Last update: 12.20.2018
Much more than a hacktivist project, AirVPN offers an easy to customize, effective VPN with solid security and great functionality for torrenting fans.
Seeking to offer a “breath of fresh air” in the stale world of VPNs, AirVPN started out in 2010 when a confederation of hackers decided to create a tool to promote internet freedom. With participation from Italy, the USA, and Mexico, the group brought an international flavor to the product that launched as AirVPN in April 2010.
From the start, AirVPN has been led by activists, not entrepreneurs, and it retains a mission to open the web up and protect those under repressive jurisdictions.
Nowadays, it has expanded from its humble origins, operating over 220 servers in 19 countries and 3 continents. Yet they continue to operate in the spirit of openness – allowing users access to real-time server-monitoring data and other innovative features. It’s become a multi-platform project, too, with AirVPN now available for Android and iOS devices, as well as desktop computers and popular routers.
So how does it match up with its commercial rivals? Read our AirVPN review to find out.
Is AirVPN safe to use?
Security is one area where AirVPN can be trusted to take a cautious, well-informed approach. For instance, they steer clear of using compromised protocols like L2TP/IPSec or PPTP. Instead, they operate solely via OpenVPN – which is seen as the gold standard for mass market VPNs and should mean that AirVPN is safe to use.
Additionally, AirVPN offers a Tor-based VPN service for users who want even deeper protection. This is something that very few other VPNs offer, and it ensures that a direct link between the VPN and its users is difficult to determine. When you add this layer, any payments you make won’t even be visible to AirVPN admins. Again, this is gold standard security.
Encryption is another strong point, as AirVPN offers its users the ability to wrap their traffic in SSL-based ciphers. AES-256-CBC encryption is solid enough to reassure most users. Moreover, the use of 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman keys for the Handshake (renewed hourly) and Perfect Forward Secrecy add extra protection.
Even on the AirVPN free package or when DNS routing is engaged, we couldn’t find evidence of leakage.
The client also adds DNS leak protection, a kill switch, and the company claims they don’t keep any logs at all – basic features all security-conscious VPNs include, but many sub-standard competitors fail to add. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with DNS leakage. Even on the AirVPN free package or when DNS routing is engaged, we couldn’t find evidence of leakage, which is what you’d expect given the excellent security specs behind AirVPN.
Some people may be concerned about AirVPN being based in Italy.
So, are there any security drawbacks to mention in this review? Not many, as it turns out. Some people may be concerned about AirVPN being based in Italy, which routinely shares information as part of the “Fourteen Eyes Alliance”. How far it collaborates with the authorities is open to question.
Speed & Performance
While AirVPN does offer strong security, that wouldn’t be of much use if the bundle of protocols and ciphers had a crippling impact on performance. So, is this the case?
For starters, it’s worth noting that AirVPN offers unlimited streaming and P2P downloads via its VPN network. This means they aren’t worried about their servers struggling to deal with high data loads, and you shouldn’t be either.
As far as speeds go, our tests were not very encouraging. Although the following numbers might seem relatively high sans context, note that our base speed without any VPN connected was 280 Mbps, which puts these numbers in quite a different light:
London, United Kingdom
New York, United States
Hong Kong, China
Strangely enough, AirVPN’s New York server was the best performer of the bunch, even though we were connecting from Europe. All in all, AirVPN’s speeds are not exactly atrocious, but there’s certainly room for improvement here.
One thing to note: if you connect to a nearby AirVPN server and aren’t happy with the speed, try others on the same continent. Speeds vary in unpredictable ways. It’s not a major criticism, but it does complicate matters for entry-level users.
Another major reservation for real speed freaks is the relatively small server pool operated by AirVPN. 220+ servers may seem like a lot (and it’s a lot more than AirVPN had in the past), but industry leaders operate thousands, giving more choice for getting around geo-blocking and ensuring more reliable speeds across the globe.
How to download AirVPN
AirVPN isn’t exactly a chore to set up and can be done in a few seconds. Just surf to the AirVPN website and press the “Get AirVPN” button.
You’ll have to create an account and choose a plan before downloading the AirVPN client, which is available for Windows, Linux, OS X, and ChromeOS desktop setups. You can also download AirVPN for Android and iOS phones, as well as AsusWRT, Tomato, and DD-WRT routers. This covers most bases.
How to install it
When you’ve chosen your plan and downloaded the client, it’s time to install AirVPN on your system. AirVPN operates via an OpenVPN client called Eddie, which is one of the more sophisticated and information-rich clients around. It’s also open source, which we liked.
Just follow the wizard and download Eddie. It should automatically load up, allowing you to enter your AirVPN login details. After that, you can choose a server and connect. It’s pretty simple.
How to use it
When the client is set up and running, using Eddie isn’t too difficult. After selecting a server and connecting, the first thing you can do is head to a website like IPleak.net and confirm that your identity has been properly shielded.
If you aren’t happy with the speed being delivered by your current server, you can return to the master list and check out the location and latency of available alternatives, making it easy to shop around for the best option.
It’s slightly harder to use AirVPN for iOS or Android than for PCs or Macs. Eddie isn’t an option on these devices and users will have to set up OpenVPN before accessing the AirVPN trial or full packages. All the information and files needed can be found on its website, and configuring OpenVPN won’t take long.
