Last update: 01.24.2019

Overview

Private Tunnel VPN was made by the legends behind the OpenVPN protocol. But how does it stack up against the competition?

Private Tunnel VPN was developed by James Yonan (better known as the original creator of OpenVPN). OpenVPN is the industry gold standard when it comes to VPN protocols. Since its initial release in 2001, OpenVPN has been downloaded no less than 50 million times. Thanks to its open-source code, developers in the online security community are constantly improving it.

Private Tunnel is highly secure – to the point that we noticed trade-offs in other areas of functionality. It operates using OpenVPN Tunnelling Technology, which includes SSL for key exchange, all ciphers in the OpenSSL library, and multi-layer tunnels.

You get all of this security for an incredibly affordable rate of $6/month or $35/year, and it’s available on all main platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android). The downside, however, is that this VPN doesn’t come with a lot of extra features. It won’t give you access to Netflix or other streaming platforms. It also doesn’t allow P2P downloads, so that means no torrenting.

We found the customer support system to be a bit lacking as well, but it seems to be the standard operating procedure for these low-cost VPNs not to offer live chat support. On the other hand, the app is easy enough to use, so you generally won’t find yourself in need of too much help from the customer support team.

Keep reading our Private Tunnel review to determine if this is the right VPN for your needs.

Is Private Tunnel safe to use?

The first thing to keep in mind about Private Tunnel VPN is that its registered in the United States. Since the US is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and is otherwise known as an online surveillance-heavy state, this puts the secrecy of your data in jeopardy especially if the government requests data.

In terms of security, Private Tunnel VPN is hard to beat – at least when casually browsing the web. Many users appreciate the fact that this service ensures your real IP address remains hidden at all times. The result is that you can rest assured that all your wifi connections are optimally secure at all times – something essential when using the internet in public places. Also, none of your data is ever exposed to cybercriminals. This VPN service helps prevent viruses or malware from attacking your devices.

For our Private Tunnel review, we took a look at the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents. We learned that the service does track the number of times you are logged in and your bandwidth usage. It also monitors your connection numbers to see if you’ve already reached your limit. Every two weeks, all data is discarded. When necessary, it will also comply with requests from law enforcement to provide client data. However, Private Tunnel VPN does not track any of the sites you visit or the type of data you download or transfer.

OpenVPN protocol

It’s not a shocker that Private Tunnel uses the protocol they created. OpenVPN was based on the almost identical TLS protocol, which is used by HTTPS. However, it’s worth noting that OpenVPN goes a step further – it always creates a new session for TLS every time someone uses it. This means that all clients receive the same level of desired security for SSL. Additionally, you get the benefit of being able to dump all possible vulnerabilities. OpenVPN is the market standard for a reason – it’s been proven to be secure.

Encryption strength

Many people think it’s somewhat strange that Private Tunnel VPN service employs 128-bit AES-GCM encryption. However, this is still a high-quality cipher and will provide robust data security.

That said, it’s true that this is not as strong or as secure as AES-256 encryption (which is applied by many VPN services on the market today). Private Tunnel VPN claims that most attackers do not invade the encryption algorithm, which is why they believe AES-128 is secure enough, while also winning on speed. The performance part is undoubtedly true, but we wouldn’t recommend using this one for truly sensitive activities, such as organizing a putsch in Washington, D.C.

Protection from DNS leaks

If you’re concerned about DNS leaks or malware, you’ll be glad to know that no DNS leaks get through when you use this service. In researching for this Private Tunnel review, we checked this ourselves and can confirm. Your DNS queries (and therefore your browsing history) should be completely hidden from your ISP.

So, is Private Tunnel safe to use? We can only say “yes” as an answer, even though the encryption is 128-bit only, and the creators have no plans on upgrading it anytime soon, valuing speed over security in this instance.

Speed and performance

Private Tunnel is a predominantly stable VPN service. A majority of users report that the service does not tend to lag at all, except when overcrowded. It seldom crashes, which makes the VPN reliable under a variety of circumstances. This is particularly beneficial for users that simply cannot have the service to crash or lag when you are in the middle of an important transaction, such as paying $25 for a Fortnite game character skin.

Though customers need to be aware of the fact that overcrowded servers are an occasional issue for Private Tunnel VPN users, causing drastic declines in speed when they happen. This problem, luckily, is limited in scope. Most of the time the servers work relatively well.

The overcrowding happens because the number of Private Tunnel servers is deficient – there’s less than 60 of them. The spread is also uneven, to put it mildly, with 23 locations in a dozen countries, their list being made almost solely from the North America and Europe, with only Japan and Hong Kong having servers outside those two continents:

[[privatetunnel-server-locations]]

  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

As we can see, there are zero servers in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania, meaning you should expect a serious drop-off when connecting from there.

