ProtonVPN Review

8.0/10
Top security and best free version
Last updated: September 15, 2020
ProtonVPN is super-secure and has a great Free version. Its privacy credentials and geo-unblocking capabilities are great, but the mediocre speeds can leave you disappointed.
Minimum Price:
$3.29 / month
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux
Works with:
router

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ProtonVPN is a highly regarded VPN brand from the same CERN scientists who gave us ProtonMail. It has received widespread acclaim for its content protection measures and privacy policy.

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.

Overview

Rank #16 out of 215 providers
Company location Switzerland
Website protonvpn.com
Number of locations 50+ countries
Number of servers 800+
Unblocks Netflix Yes
Safe for Torrenting Yes
Encryption AES-256
Protocols OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec
Customer Support Email, knowledge base
Logging policy Minimal data collection
Price From $3.29/month
Free version or trial Yes

Is ProtonVPN safe?

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.

Encryption and tunneling protocols

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:

  • OpenVPN TCP
  • OpenVPN UDP
  • IKEv2/IPsec

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.

Does ProtonVPN have a kill switch?

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.

ProtonVPN kill switch

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.

Split tunneling

ProtonVPN also offers a split tunneling feature. Again, you’ll find it in the Settings.

ProtonVPN split tunneling feature

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 and Tor over VPN

Secure Core is one of the most praised features that ProtonVPN offers.

ProtonVPN secure core

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.

Does ProtonVPN leak?

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.

ProtonVPN leak test

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.

Minimal logs and privacy-friendly location: Switzerland

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.

According to the ProtonVPN Privacy Policy:

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.

Open-source and audited

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.

How fast is ProtonVPN?

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.

ProtonVPN
Average speed
70 Mbps
Servers800
Countries
50
Download
Germany server
106 Mbps
US server
85 Mbps
Upload
Germany server65 Mbps
US server22 Mbps
Ping
Germany server39 ms
US server167 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.

Does ProtonVPN support my device?

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.

ProtonVPN for Windows, macOS, and Linux

The desktop apps are easy to navigate – they have a huge map and are not cluttered at all. Every option has useful explanations.

protonvpn macos how to use

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.

protonvpn macos how to use

  • Auto Connect. You can enable or disable it and choose how the auto-connect feature behaves – whether it always connects to the Fastest server, Random server, or follows the parameters of one of the Profiles.
  • Quick Connect. Choose how the “Quick Connect” button behaves (similar to Auto Connect).
  • Default Protocol. For OpenVPN, you can choose Either UDP or TCP – a great choice to have, especially if you don’t have the most stable connection (in which case you might want to try TCP). This can be confusing for anyone who has read about OpenVPN and can’t find it on the list. The security protocol is OpenVPN – you’re just choosing the kind of OpenVPN.
  • VPN Kill Switch. This is an important feature, which is “Off” by default. We recommend turning it “On.”
  • DNS Leak Protection. There is absolutely no reason why this should be switched off.

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.

ProtonVPN on mobile: Android and iOS (iPhone/iPad)

The mobile versions of ProtonVPN have a bit fewer functions and use the IKEv2 protocol.

ProtonVPN on mobile device

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.

Other platforms for ProtonVPN

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.

Does ProtonVPN work for Netflix and other streaming platforms?

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.

ProtonVPN unblocks Netflix

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.

Does ProtonVPN support torrenting?

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.

ProtonVPN email support, knowledgebase, and subreddit

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 Support

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.

Pricing: is ProtonVPN worth your money?

ProtonVPN offers four pricing plans – Free, Basic, Plus, Visionary.

ProtonVPN pricing plans

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.

    • Free. Three countries (the US, the Netherlands, Japan), one device, throttled speed, no torrenting, no Netflix.
    • Basic – from $3.29/month or $79 every two years. All countries, two devices, torrenting.
    • Plus – from $6.63/month or $159 every two years. All countries, five devices, torrenting, Netflix, Plus servers, Secure Core, Tor servers, Secure streaming.
    • Visionary – from $19.96/month or $479 every two years. All countries, 10 devices, torrenting, Netflix, Plus servers, Secure Core, Tor servers, Secure streaming, ProtonMail Visionary subscription.