Apps & Extensions
As we noted above, there isn’t a standalone AirVPN app for Android or iOS phones, leaving smartphone users with a little work to do before connecting. But Eddie itself is a neat, feature-rich piece of software which goes beyond many other VPNs in terms of customization.
There’s also a version of AirVPN for ChromeOS, which allows users to integrate the VPN directly into their favorite browser. This only applies to Linux users, though, and AirVPN hasn’t launched separate extensions for Windows users of Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Opera.
Using AirVPN for Netflix
One of the most important questions for any VPN is how well it handles streaming services like Netflix. So how does using AirVPN for Netflix stack up against the competition?
AirVPN actually works really well with Netflix and has the ability to deceive its geo-blocking in multiple geographical regions.
Thanks to its DNS routing system, AirVPN actually works really well with Netflix and has the ability to deceive its geo-blocking in multiple geographical regions. Thanks to their “double hop” DNS routing setup, AirVPN can also work around their relatively small selection of servers. So they don’t need to have a US server to provide access for UK users to Netflix services or vice versa. That’s seriously smart.
However, there’s a “but” to add here. Recently, AirVPN users have reported intermittent access to Netflix servers. AirVPN works collectively to update their systems faster than most VPNs, but Netflix is often one step ahead.
So use an AirVPN trial to see whether Netflix is available in your area right now, and don’t be surprised if there are some connection issues. VPNs are constantly battling against geoblocking strategies, and while AirVPN does better than most, it isn’t perfect.
If you’re looking for a VPN to unblock the BBC iPlayer, however, keep looking. AirVPN did not manage to unblock the British streaming service no matter how hard we tried.
Can you use AirVPN for Torrenting?
One of the most attractive aspects of AirVPN is its liberal approach to torrenting. P2P protocols are “welcome” on their servers, and users are guaranteed unlimited downloads. So, in theory, using AirVPN for torrenting is an excellent option.
When we entered our AirVPN login details and fired up uTorrent, we found that these promises are mostly watertight. Everything connected seamlessly and with no access issues, and it was as if we weren’t running a VPN. Even speeds were hardly impacted by the presence of Eddie, and they were absolutely fine for our (basic) torrenting needs.
Yes, this AirVPN review definitely recommends using the VPN for torrenting purposes.
So yes, this AirVPN review definitely recommends using the VPN for torrenting purposes. In fact, very few competitors are as well placed to meet torrenters’ needs.
Using AirVPN in China: a good idea?
AirVPN was set up as an activist project and finding ways to neutralize censorship was one of their most important goals. While it’s developed into a money-making enterprise, the idealistic soul of the project remains intact as far as we could see, and they still have a genuine commitment to helping out internet users in authoritarian countries.
The key feature here is AirVPN’s ability to route web traffic via TCP port 443. This is the conventional SSL port used by secure web data, and by routing all of your traffic through Port 443, AirVPN can shield it effectively from most snoopers.
This is helped by the use of SSL tunneling to add a layer of “wrapping” around your traffic, which even the NSA would struggle to decode. This makes using AirVPN in China a great option. In 2018, AirVPN managed to evade government censorship via SSL encryption, even while other VPNs went offline. As our contact reported, there were a few speed issues here and there, but the important thing was government controls couldn’t break AirVPN’s wrapping.
Due to its sometimes-technical nature and a wide range of customization options, AirVPN users often require a lot of support, and you would hope that the AirVPN collective would excel in this area. However, the picture is actually a little mixed.
On one hand, the AirVPN forums are one of the best places on the entire web to find out about current issues in privacy and VPN usage in particular. If you have a query about how to use VPN, someone has probably asked it, and there may be a usable answer.
But, as we all know, relying on forums for support is a little hit and miss. Everyone’s query is unique, after all, and outdated solutions abound. So even a participatory, activism-based VPN like AirVPN requires conventional support teams to function.
While AirVPN has a contact form, we found that response times were slow, and the attitude of AirVPN representatives could have been warmer.
And here’s the problem. While AirVPN has a contact form, we found that response times were slow, and the attitude of AirVPN representatives could have been warmer. It’s easy to see how newbies could be turned off by this, even if their questions are easily answered. So that’s a small thumbs-down in this AirVPN review.
The way the AirVPN price system works is fairly unusual. Unlike many other VPNs, AirVPN offers a three-day package for just 1 Eur, which operates like an AirVPN trial. However, there’s no AirVPN free trial, which we found disappointing. People should be able to try before they buy, especially in the world of VPNs.
Moving up the scale, AirVPN price options range from 7 Eur for 1 month to 15 Eur for 3 months, 30 Eur for 6 months, 54 Eur for a year, and 84 Eur for two years. Considering how solid the underlying product is, those prices are acceptable. AirVPN isn’t the cheapest option around, but it’s reasonably priced, and there’s no profit-gouging here.
Customers can also choose from a huge variety of payment methods, from Bitcoin and PayPal to MasterCard, VISA, JCB and American Express.
Conclusion of AirVPN review
Founded as a hacktivist project, AirVPN has become one of the world’s leading VPNs. It’s not the most user-friendly or stylish VPN on the market, but its security features, price, and torrenting functionality all set AirVPN apart from the crowd. So if you want a dependable VPN with constant updates and a passionate, helpful following – AirVPN could be ideal.