Urban VPN Review (2021): Free VPN with Varying Speeds
Urban VPN is an interesting newcomer to the market of free VPNs. Many VPN providers promote their free version to eventually persuade customers to get a paid subscription. Urban VPN, however, doesn’t even offer paid plans: the service is completely free.
Urban VPN was founded in 2018 and is headquartered in the US. The service claims to be a completely free VPN with unlimited bandwidth, good speeds and completely anonymous connections. Their slogan reads: “The only 100% FREE, 100% fast & 100% anonymous VPN in the world”. Quite a claim, one must admit. Therefore, VPNOverview was happy to put Urban VPN to the test. You can read the results in our Urban VPN review below.
- 10 or more
- Zero logs
Speed – How Fast is Urban VPN?
Speed is a very important factor for any VPN. When VPNs first came on the market, people were mainly interested in a VPN’s capability in establishing a secure and anonymous connection. Nowadays, a streaming speed that is good enough to watch Netflix, for example, is equally important. That’s exactly why we extensively speed test all the VPNs we review. Below we present the speed test results of Urban VPN, with some explanations. After that, we will discuss the speed of Urban VPN during daily use.
Note: normally we use speedtest.net for all our speed tests, as this is one of the best and most reliable speed tests available. However, we were unable to reliably measure the speed of the local Urban VPN server in this way. Speed testing a faraway server with speedtest.net also did not seem to work. This is one of several quirks of Urban VPN and its servers that we will discuss later in this article. We ended up using another highly regarded speed test facility: speedof.me.
Speed without Urban VPN
First, we’ll show you our internet connection speed without a VPN. We use this as a benchmark to see how much Urban VPN slows down our connection compared to our standard speed.
Speed with a local server
Below are the speed test results with a local Urban VPN server.
On paper, this is certainly not a bad result. Using the local Urban VPN server, we lost less than 30 percent of our download speed, compared to our standard speed.
Strangely enough, the upload speed slightly increased. We’re not sure how this came about, but it’s a fact that many Internet Service Providers sometimes “throttle” your speed to spare the rest of the network. With a VPN, you can get around this. However, we’re not sure if this is what happened here.
Finally, the latency value (delay in milliseconds) has remained the same.
These results are certainly not bad, especially for a completely free VPN. Nevertheless, we need to emphasize, as discussed later in this article, that Urban VPN’s speeds are not very stable and vary a lot. We also measured much lower speeds than the ones provided above. However, we think it’s important to give some VPNs the benefit of the doubt because a speed test depends on many factors, not just on the VPN. That’s why we run dozens of tests and choose the one that we believe is the most representative, with common use in mind.
Speed with a faraway server
Below are our speed test results using a faraway Urban VPN server.
As you can see, the speed test tells a completely different story when connected to a server much further away. This time, the speed has decreased enormously, on paper at least. The download speed dropped by 90 percent and the upload speed by about 60 percent. Moreover, the latency has increased enormously. This, of course, raises questions about the speed of Urban VPN’s faraway servers. Therefore, we will answer all questions about the speed of Urban VPN during daily use in the next section.
How fast is Urban VPN during daily use?
Certainly, numbers are important to get an idea of the speed of a VPN. However, the most important thing is whether and how these numbers translate into our actual internet experience. That’s why we have extensively tested Urban VPN’s performance during daily use. You can read our findings further below.
The speed tests we performed with Urban VPN came up with mixed results. Therefore, we suspect that for many users the section below will be the most important for getting a good idea of Urban VPN’s speed and what this actually means for them.
Speed while browsing
In our experience and review, Urban VPN’s browsing speed was pretty good, especially for a completely free VPN. In contrast to our experience with the fastest premium VPNs, such as ExpressVPN and Surfshark, with Urban VPN we sometimes had to “watch” websites load. However, this was almost always just for a short period of time.
