ProtonMail Review 2020

Last updated: August 3, 2020
ProtonMail review

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In this ProtonMail review, we’ll take a look at the inner workings of this secure email client and see how it compares up against Gmail.

First, let’s talk about secure email clients. These services go above and beyond your regular free email as they guarantee to protect your personal details and ensure that all messages are secure. Your emails are encrypted to ensure that they cannot be intercepted or read by a third party.

A standard email account can offer a limited amount of encryption, it may be able to protect your email from its end, but cannot usually guarantee that it is protected all the way to the receiver. Secure email clients work to ensure your message is sent and received safely.

What is ProtonMail?

ProtonMail is a web-based email service created by a group of engineers, developers, and scientists in Switzerland. The group is passionate about privacy and protecting the civil liberties of individuals online. The creators used their technical expertise to develop a safe and anonymous email system.

ProtonMail servers are held in Europe’s most secure data center which is located 1,000 meters under solid rock. The company is already subject to the strict privacy laws in Switzerland, in addition to their mission to provide the utmost security. This equates to your emails being physically and legally absolutely secure.

The founding team at ProtonMail met while they worked at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This group of technical-minded individuals started the company thanks to a record-breaking crowdfunding scheme. Since the company was founded in 2013 it has become the world’s largest secure email provider with more than one million users.

ProtonMail security features include:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Open source cryptography
  • Zero access to user data

How does ProtonMail work?

ProtonMail uses the latest research and technology to ensure complete security for your emails. Messages are fully encrypted using open source code for complete transparency. The research team is constantly looking at technological advances and encourage others to contribute aiming to make this the most secure email service in the world.

There’s a web-based version of ProtonMail available plus apps for both Android and iOS mobile devices. There is no software download required for the web version. Your account is synced between devices while maintaining complete security. The apps are currently available in up to 14 different languages.

One issue that some users run into is the sending limit which is applied to the free accounts; it is recommended that you send no more than 50 emails per hour and 150 emails in total per day. This is intended to prevent bulk emailing, spamming and returned emails in order to maintain the integrity of ProtonMail. Using your account normally without any spam reports or upgrading to a paid account will increase your sending limits.

ProtonMail does not currently offer POP3 services for forwarding mail from another address. Perhaps the company simply wants you to completely switch over to its service. It also encourages users to recommend the email service to their friends to reduce sending limits and build a network of users.

For professional and personal use

If you need to use a personal email address for work-related correspondence, ProtonMail is a great option. Any sensitive information sent via email regarding your work or clients is protected. Passwords or financial information can be sent without fear of being compromised.

ProtonMail Professional offers a secure email service for organizations. Benefiting from the same encryption as the regular email accounts but with more storage, users, and admins permitted. Encrypted emails help organizations to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In July 2020, the ProtonMail team announced the upcoming launch of ProtonDrive. With it, users will be able to store their files in one place, as well as, easily upload and download them when needed. ProtonDrive will have end-to-end encryption to make sure that your data is well protected.

Is ProtonMail secure?

ProtonMail is all about security. Emails are encrypted at all times from the sender to the receiver. The company itself cannot even access or decrypt your messages making it impossible for any information in your emails or your personal details to be read or passed to a third party.

A 2-factor authentication process requires that you enter an access code that you will receive via an app on your mobile phone in order to sign in to your account. One downside to this level of security is that if you forget your password even ProtonMail is not able to recover your data. This is an email account which is well and truly yours and yours alone.

Is ProtonMail anonymous?

Rest assured that ProtonMail is completely anonymous. You don’t need to enter any personal information in order to sign up for an account. The company does not retain any IP logs so that your IP address is not linked to your email account in any way.

Your internet service provider and not even the government can access your email messages. The company feels strongly that both individuals and organizations have a right to communicate privately. Its aim is to make email messages as secure and private as possible.

However, there are many experienced users that don’t go on the internet without first being connected to a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This not only helps to anonymize them, but it also encrypts their information, often with military-grade encryption.

So, using an anonymizing VPN with ProtonMail can offer you even greater protection than using ProtonMail by itself. If you are considering getting a VPN, you can start by checking out our top 10 VPNs list.

How to delete ProtonMail

If you would like to delete your email account, simply go to the Account tab in the Settings menu and choose “Delete.” You will need to enter your password in order to confirm you want to delete the account. Be aware that the deletion is final, your account cannot be restored, and none of your data can be recovered later.

ProtonMail vs Gmail

Gmail is one of the most popular free email services in the world, but does it offer the security you are looking for? Let’s take a look at how the secure email service of ProtonMail stacks up against Gmail.

