ProtonVPN Review (2021) – Just How Good Is This VPN?
ProtonVPN is a secure VPN service provided by Switzerland-based Proton Technologies AG, which also created ProtonMail, the world’s largest encrypted email service. While ProtonMail helps you send emails anonymously, ProtonVPN is a separate entity that offers both a paid and free VPN service.
ProtonVPN puts privacy, anonymity, and encryption above all else to ensure users’ online security. For our ProtonVPN review, we tested it to see how effective it is for everyday use. Can it unblock Netflix? Does it offer good download speeds for torrents? Can you use it to browse anonymously? We answer these questions and more in our full ProtonVPN review.
ProtonVPN – Short Review
- Easy to install and use
- Lots of options
- Strong encryption
- No data logs
- Works to stream Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video
- Works for downloading torrents
- Secure Core servers for extra safety
- Decent free VPN service available
- Support team only available through a contact form on the website
- Pricing on the higher side for premium plans
ProtonVPN has a long track record of advocating for online security and privacy. The ProtonVPN team has trained journalists, educated the public, and confronted governments about cybersecurity issues. Moreover, in 2018, the team collaborated with Mozilla in an experiment to find new ways to keep users safe online. Plus, since the company is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, they don’t even keep logs of user data owing to the country’s data protection regulations.
ProtonVPN is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Chromebook, and Android TV. It comes with many additional customization options, and it makes for a great free VPN as well. Check out the sections below to see how fast ProtonVPN is, how safe it is, and what kind of features it offers.
- Torrenting allowed
- Works with Netflix
- Credit card
Speed – How Fast is ProtonVPN?
Nobody likes waiting for a YouTube video to buffer or a file to download. Streaming, gaming, and surfing the web should be swift and without lag, even when using a secure connection via VPN. Unfortunately, many VPNs can significantly slow down your internet connection.
We’re happy to report that ProtonVPN offers decent speeds that will prove adequate for most users. Here are our main conclusions about ProtonVPN’s speed:
- The speed tests showed good results, both with local and distant servers.
- Download speeds during browsing, watching videos, and downloading content were sufficient.
- Netflix and other streaming services worked seamlessly but you must have a ProtonVPN Plus or Visionary plan to bypass geo-restrictions.
Speed test results – ProtonVPN
We ran some speed tests on ProtonVPN to see how it fares. The table below shows the results according to speedtest.net. We first tested our connection without a VPN and then again using three major ProtonVPN servers.
|Server||Download (MBPS)||% Download||Upload (MBPS)||% Upload||Ping (MS)|
|The United States||52.30||54.0%||30.21||52.1%||281|
As you can see, the latency increased significantly, which is expected when using a VPN. At the same time, both the download and upload speeds dropped, especially for servers located farther away. However, this did not negatively impact daily surfing, as explained in the sections below. Keep in mind that speeds always vary depending on your location, internet provider, and time of day.
Speed during daily use
Given these speed test results, we were curious to know how ProtonVPN performs during everyday use and light surfing. While browsing, we encountered little to no hiccups. Downloading torrents was just as quick. We could also watch YouTube videos as usual without extended buffering periods.
Accessing and streaming American Netflix and other region-locked content on the app worked great, as well. However, note that unblocking content from other countries isn’t possible with the Free or Basic plans. You have to subscribe to the ProtonVPN Plus or Visionary plans to unblock other countries’ Netflix catalogs. As for gaming, ProtonVPN held its own; keeping the latency to under 100ms for servers in the same country for multiplayer FPS games.
Safety – How Secure is ProtonVPN?
Safety just might be a VPN’s most important quality. After all, the whole point of using a VPN is to guard your privacy and surf the internet without being followed or tracked.
In this section, you’ll read all about ProtonVPN’s safety features. Is ProtonVPN trustworthy? Is ProtonVPN free safe? Does it have a no-logs policy? What about a kill switch?
Before we get into the details, here are our main takeaways:
- ProtonVPN uses WireGuard as the default VPN protocol.
- ProtonVPN only records connection logs, which consist of a timestamp 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 the connection drops.
- To create an account, ProtonVPN needs your email address and payment details.
Internet protocols determine how data packets are transferred on a network. A VPN’s security is largely dependent on the protocols it uses. Some VPNs use insecure, outdated protocols which offer faster speeds and lower maintenance costs.
We’re happy to share that this is not true of ProtonVPN, which only uses the highly secure WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPSec protocols.
WireGuard is the default option for all ProtonVPN connections through their Smart Protocol feature. Smart Protocol will help you bypass any kind of censorship, and has now been set to choose ProtonVPN as the preferred option.