We did notice that this loading process took a bit longer when we connected to a server further away from us. Consequently, if you tend to use Urban VPN just for browsing, we recommend that you connect to a server that is relatively close to you. Fortunately, this is usually fine, because if you are using the VPN just for browsing, you usually don’t have to bypass geographical blockades, like with streaming.
Speed while streaming
Streaming while connected to a local Urban VPN server went quite well during our test. We could easily play both YouTube and Netflix videos, almost without hitches. When we did notice a (significant) delay, it usually took place during the loading of the overviews on YouTube and Netflix, and only occasionally when starting a video. But once a video started playing, there were no further interruptions.
The faraway server also offered a satisfactory experience during our review. We were able to play both YouTube and Netflix videos without interruptions. If we really paid attention, it took a little longer for a Netflix series or movie to load, but the difference was negligible, at least with our connection.
Speed while torrenting (downloading)
Unfortunately, we were unable to download Torrents with Urban VPN. The copyright-free torrent we chose to test Urban VPN with didn’t even start downloading. If you want to know more about Urban VPN and torrents, you can find more information under the heading “Urban VPN and torrents”.
Speed while gaming
For the privacy-oriented gamers among us, a VPN with decent gaming speeds is very important. That is why we also thoroughly tested the performance of Urban VPN during gaming.
To our surprise, gaming with both a local and a faraway Urban VPN server went very smoothly. We had virtually no lag while playing, despite the very high delay the latency value of the faraway server would suggest.
However, prior to our gaming sessions, problems did arise. We were unable to start our test game, i.e., the multiplayer shooter flash game Warmerise Red vs Blue, while we were connected to the VPN. Our connection also did not seem strong enough to enter a game server while connected to Urban VPN. Therefore, we first needed to start the game without a VPN before we could game while protected. Not handy, and certainly not anonymous.
Technically speaking, connection stability is not related to speed. However, with Urban VPN we noticed that the servers’ lack of stability had implications in terms of speed. Urban VPN unfortunately has some sort of problem that occasionally and considerably slows down the connection. We noticed this when testing the local server, and to a lesser extent when connected to a faraway server. Moreover, on some occasions, the VPN connection suddenly broke off. This happened with both the local and faraway server.
Conclusion: speed Urban VPN
Urban VPN’s speed tests do not suggest that it’s a speed monster. Especially not when connected to a faraway server. Nonetheless, Urban VPN holds its ground during most everyday browsing activities. Especially when you consider that Urban VPN is a completely free service.
These are our conclusions about Urban VPN’s speed in our Urban VPN review:
- On paper, the speed test with Urban VPN’s faraway server was not that good.
- During browsing and streaming, both the local and faraway servers appeared to work quickly.
- UrbanVPN is not suitable for downloading torrents (fast).
- UrbanVPN is not suitable for online multiplayer games, as it can take a long time to connect to a server.
- The speed and stability of Urban VPN differ greatly.
Safety – How Secure is Urban VPN
While many people today just want a fast VPN to stream content, security and anonymity are actually the main features of a VPN. After all, this is the reason why VPNs exist in the first place: to enable anonymous and secure communication. This is why we have taken a closer look at the security and anonymity of Urban VPN. We examined three important areas: encryption, logging policy and the information that is required to create an account.
Information about protocols is not easy to find on the Urban VPN website. We were not able to find any information about the VPN protocols that are used for Urban VPN’s Android and iPhone apps. This is very unfortunate, because encryption protocols are a very important part of a VPN. After all, these are responsible for encrypting and thus securing your internet traffic.
The good news is that Urban VPN uses the OpenVPN protocol for their Windows and Mac applications. This is by far the most “battle tested” VPN protocol and offers a very good balance between high internet speeds and strict security. On the other hand, Urban VPN does not state whether they use the somewhat outdated 128-bit encryption key or a 256-bit encryption key.
Unfortunately, we have to say that the lack of clarity about Urban VPN’s security measures and their lack of transparency doesn’t inspire trust.
