ProtonVPN was launched in 2017 by ProtonVPN AG, a non-profit company. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. That means you are safe from the prying eyes of the “14 Eyes” countries. Those are a set of 14 countries that agree to share information across the board. Additionally, Switzerland has some of the strongest privacy laws in the western world. The company is well-known for its privacy and they benefit from the expertise of their sister product, ProtonMail. It currently has apps for Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, iOS, and Android.
There is a free version and a paid version of ProtonVPN. In this review, we will mostly go over the paid version. Currently, there are 3 different subscription packages. Those are the Basic, Plus, and Visionary. They provide these in monthly and yearly term plans. Monthly prices are as follows:
- Basic plan – €4/month;
- Plus plan – €8/month; and
- Visionary plan – €24/month.
Signing up for one of the ProtonVPN plans during their current promotion will save you up to 50% off the monthly pricing.
All paid plans provide access to all 40+ countries and 550+ servers currently in the ProtonVPN network. As you might expect, each plan varies in speed, number of servers, number of simultaneous connections allowed, and included extra features. The Basic, Plus, and Visionary plans all offer their subscribers:
- High speed servers – High speed access to all countries
- P2P servers – Servers that allow P2P downloading.
- Simulataneous devices – Every plan allows you at least 2 devices, and it increases with the plan.
The Visionary plan provides you with the most benefits. Those include ProtonMail Visionary, secure streaming, Plus servers, Secure Core, Tor Servers, and more. ProtonMail Visionary is ProtonMail’s full-featured version of their secure end-to-end encrypted email service. This could be a good choice for you if you want the extra security provided by encrypting all of your email.
If you do not need all of the additional benefits, you may want to look into getting the yearly Plus plan. This plan offers unlimited access to all locations on up to five simultaneous devices. It also lets you use the fastest dedicated ProtonVPN servers, provides access to the Secure Core network, allows one-click Tor network access, and secure streaming for $8 a month. This is our recommendation for those who do not need encrypted email.
You can pay for the ProtonVPN service using euros, dollars, or Swiss Francs. They accept Visa and Mastercard. If you would rather keep all of your online transactions in a central place, they take PayPal.
ProtonVPN Free Service and Special Offers
ProtonVPN offers a free plan for their service. This plan has the following features:
- Access to servers in 3 countries with no data limit
- Performance is based on server load
- One simultaneous connection
ProtonVPN also has a 30-day money back guarantee. This means that within 30 days of subscription, you will receive a refund. To claim your refund, you must send an email canceling your service and requesting your refund to the ProtonVPN support staff within 30 days of purchase. The refund will be prorated based on how long your subscription has been active.
ProtonVPN has servers in the following countries. Of course, these are for the paid service:
- Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, India, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Singapore. United Kingdom, United States, and South Africa.
Basic, Plus, and Visionary subscribers get access to all of the countries on the ProtonVPN network. Free users can connect to a small number of server locations in Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States. These are lower bandwidth servers that are often slower due to load. As you can imagine the free servers stay quite busy most of the time.
ProtonVPN Network Security
As far as network security goes for ProtonVPN, they only offer the industry gold standard, OpenVPN. It provides a great mix of speed and security. Given that fact, it is no surprise that ProtonVPN uses it exclusively with AES-256 encryption.
ProtonVPN Customer Support
ProtonVPN has a knowledge base that contains general information about their VPN network as well as troubleshooting advice. It also contains installation guides for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, and DD-WRT routers and will show you how to connect your device to one of their servers. This includes connection to their Secure Core and Tor entrance servers. As far as social media goes, they have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. If you can’t find the answers you need, you can email their support staff and they will be glad to help you.
Hands-On Testing of ProtonVPN
No matter which account you decide to use with the company, you need to create an account first. They make this process easy to do, and it does not require much information. As you can see below, it is a matter of entering an email address and paying for the service.
Once you have created your account, it is time to connect. Since there are different versions, we will use the most popular desktop option, the one for Windows.
Using ProtonVPN on Windows Machines
Begin by downloading the Windows desktop client. After installing it, you will see the login screen that will allow you to login to the client. Simply enter your username and password and click the login button.