On Mac and Android, ProtonVPN also uses OpenVPN, while on Windows and iOS, it uses the IKEv2/IPSec VPN protocol. Of course, your data is secured with AES 256-bit encryption, which is used by banks and the military, so you know your connection is well-encrypted.
Logging and privacy
A VPN’s logging policy states whether the VPN provider collects and saves data about its customers’ internet use.
“No-log VPNs” (also called zero log VPNs) don’t collect any user data, guaranteeing your privacy. Meanwhile, some VPN providers record data about your usage, which can be a cause for concern, as this data can be shared with third parties or stolen by hackers. There are also VPN providers subjected to local laws that force them to hand over your information to the governments of the countries they’re based in.
Fortunately, ProtonVPN doesn’t have to deal with such laws. The company is headquartered in Switzerland, which is known for its relaxed privacy legislation. The country isn’t a part of the 14 Eyes intelligence group and is exempt from the many rules of the European Union. For these reasons, Switzerland is generally seen as a good location for VPN providers. Providers situated in Switzerland aren’t required to keep logs of customers and don’t have to give up any user data.
The ProtonVPN website claims a no-logs policy, meaning no information about your connection or browsing activity is saved. However, note that ProtonVPN does collect ‘connection logs.’
This data is used solely to ensure that your account remains safe and that everything functions as it should. For this purpose, a timestamp of your latest login is saved. This stamp is overwritten whenever you log in. Proton doesn’t record information revealing anything about your location, the time you’ve spent on the VPN connection, or the place you’ve logged in from.
These connection logs are necessary to ensure your account isn’t being abused. The timestamp 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.
The Switzerland-based company’s technology has recently become open-source, which means everyone can take a look behind the scenes and inspect the technology behind the ProtonVPN app. It allows users to investigate whether the claims the company makes are correct. In fact, the company has undergone a full independent audit conducted by SEC Consult.
ProtonVPN has a built-in kill switch. You can turn it on or off in the settings found on the VPN’s dashboard. An activated kill switch ensures you aren’t at risk of exposure 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.
What information does ProtonVPN require?
To create a ProtonVPN account, you need to share your email address and payment details.
When 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 a “fake” email address to avoid giving your real one.
For each paid ProtonVPN subscription, you must enter your payment details. When paying with PayPal or a credit card, you’ll have to share the relevant information. There are also anonymous options you can use to pay for your subscription, which we discuss further in the pricing section of this ProtonVPN review.
Usability – How User-Friendly is ProtonVPN?
A VPN runs in the background of your device. It should provide a secure and anonymous online experience without much effort on your part. Affordable pricing and good customer service also help with the accessibility of a VPN. Therefore, it’s important that a VPN is easy to operate, affordable, and backed by customer support.
Here’s an overview of the general user-friendliness of ProtonVPN. We looked at its website, installation process, app, pricing, and customer service. Our main findings are as follows:
- The ProtonVPN website contains a lot of information but is easy to navigate.
- ProtonVPN’s installation process is fast and reasonably easy.
- The ProtonVPN app offers many customization options.
- ProtonVPN has a free version with limited servers.
- ProtonVPN supports several payment methods, including Bitcoin.
- Customer service is helpful but works only through forms and email.
In our ProtonVPN review, we found the homepage highly intuitive and navigable. Instantly, you see a link that leads directly to the payment page showcasing the different ProtonVPN subscriptions.
Scrolling down, you’ll find information on ProtonVPN’s different features and why you may want to choose a VPN. The homepage also shares tweets from users talking about their experiences, which adds to the company’s social proof.
The top bar allows you to navigate to the different pages on the website: About, Features, Pricing, Blog, and Support. A login 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 straightforward to navigate while also providing plenty of information about ProtonVPN and VPNs in general.
Before you can install and use ProtonVPN, you need to create an account. To set up an account, you’ll need to provide some information, most notably your email (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 license, it’s time to download ProtonVPN. 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 app can be downloaded for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Aside from that, the ProtonVPN download page will provide you with links to the Google Play and App Store apps. In our ProtonVPN review, 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 appeared was self-explanatory: follow the instructions and install ProtonVPN. The only thing we had to do was give the app permission to be used on our device.
Once the installation’s completed, which shouldn’t take more than a minute, the app 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 ProtonVPN download page is somewhat hard to find if you’ve already got an account and need to download the program.
ProtonVPN’s appearance and ease of use
ProtonVPN’s app is easy to use but may seem a bit cluttered to some people, especially if you are new to VPNs. The dashboard contains a list of countries on one 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 selects 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 the duration of your session. All in all, the look of the entire dashboard is professional and pleasant.
