Phantom VPN Review

Our Phantom VPN review begins by noting that it is a new product offered by the well-respected online security company Avira.  Avira has been helping improve your online security for over fifteen years.  Their newest service, Phantom VPN will provide you a virtual IP address and encrypt all of your Internet traffic.  This will help you protect your online privacy and give you peace of mind while surfing the Internet.

Phantom VPN

Avira offers a variety of products to help you both organize and secure your online life.  These include anti-virus software, computer and mobile device optimizers, a password manager, and others.  Their latest addition, Phantom VPN uses 256-bit AES encryption to secure all your data from prying eyes.

Phantom VPN Pricing and Special Offers

Avira offers a free VPN service, as well as, a paid one which is called Phantom VPN Pro.  It is sold in two different term length packages, monthly and yearly.  One month of their VPN cost $9.99.  Like most providers, they offer a discount on their longer term package.  This means you can get a year of their service for 35% off the monthly price or $78.00. This works out to just $6.50 per month. We’re excited to share an additional 25% off the 12 month plan for our readers. That brings the price down to just $4.70 a month.

Phantom VPN pricing

In addition to the stand alone version of their VPN service, Avira also offers their VPN service as part of their Avira Total Security Suite for $109.99 a year.  This suite includes the following components:

  • Avira Antivirus Pro – This will help protect your computer from spyware, adware, and malware (Windows 7.0 and above or Mac OS X 10.11(El Capitan) or higher).
  • System Speedup – Software to improve your PC’s performance (Windows only).
  • Phantom VPN Pro – VPN service that will help guard your privacy and keep you be more secure while surfing the Internet (Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS).
  • Firewall Manager – Software to make managing your built-in Windows firewall easier(Windows only).

As you can see, this suite provides the most benefit to Windows users although Mac OS X users could also benefit from the Antivirus component.  All components of the security suite are for one device for one year except Phantom VPN pro which can be used on multiple devices simultaneously.

Avira provides a variety of ways to subscribe to their Phantom VPN Pro service.  You can pay for your service using the following credit cards:  Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and JCB.  Additionally, if you are the type of person who prefers to keep all of your online purchases in one place, they also take PayPal.  You can also use your PayNearMe card at the local 7-Eleven near you if it is available in your area.  Finally, they also accept payments by bank transfer.

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Free Phantom VPN Service

Avira offers their Phantom VPN service for free with a limit of 500 MB per month.  No registration is required to use their free VPN but if you register an email address with them, they will double your free bandwidth to 1GB.  It has most of the features of their paid service like DNS leak protection and unlimited simultaneous devices.  However, it does not include free tech support, has no kill switch, and it does not automatically secure untrusted networks.  This will probably be sufficient for part-time VPN users but not for those who use a VPN everyday.

In addition to the free service, Avira offers a 30-day money back guarantee for their paid subscribers.  We think signing up for the Phantom VPN Pro service is a better choice for those who really want to test the Phantom VPN service. This will allow you ample time to  completely test out all of its features and take advantage of the free tech support that it includes to satisfy any questions you may have regarding it.

Avira Phantom VPN Network and Server Locations

The size of the current Phantom VPN network is small.  It contains just 20 server locations but as it is only about a year old, so it is likely still expanding.  Current locations include the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Even though their network is small, it does have locations in Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America, and South America.  They have VPN servers in most popular countries.  These include Canada, Brazil, Germany, France, Australia, the US, and the UK.

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Privacy, Security, and Support

Avira has a no-logging policy when it comes to how you use their Phantom VPN service.  When asked, “What do you track?”  They stated the following:

Let us start by saying that we do not track:
•The websites you visit
•The virtual locations (IP addresses) you used while surfing
•Your real IP address
•Any information that can link you to any action, such as downloading a file,or visiting a particular website

They do keep track of some diagnostic data but you can opt out of this if you wish by turning it off in the interface.  Additionally, they track whether you are a free or paid user and how much bandwidth you consume.  These statements show that your privacy is respected while using their VPN network.

