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 social media), ButterflyVPN works fine in any other location.
ButterflyVPN offers 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.
This service has over 500 servers (if we understand their “global lines” term correctly) – not a bad number considering its age. Sadly, there’s no way to choose the actual server or at least the city, which is kind of critical when you’re on one side of the US or China.
Our ButterlyVPN review speed test showed below-average results, with drop-offs of 80% or even more. This means you can forget streaming UHD (4K) with this VPN. Speaking of streaming, unblocking Netflix is highly unlikely, just as any other streaming service.
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. Do we recommend joining their client base? Read our ButterflyVPN review to find out.
Is ButterflyVPN safe to use?
Security is strong with ButterflyVPN. It has military-grade encryption, offered by the fairly fresh ChaCha20 data encryption and authentication cipher, used by WireGuard and a few other protocols. It is also used by Google to secure HTTPS traffic between its browsers and websites.
ButterflyVPN also uses a private TCP-based, zero interaction protocol – another unique feature among the competition. It also allows manually configuring your IP and has a built-in ad blocker which can be switched on or off.
ButterflyVPN is spread over three countries – Panama, Taiwan, and the US. While the first one is a good location in terms of government surveillance and data retention laws, the last one belongs to the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. Gomoft Inc is the company that distributes ButterflyVPN and 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 in order to limit the number of simultaneous connections.
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. As we found out when researching for this ButterflyVPN review, 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. Additionally, the Admin panel Advanced settings show the default password, which is also not the safest one, to put it mildly.
Speed & performance
All ButterflyVPN reviews write about the speed test results which are mediocre at best. The dropoffs from the original no-VPN speed are quite huge, meaning this service is not doing the best job in this department. Our tests for this ButterflyVPN review have shown that the end result is only around 15% of the 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.
How to download and install ButterflyVPN
First, you need to get the ButterflyVPN hardware, sold on Amazon or the official website, which also has the setup instructions. The interface resembles that of OpenWRT. Therefore anyone who has had some 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 start looking for an available wifi connection. Find the one that begins with btfly- and use the default 12345678 password.
Afterward, 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 chooses a path based on the status of the website. If it’s blocked, it will go through ButterflyVPN, if not – through the regular network, giving you more speed. Recommended when you are in China or visiting a Chinese website.
Full Mode means that all connections go through ButterflyVPN, ensuring maximum security at the cost of speed. Taiwan, Europe, US, Singapore, Japan, and China are the locations that ButterflyVPN sees as the right ones for this mode.
Tor Mode drives all the traffic anonymously via Tor (The onion router). This will take a toll on your connection speed but will provide a multi-layered secure connection. Use this if you’re a journalist covering sensitive topics or an anarchist planning an uprising.
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. The maximum allowed number of simultaneous connections is ten – one of the highest you can find in the VPN industry, not counting the offers with unlimited connections.
Updating the software is something we didn’t get a chance to try for this ButterflyVPN review, but apparently, it’s done by manually flashing the firmware.
Apps & Extensions
When talking about extensions, we also mean the cable extensions because ButterflyVPN comes in the form of a USB stick. This means that Mac users will need a USB-C (Type-C) adapter. With all this extra hardware, your Apple Air might become a bit stuffy, requiring some extra slots.
As a simple USB device, ButterflyVPN is compatible with desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, different TV boxes, gaming consoles (PlayStation, Xbox) and so on. To be honest, ButterflyVPN is compatible with almost any device with an internet connection, no matter which operating system it uses.
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.
Such phrasing probably means that we shouldn’t be expecting support for any of these streaming services anytime soon, even though some users reported being able to watch US Netflix with the Full mode on.
For binge-watchers, we recommend checking out our best VPNs for Netflix section.
ButterflyVPN for torrenting
Torrenting and P2P traffic in general is unfortunately not allowed with ButterflyVPN. This is another blow after the 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.
ButterflyVPN doesn’t have a 24/7 live chat support option, but it’s not one of the premium VPN services that should have one as part of a standard package.
Our ButterflyVPN review finds the FAQ rather limited, meaning there’s not much you can do to fix something yourself, other than waiting for customer support to reply.
Speaking of which, customer support can be contacted by filling a form out. The reply arrives by email, and it usually takes between 4 and 8 hours to get an answer. While the answers are usually polite and informative, this is not an option if you urgently need something in the middle of the night, which can happen in a country with a restricted internet.
Therefore if ButterflyVPN is a truly business-oriented VPN solution, we think it can compete with the best VPNs for China only if it starts offering a 24/7 live chat option.
