Latest update: 01.03.2019
When you keep your biggest secrets in an ultra secure deposit box, but the bank manager also has a key to it. Read the full IPVanish review to learn the good and the bad!
For a VPN service provider to have and manage all their own network of servers is quite unique and it’s also the pricier solution when compared to shared and rented virtual servers. This is certainly one area where IPVanish is truly “the only true Top Tier VPN service in the world.” In all fairness, VyprVPN may have something to say about the “only true” part since they also operate entirely without third parties, which means that they also own all of their servers. But that would only be enough for second place anyway.
IPVanish boasts 1,100+ own servers in 60+ countries as well as one of the bigger pools of IP addresses (a whopping number of 40,000+). Now, that is all impressive, but what else prevents IPVanish from vanishing into the haze of mediocrity? What else is up its metaphorical sleeve to place it among the top VPN providers?
Well, IPVanish comes with a good variety of protocols and security features, including a kill switch. However, the bad news is that IPVanish is based in the US, which means data retention (ever since the lifting of net neutrality, ISPs are even allowed to sell big data), corporate surveillance, and serious privacy concerns due to the extensive powers of the intelligence community and law enforcement when it comes to getting private information. This is not really a good recipe for an online anonymity service. However, despite its location, this VPN comes with a “strict no logs policy,” which may somewhat balance out our fears. That is if they hadn’t been caught logging in 2016…
Let’s see what else turned up under the microscope when we had a closer look for our IPVanish review. After all, we’re here to answer one simple question: is this VPN actually worth your money?
Security & privacy: is IPVanish safe to use?
When it comes to cybersecurity, many people still don’t feel like they need to be concerned. If you ask the masses what kinds of measures they’ve implemented for their online security and privacy, they may look at you like you’re some kind of a conspiracy theorist or lunatic.
“Why would I care about the (almost) all-seeing Fourteen Eyes global surveillance alliance if I have nothing to hide?” or, “Who would hack into my computer or my social networking accounts? I’m a nobody.”
These are the usual reasons users come up with, not even suspecting how wrong they are to take this matter lightly.
As a matter of fact, there are several reasons why you should take online security seriously. The virtual world of the internet is full of invisible dangers like identity theft. Just because you’re physically located somewhere on the globe (or disk, if you’re a flat-earther) and the servers you connect to are out of your sight, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and third parties can easily collect enough information to know your exact geolocation, your interests, buying habits, preferences, and much more.
Many users are careless in the virtual world, for example, when they share personal information on social media. Of course, even the best VPN application will not safeguard you against the human factor, i.e., when you yourself share personally-identifiable information.
Nonetheless, if you want virtual privacy and anonymity, and would also like to stream HD movies, sports, play online games, share files securely, and visit geo-blocked websites, a VPN app could save your day. You should also be wary of the potential dangers of public wifi because hackers may be able to retrieve your account logins or other sensitive information.
But is IPVanish really as secure and privacy-friendly as it claims to be?
There are several factors where a VPN provider can bleed out when it comes to protecting user security and privacy. One such factor is the so-called zero-logs policy or no-logs policy, phrases that seem to be a wee bit overused to market VPN services.
Unfortunately, the truth seems to be somewhat different. Not so long ago, there was a criminal case where a suspect was convicted as a result of IPVanish providing logs of personally-identifiable information to authorities. In this particular situation, it seems rather fortunate that the suspect was caught, but the episode does call the sincerity of IPVanish into question.
Since IPVanish is owned by Mudhook Marketing and is based in Florida (USA), we have even more questions about their allegedly most secure connections. The US is one of the founders of the Five Eyes alliance, which makes it one of the key global surveillance countries. And those tentacles reach far and wide.
Have you heard of the Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes countries? Are you aware that the member countries of these alliances can legally force server hosting data centers and locally registered companies to log user data and share this information with the respective government agencies?
IPVanish isn’t even the only VPN service whose no logs reputation was tarnished by US authorities. An FBI case from last year is a good example – an allegedly “no logs policy” VPN provider by the name of PureVPN (based in Hong Kong) was approached by the bureau in a cyberstalker case. PureVPN was able to identify and share two IP addresses linked to the person of interest. Keep in mind that this provider is not even a US subject!
Therefore, we are especially skeptical about so-called “maximum security” VPN providers that are based in surveillance-friendly countries like the US.
While using a VPN service is legal, it’s just like a knife. It can be used to chop onions or it could be used to chop other things. Yet using a VPN for cyberstalking or sending bomb threats to your school (as a teenager did in the Netherlands) raises the question of whether such criminal activities should enjoy the privilege of full privacy provided by a VPN service. Perhaps we should consider this before we judge a provider. With that said, perhaps Mr. Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that those who would exchange privacy for security deserve neither.
