Bitdefender VPN Review (2021) – Fast, Secure, and Affordable
Since its inception in 2001, Bitdefender has amassed more than half a billion users. The Romanian giant is one of the biggest names in cybersecurity, mostly thanks to its antivirus. Its VPN, though, was often dismissed as Hotspot Shield’s “little brother” and only used as a free add-on to premium antivirus packages. Yet, it gradually evolved into a standalone service worthy of the brand.
In spite of some bad press, Bitdefender’s VPN has a lot of things going for it. Excellent speed, solid security, low price, just to name a few. Our tests revealed anything but a white-label Hotspot Shield. We saw a fully-fledged VPN in its own right. It even had a lot of surprising tricks under the hood.
Learn all about this up-and-coming premium service in our Bitdefender VPN review.
Bitdefender VPN Short Review
- Ultra-fast Catapult Hydra protocol
- 1,300+ servers in 42 countries
- AES-256 encryption
- Automatic kill switch
- Easy to install
- Beginner-friendly user interface
- Works with Netflix
- Torrenting is allowed
- Low price tag
- No dedicated IPs
- Subpar customer support
- No crypto payment available
Bitdefender VPN is affordable and beginner-friendly. The apps are intuitive and easy to use, without confusing options or cryptic menus. Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra protocol dishes out first-rate speeds. Paired with AES-256 encryption for optimal security. It uses Hotspot Shield’s server network and offers 1,300+ servers in 42 countries. Bitdefender VPN keeps no activity logs and never shares technical information with any third parties. Power users might find it a bit feature-bare, but beginners will love it. The absence of fancy features is fairly reflected in its low price tag.
- Torrenting allowed
- Works with Netflix
- Catapult Hydra
- Credit card
Speed – How Fast is Bitdefender VPN?
Apart from security, speed is the most important aspect of any VPN. Heavy encryption will always slow your connection down to an extent, but with top-tier VPNs, this speed loss is quite manageable.
With poor connections, though, this problem becomes more prominent, especially on distant servers. That’s why we test VPN speed across numerous servers. This way, we can see the differences between various locations.
We start off with our benchmark speed (without the VPN) and compare that to the results gathered on different servers. Furthermore, we check for daily fluctuations, since many VPNs throttle bandwidth when their servers get overcrowded.
Here are our main conclusions after testing Bitdefender VPN:
- The software maintains a good part of the original speed.
- We experienced no major speed oscillations during daily use.
Speed test results Bitdefender VPN
We tested the speed of Bitdefender VPN from our office in the Netherlands. You might get different results, based on your location and the speed of your connection. Therefore, you should view this table as an indication of potential results. Even so, testing a VPN is still important to view the impact of its encryption on your overall speed.
With that in mind, here are the results of our Bitdefender VPN speed test:
|Server||Download (MBPS)||% Download||Upload (MBPS)||% Upload||Ping (MS)|
As you can see, Bitdefender VPN is lightning-fast. Connecting to any server took only seconds, with the exception of Japan. The ping increased as we picked more distant options, leading to higher speed drops. This is perfectly natural.
One thing we noticed, is that Bitdefender impacted our upload speed more severely than our download speed. Having said that, it was still perfectly serviceable.
After our tests, we can say that Bitdefender VPN is an excellent choice if your internet usage hinges on speed. Streaming your favorite movies, downloading content, and gaming online should work completely lag-free. For resource-intensive multiplayer games, though, you might want to pick a server with a lower ping, meaning a location that’s physically closer to you.
Speed during daily use
Using Bitdefender VPN day-to-day was a true pleasure. We enjoyed seamless streaming, fast downloads, and smooth browsing without any lag or sudden disconnects. Streaming videos on Netflix, YouTube, and Crunchyroll went without a single buffer circle. For online gaming, however, we suggest letting the client choose the server automatically. This will usually be the one closest to you, with the lowest ping.
Safety – How Secure is Bitdefender VPN?
Here’s a quick rundown of the most important security features:
- Bitdefender VPN uses AES-256 encryption.
- It runs on Catapult Hydra protocol, which is known for its raw speed.
- It includes an automatic kill switch.