ProtonVPN has plenty of options like split tunneling or changing protocols. Many are directly available on the main screen. The rest can be found in the settings. The About page also contains information about app versions and licenses. Under Account, you’ll be able to make changes to your account and subscription plan. Profiles show you the different profiles you made.
Under Settings, you can change how and when the program starts up and whether notifications pop up on the 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.
One advantage of ProtonVPN is that despite the range of options, everything’s very accessible. You can easily customize your experience, which is useful for people with experience using VPNs. The app is available in English, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, and Spanish.
Pricing and methods of payment
ProtonVPN has four different VPN subscription options. You can benefit from different features depending on the subscription you pick. Here’s a brief overview of the options:
1. ProtonVPN Free Version
The ProtonVPN Free Version 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.
Note that the small number of available servers will affect your internet speed; the more people connected to a 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, the free version does not let you stream Netflix or benefit from advanced features like dedicated P2P servers for downloading torrents and connecting to Secure Core servers.
2. ProtonVPN Basic Version
ProtonVPN Basic Version is the cheapest paid option, costing a mere $4/month. If you choose an annual subscription instead of opting for monthly payments, you get a 20% discount on your subscription (which goes for all ProtonVPN subscriptions).
This version gives you access to 350+ servers in 40+ countries and allows for two simultaneous device connections. However, this plan doesn’t let you stream Netflix either.
3. ProtonVPN Plus Subscription
ProtonVPN Plus Subscription is slightly more expensive than the Basic option but unlocks the full potential of the service, giving you access to 1200+ servers in 55 countries, 1o VPN connections, Netflix streaming, and advanced features like Secure Core VPN and Tor over VPN.
4. ProtonVPN Visionary Plan
ProtonVPN Visionary Plan is the most expensive option, bundling the Plus subscription features with a ProtonMail Visionary account. It costs $24/month.
One of the advantages of ProtonVPN is that it offers a decent free VPN for anonymous and secure browsing. However, the free version is of no use if you want to access geo-blocked content, and neither is the cheap Basic version.
Therefore, the best option for most users is the ProtonVPN Plus subscription, which is priced at $8 a month if you sign up for an annual plan.
ProtonVPN accepts the following payment methods:
It’s also possible to buy anonymously by using Bitcoin. Proton even lets you 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 a credit card, you have to provide your payment information. Fortunately, ProtonVPN accepts payments over a SSL-encrypted channel, so your financial information is never compromised.
All paid ProtonVPN subscriptions have a 30-day money-back guarantee; if you’re not content with the service, just reach out to the ProtonVPN team to get your money back. Note, however, that 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. This is known as the ‘knowledge base,’ which you’ll find under Support. If your question isn’t listed or if the provided 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 for the purposes of this ProtonVPN review, we received an answer within a day. The customer service team provided us with a detailed explanation, sent us a link to a FAQ page, and asked us for more information about the issue. After we answered, they offered us several solutions.
What we can take away from this experience is that the support team is helpful. The customer service agents 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.
Server Network ProtonVPN
An expansive and well-functioning server network is a huge advantage for any VPN provider. A broad network is useful if you want to bypass geo-blocking restrictions. A VPN provider with server locations in multiple countries offers a greater pool of choices, allowing you to bypass restrictions from virtually all over the globe. This applies to everything, from accessing regional streaming services to reading geo-restricted newspapers that may not be freely available across the world.
In this section, we’ll investigate the different servers and server locations ProtonVPN offers. Before we get into the details, some main points to keep in mind are:
- ProtonVPN has more than 1200 servers in 55 countries.
- The number of servers and locations you have access to is partly dependent on which plan you’re on.
- ProtonVPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
Servers and locations
At the time of writing, ProtonVPN has more than 1200 servers in 55 countries. The different server locations are:
- Costa Rica
- Hong Kong
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- United States
ProtonVPN is continuously working to expand its server network, meaning the available countries and servers are constantly changing. Visit the website for an up-to-date list of locations.
All of ProtonVPN’s servers are owned by and dedicated to the provider, but not every single one is available to every user.
The number of servers you have access to partly depends on your subscription. With ProtonVPN free, you only have access to specific free servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. The Basic version offers 350+ servers in 40+ countries, while the Plus and Visionary plans offer full access to 1200+ servers in 55 countries.
ProtonVPN also offers dedicated P2P servers for safe file sharing, such as when torrenting. This feature is only available on the paid plans and not on ProtonVPN’s free version. Plus and Visionary subscribers can also take advantage of Proton’s integration with the Tor browser to route all traffic through the Tor anonymity network.
