ProtonVPN review
ProtonVPN
8.0 / 10
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux
ProtonVPN Review
8.0/10
Top security and best free version

ProtonVPN Review

8.0/10 Good
Top security and best free version
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.
Last update: March 6, 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.
16
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • 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
Things we don't like:
  • Mediocre speeds
  • Not good in China
Minimum Price:
$3.29 / month
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux
Works with:
router
ProtonVPN Review:
16
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • 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
Things we don't like:
  • Mediocre speeds
  • Not good in China

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

The VPN market has never had a decent choice for a free VPN. ProtonVPN is the tool from the same CERN scientists who gave us ProtonMail. They have set out to achieve a mammoth task; namely, to offer the world a free version of their VPN – one that is secure, 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 important questions about ProtonVPN in this review. Is ProtonVPN safe to use? Is it trustworthy? Does it keep logs? Is it good for torrenting? And, of course, is ProtonVPN the best free VPN on the market?

I’ll try to provide you with answers to these questions and more to help you determine if ProtonVPN is a good choice for your VPN needs.

Overview

location
Company location: Switzerland
website
Website: protonvpn.com
countries
Number of locations: 40+ countries
servers
Number of servers: 600+
netflix
Netflix: Yes
torrenting
Torrenting: Yes
encryption
Encryption: AES-256
protocols
Protocols: OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec
support
Support: Email, knowledge base
logs
Logs: Minimal data collection
price
Price: From $3.29/month
free_trial
Free version or trial: Yes

Security and privacy features

ProtonVPN is very committed to solid online security and privacy. Security-wise, it’s extremely 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 features 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, ProtonVPN offers the following:

  • OpenVPN TCP
  • OpenVPN UDP
  • IKEv2/IPsec

That’s quite a relatively basic range of protocol options, but all the relevant corners are covered by ProtonVPN’s additional security features. 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.

Kill switch

ProtonVPN offers an effective kill switch. If your VPN connection drops for some reason – the program will stop all traffic and prevent your IP from leaking.

I tested the ProtonVPN kill switch on their Windows app and the results didn’t disappoint – it worked reliably whenever I disconnected ProtonVPN.

No IP or DNS leaks

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.

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.

No activity logs

The ProtonVPN Privacy Policy states that the service only monitors the timestamps of your last login:

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.

Other technical features

As a security-centered provider, ProtonVPN has several advanced and proprietary security features that most average VPN services don’t offer.

  • Secure Core – an interesting take on the multi-hop VPN. When enabled, all server connections will take a detour through one of ProtonVPN’s hyper-secure underground servers in Switzerland, Sweden, or Iceland.
  • Tor over VPN – combine the anonymity given by the Tor network and a VPN.

These are great features that make ProtonVPN very safe to use, not to mention the fact that some offer several really cool options.

To learn more about ProtonVPN’s safety, check out our dedicated article Is ProtonVPN safe?

Speed: is ProtonVPN fast?

I did my ProtonVPN speed test from Europe, with a 134 Mbps baseline download speed and using Speedtest.net, which was used for all the other measurements with ProtonVPN turned on.

ProtonVPN baseline speed

I traveled around the world with ProtonVPN using OpenVPN protocol. I’ve chosen UDP instead of TCP to get the best possible speed.

New Jersey, United States
Latency: 135
Download: 26 Mbps
Upload: 34 Mbps
Dropoff: 80%

ProtonVPN speed test US

United Kingdom
Latency: 68
Download: 44 Mbps
Upload: 5 Mbps
Dropoff: 67%

ProtonVPN speed test UK

Japan
Latency: 284
Download: 24 Mbps
Upload: 4 Mbps
Dropoff: 82%

ProtonVPN speed test JP

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. 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 some serious threat to the competitors in 2020.

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 desktop apps: Windows, macOS, and Linux

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

ProtonVPN review 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 a number of choices, but I’ll only discuss the most important settings.

ProtonVPN review 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 actually 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 fairly common across the VPN industry, with most VPN services offering GUI-less apps for Linux users.

ProtonVPN mobile apps: Android, and iOS (iPhone/iPad)

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.

The ProtonVPN iOS app is practically identical to the Android version and is available from the App Store.

Other platforms for ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN also offers setup 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 9 connections (if you own a premium subscription) for protection on the go.

Netflix and other streaming services

ProtonVPN unblocks Netflix on certain 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 on all servers.

ProtonVPN allows torrenting but warns that it’s against copyright infringement. The service is good for torrenting if you’re in Europe or Asia and pretty bad elsewhere, mainly because of the speed. For the Free version users, it’s not available at all.

The awesome security credentials make ProtonVPN a natural choice for torrent users. Unfortunately, P2P traffic is optimized only on selected servers in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden. This means that users in the Americas should not expect good speeds.

Learn more about ProtonVPN and torrenting in our dedicated article.

Support: ProtonVPN email support, knowledge base, and subreddit

The content on ProtonVPN’s website is good. Although the self-help material is not abundant, it’s well-written and covers the most basic 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 own 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. The paid ones come in monthly, annual, and bi-annual variations.

You can pay for these plans by credit card, PayPal, gift cards, and Bitcoin. At the moment, cryptocurrency payments are accepted from 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 nice 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 7 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 good for security-first users who are willing to wait when this service grows their server and location numbers. It is an extremely ambitious project, lead by the CERN employees, and already the best choice for those who want a free VPN.

For the rest of us – let’s grab some popcorn and watch this one unfold!

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

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 Author

      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 Author

      Hi Phillip,

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

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16
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • 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
Things we don't like:
  • Mediocre speeds
  • Not good in China
Pricing plans:
Basic – Biannual
$3.29 / month
Basic – Annual
$4 / month
Basic – Monthly
$5 / month
Get Proton VPN
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