Avira uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys to encrypt all of your Internet traffic.  AES-256 is one of the best encryption algorithms for VPNs if it is implemented properly.  We wish their website had more information on its implementation.  Specifically, how handshaking and data integrity verification are handled.

Avira has forum and online FAQ database that all users can access to try and solve issues and answer questions from.  Paid subscribers also get access to free technical support through email which is not available to free users.  They also have a blog site and social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and others.

Hands-On Testing of Phantom VPN

Avira has developed custom software to help you get the most out of their Phantom VPN service.  They have clients for Windows and Mac OS X.  They also have mobile apps for iOS and Android.  The specifications for these platforms are as follows:

  • Phantom VPN for
    • Mac OS X – Mac OS 10.10 (Yosemite) and above.
    • Windows – Windows 7 and above.
    • iOS – iOS 8.0 or later.
    • Android – Android 4.0.3 or later.

All of Avira’s custom VPN software is designed with similar interfaces. This will shorten your learning curve for Phantom VPN.  This will also make it easy for you to use their service on multiple device platforms.

Installing Phantom VPN Custom Clients and Apps

Installation of their custom software is easy and begins by first visiting their website and downloading it to your device.  The website will automatically save the proper installation file to your computer.  Running this file on your PC or opening the app on your Mac will complete your desktop installation of the Phantom VPN client software.

The iOS and Android buttons will take you to their respective stores, iTunes or Google Play store.   You can then install the Phantom VPN app from there by tapping on its “Install” button.  To open it, tap on the open button.  You can open it later by tapping on its icon in your device apps folder.

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Using the Phantom VPN Windows Client

Once the Phantom VPN Windows client installation file has been saved to your PC or laptop, run it as administrator to complete its installation.  This process is illustrated below.

Phantom VPN Windows Client Installation

Be sure to examine the usage and privacy policies and make sure they are acceptable to you before you install the software.  After the Phantom VPN client is installed, you can open it or scroll to install other Avira software for your computer.  If you choose to open the Phantom VPN Windows client as we ourselves did, the installation also installs Avira Connect, an Avira account management software that will let you download any other Avira products later.  Here is what this management software looks like.

Avira Connect

You can open your Phantom VPN software from Avira Connect or connect to your nearest location from within it.  It will also let you install other Avira software elements.  Finally, you can keep up with all of your installed software and devices that you have installed from Avira Connect.   This software can be accessed through the system tray.

Once you have installed and opened your Windows Phantom client, you will see a screen like the first one shown below.  This is the main connection window for the client.  If you want to connect to the closest and fastest server to your location, simply click on the green connection button as this server is selected by default.

Selecting the gear icon at the top of the main window or the current location, will open the settings menu for the client.   If you are running the free version of the client, then you will only be able to do the following from this window:

  • Change your Phantom VPN server  – Select new virtual location.
  • Send diagnostics – This allows them to improve their VPN network but you can toggle it off.  If you are using a free account you should turn this option off because it does use up some of your bandwidth.
  • Launch at startup – Make sure that you are connected when you login to Windows.

Phantom VPN Settings

The last two options help keep you more secure when using their network but they are only available to paying customers.  These are as follows:

  • Automatically secure untrusted networks – This automatically secures your internet connection when you log on to an untrusted network.
  • Kill switch – This will automatically drop your internet connection if the VPN service disconnects.

Selecting either of these options from a free account will take you to the Phantom VPN website to upgrade to a paid account.

Connecting to a new server is easy.  Just click on the current server and a list showing all of the VPN server locations will be displayed as above.  Select a new location to connect to from this list and the click the back arrow.

Phantom VPN Connection

This returns you to the main connection screen as the image above shows.  You will see your new location above the green connection button.  Click on this button to complete the process.  The client icon changes to green to indicate that your Internet traffic is now secured.  To disconnect from the Phantom VPN service, click on “Disconnect” link.