Finally, ProtonVPN offers Secure Core servers, which 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.
This is invaluable when using ProtonVPN in risky locations such as Russia, China, Iran, or Turkey, which are known for their government surveillance. A Secure Core server routes your traffic through privacy-friendly countries so that it’s never tracked back to you.
Here are the Secure Core server options:
|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, Hungary, India, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, 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 the 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.
ProtonVPN has several options that help you to access the internet privately. With ProtonVPN, you can access Netflix’s international catalog and download torrents anonymously. In this section, we’ll tell you more about each of these options, as well as ProtonVPN’s Secure Core features. Here are our main findings at a glance:
- It’s possible to watch American Netflix, although loading might take longer than usual depending on your location.
- ProtonVPN has specific P2P servers that allow you to download torrents safely.
- ProtonVPN’s Secure Core offers extra protection.
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 its content because it is only licensed to stream certain content in specific regions.
However, many VPNs continue to try to get around these blocks. ProtonVPN is no exception, and it’s good at it, too. ProtonVPN works like a charm when it comes to unblocking Netflix from different regions, including the U.S.A. However, this benefit is only available for Plus and Visionary plan subscribers. If you’re using the Free or Basic version, you will not be able to bypass geo-restrictions.
By default, ProtonVPN will connect you to the US version of Netflix, but you can also access other regional versions, such as Germany, India, or Australia. For this, you’ll need to use the ‘Plus’ servers, which are marked with a ‘P’ on the server list in your ProtonVPN app. If you do not use these special ‘Plus’ servers, Netflix may detect that you’re using a VPN and not let you access the content.
With a higher tier membership, you can also unblock other streaming services, such as HBO Max, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video content. Of course, you need to be a subscriber of these streaming services in order to access their content.
ProtonVPN offers more-than-adequate speeds to stream high-quality video from any of these services. However, it will help if you connect to a server geographically closest to you.
Torrenting with ProtonVPN
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 for your privacy. If you’re going to download something using ProtonVPN and want to make sure your connection is secure, always use one of these P2P servers. Otherwise, you won’t be protected.
The dedicated P2P servers are only available to paid members and not free users.
ProtonVPN also leverages a Secure Core network, which offers extra security to Plus or Visionary subscribers. Using a Secure Core server creates a dual VPN tunnel that keeps your connection safe from network-based attacks. With ProtonVPN, your internet traffic gets redirected to different servers before it leaves the ProtonVPN network. In essence, your traffic can never be traced back to you.
This feature is vital in countries under the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances, such as Russia, China, the United States, Turkey, and Iran.
Government surveillance in these regions will not be able to track you if you’re using a Secure Core, because your traffic will be routed through multiple servers in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. These Secure Core servers are fully owned and operated by Proton.
Secure Core is available for ProtonVPN Plus and Visionary. This feature can be switched on and off manually. Additionally, 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.
Tor over VPN
ProtonVPN offers seamless integration with Tor Browser. This means you can route all your internet traffic through the Tor anonymity network and safely access the dark web.
All paid plans of ProtonVPN include access to the NetShield DNS filtering feature. This protects against malware, blocks ads, and prevents website trackers from following you as you browse the net.
The Bottom Line– Our ProtonVPN Review Conclusion
To sum up our ProtonVPN review: ProtonVPN is a pretty efficient VPN service that offers good privacy options and decent speed for everyday use. Its Secure Core feature ensures that premium users can protect themselves by channeling traffic through a dual VPN tunnel. Moreover, ProtonVPN works for Netflix and for downloading torrents, though the speeds may be a bit slow depending on your location and the server locations you connect to.
It’s fairly easy to install and use, though the wealth of options and settings might overwhelm new users. As for pricing, you get a discount if you opt for a longer subscription, but the prices are slightly higher than other affordable VPNs. The one improvement we would like to see is a quicker way to connect with ProtonVPN support.
All in all, ProtonVPN is definitely a good choice if you’re looking for a VPN that prioritizes security and privacy while being easy to use.
Looking for a quick answer about one of ProtonVPN’s many features? You might find it in our FAQs. Just click one of the questions below to see the answer!
Yes, ProtonVPN does come with a free version.
Yes, ProtonVPN does have a kill switch.
ProtonVPN is an incredibly secure VPN that uses OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec for enhanced protection.
Yes, you can. However, unless you buy ProtonVPN Plus or a higher subscription, streaming services won’t work.
Yes, you can use ProtonVPN for downloading torrents.
The free version of ProtonVPN does not support Netflix. However, if you choose ProtonVPN Plus or higher, it will stream Netflix at decent speeds.
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