ProtonMailGmail
FounderAndy Yen, Wei Sun and Jason StockmanGoogle
Released20132009, after 5 years of beta testing
LocationSwitzerlandUSA
Free version availableYesYes
CostEUR 5-30/month
pay for extra storage, domains or addresses for EUR1-2 per month.
Upgrade to Gmail 1 starting from £1.59 per month which includes extra storage and expert Google help.
Mailbox storageFree version: 500 MB
Paid: 20 GB
Users each get 15GB, shared alongside other Google services (Google Drive and Google +)
Max. attachment limit25 MB and 100 attachments25 MB
Security features2-factor authentication sign-in process
End-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy
Basic password sign-in method
Transport Layer Security (TLS)

ProtonMail was released in 2013, it is based in Geneva, Switzerland and was founded by Dr. Andy Yen, who was a researcher at CERN and was working on particle physics applications. Gmail is owned by Google, it has been around since 2005 and the headquarters are in California, USA.

Free versions are available from both providers on the web and mobile platforms. ProtonMail packages cost EUR5-30 per month or alternatively, you can also just pay for extra storage, domains or addresses for EUR1-2 per month. You can upgrade to Gmail 1 starting from £1.59 per month which includes extra storage and expert Google help.

ProtonMail offers 500 MB of encrypted storage with the free version or you can pay for up to 20 GB. The maximum attachment limit is 25 MB and 100 attachments. Gmail also has an attachment limit of 25 MB and a standard account gives you 15 GB of storage. There are various additional storage packages offering up to 30 TB for a monthly fee.

Security features ProtonMail use a 2-factor authentication sign-in process and end-to-end encryption to ensure complete privacy. Gmail uses a basic password sign-in method and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages, when possible. If the email providers of both the sender and the recipient do not use TLS, your email cannot be encrypted by Gmail.

ProtonVPN

As an additional benefit, all ProtonMail accounts include a free ProtonVPN account. This still young VPN service has been making strides on the VPN market, quickly becoming one of the most secure services. ProtonVPN offers advanced features aimed at the most sensitive user groups, such as activists, dissidents, and journalists. It makes sense as a bundle deal also because the VPN will help bypass censorship measures preventing users from accessing their ProtonMail account.

Read our full ProtonVPN review 

Conclusion

Overall, our ProtonMail review results are very positive. We only have a few small issues with the service, including the sending limits and no POP3 services. We were impressed with the technical team behind the company and the level of security that they offer. The free version will probably be sufficient for most users and the paid packages offer more storage and features for those who need it.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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23 comments
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  1. Annie Jury

    Hi Julie, I use Gmail and Yandex mail both of which have the facility to send large files via Google Drive and Yandex Drive. I would like to move to ProtonMail. Does ProtonMail have the ability to send large files (regularly)? Thanks 🙂


  2. Richard Wentland Ii

    When one deletes emails and then the account on GOOGLE do they completely delete the information? Or, does it remain in archives on google?


  3. Vince

    Can I easily transfer my Gmail contacts? Has to be very easy as I am not a geek 🙂


  4. Maudie Johnson

    I have only now heard of Proton Mail and need to stop using my gmail account asap. Can you please guide me how to set up a Proton Mail acc as I’m very new to this? Thank you very much.


  5. useotools.com

    good proton mail is best , gmail read mails , there are no free lunches in world , google sells data


  6. Roland Osborne

    Hi Julie,
    I’m about to boot my G-Mail Acc. and will of course use yours.
    Now a couple of questions:
    1) Can we “Plus Address” or similar.
    You’re probably familiar with it, but if not, Gmail & some others as well, offer a nifty trick to eliminate spammers and people who sell your address.
    it incorporates adding a ‘Denoter’; in Gmail it’s a “+”, followed by a code, eg, for an email given to amazon, it would be; .
    So if they spam me, I simply tell the filter to send all the “+az” ones to the junk or even delete them for me. And if I see the particular address coming from somwhere else, I know how it happened.
    Sorry if you already knew all about it ! – But I use it regularly; it’s really good value.
    Secondaly, when you say, no POP3, that probably means I can’t use my own E.Mail client; like Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail ?? (I love OE)!
    Do You support IMAP or SMTP ?
    Thanks, Roland – New Zealand


    1. Julie Cole Author

      Hi Roland, thanks for the comment.
      To answer your first question, ProtonMail does have a filtering system, but the free plan allows only one filter. The conditions you can set are email addresses, words in the subject line, and attachments. You can also modify these conditions using IF, AND, OR attributes. What’s more, there are special spam filters in ProtonMail. Using them, you can send the whole domain to spam. If that wasn’t enough, you can even create Sieve filters by writing custom sieve scripts.
      When it comes to using ProtonMail with third-party email clients, you can do that with the help of ProtonMail Bridge. Any client that supports IMAP and SMTP, such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Apple Mail is fine. Unfortunately, ProtonMail Bridge requires Windows 7 or macOS 10.11 which don’t support Outlook Express. However, you should be able to use ProtonMail with Windows Live Mail, although I’d recommend contacting customer support first to learn about configuration nuances.


