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ProtonVPN has set out to offer the world a VPN that is secure, not funded through malicious means, and not limited in terms of bandwidth or amount of data transferred.
I decided to see if ProtonVPN does live up to these aspirations. I’ll look at plenty of essential questions about ProtonVPN in this review. Is ProtonVPN safe to use? Is it trustworthy? Does it keep logs? Is it good for torrenting?
In my ProtonVPN review, I’ll answer these questions to help you determine if this is a good choice for your VPN needs.
|Rank||#16 out of 215 providers|
|Number of locations||50+ countries|
|Number of servers||800+|
|Safe for Torrenting||Yes|
|Protocols||OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec|
|Customer Support||Email, knowledge base|
|Logging policy||Minimal data collection|
|Free version or trial||Yes|
ProtonVPN is very committed to robust online security and privacy. Security-wise, it’s incredibly safe and is a surefire choice for protecting your digital assets. From hiding your IP address and ensuring your anonymity online, to torrenting safely and avoiding online censorship, this VPN service is pretty much as good as it gets.
ProtonVPN uses AES-256 encryption, which is considered the gold standard of cryptography techniques. Used by both cybersecurity experts, banks, and even world militaries, AES-256 is practically unbreakable.
As far as tunneling protocols go, ProtonVPN offers the following:
That’s quite a basic range of protocol options, but ProtonVPN’s additional security features cover all the relevant corners. All in all, OpenVPN is the best for securing your day-to-day connection, while IKEv2/IPsec will get you over any VPN-blocking firewall an authoritarian government might throw your way.
ProtonVPN offers a powerful kill switch. If your VPN connection drops for some reason – the program will stop all traffic and prevent your IP address from leaking.
I tested the ProtonVPN kill switch on their Windows app, and the results didn’t disappoint – it worked reliably whenever I got disconnected from ProtonVPN, including some unorthodox scenarios.
To activate this feature, simply go to the Settings on your ProtonVPN app.
ProtonVPN also offers a split tunneling feature. Again, you’ll find it in the Settings.
With this feature, you can choose which apps and IPs to exclude from using a VPN tunnel. Alternatively, you can include certain apps to go through the VPN tunnel.
Secure Core is one of the most praised features that ProtonVPN offers.
Put simply, with this feature, your traffic would be first routed through the Secure Core servers, and only then go to the VPN server. Secure core servers are located in privacy-friendly Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden. What Secure Core adds is this extra layer of security.
Naturally, you might worry about how this feature would affect the speeds. Of course, going through two servers means experiencing some slow down. However, even with Secure Core enabled, I found the speeds satisfying enough.
Meanwhile, Tor over VPN is a feature that combines the anonymity given by the Tor network and a VPN. With Tor support already built-in, your traffic could be routed through the Tor network, enabling you to access the dark web.
One thing to mention is that you’re entitled to use both of these features once you subscribe to Plus or Visionary plans. They won’t work with the Free or Basic plans.
ProtonVPN offers DNS leak protection on the client-side as well as a private DNS network. This should ensure the prevention of most DNS leak situations.
There have been reports that ProtonVPN is susceptible to the notorious WebRTC leak. However, at the moment, my tests show that this is not the case.
The situation with IPv6 leaks is less clear, but any allegations about ProtonVPN’s IPv6 leaks lack substantiation. In the worst case, it’s possible to simply turn off IPv6.
All in all, I can reliably say that ProtonVPN is a leak-free VPN service.
ProtonVPN is based in privacy-friendly Switzerland. Apart from being strict on privacy in general, Switzerland has no data retention laws and is not part of the Fourteen Eyes alliance. This means that jurisdiction-wise, ProtonVPN is based in one of the best countries on the planet.
The service logs your email address, support tickets, and payment details, such as your name and the last four digits of your credit card, as well as a timestamp. However, they state that it gets “overwritten each time you successfully log in” and you can ask the staff to erase it. While there are several elements logged, the company has had no issues regarding the sharing of those data bits.
Each time a user connects to the Service, we only monitor the timestamp of the last successful login attempt. This gets overwritten each time you successfully log in. This timestamp does not contain any identifying information, such as your IP address or your location; it only contains the time and date of the login.