Bitdefender uses only one connection protocol: Catapult Hydra. This protocol was developed by Hotspot Shield after abandoning the more common OpenVPN and IPSec. The main idea behind Catapult Hydra is to reduce VPN latency as much as possible. In other words, it mitigates the speed loss caused by strong encryption.
There are several advantages to this approach:
- Connecting to any server is much faster.
- Lower data transfer makes for better performance on slower connections.
- You can reach a speed up to 2.4x faster than with OpenVPN on long-distance connections.
When your VPN client connects to a server automatically, it’ll pick the one closest to you. On more distant locations, though, the ping rises and the speed drops. Catapult Hydra is Hotspot Shield’s response to this common problem. The protocol holds 30+ patents and was independently tested by AV-Test. Bitdefender isn’t the only other company using Catapult Hydra. It’s also used by Betternet, McAfee, Cheetah Mobile, KDDI, Telefonica, and many others.
The extra speed doesn’t come at the cost of security. Bitdefender VPN uses AES-256 encryption, which is also used by banks and the military. This cipher is virtually unbreakable by brute force attacks. It has never been cracked and probably never will.
Another security pillar we like seeing in VPNs is (perfect) forward secrecy. After some digging, we discovered that Bitdefender VPN supports this. Its encryption strings have ECDHE or DHE prefixes. The final “E” stands for “ephemeral,” rather than static session keys.
You can view any encryption as a lock/key combination. Those locks and keys can be static (always the same) or change for every session. With forward secrecy, every time you start your VPN, you’ll get a new encryption key. So, even if someone manages to guess your key, it’s rendered useless once that session is over.
Logging and privacy
Bitdefender is headquartered in Bucharest, Romania. This means it’s outside of the Eyes alliance and with no mandatory data retention laws. Romania is a member of the EU and subject to GDPR. This means you can view, edit, and delete your data collected by the company if you wish to. Bitdefender also can’t share any private information without your explicit consent.
“We collect for this service only randomly generated or hashed user and device IDs, IP addresses, and randomly generated tokens to establish VPN connection for the sole purpose of providing the VPN service.”
This is pretty vague, and it gets even more confusing once we dissect some of Bitdefender’s partners. Their data processor is Pango Inc. (ex-AnchorFree), the creator of Hotspot Shield VPN. Bitdefender also uses their proprietary protocol and server network. In other words, all your traffic is routed through Hotspot Shield’s servers.
The information they do collect includes:
- Personal data provided by the user
- Technical data sent by the VPN client
- Information obtained through data leaks
“In cases where perfect anonymization of technical data is not possible, the potential identification of a user could be possible only in very limited cases and only by highly skilled IT specialists.”
Even the smallest chance of this happening is too big. If hackers can match your computer to your online activity, it defeats the purpose of having a VPN. Granted, the chances are astronomically small. Even so, we prefer zero.
All Bitdefender VPN clients come with an automatic kill switch. This includes Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
The kill switch prevents your data from leaking out when your VPN fails for whatever reason. It temporarily suspends all internet traffic until the VPN client reconnects. Like all software, VPNs occasionally falter, leaving your data outside of the encrypted VPN tunnel. When this happens, the kill switch activates and blocks all internet access, stopping your unprotected information from falling into the wrong hands.
Basically, the kill switch prevents direct internet access without VPN protection. Bitdefender included this fail-safe in 2020 due to popular demand.
What information does Bitdefender VPN need?
Every VPN needs to obtain some basic personal data in order to provide its service. Ideally, this includes only your email and billing details. Some VPNs request a lot more than that under the pretext of “providing better service.” For privacy reasons, we prefer the minimalistic approach to creating your account.
Here’s the info requested during the Bitdefender VPN sign-up:
- Full name
- Payment details
We don’t see any reason why a VPN provider would need your full name or country. ExpressVPN, for example, only requires your email and payment details. Granted, you have to provide your full name when paying with a credit card, but you can always opt for Bitcoin and remain completely anonymous. Speaking of Bitcoin, Bitdefender VPN does not support crypto payments. This is another thing we would like to see changed in the future.