Logging and privacy
We did encounter some problems with Urban VPN in this regard. For example, the provider states in their logging policy that they collect certain “online identifiers” from their users. This includes Android IDs (if you use Urban VPN on an Android device) and even IP addresses. Urban VPN states that they collect IP addresses from users to “determine their geographical location”. The question here is of course: “Why should Urban VPN want to know this?”
Another problem is that Urban VPN only removes these online identifiers when you remove their software from your device and stop using their service altogether. To us, this just blatantly sounds like logging.
Furthermore, Urban VPN also talks about the collection of other types of data, such as the websites users visit and their searches. The only other mention of this, is that this information is immediately anonymized. As far as we are concerned, this is a bit vague and offers little reassurance. We must therefore conclude that, in reality, Urban VPN’s logging policy does not really protect the anonymity of their users.
The fact that Urban VPN – and we only found out about this later – sells “anonymized” data to third parties only makes things worse. You can opt-out of this, according to Urban VPN’s website. However, when we tried to check how to do this, we couldn’t find the option to stop data sales anywhere in the app. At least not in the Windows app.
It probably goes without saying that the fact that Urban VPN sells user data is undesirable. After all, this puts your privacy at risk. Imagine, for example, that your searches about sensitive health issues are sold to health insurers! This is the last thing you want.
Finally, you must keep in mind that Urban VPN is located in a 5-eyes country: namely, the United States.
All the above makes us concerned about the privacy of Urban VPN users.
What information does Urban VPN need?
To create a VPN account, you usually need to provide at least some personal data. However, to better protect your privacy, it’s best to give away as little as possible.
Surprisingly, Urban VPN scores very well on this privacy aspect: you don’t have to give away anything at all! The service is free, and you don’t need an account or enter personal data or an email address. It is literally a matter of downloading the software, installing it and you’re on your way, as you can read under “Urban VPN Installation”.
P2P VPN: Security Concern or Streaming Bonus?
Urban VPN is a so-called peer-to-peer powered VPN. Urban VPN doesn’t describe in detail what this means, but we suspect that Urban VPN’s P2P system is comparable to Hola’s P2P system. Hola indicates that they use this system to save costs and to keep their VPN free, among other things. With Hola, instead of sending users’ traffic through servers around the world, which are relatively expensive, the traffic is sent through other Hola users’ devices.
We suspect that Urban VPN’s P2P system works similarly, as this is what peer-to-peer literally means. In addition, Urban VPN mentions on their website that Urban VPN users utilize each other’s system resources (e.g., bandwidth, etc.). We are not a fan of such systems, to say the least. It makes the connection potentially very unstable and dependent on other users. This could also explain why our speeds with Urban VPN and the quality of the connection varied so greatly.
In addition, a peer VPN comes with certain security risks. Your traffic literally goes through another user’s device. Consequently, you need to have great confidence in Urban VPN’s encryption. Otherwise, it is theoretically possible that other users see your internet traffic. Add to this that Urban VPN is not very clear and transparent about their encryption, and you’ll understand our hesitation.
Another big problem with P2P VPNs is that internet behavior is still attributable to users. Because you make your system available as a “conduit” for someone else’s network traffic, it may appear that you are doing something illegal, while actually another Urban VPN user is the culprit.
Nonetheless, a P2P VPN in theory also offers one advantage: because users themselves are actually being utilized as servers, instead of “real” servers, it is often much more difficult for streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, to detect and block these types of VPN connections. Nevertheless, the potential security risks and unstable connections are not worth it, in our opinion. If you are looking for a good streaming VPN, we would rather recommend a solid “video devourer”, like NordVPN or ExpressVPN.
Is Urban VPN a real VPN?
Urban VPN’s somewhat unconventional way of achieving VPN connections is not the only reason to wonder whether Urban VPN is “a real VPN”. Various IP tools we tested simply showed our own IP address when we visit them with Urban VPN. They could also tell our location (quite exact location actually), even when connected to a faraway server. The same thing happened when we used our own IP tool.
