ZenMate VPN Review

Let us start our ZenMate VPN review by observing that their parent company is ZenGuard GmbH.  The ZenMate service is based in Berlin, Germany.  Using it will help to make you more anonymous and allow you to enjoy a more free and open Internet.  You can use it to bypass censorship and remove arbitrary geo-restrictions on media and commerce.  Simultaneously, it will provide you peace of mind by securing your online connection and encrypting all of your web traffic.

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Pricing and Special Offers

ZenMate offers both a free and paid VPN service.  Our ZenMate VPN review will primarily focus on their paid service.  They market their premium service using three different term lengths:  monthly, six-months, and yearly.  These are billed as a single payment for each term.  They also offer increasing discounts for longer term packages.

Consequently, you can get their monthly service for $8.99 per month.  Their 6-month VPN package cost $44.99 or only $7.49 per month.  However, if you want the best deal, then sign up for their yearly package for $59.99 or just $4.99 per month.  This a savings of 44% on the regular monthly price.

ZenMate pricing

So, what do you get for the money?  The ZenMate VPN Premium service has these benefits:

  • OS access – the ability to use the service on desktops as well as mobile devices which offer increased functionality encrypting and securing all Internet traffic such as downloads and VoIP clients.
  • Full VPN clients – custom Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android software to make accessing the ZenMate VPN service easier
  • VPN extensions – Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers which include ad tracker and malware blocking at the server before they reach your device.
  • Smart location feature for extensions – customize how ZenMate connects to your favorite websites by automatically switching locations when you visit them. (We will examine this in more detail when we take a look at the Google Chrome VPN extension in the hands on section of our ZenMate VPN review).
  • Turbo speed – connections to exclusive network of fast premium servers.
  • Country locations – Germany, Hong Kong, Romania, the United States, and 24 other countries.
  • Malware blocking – For advanced security, the ZenMate VPN (mobile and extensions) can enable blocking of malicious sites and code snippets on their servers, thus protecting you before they can even reach your system.
  • Tracking Protection – ZenMate VPN (mobile and extensions) protect your privacy by preventing 3rd party services from tracking you across the Internet to collect information and analyze your online activity.

Their free service is primarily for those who only need access to a VPN occasionally.  It offers connections to only four different countries with a limited number of servers.  This means that you generally encounter overcrowded servers with slower speeds.  You will also have to put up with advertising from ZenMate and other third parties associated with them as nothing is ever really free.

ZenMate VPN accepts a variety of payment methods. These include the following credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Maestro, Diners Club, JCB, and Discover.  For those who like to keep all of their online purchases under one central location, they take PayPal.  Finally, subscriptions can also be purchased with UnionPay cards and Qiwi Wallet.

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Risk-Free Trial Period

As we previously noted, ZenMate offers everyone a free limited VPN service.  However, they also want you to be able to sample their full VPN service and see if it might better suit your needs.  To this end they also offer a free 7-day premium VPN trial.

No payment information is required to sign up for this trial.  Only an email address and strong password are necessary.  This means you can have access to their unlimited Premium VPN service for a full week to test it out on all the devices that you use.  At the end of the trial period the software reverts back to the limited free VPN service. Therefore, there is no reason to cancel it.

However, if you decide you like the Premium service and want to continue it, the software will allow you to enter your payment information and purchase it.  After you purchase the Premium service, ZenMate provides you with a 14-day money back guarantee.  This means you can have up to three weeks to fully test the service  risk-free and make sure that it is the right VPN for you.

ZenMate VPN Server Locations

Our ZenMate VPN review found that Premium users have access to network servers in 29 different countries. These are placed to provide connections to their service from most countries. Most of the servers are in Europe with some in Asia, North America, and Oceania. They have servers in the east and west of the United States to make connections to it faster from both Europe and Asia. These countries and their associated continents are as listed below:

  • Asia – Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Singapore
  • Europe – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom
  • North America – Canada, the United States, United States West
  • Oceania – Australia

The current number of server locations that ZenMate VPN has is relatively small compared to many of the larger VPN services.  However, they say they are still expanding their locations.  As expected, they have servers in most popular countries like Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  This makes it easier for you to access these locations from almost anywhere and remove arbitrary geo-restrictions on streaming media.  Thus enriching your online entertainment experience.

