Last update: 05.10.2019
ButterflyVPN is a unique kind of service, coming as a piece of software packaged in a USB stick and requiring no logins or apps. Originally designed for the Chinese market (which is evident after checking their near-dead social media), it also works fine in any other location.
Our ButterflyVPN review tries to see if this tool will not carry you into a flame together with itself.
ButterflyVPN offers the following security features:
- Military-grade ChaCha20 encryption
- Private TCP-based, zero interaction protocol
- Tor over VPN
The list is short and looks quite exotic because of some less-used custom solutions. ChaCha20 is a fairly new but virtually undecipherable encryption method, used by WireGuard and a few other protocols. It’s also used by Google to secure HTTPS traffic between its browsers and websites.
Butterfly VPN’s private protocol is another unique feature. It allows you to manually configure your IP and has a built-in ad blocker which can be switched on or off.
While Tor over VPN is a nice bonus, we were disappointed to see no stealth protocol which is essential for users in China to avoid DPI (Deep Packet Inspection). A kill switch is also absent in this tool.
Privacy pros and cons
The hardware nature of ButterflyVPN means it doesn’t require any apps, accounts or logins with your payment details stored for auto-renewal. The service is as plug-and-play as it can be. Together, it means it’s as anonymous as it can be when you start using it.
The payment process is less anonymous though. You’ll need an active email first, and later you’ll have to provide your shipping details.
There’s another safety issue with ButterflyVPN. When it comes to passwords and SSIDs (wifi network names), it doesn’t support special characters, including Chinese. What’s even sadder is that passwords also cannot contain spaces.
Its default password to connect to the client is 12345678, which means there might be users who have decided not to change it, letting those nearby easily benefit from this free and secure VPN.
We can only conclude that ButterflyVPN offers below average security.
Does ButterflyVPN keep logs?
ButterflyVPN is spread over three countries – Panama, Taiwan, and the US. While the former is a good location in terms of government surveillance and data retention laws, the US belongs to the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance. Gomoft, Inc. is the company that distributes ButterflyVPN while the developers reside in Taiwan.
It has a “no-logs policy” and doesn’t log “connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses, or other data.” ButterflyVPN must, however, be keeping some logs to limit the number of simultaneous connections.
Speed and performance
All ButterflyVPN reviews write about the speeds being average at best. The dropoffs from the baseline speed are quite huge, meaning this service is not doing a good job in this department. Our tests for this ButterflyVPN review have shown that the ButterflyVPN leaves only around 15% of your original speed.
Even their promotional video says that while in Full Mode, “you may experience slow speeds.” So the best you can do to increase the average connection speed is using the Intelligent mode which allows ButterflyVPN to handle blocked websites only.
The official listing on Amazon states that ButterflyVPN offers streaming of up to 17 Mbps with it’s OpenVPN connection. That’s not much, considering that UHD (4K) requires 25 Mbps on Netflix. However, this might not be accurate.
ButterflyVPN offers over 500 servers in six regions: the US, China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Europe, which clearly shows them targeting those traveling between the US and the aforementioned Asian countries.
Their 500+ servers (if we understand their “global lines” term correctly) is not a bad number, considering this VPN was started in 2015. Sadly, there’s no way to choose the actual server or at least the city it’s located in, which is critical when you’re on one side of the US or China.
Ease of use and multiplatform support
As a simple USB device, ButterflyVPN is easy to use and compatible with almost any device that has an internet connection, including:
- Smart TVs
- Gaming consoles
The operating system is also not a factor as long as it can recognize a USB stick.
ButterflyVPN hardware is sold on Amazon or the official website, which also has the setup instructions. The interface resembles that of OpenWRT. Therefore, anyone with any experience with this router firmware should have no problem feeling at home right away.
Once you’ve finished setting up ButterflyVPN, the stick doesn’t have to remain inside your computer anymore. You can plug it to any power source, like a wifi router.
After the setup, your ButterflyVPN stick should start slowly blinking. This means you can now look for an available wifi connection. Find the one that begins with btfly- and use the default 12345678 password.
Next, open your browser and enter http://192.168.154.1 into your address bar. You will get to choose an actual wifi connection. You will be connected to it but will still see the btlfy-. This can be changed though, just like the password, which MUST be changed for the sake of your safety.
When connected, you can check the status of the network, all connected devices, and the VPN mode. There’s three of them – Intelligent Mode, Full Mode or Tor.
- Intelligent Mode – if a site is blocked, the traffic will go through ButterflyVPN, if not – through the regular network, giving you more speed.
- Full Mode – all connections go through ButterflyVPN, ensuring maximum security at the cost of speed.
- Tor Mode – all the traffic goes anonymously via Tor (The onion router). This will take a toll on your connection speed but will provide a multi-layered secure connection.
ButterflyVPN can act as a router once it has connected to wifi. It means that your secure connection with un-blocked content becomes accessible to anyone with the password.
ButterflyVPN for Netflix
The official listing at Amazon.com clearly states that ButterlyVPN is not intended “for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime and fire stick, etc.”. That’s a massive blow to any VPN service, turning it into a tool for all work and no play, which can make you a dull boy quickly.
For binge-watchers, we recommend checking out our best VPNs for Netflix section.
ButterflyVPN for torrenting
Torrenting and P2P traffic are not allowed with ButterflyVPN. This is the second blow in a row after the knee-bending no-Netflix news.
And because this news might leave you looking for an alternative to ButterflyVPN, we suggest checking our best VPNs for torrenting list.
Does ButterflyVPN work in China?
It sure as hell does! ButterflyVPN was built with China in mind for businessmen and anyone traveling to the country. If that’s a one-time trip, you might be wiser to take a free trial or use a money-back guarantee of some software-based VPN and avoid the hassle of the USB stick. But when you are moving back and forth, meeting people, having an option to enable a proper connection that negates the Great Firewall of China not only for you but also for your colleagues is really convenient.
If after reading our ButterflyVPN review this far you feel that a hardware VPN version is not for you, feel free to browse our take on the best VPNs for China.
Established in 2015, this is a pretty young service, which has just started to see their first batch of three-year clients freeing themselves from the initial deal and deciding on whether they will stick with ButterflyVPN. So how are they being treated?
The support options include:
- Contact form
ButterflyVPN doesn’t have live chat support. Also, the FAQ is rather limited, leaving you to wait for the customer support to reply via email and expect them to that within 24 hours.
There are no plans and pricing as such, only different hardware options:
- USB stick – $79
- USB stick with Quick charger and 3-in-1 charger – $105
- Router for home – $89
It comes with a three-year plan, included in the device’s price. To extend, you’ll have to pay $1.99/month.
The payment options are scarce – credit cards and PayPal.
There’s also a 14-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year hardware warranty. This is where the situation gets interesting. If the thing breaks down after a couple of years, you’re left with a service that only works with this one device, meaning you have to buy another one for the same price, investing for another three years.
ButterflVPN can be considered cheap, but that’s until you compare the monthly prices with premium services. After checking the features, you’ll see that it’s better to add a dollar per month and get minimum torrenting with Netflix.
Also here comes the time to realize that you’ll also be paying for the shipping of this device – the fees will vary based on your location. Unfortunately, the list of countries where ButterflyVPN can ship their products is pretty limited:
We cannot recommend ButterflyVPN even for the Chinese market that this service targets. It might be worth giving it a try if you’re unafraid of manually updating firmware and dealing with possible issues without 24/7 live chat support. While this mix of hardware and software is pretty cheap, you can get a much better VPN for almost the same price.