ProtonVPN Review (2020) – High level of security
ProtonVPN is a relatively new VPN provider from Switzerland. They offer both a free and a paid version of their software and are owned by ProtonVPN AG. This company launched ProtonMail back in 2014. ProtonMail quickly became the world’s biggest secure email provider, putting privacy, anonymity and encryption above all else. ProtonVPN quickly succeeded ProtonMail. The VPN was developed in order to offer customers secure connections outside of email. These two projects – ProtonVPN and ProtonMail – were turned into two separate businesses in order to maintain the safety and privacy of Proton’s customers.
The team behind ProtonVPN is constantly working on making a change in the world: they train journalists, educate the public, and confront governments. Aside from that, they started a collaboration with Mozilla in 2018. Since their headquarters is situated in Geneva, Switzerland, they aren’t obliged to keep logs. ProtonVPN is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux and comes with many additional customisation options. Aside from that, multiple different subscriptions are possible, starting with a very decent free version.
- Simultaneous connections: 2-10
- Operating systems: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux
- Protocols: IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN
- Logging policy: Connection logs
- Servers: 698 servers in 40+ countries
- Price: From $4,00 a month
- Money-back guarantee: 30 days
Speed – How fast is ProtonVPN?
Many users want a fast VPN. You don’t want to wait endlessly for a YouTube video to load or a file to download, simply because you’re using a secure internet connection. Streaming, gaming and surfing the web should be easy and without delays. A VPN can potentially slow down your internet connection. If this becomes too noticeable, that’s a definite drawback of the service.
To check whether a VPN slows down your connection (or possibly makes it faster), we test all VPN providers we review on their speed. Below you’ll see different speedtests we performed with ProtonVPN. We’ve also tested the VPN’s speed during daily use. This way, you get a good and complete idea of the effect ProtonVPN could have on your internet connection.
Speed test results ProtonVPN
In this section you’ll find the speed tests results we got when testing ProtonVPN. The tests were all done using ProtonVPN’s Plus deal without activating their Secure Core. This special service redirects your internet connection twice, which slows down your speed further, hence we left it out of our tests. Keep in mind that these numbers are always dependent on your location, internet provider and the time of day. For reference we added a speed test of our plain internet connection without using a VPN.
Speed without a VPN (speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results when we tested our own internet connection without using a VPN. We’ll use this test to compare the other results to.
Speed with a local server (speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results of our internet connection when using a ProtonVPN server that’s relatively close to us. Compared to our first test, the ping remained exactly the same. This is a good sign. At the same time, the download speed decreased approximately by half, but the upload speed remained the same as well. It seems that ProtonVPN’s local servers are doing a very good job.
Server in the United States (speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results of our internet connection while using a ProtonVPN server in the United States. This time, the ping increased greatly. Moreover, only a tenth of the download speed was left, even though the upload speed fares a little better.
In conclusion: while the American server appears to be quite slow, the local server performed very well.
Speed during daily use
With these speed test results, we were curious to find out how ProtonVPN would perform during daily use. While browsing, we encountered little to no delays. Downloading torrents went just as quickly: within fifteen minutes we would download a decently sized file. We could also watch YouTube videos as we would normally, although videos did need more time for buffering. Gaming was okay as well: loading the right pages and graphics may have taken a little longer than usual, but after that, the game functioned as it should. Streaming and watching Netflix worked as well, but with one drawback. In order to watch American Netflix, we had to use an American server. This connection, for us, is quite slow and resulted in long delays.
Conclusion speed ProtonVPN
- The speed tests showed decent results, especially when working with a local server.
- The American server was significantly slower than our local server.
- Internet speed during browsing, streaming and downloading was decent.
- Accessing American Netflix caused some delays.
Safety – How secure is ProtonVPN?
Safety might just be a VPN’s most important quality. VPNs are mostly known for their ability to guard users’ privacy and anonymity. People use VPNs in order to surf the internet without being followed or tracked. In order to ensure a VPN actually does this successfully, we look into the safety and security of all VPNs we review.
In this section you’ll read all about ProtonVPN’s safety. Which protocols do they use? Do they have a no logs policy? A kill switch? Which personal information do they ask of you? After answering these questions, we’ll draw our final verdict about ProtonVPN’s security.