We’ve decided to put a test and see how Private Tunnel fares in different locations. Our test site was in Europe, with a base wifi speed of 275 Mbps. The results below are not accurate by any means and should be seen only as a guideline of what to expect from this service in specific locations.

The connection times of PrivateTunnel are really fast, and changing servers takes less than a few seconds. We believe this has to do something with the OpenVPN protocol and the service itself being developed by the same crew.

United Kingdom

[[privatetunnel-speed-uk-26]]

While the latency and the upload speed lead us to believe that the island of Great Britain has not drifted away from Europe, the abysmal download numbers lead us to believe that the UK servers enjoy quite a noticeable demand. While the speed itself is OK and should be enough for most activities, even streaming UHD (4K), the drop-off percentage is too saddening to be displayed digitally.

United States, Atlanta

[[privatetunnel-speed-us-atl-13]]

After experiencing multiple issues with the New York servers, we’ve tested the East Coast from Ashburn, VA. Strangely enough, our geolocation and Speednet’s decided it to be in Arizona. Therefore we decided to switch to Atlanta, but Speedtest.net quickly found out who we are and gave us a “Latency test error.” We managed to finish the test from the second try, getting two times worse results than in the UK. Kiss your UHD stream goodbye.

United States, Los Angeles

[[privatetunnel-speed-us-la-11]]

The speed degraded as we hopped further away from our physical location. Though it must be said that the decline in downloading speed was less than we feared, coming 2,000 miles from the East Coast.

Japan, Tokyo via New York

[[privatetunnel-speed-japan-0]]

Connecting to Japan’s servers was also quirky. The geolocation showed us being one foot in Tokyo, one – in New York. That raised us some questions, especially when Speedtest.net offered a test server in the US. The speed was atrocious, for the lack of the better word.

Japan, Tokyo

[[privatetunnel-speed-japan-2]]

The direct connection to a test server in Japan increased all stats twofold, yet they were still abysmal, not enough for decent streaming, gaming, or VOIP. Private Tunnel VPN has proved that they really have no serious presence in Asia.

Germany, Frankfurt

[[privatetunnel-speed-germany-51]]

Despite the quite big drop off (less than 20% of original speed), we were happy with the results from Germany. You should have no trouble doing whatever you do on the web.

Netherlands, Amsterdam

[[privatetunnel-speed-netherlands-40]]

Because certain laws are more liberal in the Netherlands, having good connectivity with it is always nice. As we expected, the speeds were a bit slower than in Germany but good enough not to worry about that.

Our verdict? When it came to the speed test for our Private Tunnel VPN review, this tool passed it in North America and Europe but failed in all other regions. That’s why business travelers and such should consider another option, like Astrill VPN.

How to download and install Private Tunnel VPN

Even if you’re the type of person who has no patience for things that are technologically complicated, you’ll have no trouble using this tool. For our Private Tunnel VPN review, we went through the whole process, finding it very simple and quick to install on a desktop computer.

This service is designed to be genuinely user-friendly for all clients.

How to use Private Tunnel VPN

[[privatetunnel-mainmenu]]

When you log in and connect for the first time, the system will provide guidance that is direct and easy to understand. Thus, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of figuring things out for yourself. You’ll see the huge connect button and the huge disconnect button.

[[privatetunnel-servers]]

It’s as simple as that. The other good news for those who want everything fast and trouble-free is that changing servers takes only two clicks of the mouse. We found putting all city names on a separate line to be a bit strange because there’s always one of them unless you scroll down to the US. And since you can’t maximize the window, navigating between 12 countries always involves unnecessary scrolling.

[[privatetunnel-settings]]

Clicking on the cogwheel on the top-right will get you to Settings. There’s three of them, making it hard to get lost in all the options unless you put an effort.

People will appreciate the option of Auto Start, which, well, auto starts Private Tunnel together with your operating system.

Then goes the Protocol selection, which can be left as it is, unless you’re an advanced user and know what you want to achieve by switching from UDP to TCP or choosing one of three proxy modes.

Furthermore, you can also set a Connection Timeout for the app. In the event of an unsuccessful connection, Private Tunnel will try to connect to another server. This gives users added data security in the absence of a kill switch.

To sum up, Private Tunnel VPN is really user-friendly and easy to use. The interface of the client has room for improvement, but that’s not a big deal because there’s so much you can click on or scroll to. Naturally, more experienced VPN users might find some options lacking, but this service never intended to be a semi-pro tool, and those looking to create their personal configuration are probably no longer reading this Private Tunnel VPN review anyway.

Apps and extensions

Users are not really limited when it comes to using this service on various platforms. Although we haven’t tried all of the available software for this Private Tunnel review, we can tell you that there are apps for all popular platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android). It is also available on the Amazon App store. This will enable you to have the protection you desire for your Kindle Fire devices, Firestick for your smart TV, etc.