Despite all our jurisdiction-related seeming paranoia, we must mention that IPVanish does a lot for your online security and privacy. Here are some of the features that take care of you while online:
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Zero traffic and usage logs
- OpenVPN, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols
- Socks5 Proxy service
- Unlimited and automatic server switching
- 40,000+ IP addresses for greater privacy
- IP address leak protection
- DNS leak protection
- Kill Switch to protect your IP address when the VPN connection drops
All these IPVanish features can provide you with a safe online experience for your general VPN needs (streaming videos, torrenting, gaming, file sharing, unblocking geo-blocked content, and so on) if you can turn a blind eye to their being a US-based service provider.
But there’s one more thing that we don’t like about IPVanish in terms of anonymity: the payment options. IPVanish doesn’t offer any anonymous payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies (e.g., Bitcoin, Dash, and Ethereum). This is a big drawback for users who want full anonymity.
Hopefully, if you need top-notch security, this IPVanish review will guide you to our best VPN list.
Speed: the fastest VPN? Or isn’t it?
In addition to online security and privacy, it’s the connection speeds that you should put under the microscope when choosing a VPN service. Although privacy-wise IPVanish leaves a bit of a sour taste in our mouths, it also claims to have “the best VPN speeds” – just as most of their competitors do.
By owning all of their 1000+ servers (and leaving third parties out of the equation) and covering 60+ countries across the globe, IPVanish claims to offer you some of the best speeds available today. However, in reality, long-term use may reveal average download speeds that lag behind ExpressVPN and other fast VPN services, while the upload speeds tend to be on the lower side.
To be fair, we must mention that there are many variables to speed testing, like what tool you are using, your base connection speed, your location, etc. In other words, don’t take the following speed test results for granted.
Anyway, our connection speed without a VPN was 220 Mbps download and 200 Mbps upload. We were testing from Europe using the speedtest.net tool.
We asked the IPVanish client to offer the best server in the UK and it responded with one located in Nottingham. Speedtest.net offered us a server in London based on the proximity, so we manually chose London and got schooled. The initially-offered London server, though, gave us a decent 98 Mbps download with 35 Mbps of upload, which is great and meets our expectations for IPVanish.
US, New York
This is the US server IPVanish recommended to us. It gave a relatively decent 44 Mbps download and a mediocre 6 Mbps upload speed combo. When jumping over the Atlantic, however, this drop-off was to be expected, even though the low upload speed left us somewhat unpleasantly surprised.
Even given the fact that Japan is on the other side of the world, a 3 Mbps download speed is certainly on the low side. Combined with a 4 Mbps upload speed, it shows that IPVanish can only make claims about high speeds in Europe and North America. The ping is over 300ms, meaning issues with VOIP and gaming are to be expected.
As with Japan, the upload was only 1 Mbps and the ping was even higher, but the download surprised us with 14 Mbps – such speeds are quite solid keeping in mind the increase in distance as well as relatively low internet speeds in Australia in general.
To sum things up, you might expect IPVanish to give very good download speeds from nearby locations, with upload speeds ranging from average to low. These low upload speeds are a drastic change from our previous IPVanish speed tests that had consistently shown very high upload rates.
You may think that the more servers your chosen provider has (preferably located in more countries as well), the higher the speeds they can offer; however, this is not always the case. Your internet speed can be affected by, for example, which country the VPN server is located in, how far it is from you geographically, how fast your internet connection is regularly, what type of VPN protocol you are using (e.g., OpenVPN, PPTP, or L2TP/IPsec), not to mention the server load (which depends on the time of day and user base size).
Tests for this IPVanish review show decent results depending on location, but ideally, you should test the speeds using your own device.
How to download and install it
First of all, it is worth noting that IPVanish is available on all the more popular platforms, including Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV (Firestick), and routers. We went through the whole process for this IPVanish review and it was quite simple. Before you rush to download your chosen client(s), it is best to click the orange Start Now button at the top of the official website. Why? Because you cannot use your client anyway until you:
- Choose a plan
- Create your IPVanish user account (valid email address and password combo)
- Select your payment method: credit card (e.g., Visa, American Express, and Discover) or PayPal
Once you’re done with this, you can select Apps from the main menu, choose your platform, and download the installer. Remember that now you can use up to 10 devices with one single subscription, so you may want to download all the clients you will need in one go.
How to use IPVanish
Having tried some of the IPVanish apps, we must admit that IPVanish has done a good job at revamping their application. The older version had some design issues (certain menu screens were clunky or not even properly functional). That, however, is the past – buried deep in the virtual cemetery of binary code.
The new IPVanish interface actually looks quite clear and informative and has a simple but nice design. When you launch the program, first you need to use your credentials to log in to your IPVanish account.
