ProtonVPN Review

Verdict

If you’re looking for a free VPN, ProtonVPN is definitely one to get, and its entry-level paid subscriptions are also very competitively priced. It’s an appealing option for the security-conscious, as well as for those who use a wide range of devices to connect to a VPN, although not a great choice for streaming, at least not if you’d like to access UK video services while using the internet in privacy.

Pros

  • Unlimited-bandwidth free tier
  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Quick European transfer speeds

Cons

  • Poor streaming performance

Key Specifications

  • Unlimited free account available (only three endpoint countries)
  • US pricing: Basic: $5 per month, $48 per year; Plus: $10 per month, $96 per year; Visionary: $30 per month, $288 per year
  • UK pricing: Basic: £4.13 per month, £39.63 per year; Plus: £8.26 per month, £79.26 per year; Visionary: £24.77 per month, £288 per year
  • Between one and 10 devices depending on package
  • Supports OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2
  • Clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS

What is ProtonVPN?

ProtonVPN, launched in 2017, is one of the newer contenders in a crowded VPN (virtual private network) market. Like its sibling, encrypted email provider ProtonMail, it focuses first and foremost on privacy.

Although it retains account connection time stamps, ProtonVPN has a clear no-logging policy, which was put to the test earlier this year when a data request was approved by the Swiss courts, revealing that ProtonVPN doesn’t retain customer IP addresses, although further information on the specific case is not available.

Dedicated GUI clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, plus a Linux command line tool and instructions for using the service on other hardware such as routers.

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN: Secure and Free VPN service for protecting your privacy

Proton VPN is one of the newer VPNs on the market. It has a strong focus on privacy and has a verified no logging claim. Sign up for as little as $4 a month and save up to $72 on your yearly bill.

Related: Best VPN

ProtonVPN – Features and usability

Its Windows client has a particularly attractive charcoal and green interface. The main display allows you to select countries from a list or a map, use a pre-generated fastest or random connection profile to pick an endpoint based on those criteria, or create your own profile, with options including connection type, country and specific server.

The main endpoint list allows you to select specific endpoint servers and shows how busy each is, and which connection features they provide. Special features offered by ProtonVPN endpoints include Secure Core – which offers additional protection against external network attacks, P2P for the benefit of torrent users, and Tor, which uses The Onion Router network to help further anonymise your activity.

A traffic graph helps you to monitor your connection’s performance, as well as how much data you’re sending across it. Open the client’s Settings interface, and you can enable features including a VPN Kill Switch to cut off all internet traffic if your VPN connection goes down and Split Tunnelling so you can allow specific applications or IP addresses connect outside the VPN.

You can also have ProtonVPN load at boot, connect at launch, switch between TCP and UDP and opt in to an Early Access programme for new versions of the VPN client.

ProtonVPN desktop client

ProtonVPN – Performance

Endpoints/VPN UK Netherlands United States
Proton VPN HTTP 162.64Mbps 114.568Mbps 35.84Mbps
Proton VPN FTP 188.96Mbps 110.57Mbps 35.20Mbps

Having recently carried out dedicated tests of ProtonVPN’s free service, this month we’ve focused on new, high-speed tests of its paid-for endpoints, including some available only to ProtonVPN Plus subscribers and above.

It turned in a generally strong performance across European endpoints, with blistering UK download speeds of 20.33MB/s (162.64Mbps) over HTTP and 23.6MB/s via FTP. In the Netherlands, we got a more consistent 14.32MB/s over HTTP and 13.82MB/s over FTP.

US performance has improved somewhat, to 4.48MB/s via HTTP and 4.4MB/s via FTP, although that’s still below average for this set of tests.

ProtonVPN isn’t a good choice for streaming media enthusiasts. Paid streaming endpoints gave us access to Netflix and Shudder in the US, but we weren’t able to stream US Crunchyroll or get BBC iPlayer and All 4 working from ProtonVPN’s UK endpoints.

Should I buy ProtonVPN?

As well as an outstanding free tier, which only limits the endpoint servers you can use to three, in the US, Netherlands and Japan, rather than restricting how much bandwidth you can use, there are three different paid tiers.

Basic covers two devices and gives you access to all standard servers in 32 countries covered by ProtonVPN, as well as some dedicated P2P servers, for an extremely competitive £4.13 per month or £39.63 per year. It’s a good entry-level VPN offering for users on a budget.

Plus gets you all that, as well as specialist secure core, TOR and streaming servers for up to five devices, costing around £8.26 per month or £79.26 per year. Visionary, priced at £24.77 per month or £288 per year, is the same but gets you 10 simultaneous connections and includes the top-tier Visionary secure email service from sibling company ProtonMail.

You can pay anonymously using Bitcoin, but have to create a free account and contact support to do so.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a free VPN, ProtonVPN is definitely one to get, and its entry-level paid subscriptions are also very competitively priced.

It’s an appealing option for the security-conscious, as well as for those who use a wide range of devices to connect to a VPN, although not a great choice for streaming, at least not if you’d like to access UK video services while using the internet in privacy.

Although its fully featured Plus tier is a little expensive, ProtonVPN competes well with most rivals for security features, despite mediocre streaming performance and US transfer speeds. Normally, ProtonVPN Basic would be a shoe-in budget option, but it actually costs more than Private Internet Access, which has faster US transfer speeds and a more concrete security pedigree.

Right now, you’re better off getting Private Internet Access if you’re on a budget and either NordVPN or ExpressVPN if you’ve got more to spend and want streaming video along with privacy.

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ProtonVPN

Proton VPN is one of the newer VPNs on the market. It has a strong focus on privacy and has a verified no logging claim. Sign up for as little as $4 a month and save up to $72 on your yearly bill.

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