Last update: 02.18.2019
In sleep he sang to me
In dreams he came
That voice which calls to me
And speaks my name
And do I dream again?
For now I find
The Phantom of the Opera is there
Inside my mind
Not everyone can be the Phantom of the Opera, but everyone can be an Online Phantom. Is Avira the best choice for this role? Our casting crew breaks it down in this Avira Phantom VPN review.
Avira comes in Free and Pro versions, and the difference between them is glaring. Pro has a kill switch, tech support, and unlimited bandwidth, while the Free version gives only 500 MB/month, which means no streaming or torrenting whatsoever.
Security is questionable with Avira, with the company and the majority of its servers based 14 Eyes countries, but it states that it doesn’t log your traffic or IP address. Unfortunately, this might work for the Pro version only, because Free Avira has to count the megabytes you download.
This VPN doesn’t offer blistering speeds, but if you choose nearby servers, they’re enough for online gaming and streaming. Others provide less than acceptable ping and speeds. The worst part is that there are only 82 servers in 27 countries, and this hasn’t changed in 2019. While the number of servers doesn’t always translate into a better connection, the number of countries clearly shows which providers have invested in quality service around the globe.
The pricing model is good because the Avira Phantom VPN free version is in many ways similar to the Pro version. Therefore, you get to test most of the features that you’ll have if you decide to spend on it. The prices themselves, though, are less than tempting, even when considering the unlimited number of simultaneous connections. For $10/month or $6.50/month (paid annually), you can get a way more powerful VPN. Avira is available on the four main platforms (Windows, Android, Mac, iOS) and also has a Chrome plugin.
Netflix support is an on and off thing, so if it worked with the Free version, it might not work with Pro a few weeks after you paid for the whole year
Avira Phantom VPN is easy to use, but you will have difficulties using it for Netflix, torrenting or online gaming. Netflix support is an on and off thing, so if it worked with the Free version, it might not work with Pro a few weeks after you paid for the whole year. As for torrenting and online gaming, it’s fine until you need to connect to more distant servers. But since the upload speed is sub-par, heavy torrenting can be an issue. Using Avira Phantom in China provides mixed results at best, and you should rather choose one of the best VPNs for China. Finally, free riders get no customer support at all, and the one for the paid version owners is limited, with no live chat option.
Feel free to try out the free version, and if you like what you get – buy it to get the kill switch and support enabled. Using any VPN without them defeats the purpose.
Is Avira Phantom VPN safe to use?
This Avira Phantom VPN review focuses on security as the key VPN feature. We firmly believe that if a certain product fails to get a good grade, it can be recommended only to a small batch of users with specific needs.
Avira bolsters AES-256 encryption with SHA-512 data authentication, using an industry standard OpenVPN security protocol. You couldn’t expect less from a company that offers multiple security solutions. Yet you would expect some more information about the protocols, not just the chance to configure them. For the Mac version on the AppStore, it uses L2TP/IPSec, considered a bit less safe because of Edward Snowden speculating about the NSA finding how to crack it. Also, L2TP/IPSec is slower and more easily blocked by firewalls when compared to the OpenVPN. Finally, the iOS version uses IKEv2, which is the best protocol for mobile users.
The kill switch is available with the Pro version. It ensures that your IP will not be revealed if the VPN connection drops, meaning you should use the free version only to test Avira VPN and see if it’ll be good enough for you as a paid service.
Installing Phantom also means installing a kind of Avira Software Manager for all their apps
Avira Phantom doesn’t include any anti-malware or ad-blocking features but, as a security software company, Avira offers many other solutions for that. It could, however, do this in a slightly less intrusive manner – installing Phantom also means installing a kind of Avira Software Manager for all their apps. And of course, you get to stare at the list of those yet to be installed tools which tickle your collect-them-all nerve.
38. At first, this might look like a decent number of server locations, but when you check the countries they are in, the situation worsens. 12 are in the US, and nine more are from the 14 Eyes group, meaning more than half of the servers have privacy concerns because of government surveillance. If you’re lucky, there’s about a 5% chance you’ll be using Romanian or Swiss servers (these countries are known for having more active data protection measures).
And since the main office of Avira is in Germany, you can be sure they can be compelled to transfer anything “suspicious” to their partners. There are also tidbits of information that Avira’s US-based department covers users in Canada and the US, meaning their data can end up in a totally different and not the most VPN-friendly climate.