ProtonVPN uses two different protocols for their VPN server network. These protocols help encrypt your data. ProtonVPN currently works with IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN. When using the ProtonVPN client, you can choose for yourself whether you’d like to use UDP (standard) or TCP.
The ProtonVPN creators decided not to work with servers using PTTP or L2TP/IPSec. These protocols are cheaper to maintain, but generally aren’t as safe as, for example, OpenVPN. ProtonVPN wants to offer its customers nothing but the very best. Therefore, they only work with the safest protocols.
Logging and privacy
A VPN’s logging policy states whether the VPN-provider collects and saves any data about the internet use of their customers. If that is the case, it directly affects your privacy. Saved data could be shared with third parties or stolen by hackers. Some VPN-providers are even subjected to local laws that force them to hand over information to governments.
ProtonVPN doesn’t have to deal with such laws. ProtonVPN’s headquarters is in Switzerland, which is known for its privacy legislation. The country isn’t a part of 14 Eyes and is exempt from the many rules of the European Union. For these reasons, Switzerland is generally seen as a good location for a VPN-provider. Providers situated there aren’t required to keep logs of their clients and don’t have to give up any client data.
On their website, ProtonVPN claims they work with a no logs policy. No information about your connection or browsing activity is saved. However, things aren’t as simple as that: ProtonVPN does collect ‘connection logs’. This data is used solely to ensure your account remains safe and functions as it should. For this purpose, a timestamp of your latest login is saved. This stamp is overwritten whenever you log in. No information revealing anything about your location, the time you’ve spent on the VPN-connection, or the place you’ve logged in from will be saved.
These connection logs are necessary to ensure your account isn’t abused. The time stamp is only connected to your account and not to your IP-address. The last known login will be saved for as long as the account is active, unless the user appeals to have the data deleted.
ProtonVPN apps have recently become open source, which means that everyone can take a look behind the scenes and thus inspect the technology behind the app. In this way, everyone can investigate whether the claims the company makes are correct. This way the company cannot hide anything. They invite experts to take a look and publish their findings. This way ProtonVPN shows that they actually do what they say they do.
ProtonVPN has a built-in kill switch. You can turn it on or off in the settings on the VPN’s dashboard. An activated kill switch ensures you aren’t at risk if your VPN connection is temporarily lost: all internet traffic is automatically blocked so it can never be traced back to you.
In addition to the kill switch, ProtonVPN also has an ‘Always-on VPN feature’. This option automatically connects you to another server when you’re experiencing connection problems. This way you’re always online, but still continuously protected.
What information does ProtonVPN need?
In order to create an account at ProtonVPN, you need to share some data with them. This mainly concerns your email and payment details. For using the free version, all you have to do is enter an email address. The payment page states that this email address is never shared with third parties and is only used for account related questions, communication and recovery. Of course, you could easily create an anonymous email address that cannot be traced back to you (for example with ProtonMail).
For each paid ProtonVPN subscription, you must enter payment details. When paying with PayPal or credit card, you’ll have to part with some of your personal details. There are also anonymous options, however. We’ll come back to this later.
Conclusion safety ProtonVPN
- ProtonVPN uses only the safest and best encrypted protocols.
- Log policy: only connection logs, which consist of a time stamp of your latest login.
- The ProtonVPN apps are open-source.
- ProtonVPN has a built-in kill switch and an option to switch servers automatically when connection drops.
- In order to create an account, ProtonVPN needs your email address and payment details.
Usability – How user-friendly is ProtonVPN?
A VPN runs in the background of your device. Without much interference on your part, it provides a secure and anonymous internet experience. Therefore, it’s important that a VPN is easy to work with and user-friendly. If installing and setting up the VPN goes quickly, you’ll be able to get started sooner. A good support team and a low price also help with the user-friendliness of a VPN. To ensure you have the best experience, we use this section to look at the general user-friendliness of ProtonVPN. We looked at their website, the installation process, the software, the price and the customer service and give our opinion on each.