This is far less than many other VPN providers collect and shouldn’t be of much concern.
Therefore, even though ProtonVPN has a “no-logs” claim on their website, which changes to “no activity logs” after scrolling down a bit, it does the minimum required logging after all.
At the beginning of 2020, ProtonVPN announced that their apps are now open-source and audited. It was an anticipated step, given the fact that the company is well known for its dedication to providing a safe and secure browsing experience.
At the same time, ProtonVPN decided to focus more on third-party audits. Hence, ProtonVPN signed a contract with the leading security firm SEC Consult to conduct the audits. I see this step as an excellent example of the company moving forward to ensure the safest and the most private experience to its users.
Our base connection speed at the time of the test was 305 Mbps Download and 298 Mbps Upload. Looking at the table you can tell that ProtonVPN speeds are above average, and I’m expecting them to grow along with the number of servers, which is still way behind the top competitors.
|Average speed||70 Mbps|
|Germany server||106 Mbps|
|US server||85 Mbps|
|Germany server||65 Mbps|
|US server||22 Mbps|
|Germany server||39 ms|
|US server||167 ms|
Of course, the speed is not determined by the number of servers only. With ProtonVPN being a relatively young service, I believe it will continue improving their tool and pose a serious threat to competitors in 2020.
As mentioned, you can use the Secure Core feature, but bear in mind that with it on, you’ll be sacrificing the speeds to some extent.
Yes, it probably does. As far as its multiplatform availability goes, ProtonVPN is available on the most popular desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. There are also tutorials on installing it on AsusWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, and Vilfo routers.
While the number of apps and supported devices is still quite small, it’s only a matter of time until ProtonVPN adds more. After all, this VPN was created with security – and not popularity – in mind.
The number of devices per account depends on the pricing plan. The free version gives you just one, while the priciest Visionary plan allows for up to 10 simultaneous connections.
The desktop apps are easy to navigate – they have a huge map and are not cluttered at all. Every option has useful explanations.
On the primary screen of the ProtonVPN Windows app, you’ll see a map, which you can zoom into and out of using the bar at the top right. Hovering on the little triangles will reveal what country the VPN server is based in. If you then hover over the country name, it will change into a Connect button.
On the top left, you should notice a Quick connect button, which will connect you to a server nearest to your location. Below there is a Search tab and an expandable list of countries with ProtonVPN servers.
Special servers are marked with different icons. Two opposing arrows mean a P2P server, and the onion means Tor over VPN. “P” is for the Plus servers available to Plus and Visionary plan owners.
If you turn Secure Core on, all your traffic will go through ProtonVPN’s hyper-secure servers in Switzerland, Sweden, or Iceland. This will also slow your connection down considerably.
The hamburger menu has several choices, but I’ll only discuss the most critical settings.
There isn’t much room to get lost in the ProtonVPN client – the tool feels spacious but uncluttered. It’s very functional but lightweight.
Unlike with most VPN providers out there, the ProtonVPN offers a Mac client that is just as secure as the Windows app. Many VPN services strip certain security features from their macOS apps, which is not the case with ProtonVPN. Both Secure Core and Tor over VPN are present in the ProtonVPN macOS client as well.
On the other hand, the ProtonVPN Linux app is more of a command-line tool that has no GUI, unlike Windows and Mac apps. That’s relatively common across the VPN industry, with most VPN services offering GUI-less apps for Linux users.
The mobile versions of ProtonVPN have a bit fewer functions and use the IKEv2 protocol.
For Android, you can use OpenVPN by installing it manually. As usual, ProtonVPN Android and Mac versions do not have a real kill switch, just the Always-on-VPN function, which should be enough for most users.
The ProtonVPN Android app doesn’t feature a kill switch, so you’ll have to the default Android OS kill switch or download one from a third-party, which is barely an inconvenience.
You can get the ProtonVPN Android app on Google Play or via direct download as an APK package file from protonVPN.com. Also, quite recently ProtonVPN announced that their Android app is now available on F-Droid.