If you’re representing a company and want to use Bitdefender VPN, the list of required info goes even further. On top of what we’ve already mentioned, you’ll also have to provide the company’s name, address, TIN, and phone number.
Usability – How User-Friendly is Bitdefender VPN?
Bitdefender VPN is one of the most user-friendly services we’ve ever tested. Below, you can read everything about its website, installation, clients, prices, and customer support.
Here are some key points about its usability:
- The Bitdefender VPN website is very easy to navigate.
- The installation is quick and effortless on all devices and systems.
- The software is intuitive and beginner-friendly.
- Bitdefender is one of the most affordable VPNs.
- Only basic payment methods are covered (no crypto).
- The customer support needs some improvement.
Website and installing Bitdefender VPN
Bitdefender’s website is simple and easy to navigate. Clicking the “My Account” button will open up your personal dashboard. Here, you can check your subscription and connected devices, contact customer support, and join the support forum.
Clicking your name in the top-right corner will open up the account menu, allowing you to edit your account and monitor your sessions. Unfortunately, the Session Monitor records your OS, browser, IP address, location, and timestamps (date/time). We don’t like seeing this type of technical data logged, since it could be used to positively identify you.
The installation of Bitdefender VPN was smooth and quick on all our devices. The “My Account” page lets you either install the VPN on that device or send the download link to a different one.
To install Bitdefender VPN, go through the following steps:
- Go to Bitdefender’s VPN page.
- Click on “My Account” in the top-right corner.
- Choose “Bitdefender Central” from the short drop-down menu.
- Log in with your chosen credentials (email and password).
- Click “Install protection on your device”.
- Choose “VPN” on the product screen that pops up.
- Choose “This device” to install Bitdefender VPN on the current device.
- Choose “Other devices” to send an install link to a different device via email or text message.
- The app download will start automatically.
- Click on the Bitdefender app and follow the instructions.
We prefer having download links posted on the site itself. It makes things a bit simpler if this is your first VPN. However, Bitdefender mitigates this with a series of helpful hints and pop-ups. So, even if this is your first VPN installation ever, you’ll always have a helping hand guiding you along.
If you just want to use a free seven-day trial, you can download the necessary software directly from Bitdefender’s VPN page.
Bitdefender VPN’s appearance and ease-of-use
Bitdefender’s user interface strikes a fine balance between minimalistic and professional. The apps are clear, intuitive, and beginner-friendly. They’re devoid of complicated menus and overly technical terms.
The main window features a large on/off button and a shortcut to switch between servers. Regular users will hardly need more than that.
The expandable menu on the left side offers some extra options:
- Monitoring your connection time and bandwidth
- Activating the kill switch and split tunneling
- Setting your VPN to activate automatically (on startup, when you use P2P programs…)
The thing we especially like is the inclusion of the so-called “dark mode”. If you spend your days behind a computer, this option is a lifesaver for your eyes.
In our opinion, Bitdefender is a great gateway service if you’ve never used a VPN before.
Pricing and payment methods
Bitdefender is one of the most affordable VPNs out there. On top of that, the software comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you’ll have a full month to test it out and see if it works for you.
Bitdefender Premium VPN offers two different subscription options:
- One month for $6.99
- One year for $29.99 ($2.49 per month)
Important to note: after the first twelve months, the price of the yearly subscription goes up to $49.99. If you’re looking for a cheaper VPN provider that might also be worth your time, ProtonVPN is a great option. Its Basic package sits at just $4.00 per month.
Bitdefender VPN accepts the following payment methods:
- Credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, JCB)
- Wire transfer
- Cash at 7-Eleven/ACE and personal checks (in the U.S.)
As we mentioned previously, Bitdefender VPN doesn’t accept crypto. Using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin allows you to bypass banks and other financial institutions. If you’re extra careful, you can even pay for your VPN without leaving any trace of your identity. We hope Bitdefender enables (at least) Bitcoin payments in the future.
Lastly, there’s a free seven-day trial period you can try out. It does come with a couple of limitations: you can only connect to your optimal location, without the option to change it, and you only have 200MB of data per day. It’s not much, but enough to get a feel of this VPN.