The ProtonVPN website
The homepage of the ProtonVPN website looks good and is easy to navigate. Instantly, you see a link that leads directly to the payment page with the different ProtonVPN subscriptions. Scrolling down, you’ll find information on ProtonVPN’s different features and the benefits of a VPN in general. The homepage also shares tweets from users talking about their experiences.
The top bar allows you to navigate to the different pages on the website: information, features, prices, blog, and support. A log in button and direct links to ProtonVPN’s social media are also provided. The website is only available in English.
If you click either Get ProtonVPN Now or Pricing, you’ll be taken to the subscription page, where you can choose between different ProtonVPN subscriptions. Choosing one will automatically take you to the payment page, where you can fill in your information.
In short: the website is very easy to navigate while also providing plenty of information about ProtonVPN and VPNs in general.
In order to use ProtonVPN, you’ll need an account. To set up an account, you’ll need to provide some information, most notably your e-mail (although this can be done anonymously via ProtonMail) and payment details. You also need to think of an account name and password. Once you’ve purchased your account, it’s time to download the ProtonVPN client software. This page is easy to find when you’ve just made an account but is a bit hidden otherwise. To find it, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and click Download in the lower left corner.
The dashboard can be downloaded for Windows, MacOS and Linux. Aside from that, the download page will provide you with links to the Google Play and App Store apps. We downloaded the client for Windows, and that’s the procedure we’ll rate and discuss here.
After clicking Download for Windows, we opened the downloaded file.
The screen that showed was self-explanatory: follow the instructions and install ProtonVPN. The only thing we had to do was give the program permission to be used on our device.
Once the installation’s completed, which shouldn’t take more than a minute, the software starts up by itself and a dashboard appears. Here you can log in with your account details.
In short, the installation process is easy, although the download page is somewhat hard to find if you’ve already got an account and just need to get the software.
ProtonVPN’s appearance and ease of use
ProtonVPN’s software is easy to navigate and nice on the eyes, but also a tad busy. The dashboard contains a list of countries on the side of the screen, including a search bar and the option to enable ProtonVPN’s special Secure Core (for users with ProtonVPN Plus or Visionary). This option provides an extra layer of protection. There’s also a Quick Connect button, which automatically chooses the fastest or closest server at that moment and connects you to it. In addition to the tab containing the server locations, there’s also a tab called ‘Profiles’. Here you can set up personal profiles with your own preferences, whether that be a specific country, server or protocol. Your IP address is shown at the top of the screen and will change to a ProtonVPN IP once you connect.
Most of the screen is taken up by a world map. The triangles in the map represent the different server locations you can choose from. At the bottom of the screen you can track how much you’ve downloaded and uploaded during your current session, how fast your connection is, and how long your session has lasted up to that point. The appearance of the map is very appealing. All in all, the look of the entire dashboard is professional and pleasant.
ProtonVPN has plenty of options. Many are directly available on the main screen. The rest can be found in the settings. Go to About to find information on your version of the software. Under Account you’ll be able to make changes to your account and subscription plan. Profiles shows you the different profiles you made.
Under Settings you can change how and when the program starts up and whether notifications pop up on screen. You can also choose a protocol, opt to connect automatically or activate Quick Connect. Go to the Advanced tab to find the kill switch, DNS leak protection and split tunneling.
The advantage of the ProtonVPN software is that many options can be accessed by a single click. You can easily customize your experience. This is useful for people with experience with VPN’s but it can be an obstacle for beginners.
Pricing and methods of payment
ProtonVPN has four different VPN subscriptions. Depending on the subscription of your choice, different features will be available to you.
The free version of ProtonVPN doesn’t cost anything and gives you access to servers in three different countries (the Netherlands, the USA and Japan). This version only works for one device per account at a time. There’s no speed limit, but the small number of available servers will affect your internet speed. The more people use the same server, the slower it gets. As a result, your speed may be a lot lower than you’re used to. ProtonVPN Free has no data limit, so you can use it indefinitely. However, ProtonVPN Free does not give you access to the Secure Core software and doesn’t support streaming, torrents or Tor.
The cheapest paid option for ProtonVPN is called Basic. If you choose an annual contract instead of opting for monthly payments, you even get a 20% discount on your subscription, and this goes for all of ProtonVPN’s subscriptions. The Basic ProtonVPN service gives you access to all their server locations, allows you to protect two devices at any time and protects you while using P2P.
