of the page is a call-to-action to download Betternet’s free VPN for your device. It’s available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and the Google Chrome browser.
You do not need to create an account or give your email to use the free version. Simply click the button to download the client, install it, and begin using it. However, the free VPN service is highly limited, with access to just one server location. So, the app will keep encouraging you to sign up for a premium subscription.
Below are the steps to follow for this:
- Select a plan on the Betternet pricing page. You can even choose to try it free for seven days.
- Enter your name, email, and credit card information. Then, click Join Now.
- Your download will automatically begin. Once complete, open the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions to install Betternet on your device.
- When you open the app, click Sign In and enter the email address you entered in step 2 above.
- Go to your email and open the verification email sent by Betternet.
- Click on the Link Device button in the email.
- You’re all set to start using premium unlimited VPN on your system.
Appearance and ease-of-use
We tested Betternet on macOS, and it had a clean, integrated look. You can access it from the menu bar, and it opens as a small window with a central button to connect to the VPN.
You can click the server location to see the list of servers and select the one you like. Choosing servers is only available for premium users. The free version automatically selects an “optimal location” when you connect.
On the top left, you can click the hamburger menu (the three horizontal lines icon) to view some app options. Here, you can choose whether you’d like the app to automatically start on launch.
Apart from this, there are no other settings or options that ensure a secure VPN connection, such as a kill switch or a choice of protocols. Although this makes it beginner-friendly, it’s also extremely limited when compared to other VPNs. Moreover, it’s not worth the relatively high price that Betternet charges.
Pricing and payment methods
Betternet has a free VPN, but there are limits such as no choice of servers and a bandwidth cap of 500 MB per day. To use it without these limits, you need to get the premium version, which costs $7.99 per month for an annual subscription or $12.99 for a monthly subscription. You can also try out the premium version free for seven days.
Betternet only accepts credit cards for payment. So, there’s no possibility of buying it anonymously using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
The Betternet website has an extensive Help Center section that covers most of the common topics about its app for different platforms. It’s laid out in the form of questions and answers that are easy to navigate. There’s also a general FAQ section covering aspects such as security features, payments, and subscriptions.
The only way to contact customer support is by emailing them. You can do this directly within the Betternet app. We tried it out to see how effective it was, and we heard back from Betternet within minutes of sending an email. We contacted them with a request to cancel our free trial, and the customer service representative made sure our issue was immediately addressed.
So, although there is no live chat support, Betternet provides pretty good email support to premium users. Free users do not have access to customer service.
Server Network Betternet VPN
A VPN’s server network is one of the most important aspects to consider because it will affect speed and efficiency. Most of the top providers have vast server networks across the world.
Betternet has quite a small network and only scores 4.0 out of 10 in our assessment. Here are our main observations:
- Betternet VPN has servers in 81 countries.
- It does not offer dedicated IPs.
Number of servers and locations
Betternet’s premium unlimited VPN has servers in 81 countries. Of these, only the United States has multiple server locations, while all the rest just have a single location. This is quite a limited number, especially when compared to other premium VPNs like NordVPN (5,100+ servers in over 60 countries) or CyberGhost (7,600+ servers in 91 countries).
Here’s a list of Betternet’s VPN servers:
- Europe: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Isle of Man, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom
- Asia: Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam
- The Americas: Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, United States, Uraguay, and Venezuela.
- Africa: Algeria, Egypt, and South Africa.
- Oceania: Australia and New Zealand.
Betternet does not have any specialized servers for streaming or P2P file sharing. Moreover, the free VPN does not let you pick any servers. Instead, it only offers the automatically selected “Optimal Location” server. This makes the free version highly limited.
Dedicated IP address
A dedicated IP is a static IP address that’s specifically assigned to you every time you establish a VPN connection. This means that you don’t get a randomly assigned IP (which is what usually happens).
A dedicated IP has both advantages and risks, but Betternet does not currently offer this option. If you need this feature, there are better options like NordVPN or CyberGhost that provide it.
Betternet VPN’s Options
When choosing a VPN, you might want to consider the streaming, torrenting, and other options it offers. These are our observations:
- Even the unlimited VPN does not unblock Netflix.
- Betternet works with other streaming services like Hulu and Disney Plus but speeds are slow.
- It supports P2P file sharing but there are no specialized servers for this, and speeds are slow.
Betternet and Netflix
One of the benefits of using a VPN is accessing geographically restricted streaming services. For instance, you can use a VPN to access American Netflix while not being physically in the United States.
Although Betternet claims to unblock any streaming service, it did not work with Netflix in our tests. And regardless, speeds on the US servers were too low to actually enjoy streaming video content.
We had better luck unblocking a few other popular services, including Disney Plus and Hulu. But here, too, slow speeds could pose an issue and hamper the experience. Moreover, Betternet does not provide any streaming-optimized servers that many of the top providers do. So it’s not a good choice if streaming geo-blocked content is your priority.
Betternet and torrents
Betternet allows torrenting on its premium unlimited VPN, but we don’t recommend it because of its lack of safety features, like a kill switch. So, if you accidentally clicked on something, you may put yourself at risk and other peers on the network (or authorities) may be able to identify you.
If torrenting is your priority, you can check out some of the best VPNs for torrenting that are reliable and safe. Also, make sure you check with your country’s laws about downloading copyrighted content.
Our Experience with Betternet VPN
On the whole, both Betternet’s free VPN service and unlimited VPN are quite disappointing and pricey. It is not an unlimited free VPN and doesn’t offer good speeds or adequate security, so you should be cautious about using it. Moreover, it doesn’t even unblock Netflix, which is possible with cheaper and better alternatives like Surfshark.
Although it offers an easy-to-use “free” version, Betternet VPN is not worth it because it might sell free users’ data and doesn’t offer much in the way of features.
We think that Betternet has a long way to go to expand its server network, step up privacy and security measures, and improve its functionality. In the meantime, steer clear of it and go for a reliable option like Surfshark, NordVPN, or CyberGhost. Alternatively, there are better free VPN options, too such as PrivadoVPN.
Got a question about Betternet VPN? We’ve got you covered in the section below. Just click a question to view the answer.
No, Betternet VPN is not a safe VPN. It lacks vital security features like a kill switch and trusted protocols like OpenVPN. Moreover, it’s been known to expose users to malware in the past.
Betternet VPN has a free version, but it’s highly limited, with just a single server and a bandwidth cap of 500MB per day. Moreover, the company may sell data of free users. If you really need a free VPN, we recommend PrivadoVPN instead.
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