Plans and pricing
Everything starts with you buying the USB stick with the ButterflyVPN software. The plan is for three years, and the price is included in the payment for the device. To extend, you’ll be asked to pay $1.99/month, which is quite a small sum.
If we believe the prices on the ButterflyVPN website, which still advertises a 30% off X-mas & New Year deal, the ButterflyVPN USB stick costs $79. When you divide it by 36 months, you get $2.20/month, which is a low price but not something you can’t find on the best overall VPN services list.
For example, for a two-year contract, you can get Surfshark VPN for $1.99/month. We doubt you fill notice spending an extra 79 cents each month, but the quality of the service will be significantly better, both speed-wise and versatility-wise. If you want an even better service, grab NordVPN’s three-year deal for $2.99/month.
For this price, you get three years of VPN service, which can be extended afterward for $1.99/month. 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. In this way, you might become a steady client against your own will.
Additional hardware options
With each piece of hardware, there are often accessories which you don’t buy initially and later see that you need them, paying more than you could. ButterflyVPN’s Traveler USB stick with Quick charger and 3-in-1 charger cable cost $105. The cable costs $6, and the Quick charger is not even on the menu, tempting to take the Big 3-in-1. Users of Mac and some other devices should also think about grabbing a USB-C to USB 3.0 adapter for another six bucks if they don’t own one yet.
You can buy a router for home that costs from $89. It has the same features as the USB stick but also acts as a wifi router. Of course, it will not be convenient to take it along on business trips.
Shipping and resellers
Based on information on the ButterflyVPN website, all shipments have two main directions – the US (3-7 days), and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau (3-5 business days). The overall list of countries where ButterflyVPN can ship their products is pretty limited.
Here is the full list of countries where you can order ButterflyVPN hardware:
Therefore, looking for a reseller might be a good option, especially now that the official website states that all products are sold out. We know of VPN services that offer Lifetime accounts, cash the money and hit the road, which makes us wonder whether this ButterflyVPN service is not planning to disappear with all the money made from those sold-out sticks and routers.
At the moment of writing the ButterflyVPN review, Amazon was selling one (!) used (very good condition) ButterflyVPN stick for $83.60, which might be the best and only option.
Also here comes the time to finally understand that you will also be paying for the shipping of this device – the fees will vary based on your location.
The payment options are scarce – only PayPal and the credit cards. The official website doesn’t say which credit cards are supported if you start the payment process before scrolling down the Home page, where it admits to taking only Visa and MasterCard. The Home page states Apple Pay is also supported, but we didn’t get such an option when trying to buy a USB-C converter for this ButterflyVPN review.
The scarcity of payment options has left us a bit disappointed because the service itself is anonymous but there’s no way to pay with cryptocurrencies.
Overall, it’s a bit hard to evaluate the pricing and plans for this ButterflyVPN review when it’s a part-software part-hardware solution, but we could say that if the USB stick works fine, this service can be considered cheap.
Bottom line of our ButterflyVPN review
All in all, it might be worth giving ButterflyVPN a try if you’re a frequent traveler to China and other countries where connections to YouTube, Google, Gmail, and similar services are restricted.
It’s also good for home use if you often need more than six simultaneous connections. If not, choosing a premium service like NordVPN would be better to our mind.
ButterflyVPN offers an interesting hardware-ish approach and is user-friendly enough to attract the interest of those who don’t want all the hassle of setting their accounts and auto-payments up. We believe that ButterflyVPN would fare better in the hands of a more advanced VPN user. The requirement to manually update the firmware and get yourself through trouble without live chat support may be frustrating for the average user.
And if you need a VPN today, you will not wait for some USB stick to arrive next week when you’ll be gone on your business trip.
Their Facebook communication stopped on October 2018. We would also have probably done the same, what with barely over 100 likes and the last several posts marked by Angry emojis. It looks a bit better on Instagram, with the last post wishing a Happy Christmas.
Their YouTube channel of 550+ subscribers seems to be a mix of English and Chinese communication with video titles written both ways. None of the videos from the past five months exceed 500 views while the older ones usually saw thousands of viewers, letting us believe that the wings of ButterflyVPN might have finally caught the candlelight.
Most comments on social media are written in Chinese, although the communication is done in English.
If you need a really good VPN for China, you need a more reputable option, like Astrill VPN. And if you need a VPN for use in other locations, just go for the best options overall because their prices are not much different from what ButterflyVPN asks.