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ZenMate VPN Security

So is your data secure while you are connected to the ZenMate VPN service?  The ZenMate network uses TLS 1.2 (RFC 5246) protocols:

  • For Windows client: IPSec (IKEv2) and L2TP/IPsec
  • For Mac client: IPSec (IKEv2)

Although their website does not specifically state it, we think that these protocols are also used for their mobile apps since they are built into the devices and more providers seem to be trending towards their use.  It supports different cipher suites with Perfect Foward Secrecy (PFS).  As an example, the one used for the Google Chrome extension is as follows:

(TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_GCM_SHA256) and up to (TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384).

ZenMate prefers to use AES-128 rather than AES-256. This is because they feel that the extra security offered by AES-256 over AES-128 is not worth the computational cost (speed loss) associated with it. They feel that AES-128 provides good security, superior speed, and is more resistant to timing attacks.  As there have been no real viable attacks against it, you can be assured that your data is secure when using the Zenmate VPN servers.

ZenMate VPN Privacy

ZenMate is located in Germany which has some of the most strict laws to guard an individuals privacy. They do not log any permanent personal information about any of users without their consent.  They are a true no-log VPN service as they do not log any IP addresses, session times, or any other session information while you are using their service.  In fact, they state the following in the manifesto on their website:

Our promise to you:

  • ZenMate is not storing your IP address or personal data.
  • ZenMate is not tracking who you are or what  you do online.
  • ZenMate is not selling data to third  parties.
  • ZenMate cannot give away your personal data  to authorities or third parties as it is not  stored in the first place.
  • ZenMate is proudly based in Berlin and  operates under strict German data protection  laws.

You can be assured that your privacy is protected when you are using the ZenMate VPN service.  Not only are you more anonymous while using it, but since they do not collect any information regarding their VPN users, they cannot provide it to others if requested.

ZenMate VPN Support

Support for Zenmate VPN is provided primarily through the support area of their website.  If you do not find the answer to your question there, then you can create a support ticket through their email ticketing system.  You will be sent a “request received”  email containing your ticket number. It could take a couple of  hours to receive a response back using this method and your first response may be from Rosa, the ZenMate Support Bot.  If you need Premium personal support help, you can reply to this response and a real person will help you out.  You can also ask questions on social media as ZenMate maintains a presence on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

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ZenMate VPN Review:  Hands-On Testing

Creating a ZenMate VPN Account

Before you download ZenMate VPN to your device, you should first create a Zenmate account.  First click on “Sign-up” in the main menu of their website.  This will open the create account screen.  Fill in the email address you want to use with the account and a strong password.  Enter the password again for verification and check the box to acknowledge that you accept their Privacy Policy and TOS.  Finally select the “Sign up” button to finish creating the account.

ZenMate VPN Account Creation and Verification

Once your account has been created, it will ask you to verify your email address by sending a welcoming email to it with a verification link.  Clicking on this link will not only verify your account but will also start your 7-day free trial of their Premium VPN service.  You cannot skip this step or when you download the software to your device you will have to do it from there before you will be allowed to log in.  We will illustrate this using the Windows client later in our ZenMate VPN review.   Once your account has been verified, the account dashboard will open and you will be able to download the software to your device.

Downloading Zenmate VPN

Selecting downloads from the main menu of the ZenMate website will open the download page.  Once the page opens select the download for your device by clicking or tapping on the OS or browser name.  For Windows and Mac OS X, this will allow you to save or run the install file.  We recommend that you first save the file to the download area of your desktop and then run it from there to complete the installation of the ZenMate VPN client.

Downloading the ZenMate VPN Software

Selecting Android or iOS will transfer you to the Google or iTunes store, respectively.  From there, you can tap on the “Install” button to complete the installation on your mobile device.  Selecting any of the browsers: Chrome, Firefox, or Opera will take you to their respective store so that you can add the appropriate extension to your browser for your chosen device.

The specifications to run the ZenMate VPN software on various OS platforms are as follows:

  • Android – 4.0.3 and up.
  • iOS – iOS 8.0 and over.
  • Mac OS X – 10.10 and above.
  • Windows – 7 or later.