The ProtonVPN Plus package is slightly more expensive than the Basic option and includes everything from that package and more: support for Tor and streaming, Plus servers, and Secure Core. You can use this subscription on up to five devices at the same time.
If you want the complete package, ProtonVPN Visionary is the deal for you. This gives you all the benefits of Plus, access for ten devices at any time and ProtonMail Visionary. This way, you can use Proton’s amazing privacy-oriented email as well as their VPN.
Depending on the type of subscription you want, there’s probably an option for you at ProtonVPN. One of the advantage of ProtonVPN is that they offer a very decent free VPN. On top of that, their paid subscriptions are well-priced.
ProtonVPN accepts the following payment methods:
- Visa, Mastercard
As you can see, there are multiple payment options at ProtonVPN. It’s possible to pay anonymously, for example by using Bitcoin. You can also pay in cash, as long as you have a ProtonVPN account. You can read more about this on the ProtonVPN website. If you pay using PayPal or credit card, you do have to provide some personal information. However, ProtonVPN works with secure SSL-encrypted payments, so, aside from your data being sent to ProtonVPN for payment, your security isn’t compromised.
All paid ProtonVPN subscriptions have a 30-day money-back guarantee: if you’re not content with their service, just message them and they’ll give you your money back. There is, however, one side note to this: if you’ve paid anonymously, it’s a lot more difficult for the provider to return your money.
There’s an expansive FAQ on the ProtonVPN website that provides answers to all sorts of questions. They call this their ‘knowledge base’ and you’ll find it under Support. If your question isn’t listed or the answer hasn’t solved your problem, you can always contact the ProtonVPN support team. There’s a link at the bottom of the Support page that’ll redirect you to a contact form. Enter your operating system, username and email address and explain your problem. The support team will get back to you via email within one or two business days.
When we presented a problem to the team, we received an answer within a day. The customer service team provided us with explanations, sent us a link to a page from their FAQ, and asked us for more information. After we’d answered, we were offered a number of solutions. What we can take away from this is that the support team is very thorough: they try to find out exactly what’s causing your problem and do their best to solve it. Apart from the fact that it may take a while for ProtonVPN to respond, this was a relatively good experience. The only way it could be improved would be if ProtonVPN introduced a live chat service.
Conclusion usability ProtonVPN
- The ProtonVPN website contains a lot of information but is easy to navigate.
- The installation process of ProtonVPN is fast and reasonably easy.
- The ProtonVPN software has many options, which can be difficult for beginners.
- ProtonVPN has a free version with limited servers.
- Choosing an annual subscription gives you a 20% discount.
- ProtonVPN supports several payment methods, including anonymous ways.
- Customer service is very helpful but works only through forms and email.
Server network ProtonVPN
A wide and well-functioning server network is a big advantage of any VPN provider for many reasons. First of all, a broad network is useful if you want to avoid geo-blocking. The more server locations a provider has, the likelier it is that the country you need is among them. This applies to watching American Netflix outside of the USA, but also if you want to read a specific online newspaper that’s not freely available across the world.
In this section we’ll investigate the different servers and server locations ProtonVPN offers. We will also discuss whether it’s possible to request a dedicated IP address.
Number of servers and locations
At the time of writing, ProtonVPN has almost 700 servers in over 40 countries. The different server locations are listed down below:
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
ProtonVPN is continuously working on their server network, meaning the available countries and servers are constantly changing. Visit their website for an up to date list of locations.
All of ProtonVPN’s servers are owned by and dedicated to the provider, but not all are available to every user. The number of servers you have access to partly depends on your subscription. With the free version of ProtonVPN you only have access to specific free servers in Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. The Basic, Plus and Visionary subscriptions have access to all server locations.
ProtonVPN also offers special servers for P2P (in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden) and servers that support dual use with Tor (in Hong Kong, the United States and Switzerland).
