Last update: 03.20.2018
Astrill VPN is a genuine all-rounder, with plenty of boxes ticked as far as VPNs. Overall, it’s a real contender on the online privacy scene, with a few reservations that we’ll get to in a bit.
The VPN itself is headquartered in the Indian Ocean nation of the Seychelles, which is unusual as far as Virtual Private Networks go. But its front end doesn’t differ much from the crowd. If anything, the Astrill website is slicker and better-looking than most, so if looks alone could protect your online data, there wouldn’t be much competition.
Let’s see how Astrill does in terms of features, starting with security.
Security and privacy
Firstly, let’s consider the crucial question: is Astrill VPN safe to use? Let’s delve into their security and privacy feature package to get our answer:
- AES-256-bit military-grade encryption
- Huge choice of protocols, including SSTP, PPTP, StealthVPN, OpenWeb, OpenVPN, Cisco IPSec, L2TP/IPSec, and IKEv2/IPsec
- Smart Mode feature designed to counter government censorship
- Kill switch
- Port forwarding
- DNS leak protection
That’s a pretty decent spread for a mass market VPN. And there are some real technical chops behind what they offer. After all, it was Astrill staffers who created the popular OpenVPN and StealthVPN protocols – a sign that they know what they are doing when it comes to privacy.
Does Astrill VPN log your data?
Short answer: minimally.
Being based in Seychelles, Astrill VPN isn’t subject to data retention laws and harmful intelligence sharing agreements, such as the 5-eyes, 9-eyes, or 14-eyes country groups. This is a good sign and demonstrates a certain level of commitment to privacy.
That’s certainly not nothing, but then again – it rarely is. The logs kept by Astrill VPN are not so bad.
Speed and performance
Astrill VPN is no slouch when it comes to providing breakneck speeds. As we have noted earlier, speed is one of their USPs, and if you use the Astrill client for a while, you won’t feel short-changed.
Here’s what we found after performing several Astrill VPN speed tests with a baseline download speed of 240 Mbps:
London, United Kingdom
- Download: 98 Mbps
- Upload: 27 Mbps
New York, US
- Download: 104 Mbps
- Upload: 6 Mbps
- Download: 50 Mbps
- Upload: 3 Mbps
- Download: 75 Mbps
- Upload: 1 Mbps
As you can see, Astrill VPN speeds are genuinely impressive.
While low upload speeds might be concerning to some, most users will not see that as a deal-breaker. High download speeds are routine, however, which should accommodate streamers and torrenters pretty comfortably. We were especially surprised by the fact that the US New York server managed to overtake the UK server, even though we’re located much closer to the latter.
With 320+ servers in more than 60 countries, Astrill’s server fleet might not seem like much. Especially considering the thousands upon thousands of servers operated by the top players of the VPN industry.
However, the fact that Astrill owns all of its servers and does not rely on virtual machines to boost their location count makes it possible to maintain high speeds across their network.
Ease of use and multi-platform support
Astrill VPN’s compatibility package covers pretty much all the major user bases:
As we’ve hinted at earlier, Astrill’s user interface is efficient and simple. Just enter your username and password, pick a protocol, and log onto their servers.
If you want to customize your service, the client lets you do so, with options like enabling or disabling DNS leak protection. But if you want to keep things as they are, that’s no problem.
It’s a standard client, with a selection of servers and a few handy, widely-appealing features. For instance, you can easily specify which apps you’d like to funnel into Astrill VPN, and which should stay separate.
Astrill VPN can be used in a variety of other ways, not just as a personal privacy tool. For example, they also offer a business package which is targeted at smaller companies. If you need to add a security layer to work emails, find ways of maintaining security while working remotely or carry out discreet market research – Astrill has the solution.
Another important aspect of using Astrill VPN is the ability to set it up on routers. This tool is especially useful in households with multiple devices, like Xboxes, PlayStations, Smart TVs and smartphones. If you’re a Roku user, for instance, you can route traffic through the VPN via your desktop, adding a layer of protection.
Unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms
Astrill doesn’t like to make a point of it in their marketing material, but it’s clear they have worked hard to include access to streaming services as a key part of their package.
We connected to Astrill’s USA – New York 1 server and the results on the Netflix homepage were encouraging. Plenty of content that wouldn’t normally be available was now ready to stream.
There’s no doubt that users will be able to get past Netflix blockers, but just don’t expect every Astrill server to do the job.
When you do connect, speed isn’t an issue. We found that movies and TV were delivered in good resolution at a speed we could handle, with only very slight stutters every now and then. It definitely isn’t enough to criticize Astrill.
P2P and torrenting
Being able to ensure private, fast torrenting is a real sign of a solid VPN, and it’s an area where seemingly great services sometimes fall down.
Can you rely on Astrill VPN for torrenting? Absolutely.
In fact, Astrill have factored torrenting into their software in a way that few other VPNs have. When you select your server, choose a P2P VPN server from the drop down list. Not all Astrill servers are torrent-friendly, but plenty are, and the ones that are seem to deliver good speeds. There’s also a port-forwarding option available, but beware when doing this – it’s not the best security decision.
Online censorship in China and elsewhere
A good VPN shouldn’t just work for American or European customers. It should be powerful enough to get around censorship worldwide, or at least in as many jurisdictions as possible.
One test we like to use is whether a VPN works in China – Astrill VPN certainly claims that it will. Again, the answer is yes.
Astrill is one of a select band of VPNs who (at present) work well in China.
Astrill VPN has the StealthVPN protocol, which is an upgraded version of OpenVPN to fool Deep Packet Inspection – a method used by China to block VPN traffic. The only problem is that Astrill doesn’t offer a free trial in the People’s Republic.
Astrill seems to do pretty well in terms of support, offering the following options:
- Live chat (not 24/7, but dependable during US working hours)
- A couple of contact numbers (one in the USA and one in Hong Kong)
- Email contact form
The live chat staff is a handy resource that you won’t find with most other providers. It’s backed by an impressive archive of support manuals on the Astrill website. However, when we contacted them via email, the response time wasn’t encouraging.
As with almost every VPN we’ve covered, Astrill’s pricing varies by package, and prices decrease massively with longer contract terms:
- 1-month plan for $15.90/month
- 6-month plan for $11.65/month
- 1-year plan for $8.33/month (billed annually)
This is very expensive, but for a reason.
Our advice is to give the 7-day free trial a go, check out the features, try some streams and then decide whether to buy a long-term plan. If you need a short-term VPN, Astrill is simply too much.
On top of those packages, Astrill VPN offers a VIP service for an extra $10 per month, which drastically increasing speeds. It’s targeted at gamers and Asian customers, but the price tag is pretty hefty. They also offer routers for $50 or more, letting you connect multiple devices.
After all that, what do we make of Astrill VPN? Well, the privacy setup seems solid, although there are some questions about logging. It’s not a deal breaker, as long as you trust Astrill to act ethically. With their excellent support services, they come across as a reputable outfit.
The speed is great, and the VPN works well both with torrent clients and Netflix. We also appreciated the easy to use client and the 7-day free trial. On the other hand, some of the packages are pretty expensive, and if you start adding on things like routers, the bill might spiral out of control.