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First ZenMate VPN Windows Client Sign-up and Login

After you finish downloading and installing the ZenMate VPN client software to your PC or Windows laptop, you will need to run it by double-clicking on its icon on your desktop.  The first time you open the client you will see a screen to sign-up or login.  If you failed to follow our earlier advice and did not sign up for a ZenMate VPN account, you must do so now before you can login to the software.  First click on sign-up.  This will start the sign up process.  Clicking the next button on this screen which will open the sign up screen.  Enter the email address that you want to associate with the account along with a password.  Reenter the password for verification and click on the “Sign up” button.  At this point you can return to the login screen to finish the process.

ZenMate VPN Account Sign-up from the Windows Client

Now that you have created a ZenMate VPN account, you can use it to log in to the client.  Enter the credentials you used to create your account and click on the “Log in” button.  You can now click the “Verify now” button.  This will send a welcoming email with a link to verify to the email address you specified.  Clicking on this link will verify your email address and start your 7-day free Premium VPN trial.  You can then log in to the ZenMate Windows client.

The last screen in the image shows the main connection screen for the client.  It is dominated by the connection toggle and by default automatically connects you to the closest server to you (United States in this case).  You will see concentric rings radiating out from the switch indicating that you are connected and the words “You are secure”.

Across the bottom of the screen are icons representing the other screens that you can access using the Windows client.  These are (from left to right): My ZenMate (profile icon), Settings (gear icon), Statistics (pie icon), and Notification center(bell icon).

ZenMate VPN Windows Client Login

Looking at these in greater detail (screens shown in the image below):

  • My ZenMate – Displays your current account information.
    • Allows you to upgrade and edit your account.
    • Lets you log out of the client.  If you log out of the client, you will have to reenter your login credentials the next time you use the client.
  • Settings – This allows you to control how the client operates.
    • EverSecure – If set, this will cause the client to try to reconnect if it was connected and the connection drops.
    • Auto start on login – When active, it will ensure that the VPN starta as soon as you login to Windows.
    • The other settings are to change the client language, examine TOS, Privacy Policy, Imprint, and support area of the ZenMate VPN website.
  • Session statistics – This displays the following statistics:  connection time, download traffic, and upload traffic.
  • Notification center –  It displays the latest notifications from ZenMate VPN

Clicking on the left pointing arrow at the top of any of these screens will return you to the main connection screen for the ZenMate VPN Windows client.

ZenMate VPN Windows Client Menu

Using the ZenMate VPN Windows Client

Assume that you are connected to the Australia location but want to be seen as in the United states so that you can watch streaming content that can only be accessed from there because of arbitrary geo-restrictions.  To change your virtual location, first click on your current location.  This will open a list of all the locations that have VPN servers that you can connect to.

This list is organized by first the current connection, then favorite locations, the United States, and finally an alphabetic list of the other locations.  Favorite locations are selected by clicking on the star beside the country name.  You can scroll to the country you want to connect to or use the search filter to narrow the list to the one you want to switch too.  In this case, simply click on United States.   The client will then automatically change your virtual location to the United States so that you can access the content.  Disconnecting from the VPN is as simple as toggling the connection switch.  Notice that the switch is greyed out and it now says “Click to secure” on the screen.  This makes it clear that we are no longer protected by the VPN at just a glance.

Changing Virtual Locations Using the ZenMate Windows Client

As you can clearly see, the ZenMate VPN client makes it easy for you to use Windows to connect to their network.  It can be set to auto-start when you login to Windows and automatically reconnect if the connection goes down.  All of the details of the connection are handled for you.  Changing virtual location requires only a click or two.  You can disconnect with a single click of the toggle.  Installing and using the software could not be simpler.  Anyone can use it, regardless of their technical knowledge.  The ZenMate VPN Mac OS X app has similar functionality to their Windows client.

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Installation and Start-up of the ZenMate VPN Android App

First, create and verify your account as we previously showed in the beginning of our “ZenMate VPN Review:  Hands-On Testing” section. Then, access the ZenMate website to start the download process of the Android app.  Once you are on the Google Store, tap the “Install” button for the app.  Open the app on your device and then Login using the account credentials you used to establish your ZenMate account.  When the app first opens, you will have to allow it the permissions it needs to establish the service on your device.  It will then open and connect you to the fastest VPN server from your location.