You can also get the free 200MB-per-day version with Bitdefender’s antivirus packages. Bitdefender Premium VPN, however, has to be purchased as a standalone product.
When we talk about Bitdefender VPN’s customer service, we look at three things:
- the quality of the FAQ section on the official website
- the different modes of communications (phone, email, live chat)
- the responsiveness and expertise of the support team
Bitdefender VPN offers a free FAQ paired with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support for premium users. This sounds excellent, but doesn’t exactly hold up in practice.
The FAQ for Bitdefender’s VPN is disappointingly barren and challenging to navigate. When we typed in “VPN,” we got a whole slew of unrelated articles. There are instructions on how to install and troubleshoot the VPN on different platforms, but that’s pretty much it.
We decided to turn to the live chat. We were first in line with a one-minute waiting time, yet we couldn’t reach anybody for an hour. We tried a couple of times with zero success. Since the company is charging money for this service, we’d expect a much smoother experience. We had more luck with email support: we received our answers within 24 hours.
Note that Bitdefender employs a general support team, meaning it’s not VPN-specific. This means you should arm yourself with patience if your query includes some technical details. The Bitdefender forum has a decent number of posts, but there isn’t much activity. We wouldn’t expect any answers there, but it’s definitely nice having the option.
Server Network Bitdefender VPN
When it comes to server networks, the bigger, the better is our golden rule. Having more locations increases your chances of bypassing geo-restrictions. For example, connecting to a U.S. server allows you to access the best version of Netflix. Extensive server networks also help with heavy censorship: if you’re in China, you can connect to servers elsewhere to enjoy censorship-free internet. Finally, larger networks prevent server crowding, avoiding server lag due to an excessive number of users.
The main takeaway here:
- Bitdefender VPN features 1,300+ servers around the world.
- Dedicated IPs are currently unavailable.
Number of servers and locations
As mentioned, Bitdefender VPN uses Hotspot Shield’s server network. It offers 1,300+ servers in 42 countries. This promises good connectivity, lag-free operation, and excellent speed.
The list of available locations is easy to access from the app’s home screen. However, you can only see the countries, not the cities. If you need IP specifics, you can use our What Is My IP tool. Furthermore, there is no info on real-time server loads.
The countries in which Bitdefender operates VPN servers include:
- Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and United States.
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
- Asia Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.
- Middle East & Africa: United Arab Emirates and South Africa.
You can switch between servers as much as you like. But the changes aren’t seamless. Your VPN will disconnect from the previous server before switching locations. For this short instant, you are left unprotected. Keep this in mind to prevent potential data leaks.
Bitdefender’s VPN client can also pick the best server for you automatically. This will usually be the location nearest to you. When using this option, the client only displays “Automatic” instead of the chosen location.
Connecting to any server took us only a couple of seconds, even when we switched to distant locations like the U.S. The client keeps a list of “top connected locations”, but unfortunately you can’t click them directly to connect. They only serve as a reminder, and you still have to find the server manually, which is somewhat annoying.
Dedicated IP address
If you have a dedicated IP, that means that, every time you connect to your VPN, you’ll have the same IP address. This IP is associated with your account and nobody else can use it. Dedicated IPs are less likely to get blacklisted by sites (Netflix, for example). They also facilitate online payments and prevent endless CAPTCHA popups.
However, Bitdefender VPN doesn’t offer dedicated IPs. The company opted to provide its users only with shared IP addresses. This is to be expected: maintaining a dedicated IP service is very costly, and VPNs aren’t Bitdefender’s main product.
Dedicated is not inherently better than shared. They just have different uses. With shared IPs, your digital footprint gets lost among hundreds of other users, increasing your online privacy. Shared IPs are also excellent for torrenting. Tracing P2P activity to a specific account is extremely difficult with hundreds of users using the same IP.
Bitdefender VPN’s Options
Bitdefender VPN has come a long way from being just a free add-on bundled with antivirus products. Having said that, its list of extra options is decent, but still far from impressive. We can see some real effort being put into its geo-unblocking capabilities. Bitdefender VPN has no trouble accessing Netflix U.S. or enabling anonymous torrenting. We tested all of these features and everything Bitdefender VPN has to offer works flawlessly.
