Much more than a hacktivist project, AirVPN offers an easy to customize, effective VPN with solid security and great functionality for torrenting fans.
It all started 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.
From the start, AirVPN has been led by activists, not entrepreneurs, and it retains the 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, 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.
AirVPN offers the following main security features:
- The secure OpenVPN tunneling protocol
- Tor integration
- AES-256 data encryption with 4096-bit Diffie-Hellman keys
- Highly customizable kill switch
- DNS and IPv6 leak protection
- Split tunneling
- Ability to cloak OpenVPN traffic from Deep Packet Inspection
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 contemporary VPNs. And, as you can see, AirVPN is generally rich in security features. As a matter of fact, this is a more watertight service than what is offered by an overwhelming majority of VPNs on the market today.
Does AirVPN keep logs?
The answer seems to be “No.”
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 is part of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance. While this is not ideal, the privacy practices of AirVPN in all other respects seem to be faultless.
For example, they don’t even have any third-party trackers on their website. While that may seem not that big a deal, in fact, this is super-rare even in a privacy-conscious field such as VPN. We would like the Privacy Notice on the official website to be more detailed, but at the same time, we could find nothing to suggest the VPN does much/any logging.
Speed and performance
Judging from the promotional materials of AirVPN it would seem the service is a lot more concerned with security and privacy, rather than speed. Let’s see whether that’s reflected in the numbers.
AirVPN has 220+ servers spread across 21 countries. That’s a solid server list, which covers the major regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. The official website contains information on server load, judging from which we can safely say the servers are usually well below maximum capacity.
With that said, 21 countries isn’t much in comparison to some of the more prominent VPN services. Among the regions that suffer from this are Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and to a lesser extent South America.
The number of servers hasn’t changed much over the past half a year and the FAQ hints at a possible reason why that might be – stringent requirements for servers on the AirVPN network. With that said, we’ll venture a guess that it’s not very profitable in the short term to run an ethical VPN service.
As far as speeds go, our tests had decent results that are by no means spectacular. First, we ran a speed test without a VPN connection:
- Download: 228 Mbps
- Upload: 180 Mbps
Afterward, we connected to several different server locations around the world and ran the speed test again.
- Download: 72 Mbps (68% drop-off)
- Upload: 93 Mbps (48% drop-off)
London, United Kingdom
- Download: 15 Mbps (93% drop-off)
- Upload: 7 Mbps (96% drop-off)
New York, United States
- Download: 37 Mbps (84% drop-off)
- Upload: 52 Mbps (71% drop-off)
- Download: 38 Mbps (83% drop-off)
- Upload: 26 Mbps (86% drop-off)
All in all, AirVPN’s speeds are not terrible, but there’s certainly room for improvement here. While the Mbps numbers are acceptable, the drop-off percentage is a bit high. This is especially true for a nearby location like the UK.
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.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
Setting up AirVPN isn’t exactly a chore: just surf to the AirVPN website and press the Get AirVPN button.
The AirVPN client (affectionately titled Eddie) is available on:
However, you can use AirVPN through other software as well. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy the service on:
- Routers: DD-WRT, Tomato, AsusWRT, pfSense
While not exactly difficult to use, Eddie is certainly aimed at advanced users more than it is aimed at newbies. Opening the Preferences menu should make that abundantly clear: there are so many settings to toggle that new users will likely be overwhelmed.
Having said that, choosing a server and connecting should be simple enough for anyone. The server list even conveniently shows the latency and load of each server.
It’s slightly harder to setup AirVPN for iOS than it is for Android, PC, or Mac. Eddie isn’t an option here and users will have to set up OpenVPN and configure the app. All the information and files needed can be found on the website.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
AirVPN works really well with Netflix and has the ability to unblock the libraries of multiple geographical regions. Thanks to its “double hop” DNS routing setup, AirVPN can also work around the relatively small selection of servers.
We saw better performance on Netflix when connected to West Coast AirVPN servers. This was unexpected, but other European users might be able to benefit as well.
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.
P2P and torrenting
One of the most attractive aspects of AirVPN is its liberal approach to torrenting. P2P traffic is welcome on the network and users are guaranteed unlimited downloads. So, in theory, using AirVPN for torrenting is an excellent option.
AirVPN is good for torrenting.
The service also offers more than enough security and is feature-rich. The availability of things like port forwarding adds a lot of value for torrenting. Our only reservation is that the speeds could certainly be better.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
AirVPN should work in China
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 censorship measures.
Beyond the ability to climb the Great Firewall, AirVPN is definitely secure enough and should have reasonably good speeds in China.
As for other countries where freedom of information is restricted, AirVPN is even a better choice than it is in China. Just make sure you look at the list of countries where servers are available – if there’s nothing close to your location, speeds may be bad.
Due to its sometimes-technical nature and a wide range of customization options, AirVPN users often require support, and you would hope for excellence in this area. The picture is mixed. Here’s what the provider offers:
- Support tickets
Sure – the FAQ is detailed and the AirVPN forums are one of the best places on the entire web to learn about privacy issues and VPN usage. When it came to getting help from the staff though, 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.
There are 7 pricing plans:
- Three days: €2
- One month: €7
- Three months: €15 (equals €5/month)
- Six months: €29 (equals €4.83/month)
- One year: €49 (equals €4.08/month)
- Two years: €79 (equals €3.29/month)
- Three years: €99 (equals €2.75/month)
Moving up the scale, AirVPN price options range from €7 for 1 month all the way to €99 for three years. This 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 24 other cryptocurrencies to PayPal and credit cards, to gift vouchers. Most importantly this means you can pay for the service entirely anonymously.
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 is a great choice.