Closing the client just sends it to the system tray.  Select exit from there to leave the client completely.  Phantom VPN is easy to use but its interface could be smoother by automating some clicks.  That being said, only a few clicks will have you connected to a VPN server on their network and let you easily change your virtual location to overcome geo-restrictions.

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Using the Phantom VPN Android App

From the Phantom VPN website, tap on the download button.  This will take you to the Google Play store.  Once there, tap on the install button to install the Phantom VPN app to your Android device.  Open the app after you finish installing it.  This will open up a short tour that you can scroll through.  After scrolling, you will see a login page like the one shown below right.

Phanton VPN Android Startup

If you have a paid account, then tap on the “Sign in ” button and enter your credentials.  If you want to register your email address to receive an extra 500MB bandwidth, then tap on the green “Register” button.  Else tap on the “Register later” link.  Once you have chosen your account you will see the main connection screen (below-left) for the app.  Tapping on the menu icon (three horizontal lines) in the upper left of this screen will open the app’s main menu.

Phantom VPN Android Settings

There are a couple of things you can do from this menu which is shown above.  First you can select a new VPN server location.   You can also do this by tapping on the current location in the main menu.  This will open the list of server locations that you can connect to on the Phantom VPN network.

The second thing that you can do from the main menu is change a couple of settings.  First, you can turn off usage tracking.  You can also have the app prompt you when you make a connection to an unsecured Wi-Fi network.  However you do this, you will need to allow the app to have location tracking permissions.

Now, let us take a look at the app in action by making a connection to the United Kingdom.  After selecting the United Kingdom from the above list of virtual connection locations, the app will return you to the main connection screen.  Tap on the “Secure my connection” button to start the process.

Phantom VPN Android ConnectionIf this is your first time using the app you will have to allow the VPN service some permissions.  This will be followed by a connecting screen and finally the process will be completed as indicated by the green Phantom VPN icon and text.  It is as simple as that.  A few taps and all of your Internet traffic will be encrypted.  Additionally, you can change your virtual location just as easily to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions.

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Phantom VPN Speed Test

The performance of the free Phantom VPN service was good.  The results indicate that its network speed is acceptable for most applications.  There was some loss of speed when using their service.  This is to be expected because of the extra overhead incurred by encrypting all of your Internet traffic.

Phantom VPN Speed Test

The speed test shows that the encrypted connection lowered our base ISP download speed from 28.23 Mb/s to 24.10 Mb/s.  This is a drop of about 14.6% to a server in Dallas, TX.  However, we think this is a fair tradeoff for the extra anonymity and security that the Phantom VPN service can provide you.

Conclusions

Phantom VPN is a new service that has been provided by Avira, a well known online security software provider that is located in Germany and the United States. They are thus subject to the respective laws of those countries.  They have been providing VPN service for less than a year so it is still expanding.  Currently they only have 20 locations but are looking for others.  This means they have a small network but they do have coverage in five of the seven continents, with Antarctica and Africa being the exceptions.

Their service uses an AES algorithm with 256 bit keys for encryption which is considered one of the better ones for VPNs.  They are a no-logging service although they do collect personally identifiable information from their myriad of products.  Be sure to read the Privacy Policy and EULA to see what they do with this information.

Their client for Windows includes a kill switch and automatic connection when accessing unsecured Wi-Fi networks for their paying customers.  Customer support is through FAQs, forums, and social media.   Paid subscribers get access to email support.

What we liked most about the service:

  • They have custom software for Windows and Mac OS X systems.
  • Phantom VPN also has mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
  • They have an easy to use interface for all of their custom software with only small differences.

Ideas to improve the service:

  • Add more servers and locations.
  • Fix areas of their website which can sometimes seem confusing because of the different products that they offer.
  • Work on how they provide support to all users.

The Phantom VPN Pro service could be for you.  They offer a 30-day money back guarantee so you can test their service without risk.  You can test it for compatibility for your devices by using their free VPN service but remember that 500MB of bandwidth can be limiting.  Try out their service for yourself and see what you think.  If you like it, you can sign up for Phantom VPN from just $4.70 per month.

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