Bitdefender VPN’s extra options include:
- Unblocking Netflix U.S.
- Seamless anonymous torrenting
Bitdefender VPN and Netflix
Bitdefender VPN is slowly turning into a true streaming powerhouse. With its Netflix-unblocking capabilities, it could give our top VPNs for Netflix a run for their money.
We tested it across different regional versions of Netflix to see whether they worked, and here are the results:
- The U.S. – Yes
- The U.K. – Yes
- Japan – Yes
- The Netherlands – Yes
- Canada – Yes
- Australia – Yes
- South Korea – Yes
- Turkey – Yes
When you try to connect and play content, you might experience some “false negatives.” The shared IP assigned to you might be blacklisted by Netflix. If this happens, simply restart your VPN to get a new shared IP address. It might take a couple of tries with Netflix U.S., but we always managed to find an address that worked.
Bitdefender VPN and torrents
Bitdefender VPN allows anonymous P2P file sharing on all of its servers. There’s also a smart notification that prompts you to turn your VPN on before starting any downloads. This will prevent any unprotected torrenting and privacy leaks.
Bitdefender VPN offers split-tunneling. You can find this option in its “Settings” menu. This useful feature allows you to specify which apps, sites, and devices should use your VPN, and which can access the internet directly. To give an example, you could choose to only route Netflix through your VPN, allowing you to stream the U.S. version from your home country while all other apps and sites stay out of the encrypted tunnel.
Split-tunnelling conserves bandwidth and boosts connection speed. Encrypted traffic transmits at a slower pace, using more bandwidth in the process. This results in speed drops and more lag. So, when using trusted apps and sites, you can exclude them from VPN protection. You might not need your VPN to watch YouTube from your home, for example.
Conclusion – Our Experience with Bitdefender VPN
At the start of this Bitdefender VPN review, we said this provider had a lot of tricks up its sleeves. We think that claim still holds up, although with a few caveats.
Bitdefender is incredibly fast for such a low-cost VPN service. Its sheer speed is backed up by a solid security package, with AES-256 encryption as a headliner. The connection is stable, with more than 1,300 servers to choose from.
What surprised us the most, was its superior geo-unblocking capability. Bitdefender VPN works with all relevant regional versions of Netflix, and it gave our office anime lovers quite a smile when it unlocked Crunchyroll. Torrenting is also allowed on all of its servers.
The feature list is not that long, but everything Bitdefender VPN has works perfectly. Split-tunneling is easy to set up and the kill switch never misses. The apps are intuitive and easy to use with a professional design to boot. We had no trouble finding everything we needed to give this service a proper test.
Bottom line, Bitdefender VPN is cheap, fast, and secure, and we thoroughly enjoyed testing it. However, it’s still not polished, as it lacks a lot of extra features, a dedicated support team, and clear data policies. In other words, the company still needs to put in a lot of work before it’ll be able to compete with our top picks.
Do you have more questions about Bitdefender VPN? Below, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions. Simply click on the question to expand the answer.
Yes! Bitdefender VPN uses Hotspot Shield’s Catapult Hydra protocol with AES-256 encryption. This is the strongest cipher currently available. It also uses Perfect Forward Secrecy, which means it generates a new encryption key for every session. Lastly, the automatic kill switch feature will block your internet the moment your VPN fails for whatever reason, preventing your personal data from leaking out.
Bitdefender VPN is extremely fast, thanks to Catapult Hydra, a protocol built for sheer speed. Every VPN will slow down your connection to an extent. The main idea behind Bitdefender is to keep those speed drops to a minimum.
Yes! Bitdefender VPN can unblock Netflix U.S. anywhere in the world. It can also grant you access to many other regional versions of Netflix like those of Japan, Germany, Canada, and the UK. If you get blocked, it means your current IP address is blacklisted. Just reset your VPN to get a new IP.
Yes! Bitdefender VPN allows torrenting on all of its servers. Furthermore, the client will prompt you to turn your VPN on every time you start the process of P2P file sharing (like torrenting).
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