Avira states that they do not track what sites you visit, your virtual or real IPs or “any information that can link you to any action, such as downloading a file or visiting a particular website.” But they do track “diagnostic data,” such as bugs, although you can switch this off. What you have to live with is them knowing whether you’re a free or paid user and the amount of data you use.
We can say they’re pretty fair about their policies. Yet, we must mention a few caveats.
First, they log bandwidth (they must do that at least for the Free version where it’s limited). Then, Avira logs your online presence which is said to be necessary for billing, but we see no apparent reason to do that.
What’s more, your personal data from surveys (product satisfaction, etc.) is pseudonymized before being sent to Avira’s partner, SurveyMonkey (SurveyMonkey Europe UC).
This sounds pretty weird because survey data can and should be fully anonymized, except you explicitly allowed your account data to be linked to your survey data. So you can only be happy that Avira is trying to protect you from third-parties, such as SurveyMonkey. But after the survey results come in, they can and do label you as a (un)satisfied customer and target their marketing efforts accordingly. Thank you for participating!
However, we would like to point out that we are legally obliged to store certain data for longer periods of time (e.g. the retention periods for accounting documents are currently 10 years (The Fiscal Code of Germany)).
Additionally, we would like to point out that we are able to block your data immediately but due to technical restrictions it may take up to 180 days to permanently delete your data, provided there are no legal obligations and statutory rights preventing deletion.
This probably means that after your request the company has six months to do whatever it wants with your data before it’s gone (forever?).
To conclude, our answer to the question “is Avira Phantom VPN safe” is simple: there are clearly safer alternatives to Avira – VPN services that offer better privacy and security.
Avira Phantom VPN speed and performance
The Avira Phantom VPN speed test was made from Europe with a 75 Mbps no-VPN connection.
The Free version speed test turned out to be quite OK with nearby servers. The trans-Atlantic situation is much worse, though. Below are our 3 Free version tests for the USA, Singapore, and Germany.
The US, 27 Mbps download (64% drop off), 12 Mbps upload, 119 ms latency
The ping score is quite bad, so you might run into problems when gaming. Same goes for HD or 4K streaming – the download rate of 27 Mbps is just above the required 25 Mbps to make sure your NASCAR vehicles do not slow down before the finish line.
Singapore, 28 Mbps download (63% drop off), 0.5 Mbps upload, 202 ms latency
Ping score is atrocious, meaning gamers will be aiming at an enemy who has already shot them. Upload speed is abysmal. Download speed quite surprised us, though, so chances are you’re ready for streaming Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Germany, 52 Mbps download (30% drop off), 56 Mbps upload, 47 ms latency
Surprise surprise, the best numbers we got came from Germany. A ping score of 47 ms and 50+ Mbps ups and downs means you can blame only yourself after losing that WoW PvP, and streaming your favorite movie at 4K means the only way you will experience stuttering is if you’re streaming The King’s Speech. Speaking of movies, we have a separate chapter about how Phantom fares with Netflix and other streaming services.
The Avira Phantom VPN Pro version speed test results turn out to be quite the same, with a 35% drop-off in speed which is not that uncommon among the most popular VPNs. So as our tests for this Avira Phantom VPN review have shown, this happens to be an average-to-fast VPN. Yet the reader has to be aware that multiple factors, such as location, time, and equipment, can either improve or diminish the aforementioned results.
How to download and install it
The Avira website is user-friendly and doesn’t attack the visitor with technical mumbo-jumbo. This also means that advanced users will have to dig deeper to get the technical answers they’re looking for.
Downloading and installing the Free version is too easy for us to go into detail. During the installation, the Wizard offers additional software like the Software Updater that checks if all your software is up to date. You should probably skip this by clicking “Skip” on the top right (which is almost invisible).
Sadly, it also installs a general Avira Software Manager, which really acts like bloatware. Don’t be surprised – you’re also a happy Identity Scanner owner now, never having been given the option to disown it.
And the saddest part is that you cannot cut these benign lumps out because trying to do so prompts the message: “Phantom VPN is not self-sufficient and needs Avira Software Manager, so if you want to get rid of the latter, remove the former first.” That’s the price of the free software.