Installing and Starting the ZenMate VPN Android App

Using the ZenMate VPN Android App

The app menu at the top right of the app main connection screen consist of three elements:  news (bell icon); settings (gear icon); and account (profile icon)  As you might think the notification screen shows the latest ZenMate news on security.

The second menu item deserves closer examination as it contains settings to improve your security and anonymity:

  • Always on/EverSecure – When set, the app tries to always reconnect if the connection drops.
  • Malware blocking – Block malicious software and sites at the server before they ever reach your device.
  • Tracking protection – When on, it blocks software trackers from being able to monitor your online activity.
  • Auto restart on boot –  Attempts to assure that you are always connected to the VPN when you are using your Android device.  This works in concert with EverSecure.
  • Other settings – These control which notifications are displayed.

The last menu item (not shown) displays account details, lets you upgrade your account, get help, access ZenMate social pages (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+), and logout of the app.

Using the ZenMate VPN Android App

Now that we have looked at the features of the ZenMate VPN app for Android, let us look at how easy it is to change to another VPN server and obtain a new virtual location.  Simply tap on the current location.  This will open the list of countries that you can connect to.  This list will show your current virtual location first followed by the other countries in alphabetical order as shown above.

To change to another virtual location, simply choose the country you want to connect to. You can see that your current virtual location is in the United States in the example above.  Tapping on France will make that your new virtual location.  It will connect you to a VPN server there and provide you with an IP address that will allow you to access content from France as if you were there.  To disconnect from the ZenMate network, just toggle the connection switch off.  It will turn red which lets you see at a glance that you are no longer protected.

Similarly to the client for Windows, the ZenMate VPN app for Android is easy to install and use.  Just a tap or two will have you connected to their network and help to keep you more anonymous while using your mobile phone or tablet and also secure your Internet traffic from it.  Changing virtual locations and obtaining IP addresses from different countries requires only a couple of taps.  The app takes care of all the technical details for you.  If you set the app to automatically connect when you start your device and enable EverSecure then the app will help to ensure that you are always connected through the ZenMate VPN service when you are using your mobile device.  The iOS app is similar to the Android in usage and features.

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Adding and Using the ZenMate VPN Google Chrome Extension

To add the ZenMate VPN Google Chrome extension to your browser, visit the Zenmate site and click on “Downloads” in the main menu.  Once on the download page, click on the Google Chrome icon under ZenMate VPN download.  This will open the Google Chrome Store where you can click to add the extension to your browser.  Once the extension has been added, its icon will appear on the right of your address bar.  Clicking on this icon will open the extension  as shown in the first image in the illustration below.  It will show you the website you are currently visiting and your virtual location if the VPN protection is active.  The bottom of the screen displays the menu items: change locations, features, and settings.

ZenMate VPN Google Chrome Extension Menu

Before we take a look at how to change this virtual location, let us examine some other features of the extension if you have a ZenMate VPN Premium account.  The three features that you get are as follows:

  • Smart locations – This allows you to associate selected websites with a particular virtual location even if the VPN is not on for other locations.  This lets you choose which sites you want to connect to using the VPN. (illustrated in the third image above)
  • Maleware blocking –  Turning this feature on will block malicious sites or programs at the server so that they do not even reach your device.
  • Tracking protection – Enabling this feature ensures that tracking software is blocked so that third parties cannot monitor your online habits.  This will reduce the targeted marketing that you receive and allow many sites to load quicker.

The last image above shows the settings screen.  This screen is divided into two sections:  account and general.  The account section shows your account name, will let you log out of the account, and will open your account dashboard on the ZenMate website where you can control your account.  The general settings will let you get help and change the extension language.

The image below illustrates the “Smart locations” feature in action.  First you will note that the browser is being run through a VPN server in Australia.  The second image shows that two smart locations have been added: vpnfan.com associated with a VPN server in the United States; and dictionary.com which is associated with a VPN server in France.  Note that even when the VPN extension is turned off these connections are still made.  When one of these websites is accessed a connection to a VPN server in its associated location is automatically initiated as shown by the final two images.  This allows you to precisely control the websites that you will use with the ZenMate VPN service.