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:

ProtonVPN review free trial

On top of that, every paid plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Should you get ProtonVPN?

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 FAQ

Is ProtonVPN any good?

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.

Is ProtonVPN free Safe?

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.

Can you trust ProtonVPN?

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.

Good

  • Amazing security credentials
  • Has a great Free version
  • Very user-friendly
  • Plus version will get you into Netflix and Hulu
  • Apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android
  • 7-day free trial (Plus plan)

Bad

  • Mediocre speeds
  • Not good in China
 8.0 / 10
Total score
$3.29 / month
Minimum Price
Top VPN options:
1. NordVPN
9.6 / 10
Excellent security
Very fast speeds
2. Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Great performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

12 comments
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  1. Albert Roicou

    Thanks for the review, as I made my decision here. I was planning to get the Visionary plan, but, now i see, that Plus plan meets all of me needs. You saved me some money.


  2. Dannn

    As a free vpn, Proton is great. Probably one of the best out there when it comes to the free version. But for the paid one, it is a little slow for my taste and lacks a few features I can easily find with the better vpns.


  3. Esther Rhobi

    When I first came across ProtonVPN, I was in doubt whether to giving it a try or not, after a moment of contemplation I decided to test the free trial. I was impressed on ProtonVPN high-quality services they offer. After which, I purchased the visionary plan to use it for multiple tasks such as anonymously browsing the web, watching Hulu, Netflix, TV, and other restricted streamers outside my country.
    ProtonVPN is affordable, super-secure, works perfectly both for my Linux laptop and android phone. However, it is a bit slow and needs little patience when streaming
    I would recommend ProtonVPN services to those who use public and other unsecured WiFi connections. It was worth giving a trial as it has never disappointed me.


  4. Lucas Moronge

    I’m a Journalist, and I travel a lot around the world, I’m always in search of world latest news and information to air and write about. Before I learned about ProtonVPN, it was an uphill task for me to work in countries that restrict its citizen from accessing the internet outside its territory. About two years ago, a friend referred me to ProtonVPN, and I took a step to subscribe to their free trial version. Guess what! The experience was terrific! It is such amazing they deliver as promised. I have been to China, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, and the ProtonVPN worked great. It offers end to end VPN solution whether you are using Linux, Mac, or Window PC.
    Sometimes I have experienced difficulty in connecting ProtonVPN to the Netflix, but then I got instant help upon contacting ProtonVPN live chat support.


  5. Miles

    Other VPN services I’ve used have been slow, risky or connected to questionable parent companies. ProtonVPN is great because it offers a fast, secure connection that I don’t have to feel guilty or concerned about using. ProtonVPN pricing is fair, affordable and the various subscription packages offer service plans to fit any budget. Definitely one of my top picks.


  6. Eden Ingram

    Proton VPN says on their website that with the free version they “don’t serve ads or secretly sell your browsing history.” They explain that the free version is subsidized by ProtonVPN paid users, which makes sense to me. I plan to try them out to see if the speed with the free version is sufficient for me to browse the internet. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions for installing ProtonVPN


  7. Ron

    Proton VPN is ok as a paid option and it shines as a free one. Their free version is probably the best there is. The security is far above anything else that’s free. The speed is… so and so but that’s to be expected. Netflix doesn’t always work on the paid version.


  8. Mason Chalifour

    ProtonVPN has a really nice user interface, no logs, and their security is top of the line. I think their Visionary plan at $24 a month is pretty steep. The Plus plan at $8 per month is a much better deal. The only difference I see is that ProtonMail Visionary is included. I know the email service is based in Switzerland and is hyper secure, but that price just seems excessive.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Yes, it certainly only makes sense if you want to have a Protonmail account (which, by the way, is a great thing to have for some).


  9. theomytho

    The best thing I like about ProtonVPN is the Free version they have. Even though the free version falls a bit short on speed, it delivers as much data to the nonpaying customers as they would want. If you are not happy with the free version, you can then choose to go for the 7 day trial which is equal to ProtonVPN Plus subscription plan.


  10. Phillip

    Great! Let me start with the free version first.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hi Phillip,

      Thanks for the comment! How are you liking it so far?

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ProtonVPN review
ProtonVPN
8.0 / 10
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux
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