How to use it
Using the Free and Pro versions of Avira Phantom is pretty easy because there’s virtually only one crucial difference between their clients – the “Enabled” button for turning on the kill switch, which in any case should be a mandatory feature for anyone seeking a decent VPN to prevent indecent exposure.
Basically, you can click the biggest button on the first screen (no need to bother about registration or anything) and wait for the connection to happen. You should bother checking the Settings though because by default you’ll be sending diagnostic data which doesn’t necessarily end up in Avira’s hands. Selecting specific servers is also possible if you want to manually search for a better connection.
For this Avira Phantom VPN review, we’ve run tests on two Windows 10 laptops. Sadly, one was unable to launch the VPN – Avira gave no error message and just went back to the main screen as if the button had never been pushed.
We also had a couple of disconnects with the lucky laptop, so don’t be surprised if this happens to you. And if you’re not a Pro user – congratulations, you just got yourself exposed due to the lack of a kill switch.
So the main question is not how to use Avira Phantom, but why use it when there are better alternatives for the same price?
Apps and extensions
Avira Phantom VPN offers support for the four most popular platforms plus the Chrome browser:
- Windows 7 and later
- Android (4.1, doesn’t apply for TVs)
- Mac OSX 10.11 (El Capitan) or later
- iOS 8 and later
- Chrome (browser plugin that acts as a proxy)
Routers and other network devices, like Smart TVs or game consoles, are not supported, though you can try to make it work if the device uses Android as some TVs do. Linux apps are also not available.
Macheads will have to decide if they want a VPN that offers less security than its competitors
The most significant differences between the Windows and Mac versions is the protocol used. Windows has OpenVPN, while Mac offers L2TP/IPSec instead of the expected IKEv2/IPSec. This is the point where Macheads will have to decide if they want a VPN that provides less security than its competitors.
As for Android, it also has OpenVPN and all the features of the Windows version, not that there’s a lot of them.
Avira Phantom VPN for Netflix
Avira gives no guarantees and recommends you try the free version first to see if you get the content you want. That’s fair play, considering that all VPNs more or less have problems with Netflix and its counterparts. In a perfect world, all VPN companies would be honest about their ability to unblock streaming platforms from around the world. And until we live in it, the best option is to try the VPN and see for yourself.
Avira Phantom VPN no longer unblocks Netflix
Our previous test made in late 2018 surprised us because Avira managed to unblock the US Netflix library. Unfortunately, this year things have turned for the worse. Both the Free and Pro versions were no match for Netflix’s geo-blocking prowess. Libraries of every country we tried, including the US, Australia, Japan, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany were unavailable.
It would be fair to say that Avira Phantom, being one of the less popular VPN services, means its users are not going to be seeing Netflix working again anytime soon. After all, what’s the point in investing resources to make it work if that’s not gonna pay off? Avira Phantom wouldn’t be the first VPN to steer away from Netflix fans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end for the service itself, as long as it manages to please its users using different means.
BBC iPlayer and other streaming alternatives for Netflix
Users might have already noticed that BBC iPlayer restrictions are becoming more and more aggressive, leaving viewers with a similar struggle to what Netflix bingers are having to deal with. Does Avira offer anything for British content lovers? The answer is no – BBC iPlayer is blocked as well.
Having this in mind, it’s possible you will be experiencing issues with other streaming platforms, but as Avira Phantom VPN offers a Free version with the same servers as in its Pro version, you can check it out for yourself before investing. And if you’re not happy with the results, feel free to check our best VPNs for Netflix list.
Avira Phantom VPN for Kodi
Having in mind the shady nature of Kodi (or at least of some of its add-ons) and the locations of Avira’s servers, one might conclude that this VPN is by far not the best option. And it’s not only the possible region/legal restrictions, but it’s also the speed of the servers. Our inspection had below-average results with distant servers, leaving us dissatisfied – the most prevalent of feelings we had while testing Avira Phantom VPN.
What we can say with certainty is that Avira Phantom VPN Kodi support is not among the best. If you use Kodi more than a few times a week, there are clearly better alternatives.
Torrenting with Avira Phantom VPN
Avira doesn’t mention torrenting as a keyword in their presentation of Phantom VPN even though the service itself is not illegal and the VPN does allow P2P file sharing. There was a question posted in their forum months ago, asking for a straight answer – is torrenting with Avira Phantom VPN allowed or not?