At the top of the application window, you’ll find the Quick Connect section. From three drop-down boxes, you can quickly choose your preferred country, automatically sorted by best city and best server by default. Now, click the Connect button and wait for a few seconds to be securely hidden from the prying eyes of governments, ISPs, and hackers. On average, it may take around 10 seconds to connect to a server, which is quite good.
On the left, you’ll see the main menu, with the next option being the Server List. It offers three ways for you to select a server that meets your needs. The first submenu is simply labeled List. Here you can filter the long list of servers (cities and countries) where you can choose your servers manually by typing your preferred location or you can simply select one from the list itself.
The second tab, the Map, lets you choose a location on the world map. If this is not how you want to make your choice, you can click the third tab – Filter. Here, you can select a country and filter its servers by latency. This tab is presumably made for gamers who want to choose a server with the least impact on their online gaming experience.
The next main menu item is Account Details. On this screen, you can log in to your IPVanish user control panel on the website and modify certain settings, such as your password.
IPVanish also comes with a very useful menu, the Settings. In this menu, you can tweak your startup and connection preferences, ranging from simple startup behavior options to toggling the kill switch and leak protection features or enabling server obfuscation, which is especially important to those living in countries that restrict internet usage.
Strangely enough, the option to contact the IPVanish support team is hidden away at the bottom of the Settings menu:
Why such a baffling decision was made is beyond us, especially considering that the previous version of the IPVanish app interface had a dedicated support menu.
All in all, our tests for this IPVanish review find a clear-cut, informative, and easy to use interface even for less tech-savvy users. Barring the weird relocation of the support menu, the IPVanish application is certainly a strong point of this VPN service provider.
IPVanish for Netflix
Many TV channels and streaming services like Netflix or HBO are restricted based on location. So, if you:
- are a traveling businessman,
- are doing freelance jobs away from your home country or your clients’ country,
- want to have access to unlimited US/UK TV shows,
- simply live in a country like China, where internet traffic is closely surveilled and controlled,
you can use a premium VPN application to circumvent such geolocation-related restrictions and securely watch your favorite TV shows or access otherwise geo-blocked websites.
But is IPVanish good for Netflix in particular? They’re not saying they do not support Netflix, but they do not advertise that they do, meaning you shouldn’t be surprised to see that most servers are blocked. Nevertheless, that’s why we’re here to see if it will work in at least a few of these locations across the globe:
- US East Coast
- US West Coast
- The Netherlands
We measured the speed of each connection using Netflix’s own fast.com test. At the time of testing, our download speed when not connected to a VPN was 220 Mbps.
US: New York and Chicago
Nothing, not even their fast.com speed test, would load when connected to a New York server. However, Chicago greeted us with 18 Mbps, which is too slow for Ultra HD, but otherwise gave us a good streaming experience. Just have in mind that you should evaluate this speed as a percentage of the base (which in our case was 220 Mbps).
US, Los Angeles
The speed is up but so is the latency, meaning a second more before the content loads and streams successfully.
Only 6 Mbps and no unblocking.
UK: Nottingham and London
First, we trusted IPVanish and selected their recommended server in Nottingham. What we got was an abysmal 3 Mbps, not enough even for HD. On top of that, we could not stream Netflix.
Then we took matters into our own hands and picked London as our location. We ended up with an astonishing 87 Mbps – not that much if we remember the original VPN-less speed, but easily good enough for UHD. Most importantly, we were able to access and stream Netflix.
The Netherlands, Amsterdam
140 Mbps. Huge potential for streaming UHD, yet no unblocking.
170 Mbps. Blocked. We’re giving you the speed screenshot just for show.
Only 2 Mbps and no Netflix – IPVanish will not take you far enough.
Bad news for Netflix fans: the speed tests and streaming trials tell us this isn’t the best tool for the job.
It also seems to have issues unlocking ABC. On the positive side, IPVanish still manages to bypass the blocking measures of CBS and NBC, which may or may not be a relief, depending on whether your goal is using a VPN service to stream Netflix. For that, we recommend NordVPN or ExpressVPN, both of which have proven ideal for prevailing in the Netflix vs. VPN battle.
If you have already bought IPVanish and are having trouble accessing content – get in touch with support, they might be able to guide you towards the right server!
IPVanish for torrenting
Some call IPVanish “a torrenter’s and gamer’s dream,” so let’s see what it really has to offer.
There are a couple of factors to consider when you are choosing a VPN for torrenting; hopefully, our IPVanish review will help you decide. First and foremost, you need to be secure when you download files from torrent sites. Not only because you’ll probably be downloading copyrighted materials for free and are not a fan of lawsuits, but also due to the fact that cybercriminals may be lurking in the shadows of the virtual world to attack you with malware or steal sensitive information.
VPN servers are usually very well protected against malware attacks, and since they play the role of a mediator between your device and the internet, you can enjoy real peace of mind behind such powerful defense lines.