However, certain tools do show our fake IP address and a fake location. This proves that something does happen when you click on a server location in the Urban VPN app. Still, the fact that multiple IP tools are able to “see through” Urban VPN’s connections, raises some questions about the security and authenticity of Urban VPN’s connections.
Conclusion on Urban VPN’s safety
Our main concern is Urban VPN’s anonymity and security. That’s a shame, because strictly speaking this is the most important element of a VPN. Our conclusions about Urban VPN’s privacy and security are as follows:
- Urban VPN suggests using the OpenVPN encryption protocol for Windows and Mac. On paper, this is the best VPN protocol.
- Urban VPN is not very transparent about their encryption and security. For example, it is not clear which protocols are used on mobile devices.
- Unfortunately, Urban VPN is not a no-logs VPN.
- You do not have to create an account and therefore you do not have to provide any personal information to Urban VPN when installing this free VPN.
- Urban VPN’s peer-to-peer system and the fact that some IP tools could see our real location and IP address is a real concern in terms of security, anonymity and stability.
Usability – How User-Friendly is Urban VPN?
Just like speed and security, user-friendliness is also very important. Especially for people who have less experience with VPNs. A simple app, an easy installation procedure and excellent customer service are all that is expected.
With a free VPN like Urban VPN this is perhaps even more important. This is because Urban VPN will, like any other free VPN service, attract many casual VPN users, who are not (yet) sure whether they want to invest in a VPN service. That is why we have researched the user-friendliness of Urban VPN in various areas. You can read our findings below.
The Urban VPN website
The Urban VPN website certainly does have a few very user-friendly elements. However, there is room for improvement.
When you land on the homepage, you can immediately download the VPN. If you’re already sure that you want to download Urban VPN, you can simply click on the “Free download” button. This is a big plus and the installation process is quick and easy. You can also easily choose a specific product via the top menu. You can choose, for example, Urban VPN for Chrome (an extension) or for Windows, or a product related to Urban VPN, like Urban AdBlocker or Urban Anti-Malware.
If you scroll down the homepage, you will immediately see all UrbanVPN’s server locations. In that respect, the website comes across as very useful and user-friendly. However, the rest of the information on the page is unnecessary advertising.
We understand that a VPN has to promote itself. However, it would have been better if this space was used to communicate more important information users would like to know about, like VPN protocols, extra options, the important “Do not sell” feature (more on this later), etc. Nevertheless, we are quite happy with Urban VPN’s homepage.
What’s not so nice is the fact that the menus are a bit messy and that there is also a lot of information that is not strictly necessary. For example, the list under “Products” in the main menu is a fairly redundant collection of meaningless advertising texts. There’s also a lot of repetition. If Urban VPN were to clean up these menus, it would certainly make their website and products clearer.
A bonus for non-English speaking users: the website is available in 10 different languages, including Spanish, Italian, French and German.
Installing Urban VPN
What Urban VPN lacks in website clarity, however, it makes up in ease of software installation. This process is extremely simple, just follow the steps below.
- Go to the Urban VPN website.
- Click on one of the “Free Download” buttons or on your operating system icon in the top menu bar (see the first screenshot in the section above).
- Open the file that automatically downloads when you click on the button.
- Go through the installation process.
- Open the Urban VPN app. If you keep all settings unchanged during installation, this will happen automatically.
Urban VPN’s appearance and ease of use
Admittingly, the Urban VPN app is the simplest VPN app we’ve ever seen. The app is very clear and literally only has a list of server locations to choose from and an On and Off button to establish or cut off a VPN connection. The “purists” among us will certainly love this, as do users who simply want to get started right away without any fuss.