  7. Rob

    I’m a big fan of ProtonMail and use it as my main email account, but a couple of things should be noted with regards to this review.:

    • Not all information in ProtonMail is end to end encrypted. The subject line of emails are not encrypted. If served with a valid Swiss court order, the subject lines of all your email communication can/will be turned over.
    • Even though Switzerland has strict privacy laws they still have signed MLATs (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties) with many countries, among them USA. So if you are a US citizen and the government suspects you’re breaking a law, USA can request any information ProtonMail has on you through this treaty. This information would be mostly encrypted, but as stated below the subject lines would be in clear text and can probably be used to track your conversations with quite high precision.
    • ProtonMail have voluntarily performed real-time surveillance of suspected criminal activities; voluntarily as in the requester did not need to go through a valid court order. Good or bad? Depends on the account in question, was it actually committing any crime or just suspicious? Who knows.
    • ProtonMail can, in certain cases, log your IP.

    So although ProtonMail comes quite close, no email provider is 100% secure/private.


  8. Pablo

    I became aware that gmail was reading all my email contents because both my youtube suggestions and adverts as far away as yahoo were very specifically using keywords and concepts from my emails. For example when someone would send me short story as a word doc to discus publication my youtube and adverts would pivot to the content of that story. I felt this was a violation, that they were rifling both my writers works and mine and profiling me from them. I considered the potential for false triggers based on fictional content and decided a paid private email service was the only sane option. Proton mail provided that.


    1. Thomas

      I just recently learned that Gmail was reading my messages too… and they made it so much less friendly to work with Thundbird and other clients, Those and the fact that messages just disappear daily are reasons why I’m leaving GMail — I’ve been using GMail since they first started, way back when you had to receive an invitation to create an account. GMail and Google used to be great (at least they seemed to be) but they are all about tracking you and selling your information, just like Facebook.


  9. jake

    i have been using Protonmail for about 2 years now, and i love it! i have never had a problem and i have never needed anything beyond the free version. i also have never used it on my phone, ONLY on my desktop. phones are too easy to clone, copy, steal via blutooth, etc… i have a few gmail, yahoo, etc., fake email address i use for garbage. but for legitimate email business i use Protonmail and i have NEVER had spam! i really can’t say enough good things about Protonmail. if you have problems with using encryption, privacy, sending and receiving, tying your own shoelaces, then stick to yahoo and google, as they cater to noobs and love to collect your info and are easily and frequently hacked.


  10. Nancy S. Lyons

    I have had many problems with the Protonmail Android app:
    1. Encrypted emails don’t get sent.
    2. Attachments become detached from encrypted emails in the process of sending them.
    3. The recipient doesn’t receive encrypted email.
    4. The metadata is not encrypted.
    Plus I’ve had many more problems.


    1. Julie Cole Author

      Hi there – we can’t say we’ve seen these problems with them. Have you discussed this with their support team? It would be interesting to hear their response on this.


  11. Greta K

    I actually tried ProtonMail today, first the free version and I loved it so much that I wen for the paid version with 10 email adresses. It’s a really really good email service. I’m truly amazed by it. I haven’t tried ProtonVPN yet but I will.


    1. Julie Cole Author

      Yep, we really think it’s a great, free service. Thanks for commenting!


  12. Lyanna

    ProtonMail is indeed an excellent service. I still have a Gmail account since most people use it, but I do think that everyone should switch to ProtonVPN, or any safer email service.


    1. Julie Cole Author

      ProtonMail, yes, although of course ProtonVPN is a good service as well.


  13. lacythedancer

    This sounds really nice, and for pure text-only emails it is probably a great idea. I might even grab one to try it out, at least for a little while, although I’ve been using my Gmail since 2005 (I got one of the beta invites! it was so long ago, omg) and I don’t see myself detaching from it anytime soon. ProtonMail also doesn’t seem to have as much storage as I’d like, but I do like the sound of it. Thanks for the heads up!


    1. Anonymous

      Here’s a compelling reason to stay away from Gmail(and Google): Google reads your mails, everything. If you don’t believe me, search the ‘Snowden files’. And don’t use Google search (they track you), duckduckgo is a great alternative.


      1. Julie Cole Author

        Yup – we’ll go ahead and parrot what Anonymous said above. There are compelling reasons to use ProtonMail as your primary mail client.


  14. Sammy

    How come I didn’t hear of ProtonMail by now? If they are so secure I want to have an account with them. Gmail and not to mention Yahoo are just way too weak and can easily be broken into so a more viable option is needed. I will test PM shortly; I’m very curios to see for myself what they can do.


  15. Matheus Lundgren

    I currently switched all my Email services to Proton Mail. This is because it has an end to end encryption which protect my messages from being compromised and third parties access. If you are looking for a military grade encription mailing services, I advice you use Proton Mail


    1. Julie Cole Author

      Yup, we can agree with this. Thanks for commenting!

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