Finally, using server locations in the Secure Core mode works slightly differently. The Secure Core servers add an extra layer of protection to your connection by creating a double tunnel. This means you’ll be connected to the server location of your choice via a Secure Core server in either Switzerland, Iceland or Sweden. These are the server choices Secure Core offers:
|Secure Core server||Server locations|
|Iceland||Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, United States|
|Sweden||Estonia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan|
|Switzerland||Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, India, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States|
Dedicated IP address
At this time, ProtonVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses. This means you can only use servers that are available to other customers as well. In other words, you share an IP address with multiple people. Sharing IP addresses with others using the same VPN is better for your personal safety and privacy: if everyone uses the same IP, especially if all data on it is encrypted, it’s more difficult, if not impossible, to trace online traffic back to one person. For this reason, ProtonVPN only has dynamic, shared IP addresses.
Conclusion server network ProtonVPN
- ProtonVPN has almost 700 servers in over 40 countries.
- The number of servers and location you have access to is partly dependent on your subscription (free vs premium).
- ProtonVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
In addition to the options available on the software, as we discussed in the user-friendliness section, ProtonVPN has a number of other functions as well. With ProtonVPN, you’ve got (limited) access to Netflix and can download torrents anonymously by using one of their special servers. In this section we’ll tell you more about each of these options, as well as about ProtonVPN’s Secure Core.
ProtonVPN and Netflix
A question that’s often asked about any VPN is whether you can use it to watch Netflix. Netflix tries to block VPNs from accessing their content in order to stay in line with the geo-restricted clauses in their contracts. However, there are many VPNs that continue the fight and try to get around those blocks. ProtonVPN also tries to keep Netflix working for its users, with mixed results.
ProtonVPN states in its FAQ that they don’t want to encourage the breaking of copyright laws and statements as put forward by Netflix. Still, they think Netflix shouldn’t prohibit the use of VPNs, because a VPN offers security and privacy. ProtonVPN want users to be able to safely use Netflix without necessarily using it to circumvent geographical blockages.
Regardless, it’s possible to watch American Netflix from beyond the United States when using ProtonVPN. After connecting to an American server, we could watch series such as The Office US, which normally wouldn’t be available to us. Loading took a little longer than usual,but this makes sense because we test our VPNs in the Netherlands. With Proton you can access the American, British and German version of Netflix.
ProtonVPN and torrents
Downloading torrents with ProtonVPN is fast and easy. We were able to download a decently sized file in no time. While downloading, we could surf the web without noticeable delays. We used one of ProtonVPN’s dedicated P2P servers for this, which is essential. If you’re going to download something using ProtonVPN and you want to make sure your connection is secure, then always use one of these P2P servers, otherwise you won’t be protected.
A special feature of ProtonVPN is their Secure Core network. With Secure Core, they offer their users even more security. Secure Core creates a dual VPN tunnel that keeps the connection safe from network-based attacks. Secure Core redirects your internet traffic to different servers before it leaves the ProtonVPN network. The dedicated Secure Core servers used for this purpose are based in Switzerland, Iceland and Sweden, where ProtonVPN data centers have been set up.
Secure Core is available for ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary and can be switched on and off manually. In addition, as described under the heading ‘Server network’, you can choose which Secure Core server you want to send data to, depending on your exit server location.
Conclusion options ProtonVPN
- Possibility to watch American Netflix, although loading might take longer than usual depending on your location.
- ProtonVPN has specific P2P servers that allow you to safely download torrents.
- ProtonVPN’s Secure Core offers extra protection.
Conclusion – Our experience with ProtonVPN
|Easy to install||Support team only available through contact form|
|Website is easy to navigate||The many options might be confusing for beginners|
|Lots of options|
|Access to Netflix|
|Secure Core for extra safety|
ProtonVPN has already built up a strong reputation. They handle the security of their servers very well and offer many options to enhance this even further. Secure Core ensures that premium users have the possibility to protect themselves by using a dual VPN tunnel. Moreover, the VPN is well priced, works with Netflix and downloads, and has a nice look. Our local servers showed little loss of speed. Unfortunately, the American servers didn’t perform as well for us. Aside from that, customer service is a bit cumbersome, even though the help we got was very complete and decent. All in all, ProtonVPN is definitely a good choice if you’re looking for a VPN with many options and strong encryption.