Unfortunately, Urban VPN’s very simple interface does mean that you are missing a few useful – and we would even say a few essential – options. For example, Urban VPN does not offer a kill switch, manual server selection, choice of protocols and the split-tunneling option. We understand that free VPNs, like Urban VPN, do not offer many extra features. However, we would have liked to see a kill switch at the very least. Later we will discuss the options and capabilities of Urban VPN in more detail and explain what different VPN options exactly do.
Customer service of this free VPN service
Conclusion: Urban VPN’s ease of use
Urban VPN’s user-friendliness is one of the VPN’s best features. Nevertheless, in addition to a lot of advantages, its ease of use also comes with some disadvantages. These are our conclusions:
- The Urban VPN homepage makes it easy to get started quickly. The homepage also provides useful information about server locations.
- Unfortunately, the site also contains a lot of nondescript advertising-like information. This makes it a bit more difficult to find important information.
- Some essential information is missing entirely, such as detailed information about Urban VPN’s encryption protocols.
- Installing Urban VPN is a simple and quick affair.
- Urban VPN’s app is simple and easy to navigate.
- Urban VPN unfortunately does not provide formal customer service.
Urban VPN’s Server Network
For a free VPN, Urban VPN has quite a decent server network. It is a bit strange though, that the information on the website and the number of available servers in the app seem to contradict each other.
According to the website, Urban VPN has servers in 81 countries and regions. Yet, there are 84 flags on the website, not 81. Moreover, if we count the number of server locations in the app, there are only 40. Below you will find the server locations currently available.
Urban VPN’s server locations
Urban VPN currently offers the following 40 server locations.
- Africa: Algeria, Morocco, South Africa.
- Asia: Hong Kong, Japan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand.
- Europe: Austria, Belarus, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.
- North America: Canada, Mexico, the United States.
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand.
- South America: Brazil, Peru.
Urban VPN’s dedicated IP addresses
At this point, there is nothing to suggest that Urban VPN offers dedicated IP addresses. Unfortunately, we cannot make any definitive judgement on this matter. However, as Urban VPN’s differentiating factor is that the provider offers all its services for free, and since dedicated IP addresses cost extra with almost every provider, we would infer that Urban VPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses.
Conclusion: Urban VPN’s server network
These are our conclusions about Urban VPN’s server network:
- For a free VPN, Urban VPN offers quite a few server locations: i.e., 40.
- Urban VPN does not have a fixed number of servers per server location, since Urban VPN works with a peer-to-peer system and “utilizes” its users as servers.
- Urban VPN does not offer dedicated IP addresses
Urban VPN’s Options
As already discussed, Urban VPN doesn’t excel in (extra) features. The Urban VPN app doesn’t come with a kill switch, for example. And it also doesn’t offer a double VPN connection, split tunneling, an ad blocker or other extra options. As discussed, a lack of extra features is to be expected with a (completely) free VPN. However, we have included this in our review, as many people expect more from a VPN service in this day and age. Therefore, we’ll discuss two additional options that many users would normally look for.
Urban VPN and Netflix
These days, many people use a VPN to watch Netflix. They do this either because they simply want to enjoy the basic benefits of a VPN while streaming, such as more anonymity, security and no speed limits imposed by ISPs. Or because they want to make certain Netflix content available. For example, many people in Europe would like to watch the American version of Netflix, as the US Netflix library contains many more videos and series.
The good news is that watching Netflix via a local Urban VPN server works perfectly fine. Nowadays, Netflix often detects that you are using a VPN. However, we did not encounter any problems with Urban VPN. Also, as you can read above, our streaming speeds were good.
Unfortunately, we were not able to reach the American Netflix library, even when connected to an Urban VPN server in the US. We did not receive an error message and were able to watch certain series and films, but only titles that also appear in our local Netflix library.
Urban VPN and torrents
Unfortunately, when we tried to download a torrent with Urban VPN, we weren’t even able to download a single byte. The download process did not even start! Based on this experience, we must conclude that Urban VPN is not a suitable option for downloading torrents.