ZenMate VPN Google Chrome Smart Location

Now that we have examined the features and settings for the ZenMate VPN extension, let us look at how to use it to change your virtual location when using Chrome browser.  If the extension is off as below, then click on “Change locations” on the bottom of the screen.  This will open the Change location list of countries.  If the extension is already on then clicking upon the current location will open this screen.

From here you can choose another location to connect to.  This list shows your last connection on top of the list, followed by favorites that you have selected by clicking on the star beside their name.   The rest of the list of countries follow in alphabetical order.  The responsive search can be used to limit the list as is done below.  Clicking on United States West initiates the VPN extension and sets your virtual location to United States West.

Changing Location with the ZenMate VPN Google Chrome Extension

ZenMate has made it easy for you to use their VPN extension for Google Chrome to increase your anonymity and secure your browser traffic.  Similar extensions exist for Firefox and Opera browsers.  Premium users can take advantage of three unique features:  smart locations, malware blocking, and ad tracker removal while using their browsers.  These extensions can be used along with your desktop client to doubly encrypt your browser traffic.  Be aware that this will slow down your browser speed.

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ZenMate VPN Speed Test

The speed of the ZenMate VPN service was often slow in the United States.  We ran this test using their Windows client with a Premium account.  We saw just significant loss in speed while connected to VPN servers in the US.  You can expect some loss as a result of the overhead incurred for encrypting your Internet data, but ZenMate can be quite slow.

ZenMate speed test

The speed test shows that the encrypted connection lowered our base ISP download speed from 65.35 Mb/s to 1.61 Mb/s. This is a drop of about 97% to a server in Atlanta, GA. Protecting all of your online data from third parties is worth some loss in Internet speed but the Zenmate network in the US appears to be over-saturated.  This would make it hard to stream media with the service.  VPN servers outside the US performed better.

ZenMate VPN Review:  Conclusions

ZenMate has been in the VPN industry for about three years.  Their headquarters is in Berlin, Germany.  They have both a free VPN and a Paid Premium service.  Zenmate VPN has custom software for Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android.  They also have VPN extensions for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers.  Premium users can enable ad tracker removal and malware blocking from their favorite browser through the ZenMate extension or mobile app.

ZenMate VPN uses TLS 1.2 (RFC 5246) protocols to encrypt and protect your Internet traffic.  They have a small but growing VPN network of servers in 29 different locations. They have VPN servers on four major continents: Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania.   Therefore you can access their service from most areas.  They are a no log VPN service.  ZenMate does not log any personal information without your consent as they are under strict German privacy laws.

All of their custom software is easy to install and use.  Just a few taps or clicks will have you connected to one of their VPN servers.  The mobile software and VPN extensions also include an ad tracker removal tool and malware blocking at the server before they even reach your device.  Setting these can decrease the load times for some of the websites that you visit.  They have a support area on their website for questions and issues that you might have.  They also have a ticketing system.  You can also get support through their social media accounts in Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What we liked most about the service:

  • They have custom software for Windows and Mac systems.
  • ZenMate has mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
  • They are a true no-logging VPN provider.
  • They have a 7-day free trail of their Premium VPN service.
  • An additional 14-day money back guarantee once you subscribe to the service.
  • Reasonable pricing and deep discount if you purchase a year of service.

Ideas to improve the service:

  • Improve network performance in the United States.
  • Add the ad tracker removal and malware blocking options to their desktop software.
  • Expand their network into other continents like South America and Africa.
  • Add more details about their network on their website.
  • Add Bitcoin as a payment option.

ZenMate might just be the VPN service you have been searching for.  The VPN could be for you if you want to protect your Internet identity, bypass censorship, and remove geo-restrictions. Their VPN service has good speed to most servers.  They offer a 7-day free trial of their Premium service.  In addition to this they have a 14-day guarantee once you sign up for the paid service.  This mean you have up to 3 weeks to test the ZenMate VPN and see if it is the right VPN service for your needs.  Test it out for yourself.  If you like it, you can subscribe to ZenMate from just for just $4.99 per month.

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