In November 2018, we received a word from Avira telling us that they are not tracking user’s activity, though one has to comply with the legislation. All ports and protocols are open, and only TCP port 25 is not allowed to block spam-bots.
Putting legal issues aside, the success of torrenting depends on the speed. But upload is where Avira usually suffers. So if you’re using a site where you need to keep a good upload/download ratio, you might want to check some other VPNs before buying the Phantom.
So just like with Kodi, if you use torrents or P2P from time to time, and don’t need much upload speed, Avira will do the job. If you set up hundreds of gigabytes for transfer throughout the night, stop right there and turn around – there’s a list of the best VPNs for torrenting hanging on the wall.
Does Avira Phantom VPN work in China?
This part is important both for those who travel to China and want to have a free internet connection and those who live in China and want to break down the Great Firewall.
Again, it will not hurt to give it a try. Probably. The free version is a risk because it has no kill switch and if you end up posting some anti-government content when your VPN crashes, your location might be exposed to the authorities. So, better run these tests in an internet cafe if you don’t want to flee the country.
To be honest, we didn’t fly to China in order to say we did the most complete Avira Phantom VPN review, but based on our extensive research in forums and reading expert reviews, we conclude that while Phantom sometimes does work in China, more often than not it’s a disappointment. You should rather check our best VPNs for China list instead.
Even Avira itself does not market the Pro version as a tool that guarantees you a decent connection in China, and the last user reply to the knowledge base question about Phantom’s performance in China states that nothing works.
As it uses OpenVPN protocol, it means there’s a chance China’s not going to let you slip in without using additional protection. Using Obfsproxy, SSL tunneling or similar obfuscation methods is your only hope not to wake the sleeping dragon. And you’ll have to walk in tiny steps when inside, not only because it could hear you, but because the connection speeds are pretty slow due to the lack of undersea cables.
Avira Phantom VPN Support page offers a search in the knowledge base, an FAQ, some videos and tutorials, and some of the latest news from @AskAvira, tweeted in May 2018.
The support that free version users get is the Forum or 24/7 experts that can be enlisted, usually not for free. Top Questions do not include the “VPN” keyword, the most popular being “which iPhone is the best?”
Experts are for all products or general “software consultations.” With the “VPN” search query, we found 6 active experts out of 700+ that didn’t seem trustworthy – no photos or even bad photos.
Seeing what their free Support looks like, we strongly doubted there would be a major quality jump with the paid version, for which you have to register with your name, email and everything else to be able to contact their team. Well, as it turns out, the Avira Phantom VPN Pro version actually does have OK email support.
Response time is usually 1-2 days, but sometimes you get the feeling that the answer could have been more detailed. So don’t be surprised that occasionally you will have to politely clarify some stuff to the Support that seemed obvious to you in the first place.
Paid users can also use a toll-free phone number to call support in different locations, but no live chat seems a bit strange nowadays.
Avira Phantom VPN pricing
This is probably the second most important chapter in our Avira Phantom VPN review because you cannot assess a product without knowing if the value it gives is priced adequately. The best part of Avira Phantom is that you get to test almost everything for free (save for the kill switch and support) and decide if you’re willing to spend money on it.
Avira offers three pricing plans:
- $5.99/month – Android & iOS only. Billed monthly. Cancel anytime.
- $10/month – Multi-device. Billed monthly. Cancel anytime.
- $6.5/month – Multi-device. Billed annually. Cancel anytime. You save $42.
Compared to the average prices of Top VPNs, Avira becomes quite uncompetitive because for the same price you can get much more powerful and secure software, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN.
In July 2018, they were still not accepting cryptocurrencies. But at the end of the year, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Bitcoin option, which is an excellent way to keep your anonymity uncompromised. Unfortunately, it’s disappeared again.
To conclude, while the pricing plans look OK, the prices themselves are too steep, even when considering the unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Conclusion of our Avira Phantom VPN review
If Phantom of Avira is still there inside your mind, go ahead and try their generous free version before spending on something that gives an average bang for your buck at best.
Yes, it’s simple and easy to use, but using a VPN is about security first, and you can get way better options for almost the same price. Be sure to check them out.