Our tests for this IPVanish review reveal it as one of the best VPN services for torrenting.
IPVanish has its own servers in lots of strategic locations to make its network as fast as possible, it supports the OpenVPN protocol and the L2TP/IPSec protocol with AES-256 encryption, so no one can decode your traffic, and it has DNS and IP leak protection as well. However, don’t forget about the fact that this provider is based in a Five Eyes country and also that the US has powerful copyright legislation (particularly the Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
What else do you need for a good torrenting VPN? Well, maybe 24/7 live chat support? Let’s see how IPVanish performs in that field.
Customer support is yet another area where IPVanish could use some improvement if they want to step it up a notch and reach the heights of the strongest players on the VPN market. IPVanish has received numerous support-related complaints over the years. Some users complain about the long wait, while others take issue with the quality or lack thereof. People have also complained about being met with a rude tone or only finding a solution after a few tries, or being altogether ignored by the support team.
But, again, this is a territory where experiences may vary quite significantly. You may not encounter any issues even after using IPVanish for a long time and thus may not have any run-ins with customer support. Or perhaps you’ll run into the few helpful people working there on an easy day.
As is usually the case, there are a few ways to try to get help from the IPVanish support team. You can simply select the Help menu at the top of the website. On the help page, you can use the Support Center or FAQ to find an answer or solution to your question, or you can send an email to the support team.
Otherwise, anywhere else on the site, you can click the green Help button in the bottom right corner of your screen for similar options. This is also how you can use the live chat support option to connect to an agent. IPVanish didn’t use to have this vital option, so it’s certainly a good improvement that now they have a responsive and quite effective way of getting help.
While you may actually receive a reply to your emailed questions, user reports indicate that such messages are often robotic and not necessarily helpful. In other words, you may have to try again and again in order to finally solve your issue (if that’s even possible). As we have said, IPVanish certainly needs to outwork all those negative comments about their customer service.
We must add that during our tests for this IPVanish review we were surprised to find that the application also has a live chat support option, which may finally take IPVanish customer support to the next level.
Apps and extensions
While this IPVanish review doesn’t cover all the available apps, most of what we tried were convenient and easy to use. We must definitely highlight the impressive range of clients this VPN service provider offers, rightfully putting it among the top 3 choices in this regard. Here’s the list of all the supported platforms:
- Mac OS X
- iOS/Android/Windows Phone
- Routers: you can either buy a router with IPVanish VPN pre-installed or you can manually flash your VPN router
- Amazon Firestick TV
Since you can now use 10 separate devices at a time with a single license, IPVanish is a great choice even for users with multiple devices or families. Even if this VPN doesn’t have browser extensions at the moment, we believe that it’s still a good choice for streaming HD videos, torrenting, and online gaming.
Pricing: the Golden Mean paradox
For many, pricing is the most important factor, while others may prioritize security or speed as their determining criteria. While the Golden Mean generally means the best possible position between two extremes, it may not indicate an advantage when we talk about pricing. But not when you’re looking for the lowest price.
Here are the IPVanish pricing plans:
- 1-month plan: $10.00 per month
- 3-month plan: $8.99 per month
- 1-year plan: $6.49 per month
At the moment, IPVanish is also offering a 2-year deal for new users at $89.99. That’s $3.75 a month, in case you were wondering.
With its only 7-day money-back guarantee, this VPN service is not exactly the best buy out there today. Still, these prices are quite fair compared to other, pricier providers (e.g., Astrill and Perfect Privacy). Moreover, if we also consider that IPVanish owns and maintains their entire global network, maybe we should cut them some slack and appreciate the effort.
You may also use a coupon during signup or when renewing an inactive account, but you can use it in connection with an account only once.
If you are an iOS user, you’re in luck because then you can go for the free trial option before investing your money. However, you should be aware that buying IPVanish through the Apple Store disqualifies you from the 7-day money-back guarantee since the cancellation policy and the refund are both handled by Apple.
As we have already mentioned at the beginning of our IPVanish review, this provider has stopped supporting anonymous payment methods like cryptocurrencies. This simply means that you buying a plan will be on record somewhere and that’s not great for privacy.
This, unfortunately, could put off the types of customers (investigative journalists, hackers, activists, and, let’s face it, various criminals) who need the highest possible level of online privacy.
Bottom line: the fruits of our IPVanish review
As you can see from our IPVanish review, this VPN service has plenty of pros and cons. We may have been a bit rough on this VPN provider but, in general, we can say that it is still among the best ones we have seen, tested, and reviewed.
Our overall verdict is that there are better VPNs out there, but, depending on your needs, you may still find IPVanish to be a reliable and secure service.
If you are still in search for the best VPN service for you, please check our other reviews and comparisons.
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