F-Droid is the biggest free and open-source Android APKs repository. On this platform, you can download apps without providing your personal information. One thing worth mentioning is that the ProtonVPN Android app is still on Google Play, as well.
As for the ProtonVPN iOS app, it is practically identical to the Android version and is available on the App Store.
ProtonVPN also offers set up tutorials for on AsusWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, and Vilfo routers.
This means that with a bit of work, you can also set up your VPN on your router and protect your traffic and access geo-blocked content, all with a single device license, leaving the other nine connections (if you own a premium subscription) for protection on the go.
ProtonVPN unblocks Netflix on specific US servers marked with “P,” which are available with the Plus and Visionary plans on the desktop ProtonVPN versions. According to the ProtonVPN support, however, they give no guarantees it will work all the time. That’s why I’ve decided to try it out and check the speeds.
The speeds were good enough for Ultra HD (4K). Although the initial loading of the show takes longer than usual, skipping and streaming is seamless.
ProtonVPN also supports Hulu. Just like with Netflix, you’ll need a Plus or Visionary plan to access Plus servers marked with “P.” Just like with Netflix, there’s no guarantee it will always work. And if it does, it’s either Windows, Mac, or Linux because Plus servers don’t support mobile devices.
Yes, ProtonVPN supports torrenting, but not on all servers and only for paid users. It also clearly states being against copyright infringement.
The remarkable security credentials make ProtonVPN a natural choice for torrent users. Unfortunately, P2P traffic is optimized only on selected servers in the Netherlands, Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden. This means that users outside of Europe or Asia should not expect good speeds because of the distance to the nearest P2P-friendly server.
Learn more about ProtonVPN and torrenting in our dedicated article.
The content on ProtonVPN’s website is useful. Although the self-help material is not abundant, it’s well-written and covers the most essential topics. If you have a question not covered by any of the articles on the site – fill out a support ticket, and you’ll eventually receive an informative answer. The only problem: it might not come quickly if you’re a Free user!
ProtonVPN also has their subreddit on Reddit, which is a transparent and efficient way of dealing with various questions because the employees answer most of the questions within 24 hours.
24/7 live chat support is not available yet.
ProtonVPN offers four pricing plans – Free, Basic, Plus, Visionary.
You can choose to pay both monthly, annually, and bi-annually. You also have an option to pay by credit card, PayPal, gift cards, and Bitcoin.
Please note, that at the moment, cryptocurrency payments are accepted by the existing users only.
ProtonVPN’s Free version is the best free VPN deal I’ve seen so far. The paid options are excellent for a security-first user who doesn’t need good speed and is fine with only US Netflix.
You can try the Plus version for seven days for free. After you connect to a server for the first time, a pop-up is displayed:
On top of that, every paid plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ProtonVPN is suitable for security-first users who are willing to wait when this service grows their server and location numbers. It is a hugely ambitious project, lead by the CERN employees, and already the best choice for those who want a free VPN.
What is more, in summer 2020, the team behind ProtonVPN and ProtonMail announced the upcoming launch of ProtonDrive. It will be launched in fall 2020 to help ProtonMail users store, upload, and download their files both easier and with an added layer of encryption.
ProtonVPN makes it to our top-20 VPN providers list – that’s a very good result.
Despite that, there are some VPNs that are powerful and have a better set of features, ProtonVPN is an excellent choice, especially, if you’re just starting out in the VPN world.
It is. In fact, ProtonVPN offers one of the best free plans on the market today.
When downloading the free app you’ll be sure that your online activities are well protected. Moreover, the speeds you get are great – both for general browsing and for content streaming online.
Of course, if you wish to take your VPN experience to the next level, opt for the paid plans. This way, you’ll get to use powerful security features such as Secure Core and Tor over VPN.
Taking into account the security features that ProtonVPN has, it’s one of the most reliable providers on the market today.
With military-grade encryption, a foolproof kill switch, split tunneling feature you can rest knowing that your security needs are met.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.
Jan is a cybersecurity and consumer protection specialist focused on investigations that help readers navigate the complex infosecurity sphere. His research and commentary has been featured in Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, ZDNet, The Mirror, Entrepreneur, and many other leading publications around the world.