Private Tunnel’s OpenVPN service can also be used on DD-WRT routers. The Knowledge Base also has an article about OpenWrt setup, but it was updated in 2017, and live chat Support firmly denied everything that’s written in it.

[[privatetunnel-livechat]]

If you want to use Private Tunnel on Linux, it is a bit more time consuming to set up. Additionally, it will require more technical knowledge, but we would say it’s safe to assume that Linux users have the necessary technical acumen. They will need to look at how to use the command line for OpenVPN, along with the configuration file that is provided on the site.

Game consoles are not compatible for use with Private Tunnel VPN. Moreover, the tendency is that most smart televisions, which are not Amazon or Android enabled, are also not functional with this VPN service. But to end this section with a happy note, Tor is supported.

Private Tunnel VPN for Netflix

We’re pretty sure that Netflix always knew we were using a VPN. However, in 2016 they began using their ban-hammer on every VPN service around. As a result, nowadays most of them will not help you access Netflix content or won’t be able to do it consistently.

Sadly, Private Tunnel VPN also fell under the ban-hammer, and you cannot stream Netflix shows while connected to it. We’re not sure how well it works with most other streaming platforms, but we were unable to get into BBC iPlayer, so it seems likely users will not have much more luck with Hulu, HBO, and others. That’s why we suggest grabbing a VPN that manages to unblock Netflix.

Private Tunnel VPN for torrenting

Private Tunnel VPN is quite open about the fact that they do not want their service to be used for anything that is illegal. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that they frown on customers using their service for torrenting.

Their bottom line is that they do not allow any form of torrenting from any location. However, they do allow P2P on a few servers, and some users may choose to walk this line, trying to find them by trial-and-error. Our feeling is that if torrenting is one of your primary reasons for purchasing a VPN, there are much better options out there.

Is Private Tunnel safe for China?

If a VPN is safe enough for China, usually it means it’s good enough for China. Well, at least for basic usage. Just like in any country, the ability to unblock Netflix and other streaming platforms, in addition to torrenting might determine if a service will catch the attention of the locals and travelers. And in the case of Private Tunnel, these two features play no role in figuring out whether Private Tunnel is safe and good enough for China because they don’t work anywhere.

As mentioned in the chapters above, Private Tunnel VPN wants to keep all their traffic legal and above board. So, although their protocol, OpenVPN, can get through the Great Firewall on specific ports, users in China will not be able to download or use Private Tunnel VPN. This is a quite common issue among all services, that’s why you should always install it before your travel.

So should you install Private Tunnel before you embark on a journey to China? You definitely shouldn’t. In addition to the issues with streaming and torrenting, let’s not forget those from the section above mentioning near-non-existant Asian server list, which will guarantee horrendous connectivity and the loss of hair. Do you want to have good connectivity and more hair? Choose the best VPN for China.

Support

Users who run into issues while using Private Tunnel VPN will want to start by looking at the company’s FAQ guides, which can be found under the support tab on their website. These articles cover some of the most common issues so, with any luck, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, some topics such as routers or torrenting are not well covered or not covered at all, putting you at the mercy of their Customer Support.

If you need more one-on-one customer service, you have two options. There’s a live chat feature where you should be able to get instant service. We’ve tested and it and can confirm the “instant service” part, though a more friendly and polite approach would be welcome. Chances are it’s saved for the premium clients. We were happy with the help on our first question, but the next time got ditched without no explanation by a guy named Brandon. We hope that’s not what he also does to his girlfriends.

Alternatively, you can submit a ticket through their contact form. They answer these emails during their office hours, Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm Pacific Time.

Plans and pricing

Private Tunnel VPN has two pricing models; Monthly and Yearly.

Monthly Plan – $6/month

  • No limits on data usage
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • Option to increase the number of simultaneous connections for $6/month per device

Yearly Plan – $35 ($2.92/month, you save $77)

  • No limits on data usage
  • Three simultaneous connections
  • Option to increase the number of simultaneous connections for $35/year per device

What’s unique and also great about Private Tunnel VPN is their offer to get extra simultaneous connections for a good price (that’s if you take the Yearly Plan), saving $37 per device. The maximum number is 100, but you can contact their Sales department for greater numbers.

All first-time users can take advantage of a 7-day free trial before they sign up for either of these plans.

Bottom line of our Private Tunnel review

Private Tunnel VPN comes from the same creators as the famous OpenVPN, which helps its reputation. Other than reputation and decent security, there’s little to this VPN – there’s no torrenting or streaming Netflix, and no chance to use it behind the Great Firewall of China.

Additionally, this service is based in the United States (with all of the privacy issues that implies), which may make some users a little leery. The customer support team is knowledgeable, and the response speed is impressive, but only in some regions.

To conclude our Private Tunnel VPN review: you can do better for the money by looking at the best overall VPN services list.