Remarkably enough, this experience was part of a pattern with Urban VPN. Certain tasks, like starting an online game or video, sometimes started very slowly. Although, when you turned the VPN off and then on again, once the activity was completely booted, everything went smoothly.
However, we did not try this with torrents and we absolutely do not recommend this. To protect your anonymity and security, it is important to be connected with a VPN during the entire download process.
Conclusion: Urban VPN’s options
Urban VPN is very limited in terms of extra features. This is somewhat understandable, as it’s a free service. Still, we would have liked certain options to be included, as some are now standard with almost every VPN. A kill switch, for example, or manual server selection and the option to choose or at least view our protocol. Here are our conclusions regarding the Urban VPN’s options:
- Urban VPN unfortunately offers a very limited number of extra options and features. Urban VPN does not come with a kill switch, manual server and protocol selection, split tunneling, double VPN connections, dedicated IPs or other extras.
- Urban VPN works with Netflix, but not with the American version of Netflix, unless you are based in the US.
- Urban VPN is not suitable for downloading torrents.
Conclusion – Our Experience with Urban VPN
|The app is very simple and easy to use||No manual server location selection|
|Very fast and easy installation||Server speeds and stability vary greatly|
|The OpenVPN protocol is used for Windows and Mac||The P2P VPN network makes security and stability dependent on (other) users|
|Completely free||Some IP tools revealed our real location and IP address|
|Works with local Netflix||Does not allow access to the American version of Netflix when not in the US|
|Difficult to detect by streaming services||Not suitable for torrenting|
|Decent browsing and streaming speeds||Not suitable for gaming|
|Enough server locations for a free VPN (i.e., 40)||No clarity about encryption protocols and other security measures provided|
|Website available in 10 languages||Urban VPN logs information such as IP addresses|
|No customer service||Does not offer (important) extra options, such as a kill switch|
|Sells (anonymized) user data – we were unable to establish how to turn this off|
|Urban VPN is located in a 5-eyes country (i.e., the US)|
UrbanVPN is not a VPN we would recommend. Yes, the VPN is free. And yes, it is one of the few free VPNs that does not come with speed and bandwidth limits.
However, the VPN suffers from stability issues, mediocre speeds (compared to cheap premium VPNs) and lacks a number of useful extra features, such as a kill switch. Furthermore, the provider logs data and even sells it to third parties. In theory, this function can be turned off, but we were unable to figure out how to do this. (And if we can’t, an average VPN user certainly couldn’t.) Finally, this VPN is not capable of many things that are, nowadays, expected from a VPN. Like downloading torrents, watching the American version of Netflix, and providing a smooth, anonymous gaming experience.
The advantages of this VPN are mainly the simple interface and, again, the fact that the VPN is free. However, we do not think these advantages outweigh its many disadvantages.
Do you have a question about Urban VPN’s service? Check the frequently asked questions section below to see if your question is included.
We certainly have our reservations about the security and privacy that Urban VPN offers. For example, the provider logs various data, such as IP addresses, sells allegedly anonymized customer information to third parties, and its network system is remarkable, to say the least. In addition, Urban VPN is not clear and transparent about its protocols and security measures. We therefore conclude that Urban VPN is not a safe option.
A VPN is rarely, if not never, “completely free”. For some, you pay a small token price, with others you pay with your data. This is the case with Urban VPN. The provider clearly indicates that it resells user data, unless you disable this in the app. However, we were unable to find how and where to opt-out. Urban VPN also keeps maintenance costs low by providing a peer-to-peer powered VPN system.
No, we do not recommend Urban VPN. The only advantage of using Urban VPN is that streaming services are less likely to detect the VPN due to the P2P network that Urban VPN utilizes. However, you cannot reach the American version of Netflix, for example. This makes this VPN much less attractive to many, even for streaming. We would therefore rather recommend a premium VPN, with which you are safe and can stream foreign content.
Personal opinions experts VPNOverview.com