Next, you will see the console shown below. You may notice several items that we point out by using the arrows. The icon of the arrows going in different directions represents a P2P server while the arrow pointing to the icon of an onion is for a Tor Network server. The Secure Core option is the multi-hop version. While it will protect you better, you can expect it to be slower since you are passing through more than one server location.
When you connect to one of the countries, you will see the green triangle appear on the map as you see below.
Of course, you can find the different available options in the upper left-hand corner by clicking on the 3 horizontal bars. There isn’t much to configure. Simply select a server location and connect to ProtonVPN.
ProtonVPN Speed Tests
Plus Server Speed Test
Because ProtonVPN has both a free and paid service, we decided to test both. Additionally, we also decided to test the speed of Secure Core connections. Checking connections to their plus servers shows a small loss to our connection speed. We expected this given their high level of encryption.
As you can see, there is only a small drop between the initial speed and the speed with the VPN enabled. This is a drop of about 19% to a server in Chicago, IL. Overall, our tests to other servers varied between 20% and 25%. We feel that this is a small price to pay thanks to the high level of security provided by using the ProtonVPN service. Despite the speed loss, our connection speed is still fast enough for any online application we might have including bypassing geo-restrictions and watching our favorite TV shows online.
Secure Core Network Speed Test
Testing Secure Core network connections show that the connection speed decreases quite a bit when we connect to the ProtonVPN service. This is expected as the path to the destination VPN server has been augmented by first multi-hopping on ProtonVPN’s Secure Core network. This increases the ping time significantly and slows down the Internet speed dramatically.
The speed test shows that the encrypted connection lowers our base quite significantly. When we used the Secure Core switch, it connected us to a US server, and then it hopped to Iceland. That is why you see more than a 95% drop in speed between the two results. If online privacy is your main concern, the increased protection could be worth the staggering hit to connection speed.
Free ProtonVPN Speed Test
Testing ProtonVPN free server connections show that they have a huge loss in connection speeds with some being over 90%. While some loss is expected, the free servers were far slower than their premium servers.
In the image above, you can see about a 90% speed loss. We feel that it is not acceptable for those who routinely connect to the Internet using a VPN. It does however provide those who rarely need a secure Internet connection or have limited finances a way to securely surf the Web.
ProtonVPN Review: Conclusion
ProtonVPN is a relatively new Internet security and privacy service that is supported by the the same team who developed ProtonMail, the popular end-to-end encrypted email service. Although new to the industry in 2017, they benefit from the technical expertise in Internet security and excellent reputation that ProtonMail enjoys. Utilizing this support, they have created a growing, fast, and secure VPN network. While already a solid choice, they have the potential to be one of the premier VPN services.
ProtonVPN has created a custom software client for Windows. It is easy to install and use. It will have you connected to their VPN network in just a couple of clicks. The client allows you to connect directly to your destination server or increase your privacy by first multi-hopping through their Secure Core network. It also includes DNS leak protection and a VPN kill switch. They also provide access to other devices like Mac OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS through custom software and have guides to help you with these in the support area of their website. You can even connect your Tomato or Asus-WRT router to their network.
ProtoVPN has a support area on their website with general information about their service features. It also has guides to help you connect to their service. They have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. You can also make support requests via email.
What we liked most about the service:
- They have an excellent, easy to use client for Windows.
- Their Secure Core network that allows you to increase your privacy though a multi-hopping connection.
- From 2 to 10 simultaneous logins if you subscribe to a ProtonVPN paid plan.
- Advanced features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
Ideas to improve the service:
- Continue to increase the number of server locations.
- Include Bitcoin as a payment option.
- Add chat support to their website.
Although we did not test or show all clients, ProtonVPN makes it a point to keep their apps as close to identical as possible. That way, you do not have to adjust to a new app when you are switching computers or even platforms. There are some great points to the service and you can find features that you would expect to find on some of the more expensive services. The company provides strong privacy for a reasonable price. We recommend the Visionary plan for those seeking encrypted email or the Plus plan for those who just need VPN.